Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


When children are stressed, the world is not a happy place.

Yesterday, in a comment on my post, To Be Happy, We Need Boundaries, Mark Kolke wrote,

“Kids without clear lines wander/experiment in ways that can lead to confusion and unhealthy behaviour […]

We all want to do good but don’t always do good – so it is important we have a deep early grounding in what is OK vs. what we should have twinges of discomfort about. These things, clear or fuzzy, stay with us all our lives.”

Every day at the family emergency shelter where I work, I see this statement in action.

Kids under stress doing things kids under stress do.

Add in stressed parents and the challenge becomes even greater. How do you cope effectively with your children’s under stress behaviours when you are experiencing extreme stress too?

Being in an emergency shelter is stressful for everyone, so there is little opportunity for the stress to be eased. Thus, little opportunity for the kids to not be doing things kids do under stress.

The brain science is simple. The solution isn’t.

Stress impairs a child’s brain development.

Continual stress creates toxic stress = compromised brain development

(factor in)

human growing process,

(end result)

Emotional, mental, physical impoverishment into teenage years and adulthood.

We can’t end adult homelessness if we don’t end homelessness for children.

A family emergency shelter is not the problem. Nor is it the solution.

A stable, predictable home environment is the solution, but how do you create ‘home’ when the parents themselves have never had the benefit of an environment conducive to healthy brain development?

See, that’s the crux of it. For many of the families we serve at the shelter, poverty is an intergenerational cycle. They have never known anything other than the stress of living in a home where everyone is struggling to make ends meet, lessen the pressure of never having enough and coping with the instability and limitations that come with parents under stress.

What parents do. Children do.

Every parent wants to do what is right and best for their children. Every parent wants to ‘do better’. But, when your starting point is so far below the poverty line, you can’t see beyond the stress of never having enough, it becomes even more daunting to rise above the line to do better for your children.

I wish some days I had a magic wand that would heal all the wounds we cannot see but are so clearly evident in the behaviours of the children we see at the shelter.

I don’t have a magic wand.

What I do have is the opportunity to create better so that those families who do come to the emergency shelter for support, find a more inviting path out of the stress of poverty and  homelessness into a world that is more supportive of their desire to provide a better world for their children.




to be happy, we need boundaries

Recently, I saw a couple making out in a bus stop as I drove by. I mean, really making out.

Later, I read a news article about a movement in Vancouver to provide homeless couples freedom to have sexual interactions in parks. The theory being, they have no where else, why not in a park?

Which got me thinking about freedom.

Freedom doesn’t mean living a life free of moral responsibility, lawful living and justice. It means, the freedom to own my own destiny — within moral reason and lawfulness. To act in accordance with my values, beliefs, principles — within the context of the society in which I live, its laws and social mores guided by my moral compass which hopefully, always points me towards doing the right thing.

On the surface, I might think that’s not freedom. It’s got too many constraints and boundaries limiting what I can do. With all those limitations how will I be happy?

Happiness guru Dr. Dan Gilbert proved in an experiment on synthetic happiness that putting boundaries on choices makes people happier. He says, we should have preferences, we all need boundaries. When our ambition is bounded, we work joyfully. When it is unbounded, we lie and cheat and manipulate to get what we want. When our fear is bounded, we are prudent, cautious, thoughtful. When fear is unbounded, we are reckless and cowardly.

In freedom, I know contentment when I know that what I am doing fits within the moral construct of my world, and does not leave me exposed to risk of arrest, condemnation, and the fear of self-loathing.

Just because I want to do something in the name of freedom doesn’t mean it will make me happy. If it pulls me away from the True North of my moral compass, I risk being unhappy with my choice and the consequences as well as myself.

Thoughts to ponder.


To learn more about Dan Gilbert and his research on choice and happiness, watch the video below. I found it fascinating!


Soaring with Heroes

There’s a wonderful story, by David MacNally which he put to video with Mac Anderson, about an eagle who, in the process of helping her babies fly, must push them from the nest — because if she didn’t, they would stay forever stuck in the belief they don’t know how to fly.  At one point, the mother Eagle asks herself, “Why does the thrill of soaring have to begin with the fear of falling?”

Most things I’ve tried in my life, I have felt fear.

