Be a Noticer

“The real heroes anyway aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention. The guy who invented the smallpox vaccine didn’t actually invent anything. He just noticed that people with cowpox didn’t get smallpox.” — Augustus Waters, in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars

2015-07-03 15.03.20

We are almost there.
It’s almost that time of year again, Students. And while you’re probably not even thinking about sitting in class behind a desk, not anxious yet to trade in summer for fall: I am already there in my mind. It’s already happening.
I am already planning and thinking and wondering and hoping. I am already imagining you.
I wonder who you are, what makes you tick, what you like, where you live. Are you a morning person or a late-night owl; are you funny, are you loud? Do you have any fears of your own? Are you ready for this next chapter of your life to open wide and be written?
Who are you?
And while we might have never met, I do have one thing I want to offer you right now, before everything begins again and we are caught up in the surge of emotion that accompanies each given school year.
My biggest hope for you—what I want for you even before I have met you and come to know your unique personality and particular way of knowing, is that you be a ‘noticer’. A ‘see’-er of life.
We are not taught to notice, we are taught to do. Told to get out our pencil and pens. Get out our paper, and write. Read. Discuss. Speak. Told to turn to page 5 and then fashion a paragraph. Told to answer six questions on page 32.
We are not taught to notice, we are taught to act. Told to cut and shape. Mold and make. Told to fashion that school bus craft just as we’re told. Told to fold the paper along the crease. Told to colour in the lines.
We are not taught to notice, we are taught to perform. Told to sit right, listen up, shut up, straighten up, fly right. Told to mind our manners, watch our tongue, keep it down, watch out.
We are not taught to notice, we are taught to produce. To achieve, churn out, give up, construct and generate.
But we are not taught to notice.
Have we ever stopped to consider that noticing precedes doing? And yet, we are not taught that this act in itself is essential. We are encouraged rather to act. To get things done. To carry out both our will as well as that of those in authority over us.
Students, if I can ask of you just this: learn to notice the world around you. Learn to watch more carefully, listen more closely, feel more deeply, understand more fully.
Watch with both your eyes and ears. Use all the senses that have been gifted you.
Listen with both your ears and your heart.
Feel others pain and joy with compassion and care.
Understand that this life is not just about you—it is about a world around you full of people and living things that beg for you to notice them.
We have not been shown well, not really been taught how to notice the people and world around us. You can change this pattern, Student. You can be the one to do things differently.
One smart decision at a time.

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Dear You (For When You Need A Word of Encouragement)

“Most of us, swimming against the tides of trouble the world knows nothing about, need only a bit of praise or encouragement – and we will make the goal. “ – Jerome Fleishman

Dear You (For When You Need A Word of Praise):

Encouragement is like a love letter to the heart. It instantly lifts. Immediately upholds the soul both in times of mundane living (when the senses have been dulled) as well as supports in times of acute need, where much more intervention is necessary. Encouragement is the Balm of Gilead- the universal cure for the heart’s pain and hurt. It heals, restores, enables, engages. Encouragement is both a consolation as well as a joy to the heart of the hearer. We crave these words of support as we strive to live and press onward in our ordinary day-to-day living- need them even when life becomes complicated and hard to understand. For what we really need is something to persuade us to just.keep.going. We need encouragement.

How we need them, those words of affirmation and confirmation.

I am standing there in the church kitchen wiping dishes, sorting the cutlery into neat piles. Forks, knives, spoons, serving utensils. Routinely wiping and sorting, wiping and sorting…when he comes to stand beside me, an older gentleman whom I am not ordinarily inclined to chat with. We stand for a moment side by side and then he turns to me and says something I am not expecting. I am actually caught off guard for a moment. He tells me that he reads my blog articles and that in the reading, they have somehow meant something to him; enough so that he feels the need to share this sweet word of encouragement with me in this tender moment. He also shares that he reads my writing quite regularly, which is just so touching I cannot keep from smiling as he talks. I have not expected this at all- was not really aware. Nor did I realize how very much I needed this little bit of nudging and support so as to encourage me and spur me on.

