No kindness…

 

blog

We’ve all come across unkind people… some of us more than others.

And, if we’re being honest, we can all remember times when we were less than kind ourselves. Most of us look back on that with regret, wishing we had said or done things differently.

But, what about the person who’s decided that it’s justifiable to be habitually unkind to a specific person or specific people? It’s a slippery slope when someone decides that someone else is not worthy of kindness, and sets out to make their life as miserable as possible. The longer they persist in unkind words and behaviors, the more they tend to justify what they’re doing.

The result?

No remorse and a deadened conscience. They don’t consider stopping because they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong.

blog 2

The news is increasingly filled with stories of people who have exacted unkindness towards others… often in the extreme. People so hate-filled that they decided the target(s) of their hatred deserved death, and that it was ultimately worth dying for themselves.

Hatred has never made anyone see things more clearly. Or changed situations for the better. Or changed lives for the better.

Not even once.

Sometimes you have no choice but to be in close proximity to someone who’s intent on extending unkindness or hatred towards you. It’s damaging, demoralizing and demeaning. And, the longer you have to deal with it, the more negatively it affects you.

Trust me, I know.

blog 4

Hear me in this… it’s no kindness to let people continue unchecked in their unkindness or hate.

Sometimes the greatness kindness we can extend is to intervene, if it’s within our power to do so. Whether we are able to intervene directly or indirectly, our kindness will be kindness toward the one(s) being targeted, and kindness toward the one doing the targeting… even if they can’t see it as being such in the moment.

blog 6

The one caveat is that, while unkind or hateful people need to be dealt with firmly, they don’t need unkindness and hatred lobbied back at them.

Don’t confuse kindness with weakness. Those who refuse to retaliate or to respond in kind demonstrate strength, not weakness. So, be that person… not just an extension of the behavior you didn’t find acceptable in the first place.

How?

It never hurts to start with prayer.

Prayer gives us the proper perspective – God’s perspective – and guides us in the right things to do and say.

Pray for yourself, pray for the hurting, pray for those who do the hurting, pray for change, and pray for healing.

It’s hard to hate someone that you pray for. In fact, try praying every day for a month for someone you hate… or simply don’t like… and see what happens.

Even if they don’t change, you will.

The moral of the story?

Act kind, not in kind

blog 2

Power in patience

blog1

I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s power in patience.

Consider anyone you know who seems especially patient, and you’ll see a person who is in control. I don’t mean in control of their circumstances or in control of their life but in control of themselves.

Patient people tend to be relatively measured and calm. They have perspective. They don’t miss the forest for the trees. They’re fully present in the moment, and they don’t let frustrations derail them. They have self-control.

In fact, they can sometimes make patience seem easy… even effortless. But, make no mistake, it’s just as hard for them as it for the next person. The difference is in the practicing.

Practice makes permanent. Practice makes patience.

Patience recognizes that, while we often can’t control an outcome or timing or circumstances or people, we can always choose to control our response.

In fact, patience is like a diet. Most diets operate under the premise that you need to eat a certain way for a certain amount of time so you can achieve the results you want, and then life can continue as it did before. Only, all too often people end up gaining back all the weight – and then some – because the diet wasn’t sustainable.

The truly sustainable diet isn’t a diet at all… it’s making a change in eating habits that’s practical for the long haul. It’s only once we accept that there’s no magic formula… just a new way of life and a new way of eating – one bite at a time – that real change happens.

blog 4

The same is true with patience. We will become more patient once we come to the realization that patience isn’t a quick fix, but a change of mind. It’s changing how we react to disappointments, waiting, anger, frustration, things not happening that we wanted, or things happening that we didn’t want. Or things happening in a different way or a different timing than we’d hoped for. Step by step, patience is developing a determination to change the things we can change – ourselves… our actions and our reactions – and turning the things we can’t change over to God.

But, what if you’re like me, doing reasonably well with patience in many ways but feeling like you’re fighting a losing battle in certain situations?