Sometimes I’ve ignored the fear. Sometimes I’ve given into it.

Whenever I’ve given into my fear, I’ve carried with me a regret — because fear is not a good motivator of growth. Fear keeps me stuck.

When I took on my current role as Interim Executive Director at the Family Emergency Shelter and Housing agency where I work, fear kept whispering in my ear, “You know you’ll fail… you know they’re going to find out you don’t know what you’re doing.”

I had to choose to breathe into my fear to get to the place where my courage was calling me to leap; even if I didn’t know if I could fly.

Fact is: Failing is always an option. So is flying.

I have been blessed. In my four months in this role, I have surprised myself with my capacity to lead. And I have been surprised by my willingness to accept support and encouragement from others.

Because that’s the thing about my fear… to hide it, I have been known to pretend I know what I’m doing, even when I don’t. And, when I’m pretending I know what I’m doing, I put up walls that are meant to protect me, but mostly just keep me isolated and repeating the same mistakes again and again.

One of the lessons I’ve learned to appreciate and embrace as I’ve stretched myself into this role is that, it’s not about avoiding mistakes. Mistakes are part of learning new things, stepping into a different role, challenging myself to grow. What doesn’t have to be part of it is, giving up or not attempting it in the first place. What I’ve learned is that as long as I trust myself enough to acknowledge my mistakes and have the courage to not put up walls by defending against them, I am open to receive their lessons. And in that place, grace has appeared again and again in the form of the people around me who are willing to encourage and support me to get back up.

I have had a lot of people encouraging and supporting me throughout this journey. They are the best kind of people to have around. I am so grateful.

Over the next few weeks, I will be stepping out of this role as a new ED will be appointed. I don’t know who it will be. I do know that whatever the outcome, I have been blessed with this incredible opportunity to work alongside some of the most compassionate, intelligent and passionate people I have ever met.

My life is richer for this experience, not because of the things I’ve done or learned or achieved, but rather, because the people I’ve walked alongside have made my journey so much richer with their presence and their willingness to give me a push when I needed it, a hand up when I fell, a shoulder to lean on when I grew weary and a light when I struggled to find my way.

I am truly blessed. I began this journey with fear and have found myself courageously soaring with heroes all around me.





My Heart Vision (a poem)

Mixed media on card stock 6″ x 6″ Louise Gallagher

Rumi’s poetry always captures my heart, opening me up to the simple and provocative truths of our human condition.

This morning, I visited a poem I have not read in a long while, The Water You Want.

The Water You Want  Jalaluddin Rumi

Someone may be clairvoyant, able to see
the future, and yet have very little wisdom.
Like the man who sees water in his dream
and began leading everyone toward his mirage.
I am the one with heart vision.
I have torn open the veil.
So they set out with him inside the dream,
while he is actually sleeping
beside a river of pure water.
Any search moves away from the spot
where the object of the quest is.
Sleep deeply wherever you are on the way.
Maybe some traveler will wake you.
Give up subtle thinking, the twofold, threefold
multiplication of mistakes.
Listen to the sound of waves within you.
You are dreaming your thirst,
when the water you want
is inside the big vein on your neck.

Slipping into meditation I carried the phrase, ‘heart vision’ with me. The following poem moved through me, writing itself into creation.

Heart Vision ©2019 Louise Gallagher

In my heart vision I tear away the veil
that blinds me to nothing
but my fear of falling
into the dark stagnant abyss
where love will never find me

I rise above
the fog of my delusion.

Truth shimmers dancing in the light
of fear held silent
in arms of molten lead
pinioning me to the pain of believing
that I must seek love to find it

Searching for the way I find myself
listening to the sound of my ears opening
to the truth where hope rises
into the mists of my fear falling
into nothing but Love.

Joyfully I embrace
the vision of my heart.


And as a special treat, here is Coleman Banks’ reading of The Water You Want.


On this day, dare boldly to be Kind. Brave. More.

I am lying in the border lands between awake and dreaming.

I don’t want to get up. I’d rather stay snug and cozy in my bed, listening to my husband’s breathing, Beaumont’s snuffling from where he sleeps on the floor on the far side of the room.

A thought floats into my mind. There are many ways to raise a child and only one place to do it. Home.

