Selfless Giving

I hope you had a good Day of Thanks, and that you were able to celebrate with some of your favorite people, people who make you smile and laugh and dream big dreams.  We’ve got a little more than a month left in the year and I really want to make it a good one.  Today I want to talk a bit about Thanksgiving yesterday and the first Thanksgiving all those years ago.  We remember the first Thanksgiving as a time of joining between the Native Americans and Pilgrims who had recently arrived in America.  For the Pilgrims this day was a celebration of life and new friends.  For the Native Americans they also celebrated new friendships. It’s unfortunate that in the generations following things got really screwed up between the settlers and the large people group they would become.  Not only were settlers famous for “gifting” diseases that native populations had no defenses for, they ended up taking land and resources from them.  This wasn’t just a problem in America but in all countries that were settled by people from Europe.

It’s sad that what was such a happy event turned into something so challenging and tragic, and it’s sad that we didn’t learn our lesson from it, but people all over the world are still hurting each other without thinking about it or taking the time to consider what might happen if they made such a huge change (no political talk today, promise).  We’ve got a long way to go before that’s the default practice, but I have hope that someday we may get there or at least get closer to being more considerate more of the time.

But what I really wanted to talk about today was the amazing gift that the Native Americans gave and what we can learn from their generosity.  These people didn’t have to help the Pilgrims as they did.  They didn’t have to build the relationships with them that they did.  But I think their heritage and culture taught them that it’s the right thing to do and the best way of living, especially if you’re aware of Mother Earth/Mother Nature’s role in your life as many of them were and are still today. These people were willing to give to the Pilgrims without necessarily expecting a lot back, regardless of what the Pilgrims were really able to bring to the table like weapons or knowledge of the world at large.

Today there are still men and women who are giving selflessly of themselves, or giving because they see a need.  You’ve probably heard of CNN Heroes and shows like Extreme Home Makeover, not to mention countless service men and women and other men and women, boys and girls who are making a difference around the world without a national stage or recognition.  These people are willing to give without knowing if their gift and/or generosity will ever really be appreciated.  They’re willing to give because they saw a need and were able to fill it.  This weekend as you’re out shopping I encourage you to look for opportunities to give.  Maybe it’s a little money in the Salvation Army buckets, maybe it’s a little extra spent on someone special or picking up an extra to donate to a shelter or food/clothing/toy drive.  What will you give?

Thankful for Relationships

I’m super excited to be looking ahead to Thanksgiving and wanted to take time today to talk about being thankful in our relationships. Relationships are full of challenges, sometimes heartbreaks, and often opportunities for joy.  They’re not for the faint of heart and take work if you really want them to be successful.  But there are also plenty of reasons to give thanks for them.  Relationships mean that we’re not alone in the world, they mean that we’ve got someone there to support us, they challenge us and help us grow, they give us a helping hand in raising kids and in fulfilling our dreams.

One of the things my partner says to me is “thank you for loving me.”  It sounds like a very simple phrase but it’s got so much power and says many things.  First, it’s an affirmation of our connection, he recognizes that I love him and am invested in our relationship.  Second it’s him admitting that he’s not perfect and may be difficult to love sometimes.  Now, if you’ve been reading along for a while you know that I don’t see a point in being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t ‘click’ with you, so even on his most challenging day he’s still someone I want to be with.  So the value in him admitting that he’s not perfect is in part him wanting reassurance that I do love him regardless or in spite of his faults, and a promise to do better because he’s as committed to us as I am.

It kills me when I see so many hurting, hurtful and broken relationships because some of them could be healthy relationships if some steps were taken sooner, while others I’m amazed that they’re still hanging in there for some unknown reason when they could very possibly be happy with someone else.  Being that this is the holiday season now I’m going to say that the glass is half full today and encourage you to take time this holiday season to rip off a few band-aids and really talk with your partner about how you can make your relationship healthier and more fulfilling.  Stop looking elsewhere, stop with the threats, stop faking it, stop lying to yourself and start talking about the problems and how you can resolve them.  Take time for just the two of you this season and build on the good that you have or rebuild the good you once had.

