Miracles happen when we consciously make a difference

He is standing at the Parking Pay Machine as I pull into the spot next to the “Pay Here” machine in the parking lot I use every day when I’m downtown.

I recognize his frustration. The hand moving forward. Moving back. Forward. Back.

Card in. Card out. Insert again. Remove again. Card in. Card out. A repetitive motion seeking a different outcome and receiving the same every time.

It’s not uncommon to witness this. I know. The Parking Pay Machine is a temperamental beast. It spits out annoying messages with ease. “Card not readable.” “Not valid.” “Declined.” ¬†It seems to have a repertoire of messages to thwart the most optimistic of parking payee. Maybe it knows to not pay gets the system more dollars…. ūüôā ¬†No. That would be nefarious. Underhanded. Parking lot owners would never resort to ticketing and towing. They’re not in cahoots with tow truck companies. Right? ….

As it is, the man at the machine is getting frustrated. It is rippling in the air around him as I step out of my car and walk towards where he stands in front of the recalcitrant Parking Pay Machine.

“Did you try the other machine?” I ask.

He sighs. “Yeah. But it won’t even take a card. It’s completely out of order.”


He puts his card in again. Takes it out. Steps aside. He turns towards where I stand, wallet in hand, credit card set to go. “Here you try it. Maybe if you use it you’ll reset it.”

I insert my card. Yes! The machine likes me.  It really likes me. It also likes my $20 to park for the day.

It spits out my receipt. I turn back to the man. “I feel like I’ve just won at a slot machine you got all warmed up!”

He laughs. Steps up to the machine. “Ok. Here goes.”

He puts his card in. The message flashes. “Card unreadable.”

He does it again. I give him full marks for persistence.

Steps back. Glances at his watch. Looks around as if to say, Ok Universe. Deliver me a miracle. Steps back to the machine for one more crack at the jackpot. No go.

“Here,” I say, taking my credit card out of my wallet again. “Let me pay.”

He looks at me, surprised. “What?”

“I’ll pay for yours. It obviously likes me.” And I smile.

“You’d do that for a stranger?”

“I’m sure you would too.”

I put my card in and the machine decides to play it cute. “Card not valid.”

Oh dear.

I try again.

Card not valid.

Third time lucky?

And it is. Suddenly, the machine likes me again. I pay for the man’s parking, he takes his ticket, thanks me effusively and we both go on to work out our day, our hearts lighter than when we first encountered each other at the Parking Pay Machine.

Last night, in my Living an Enlightened Life, we explored the question, “how would my life be different if I lived with the evolution of consciousness and culture as my first priority?”

It was a deep and meaningful conversation.

I’d be consciously taking action to bring the ideas of living from my authentic self, replied one of the participants on the call.

I’d live from that place that doesn’t ask, ‘what’s the payoff for me’ and instead operates intuitively from ¬†the knowing of ‘what really matters’, said another.

I would be motivated by a sense of the deep significance I bring to the world, said one man. In that knowing, he would transcend ego and take responsibility for his cosmic significance knowing how important he really is in the world.

I listen to the responses and wonder, how would I be in the world if I lived with the evolution of consciousness and culture were my first priority?

I’d pay for someone else’s parking because it is an opportunity to be of service.

We are all connected.

And when our ripple sends out waves of generosity, goodness, kindness, we create ripples of generosity, goodness, kindness.

It is, The Ripple Effect. 

Creating a world of reciprocity in doing what we want to create more of in the world.

Creating a world of possibility where our focus on acting for the ‘greater good’ motivates our every expression of our shared humanity.

And just so you know, there was a moment where I wondered if I was being scammed. If maybe this guy did this all the time. But seriously? Is it worth it? To think ‘less than’ of my fellow human being?

I like the feeling of knowing I could make a difference in someone’s life simply by sliding my credit card into a machine and getting a ticket to spit out. In that act, I’m the winner. Because in that act, I let go of our separateness and move into that place where everything I do creates the kind of ripple I want to be in the world. And in that rippling place of our human condition shimmering in delight, miracles happen.



