Touched by Kindness

As Random Acts of Kindness week concludes, I want to finish the week with a post about some of the people who have most impacted my life. I’ve shared already about my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Cathy, about Anthony William whose teachings radically shifted my health and about Byron Katie whose practice of self inquiry known as The Work freed my mind from the chaos of my thoughts and beliefs.

I could go on for another week, thanking people who have walked alongside, for a short time or a long time, or who currently journey with me. I decided to do a combined post instead, and briefly touch on several.

There is a quote that says small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can change the world. The same is true for individuals. Small acts, multiplied by a dozen people, twenty people, a hundred people, can impact and transform a life. The RAK Foundation based their theme this year on the question, Who is your one? Who, they asked, influenced your life? It starts with one.

I’ve had more than one influencer.

These four have several things in common. They are all authors, speakers, and teachers. And, they have all been game changers in my life.

I heard John Eldredge speak at a book seller’s convention in Colorado Springs in 1997. He stood on a stage, in a room of 350 people, dressed casually in jeans and a light blue denim shirt, and spoke about a relationship with God as a Sacred Romance. John used movie clips to illustrate his points. I literally sat on the edge of my seat, transfixed by his words. Here was someone who understood the power of film, partly because he had an acting background, and he understood that God could speak to us through those movies. John gave me permission that day to embrace the kind of relationship I had with God…a very personal one that began in my childhood, and included an ongoing, daily conversation. John and I became friends that week, while I was in Colorado, and I have been greatly impacted by his books and teachings.

I recently became acquainted with Glennon Doyle, after Elizabeth Gilbert mentioned her in a Facebook post. Glennon has a blog called Momastery and has authored two books thus far. Her gut wrenchingly honest, authentic and humorous writing helped me to work deeper into my own authenticity. She continues to be an influencer in my life.

Dear Elizabeth Gilbert first came into my awareness through the movie Eat Pray Love, based on her book by the same title. Reading about Liz’s year long journey to discover who she was gave me permission to undertake a similar journey of self discovery. As my fears disappeared and my long pent up creativities emerged, Liz published a book, Big Magic, that inspired me in the pursuit of expressing my artistic side. I heard her speak in a Wichita a couple of years ago, which furthered my creative journey.

And Michael A. Singer freed my heart and soul.Greg introduced me to Michael’s book, The Untethered Soul. In it he writes about energy, and how we protect ourselves from hurt by barricading our hearts. When we don’t allow experiences to pass on through us, and trap the emotions instead behind those walls we erect, the energy can’t move as it was intended to. Similar circumstances can then trigger that old wound, and we experience pain again, and suffering. Michael helped me to release old, pent up energy and truly experience great freedom and lightness of being.

I know there are other authors and teachers who have shaped my journey. These four, however, have had tremendous life changing impacts.

Friends have shaped my life as well. My best friend Laurie showed me that women don’t have to compete, but can encourage and support each other. Her untimely death at age 36, in 1990, had as great an impact on me as her life did, and took me years to work through. My friend Andy’s suicide solidified my desire to banish fear from my life, after witnessing how his past crippled his present reality and ultimately snuffed out his life. Mark, whom I’ve known for 11 years but met for the first time in 2014, challenged me 10 years ago to “step up and occupy the Mithril shaped space you are meant to occupy.” Mithril is my soul name, and I accepted that challenge. Garen has walked beside me for 9 years, as one of my closest friends, acting often as a sounding board for my creative ideas. He has been there through some of my darkest moments as well. Cate and Marva and Georgia have been women who make a difference in the lives of others, and have certainly touched my life as well. LuAnn inspired my blog, through the example of her life, giving me a purpose to connect to my writing.

All of these people are connected, in intriguing ways. All have helped to weave the tapestry that is my life and without each one, my life today would look very different. Thinking about the impact people have had on my life creates in me a deep sense of wonder and gratitude. It creates as well the desire to offer into the lives of others, and to do so by being my authentic self, by being me.

