Category Archives: Make a difference

The Apology Process

Years ago, when I was released from a relationship that was killing me by the police taking the abuser out of my life, my relationship with my daughters was in shreds.

For the final three months of that journey I cowered in hiding as the abuser tried to find ways to get out of Canada. I was too scared, too lost, too compliant to pick up the phone and let anyone know I was alive. Plus, he’d told me I couldn’t. I did not disobey him.

Healing my relationships, especially with my daughters, took time, and a whole lot of turning up and doing the work.

It was a long road home.

In the beginning, they were angry. They had a right to their anger. The things I’d done throughout that relationship hurt them.

For the sake of all of us, I needed to be strong enough to stand with them in their anger without trying to take it away, push it aside, or manipulate it into something I could tolerate with my insistence, “It wasn’t my fault.”

In the beginning, I was not strong enough to do that. I had to ‘give myself medicine first” so that I could be there to help them find the medicine they needed to heal.

I was willing to accept they might not forgive me. I was not willing to accept that what I had done was a life sentence of misery to which we were all condemned.

It was three years after I began that healing journey that I entered the Choices Seminars training room for the first time.

It changed my life. It changed my daughters’ lives too.

By the time I went through the course, my daughters and I were living together again. I knew they still carried anger, and I was doing my best to simply be present with them when it erupted. But I also knew I wasn’t powerful enough to take away their anger, or their fear of what might happen if the abuser did turn up again.

Choices gave us all the tools to travel those uncharted, and sometimes troubled, waters.

It also gave me The Apology Process.

  • Acknowledge
  • Apologize.
  • Commit.
  • Make amends.

In the months after learning the process, I used it often. I didn’t care if I had to apologize for the rest of my life, I wanted my daughters to know that I was committed to our relationship, committed to being here as their mother, caring, confident, vibrant and alive.

Apologizing never cost me a thing. It gave me everything.

My daughters pain was different than mine. They had a right to express it in their own way, to grow through it and heal from it for themselves.

No matter what that man had done to me, I was the one who did the things I did to harm them.

I was accountable.

The apology process gave me a way to stand in my accountability without having to carry shame, regret, despair.

My job was not to defend against their anger but to love them, and myself, through it.

It was about three years after the three of us had gone through Choices that my eldest daughter told a group of trainees how my apologizing as I did helped fill the river of pain that was once between us with Love. “Every time she said, ‘I apologize’, it felt like a little bit more of the pain washed away leaving room for Love to flow more freely,” she said.

I remember still the moment when she said those words. I started to cry. It felt like a giant boulder of pain had lifted off my heart. I am crying now. Soft, gentle loving tears of gratitude.

It is not unlike these times in which we live right now.

I acknowledge I have seldom questioned the privilege of my white skin. That I have never stopped to say, ‘Hey! This isn’t right! If I can get this so easily why is it so hard for that person over there whose skin colour is different than mine, to experience the same ease?’

I apologize and commit to doing better, to being more awakened, more conscious, more vocal when I encounter racist comments, acts and situations.

To make amends, I shall learn more about white privilege and its impact on people of colour in this world. I shall speak up adding my voice to the voices calling for change. And I shall cede space so voices of colour can be heard.

Namaste

Racism: What We Do Next Matters. A Lot.

Even as the economic outlook of the province declined and a once almost 0% vacancy rate climbed up towards double digits, it was happening.

Even as the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Report provided a clear path towards justice, reparations and healing, it was happening.

And, even as non-settler centric Indigenous history was being taught in elementary schools, and Indigenous culture and awareness courses at Universities were filling up, it was happening.

Every day. Everywhere.

Case in point. An Indigenous parent of three children calls a landlord about a vacant apartment. Sets up an appointment to view it, only to be told, one hour later, when the landlord opens the door to view the face of the applicant, “It’s already rented.” Door closed. No explanation. And no truth to the landlord’s assertions either.

Or, a housing locator for a social services agency, knowing the challenges Indigenous families face in finding housing in our city, goes to a landlord, and, without disclosing the ethnicity of the applicant, which would be a violation of their human rights, organizes the lease on behalf of the applicant. When the family arrives, the landlord refuses to hand over the keys, stating a family emergency has lead to the unit no longer being available for rent. The Indigenous family, too accustomed to such treatment, walks away. They know their life would be hell in that apartment anyway. Why risk abuse from a racist landlord?

