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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

HOW TO WALK, TALK, LIVE, AND LOVE: AN ODE TO NATURE

“Walk like a lion, talk like pigeons, live like elephants, and love like an infant child.”                                                                                                                  ~ Santosh Kalwar     

“Be fearless,” the quote begins.
Breath and bring out the best of you,

It’s easy to picture walking like a lion:
proudly, with confident grace.
I understand loving like an infant child
and laughing with joy like a toddler,
An elephant? She too loves in a way that’s good to follow,
quite like the child but
 more deeply than freely.
Remember well; forgive easily;
and stick together the women and children do.
I’m familiar with pidgin talk but not pigeon talk.
I’ve heard them coo and sort of warble.
I’ve heard they can carry and deliver messages.
That’s a valuable thing too.

There’s strength and beauty in all creation.

And it’s smart for us to look for it,
and wise for us to see it
in ourselves and all others.
When fear is present,
take deep breaths,
stretch tall,
be brave,
and be you.

Know that you have all that you need.

With faith,
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

DON’T GIVE UP: CONSIDER THOMAS EDISON

 

 

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t.” ~ Thomas Edison  

There are times we think we’ve tried everything. At such times we may want to give up, especially if we are overtired, overworked, and surrounded by naysayers. Has this happened to you? Is it happening now? If so, please reconsider. 

Whether it’s about overcoming a hardship or seizing an opportunity, think again.  Edison made at least 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb before achieving success. His claim that there are more possible ways to reach our goals and realize our dreams is based on sound personal experience.

Let’s remain faithful to seeking and finding solutions to all of our life challenges and obstacles to our dreams, remembering that, when we think we’ve exhausted the possibilities, the truth is: We have not. There are more. The best is yet to be.

With love, joy, and wisdom,
Charlene

#dreams #seizing opportunities #perseverance #commitment #Edison 

 

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN LIFE GETS YOU DOWN?

“When life gets you down, do you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.” – Dory, from Little Nemo

What do you do when life gets you down?
Do you “keep swimming?
Or do you hide yourself away?
Or deny the hurt?
Or put on a happy face?
Do you pretend all is well?
Do you do something nice for someone else?
How you you take care of you?
Maybe it is to keep swimming.
Or seek help.
Or find your happy place.
Where is your happy place?
What uplifts you?
What brings you joy?
Consider listing at least 12 things that lift your spirits.
Engage in one or more every day.
A simple but good one is to practice gratitude.
Notice things that you appreciate, even if it’s just a little.
Gratefulness leads to joy.

 

 

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