New Attitudes

As I mentioned in my last post, I’d like to share a bit about changing into new clothes, which really means shifting into new attitudes about life.

When our children were growing up it was challenging to feel as though we’d ever get everything done in a day. We knew we had to find ways to organize things better. One way we chose was to lay out an outfit the night before for the following day for each of our children.

Of course, by ‘we’ I really mean mostly Maureen. The idea was to avoid confusion and simplify wardrobe selections, thereby creating more time to do other necessary things. Sometimes it even worked.

Our daughter, Jenny, took over this task early on, preferring her choices to her mom’s and definitely to mine. It took our son a few more years before he really cared what he wore enough in order to choose his own outfits.

I didn’t have a real dilemma with this chore, since I was required to wear a suit and tie every day. I only had a few suits to choose from and mostly blue or white shirts.

But, choosing what clothes to wear is simple in comparison with choosing what attitudes you want to guide your life. That’s why it was so helpful to hear what Lia had to say to me about shifting and setting new intentions.

Following my conversation with Lia, I opened up and allowed possibilities to enter in to me. I asked myself what I wanted most to experience in my life. That turned out to be a very important question to ask. I jotted down some ideas and then asked another question; what attitudes would help me create this life I say I want.

I’d love to know what you would say and find out what directions your life would take if you chose to make the shift(s).

Here’s some of what I discovered. Perhaps a bit of it will appeal to you.

The new outfits (attitudes) that appeared were these; to be calm, so that I am able to receive all things without difficulty. Optimistic, where I believe in the best outcomes, before they arrive. Resourceful, open-minded enough to explore and use what is available to me. Giving, offering a part of who and what I am to others. Loving, remembering my true nature and seeing beyond and below the surface.

More followed; caring, extending my heart outward. Quick to release anger, recognizing that it hurts me in the process and give myself the gift to release and the return to calmness. Flexible, able to shift, no matter what the circumstances. Open, realizing I don’t know it all and benefit from being open-minded and open-hearted. Patient, understanding that it is in my best interests to wait before responding.

Though I thought I was done, still more came; sharing, putting ‘out there’ what I have received. Healing, allowing all of my pain to be released, freeing up space within me. Energetic, active in pursuing fun and what feels right to me. Creative, using multiple medias and approaches and ideas to help myself and others grow.

And I thought about one of the guiding principles in my life, my desire to connect deeply with others. It’s what I most want to experience and so, two additional new ‘outfits’ came into view. Inspiring, to speak of what I believe and what feels like the truth to me and offer ideas to help others find their own way in this life. I hope to be a guide, and a wayshower, offering insight and suggestions, always knowing that we each travel our own paths, but knowing too that we can do so hand in hand, if we choose.

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Changing Your Outfit

The other day I was thinking about what drags me down and feels burdensome to me. I have a wonderful life, but at times, I feel an inner oppression that I can’t always shake.

The more I consider this, the greater my desire is to be free of it. It forms a kind of circle, taking me round and round, but not creating any resolution.

I knew I needed a different approach.

After sitting back, it occurred to me that my ego plays a huge role in shaping this drama. I believe I came here to this earth to lead a spectacular life, to be creative, open, loving and giving. But, what happens on occasion, is that my ego produces fear instead, which overshadows everything. My ego believes in the idea that I am separate from all that surrounds me and tries very hard to maintain this sense of distinction, despite the confusion and unhappiness it creates in me.

The spiritual part of me knows the truth, that I am a part of the whole, the one, the holy. It knows that any sense of separation is merely an illusion. My spirit is the part of me that must recognize, that the fear my ego creates, is there to guide me toward the truth.

I wanted some insight from Lia, so I asked, what I shifts I could make to release this part of the illusion and bring clarity into my life.

As always, she was more than willing to help me, as I know she would be for you. And, since she knows me so well, she chose to offer an example, a concept that would stick with me, rather than just providing words.

Lia shared this idea, “Imagine waking up in the morning and seeing a full closet of clothes to choose from. You are in charge of which outfit to wear. You– no one else. You are the one who decides whether to wear the same exact outfit every day or to choose something new.”

