Not so Random Acts of Kindness

kindness

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – This week we celebrated Random Acts of Kindness day, and while having a day set aside does seriously dampen some of the randomness, it was a wonderful day of surprises and joy.  From a delightful coffee, to a bowl full of inspirational quotes to flowers, the kindness piled up.

It is often passed around Facebook and other places of wisdom sharing that kindness is free, kindness is strong and kindness is necessary as we are all fighting battles about which others know nothing.

Being kind is not as fluffy and easy as it sounds. It means that sometimes you have to look past a rude remark or mean action, look past a troubled past relationship or a blatant attack on your character. You have to squelch that part of you that wants to sting back, and instead dig deeply for a kind thought, word or action.

Kindness is brave, kindness is intentional, kindness is always the best course and kindness most often benefits the giver in unexpected or unintended ways.

Wonderful day, super idea, let’s make every day a “somewhat planned random acts of continual kindness” day. It

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never hurts to keep the joy moving in ripples all around.

Picture Perfect

photo frames mounted on walls

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Do you know what I love? I love how everyone sees they are looking at in a different way.

During the office moves I noticed that one person had a really tacky picture from the 1970’s up on the wall. I wondered to myself – is that actually screwed to the wall? Why has she not taken that down? Did she lose a bet?

Luckily I said none of these things out loud, and in planning the moves I learned the reason for the wall art. Lovingly she described the golden gilded felt lined frame as a picture that reminded her of her grandmother’s home and all of the wonderful memories there.

You see, she saw something totally different in the picture on the wall because her lens included the window of her memories. I find that so much of what we see depends on who we are, where we have been, what we love, where we have found joy in the past.  I guess this is why there is the timeless truth that says we do not see things as they are, but as we are.

From this observation I take two things – first love what you love and do not worry about whether a design magazine would ever feature it.  And secondly, always use your inside voice when trying to decide why the tackiest thing you have ever seen is featured prominently in someone else’s decor.

Thanks for all you do to make the world more joyful.

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Equinox Equanimity

brown leaf trees on forest

I read a great billboard in Millbrook that read August is the Sunday of summer. And so, just like the late afternoon on a Sunday, I am a little sad that August is coming to a close. Just like the weekend full of tasks that are incomplete on Sunday afternoon, this summer I had planned to do so much more. I had great to-do lists – plans to whip the problem corners of my yard into shape, go to the beach for a summer supper picnic with my kids, spend some time in Haliburton – not at work, but rather just basking it its glory and swimming all of the time.

OK so maybe I did not get all of these things done, and September is looming large in the very near future. Nonetheless, I am working hard not to hang my head in dismay and discouragement. I did what I could, I tried to be present and notice things, I had great times with family, fun times in my backyard, and I did swim most of the time.

I guess that is what the billboard posters mean that say, “no regrets.” We just have to wake up each day, make plans, adjust plans, let the day happen, have a great jumble of moments and then regroup because time is passing. Here’s hoping that everyone had a great bunch of moments and good times throughout the summer … and that we all make the most of these last few days.

There is a great quote that goes something like, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” September, and the future, hold great things to come and that is where we are all headed.

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Wobbly Wisdom

underwaterbasket-500x500

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I recently read an important piece in the Globe and Mail called, “Put down the self-help books.”  It was the catchy title of the article that drew me in, as I have been known to advocate for finding your own treasure inside yourself and all that.

This was a compelling article in which Michael Unger argued that resiliency is not an inside job but rather a matter of resources. The author speaks of the study of many young people at risk and reported that a key determining factor for them is not how many services are involved in their “cases,” but whether they have a family, a network, a congregation or a community of support around them. The statistics, again and again, Unger argued, support that even the most dysfunctional of family ties are more important than world class therapy when it comes to weathering the storm.

I have been know to talk about three legs to the stool, that if our work life is one and family a second, we need a third to keep us from wobbling – be it, model boat club, church, under water basket weavers society – whatever.  Another connection is essential so that we have a balance of support for our seat.

I still think that self-help books are important, to our attitude and in our willingness to ask for help.  Unger though, does seem to prove to me that true help comes both from within and from all around as we travel this life.

Thanks for all that you do each day, helping each other and others.

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Lunchtime Learning

eggs in tray on white surface

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I recently sat in a lunch room with someone who does not like cheese or eggs. Actually, that is a bit inaccurate – she hates them. While this fact may not sound earth shattering to you, I was stunned to think that someone could be happy in a dark, flavourless world where melted cheese in copious amounts on top of just about anything did not instantly solve the problems of a day – or where the deliciousness of an egg cooked in about a dozen different ways did not instantly brighten one’s morning, or any time of day.

Here it is – a person who I like, respect and learn from I now know from this conversation, is completely bonkers. Isn’t this how it seems when we meet someone who is completely different from us in some way – who has a different world view, different priorities, different motivators, different joys, different likes, different fears – and if too different, it just feels strange?

This experience was the beginning for me in understanding that timeless truth – we do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are. What is wondrous and comfortable for me can be easily seen as bonkers to someone else with their different lens.

So, no, my acquaintance who hates eggs and cheese is not really bonkers. We are all the sum of all our experiences, lessons, attitudes and genes, and our food preferences are part of the beautiful unique package. There is so much to gain when we are open to learning and seeing all these other perspectives. There is a trove of untold wonder in looking at things a little differently and a little less cheesy. Here’s to the different, you are ‘eggsactly’ what we need.

