Be the miracle today

This is dedicated to all the “miracle-makers” in my life. Thank-you is not words enough….

I think the truest miracles in life come to us one at a time, moment by moment. Largely private, largely unseen. The ones that are life-changing, that make all the difference, are often the ones most subtle in form. Not announced by loud proclamations over the wires, but whispered through heartfelt words from person to person. Not felt in the thunder, or through all the noise- but experienced in the quiet, in the still.

In the secret.

She was there on the phone, crying. Sobbing, actually. She had just had lost her job, experienced a medical emergency and had a huge debt to pay. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. There was so much more to her story: so much more pain, so much more sadness, so much more tragedy. We who knew her well understood. We felt for her. Our hearts were breaking. But for the longest time, could do little to help her, physically speaking. She was desperate. And for now, this was where she was at. At a crossroads. Standing at a decision point. It was either ‘sink’ or ‘just keep swimming’ for her. She didn’t know how much longer she could do the latter. She was ready to give up completely.

Because she couldn’t see any way out of this mess.
Because she didn’t know if there was room in this world for a miracle for her.
Because she wasn’t sure entirely she still believed in miracles. At least, miracles designed for her.

She was sharing this distress with her friend, this absolute desolation- when something life-altering happened. Another heart was intertwined and involved in this story. Something happened within the heart of her friend. And while that same friend had already been praying, God opened a door and this friend- her kindred spirit of a friend, whom she was talking to RIGHT THEN AND THERE…walked through a doorway, so to speak. Walked into her heart.  And it happened almost by miracle. Truly by miracle. Because, surely, that’s what this was all about. Miracles of the everyday kind. And because this friend had been there too, in the sense that she had been through the fire, through the storm… through it all- there was a comradeship between them. An understanding. A bond. For both believed that if miracles were to happen, they would happen of their own accord, under God’s careful watch.

Heart to heart, hand to hand. Without anyone ever knowing save for God Himself.

And as the two were talking, the answer appeared. As if by vision- for truly there was a Providential hand at work. The answer came to them both immediately. And for the one who gave freely as from an open heart- as well as for the one who received with broken heart, there was no doubt in either mind: a miracle had just occurred.

It was transformational. A God-inspired moment.

And no one but them would ever know the rest of the story

Sometimes the miracle is so small we might dismiss it entirely: a kind word. A smile. A caring touch. A hug. Sometimes the miracle is bigger, more public in reach. It’s amazing. The thing is, a miracle can happen just about anywhere, anyhow. And all that is often needed is a willingness to be used. To be a vessel. For our hearts are made for this very thing, this very purpose. For such a time as NOW. For such a moment as this very one we are living.

Our hearts were designed to be miracle-shapers. Miracle-makers.

Our hearts were designed to reach out to one another in love. In compassion. In empathy. In heartfelt concern. A miracle can take place just about anywhere…but it is often in the secret that the miracles that mean the most are felt and experienced the most deeply.

Miracles that happen heart to heart are almost indescribable with mere words.
Friendship is one of life’s greatest tangible miracles. Having a friend is miracle in and of itself. Knowing another heart was given to you to hold gently, yet compassionately: this is one of God’s greatest gifts to us as human beings. For when we can join our hearts in love for one another, each for the other: miracles truly do take place. We were all designed for this. To be part of the miracle taking place both in our own lives as well as to be witness to the miracle underway in the lives of those we love and hold the closest. All of us can be a friend. All of us can be a miracle.

And each one of us was given today- this very moment: to be a miracle for someone else.

{sunset picture retrieved from dreamatico.com}

Advertisements

Kindness is a Muscle

I am in Charlottetown-area for a five night camping expedition with the fam-jam. One of the highlights of camping here in Cornwall is the bakery just around the corner from the campground. I’m serious. You have never tasted anything until you’ve had their bread. Or their cinnamon rolls. Or their scones.

Don’t get me started.

So the other day, I went into the bakery to pick up a coconut cream pie for dessert when I remembered that my daughter had specifically requested raspberry scones. These scones that she asked for are to die for- my children would fight to the death for the last one. Actually, they would fight to the death anyway, but a scone never hurt as incentive.

Anyways.

