Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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One human family.

“The most divisive belief is ‘us versus them’. The most uniting belief is that humanity is one family.” Deepk Chopra

I do not have the words. I put my fingers to keyboard searching for understanding and the words evaporate. I sit in meditation and my mind will not rest. It leaps from thought to thought scurrying about in search of answers it cannot find in my restless, agitated state of being. I want to write about the sadness I feel. I want to write about my  sorrow that yet again, violence is the path we humans take to destroy our humanity.

And I am at a loss.

I read the news reports. I read the comments. I read the words we use to describe those who committed these acts and I fear once again we will never find the path to unity, to being a planet existing in harmony and peace.

We look across the ocean and see the turmoil and grieve the losses and state we must unite and fight the terror, we must kill the terrorists and my heart grows heavy.

We are one humanity. One planet. One humankind.

It is not them who have perpetrated these acts. It is all of us.

It is not them we are vowing to kill. It is all of us.

According to  Mass Shooting Tracker, in the US there have been 325 mass shootings in 2015 resulting in 304 deaths. In 2014, 337 mass shootings killing 383 people.

What is happening is wrong. What is happening is terrifying. What is happening is deadly.

The perpetrators are still human. They are still us. They are not subhumans. Animals. Cretins. Or whatever words we spew out to quell the anger burning from within. They are us and in our refusal to see that we are them, that we share this human condition, no matter how massively distorted we see it to be, we are contributing to the divisiveness that is killing our humanity.

We have been contributing to this divisiveness for centuries.

In one article, a man from the Southern US talked about the Klu Klux Klan and the terror they invoked throughout the South. Where was the outrage of the country then, asked the person being interviewed.

When I was in my early teens and we lived in France, ‘the Algerian crisis’ was in full swing. In the woods, behind the apartment building we lived in, there were ruins of Roman aquaducts. ‘The Algerians’ lived in the ruins. We were cautioned not to go there alone. They might rise up out of the ruins and harm us. In a section of the city there were tenements that housed, ‘the Algerians’. They were French citizens but they were considered second class, ‘the other’, undeserving of common decencies extended to the rest of society.

Where was the outrage then?

 

There is no us and them in humanity. There is only us. All of us. One planet. One humankind. One human family. What we do to one, we do to all.

I cannot stop the flow of hatred. I cannot stop the boiling over of anger.

I can stop them coming from me. I can stop them being my contribution.

And so this becomes my prayer today.

Let me not contribute anger to what has happened. Let me not contribute hatred.

Let me only contribute my humanity for it is in our humanity that we are most similar. It is in our blood that we flow the same.

 


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A matter of faith

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare

When I was growing up, my mother had many superstitions.

Do not put shoes on a bed or counter.

Do not cross arms when toasting with glasses.

Do not cross the path of a black cat.

A devout Catholic, around our house were many icons to remind her of her faith and to ward off the bad luck she believed lurked around corners eager to pounce on the unsuspecting and unaware. There were candles to light beside a statue of the Virgin Mary  and a large crucifix above the mantle to kneel in front of and pray the Rosary.

Along with the symbols of her Catholic faith there were also many symbols of her heritage and the environment in which she grew up — southern India. Scattered amidst the icons of her faith, there were statues of  Shiva. There were bronze Buddha’s and only elephants with their trunks lifted.

In my mother’s world, Friday the 13th was a day to be dreaded. It was a day for mishaps and missteps. A day to be hyper-conscious of the world around you looking to trip you up or deliver some ill-timed blow of misfortune.

I used to laugh at my mother’s superstitions. I used to judge her on the contradictions I saw between belief in God and fear of evil spirits. I would tease her and try to scare her into saying a quick Hail Mary to ward off some evil miscreant awoken by my lack of respect for the spirit world.

Time has smoothed the ridges of my disdain. Time has given me a better perspective of the compassionate view of my mother’s beliefs and superstitions.

At Thanksgiving dinner this year, my mother spoke of Faith. She spoke of her deep and abiding belief in the goodness of God, the power of His creation and the holiness and sanctity of life.

No matter our teasing, no matter my scoffing at her repeated insistence she will ‘pray for me’, my mother’s faith has been the backbone and the lifeline that has tied our family together in good times and in bad.

