Category Archives: Make a difference

Social distancing is our invisible fence

The beavers have been busy. Last fall, they chopped down over 50 trees along the riverbank for their lodge upriver.

Recently, they started working on the trees again.

Yesterday, as I walked the path along the river, I saw a city Parks & Rec truck driving towards me on the trail. Two women and their dogs stepped aside and let the truck pass.

When the truck got to me, the driver slowed down, stopped, rolled down his window and said, “What a beautiful dog!”

Beaumont did a little dance, (I swear that dog speaks English) I thanked him, we chatted for a few seconds, he drove away and I continued walking towards the two women who now had their dogs on leashes. As we passed each other, one woman asked me, “Are they giving out tickets?”

This park is an ‘unofficial’ off leash area. In conversation with our City Councillors office, I’ve been told its formal designation is pending a report on the entire rivers area. Ticketing, while possible, is not part of the ‘plan’.

I gave a startled laugh and replied, “Oh no. He just stopped to chat.”

“Oh good,” the woman replied. “I can let my dog off leash.”

I smiled and without conscious thought, reached out and gave her shoulder a reassuring tap with my gloved hand. “Absolutely,” I replied.

And then I realized what I’d done.

“Oh no,” I said from a safe distance. “I apologize. I didn’t mean to touch you!”

The women both turned to me, surprised looks on their faces. One woman held up both her hands, waved them in the air and said, “It’s okay. We’ve all got gloves on.”

The other woman laughed and said, “But be careful. You could get ticketed for touching.”

I laughed back and replied, “Now that would be a touching ticket!”

And we went our separate ways.

It is here. This consciousness. Awareness. Hyper-vigilance. It is here.

And it’s good to laugh. To tease each other. And to stay conscious of protocols that protect us.

I touched a woman’s shoulder yesterday. It is my intuitive reaction to someone else’s worry, concern, dismay.

In these days of Covid, it is not the thing to do. Even when wearing gloves.

It is good we could laugh.

It is good I remember to hold back my normal social responses in favour of social distancing.

It is all good.

___________________

On another note, the Parks Team have been busy erecting chicken wire fences around the trunks of the trees that line the river in an attempt to keep them safe from busy beavers.

Those fences, like social distancing, are erected as a barrier against harm. They keep trees safe from nature’s natural nature to do what it must to survive, to evolve, to transform, to create.

Social distancing is our invisible fence.  Let’s keep it strong so we stay standing in good health and vibrancy.

 

In the eye of the hurricane, we stand united.

I awoke from a dream this morning, feeling… hopeful.

I am standing in the eye of a hurricane surrounded by millions upon millions of my sisters and brothers of every colour, creed and conviction. (A socially prudent distance apart, of course).

Around us, the winds buffet and howl. They swirl and moan and blow fiercely in a continuous cacophony of sound desperately attempting to drown out all commonsense, all moral conviction, all loving human interaction.

The wind is fighting to tear us apart.

We do not attempt to fight against it. We let the winds howl away as we stand with firm resolve in our shared human condition.

We are one people. One humanity. One planet.

We stand strong.

We stand together.

The winds blow more fiercely.

Someone asks, what can we do to keep us safe from this storm?

Someone yells above the chaos, “Be kind!”

Someone else yells, “Be grateful!”

“Be generous.”

“Be gentle.”

“Be tolerant.”

“Be loving.”

“Practice Self-love.”

“Practice Brotherly/Sisterly love.”

And someone else calls out, “Pass the toilet paper!”

And together, as one voice, we laugh and pass the toilet paper to those whose hands are empty.

And the calls for kindness, generosity, grace increase.

And the sound of the wind becomes drowned out by our humanity taking action to support one another, to love each other and to live the truth that connects us all:

We are one people. One humanity. One planet.

We cannot fight Covid-19 alone. We cannot fight it as individual countries, regions or districts.

Viruses do not respect man-made borders. They travel the globe unimpeded by laws prohibiting their entry.

We must set personal boundaries to keep it at bay. We must protect ourselves and each other by doing the right things that will preserve life and give the storm time to blow itself out without ravaging the lives of many.

We can keep our social distance.

We can wash our hands and the surfaces we touch.

And above all, we can treat eachother with the most powerful tools we have — our human capacity to be kind, considerate, generous, grateful, loving…

Let us all stand united in kindness.

Let us all be our brothers and sisters keepers.

Let us remember our humanity in the howling winds of this storm sweeping the globe and stand fiercely in love in the eye of the hurricane, strengthened by our collective commitment to take care of one another with loving-kindness, grace and generosity.

