Simple acts make a difference

It was a simple request, “Hold the door please!” a voice called out from behind me as I entered the building. I held the door and a woman rushed through, her arms filled with folders and binders, a large satchel purse swinging from one shoulder.

“Thanks,” she said as we walked towards the elevator.

“No problem,” I replied, before asking. “Can I carry anything for you?”

“That’s okay,” she said. “I’m kinda balanced like this.” And she went on to explain she was giving a course, running late, a child sick, a lost shoe…

We rode the elevator upwards and when I got off before her, she thanked me again for holding the door.

Later, I walked to the coffee shop around the corner and she was there, standing in line in front of me, chatting with a co-worker. When she placed her order, she turned, asked what I was having and insisted on buying it for me. “You were so nice to hold the door,” she repeated.

I was surprised. A bit taken aback.

All I did was hold the door. Something that happens countless times throughout the day for and with people throughout the city.

“I know,” the woman said when I told her it wasn’t necessary to buy me coffee. “But you’ve no idea how having that door held open really helped me. I was feeling really flustered and my morning was not going well. Having an open door just sort of changed everything around.”

It is so easy to hold a door open for someone and in the process, who knows what might happen to their day, or yours.

I left the coffee shop, carrying my coffee, a big smile on my face. As I walked down the street, my step was light, my feelings uplifted. Through the simple act of  holding a door open,  I had received the gift of connection, of knowing I’d made a difference simply by being polite.

As you travel through your day, are there opportunities for simple acts that make a difference?

In each act we take that creates open doors for others to feel seen, heard, acknowledged, we create a ripple of well-being in the world around us. And who knows, with each ripple of well-being we send out, we could create a tsunami of peace, love and joy throughout the world.

Now wouldn’t that be something!

Let’s all hold doors for strangers today and open up a world of possibility. Let’s all create openings for peace, love and joy with every act we take.

Namaste.

 

 

Summer of Peace Calgary 2012

It is time.

Time to awaken, to rise up, to celebrate.

Time to open our hearts, shift our minds and lift our spirits up!

It is time to put down arms without fearing for our lives and hold out our arms in love for every life on this planet called Earth.

It is time to move away from discord and unease into harmony and joy.

To move beyond self-righteousness into acceptance.

To let go of fearing our differences and embrace what makes our uniqueness in love.

To step beyond fear into the courage to act. In Peace.

It is time.

To think peace. Be peace. Know peace. In our hearts and minds, in our families and communities, in our cities and provinces, states and countries. It is time for peace in our world.

It is time.

We’re making time for PEACE here in Calgary. June 22. We’ll be pounding the drums. Feeling the beat and heeding the call of Peace.

Inspired by the brilliance of Kerry Parsons whose Centre for Inspired Living has helped thousands of people move beyond conflict, discord and unease into living within harmony, peace and joy, a team of co-creators has woven together a plan to unleash PEACE in Calgary.

“Drumming Up Peace!” will take place Friday, June 22 at 7pm at the Inglewood Community Centre as part of Calgary Community Drum Circles‘ Friday night meet-up. “Drumming Up Peace” will launch  Summer of Peace Calgary 2012 with song and dance and drumming and a Declaration of Peace for all to sign and commit to.

Summer of Peace Calgary 2012 is a grassroots movement embedded in the global SHIFT Network that, along with Barbara Marx Hubbard and other evolutionary leaders, is preparing for Birth 2012 — the conscious evolution of our human species that will unleash our natural creative potential to live cooperatively with peace, sustainability, health and prosperity.

And we’re excited.

Peace is possible.

Peace is necessary.

Peace is in the air and our hearts!

Peace is within all of us to give, to make, to extend, to hold onto and hold out.

It only takes one act, one choice, one decision to give peace a chance.

It only takes one move, one shift, one action to set in motion a ripple of peace throughout the world.

What’s your ripple?

Will you be an agent of peace?

Will you make your difference be counted in moments of strife, or will you make your difference count in moments of joy?

Will you put down anger to take up harmony?

Will you let go of fear to embrace change?

Will you be a peace destroyer or, a Peace Builder?