My mother never saw the contradictions. For her, the miracle of life resonates in all beings, and just as God is ever present, she has always known the capacity for evil is also present.

Taking care of the small things, praying to protect herself, her family and the world around her against evil are to her, as natural as saying the Hail Mary in times of stress and in times of contemplation.

In my mother’s world, the superstitions woven into the fabric of her life are simply threads of colour that highlight the natural grace and beauty at the heart of who she is, a kind, compassionate and caring woman of faith.


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it is in not forgetting, we remember

poppy“We often look at the society we live in [in Canada] as being a peaceful and tranquil place where we can go about our lives. It’s not always evident, except on Remembrance Day, as to how it came about. Taking part in battles, fighting for our freedoms, being involved in peacekeeping missions and working through our international partners such as United Nations, make a more peaceful world as well as a secured Canada. I am thankful every day for that sacrifice, that service – putting themselves in harm’s way to keep our society largely democratic and free. We owe them [veterans] a deep gratitude – it’s up to us to remember that on November 11 that this didn’t just happen. People fought and gave up their lives and were committed to the cause, to see that we live in this age of peace and tranquility here at home.”

 -Kent Hehr, MP Calgary Centre and Minister of Veterans Affairs

It is in not forgetting, we remember

Guest Blog Written by Darcy Halber

Since I was little I’ve worn a poppy in the first two weeks of November, pinned to my coat just over my heart. I stood in the Remembrance Day ceremonies in the gym at school while someone read aloud “In Flanders Fields” and our school band played “The Last Post.” I held my minute of silence at that eleventh hour and felt an ache in my heart for those I could never really thank, who sacrificed for a generation they would never meet. I remember wondering if our offering of gratitude was enough.

As I graduated and left school, I would occasionally wear my poppy and sometimes I would remember to go to a Remembrance Day ceremony. I would see the displays in the malls and glance at them as I walked by. Sometimes they would stir me, other days they blended in with the scenery and Christmas decorations. If the T.V. was on and the news broadcasting a ceremony, I would pause on it for a few seconds before moving on.

But despite my vague commitment, every year on November 11th, at that eleventh hour, I remembered my moment of silence and that familiar ache would settle into my chest.

Why, I couldn’t tell you. Or myself for that matter. No one in my family had ever fought in a war. There used to be a military base in the small B.C. town that I grew up in, but it closed and moved up north when I was young. Perhaps it was because of all those years in grade school, when they packed us all into the gymnasium and gave us no choice but to remember and to reflect on those who fought for a freedom we took for granted. Or perhaps it was because my mother, ever a scholar and indignant that it was no longer part of our school curriculum, had us each read Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” in our grade 7 year.

Perhaps.

And then two and a half years ago, I met the man who would become my husband. And I knew.

I met a man who enlisted at seventeen years of age, who became part of a Special Operations Unit at eighteen, who deployed when he was nineteen and who turned twenty in the middle of a desert in a country whose people were not free. I met a man who had seen 5 friends die before the age of twenty-one, who at twenty-two had to present a folded flag to the wife of a friend who would never come back and who escorted a fellow warrior’s body to his burial amidst name calling protesters shouting for “peace.”

I met a man who joined for love of country, but who stayed because of the man to his left and to his right. I met a man who came back quieter than he was before he left, a man who accepts thanks, not because he considers himself deserving, but for those who can no longer accept the thanks themselves. Who has good days and sometimes bad days when the memories become too much.

I met a man who helped me understand that ache in my heart for men and women I didn’t know. A man who helped me understand that I felt, not because I truly understand the value of my freedom, but because there were those before me who did. He helped me understand that I mourn for those like my husband who have buried friends, and for those wives who have buried husbands all so that I would not have to.

He helped me to understand that it is not a crime to not truly understand the incredible value of our freedom. How could we? We’ve never had to fight for it.

Someone else did.

He helped me to understand that our crime is not in not understanding.

It is in forgetting.

So remember that your freedom is not free. Hold that ache in your heart and let it help you to remember those we can never truly thank.

And let that be enough.

