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Outside Ourselves

14 Mar

Sometimes things go wrong, our life gets turned upside down, and we become stressed.  Maybe there’s too much going on we need to address, or the plans we made fell through and we’re struggling to find our way. Life isn’t always easy and sometimes the road gets rocky. We may feel overwhelmed, lost, scared, or exhausted as we try to navigate the situation, and the last thing we want is to face anything else. It may seem strange but the best thing to do at times like these is to reach outside ourselves and offer help to someone else. It’s virtually impossible to think about our problems when we’re doing something for others. We can’t be focused on what’s going wrong in our lives when we’re trying to help make something right for someone else. Taking the time to serve removes us from the things that are holding us down, and brings us comfort and peace. We can return to our issues later and they’ll still be there. But often if we take time out to serve, when we return to our problems they don’t seem quite so looming or difficult, and we find we can manage them a bit better.

It’s not possible to intensely ponder two situations at once. We can only carefully think about one at a time. If we’re stressed about something and turn our attention to someone else, they become our focus. It doesn’t matter what we do to serve, and there are limitless ways we can help out. For instance, imagine a friend needed food but had no way to get to the store and we offered to take them – it would be a great blessing. Personal service need not be extremely time consuming or difficult. We can do whatever is needed. And if we help, the other person isn’t the only one who benefits. We also receive blessings as we take a break from obsessing over our problems. It’s a win for both.

When we’re under water with an issue that’s concerning us, the last thing we want is more to do. We’re already busy and we have a lot on our minds. We may not think offering help to someone else will bring us respite, but that’s often what happens.  Serving others isn’t just another chore to accomplish. When we serve, we focus on something else, get closer to those around us, and build relationships. As we build friendships we learn more about ourselves. Those we help will trust us and feel our care. We all need each other. We’re connected to one another in ways we can’t always see.  When we’re wrapped up in our own lives we may forget that. Opening the door to service helps us remember. Nobody knows what the future will bring and life changes constantly. It’s possible that although we’re serving today, it may happen in the future that we’ll be the ones in need, and someone will help us.  It’s give and take each day of our lives.  The more we give, the more blessings we’ll take away.

Today if you’re overwhelmed with issues that are concerning and you feel stressed, look around and see where you can help someone else. Take a break from your pressures to serve. You’ll be amazed at how good you’ll feel and how refreshed you’ll be when you return. There isn’t anything you can’t handle. You have so much to offer. Offer it today.

Still Waters

26 Feb

Sometimes when we’re interacting with others things don’t go as well as we hope. There may be friction and disharmony, and sometimes we don’t know why it happens. Perhaps someone gets angry over a suggestion we make, or is offended by something we’ve said, and we have no idea why they reacted the way they did and they won’t say. It can be confusing and when we’re trying to get along or get something done, it can stop us in our tracks. If we know why the problem occurred we can try to address it, but if we have no idea what went wrong, we may be lost. People are complicated and we can only see their external appearance.  We don’t know what’s going on inside them.  Many of us are private and don’t express everything we’re going through to others, and prefer to keep our challenges or struggles to ourselves. If we encounter conflict and don’t know what happened, it may be that someone is struggling with an issue of which we are unaware. They say still waters run deep, which means that although things may look calm on the outside, there may be a lot going on under the surface. When we’re dealing with others it’s important to remember we never know the whole story.

If we have someone in our lives who is moody, or unpredictable, we may try to avoid them until we must talk to them because it’s uncomfortable to deal with them. If they talk to us we might try to keep things light and superficial. We don’t know why they are the way they are, and that should be a clue for us. Perhaps it would be wiser instead of ignoring them, to seek them out just to say hello and let them know we’re thinking of them. If they are struggling privately, a few words of support and encouragement, or a kind word that shows we care can mean a lot. If we take a moment to remind them we are there and value our relationship with them, it can lift them in ways we can’t imagine. They may not tell us what they’re going through, but knowing we’re there may help them get through it more easily.

If we are struggling with a private sorrow, or a difficult challenge, and don’t want to share it with those around us, we may keep it to ourselves. But the stress of holding onto something painful may intensify our interactions because we are distracted and worried. We don’t have to share anything we don’t want to, but when we don’t share we have to carry the burden all by ourselves. Sharing the load always makes it lighter, and if we can open up to someone we trust and let them help us we’ll feel better.  And talking about it may help us find solutions that have eluded us. We can be private but if we let someone in, and listen to their advice and counsel, we may more easily find our way. Sharing our troubles often takes us a long way down the road to resolution. We may find the answers more quickly and if we do, it’s worth the effort every time.

