12/29/2009

Give it to me Straight



Ever wonder why folks are so reluctant, as adults, to be totally honest with each other? Yes, often times, what is said is what the recipient wants to hear; an endorsement, of sorts, of the asker’s opinions so as to avoid any confrontation. Sometimes these white lies can build to the point where the communication is so far from the truth, it is almost as if a rubber band has been stretched to the breaking point.

We can all take a lesson from children. As the saying goes, “out of the mouth of babes. ” Children are honest, at times, brutally honest. If you ask a child if he or she likes something, you will get the truth. It does not matter if you have slaved in the kitchen breaking out in hot sweats for hours. If they don’t like the meal, they are going to tell you, with or without your prompting. Wouldn’t we all rather hear the truth though that a fabrication of reality?

I often watch my grandchildren interact with each other just to see these phenomena. There are two of them, relatively close in age, and when one does not want to share, the other one knows it without a doubt. Even as children age, they still tend to be quite honest. I will never forget, years ago, when my darling nephew, around 7 years old at the time , Nic Taylor said to me, after opening his present for his birthday, “Please Aunt Ronni, don’t buy me more clothes!” His mother looked dismayed but I was overjoyed. I do not want to spend money on something someone does not appreciate. From that day forward, I seldom have bought him one article of clothing, except for a football jersey he asked for! How much better is that than not knowing what someone is really thinking?

There is a lesson to be learned, quite simply, from children. Be upfront and honest with others. We can be more diplomatic than children often are and show more sensitivity but yet speak the truth. There is no need to rip something out of someone’s hands we want or throw a temper tantrum if we are not getting the attention we want. But, imagine a world where adults care enough about each other to be honest. Imagine, when someone asks our input, we tell them quite simply, objectively, what we feel without filtering down so badly it does not really resemble more than just a mirror of what they just said. Also, are you really helping others discern the truth from fiction in their life if you are not honest with them?

12/25/2009

O Come All Ye Faithful


Months ago, I was working with a team of women for the Relay for Life event in Williamson County. The day of the event, I happened to be at local mall in that area and was pretty excited about the upcoming festivities. Hence, I was telling the store clerks in New York & Company about it and inviting them to attend.

A young man behind the counter told me he was scheduled to work that weekend and could not attend. While he was saying this, he was unhooking the clasp of the beautiful chain he had around his neck, sterling silver with a sparkle when the lights hit it directly. This was not custom jewelry. Without a word, he handed it to me. I looked down at the chain and back at the young man’s face and asked why he was giving it to me. He simply said “My grandfather was a wonderful loving man who died years ago of cancer. I always wanted to do something to let him know how profoundly he touched my life. This is my opportunity. Take this chain that is so dear to me and expensive and use it to raise money to find a cure so no one else has to suffer the same fate my grandfather did.”

I was humbled by his generosity. Here was someone quite young, working in retail and offering up something near and dear to him to help others. I was so excited I quickly got on my cell phone and called our team captain to recant the story.
An hour later I arrived at our tent, home base, for the Relay with my fellow team members. They had, by then, all heard the story about the necklace.

One of our team members was not going to be able to join us though. We were saddened because her cancer had returned and we all wanted to set our eyes on her and let her know she remains steadfast in our prayers. We decided, as a group, instead of auctioning the necklace we would give it to her, with the story told to me, and hopefully give her a new leash on life. God works in mysterious ways and maybe, by passing on this necklace we could instill even more faith and hope in our dear friend’s heart.

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Fast forward to yesterday, Christmas Eve. I was doing the last minute run to the mall and happened to be in the same store and lo and behold, the same young man was there behind the counter. I told him what was done with his necklace. He asked for an update on her current situation. I told him she was still in the heat of the battle. Reluctant to give up, her determination was guiding her to continue fighting even harder, with another round of chemotherapy with an ‘experimental’ treatment she was to begin shortly.

The young man thanked me repeatedly for letting him know who his chain had gone to and her story. Then, without a word, he removed a gorgeous bracelet he was wearing and held it out to me. He asked me simply to give it to her and let her know it is a Hail Mary bracelet. He went on to tell me he is a Catholic, devout in his faith. He said the bracelet signifies to him prayers are being said by all and he wanted her to know, with this gift, he will continue praying for her.

I tried to refuse as the bracelet was gorgeous. It had images of Virgin Mary, the crucifix, stations of the cross, etc…beautifully painted on each bead. As I looked it over and scanned the back of the beads, they also have painted images on them and were completely different than the images on the front of the beads. It was , simply said, gorgeous. Full of Christian meaning with those images staring back at me. He told me he could easily get another and it would mean far more to him to know where it was going than to wear it. He said he believes in the Hail Mary prayer and has used it repeatedly through out his life. He simply said “I want to give the gift or prayer to your friend and let her know, with this bracelet, others are praying for her.”

