vulnerable path

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An Overwhelming Sensation

Do you ever get that overwhelming sensation?  It’s not a physical one, like exhaustion or hunger.  I’m talking about an emotional one.  It has been happening to me a lot in the last few years.  It’s the emotional response that rises up inside me when I hear about a young person’s success or when I read an article about how someone has improved their local community.  I am overcome with the feeling that I must help make the world a better place.

Alan Jennings knows that feeling.  He is the executive director of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, an organization he has been a part of for more than 30 years.  I don’t know Jennings personally, but I can certainly relate to him.  He was featured recently in an article in The Morning Call, saying that he had the “overwhelming sensation” as a young child that he was “born to save the world.”  Jennings joined CACLV fresh out of college.  He has been instrumental in not only saving it from shutdown, but growing it into an organization with a $20 million a year budget.  CACLV is the engine behind numerous neighborhood improvement programs, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens throughout the Lehigh Valley.

Few of us are fortunate enough to realize our calling at such a young age.  For some, it may take 50 years.  For others, it may never come.  For me, it’s finally arrived and has been transformative.  I believe this passion was born out of my role as a parent, to help my daughter become the best person she can be.  I have seen this evolution taking place, that my hope to improve people’s lives has grown beyond just she and I.  If I make this effort for my child, I can take many others along on the journey.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley, advertising a “speed networking” event geared to help local non-profits find volunteers.  I had barely finished reading the first few lines when I knew I needed to participate.  This was an opportunity that I simply could not pass up.  It was a way for me to act as a liaison — to bridge the gap between Girl Scouts and the larger world of service organizations for the girls and adults that I work with.  Because if I am to support the mission of Girl Scouting, which is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place, then I have to help girls to connect to the community and world beyond Girl Scouting.

I was utterly overwhelmed at the speed networking event.  There were about 25 organizations represented, and I had to choose five to meet with.  It was difficult to narrow it down to five!  I chose Community Bike Works, The Center for Humanistic Change, The Lehigh Conference of Churches, the Third Street Alliance, and Gress Mountain Ranch.  I was able to meet the executive directors of all of these organizations, present them with my resume, and talk about the passions that we have in common.  My goal now is to get to know these groups better, introduce others to them, and find ways to help them expand their own missions.

Clockwise from top right, the ceiling of the parlor, one of many stained glass windows, a close up of a tile surrounding the fireplace in Mr. Simon's office, a mosaic in the lobby.

Clockwise from top right, the ceiling of the parlor, one of many stained glass windows, a close up of a tile surrounding the fireplace in Mr. Simon’s office, a mosaic in the lobby.

I began last weekend by taking my daughter for a tour of the Third Street Alliance in Easton, PA.  They are based in the Simon mansion, a beautifully restored building in the heart of downtown Easton.  You cannot tell by looking at the French revival façade of this building that it houses a homeless shelter for women and children.  Additionally, this dynamic organization provides the community with a Keystone Stars accredited child care program and an adult care program for seniors with special needs.  It’s a stunning mash-up of art, architecture, and social service.  We learned that they need help to sort donations, to make care packages for clients, and to garner additional funding to make their swimming pool ADA compliant, just to name a few.

I left there with my mind reeling, mulling over the many possible ways to help them.  And I could see that it made an impression on my daughter as well.  She’s 13, and yet she wasn’t underwhelmed, as is so often the case at this age.  She was intrigued by the interior design and the art work, and listened intently to our tour guide’s stories.  There’s a world outside of herself, and she’s beginning to open her eyes to it.

Our next stop will be at the Community Bike Works.  We are visiting them this week, donating an old bike and taking a tour.  I can’t wait!

I have tremendous respect for the individuals that serve at the heart of these organizations.  They often dedicate many hours of overtime and accept less than adequate wages.  They are all “saving the world” in their own unique ways.  Jennings states in the Morning Call article, “Let’s face it, I’ve been at this a long time and the world is still really screwed up. I’ve failed a lot.”

I have to disagree.  Mr. Jennings, you have not failed.  I am certain that you have changed the lives of many individuals for the better.  In fact, even if you have only changed one life, you have still left the world better than you found it.  That’s accomplishing your mission.  That’s leaving a legacy.  That’s making lives better beyond your own.

