Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Can education end poverty, homelessness and discrimination?

I am at a dinner party. The people around the table are all successful by society’s norms. They have achieved status, good jobs, make contributions to their organizations, families, communities, society.

One of the guests states they know how to resolve the problem for Canada’s Indigenous people. “Give them goals,” they say with conviction, “and hold them to the outcomes.”

The other guests murmur in agreement. Yes. Yes. It’s what’s needed. They need to stop whining and start doing more to be productive members of society. Sure, we messed up, someone mentions, we treated them unfairly, but that’s in the past. It’s time to move on.

I chime in and ask if anyone around the table has read the Truth and Reconciliation Report. There’s a lot of head shaking, No.

So, we can sit here with answers when no one has read a report that provides clear directions on how to move forward in addressing the inequities and injustices that have created the trauma and crisis today.

Good point, someone says. But they still need to be held accountable to goals. They need to progress.

And who are we to say what that looks like I ask, when we don’t understand the people, culture, history and our role in creating the issues today?

I ask one man, the CEO of a large multi-national corporation how he would respond if a consultant, hired to help fix a problem in the organization, walked in and said, I know the answers. Here’s what you have to do. Yet, the consultant had not even looked at the organization’s balance sheet, annual report, strategic plan or interviewed leadership, etc.

The man laughed and replied, “I’d throw him out.”

Yet, it’s okay to act like that consultant about a situation you have not spent any time understanding.

There was a long silence and the conversation changed to another topic.

 

Yesterday, a reader commented on my post that education is vital. “… the answer is education. It lifts people, it lifts families, it lifts communities. And, while it is lifting people out of chronic cyclical poverty and its attendant problems, it lifts spirit, self-esteem/pride and empowers more accomplishment.”

I agree.

But it’s not just those experiencing homelessness, or poverty, or other social injustices who need education. It is all of us.

Recently, a man told me of his experience looking for a place to live. He arranged for a viewing of an apartment and when he got there, it was mysteriously, suddenly, unavailable.

You can’t tell the colour of my skin on the phone, he told me. But I could see his [the landlord’s] revulsion by the look on his face when he opened the door.

The man is Blackfoot.

It happens all the time, he told me. Sometimes, people don’t even bother to pretend. They just say, “I don’t rent to Indians.”

It doesn’t just happen to indigenous people, but to immigrants too.

Someone sees the colour of their skin, and doors close in their face.

Education is needed.

For everyone.

Discrimination hurts all of us. It fosters resentment, disillusionment, despair; entitlement, injustice, disrespect.

It creates Us and Them communities where the ‘have’s’ deny the ‘have not’s’ access to the resources and supports they need to be able to live without feeling the burden of poverty pressing them down.

It is not up to those who are being discriminated against to prove to the rest of us that they are equal, worthy or deserving. It’s up to each of us to let go of our thinking that someone else is not equal, worthy or deserving of our consideration, fair treatment, justice, dignity.

When we tear down the barriers we have erected to keep ‘them’ out of where we live, work, play and create communities, we create a world where tolerance, understanding, justice, and consideration for all has room to flow in all directions.

And that requires a willingness to learn — about the impact of our thinking we have all the answers for those we judge to be less than, other than, outside of our human experience.

We need to educate ourselves on the injustices we create because of our privileged thinking and belief that ‘they’ are the one’s who need to educate themselves to do better.

We are a planet of diverse cultures, faith, traditions, ways of being on this earth.

What we share in common is our human condition. And that is all we need to be equal to one another.

The rest… it comes with educating ourselves about the beauty in our differences, and learning to become compassionate in our view of how those differences make us each unique and richer in the experience of sharing our world in ways that create better, not just for the few, but for everyone.

Namaste.

 


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New Moon Rising

Photo credit: Nousnou Iwasaki
Source: https://unsplash.com

The other day, in a conversation with a friend, we spoke about what it takes for families to break the cycle of poverty that has in many cases, surrounded their lives since the beginning of their lives.

