Monday Mitzvah: Expressing Gratitude

Gratitude Wallpaper by dontstealmypen flick CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Gratitude Wallpaper by dontstealmypen flick CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hello everyone!  I’m back with a blog facelift (it’s most noticeable on the home page–how do you like it?) and another Monday Mitzvah.  Perhaps you need this little pick me up more than usual.  Holidays can be hard for survivors for so many reasons.  It’s also the first Monday back to school for many.

In case you are new (and if so welcome!) mitzvahs are small acts of service.  The idea comes from Linda Cohen’s book 1000 Mitzvahs, because Linda’s father loved mitzvahs, after his death she set a goal to do 1,000 mitzvahs to help ease her grieving.   I write about mitzvahs that are small enough that anyone could do them–meaning even someone that is severely depressed, even suicidal, because I think mitzvahs do have power to help us and the people we share them with.

Today, I want to share a video that I discovered on Facebook.  I really love this idea.  Such a small thing–express gratitude to someone who has made a difference in your life.  And yet you can see how powerfully it affected the people in this experiment.

Now here’s the challenge for you–express gratitude to someone today.  You choose how big or how small…you could make a phone call like they did in the video, write a letter, or send a text. It’s your mitzvah so you can make it as simple or complicated as you like depending on how stressed and/or you may or may not be today. Just do it–even if it’s small.

I’ll start.  I am so grateful for all of you that read this blog.  Writing has been such a powerful outlet to me in my healing.  But not just any writing would do–I needed to share what I was writing with someone and blogging gave me the perfect platform for that.  The great thing about blogging is I know you will only be here if you want to be.  So when you leave me comments, here or on FB, when you click LIKE, or when you simply read (and I know someone has been here by looking at my blog stats).  It means so much to me.  It tells me that people care, and I think that is one of the most important parts of the healing process.  At least it has been for me.

So thank you for sharing this journey with me!  Sometimes people ask me, “Is it okay if I share your blog with a friend who is struggling?”  My answer is always YES.  Yes and yes!  Please do.  Sharing is the best compliment.

Now don’t forget your challenge–go express gratitude to someone.  Happy Monday!

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Monday Mitzvahs: Authenticity

This weekend I had an opportunity to go to a women’s conference.  It was called, appropriately, Time Out for Women.  There were wonderful speakers and beautiful music.  A highlight for me was meeting one of my favorite authors, James Ferrell.  I told him how something he shared in his book, The Peacegiver, about David, Abigail and Naman has touched me.  When I told him that this story gave me hope, as an abuse survivor, that someday I will be able to forgive, he gave me a big hug.   That was powerful.  To me his hug said so many things.  Things like, “I’m sorry you went through that.”  Which I still need to hear.  And “hang in there things will get better.”  Hugs are powerful.  I had forgotten that.

But wait, I want to tell you more about the conference and yet I don’t want to bore you.  Let me see if I can share the experience better.  Let’s begin with this song by Hilary Weeks, Beautiful Heartbreak:

Oh, did I forget to tell you to get kleenex?  Sorry about that., heh heh. I can’t watch it without crying either.  The woman who was burned on 80% of her body is Stephanie Nielsen.  She is a blogger too, you can read her blog here.  Of course, you probably didn’t need me to tell you that since she has thousands of followers.

Does anyone know the name of the woman who lost her family in a war?  Tell us in the comments if you know.

Okay, as an apology for making your cry without warning, now I will make you laugh.  Well, I mean Kris Belcher will.  This video will show you her humor, but she has a spiritual side as well.

Admit it you laughed out loud–literally–didn’t you?  I did too, and I’m writing this from work (which means I nearly woke up ten sleeping teenagers! Yikes!)

I’ve set myself up here with what is a hard act to follow–understatement–but it was necessary.  You see, with wonderful speakers like Kris Belcher, and great artists and music videos like Hilary Weeks and others, how could it not be wonderful?  That isn’t really the reason I had such a healing weekend though.

My weekend was amazing because of authenticity–from the speakers, artists and also from my companions.  I went with a group of women from church.  Some I knew a little better than others.  We got a couple hotel rooms, and would you believe we stayed up until 2:30 am chatting like teenagers?