We can all make a difference in how we create peace in our lives. Moment by moment we can choose to build every action  we take upon our conscious decision to Choose Peace.

Peace is possible when we let go of believing it’s impossible.

Peace begins now when we let go of believing it will happen at some distant time when the stars and planets align to make room for peace.

There is room for peace in all our hearts. There is a place for peace, everywhere in the world.

It is time. To make peace, right here, right now.

It is time to shift our planet out of the way of war and turbulence and self-destruction.

It is time to make peace, today, so that we can create harmony for our world tomorrow.

It is time.

Will you act in peace today?

Will you raise your consciousness up to become aware of every step, every word, every action you take and it’s ability to destroy, or create peace, love and harmony in your world?

You can. I can. We can. Make peace happen. Now.

Let’s do it!

Asking directions makes a difference

The sun was warm and inviting as Ellie and I set out on our walk yesterday. We were at a different park than our norm. She had joined ‘the family’ at my sister’s for Mother’s Day brunch at their house in the south end of the city.

Jackie and her husband live on the edge of a large wilderness area, Fish Creek Park. Over 20 kilometres in length, Fish Creek Park is one of the largest urban parks in Canada. And it’s beautiful.

The Park follows the Bow River which serpentine’s along the valley bottom from east to west. Poplar and pine and birch trees line the shore. Ducks paddle in the river. Fisherman steer their boats or stand on the shore casting their lines.

When I left their house my brother-in-law had told me to ‘turn left’ at the bottom of the hill and just follow the trail. “It loops back to where you began.”

Right.

Except, I’m not very good at following directions. I turned left, but not until I took the bridge across a tributary of the river. Ellie and I walked along the paved path until eventually, we headed to the riverside to walk the dry grasses of winter turning green. She splashed in the river. I sat in the sun and smiled at her antics.

We kept walking and came to another bridge. “I must need to get to the other side to get back to my car,” I told myself. And Ellie and I crossed.

We walked for another half hour, the sun danced on the river”s surface, the heat soaked into my skin. Nothing seemed familiar. We were walking along a golf course that shouldn’t have been on my left.

We kept walking. Eventually, a young exuberant Doodle Retriever bounced towards us, eager to play with Ellie. After an hour and a half of walking, Ellie was tired. She didn’t want to play, she wanted to sleep. The Doodle kept persisting. Ellie growled. The owner who was seated on a lawn chair some distance away,called her dog. The Doodle ignored her.

I pulled on Ellie’s leash. She wanted to ignore the Doodle, but the Doodle was too young to get the message. Ellie growled more intensely. The owner called her dog. Nothing happened.

Finally, I dragged Ellie away, the Doodle looking after us with a confused look on his face. ‘I just wanted to play!’

I wanted to tell the owner to take better care of her dog. I wanted to give my piece of mind on the difference between sitting in your lawnchair versus getting up and taking action.

I breathed. No sense in expending my energy negatively. And negative thoughts about her were definitely going to ruin my peace of mind! Bless her. Forgive me.

We kept walking until eventually, we came to a fork in the path. I had to choose — the river path or the bridge crossing. I pondered my route. I was pretty sure the straight path along the river would take me back to where I thought my car was parked. But I wasn’t sure.

I asked for directions. “Oh no,” a friendly passerby told me. “If you’re parked at Sikomie, you need to take the bridge and follow the path in the opposite direction.”

How did I get so turned around?

It didn’t really matter, how it happened. What  mattered was I found my way. Two and a half hours after setting out for an hour-long walk, Ellie and I were back at the car, tired and content.

Sometimes in life we get turned around. Sometimes, we go in the wrong direction. Sometimes we sit by the river and let life pass us by. It doesn’t matter how far down the trail we’ve gone or how much time we spend sitting out. What matters most is that we get back on the path. And when unsure of where we’re going, what makes the difference between being lost and finding our way is asking for directions.

When lost, asking for directions makes a difference.

Mothers are the difference in a world of love

It is Mother’s Day. A time to celebrate.  A time to give thanks. A time to say, I love you mom.