Today if you’re struggling with a private matter think about seeking advice from someone you trust. If you share your dilemma with them things may go more easily.  If someone near you is edgy, offer a word of encouragement and let them know you care.  We’re all looking for answers of some sort.  Reach out and offer a little comfort, and let others comfort you.  They’ll feel better, and you will too.

Legacy

20 Feb

When we read about the legacies people leave behind when they pass away, they generally refer to monetary situations. Maybe they donated a large sum of money to a special charity, or left valuable property to family members. But a personal legacy is more than that. It doesn’t always involve things of monetary value. Our behavior can become our legacy. What we do while we’re alive, who we help, how we serve, and how we interact with others is the real legacy we leave behind. Money gets spent, property gets sold and after time people forget about it. But if we’ve touched other lives in positive ways, and made a personal impact it isn’t easily forgotten. When we think back over our lives we remember the times when we needed help and someone was there for us. We recall specific moments when we felt lost and someone reached out a hand to us. Those are the memories that never seem to fade. They are etched in our minds forever because we felt loved and cared for. If we live our lives in ways that extend love to others, we will change the world for good because we were here. It will never be forgotten, and although time will continue to move forward after we’re gone, the rippling effect of kindness will carry on forever.

It seems as time has passed we’ve become more callous, more selfish, and less sensitive to the needs of those around us. Our lives are more complicated now than ever before. People are busy and focused on their personal lives and sometimes don’t even look up when they pass us on the street. Smiling and saying hello has become a rare experience instead of the norm. We seem to always be rushing off to the next thing, and in a hurry to leave where we are. But when things go wrong and everything stops we see those around us, and notice what’s happening, and if we need help and someone is there for us we feel intense gratitude. Those moments are a reminder of who we are and how much we need each other. Even when we’re busy we can still take a moment to offer a smile, say hello, and lend a helping hand. It’s amazing how even small gestures of kindness can change a situation. If we keep our eyes open we will find countless ways to do small acts of kindness every day. And although they may seem small to us, they be an enormous help to those receiving them.

Life is complicated. We experience a lot of things as we go through the course of one day. We make dozens of decisions and often accomplish much. If we want to make a positive impact and leave a mark of kindness and support, we have to look up and outside ourselves. It’s so easy to be only focused on our own lives. We have a lot to take care of and responsibilities to attend to. But as we go along we are passing others who have just as much to manage. If we try we can be a blessing to them. We can help lift a grocery sack, open a door, pick up something that’s dropped, or take a moment to listen. It doesn’t take much time and if we tried every day to be just a little more helpful, kind, and supportive to others, over the course of our lives we would change the world. When we help someone it makes them feel cared for and they may then care for someone else. Like the never ending ripples in a pond, the kindness will expand. That’s a legacy to be proud of. We don’t need money, and we don’t need expensive possessions. We just need to be kind. It’s the very best thing we can do.

Today if you’ve been focused on all you have to do and haven’t noticed those around you, stop for a moment and look around. See if there is some way you can extend a small kindness. If you do that every day you will feel the glory that comes from goodness and you’ll leave a legacy behind that will never end. You have so much to give. You can change the world.

Shining

22 Dec

Life is full of ups and downs. We have successes and disappointments, good days and bad days, and sometimes if things have been going wrong for a while, we may feel heavy and dark. We have low periods where we feel out of sorts, and disconnected. We know that given time they will pass and we’ll be back in the sunshine again, but as the time lingers we can feel lost, and apart from those around us. During those times we gain strength from those who are bright and positive. When they smile at us we feel lifted, and when they listen we feel cared for. It’s a great blessing to receive when things aren’t going well and we are beset with concern. It’s said that recent studies show the human eye can see a small candle flame from over a mile away. The tiniest light can be seen from a great distance. When we’re overwhelmed and discouraged, we can feel far away. When we see light from someone else and feel it shine on us, we feel comforted. Everyone struggles from time to time and if we choose to, we can be that light and shine compassion and support on those around us. We’re all more connected than we realize. Being a light is the best we can offer.