Well, the Bible has the answer for that.

blog1

When I come to the end of myself (which is often…), Jesus is always there to fill up my weakness with his strength. And, what He’ll do for me, He can do for you.

Can’t do it on your own?

Power up…

blog1

Patiently waiting…

blog1

I’m convinced our ability to navigate ‘waiting’ is pivotal to patience.

Just consider all the things we could be waiting for at any given minute…

Waiting for something to start, waiting for something to end, waiting for something to happen, waiting for answers, waiting for healing, waiting for results, waiting for justice. Or small things like waiting in traffic, waiting in line, and waiting in waiting rooms. (I find it humorous that they’re actually called waiting rooms, pretty much giving you the heads up that waiting will happen).

I’m famous for standing in a line and then switching to a different line, that seems like it’s progressing faster… only to discover that the line I’d abandoned was the quickest. The same goes for waiting in traffic. And yet I still persist in changing lines and lanes. Although, while it used to regularly drive me crazy, I’ve come to pretty much expect it. My ability to patiently wait has improved over time. And, when I find impatience creeping in, it’s often a measured response.

But, trust me, patience doesn’t come easily. Or perfectly. I’ve worked on patience probably more than any other attribute in my life. And I know better than to ever think I’ve mastered it because that’s precisely when circumstances show me how far I still have to go.

blog7

Our 21 month purebreed British bulldog, Charlie, is a dog who’s always waiting.

Waiting for water.

His need is insatiable to the point of fixation. According to the vet, it’s psychological. But, to Charlie, the need is very real.

He will drink to the bottom of his dish, no matter how much water is in it. He’ll drink until he gets sick (which history has shown us repeatedly). To him, water is the equivalent of a t-bone steak. So we have to be keepers of the water dish.

And so, Charlie is a dog who waits.

Some days, his entire day is spent waiting for water. He’ll lay by his food dish for hours. If water should appear, he doesn’t want to miss it. But, regardless of how often he gets water, as soon as he’s finished drinking, he starts the waiting process all over again. Sometimes, he’ll break it up with naps but, trust me, a whole of waiting goes on.

Charlie has become a very patient dog. But, even then, occasionally the waiting gets to be too much, and he’ll bark once as if to say, ‘Hurry up, people!’. But, we just say no, and he goes back to waiting… because he’s learned that he’s most apt to get what he’s waiting for when he’s being patient.

blog2

That’s a valuable lesson for people. Our patience might not always achieve the results we’re hoping for but it will always do far more than our impatience will. At the very least, being patient changes us.  We become kinder, more tolerant, more tolerable, and self-controlled people. Happier people… because impatience never made anyone happier. Or more popular.

So… need patience?

Just wait for it…

blog5

Loving-kindness…

blog1

A number of years ago, I attended a motivational business seminar where I had the opportunity to participate in the following exercise. The room divided into groups of three, one of whom was chosen to be ‘the tree’… standing with their arms extended out to the side, like branches. When the seminar leader gave the cue, the remaining two members of each group took an arm and tried to push it down to the person’s side as they made positive statements about them.

You’re a great person. You’re really nice. You’re a hard worker. You make people happy. You have a great sense of humor. You’re kind.

When the seminar leader instructed everyone to stop, we discovered that not one group had been able to push down the arms of the people with their arms extended.

The second part of the exercise was identical, with the exception of the statements verbalized. As group members tried to push down the arms of the other member in their group, they instead made negative statements about them.

You did a terrible job. You never do anything right. No one likes you. You’ll never be able to do that. We don’t want you in our group.

The result was surprising. Everyone’s arms folded like a deck of cards. Not one person was able to keep their arms extended in the face of negative input.

The people and the methods were the same in both exercises. The only thing that varied was the words that were spoken. The lesson was unmistakeable. Our words have the power to either build others up or to tear them down.

blog3

I thought of that exercise again recently with the challenge I’ve been having trying to incorporate one 35 minute daily walk into Charlie’s life (our 19 month old purebred British bulldog). The main challenge has been that Charlie doesn’t want to walk. He doesn’t even want to leave the property. If he could talk, I’m sure he would point out that British bulldogs are physically built to excel at naps, not walks. And I don’t think he appreciates my rationale that one short walk a day still leaves him with 23 1/2 hours a day for napping.

So, each walk has started like this. I put Charlie on the leash… we go out the door and down the steps. Charlie thinks he’s going for a pee but then, at some point, realizes that was only ‘Phase 1’ of the outing. I start walking toward the end of the driveway but then Charlie puts the brakes on… basically plants his feet and becomes a 49 pound stone. So, I brace the leash across the front of my legs while continuing to slowly walk forward until he eventually has no choice but to follow. This pattern continues for many blocks until Charlie suddenly shakes off his protestations, and inexplicably walks beautifully beside me for the rest of the walk.

I can attest to the fact that I’ve tried everything to get Charlie to be less resistant for the first part of his walk. My theory that he would remember his walk from the previous day, and that it would motivate him to eventually walk willingly right from the beginning never took flight. Instead, each day was like Groundhog Day, with practice becoming permanent.

But I recently came up with the idea to praise Charlie the minute he walked – particularly near the beginning of our outing when the walking didn’t tend to go so well. Now, even if Charlie drags his feet, as long as he’s walking, it counts as walking… and I instantly praise him. Good boy, Charlie. If he plants his feet the next moment, I say nothing except ‘Come’ and just keep moving ahead until he has no choice but to follow. I’ve wanted Charlie to associate praise with the action of walking, and have hoped it would prove to be motivating.

Guess what? It’s working!

Until I tried this little experiment, I never said anything positive OR negative to Charlie on our walks… just mostly things like ‘Come’ or ‘Yes, you’re going to walk’ (the latter quite possibly through gritted teeth). But, something as simple as giving words of praise for something that genuinely merits praise has made all the difference.

I can’t say that Charlie is 100% onboard with his walks just yet. He still plants his feet in the driveway when he realizes that we plan to actually leave the property but his resistance doesn’t continue too far beyond that anymore when, not so long ago, it was a battle of wills for literally many blocks.

It made me think of the word ‘loving-kindness’… meaning tenderness and consideration toward others. I think there are many ways we can show loving-kindness to those around us – including the Charlie’s in our lives – but one of the most powerful ways is through our words. Of course, extending loving-kindness through our words means nothing unless our actions back them up but I truly believe there’s nothing quite like our words to build others up in a way that few other things can.

Don’t let on to Charlie but I think our daily walk has become the highlight of his day. I know it’s become the highlight of mine…

blog4

 

 

For the love of Charlie…

12751157_1542433726049067_73548209_n

I don’t know about you but I find it’s hardest to love people who are hard to love. People who are hard to like. People who are unkind to me. It’s something I’ve struggled with over the past couple of years in particular, in no small part because there are people in close proximity to me who have fallen into that category.

It makes me think about our 19 month old purebred British bulldog, Charlie… who loves everyone and everything… people, dogs, cats, birds, insects, you name it. If it’s alive, he loves it.

Since Charlie has always been such a loving dog, we didn’t think twice about volunteering to look after another dog… an older Portuguese Water dog named Lottie. Charlie was enthralled to have ‘company’ and immediately decided they were ‘best buds’. Anything Lottie did, Charlie did. If she walked down the hall, Charlie was walking right behind her, matching her pace. If she laid down, he laid down. If she got up and moved to a new place, Charlie got up and moved too. So cute… but not for long. It quickly became evident that Lottie didn’t have the same ‘lovin’ feeling towards Charlie as he had towards her.

Maybe she thought his ‘love’ seemed suspiciously like ‘stalking’. Maybe she was getting crotchety in her advancing age. Or maybe she just didn’t care for a certain British bulldog. Regardless, she let her displeasure be known. She barked at Charlie… lunged at Charlie… and even bit Charlie on a couple of occasions. The more he didn’t ‘get’ it… the more pronounced her actions became. It got to the point where she would lose it if she entered a room and even set eyes on him (who we were keeping in a different space as much as possible at that point). Lottie went out of her way to communicate that she wanted nothing to do with Charlie… a fact that truly seemed to perplex him.

No matter how extreme Lottie’s actions or reactions were, Charlie never once retaliated. Never once barked, bit, growled, or lunged. He loved Lottie even though she was being less than lovable and certainly less than kind toward him.

Right from the time he was born, it has been Charlie’s practice to exhibit loving behavior toward others. In fact, when we were considering which puppy to adopt, Charlie stood out from the rest because he just took whatever abuse the other dogs heaped on him… including lunging, snarling, and biting.

blog2

Charlie’s example reminds me of some truths that I need to apply more consistently in my life, starting today:

  1. If someone doesn’t love you, love them anyway.
  2. Be yourself even if someone doesn’t appreciate who you are.
  3. Know who you are and be that person. Not everyone will like you but that’s ok. You can still love them.
  4. It’s possible to love people you don’t particularly like. Consider your immediate and extended family, and I suspect you’ll come up with at least one person who falls into that category.
  5. Your attitude doesn’t depend on someone else. No one can take away your joy unless you let them.
  6. Love should be unconditional. That’s what we hope for from others so why should we give anything less.
  7. Love is a feeling but it’s also a choice. Choosing to love inspires us to feel more loving which, in turn, increases our joy.
  8. Not everyone can handle ‘full-on’ Charlie (which is why our dogsitting days are a thing of the past…).

blog1

 

The Joy Journey

I recently took an 18 month hiatus from writing to consider the direction I wanted to take with my blog, after finding myself with a serious case of writer’s block. I was at a perpetual loss to think of a subject that inspired me, which inevitably led to the conclusion that perhaps my blogging days were behind me.

The answer presented itself out of the blue (as answers are prone to do). For a full year, the book “The Happiness Project” had languished in my nightstand. While it had captured my interest from the very first page, I had never made it past the first two chapters. Reading took a backseat to life… which included getting married, becoming a stepmother to two teens, becoming ‘Mom’ to a purebred English bulldog puppy, becoming out of work, going into business for myself, having two dental surgeries, and being diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma (a fancy term for skin cancer).

It was my recent diagnosis of skin cancer that prompted me to dust off “The Happiness Project”. I wanted to make a commitment to happiness, and thought it would be beneficial to consider someone else’s experience with the same commitment.

(I highly recommend this book, by the way. Gretchen Rubin approaches her experiment with candor, aplomb, and humor, and it’s a compelling and captivating read.)

Inspired by Gretchen, I decided to undertake my own experiment but to personalize it to fit me. I confess that having the name “Joy” influenced my decision to choose “joy” as a goal over “happiness”. But, the tipping point was when I considered the fundamental differences between the two.  Happiness tends to be fleeting, and depends upon temporal factors like circumstances or other people, while joy is true contentment that comes from internal factors like faith in God. In fact, the Bible uses “happy” or “happiness” approximately 30 times while “joy” or “rejoice” are referred to more than 300 times!

Hence… “The Joy Journey”.

How then to map out my journey? I narrowed it down to thirteen internal qualities that I want to focus on… one each month for the next twelve months. Using the Bible as my reference, I chose the fruit of the Spirit (from Galatians 5:22-23a) – love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, and added to those… wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and discernment. I’ll dedicate the thirteen month to examining “joy” (the remaining fruit of the Spirit), both as a distinct virtue but also from the standpoint that the preceding twelve virtues lead directly to its door.

All these qualities are ones I’ve wanted to more consistently reflect for a long time but this will be the first time I’ll have made them a concerted focus. My theory is that by making them an intentional and ongoing practice, they’ll become a solid foundation for a life that radiates joy. After all, practice makes permanent.

