Dare boldly

Inspiring acts of grace in everyday living


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Courage. Curiosity. Humility.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by a university student involved with Engineers without Borders. His group have undertaken a project at the university to understand homelessness and poverty, and then, to create a project that raises awareness, and funding, for Calgary’s efforts to end homelessness.

During our conversation, he told me that they would be walking around campus asking fellow-students questions to gain an understanding of what they know about homelessness. He read me some of his questions and asked, “Can you suggest any other questions?”

“As people to name the words they can think of to describe people who are experiencing homelessness,” I suggested. “You will get words like poor, lonely, lost, addict, bum, scum, lazy, good-for-nothing, scary, dirty, and a host of others. I’m curious if you’ll get the word, ‘human’.” In all my years of asking people that question, I have never heard anyone call someone experiencing homelessness a human, or human being, I told him.

I hope he gets it. I hope someone can see beyond the labels deeply enough to know, people experiencing homelessness are human beings, just like you and me. It’s just the circumstances of their lives have lead them somewhere they never once imagined they would be.

At the Foundation where I work, we recently created an impact video to kick-off an I Heart Home —  3 Things initiative we’re launching to inspire people to get involved with the vision of ending homelessness. We showed the video for the first time on Tuesday morning to the Board Chairs and CEOs of agencies working in the homeless-serving sector. Yesterday, we showed it to members of the Client Action Committee (CAC), a group of individuals with lived experience of homelessness who provide insight and guidance on our practices and programs towards ending homelessness.

The individuals in the video are all members of CAC. Sometime ago, I read that the 3 key attributes of a leader are Courage. Curiosity. Humility. Each of the 8 people in this video demonstrated great courage in sharing their story. They also demonstrated curiosity because they didn’t know what the final piece would look like, they just trusted in the process and were humble in their belief that in doing it, they would be making a difference.

They are right. They are making a difference. This video impacts. Deeply.

Thank you Lorne, Darren, Nigel, Phil, Theresa, Randy, Horse, Lynette. Your courage inspires each of us.

Thank you also to Paul, Brent and Mike the crew from Corkscrew Media who helped bring an idea into beautiful expression.

Making a difference with this video is as easy as sharing it widely with your social media networks. Please share.

Thank you.

 


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The Art of Becoming What You Hold On To

In the Soul of a Pilgrim course I studied during Lent one year, course moderator and Abbess of Abbey of the Arts, Christine Valters Paintner, asked in one of the lessons, “What if I truly believed the path before me was blessed?

And the muse answered — There would be no misstep. Only beauty. Only the perfection of each step, in darkness and light.

It was a scary thought. To hold true within me the thought that each step before me was blessed. For, if I truly believed each step before me was blessed, I would stop striving to ‘become me’ and fall with grace into being me. I would dance on my path. I would sing loud. I would laugh and spin about and not fear the path beneath my feet. I would embrace fearlessness in each step. I would not fear falling away from being me. I would fall into being all of me.

The Path is the Way, I wrote in my journal. Trusting in the Universe I find The Way to trust in me on the Path where each step unfolds as a blessing before me.

When I let go of my need to be…. seen, heard, known. When I release my desire to be…. somebody. A writer. An artist. An advocate. An executive…  my need to seek approval, acknowledgement, recognition is released. Free of my desire to be more, better, other than who I am, I become that which I do not need to seek, because that which I seek is always present, always within, around and about me  — Love.

In Love, being Love, I sink back into that place where I know, deep within me, that all my seeking for understanding is just a way to keep myself busy seeking ‘The More’ I tell myself I need to become to feel fulfilled, worthwhile, present, valued, valuable.

When I let go of seeking, ‘The More’, my heart has room to breathe freely, my mind has space to open wide and I become my light shining fiercely in love.

And in that space where I breathe freely into letting go of becoming the ‘being’ I think I need to be, I become, all that I am.

May your day be filled with being all that you are when you stop trying to become all that you can be. May you be Love shining brightly in all your being you.

Namaste.


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Take Action | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 49

The world is full of people with good intentions. Good intentions do not make a difference to our journey. Action does.

Years ago, sitting in a coffee shop by myself, I saw a young woman seated by herself at another table. She wasn’t doing anything in particular. Just sitting there, staring silently into the distance, occasionally wiping away a tear that had escaped her eyes and was running down her cheek.

I thought of going over to offer her a kleenex. Or to at least ask if she needed anything. Could I help?

I remember feeling uncomfortable. What if she got angry with me for my advances? What if she told me to mind my own business?

I did nothing.

I have carried my sense of regret of having done nothing in that moment with me since that day.

More recently, while walking at the park, I met a woman walking without a dog, who stopped to get her ‘puppy fix’ as we passed. I noticed she was crying.

Carrying the memory of that moment from long ago, I asked her if there was anything I could do. “You look sad,” I said.

“I am”, she blurted out. And she told me of the divorce she’s going through with her husband of many years. “I just feel so lost and lonely,” she said.

She shared a bit more and then, as we parted I asked if she would like a hug. She began to shake her head from side to side, and stopped. She nodded her head up and down. “Yes. Please.” she said quietly.

And we hugged. As we parted ways and walked in opposite directions, she called back. “Thank you!”

It was just a moment. But in that moment, we connected as humans connect when they take time to see one another, and stand together, heart to heart.

If I had noticed her tears and only thought about how sad she looked, and not taken action to create more of what I want in the world around me — peace and harmony — then I would have felt the regret of doing nothing.

That woman still had to face the sadness of her divorce, her sense of loss, her fears of being suddenly alone in her mid-life. But for that moment, she felt a sense of ease. Less alone. More connected.

Taking action doesn’t mean we change someone else’s path. It just means while on our own path, we do not have to carry the regret of doing nothing.

 

 


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What labels do you carry?

FullSizeRenderIt’s called Jazz Vespers:  Where Jazz Meets the Spirit.

They’ve been holding it at the beautiful St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church every Sunday since 1992. 25 Years.

My daughter, Alexis and I attended it for the first time in November when I came to visit. This Sunday, her husband and his mother joined us.

It was as sublimely soothing and enriching as I remembered it.

Last time, it was just after the US election. There was talk of the new president and the need to stand, strong of back, soft of front. To not harden our hearts but to engage in conversation, to seek to understand, not judge.

This Sunday, the talk is of ‘labels’. These are not the designer labels on our clothes. Or the one’s that speak to our greatness. These are the words, the names we carry because others have stuck them to us, or because we call ourselves those things we would not say about another, but deign to call ourselves.

I listen to the Reverend Dan Chambers speak and think of all the labels I have known, carried, called myself.

Beyond daughter, sister, mother, wife, friend, cousin…

What are the labels?

I name them quietly in my head.

Most do not fit anymore.  Most, are not one’s I want to repeat, or need to own, or feel connected to. They are labels that limited me. That held me in place, or as Rev. Chambers called it, helped to simplify the complex so others felt less afraid, unsure, insecure, threatened. Or so that I could feel justified in my fear, insecurity, angst. And in my justification of the labels I applied to myself, rationalize why I didn’t have to do anything different that might dislodge the label someone had applied or which I held against myself.

Labels serve no one.

They only give us something to hang onto when the world around us feels confusing. When times are shifting. When we do not understand another and cannot, or will not, take the time to see into them or ourselves, through eyes of compassion.

Labels are our way of judging without having to name what we are doing. As if, through the applying of the label, we are excused of our misbehaviour.

He’s gay. She’s a feminist. They’re immigrants. She’s a druggie, addict, lazy, unfortunate. He’s a bully. Stupid. Red neck. Indian.

It’s not that we are saying they are bad or less than. We’re just using the words that describe where someone else is at. We didn’t make the names. But if they fit, why shouldn’t we use them? We’re not judging, we’re simplifying life.

And without really thinking about what we’re doing, we engage in the process of judging people less than, other than, unworthy of, their right to claim the magnificence of their human condition.  The same human condition that each of us shares.

I participated in Jazz Vespers yesterday.

It was a moving experience that carried me into spirit, like a river flowing endlessly to the sea, connecting me to my humanity flowing in this journey called life. A life that is so much richer when I let go of the labels that limit the full expression and experience of life.