That late night visiting was one of my favorite parts of the weekend.  Women getting together, sharing their hearts, sharing their struggles.  It was powerful.  It was authentic.  It reminded me of a similar experience I had not too long ago with a group of friends at Red Robin.  We nourished our bodies with hamburgers, and our spirits with vulnerability.

What touches me most about the Hilary Weeks video Beautiful Heartbreak is all those women sharing their pain.  There is something powerful in sharing our pain with one another.  My therapist taught me that pain needs a witness, but I don’t often think about how healing sharing your pain can be for others.  Too often we get stuck in the mindset of trying to hide our pain and pretend that everything is fine, when sharing is the real healer for our own hearts and those that love us.

So the mitzvah (act of kindness) for today is to allow yourself to be authentic, to be vulnerable with the people that you love.  More than your own heart might be healed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Mitzvahs: The Power Within You

“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain as he is. But if you treat him as he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be. ” Johann Wolfang von Goethe, German writer and politician

This is my favorite quote.  My favorite stories, both in literature and real life are stories that embody this idea.  Man of La Mancha is one of these.

Man of La Mancha is the musical version of Cervantes book, Don Quixote.  In the story, an aging and wealthy man “lays down the burden of sanity” and becomes a knight.  His faithful servant Sancho travels with him as he fights enemies (Sancho tries to tell him it is just a windmill) and has other adventures.

Along his path, he discovers “his lady”.  His lady, Aldonza, is a fiesty bar maid and prostitute.  A very difficult life has toughened her, and she scoffs at Don Quixote when he calls her a lady and renames her Dulcinea.  Ironically, dulce means sweet in Spanish, and Aldonza is anything but. Undeterred, he persists in his gentlemanly adoration of her.  Many twists and turns of plot follow, but in the end, she begins to soften and act more like a Dulcinea.

Emile Bayard 1862 [public domain] Wikimedia Commons
Emile Bayard 1862 [public domain] Wikimedia Commons

Another literary example is in Les Miserables.  Remember Jon ValJean is released from prison after nearly twenty years, for stealing a loaf of bread to keep his nephew from starving to death.  Now released from prison, he is forced to carry papers that warn all that he is a dangerous ex-convict.  That does not help his prospects of getting work, food and lodging.  However, a kindly Catholic Bishop takes him in.  Jon Valjean returns this favor by stealing the Bishop’s silver and and escaping during the night.  He is quickly apprehended by the police though, and returned to the Bishop, who has an amazing response.

The Bishop can see not only the man that Valjean is, but the man he “ought to be and could be”.  So he treats him as such.  The Bishop tells the police that he gave the silver to Valjean and then gives him the candlesticks also.  Because of his kindness, Valjean’s years of anger and bitterness from being imprisoned fall away.  He uses this kindness to become a better man.  As the story progresses, he is given opportunities to similarly bless others lives, and he does.

These stories are fiction, of course, but fiction often mirrors real life.  It is said that Valjean was based on an actual convict who became a business owner and philanthropist.   Even more importantly, these stories show us what is possible.

Though it may not feel like it at times, each one of us wields tremendous power.  Power to love others, to see their potential and to treat them as if they were already the person they could be.  What will you do with your power?

Monday Mitzvahs: No More Shaming

Today, I have a couple special “guests”.  You know Oprah, but do you know Brene Brown?  If you do you are lucky, as I am to have learned from her.  If you haven’t met her yet, allow me the pleasure of introducing you.  Dr. Brene Brown is a shame researcher and author of several exceptional books.  Please take a couple minutes (less than four to be precise) and then we’ll talk about it.

Note: Brene uses teachers in this illustration about shame, but she did NOT intend it to be a slam on teachers, whom she has great respect for.  In a blog post yesterday, she apologized for the misunderstanding.

This video is so important, not only for the obvious message, but because there is a valuable message here for parents about child abuse.  If you have ever wondered why abused children don’t tell, Brene just gave you the answer: shame.  If the child feels shame–and abuse is very shaming–then they won’t tell.  It really is that simple and that powerful.  Shame is crippling.  Shame is suffocating.  And it is so unnecessary.