 

The Rainbow Chasers Guide to Changing the World through Loving Self-Talk

You can be hard on yourself or kind to yourself.

Either way, you’ll get things done.

The hard way will be harder. The kind way will be easier.

The hard way, or the easy. Which do you choose?

I know, it sounds so simple. Just be kind to yourself and it will all work out.

Being kind to ourselves isn’t all that easy when the habit of being hard on ourselves takes up most of our inner conversation.

Many years ago, I kept track of the number of times I gave myself negative self-talk versus positive. I carried around a little notebook and for one week I made a check mark in either the negative or positive column on the page.

It kind of made me want to cry to see how much the negative outweighed the positive.

It was definitely an eye, mind and heart opener.

I sure wouldn’t want to hang around me if I was constantly shedding negativity into the world.

Oh wait! I was. And I was holding it all inside me. Ugh.

Hanging around with myself wasn’t a choice. The choice was, what was I willing to do to make the experience of being with me more enjoyable?

Right.

Change my relationship with me.

I’m not saying it was an easy transition, moving from always talkin’ sh*ttalk to myself to being a voice of gentle loving-kindness. But it sure made a difference once I made the decision to stop the sh*ttalk and get with the “I’m okay. I’m human” talk.

For me, it meant ensuring the ‘Positive’ column in my notebook was filled with more check-marks than the negative side. My consciousness of that goal kept me aware of my inner talk. Every time I caught myself saying something negative to myself, I had to find one positive to match it. That way, at least the negativity didn’t grow into the longer column!

Eventually, I moved from one positive to two until, now, when I do say something negative to myself, like ‘how could you be so stupid?’ or, “Seriously? What were you thinking?” I quickly breathe in (deeply) and give myself grace. “It’s okay Louise. You made a mistake. Your job is to be accountable for your mistakes, not give yourself a life sentence of grief.”

See, sometimes, when I do make mistakes, like say something that hurts someone, or do something I’m not all that proud of, I want to revert back to that place where my mistakes are worthy of my being whipped, tarred and feathered. In those moments, I must surrender my need for punishing myself by making myself ‘not okay’ and call on grace to love me through it.

We are all ‘okay’. It’s our behaviour that can be optional. And when our behaviour gives evidence to our not being as okay as we’d like to be, then we work on our behaviour.

Changing behaviour isn’t about working on our essential goodness, our inherent human magnificence. Those are givens. They are universal in all humanity. Remember?  We are born magnificent and then… life interferes and gives us reasons to doubt our magnificence. Our job then becomes remembering what we forgot so long ago, we worry it no longer exists.

That’s our universal human journey. Returning to love and our inherent magnificence.

What’s not so universal and not such a given is that we treat ourselves, and each other, with dignity, respect, kindness, Love.

And that’s where the work is — in shifting our behaviours to be a reflection of the values that make this world a better place.

We can make it hard. Or do the easy.

The easy begins with talking nicely to ourselves so that our hearts are at ease, our minds calm and our spirits lifted up by our generosity of spirit.

From that place, well let’s just say, changing the world becomes a cakewalk! (Okay maybe not quite so Pollyanish but if we’re all talking nice to ourselves, we’ll be talking nice to everyone else too!)

See, the Rainbow Chasers Guide to Changing the World through Loving Self-Talk! Easy-peasy!

Gail the bartender and #StrazStrong – one person’s difference-making

Her name is Gail. She’s the bartender at the Cork and Well situated near Gate 19 at Toronto Pearson Airport.

She loves her job.

It shows..

It’s the guy sitting next to me who asks the question that really makes her character shine.

“So what’s with the 3 hats beside the TV?” he asks, pointing to 3 ball caps lying on a small wooden ledge above the bar, beside the TV.

She smiles as she passes him his beer and says, “There’s a real story behind each one,” she teases and goes off to serve another customer.

When she comes back she says to the man who asked the question, “So, you want the story?”

“Can I guess first?” I ask.

“Sure,” she replies. “But you won’t get it right.”

Game on.

She’s right.

I don’t get it right.

Turns out, players from each team did not give her the caps. She bought each one.

She points to the Maple Leaf’s ball cap, the one on the outer left of the three. “Well, how could I not have this one?” she asks us. “This is their city. It’s only right.”

She points to the Boston Bruins cap on the far right. “The Bruins are my team,” she says. “They’re my screen saver on my phone. I gotta have their cap on my ledge.”

And then she carefully picks up the black middle cap with a yellow No. 10 above the peak.