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Prop And Progress

Beach Path
So last week Lee Iacocca died, and, in his honour, I reread his autobiography. Lee was a hard-working son of Italian immigrants that moved to the US to buy into the American dream and he has been a little over the top about America’s greatness over the years. He grew up in the depression and got publicly humiliated and fired from his job as President of Ford in the late 70’s before literally inventing the mini van and creaming Ford in the marketplace for a decade at Chrysler. All that aside, I love parts of his leadership style- famous to me for two things that I try to remember: first- hire people smarter than you and get out of their way, and leadership is just motivating people to do better every day. I also love that he had a disdain for people that could not take vacation, so upper brass at Ford, then Chrysler would say to him: “I have not taken a day of in three years” and he would respond- “why do I want you working for my company if you cannot even take responsibility for managing to balance your own life and stay connected with your family?” So, here is to Lee who worked hard, got rich, and left a legacy in leadership. So that is the thing to think about yes, a job can take over and demand attention, carve out some time. Thank you for all you do each day making summer dreams a reality.

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Crop Report

brown wheat plant

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I will always take an interest in farm life around me, those hard-working men and women who feed and always clothe me at the mercy of the weather and other hazards. This is a bad year – fall wheat did not thrive, it has been too wet to plant other crops on time and no hay is coming off in good shape with all of the rain.

It is bad. A field of fall wheat near my house had a huge patch of yellowed, sparse plants in it. I noticed this week that the farm operators have cut their losses on that part of their land and have over-seeded it with another crop. Doing this must be a tough decision, to abandon one crop’s future and start over.

How often do we have to do this? Best laid plans, partners, jobs, health – all, under the wrong conditions, do not thrive and somehow we then have to decide – do we let it be and see whether things will turn around, or do we turn that soil over and start with something new. Tough decision to make because presumably that whole rest of the field is healthy, or that is our favourite crop or that is what we really, really want to grow.  I guess it is just one of those leaps of faith that life is full of that we must make… soy beans are good too.

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The Real Riches

person standing and holding lamp inside cave

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Here is a story that I recently heard about a monk travelling in the wilderness when he happens upon a remote cave. Inside of the cave he finds the most beautiful, magnificent and huge ruby. He delights in its beauty, places it in his satchel and carries on his journeys.

A while later, the monk meets another traveller and they talk about the cave and the wonderful discovery. The traveller remarks on the beauty of the ruby and asks how to get to the cave so that he, perhaps, could find his own. The monk simply tells him that there is no need to find the cave because he will gladly give the ruby to the traveller. The traveller is ecstatic and goes away, dreaming of the riches that can be leveraged by the valuable gem.

A few weeks later the traveller happens upon the same monk and asks if the monk could give him something else. The monk is a little disappointed that this man’s passion for possessions was so huge, but smiles and asks what is being sought from him today.

The traveller quietly explains, “I want whatever it is you have that allowed you to so freely give away that priceless ruby without a thought of what riches you could have had.”

What does it mean to live life where material possessions have no power? How does life shift when not saving up for a nice new couch or car or pair of shoes? What a difference it could make if, when seeing someone else’s car, couch or shoes, I am simply happy that they have them and do not compare them to my shabby car, couch and shoes.

We are probably not going to find a million dollar gem in a cave to test whether we could give it away or not, but maybe we could try just enjoying what we do have, revelling in the joy of others having things they love and not keeping track of what there is yet to acquire. Maybe that would make a beautiful, magnificent and huge difference in how we feel and how much joy we collect … and that would be priceless.

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Turtle Teachings

turtles.jpgFrom the desk of Teresa Jordan – I have had a week with a theme, and that theme has been turtles.

I had an appointment and was driving with a staff member when we passed a snapping turtle laying eggs; we both remarked that it was our first turtle sighting of the year.

Later that day the same staff member found a fatally injured turtle and took time off to get it to the trauma centre for care.

The following day I spotted a painted turtle crossing the road and before I could turn around another car stopped to help it safely off the road.

What do all of these turtles mean?  I guess and I hope that a society that helps turtles helps one other. That a slow-moving turtle can slow down a fast-moving car means that we are still taking time to notice and to care.

Perhaps the turtles are the ones helping us across the divide to busy, distracted and speedy days by stopping us to help another creature that truly can never reciprocate.  Turtles, so much to slowly teach, so much to slowly win in the race of a day, so many reasons to cross the road.

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Read the Small Print

blur book stack books bookshelves

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I often wonder how it is that I can get so accustomed to a change so fast. Last night I started a novel that I had picked up at a yard sale a few weeks ago, written by one of my favourite authors. This is an author I know and love, and the book does not seem, so far, to be one I have read. Yes, I am that person who sometimes finds the story familiar a few chapters in.

Here’s the thing … it was printed some years back and it is in what we would now call “the old smaller format.” I read novels of this size for decades before the norm became a larger book. And yet, last night, I felt almost confined and I strained to hold the smaller version and to focus my reading in the tiny space. I have grown accustomed to the new feel, size, font of the larger novel and it is hard to go back.

I think this is human nature. We are constantly forming and reforming habits and it is hard to change. It stresses, for me, the importance of trying to lay good foundations for change and for setting things in place that will lead to a great change in habit. They say that it takes a long time to form a new habit and that almost any of us can become a real expert in anything after 10,000 hours of practice.

I am reminded that, with each of the hours I practice both good and bad habits, I am setting myself up to get ingrained in a way of doing, seeing or thinking about things. So, I guess it’s up to all of us to choose the kinds of hours of practice that make things better, more joyful and happier. In the book, so far, I do not recognize the plot and I plan to soldier on, in my confined space, in order to enjoy a great read … and some good practice at sidelining my ingrained habits.

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