Or, the neighbour to an apartment building that houses low-income families specifically targets those units that house Indigenous families. He takes videos and photos of the families going about living their daily lives. Files complaint after complaint with the owners of the building, the social service agency providing supports to assist the families in settling in, his City Councillor’s office about the noise of the young children, about adults smoking on the balcony, about what he calls, ‘those people’. Yet, he refuses to meet to discuss his complaints or to learn about the program of ending homelessness, reducing poverty and building community. “I want them gone,” is his only response.

I could go on.

After almost 18 years working in the homeless-serving sector in Calgary, many of them spent doing community engagement work, the stories of racial profiling, discrimination and abuse are numbing.

I have sat at boardroom tables with community members decrying the pending presence of housing for formerly homeless individuals and families in their community. I have listened to their fears, their insistence that this housing will drive down their property values or create parking concerns, two of the 3 top concerns community members voice when opposing low-income housing, the other one being, rising crime rates. Even when the data clearly shows those fears are unfounded, the objections and the name-calling continues.

I have faced angry mobs opposing the purchase of land for low-income housing, standing in a circle around me and my co-workers, arms raised, fists clenched above their heads as they shake them in the air, yelling at the top of their voices, “We don’t want you here.”

I have listened to people call fellow human beings names that make me want me to peel off my skin right down to my skeleton tod show them our blood is the same colour, and all of our skeletons are white, but that would just further enforce the notion, white is better.

And, unfortunately, their fear, their ignorance, their misconceptions and yes, their white privilege closed their minds to the fact that those against whom they railed were just like them, seeking to make a better life for themselves and their families. It’s just the circumstances of their lives had put them far, far below the poverty line to where they struggled just to catch a breath of the very same air that we all breathe freely.

“They don’t deserve the air they breathe,” has sometimes been the response.

So yes. Black Lives Matter. Brown Lives Matter.

And what we do next, the white privileged who have never known what it feels like to have our skin colour make us the target of other human beings’ abuse, disdain, fear… What we do next matters. A lot.

It’s easy to say, “But those are the few bad apples.” And, while that is fundamentally true, most people don’t support overt racism, the fact remains, we are complicit in our inaction, in our not speaking up, in our not decrying and outing such behaviour. In our not examining why skin colour matters in the first place.

And, while it’s easy to point at yourself and say, “I’m not racist,” living that truth? That’s a whole other matter.

And if you haven’t already done so, read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Report: Calls to Action. It matters. A lot.

Life’s Eternal Nature

The earth has turned in its orbit around the sun, shortening the distance for its rays to travel to the northern hemisphere. Spring is in the air with its promises of new life.

I welcome Spring’s embrace. I welcome the longer days. The warmer air. The buds bursting with the potency of life. The green grass appearing between winter-dead leaves. The river running free of ice. The birdsong filling the air. Robins hopping on the grass. I welcome Spring’s poetic frenzy.

Spring is bursting forth here at the leeward edge of the Rocky Mountains. The breeze blows down off the slopes, across the foothills and into the still quiet streets of the city. People are out and about, keeping their social distance (mostly). Traffic continues to be light. The pathways are full of bicyclists weaving in and out of the pedestrians who walk in single file trying to keep their distance.

We are a winter city. We know how to hibernate. To bundle up. To protect ourselves from the cold. To stay busy inside while the north winds blow outside.

When spring arrives, we doff our winter parkas with joyful abandon and don lighter gear. En masse, we head to the great outdoors or at least the closest pathway, to savour the change in seasons. One thing we winter-folk know — spring is short. Summer ends too soon. Winter will be upon us again. You gotta savour the sun and warmth while you can.

This year is the same, yet different. Doffing winter gear brings with it the need to keep ourselves protected, not just with sunscreen but with masks and latex gloves to protect us from an invisible bundle of proteins.

The great outdoors have shrunk to city limits as people are asked to not travel too far. Suddenly, mountain towns that welcomed visitors with open arms have closed their gates to keep ‘outsiders’ away. Mountain parks are closed and favourite trails are inaccessible.