“When all you know is hardship, it’s hard to trust there’s anything else in the world but a rough ride,” my friend said.

Trust.

Trust doesn’t come easy when the world around you has appeared untrustworthy, filled with angst and turmoil. When you feel like you’re constantly living on the dark side, it’s hard to trust that when something good appears on your path, it will hang around for awhile to create more goodness.

When you’ve seldom, or possibly never, felt the lightness of being free, safe, protected, cared for, visible or seen for the beautiful soul you truly are, it’s not so easy to believe tomorrow will be a brighter day

When I began creating the #ShePersisted series I continue to work on, it began with the thought of creating one painting to speak out against the silencing of Senator Elizabeth Warren and to say to women everywhere, we are not helpless.

Feeling helpless is a common response to ‘bad things happening’ in our lives.

The feelings of being helpless are compounded when we feel  like bad things always happen.

Woman or man, we have all experienced moments of feeling helpless. Moments when it felt like no matter what we did, nothing ever changed, nothing could ever come out right, nothing good ever happens.

Yet, in this world of turmoil, angst and inexplicable violence that takes the lives of children, women and men every day, good things are happening. It’s just sometimes, we lose sight of the goodness amidst the feeling of being helpless to change, or stop or prevent the bad.

Today is a new moon.

New moon’s bring the promise of possibility, hope, change, transformation.

Living in a city, surrounded by concrete and asphalt, it can be hard to remember at times the gifts of nature all around us. It can be hard to feel the ebb and flow and beauty of life all around us.

Today, under this new moon, take a moment to breathe deeply and remind yourself,

possibility exists everywhere and in everyone.
miracles do not discriminate. They are constantly flowing all around us.
hope rises always, and
when we trust in the inherent goodness of humankind,
when we believe in the power and Oneness of Love,
we are not helpless
we are powerful beyond our wildest imaginings.

Namaste.

 

 

 

 

 


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Time to say good-bye.

Today is my last day at the Foundation where I have worked for the past 4+ years.

It is time to say good-bye.

I am sad. I am excited.

Both emotions co-exist in a field of possibility that opens up whenever we begin to step through a portal from one threshold to the next.

Life will change. It will keep flowing. It will adapt. Fill in the spaces behind. Open up the spaces in front.

And I move on. Along. Through. Stepping across this threshold into a new space.

The unknown beckons. The known is carried with me.

For 4+ years I have worked alongside incredibly talented and passionate people. In that time, people have changed, moved on, moved into the Foundation. Yet, no matter the faces at the table, the passion and commitment to ending homelessness has remained constant.

It has been 4 years of growth, of learning new things, of stretching my talents and gifts, of stretching my capacity to lead, to inspire, to collaborate, to share, to listen, to step back, to step forward.

It has been 4 years of being inspired by those I work with, for and amongst. Of building community where every voice matters, of working within a community where every act counts and is valued.

I move on and already the space I held is being filled in by the passion, talent, commitment and brilliance of those who remain.

It is what I love most about this point in time where I stand at the edge of the doorway leading into a new portal. Behind me are the infinite possibilities of change, just as there are before me. Where I stood can never remain the same. It is physically impossibly. As it changes and as I step out of it, it becomes part of the changing spaces behind me that others are creating through illuminating it with their brilliance and passion.  The possibilities of what they can do and create are limitless.

The spaces I move into have been created by others just as committed, just as brilliant in their passion to end homelessness. As I move into that new space, it too will be changed as we find our way together to create a space that is illuminated by our different voices, ideas, passion and creativity.  Informed by the past. Steeped in limitless possibility.

And so life continues.

We move from one space to another, leaving behind the possibilities of change for others to pick up, creating in front of us new possibilities for change for us to enter into.

I have been so incredibly honoured and blessed to work with amazing people. To Andrea, Kayleigh, Aaron, Wendy, Sharon B., Paul, Darcy, Kelsey, Joel, Ben, Sharon D., Teresa, Kara, over the years you have all played a role in creating an amazing space to be a part of and to work within. You have all touched my heart and made a difference in my life.  I carry you with me.

