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HOPE FOR ALL AGES AND STAGES OF LIFE

 A week ago, Suffield High School Principal Donna Hayward in Suffield, Connecticut delivered a commencement address that was inspired by The Twelve Gifts of Birth.  I’m sharing it here because I believe Ms. Hayward’s message of hope and courage is for all of us. Thank you, Donna, for permission to post your speech along with your photo. I hope to meet you someday, new friend!  And thank you, dear reader. As always, I would love to hear your comments.  

Donna HaywardClass of 2014, you are just minutes from receiving your high school diploma. Your parents are wondering how you got here so fast, as it seems such a short time ago that you were born. Just a few years ago, you took your first steps, spoke your first words, got on the school bus kindergarten bound, learned to ride a bike. This is a natural time for your parents to reflect on the last 18 or so years and for us, your teachers, to reflect on whatever role we have played in your upbringing. As it turns out, teaching and parenting are closely related.

When my daughter was born, we received the usual tidal wave of gifts – blankets, cute little outfits, and baby gear of all kinds. One gift, in particular, though stood out as it arrived without a note or tag from the sender to indicate who had given it. One day, it simply arrived in my mailbox – its message clear – but to this day I don’t know who sent it. It was a book entitled, The Twelve Gifts of Birth, by Charlene Costanzo and it details the gifts or qualities bestowed upon each of you upon your birth as a human. “Royal dignity was yours from the day you were born,” the book begins – and on that day and on a day such as this all parents and teachers hope their children know these gifts. My role today is to remind you that you do all have them and to implore you to use them consciously and with purpose from this day forward.

The first gift is Hope and each of you were born with it. Continue reading

CATS: AND THE LESSONS THEY TEACH US

We have two cats. Both adopted us in 2001.

 

My husband and I were traveling in a motor home from Arizona to Florida.

 

MinkaAt a KOA in Texas, as we pulled onto our site, a homeless Tortie kitten raced across the campground, sat, and meowed outside our door. We let her in and named her Minka.

 

Three days later, a handsome grey shorthair did the same thing at a campground in Orlando. We named him Bailey.

 

Over the years, Minka and Bailey have given us many gifts and life lessons. They’ve shown us how to play, be silly, stretch, be flexible and graceful, cuddle, snuggle, nap, be present, savor scents and all our senses, stay nicely groomed, and more.

 

Last week, Bailey was diagnosed with widespread carcinomatosis. Our vet saidBailey that our sweet boy cat has perhaps two months to live. Probably less. Among the hard things: we are going to have to decide when to say when.

 

We’ve never had to put a pet down. We aim to preserve life. In fact, in our home we’ve had a catch-and-release program (for spiders, mice, and other unwelcomed house guests) in place since the 1980s.

 

But we must consider Bailey’s comfort and quality of life.

 

Among the good things: facing death hurts, and yet it can lead us toward greater love and compassion.  Continue reading

THERE ARE NO ORDINARY MOMENTS

In the Oscar-winning film, Titanic, steerage-class character Jack Dawson dines in first-class with some of the world’s wealthiest movers and shakers. When he is asked about how he makes his way in the world, in light of his poor social and financial standing, he makes it clear that he sees his life as rich. He explains that he has all that he needs within himself and with what is at hand, namely: his art supplies and the surroundings of each moment.

“I figure life’s a gift and I don’t intend on wasting it,” says Dawson, and he commits to making each day count.



          

Dawson’s perspective reminds me of my brother, Keith, and his particular way of “making each day count.”

About 5 years ago, Keith started what he calls his “photo of the day” practice.  It began when Keith had an epiphany experience–one that we all have when we realize that much time has passed in our lives.

SAMSUNGThat wake-up experience led Keith to take one photo each day, in a certain way. His intention was to pause, savor a moment, and honor it by recording it. While some of his photos capture sunsets, record his garden in bloom, and show his dogs at play, many are reminders of seemingly mundane moments: a sunny-side egg frying in a pan, a just-poured glass of beer, water flowing from the shower head.

“It’s not about waiting for peak experiences or the high-points each day,” says Keith. “I just want to stop and appreciate ordinary moments.”

He explains that, now and then, he really “gets it” that there are no ordinary moments. They’re all magnificent.

Deep down we all know this. But we forget.

May we become better and better at remembering.  

WHEN DESPAIR AND FEAR GROW: REST IN THE GRACE OF THE WORLD

three cranes at pond“When despair for the world grows in me…
I rest in the grace of the world, and I am free.”   

                 – Wendell Berry

 

In The Peace of Wild Things,
poet Wendell Berry shares the power
that nature holds for him. 

 

 

When he fears what the future might hold 
for him and his children,
he goes to “where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.”

In the midst of the world’s business and busyness,
whether we go in reality or in our imagination,
let’s often bring ourselves 
to a place where we can be soothed, healed, and uplifted     
by the grace of the natural world.
May we rest in beauty and peace, and faith too,
with reverence for life as a touchstone. 

WORTHINESS AND THE WIZARD OF OZ

YOU ARE WORTHYI give a lot of thought and writing time to “worthiness.”