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The purpose of life is not to be happy.  It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”  That’s my new motto.

© Vulnerable Path, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

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Lights, Camera, Confidence!

It was that moment when the spark ignites, the moment I look for all year long as a Girl Scout Leader.  “Miss Chris”, said one of my Scouts, “I think that people who are bullies really feel bad about themselves.  And maybe if we try to help people have more self-confidence, then there would be fewer bullies.”  Then another one added, “If people had more self-confidence, bullies and cliques wouldn’t bother them so much.”  These kids were on to something, and I knew we had the ingredients for a great Take Action Project.

Award_editedIn case you are unfamiliar, a Take Action Project culminates a Girl Scout Journey.  Journeys are an integral part of the Girl Scout Leadership experience.  It’s the heart of the National Program, and Journey curriculum is available for every age level in Girl Scouting.  It focuses on three core themes — It’s Your World, Change It; It’s Your Planet, Love It; and It’s Your Story, Tell It.  Journeys teach girls the three keys to leadership — Discover, Connect, and Take Action.  Discover something about yourself or an issue that is important to you.  Connect with others in your community who hold those same beliefs.  And Take Action to create a sustainable solution to that problem.   The ultimate mission in all this is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character that make the world a better place!

The Journey our Cadette troop (6-8 grade) did this year is called aMAZE, and it focuses on how teenagers can improve their relationships with their peers.  I knew how much my girls needed to have the chance to talk about what they are going through in school.  I knew that several of them had already suffered bullying.  And I knew some of them struggled with self-esteem.  They needed tools to navigate “the twists and turns of getting along,” as the Journey book calls it.

As adults, we sometimes forget.  But being a teenager is not easy!  I wanted to encourage some heart to heart discussions about peer pressure, gossiping, cliques, stereotypes, first impressions, bullying, and more.  But in the end, my girls pinpointed one root cause of many of these issues — a lack of confidence and self-esteem.  And they decided to throw a “Confidence Rocks Party” to help solve it.

pop rocks_editedThe girls created a playlist of confidence boosting songs that they felt would uplift and inspire others.  We decided that a good place for a party is our local roller-skating rink, and the Skateaway was more than happy to partner with us on this project.  We designed a flyer to promote the event and emailed it to all the Girl Scouts troops in our community.  We pulled inspirational quotes from the songs on the playlist and made party favors with Pop Rocks candy, attaching the quotes.  We created some awesome decorations by “tie dying” coffee filters!  And we set up a photo booth with a backdrop, costumes, and props to encourage Party-goers to let their Confidence shine.

When I plan Journey sessions, I go on a Journey myself.  I learn just as much, probably more, than my girls do!  I find amazing resources on the Internet that I use in my lesson plans.  This year, I found so much good stuff that I decided to put it all in a blog post so I could share it with parents and other Girl Scout leaders.  Here’s how my journey began.

ConfidenceOne day last summer, I received an email from my niece.  She sent me information about a group called Lehigh Valley Girls Rock.  She thought my daughter would be interested in their program.  What this group does is pretty amazing.  They teach girls how to play instruments, help them write music, form bands, and perform — all in a week long camp setting.  But if that wasn’t cool enough, it was through their website that I discovered some other very inspiring women who have a thing or two to say about self-confidence and self-love.  A whole bunch of inspiration just fell into my lap!

First there is Gala Darling and her Radical Self Love Manifesto.   Gala started out as a fashion blogger, but soon discovered her true calling and devoted herself to helping other women fall in love with themselves.  Admitting that her teenage years were full of turmoil, she found a way to overcome her struggles and turn her life around.  She is now a very successful entrepreneur.  Her website is just chock full of inspiring essays and activities such as her “Radical Self Love Bible School” which is an art journaling self-discovery program.  I recommend watching her TedEX talk on You Tube.

Then there is Jaime Karpovich.  Jaime is a Vegan, produces a cable TV Show called Save The Kales that airs in several markets, and keeps a blog of the same name.  She’s a freelance writer and public speaker and loves to talk about vegan cooking and lifestyle, body positivity and self-esteem, and personal empowerment to name a few.  I tried to arrange for her to speak to my Girl Scouts, but it didn’t work out this year.  I still have my fingers crossed that we can work together soon!  I think she would really impress upon them how important it is to be true to yourself and follow your dreams.

crafted with beautySomewhere along the line I stumbled upon a gem of an article by Anna Lind Thomas called, “Life is too short for crappy friends,”   Thomas is a writer and comedian who really nails it when it comes to explaining to girls why being “popular” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  She also has some hilarious things to say for us grown-up women.  Here’s a link to her blog.

Oh, and I cannot leave out Brene’ Brown.  I am absolutely obsessed with her book The Gifts of Imperfection.  I carried it around for months on end.  I read and re-read it, marking it up with pencil and highlighter.  I preached it to anyone who would listen.  Her guideposts for wholehearted living resonated with me like nothing else ever has.  It just makes so much sense.  It was inspiration from her research that led me to create this blog and name it Vulnerable Path.  If you follow my blog, you know I have talked about her A LOT in previous posts.

The one thing that Brown has to say that I felt was very important to convey to my Girl Scouts was this:

You are WORTHY now, right this minute, AS IS!!!!!

Brown has an amazing TedEX Talk and other videos on her website– even one about empathy that I recommend for kids.  You can find all of them on here.

The thing is, confidence and self-esteem isn’t just a teen issue.  There are many times throughout our lives that we struggle with a lack of self-confidence.  If we feel bad about ourselves, we are performing that script for our children.  Their young eyes are on us every day as we make choices and navigate our own complicated lives.  We are in the spotlight, the camera is focused on us.  So it’s up to us, first and foremost, to be a good role-model for our children.  As I’ve said before, we can’t give our children something that we don’t have.  (Actually, I think Brene’ Brown said that!)

hero_editedTo help our children gain self-esteem, we have to change the script.  We have to be willing to look in the mirror and say, “I look great today!” instead of “Do you think I look fat in this dress?”  We have to show them that it’s OK to walk out the door with no makeup on.  We have to make positive changes in our lives when we are unhappy.  We have to stand up for ourselves when others treat us poorly.  You can tell them everyday how awesome they are.  But what they really need to see, in addition to all that, is how awesome you think you are!

All I want for my daughter, all any of us want for our children, is that they do better than us — be wiser, smarter, stronger.  We want them to discover their talents and ignite that spark that leads them to their dreams.  The first step in helping them is to help ourselves.

This is a Journey for all of us, young and old alike.  I hope you rock your confidence!

You can download our Playlist and our confidence activity calendar from these links:

Playlist for Confidence Rocks Party

Confidence Rocks Calendar

© Vulnerable Path, 2015

 

 


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Cookie of Hope – learning about homelessness in Philadelpha

He was wrapped in plastic from head to toe.  He had layer upon layer of plastic tied around each foot, tightly secured somehow, as though he was wearing spaceman boots.  He blanketed himself in several huge sheets of plastic, pulled up over his head, and he held them in place with a hand under his chin.

PhillyHe was the first homeless person I saw last month when I arrived at Philadelphia’s Suburban Station at 5:45am in the heart of the city’s downtown.  We came to sell Girl Scout cookies in the station.  And we undoubtedly were going home with quite an education in city life.

As we unloaded our cookie stock, a fight erupted nearby between several men.  SEPTA workers and police descended immediately to break it up.  A minute later I was greeted by Robert.  He introduced himself, and at first I wasn’t sure if Robert was a homeless person or simply on his way to work at that hour.  Robert said that someone threw a Molotov cocktail into the dry cleaning business around the corner last Friday, injuring the Asian couple who own it.  Robert said the couple is not coming back.

From above us in a stairwell, a woman began screaming and cursing.  It seemed as though she was arguing with someone, but we could not hear anyone respond to her.  This went on for 20 minutes or longer before she became silent.  But she erupted in a stream of profanities several more times throughout the day.  At one point, the woman was carrying on an argument right behind us.  It was then that I realized her adversary was invisible.