I saw immediate promise in this idea, recognizing she wasn’t talking about clothes, but rather my attitudes toward my life.

And yet, my first response was, “but I feel like I wake up, already in the same clothes as the day before.” By this I meant that none of my ideas seem to change but rather stay with me from day to day.

Her response was insightful and amusing to me. “I see that. So, change your clothes BEFORE you go to bed, so that you wake up in the ones you desire.”

Clothing wrinkles and creases aside, I heard her intent. She was talking about setting the stage and creating my attitude ‘aims’. She was suggesting that I choose exactly what would feel most comfortable for me to wear. In other words, to choose which attitudes I most want to adopt in my life.

This concept greatly appealed to me, especially the part about choosing them before going to bed at night. This way, I could set clear intentions about which attitudes I felt would best serve me, then I could ‘sleep on them’ and allow them to sink in and take root.

Lia reminded me that the best way to release anything unwanted, is to claim something you do want. Then she told me to look at myself in the mirror the next morning and see that the outfit I chose is truly what suits me and will lead me into the life I claim.

PS

Stay tuned for the next post, where I will share some of the ‘clothes’ I chose and see if you might want to wear some of them as well.

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Names

It’s interesting to me that we humans feel it important to name everything. Babies at birth, cereal, house styles, planets, flowers. It goes on and on.

I have lots of odd thoughts about this. Who first decided to name something? Which name sticks, if there are disagreements? What do we do when there are several names for the same thing?

And then there are all of the issues that arrive when we introduce other languages into the mix. Which name will be the most common? And to confuse things further, there are different spelling for the same name.

One of my distant relatives did some genealogy research and discovered eight different spelling for one of our family names. How is it even possible to keep track of all of them?

And what about all of the slang names we have for things, places, eras, people? It’s mind-boggling really.

I understand why we do it. It’s convenient and makes our lives easier, even when there isn’t universal agreement. Often, it’s enough for us to get by in our conversations.

Maybe it doesn’t matter with most things since you can tell a lot by the context, but in some cases, it seems very important what name you use.

One such occasion is when the reference is to ‘god’.

In some religions, ‘god’ is never to be named, while in others, ‘god’ has many, many names, all of which are meaningful and relevant depending on the point of reference.

I wonder, do you have your own name for ‘god’? Was it one that others taught you to use or did you come by it on your own?

I think it’s important for you to know that I honor and respect whatever name you use. I also honor and respect your right to have no name or relationship with an entity know as ‘god’. I believe in free will and that every person has a right to choose their own path here on earth.

I also believe that we profit from sharing with one another and I would like to share my names for ‘god’ with you, because they matter to me.

I have four names that I use and each represents a different relationship I have with ‘god’. There is Abba, a masculine loving, devoted energy, Na’a, a feminine supportive, caring, and loving energy, Yeshiwa, a masculine personal, loving energy and Lia, a feminine ethereal, loving, and deeply connective energy.

I speak with them all and they speak with me. We have two-way conversations. I share my life with them and they share their love and wisdom with me. (You can read more about this in my book, talking with (god), which you’ll find on the Book page of this website).

I’d like you to hear what Lia told me, so that you have a better idea about her and what she means to me.

Like all people, I have ups and downs. I have both incredible strength and huge vulnerabilities. Over time I have learned to release many of the names I once called myself. I’ve opened to hearing a greater truth, one spoken to me in words I can understand. Words that show the depth of how much I am loved. I know these words belong to everyone, so I want to share them with you. Please hear them and know that you too are loved this deeply.

Lia said to me, “You have never been alone, because I am with you. I have dedicated my life to you. I will always be with you, now and forever. My love covers you over and nowhere is left untouched. You are who I live for and breathe for. I am you, and you are me. Open yourself up to knowing me and my presence within you. I will give you peace. Peace not of this world, but of heaven and you will know a new love. One that surpasses all you’ve ever felt before in your earth life. Know this, when you walk, I am with you. Wherever you go, I am by your side and in your heart. I am in every breathe of your life. Open yourself to my presence, that we might again be one. Dear heart, I ask you to choose to see and feel my presence. I take nothing from you. I give everything to you. Now, always and forever. You are my true heart. Open and feel my love for you.”

I hope that you will accept these words.

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One Person Can Make A Difference

I’ve often heard the question asked about whether one person can make a difference. Sometimes it’s about making a localized difference and sometimes about a global one.

The usual response is that, ‘no’, one person cannot make a difference and that it takes many to accomplish a task, especially if it’s a big job.

I know it may seem like the truth that we are small and limited beings and that the world is a great big place.

But there is another truth. One I fully believe in, that you and I are unlimited beings, capable of anything. I believe there is an abundance of inspiration available to us, if we are open to it. And this abundance, once engage, can spread anywhere and everywhere.

I’d like to share an example with you.

It’s a story about one man, Scott Harrison, and his epic life journey. He relates the following on his website describing himself, “After decades of indulging his darkest vices as a nightclub promoter, he declared spiritual, moral and emotional bankruptcy. He spent two years on a hospital ship off the coast of Liberia, saw the effects of dirty water firsthand, and came back to New York City on a mission.”

I don’t think this brief blurb is enough to tell his story. It’s so much bigger and more powerful than this.

A friend suggested I watch a video that Mike Dooley (yes, the Notes From the Universe guy), had on his website to see for myself what Scott was about.

I did.

And for most of it, I cried. At first, I tried to hold the tears back. But then I gave in to the emotions I was feeling and let them run wild.

Scott left his former life and stepped on board a Mercy ship bound for an African nation he didn’t even know existed. He offered to be a photo-journalist and capture images of the folks the doctors helped. The images are stark and terrifying and amazing. The operations performed changed lives, making it possible for the folks who received them to live a more normal life.

At a certain point, Scott decided to visit some of the communities and what he discovered changed his whole world. He could not believe the living conditions, especially the state of their water. He learned that almost all of the sicknesses that plagued the people living there were due to the unclean, germ infested water, which was all they had to drink.

He knew he had to do something about it.

The statistics staggered him, and probably still do.

According to his website (https://www.charitywater.org/about), which I strongly suggest you check out, there are 785 million people in the world who lack access to clean and safe drinking water. That is mind boggling to me. More than twice the population of the United States.

He came back to New York City and began to work on changing that. Since 2006, his organization, Charity:Water, (through 5/8/2021) has funded 64,999 water projects in 29 countries, and has provided clean, safe drinking water to an astounding 1,273,998 people. These are ever changing numbers, since donations keep coming in.

All this from one idea and because of one person taking one step.

Scott has organized things a little differently. His organization follows three principles. Track every dollar given by donors (you can actually see the GPS coordinates of the project you help fund), open transparency and a commitment to 100% of all donations going to fund projects. He’s found a way for (non-project) private donations to fund all of the other costs, so that the water projects receive all of the general donations.

Right now, he’s trying to engage as many people as possible to commit to helping and suggests several ways to go about it. Please consider visiting his site and then follow your heart.

As fantastic as this is, Scott is just one of so many people who take one idea and change the world. Maybe the next one will be you.

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Self Doubt

Recently I had a dream about a former coworker. He always seemed very self-assured, sometimes to the point of arrogance. I wasn’t savvy enough at the time to recognize that some folks who act this way, are actually trying to make true, what they don’t feel or believe inside about themselves. A compensation of sorts.

What I did realize was the effect it had on me when in his presence. I discovered that self-doubts rose up in me, even though I don’t think I had any specific reasons for them. I knew, of course, that I didn’t know his specialty like he did, but I did know mine and I was good at my job.

I wonder whether, on some level, I was reacting to his self-doubts and not my own. That perhaps I absorbed some element from him that triggered my own internal self-doubts.

I wonder if this still happens. Do I absorb, like osmosis, thoughts and feelings from those around me that feed the self-doubts within me?