I was the final note in a quartet of children. The ‘baby’ of the family, I had my way. I was spoiled, rotten, my siblings would tell you. My mother despaired for me. “How will you ever get by in life if you always do it your way?” she would ask. “Why can’t you just listen to me?” she would plead. “Why can’t you be like the others?”

My mother and I often fought. We argued about hair and make-up, the shortness of my skirts, the length and colour of my fingernails. We disagreed on most things from the boys I liked to the dreams I held dear. We saw the world through different eyes, from how safe it was, to how beautiful it is. We seldom saw the same colour. She saw blue. I saw cerulean. She saw red. I saw crimson. We seldom heard the same song. She heard a lark singing. I heard an eagle calling.

When I was a little girl, I remember my mother fussing with my hair, straightening my blouse, insisting I dress the same as my older by 2 and a half years sister. I didn’t want to dress the same. I didn’t care if my blouse was straight. I just wanted to get on with life. To get out into the world and explore.

And my mother feared for me.

I used to think it was because she didn’t trust me. Didn’t believe I knew how to be, out there, out beyond the ties that bound me to the umbilical cord of her love. I thought she didn’t want me to grow, to achieve, to become all I wanted to be.

It wasn’t until I became a mother that I understood. It wasn’t until I struggled to achieve my impossible dream of being there for my daughters in every way they needed me that I saw the truth. It wasn’t because my mother didn’t trust me or  love me that she worried about me so. It was because she never wanted me to be hurt. She never wanted me to fall down. She never wanted me to know the pain she felt, out there, in the world.

My mother wanted to keep me safe. Always. And in her fear she could not hold me forever in her arms, in her fear she would not be able to stop the inevitability of my falls, she knew she had to let me go so that I could fly free.

And she did.

Motherhood is an act of courage. Of faith. Of letting go when all you want to do is hold on as tightly as you can to the one you love.

I had no intention of becoming a mother. In fact, according to the doctors, after two ruptured ectopic pregnancies, it wasn’t supposed to be physically possible.

And then, the miracle of Alexis arrived and eighteen months later, Liseanne followed along, a laughing, squirming bundle of joy and life became a never-ending story of Love unfolding with every breath they took and every moment of their lives that took my breath away.

I am grateful to my mother. She taught me well to love and let go. To be and let become.

My mother is almost 90 now. Frail. Delicate. A tiny sparrow of a woman, my mother still hears larks singing. She still sees the beauty of a red sunset and she still knows the gifts of love. Her life has not been easy. She has lost her husband and her only son, been distanced from two of her granddaughters through the grief that followed. My mother sits quietly now. She no longer fights back. She no longer cries out for me to ‘be careful’, ‘slow down’. She no longer cautions me to be like the others, to stop doing it my way, to quit making waves.

And now, despite our differences, despite the distance between our perspectives, my mother and I share the same heart. It is kind and caring, soft and gentle. My heart is founded in my mother’s love, and I am grateful.

For in her heart I have learned to give and receive. In her ways, I have embraced the joy of being kind and caring, soft and gentle. In her love, I have discovered what it means to be a mother.

A mother loves the tiny seed within her womb, nurturing the possibility of life with all her being. A mother gives birth to a child’s dreams and schemes, breathing as her child breathes, crying as her child cries, falling as her child falls. A mother watches over her child, holding on with all her heart to their dreams of flight, fearing with all her being the inevitability of their falling, and letting go of holding on in the certainty of their flying free.

In the constant presence of my mother’s love, I have learned to fly free, learned to soar high knowing, no matter where I go, my mother’s heart will always be the tie that binds me back into the circle of love that connects us.

Mothers are the difference in a world of Love.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Without our mothers, the Circle Game would never unfold. Enjoy one of my favourite songs Joni Mitchell’s Circle Game.

Heroes in our midst

It is Saturday and time to celebrate heroes in our midst. I feel very blessed. It has been a week filled with encounters with everyday heroes doing whatever they can to make a difference in the world. I was inspired by their courage and humility. I was deeply touched by their stories.

