The immeasurable moments of making a difference

I received an email yesterday from a co-worker at the shelter where I worked for almost six years. They wrote to tell me how much I had touched their life, what a difference I made for them, and how I taught them many things they appreciate and incorporate into their life today.

I am grateful.

In this individual’s note is the essence of what it means to make a difference for me.

It is not about what I do. Not about title or wealth or education or status or who I know or the perfect outfit for the perfect occasion. It is about the imprint I make upon people —  The gentleness of my touch, the kindness of my words, the softness of my step upon the delicate fabric of their hearts.

In receiving their email yesterday it struck me that out of all the things I did at the shelter, from raising community awareness, building relationships, creating an art program, opening an art and music studio, writing/publishing a book, recording Stand by Me with clients, creating a concert, a documentary, plays, the writing, the commercials, the teaching, the creating opportunities for community engagement, while all of those things are important, what matters most are the ‘intangibles’. Those immeasurable moments that touch my soul,open my heart, awaken my mind. It is in those quiet moments where hope stirs, spirits lift and I am connected, heart-to-heart in service, that I am most alive and grateful.

For it isn’t in the concrete things I do or did that make the difference. It is in the hearts I touch. The hearts that touch mine that I find myself steeped in gratitude.

As a friend said when I told him I was leaving the shelter, “What you did will flow back into the miasma of the universe. Things will change. What can never change is how we touch people. How we made them feel. How we connected to their hearts.”

I am grateful. In my co-workers email I am reminded that making a difference isn’t all about what I ‘do’, it’s about how I am, how my being shows up in the hearts and minds of those I encounter on my journey. It is about being the difference I want to see in the world and making my difference through being the best me I am when I let go of my ego’s call for more and give into my soul’s desire for quality in all my relationships, for beauty in all my doing, for humility and Love in all my being me in this world.

A Servant’s Frame of Reference

Being at home created the opportunity to make a difference. C.C., my partner, is ill. A nasty cough that will not subside, I played nurse to his patient. Bringing him tea, going to the drugstore to buy Eucalyptus oil so that he could breathe in a warm, healing mist. Making him chicken soup.

Now, I would normally do these kinds of things but yesterday, the difference was, I consciously did them with a loving heart. I consciously filled my being with harmony as I responded to his need for care.

Often, when taking care of someone else, my mind is busy with thoughts of what the interruption is costing me — time, energy, the book I was reading, the task I was doing… With a loving heart, thoughts of the ‘cost’ vanished as awareness rose to the forefront of my thinking, filling my doing with awareness of what the other person needed to be comfortable, to feel loved, not what my doing would do for them and me. In that gift of being of service without worrying about ‘the cost’, I became intimately aware of the sacredness of the moment as my heart became imbued with  the awe of living from a servant’s frame of reference to being of service to my fellow human beings.

It also meant I was conscious of the gift of having my friend Dave stay with us for the weekend. He is moving back to Winnipeg today and needed a few days, after cleaning out his apartment, to rest and ground himself before driving east. This weekend gave C.C. and me a chance to spend time with him before he left. To simply be in the moment of enjoying his conversation, company, wit and insight as we shared a few days on the path together.

Opportunities to make a difference are always present. It is my presence that is not always aware of their presence. Filled with the importance of my personal busy-ness, I often miss out on the gift of living with a servant’s frame of reference. Without a frame of mind that says —  Living on purpose means being of service to others — I lose opportunities to replenish my spirit and enlighten my heart and soul.

This weekend, as I practiced being conscious of the moment and the gifts within each moment as I acted upon the call to be of service, I found myself reveling in the joy opening up within my heart like a lotus flower opening to the sun’s warming rays. In that opening, I am filled with the grace of gratitude knowing that, in service, I am breathing life into my presence here on earth.


Beyond my range.

I did not know the father well. Met him a few times years ago at our daughters’ school events. I adore his daughter. She worked for me one summer while at University. Kind. Insightful. Intelligent. Caring. She added light and joy and laughter to the darkness of a shelter where sadness reigns over lives lost in the confusion of being homeless.

The father passed away last week. The funeral was yesterday.

I went. To be present for this young woman who over the ten years I have known her never ceased to sparkle in whatever room she graced with her beautiful presence.