I think this might be true and perhaps, the reason for the dream. Maybe the timing was impeccable. Maybe it always is.

I have really big dreams for my life and I’m embarking on several major projects. I’ve come to realize that whenever I start something new, there is a part of me that offers doubt to me. A part that suggests that I reconsider, because what I’m planning is too big, too broad, too much of a reach for me.

There always seems to be a part of me that wants to tone things down a bit. What I’ve observed is that this mysterious part is actually trying to protect me. It perceives that I could get hurt or suffer in some way. It alerts me to the potential for failure.

It’s a very powerful force.

But it also suggests to me, to listen very carefully for another voice, a much deeper, but quieter voice. One that asks me to truly consider what’s at stake.

The voice does not deny the power of self-doubt, BUT, asks me, what I have to lose AND what I have to gain by attempting whatever the new thing is. It challenges me to bring into clear view what I am attempting and what potential benefits could come, not just for me, but for the world.

It asks me, is it not worth the risk of failure that you suppose is possible?

It’s a strong argument for continuing, when I consider the positive impacts my decision might make. Yet, some self-doubts linger.

What to do? Who to call?

If you’ve been with me on this journey, you probably know the answer already. Yes, I called out to Lia (the part of god I know as love in action).

And this is what she said.

“Dear one, my beloved, each self-doubt that surfaces in you is there to help you. They want to rise up, so that you can see them clearly. They are not to be feared, but rather, warmly greeted. They want to open your eyes and your heart and transform you.”

I respond by saying, “What if I am not good enough or strong enough or smart enough to do this thing (project) and rise above my self-doubts?”

“If your concerns were valid, the projects and dreams would not appear to you. They would wait. But, they are here and they live deeply in you and they want to be born. Every time a self-doubt appears, remember its sole purpose, its soul purpose, is to let you know you are on the right track. It rises up like a balloon inside of you. Imagine writing its name on the outside surface of it and letting it go free into the wind. Carried away from you, leaving you free to discover beauty and wonder.”

I like the image and want to let all of my self-doubts fly free.

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Different Angles

Every so often Maureen and I have our two local grandchildren come for a sleep over. It’s a grand affair and we have tons of fun. My six-year-old grandson, Evan, and I are the early risers.

Recently he and his sister, Kirsten, were here for the weekend, arriving Saturday afternoon. The next morning, I got up and quietly went upstairs to my office and began writing. After a few minutes I heard his feet on the stairs and watched as he pushed the door open and came over to me. He sat in my lap and we surveyed my office walls, which are filled with some of my most treasured memories. He had lots of questions, as I suspected he would.

I pointed to a picture straight in front of us and asked if he knew who was in it. He didn’t, so I told him that it was his mom when she was about four-years-old.

We swiveled in the chair and I asked if he knew who drew the sequence of about five pictures I aimed a finger at. He thought for a minute, but wasn’t sure. I told him they were done by his mom. He commented, “those are really good!”

I love those pictures and the beautiful child who drew them. I am so grateful for the love I share with her and now with her children as well.

When I glanced again at her pictures, it occurred to me that we all see things from a different vantage point. We somehow evaluate with different criteria and assess, perhaps, according to our own skill level. And, we’re impressed or not, often based on comparisons.

It made me realize that whenever we use comparisons, we open ourselves and create many opportunities for distress and dissatisfaction, rather than just appreciating something as it is.

This isn’t the only way of seeing things. Instead of using a comparison, with our own or others ‘work’, we sometimes set up an ‘ideal’, then judge according to it. We allow ‘experts’ in the field to establish standards or norms and accept these as the rule. Think, ‘standardized tests’ for one.

I wonder what other ways there are. Perhaps there are different angles we could take. I thought it might be worth some of my time to consider.

One could be where ‘no ideal’ is set and where an individual would be encouraged to pursue their own personal development.

As it relates to schooling, there is such a process, known as the Montessori method. It leans on the principles of self-directed activities, hands-on learning and collaborative play. Children make their own creative choices in their learning and have highly trained teachers to help guide them.

