Tag Archive | building inner strength

HELP CHILDREN FEEL VALUABLE: THREE LESSONS IN STONES

“Thank you for helping me feel like a shiny stone instead of a plain old worthless rock,” said a third-grade boy in Tucson, Arizona.

An effect and reaction like that is what I hope for when I offer a polished stone to children in classrooms – adults in audiences too – after we discuss the message of The Twelve Gifts of Birth. If you’re familiar with the book, you know that the story, illustrations, and photographs help children of all ages recognize their inner gifts and feel valuable.

To anchor the message and help make the intangible gifts of inner strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love and faith feel more touchable and real, I use a bowl of stones in a show and tell way. You can do this too in a one-on-one way or with any size group.

When speaking with groups, a clear fish bowl is an ideal container. Fill it at least halfway with medium-sized polished stones of all varieties. On top of all the shiny and colorful stones, place a regular, rough rock, the kind you might pick up from a street, sidewalk, or hiking trail. For a one-on-one talk, a handful of polished stones and one rough rock is sufficient.

The bowl of stones does a good job of grabbing attention and stirring curiosity in groups.  I present the bowl after the reading, discussion, and the question, “Who feels valuable in this moment?” All (or nearly all) hands shoot up.

That opens the door for THE THREE LESSONS IN POLISHED STONES.

The plain rough rock is used to acknowledge that we all sometimes feel like that: plain, ordinary, maybe even worthless. The truth is that we are all like the polished stones. Like them we’ve been tumbled. For them it was in a machine. For us it is in life.  The keepsake polished stone is meant to remind us that no matter what we look like on the surface or what we feel like, we have strength, beauty, and other valuable qualities within us always.

The second lesson the stones offer is the beauty of all their various colors, shapes, and sizes. We too come in various colors, shapes, and sizes. No matter. Like the stones, in that way too, we are all valuable.

The third lesson comes from taking a very close look at one or any number of the stones. Upon close examination, we see little cracks, nicks, scratches. While they are indeed beautiful, strong, and valuable, they are not perfect. Neither are we.

And those are three lessons for all of us to remember for ourselves and to share with the children in our lives.

Parents, teachers, counselors, all readers who may use this activity in any way, I’d love to hear from you.

I’m guessing that a collection of colorful stones can carry other meaningful messages. What do you think of the three I described? What other life lessons do you see?

Toward dignity for all,
Charlene

 

 

 

 

ABOUT BEAUTY, FROM A RECOVERING PERFECTIONIST

Tree in a meadow

“If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice its knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully.”
~ Matthew Fox

 


I have often used polished stones as a way to demonstrate this message about beauty and imperfection.

When I give polished stones away at school presentations and workshops, I invite everyone to look closely and notice all the little nicks and scratches on the stones. Yes, they are strong and beautiful – the agates, the ambers, the amethysts, the apache tears, and the aquamarines, to name just a few. And, they are not perfect. Like us.

Another take-away from the stones is this: Colorful polished stones in circle
the stones come in all different colors,
shapes, and sizes. Like us.
And they are all beautiful. Like us.

Today and every day, let’s focus on the good and the beautiful in ourselves, others, and the world.

From a recovering perfectionist…

With love and compassion,
Charlene

WELCOME TO THE WORLD PROJECT IS LAUNCHED

Welcome to the World coverThe Twelve Gifts of Birth Foundation has launched a “conscious parenting” project that involves giving Welcome to the World keepsake folders to hospitals and birthing centers to pass on to moms of new babies.

The Welcome to the World keepsake is designed to encourage parents to nurture the inner strength, compassion, hope, joy and other natural gifts and talents in their children.

The folder includes a congratulatory letter, a Twelve Gifts Birth Certificate, and a Ways to Nurture the Gifts in Your Child mini poster with 60 simple yet powerful ways to cultivate self worth and positive character traits in children.

Both the birth certificate and mini poster Ways to Nurture posterare ideal for framing and featuring in scrapbooks.

Signed copies of The Twelve Gifts of Birth book are also given to the babies born on the launch date at each participating hospital. The project further includes a method through which participating hospitals can receive on-going donations from The Twelve Gifts of Birth Foundation.

The first institution to receive the Welcome to the World keepsakes is Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando, Florida.

For more information about Welcome to the World and how to obtain the keepsakes, please visit www.thetwelvegiftsofbirthfoundation.com

Suggested ways to nurture The Twelve Gifts in children can be found at www.thetwelvegiftsofbirth.com

Launched with much love for all the little ones!

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

SPRING CLEAN

 

Clean heart“Create in me a clean heart, O God…”  

                                     ~ Psalm 51:10

I love this psalm.
Long ago I had a vinyl record of a song inspired by this passage. I can still play it in my mind. 

 

As winter ends and spring draws near, let’s make way for heart cleanings and clearings.

 

 

Intend to release judgments, regrets, and resentments. Consider using, today and every day, a song, a prayer, a ritual, an affirmation, some activity that helps you open to the grace of letting go, with love and compassion. 

                                                      

APPROACH EACH DAY LIKE A TREASURE HUNT

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” – Agatha Christie


treasure trail start

 

When our grandchildren, Alexis and Anthony, come to visit, my husband and I often lay out though the house a paper strip trail for them to follow.

 

Around tables and over beds, the trail leads them in and out of rooms in search of “X marks the spot.” There, under the X, they will find some little treat or trinket.

 

While they delight in whatever they find under the X, and say “thank you” very nicely, it seems to me that the peak of their joy is at the start of the hunt, just seeing a portion of the trail X marks the spotahead, along with the process of discovering the course of the path.

 

This seems like a metaphor for living each day. We don’t know where the day will lead us, what obstacles we may face, what twists and turns there may be for us. Still, this day, every day, is an adventure in living. It holds a gift. It is a grand thing just to be alive!

 

Wishing you sweet discoveries every day, with love.

I LOVE YOU JUST THE WAY YOU ARE

  kids for blog“I love you when you’re happy. I love you when your sad. I love your when your silly. I love you when your mad. I love you when your grumpy. I love you when your glad. I love you all the time. I love you just the way you are.”

                                            ~ C. C.      

Who is C. C.? Me. These are the words of a song I made up to sing to my grandchildren. When I do, they always smile or giggle and take in the loving like little flowers opening to the sun. And they ask for “more.” More ways that they can “be” and be completely loved. Like when they are scared, surprised, goofy, stinky, burpy…etc. They are three years old, by the way; so, in addition to being loved unconditionally, they love silliness.

Today I realized that I could sing this song to myself.

Sometimes I need to sing or, at least, say words like this to me. I need to truly let myself know that I am lovable and loved just the way I am, in the midst of anger, frustration, exasperation, sadness, feeling not good enough…

Do you love yourself when you’re feeling frazzled? Angry? Sad? Worried? All the time, no matter what? Or do you tend to love yourself only when you’re feeling great?

I think we can all benefit every time we pause and give ourselves a dose of unconditional love… when we love ourselves the way we love a small child… the way I love my twin grandchildren.

You can’t hear me but right now I’m singing this song to you.

May we love ourselves through thick and thin and all the ups and downs today.

May we aim to do this everyday.  

“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.