I am so grateful for all who have been an influencer in my life. I am grateful for my family…parents, siblings and their families…and Greg, my children and grandchildren. Each has offered into my life. Each has shared my journey and altered my path.

May I walk alongside others with an awareness that life is precious and beautiful and fragile and messy and glorious. And may I offer richly into their lives. My daughter Elissa sent me the following meme last week, sharing that it made her think of me. I am honored that she sees me in this way. May it be so! May I be a game changer in another’s life.

You can learn more about the four authors by clicking on their names below:

John Eldredge

Glennon Doyle

Elizabeth Gilbert

Michael A Singer

Random Acts of Kindness Week 2018

Yesterday kicked off Random Acts of Kindness Week, for 2018. I have celebrated this awareness raising week for several years now. Each year has a different theme. For 2018 the week is structured around a question. Who’s your one?

Observed every February, Random Acts of Kindness Week, shortened to RAK Week, focuses on uniting people through generating kindness. Led by the RAK Foundation, officially recognized in 2000, this seven day celebration seeks to demonstrate how kindness starts with one…one person, one kind act.

For 2018, in addition to practicing random acts of kindness, the invitation is to share about the one person who has most impacted your life. Who has inspired you to be a better person? It could be a friend or family member who encouraged you, a teacher who saw your potential, a singer whose song changed the course of your life.

During this week, think about who those people are and tell their stories, share a photo, let the world know that that person, those people, have helped to shape your journey. On social media, tag any posts or photos with #RAKWeek2018 and #CaptureKindness.

I will be sharing stories this week, about people who have impacted my life, beginning with tomorrow’s post. Because I post about my family so often…my immediate family members and my larger extended family…I am going to exclude them. In truth, my family, all of my family…Greg, my children, their spouses, my grandchildren, and beyond that circle, grandparents, parents, stepparents, siblings and their families, aunts, uncles, cousins…ALL have had a tremendous impact on my journey, all have contributed in some profound way. I am deeply grateful for each of them.

I will be sharing this week about some others who have made a lasting impression on me, shifted my thinking or walked with me through a difficult time. I’m allowing my heart to open wide, and I am taking note of who appears and what memories stir.

And I am intentional about offering kindness, in myriad small ways. I have ideas popping into my head…tucking encouraging notes into favorite books at the library, taking pet food to the local animal shelter, handing out Valentines to strangers, donating my time to an organization.

I’m excited to see what unfolds this week, and who enters my awareness to write stories about. And I am happy to change my corner of the world, and send ripples of compassion outward into the universe, one act of kindness at a time.

Being Nice

I’m sharing a few thoughts tonight, from my heart. My attention was snagged this morning by a meme that has stayed with me all day. It’s not the first time I’ve seen it, and the regularity with which it keeps coming into my awareness finally triggered a response in me today. I’ve pondered the words and asked the Divine for guidance.

The words of the meme are from Nishan Panwar, although the quotes I’ve seen rarely give him credit.

I am so drawn to those words. Being nice has gotten a bad rap in recent years. It’s more trendy, more cool, to be a badass. And I get it. While the traditional definition of badass is “tough, mean, uncompromising or intimidating”, the culturally accepted meaning today is different. Currently, to be a badass is to be tough and aggressive, especially in owning who you are.

I understand that. However, being a badass doesn’t draw me or speak to my heart.

Being nice seems so bland.

But is it?

That’s what I walked with as I moved through my day. I let my thoughts rise and flow, without being critical or resisting them.

Late this afternoon I looked up the word nice. I know what it means, of course. Being nice means being pleasant or kind. I was more interested in the word origin though. And I was surprised by what I found.

The word nice originates from the Latin word nescire, which means “to not know”. Before it became synonymous with being kind, in the 17th century, nice was more associated with being ignorant.

Well how was that helpful? I considered halting my contemplation and my study that was sparked by “The world is full of nice people. If you can’t find one, be one.” But that’s not how life works for me. I stayed open and now I asked the Divine…Why am I drawn to this? What am I being shown here? And…ignorant? Not knowing? What??