Forgiveness makes a difference

In her Director’s Notes for the University of Calgary Drama Department’s production of The Love of the Nightingale, Alyssa Bradac writes that the use of violence to silence and control women in society over the centuries is unforgivable.

I disagree.

We must forgive if we are to stop it.

Now, before you leap on my words in protest, I don’t agree with violence. I am not saying what has happened is right. In fact, right and wrong cloud the truth of what is happening, right and wrong pushes the perpetrator into the darkness of shame, holding them in place through the very power and control they use to commit acts of violence.

If we carry the belief ‘it is unforgivable’, we limit our capacity to change it and stop it.

Forgiveness is not about excusing or accepting bad behaviour. It’s not about saying, ‘it’s okay that rape is used as a weapon of war’, that unspeakable acts are committed against women every day and there’s nothing we can do.

Like not being unforgivable, these acts of violence must not be relegated to ‘unspeakable’. They must be spoken about. Spoken of. Spoken aloud.

When we hold onto unforgiveness, or the belief that we can not speak of the horror of what happened, what happened holds onto us. It takes up residence in our minds and bodies, creating lasting wounds through the terror of our silence.

Silence is an act of violence when used to push down giving voice to what ails us. It becomes power and control in its ability to silence our speaking up about what has harmed us. It freezes us in the very acts that keep us from living free of the burdens of the past.

We must forgive what was to discover what can be when we break free.

Unforgiveness keeps us locked on the battlegrounds of ‘us and them’ . It keeps us separate, trapping one in shame and the other in the powerlessness of the victim state of being.

When the man who promised to love me ’til death do us part and then set about trying to put action to the death part was arrested, I knew, deep within my core, that to be free I had to forgive.

Forgiveness didn’t make what he did right, or acceptable, or justifiable. Forgiveness took the emotional charge out of what he had done and freed me to heal without carrying anger, pain, horror, revulsion. Forgiveness gave me the courage and strength to move into healing free of holding onto ‘what had happened’ to revel in the joy of my life free of ‘what had happened’.

Forgiveness set me free.

Whether it mattered to him or not, didn’t matter. What mattered to me was my choice to forgive. In that choice, I was freed of shame and blame. I was free.

I remember shortly after he was arrested wanting desperately for my daughters to forgive me for what I had done to hurt them. And yet, I told myself, I will never forgive myself for what I’d done to hurt them.

How could that be possible? To seek their forgiveness yet to hold myself in unforgiveness?

It wasn’t.¬†To create space for their forgiveness, I needed to forgive myself. And in that act of choosing to forgive myself, I had to forgive my abuser to set myself free of the past. I had to soften my heart and become forgiving and forgiven. I had to believe I was worthy of forgiveness.

To stop abuse. To change the course of violence in our world, acts of violence cannot be unspeakable. They cannot be unforgivable. For in the ‘un’ state, they cast a long dark shadow that clouds our hearts and minds with memories of the very act we are attempting to let go of, to stop, to change.

Forgiveness is a powerful force.

In forgiveness, possibility of awakening to the essence of our humanity arises.

In forgiveness, our humanity awakens to the truth of our presence here on earth.

We are born to be brilliant. To shine. To create beauty, acts of grace, peace, love and joy.

We are born to Love one another as if of the same heart. For we are,¬†of one heart — the heart of our humanity beating wildly in the rhythm of life.


The light of evensong makes a difference

I walked beneath the light of the full moon, the air chilly against my skin. Ellie, the wonder pooch, pranced and danced beside me, her tail wagging enthusiastically as she sniffed for scent of gopher, squirrel maybe chipmunk beneath the snow covering the ground.

It was the in-between time. That hour just before darkness falls where dusk draws a silken veil across the sky and tinges the horizon in pink and rosy and golden hues. The time of Vespers, an ancient Catholic ritual of expressing gratitude in the twilight hours.

I walked and soaked in the air and view and quiet of the evensong drawing day to a close.

I walked and silently gave thanks for my day. A day of quiet. A day to work on a project for ¬†my beloved (and I can’t tell you here because he reads here and telling you would spoil the surprise!). A day of sharing a meal with good friends and talking about the Essential Journey and how to translate ‘the knowing’ of our essential selves into service for the world.

“Louise,” my good friend Kerry Parsons sat across from me at lunch and as is her way, asked the questions of her heart. “You go out into the world and do your thing and do it singularly because, that’s what you do.” She glanced around at the other two members of our Essential Journey team. “That’s what we all do. But how do you, how do we, do it collaboratively? How do we enter into the spirit of co-creation and keep it as our collective vision?”

It was a good question. An important one.

How do I move from the ‘Me’ to embracing the ‘We’. How do I ignite possibility through collaborative energy versus singular drive?

I don’t know. I’m learning as I go. It’s evolutionary.

That’s the thing about the evolutionary process. It is constantly evolving. Continually unfolding and growing and emerging.

And I grow with it, emerge, become.

When I was a child I didn’t like team sports. Not because I wasn’t good at them, but rather, because I feared criticism. I feared letting others down. If I just say “I’m not a basketball player, volleyball player…” or whatever the sport was that required me to cooperatively engage in exercising with a collective, then no one will expect me to be part of the team. And in the release from that expectation, my expectations of not being wanted could be ignored.

I never had to challenge my belief — I am unwanted.

It also meant I took up singular sports and those where it was me against an opponent. Running. Skiing.  Racquetball. Tennis. Squash. I could be good at those because I never had to ask if I was wanted on the team, I just needed to turn up and be my best.

Except, being my best also came with mixed messages of childhood. “You think you’re so good.” You think you’re better than everyone else. Don’t get too smart for your britches. Nobody likes someone who always wins.

And so, I began to hide. My light. My drive. My brilliance. I began to hide behind the mediocrity of getting along, getting by, getting it done. Even though there were brief bursts of ‘wow! I can do that!’, I did my own thing — but never to the best of my abilities, always to the best of my belief it was vain and self-serving to shine.

I adapted.

It is the core message of the Essential Journey. We are born into this world with gifts and light and perfection shining. And then, we adapt.

We adapt to fit our family unit. Our circle of friends. Peer pressure, cultural biases, faith dictates, all impact our journey, moulding us into adaptive beings capable of living life and fitting into the norms of our society.

In the Essential Journey we learn to identify our adaptive beliefs and behaviours as we release the essence of the magnificence of our birthright. The brilliant, shining light of who we are born to be in this world of wonder.

The Essential Journey asks, “Who am I when I live up to my higher-self? What can we create through the collaborative energy of the highest expressions of our magnificence?”

Imagine what a world this would be. Imagine the difference we can make, imagine what we can inspire when we let go of living from our adapted selves and allow the full expression of our magnificence to unfold with grace and ease in a world of wonder.

Just imagine.

I walked in the light of evensong and felt gratitude, joy, Love and humility rise within me and all around.

I may not know how to operate in the collaborative but I do know how to allow the process to unfold. In its unfolding, I let go of making it happen to make room for miracles to happen, everywhere, because my life has been an evolutionary journey of Love. And in Love, I know, all things are possible. In Love, miracles happen.

The Guest Blog that isn’t

Do you ever have those situations where you’re positive you had everything organized only to discover you forgot one main ingredient?

Yes? Well, today’s guest blog is just such an example.

I had an interview set up last week but our schedules didn’t connect. I thought I had a guest blog in ¬†my file ready to post and discovered I didn’t!

Which takes me back to that place where I must, Always begin again.

Life does that, we get busy, think we’ve got it all under control and by the time we realize it’s too late, we need to go to Plan B.

In this case, Plan B is to share some of the fascinating finds I found yesterday at Maureen Doallas’, Writing Without Paper. On Saturday’s Maureen shares her finds from around the weberverse — and they are always unique and intriguing.

One of her finds yesterday was a link to the DRAKE Equation — a tool developed by American astronomer Frank Drake in the 1960s to calculate the number of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations that may exist in the Milky Way galaxy. It is a simple, yet fascinating view into the possibilities of how much life really might be out there beyond the Milky Way.

