ABCs of the heart.

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Reading level, standardized test scores, college prep–more, better, faster. Repeat.

But what of the heart? There is so much to teach a child about the heart:

  • How it breaks when someone you love doesn’t love you back
  • How it thrills to find a kindred spirit
  • How it is comforted when someone simply sits with you and shares space
  • How it hurts when we don’t treat each other with compassion and kindness
  • How it longs to connect
  • How it knows what the brain often forgets–that we are all family

There is no standardized test for kindness, no flash cards for compassion, no prize for finding the lonely person and keeping them company. But these, too, are where a well-rounded education lies. On these lessons, too, depends our future.

What’s constant?

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It is so easy to get settled in–to our homes, our lives, our ideas, our expectations, our views of the world. We put down roots, dig in, and clench, holding tight.

But, inevitably, something comes along to upset the apple cart.

And then what?

For those who insist on that one way to do or see things, what comes is a lot of frustration, heartache, and anger. But for those who can bend, open to another point of view, and keep learning–never stop learning– what comes is the next chapter.

Dance. Now.

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Have you ever been to a ghost town? You see the saloon and can picture it with card games going on and drinks being slid down the bar to thirsty patrons. The hoofbeats of horses maybe bringing strangers into town, the scurry to safety if a gunfight breaks out, breaking glass, swishing skirts, laughter and tears. Lives lived and lost all as rich and complicated, full of joy and strife, as your own. And those people who once lived there, chugging their whiskey and loading their pistols— Read More

What are you going to be when you grow up?

 

wholeheartWhat are you going to be when you grow up? What do you do?

Tough questions for any kid, and not always easy for an adult. People love to pigeonhole: the doctor, the artist, the nurse, the mom, the cop, as if that title sums you up and all their questions about you have been answered. But what if the answer to that question is qualitatively different– an answer that covers what you want to be regardless of whether you’re a kid, employed, unemployed, retired, sick, etc?

What if that answer is: kind and brave?

In a recent blog post, Glennon Doyle recounts a time when her son said just that:

When Chase was eight, a woman approached us at the grocery store and said, “What a handsome boy! What do you plan to be when you grow up, young man?” Chase looked at her and said, “I plan to be kind and brave, ma’am.”

This was just one of the best moments of my life. Kind and brave has been our family’s battle cry for as long as I can remember. And I’ve always told my kids that your job isn’t who you are. Your character is who you are. So when folks ask my kids what they “want to be,” they think character, not career.

The great thing about this shift is that my kiddos understand that their life doesn’t magically begin when they “grow up.” Anybody still waiting for that to happen? Me too. Not them. They know that their life is NOW. Childhood is not just a dress rehearsal for adulthood. No way. It’s a whole beautiful thing, all on its own. Childhood is just as real as adulthood. Just as important. Kids can be who they want to be TODAY. They don’t have to wait.

Chase wants to be a human being who is kind and brave and he is already that. He know that his “success” does not depend upon whether he lands some job or not. He knows he’ll be a success if he continues to practice kindness and courage wherever and with whomever he finds himself. His roles will change but his character will remain. He is already who he wants to be. So he can just go about being himself forever. Following his curiosity. One Next Right Thing at a time.

You too. You can just go about being yourself. Following your curiosity. One Next Right Thing at a time. Life starts now. There is no “When I” there is only “I am.” And it’s just as simple and hard as that.

Now take a look again at those few job descriptions above. They’ve morphed a bit, haven’t they? What does a kind and brave doctor look like, a kind and brave artist, a kind and brave nurse, mom, or cop? Suddenly the picture of that person has stretched out of one-dimension and become complex and layered. Kind and brave people in any role or job description and at any age have unique challenges depending on the circumstances.

So what do you want to be when you grow up?

 

 

 

What’s your problem?

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Who are your heroes? Were they people who stuck their necks out on behalf of others, worked to make the world a better place, gave freely and generously of themselves? These kind of heroes make the world a better place because they are in it.