I asked about the scones, and they were all out but suggested I place an order for the next day. I never place an order for much these days because I am so unpredictable with my commitments. Especially when camping. But the cashier was so sweet and my daughter’s crestfallen face imprinted in my memory made me do the unthinkable. Place an order and commit to a time frame wherein to pick them up.

The next day, and hour and a half late for the designated pickup, I roll into the bakery. I had almost decided I was going to forgo, because who knew if they were even there anymore, right? I walk up to the counter and request the scones I had placed an order for, and the cashier goes over to a shelf and brings back to me a bag with the most beautiful, plump, delicious-looking scones I have ever laid eyes on. The raspberries were practically falling out of them. I had near heart-failure wondering how they would ever survive the two-minute drive home without being devoured, bringing new meaning to the words child-abuse (a very specific form of such which involves one’s children discovering their mother has eaten all their highly preferred treats and as a result of which, emotionally fall apart on the spot).

I made a remark to the cashier that these scones looked really good, and she replied back, “The baker knew you had placed an order for these and she wanted to make them look really pretty for you.”

Say what?

I was stunned. I have never seen the baker. I just eat her stuff. I have never thought to thank her, never thought to ask of her and her well-being. And yet. She thought of me- the faceless, nameless customer and tried to make these scones pretty and tasteful for me and my family.

Absolute, pure kindness.

I never cease to be blown away by the impact of kindness. While complicated at times, yet ancient in scope and influence- it’s everywhere. Kindness is what makes the world go round. And without it, we are left feeling lost and aimless.

This morning, I am again driving- this time with my mom- when she relays to me a story. A story that she has no idea will completely sync with my line of thinking about kindness as soon as she tells it. For all I can think of lately is kindness. It consumes me. How to show kindness, who is showing kindness, whether or not I am showing kindness, how kindness impacts the lives of others.

I can’t get it out of my head.

So as I drive she tells me a story about being at the drug store in the line up and while there, she is using a points card to obtain incentives to shop at this particular store again in the near future. She then tells me that after having finished her purchase, the woman behind her in line, who has a sizeable pile of items to put through, tells my Mom that she can use her points card to include the purchases she is about to make, as she has no points card of her own. My mom then strikes up a conversation with this woman, all around that fact that this woman has no point card of her own and thus this is why she is offering my mother the opportunity to obtain more points at her expense.

My mom remarks, “That is so kind of you!” to which the woman replies, “No, I am not a kind person ordinarily.”

Mom is a little dumbfounded at this revelation. Who tells a complete stranger in a store line-up that they are not a kind person under ordinary circumstances? My mom says to the woman, “Well you were kind today” so as to affirm to the woman that she does indeed see the good in her as an individual, but the woman asserts again the fact of her nature to not be kind. Twice she makes this statement. My mom in the telling adds the detail that, by now, the cashier’s eyes are like tea-cup saucers. She can hardly believe the conversation going down.

As Mom and I talk, I start to remember an article I just read the day before about kindness in marriage. And how kindness is like a muscle we exercise- the more we exercise it, the stronger that muscle becomes. And it confirms in my mind that kindness is indeed the very balm that soothed a thousand wounds. Because who knows what this woman will do now. Now that she has made the choice to act in kindness to a total stranger. Maybe it will be the catalyst for a lifetime of kindness. Maybe it will not. But this I now for sure- even those who say they are incapable of kindness do not give themselves enough credit. We are all capable. It’s just a matter of using that muscle more often and exercising it more deeply.

It’s a matter of working it. And choosing to do so often.
For we all have the potential for kindness. Even the ones who think they don’t. Even the ones whose muscle for kindness is a little neglected and shriveled up. Even for them. They have the goods- they just have to use them.

So don’t we all.

Let me be one who cares

It’s Friday. I am so weary. SO tired. Actually, my brain is fried. I feel like the cerebral part of my Members has turned to mush. But then again—it’s Friday. So there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Thank you, Jesus, for that. Gotta love the creation of the five-day work week.

