I was downsized from an executive position right before 9-11-2001. Without any prospect of a job in the city where I’d lived for twenty years I had to move away. I was forced to sell the new home I’d moved into only two years before. I had to leave the beautiful English cottage garden I’d built stone by stone and plant by plant. I lost my relationship. It seemed overnight I was involuntarily removed from the familiar, from friends, from the life I knew.
I enjoy cooking, so last Thanksgiving I wanted to prepare everything for the meal. My mother-in-law has been cooking for eighty plus years and I thought it would be a great gift for her to have a break. So when she asked what she could bring I said, “How about you just come and enjoy the day.” From the look on her face I immediately knew she was disappointed. But in that moment I was only focused on my desire to give her the gift of not having to cook.
Later that day it hit me. While I thought I was giving her a gift I was actually refusing her the pleasure she gets from cooking. I called her and said, “Elsa, what do you want to bring.” I heard her light up, “I’d like to make the dressing and Brussels sprouts with mushrooms, onion and garlic too,” she said with joy in her voice. “That will be wonderful,” I told her.
Thanksgiving is about gratitude and I am grateful to have honored her desire to contribute. In the end I really did give her the best gift and it gave me so much more joy than the happiness I thought she would get from not having to cook.
Today I want to talk with you about the side of love that receives with the same grace it gives. I understand completely how good it feels to give to others. We get such satisfaction and joy from freely giving of ourselves and our resources. What a loving act of grace it is to give. And, because we know how fantastic it feels to give, why does it seem so hard for some of us to receive with the same grace? Aren’t we denying the giver the same pleasure we get from giving?
If you are uncomfortable receiving, I challenge you to open your heart. The next time someone gives you something just say, “Thank you.” Put yourself in their position. Remember how it feels to give and be told, “You shouldn’t have or I don’t deserve this.” You don’t want someone who gives you a gift to feel bad because you cannot accept graciously. It is love that lets you feel what it’s like to be the one who gives. It is love that also lets you feel what it is like to graciously receive.
Love yourself and others by accepting the gifts you receive with the same grace with which you give. Doing so is giving the gift of respect to those you give to you. Remember a joy-filled heart is one that graciously gives and receives.
There is much in the news about bullying and disrespectful behavior in our schools, over the internet and throughout society. We have many organizations that are working to end bullying and yet we are continuing to see an increase in incidents. I believe the answer to end bullying and disrespectful behavior lies in our ability to set healthy boundaries in all of our relationships and to teach our children how to do so also.
This is my little dog and friend, Ruby. She is the eleventh rescue dog I’ve had so far in life. She is sweet and loves me unconditionally. I am so lucky Ruby and the other ten rescue dogs came into my life. They taught me so many things.
Like what it really feels like to love unconditionally and to be loved the same way. They taught me patience, respect, forgiveness, persistence and the depth of our connectedness to all life. They also taught me animals are not fashion statements. They are not meant to fight for our amusement or financial gain. They are not meant to be breed and abused in tiny cages. They are not objects. They are feeling beings.
They get hungry, tired and lonely. They get cold, hot, thirsty and scared. They experience post-traumatic stress. They feel pain and hurt. They are not meant to stay home alone all day. They are not meant to live in chains. They need to be around their people and other life. They reason and think and make decisions.
Of course they don’t reason exactly like us humans but they are smart and can learn. Like us, animals learn and respond best when treated with kindness, when offered praise and when the relationships we have with them are based on patience, trust and respect.
Animals like Ruby know the true heart of people. In order to be deserving of their love, respect and trust we must treat them with love, patience, compassion and respect. We do not take our anger out on them. We do not expect them to be perfect or to reason like a human being. We do not use them or abuse them. We do not neglect their physical and emotional needs. We do not puppy-mill them. We do not experiment on them.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” The kind of relationship we have with animals tells people the extent of our greatness too. We must never forget we human beings are animals too and we must be the kind of animal that respect, cares for and nurtures all life. Or else we’re taking a step back on our evolutionary journey which will in no way ensure our future.
We wear many hats in life, roles and labels we put on ourselves and on one another. Wife, husband, mother, father, lawyer, doctor, gay, straight, black, white, rich, poor, etc. But these do not truly tell others who we really are.
