Saturday, 27 October 2018

The Beauty of Friends

Friendship is a sweet responsibility not an opportunity
Khilal Gibran

I was immediately struck by this quote when I recently heard it in a speech at a birthday celebration.  How often do we think of the responsibility that comes with friendship?  For most of our friend relationships we probably don’t even think about the responsibility because we are just happy to have the time to share together.  We create memories, enjoy experiences, laugh and cry with each other.  It doesn’t feel like a responsibility because of the mutual love.  On the other hand though, if we do not put time into the friendship, if we start to take it for granted or never find time for each other then we are renegading on the responsibility that comes with being friends.

None of us like to feel taken for granted.  None of us care to be considered for the advantage we might be able to offer.  If we feel this way then we generally withdraw or change our perception of  what we think of the friendship.  We do not appreciate merely being the opportunity.

So this beautiful quote makes us stop and think about relationships.  It makes us consider what exactly friendship means to us.  It also reminds us that entering into that friendship means we take care of each other.  Friendship is one of the most important gifts that we have bestowed upon us.  It is a rare treasure that should never be taken for granted.  It should be cherished.  The beauty of a deep and abiding friendship is that you can go periods of time without seeing one another but know that person is there for you and pick up right where you left off.  Friends stand by you, defend you and simply love you even in your worst moments.  They send words of encouragement and are your biggest cheerleaders.  They are rare.

Too often we take our friends for granted.  Friends never seem to mind though and generally wait patiently for us to rectify that particular flaw in ourselves.  And still we pick up right where we left off, just as if that oversight had never occurred and because they are a friend, they forgive the incident.  Because a true friend is rare it is important for us to remember to take care of them and the relationship.  It is also important to guard against taking them for granted too many times so that we cause endless hurt.  With this kind of relationship there comes certain responsibilities to protect and value the relationship.

I suspect that as you read the words a particular person (or persons) came immediately to your minds eye.  You may have even had a smile as you thought about that person and all that they add to your life.  I know that you realize just how much is added to your life because of friends so be sure to let them know just how valued and valuable they are to you.  Friends are sweet responsibilities that we should always cherish.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

What is your super power?

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
Leo Buscaglia
We all love super heroes.  They are known for the spectacular feats that save people.  They are able in great, fictional ways to perform miraculous deeds and whether very young or old there is something about the stories that attract us.  It makes us feel good to simply watch the movie or read the story.  We always root for the good guy super hero.  We are happy when the quest is successful.  The biggest part of the hero that makes them so wonderful is the lives they touch with th the good deeds they do.

There was a certain familiarity about the quote I have today.  It is not one that I remember as a direct quotation but the intent of the quote is familiar.  I remember being told, when I was a young priest, by a health care professional at the Long term Care centre to never forget to touch a hand or arm or shoulder.  This person went on to say that for many this might be the only time they are touched aside from their personal care.  That left an impression on me.  Now, nearly twenty years later, I still make sure that I reach out and touch.  By nature I am not a touchy, feely person.  This has taken some training.   The rewards though have been astounding.

The Long term Care centres are not always attractive places to go.  Odours can be off putting, the heat stifling and rarely are you remembered (depending on the level of care).  Putting all of that aside and learning to simply be in that moment is  glorious and the reward beyond measure.  The conversations in those moments can be awe inspiring.  It is a rare visit that I don't receive more than I can ever give.

A touch, it is not too much to offer, it requires minimal effort and yet it is ever so powerful.  I never thought of touch in this way initially but now years later I still see the power it holds.  A touch brings smiles and sometimes tears to the one on the receiving end.  I remember at one service in particular a lady with late stage dementia was in attendance.  She was one of those who attended regularly.  She frequently sat there with absolutely no response.  On this particular day I shared the story by Robert Munch I'll Love You Forever, it was the Tuesday following Mother's Day, and much to my delight she switched on and engaged in the story, making a comment here and there about the behaviour of the child.  For a few brief minutes she was present.  It was months later that I met a friend of this lady and I told the friend about our encounter and while that friend had missed it she was so happy to hear that it had happened.  We shared a laugh and in that moment she joined us again.  A touch, a smile, a few moments of your time can make such a difference and we are so often unaware of the power we have in that simple gesture.

That power within may well have gone completely untapped but for the wise words of a seasoned worker and leader in the long term care field.  The gentle reminder to see the person first and always be compassionate.  Bring joy, bring a smile, tell a story and never ever forget to touch them gently so they don't forget what it feels like.  The power of the touch I was recently reminded was important in the gospel stories.  The person I was talking with reminded me of so many encounters that were changed by a touch.  Healing took place because of a touch.  Hope was restored because of a touch.  Gentleness came to the forefront because of a touch.  It is a timely reminder in a world that often fears interactions that we humans are social creatures.  Touch is important and conveys a wealth of meaning to the recipient.  This continues to be a mighty lesson.

So in this world that shies away from interaction look up, smile, compliment and even occasionally (under the right circumstances) touch a person to offer comfort.  The power lies within each of us to make a difference.  Small events cause the ripples that lead to great miracles and it all lies within our reach...because we were willing to touch.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Let your Light Shine

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be?... And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”— Marianne Williamson

So go on, own your brilliance and shine your light. ✨ The world needs you to live your highest potential.