After he leaves, I realize that this private exchange had (between two acquaintances) might seem insignificant to anyone but me. I might have continued to think such if I had not opened my email account later on in the day only to find that I had received a message from someone I know not at all. A person who tells me that they weep even as they write the letter- a stranger to me, yet a person willing to bear their soul; in their hurt and pain, the individual expresses to me how the discouragement they are feeling has wounded their spirit. Has all but pushed the individual to make decisions that would change the course of their career path. And it is as if we know each other intimately, for the details of this story are so similar to mine that I could have written the words of this letter myself.

My heart reaches outward. I just wish I knew what to say so as to help lift this individual from the hurt they feel.

In the moments in which I read the words, recalling back to the moments earlier when I was myself encouraged, I start to wonder if what we all need in life is a maybe a cheerleader assigned individually to each and every one of us. An avid personal enthusiast who ‘likes us, loves us, cares for us’- regardless what happens to act as a roadblock in our day-to-day living. Someone who is there behind us as we go through our lives, quietly supporting our work and living, even if from the sidelines. What we need is a devoted advocate who works tirelessly on our behalf. Someone who is willing to champion our cause, form our fan base, work up our support channels. I know I could certainly stand a fan or two such as I have just described.

For is this not what we need so as to be encouraged- an individual supporter or a group of followers to stand behind us as we walk this life’s road? Is this not the ideal?

Certainly, if you take in social media at all, this aspect of forming a fan base with a multitude of followers would appear to be the way to go; for everywhere you turn, there is the call to show support and public praise. It seems to be the sought-after prize these days. Pages on Facebook asking for ‘likes’ or photos on Instagram asking for hearts. Twitter left looking for ‘faves’. We are a people in need of encouragement, driven to rack up our support systems so that it becomes almost a popularity contest; it seems we are willing to do anything to get votes, even to the point of outright begging for them.

Is this what we all need? A fan base based on likes, hearts or favorites? Do we really need the approval of the crowd so as to find encouragement and sustenance for our journey on life’s rocky terrain? And if so, how would one go about getting the numbers so as to make any difference?

If what we need is a fan base, or at the very minimum- A FAN: how would one go about convincing another person to be that fan for them? Persuading another to selflessly act in ways so as to uplift and encourage on a regular basis, as the need arises? And who would we ask- a father or a mother? A best friend, spouse or partner? And what would happen in their absence? Would a sibling fill in? It seems a monumental task trying to derive a consistent base of support from which to draw from when life’s trials and troubles get us down.

Perhaps rather, what we really need so as to lift us from the slump of life’s ho-hum, everyday living is not so much a fan or fan base but this: to be ourselves the encourager, the one behind-the-scenes following and ‘favoriting’ the work of another: the fan of another person who needs a quiet word of encouragement or a humble nudge of approval. So that the work that person is found to be doing can then be acknowledged in some way; so that the life that person is living can be recognized and known. What we all need as a discouraged people is to be the followers of others in our lives so that the one’s we are quietly supporting from the sidelines are shown that THEY ARE TRULY VALUED. So that the people in our lives are shown that they are worth our time and effort. When we offer praise, isn’t it interesting how the focus of our emotions becomes less about us and more and more about the significant others in our lives? It seems that much of our own discouragement is dissolved just by our decision to be an encouragement to others.

What we truly need so as to be encouraged ourselves is to BE an encouragement to others.

Life can get people down- it’s a tough world out there and a hard place to navigate sometimes. Without people in their lives who truly see them for what they are worth, people can tend to forget the intrinsic value inherent in their being. That’s our job- to remind them. Without people in their lives who care and hold out for the best, people can so easily throw in the towel. That’s our job- to support them. Without people in their lives to offer comfort and solace and cheer when hardships seemingly overpower and overwhelm, people can forget sometimes that there are answers for the predicament that life’s trouble and pain pose. That’s our job- to offer that word of hope.