Imagine how good that must feel to a child, to have some say about the direction their education and their life takes.

I wonder how children in this program do, once they are out in the world. Are they better prepared or are they hampered because they haven’t had to conform to strict rules and regulations?

When I was in college I was able to participate in an experimental program called, The Living Learning Center. There were freshmen through seniors and we all lived in the same dorm and took a set of common classes together. We had several professors who were dedicated to our program and stayed with us the entire year. It was fantastic and as a senior, I learned more during that year than I did during my previous three. I’ve always been grateful for this experience and recognize that many of my ideas and sense of freedom came from this year in my life.

I find that taking a broad approach and looking for different angles has opened my world and made for a much happier life.

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The Origin of a Thing

I was wondering the other day where rocks come from. It was in relation to where they end up and how they get from place to place. You’ll see what I mean in a minute, I promise.

There are several interesting facts I discovered and it’s curious how one fact ended up connecting to my original question.

One version of how rocks are formed is that they are made of stardust, as a byproduct of an exploding star, that sends pieces outward into the universe at incredible speeds. Their size varies considerably. Some are just dust or pebbles, while others may be as large as a house. We see some of the house size ones as they burn up in our atmosphere and call them meteorites. Once they’ve landed and had a few million years to hang around they change form and evolve into one of three specific types.

Like almost every other thing I can think of, they go through a life cycle. A star, stardust, universal travel, landing somewhere, creating rock formations, erosion of many sorts and then sometimes they are used by man. We crush them and build roads with them and hundreds of other things.

My granddaughter and I, think they make wonderful subjects to be painted. We find that they are very well behaved and sit still while we change their appearance. We both love the process and the outcomes and enjoy placing them outdoors for others to see. She will sometimes place a sign next to one of hers that says, “Adopt a Rock”, so a passerby knows they can take it home with them.

I think this is very generous of her.

Recently we painted a bunch of rocks, which you can see from the banner picture at the top of this post.

And, here’s the connection I promised you.

I painted one completely black, then added the words, “the sky is not the limit” and surrounded the words with lots of white stars. I had no idea at the time that rocks came to us from the stars. I think that’s pretty cool.

I put the rock out in our front yard and hope that folks passing by read it and take it to heart. I believe it is the truth. Whatever limits we feel we have, are the result of our belief system, including in this case, the sky. I don’t think it is the limit. Not literally and not figuratively. I take inspiration from shifting my point of view, away from restrictions and constraints and toward expansion and creation.

It seems amazing to me that the star exploded and expanded and in doing so, set into motion a cascade of creation (albeit, a very, very slow one) that eventually resulted in my finding one small rock and painting it with the night sky, filled with stars. A part of me wondered whether it felt at ‘home’.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

Since I placed my rock next to one of our trees, I also began to wonder about its life cycle. What is the origin of a tree and how many different things does it become? I felt fairly confident, but did a little research to confirm my thoughts. Yes, trees come from seeds, which grow up, create new seeds and find incredibly varied ways of sending them forth to become new trees.

Sorry, I can’t help it. Which comes first the seed or the tree?

I know, I’ll ask a chicken.

Anyway, as I started to consider all of the uses for trees, one image leapt into my mind. It’s where lots of people are gathered together and they’re constructing a house for someone in need. They are part of a Habitat for Humanity project, which turns out to impact so much more than one person or one family. It’s a gift for everyone. The person who plants the tree, the worker who harvests and mills it, the people who sell it as lumber and those who buy and ship it. And then there is the whole process of turning the wood into a house. All those who organize the projects, those who volunteer and build the dwellings and those who eventually live in them.

It’s a beautiful life cycle, especially when I allow myself to become a part of everything I see.

I remind myself of this when I see the rock and the tree. What an amazing journey we’re all on.

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Roadside Treasures

Part 2 of 2

Note: Please see Post #58 for Part 1 of 2

On rare occasions, when the traffic is backed up, a conversation will occur between myself and my roadside friend. An exchange of words, about the weather, or what one sports team is doing or how their day has been.