The other link Maureen shared yesterday that I found fascinating was to a website I’d never heard of — ¬†Information is Beautiful. Exploring Information is Beautiful takes you on a journey into beautiful and creative visuals that present complex ideas in stunning simplicity. Do explore!

And, because I get to make this Sunday whatever I want, I’m posting the video to The Butterfly Circus I mentioned yesterday. When I first saw this short 20 ¬†minute film a few years ago I began incorporating it into the classes I taught at the homeless shelter on self-esteem. Inevitably, as people watched, someone would cry, someone would get up and walk out, someone would change their mind about something they believed was a limitation in their life. And after the film, when I asked, “What did you discover?” someone would always reply, “I’m the one limiting my thinking about what I can do.”


Oh! And before I forget…. Please take a few minutes to vote for Project True at AVIVA Community Fund — my daughter will thank you, and so will I!

Heroes in our midst

There are heroes everywhere. Every day people doing ordinary things extraordinarily. Every day people doing extraordinary things as if it’s their ordinary thing to do.

On Saturdays, I like to celebrate a few of those people I meet throughout the week. Here are some of my heroes…

Last night I spoke at a gala held at the University of Calgary. The event was a special running of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play “The Love of the Nightingale” which for that evening, was dedicated to raising funds for the United Way of Calgary and Area. The organizers wanted to highlight the importance of making a difference, and of acting as a community to address something that has a direct and dire impact upon 50% of our population and 100% of us as a whole — violence against women. The play is a powerful re-telling of an ancient Greek myth that resonates in our world today where the statistical probability of a woman — any woman — becoming a victim of sexual assault is one in three.

Alexis Berezan, Nilima Ajaikumar and everyone involved in organizing the event, as well as the cast and crew of The Love of the Nightingale are heroes.

On Tuesday morning I presented a course I created, “Homelessness: A Fresh Perspective” to a group of officers with the Calgary Police Service. The officers shared their perspectives, their learnings and their ideas on what is happening on our streets, as well as what it takes to help individuals retain housing after street life. The course is part of CPS’s initiative to find innovative and compassionate ways to work with ¬†individuals who are street engaged or have recently moved away from street life and is indicative of the Chief’s belief in addressing social issues with social responsive solutions.

Chief Rick Hanson and the officers of District 3 are heroes.

My friend NR is away and had asked me to help her lease out a condo she owns by giving prospective renters a viewing, gathering references of those interested in leasing it and ultimately, organizing the signing of the lease. On Thursday night, I met with the couple who will be NR’s new tenants. Recently arrived from Iran, they are both professional engineers, eager to begin a new life here in Canada. They are staying with their cousin and her husband and 3 years old daughter, which is where I went to get the lease signed. The hospitality, warmth and graciousness of both the couple renting the condo and their hosts was delightful. I spent an hour with new Canadians Thursday night and was inspired.

New Canadians are heroes. They move to this foreign land with few belongings and courageously begin again with the hope of building a new life where they can prosper and participate in our communities.

And… because I like to give you something inspiring to watch…

Nick Vujicic was born without arms and legs — but that’s never stopped him. He is an inspiration and a hero. The video below is a 60 Minutes interview with him, and this LINK will take you to one of my favourite short films ever — The Butterfly Circus. Give yourself the gift of 20 minutes of inspiration and watch The Butterfly Circus.

3 small things everyday to make a difference

Small things.

Do small things she suggests, rather than your tendency for all or nothing.

What? Me? All or nothing thinking?

And then I laugh.

She’s right. This nutritionist whom I’ve come to see for the first time and who makes me feel so comfortable I let myself become vulnerable enough to share the truth about my eating/exercise reality.

I am an all in or all out kind of gal. Extremist some might say. Me, I like to think of it as passionate, enthusiastic, energized.

But who am I kidding? I do have a tendency to think in all or nothing frames of reference.

Like running. Years ago I ran a marathon. I loved running. Thought nothing of going out for 2 or 3 hours, pounding the pavement, my mind in eased back mode as my body moved me through the paces.

And then, a pulled hamstring, a ripped knee ligament, a back injury and jogging became more pain than gain.

I quit. I didn’t pull back, or cut down or replace jogging with another less impact driven exercise. I quit.