A police officer stopped by our cookie booth, and I asked him why the screaming woman hadn’t been arrested.  He just chuckled and said, “You can’t lock up a crazy person.”

boothPlastic man milled around the loading dock area, while other folks wandered by to see what we were doing.  We brought about 60 cases of cookies.  That’s a veritable smorgasbord when you are used to fishing scraps out of trash cans.  We built ourselves a fort with cookies and camp chairs.  By 6am, we were smiling and greeting commuters with a chipper “Good Morning!”  As the day wore on, there were a few homeless folks that approached us and asked for cookies.  There were a few who lingered for a long time by our booth, just observing.

For two single moms from the suburbs and their 12 year old daughters, this was a whole new world.  Witnessing this issue made selling cookies seem trivial.  But, on the other hand, if a cookie helps to bring an important issue to a determined girl’s attention, you never know how that cookie might change someone’s future.

The Girl Scout program teaches girls to look for the root causes of problems in their communities and find ways to take action to address these issues.  In Philadelphia’s Suburban Station, our girls came face to face with a serious community issue.  And it’s overwhelming.  Where could we possibly begin?  Our girls are still learning how to address small problems in their own communities.  For them, this could mean finding ways to teach their school mates about bullying or the harmful effects of smoking.  Tackling homelessness is one issue they will need to grow into.

I wanted to learn more about homelessness in Philadelphia, so I took to the Internet and found an organization called Project HOME.  Their mission is to help break the cycle of homelessness through street outreach, supportive housing, and other community development activities.

According to Projecthome.org, a May 2013 street census counted approximately 494 individuals living on the street in Philadelphia. It is difficult to calculate the exact number of homeless people living on the street, considering the number of individuals that live in obscure park areas, vehicles, or abandoned houses.  Project HOME also estimates that, on any given night, about 6,000 people live in city-funded shelters or transitional housing.   Many of these individuals face economic hardship, lack of education and jobs, or may be victims of racial or ethnic discrimination.  But estimates run from between 34 to 53 percent of the homeless population suffers with addiction and mental illness.  This has been exacerbated by the removal of institutional support for people with severe mental illness and lack of universal health care.

As I read more about Project HOME, I learned that this organization has a service center in Suburban Station. It’s called Hub of Hope, and it was shut down without warning in November of 2014.  You can read the story of the Hub of Hope here.  But I am happy to report that the Hub is once again open and assisting the homeless in Suburban Station.  Next time we have the opportunity to sell cookies in Philadelphia, we will also take along some donations for the Hub of Hope.

There is one other fact I learned about Project HOME — eight of its top executives are women.  I wonder, were they Girl Scouts?

© Vulnerable Path, 2015


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Why am I doing this?

It’s only the fourth day of our Girl Scout cookie sale, and I am already wondering what I was thinking. I am our troop leader and cookie mom. So for the next eight weeks, I will not only be planning our meeting activities, but also running a more than $10,000.00 business. It’s a second full-time job. In the last four days, I have spent over 25 hours working the cookie business. That is in addition to working my full-time job and taking care of my home and family.

While fighting off a cranky mood yesterday, I realized I needed to re-acquaint myself with the reasons I made this commitment.

vest_editedI have always held a strong belief in the mission of Girl Scouting. But so do a lot of adults who have their children involved in Scouting. We grew up being Girl Scouts ourselves. We have fond memories of our Girl Scout experiences. But the reasons that I am a Girl Scout volunteer go well beyond my belief that it will give my daughter courage, confidence, and character.

If I won’t do it, who will?

There is a saying that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. That sounds egotistical. Maybe a better way to phrase it would be to say, if you want a particular result, you have to be willing to put in the work to see that result materialize. That doesn’t just pertain to the Girl Scout organization. That’s a life-in-general thing. It occurred to me a very long time ago that if I wanted my daughter to grow up to be a smart, confident, capable human being, I needed to do the work to make that happen. It wasn’t something to leave to other people. Not to other family members, or teachers, or coaches, or activity volunteers.

If I wanted my daughter to get the most out of her Girl Scout experience, I knew I needed to be actively involved. It wasn’t enough to drop her off at weekly meetings. I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into when I first volunteered. But I can tell you now that I see a very clear corollary between successful girl outcomes and the involvement of girls’ parents. For example, the girls in my troop who earned Bronze Awards as Junior Girl Scouts had parents who involved themselves in the process. They not only brought their girls to special Bronze Award planning sessions, they stayed and participated. They strongly encouraged their girls to make a commitment to a project and stood with them every step of the way.

