Category Archives: Health

The difference between happy and glowing: Giving

This past week I had the privilege of writing an article about a woman from my church. Jean volunteers for a long list of organizations, giving to others in different ways. As she bakes, delivers meals to seniors, quilts, and tackles her many other labours of love, she glows with energy and good spirit. When I asked her why she does all she does, she said, “It makes me feel good. I get back so much more than I give.”

Another friend of mine volunteers for Canadian Red Cross. He supports people in need in his own community, and he travels to countries in crisis around the globe. When he speaks of this work, he glows. “I get back so much more than I give,” he says.

I have heard that refrain over and over in my life, from people aglow with the joy of hands-on giving.

After my conversation with Jean, I thought about other people I know who have stable jobs and who probably give to charity, but who don’t give of themselves in a close contact way. They golf every Saturday, or they enjoy fine dining, or they spend most weekends at their cottage.

I would never say these people aren’t happy. If I were to ask them if they are happy, they would say yes. What is the difference then?

The difference is the glow: The merely happy people pass through life content; the others glow with a giving contact high.

The question then: Do I want to be merely happy, or do I want to glow?

Mud-splattered and glowing in Bolivia

Arlene – Mud-splattered and glowing on a Habitat for Humanity build in Bolivia

 

 

No “can’t’; No “won’t”; Only “how”: Spencer West

I’ll be volunteering at National We Day here in Ottawa, Canada tomorrow. We Day, an event affiliated with Free The Children and Me to We, is a music and inspiration-filled concert that energizes kids and inspires them to shift their view of the world from “me” to “‘we.” Craig and Marc Kielburger, founders of Free the Children, want to free children locally and internationally from poverty and oppression, and they want to free children from the belief that they are powerless to effect change.

I attended a training session last night along with hundreds of other volunteers. If we held any lingering doubts about our abilities to handle our assigned tasks, out guest speaker put those doubts to rest.

Spencer West climbed the stairs to speak to us. That one simple act inspired us, for Spencer West has no legs. But no matter. He has done outreach work in Africa, he has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and he travels the world speaking and encouraging people to effect change. One of speaking topics is: No Can’t, No Won’t, Only How: Overcoming Obstacles to Make a Difference.

It’s easy to imagine that Spencer West heard the words “can’t” or “won’t” many times in his life. His ability to climb over those words to get to the word “how” inspires the rest of us to climb over our own surmountable obstacles.

The kids attending the concert tomorrow couldn’t buy a ticket to attend; they had to earn it. Schools and groups commit to taking one local and one global action to earn their way.

Perhaps we can take a cue from them: one local and one global action. If “can’t” or “won’t” pop into your head, brush those words aside and look for “how.” It’s easy. Certainly easier than climbing Mount Kilimanjaro without legs.

What you are for, not what you are against

I couldn’t let Martin Luther King Jr. Day pass without some tribute.

What four words come to mind when you think of him? For me, they are: “I have a dream.

Bruce Sanguin and others have pointed out that Luther King said “I have a dream,” not “I have a complaint.”

By focusing on what he was for, he stirred people. He was a prophet in the fullest sense of the term. He couldn’t allow an oppressive status quo to carry on unchallenged, and he felt called to energize people to drive change.

If he had focused on what he was so justifiably against—if he had complained—people might have reacted with, “Yes, things are a mess (shrug) but I can’t believe they’ll ever change.”

At my book study group last night we talked about prophets: seekers of social justice, inspired energizers of change. We considered some modern-day prophets: Malala Yousafzai, Craig and Marc Kielburger, and David Suzuki, for example. Our list went on, for we are blessed with many modern-day prophets. All of them respond to a life calling they cannot ignore. All of them seek to change a societal injustice. All of them energize other people to make that change.

All of them have plenty to complain about, and they lay the facts out there for all to know, and then they look forward. And then they tell you what they’re for.

Neil Young take note. We know what you’re against. What are you for?

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Joy for all: Sheila money

Happy New Year

The kids came to the bake tables at the church bazaar. They clutched brown envelopes in their hands, and they walked slowly up and down the length of the tables, surveying the goods and weighing their options. They wanted to choose carefully. They wanted to spend their “Sheila money” wisely.

Other kids explored the toy section. They surveyed the goods and weighed their options. They wanted to spend their “Sheila money” wisely.

Some kids wanted to buy Christmas gifts for family or friends. They surveyed the goods on the craft table and weighed their options. They wanted to spend their “Sheila money” wisely.

The week before the bazaar, a member of our church congregation visited the kids in the Sunday school classrooms. She gave each child a brown envelope with a $10 bill folded inside. Sheila needed to travel on the weekend of the bazaar, so she wouldn’t be able to attend. She wanted to contribute though, and what better way than through the children? She prepared the envelopes and gave them to the kids, so they would have their own money to spend.

She didn’t tell anyone she did this, so on the weekend of the bazaar it took us a while to figure it out. Why did all these kids have brown envelopes? Why did all the envelopes contain exactly $10?

When the kids’ parents told the story though, word spread. One by one people heard about it and turned their heads to appreciate the kids in action with their Sheila money. We watched them cherish the gift that had fallen from the sky to land on them. We saw them learn to be good stewards of their money by choosing how to spend it wisely. We bloomed with joy and smiled broadly watching the kids make their Sheila money purchases.

When I asked Sheila if I could write about this, we talked about it for a while. I told her how touched I was watching those kids doing their shopping. She told me that she received the most beautiful thank you card from one of the kids, and another child had chosen to spend the money buying a gift to give back to her. We both teared up during our brief conversation.

“That’s Christmas right there,” I told her.

I’ve thought so much about Sheila money since then that I’ve broadened the definition in my mind. I’ve come to think of it as any selfless contribution a person makes to brighten someone else’s day. A few days before Christmas one of my friends encountered a tearful woman in dire straits. The $50 bill she gave to that woman was Sheila money. Another friend helped the Red Cross during the ice storm. That was Sheila money.

A gift, selflessly given, that gives joy to all. That’s Christmas right there.

Every moment is a starting point

“I don’t know if bad things happen for a reason, but I do know that every moment is a starting point.” —Etienne LeSage

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Here in Ottawa, Canada we creep by the hour toward a starting point that everyone agrees upon – the new year 2014. In New Zealand, 2014 already arrived several hours ago, so, really, the agreed-upon starting point is a moving target and a matter of perspective.

Here, in Ottawa, Canada, I reflect on the wise words of my friend, Etienne. New birth doesn’t happen once a year; in every moment and within every event lies the seed of a starting point.

If we fail, what can we learn and what can grow from it? If we succeed, what can we leverage from that and what can we build? If disaster strikes, how can we heal and what good can we find in it? If blessings fall upon us, how do we receive them and with whom can we share them?

Our calendars turn over and 2014 lies ahead of us. A year of successes, failures, disasters, and blessings lies of ahead of us. A whole year of starting points—not just one day.

Onward, always for the highest good.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!

Some wisdom at the new year from the Elder Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation

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We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Magical Hour.

There are things to be considered:
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.

Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!

ottawa-riverThere is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and they will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in CELEBRATION!

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

The Elder Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation