Make the Impossible Possible

Make the Impossible Possible

Jan 15-16

 

Last year during the season of Epiphany we discussed people who did something and made a difference.  Earlier this week the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was celebrated.  He is but one of many who ventured outside of the box society would have put him in and made a difference.  “There is no man living that cannot do more than he thinks he can.”  Henry Ford was living proof of his quote.  It is about encouraging us all to stop outside of any box someone or we have placed ourselves in and try.  Attempt the impossible… because it just might happen.

 

There is really only way one to make the impossible happen and that is to believe it can.  You must believe in the possibility of the impossible becoming possible.  And no, I have not gone crazy or am trying to win a bet using the word possible or its variations as many times as I can in one sentence.  Lewis Carrol wrote of this in his “Alice in Wonderland.” 

 

“Alice laughed.  ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’  ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

 

In his autobiography “The Crack-Up”, F. Scott Fitzgerald speaks of this.  “Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation– the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.  One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the “impossible,” come true.”

 

Ah but the book is titled “The Crack-Up” you might be thinking.  Isn’t is crazy to believe the impossible to be possible?  After all, they are contradictory terms.  Yes they are.  Perhaps the true question of value is “Are those terms factual?”  In fact, is it even possible to define something as impossible?

 

Sigmund Freud once said “It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement — that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.”  We might inquire of Dr. Freud by what standard of measurement would he define the impossible.

 

History is full of impossible things becoming possible.  During the season of Epiphany 2016 we discussed people who had their own great epiphanies and invented new things, some of which would have been deemed impossible at one time.  They were people who attempted the impossible or unknown and not only made it possible but also known and popular, used in everyday life.  In 2017 we discussed great humanitarians.  This year it is time for us to step up and make a difference.

 

Believe that you are weak and you will be.  Believe that you are forever handicapped and you will never thrive.  Lee Wise wrote a really powerful sentence about this.  “Belief in what matters most holds the power of creating legacies that matter most in the long run.”  I believe in you and your power to live a life of intention, a life that will better the world … for you, for me, and for tomorrow. 

It Takes a Village

It Takes a Village

Pentecost 124

 

It is an old African folk tale set to music. The father is out in the field and the mother is at the well. The grandmother is at the market hoping not only to purchase but also to sell. A neighbor is watching the children who are playing out in the yard. An old man comes by and stops to tell them a story because he likes to make them laugh. His story has a moral, though, and that is when they are down by the river, they need to look out for the crocodiles. The moral of the song is the unity with which everyone comes together for the children. In Africa, there is an old saying: “It takes a whole village to raise a child.”

 

Two years ago the town of Ocean City, Maryland celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of its Play-It-Safe Ocean City program. Designed for graduating high school seniors, the three week-long program involves area merchants, local volunteers, state and county agencies and volunteers to assist with the free events for the young people. Seniors can come for one week and are given a booklet with free coupons for food and a schedule of events, all designed to help seniors celebrate their high school graduation in a drug-free environment. Free bus passes are included to help those participating navigate the city. Free events available to the seniors include free roller coaster rides, tye-dye t-shirt events, pizza eating contest, dance party, tennis tourney, laser tag mini golf, regular mini golf, dodge ball, Splash Mountain, 3-on-3 basketball tourney, beach volleyball, wind surfing, kayak relays, moonlight bowling, and karaoke.

 

In a world where many feel afraid of their neighbors, Ocean City, Maryland had adopted the African slogan and made it a celebration. Celebrating in 2014 their twenty-fifth year, seniors from sixteen states and the District of Columbia arrived to attend this event. Sixty thousand brochures advertising the program were sent out and twenty thousand Passport to Fun Booklets distributed. There were over forty-eight planned drug-free and alcohol-free events for the eighty-three hundred-plus attendees at no charge. This was made possible by the over three hundred businesses, organizations, and individuals who contributed services, money, and prizes. Over three hundred and fifty volunteers, private citizens, assisted as well as the employees of state, county, and municipal agencies.

 

Over two thousand hours, half by volunteers, make this village-sponsored event a reality.  The residents of the area saw a need for healthy fun events for graduating seniors along the east coast and worked together to make an ordinary summer extraordinary.  They not only identified a need, they took action to make the solution to that need possible.

 

Out of all the holidays we celebrate, the holiday of Kwanzaa celebrates family, both the family we are biologically known to have but also the family of community.  During Kwanza, seven candles are lit, the first being the black candle. The remaining candles, three red and three green flank the black candle. The red candles represent the principles of self-determination, cooperative economics and creativity and are placed to the left of the center black candle. To the right are the green candles which represent collective work and responsibility, purpose, and faith. This is to show that people come first, and then the struggle and finally, the hope that comes from the struggle.

 

The program in Ocean City, Maryland, is not simple. I can assure you that there are struggles. Weather delays are just one of the many surprises that life sometimes offers. However, year after year, the people and the agencies of the area continue to do this for students from outside their neighborhood. All this comes from a town of less than twelve thousand year-round residents striving to provide high school seniors a safe yet fun way to celebrate their high school graduation.

 

The world with all the modern technology has gotten smaller and now it is as easy to travel half way around the world as it was for our parents to travel one hundred miles to a cousin’s house. The celebration of Kwanza is not just for those of African descent but for us all. We all need to remember that we had help getting to where we are and that we need to help others. Television has many so-called reality shows about people who want to live “off the grid” and yet, they are so popular because these people end up needing someone.

 

It is a fact that we need each other.  None of us are born alone.  Life is a team sport and perhaps, as we take part in the festivities of the season we will remember that we also take part in a greater celebration about the family of man called life. It really does take a village, not only to raise a child but to help an adult in their living as well.  We each play a vital role and not only need but are needed.  You have value.  You can make a difference.

 

 

 

 

Do It!

Do it!

Pentecost 64

 

Today is the first day of August in most countries using the most commonly accepted calendar system.  It is August 1, 2016.  It is the perfect time to do a good deed.  Get it done and you might just start the best month of your life.

 

Since this is the eighth month, I’m going to offer you eight ideas to make your month start off better than the last.  These are eight simple good deeds that will not just improve the overall living for someone else, it will also improve yours. 

 

First, this is the first day of the month so there are probably some bills you need to pay, some checks you need to write.  Select a charity and write that first check to them.  Forego a day of that cup of coffeehouse coffee and instead give that money to a charity.  The average small cup of  such a beverage costs about five USD or $5 USD.  While that may not seem like a great deal, if we all gave just five dollars, it would quickly multiply into a large sum of money.  Given to your local animal shelter, it can purchase a bag of dry food to feed one cat or small dog for an entire month.  Send it to the Humane Society and again, when multiplied by other donations, it can change the life of an animal (or more) forever.  Donated to a relief agency in Africa and that five dollars can buy mosquito netting for an entire family or safe drinking water for a month.  St. Jude Research and Children’s Hospital might just find a cure for pediatric cancer with your five dollars.  The opportunities are endless and you can make it happen by writing that first check for a good cause.

 

2.  Make the first thing you do when you awaken, after stretching and standing, be a chore.  I am not talking about your usual chores but do a chore for another family member.  Empty the dishwasher or fold some clothes; take out the trash or sweep the floors.  Then maybe leave a little note on a cabinet door to say thank you.  If you pack someone’s lunch, insert a little note in their lunchbox or bag to remind them they are special and loved.

 

3.  If you have the time now (or later is fine if you don’t), clean out a bookshelf and donate your excess books to a local facility for clients’ use or library for resale.  Some cancer treatment centers will accept such donations for patients to read while undergoing treatment.  Maybe your bookshelves are fine but your closet is stuffed.  Clean out one third and donate unused items to charity.  Doing just one shelf or portion of your closet should only take about ten minutes and let’s face it, we all can find ten minutes to do a good deed.