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Will you choose to travel light?

We held a smudge at our office yesterday. We gathered in the kitchen area, sat in a circle and shared in the healing power of our Indigenous traditions.

It was a member of the homeless-serving community who reached out to ask if the team would like to smudge.

It had been a tough week. The aftereffects of Monday’s stunning news that a member of the foundation’s board of directors (where I work) had been arrested on charges of sexual assault against vulnerable youth, continued to reverberate throughout the week.

The smudge was our opportunity, the ceremony leader told us, to give our burdens to our ancestors. It is their role, he said. To carry away the burdens. To protect us. To guide us and keep us safe.

Today, some people call them ‘angels’. Long ago, they were simply, ‘our ancestors’.

No matter who they were in life or what they did, in spirit form, they are the essence of our collective humanity. Wise. Caring. Strong. Compassionate. They are the essential goodness at the core of our human spirit.

Our ancestors do not judge. They do not malign. They do not condemn.  They honour, protect and care.

You don’t have to be specific, the ceremony leader said. You don’t have to name names or even events. Just speak what is on your heart, what feels heavy, burdensome. What is preventing you from finding grace in the every day.

We went around the circle. Each person offering their burden to the ancestors. Aging parents. Moving. Challenging children.

And the elephant in the room. The man who is alleged to have committed these acts that shocked us all.

It was in the naming of what felt so unspeakable that I remembered — it is not my role to carry someone else’s burdens.

Whether the individual did or did not commit these acts is for the courts to determine.

My job is to be light, not darkness.  To carry hope, not despair.

And I cannot do that carrying the angst and sorrow and the sense of betrayal that has permeated my every thought this past week.

I surrendered my burden to the smudge. I let the smoke carry it away and cleanse me.

I cannot change the past. I cannot divine innocence or guilt.

I can stand in this moment knowing, whatever has happened, my role is to be fully present in this moment. When I stand in my light, when I join others in prayer and song in a circle where we invite our ancestors to support, protect, and guide us, and name the sorrows and burdens we do not want to name, and invite in the wisdom we cannot know, we are stronger for facing our truth and being open to Spirit. In Spirit’s presence, now is not forever. In time, this too shall pass.

The rivers flow to the sea. The sea becomes the ocean. In its waters we are all integral drops that make the whole of life on earth. Sometimes beautiful. Sometimes ugly and inexplicable. Always life.

We are all connected.

Yesterday, I sat in a circle and set my burdens in the centre. I cleansed my body in the smoke and invited Spirit to be my guide.

The ancestors carried my burdens away.  My choice today whether I pick them up again, or carry on lightly, free to step into this moment full of light and promise, hope and possibility, Love and gratitude.

I choose to travel light.


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What happens when you cross the line?

Crossing the Line
#28 #ShePersisted
11″ x 14″ Acrylic on acrylic paper
©2017 Louise Gallagher

When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.  Pablo Picasso

Each painting in the #ShePersisted series, has a story to it. Sometimes, I know the story before I begin to create. Sometimes, the story appears in the creation of each piece. In Crossing the Line, I remembered a piece I’d written several years ago on my old blog, Recover Your Joy.  And I smile — I always knew my answer. It was inside of me waiting for me to create it into existence.

When I was a child, my sister and I spent hours re-enacting scenes from our favourite movies. Gone with the Wind. The Parent Trap. We knew all the characters, all the parts and we each had our favourites.

It didn’t matter that our stage was a stretch of lawn or that Tara was a sheet draped over a tree or that we each had to play three or four different parts, differentiating the characters only through our voices as we didn’t have time to change wardrobe —  we didn’t really have any wardrobe to change into anyway. This was a low budget reproduction — very creative, just not very accurate.

But none of that mattered. What mattered most was that we spent the time together. Laughing. Sharing. Creating.

When I was a child, I liked to draw. To sing and dance and to play piano. I liked to write and make up stories. To play dolls and the now politically incorrect, “Cowboys and Indians”.

