Wednesday, November 23, 2011

21 Days of Gratitude Challenge

I love Thanksgiving.  Although the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday are in dispute, what seems clear is that it was a feast shared amongst two communities --the Plymouth settlers and the Wampamoag Tribe -- to celebrate the bountiful harvest.  Some versions of the holiday were celebrated in various places in the colonies and states afterward.  In 1863, a war beleaguered  President Abraham Lincoln made it official. It was a brilliant idea to set aside a day specifically for being grateful not only for the table heaped with food, but especially for the community on whom we depend.

This time of year I make lists of people for whom I am grateful.  I began this tradition several years ago as a way to kick-start a fund-raising team.  Starting tomorrow on Thanksgiving and for 21 days I will honor each day people who have had a life-changing effect on me.  I have a simple way to call them to mind; here is how I am making my list this year:
  • 3 people I am concerned about
  • 3 people who help me in my daily life
  • 3 people who have servant's hearts
  • 3 figures from history
  • 3 "elders" from my "tribe"
  • 3 teachers or mentors
  • 3 community leaders 
Once I make the list, I put the names on my calendar along with an action for each one.  I will write thank-you notes, make phone calls and set lunch dates with some of these folks.  For others I will offer a meal or a dedicated prayer time on their behalf. I may write a poem, a memorial essay or a blog.  I will read a book or watch a video about my historical figures; at least one of these will be a children's book shared with my kids. As I go through this season, I will talk to my family about whom I am celebrating and why.  Maybe in this way, I can plant the seeds of gratitude in them, as well.

These 21 days are a part of my private advent prepartion; they serve to remind me of how truly fortunate I am and how much I depend on my community.  They take my focus off shopping and eating and help me put my mind on the true meaning of the holiday season -- both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  These remembrances inspire, evoke and humble me.
 
I challenge you to try it for yourself.  (And let me know if you do!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hand on my Heart for Veterans

"Mella" and Ray Huntley, early 1960s
I am from a proud family of servicemen.  My dad and his 8 brothers all were members of the Armed Forces, 8 Navy men and one proud Marine. They fought in World War 2, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam.  I have been to more military funerals than civilian ones.  I was born patriotic.

I still put my hand on my heart when I say the Pledge of Allegiance or when the National Anthems plays, even at ball games.  I notice that quite often, there are very few people around me who have their hand on their heart or sing along to our National Anthem.  I do not judge them.

You see, I'm a student of history.  If nothing else, one thing has been imprinted on my mind through this course of study:  War is a part of history and likely will always continue to be a part.  War is the way in which nations break apart, form, and stay strong; war provides both revolution and resolution.   The United States is no exception.  Not all our fights have been proud ones but those who serve do not make such decisions.  I hate the necessity of war and I love the warriors.
Great Uncle "Pat" Huntley - WW 1

The men and women of our Armed Forces usually sign on when they are barely old enough to vote and too young to drink.  The veterans of our wars are rarely politicians or even people of influence.  They are the boys and girls who lived on my street and yours; they are the kids I played in the park with, the cousins I admired, and the Dad and Uncles I adored.

I am grateful for those who have the fortitude to fight for the democratic ideal; for those who risk life and limb to preserve my way of life and more importantly, my liberty.  I know that many of you have suffered terrible consequences for your service; you have lost lovers or limbs; sacrificed your long term health, or given your lives.  This is a steep price to pay and I want you to know, it was not wasted on me.

This morning I rose early and hung out my flag.  All day today as I go about my ordinary life and you go about yours, please know I am thinking of you, and I thank you.  I am grateful every day for your gift of service to me and my family.  I know that freedom isn't free and I thank you for paying my toll.  God bless you.

[PS - If you want to get to the heart of the Pledge of Allegiance, click my link in the second paragraph for a timeless essay from the old comedian, Red Skelton.]

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Monday, November 7, 2011

"Fix You"

The band, Coldplay, has a popular song called "Fix You."  The song has a haunting and memorable tune, but the lyrics are challenging.  I keep trying to like this song.  I've read the lyrics several times and aside from the fact that the "story" is illusive at best, it's the whole notion of fix you  that bothers me.

I don't think Coldplay was trying to make some grand statement with the song.  I suspect they were just trying to make an album!  Yet every time I hear my kids humming the tune, I shudder a bit.  I find off-putting the notion that when a person is hurting, another can put them back together.  It's a fallacy of youth.  It's an idealistic view of love that says loving someone means being able to make it "all better" for them.

It turns out that with 5 kids, someone almost always needs something in the way of attention or intervention.  Someone in particular, needs more for some period of time.  And as a mother, I'm wired to try to -- well -- fix it. Usually I can do something to help but what is becoming increasingly clear is that I cannot fix it -- whatever "it" is -- because, in fact, "it" is not broken.

Whatever it is I have to overcome today is my lesson to learn.  You can take Muhammad to the mountain but you can't climb it for him. Each and every one of my challenges is there for me to conquer or be conquered by and in the end, I will be a more whole person for engaging in the battle.

If I "fix" something for one of my kids, life will just turn up the volume, and eventually they will still have to climb that mountain for themselves.  Often I wish it weren't true but I know it's for the best.  I think a sign of maturity is realizing that challenges really are opportunities to grow and that an easy life is one in which we aren't learning very much. 

So let's have a deal.  You come to me any time you need an ear and I will listen.  [If I temporarily forgt and try to "fix you" you can remind me!]  Then after you have had your say, I will lovingly but firmly support you to climb that mountain for yourself.  If you need some climbing suppliers, let me know!