I used to hate school. What a drag sitting in class all day listening to stuff I could not imagine myself ever using. What a dumb ass I was and so many of us are when we’re young thinking we actually know something or don’t need to learn something. We don’t know squat until we learn stuff. No school is not for everyone. But education is for everyone.
Ignorant is not something any of us should choose to be because if we stay ignorant, our kids will be ignorant. If we stay ignorant to all life’s wonders, we’ll think the trash they show on televisions is how happy and fulfilling relationships work.
Knowledge is power and there has never been a time in human history when the world’s knowledge has been available to almost everyone. Only dumb asses don’t take advantage of learning as much as we can about whatever we are interested in and need to know – like children need guidance and boundaries. There is no way we can teach children anything unless we have the knowledge within us to teach them.
Yes the school of hard knocks and university of life are great teachers as long as we learn the lessons. If we’re going through another crappy divorce for the 3rd time or being expelled again for fighting, or we’re dating Mr. Wrong for the 4th time we’re not learning are we.
Life is one big classroom just as Oprah says. Sure a formal education gives us a good foundation to think critically, to investigate to find truth, to meet deadlines, how to smell opinionated bull, and how to work well with other people. Lots of good things come from staying in school – like a chance at a decent paying job that does not involved flipping meat patties over a hot grill. Nothing wrong with flipping burgers but there is so much more to life when we open ourselves to the possibility filling ourselves with as much knowledge as possible brings.
No school it’s not for everyone but anyone who truly wants to be powerful and have the best relationships and most well-adjusted children, needs to keep learning and growing and becoming better. Knowledge is true power because with knowledge comes endless opportunity. Without continuing to learn and grow we hit the wall. But with knowledge we learn how to climb over any wall, any obstacle life brings.
Stay in school. Get a diploma, go to college if you can. BUT regardless never stop learning. Life is a school and the goal is to learn as much as possible about yourself, other people and the world. Knowledge is power but it is also the way to true happiness and fulfillment with life.
It’s easy to see yourself as only human when your body is all you’re focus on seeing. But there is so much more to you than meets the eye. Your body is home to a Divine energy that only stays invisible until you allow yourself to be moved by its presence..
Do you believe people starring in fast-food commercials actually eat fast food on a regular basis? Do you think your 50 year old wrinkles will go away and you’ll look like the 18 year old in the magazine face-cream commercial? Do you believe you’ll finally be happy when you get the big car, fancy house, cool wardrobe, and hot partner? While there is supposed to be truth in advertising guess what, advertisers lie.
Sure they do with photo shop, by hiring skinny actors who NEVER eat fast food, through deception, altered imagery, and by leading us to believe things are sexy. How stupid do they think we are? Pretty stupid because we’re buying their lies hook, line and sinker. The woman who is wearing the leather mini-skirt does not come with the car you purchase. Dying your grey hair will not have young hot chicks knocking down your door. One fast-food meal packs more calories, fat, sodium, sugar, and preservatives than those commercial actors eat in a month. Those 18 year old cosmetic model photos have been doctored to the point their facial features are perfect. Not to mention the 100,000 dollar lighting system and high-paid photographers. But hey we buy the lies, never once questioning how come our butt can’t fit into our pants since we started the fast-food routine?
How come our 50 year old wrinkles don’t magically disappear? How come all those things we surround ourselves with don’t make us jump for joy 24-hours a day. People who sell us stuff will do anything to sell us stuff. We have to be smarter and ask ourselves if it’s too good to be true then it is. Happiness, personal satisfaction and fulfillment in life come from what we put into our hearts – pleasant memories, being helpful and kind, self-respect, family, friends, what we do to give back – not how we look, how much money we make or what size we wear.
The time has come to be honest with ourselves about the dishonesty of the consumeristic society in which we are living. We must be the ones who change this by educating ourselves so we don’t fall for the next tonic salesman who pulls into town. Think for yourself because when it comes to selling, advertisers, newscasters, and politicians all have swamp land they are eager to unload. We must be smarter than to think miracles come in the form of sexy, or fast, big and shiny things. The time has come to stop selling ourselves so short.