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AN EXAMPLE OF STRENGTH AND COURAGE

In my previous post I presented the entire speech made by Principal Donna Hayward to the 2014 graduating class of Suffield High School in Suffield, CT.  While the whole commencement address is powerful, I want to highlight this extraordinary example of strength and courage. May the actions of Iqbal Masih and a group of Canadian 12-year-old children move us to use the gifts of strength and courage however we can, in ways large and small, day by day. Thank you again, Donna, for permission to share your words. 

“…This year, I also learned the story of a young boy named Iqbal Masih and his story illustrates how each of us can fight injustice in our own way in our own world.  Iqbal was a young Pakistani boy, who was sold into bondage by his parents at the age of four in order to pay off a debt of what amounted to about $16.  He worked for years, chained to a weaving loom, fashioning the tiny knots in Pakistani rugs with his small fingers.  Although he worked alongside dozens of other children with the same fate, somehow Iqbal felt inside himself a flame of injustice and rebelled against it at the age of ten by running away from his master.  When he did, he happened upon an activist in the village square, making a speech about how child slavery had been outlawed – a surprise to Iqbal – and the young boy told a police officer standing nearby that he, in fact, was a child slave.  He led the officer back to his master, anticipating justice.  Instead, the officer was bribed by the slave owner and left Iqbal behind – the boy facing a cruel punishment instead of the justice he sought.  But Iqbal had courage and strength and soon ran away again, this time finding the man who had given the speech in the village square.  He brought the activist back to his master, and this man couldn’t be bought or silenced so all the children in Iqbal’s factory were freed.  Iqbal joined the Bonded Labour Liberation Front and became famous because he continued his crusade, actually sneaking into other child-slave-shops, gaining the trust of the children and then triggering a raid on the outfit by the liberation group, freeing over 3,000 children in all.  Eventually, he visited other countries, including the U.S., to tell his story and advocate for justice in ending childhood slavery.  Ultimately, however, Iqbal was murdered when he returned to Pakistan to visit his family.  He was only 12 years old. Continue reading

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

“WE STRENGTH”

We StrengthI met Peggy on the grounds of The Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. Also known as “The Casa,” the Center is considered by many people to be a sacred place that offers strength from the site itself as well as through its programs and retreats.

After strolling along the meditation trails and the path of the labyrinth, Peggy and I sat in the shade of a ramada. There, we got to talking about forms of strength, such as stamina, fortitude, determination, and willpower.

Then we opened up and shared stories about times we needed to call upon strength.

“This is the form of strength I most appreciate,” said Peggy. “We Strength.

We Strength…what’s that?” I asked.

“Every time I allow myself to be vulnerable and completely honest with someone I trust, I am enormously strengthened,” said Peggy. “And it seems that the other person is filled with strength also. It’s a ‘we’ kind of strength. We Strength.

Feeling empowered and expansive myself as well as connected with Peggy in shared strength, I understood Peggy’s perspective. 

We Strength. Seemingly so unlike robustness, toughness, hardiness, resoluteness, firmness, spunk, grit, persistence, endurance, force, ruggedness, and many other words that name an aspect of strength. But a form of true strength indeed.

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.

 

MINING WISELY FOR WEALTH, WELL-BEING, AND INNER STRENGTH

 

Sun for mining strength blogHave you ever wished that corporations and countries would somehow help bring about greater health, wealth, well-being, and harmony on this planet by using the earth’s resources more wisely? Do you ever wonder: When we will begin mining the power of waves, the wind, and the sun?

 

 

While we wait for that, we can each be mining the resources and the wealth within us. What wealth? The strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love, and faith that is in our core. When we draw these resources into our daily lives, we are enriched while we enrich the world around us. And to do this there is no cost of investment, no special equipment needed, no licensing required. 

 

We can all mine our inner resources using intention, willingness, and commitment. It’s time to realize the power of these resources…“realize” as in recognize and see them and “realize” as in make them real and manifested. 

 

Start with strength. Consider using the quotes and questions (from the book Touchstones: Stories for Living The Twelve Gifts) below as a way to tap in, increase the flow of your inner strength, and bring that strength into all that you do.

 

 “When you look back over your life and see how much you’ve had to face… it’s interesting to try and pinpoint the first time… you had to reach inside yourself and pull out strength you didn’t know you had.”   –Loretta Lynn 

 

               If I’m afraid, it doesn’t mean that I’m not brave.

               And if I doubt, it doesn’t mean that I’ve lost faith.