Work rises early.

A family emergency homeless shelter never sleeps.

I must get up.

I get up.

It is still dark out. January days slowly lengthen. Morning has yet to lighten.

I paddle barefoot into the kitchen. Beaumont follows.

I turn the kettle on so I can make a cup of hot lemon and honey. Beaumont pads over to the far side of the dining room table, by the deck doors, plops his body on the ground and goes back to sleep.

Mug of hot lemon and honey in my hand, I light the candle on my desk, settle into my chair and fire up my laptop.

Outside, the river flows quickly beneath the bridge. A city bus travels westward. I cannot see the passengers inside. The lights of several cars follow. Unseen, the city slowly awakens farther to the west.

I sip my honey and lemon. Take a deep breath. Close my eyes. Quiet descends.

David Kanigan of the I Can’t Sleep blog shared a quote this morning from Kelsey Danielle of Misguided Ghosts.

I felt my soul stir in her words. My heart give that little flutter like when you meet someone for the first time only to discover you have a world of friends and experiences in common. Possibilities of friendship expand.

I move into that space of familiarity, comfort. I begin to write.

Morning awakens. The day awaits. It is filled with unexplored opportunities to be kinder, bolder, braver, more.

On this day, Dare boldly to be kind. Dare boldly to give your heart away. Life is calling you to awaken.




How to have a joy-filled day.

Gratitude is the gateway to joy.

It opens our hearts, softens the rough edges where resentments, disdain, criticism and a host of other challenging emotions convene to create discord in our lives.

Gratitude is healing.

This morning, I conducted a gratitude experiment.

I decided to verbally thank everything in my path as I moved through my morning.

“Thank you bed for holding me softly during the night,” I said as I got up.

“Thank you lamp for casting your light when I turn you on.”

“Thank you toilet for providing a hygienic vessel for my body to use.”

. “Thank you water for flowing into the tap so I can wash my hands.”  “Thank you tap for being there when I need water.”

“Thank you sink for catching the water and returning it to its necessary pipes.”

And the list goes on. From thanking the kettle that heated up my water for tea to the friends who gave us the kettle as a wedding gift almost four years ago, I verbally, out loud, thanked everything that made my morning ‘work’, including the gas that turned on our stove so I could heat up the water for my tea. The laptop upon which I type and the Internet that carries my words into the ethernet and onto other people’s computer screens. And Beaumont who appeared by my side as I typed and nudged my elbow in search of a cuddle..

Needless to say, it took me longer to get to my desk this morning.

Thanking all things in my world out loud takes time.

But, as I went about my home thanking the various things I used to prepare myself for the day, it truly did impress upon me how very lucky I am to live in a world where I have these things to make my world easier. I am grateful.

And, it definitely caused me to laugh out loud.

Laughing out loud filled my heart with joy. Providing, gratitude is the gateway to joy.

May you walk in gratitude. May you have a joy-filled day.

And thank you for being part of my world.



We are Love.

Deep in the silence, I cried. Deep in that place of quiet meditation, the beauty and exquisite nature of my journey brought tears to my eyes.

“Louise. What do you know?” my soul asked.

I dried the tears on my cheeks and replied. “Resistance is futile. I am. Love is.”

It was one of those moments of utter clarity. Of knowing. Of being.

We spend our lives struggling to make sense of our lives. We spend time and energy doing whatever we can to create value in our world. To live on purpose. To be of significance.

All of these things are important. They are our journey and they make a difference in the quality of our journey — but not our existence. For, no matter what we do or become or say or acquire or create, when all the doing, all the struggle to be, to have purpose, to know our ‘raison d’etre’ is over, one irrefutable truth remains. We are. Love is.

No matter what we do, when we leave this earth, when our bodies dissolve into tiny atoms of matter, it matters not to the Universe what we did or had or created. What matters is that we existed, no matter how briefly or long, we existed. And in our very existence, we were and always will be, Love.

And that is what brought me to tears while deep in my meditation. The energy. The beauty. The profound depth of our exquisite nature. We are. Love is.

And in this journey of our lifetimes, what we do in our daily lives enhances the quality of our journey. Never the quality of our essence. For always, our essence is perfect. Our beings are divine.