“This one is special,” she says. And she puts it on backwards to show the hashtag sewn in yellow thread on the band across the back. #StrazStrong

“Ahh,” I say nodding my head. “Humboldt. Nice.”

The guy beside me nods his head too. “Nice.”

Gail places her hands on either side of the cap and adjusts it just right.

“The day after it happened, I put out a sign on my counter and told people that every tip I got that day was going to help the survivors and the families.

She earned over $500, all of which she sent along.

Since then, she’s done various different things to support the StrazFoundation, including buy only green and yellow napkins for the bar, use only green pens, tell people the story, and write condolence cards to the 16 families who lost their loved ones.

She’s even asked celebrities such as Canadian football legend John Hufnagle who happened to sit at the bar one day and ask a similar question about the hats.

She’s got 16 different celebrities to sign and has been in touch with the Humboldt Bronco’s team administrator to get the cards sent out.

She tells us all this, and more, about her admiration and support of the team in between serving customers who pop in and out of the bar. Our connecting flight to Ottawa has been delayed. We’ve got time.

As I’m getting ready to leave, Gail is standing on the far side of the bar, talking to another staff member. I wave and call out a thank you. She calls me over and tells me excitedly, “I’ve got one more story I gotta share.”

Excitedly, she talks about her friend who is 76 and not well. “She’s got breast cancer and just had a mastectomy, She’s not in great shape but she’s feisty so I like to help her as much as I can so she doesn’t do too much.”

One day while she was over visiting her friend, she hears her call her from the bedroom. Come quick. She rushed into the bedroom and somehow her friend has fallen and wedged herself between the dresser and her bed.

“I can’t really get to her and pull her out without causing her pain,” Gail says. I’m panicking. Don’t know what to do. She’s crying. Can’t get up. I gotta do something.”

That’s when she remembers her hero, Ryan Straschnitzki, one of 13 survivors from the crash that took 16 young lives.

“I ask myself, ‘what would Ryan do?’ and then I remember what he’s been learning and practicing. Crawling.”

She tells her friend to roll onto her hands and knees and start crawling.

It worked.

At this point we’ve both got tears in our eyes and I have to go.

“Thank you for sharing your stories. You’re very inspiring,” I tell her.

“Thanks for listening.”

She smiles, open her arms and says, “we gotta hug.”

And so we do. Two virtual strangers standing heart to heart in the memory of #StrazStrong.

Namaste.

What’s your mark?

While waiting for a woman to join me for a cup of tea yesterday, I sat and sipped my Chai Latte and flipped through my cellphone, checking my FB feed and reading emails and maybe even eavesdropped on the conversations around me.

I know. I know. It’s not polite to eavesdrop but… people often talk so loudly in public places I wonder if they think no one is listening. I figure it’s only polite to not let them raise their voices in vain.

Anyway, this post isn’t about eavesdropping. It’s about marks we leave on the world around us.

We all have a presence in the world. We make an imprint. On our families, community, workspace, cyperspace.

Sometimes, our mark is like my lipstick stain on a mug. It’s fleeting. A momentary smudge and then it’s gone. It’s impact is minimal. It may only affect one or two people and then, it is washed away.

 

And yet, in that one mark, we have the opportunity to make a difference. To make an impression.

Years ago, when I was volunteering with a woman who made sandwiches for people on the streets of the east end of Vancouver, I used to imagine that as I layered mustard and ham and other fillings on each sandwich, I was also layering in love. That, along with the nutrients of the food, each bite of every sandwich I made included a big bite of love so that the individual biting into it was being filled physically, and emotionally.

I don’t know who will wash off that lipstick stain. I do know that they can see it as an annoying leftover from a customer who wore lipstick, or, they can see it as a gentle kiss of connection.

What if they imagined that the person sipping that cup savoured every drop of their Chai Latte and as they sipped it, they were transported by the fragrant spicy aromas to lands far away where palm trees swayed in the hot tropical sun and warm ocean breezes wafted through an open window bringing with it the sounds of parrots squawking and waves lapping at the sands.

I have no control over what happens in the mind of the person who will wash that mug. I do have control over what thoughts I leave behind with my lipstick impression.

I can choose to make them thoughts of gratitude. Of peace. Of appreciation for the momentary respite to sit and sip a Chai and watch the world around me and be transported to grand spaces and thoughts and ideas I’d never before imagined.

And in the marks I leave behind, I can choose to imagine they are filled with my thoughts of possibility, of hope, of loving kindness and joyful appreciation.

I can also choose to be conscious of the marks I leave on the world around me, and when I leave one that might cause extra work or unease for the person behind me, I can choose to wipe it away before they have to clean up my mess.

