in service

DSC_0009 (4)

A thousand candles can be lighted from the flame of one candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness can be spread without dinimishing that of yourself. ~Mahatma Gandhi

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and today’s national day of service, what follows is a 2018 service resolution list.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my general interests and about how I can put them to use for good. I’m a ways off yet, but my latest, biggest dream is to learn more about portrait photography and acquire the necessary equipment to offer senior portraits to graduating high school seniors who might not otherwise be able to afford them. Once I started thinking along those lines, ideas came fairly quickly for how best to use my photographs for good. Prom pictures? Baby Pictures? Family portraits?

Since that idea’s a dream in progress, here’s some other service resolution ideas  I’m thinking about for this new year:

Cooking and Baking

  • bake and deliver boxes of baked goods to local community workers in service to others – it’s so easy to double the recipe and deliver an extra couple dozen cookies to the fire station, library, or police department
  • bake and ship boxes of baked goods (and other treats) to our miliary in service – be sure to check out these websites for some guidelines and ideas:
  • homecooking … for those without a home – our local church houses local families for week-long stays as part of a transition program from shelter to community housing, and home-cooked meals are part of the “welcome home.”  Creating several nourishing, warm meals for a homeless family’s table is high on my list this year.

Collections and Donations

  • Traveling? Dedicate a corner of your suitcase to those in need in the United States and around the world. Visit Pack for A Purpose to research community projects and local needs for your destination. Leaving a few pairs of shoes behind will make space for toothpaste, crayons, pencils, bandaids, and other much-needed supplies.
  • Clearing out your closets? Check into who can best use what you’ve got. Sites like Dress for Success direct your donations for professional attire; Cinderella’s Closet directs your party-dress and formal wear donations for girls in need of a prom dress; and there’s a variety of organizations and retail locations collecting gently-worn business suits for men as well – a quick Google search popped up quite a few.
  • Several years ago, our local food bank promoted an empty can campaign. “Nothing Cans,” symbolic of what’s on the dinner menu for the almost 150,000 people in our state who do not know where their next meal is coming from, could be purchased for $5 each. Since they’re empty, the cans also serve as donation banks to help put some food on the plates of the hungry in our state. I saved the can and fill it a few times a year with loose change and bills. Any can will do. Collect and contribute.
  • This week our school will participate in End 68 Hours of Hunger.  According to their website, 1 in 5 U.S. children struggle with food insecurity. Collections for this program strive to end the hunger these children experience in the 68 hours between their free lunch on Friday and their free breakfast at school Monday morning. Find out if there’s a program or organization like this near you.

Get Out and Give

  • We’ve been mourning the loss of our beloved beagle for awhile now and thinking almost daily about adopting another rescue. While we work through that important decision, I’ll be checking into dog-walking at our local animal shelter. Why wait?
  • I’m committed to training for some road races come spring, and I’ll be finding a few races to run which benefit needs in our local community.
  • As our garden begins to bloom this year, I’ll be collecting small bouquets to bring to our local nursing home. My nana would’ve loved a small spray of spring on her bedside table, and I’ll honor her memory every time I drop by with a bunch of flowers for someone else who could use a bit of bloom.
  • World Read Aloud Day is scheduled for February 1, and the National Education Association’s “Read Across America” is scheduled for March 1. Maybe there’s a school, daycare, or library nearby who’d welcome a guest reader?
  • Visit Do Something to discover any number of do-able action projects … from packing “blessing bags” for the homeless to joining the elephant “tusk force” flagging ivory items for sale online … there’s a project for everyone.

Just Because

  • Leave a little surprise something special for someone who’s not expecting it … a bar of chocolate, a note of recognition, something green and growing … you get the idea. No reason necessary.
  • Day Brighteners … a dear friend recently gifted me a powerful packet of teeny, tiny papers – each hardly bigger than a slip from a fortune cookie – and each one offering a moment of widom or words of encouragement from some of the world’s most inspirational minds. Each slip guaranteed to begin anyone’s day more brightly.  It’s my intention to leave one here and there along my 2018 path, and I’m sure each quote will find exactly the right person at the most perfect of all possible moments.   Go find Ingrid Goff-Maidoff’s One Hundred Fortunes and other inspirational gifts… and pass a little love along!

