The heart is like a garden.
It can grow compassion or fear,
resentment or love.
~ Jack Kornfield ~
‘This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.’
~ from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donohue ~
For those of us who have reached “a certain age,” that of late adulthood (65+), life takes on a whole new meaning. Mourning midlife becomes an everyday occurrence.
Passion breeds affection.
The future shortens.
Belongings lose importance.
We are actually quite invisible to a society in which technology rules. Communication is by abbreviations and emojis on social media platforms, where eye contact and shaking hands are a thing of the past. Baby boomers are obsolete, you say? No longer part of the bigger picture?
Whatever happened to the mythology of the old crone, full of wisdom gained through a life of pain and sorrow? Wisdom gained by suffering through the human condition, witnessing countless tragedies and upheavals, hoping so desperately to make meaning of it all, and to leave the world better than you found it?
At times, I feel invisible out there. Ignored by sales clerks. Doors closed in my face. Cars beeping their horns at crosswalks. Doctors writing everything off to aging, impatient and patronizing. Young people snickering as I walk by, albeit moving more slowly. Opinions being cast aside. Conversations shortened. Phone calls being ignored. (Did I really grimace at times when I saw my father’s name on caller ID, not wanting to hear about his latest health problems? Would that I could see his name come up just one more time…I would answer it in a heartbeat.)
In my lifetime, I saw black and white TVs turn into color. I saw man’s first step on the moon. I remember where I was when Kennedy was shot. I got my first calculator as a Junior in college and said goodbye to my slide rule. I witnessed the carnage of 9/11, and saw mankind at war so often that I’ve lost count. I saw computers go from the size of huge rooms to fitting into my pocket. I saw gay marriage recognized. And I watched as a society became inured to active shooters and their messages of hate.
I have a lived quite a lifetime in these 65 years. I’ve been through marriage and divorce, illness, the loss of jobs and identities, childbirth, the death of both parents, along with 11 years of higher education (yes, you read that right). I could go on and on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, to borrow the words of a man by the name of Elton John, “I’m Still Standing.”
My life counts for something. I matter. And I will not remain invisible to a society that shows so little respect to the elderly.
Ageism, ugly as it is, exists. But I will not be ignored.
I have a voice, and my truth will be heard.
I have eyes that see with compassion and love.
I have hands that will continue to reach out.
I have ears that actively listen.
I have a smile that welcomes you into my space.
I have wisdom to share with the generations that follow me, ready for the taking.
I will continue to create and nurture and mentor and bring about positive change.
I will produce. I will be involved. I will contribute.
And I will find a way for my contributions to outlast me, however small.
Countless graces have been bestowed upon me in this lifetime, and I am truly blessed.
Now let me pass those gifts on to others.
This I Promise You…
For those who are alone, I will sit with you.
For those who have no voice, I will speak for you.
For those who feel invisible, I will see you.
For those who are afraid, I will protect you.
For those who know hunger, I will feed you.
For those who need help, I will offer aid.
For those who suffer emotionally, I will help ease it.
For those who go unheard, I will listen.
For those who mourn, I will comfort you.
For those who know sickness, I will nurture you.
For those who know hate, I will love you.
For those who are dying, I will help you to live.
For those who crave human touch, I will reach out to you.
For those who are blind, I will see for you.
For those in pain, I will bring relief.
For those who cannot walk, I will journey for you.
For those who are lost, I will find you.
For those in despair, I will hold hope for you.
For those who weep, I will dry your tears.
For those with no place called home, I will shelter you.
For those who are wounded, I will bring healing.
For those who wait in darkness, I will be your Light.
This I Promise You… ~ Theresa
Black sand beaches, impossibly blue skies, waving palm trees, soaring green volcanic mountains…
“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL”
The emergency alert system screeched across my cell phone at just after 8 am. I was in my ship’s stateroom, docked in Honolulu, ready to disembark after a relaxing ten day cruise to Oahu, Maui, Hawaii and Kauai.
“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL”
I read it aloud to my husband. “Did you see this?” The problem with this emergency alert was that it was totally believable. There was no doubt where the missile was coming from – North Korea – and it was heading toward Hawaii. Paradise.
We quickly gathered our things and left the cabin. Some people were in the hallway, looking worried. “Did you see the alert?” “Yes.” We kept on walking.
What does “immediate shelter” mean on a 4,000 passenger cruise ship? My husband insisted on Deck Three, the furthest down that we were familiar with on the ship. I insisted on Deck Five, where all the people were presently disembarking at a snail’s pace. Stay inside – yes – but be near an exit.
The people were surprisingly calm as we waited for instructions from the Captain. No one had even acknowledged the emergency alert yet over the loudspeaker system.
I thought of calling my son back on the East Coast, but I knew he hardly ever answered his phone and never accepted voice mails. So I called his wife instead. Sure enough, she answered. Was there anything on the news yet? No, but she would look into it. I hung up and called my sister and quickly interrupted her “Aloha” greeting to tell her what was happening and to ask her to light a candle. Pray for all of us.
My daughter-in-law started sending screen shots of Twitter feeds going across the country about the alert. Finally a member of the ship’s crew announced that no one could leave the ship. The security guards at the door yelled for the people outside to either come back in or get moving. Then they shut the doors.
We were sheltered in place on a cruise ship in Hawaii while an ICBM made its way toward us.
It was 38 minutes before another emergency alert came across the phone announcing it was a false alarm.
Not much time to make your final phone calls to say I love you. Not much time to say your final good-byes.
It wasn’t until later when the national news picked up on the story that I realized that it only takes 20 minutes for a missile to reach Hawaii from North Korea. Naturally, I assumed that Honolulu would be its target. How ironic that Pearl Harbor might be attacked yet a second time…
The ship’s passengers breathed a collective, audible sigh of relief. False alarm. Some nervous laughter, but subdued.
But the threat had been very real for a very long 38 minutes.
How must people live in the war-torn countries, where they live in fear every moment of every day? Where they make daily sacrifices just to survive another bombing, another ambush, another attack?
I can’t imagine that life. After all, I only had to get through a finite 38 minutes. They live a lifetime of constant hyper vigilance, always at risk, always in danger. Living in constant fear.
And I only suffered through 38 minutes.
Bless them. Keep them safe. Let there be peace on earth. And let it begin with me.
In my work with loss and bereavement, music is a powerful tool. It not only comforts the dying, but the living as well.
“Graceful Passages: A Companion for Living and Dying,” produced by Michael Stillwater and Gary Malkin, blends messages and music about life, death, forgiveness and acceptance, narrated by spiritual thinkers from a variety of faith traditions.
One of my favorites, which I use for myself from time to time to affirm my life journey, follows. Here, Jeanine Prevatt holds sacred her Cherokee lineage and her deep connection to the Earth. You can also find the accompanying music on iTunes if the words speak to your heart, as they do to mine.
~ Jyoti ~
Good morning, Grandfather.
I entered this life a ways back
and put skin on to walk two-legged on this Creation –
and what a glorious time it was.
It taught me about breath
and about sensing and feeling and caring through my heart.
And I walked on around that Red Road,
looking and trying to understand more
about the mystery and the secrets She holds.
And You spoke to me through the wind,
and You sang to me through the birds.
And You brought challenges forth so that
I might listen to the message You bring me more sincerely.
And I kept walking down this road.
And I came ’round the bend
at the middle of that curve in the road
and I began to find a secret in the Spirit of my Self…
And still I walked on, sometimes blind and deaf,
and sometimes with pain.
But I fought with my fears and I embraced my unknowingness –
and still I walked on.
And my children and my family stood with me
and we came to know each other in those later years more than we
had before – for some of our falseness had fallen away –
and still I walked on.
And I kept walking on this road towards You,
towards that other world that grew closer to me with each step.