Tried to run a few times but seriously, jog for just half an hour? Ramp myself up to it with running/walking intervals?

Ha! Where’s the fun in that? It takes me twenty minutes just to find my stride.

Why bother?

And so, I didn’t bother. And in my ‘not bothered’ state, daily exercise eased its way off my daily agenda as effortlessly as the pounds taking up residence on the scale.

Nature abhors a vacuum and if exercise isn’t filling my time, why not let the pounds take over?

And they did.

Now, getting regular exercise back on my plate requires a massive shift in my thinking.

Or so I tell myself — and anyway, what’s the point of trying to move dead weight? It’s so tiring.

But wait, says Janis ¬†the nutritionist¬†I’ve started to see at Elan Family Wellness Centre.

It’s not about massive shifts, it’s about small movements that gain momentum as they edge out all or nothing thinking to the furthest regions of your mind.

Apparently, the quiet adjustment that sneaks up on your psyche is better than the full onslaught of “I must do it all, now” thinking I am prone to.

So, for this next two weeks before my next appointment with Jan, I have a homework assignment. It’s not about massive change. It’s about committing to do three small things and loving myself enough to honour my commitments.

My three small things to make healthier choices?

1.  Swim 3 times a week.

2. ¬†Include, ‘Holy Crap’ in my breakfast every day. (seriously, that’s what it’s called and just thinking about eating it makes me smile!)

3. ¬†Reward myself once a day with one small thing I like to do — again — it’s not about big, it’s about enjoying the little moments.

It’s the third one I find most fascinating. When Jan asked me, “How do you reward yourself for achieving your goals?” I laughed.

“I set another goal,” I replied. “Or, I think about all the ways I could have done it better.”

Yup. Definitely all or nothing, extremist thinking.

It’s easy to give up when you don’t take time to appreciate the small steps you make along the way. It’s easy to give in to temptation when your sights are set on the big win and the target is so far away it appears as just a tiny blip upon a distant horizon.

Small significances make a difference.

Gently tugging on the reins of all or nothing, I gather up my big picture thinking, and ease myself  into that place where I celebrate all that I am when I let go of thinking I need to be anyone, anything, or anywhere than who and what and where I am right now.

Stay tuned. I’m making a difference in how I embrace myself with grace everyday. I’m doing 3 small things to make a difference to me.

Always begin again — it makes a difference

I was sleeping when my cell phone rang. I only keep it on my bedside table as a clock I can quickly refer to should I awaken in the middle of the night — the light from clock radios bothers me.

Last night, when the phone rang I shook off sleep and answered to hear my eldest daughter’s voice. She needed to de-brief a conversation she’d just had with a distraught friend. We chatted for a few minutes, I reassured her she had done her best and we agreed, her best is good enough. We said our “I love you’s”, hung up and I went back to sleep.

How far I’ve come.

I remember a time when the cellphone beside my bed was not there as a sleep aid. I remember a time when its ringing in the night would awaken me to fear, my heart pounding, my mind reeling into a black chasm of darkness sucking me under. I remember a time when that tiny electronic device was an umbilical cord tying me to the terror of a man who believed lying and deceiving was the only way to keep me from flying free.

Someone asked me yesterday if there were any copies of my book, The Dandelion Spirit, available. No, I replied, the publisher no longer exists and I need to edit it before reprinting.

I’m not sure that’s the truth.

I’m not sure if it’s more a case that I have moved so far from those days of overwhelming terror that I have forgotten the difference that book makes.

Because I know it does.

Make a difference.

Two years ago when they were filming the documentary, Devil in a Pinstripe Suit, I told my eldest daughter who the producers had flown in from Vancouver to be part of the filming, that I didn’t feel any emotional connection to those events, or even to the man in question. I did feel an emotional charge around the pain I caused the people I love — and I needed to move into forgiveness to remove any residual shame and self-loathing that was clinging to my peace of mind.

When I wrote that book six years ago, I wrote out a lot of the pain and fear I’d felt. I consciously wrote my way into well-being because I knew that getting the story out was the best way to shine a light on living free of abuse. As I wrote about those dark days, the emotions that would have kept me from living my life in the rapture of now, gently flowed out into the sea of life brimming with joy and love and beauty all around me.