Change is constant, even though we humans chafe at its presence.

No one knows for sure what the future will look like, but we do know, it will be different than yesterday.

Different doesn’t mean worse, nor better. It just means, things won’t be the same.

It’s how we handle ‘the different’ that makes the difference palatable in our lives.

Baulking at its presence doesn’t change its presence. It just changes our experience of the present.

Spring has arrived once again with its invitation to welcome new life into our world. In its warm embrace, I am reminded that all things are in a state of constant change as we travel on this planet around the sun. That is part of life’s eternal essential nature. Nothing stays the same.

Whether I like the changes, or not, doesn’t change change. It just makes change more difficult to navigate when I try to keep everything the same.

I am learning to live with the ever-evolving landscape of a ‘new normal’.

Nothing lasts forever. Not even Spring.

 

 

 

 

 

Staying Home Matters

I have begun a new morning practice. It takes but a moment yet, I already feel its impact.

As soon as I awaken, before I get out of bed and begin my morning rituals, I say a little mantra to myself:

“Staying home matters. It is my contribution to help heal the world.”

And then I take a couple of deep breaths and get up out of bed to begin my day.

I am very specific about my language. For example, I do not say, “I am doing my part to fight Covid.

Fighting suggests a battle, and I do not believe ‘fight’ language is conducive to creating the necessary changes we need to create better in the world, let alone peace of mind and a gentle heart within to help us navigate these times. We’ve had enough fighting, greed, abuse to last our lifetime. In fact, if we don’t do something different, if we don’t turn our thoughts from ‘fighting’ one another to collective caring for one another, we risk losing the battle of our lives on planet earth.

Saying, ‘let’s fight Covid’ is kind of like saying, ‘let’s fight climate change.’

It isn’t climate change we need to fight, or even can fight. We can activate our collective power and will to change our ways so that climate change does not continue to create devastation around the world. As the saying goes, ‘You cannot change the wind. You can change the set of your sails.’

Which brings me back to my morning mantra.

I need to say it for my mental health. Every morning. I need to remind myself that staying home is an act of empowerment. It makes a contribution. If staying home matters and I am actively engaged in staying home, then I matter too.

See, I’ve been feeling a bit helpless. A bit like a bump on a log.

Unfortunately, that also means the inner critter is taking the opportunity to leap into the fray and hiss silly incantations of self-destructive possibilities at me. You know, things like, “It’s okay to go out to the store and to do whatever you want. I mean really, Louise. You’re in day 54 of self-isolation. You deserve a break.”

I try to tell him that Covid isn’t taking a break but the critter mind doesn’t care. When he senses my feelings of being disgruntled and unsettled, he only wants ACTION — any kind of action will do so long as it eases the strain of my disquiet. Unfortunately, his idea of action includes things that cause more harm than good. Like checking the news every few minutes, charting the statistics, reading doomsday articles and allowing myself to slip into overwhelm.

It also means he’s been rather vocal with his exhortations that I  ‘Do something.’

Of course, being a whiner, the critter mind doesn’t actually know what the ‘something’ is. He doesn’t come with solutions or ideas. He just arrives in a cloud of self-criticism and complaints about how I am not doing enough, along with his litany of faults that destroy my peace of mind and sense of worth, if I let them.

Which is why I have chosen to create a morning mantra that reminds me that I am doing something that matters.

After several days of repeating my mantra when I awaken, I am finding it a powerful tool to battle the ennui and despair that, if left untended, threatens to creep into my body and invade my well-being with every breath.

“Staying home matters. It is my contribution to help heal the world.”

Say it with me.

“Staying home matters. It is my contribution to help heal the world.”

Repeat often.

And breathe.

Yup. Breathe.

Calm, measured breaths.

Breathe.

A calm you creates a calm world all around you. That calmness ripples out into the world creating waves of peace and harmony.

Keep breathing. Keep repeating.

“Staying home matters. It is my contribution to help heal the world.”

Thank you for doing your part in helping to heal the world. Together, we make a difference.

And I’d love to hear any daily practices you’ve initiated to create harmony, joy, peace in your mind, heart and world.