Because if we truly want to know how best to bring ourselves out of the weariness and discouragement we so often feel as people, the best way to do to this is to be ourselves an encouragement and advocate for others. It’s the antidote to discouragement.

Being that word of encouragement ourselves that others so desperately need is the way to refocus our eyes on what really matters, lifting our hearts in the process.

So to that dear One Who Is Struggling:
Be encouraged. Know that someone out there cares.
Be confident. Know that someone believes in you.
Be inspired. Know that someone stands behind you.
Be hopeful. Know that your life was created for a purpose.
Believe.

And know with all your heart that I’ll be standing by as your number one supporter.

On Fighting in the Family

It’s supper time in our house. As soon as we all come together, it seems the tensions rise. Someone did something to someone else and it just continues to unravel from there. Words fly, accusations are tossed about. Insults become pointed. Sarcasm is certainly the lowest form of wit, Wilde got that right. Everyone thinks their version of the story is the right one, and they are willing to put anyone else on the chopping block so as to maintain face. This is how it sometimes can be when families gather around the table.

And on other nights, I am reminded that civil behaviour is possible. We can show kindness and love. We can be gracious. We can treat one another respectfully. It is possible- there is hope.

Yesterday, I browsed through one of my favorite blogs and was disheartened to find a full-fledged debate about the hot topic of homosexuality and what people believed about such. There were a lot of “I thinks” and verses to sway one side to the other. And on and on it went- one mean-spirited comment after another. I say I was ‘disheartened’ because every time these debates occur, there is in-fighting amongst believers, non-believers and otherwise. And such mean-spiritedness. And hatred. And, ugh…it is all so ugly. It rather reminds me of a family at suppertime fighting about what they believe so strongly to be right- so much so that they would be willing to throw their fellow brother and sister under the bus so as to prove their point.

I am reading a great deal about care these days and one care theorist that I have studied in great depth is Nel Noddings. In her groundbreaking book on caring in schools, she had this to say: “the living other is more important than any theory”. And while I hesitate to include this quote as a blanket-statement, I do think that we often sacrifice the people in our lives for creeds or doctrines we hold as truths. We make adherence to a certain dogma more important than the people we live and work alongside. And while I think there are things we can live and die by- while I believe in truth and holiness and justice and all things good and right, I do not think it is ever worth sacrificing one’s brother or sister- throwing them under the bus to get trampled for the sake of an argument. For the sake of a debate. Debates like these drive wedges deeply between people, Christian or otherwise. As I have watched martyrs for the sake of the Gospel (the Good News of Jesus’ love for us) give their lives for the truths they hold near and dear to their hearts, I cannot help but see in their faces a unity with their brothers and sisters. There is no debating the current topical issues as you stand on the line, your life in the balance at the behest of a terrorist- your fellow brothers and sister in Christ lined up on either side. Clarity and lucidity suddenly comes into full view when the eternal things that really matter are before your eyes.

I love the verses in the Bible that call us to clarity. Verses like Micah 6:8 (NIV):
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly[a] with your God.

Ours is not to do the work of the Spirit of the Living God, acting as our brother or sisters conscience. We have enough work to do in our own lives without trying to take on the job of making decisions for someone else. Getting inside their heart and head so as to figure things out- we don’t know their heart. And we never truly will. The heart is a private place that only the individual and the supernatural are given entry to. We can observe, but we can never truly know. We need to stop playing God. We are not God.

We have just celebrated that glorious of Christian holidays: Good Friday leading way to Easter Sunday. We have risen with Christ- we are no longer counted as among the dead. Why do we continue to live like we are counted among the defeated? It is God who has given us life, we are no longer in chains bound by our own pride and arrogance and superiority. We are free to walk humbly with God. And free to trust that God is doing a work in the hearts of women and men that no eye can see nor ear can hear. His work is often in the secret places- He works that way. With a still small voice.

In the secret.

I love this verse as well, and I believe that for Christians such as me- who have known Christ for a good long time, it is an important one for us to remember first and foremost:

Psalm 51:10 (NIV): “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

This verse calls us as people of God to remember- the work that we so desperately feel MUST be done in others lives, really begins in our own hearts. God works personally. He doesn’t call us to look to the left or to the right- to see what our brothers and sisters are doing wrong (like children fighting at a supper table): He calls us to look inside of our own hearts to see if there is anything there that stands between us and the Father.

Finally, I love these verses about how to act toward our brothers and sisters in Christ- or anyone else, for that matter:
John 13:34-35 (ESV): “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

By our love, people will know that we love Him. What beautiful words to live and grow and breathe by.  May this timeless truth be so in our lives today- that they know us by our love.

What We Need To Remember About Parenting

Dear Mothers Everywhere (including any Fathers that care to chime in on the debate),

Suppose for just a minute that a new rule has been established and we as parents are all going to be evaluated and judged by it. Are you ready for it? The rule, that is? Okay. The rule is (drum-roll, please): Good parenting is now to be decided on what type of cereal you serve your children for breakfast.

Uh-huh.

So here is how this is going to go down.

If you fall into the hot cereal camp, you will promote until your final dying day the virtues of hot cereal as a means of raising healthy, well-rounded children. Red River, Steel-Cut Oatmeal, Cream of Wheat and who-knows-what-other concoction that is hot and steamy and otherwise infused with elevated temperatures inducing heat- it’s all good. And oh so necessary for a child’s best start to life. But let’s not just leave it there. This hot cereal movement- it must continue all throughout your offspring’s childhood to be otherwise effective. A child must have hot cereal served to them (on a golden platter or not) for the duration of their stay in your home, or this effort will be thwarted. For a mother/father to be competent, hot cereal is the only way to go.

Unless you fall in line with thinking in the other camp.

That is, you find yourself believing that cold cereal is the only means to raising a healthy, productive, loving child. Cheerios, Shreddies, Rice Crispies, Shredded Wheat- the colder the product, the better the outcome. As long as it is served with a chilled dousing of your pick of milk, your child will be guaranteed to turn out as good as is humanly possible.

Of course, there will always be parents that fall in between the dividing lines- choosing to, at times, serve hot cereal for a while before returning to an all-cold service (or vice-versa). And what do we do with parents who don’t serve cereal at all?

The absurdity of basing one’s parenting on what type of cereal one dishes up for breakfast seems a bit ridiculous, although there are no doubt very strong feelings about such, somewhere in the world (a quick perusal of Google comes up with 22,400,000 results).

But really, is this debate regarding cereal types such a crazy thing on which to base our parenting expertise? Could it be that we as parents make much ado over anything, given the opportunity- polarizing ourselves into starkly opposite camps over just about every issue under the sun?  There are more ridiculous arguments to be had, for sure.

This is where I am going with all of this. Over the last forty-eight hours, there have been quite a few viral articles floating around regarding which is better- STAY AT HOME PARENTING or PARENTING BY THOSE WHO WORK OUTSIDE THE HOME. It sort of feels like we are reducing our uniquely individual choice to parent to an issue of what type of cereal we must needs offer so as to raise healthy children. Because quite honestly, from what cereals we serve up… right on through to whether we work outside the home or not: these are uniquely personal choices one must make as a parent and not blanket decisions that one camp or the other really has any influence over.  Let alone the court of public opinion.

Perhaps today, I feel the desire to serve hot cereal. Tomorrow I might rethink that decision.

I say all this to say the following: I have been both a SAHM as well as a working mom (of which I am currently), and for both parenting roles, I have agonized deeply over the best possible means in which to parent while carrying out my responsibilities. My desire as a mom/parent is to be the best possible mom I can be- whether I am serving up cold cereal or hot, whether I am working outside the home or not.