Taking Time to be Grateful

This month we’ll be taking time to once again talk about being thankful.  With all the stresses we face in life it’s not surprising that we forget to be thankful.  Expressing thanks isn’t a magic pill, but I believe it can do a lot of good, especially if we do it more often.  To start the month I want to share some inspiration from a wise person, Brendon Burchard:

“Gratitude is appreciation that has finally struck the heart.

You begin with mindfulness to something beautiful or kind or fortunate.

It’s a child’s smile. The patience of your lover. A lucky opportunity. Some mercy you’ve been granted. A warm sun on your neck. How the Fall waves its wand turning the trees yellow and red.

You simply notice these things and reflect on them, and soon attention becomes appreciation. You are thankful.

You sense you are blessed. Or if that feels too self-concerned, that those things out there—your luck, your child, your lover, divine nature—those things are blessings one and all.

And they are. And you are.

But this is where most stop.

They notice a blessing, and they intellectually appreciate it.

But they go no deeper into the well of wonder.

They are too busy. The world is too full of tasks and obligations and distraction. So many other things to pay attention to, so many interests to scan next.

They notice much, feel little.

Yet the masters of this life slow time and brave greater feeling.

They let appreciation percolate.

They think about their blessings, wonder about them, talk about them, journal about them, demonstrate thanks and joy for them through prayer, tender conversations, acts of service.

They feel indebted to give as much as they are given and more.

Emotion springs forth. Tears flow. A desire to give thanks enlivens the troubled soul.

Spirit enters the room and suddenly appreciation flowers into the only emotion that makes life worthwhile: Gratitude.

And so let us ask,

“If I slowed down
and noticed the blessings all around,
would I be willing to allow
such divine gifts into my heart now?””

Will you join me this month in remembering to be thankful? In choosing to be more thankful?  In looking for moments to be thankful about? I hope you will!

Just a Little Thanks

Over the past couple of years especially people have been talking about how influential one small thing can be in our lives and in the lives of others.  That small thing is being thankful.  It may not seem like it could really do much, but over and over people are seeing the effect of just the simple act of saying thank you or having a focus on being thankful.

Why is this so powerful? One of the reasons is because it stops us from focusing on the bad stuff in our lives, it gets us off the merry-go-round of negative thoughts about ourselves, and reminds us that the world does have potential, our lives aren’t all bad and there is hope yet for our world.  It’s not always easy to break into our thought trains, which is why it’s so important to practice being thankful on a regular basis before trying to beat those negative thoughts with thanks.

But being thankful isn’t just powerful for you personally, it is powerful with regards to others too.  When we choose to bring an attitude of gratitude into our relationships and interactions people tend to be more receptive, polite, courteous, respectful and less confrontational.  By being thankful when interacting with others you may even get the cool surprise reaction out of them when they realize that they’re not the only considerate being out there.

This week I encourage you to consider how you act towards and react with others.  Are you talking and acting in such a way that you surprise them in a good way? I believe that life is built or hurt by the relationships we have, and by choosing a life of thanksgiving, we’ll all enjoy life more.

“Take a step back, evaluate what is important, and enjoy life.” Teri Garr

Grief and Loss Today and Tomorrow

Every day someone around the world is faced with the news that someone they love has died.  For some it’s a person who has had a great impact on their life, even if they never knew them personally.  When someone who has made a difference around the world dies there are many people who mourn their loss.  When it is someone who only a few knew there are only a few who mourn at the time, although years from now they may be remembered by many more if it is found that they did something during their lifetime to be honored for like some of the artists, chemists, scientists and doctors from many years ago whose research and creations we’re only beginning to understand. But there are those who are just forgotten as time passes, some not even remembered in genealogical resources.

We also mourn losses of pets, animals, places and icons because they have played an important role in our lives, are a memorial to the past or have important cultural references.  I don’t believe it’s wrong to mourn their loss, mourning the loss of anything that is part of a memory, has had an impact on our lives or has had value to us is actually healthy.  When we don’t take the time to consider loss, to think about how important someone or something was to us we unfortunately end up with lives that don’t have a lot of meaning.  Yes, living a simple life with few possessions and moving from place to place can be healthy, but even at those places you have experiences and meet people who place a stamp on your life.  I don’t believe that you can get through life without being impacted by something or someone else, and I don’t think you should.