If I won’t set an example, who will?

Children are very observant of their surroundings. Everything that happens to them has the power to become a teaching experience. Every person they come in contact with has influence. I want to be a positive influence. And, as I said before, if I want my daughter to be smart, confident, and capable, then I have to model that. Whatever expectations I have for her, I need to be willing to live up to myself. Some days, that is no easy task!

The Girl Scout cookie program intends to teach girls these five skills — goal-setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics. Most people think the cookie sale is a fund-raiser. There is so much more to it than that. If I am going to teach these skills, then I have to demonstrate them. As a leader, a parent, and a role model, it’s my job to set realistic goals and show girls how to meet them. I am a trustee of their money; therefore, I am obligated to manage it appropriately. They are watching, so I need to be friendly, helpful and respectful toward everyone I work with. I need to show my girls how to do what’s right.

My kid isn’t entitled to anything. And I don’t ever want her to think she is. The most rewarding things in life come to us because we worked hard to earn them. It’s a lesson kids ultimately need to learn on their own. But there has to be a role model there, someone who kids can look up to and say, “She did it, and I can too.” It is possible for our troop to earn the money to travel domestically and even internationally. It’s my job to show them that this goal can be reached. I can’t give up. I can’t quit. When I’m tired, there is still one more order of cookies to sort, one more inventory count to do.  This is the work ethic I hope to see my daughter emulate.

If I can’t motivate her, who will?

Let’s face it, most kids would be perfectly happy to spend the whole day sitting on the couch, watching You Tube videos on their iPads.  There are some amazingly motivated young people in this world.  But I can guarantee that every one of them has an equally motivated parent standing right next to them.  I bet Katie Francis is one of them.  She is a 12 year old from Oklahoma that sold over 21,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in one season!  You can learn more about her amazing story here.

There have been many times when my daughter did not want to do something that I was encouraging her to do.  Whether it was trying a new food or learning to ride a bike, more often than not, she ended up thankful that I kept pushing her.  I want my child to discover activities that she enjoys.  I want her to find her passion.  Yet sometimes she needs a good shove in the right direction.  I can’t let that up to anyone else either.

Why am I doing this?  I’m doing it all for you, my child.  I am committed to being your teacher, role model, and motivator.  And I am more than happy to do the same for every Girl Scout I meet.

© Vulnerable Path, 2015


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Everyday ceremony

Something extra special happened to me this New Year’s holiday.  I was able to spend it with my daughter.  That might not seem like a big deal to you.  But it was for me.  In the four years since my divorce, she has always spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s with her Father.  She wanted this year to be different.  She was not interested in spending a whole week with him.  Ah, welcome to the teen years!  Well, I’ll take her any way I can get her!

To honor this occasion, I wanted to celebrate the New Year in a unique way.  I thought about taking her to one of the many events we had going on in our community.  There are beautiful light displays, sweet treat festivals, concerts, and fireworks.  Yet, neither of us was very motivated to leave our nice, warm house.

Then inspiration came to me!  During a break from my cleaning frenzy last Tuesday, I sat down to scroll through Facebook.  I follow Elizabeth Gilbert.  She is the author of one of my favorite books, Eat, Pray, Love.  She spent several months in 2014 as a speaker on Oprah’s The Life You Want Tour (YouTube it!)  She posts inspirational messages and stories everyday in her funny, down-to-earth style.

On December 30th, she posted about making her own ceremonies.  She describes several that she has made up and carried out.  I thought this was so simple, yet so genius.  I should know plenty about ceremonies.  Girl Scouting is full of ceremony.  Miriam-Webster defines a ceremony as “a formal act or event that is a part of a social or religious occasion.”  Ceremonies can elevate the everyday to the sacred.  And why shouldn’t we do that?  It is often the everyday moments that we come to cherish the most.