In the winter if there is snow and ice, slush and mud, the headlamps on our cars can get coated over and over as we drive along. After a while we notice they aren’t working as well as they did, and take a look. When we see the dirt covering them it’s an easy task to wipe it away and let the bright light come through again. Our lives are like that in some ways. We face trials and challenges, and we struggle sometimes to find our way. Everything we face leaves an impact on us and if things have been hard for a while, we may feel dull and muted from the experience. If someone comes along and shares with us, listens to our concerns, and shows care for our well being, it’s like they wipe some of that away and we are able to feel a little brighter. The care of others in our lives can be the salve that heals our wounds, and the bandage that soothes our discomfort.

When things are going well for us, we can be the ones to shine. There is always someone who needs a friend and if we reach out we can make a difference for them. When we’re discouraged and feel bad, we often feel alone in our pain. We sometimes think nobody could understand how we feel so we keep it to ourselves. But we all go through difficult times and know what it’s like to suffer. If we can extend ourselves when we see someone who seems sad or unhappy, if we say hello and ask how they are and really listen, if we stop walking by and stay for just a moment, we may make a heartache more bearable, and brighten a day. We have the power to show we care. We have the power to let our light shine and help heal those around us. It’s a great gift and the more we share it the stronger it gets.

Today if things are going well, share with those around you. See those who are troubled and offer a listening ear and a kind word. You have a lot of light inside you and power to help heal those in need. Reach out, extend yourself, and let it shine. You have so much to give and you can make your world a brighter place. Today be the beacon. You have the power to change a life and make someone feel happy. Use that power today and be the light we all need.

Speak Up

29 Oct

There are people in our lives that we hold dear and love very much. They may be family members, friends or intimate relationships. We value them and want to support them and care for them, and sometimes because of our intense feelings for them, we may go along with their choices even when we know they aren’t wise. Maybe they are dishonest in their dealings with others but we don’t want to upset them so we say nothing. Maybe they lie about situations or intentions, and we know they aren’t going to follow through but we look the other way. And maybe they pretend to care about something or someone in order to move forward to a goal they are seeking, when in fact they only want the goal and don’t care what they have to say or do to get it. If we love them intensely, and are afraid of their response to criticism, we may remain silent and blindly go along with them. When we don’t speak up and tell the truth, if the situation is inappropriate or dishonest and we say nothing, we enable them to continue. And if we enable a situation that is dishonest or inappropriate to continue, and we say nothing, we own part of the pain or disharmony that results.

It’s very difficult to point out possible errors in behavior to those we love. It can be very hard if it’s our spouse, our lover, or our parent. It’s hard to tell them we can’t go along with them if they are dishonest or hurtful. We love them and don’t want to hurt them, and we don’t want to damage our relationship with them. But if we say nothing, and simply let them continue doing things that are wrong or destructive, if we let them hurt others and say nothing, we become part of the problem. Most of us know when we’re hurting those around us. We know when we’re being dishonest, and we generally know who near us is aware of what we’re doing. If we watch someone we love do these things and say nothing, it gives power to the behavior to continue. We can tell ourselves it’s not our problem, and we can pretend we aren’t involved. But the fact is, if we know it’s happening, and we want what’s best for those we love, we need to address it.

We own our decisions and everything we do. We get to choose what kind of people we are and what we want in our lives. We can be dishonest, we can cheat, we can be hurtful, and unkind, and we can play along when others act out. We can keep quiet, and watch from the sidelines and not get involved. Or we can step up and choose the nobler path. We can stand up for what’s right no matter who is involved. We can defend truth, and with love, express concern over situations that are inappropriate or incorrect. Whatever we choose to do makes us who we are. If we speak up and nothing changes, we did the best we could. But if things do change, and situations improve, we may do much to prevent the pain and suffering of others. It is noble and wise to set a good example. It is worthwhile to stand up and speak when things aren’t right. We know what to do and it’s important that we are strong, and brave enough to do what’s right, even with those we love.

Today if you’ve been watching someone close to you hurt others or make decisions that are detrimental or destructive, you can say something. You can show you love them by telling them what you see. They may take your words to heart or they may ignore you. But if you speak up, you will know you did your best. Doing our best is imperative in this life. It makes us who we are, and defines our priorities. Today, show you care by speaking up and helping those you love be their best as well.