I took down his email, at my request, because I felt I wanted to follow up with him with updates on her condition. He was humbled that I asked to stay in contact with him as his gift had no strings attached. He did not even give me his name, merely his email. He was simply a servant of God not interested in attention or praise. Yet, when I told him I would indeed take it to her this holiday season, his face lit up like I had given him the gift! He thanked me repeatedly as I repeated his words to me, thanking him! The line was beginning to back up in the front of the store, but all present within an earshot of this conversation that heard this encounter moved or said a word. I think all were taken in by this simple gesture and gift of this young man to some woman fighting to stay alive this Christmas.

I walked out of the store, once again, reminded God is alive and well. He is showing himself in the strangest of places. Just like the movie years ago George Burns starred in Oh God, the almighty really does reveal himself in the simplest of places. Here in the face of this young man working retail was a love of mankind so pure and a gift given freely with no expectation in return. How wondrous!

I thought about this young man many times yesterday and in particular when I attended a candle light service. As the lights were dimmed in our church, illumination in the church only by burning candles each member of the congregation was holding, I again reflected on this gift. I was reminded, just as the wise men brought gifts to our baby Jesus laying in a manger, this young man was bringing life to a complete stranger through me. This man’s gift represents hope, love and faith.

I hope, after reading this account, you all will remember that the true meaning of Christmas comes in no set size package, no particular form or person but solely from God. If we open our hearts, the gift is there not only at Christmas time but always.

Merry Christmas to all! Rejoice! Do you doubt the magic of the season? Look no further……

12/19/2009

You can help cure the world this Christmas

We need alittle Christmas year around. We need to take that giving attitude and let it be incorporated in day to day living. Think of the difference in the world with just a little bit more thoughtfulness, a little more compassion towards others and lending a helping hand to those in need.

I sit here and imagine a world with this helpfulness played out. I see a world with more smiles and less tears. I see more healthy lives and less people dying needlessly. I see more neighbors being neighborly, verses battling it out in civil court where no one truly wins. Who instills the peace when hatred brews?

Yes, this season is full of happy stories. My sister’s quest for getting her college degree, after many years, has finally been realized. More solidiers are coming home from overseas. But I also see such horror stories abound! A Bengals football player died this week after falling out of a truck during a scuffle with his fiance. Three young children will never get to know their father growing up. Christmas this year will not be with daddy there. Was no one aware of the turmoil brewing in his relationship with his fiancĂ© so that this event could have been prevented? Now that he is gone, do folks care?

How about all the children fighting illness in the hospital, is that worthy of our time and attention? They are millions of donors waiting for organs so they can see another Christmas. And yet, when you turn on the television this week, one week before Christmas, we are repeatedly hit with images of Tiger Woods infidelities. Stories that we are hearing from questionable sources out to smear his name and get their couple minutes of fame. The media seems hell bent on smearing his name. Forget the fact he has a wife and two children, it is more important to networks and magazine publications to boost ratings. He wanted privacy to deal with his indiscretion. What benefit is it to any of us to continue hearing all this smut? Is anyone's live being enriched with this knowledge? What ever happened to the days when this season, Christmas, brought happy stories to the air ways, to our homes, to help warm our hearts?

Please push back. Too many people are sitting by the sideliness waiting or avoiding the difficult tasking of taking up a stance. Saying the words, enough, we want change, we want responsiblity by all. I have seen family members sit idly by while loved ones fight cancer, not saying a word to a loved one. Not a peep about the differance a cancer fighter has made in being alive and impacting others lives. More concerend with living their own lives, whether that person be a mother, son, friend's child. Do you think the cancer victim does not sense this? Do you think it is any less painful because they are fighting to stay alive that others avoid them and don't let them know they are loved and they will be fighting for a cure long after they are gone? Be strong and be supportive of others going thru tough times. Have the direct conversations, don't let things go unsaid, seize the moment. God might have made it just for you. Are you listening?

You have a voice not just this season, but always. Use it. If the show you are watching is doing nothing to advance our world, is it worth watching? Are you slandering others when you yourself have sinned? Are you caring enough about humanity to help others? Do you make a positive difference? If not, let that be your Christmas gift to the world and yes to yourself. God asks very little of us, please give. The world is waiting. We need you to care. Will you step up?

12/14/2009

The World's Christmas Wish List


Friday night began, what I hope will become a holiday tradition for me. This was on my bucket list for many years, a Christmas party in my home for my close friends. It was my way of celebrating the season, having them connect with one another and give them a night to remember. For is not the season of Christmas the season of giving? This was my gift to me, giving them a forum to enjoy life, celebrate our diversity and come together in prayer for things that really matter to us all.

The festivities were planned to the utmost. Games were preplanned by me with details reviewed way too many times. I think my eyes were growing weary reviewing my list to make sure not a thing was remiss. I created the games myself and made certain there was a complicated one, involving the need for a project manager on each team. It was my version of the Great Race in my home, but with activity challenges planned that tied in with the holidays. The groans could be heard around the room as I explained the lay out of their team building/bonding adventure. It went without a hitch and I stood back and reveled in the personalities present, the childlike abandonment of healthy competition among women!