Throughout my tenure at CHF I have worked alongside incredible leadership. John R., Gerrad, Diana, thank you for sharing your brilliance.

To the team at CHF. WOW!  Your passion, commitment, willingness to learn and adapt and take risk to create better continually inspires me to do the same. Thank you.

To the CAC, your courage, commitment, humility and honesty have touched my heart deeply.

I am stepping through one doorway into the next today.

I am excited. I am sad. I am grateful.

Namaste.


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Plant seeds of love

When my daughters were little girls I loved to make up fairytales for them. One such story I wrote for them was called, “The Heart Rock”.

The abridged story goes like this…

Once upon a time, there lived a little flaxen-haired girl with a heart of gold. Her smile had the power to make flowers blossom and hearts melt in love. In the kingdom next to where she lived, there was a king with a heart of stone whose lands were dying. His peasants were sickly and the cattle weak. Believing that if he could own the little girl’s heart of gold he would have all the riches in the world, he ordered his minions to kidnap her. “Cut out her heart” he told his surgeon.

But the surgeon couldn’t do it. In the light of the young girl’s smile, his heart melted, and he let her escape with the promise to not leave the King’s land.

To the King’s surprise, not knowing the girl was wandering his lands, everything began to flourish. One day while out riding and surveying his lands which were suddenly verdant and rich with bounty, he met the young girl as she ministered to a sickly calf. In her loving hands the calf stood up and ran off to find its mother. The King was surprised. How did she do that?

He dismounted and approached the young girl. “Who are you?” he asked. And the young girl told him of being kidnapped and released by the surgeon who could not cut out her heart.

For a moment, a blinding fury raged through the king’s heart. He would have the surgeon beheaded. And as the black clouds of his anger passed through him, the young girl watched his face turn red and the veins in his neck pop out. Not at all frightened by his ill-temper, she reached out and touched the king’s hand and smiled so softly and sweetly at him. “It’s okay,” she said. “I like living here. The people are so warm and loving and kind. What would make it perfect would be to have my family here too.”

The king stared at her in consternation. What? She was not frightened of his anger? And then he felt  an odd sensation as he felt the warmth of her hand against his skin and her smile touch his heart.

And his heart melted.

He didn’t have her captured again. Nor did he cut off the surgeon’s head. In fact, overcome with feelings of love he’d never experienced before, he held a feast in honor of the little girl and her golden heart and even named a school after her. Which was extraordinary because in the past he’d never allowed schools in his kingdom because he didn’t see the need to teach his peasants anything other than to scrabble in the hard earth of the land, scratching what living they could eke out from their labor.

Her family came to the feast and the king set aside land just for them and everyone lived happily ever after proving, that even a heart of stone can be warmed in loving hands.

Where are you letting the hard rock places in your life harden your heart? Are you willing to soften your heart and plant seeds of love in your life today?

Try this!

As you’re out and about during the day, go somewhere where the earth is covered in rocks (like a river bank, a rocky beach). Look for heart rocks on the ground. Pick one up, hold it in your hand and feel it warm up as you hold it. Let your warmth seep into the rock, and once it’s nice and warm, pass it on to someone else. As you pass the rock along, your warmth, aka Love, will be shared with the world around you.

Hearts will melt and love will grow.

Namaste.


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You and your magnificence

The title of this post comes from a post I wrote on April 30th, 2007. The original title was, “You take God’s Breath away.” The phrase comes from a woman I met who when asked, ‘what’s your purpose?’ replied, “I want to show everyone they are so incredible they take God’s breath away.”  (Thank you KR)

I remember hearing her say that and feeling my heart stop in startled recognition of the power of her statement. I remember feeling caught off guard, surprised, and fascinated.

I remember the voice of Love inside me whisper, “It’s true.”

And I remember in the next breath worrying about whether it was true or not. I remember thinking, ‘Is it that easy? I take God’s breath away, just because I am, me?”

