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 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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Monday Mitzvahs: Just Being a Friend

Friends by Extraordinary Boy  CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 DeviantArt
Friends by Extraordinary Boy
CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 DeviantArt

Thinking about mitzvahs for this week’s post, it occurs to me that sometimes we can perform a mitzvah (act of kindness–for you new readers) without realizing it.  Sometimes simply being a friend is enough.  Today I will share a couple of these kindness’ that I received and one that I gave–without realizing it.

Here is a portion of a journal entry from a year ago:

“. . .I had a good day at church.  Yes, a good day is noteworthy.  The reasons it was a good day:

  1. I left Sacrament before the talk triggered me into a bad mood

  2. Chris W. came to the library after Sunday School, asked for a chair and announced that she was going to stay and visit with me.  I thought that was wonderful.  She said, she wanted me to be able to go home from church happy.

  3. Angela L. took time to talk to me –Having someone re-affirm that I am not invisible, or an emotional leper—by talking to me meant so much.

  4. Also Laurel W. made a point to smile and say Hi as she headed to Primary.

It makes such a difference to know that people care.”

I would guess that none of these wonderful ladies knew what their kindness meant to me that day, but each one was truly significant–enough so that I mentioned it in my journal.

I think that most people are good and kind and want to help others who are suffering, but too often they hold back because they “don’t know what to say”.  As the examples of my friends show, you don’t need to say the right words, sometimes just showing that you care is enough.

My next story that didn’t seem to be an act of kindness when I did it.  I was “just being a friend.”  But when I shared it (much later) with my friend, Laurel, she felt it was “better than a casserole.”

Once upon a time in a far away place.  Okay, I’m exaggerating. but I want to stress (in case my kids ever read this) that this was a long time ago and I am much better now–so much so–that this incident feels like another world.

One night my friend and were chatting on the Internet late at night because I was at work and she has insomnia.  We had both been going through a really difficult time and to be honest the word ‘suicide” had come up.

This night was different though.  My friend was not just thinking about it, she had a plan was ready to act on it.  We talked and talked.  You know the wonderful AA slogan “one day at a time”?  Our slogan that night was one hour at a time. ” Let’s just get through this hour before we make any rash decision.”  I say “we” because even though I was trying desperately to talk her out of it, at the same time, I was asking myself, “Why?  Why not let her?  I understand why she wants to, and I don’t blame her.  And yet, it just doesn’t seem right.”  So I kept talking to her, kept getting her to hold on for one more hour.

When she was finally calm enough to sleep, I made her promise that she would not “do anything drastic” until she talked to me again.  She was really reluctant to make that promise, until I told her that if she did it who would be there to keep me from making the same choice.  And so she agreed.

I share this to make a couple points.  I’m not a professional.  I didn’t know what to say.  Was I afraid to say the wrong thing?  Yes!  But I was more afraid of what would happen if I stopped talking to her.

Just last night, she and I were talking and I thought back to that awful night, and marveled at what has changed since then.  She is so much happier now, and so am I.  The pain that seemed everlasting–wasn’t.

Friendship matters.  Sometimes just saying hello, or encouraging someone even when you are afraid you’ll ‘mess it up’ matters.

And if you are depressed or suicidal, hold on one more day or one more hour.  Please believe me, the pain doesn’t last forever.  I promise.

Monday Mitzvahs were inspired by Linda Cohen’s book 1000 Mitzvahs

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Monday Mitzvahs: Time Out for Grieving

My grandmother, my aunt and my mom

Dear Friends, My mom passed away on Saturday.  She had been in the hospital since Father’s Day.  She had been moved out of ICU into a regular bed. So we thought she was getting better.

Because my relationship with my mom was complicated, my grieving is complicated also.  I think someday I will write about “complicated grieving”, but I’ll hold off for now.   Since I’m not ready to write about that, and honestly can’t focus on much else, instead of my regular mitzvah I’ve gathered a couple links for you.

First here is a link to a great article  Supporting a Grieving Person

Here’s a “Monday Mitzvah” post–sort of–from Linda Cohen, the woman that inspired my Monday Mitzvahs.  This is particularly appropriate today because Linda started doing mitzvahs to celebrate her father after his death.

So now it is your turn.  For your mitzvah today, I would love it if you leave me a comment.  Just say “I’m here, listening.” or say hello.  Tell me how you found my blog, or share something that helped you with grieving.  Whatever works for you.  Go . . .

Monday Mitzvahs: Sharing Hope

Do you ever feel like an emotional zombie?  Dead inside but still moving?  That is the kind of week I have had.

DID is a mixed blessing.  I do believe that children’s ability to dissociate is a God-given gift to help them survive trauma.  Without dissociation I would be insane (I mean literally in a hospital unable to function) or I would have killed myself as a child.

So DID saved me.  Sometimes it helps me get through difficult situations today.  It has also helped me get some reprieve from the past and enjoy life.  But other times, it feels more like a curse.  Some days I feel so weighted down by pain that I fear I will suffocate, and I don’t even know why.

“Hey Leslie!” You say, “Monday Mitzvahs are supposed to be light-hearted, did you forget?”  No I didn’t forget, I just had a really, really hard week.  I am feeling better now, though I wouldn’t say I am happy–yet.

Today’s mitzvah is born of this week’s pain.  When I get into emotional quicksand like that, I fight like a wild animal to get out.  That does not mean I always succeed.  This time I was “triggered” out of the bad place I was in.  Who would have thought being “triggered” could be a good thing?

While I was in the pit, fighting to get out, I turned to one of my heroes, Marilyn Van Derbur (should I say heroine?)  I wanted someone who understood my pain to tell me it would get better, and she did.

