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A WISDOM LESSON FROM TWO VERY DIFFERENT UNCLES: DON’T COMPARE

Way back when my daughters were in elementary school, more than 30 years ago, I noticed a difference in the way one of my husband’s uncles and one of my uncles treated the children in our families. My uncle, Ray, paid attention to what children said. He really listened. You could tell by the questions he asked. He also genuinely enjoyed playing board games and engaging in contests with them. He watched as they did magic tricks, twirled a baton, and performed other skills they were learning. My husband’s uncle, Spike, did not relate as well to children. In fact, sometimes he was dismissive and gruff toward them.  So I judged him in this regard as “not good enough.”

One summer day we had a serious plumbing problem in our home. The basement in our century-old Victorian farmhouse was filling with sewage back-up. As soon as he heard about it, Uncle Spike showed up in hip boots, prepared to help drain and clean the basement. He showed no reluctance or reservation about dealing with the mess and the stench. Again, I compared the uncles. What I saw led me closer to accepting and appreciating people as they are. While my Uncle Ray was great with kids, he could not fix a thing and he would not have been willing to enter that basement and try. The memory of Uncle Spike in his hip boots reminds me that we all have different personalities and skill sets. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We’re all doing our best. And we’re all still learning. 

I included this story in Touchstones: Stories for Living The Twelve Gifts, which was published in 2012. I’m posting it here and now, in part, because my Aunt Angie, my last relative from my parents’ generation, died last month. I almost didn’t go to the funeral because it required a lot of travel. But when I thought of all the love and lasting life lessons I received from her and from all the aunts, uncles, and grandparents in both my family and my husband’s–as well as from our parents–I knew I had to attend to honor them all and to be with all my cousins as we step up to be the elder generation. I hope that the way I live my life leaves some lasting life lessons on the children in the generations coming up behind us, especially the lesson to love and appreciate one another without comparisons and judgments. I also want them to know that the practice of this principle should not be limited to family, nor to just family and friends. It’s a wise and powerful lesson for all to be applied to all. 

For peace,
Charlene

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

“It’s a paradox: When we have been sick, we appreciate health; when we make up after a fight, we rediscover friendship; when we are close to death, we love life.” ~Piero Ferrucci

Consider what happens in the aftermath of tragedies. We experience increases of tenderness, kindness, hope, love, and helpfulness. There’s a greater sense of pulling together, a desire to build unity, and gratitude for the good things in life.

Why does it take a shock to call forth these resources from the depths in us?  Why do they go dormant again? 

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I can imagine what life would be like if we practiced gratitude, kindness, and helpfulness every day.

Let’s keep it simple and simply be kind to everyone we encounter as we celebrate the good things in life and Life Itself.

With joy,
Charlene

LET’S WARM FEAR, MELT HATE, — USE RESPECT, AND MAKE KINDNESS OUR NATURAL STATE

 

 

 

“Unity is strength, division is weakness.” – Swahili Proverb

 

We need more light now, light to see clearly, light to lift our spirits, and light to find our way to unity.

Much in the news has been dark. The good news is that we have a great deal of light within us. We also have reverence, compassion, hope, and love. These gifts and others were factory-installed. Even if they have been covered with layers of fear, hate, and blame, these powerful qualities are a part of our essence. They can be reached. Within compassion there is the kindness we all need to be giving and receiving.  Respect is a part of the gift of reverence. We know what hope is and why we need it. Love has healing power, and don’t we need healing?

Today is a great day for reaching inside and bringing respect, kindness, hope, and love into the world; using these gifts everywhere we go; and applying them generously in every way we can.

If we do this day-by-day, one-by-one we can warm the cold “fear/hate/blame” climate that has settled over our land. We can melt the hard divisiveness that has been fostered. We can restore the sense of togetherness and unity we need to be strong and free.