You can be a hero. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing; it can be as small as seeing someone suffering and doing something to help.

The first step, though, is the seeing.

Sow love.

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How do we bring peace to a contentious world? Perhaps the only way is to meet hate with love, anger with forgiveness, strife with peace. Please take a minute to enjoy these children singing Make Me a Channel of Your Peace:

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring your love.
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord.
And where there is doubt true faith in You.

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is despair in life let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness only light.
And where there’s sadness ever joy.

Oh, Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in giving to all man that we receive,
And in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

Thank an animal.

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Those of us with pets know how close the bond between animal and human can be. You look deep into the eyes of a cat or dog and see another soul, one who greets you, perhaps, with unrestrained love and affection. We think of ourselves as caring for our pets and sometimes forget how deeply they care for us in return. The bond between animal and human can be transcendent. And, beyond dogs and cats, is that close bond possible?

In this remarkable video, consider Blue, the pot-bellied therapy pig who cheers up seniors in assisted living:

It is not unusual to see 2 year old Blue in the hallways cheering up people a few times a month….

[Blue’s certification as a therapy pig] has been rewarding for both pig and people. The potbelly helps residents “get out of their element” and forget about pain or depression they may be experiencing, says Nu Vista Living Facility lifestyle director Pamela Collins.

“It’s amazing how much Blue is drawn to the people at the nursing home, it is as if she just knows that they need her,” said Zamora-Duran.

Life on Earth is complex, and the possibilities for connection nearly limitless. Isn’t it remarkable that we all–humans and animals–can connect as we share this planet?

How to find your north star.

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In every life, there comes a time where you consider what kind of a person you want to be. Sometimes this is when you make career goals, but often it involves thinking about the ways you want to relate to others independent of any job.

Think back over your own life. Who made a difference when you really needed it, who inspired you, nurtured you, helped you grow and develop? Perhaps there is something there you can now emulate for others.

But, also, consider what may have been missing that you really felt you needed but didn’t have. An attentive parent, a true friend, a nurturing teacher. Someone who saw beyond the external and valued your worth. Perhaps there is someone in your life who needs this type of role model just as much as you did. Maybe that person is you.

Imagine what a difference you can make!

Is it time for a tune-up?

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Everything falls apart. Cars, buildings, peace, relationships, houses. That’s not pessimism; it’s entropy. In our quest for more, better, and brighter stuff, sometimes we forget about the energy that goes into maintaining the things we already have. In our dogged courtship and pursuit of a loved one, sometimes we forget the importance of maintaining the close relationship after we’ve sealed the deal. After reading all the books on childbirth, we sometimes forget the time and attention that goes into building a healthy relationship with a child, then teen, then adult.

If we neglect our things or relationships, they will suffer. But we don’t have to be content with this. With attention and care, anything will shine–even our most important relationships.

Take a self-exam. Consider where you put your time and energy. Does anything in your life need a tune-up?

Improve the world.

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What tools do we need before we start to improve the world? What are we waiting for? Perhaps we are waiting for extra money or time. Perhaps we are waiting for retirement. Perhaps we are waiting to get all our own issues squared away first before we start thinking about helping someone else with theirs. Perhaps we are waiting for someone to ask us for help.

But consider Anne Frank. Forced to live in hiding to avoid the Nazi round-up and murder of Jews, she had little contact with the outside world. She, herself, was in mortal danger around the clock. She was just a kid, really, someone we think of helping rather than being the helper. And yet her attitude was so full of optimism and hope, it continues to shine now, decades later, lighting a weary world.

What a difference an attitude makes! She didn’t wait for the right time or resources. She didn’t wait until she could have a huge impact on the world. She didn’t wait until she was old or famous or wealthy. She didn’t even wait until she was safe. She started right then with what she had. A cheerful disposition, a concern for her family and the others in hiding with her, a willingness to step forward and try to make the world a better place.

What can you do to improve the world? Isn’t it wonderful that you can start right now?