Making Room

10 Oct

I once read a story about a man whose wife gave him a new winter coat every Christmas.  It wasn’t that she couldn’t think of anything else to give him or that he wanted a new coat every year.  It was because he needed a new one every Christmas.  You see, he had decided when he was younger that because he had enough to care for himself and his family, he wanted to do something for someone less fortunate.  So, every Christmas he invited a local impoverished man to join his family for Christmas dinner.  Sometimes they were homeless, sometimes not, but they never had sufficient for their needs.  They lived in a northern location, and the winters were often very cold.  During the Christmas celebration the guest was included in every conversation and activity, and made to feel welcome.  Once the meal ended and before the guest would leave, the host would present him with his warm winter coat.  There were often tears of gratitude and amazement at the man’s generosity.  The coat was the most wonderful gift that could be given in a bitterly cold winter, and as the guest would leave hugs and words of encouragement would be exchanged.  Afterward, the man’s wife would present him with her Christmas present of a new winter coat for the coming year.

Extending ourselves and making room for others in our lives is perhaps the most precious gift we can give.  It requires us to look outside ourselves, and see those around us.  It doesn’t always have to be gift, it doesn’t have to be money, it may just be time.  Perhaps just saying hello, listening, and being a friend is all that’s needed.  Sometimes we might help out with something that is difficult.  Or we might offer to help with transportation for a meeting or appointment.  There are millions of people in the world, but there are times when we all feel isolated and alone.  If we can extend ourselves just a little to those around us, we may eliminate those feelings in a small way.  If we all worked together, the world would be a warmer and more welcoming place.

Making room in our lives isn’t hard, but it does take commitment.  Many of us have a little time we can spare, but even if time is limited, it doesn’t take much to say hello and ask how someone is doing.  Of course there are big, international projects we may get involved in if we like.  There is always a lot of need in the world.  But if those big projects aren’t possible, we can simply commit to being kind and welcoming to those around us. If we have possessions we no longer use, we could offer them to someone who needs them.  We might offer our homes to those who need a place to stay, food to those who are hungry, or a smile to those who are sad.  If we make it a priority to extend ourselves, we can be a light in the darkness, and we can lift those around us.

Today as you do all the things you need to do, take a moment to look at those around you.  Is there some way you might offer something positive?  Is there some small favor you could do?  If there is, extend yourself in friendship and kindness.  Nobody likes feeling alone and sad.  You have the power to lift someone around you and be a light.  Today, offer your hand and your help.

Full Stop

29 Sep

Recently there was a story in the news about a young fast food worker who did something extraordinary.  During the dinner rush, a man came into the restaurant that was paralyzed and in a wheelchair.  After placing his order, he told the worker he needed help cutting his food up and eating it.  The worker got the man’s food, immediately closed out his register, and walked him to a table where he sat with him, cut his food for him, and helped him eat his meal.  Despite being busy, he saw a need and instead of brushing it off, he stopped everything to help.  It was a stunning example of compassion and generosity, and it was humbling for those around them to see the worker’s example.

Sometimes in order to help out, we have to bring our personal lives to a full stop.  We have to take our eyes off ourselves and our personal goals, and look another way.  We have to see those around us, notice what’s happening, and assist when we can.  Unlike the patron at the restaurant, the person in need may not ask us for help.  They may independently try to struggle through on their own.  But that shouldn’t stop us from offering.  If we see someone trying hard, struggling to do something, we can jump in, smile and offer a helping hand.  Everyone appreciates the kindness that comes when someone offers to help.  We all have a lot to get done, and some things are hard for all of us.  If we can extend ourselves in some small way to help someone else, we will be greatly blessed.  We will have a better understanding of compassion, feel humble for the opportunity to serve, and happy we extended ourselves.

Every day we have an opportunity to serve those around us.  Of course, if we choose to we can ignore the needs of others, and continue on our course.  Nobody would blame us for getting our jobs done and being focused on our personal goals.  But if we stopped to help and offered our time when the opportunity arose, and tried to assist and accommodate someone else, our experiences in this life would be enhanced and benefitted.  There is nothing that will teach us more about ourselves than when we are in the service of others.  We learn to be more patient, more kind, more gracious, and we become more noble.  It’s great to be successful in our goals, but it’s even better to be successful as people.  And we achieve no greater success than when we help someone else.

Today if you see someone in need, someone struggling alone, stop for a moment and offer your help.  Lift them by giving your assistance and showing you care.  You have great generosity inside you.  Share it with those around you.  Offer your hand, offer your time, and enjoy the gratitude you feel for the opportunity to help.  Make someone’s day easier and your day will be brighter and happier.