To reduce these decisions- which I must make as a uniquely personal choice that is best for my particular family- to the public arena of opinion and debate, (in which people are polarized into camps and otherwise divided and alienated) is truly a shame.  It is a shame along with being a shame-inducer.  Double-whammy.

Let’s live and let live, people.

We are all doing the best we know how. We are all in this together. We are making the best choices we are able to make given the circumstances of our lives right now. Let’s stop making one another feel bad for the parenting choices we make and start a movement of compassion for one another to replace it that builds on unity rather than division.

Because truth be told: parents who love their kids are far more effective when they are making decisions that suit their family’s needs than they are when doing what they feel ‘guilted’ into doing because of societal pressure.  Love wins over duty each and every time- and we all know, you can’t box in love.

It’s too big for that.

We need to stop the (cereal/ parenting debates) shaming once and for all… in the name of love, people. If you love your kids and you are doing an otherwise decent job of raising them, WHO CARES WHAT KIND OF CEREAL YOU SERVE UP FOR BREAKFAST!!!

All is Grace

2015-02-03 16.47.45

The sun beckons through the glass of my kitchen windows. We are now on Daylight Savings time and the possibilities seem endless for a low-key Monday evening. I suggest a walk through the field by snowshoe and then call for the girls to resume their igloo building while I finish up a few last-minute errands. I slip on my snowshoes and climb the steep incline to the field where the girls are forming a play-fire from some branches and small evergreens twigs. It is just one of those perfect evenings made for play and whimsy.
Husband and I set out through the field with the sun behind us, the effect of which makes the landscape a tableau of brilliant white as far as the eye can see. The contours of the land are increasingly difficult to navigate and predict, and I find myself catching a snowshoe here and there, nearly tumbling face-first in a less than glamorous free-fall. I steady myself and stay the course, sinking more and more the further we advance with the softer snow drifts.
We walk back to the old tree that marks the land. It has been a marker of the passage of time, but time does take its toll. A large branch has been whiplashed by our fierce winter winds and now lies perpendicular to the stately boughs that still stretch up to the sky. I rest over the branch for a while and gaze pensively off into the distance. Husband stands beside me and we pass the moments in silence.
I find myself thinking more and more about the moments and days and months and years that are quickly passing us by. It seems like five minutes ago that Husband and I first laid eyes on one another. In truth- that moment was 23 years ago. And with two decades and a bit under our belts, you would think we must have found the secret that happy couples ascribe to so as to keep the tenderness alive, keep the fires burning. Think we’d know the answers.
In truth, marriage is hard. It doesn’t get any easier either. But then again, so is life and it doesn’t get easier either.
I read tonight of Kara Tippetts, a beautiful mama and wife who is fighting cancer- but claiming that every day is grace. I think of my own dear warrior friend Wendy Gallant who lost her battle to cancer but has left behind her incredible legacy as a wife, mama, friend, community member and influence. I feel tears fall as I think that the world will be/is emptier for the loss of women like these two. I grieve the change that the passage of seasons brings.
Kara describes death as leaving the party too early. She talks about feeling like a little girl whose Daddy has come to pick her up before the birthday party has officially ended. She says it is not that she is afraid to die- she just isn’t wanting to leave yet. I wonder if this is how my dear Wendy felt. I’m sure she would have asked for just one more day if the suggestion had been offered.
Life is so difficult to comprehend even in its raw, jagged beauty.
I turn to Husband and I wrap my arms around his solid frame. I feel that this is where I need to be right now. Right here. We embrace in the quiet solitude. All is peace. All is grace.
We fight continually for that peace and grace to hold us even as the storms of life rage around our fragile vulnerability. We are so weak- so frail. And yet there is a strength that sustains even in the midst of life’s uncertainties. There is always enough grace for the day.
Grace holds tenderly.
And that is what knits me together in this fading light of the day. That Grace. Felt in a Husband’s embrace. Whispered on the evening breeze- I will always love you- for I always have. And I always will. A Father’s grace- eternal, sustaining and unending.
And it is enough. It is more than enough.