 

4.  Give someone a compliment.  It can be total stranger or someone you know.  If we stop hurrying through our busy lives, we can find something to compliment.  Perhaps it is a child to helps another on the school bus or a stranger letting an elderly person sit down on the subway or bus.  “That was a nice thing you did.”  Whenever someone hold the door for me when I am entering or exiting a store, I try to always thank them and then say:  “What a gentleman or gracious lady you are.  Thank you so much for your courtesy!”  This also works if you drop something and a stranger picks it up for you, lets you go first, etc.

 

5.  Share a smile.  It can be just that simple to make someone’s day.  Share a nice, quick smile.  No flirting or overly done facial expression – just a nice, pleasant, quick smile. 

 

6.  Set your email so that your email server will donate a proceeds from the advertisements to a local charity of your choice.  Not all email servers do this but many such as Microsoft will.  Check it out and see if your emails can help raise funds for a needy organization so that they can help others.

 

7.  Help the environment by turning the water off or the thermostat to a more user friendly – use of resources friendly, that is – setting.  Many of us, me included, often leave the water running when we really do not need to do so.  Using less water, even a gallon or two will add up and save it for future use.  Being better consumers of our resources will not only help the planet it will help our budget.

 

8.  Mail a thank you note to your local school or a favorite teacher if they are still teaching.  As schools begin to go back in session, we need to recognize the contributions our teachers are making towards the future and for our children.  Post your thank you on Facebook as well. 

 

I’ve given you eight simple ideas to start the month on a positive note.  With the exception of the first, none really cost any money.  What ideas can you come up with?  I’d love to hear from you and learn about them.  The important thing is that we realize we can control our future and make the world not just a better place for tomorrow but an extraordinary place for us all for all times.  All we have to do is do it.

Thank You!

Thank you

Pentecost 32

 

We’ve all had them, those really crappy days in which nothing seemed to be going right.  Then, out of the blue we get a card from a long-time acquaintance or the phone rings or perhaps you even get a text.  The situations may be varied but the reason for the communication is the same.  Someone wants to tell you thank you and suddenly, the sky is blue, the birds are singing, and life seems tolerable – all because of two little words.

 

Regardless of whether it is a simple card or a bouquet of flowers or a hug or box of candy, an expression of gratitude brings out the happy in us all.  Those two simple words reflect the basic goodness of mankind and helps bring our own life into balance.

 

Being thanked is not always a positive thing for some people.  They might feel unworthy or unsure how to respond.  Often, one act may mean nothing to the person doing it but mean everything to the recipient.  All too often we simply do not know how to respond when we are being thanked.  Should we send a thank you for the thank you note?  I recently received a lovely thank you and made mention of it on Facebook since the person who had written was a friend in social media.  My public recognition of receiving the thank you also helped others see this person for the nice, grateful adult they are becoming.

 

Gratitude is an over-looked part of the happiness equation.  Recently it has become popular to have “an attitude of gratitude” but science proves it is much more than just a trending cliché.  Those who frequently express gratitude to others usually have better mental health and are more likely to be emotionally supportive of others. 

 

If receiving another person’s gratitude makes you uncomfortable, then perhaps you should take this ordinary expression and do an extraordinary study of it to determine why.  People sometimes feel unworthy of being thanks because their own sense of self-worth is very low.  Chronic feelings of inadequacy should be discussed with a professional.

 

Thank you notes do not have to be Pulitzer Prize-winning novels or even short essays.  A brief sincere note will suffice.  One can find countless online references and formats but often the easiest is a sincere expression of gratitude and the event for which it is offered.  Think of that thank you note you need to write to someone as a rainbow.  Seldom are they all visible in their entirety or even perfect.  Yet, each rainbow is a welcomed sign of goodness and hope.  Send someone a thank you note.  Perhaps it will be to a seldom seen friend from the past or to that neighbor who watered you garden while you were out of town.   Whether it is an actual note or a plate of cookies, gratitude is always in fashion and welcomed.  And in case you are wondering how to respond, it really is as simply as two little words:  Thank you.