Though the evening was a celebration it was also a time for reflection and prayful thought as to what this world truly needs. I could not begin the evening festivities without having a moment of silence and prayer thanking each of them for what they bring to my life and to this world. This was followed by what I felt was the most inspiring dialogue of the evening. Each person was asked to add to an adult Christmas wish list, one item they wish for our world.

As the progression around the room began, each time someone had to reflect on a wish for the world and add to our adult Christmas wish list, the room became somber, thoughtful and silent. Hearts felt heavy with sadness on what is needed in our world. I imagine this is how our Father must feel looking down from the heavens. How can I have created so many people with so many talents and yet they so easily forget to share them or to consider their neighbor’s needs?

Several party goers jokingly asked for tissues. Some commented this seemed too sad to be a part of our party. However, not one person failed to come up with a suggestion that would truly make this world a better place, be closer to what God had envisioned for all his children.

My original thoughts for my blog were to detail this fun evening of love and laughter. After looking at the list in the light of the next day, I knew in my heart what God intended…that is, this list should be shared. When I think of my friends, I want to remember their wishes for the world. They speak volumes…about human compassion, suffering and how to advance our people as we are all interconnected.

Our wish list included the following:
• Peace in the Middle East and an end to senseless fighting and killing of others.
• It included several requests for our military personnel to be able to be home, on safe soil, with their families to enjoy the holidays and live out all the days of their life in stability in the world.
• We also want homeless people to have a place to call ‘home’, a bed to sleep in and their basic needs met.
• Many felt the spirit of volunteerism needs to be revitalized, asking each of us to carry a torch for something that matters to us as each of us can make a difference and more of us need to try to do just that. Nomatter how busy are our lives are, we all agreed, volunteerism is the spirit of giving at work.
• A reoccurring theme was the eradication of cancer, of diseases that are killing innocent people often times in a horrific painful way. With all the attention given to media scandals, why cannot this time and attention be spent on saving lives?
• The request was made to add to our growing list to help everyone everywhere be real with each other, leave biases aside and learn to be open and listen with a forgiving mind and loving heart. Someone else expanded on this thought by stating how the world needs to foster more compassion for our fellow man. Think of the difference this would make to our world!
• One of my friends stated a wish she tries to live by, learning live each day with no regrets at the closing of the day. The power of this request hit everyone present. It would force everyone to think before reacting, and be more deliberate in what we do as to make this world a better place. It implies accountability for our choices and responsibility, virtues that often get lost in the hustle of the everyday live.
• Some spoke of tolerance and of embracing diversity. One friend expanded on this stating her own silent prayer that children everywhere, nomatter who or what they are or stand for be given a chance for a rich education and adequate health care so that they can have a future. They are our future, the children of the world.
• Last said but certainly not least was freedom, in every sense of the word. We pray for this civil right for all.
Yes, my best Christmas gift has already been received. Knowing that I brought friends together and that out of that friendship came so many words of wisdom and reflection for the world warms my soul.
I know each and everyone present Friday evening will forever remember that experience of sitting still, in a room full of Christmas lights and listening to hearts open up as never before. Strangers became friends in those quiet moments of reflection.
I wish I could express in writing the power of the moment, the and the impact of the wishes spoken we all felt but anything I write will fall shy of the mark. But, I can say, God was among us. He attended my party. I know God was smiling as we opened our hearts, one by one and let each others prayerful wish list reach our soul. We prayed that night that these wishes stated above, would be heard above all other wish lists for material things. A new vacuum cleaner, a new video game and a gift card are wonderful items but do they change the world?

Please open your heart to pray this holiday season for things that matter and can make our star, this world, shine a little bit brighter!

12/10/2009

Plan B


Not everything in life turns out the way we expect it to be or the way we desire it to. That is part of the challenge in life, truly learning to roll with the punches so that we avoid them on the next round! When I look at the faces of my grandkids, so inquisitive about life, I am struck by how early on we learn this principle. And we truly are survival of the fittest!

On that note, my career has taken a turn. I am no longer working for the American Cancer Society and wanted to update any of you that have followed my blog in the past. I realize now that giving to a cause can take many forms and there are always options. I am choosing another option. End of story.

With the closing of a year and the starting of a new one, I am invigorated about life. I see many doors to choose from to open, sort of like “Let’s Make a Deal”, the deal of life, of choices of opportunities. Which door are you choosing to walk through and why? Are your reasons the right reasons for making that choice? If so, I would love to hear from you! I find the best learning in my life is from stopping and listening to others, hence I am all ears.

As I embark on a new chapter, I am hoping to have the flexibility with my schedule to blog more regularly again. The writing process is something I enjoy and the feedback from others, priceless!