Because They Are Worth It

I am walking down the hall, getting ready to head for home, having arrived at the end of yet another day substituting in the school system. As a new teacher, I am young and eager- believing that I have the world by the tail. Believing that I can really make a difference. As I round the bend in the corridor, making my way towards the stairs, I can hear his angry voice even before I see him. A veteran teacher, yelling at a student. I wonder at all the commotion, but soon find myself right in the midst of the upheaval as the pair- teacher and student- are right in my line of vision. Right in my path.

I immediately feel uncomfortable. This is awkward, listening in on a rant. As I am the only one privy to the exchange, I quickly become aware that the teacher is railing on the student for holding up the school buses. The student looks quietly at his shoes as he scuffles along, even slower now that this altercation has held him up- all while I try to pretend that I am invisible. And yet, the teacher will not let up, not stop the steady stream of verbal abuses that flow freely from his mouth as he expresses his disgust for this student’s tardiness.

There is no mistaking the loathing in this teacher’s voice. I can tell, from these briefest of moments as I awkwardly manoeuvre my way out of the unfolding scene and out of the school: this teacher does not seem to like this boy. His tone, revulsion and absolute disgust indicate such to me, an observer.

I wonder how the boy feels.

Over the years, I have thought about this boy. Thought on this situation as a whole. Wondered what I, an inexperienced, young female teacher should have done. Could have done. But more than this, I have thought about that boy. Wondered whatever became of him.

Wondered.

I wonder, do we ever pause to think about him? That little boy (girl?) that puts us as teachers in a tailspin each and every day. Do we stop to think about what makes him tick? Think about what he cares about? Have we ever stopped to contemplate his developing person, complete with those infuriating boyish ways? I wonder. Do we take time to sensitively consider that boy who drives the teachers mad, makes their hair turn prematurely grey. I wonder if we ever stopped to think about who he really is underneath all the bad words, infuriating manners, cold stares. I wonder, have we ever stopped to really think about him- as an individual? Lingered momentarily to see him for the person he really is inside all that childhood clutter?

I wonder.

Do we know that he collects hockey cards by the dozen? That he loves to watch his Grampie fix stuff in the old back shop? Do we know that he has a subscription to Lego magazine? That he never uses a pattern, his mind too bright for that. Do we know these things?

Do we know how very much he worries about being put on the spot? That he fears being asked questions? Fears being called out each and every day for things he knows he shouldn’t do but can’t help doing anyway? Do we know? Know that he goes home and thinks about his days too- wonders why life has to be so hard.

Do we know?

When I was first expecting our oldest child, I remember wondering what it would be like to be a parent. Wondered what it would be like to have a child, hold a child, feed a child. Raise a child. What would that child look like? Be like? Act like? Would I love them at first sight? Would I be able to do this? My reasons for becoming a parent were varied, but largely I became a mom so that I could open my heart to love another human being. Little did I ever realize how deep that love would grow.

Rewind backwards.

In that same line of thinking, as I sat in the university lecture hall for my first class of the Bachelor of Education program, I remember the professor that day talking to us about our reasons for becoming a teacher. Ideals like making a difference and leaving a legacy were certainly discussed, but I don’t remember any talk about care and love ever being raised as important indicators of teaching excellence. My reasons for becoming a teacher- for choosing the teaching profession were also varied, but largely I became a teacher for more self-serving purposes than those reasons for why I became a mother.

Little did I realize back then that I would one day see caring as the ultimate criterion for how I carried out my life’s work.