Beginning in April, my blog will chronicle my journey, complete with successes, challenges, and failures. I hope you’ll join me on “The Joy Journey”!

jl2

 

 

The Art of BIY

blog 2

Lots of people have gotten into DIY… doing it yourself… in recent years. But, what about BIY… believing in yourself? You don’t hear about that nearly as often… if at all.

Believing in yourself is a lifelong process. A delicate balancing act that can change from day to day. Sometimes even moment by moment. But, it’s possible. And important.

After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, even if everyone else believed in you, it would never be enough. It’s something no one else can do for you. You have to do it for yourself.

blog

Believing in yourself doesn’t mean being unrealistic about what about what you can and can’t do. It doesn’t mean you won’t have doubts or fear. Or that you’ll never fail. Or make mistakes.

blog 1

What believing in yourself does mean is focusing on your successes while learning from your drawbacks and shortcomings. Being realistic but hopeful. Surrounding yourself with people you trust to give you honest but loving feedback and encouragement. Having a spirit of optimism.

blog2

It’s so easy to get down on yourself. It can happen to the best of us. But it’s one thing to get down on yourself from time to time, and quite another to stay there.

Believing in yourself is like walking. You may stumble and even fall but the main thing is that you get back up, dust yourself off, and keep walking.

blog 4It’s important to believe in yourself for you but it’s almost as important to believe in yourself for the people who look up to you. Your children, spouse, friends, relatives, siblings, co-workers… the list is endless. More people look up to you than you realize.

blog 13

Personally, I want to live as though I have the potential to positively affect everyone I come in contact with because, quite honestly, every single one of us has that potential.

blog 10

If anyone learned to believe in themselves because they watched me believe in myself, that would be amazing. If anyone learned the importance of believing in themselves in spite of their failures or mistakes because they saw me believe in myself in spite of my own, that would be equally amazing.

blog 17

What better way to inspire others than to lead by example?

blog 7If you can’t imagine being someone who believes in themself, consider this…

blog 9

So, just do it… start believing in you! You’re worth it!!blog 6

Less for 2014…

blogTomorrow is New Year’s Eve.  Just 2 days until 2014.

It’s emotional for me to look back at where I was this time last year and where I am today.

At the end of 2012, I was unemployed and had no fixed address or social life to speak of.  In fact, from just before Christmas until the first of March 2013, I wasn’t even living in Calgary but staying with a friend 90 minutes away.  I was also single.

But, now, at the end of 2013, I have a great new job, and rent a basement suite in a good location in the heart of Calgary.  I go to a great church, and have a social life and friends.  And, one week from today, I’ll have been dating a terrific guy for a year.

What a difference a year makes.

Christmas 2013

I looked back at my blog post this time last year to see what I’d written about resolutions for 2013.  My focus at the time was on things I wanted to do more of.  When I re-read the post, I was struck by how important it is to carry those resolutions through to each and every year.

https://thejoyjourney61.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/life-resolutions-for-2013/

For 2014, I’m decided I’m going to focus on the things I want to do less.

Things like:

1. Drink Diet Coke less.  I don’t drink coffee or tea so my caffeine of choice every morning has been Diet Coke.  I’ve justified it by saying it’s only one a day since, at one time in my life, I drank it almost compulsively.  But, I think it’s time for me to stop drinking it every morning and to not even keep it in the house.  A Diet Coke now and then would not be the end of the world but I don’t want it to control my life any more than it has already.  Less control… more freedom…

blog2. Worry less.  I’ve been working on this one a lot this year.  I’ve struggled with worrying about the financial shortfalls that came from jobs that either paid too little and/or from gaps in pay from leaving one job and starting another.  Now that I have a great new job, in another month or so, I should be able to finally start working to get back on track but, with losing three weeks pay in December/January, I’m continuing to cope with expenses that are greater than my income.  But, I am determined that worry will not control my life now or in 2014.  I want this to be a life change.  I’m aiming to be a prayer warrior, not a prayer worrier.  Less fear, more faith…