It didn’t matter to me what the game or activity. What mattered most was that I was being creative. Expressing myself through arts of all nature.

And then, I grew up.

I still liked to write. To create. To make something out of nothing.

But the tone was different. There was something lacking in my creation.

I kept thinking it needed ‘A Purpose.

To create for creation’s sake just didn’t seem to be viable, make sense, have meaning. If I was painting, there needed to be a reason. If I was writing, there needed to be an audience. And, if I was dancing, there needed to be ‘the right steps’.

I’ve grown beyond those ‘grown-up’ days of believing I need ‘A Purpose’ to my art. I’ve grown beyond thinking there are right steps, wrong moves, perfect brushstrokes or perfectly turned phrases.

I’ve grown into being me. Creatively. Expressively. Passionately.

Today, I know that at my core I am a creative being. That life is an act of creation.

Today, I express myself in ways that fulfill on my belief, and need, to create beauty in the world around me.

Today, I let go of the right steps and move with grace and ease into being each step I take to create beauty in the world around me.

There’s freedom in each movement. Freedom in being my creative self.

And, there’s joy in knowing every breath I take is an act of creation. Every step I take is an expression of the beauty I want to create in the world.

When I was a child, I believed colouring inside the lines would keep me safe. Now I know, when I lean over the edge of what I believe I know and explore the all of what I cannot see, I am free.


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Shed a little tear | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 48

Yesterday was a tough day.

It began with an issue that left my heart feeling raw as my CEO and I worked together with members of the team to navigate the turbulent waters of the media’s need to ‘get the story’ and our responsibility to address the needs of staff, board members, all our stakeholders and the public.

I wanted to cry, in sorrow and dismay and confusion. Why did this happen? Why is there no avoiding the devastation and brokenness left behind in the wake of what has been brought into the light?

At the end of the day, I spoke with my sister who had gone to the doctor with my mother that afternoon. Turns out, the ‘something pulled’ in my mother’s hip/knee was actually the hip joint coming out of the socket. Her pain had been real and excruciating and no one figured out why until two weeks later.

I wanted to cry, in frustration and dismay and confusion. Why didn’t they see it on the x-rays two weeks ago? Why did they have to leave her in such pain without doing anything?

My mother has to make a decision. Have the operation to repair it, an operation they are not sure she will survive. Or live with the pain. Challenge is, no matter what they do, the cause of her hip coming out of the socket will continue to be an issue. Her bones are soft and fragile. A replacement hip, or simply putting the hip back in its socket may still result in the bones shifting.

I wanted to cry some more. After her surgery in December, my mother stated she wanted to live to see one hundred. And she really meant it. I think she still does but her options are limited on how she will get there.

Not ready to give into tears, I went into the studio and created. Not one of my better pieces, but it satisfied my need to breathe through it all, to find my centre again so that I could remember, now is not forever.

And the tears still waited, lurking behind the shadows of my doing.

The universe delivers the time and space for what we need to do, even when we resist.

Just before bed, I decided to take the recycling out as today is garbage day. I wanted that last breath of fresh air, especially as the temperature has warmed up enough to go out without a coat.

I carried the big blue tub that sits by the back door out to the recycling bin, emptied it and on my way back through the backyard, caught my feet in the netting that holds the vines up against the garage wall. The man who clears our snow had inadvertently caught some of it with his shovel and it was lying on the ground. In the dark, I forgot it was there.

I went flying.

Splat!

On my rear, in the wet, melting snow-soggy dirt beneath the crabapple tree.

I sat for a moment, stunned, not sure if I’d broken something.

And I started to cry.

In frustration. Anger. Sorrow. Sadness.

I let the tears flow.

For a moment.

And then, C.C. came out and helped me up.

And life moved on.

Sometimes, when faced with life’s inexplicable, all we can do is shed a tear or two for the chaos and angst.

And then, we get up and keep moving.

Tears do not resolve the issues. But they do give release to the pain we carry in our hearts.

And when our hearts are lightened of their load, it’s easier to keep moving forward, doing the things we know that create better in our world.

I feel better this morning (other than my knee which hurts like the dickens! 🙂 )

Time to leap into another day.