The children and young people that come to us each morning with such varied, interesting, colorful lives- complete with behaviour issues, medical concerns, mental and psychological complications, social and emotional hang-ups: these are people. People that someone loves very deeply, somewhere. And yet, when they come to us in the school system, somewhere along the line it has been decided that when educating incoming teachers, we are off the hook when it comes to learning how to care for our students. Caring does not play prominently in the educational configuration of upcoming teachers. We either learn it along the way or we forgo it all together.

Recently, a young teacher confided in me that they were surprised at how much caring was involved in being a teacher:
“They don’t teach you this stuff in the Education Program,” was what the individual said.

And while that might be true, the fact of the matter is that most of our students need to feel a sense of our caring interest and engagement from us as teachers so as to move to the next level, academics. While some students might learn something from a teacher they don’t think likes them, many will not. It’s like anything in life, we are willing to give our best to the ones we believe see that best in us.

Caring counts.

And until we start to see people for who they are- unique, complicated, beautiful human beings, our world is just going to continue to live out the same old problems. People who are unloved as children often become unloving adults. People who are uncared for as children often become uncaring adults. People who experience a deficit of compassion, grace, kindness, mercy and forgiveness as children- while some might overcome the obstacles, many go on to exhibit the same lack of such as adults. We learn from those who model for us. When that example is a good one, the opportunity for success is greater.

Isn’t it time we started seeing everyone for the possibility and potential for good they have as individuals? Especially our children?

We must use the opportunities we’ve been given to care for one another- in spite of our frailties, issues, problems, behaviors and less than savory actions. People are people, and children will be children. But those same children who might drive us senile on any given day (this goes for our own flesh and blood too!) still need to have the best start possible given to them by the teachers entrusted with their care. Teachers who empathically use the opportunities they’ve been given to show those children they are worth it.

Because they are.

Giving is the way to gratefulness

When we count our blessings in the midst of life’s brutal storms, rather than waiting for the sunny days with warmth and light and gentle breezes to appear, it is truly the greater sacrifice. As those watching from without, there is nothing so admirable as observing someone with very little making a great deal about what they do have, however small and humble.

Gratitude can be experienced even when the outlook is dismal, can be presented even when the offering is slight. For even when the pool from which we gather is shallow and lacking in resources, there is still something there.

There is always something in which to be thankful.

It matters not what we’ve been given- we still must find the words to offer thanks.

He was feeling low again- not really in that frame of mind to offer gratitude. Not really in that mode of thinking, really. How can one offer praise when life feels destitute of joy, bereft of common everyday pleasure? He really wasn’t able to pick himself up either, like he sometimes could. Couldn’t rise to the day. It was like he’d been beaten down one too many times and the game was now over. He was ready to throw in the towel.

But she reminded him again of his call to chronicle gratitude. Reminded him of all that he’d already found in which to offer thanks. The five gifts he had committed to finding each and every day- small offerings of gratitude to a Father of good and perfect gifts. And even though it was hard- even though it wasn’t easy, he promised her he would still look for something in which to offer thanks.

And while he was looking for those small five in which to portray his day, something else happened. He started to notice people around him. People just like him, all in need of finding a gift. And as he was noticing people, he began hearing people too. Hearing their hearts, sensing their needs, listening to their stories. And he realized that he could not only count gifts, he could offer them to others as well.

And so he did. He offered a small gift.

And that one, small seemingly insignificant gift- it made all the difference for him. And for her- because she wasn’t expecting it- and to be truthfully honest, neither was he. But because he realized that he was still a giver, still a messenger of hope, he was able to stand in the gap. Even with the limitations of his life and struggle.

Actually, in spite of them.

We all can find gifts- that treasure trove of life that we each have been gifted with. But even more than this, we can all be givers: can give something each day to someone else. We can be the gift. Can be one of the five that another counts as a blessing on their gratitude list. For when we give the gift, rather than merely counting it as acquired, we come to understand:

Giving is the very best way to experience gratitude.

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