 

So many of us feel unworthy at times.

 

While it’s painful to feel that we are unworthy, it’s downright dangerous to believe that we are unworthy.  

 

On the other hand, it’s empowering–and healing–to recognize ourselves and one another as worthy. Worthiness builds respect and opens us to reverence. Worthiness leads us to good things, to great things.

 

I just saw some valuable messages about worthiness in the film, Oz.

 

In case you don’t already know, this 2013 Disney movie, the back story of The Wizard of Oz, shows how the Wizard got to the Land of Oz long before Dorothy arrives.

 

As the story begins, we meet Oscar Diggs, a small time magician in a traveling circus in Kansas. While Oscar loves a lot of things about his work, appreciates wonderment, and has big dreams, mostly he judges himself as unworthy.

 

Steeped in the art of illusion, Oscar perceives himself to be less than honorable. He comes across that way too, as cunning, crafty, and shrewd. As viewers, we question his integrity, just as he does of himself.

 

Like Dorothy, Oscar is carried to Oz by a tornado. There, he appears to be the foretold Wizard who will defeat the Wicked Witch and restore peace and harmony in the Land of Oz.  

 

Accepting the call to act as Wizard brings Oscar through many conflicts and trials with the three witches and within himself. Often, he doubts his ability to do any good at all.  In fact, he begins to see himself as even less worthy, a really big fake, because he is pretending to be a Wizard with truly special powers.

 

It takes the Good Witch, Glinda, to reflect to him, again and again, what she sees in him: a man doing his best, a man with a caring heart, a man with limitations and flaws, yes, but a man with goodness at the core, a man who is worthy.

 

At last, at the end of the movie, Oscar sees himself as worthy. He commits to trying his best to restore peace and harmony to the Land of Oz. He becomes the Wizard.

 

May we all see worthiness in ourselves and one another, do our best to bring peace and harmony to our world, and become what we are called to be.

DIFFERENCES AT THE DUOMO: A TOUCHSTONE FOR REVERENCE

When I catch myself starting to judge, and I wish, instead, to simply accept all the differences among us, I recall a family trip to Italy.

 

Upon arriving in Multepulciano, we visited the Duomo.  

 

“Aw, cute doggie,” gushed Stephanie, pausing on the steps outside the door.

 

“Look! A della Robbia!” squealed Many Lou upon entering and glancing to the left.

 

Frank was drawn straight to the tomb.

 

The worn wooden kneeler in front of the confessional most interested me. While each member of our family explored according to his or her own interests, with my own knees pressed into the grooves formed over centuries, I thought of the hurts carried in the hearts of thousands of people who had knelt there before me.

 

Krista stood, took all that in, and, with delight, shared what she saw: Stephanie loving animals, Mary Lou loving art, Frank loving history, me loving stories.

 

The fact is: we all see the world differently.

 

Instead of trying to convince others to see things our way or judge others for having different points of view and interests, we can appreciate the rich diversity among us and follow the callings of our own hearts.

 

All with reverence. 

THE STRENGTH THAT IS IN US, THE GIFT THAT IS LIFE

Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing this photo of a tree growing in the gutter.

 

Tree Growing in GutterIt is a visual touchstone for

the strength that is in us,

the strength that is life,

the beauty that is in us,

the beauty that is life,

the courage that is in us,

the courage that is life,

the hope that is in us,

the hope that is life,

the gifts that are in us,

the gift that is life.

 

EARTH DAY REFLECTIONS

 An Earthly Embrace“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet,
and the winds long to play with your hair,” wrote Kahlil Gibran.

May we delight in nature’s wonders and respond to earth’s caring for us with reciprocal loving.

 

“Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it and every person a mission,” said Mourning Dove Salish

Consider the wondrous web of which we are a part. 
When we bring our gifts and talents forward,
we help heal, renew, and strengthen the whole.

 

“The ground on which we stand is sacred ground,” Chief Plenty Coups reminds us.

May we greet every day as a Reverence for Earth Day. 

SEE THE LOVING ESSENCE IN YOURSELF AND OTHERS

Face of a childLooking into the pure and trusting eyes of a child can help us to sense and see the “Loving Essence.”

 

When we see this in others and ourselves, we shift into an experience of wonder, joy, beauty, strength, peace, compassion, hope…LOVE!

 

The experience is so powerful, sweet, and profound, why would we not seek this way of seeing often?   Continue reading

RESPECTING LIFE

Red Flower Brown TreeWhy not appreciate the contrasts among us and respect all surface appearances and perspectives about life and the universe… all our differences?

 

Cultivating reverence for all people and being open to all points of view is what will lift us to new heights of freedom, peace, and prosperity.

 

We can’t stop the “madness” of others but we can stop ourselves from adding to it. We can refrain from mean-spirited talk. We can walk away from it. We can speak for harmony. We can teach the value of respect to all our children by modeling it for them in this way.

 

Diversity is a good thing. It supports life, growth, healing, and discovering. Let’s honor it. We can express what we believe with maturity and grace.

 

We can bring peace, respect, and kindness into the world, each one of us can. It’s the only way…one by one.