Vacation

Vacation

Pentecost 21

 

This article should have posted last Saturday; my apologies that it did not.  If it had (and yes, it has been recently edited), it would have said I was going on a vacation of sorts, a holiday as the British call it.  People usually take a vacation to relax; mine was to assist an ailing family member.  Due to ongoing construction, the sick family member, and my own procrastination as well as the inevitable variances of cyberspace, the post did not publish.  The material is valid, though, so with some editing, it is finally being seen.  Thank you for reading it.

 

The word vacation comes to us from an old French word “vacacion” which literally meant “vacant position”.  Appearing in the late fourteenth century, the vacancy to which it referred quickly came to mean freedom from obligation or release.  I am not certain those who have a vacant position in their business or who have a vacant position on the current job status section of their resume approach the “vacacion” as eagerly as those who are on “vacation” but the two have come to mean the same.

 

Vacations are very popular and since life in the late fourteenth century was much harder than it is for many of us today, you might have thought that the word would have continued to mean the current definition we know today – a vacation is that period of time in which we are free from our obligations, or a period of fun and frolic.  I mean, why would anyone want to change that definition, right?

 

In the short space of about twenty years, though, the word’s meaning did change.  BY the early fifteenth century the British were defining a vacation as a “state of being unoccupied”, the “process of vacating”, or the legal definition which was a ” state of being unoccupied

In the United States summer is the time for vacations.  The entire country of France takes August off for a vacation and the timeframe is popular throughout other countries as well.  This is, quite succinctly, vacation season.  The shorts and swim suits are donned, flip flops become the footwear de jour (Don’t forget to donate your flip flops per Pentecost 15’s post), and beach towels replace bulky jackets and winter coats.

 

As I mentioned, my vacation was to assist with the recovery of a family member who was undergoing surgery.  My family member, a four-legged Romeo canine who has stolen my heart ever since I was asked to adopt him as a rescue puppy of five weeks old, did indeed have the surgery and we are now slowly and very laboriously recuperating at home.  Like many vacations, we hit a few snags but overall optimism still reigns.

 

Anyone having a vacation this past week in the States probably encountered inclement weather.  The southwest experienced wild fires and/or flooding while the eastern side of the country felt the wrath of Tropical Storm Colin.  Atlantic Coast vacations became periods of playing cards and charades indoors instead of surfing and splashing competitions.  Such is often the way of the vacation.

 

Those of us able to take a vacation, even when plans go awry, should still feel happy we were able to schedule one.  We have literally been free from the obligations of our daily living.  Perhaps the fifteenth century British augmentation to the definition of vacation makes sense after all.

 

Vacations can be a glorious thing but what about the daily vacations we take from our faith and spirituality?  What about those brief vacation moments in which we give in to ego instead of charity?  In those moments we are in a “state of being unoccupied” from that which we profess to believe and, usually, that which we expect from others.

 

There can be no vacations from our moral compass and beliefs.  We have to live them every second of every day.  Please reread those last two sentences over and over again.  Then put them into action.  Yesterday an attack supposedly based upon religion was carried out in Tel Aviv.  Because of that, many Palestinians will be unable to make their Ramadan journey of faith.  The attack was not religion-based nor in keeping with the Quran.  Yet, many will lose sight of that and blame the religion instead of the perpetrators.

 

We cannot allow any single event or war to let us vacate our beliefs.  In such times we need them more than ever.  My canine’s operation went smoothly but the first eighteen hours did not and we are still in a troubling period of recovery.  I could become angry and fearful, taking a vacation from the doctrine that guides my living, or I could rely on said doctrine and go forward in faith.  It is not easy but I simply cannot and should not vacate my soul’s being.

