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

Thank You Mrs. Cathy

In observing this year’s theme for Random Acts of Kindness Week, I will be sharing stories about people who have had an impact on my life. The RAK Foundation encourages us to think about who has shown kindness, walked alongside or offered a helping hand by asking the question, Who’s your one?

Having excluded family members, I asked myself…who has shown up in my life that was a game changer? I made a list this morning and as I practice acts of kindness this week, I will be aware of the impact these beautiful souls have had on me, and sharing each day about one of them.

The first name on my list belongs to my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Cathy. I have always been a good student. I’m a first born, and a January girl. Overachieving and pushing myself to excel are traits that are definitely in my nature. The truth is, I didn’t enjoy my first few years in school.

Early on, my teachers just didn’t get me. I was an enigma to them. I already knew how to read when I began kindergarten and that seemed to throw off my teachers. I remember being taken to the big kids’ library as a five year old and being handed books to test my reading abilities. Two teachers and the principal huddled in the corner, watching me. In loud whispers they wondered aloud if I had somehow memorized the stories, hence the random pulling of books off of shelves. I was relieved when they finally believed that I could read. Thereafter I was allowed special library privileges…but I felt like a freak for being singled out and quizzed. I learned in kindergarten to hide what I could do.

My first grade experiences bored me endlessly. The Dick and Jane books were frustrating to me. “See Spot run. Run, Spot, run. Oh, Dick. Oh, Jane. Oh, oh, oh. See Spot run.” Oh brother, I thought. I sat at my desk a lot, drawing and working on other projects. My teacher looked at me often with suspicion, I thought! Another teacher asked me if I was really that smart, or was I cheating somehow. I just stared at her.

I don’t even remember much about the next two grades. The turning point, thankfully, came in fourth grade. My teacher was Mrs. Cathy and thanks to her, I came to appreciate school and look forward to it. Mrs. Cathy had a pleasantly plump figure and short dark hair. She favored cardigans over her dresses and blouses, and sensible shoes. I loved her.

This energetic woman was always smiling or laughing and never shushed her students for laughing out loud either. She made learning interesting and fun, creating games that increased our retention. She allowed kids to learn at the pace that was right for them. Thinking about her this morning, I realized my penchant for creating fun games for myself, something I still practice, was most likely inspired by the brilliant Mrs. Cathy.

The most important thing about Mrs. Cathy was this. She loved everyone. She treated all of her students with warmth and humor and made each boy or girl feel important. I was at a really awkward stage by fourth grade. My hair was growing out, from the last short hairstyle I would ever have. I was in my chubby phase. I was a bookworm, soaking up knowledge like a sponge. And, I was already adept at hiding huge parts of who I was and very cautious about how much I shared.

Mrs. Cathy made me feel like she saw who I really was and she liked me, as I was. She made everyone feel that way. At Christmas time Mrs. Cathy’s desk was covered with small packages from her appreciative and adoring students. I had asked my teacher what she wanted, if she could have anything in the world. With a laugh she replied, “A new car…a blue one!” I bought her a tiny blue car and gave it to her as a Christmas gift. I’m sure I must have bought her something else as well. I’ve forgotten what that gift was. But I will remember forever her peals of delighted laughter when she opened my gift. She wiped tears from her eyes and gave me a tight hug.

I searched the internet this morning, trying to locate my teacher. Sadly, I don’t know what her first name was, and whether she was really Mrs. Cathy or a Miss. She has most likely passed on, as she was in her 40s back in 1967. I could not find any information about her at all. I did locate an alumni group for William McKinley Elementary School in Tulsa Oklahoma, on Facebook. I made a request to join that group. Perhaps I will link up with a former classmate there who can tell me more.

I don’t have a photo of Mrs. Cathy. I don’t need one. I can see her clearly today in my mind, more than 50 years later. She is forever captured in my memories, wearing a dark skirt, white blouse and blue cardigan, head tipped back and eyes squeezed tight as she laughs and gathers a child close in an encouraging embrace.

Alexandra K. Trenfor wrote, “The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” Thank you Mrs. Cathy, for being one of my influencers, for changing the way I felt about school, and even how I felt about myself, and for showing me where to look. I’m sending you waves of love and gratitude. I hope you know what a difference you made in my life.

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.