Spread love everywhere you go. ~ Mother Teresa

Bless us all with your ideas for the greater good … and let’s light a thousand candles!

go gently

DSC_0368 (2)Tomorrow, we all stand at the top of the 2018.

We’ll stand there, in the crisp, clear dawn, able to see far and wide across the span of a whole new year.  The air may be brisk, but refreshing and clean. Hopefully, the sun’s out, the snow’s just fallen, and there’s no path yet broken before us.

So it’s up to us to decide which way we’ll walk.

We’ll decide who we’ll walk with. And what we’ll carry. It’s up to us to choose our pace. When we’ll rest and when to forge ahead. What we’ll gather along the way, and what we’ll leave behind. Maybe, if we pay close attention, we’ll come to understand how to lighten the bags carried by someone else we meet along the way.

There’ll be promises made just as bygones disappear back aways and over our shoulders.  There’ll be both departures and arrivals. Invitations extended and mistakes made. Out there on the horizon, we’ll see both clouds and sun.  Ideas will grow. We’ll forgive and make peace. Offer help. Wish. Dream. And hope.

Standing here, at the bottom of 2017,  looking up at that shiny, new year hill … it feels a little surprising we’ve hiked all this way already since it seems like only yesterday we stood at the crest of 2017.  A full, busy, often fulfilling, and sometimes frightening 364 day journey.

But tomorrow’s waiting, and there’s only this one day left to both look back at the year that was and forward to the year that will be. We’re all standing at another year’s intersection. Betwixt and between. Not quite here … nor there. A simultaneous beginning and ending.

This last day is a day of grace. A repreive of sorts marked right at the crossroads of regret and optimism. And all signs point toward the future.

Go gently.

 

finding hope

DSC_0381 (1)

Right about now, it’s hard to find hope.

And it’s difficult to feel hopeful.

But there must be as many ways to find what’s lost as there are ways to lose something in the first place. So, now that hope feels a little lost, I’ve been searching.

I found a kind of hope I’ll call awe.

The awe of standing so small alongside the towering magnificence of a mountain fills my heart with hope and exhilarates my imagination.  I felt awe several times this summer and each time, I was interacting with a view, a place, a piece of the world so much bigger than I. The mountains. The ocean. A big and bustling city.

Maybe being filled with awe is like in kind to feeling centered and prayerful.

Maybe as I stood top-side on a boat scanning an ocean as far and wide as my eye could see, maybe I somehow felt like the only silent and still entity for miles around. Maybe surrounded by the vastness of all that water, I felt more like an anchor and less adrift and at the whim of the waves.

Maybe climbing a mountain to its peak is some sort of symbol of life’s hike to the heavens. And maybe up there in all that open air of the summit, it’s easier to breathe. Easier to believe. Easier to understand I am but one person in a very big, very confusing world. Maybe it takes some of the pressure off.

I found a kind of hope I’ll call beauty.

I keep looking for the beauty all around me and find it with a bit of conscious effort. A few internal reminders help me understand the fact that the world’s ugliness must in some way, however large or small, be counteracted by its beauty. Its complexity opposed by its simplicity. Its violence, contrasted by moments – however brief – of peace.

Many times it’s nature offering up all that counterintelligence – the perfect, pink curl of a zinnia petal. The softest summer light at sunset on the river. The quiet call of a barred owl after midnight.

There’s beauty too in the smile of a friend, or my son, or the stranger behind me in line at the grocery store. There’s a simple kind of knowing we trade in a smile. There’s a peaceful ease and delight to be had in the sharing of music, a meal, or a book I think you simply must read. There’s happiness to be found in the hugs we exchange, the return of a long-gone someone special, and the hand I hold walking across a busy street.