Namaste.

 

When fear beckons. Dance.

I awaken to the ruckus of a Magpie squawking outside our bedroom window. Weak dawn light seeps through the blinds.

Beside me, my husband sleeps. His rhythmic breathing a hushed whisper barely discernible beneath the Magpie’s cacophony. I watch his chest move up and down with each breath. His breathing is measured, easy this morning. I push the first ‘what if’ of the day out of my mind. The alternatives to his easy breathing are too scary to contemplate.

I rollover. Check the time on my phone where it sits on my night table. 5:30 am. Is it too early to get up?

I lay in place, sheltering under the blankets, breathing. Thoughts of the day ahead infiltrate the quiet in a swoosh of choppy waves frothing at the edges of my ease of mind. They are filled with distress-riddled words. Pandemic. Covid. Self-isolation. Social distance. Shelter-in-place.

The last vestiges of sleep are ruthlessly washed out of my mind with the tide of emotions stirred up by my thoughts. I get up.

Restless, I walk into the kitchen, turn on the lights above the island to brighten the tepid morning light. I press the on button for the cappuccino maker. It gurgles its familiar greeting.

Beaumont the Sheepadoodle lifts his head from where he sleeps on the chaise by my desk. He raises his back haunches, puts his front paws on the floor, stretches and lowers his back end off the chaise to join his front paws on the floor. He paddles over to where I stand on the far side of the kitchen island. I scratch behind his ears, he leans his warm body into my leg. We stand like that for a few moments. Breathing into the quiet. The morning. The noises and words that disturbed my sleep slip away with his warm, familiar comfort against my body. I say nothing about lying on the chaise where he’s not supposed to be.

I take him out for his morning walk. Long coat covering my pajamas.  The Magpie is gone. The sound of distant traffic ripples through the air in concert with the river flowing past. The streets are empty.

Inside again, Beau wanders off to sleep away the morning on the bed, curled up in the curve of my husband’s legs. I close the bedroom door. Shut in. They won’t arise for a few more hours.

I walk back into the kitchen. Make my latte. Think about cleaning the oven. It’s a self-cleaning oven. Doesn’t take much to get the job done. The job feels too much for me today. I let the thought pass.

I wander through the room. I pick up some papers from one spot and move them to another. I fluff a pillow on the sofa. Fold the blanket I used last night to keep me warm while I lost myself in some forgettable movie on Netflix. I carefully place the blanket at the end of the sofa. Just so. Order amidst chaos.

My head keeps running through the litany of things I should be adding to my To Do list. I need to write them down. I decide its too much effort. I’ll think about the To Do’s later.

I check in with my feelings. Restless. Uneasy. Weary. And my old friend, fear, is there, lurking in the back corner of my mind, seeking disruptive entry.

And I haven’t even checked the news yet. I haven’t read the statistics.

And already I’m weary.

I am weary of the mounting losses. Weary of the constant reminders to wash my hands. Keep my distance. Stay home.

I am weary.

I take a breath.

Weary or not, here I come.

I turn on some music. Not my normal gentle morning sounds of piano and cello.

This is music to stir my soul. Raise my heartbeat. Get me moving. Chase the worries away.

Andra Day. Rise Up.

Aretha Franklin. Respect.

Eurythmics. Sweet Dreams.

Survivor. Eye of the Tiger.

Gnarls Barkley. Crazy.

Gloria Gaynor. I Will Survive.

Journey. Don’t Stop Believin’

Lee Ann Womack. I Hope You Dance.

The voices rise. I rise up to greet them. I start to move. My body. My arms. My legs. My feet. I start to move. Back and forth. Side to side. I find the rhythm beneath the words. I let my body have its way to the beat.

And I am dancing.

Dancing in the morning light. Dancing to greet the day. Dancing to raise me up.

I am dancing away my fear. My anxiety. My weariness.

I am dancing.

I hope you dance. Too.

_______________

Thank you Brian Webb for your ‘Shelter-in-Place Playlist’ and for your inspiration.  I’ve only included a few of your songs here — but the whole list is amazing! Thank you for your inspiration which inspired me to ‘Dance Away the Blues‘ this morning. 

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!