It was as I was preparing dinner that the ahas came. And, these are my thoughts, my heart, which may be different from another’s interpretation. But this is what arose.

Being nice…being kind…is a choice I make. It’s an action, word, thought or gesture expressed toward another, be it a person, an animal, a group, my family, or myself. I can acknowledge others who are nice, for the world surely is full of nice people. However, I don’t have to find them or see it before offering it myself. I can be nice. I can be kind. It is something that is present within me.

From smiling to a fellow walker as she makes another pass by me, to waving at a child in the store, to reaching out to touch the shoulder of a stranger who is struggling, to deep conversations with friends, to admiring a spider on her web, I can express kindness to others. Being nice doesn’t cost me anything. It only enriches me to live in and offer from such a place.

And the not knowing? The ignorance that is the root word for nice?

What if that is how I am to approach people? What a difference it makes, in my attitude, in my heart, if I approach others without knowing, with “ignorance”, or perhaps “innocence”, about who they are. What if I lay judgements based on outward appearances or behaviors aside, professing ignorance of those things, and I am nice, kind, loving instead?

Nice doesn’t have to be seen as being weak or submissive or timid. Nice can be the conduit through which love and acceptance can flow and flow. Nice can be vulnerability and the openness to offer freely to others and allow them to be who they are, exactly where they are, without expectations or demands.

I feel like I am just beginning to grasp the depth of what being nice is all about. I’m curious about what is stirring in me and around me, curious enough to continue to follow this trail.

“The world is full of nice people. If you can’t find one, be one.” Nishan Panwar

I want to do both…look for the nice people…and be one.

An Angel Named Jason

While I was in Italy, my blog posts focused on each day’s adventures and photos that captured the beautiful landscapes and treasures around us. Honestly, by the end of the long, fun packed days, I barely had the energy to write anything more than that! 

Home now, I want to share some of the stories of Italy, providing depth to the experiences we had. Although this first tale didn’t actually take place in Italy, the events that unfolded enabled us to get to our destination in a timely, and miraculous, way. 

Let me tell you about Jason. 

An Angel Named Jason
Enroute to the Charlotte, NC airport, on our first travel day, the pilot suddenly announced that we were being diverted to Chattanooga, TN. Severe weather in the Charlotte area posed a threat to incoming aircraft. Airports in Knoxville and Chattanooga filled with airplanes, and deplaned passengers, as we all waited for clearance to proceed. 

Most of us on board these planes had connecting flights in Charlotte. In our case, my daughter Elissa, grandson Dayan and I needed to catch our international flight to Rome, Italy. As time ticked by while we were grounded in Chattanooga, it became doubtful that we were going to make our connection. 

We didn’t. The plane to Rome took off two hours before we made it to Charlotte. 

We weren’t the only passengers stranded in Charlotte. As more and more planes arrived late, the airport filled with displaced travelers, intent on finding another flight to get them to their destinations. Imagine that scene. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people scrambling for seats on the few planes that remained at the airport. And imagine the moods of those desperate passengers. There was crying. There was anger. There was frustration. 

We were concerned as well. We had a tour that started the next evening with a welcome dinner.  

And we made a conscious decision. The weather couldn’t be helped. It wasn’t anyone’s fault that connecting flights were missed. We were determined to treat the American Airlines employees with patience and kindness. 

We also took the action steps that we could. Dayan got on the phone with our Missouri travel agent, seeking advice. Ken attempted to book a new flight for us. There was an airplane leaving for London shortly. However, although he could see that there were seats available, he was not allowed to reserve them for us. We were required to speak to an American Airlines employee and arrange that ourselves. The problem with that was everyone was being told that flight was sold out. 

As we moved slowly toward the help counter, a 45 minute process, chaos roiled around us. The three women in line ahead of us were trying to get to Rome as well. Dayan’s dad and stepmom offered helpful suggestions via phone. And Ken called back with this advice: Ask in a kind and authoritative way for seats that were still showing as available on the London flight, even if we were told it was sold out. 

An Angel Named Jason
The series of events that happened next was miraculous to us. 

As we moved closer to the help counter, the situation sounded grim. There were simply no flights available until the next day. It seemed probable that we would not arrive in Rome until Friday, missing the beginning of our tour. The ladies in front of us didn’t seem to be finding seats as they spoke to a representive. We stepped up to speak to the next available rep. Dayan spoke confidently and kindly, explaining our situation. And then he asked for the seats on the London plane. The woman looked at her computer screen, and told us she didn’t want to waste any time. “Go quickly,” she said, “get to the departing plane’s gate and see if they can help you.” 

We had not heard those words spoken to anyone else. With a spark of hope, we trotted through the packed airport, dodging people, pulling our carry on luggage behind us. 

At the gate we were given conflicting information. No seats available. Get in another line. The plane had already been boarded and was preparing for take off. I got in the other line indicated while Elissa and Dayan stayed at the gate, talking to the women behind the counter there. When I turned around to check their progress, I saw Dayan talking to a young dark haired man. My grandson waved me over. 

The man’s name was Jason. He was an American Airlines employee and he took it upon himself to get us on that plane. I don’t know where he came from or why he decided to help us, but we were so grateful for his assistance, even if it didn’t work out. 

Jason moved to an empty counter and using the computer there, got to work. And he was determined. Others said there were no seats available. The computer kept freezing or getting bogged down in a loop. Jason kept working. He called out repeatedly to the two women, “These passengers are supposed to be on that plane. Hold the plane.” 

The time for departure came and went. The airplane remained at the gate. Jason kept working. The women came to believe we were supposed to be on the London plane. One woman even took responsibility for accidently deleting us from the system, sure that we were on the original passenger list. A rep kept checking on our status. The plane needed to leave. 

Jason kept working. He assured us we belonged on the flight. As he worked he shared with us that he was of Italian ancestry. Ah, the reason perhaps, that he was helping us so diligently. He said he still had family in a little town in northern Italy that we had probably never heard of. Lucca, it was called. “Lucca!” we answered, “Yes! We are visiting Lucca. We know of it.” And it turned out, Jason had been on vacation. This evening, this night of chaos, was his first shift back at work. He didn’t know it when he reported to work.  We didn’t know it when we hurried to the gate.  But he was there for us. 

One by one, Jason got us entered into a system that didn’t want to accept us. They were victories worth cheering over as each boarding pass was printed out, and gratitudes were expressed each time the captain was told there were passengers still coming on board. 

Jason did it. He got us on the plane to London. He gave Elissa the name of his great aunt, who owns a hotel in Lucca. We gave him our deepest thanks. As we took our seats on the airplane, among passengers who were, amazingly, not upset by the delay, I marveled over what had just happened. I can’t explain how it happened. I only know that we kept our hearts open and our attitudes pleasant and we asked. We asked and we received. And we flew to London overnight, and from there to Rome. Jason made that connecting flight happen as well. 

An Angel Named Jason
We thought of Jason often during the Italy tour. We talked about him as we wandered through the magical village of Lucca. Could that older woman unlocking her door be his aunt? Did his family live down this lane? We loved that beautiful, medieval town. We loved the connection between it and the angel who came to our rescue in a crowded airport full of upset travelers. 

We are grateful to the Divine, who met us where we were in the journey, and heard our request for help. We are grateful for our travel angel, who appeared with the intention of getting us on the plane. He created a pocket of calm and assurance around us, and brought together a team of people who worked on our behalf. 

Grazie, Jason. Grazie mille. A thousand thank yous. 

An Angel Named Jason  The bell tower of Lucca 

Post a Positive Note Somewhere

Today was Day Two in Random Acts of Kindness Week. The challenge issued for Monday, from the app, was to post positive notes around my city. My grandson Dayan and I did a similar activity in 2014, writing encouraging notes and placing them on the windshields of random cars parked in a large mall parking lot. Both of us pushed beyong the edges of our comfort zones to carry out that mission, and had a blast. 

I was excited to carry out this activity today, leaving notes in easily accessible locations around Joplin. 

Post a Positive Note Somewhere
Post a Positive Note Somewhere
I used small cream papers and brightly colored pens to create positive notes. Some of my favorites quotes came to mind, inspiring words that I turn to often, and I went with those. 

In a few minutes, I had not one but six notes with positive messages on them, including this one from my favorite author, JRR Tolkien:

Not all who wander are lost. 

I didn’t question the appropriateness of the quote. If it popped into my head, I used it. Part of the fun, and trust, of doing random acts is not knowing the outcome. I don’t know who found the notes or what impact the quotes had on their lives. I don’t need to know. Not knowing the finder’s life circumstances means I let go of what I perceive might happen and let the Divine do the guiding. 

Post a Positive Note Somewhere
This was a fun mission. I didn’t get all of the notes placed today. I’ll finish that task tomorrow, along with carrying out a new activity. 

What happened, though, as I moved through my day, was that my awareness of being kind was heightened. I noticed people. I smiled at and chatted with more strangers. I said “yes” more, gave a donation to Children’s Miracle Network when asked to at the convenience store, helped people from a place of joy and lightness. 

I was more kind today, as I tucked my little notes around town. And that is what Random Acts of Kindness Week is all about. 

Post a Positive Note Somewhere

Kindness is Contagious-Pass It On

I love that the moment I woke up this morning, and asked How shall we play today?, an answer was given. I was reminded that today is the beginning of Random Acts of Kindness Week. I had not consciously recalled that fact until I asked the question. 

I first discovered this week long event in 2014, during my Year of Firsts. It has been my practice since, and my joy and privilege, to participate each year. 

Kindness is Contagious-Pass It On
What I did differently this year was that I registered on the Random Acts of Kindness website. They have an interactive site with daily challenges and stories and a way to track my actions, for my own benefit. 

I was delighted to see that one of the challenges was to practice self kindness. What a great way to kick off the week. Sunday is normally my self care day. And in the same way that loving myself overflows into loving others, being kind to myself naturally flows into kindness toward another. 

Kindness is Contagious-Pass It On
I prepared my simple morning meal…warm lemon water and a fruit smoothie…and had breakfast in bed. Gathering colored pencils and my altered book, I further practiced self kindness by creating another page in my art journal, all from the comfort of my cozy bed, with brilliant sunshine streaming in through the windows. Bliss. Tenderness. Creativity. Kindness. And I was prepared for a week of conscious kindness. 

Kindness is Contagious-Pass It On

Kindness is Contagious-Pass It OnToday’s challenge during Random Acts of Kindness Week. 

I am excited to participate in this week of random kindness. Not all of it will be geared toward strangers. Kindness is appropriate to offer to everyone, including friends and family and animals. However, it is fun to do something kind for someone I don’t know, and remain anonymous in the act. 

It is not a coincidence that Valentine’s Day is celebrated during this week as well. For many people, this is a difficult holiday. Rather than focusing on the lack of a romantic relationship, or a relationship that disappoints or is complicated or is less than desired, how amazing if more people focused on showing kindness, and love, toward others. 

Kindness is Contagious-Pass It On
Kindness is Contagious-Pass It On
During this chaotic time, in our country and in the world, what if there was less talk and more action? Less divisiveness and more unity? Less hostility and more kindness? Doing acts of kindness without taking credit for it bypasses the ego and lets the heart take the lead. There is no need to keep score, for these genuine acts are not done for the sake of reciprocity, but done to send positive, loving energy out into the world. 

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. 

What a perfect way to make life a little more tender. Won’t you join me this week, in being kind?

Kindness is Contagious-Pass It On