Or maybe even, not put on fresh lipstick before going for a tea!

 

 

Jail Break!

comfort-zone-break-out-copy

It was a simple statement made at a retirement party for a dear friend.

We had each been asked to state our wishes for the man retiring. One woman said, “I wish for you the courage to do something new. To try new things, things you’ve never thought of doing or things you’ve always dreamt of doing but never did.”

What a perfect wish. For any time of life.

Why wait for retirement?

It is easy to get trapped into believing there is one way and one way only to live your life. It’s easy to tell yourself that there are limited options in what you can or can’t do, can or can’t change.

Over time, we become accustomed to living our life ‘this way’. We become comfortable in the known and venture less and less beyond the corridors of our comfort zone. Eventually, our comfort zone gets narrower and narrower until the ruts become walls of regret, disappointments, fears, disbeliefs and limitations. Stepping out, over, around, beyond those walls is important — no matter your age you’re never too old to break out of the jail of your self-imprisonment!

This Christmas, a friend and I are launching a project to tell the stories of those whose lives once included homelessness. We will be filming Season’s Greetings from people who once walked the streets, slept rough or in shelter beds, and who are now living in their own homes. The vision, to connect heart to heart via the wishes and stories people share, to family and friends far away.

I used to do this every Christmas when I worked at a homeless shelter. We’d invite clients, staff and volunteers to film a Christmas greeting and put the greetings online at the shelters website. The difference this time is we will be visiting people in their homes. Sharing their greetings from a place many people never imagined they would ever find themselves again — at home.

Our vision is that through these stories/greetings we will expand our understanding of what it means to have a home, a place, an address.

Stay tuned for more as we develop ‘the idea’ for The Gift Project into something concrete, something meaningful, something we believe will open all of us up to the conversation of our human condition. The conversation around belonging.

Starting this project is a stretch. A step beyond the comfort of celebrating Christmas the way I always do. I’m not doing it as part of an ‘agency’. I’m doing it as part of a team that wants to make a difference by contributing to our human story.

I’m excited. We have a film crew and a film production company on board to edit the videos. The website is under development. The possibilities are expanding.

What about you?

What’s exciting you to step beyond the walls of your comfort zone into expanding your understanding of what it means to live your life on purpose?

 

Dare boldly.

Perhaps it is that I have run out of words, or maybe just energy. Perhaps my psyche is telling me I have nothing new to say, or that everything I’ve said stands as true today as it did when I wrote it. Perhaps it is just I need a change of pace. That in order to get a fitness routine cemented into my daily schedule, I need to make space in the morning and not leave it until after work when it’s easy to talk myself out of going to the gym.

Or maybe, it’s just time for a reboot, refresh, renew.

Whatever the reason, I’m looking at ways to refresh my blog. To refocus it so that it feels more organic to my daily life.

I have been writing a blog almost daily since March 2007. On that blog, Recover Your Joy, I wrote 1,730 posts.

I have been writing here at Dare Boldly, originally called, A Year of Making a Difference, since January 1, 2012, a total of 1,213 posts.

Which means, over the past 9 and a half years, I’ve published, 2,943 blogposts. If I break it down by an average of 700 words a post (which is probably short for me) I have written over 2 million words.

That’s a lot of words.

A lot of thoughts.

A lot of ideas.

Which raises the question for me — what’s my focus?

Originally, on my Recover Your Joy blog, my intent was to take every day situations and show people how to find the joy in everything. That included the many stories of homelessness I shared, the trials and tribulations of healing from life’s traumas, and the realities of being a single, working mother.

When I started A Year of Making a Difference, it was with the specific intent of figuring out how to make a difference ever day, even when I wasn’t working at a homeless shelter. It morphed into Dare Boldly in 2014 as I got clearer on what I wanted to inspire in other people’s lives, as well as my own: to  Dare Boldly. Live Bravely

It started as Dare Boldly after I wrote a poem called DARE and a dear friend, Max Ciesielski, sent me a track of music he wrote to go with the poem — and asked me to record it.

seasons of the heart retreat copyYou can hear it HERE.

That poem evolved from a painting and blessing I used to announce the new name of my blog, Dare Boldly, on January 1, 2014:
dare boldly 1 copy

And I continue to evolve.

All this means is that I am reassessing my online presence, the purpose of my writing here, the value of maintaining a daily schedule and the alternatives. It means in the coming weeks I probably won’t be appearing every weekday with any predictable schedule and it means, you’ll be seeing some changes as I adjust my theme, look, feel and direction.

It’s all good. All exciting. All important to me.