Need to get away?
When cool tropical breezes and the gentle lap of ocean waves beckon but are not part of any realistic plan, try an alternate get-away.
Lose yourself in merriment.
Maybe you can rent a funny movie, or take turns telling the silliest jokes, or play a game that involves some degree of immaturity. Up the zany quotient. Find a way to laugh and lose yourself for a while at least in the funny.
To get you started, a joke:
You know why you never see elephants hiding up in trees?
–Because they’re really good at it.
Have you ever loved an animal? When you looked in her eyes you knew that she loved you right back and that she somehow understood you down to your core… and loved you anyway. There is something humbling about that insight–to realize that it isn’t just about humans, that animals are creatures with souls, too. And there is something awe-inspiring about realizing that animals can love. It makes the world a bigger more interesting place.
Love is what it’s all about. Check out this photo montage of babies with their doting animal friends to remind yourself that this world is a loving, hopeful, delightful place.
Seeing what’s smack in front of your face is harder than it seems. We tend to take for granted things that we see day in and day out. We seek out the new novel thing and everything else becomes background. It is not that the sunset has dimmed in beauty; it’s that we have stopped pausing to watch the colors fade to black. It is not that the faces of our loved ones are any less dear and unique; it is that we have come to expect them to be there and our focus has shifted to what do we want from them now. It is not that the flower is less marvelous than when we bent down in awe as a child; it is that we have stopped bending down.
What is right there now, smack in front of you, its beauty just waiting to be noticed?
When the going gets tough, how do you get going? Angry, frustrated, sarcastic, insulting, sulky, controlling, mean? How we respond to stress or opposition tells us a lot about ourselves. It is in these moments where we can evaluate if we need to do some growing.
What if kindness were contagious? Spreading from person to person like the most virulent flu? How might that transform a community or, even, the world?
In this classroom, kindergarteners are spreading kindness all around:
Some people might say that kindness isn’t a characteristic as common to American society as it once was.
Nevertheless, it’s standard procedure for a group of young students in one little corner of Texas County, as Plato Elementary School kindergarten teacher Amy Hathaway leads her class in an ongoing project called the “Kindness Konnection.”
Execution of the idea is three-fold: Kids mail cheerful letters to people all over the U.S., take walks to visit elderly “friends” around the Plato community and pick up trash during their outings. The first two aspects allow the students an unusual opportunity to make peoples’ days better.
“We have heard from many people who said they were having a bad day and got a letter,” Hathaway said. “They ask, ‘why me?’ I say we just do it to be nice.”
These five-year olds are spreading ripples of kindness that are reaching out across the country and making other people’s lives better. Those ripples are causing other people to send out ripples and so on and so on and so on. Their teacher marvels at the results of her little kindness experiment:
“I don’t know how not to any more,” she said. “It’s one of the most fantastic things I’ve ever done in my life. Instead of just teaching the kids to be nice, we’ve learned what friendship really is.
“We can all make a difference in this world; even a small child has the power to influence others. Kids are the greatest thing in the world, and I love sharing them with people.”
We can all send out ripples of kindness into our world. Those ripples may well create a tsunami of kindness.
Stakes are high. Tempers flare. People disagree about many things. And to defend the vulnerable and protect our world, we need to speak out. But there is a wrong way to do it–to attack the person making the argument rather than the argument itself, an ad hominem attack.
It isn’t really about whether a particular person is stupid, for example; it’s about what will best help us make progress forward. So let’s say you are able to establish conclusively with all sorts of arguments, research and data that the person you’re talking to is an ill-informed idiot. Has that moved us forward as a united people? What if instead, you were able to convince that person of a need to join together for the common good, focusing on shared values, common ground, and individual power? That just might help us all.
Focus on the issues. Fight fair.
We are in the midst of a slander epidemic. In today’s world, someone can publish fake news, and it can go viral, spreading around the world in an instant. People eagerly like and share derogatory information about people they don’t care for or political candidates they oppose. Companies can crumble based on the public’s wrath over a false bit of news. People’s lives can be ruined.
And what of the effect on all of us? It is to the point where we can’t trust much of anything we read unless we do our own diligence with fact checking and research.
What happened to the truth? What happened to accountability?
As with most things, the buck stops with each of us. We can’t control the world, but we can choose whether we want to further lies. Take your time before you believe what you hear. Do your research. And let your words and actions shine with the light of truth.
What do we miss simply by failing to pay attention? By rushing?
In 2007, in the arcade area of a subway in D.C., over a thousand people missed something spectacular. Joshua Bell, one of today’s foremost classical musicians, played a few pieces by Bach and Mendelssohn, among others, on his multi-million dollar violin. Three days before this, Bell had performed to a filled Symphony Hall in Boston where tickets for average seats went for over $100.
Over a thousand people rushed by on their way to work and failed to notice the free gift. Why?
Was it because of the context? Bell wasn’t in a tuxedo; he had an open violin case in front of him sprinkled with change and a couple bucks; the forum was mundane; Bell looked just like any other street musician.
Why didn’t Bell’s expertise and the difficulty and complexity of the pieces he played transcend the day to day and encourage people to stop and listen?
Perhaps it is because we have become a bit numb to beauty. We don’t look for it in the ordinary places. Maybe we even look away from the ordinary places.
We miss so much when we rush.
Slow down. What amazing thing is right there if only you stop to see?
Will you go faster walking uphill or downhill, against the wind or with the wind at your back?
But which will make you stronger?
There are times in life when we can coast. And that’s fun, frankly. But when we want to get strong, we need opposition. We use weights to work out; we pick harder puzzles; we challenge better athletes; we set more complex goals; we tackle more difficult projects. This is when we progress.
Even when challenges are involuntary, we can use those opportunities to dig deep and find answers. Sometimes challenges force us to realize that we are all connected and to seek help from others knowing that, one day, we will be the one offering help. There is strength in community.
If you are struggling now, remember those times when you faced a challenge and won. You will get stronger.
An Irish blessing for St. Patrick’s Day.
May there always be work for your hands to do
May your purse always hold a coin or two;
May the sun always shine on your windowpane;
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain;
May the hand of a friend always be near you;
May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.
And one more for the road:
May the blessing of light be upon you,
Light on the outside,
Light on the inside.
With God’s sunlight shining on you,
May your heart glow with warmth,
Like a turf fire
that welcomes friends and strangers alike.
May the light of the Lord shine from your eyes,
Like a candle in the window,
Welcoming the weary traveller.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!