I went to support her and her family. To support my daughter and her friends who were all there.

I don’t remember ever having gone to the funeral of a friend’s parent. The only funeral I remember attending in my 20s was my former husband’s grand-father’s.

There was great sadness there. Great sorrow. And the truth and beauty of celebrating a man who loved his family above all else.

And then, I read my A Course in Miracles Lesson for today: God is in everything I see.

To see the divine in this gentle man’s passing. To know the divine is present in the hearts filled with pain and sorrow.

In the lesson for today the author’s invite the student to:  “learn how to look on all things with love, appreciation and open-mindedness. You do not see them now. Would you know what is in them? Nothing is as it appears to you. Its holy purpose stands beyond your little range.”

Nothing is as it appears to me.

I was present yesterday, along with the hundreds of others who came to show respect and support for a family in pain. In our presence, we gave strength, we shared love.

I could only be present by being there. The holy purpose of his passing is beyond my range.

A smile is the difference

Busy day yesterday. My youngest daughter’s 24th birthday dinner was last night and we were 16 for dinner. I have to remind myself on days like that to stay present, to stay in the moment, to enjoy the festivities while they are taking place, and not get immersed in only the process of getting it all ready. At dinner, we went around the table and each shared, “Our wish for you Liseanne this year.” What a lovely difference it made to focus on wishing someone beauty and love, laughter, good times, fun, no car trouble, joy, success, good health, lots of sunny days and a host of other things her guests wished for her last night.

Earlier in the day, C.C. and I went to the market to buy what was needed for the dinner. Taking the lead from Beverly’s comment Thursday on my 10 Things post, where she said that she tries to look servers etc. directly in the eyes when she says ‘Thank you.’  I consciously ensured I looked the people serving us in the eyes. I also attempted to look passers-by in the eyes as well and to smile as we walked past each other.

The man at the coffee counter also responded to smiles and laughter, as did the young man serving us at the meat-counter. As did the young mother with a buggy walking across the parking lot towards the building when we got there. I waited and held the doors for her and smiled and told her to not hurry as she sped up to reach the open door. Her smile of gratitude was warm and welcoming.

It made a difference. Those brief moments of connection warmed me — and I believe, those passing by because everyone smiled back.

Sometimes, a smile is the only difference we need to make to change someone’s outlook, including our own. No matter how brief, a smile registers on people’s hearts and warms them up as if to say, I’m glad to see you too!

I see you. I hear you.

My day began with an act of service. A friend is moving, his apartment is emptied and he needed a ladder, coffee and a sweet to get his day rolling and the cleaning finished. By nine I had delivered and was moving on with my day — and that’s when everything changed.

I chatted with my sister who told me our mother wasn’t feeling well. I’ll just drop over and say hello on my way home, I told her and she informed me that the nurse had suggested taking mom to the Emergent Care Centre. “I’m cancelling my lunch so I can go do that,” she said.

“Don’t,” I replied. “I can do it.”

Now, let me explain. My eldest sister is my 90-year-old mother’s primary care giver. I have always kept my distance. Full-time work, two daughters and a not too harmonious relationship with my mother have always stood in my way. Plus, my sister is ‘better at dealing with her’, I’ve told myself. And mom prefers her anyway.

To spend a day with my mother in an emergency room, to simply be present, was a blessing, and a gift.  It let me be of service to both my sister and my mom, and it gave my sister a much-needed break from the stress and strain of caring for a 90-year-old woman whose need for attention is sometimes exhausting.

As I sat in the curtained cubicle while my mother napped and I read emails on my iPhone and read blogs I’ve been meaning to catch up on, I listened to the goings on all around me and was drawn again to what connects us all in our shared experience of this human condition. A need for belonging, for community, for a sense of relevance in a sometimes irreverent and inexplicable world.

In the cubicle next to us a daughter joined her father who had been brought in by ambulance mid-afternoon. “Why on earth would you come here?” she asked. “The EMS guys thought this would be faster,” her father explained.  “Harumph,” replied the daughter. “It would have been better if you’d gone to emergent care in the south. I had a meeting at that end of the city, which I missed to come here to get you.” Silence. “And now I find out you haven’t even been seen by the doctor yet.” “Thank you for coming,” he replied. “I missed my meeting for you.” And suddenly, a man who had been garrulous and pleasant became taciturn and complaining.  “Where is that doctor? Did they lose him?” “I notice there seem to be a lot of regulars in the waiting area,” the daughter said. “You know, those people who are just coming in for attention. They don’t really have much need for service.”