And as the door of the Great Spirit world came closer
my fear loomed up inside sometimes…
But something called me forth –
the Morning Star rose with each day –
and my prayer became a centering – and still I walked on,
until I began to hear the Song of the Mother,
and Her arms embraced me so,
that instead of walking She carried me right to the door.
And as the door opened, I heard Her Song,
and Her Song lifted me up, so I could soar.
After a 22-year-old Sikh man removed his turban to help an injured boy, a handful of friendly strangers acted quickly to return the favor.
Harman Singh, who lives in Auckland, New Zealand, heard screeching wheels and ran outside to find that Daejon Pahia had been hit by a car.
“I saw a child down on the ground and a lady was holding him. His head was bleeding, so I unveiled my turban and put it under his head,” Singh told The New Zealand Herald. “I wasn’t thinking about the turban. I was thinking about the accident and I just thought, ‘He needs something on his head because he’s bleeding.’ That’s my job — to help. And I think anyone else would have done the same as me.”
The turban, or dastaar, is an “integral” part of the Sikh faith that is typically only removed in the privacy of one’s home, according to the Sikh Coalition.
As television news crews traveled to the Singh’s home for interviews, the world saw a peek into the man’s accommodations — which were plain and lacking furniture.
Inspired by concerned comments from viewers, the staff at New Zealand television program ONE News got in touch with a local furniture store owner and surprised Singh with a truckload of new furniture for his apartment. Singh said, through tears, “This the biggest surprise of my life.”
The Huffington Post by Antonia Blumberg
If You Want His Answer
by Paramahansa Yogananda
Whether He replies or not,
keep calling Him —
ever calling in the chamber
of continuous prayer.
Whether He comes or not,
believe He is ever approaching
nearer to you
with each command of your heart’s love.
Whether He answers or not,
keep entreating Him.
Even if He makes no reply
in the way you expect,
ever know that in some subtle way
He will respond.
In the darkness of your deepest prayers,
know that with you He is playing
And in the midst of the dance of life, disease and death,
if you keep calling Him,
undepressed by His seeming silence,
you will receive His answer.
I’ll be on retreat for the next two weeks, and will have limited, if any, access to the internet. However, daily quotations and regular posts are scheduled to be published as usual, and I will respond to your comments upon my return. Blessings to my faithful followers! ~ Theresa
On Monday, 428 people at Granite Telecommunications in Quincy, MA shaved their heads in the lobby of their corporate headquarters, raising $2.1 million to support cancer research.
The idea began as a joke when CEO Rob Hale dared one of his employees, who sported a ZZ Top-style beard, to take it off for charity. It turned into something far beyond expectations.
“I told him, we’ll give $10,000 if you’ll shave it, and he agreed to do it,” Hale tells the Good News Blog. “The next day, one of our teammates said his family had been affected by cancer, and he would be willing to shave his head for $1,000.”
Hale sent an email around saying that he’d donate money for anyone who agreed to follow suit. When the number of people involved neared 100, Hale said he would double that amount, making it $2,000 a head. When it neared 300, Hale’s mother got involved, agreeing to match the initial pitch and bringing the stakes to $3,000 a head. When close to 400 employees were ready to be sheared, Hale set the bounty at $5,000 a head.
In no time at all, the total was at over $2 million.
“In a few weeks, it went from a whimsical comment to a galvanizing moment,” Hale remarks. “It makes a powerful statement about our company, and it makes a powerful statement about cancer.”
Nearly two-thirds of the male employees at Granite Communications were part of the cutting ceremony Monday, as well as 20 women who either went bald or put their coifs toward Locks for Love. Eighteen local barbers donated their time, lining up chairs in the lobby of the office and trimming away as music played in the background. There were also gift bags for everybody and a mural to be signed.
“It speaks to a team that’s caring compassionate, bold, energetic; I hope we are all those things and I think we showed that Monday,” Hale comments. “The other truth, cancer affects everybody… nearly everybody who was doing was doing it support or to memorialize someone who has fought or is fighting cancer.”