I think Brene also offers a very powerful solution here as well.  No name calling–not even to yourself.  I don’t use negative names with my children and I don’t think any of my friends do either, but I suspect we are all guilty of shaming ourselves.  I believe (and deeply hope) that if we give our children a home without shame, they will be more shame-resilient as they move into the world–more likely to experience humiliation (rather than shame) and therefore healthy anger–which will be a great protection for them.

So today’s mitvzah is to stop the shaming.  Be gentle with yourself.  Who knows but you how hard you try?  And how much you care your family and friends?  So give yourself the gift of kindness.

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Monday Mitzvahs: Open Your Mind

Open Minded by Dr Case CC BY-NC 2.0 Flickr
Open Minded by Dr Case
CC BY-NC 2.0 Flickr

When I started writing Monday Mitzvahs it was sort of an experiment.  I wanted to know if I could find acts of service (mitzvahs) that someone could do even when they are very depressed.  And I wanted to know it would help.  The answer is yes on both accounts.

While I plan to continue with that, today I want to share a little bit different sort of mitzvah.  Sometimes when I am really depressed, it is hard to remember that there is any good in the world–that there are people who are kind, people who care about others.  So today I decided to share a story of a regular guy doing something amazing.  Just to remind us that there are good people out there making a difference.

Today I read an amazing, inspiring post on the Kindness Blog about a man in New Dehli, India.  He was concerned about the large numbers of children who were not in school  So he talked to their parents, and started teaching the children who were willing to come.  Their classroom?  Under a bridge.  Seriously, click on the link above for the Kindness Blog and read about this amazing man and all the children he is helping.

One of the children said, “Our teacher has told us that when poverty strikes you should open your mind and that can only be done through education.”

“Open your mind”  I love it!  This teacher was certainly an example of doing just that.  He saw a problem and rather than just shrug his shoulders and ignore it, he opened his mind and found a way to help.   It really makes me think, what might happen if I keep my mind open?

In the spirit of Monday MItzvahs, I have to say that keeping your mind open doesn’t mean you have to do something big.  Just helping one child to learn to read, or helping one child with math could be a HUGE thing to that child.

I am convinced that there is enough need in the world for all of us to do something, big or small. And  I am reminded of my favorite scripture, when we open our mind we will be more prepared to ” . . . succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” Doctrine and Covenants

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Monday Mitzvahs: Bucket List

Things To Do by hjhipster CC BY-NC 2.0 Flickr
Things To Do by hjhipster
CC BY-NC 2.0 Flickr

I love the movie, The Bucket List.  You know the one with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nickelson.  Their characters meet in the hospital where they are both being treated for incurable illness.  They decide to make a list of things to do before they “kick the bucket”.  If you haven’t seen it, repent and put it in Netflix queue or run over to Redbox or whatever,

Of course, the idea of bucket lists did not originate with this movie, people have been making bucket lists probably as long as there have been buckets.  Who knows, right?  But did you know there is a website specifically to help people track, and share their bucket lists?  I didn’t either.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m thinking about it.  It looks fun–not only can you share your list, but you can see what other people are doing and be inspired by their accomplishments.  Here it is: Bucketlist Track and Achieve Your Life Goals.

And would you further be amazed to learn that there are “bucket list bloggers”.  Yes, people who blog about their experiences accomplishing the items on their lists.  Wowzer.  Where have I been while all this was happening?  Annette at Bucket List Journey has a wonderful list of 47 Inspiring Bucket Lists for You to Stalk

It is understandable.  Self-help resources, too many to count, tell us that in order to achieve our dreams we need to set goals, and write them down.  A bucket list is a good start.

For our mitzvah idea today, I want to share a really cool idea from fellow blogger, Christine, who has a list of Kind Acts & Volunteering.  How cool is that?  What a great idea.  Totally inspired by this, I started my own mitzvah list.  For inspiration I looked at Christine’s list and poked around the net a bit . . .