Really, I wondered. How does she know?

Bless her. Forgive me.

Let me not slip into criticism, complaints and condemnation.

My mother is okay. A flu bug, a series of mis-communications with the staff at the lodge where she lives and she spent a day without eating. The ensuing confusion and paranoia were  a direct result of her state of being dehydrated. Seven hours later, an IV, fluids into her system and she is as right as rain, or as right as rain as a 90-year-old woman can be.

And I am better for the experience. My sister carries the lions share of caring for my mother without complaint, with love and attention. It was a gift to be able to do something of value for her. And, it doesn’t take much to give my mother, this woman who brought the seed of my life into this world, a sense of well-being, of feeling heard, feeling visible, feeling wanted.

And what better way to give back than to let her know,  I see you. I hear you. I acknowledge you, whatever your state of being.


10 Easy ways to make a difference everyday

It was an easy day to make a difference yesterday. A friend needed picking up at the airport. Another needed their spirits lifted.

And in the process, I realized, one of the easiest ways to make a difference is to make someone laugh or smile. Every day.

Which got me thinking about other ‘easy’ ways to make a difference, every day.

  1. Tell the one’s you love, you love them, everyday — better yet, act/be loving in all ways so they feel your love everyday, in every way.
  2. Share your appreciation for those around you. Tell them,  “What I appreciate most about you today is…” Focus always on their strengths. ie. if it’s your boss, “Boss, what I appreciate most about you today is your fairness/the way you handled that difficult customer/the fact you always smile and acknowledge me when you come into the office.” If it’s your child, “Child, what I appreciate most about you today is your… and then name one thing or aspect of them you cherish – [hugs/ willingness to clean up their room/ positive attitude when helping with chores/ laughter…] Do this everyday with those closest to you and feel/live/breathe the shift in energy.
  3. Smile at strangers.
  4. Pick up garbage on the street. Don’t litter.
  5. Touch people when you talk to them — a gentle touch on the arm, sleeve, hand creates a powerful connection.
  6. Let a driver in (even when you don’t want to or you’re late and every car length counts…!)
  7. Give a stranger a compliment.
  8. Tip the server at Tim Horton’s, Starbucks, where ever you buy coffee and give them a compliment on their service.
  9. Drive the speed limit.
  10. Take a walk in the fresh air.

Ten easy things that we can all do to make a difference everyday!

Do you have some to add to the list? I’d love to hear your ideas too.

Being of service

There is someone I love dearly who has taken the courageous yet scary step of going through rehab. I am in awe of this human being. Their resolve, their loving attitude, beauty and kindness have never diminished as they’ve tackled the beast of their addiction and stepped into the light of their truth — they are a human of great light and worth. They are not their addiction. It is a disease they did not ask for, want and for many years, ran from knowing they had through the doorway it presented to oblivion.

Yesterday, they asked if I would support them in their next step. Would I come and stay with them for their initial foray back into the world without their addiction blurring their vision and keeping them from feeling the world in all its sometimes harsh yet always loving reality.

I said yes. It means going to stay with them, leaving this place of comfort that is my home, to support them in theirs. Initially just for a night, but possibly longer as they find their balance.

This is a difference I joyfully and gratefully commit to. To give back to this person who means so much to me and who has given me so much is a gift, a blessing, an honour.

Sometimes, to make a difference requires sacrifice — and yet, it is never sacrifice when the gift of service is to witness and hold a safe space for another human being in their healing journey. The question I ask myself is, What will doing this create in my heart? What will not doing this create in my world? — harmony or discord? To not be there for this person I love would create discord in my heart. And I do not want discord in my heart nor my world. I want only harmony and Love.

Harmony and Love. It’s up to me to create them, to make room for them, to breathe into them in everything I do so that my ripple inspires more ripples of Love.

I am grateful. They have given me an opportunity to be of service in Love.