Gilbert described this ceremony:  “One year, I got some friends together and we made bird feeders out of pinecones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed, but before we put the birdseed on the pinecones, we swished the birdseed around on pieces of paper that had all our wishes written on them, so the birds would eat our wishes and fly them up into heaven.”   Perfect!  I had a plan.

During the cleaning frenzy, we had taken down the Christmas tree.  Instead of putting it on the curb for the garbage men, we propped it up on our deck, hoping the birds would enjoy it for the winter.  Now we could have a ceremony AND decorate the tree for the birds.

The next morning, I took a plastic shopping bag with me on my way to yoga class.  I knew there were big pine trees outside the studio.  I collected some beautiful pine cones.  Then I stopped at the grocery store for bird seed and peanut butter.  I warned my daughter that I had something special for us to do on New Year’s morning.  But I didn’t tell her exactly what.  We did not leave our nice, warm house that night.  I made a potful of seafood chowder.  We watched a few movies on TV, and we napped in our favorite chairs until right before the ball dropped.

wishes_editedWhen she stumbled out of bed on New Year’s morning, I explained the ceremony to her.  She liked the idea, but wasn’t sure what to wish for.  She settled on a wish for a “great rest of the school year.”  Being at an unfair advantage, I had put a little more thought into my wishes.

It was a fun and messy project.  We covered the table with newspaper.  We had peanut butter, pine sap, and birdseed everywhere.  I tied twine loops onto each pine cone while my daughter gooped them up with peanut butter.  Then we rolled them in the seeds.  I used seed that contained hot pepper flakes; this will supposedly deter the squirrels.  I think these will be the best tasting wishes the birds have ever eaten!

 

 

pinecone_collageI’m not sure how much my daughter really appreciated the ceremony.  It was a fun craft project for her.  To me, it was so much more.  It was a moment to share between just the two of us.  It was an opportunity to raise to sacred the first day of a new year — a year with no bumps or bruises yet.  A year awaiting us with infinite possibilities.  Maybe someday she will look back and cherish that ceremony.  Maybe she will realize what Elizabeth Gilbert noted about family:  your family members are the greatest spiritual teachers of your life.  For better or for worse, there is something for us to learn from every moment with them.

© Vulnerable Path, 2015


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And there sat Mary

I left my office last Friday night after our office Christmas party.  It was dark, windy, and a cold 36 degrees outside.  And while I would have preferred to go straight home, I had one more errand to run.  As I pulled into the parking lot at the Post Office, I saw her sitting on a bench by the flag pole.  She was tucked into a sleeping bag, zipped up to her neck.  She had a knit cap pulled down over her ears, and she looked like she was settled in for the night.

My office is in a suburban area, with lots of retail shopping malls nearby.  It’s not the kind of place where you would expect to see a homeless woman.  But Mary is no stranger to this neighborhood.  I’ve seen her on some early mornings, camped out in a concrete corner between stores, still bundled into her sleeping bag.

One day I saw her sitting in a local eatery.  She was by herself in a booth.  There was a coffee cup on her table and dozens of sugar packets ripped open and piled into a mound in front of her.  I couldn’t help but wonder if that was all she had to eat that day.  I asked one of the employees about her.  The clerk said that she comes in often and never bothers anyone.  I paid for a gift card and asked the clerk to give it to her.

But on this particularly cold night, only weeks before Christmas, the site of her on that bench just broke my heart.  We have many shelters close by, including one run by the county Conference of Churches that will not turn anyone away between November and April.  I would have gladly given her a ride.  Or bought her another meal.  Yet I hesitated.  Not wanting to upset Mary or risk my own safety, I instead drove a few blocks to the police barracks.

Yes, the police officers are quite familiar with Mary.  Yes, many people have tried to help her.  But she refuses most help.  I was told that she prefers to sleep outdoors rather than go to a shelter; she feels safer by herself.  Sometimes, regardless of our many efforts, there are some souls we cannot help.

For many years I have been involved in volunteer efforts to help homeless and struggling families.  Through my employer, we have provided Christmas gifts to families through the Conference of Churches and donated food and clothing to local shelters.  And I have involved my Girl Scouts in these activities so that they can become aware of what is often invisible to us, even in our own neighborhoods.

tree_editedYou can become involved too.  Call local shelters and ask what kinds of donations they could use.  Volunteer your time to assist these organizations.  Use your talents to help others.  These groups are often in need of legal, medical, or educational services for their clients.  Inquire about what you can do to make life permanently better for a homeless person, rather than just collecting or donating items.