I am writing the Annual Report for an agency that provides affordable housing to Calgarians. In the course of my writing I have had the privilege to meet several individuals who exemplify what it means to be a hero. They soldier on in the face of life’s adversity. No matter what hardships life has delivered up they, speak from grateful hearts and continually give back. Chris, Sasha, Julie, Ed, Rose and John each touched my heart with their humility, their courage and their willingness to share their stories.

Chris, Sasha, Julie, Ed, Rose, John are heroes.

There are several agencies that provide affordable housing in our city who fulfill on their mission everyday to ensure people with disabilities and disadvantages have the opportunity to live in a safe, stable and supported environment. Without these groups whose commitment to taking care of their ‘brothers and sister’, there would be many more people lost to the streets, many more people living in fear.

Horizon Housing, Accessible Housing Society, and all those who take care of those who need support in taking care of themselves, you are heroes.

Craig Lester is committed to ensuring depression comes into the light. He wants people to know they don’t have to suffer in the darkness, there is hope. This week, Craig ran a five-part series about depression on 660 News and he organized a two-hour online chat to provide people with the opportunity to learn more. In sharing his story of moving out from under the cloak of depression, and making it possible for others to find the courage to share theirs, he is changing the world, one mind at a time.

Craig Lester is a hero.

At 28, John Christensen’s world changed forever when the plane he was piloting crashed and burned. Locked in his seatbelt, unable to escape until a man came to his rescue, John feared for his life. Since the accident, John has been in a wheelchair, but it hasn’t stopped him from making a difference. Today, the 72-year-old is a beacon of hope for disabled people all over the world. In 2003, a trip to Vietnam opened John’s eyes to the plight of individuals for whom lack of government support amidst the ravages of disease, insufficient medical services and the after-effects of war have left people of limited mobility struggling to get around. Inspired by his journey, John created, Global Disability Foundation (GDF) a not-for-profit committed to ‘distributing mobility devices globally to those in need’. GDF rebuilds and refurbishes wheelchairs destined for the junk heap and delivers them to third world and emerging countries whose governments to not have the social services necessary to serve people in need. Thousands of individuals whose mobility was determined by the willingness of  someone to carry them, or their strength to drag their bodies across the ground by use of their hands and arms, are now able to regain dignity and mobility through the use of a functioning and comfortable wheelchair from GDF.

John has also written a book, The 13th Rope,  about his life journey. I started reading it last night when I returned from an evening at the symphony, and I quickly became engrossed. What an amazing human being.

John Christensen and Global Disability Foundation are heroes.

Who are the heroes in your world? Have you celebrated their brilliance today?

Sawbonna: a soulful difference.

I am engrossed in conversation with another woman when I walk into the ‘Timmie’s’ around the corner from the office where I’ve been consulting. I don’t see the woman sitting by herself at a corner table until I get to the front of the line. As I stand beside her she looks up and I smile.

“Louise!” she says, standing up to greet me.

“Hello Sharon*,” I say as she wraps her arms around me in a big hug.

She is a substantial woman. Solid. Long salt and pepper hair streaming down her back.

“You look good!” she says. “You must be in love!”

I laugh and reply. “Of course! Does it show?”

“Yup.”

“How are you?” I ask. “Where are you living now?”

Sharon was a client at the shelter where I used to work. She used to come up to the art studio to draw and create ‘art objects’ or to simply sit in the quiet and journal. She lived on her own, off and on, but mental health issues often tripped her up, bringing her back to the shelter when she could no longer sustain her independence. I was hoping the news would be good when I asked my question. I was hoping she would be thriving.

“I don’t have a place right now,” she told me. A shrug of one shoulder. A wry, lopsided smile punctuating her words.

“Are you back at the shelter?”

She shook her head. Looked down. “No. I’m sleeping rough right now,” she mumbled. She paused. Looked back up at me. “I should be hearing about a place today. I’m hoping I get it.”

“I hope so too,” I tell her. “Are you working with someone to help you?”

“Oh yeah. I got it all under control.”  And she smiles, big. She shows me the cigarette between her fingers. “Gotta go feed my vice!” And she laughs, grabs her purse and heads towards the door. “It was nice to see you Louise. You always make me smile,” she calls back before heading outside. In an instant she is gone.