I thought the above quote was quite an interesting one when I read it this morning.  It was quoted by the Chopka Centre.  I could not help but think about it over and over and I was not sure that I agreed with it.  But when we think about it you realize that we tend to be confident in what we are good with and strong in our convictions of.  We do not usually fear being inadequate in that way.  Yes, we appreciate feedback letting us know how we are doing but we rarely feel inadequate in things that we are strong in.

The following bit of the quote though rang more true, it is our light and allowing our light to shine that we really fear.   Failing to allow our light to shine is not new.  It reaches back to biblical times, at least.  We fear letting our light shine for many reasons.  We don’t want to be called braggarts, we don’t want to be labeled conceited, we don’t want to toot our own horns, we are reluctant to take on an additional role or more work.  The reasons we are reluctant to let our lights shine are many and varied.

Interestingly, the author of the quote finishes by saying that when we let our lights shine we give others permission to do the same.  How empowering and how powerful!  Conversely if we are not living our potential and letting our light shine we are conceivably  holding someone else back.    So when we think about about it we have an incredible power to share, to be who we are and to enable others to reach that same potential.  The author challenges us to ask ourselves who we are and in that answer be honest with ourselves so that we can reach our fullest potential and in letting our light shine give others the permission to be able to do the same.  When we allow our light to shine we illuminate the darkness around and within but even more encourage and allow other lights to join in and the darkness is overcome.

More years ago now than I like to think about I had a discussion with a person at the local gym.  This person was retired but not quick to volunteer for anything.  This particular evening was going to mark the opening of the diocesan synod and volunteers were needed behind the scenes for set up, clean up and so on.  I was about to leave the gym and said to him”see you this evening.”  He replied that I would not.  I was a bit shocked so I went back in and said to him, no pressure but I’m curious, when you reach the pearly gates and you are asked if you did your best, will you be able to say yes?  Much to the surprise of everyone, including the parish priest of this man, he was there for everything and a super help with the other volunteers.  He and I laughed at it after but he said on a serious note it was an important question because he really could do more.  This question has on occasion come back to haunt me, challenge me and guilt me into doing something that I otherwise would have refused.  It is a call asking ourselves if we are doing our best, allowing our light to shine, encouraging each other to respond and allow lights glow beautifully and to become brighter and brighter.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

The Beauty of Your Season

There is something about the autumn that brings out a certain love of life.  It might be the brilliant colours as nature sheds its foliage to prepare for rest and rebirth.  It might be the leaves falling and subsequently blowing around with the wind, almost as if they are engaging in one final dance before becoming mulch and fertilizer.  Autumn is resplendent in all of her glory and while some feel depressed with the shorter days and winter looming, stop a moment and look around and enjoy the beautiful show that nature has placed before us to enjoy.

Invariably when fall arrives I am enamoured with the colours, the falling leaves and the rustle and crunch you get when walking.  There is something quite playful about kicking the fallen leaves before you.  It is, at its most basic, a reminder to enjoy the little things and the little pleasures that you can find all around you in this life.

This time of year I am also reminded with the falling leaves that another year is waning and for some their season of life has changed.  So fall always reminds me to go back and read a short little book that was recommended to a group of us by a neonatal nurse many years ago.  It is called The Fall of Freddie the Leaf.  The author is Leo Buscaglia.  It is a story of life.  Freddie and his companions face many changes with each season that passes, finally falling to the ground in the autumn and being covered by a blanket of snow.  The story, from the perspective of a leaf, reminds us all of the delicate balance that we have in life.
As the leaves slowly drop off there is a beautiful conversation between two leaves, Freddie and Daniel.   
I’m afraid to die,” Freddie told Daniel.  “I don’t know what’s down there.”
“We all fear what we don’t know Freddie.  It’s natural,” Daniel reassured him.  “ Yet you were not afraid when spring became summer.  You were not afraid when summer became fall.  They were natural changes.  Why should you be afraid of the season of death?”
“Does the tree die too?” Freddie asked.
“Someday.  But there is something stronger than the tree.  It is Life.  That lasts forever and we are all a part of Life.”... “Then what has been the reason for all of this” Freddie continued to question.  “Why were we here at all if we only have to fall and die?”
Daniel answered in his matter of fact way, “It’s been about the sun and the moon.  It’s been about happy times together.  It’s been about the shade and the old people and the children.  It’s been about colours in Fall.  It’s been about seasons.  Isn’t that enough?”

This beautiful book reminds us all that we each have seasons in our lives.  Some seasons are longer than others but within each there is beauty to be seen and joy to be found.  It also reminds us that though seasons may also be short we can avail of the opportunities that are before us and celebrate each and every opportunity that we have.  Laugh, cry, dance, embrace the good, work through the bad and know that with each experience, with each season of life that we enjoy for however long we have to enjoy it we will gain new perspective.  No matter what season in life you are currently in look for the joy and the beauty around.  Everyday will not be a wonderful day but it will afford us new opportunities, new things for which to be thankful and when we finally come to our winter we will again find new opportunities and new beginnings.