 

At such times when it seems that everything is going haywire, we cannot vacate, we cannot allow fear to direct us into a “state of being unoccupied” of thought and the wisdom of our beliefs.  By all means take a vacation of fun but please, remember to pack your beliefs and use them.

 

Pay It Forward

Pay It Forward

Pentecost 19

 

Someone asked why I would write a blog series about doing good deeds.  “Don’t people do them every day?” my friend asked.  “I answered with another question: “When was the last time you did a good deed for someone?”  My friend thought for a minute and then described something over two weeks ago.  The purpose of this series was not about doing a good deed a day.  I call it “making the ordinary extraordinary” but really, it is about making each day count.

 

Kim Atwood is a woman who focused on doing a good deed a day.  In the year 2000 another woman named Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote a book upon which a movie was based entitled “Pay It Forward”.  Kim took this same premise and put it into action.  “One morning, on my drive to work, I was thinking about the law of moral causation and the karmic energy that surrounded my life.”

 

Kim was not just interested in doing a good deed but it that deed having a ripple effect.  She encouraged her friends to follow her example as well as the strangers who were the recipients of her actions.  The first day she stopped at her favorite donut shop for a pastry and coffee and then bought the same for the person in line behind her, asking the clerk to tell said person what had been done.  The next day she bought a potted plant and left it with a note on a car in a parking lot.  On another day she ordered some pet products from www.totallyfreestuff.com and donated them to a local animal shelter.  Soon life closed in on her and it was bedtime one evening when she realized she had not accomplished her good deed that day.  She went online and in five minutes had donated a few dollars to a charity.

 

The point of sharing with you Kim’s story is that she turned her ordinary commute into a period of retrospection and then took action.  She made each day extraordinary for the beneficiaries of her actions.  Kim was not some millionaire and often her actions took only a few extra minutes.  One day she simply stood at a store and held the day open for people sharing a smile and a brief greeting for a few minutes.  Each smile was returned and as she finished her shopping, she saw others holding the day for those entering.

 

Behavior is contagious.  That is why gangs are successful and cults have a following.  Kim Atwood used her time wisely to make positive behavior contagious.  The ripple effect of her actions created more extraordinary moments for more living things. 

 

Joni Averill is a columnist with the Bangor Daily News and she wrote about Kim in 2010.  “ Civility. Manners. Thoughtfulness. Understanding. Compassion. Respect. Tolerance.  Our society seems to be losing its grip on those essential virtues.  What a much nicer world it would be if we all made the attempt, daily, to be kinder to one another.”

 

Bangor, Maine is a town that is often the last US stop for soldiers going to the Middle East.  Those arriving and departing usually deplane as new planes are to be boarded, different connections made.  Each soldier is greeted as they enter the Bangor Airport by citizens of Bangor and usually handed a cup of hot coffee or a cool drink.  They all receive a smile and hero’s greeting, justly deserved and earned.  These humble residents, however, are also heroes.  They make an exhausting trip better and remind our brave men and women why they are doing what they do.  Regardless of the weather or the time of day, each plane is met, each servicemen thanked.

 

Steve Jobs once said “If you are working something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed; the vision pulls you.”  Hopefully, today something extraordinary will pull you to action, something that benefits another person and makes their ordinary day a time of extraordinary living.

Be Aware – Take Note

Be Aware – Take Note

Pentecost 7

 

December 2013 started like any other day.  It was cold in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis – St. Paul and, like the thousands of commuters who travel into the cities to work, one man was stuck in traffic.  He reached his right arm forward and realized he couldn’t move it.  He pulled over onto the shoulder of the road in the shadow of a billboard directly ahead.  The electronic billboard was advertising F.A.S.T. – the warning signs of a stroke.

