Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Simple Acts of Kindness

I arrive home. Let Beaumont the Sheepadoodle out into the backyard. Go through the house to the front door. Open it. Check the mail.

This is my daily after work routine.

Yesterday, when I put my hand inside the mailbox, I found a surprise.

A bag of heart-shaped dog biscuits and a card. “Merry Christmas” was all that was written on the outside.

Curious, I take it into the house, let Beau in as he’s now barking for attention at the back door, and open the card.

It is from a neighbour I’ve never met on a street a few blocks over.

“Just wanted to say hello and send a little treat for your best friend that I see in the window — he/she makes my day when I drive by.  Happy New Year! All the best in your move.”

I smile with delight. Give Beau, who has been eagerly pressing his nose against the edge of the counter-top, desperately trying to get a sniff of whatever goodies are in the bag, a treat.

How delightful!

And in that moment I am reminded of the sheer beauty and magnificence of my fellow human-beings. I am reminded that we are all connected. All part of this one big human condition where we all have the capacity to see the wonder and awe in all things — even in the simple act of driving by a house where a dog sits on the couch positioned in the front window, head over the back watching the world drive by.

And we all have the capacity to connect through simple acts of kindness.

 

 

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When doing nothing is not the answer.

An older man and woman are standing in the parking lot, just next to my car when I come out of the grocery store. I hear a dog barking and the woman say, “What should we do? It’s so hot out and the car is all locked up.”

“Is there a dog locked in a car?” I ask as I stop beside them. I’m thinking that is where the barking is coming from.

“Not a dog,” the woman responds, pointing to a red car parked next to the empty stall in which they’re standing. “A senior.”

And I look at the car she’s pointed to and see an older man, head resting on his chest, sitting by himself in a closed up car.

“Is the engine running?” I ask.

“No,” she replies. “And it’s so hot.”

“Why don’t I knock on the window and make sure he’s okay,” I suggest, walking towards the car.

The other man who was standing beside her walks away. He doesn’t want to get involved or perhaps he just thinks the situation is taken care of, no need for him.

The woman is nervous. “Do you think you should?” she asks. She holds up a piece of paper. “I have the license plate number. I can go into the store and have them call out for the owner.”

“That may take too long,” I reply. “It is really hot and he’s very still.”

I rap on the window.

The man doesn’t awaken at first. I rap again, thinking about how I’m going to have to break the window if he doesn’t stir.

He opens his eyes. Lifts his head. Slowly.

“Are you okay?” I ask him through the closed windows. I can see the keys in the ignition, but the car is not running.

He opens the door slightly. The woman hovers beside me.

“We were worried about you,” I tell the man through the open crack of the door. “It’s really hot out and we wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“I like the heat,” he replies.

“Oh. Okay. Well perhaps you may want to open your window a little bit so others don’t think you might be in distress,” I tell him with a smile.

He nods his head and closes the door.

The woman and I walk away towards our cars.

“Thank you for your help,” she says. She is hesitant. Shakes her head. Raises her shoulders. “I didn’t know what to do.”

“It is good that you noticed him,” I told her. “It’s much too hot to sit in a locked car with the windows up, even if you do like the heat.”

She smiles. Gets in her car next to mine.

I load my groceries into my car, look back at the man. He has opened his window a bit.

I am relieved.

It is much too hot to sit in a locked up car exposed to the full heat of the sun with all the windows closed.

The dog is still barking where he is leashed up to a pole near the grocery store doors.

I hope the owner comes out soon ’cause baby, it’s a scorcher.

___________________________________________

Years ago, I saw a young woman sitting in a coffee shop by herself, crying. I did nothing.

I have learned that doing nothing is not the answer. This was for her and all the others I have walked by or not noticed who needed help or just someone to care enough to make sure they were okay.

 


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Reflect kindness.

When I arrive at the restaurant where I am meeting a girlfriend for dinner, billowy clouds are gathering on the horizon, piling up in black and ominous force at the foot of the Rockies in the west. Above me, the sun is shining, the sky is mostly blue and we picked this restaurant so we could sit outside on the patio.

I find a table under a summery umbrella and when my girlfriend arrives, we settle in for a long overdue visit.

And then, the clouds march closer, the sky darkens.

It’s not going to rain, we say.

And then, thunder rolls in threatening booms across the sky.

It’s not going to rain, we repeat.

And then, the sky gets darker yet, the wind picks up. There are still several other diners outside but we decide to move in, no sense battling the wind while trying to enjoy our dinner.

We move inside to a table by the window, “It’s almost like being outside”, the manager, Frank, says as he seats us.

We laugh and continue on with our conversation.