Here’s what I have so far:

1 volunteer at a nursing home

2 volunteer at a soup kitchen

3 leave $5 where a kid will find it

4 leave flowers on a strangers doorstep

5 write letters to five people who have influenced me

6 send my compliments to a chef

7 volunteer for a non-profit

8 make someone breakfast in bed

9 feed someone’s parking meter that’s about to expire

10 open a phone book and send something to a stranger

12 bake something for someone

13 help with the meal after a funeral

14 donate magazines to a hospital or doctor’s office

15 knit fingerless gloves for Mitts of Steal

That’s just a beginning.  I would like to make this list longer . . . 100 items?  I’ll have to ponder that.  Any suggestions? And what about you?  Are you inspired to make a mitzvah list?   If you do, you might find some inspiration at another favorite new blog of mine:  Kindness Blog

Just think, we could all be like Santa–making a list, checking it twice . . .

Photo Attribution: Things To Do

Monday Mitzvah: Listening With the Soul

We’ve talked about listening as a mitzvah before, but today we’ll touch on a different kind of listening.  My friend, Sue, graciously accepted my invitation to be a guest blogger today and share an experience she had recently.

If you like this (and I know you will,) you can read more of her musings at marysuemarshall.com

Listen to Me by Joseph Giilbert CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Fllickr
Listen to Me by Joseph Giilbert
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Fllickr

Listening With the Soul  by Mary Sue Marshall

I am known for talking. All my life, from the moment I said my first words, it has been hard for me to keep my mouth shut. I have many friends who can talk just as fast and prolifically as I do. But sometimes, even though it may take awhile, it’s best to listen.

I met with an old friend recently. This was a delightful man, full of life, humor and wisdom. He could keep up with me talking as well as the best of them. But earlier this year, he had a stroke. It was a pretty devastating one. When he finally left the hospital, it was in a wheelchair and into a rehabilitation home. Somehow, when meeting Josh again, I expected to see the same gentle giant, one who could talk a blue streak, as I knew before.

His grey eyes still had the same sparkle. While he is no longer in a wheelchair, he uses a walker, mostly for balance, he said and mostly because the chair attached comes in handy.  But he has slowed down, it is difficult to hear him and it takes him awhile to get words out. My usual tendency would have been to answer questions for him and do things for him. This time, for some reason, I held back.

While his delightful, wry sense of humor is still there, his mind is active and his mischievous smile, the one that reaches his eyes are all the same, he is just a bit slower do all the things we take for granted. Like talking, showering, eating, filling a glass.

I learned a lot about stroke survivors. He said that no one is willing to wait for him to answer something, they just answer for him, usually the wrong way. He said he will never learn how to talk again unless there is someone willing to do so and willing to wait for him to be able to get it out. He said, with a wry smile, that it didn’t matter much if he could talk or not because I could do all the talking without a problem! He also said how frustrating it was to be healing from the stroke and able to do something for himself, but no one really wanted to wait for him to do it, so they do.

I recently received a head injury after a severe concussion. I am finding it very difficult to express myself with words. The ease of writing and of speaking has left me for a bit. While I am still capable of doing just about everything, it just takes me a bit longer. The right word will disappear or I can’t remember how to spell a word.

Talking with Josh, him speaking slowly and with great care and me, for once, listening, I learned some great lessons. As friends and parents, we always want to make life easier for those we love. But more often than not, it is the kinder lesson to allow them to do the things for themselves that they can. I realized that the true listening part of love is not what we hear with our ears but what we feel from them in our hearts. I learned that, in this fast-paced word, we are often in a hurry to make things happen, to get things done.

Sometimes, slower is better.Sitting there, listening to Josh tell me the things that had been in his mind awhile, I realized the old adage, “Good things come to those who wait”, is true. By allowing Josh to tell me what was on his mind, rather than saying what it was I thought he wanted to say, I heard the old Josh. He’s still in there. His mind is alive and brilliant as ever. His sense of humor and the little boy grin is just the same, perhaps a little lopsided now, but just the same.

Our old friendship is still there. Nothing has changed much. But I have learned the value of listening, not in the typical sense, but in the goal of Josh learning again how to get the words from that funny, intelligent, quirky mind of his. I learned that by my not talking so much, he heard. By his speaking so slowly, I was able to hear not just the words from his mouth, but what was in his soul.

I received so much more than Josh. We’re meeting again this week, so he can talk.

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