Yes. It will take a lot of one-by-ones. True. But it’s possible. It’s do-able. And there’s much to gain if we do, and much at stake if we don’t. For inspiration, please consider these quotes:

“Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky.” – Sonia Gandhi.

“No doubt, unity is something to be desired, to be striven for, but it cannot be willed by mere declarations.” – Theodore Bikel

“Together we can change the world, just one random act of kindness at a time.” – Ron Hall

Are you in? I am.

With faith,
Charlene

WISDOM IS WHISPERING. ARE YOU HEARING?

 

 

 

“The tenth gift is wisdom. Wisdom will lead you through knowledge to understanding. May you hear its soft voice.” ~ from The Twelve Gifts of Birth

When I came across this image, I immediately thought of this wisdom quote in The Twelve Gifts of Birth. For me, the book morphing into nature represents knowledge transforming into deep understanding in a beautiful way. Also, whenever I am in mountains and forests, by the sea, or in any natural setting, many of The Twelve Gifts are stirred in me, among them: wisdom. Strength, beauty, compassion, hope, joy, imagination, love, reverence, and faith are usually stirred and nourished too. 

If you can, spend some time in nature today. Everyday. We all need regular doses of vitamin N. Regular reflection is good for us too. There are many ways to reflect. Here’s one way: 

Please clear your mind as best you can. Take several deep breaths. Place your dominant hand over your heart and your other hand over your belly. Intend to open your heart and engage with your gut feelings. Tune in.

Now look at the photo. What are you thinking? Feeling? Knowing?

Reread the quote. Consider each sentence. Notice what you are thinking, feeling, and knowing.

Now recall a time when you experienced wisdom resonating, or activating, or growing, or awakening in you. Was it like an ah-ha? Was it an intuitive knowing? What was it like? Have you ever heard or felt an inner “Yes” or “No” or other instruction?

We all have valuable wisdom stories. Perhaps just one or a few seem significant to you. Maybe many do. If you feel inclined to share one, please do. I’d love to hear from you.

With love and appreciation,
Charlene

INSPIRATION FROM MOTHER TERESA

“I am a little pencil in the hand of God writing a love letter to the world.” 

           ~ Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa often spoke of herself as a little pencil, so there are variations of this quote, including one that says we are all little pencils in the hand of God. I love the image and symbolism of us being instruments of the Creator.

This pencil metaphor came up recently while I was replying to a touchstone friend. Suddenly I pictured a fountain pen and felt a rush of joy. I remembered how much I loved using a fountain pen in the upper grades of elementary school. It could be messy. I often had ink stains on my hands. But oh how pretty the writing looked when I used peacock blue ink. So, for me, the pencil metaphor becomes stronger when I think of us as fountain pens. The ink flowing through the pen is an apt symbol for Love flowing through us and out to the world. The messiness works for me too. I mess up. We all do. But we’re all so beautiful too. Inside we’re brighter than peacock blue.

Perhaps you would prefer to think of yourself as a ball point pen or a crayon or not a writing implement at all. Maybe you’d rather be likened to a paint brush, or a carving chisel, or a drum, a harp, a horn, or a bell. The possibilities are nearly endless. If you know the instrument that works best for you, please let me know. In the meantime, let’s aim, like St. Francis, to be instruments of peace, love, and understanding.

Sincerely,
Charlene

PEOPLE ARE BORN WITH BASIC GOODNESS

“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness.” – Anne Frank

The story below demonstrates that “people are just people.” It’s also an example of basic human goodness and dignity. The gifts of reverence, compassion, and hope too. As Alan Cohen said, “Scared and sacred are spelled with the same letters… Every negative experience holds the seed of transformation.” 

My friend, Kathy, and I had just began an early morning beach walk before class at the University of Santa Monica. She and I were graduate students there. We hadn’t walked far when Kathy stopped and held her stomach. “I think I’m going to be sick,” she said. She looked like she might faint too. I knew she had just started taking a bunch of vitamins and had taken them on an empty stomach that morning. With her leaning on me, we slowly made our way toward the shade under the Santa Monica Pier.