Outside, people continue to brave the elements, until, the skies open up and rain and hail pelt the ground. They all race inside. Frank the manager and his staff race around closing up umbrellas, tipping up the chairs.

It pours. And it pours. Sheets of water streaming from the sky.

And we keep talking, catching up, sharing news of daughters and men and happenings in our lives and the rain keeps pouring down.

It’s then that Frank, the manager, pulls out his hero card. A couple of guests are waiting inside the front doors hoping for a break in the downpour so they can race to their cars.

Frank, runs outside to the patio, grabs a big festive patio umbrella, pushes it open and walks the guests to their cars. He does it, again and again.

Now that’s service. That’s a commitment to ensuring the guest experience is memorable.

We didn’t need Frank’s assistance when we left. The rain had stopped and the sun had returned to the sky. But, I kind of wished it was still raining. I kind of wished I could have been walked to my car by a pleasant young man who takes customer service so seriously.

Thank you Frank the manager at the Phoenix Grill in Westhills. You made a difference to a lot of people last night.

And, you made me smile.

___________________

This post originally appeared on my blog, Aug 1, 2012.  I decided to do a retro piece this morning and was grateful for the reminder of Frank’s gallantry.  It also just happens that it poured rain last night, and while I was warm and dry at home, I hope the Frank’s and Frankie’s of the world were out there holding umbrellas for strangers.

____________________

Photo by Ahmed Saffu on Unsplash


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Are you stealing your own future?

Some time ago, I read a story about a man who was a very famous thief. During his career he stole an estimated $10 million in jewellry and other valuables from people whose names appear on social registers and tabloids. Unlike Robin Hood of eras past, he did not steal from the rich to give to the poor, he simply stole from the rich because they had more to steal. He was caught, spent 25 years in jail and when released, got a job in a burger joint. That was his life.

When interviewed by a reporter some years after his release from prison, he said he realized, in hindsight, he didn’t just steal from the rich, he stole from himself. He stole his future, the things he could have done to make a difference in the world, the things he might have done to be different in the world.

And he couldn’t get that time back.

What things are you doing in your life, or filling your time with, that you can’t get back. Where are you squandering your time? Stealing value from yourself?

Where are you like that thief?

For me, when I don’t meditate in the morning, I am stealing my well-being from me.  Which means, I’m devaluing my future.

If you don’t meditate, or simply sit in silent contemplation every morning for a few minutes, it’s a good practice to get into to create value in your life. Try this…

Make a commitment that for the next week, starting right now — (always begin where you’re at) — that you will stop, close your eyes (if your hands are on the keyboard simply leave them there, the key is to simply STOP what you’re doing and be still).

Now, deep breath.

In. 1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.

Hold – 1. 2. 3. 4.

Out. 1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.

Slowly. Deep breath.

In. 1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.

Hold – 1. 2. 3. 4.

Out. 1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.

Keep breathing. Slowly.

Relax your shoulders. Your neck. Your body.

Close your eyes.

Focus on your breathing. In……. Out….. In….. Out…..

Focus on the feeling of the air coming in through your nostrils, notice its coolness. Notice how it fills your lungs. Breathe. Slowly. In…. Out….

Count ten breaths in and out. Follow the flow of ten breaths in and out.

Now, open your eyes and continue on.

Do that every day — to begin with, once a day for ten breaths. But, try to add a couple of more exercises throughout the day. Do it three times a day if possible — but commit to doing it once a day for a week.

And then, next week, double the breaths. In….. Out…. 20 times

And if one day you forget, Begin again. Always begin again.

See. I just did it and I feel the benefits of the quiet flowing within me. I feel positive energy moving with grace and ease throughout my being.

Try it. It will make a difference.

Because, when I don’t take a few minutes every day to consciously create peace and harmony, within me and all around me, I am squandering the time I have to create peace and harmony, within me and all around me.

Gotta go. The day is calling me to approach in wild-eyed wonder to the beauty of every moment unfolding with miracles of life all around.

Namaste.


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This is my Canada. Act accordingly.

At the edge of the airbase where I spent my teens in Lahr, Germany, there was a full size mirror just by the gate on which was printed the words:

“The person you see here is a reflection of Canada. Act accordingly.”

Every day I’d walk past that mirror on my way to and from high school and wonder, “What does it mean to act accordingly? Like a Canadian.”

I know that often my friends and I were louder than our German compatriots. Most of us didn’t speak German and would even make fun of those who couldn’t speak English.

I was fortunate. When we’d first moved there, my father was insistent that I attend a German school. I spent my first summer being tutored in German by Frau Klaus.