I am in class all morning with my cohort- a mix of teachers from all over the country. We break for lunch on the last day of class ready for a diversion. I decide mine is going to be a short trip taken to a local restaurant with a couple of friends whom I have not had as much time for (as I would really have liked) over the past couple of months due to the crazy busy schedule I keep. Crazy schedules we all keep, for that matter. Time I have not had for the Others in my life due in part to the lack of number of hours in the day to ‘get it all done’. Something I am constantly dealing with in my desire to find work/life balance. At any rate, I am delighted to have the time to eat lunch with these lovely ladies and am so looking forward to catching up on missed time. To having actual real-life CONVERSATION.

Oh, the luxury.

We cram into an over-heated car and wait for the air-conditioning to kick in. And then we pull into the Wendy’s parking lot and make our way towards the lunch counter. We order lunch. I order a Summer-Fresh Strawberry Salad, a grilled chicken wrap and a strawberry milkshake. They have no milkshakes, so they replace the latter with a very miniscule chocolate milk. Not that it really matters. Later on- in the course of my eating, I discover something hard in my salad, of all things- like the bits of teeth that I have become accustomed to finding inside my mouth when breaking such while eating. This is a side note, but important to show that I am always under some stress while eating. And that fast food does not always mean good food. Funny about that.

But I digress.

We hoe into our lunches and start to converse right away about this, that and the other when the conversation takes on a more reflective nature. The question is posed: “How do people perceive me?” by one of my lunchmates. And so, thinking this might be a good thing to know about myself, I ask the same. “How do I come across to the people I interact with?” “What do people really think of me?”

I am really curious after all. How DO people perceive me? An honest question, to which I thought I was ready to hear an honest answer.

I have been writing this blog for a while now with the understanding that I am pursing a path that will lead to a more empathic, caring, loving Self- as a teacher, a mother and as a friend among the other hats I wear.   I am also pursuing this path as the direct result of my choosing to do so. In other words, in choosing this path of ethics of care and pedagogies of love- in choosing love as the focus of my life and writing- I then would hope that I exemplify it more and more in my day-to day life.

Interesting theory which I am working out in practical ways.

So I have to say, I was expecting a response something like the following: “Oh Lori, you are so caring and kind and sweet and empathic…” All the things I write about, in other words. I was waiting for my ego to be fed a little bit.

What was actually said surprised me. I don’t know why it did, but possibly because I was so prepared for the former to be spoken that I hadn’t quite readied myself for what was actually to be divulged.

So, with this in mind, I sat posed to hear some really sweet things spoken.

Never have expectations when asking deeply personal reflective responses to questions you have posed. WORD TO THE WISE. At any rate, what was told to me- about how I was perceived and how I come across was this: I often make people feel uncomfortable due to my verbosity or ‘wordiness’- but even more so than that, I am intimidating at times to people, possibly due to my own reflective nature and the questions I pose to myself and others.

But here’s the sting.

It came out in conversation that I am not always caring in my interactions toward others.

Ouch. That did really hurt and I could feel tears immediately welling up in my eyes. Because despite my lack, at times, of being aware of my nature, I am very sensitive and tender. I can cry when the bee stings, the dog bites. And believe me- I can cry for much less than that.

But let me explain.

This week, I have had almost a tunnel vision at times in my focus on the academics and work at hand. So much so that there were times someone would pose a question to me- to which I completely tuned out that question or ignored such in my focus and intent on getting things done. In other words, I was not aware of how I was making people feel all the time. And I was making people feel like I didn’t care merely by my intent on barrelling through and getting the work done.

Hearing this feedback, I won’t lie- hurt me. I felt, as I have already suggested- stung. It is not easy hearing that you’ve been uncaring in your dealings with others- that you’ve been so focused on your own work that you’ve failed to take into account other’s work and questions. Other’s feelings and concerns. But hearing this feedback was also extremely beneficial. I needed to hear this. Because I am now more aware of myself as a friend and a colleague than I otherwise would have been had the question not been posed and answered.

I know more because I asked. Even if it hurt a bit in the hearing.

In doing a thesis on caring and love, I think the most revealing findings I will uncover are that we are not always what we perceive ourselves to be. The challenge is to improve and then rise above our failings and overcome. I would never assume that I have an interest in love and caring because I am an expert in such- I would want people to know that I have an interest in love and caring and all that encompasses because I want to BECOME this. And that act of becoming is a process. One can become something because they have a natural inclination toward being thus or one can become something because they have deliberately, intentionally chosen to be that. I am daily- moment by moment- choosing intentionally to BE what it is I write: a more caring, more understanding, more empathic, more loving person than I was yesterday. Each and every day I live my life as a human being.