blog

3. Be less “self” focused. I did some volunteer work throughout 2013 but not nearly as much as I hope to in 2014.  There is great merit in giving time, energy, and resources to come alongside others and to let them know that someone cares.  I want to be a blessing in other people’s lives, to give them a hand up, to stand alongside them, to listen, to encourage, and to care.  Most importantly, when I’m focused on others, I tend to forget about myself, and heaven only knows that I think about myself far too much already.  Less of me, more of others…

blog

4.  Say less.  No one ever learned from anything they said themselves.  We learn more from listening than we do from speaking, not to mention that, the more we say, the more apt we are to say something that we’ll regret.  Or become “that person” who always talks too much.  When I do speak, I want what I say to be intentional.  I’ve made some strides in this area but there’s always room for improvement.  My goal is to ascribe to TLSThink more. Listen more. Say less.  ‘Nough said…

blog

5. Judge less. There are endless reasons to judge people and, boy, do we ever.  I’ve been judged a lot in my life, and it never gets easier.  It’s easy for people to pass judgement.  Point your finger.  Gossip.  Cast aspersions.  Be sanctimonious.

We may think we’re not judgmental but just because we don’t speak judgement doesn’t mean we don’t think judgement.

As much as I know the pain of being judged, judgmental thoughts pop into my head from time to time. I don’t want to be that person, even a little bit.  Whenever I’m tempted to judge, I remind myself that I don’t know the whole story but, the rare times that I do, it’s still not my place.  That doesn’t mean I agree with everything – far from it.  But, ultimately, I am only responsible for how I live my own life, and answerable to God about that.  Our lives, choices, decisions, mistakes, and regrets are ours and ours alone.

blog

It’s been a privilege to ring in 52 new years so far in my life.  I am so thankful and grateful for all the blessings in my life in 2013.  And I appreciate the blessings all the more for all the struggles I’ve had to overcome.

But, above all else, my hope and prayer is that somehow, someway, the world will be a better place in 2014 because of me.  Even the smallest of stones can make beautiful ripples in the water.  Less judging… more loving…

blog 2

I hope 2014 will be your best year yet.  Dare to hope and don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

blog

Creativity chip…

blog 7

All my life, I’ve believed I don’t have a creativity chip because I can’t draw, paint, sew, knit, or do crafts of any kind.  If it involves anything with my hands, I lack the natural ability to do it.

But, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’ve been way too hard on myself.  Just because I lack ability in the most commonly recognized types of creativity, it doesn’t mean I don’t have creativity in other respects.

After all, creativity takes many forms.

blog 6

Writing involves creativity.  Baking involves creativity.  I can do both.  I’ve also always been able to think outside the box, which is creativity in a different sense.  Maybe I do have some creativity, after all!

blog

I think the biggest enemy to creativity is believing that you’re creative only if you can do certain things.

blog

I was one of three kids in my family.  One brother created elaborate things with Lego, the other brother drew elaborate drawings –  mostly of Snoopy – and I wrote elaborate stories – primarily mystery.  Three different expressions of creativity but I somehow convinced myself that my brothers were creative and I was not.

I was wrong.

blog 10Everyone is creative in their own way… some more than others but all are creative nonetheless.

Creativity is imagination… self-expression… something we all possess.  I lost sight of mine for awhile but it’s back in focus now.

blog

There are things I wish I had a talent for that I don’t.  But, rather than dwell on what I don’t have, I’d rather embrace what I do have.

I’m free to be uniquely and creatively me.

So are you.

blog 11

The Spirit of Christmas…

blog 12I love the month of December and I love Christmas.  My love for this time of year has a lot to do with my maternal grandparents, my grandfather, in particular.