If you’re facing a loss today first and foremost know that you have my sympathies.  I’m sorry that you’re going through that pain.  As much as we know that pain and loss are part of life it doesn’t make it easier to deal with.  Second, after an appropriate period of grief (only you can determine what “appropriate” is, but it most definitely is not staying in grief and pain forever) it will be time to move on.  That doesn’t mean that you forget it/them, it means that you choose to think of them with love rather than just in grief and loss.   Look for ways that you can share the passion and inspiration that they had in your life with others each day you’re alive.  Finally, don’t be afraid to find a new love or inspiration.  Don’t feel guilty about moving on, don’t feel ashamed that you’re still alive and want to keep living.  Live every moment you can in respect to and in honor of their contribution to the world and your life.

Sincere Apologies

July 7 was a very important day.  You may not know why, but it was Global Forgiveness Day.  I don’t know about you, but I’m really thankful that we are able to forgive each other because I know I screw up on a regular basis.  Of course I wish I needed less forgiving, and I do try to do my best in all situations, but I’m not perfect and sometimes I make assumptions, presumptions, or guesses, blame someone for something they didn’t do, don’t understand what I was supposed to do or just plain screw up. And sometimes I need forgiving not because I did something wrong necessarily, but because I was having a bad day and decided to take it out on an unsuspecting someone else.

It seems like most of the forgiving we do isn’t done with the word “forgive.”  We say “I’m sorry” and respond with “It’s OK” or “It’s not OK” or “Try to do better next time.”  We don’t usually say “I forgive you.”  Is there really a difference?  Does it matter?  Is the apology and acknowledgement of the apology good enough?

I don’t think it really matters what we call it, as long as we’re sincere in our apology, willing to try to forgive and/or willing to do better next time.  Forgiveness only works as a concept if we’re willing to do better next time.  Otherwise what’s the point of forgiving someone or apologizindg even?  The concept of forgiveness means you’ve recognized that you’ve done wrong.  If you don’t really think you’ve done anything wrong, your lackluster apology won’t be appreciated, and may even damage your relationship with the other person or people.

Do you need to really forgive someone today?  Do you need to ask for forgiveness today? Don’t put it off any longer.  Make today the day that you choose forgiveness.

Supporting Our Troops

On Wednesday I shared about the value of hiring veterans in your business. As we continue to think about Memorial Day coming up on Monday I wanted to talk a bit about what the rest of us can do if we don’t have businesses, and how we can support veterans in general. A big part of supporting veterans is recognizing their value to each and every one of us. Whether you agree with the decision to send out troops or the current political whatevers, or not, I believe that it’s important show unwavering support for the troops and veterans. They’re willing to go out into possible or certain danger and lend a helping hand or fight against threats, hatred and corruption or in time of need.

The world isn’t ready to fully embrace peace yet. We’re still a long way from all being able to respect all human life and learn to appreciate and accept the differences we all have (as long as those differences aren’t harmful or racially/culturally dishonoring). Just because the world isn’t fully ready for peace, it doesn’t mean that we should give up on it or that it’s wrong to try to put peace and teamwork first.

If we want a strong America we need to learn how to work together and one of the best places to start is with our troops. For quite some time we’ve been hearing about issues at the VA and veteran’s hospitals. Part of the reason that it’s gotten so bad is because we don’t support our troops as much as we should. We’ve let it be an “out of sight, out of mind” thing maybe because we’re not happy to be sending them out or because we don’t like how politics are at the moment or because we don’t think we have a personally vested interest or because our parents didn’t teach us the importance of the troops, or because we just don’t know how to help.

I think we could make a big, positive, change in the direction that America is going if we started supporting each other more, including our veterans. This Memorial Day make time with your family to do something for the troops. Maybe you’ll donate to a care package, maybe you’ll share your change at the food store with the veterans standing outside, maybe you’ll write your government officials asking them to do more for veterans, maybe you’ll take a meal to a military family in your community, or maybe you’ll just talk with your kids about how awesome and courageous the men and women are who go around the world for each of us. Together we can make America even greater.