It is the act of choosing to be caring that I would hope defines me.

After the conversation, I reflected on what had been said quite a bit and in doing so, I realized a few things about myself:

I am not doomed to be the focused, intense person I was born being- I can evolve into what I want to be by my awareness and consciousness to CHOOSE to be otherwise. I am also not left to feel inadequate by my obvious deficiencies in this aspect of my life because I see my life as a journey. I am moving forward. I would hope that I am more aware today than I was yesterday. And further, I see that my caring has come out even in my questioning: because I truly cared enough to ask the question: How DO people perceive me?

I hope they still might perceive me as one who wants to care. Who cares to care.

As one who cares.

The joy of identity…(the words found in between the lines)

We are sitting in circular formation, teaching colleagues, acquaintances and friends.  The atmosphere is warm and inviting.  Soft lights sparkle on a tree over against the wall.  And we wait.  In anticipation.

Our facilitator directs everyone’s attention to the meeting at hand and then asks us to introduce ourselves.  A discussion begins as to what we might say by way of introduction.  Should we share a book we are reading?  Seems too formal.  We are then given allowance to introduce ourselves and then share a part of our story, as we feel  led.  Each woman before me introduces herself as a mother, sharing about her children, her connection to them and some kind of predicament attached to being a mother.  One describes herself as ‘living vicariously’ through her children.

I have no idea what I’m going to say.

It is my turn, and I have to think fast.  What few words can I give that will encapsulate the essence of what it means to be me?  What can one say in so few words?  After all, first impressions mean a lot.  It is hard to dissolve a wall built on a quickly formed judgment.  I decide to stop thinking and talk.

“My name is Lori Gard and I have four children.”

I do have four children whom I love dearly.  They have been the heart and soul of my existence for as long as I have known of their presence.  I have placed my own interests on the altar of self-sacrifice for them many times over.  But still.  Is this how I want to define myself?  Am I a mother first?  Or am I Lori?

“For many years, I lived vicariously through my children.  So much so, I began to lose parts of myself.  After some time, I fell into a dark place.  It was then that I discovered writing.  Writing helped me find myself again.”

Ah, now I remember.  I remember who, I remember why.  And for this moment, I will speak.  And then later on, after four tired children are tucked into bed and the lights go dim, I will write.   Therefore I am.  A writer.  And if not for writing, I jokingly told someone recently, I would have been driven to strong drink.  Instead, I am driven to write.  I write about everything.  About my faith, my day, my children, my relationships, my job, my feelings, my frustrations, my fears and my joys.  Writing has delivered me from being swallowed up by the many varied hats I wear.  Of course, I am child, mother, wife, sister, friend, colleague.  All these in service to others.  And at one time in my life, I did not feel capable of identifying as anything other than that of my relationship to others.

But today.  I can proudly say I am free of that bondage.  I am Lori.

I am partial to blog style writing.  I enjoy playing piano.  I have a weakness for reading book club recommendations, whether they be Heather’s picks from Chapters, Oprah’s book club picks or those touted by bloggers I follow.  I love to go on long walks down scenic pathways.  I am fond of chocolate covered pretzels.  I crave Kettle cooked potato chips at bedtime.  I need to get a fill of Facebook before hitting the hay.  I love candles, scented cream, fuzzy socks, photographs, coffee, newspapers, fleece sheets, board games and Clark’s shoes, all in no particular order.

I feel deeply about many issues.  Faith.  Family.  Education. Healthy living.  Exercise.  The importance of communication.  Personal development.  Professional development.  Prejudice.  Bullying.  Empathy. Inclusion. Gratitude.  Giving to those less fortunate than myself.  Giving to those more fortunate than myself.  Because all of giving is about grace and compassion.  I feel deeply about all these.  And more.

Because of course I know that I cannot be narrowly defined by a single feature of my persona, confining my identity to being only a lover of chocolate covered pretzels or reader of blogs.  For I am more. So much more than these.

“I am Lori.  I write for a hobby.  And it’s really nice to be here.”