I am blessed. My life today is far greater, far more beautiful than even before I met that man. But, still, there are pockets of unease that sometimes trigger with an unexpected call in the night, reminding me of those days that are no more. Those days when I believed to cut the cord feeding me his lies would kill me.

And I smile as I write that line. And fall into love.

That woman back then who believed he was all she was worth, is me. She deserves my love and attention. She deserves my tender loving care.

And that book I wrote to help myself and other women and men free themselves from the shame and self-blame and self-denigration that ensue from loving an abuser, deserves my attention.

That book has made a difference in hundreds and hundreds of lives.

And to keep making a difference in the world, I need to do whatever I can to be of service.

See — I’ve been stalling on ordering more copies of the book to have on hand when people want to buy them. Not because I don’t know what a difference the book makes, but rather, because I’ve been stalling on turning up for me and my work in the world. I’ve been questioning my motivation in speaking up about that story, speaking out against abuse. It isn’t about reliving those days, or carrying pockets of anger. It’s about shining a light on what happens to our spirit when we turn away from the truth of our magnificence and move into the darkness of believing, I am not worthy.

And in speaking up, in shining a light on abuse, I free myself from the past to live freely in the rapture of now.

My phone rang late in the night, and I am reminded that to live my magnificence today, I must live in the wonder of now, speaking up for all I’m worth, creating a difference with every breath, every act, every word.

Time to…. begin again.

Because, no matter where I’m at, it’s important to love myself and start right where I’m at.

It’s time to…Always begin again.


Danielle Smith — your difference is telling on all of us

Alberta has been in the news in the past few weeks because of an E-coli outbreak in a meat-packing plant in the southern regions of the province. Millions of tons of beef have been recalled and dumped in landfills. Workers laid off. Children, mothers, fathers, have become ill across the nation.

And Danielle Smith, leader of the official opposition in the province suggests giving it to the homeless under the premise — if you cook it right, you can kill the e-coli so why not give it to the hungry?

Let’ not worry about killing people on the margins. Heck, they’re poor anyway. Let’s give them tainted beef. It’s better than nothing.

Now, I don’t blame Danielle Smith for her ill-advised remarks. She wasn’t thinking beyond the margins of her limited view of poverty. She was trapped in her perception that if you have nothing, then even tainted beef is better than the nothing you’ve got.

And, sad to say, she was possibly echoing the thoughts of other’s who see those who walk our streets and crowd our homeless shelters as second class citizens who should be grateful for whatever they are given.

There is no us and them.

Yesterday, I gave a workshop on homelessness. As I do in all my workshops, I asked the group to say a word that they would like to be known as in the world — honest, passionate, dedicated, loyal — were the responses I got.

Now, what words would you use to describe those experiencing homelessness, I asked. Addicts. Bums. Mentally ill. Lazy…. none of the words on the first list appeared on the second.

It is always the same. When we think of those on the margins we do not first think of the words that describe their humanity. We see only their condition.

Like Danielle Smith, we see their condition and filter our thoughts through the measurement of their lack.

What most individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty don’t lack is gratitude. It never ceased to flow at the shelter where I worked for almost six years. Groups came in to serve and clients applauded them as they left. A volunteer gives a man a jacket from the clothing room and ‘thank-you’ is the first response.

Gratitude is a human response to kindness. And when you have nothing, you encounter a lot of opportunities for gratitude.

You also encounter a lot of places for anger. And outrage. And disgust.

But mostly, you don’t encounter opportunities to express them for fear you might be cutting off the hand that feeds you — even when it’s tainted beef.

How do you say thank-you to the notion feeding you tainted beef is okay? How do you feel gratitude to a society where someone in a position of power not only thinks it but is willing to say it out loud — even if they later publicly apologize, how do you rid yourself of the foul taste clinging to your every thought about what you know they think you’re worth?