In a way, I believe it was Mary who helped me that night.  My stress level had been rising to a crescendo all week long.  My schedule was packed.  When I crossed one thing off my list, I added another.  The car was in the shop, I fell up the steps at work and smashed my hand, and then came down with a cold the next day.  But so what?

I have a home to go to, and family that love me, and a job, and groceries, and all kinds of stuff that I could certainly do without.  Most of all, I have a healthy mind and a healthy body.  I am blessed in so many ways.  And Mary reminded me of that.

© Vulnerable Path, 2014


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Use Resources Wisely

What is our most precious resource?  Many would say it’s water, or clean air.  One might argue that it’s our farmland.  Some might say oil.  My daughter would say it’s the sun.  She is fascinated by science and found a You Tube video about what would happen if we lost our sun.  She has told me all about it more than once.  It’s scary stuff!  There is no doubt that all of these natural resources are very important to our well-being.

If you are familiar with the Girl Scout Law, you know that one of the commitments we make in the Law is to use resources wisely.  We teach our girls to care about this and take action by conserving water and paper, by not wasting food, and by practicing the guidelines of “Leave No Trace” when we spend time in the forest.

But there is one resource that’s been on my mind a lot lately.  It’s time.  No matter how hard we try, many of us find it very difficult to save time.  We certainly can’t slow it down.  It just keeps going like that Energizer Bunny.  The older we get, the more important time becomes to us.  As kids, we have no concept of it.  Oh, those were the days!  Now I find that it’s December, and another year is almost over, and I’m still wondering what happened to summer!?!?

I mull over the list of all the things I wish I had time to do.  Remember my earlier blog post when I talked about the “have to do” and “want to do” lists?  Now that it’s the holidays, those lists are longer than ever.  I have a Christmas shopping list with 15 people on it.  It’s important to me to wish everyone a Merry Christmas by giving them some sort of present.  There are cards to write out and send.  There are cookies to bake.  There are craft projects to finish.  There are charity events and volunteer activities to plan and attend.  There are additional responsibilities at work.  And all of that is on my “have to do” list!

What do I want to do, you ask?  I want to go for a run on the trail.  I don’t care how cold it is.  I want to go to a yoga class — at least once a week.  I want to begin a consistent home yoga practice.  I want to set time aside each day for meditation.  These things are on the “want to do” list.  But I think they are things that I NEED to do, just like eating a healthy diet every day, or getting enough sleep.  I am not taking care of myself if I am not creating time in each day for rest, play, calm, and stillness.

Two of Brene’ Brown’s Guideposts are:  Cultivating Play and Rest and Cultivating Calm and Stillness.  Reading her arguments for the importance of these elements in our lives validated what I knew in my heart.  But seeing them on the page also made me feel better about raising them up to the top my personal priority list.  If the things we “want to do” are stressing us out, maybe it’s time for an adjustment.  It’s OK to question whether or not the things on your list are actually adding joy and meaning to your life or simply overwhelming you.  Her advice?  Take something off the list; add “take a nap” instead!

Brown explains that some of us respond to anxiety by “over- functioning.”  Hello!  That’s my middle name!  These people will advise, rescue, take over, micromanage, and get into everything rather than look inward.  She points out that, “If we stop long enough to create a quiet emotional clearing, the truth of our lives will invariably catch up with us.”

I’m beyond this already.  I have the truth of my life nagging at me internally almost every minute of the day.  And I must heed to it soon.  I need time in each day to listen to that inner voice and nourish my soul.  The over-functioner in me needs to step aside.

So I am making “Time” my most important resource.  That’s my New Year’s resolution.  To use my time more wisely.  To make an effort to create space in my daily life for the things that will nourish my soul and to remove from the lists some things that just stress me out.  I am going to take some of that over-functioner’ s spirit and direct it at ways to cut down on the items on my lists.

But first, I’m going to take a nap.  Please, wish me luck!