Gramps

My mother was an only child so her parents came to spend Christmas with us every year while I was growing up.  No matter how much preparation my mother had done, Christmas never officially started until my grandparents arrived on Christmas Eve.  They brought armloads of gifts, endless (and delicious!) Christmas baking, and basically just a whole lot of excitement.

When we would go to bed that night, my father would always dictate that my brothers and I had to stay in bed the next morning until 7:00 a.m., an excruciating and nearly impossible time for three very excited kids.

My grandparents always slept in the basement and, invariably, this would be how Christmas morning unfolded.  My grandfather would wake up sometime before 5:00 a.m. and start getting fidgety.  He was a big man but he was really just a big kid in disguise. My grandmother would wake up and say, “Douglas, it’s too early.  Go back to sleep.”

He never once was able to go back to sleep.

Gramps would finally get up around 5:00 a.m.  We would hear the creaks as he came up the stairs and then the sound of him settling into the big easy chair in the far corner of the living room, where he would sit quietly and just patiently wait.  Around 6:30 a.m., we could wait no longer and we’d burst down the hall to go wish him Merry Christmas.  Dad would always demand that we go back to bed until 7:00 a.m. but our trump card was Gramps.  Dad would usually concede defeat at that point and leave us be.

My grandfather never lost the joy and excitement of Christmas.  He loved watching us upend our stockings and exclaim with delight over every single thing… even the apple and orange that were invariably found in the toe.  He always helped my grandmother with all the Christmas baking, played the piano and led us all in singing Christmas carols, and never grew tired of watching us open our presents and showing him all the ins and outs of the various toys we received.

blog 11

When the question of Santa Claus came up, I remember Gramps emphatically stating “of course, there’s a Santa Claus!  It’s the spirit of Christmas that lives in everyone’s heart.”  I have never forgotten his words, and I have never forgotten what they mean.

blog 7

Christmas is first and foremost the celebration of Jesus’ birth but, beyond that, it’s about generosity towards others.  Generosity can take a lot of forms.  It can mean giving things but it can also mean giving our time, our talents, our listening ear, our sympathy, our understanding, our caring, and our love.  Peace and goodwill to all mankind.  As long as we genuinely give from the heart.

blog 6

I would like to think that the spirit of Christmas should permeate our lives to the point that it extends all year round.  It doesn’t have to start December 1st and end January 1st.  If anything, the Christmas season is perhaps a reminder that we tend to lose that spirit throughout the year and is a prompt to help us get back on track.

blog 5

I’ve done some volunteer work this year, which I definitely plan to continue and hopefully expand on in 2014.  But, helping others, giving to others, doesn’t have to be confined to volunteer work.

Just yesterday, for example, I took a walk at the end of the day and happened upon a guy whose car was badly stuck in heavy snow.  A neighbor had just run over to help push but they needed more than him.  The passenger’s side window was down and I noticed the guy behind the wheel was probably a foot taller than me and solidly built.  So I asked if it would help if I sat behind the wheel so that he could help push with the other guy, and he agreed.  It took a few tries but the car finally came free.

I can’t tell you how good it felt to be part of that.

blog 8

We all having the ability to make a difference every single day of our lives.  Seemingly small things like motioning to another car to merge into traffic in front of you, opening a door for someone who’s elderly or who has children or who’s burdened with parcels, smiling and wishing someone a great day, shoveling the walkways and decks for your landlord (which I did a couple of days earlier this week) or sending someone a quick note to say you’re thinking about them or praying for them.

blog 4

A whole lot of little things can add up to make a big difference.  If we commit to keeping our eyes open to the endless possibilities around us to help, to give, to encourage, to build up, to stand alongside others – and then do something about it as much as we’re able to – our world will be a much better place.

blog 9

The change that I want to see is the change that begins with me.

blog 2

I’m want to be Joy to the world… in my world.  In this Christmas season and beyond to 2014.

blog 3

Now that’s the spirit…

blog 10