That includes Hale, who lost his father to pancreatic cancer six years ago. All the money raised will be donated to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a hospital which helped Hale’s father survive more than 18 months after his diagnosis.
All in all, the Granite Communications team did something immense that will be felt far behind the walls of their building.
“It was a really an electric couple of hours,” Hale remarks.
For once, it appears everybody got the memo.
Beautiful, poignant story that I wish I had been part of…
I saw this picture recently of a crowd sitting in lawn chairs along a parade route. In the background, a military formation is marching by carrying our flag. Sadly, the only one standing in a show of respect is a veteran in a wheelchair. That bothered me, so I wrote this to give yesterdays hero the recognition he deserves. To all our veterans, thank you for your service and my freedom.
“Excuse me” the woman calls quietly and somewhat apologetically. “Can we get in front of you? We won’t block your view”
Slowly the crowd parts, some reluctantly, others without hesitation. The woman pushes the wheelchair forward, smiling as she navigated the narrow opening provided for their passage until they reach the curb.
The woman, a daughter perhaps, locks the wheels of the chair and fusses over it’s occupant, adjusting the robe in his lap, assuring his comfort. He shows no resistance to…
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Let’s hear it for first responders in the United States of America.
Whether you’re being airlifted from rising flood waters, getting rescued from a burning building, being rushed to the hospital with excruciating chest pain, slowly being extricated from your mangled car with the Jaws of Life, being rushed to safety from a hostage situation, shielded from a shooter – you are relieved and grateful to hear the welcome police sirens, fire truck horns, helicopter blades or racing footsteps.
Thank goodness – they’re here – everything will be all right – I’m safe.
These are the selfless individuals who go toward danger rather than away from it, who save lives while risking their own.
We’ve come to expect them to arrive in force, like the Calvary – in the nick of time, never afraid or tired or sick or hung over; never preoccupied or moving slow or sleeping in or ignoring the call.
Indeed, some disasters can be identified simply by an iconic photo of first responders:
We expect them to be there and to work tirelessly until the job is done, whether one hour, one day, one month or one year. In wildfires, firefighters might work to save our homes while theirs might be burning down. After a tornado, they might be searching for survivors through the debris while their own home has been demolished. We get back to our own broken lives while they work until their duty is finished.
When they finally have time to breathe, and to return to their families for hugs, food and sleep, that’s when the crushingly difficult part begins. Their sympathetic nervous system, having been hypervigilent for so long, is overly stressed, unable to relax.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is not only suffered by victims of traumatic events. Feelings of guilt or failure, insomnia, intrusive images, recurrent nightmares, irritability, hyperarousal, stomach-aches, headaches, difficulty concentrating, emotional withdrawal, flashbacks – all these, and more, could plague the first responders for months or even years.
What was it like for the police, EMTs and fire department personnel to view the carnage upon entering the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT? Or for the physicians and related health care personnel at the hospital to wait for the injured children who never came? Or for the coroner to perform autopsies on 20 innocent first graders?
You can replace Newtown with Oklahoma City, Columbine, Hurricane Katrina, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Sandy, 9/11 (WTC, the Pentagon, Shanksville), any war, the Boston Marathon…
Their souls must be bruised.
Perhaps haunted by these experiences, these images, they will run into the chaos and destruction anyway. For you, for me, for anyone in need.
They give tirelessly of themselves, day in, day out, with little recognition, because “they’re only doing their jobs.” Those jobs are demanding, draining, debilitating. But they do them, regardless.
So who cares for the caregivers?
In honoring them here, by recognizing their tremendous worth, I hope to do my part in helping each soul to heal. Perhaps you might find your own way to do the same.
Light in the midst of darkness. Hope in the midst of despair. Love in the midst of hate.
My blessings. My respect. My gratitude.
Once again – Holiness – Sacred Ground – Circles of Compassionate Grace.