I get a phone message from a woman who has battled her way out of homelessness. She’s just been diagnosed with her second round of cancer and is undergoing chemo. “I’m okay,” she says in her message. “I just want to tell you how blessed I am to have my parents and my special friends.” And she hangs up without leaving her number, which is blocked on my caller ID.

I want to connect with her, with Sharon, with other women like Julie whom I met earlier in the afternoon when I interviewed her for an annual report I’m writing for an agency that provides affordable housing here. I want to connect and tell them how it doesn’t seem fair to me. It doesn’t seem right that life should hand them such tough causes. That the world can be so blind to their struggles.

I want to tell them, Sawbonna. I see your soul.

I learned Sawbonna from my beautiful friend, Margot Van Sluytman whom I am meeting for coffee this afternoon. Sawbonna is an African word and the name of her latest book. Sawbonna: I See You. Dialogue of Hope.  Sawbonna is a beautiful, poignant and inspiring journey through grief and anger and pain and depression towards the healing Margot finds in forgiveness after meeting the man who murdered her father when she was 16.

Sawbonna is what I want to tell these women on my path.

I cannot change their journey. I cannot give them answers. I cannot take away their pain, or sorrow, or fear or whatever they are feeling.

I can stand with them. Be present.

I can bear witness to their struggles and be present to their stories. And in my presence, I can be part of the circle of hope that in telling our stories, we create new stories of possibility, of life beyond the pain, of life lived joyfully in the promise of what can be when we are, as Julie described it earlier in the afternoon when talking about her home, safe.

I cannot change the world. But, to make a difference, I can be present. I can say, Sawbonna. I see your soul.

Speaking up about depression makes a difference!

It was the breakup of his relationship that brought him down. Really down. Tired. Feeling bone-weary. No energy in the mornings. A tightness in his chest. Pounding in his heart.

At first, he told himself it was just the after-affects of the break-up. “Get over it dude,” well meaning friends told him.

But he couldn’t get over it. It kept interrupting his peace of mind. Breaking into his consciousness and pummeling his will into submission. And then, he took an online screening test for depression and discovered what was at the root of his unease.

Yesterday, when I met with Craig Lester from 660 News to talk about an online chat he has organized for the radio station on Friday, he shared his story of why he wants to educate people about depression.

“Can I share your story with others?” I asked.

He was quick in his response. “Yes. Of course. That’s why I tell it. I want people to know what happened to me so that maybe from my experience they can avoid going as deep as I did into depression.”

Craig Lester is making a difference.

Big time.

This week on the radio station he has produced a series on depression, interviewing one of the world’s foremost experts, Dr. Michael D. Yapko, whose book, “Depression Is Contagious — How the most common mood disorder is spreading around the world and how to stop it presents a radical and enlightening look on how our social systems are the foundation of depression. We don’t need to run to drugs, says Yapko, we need to run to eachother.

Craig is reaching out to everyone to ensure they know — no matter how sad you’re feeling, there is help. There is a way out. Included in his series, Craig has interviewed people who have suffered from depression, as well as Dianna Campbell-Smith, the Director of Counselling at the Calgary Counselling Centre. It is a fascinating and informative look at a dark subject.

Untreated, depression can drive you deeper into the darkness to that place where suicide appears as the only answer. Depression should never kill. Yet it does. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association:

  • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
  • Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds.
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age.
  • Almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem.

Depression hurts.  Suicide kills.

People like Craig, (and blogger, author, speaker Lee Horbachewski whose book, A Quiet Strong Voice, about her own battle with depression and several suicide attempts is being launched this month) are making a difference.

Mental health makes a difference! How’s yours?  Are you feeling happy, sad or glad? Is anger getting a rise out of you? Is sadness bringing you down?

Don’t let the ‘stigma’ of mental health be your reason for not checking it out.

On Friday, May 11th, visit

660News.com

for a live chat on depression. A counsellor from the Calgary Counselling Centre will be online between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., to answer questions and provide help. The live chat is open to anyone who wants to talk about depression, are looking for information or just need someone to talk to.

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