***************************************

Darcy Halber came to work on the Comms team at the Calgary Homeless Foundation earlier this year. She is smart, funny, talented, kind, generous of spirit and thoughtful.

She wrote this blog post for the CHF blog and when I asked if I could share it here, she graciously agreed. Thank you Darcy for your heart, your words and your reminder to listen to the ache in our hearts so that we never forget the cost and the value of our freedom.


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Are you afraid of dreaming?

“The universe is always dreaming bigger things for you than you can imagine.”

The thought rose out of my meditation. It floated into my mind as gently as fog lifting off a river in the morning sun.

When coaching at Choices, there are two team captains whose role is to support the coaching team and focus them on the task at hand. Part of what they do is to remind the team members of their strengths and gifts, and to support them in letting go of the things that hold them back from giving their best to the group.

Between Choices and the two additional weekend sessions of Givers 1 and 2, trainees and coaches return for over the following two to three months after Choices, the team captains put out a coach’s email challenge inviting the team to share their experiences from coaching, and to examine an aspect of their beliefs/behaviours that was illuminated throughout the week of Choices.

This time, the team captain’s asked people to share, if they are willing, one dream they felt stirring that they were going to take action on now.

Dreams are funny things for me.

I fear dreaming, or at least fear articulating my dreams.

It’s that old core belief thingie. Somewhere within me is a voice that likes to stomp on my dreams with its chatter about how stupid I am to dream, how people will think I’m silly, or call me ‘stuck-up’ and all sorts of other vile things that are not true, but are said with such convincing fervor, I give into their demands that I not dream — big or small.

Those are childhood voices that do not serve me well today, but still, they creep in with their insidious insistence they have the right to limit my capacity to dream big and live large.

This mornings centering thought in the 21-day meditation challenge I am participating in is:  “I turn my belief into actions.”

Which lead me to wonder, if I fear dreaming, or simply don’t believe in my dreams, what am I turning into action?

Good question. I wonder if my fear of dreaming holds me back from connecting to the dreams the Universe holds true for me? I wonder if fulfilling on my dreams is the path to experiencing all the Universe has for me?

What about you? Do you have a big dream you don’t like to illuminate in fear it will be squashed, ridiculed, scoffed at? Are you afraid of dreaming?

 

 

 


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Rules for being a dog.

Beaumont at the park

Beaumont at the park

Beaumont’s happy place is at the park, off leash, running free to play with all his friends.

Puppies recognize puppies. They have an innate ability to detect a dog of similar age, regardless of size, and intuitively fall into a play pattern that accommodates any discrepancy in girth and stature to allow for a joyful game of wrestle, chase and roll.

Watching puppies play is fun. Watching their owners watching their puppies at play is even more fun!

We stand in groups of two or three, watching our canines roll and rumble, talking about their strengths, their idiosyncrasies and the sometimes not so great things they do. We commiserate, share tips and the not so great advice we’ve received on how to avoid household messes, chewed up slippers and other losses of puppydom.

And all the while, our pups are oblivious to us watching them. They are 100% immersed in the joy of play as we stand watching and laughing and commenting on how we wish the world could operate like dogs at a park. Fluid. Fun. Friendly.

Dogs meet. Sniff. Play a little. Move on. Meet. Sniff. Play a little. Move on. They check out a smell here, a butt there without too much concern for whose butt is whose. They don’t really care what their humans think. They are totally consumed with being present in the now, experiencing everything that is going on, soaking up every ounce of joy in the moment.

Watching Beaumont play with his friends has taught me many things about rules for being a dog — and a human. First and foremost,

Some other rules for being a dog:

  1. It’s the play in the dog that makes the difference, not the size. Don’t say no to a play invitation just because you think you’re too big, or small. Adjust your play-pattern to accommodate discrepancies in size and let the smaller one lead the way.
  2. Don’t let age weigh you down. Dogs can be like humans. The older they get, the less playful and more grumpy they can be. Find a playmate who has not yet succumbed to the weight of age.
  3. Pay attention. Always greet your playmate as if you haven’t seen them for a thousand years, even if you just played with them at the other end of the park 15 minutes ago. Make them feel like they have 100% of your attention.
  4. Life is fluid. If another canine runs in to join the fray, it’s okay to stop and give them some attention. Check out if one of you wants to divert your play to the newcomer. If your playmate finds another, don’t fuss. Carry on and be joyful. There’s always another pup for play at the park.
  5. Be whole-hearted. Use your whole body, mind and spirit when playing with another. It’s okay to stick your head in your playmates mouth. It’s okay to let them stick their’s in yours. Just remember, this is play. Be joyful. Be gentle of mouth. Be playful of spirit.
  6. Life is a dance of reciprocity. It’s okay to let another pup lie on top of you and chew your ear. It’s okay to lie on top of another pup and chew their ear too.
  7.  Trust your human. Your job is to play, completely. Your human’s job is to decide when the play is getting too rough. It’s their job to keep you safe and unharmed.
  8. Make someone laugh whenever possible. Your job at the park is to give your human lots of reasons to laugh. It makes it easier on you when you don’t listen to them calling if they’re laughing because laughing makes them feel better and they’ll be less inclined to make you sit and stay and do all those boring training things they think are so important. And, bonus! They’ll stay longer at the park when they’re laughing.

Beaumont thinks we go to the park for him. Truth is, we go for the joy of it.

Watching pups play makes my heart feel light. And bonus! I get to meet like-minded people and spend time in the fresh air.


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CHF Homecoming Party: Opening doors for The 3200

It was heartfelt, heart-warming and heart engaging. The Calgary Homeless Foundation’s Homecoming Party happened last night and it blew the doors right off their hinges! What a night!

There were tears and laughter and sharing of stories and dreams and hopes for a better future. There were people committed to making a difference. Committed to making sure Calgary’s Plan to End Homelessness has the right framework, right resources, right focus and right people to get the job done.

And there was music.

Aaron Pollock is a young singer/songwriter who believes through music, he makes a difference. And he’s right! At a backyard BBQ during the summer, he met CHF CEO Diana Krecsy and together they talked about the power of music to create change, to drive up awareness.

Aaron offered to write a song about homelessness and what it means to be without a home and what happens when you come home.

Diana welcomed his offer and the rest, as they say, is history.

Last night, Aaron Pollock debuted his beautiful ballad, Blue Skies Don’t Break, to an audience of enthusiastic folk who came out to support CHF’s Homecoming Party. He now has over 150 new fans.

Heartfelt and heartbreaking, Blue Skies Don’t Break reminds each of us that no matter how dark the path, the sky above is always there, opening up new vistas, new ways, new possibilities.

This is not the time to give into playing Chicken Little in fear of the sky falling. This is the time to believe in our capacity to end homelessness. This is the time to get busy, stay committed and keep forging ahead in our quest to create homecomings for The 3200.

The 3200. That’s the number of homes we know are needed over the next 2 and a bit years to end homelessness for those who are trapped in long term use of emergency shelters or sleeping rough.

And last night, we took another step forward to opening those doors.

As Ramin Eshraghi-Yazdi, the director of the documentary Do You See Me? which was featured at the Homecoming Party, so eloquently said in his comments after the film was shown, we are all one body and when one of us hurts, or one of us falls, or one of us is trapped in homelessness, we all hurt, we all fall, we are all trapped together.

And as everyone said after the film was shown, after MLA Craig Coolahan introduced the video message from our Premier Rachel Notley, after Aaron shared his gift of song and songwriting, and after CEO Diana Krecsy wrapped up the formal part of the evening; we can stop the hurt, we can stop the falls, we can release people from the things that trap them in homelessness, together. Because, together, we will end homelessness.

I am grateful to work with an organization and community that is committed and passionate about creating possibilities for a better quality of life for every Calgarian.

I am grateful for people like Ramin Eshraghi-Yazdi and Aaron Pollock who share their talents to make ending homelessness possible. And I am grateful to live in a city that cares. A city that believes anything is possible when we work together.

I am grateful for Lindsey and his team at Civic on Third for creating such a welcoming space for the Homecoming Party and for the sponsors who helped make the evening possible.

And I am really grateful for people like Sharon deBoer, Ben Crews, Alison Duff, Kelsey Shea and Darcy Halber. They made the Homecoming Party possible. And they did it with grace and ease!