There was a man under the pier. I had noticed him as we approached. He looked like he had spent the night there, actually many nights. I avoided making eye contact.  

Once there, sure enough, Kathy was sick. Neither of us had water or a tissue.

Tenuously, the homeless man approached us. “I don’t have any water but you’re welcome to what I have,” he said, holding up a bag wrapped around a bottle of amber liquid.
He was sincere and kind, gentlemanly and generous.

In an instant, that man, and the whole situation of Kathy sick under the pier, went from ugly to beautiful and from scared to sacred. There was nothing “other” about him. Nothing offensive. Nothing frightening. There was nothing to judge. He was one of us, three people with basic goodness who happened to be under the pier at the same time.

With love, gratitude, and joy,
Charlene     

 

YOU: A GIFT TO THE WORLD

 

 

 

“You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on Earth by the Master Craftsman.”

                                                                     – Max Lucado

 

 

You are a gift to the world. Please believe this. If that seems hard, stretch toward this. Make room for the possibility. Aim to believe and feel the truth of this as best you can. Value yourself. Your gifts and talents. Your unique appearance. Your personality. Your dreams. Your life experiences. Your lessons learned and lessons yet to be learned. All that makes you YOU. 

Today, let’s say “Thank you!” to the Master Craftsman for the gift of our beauty-full beings.

With wonderment, 
Charlene

PS – Even worse than thinking one is an “accident,” is being told, “You were a mistake.” Some children actually hear that. No wonder they feel unworthy. Let’s send waves of love around the world. Imagine every hurting child washed by those waves.

DOES GRATITUDE ALWAYS LEAD TO JOY?

 

 

 

 

 

“The sixth gift is Joy. May it keep your heart open and filled with light.” – from The Twelve Gifts of Birth

 

 

I find that sincere gratitude always opens my heart to the joy that is naturally there. The blossom of joy that follows gratitude may or may not bloom into happiness. Happiness, of course, follows more readily when our hearts are not covered with a protective layer due to deep hurt, sadness, fear, grief or worry. In such times, we may feel as if we will never feel happy again.

But even at the dark and heavy times in my life, when I allowed authentic gratefulness for something–anything–to bubble up from my heart, some joy seeped through with it and gave me a small yet pleasant uplift.

Sometimes joy is like the Rose Bowl Parade of floral floats and marching bands. Other times joy is like a gentle, fragrant breeze on a summer night, barely there, so subtle one might not even notice it. Ahh. But when we do, that little petal of joy is soothing and sweet.

I am recalling times when I was seriously ill or heartbroken. I found that if I sat still, slowed and deepened my breath, and stayed in the present moment, some appreciation always emerged. It might have been for the color of my bedroom walls, or that my digestive system had worked easily, or that my back felt comfortably supported by the pillows behind me. Or, I noticed beauty in something in the room or in nature, outside the window. Or… the possibilities are endless.

I am offering this because I know that among us, always, there are people we know or friends we haven’t yet met who are experiencing one of those dark and heavy times. In particular, a comment to a post on one of my Facebook pages prompted this writing at this time. I think we’ve all known  times when inspirational messages and encouraging suggestions might seem like well-meaning but empty platitudes.

I suspect we’ve also experienced at least one time when the energy of someone’s robust joy felt painful upon our fragile state of being. Bright light joy upon a hurting heart can be like driving into the late afternoon sun in Arizona. It’s so blinding that you have to shut your eyes, look away, or turn to another direction. Have you ever felt like that?

At fragile times, I believe that loving acceptance, along with compassionate kindness and reverent listening to understand, is the most wise and caring thing we can offer to one another. Although, I admit that sometimes I have offered advice instead of giving the gift of simply being there. But we live and we learn, yes?

What’s your experience? Both on the giving and the receiving side? And with joy itself?

With love,
Charlene