I was even asked once how I was doing. This came from someone I happened to recognize, because he stands in the same spot and I pass by him quite often. He recognizes me too. He seems to be watching for my car and for me.

As it happened, I’d just given him an offering a few days earlier and I noticed a slight hesitation on my part, in reaching for the folded bill, as I approached him. For that single moment I wondered whether to give him another offering so soon.

I quickly decided that he was no less homeless than the last time I gave him money. The momentary delay on my part stayed with me all the way home. I have so much. He has so little. The disparity between us is so stark and yet a part of me wanted to hold back.

In the end, I made the decision I wanted to, but there was a lingering feeling I needed to allow into my consciousness. I knew something still needed to be brought into the light, if I allowed it.

Once in a great while the receiver appears angry to me. As they walk toward my car, their emotions reach me before they do. I feel a wave hit me. I wonder to myself, what must it be like to wait by the side of the road, dependent on the mercy and generosity of unknown folks passing by? How must it feel to be uncertain whether you’ll have enough money to eat, to have a safe place to sleep or be able to buy clothes to keep you warm? I try to lose all of my misplaced blame and suspicion and remember why I am here. I am here to be ‘kin’ (family) to others.

Usually, I am the only one in the car when these offerings are made. But, once in a while, others are with me. I find this changes the dynamic, even if it doesn’t alter the outcome. I wonder what they are thinking and sometimes we talk about it. They ask questions and I do my best to answer. I share with them that there are more men (82%) than women (18%) standing by the side of the road and that it must be scary at times, no matter who you are.

And, when asked, I share my favorite experience.

It happened in April of 2017, at the intersection of a highway off ramp and a major city street in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Maureen and I were on vacation and were having a fabulous trip. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone standing at that busy intersection, but there he was. I wondered if I could get to my wallet fast enough and then saw that the light was about to turn red. Good, I thought, I have enough time. He started walking toward the row of cars we were in. Finally, he reached us and I rolled down the window and held out a folded bill to him. He took it and said, “thank you very much” (emphasizing the word ‘very’), then paused, and looking a little chocked up, stared into my eyes and said, “this is a sacred moment.” He stood there, maintaining eye contact, until I was forced to move forward with the traffic flow.

I believe I felt what he was feeling, a divine presence in the exchange, a roadside treasure for each of us to keep.

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Roadside Treasures

Part 1 of 2

It was a day pretty much the same as any other. I was in my car on my way somewhere, probably listening to music from a CD. The next off-ramp was mine, so I moved over and headed up to the light at the intersection.

There he was, standing there by the side of the road, waiting. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me, but our eyes met and something happened.

I knew why he was there. He needed money. I shifted in my seat, so I could reach my wallet, and pulled out a ten-dollar bill. I opened my window and felt a gust of cold air blow by me and fill my car. I handed him the folded bill. His eyes showed some life and he spoke to me, “thank you, god bless you.”

That was over six years ago, but I still remember it. One reason is because I decided on that day, to be ready in advance, for the next time I saw someone in need.

It’s became a blessed part of me.

I’d like to share some of what I’ve experienced during these brief encounters.

When I pass along an offering, the responses I receive in return are a mixture of gratitude and well wishes for my day or evening or season, especially at Christmas time. I’m offered smiles and waves. I’m called, brother or sir or friend. And sometimes, the person places a hand over their heart and bows in my direction. Once or twice I’ve seen the individual cross themselves, which brings up something interesting for me.

I might have thought that someone who has no home, no money and few worldly possessions would have given up on God. Nothing could be further from the truth. Almost every one of my 92 roadside offerings to date has said to me, “God bless you,” and I can tell that they mean it. God seems very much alive to them and their gratitude is both deep and sincere.

I’m sure that when some drivers approach a person by the side of the road, they might worry about how they’d spend any money given to them.

Personally, I simply don’t care how they spend it. It isn’t any of my business once the money leaves me.