Photographing the World

Did you know that May is National Photography Month? Since the early 1800’s people have been trying to capture the world on film.  From the iconic photos of Louis Daguerre, Lewis Carroll, and Ansel Adams and others we were introduced to what the rest of the world looked like.  Photography has evolved from a time-consuming process, to the daguerreotype, to the fun Polaroid to today’s digital cameras and photographs that we can edit.

I’m not a photo pro by any means but I love taking pictures of the little things in life that surprise me or make me happy, like nature and architecture. Photography for many people is a way of remembering things. I often take photos of things I need to remember like recipes from a recipe book before going food shopping, a topic I want to research, or a paper with dates posted at a public building.

For the most part though photography is used to forever remember things that happened and people who lived. I love looking at old photos and watching shows on TV about historic buildings because it makes history real to me. Even though today things can be doctored and edited, I still find photography to be an invaluable gift to the world.

Photography is also a way of keeping the past around and reminding us of what we want to do different in the future or the big victories in our lives. There are several photos of the American flag you may be familiar with, the 1945 photo of US troops raising the flag at Iwo Jima during WW2, and the photo of the 3 firefighters in NYC after 9/11/01 at Ground Zero have become iconic for many people, not just those who were personally impacted by the events of that day (unlike your photo of your family picnic last summer). But those personal photos are important too, because they keep our ancestors alive after they have passed on.

What are you most thankful for about photography?

Thanks and Respect

I want to begin this new month with thoughts from the Dalai Lama:

“When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others.”

This is one of the greatest challenges and downfalls that have happened in our society.  Somehow we’ve lost our respect towards others, and towards ourselves.  We’ve stopped feeling, stopped thinking and stopped living.  We’ve become robots controlled by our technological devices and desires for more.  We’ve stopped being thankful and stopped seeing those in our lives as they truly are.  But we have a very simple tool we can use to change this: we can be more grateful.  When we take time to be grateful for something it means we’ve recognized something or someone in our lives.  It means we’ve recognized that we’re not alone and that we’ve got others around us who can help.  And when we all come together amazing things can happen.

You’ve heard the stories about strangers who donated kidneys and other body parts to people, you’ve heard about large mysterious donations to charities, and you’ve heard about the many different scientific cures that have been reached over the years.  Maybe these things haven’t impacted you personally, but other things have and other people have.  The people who impact you most often are those closest to you: your coworkers, family and friends.  They’re also the people you have the greatest impact on.

With this new month the commitment I would suggest for each of us would be to be more thankful and respectful for and of others. This is a commitment that doesn’t require changes to diet, more exercise or big financial changes.  All it requires is taking time to be grateful more often.

Thankful For Purpose

With this the last week of April today we’ll be taking look at our monthly topic, that of purpose.  I’m thankful for having made the time this month to think and talk about purpose.  It’s not an easy topic to talk about because so many of us struggle with our purpose, struggle with accepting our purpose, struggle with discovering our purpose and/or struggle with living our purpose along side all our other responsibilities in life.  I get that.  It’s not easy to keep all of the balls of your life up in the air and moving at the same time.

But for me purpose is one of those things that I need in my life because without it I’d be lost.  I’ve struggled with depression in the past, add to that not being a morning person and it can make starting the day difficult.  Having some insight into the purpose I’m here to fulfill and the goals I have for my life are part of the motivation that gets me out of bed each day.

I don’t know about you but I want to be a better person. Chances are good if you’re reading this blog so do you.  You have a desire to grow and improve yourself, you’re not interested in backtracking or staying/getting stagnant in your life.  Living your life intentionally and working towards accomplishing the purpose you feel you have been put on earth for are two ways to make sure that your life means something when you stare down death.

As we think about reaching the end of yet another month in our lives how are you feeling? Are you frustrated by what you’ve not accomplished in your life?  If so decide that starting today you’re going to do a better job of living on purpose, celebrating life and making the most of every opportunity.