               And if I fall, if doesn’t mean I can’t go on.

               And if I cry, it doesn’t mean that I’m not strong. 

                –Jana Stanfield & Karen Taylor-Good, Doesn’t Mean That I’m Not Strong, from Brave Faith

 

For Reflection, Journaling, and Discussion

Do you consider yourself to be a “strong” person? Why?

How have you used strength? Start by recalling a particular time when you called upon strength. Was it to face a challenge? To complete a project? To follow a dream? To be present in a situation? Remember that strength takes many forms, such as will, resolve, determination, and perseverance; and it can be brought into all aspects of our lives.

What stirs a feeling of empowerment in you?

From what activities do you draw strength? Walking? Meditating? Dancing? Swimming? Talking with a friend? Playing rousing music? Prayer? What forms? There are many ways to pray.

Into what situations and areas of your life would you like more strength to flow?

 

 

THINKING OF YOU: CARING AS A FORM OF PRAYER

 

birthday flowers

“If, instead of a gem or even a flower,
we should cast a gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend,
that would be giving as the angels give.” – George Macdonald

 

 

Coming across this quote today stirred in me a memory of a study on prayer that I heard about many years ago.

 

 

In 1969 in Salem, Oregon, an organization known as Spindrift conducted a series of experiments involving seeds and prayer. First, two groups of rye seeds were planted in identical conditions. One group was prayed for and one was not. The prayed-for group grew better, with taller seedlings and more shoots. In further experiments, the researchers applied prayer to “seeds in crisis.” Salt was added to the watering can to stress the seeds as they tried to grow. The seeds that were watered with salt water and were prayed for grew higher then the healthy seeds that were not prayed for. They also grew taller than the prayed for seeds that received fresh water. The experiments were repeated with various types of seeds, and the results were consistent: Seedlings facing adversity and receiving prayer thrived.

 

Since I first heard about The Spindrift Study, I’ve often thought about how we are like those little seedlings with salt water poured upon them. In some form, we all have adversity rained upon us. We can grow greater Continue reading

CONSCIOUS PARENTING (AND GRANDPARENTING): WAYS TO NURTURE THE GIFTS IN ALL CHILDREN

Reading to NewbornAll children are born “gifted and talented.” While every child may not excel in athletic skill, artistic expression, or academic performance, every child does possess the resources of inner strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love, and faith.

 

 

 

Poets, prophets, and philosophers have, for centuries, been pointing the way to true prosperity and successful living by using our inner gifts. We hear this wisdom in all of the world’s religions. We can even find guidance in fables and folk tales.

 

 

 

Consider the classic Sleeping Beauty story, for example. The princess, named Beauty, pricks her finger on a poisoned Continue reading

BILOXI BLUES: DEMONSTRATING DIGNITY AND COMPASSION

Biloxi BluesEvery day I look to see how and where I might observe any and all of The Twelve Gifts being played out in life. Today, I saw them played out in a play.

 

 

Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues tells a story of young army recruits going through basic training at a boot camp in Mississippi during World War II.

 

 

It was the character named Epstein who most drew the attention of my heart as he demonstrated dignity and compassion despite being picked on by his sergeant and fellow recruits, mainly because he is Jewish and philosophical in his approach to life.

 

 

When the play open, Epstein appears to be a young man with a weak constitution. “Diagnosed with a nervous stomach,” he says, with a doctor’s report to prove it.

 

 

Yet, scrawny private Epstein stands strong and tall Continue reading

A TREE GROWS IN SEDONA: A TOUCHSTONE FOR STRENGTH AND HOPE

Joanne's TreeMy friend Joanne greatly appreciated the tree that stood in front of her townhouse.

 

One day Joanne noticed small dark spots on nearly all the leaves. Close inspection revealed that millions of tiny bugs had invaded her arboreal friend. She immediately called the homeowners’ association to report the problem and asked that the tree be treated.

 

Joanne was horrified when, a few days later, she came home to find the tree being chopped down. In fact, by the time she arrived, it was nearly gone, felled to the ground.

 

She regretted reporting the problem. “I should have sprayed it, tried some things myself, taken some other approach,” she repeated to herself and to all who would listen.

 

Day after day, Joanne mourned her missing tree. Where there had been beauty and vibrant life, there was now a barrenness in front of her home – no singing birds, no swaying branches, no soothing shade, no musical rustling of leaves – just a circle of stones, like a grave marker, around where the tree had stood.

 

Many months later, a shoot appeared from within that circle of empty red earth Continue reading