As outsiders looking in, we can feel outrage, disgust, anger, as righteous responses to Danielle Smith’s comment. And then we can carry on to the grocery store to buy an alternative source of protein.¬†We don’t have to eat the beef. As the butcher told me last night at the grocery store, sales of pork and poultry are far exceeding beef these days.

In a shelter, you don’t have the choice to eat something else. You eat what you’re given. And when someone publicly suggests you eat tainted beef, a collective sigh of despair rises up from the huddled bodies crowded into the dining hall.

Shoulders shrug. Heads shake side to side.

Why bother to speak up? Nobody’s listening. And anyway, there’s nothing new in what Danielle Smith said. She’s only voicing what everyone knows — we’re second class citizens with little voice in public discourse. Heck, people don’t see us as human beings first anyway. There is no equality in our social condition. There’s only us in here, struggling to figure out what happened to our lives and how do we rise above this abject poverty driving us down, and them out there who think it’s okay to feed us tainted beef.

It’s not.

Because, if it’s not fit for me to eat, why should it be good enough for someone else?

Charity isn’t about feeding someone tainted beef. It’s about feeding their humanity dignity, respect, compassion.

Suggesting we feed someone tainted beef is a measurement of the smallness of our thinking of what it means to be homeless, immersed in poverty, trapped in the margins.

We have the power to change our views on how we serve our fellow human beings experiencing homelessness and poverty.

We have the capacity to evolve beyond the belief feeding someone who is down and out tainted beef is better than feeding them nothing.

Vulnerability makes a difference

I recently read that there are three attributes ‘new’ leaders share. Courage. curiosity. Humility.

I think humility is part of ‘vulnerability’. And I believe a leader needs to be willing to be ‘vulnerable’. To let go of ‘I am right’ thinking and move into that place where they enter every situation with ‘beginner’s mind’ as Zen master Shunryu Suzuki ¬†coined it. “In the¬†beginner’s mind¬†there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.‚ÄĚ

Researcher, author, speaker, story-teller, Brene Brown says that vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.

Yet, we numb vulnerability constantly. We stop up our fear, bottle it into a tiny brass container and bury it deep beneath our psyche in the hope no one will see or feel or sense its presence.

It doesn’t really matter if anyone else sees it because regardless of how hard we try to hide it, we ¬†know it’s there. And it’s not going anywhere until we face it.

Opening up to fear, opening up to that place where we don’t have to appear perfect, or even close to it, takes courage. And it leaves us vulnerable.

Vulnerable, not in the ‘you are so weak, you coward you’, kind of thinking that we often associate with vulnerability, but rather in the ‘I am strong enough to be who I am in all my imperfections, and to love myself as who I am, beauty and the beast, light and dark, and to reveal myself without fear you will judge me as wanting and not enough’.

That’s vulnerability. That’s leadership. To allow yourself to fail knowing in your failure are the gifts of learning forward into the winds of adversity to find the path of knowing. Of seeing deeper into what it was that lead you to that point of knowing, ‘well this isn’t working, what’s next?’. That place where you trust there is a ‘next’ because the ‘mistake’ is just the next step into learning the answer. Into evolving into something more than anything you imagined or could conceive of until you were willing to let go of believing you knew it all.

I never knew what I was capable of until I stood at the edge of a river and couldn’t drown myself in the depths of my despair. In that moment of turning my back upon the waters calling me under, I knew love was deeper than anything I could imagine.

In that moment of sitting holding the hand of a dying homeless man, something I never imagined I would do, I discovered the truth of our connection. That in being here we have a sacred trust to take care of eachother, no matter how tenuous or thin our connection. We are all connected.

In standing in front of a group, telling my story of falling into the arms of love only to awaken to the horror of abuse, I find myself again and again coming back to the only answer that makes sense. Love.

Love is the answer. No matter the question. Love is the answer.

Loving myself. Loving you. Loving eachother. Loving life.

No matter the question. Love is the answer.

And when we let our courage draw us out into that place where we are willing to explore our vulnerability, where our curiosity opens us up to the depth and beauty of our being human, we let go of fear and fall with open arms into that place of surrender knowing, we are enough, just the way we are. And in our enoughness, we lead the way for others to become free of their fear of surrendering to Love.