She and her husband were our landlords. Every afternoon I would walk down the stairs from our house at the top of Am Schiessrain, through our garden into theirs, past the cherry tree that cast its sheltering branches over the grape vines they’d planted in their back yard. I’d knock at the side door of their big stone house and wait for Frau Klaus to answer.

Their home was old. To my teenage mind it was ancient. It was on Friedhof Strasse, the long, winding street that lead up to the cemetery.

Herr Klaus was a stone mason. He made beautiful headstones to mark the graves of those who passed away. I loved to sit on the stone wall beside their house and watch him in his workshop. He’d show me the different marbles. The fillers he used to make the etchings he carved into the rock stand out. He’d talk about why he’d chosen one product over the other. Of the importance of honouring the dead, of always holding their memories close. I liked Herr Klaus. He was always kind and full of laughter and stories.

Frau Klaus scared me. She was stern and critical. If my skirt was too short she’d make me climb the stairs back through the garden and change. I was never allowed to wear jeans in her presence. “That is not how ladies dress,” she told me.

Once I climbed the cherry tree to see the view beyond their garden. She told me to get down. Ladies didn’t climb trees.

Frau Klaus was very particular about how I spoke her language. She would make me repeat, again and again, a certain sound, a gutteral noise so that I got the intonation just right. She taught me how to bow my head when I met my elders and say, Guten Tag, with just the right amount of reverence to demonstrate I deferred to their age.

Frau Klaus was proud of her language. Her heritage. Her home and native land.

She did not like foreigners very much, though ‘we Canadians’ were somewhat more acceptable than ‘those Americans’ or the woman who worked as their housekeeper. She came from the Ukraine. She had walked the thousands of miles after the war to get away from the Russians only to find herself in unwelcome territory years later, shunned for her foreign ways.

Frau Klaus told me it wasn’t ladylike to talk to the help but I loved to listen to the woman’s stories. I was in awe of her courage and bravery. Frau Klaus never spoke of the war, though sometimes her husband, after having had a few too many scotches with my father, would pull out a piece of war memorabilia he had stored in the back room of their house and throw it on the ground and stomp on it. “We were so wrong,” Herr Klaus would state. Frau Klaus would sigh and say, “We did what we had to do. It was the times.”

Frau Klaus liked my father a lot. She thought he was just like her. Stern and set in his ways and insistent we do things the ‘right way’. I think she liked my mother, though she sometimes wondered why my mother let me be the way I was. “It’s not her choice,” I would insist. “She doesn’t control me.”

“Well she should,” Frau Klaus would reply.

Frau Klaus believed I was too wild. Too carefree. Too unpredictable. She would shake her head in a resigned way whenever I’d mispronounce a word or get my tenses wrong and say, “Nein! Nein! Nien! Nochmal!”

And I would do it again and again if only to prove to her the thing she thought was true was false. “You Canadian girls are lazy,” she told me. “You don’t know what hardship is.”

In many ways, she was right.

We are not a land born from war. We are a country risen from an idea that together we are always stronger. We are a nation founded on the vision of creating a land where every language has a voice, where every person has the right to stand free.

We don’t always get it right the first time, but we keep working on it until we do. And while it may take a century to acknowledge our mistakes, when we do, we mean it because doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.

This is My Canada. We act accordingly.

 

 


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Begin again. Always begin again.

We know the things we need to do that keep us healthy, happy, balanced.

And yet often, in spite of all we know, we resist.

We start a regimen, get going and everything goes along swimmingly until a life hiccup interrupts the flow and we stop. We stop exercising daily, writing in our journal, meditating, eating healthily.

And in the stopping, we tell ourselves, “I don’t have time.” “I’m too tired.” “I’ll start tomorrow.” “It wasn’t making a difference anyway.”

And resistance rises. Avoidance mounts. Shame grows.

Stop.

Stop and breathe and tell yourself, “I shall begin again. Right now. Right where I am at.”

No judgement about why you stopped. Who you are because you stopped. No judgement.

Without judgement. Criticism. Comparisons. Commit to begin again.

Stop the mind chatter. Stop the litany of reasons why you can’t, or the chatter that says how you are such a loser because you never follow through, always fall down, can’t keep agreements with yourself…

Give yourself the grace of letting go of the story of why not and step into the story of I deserve to begin again. 

Let go of telling yourself, you’ve already lost, you’re not worth it, why bother, or what’s the point, and… begin again.

Always begin again.

_________________

Last year I started a series entitled:  52 Acts of Grace.  I shall be sharing some of those Acts of Grace on a weekly basis (especially on mornings like this when I slept in and have limited time! 🙂 )