 

They really did not consider themselves part of the “In Crowd”.  After all, they were adults in the prime of their lives.  Surely they were above such things.  They did have their own “group” they spent time with and occasionally they allowed others to participate because… well, they were such a fun group.  This group had met at church and so, when they walked into the weekly service, they each would look to see who was present and give a little wave.  It was what group members did.  They always knew who was present and their group often would go out for a meal afterwards.

 

The young twenty-something young man was proud to be a transit cop, an officer working in the subway system of New York City.  The transit authority police were an often forgotten part of the city’s transit system until the World Trade Towers attacks when many rushed in to help those trying to escape the burning and collapsing buildings.  A week ago the twenty-seven –year-old male officer was alerted by transit workers that there was an issue with a rider on one of the trains in Long Island.  The officer arrived on the scene at the next stop and recognized that the man’s position was not the usually for a drunk and disorderly passenger and the man was having difficulty breathing.  Using a medical injection the department began issuing to its officers last year, he injected the man with an opiate antidote, even though the man vehemently denied having taken drugs once he regained consciousness in the ambulance.

 

The order would come in like clockwork online.  Sometimes the man would order a pizza but he would also change it up, ordering a salad or the chicken.  Within a week he would place four or five orders right after midnight.  The crew at a Denver pizza restaurant figured the man worked second shift somewhere.  The driver would deliver the order and return to the store pasing along the greetings he’s receive from the regular customer.  Three weeks ago, however, the store’s assistant manager realized they had not heard from their midnight customer in ten days.  Knowing that most employees elected to take their vacations in the summer she began to worry.  Finally the crew at the restaurant decided the delivery driver should go to the man’s address and just make sure everything was okay.

 

We often encourage our family members to take note of their surroundings.  A recent incident in Canada involving a woman blindly trusting her GPS system resulted in her driving into a canal and her car becoming submerged.  It is also important, though to take note of those around you and not just for preventing a mugging or wrong turn.  Sometimes being aware and taking note can save a life.

 

The man driving to work two years ago in the Twin Cities sat as traffic passed him by on the shoulder of the road and wondered what had happened to his right arm.  The electronic billboard continued to flash its message right in front of him, educating all on the warning signs of a stroke.  It explained the F.A.S.T. acronym – F for facial drooping, A for arm weakness, S for speech difficulty, and T for time to call assistance.  The man realized he had all those warning signs or at least two and maybe three so he did what the billboard advised.  He called for assistance.  Two years later he is still on his road to recovery from the stroke he had experienced that morning on his commute to work.  His awareness and quick response had saved his life.

 

The “group” that felt they were too old to be proud of being the “In Crowd” at their place of worship did indeed notice who was there and who was not.  They often discussed it at their meal afterwards.  One of the group realized that the woman who always smiled but seemed shy had not been at any of the meetings for several weeks.    She would occasionally be invited to be part of the group but most in their little gathering agreed that she really did not fit in.  Still, this one member couldn’t help but wonder about the woman’s absence.  She decided to call and invite her for coffee.  It was a phone call that, unbeknownst to the person making the call, interrupted a suicide attempt.  Sometimes all it takes is someone having the courage to make a new friend.  Three years later the shy woman was still not really part of the group; that is, until she donated blood marrow to the grandchild of a group member.  The woman knew that community was not about any one group.  Community is about the family of man.

 

The man overdosing on the New York Subway System vehemently denied having taken any drugs.  After all, doing so was illegal and who wanted to tell a police officer that had committed a crime?  The quick-thinking transit cop, though, knew the warning signs and more importantly, the typical signs of drunkenness.  His quick thinking in administering the antidote to a drug overdose had saved the man’s life and even though the individual never said thank you, he took pride in having performed his job to the best of his ability.

 

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”  We would all do well by taking note of Mother Teresa’s words.  Every day we pass the same people.  Take a few seconds and notice them – really notice them.  We each have the power to make a difference in someone’s life as well as our own.  We all have the chance to make an ordinary day extraordinary by doing just that.