I found a kind of hope I’ll call comfort.

Amidst all the daily confusion and unpredictability of the world, I find comfort in the regular and routine. The washing of dishes. My time at the gym.  Or the smell of the black ink from my favorite Bic pen.

There’s comfort in the rhythm of chopping vegetables for dinner. There’s routine in the patterns and schedules of a work day. There’s the regularity and a kind of grounding to be had in the habits of a day’s end … the brushing of teeth, the pages turned in a bedtime read, and one last I love you before turning out the light.

There’s more hope to be had, I’m sure of it. And while hope changes nothing about today’s worries, it does perhaps brighten tomorrow with anticipation and the power of possibility.

So I’ll keep looking for and finding hope … in the innocent eyes of a child, the happy wag of a dog’s tail, and in the gentle, morning breeze through my open kitchen window.

And as long as I keep looking …  I know hope will be found.

 

 

 

 

 

 

go gently

DSC_0341 (2)

Go gently into Monday.

Smile first.

Be the better start to someone’s week than they anticipated.

Look for soft spots to land.

Live this moment – and only this moment – one by one by one.

Aware. Grateful. Calm.

First things first and save the rest.

Find a moment in your day to lift your face to the sun,

Or close your eyes and breathe.

Or both.

Savor life.

Step lightly.

Be the peace you wish to see in the world.

 

 

 

life lessons: in spring

DSC_0366 (2)

Maybe the most difficult time for a flower is just before its bloom.

Still tight and taut, but ready and waiting. Endlessly waiting. Eternally waiting. Impatient. Tense. And probably cranky.

But bloom it does, finally and slowly. Unfurling and stretching, open face forward into the warming sun.

Free.

The release renders the wait all that more poignant and perfect.

Necessary, after all.

So many life lessons learned just out the back door.

Spring hope.

The Verbs of Kindness

IMG_3337 (2)

A verb:  an action or a state of being.

No grand gestures here.

To do. To act. To be.

Kind.

In no particular order:

  1. help
  2. respect
  3. include
  4. encourage
  5. care
  6. welcome
  7. listen
  8. smile
  9. praise
  10. notice
  11. offer
  12. share
  13. greet
  14. thank
  15. give
  16. invite
  17. compliment
  18. accept
  19. honor
  20. love

If you need a verb in your day … take one.

If you have a verb to add … leave one!

Thanks.

 

Only, and Just Barely

DSC_0388 (2)

It’s cold and dreary today. The temperature’s just north of freezing, and there’s drizzle.

In an unusual twist, however, I slept nine hours last night.

In a row.

(Look out world.)

I never know quite what to expect on the backside of a rough week. Saturday morning could arrive all kinds of grumpy and disheveled. Or maybe humbled and weary, but grateful.

This morning, I feel a little like the Cat in the Hat; I pick up all the things that are down … the cake, the rake, and the gown. A week’s worth of dishevelment awaits all around me. But I wander here and there throughout our home, setting things to rights, not in the least bit resentful – surprisingly – of the dishes once again left in the sink or the two-week high mounds of laundry in varying states of dirty, clean-but-not-folded, or folded-but-not-put-away.

Because in this Saturday’s clarity, I understand:  It’s all temporary.

The tough week. The busy. The shifting priorities. The dishes. Even the cold and drizzle.

Because like our ever-changing New England weather, what’s here today will likely be gone tomorrow. And who knows? Tomorrow may arrive sunny with scattered resentment. Or windy with a chance of anxiety.

But that’s for tomorrow to resolve. And it, too, will pass.

Today, I understand that eventually my laundered and folded shirts will nest again in my dresser. If not today, then tomorrow or the day after. Soon.

Today, I pleasure in the smoothing of sheets and the sorting of mail.

Today, my hope remains undaunted by tomorrow’s forecast.

Because this Saturday morning’s arrived hopeful and expectant.

There’s a whole new day out there just waiting to be lived, and it’s only, and just barely 8 a.m.