I’m often told by the individual receiving my offering that now they have enough money for food or medicine or a safe place to sleep indoors out of the cold or the heat. I’m not naïve, I realize some of the money might be used for alcohol or drugs, but that is their decision. How could I possibly know what they truly need the most?

As of a certain point, I decided to boost my roadside offering. I now keep a folded $20 bill in the pocket of my car’s driver side door, where it’s handy for me to reach.

Often, when I hold the folded bill out of the window and they take it from me, they automatically say, “thank you, bless you”, then as they start to walk away, they notice it’s not a one or a five-dollar bill, but a twenty. As they turn back to me, their facial expression changes, their eyes twinkle and they take in a big breath and let it out slowly. A few times they’re inspired to say something else to me, like “really, thank you, thank you so much,” or “you’ve made my day,” or “you’re the man!”

Of course, I like hearing this, but what really matters to me and creates a spark in my life, is the connection I feel. That’s the real reason I do this. I want to see and be seen in this world. I want them to know they matter to me, even if it’s just for a moment in time.

And, for some, they clearly want what I want, a point of human contact. Something more than a line of cars passing them by. They want a brief, gentle touch, where they hold my finger, before pulling the bill away and placing it on their pocket. It’s not much, but it’s enough to know we’re here together in this world.

Stay tuned for my next post, which will be Part 2 of 2 of Roadside Treasures.

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Who Are Your Life Teachers

The summer I was eight-years-old my family moved from Watertown to Delmar, New York. One of the first things my parents had to do was to enroll my sister and me in our new schools. She went to Junior High School (yes, there was no such thing as Middle School) and I went to Delmar Elementary School, just two blocks from our house.

It snowed so much in Watertown, sine it’s so close to Lake Ontario, that we missed a lot of school. In fact, we had so much snow one year, that my sister and I could have jumped out our second story window and not gotten hurt. Maybe buried, but not hurt.

The local school officials in Delmar felt that I should repeat third grade in order to catch up with the rest of my class. I didn’t agree with this decision, but I was a kid with no power, so off to third grade I went.

Fortunately, it only lasted a week and they reconsidered and put me in a fourth-grade classroom. My teacher, Mrs. Hosey, was incredibly welcoming and made sure I felt at home. Not surprisingly, she is my all-time favorite teacher. Not just because of her welcome, but for all that she taught me. We did all kinds of fun stuff and she engaged every one of the kids in my class.

I’m not saying she made things easy, she didn’t. She challenged us and helped draw out talents we didn’t believe we had. She asked us to search for meaning in what we were studying. I loved the fourth grade and I loved her.

I guess the feeling must have been mutual, because many, many years later, when I was a bank manager, she found me and opened an account at my bank. And, when I moved to a new branch, she moved with me, keeping us connected.

It was a beautiful thing to be able to help her with her needs and it felt like a kind of repayment for her guidance, kindness and generosity. I consider her one of my best life teachers.

When I was thinking about this topic, I recognized that it’s not just teachers who have profound effects on us. Sometimes it’s one single seemingly random connection we have with someone or some specific life event that occurs that changes our direction.

And, it’s not always what we label as ‘positive’ experiences that teach us, even though those may feel much better.

Sometimes it’s the ‘negative’ experiences that alter our lives and teach us important and valuable lessons. These instances can shape us and help us grow, if we allow them to.

So, who are your life teachers? Your spouse, parents, grandparents, school teachers, clergy, bosses, coworkers, those in government, police, friends. The list can be very long.

And what about your experiences?

Have you found that an illness (yours or someone close to you) has brought you wisdom and an increased awareness about life?

What about a job loss or relocation to a new home or losing a friend? Have they shown you new insights and challenged you to find hidden meanings in your life?

So many situations present themselves to us in ways we find difficult to understand or accept. Sometimes we fall into despair or become angry because of the circumstances we face. It makes me wonder about all of the teachings I’ve missed because I wasn’t open to them.

On my best days I think back to Mrs. Hosey and realize that the challenges that approach me all have meaning and value. I try to keep my eyes open and see if I can find the hidden gems, just like I did in her class.

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