Since writing the original post my awareness of and awareness in our human magnificence has grown. My understanding of and compassion for how we all do things to hide from, shy away from, pretend it doesn’t exist and thus run-away from our magnificence, has also grown.

We are all so very human.

We fight the truth.

We ignore it.

We subvert it.

We try to kill it, destroy it, tear it out and rip it up into a thousand pieces.

We try to bomb the hell out of it. Massacre it. Shoot it up, knock it down and blow it to smithereens.

We think it may be true for others, and worry it will never be true for us.

We worry that to be our magnificence will only encourage others to pull us down, and so we hold ourselves down, and back, from being our true selves.

But no matter how hard we try to avoid it or make it not true, there is no avoiding the truth.

We are all magnificent.

We are born that way.

We don’t have to do anything to ‘deserve it’. Earn it. Create it. Make it.

It is not more true for one of us and less for another. It is the same for all of us.

We are born magnificent.

It is our human birthright. Our soulful essence. Our truth.

We are born Magnificent.

And while we humans may do a lot of things to try to pretend we are not magnificent, or to avoid the truth of our magnificence, there is no way to destroy the essence of our soulful truth — We are magnificent.

No matter what God we worship before or not, what belief we hold about our spiritual nature or not, what story of origin we breathe into or not, the truth is — being human is a magnificent state of being.

 

Which means, it’s time start breathing life into the miracle of all that you are when you accept the truth. You are magnificent.

Start with asking yourself this morning, What can I do today to express my magnificence?

Do that.

Live your magnificence.

You take God’s breath away, because you are you.

Beginning. Middle. End of the story of your life.

You are magnificent.

Namaste.

 


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A morning haiku

She has defied the odds, again.

To everyone’s amazement, she’s turned the corner and is doing better.

“God’s not ready for you yet,” the doctor told my mother yesterday.

This morning, a haiku wrote itself into being.

All is well.


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What’s in your DNA?

There is a picture of me at five years old, arms flung wide, like I’m flying. Most likely, I’m dancing.

I love to dance. As do my daughters. As do my sisters.

Recently, at the wedding of a friend of my youngest daughter, the bride’s father came up to me to tell me that they were all standing in awe, watching my daughter and I dance together.

I laughed. It’s just what we do, I told him.

Dance. Laugh. Play. Eat. Share. Be. Love. Together.

I am blessed.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of being at one of my mother’s family events in Paris and dancing and spinning and twirling about to the music that blared from a cheap stereo that never stopped playing the songs of my mother’s complicated history. French. Indian. Spanish. Portuguese. Hindu. Tamil. English… A beautiful potpourri of sound that flows wildly through my body today.

She was always a complicated woman, our mother. Yet, in all her complexities and insecurities and the sadness that invaded her pores like soot clinging to a chimney, she constantly taught us the value of family, of being connected, of being and loving together.

Yesterday, as my eldest daughter spoke on the phone about her Nana, I listened to the loving and compassionate words of wisdom my daughter shared and wondered, when did she become so wise? So loving. So caring.

And I knew.

The wisdom, the love, the willingness to give and to care deeply are woven into her DNA. They are threads pulled through from the warp and weave of my mother’s tapestry of life. It is the tapestry that created the warp and weave of my life, my sisters’ lives and my daughters’. Those threads of gentleness, kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness… they have always been running through the threads of my mother’s loving hands weaving, weaving, no matter how bent and painful arthritis has made them. She has been quietly weaving her story and the stories of her mother and her mother’s mother and countless women of our family before her, into our DNA.

I am thankful.

These threads that link us are what make our family, our family. They are the story of our lives; colourful, textural, beautiful, woven together, taking separate paths, creating unique patterns and pathways into the future and always coming back together in the loom that is our family history filled with the DNA of wisdom, love and the willingness to care deeply from our hearts and live freely from our feet up through our whole bodies dancing our way through life, committed to feeling every moment, intensely, deeply, in Love.

I am blessed.

The warp and weave of my life was woven from a history of fiercely loving women who danced together, laughed together and above all, Loved together.