I have watched Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability many times. I have shared it with many and share it with you today in the hopes you too find yourself opening up fearlessly into the light of knowing — you are enough. you are magnificent. There is no other quite like you because you are uniquely the gift you bring to this world. What a blessing you are!

Wrecked: it makes a difference

I remember a moment when I felt totally ‘wrecked’. My heart broken, my thoughts dark, my body heavy, my mind numb.

Those are the moments, writes Jeff Goins in Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams Into Your Comfortable Life, that should break your heart because, “a broken heart isn’t enough of a deterrent from doing the right thing, even when it tears your life apart” he writes.

I’ve had many of those ‘wrecked’ moments in my life. Those moments where fear wasn’t the enemy as much as inaction could have been, and at times was. It is in those moments, writes Goins, that we need to ‘lean into the things that hold us back, to move through the pain and push forward’.

Two and a half years ago a man passed away at the shelter where I worked. At the time, he gave me permission to share his story and I was blessed. In his story, my heart was touched and I was wrecked. Through his story, people woke up to the human face behind homelessness. They woke up to the beauty, and the darkness, of life on and off the streets.

When Terry Pettigrew passed away, he gained national attention. Not something he would likely have received in life. He was just a guy. A wiry man of 58 who had lived a transient life since he was 8 years old and his father booted him out of the house for some transgression. How a little boy could do anything that warranted being sent to the streets at the age of 8 defies my logic, and for Terry, it defied his capacity to trust and connect to his fellow human beings.

Terry’s life was not remarkable. He drove cattle across the country. He worked the rigs. He worked on ranches. He did things he wasn’t proud of and like all of us, hurt people he never meant to hurt. He didn’t say, “I’m sorry” very often. Didn’t often say, I love you, either. He was a man of few words and those he did share were usually laced with ¬†witty humour to deflect eyes from seeing into his heart.

Terry was not the first man to pass away at the shelter in whose passing I was wrecked.

The first man was a man of even fewer words than Terry. James Bannerman had lived at the shelter for many years. I often met him along the river pathway as I walked to work and he set out for the day. We’d stop and chat and he would show me his bag full of bottles and cans he’d picked up along the river trail. “I’m doing my civic duty,” he’d say. “Keeping the paths clean.” James was also a photographer. He’d come to photography late in life. At the shelter. I’d given him a disposable camera one day as part of a project that invited clients of the shelter to take pictures of their world. With that camera James was hooked and we connected through our shared passion for the arts.

James passed away on December 8, 2009. I was holding his hand as he took his last inhale of breath. I was holding his hand waiting for the next exhalation that never came. I didn’t want to let go. ¬†I waited. One minute. Two. Finally, I could hold my breath no longer. He didn’t exhale. I called the nurse at the hospice where ¬†James had been taken earlier that day to live out his final hours, and she pronounced him dead.

I was wrecked.

It is an important place to be, this place of being ‘wrecked’. It is a place of vulnerability, openness and possibility. It is a place where we can choose to take action, or not.

According to Goin, it is a place of sacrifice, of letting go of our comfort zones to move into that place where we know, we make a difference when we commit to doing the thing that scares us, or intimidates us, or makes us feel uncomfortable because we are so far beyond the edge of the life we know, our life will never be the same again.

Working at a shelter made my life, and me, different.

Working at a shelter reminded me, every day, that it isn’t just some stranger suffering, it’s one of us. One of my fellow human beings.

When one of us falls on the street, we all fall on the street.

Reading Wrecked, I am awakening to an idea that was born on Terry’s story. It is an idea I’ve decided I must put bones around because not taking action would mean I am ignoring that place where I was wrecked and laid open to the power I have to make a difference.

I’ll be sharing more in the weeks ahead. As this year draws closer to its end, this idea is awakening to carry me forward into action.


To read the story of James Bannerman: ¬†click HERE. ¬† To read about Terry Pettigrew, click HERE¬† and this is the MacLean’s Magazine article on Terry.

Jeff Goin shares a story about ‘Wrecked’ on the Youtube video below. He’s not very old but he sure does get the message — we are all connected.