Marilyn Van Derbur was molested as a child by her father.  She dissociated, in the sense that she did not remember any of it until she was in her 20’s and I believe she really began the work of healing in her 40’s.  During the years that she did not allow herself to remember what happened during the night, she was driven to succeed.  Driven, she realized later, to prove that she had worth because her “night child” who did know of the abuse was sure she had no worth.  One of her accomplishments as part of this drive was to become Miss America.

In the attached video, she starts out talking about the worst day of her life.  A reporter had found out that she was in therapy because of incest.  This was big news due to her status as a previous Miss America.

I love this video and her book, Miss America By Day, because of her message:  There is hope, you can get through this.  You can get to a place beyond the pain, but you have to do the work of healing.

Such validating and hope-filled words!

I have to note also–when she is talking about “the work” of healing, she mentions confronting one’s abuser.  I do NOT think this is necessary for everyone.  I suppose if your abuser is still a part of your life, it could be helpful  (talk to your therapist), but I haven’t seen my abuser for many years and have no desire to initiate contact now.  For me the hard work of healing is going to therapy each week, facing my demons and working through the pain of the past.  I am holding on to the hope she offers that some day this will bring me some peace.

So my mitzvah for today is to share this video with those of you who are also survivors.  Sharing hope.

And YOUR mitzvah, should you choose to accept it, is to SHARE HOPE with someone else.  There are many ways you can do that.  You choose.  You could share hope by sharing a video, or a song.  Perhaps by sharing your story–or like my husband you can give a loved one hope by letting them know that you will always be there — no matter what.  (Thanks Honey!)

 

 

Monday Mitzvahs were inspired by Linda Cohen’s book 1,000 Mitvahs

 

Monday Mitzvahs: Don’t Hesitate, Reach Out!

Sometimes when I am thinking about what to write for Monday Mitzvahs, I think about the things that have been done for me.  Today I would like tell you about a mitzvah that is very close to my heart.  To help you really understand, I need to give you a little background.

I started attending church regularly when I was about ten years old.  It was always a solace for me, a home away from home, a place of peace and then without warning that changed.  There are many reasons.  But suffice it to say the church didn’t change, the people there didn’t change, what is taught there didn’t change.  But I did.

I was drowning in pain and sorrow, and I would go to church the same lessons the same scriptures that had once comforted me, now wounded me.  The full explanation of why is longer than I want to get into now, but briefly:

  • DID was part of it.  My “system” whisked away the spiritual part of me to protect her from the memories that were about to begin surfacing
  • Lessons on forgiveness made me feel more alienated from God
  • Lessons teaching that God gives us adversity to help us grow no longer made sense to me, and left me with more questions than answers
  • Lessons about family were torturous, because my childhood home was not a happy one
  • Even Christ-centered lessons that should have been a comfort hurt me because I felt so estranged from him.

In short, I was a mess.  Most Sundays made me cry and I dreaded them.  One Sunday in particular, one of my leaders said he was going to speak to a small part of the congregation that he felt inspired to address.  I felt so hopeful.  Would he really say something that would speak to my heart?  Maybe!

But he didn’t.  He had some other group in mind.  The disappointment that I felt was the proverbial last straw.  The pain was so great that I got up and walked out the door.  Not  just out of the chapel, but right out of the building.  I was done.  Absolutely done.  I planned to never enter that building again.  How could God ask that of me?  No more.  But then  . . .

A woman’s voice called out behind me.  Until I heard her voice, I had thought I was alone, so I turned to see if she was calling to me.  She was.

She said, “You look really upset.  Is there anything I can do?”

Tears come to my eyes remembering that moment.  That wondrous feeling that someone cared.  Someone saw me, saw my pain and cared.

I asked her to walk with me.  So we walked around the outside of the building, and I told her as briefly as possible what was going on with me.  She listened to me and told me she understood because she is a Survivor too.

I don’t remember her name, and I don’t remember what she said–but I will never forget that she saw me in pain and came to help.  For that I call her an angel.

Because of her, I went back into the building that day, and have continued to attend church.  It’s getting better.  I still have bad days, but it’s a lot better.

Now back to our mitzvahs.  What if she had given into the fears and self-doubt that we all have?  If the roles were reversed, would I have followed her or would I have thought, “That woman looks sad.  I should go talk to her–but what if I say the wrong thing?  What would I say anyway?  I’m sure her family or someone who knows her will help.”

My own self-doubt and fears might have kept me from helping.  And yet, thank goodness she didn’t let her self-doubt and fear defeat her.  She didn’t hesitate.  She acted.  She reached out to me.  And I will always remember her for her small kindness that meant the world to me.

Sadly, the world is full of pain, but we can help.  Don’t be afraid, try not to hesitate, just reach out.

Reaching Out For My Star by GNAHZ  CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 deviantART
Reaching Out For My Star by GNAHZ
CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 deviantART

Monday Mitzvahs were inspired by Linda Cohen’s book, 1,000 Mitzvahs

Photo attribution: Reaching Out For My Star

Monday Mitzvahs: Listening and Mirroring

In last week’s mitzvah, I talked about validation.  This week let’s discuss my other favorite word listening.  When I write about listening and validation, as opposed to giving advice, I am aware that this is an age old difference between men and women.  Generally speaking, men like to fix things, and so they give advice.  Women complain that they just want to be listened to.

There is a funny video (less then 2  minutes long) about a man’s view of this classic dilemma.  If you haven’t seen it, go ahead and watch it now.  I’ll wait for you.

It’s Not About The Nail by Jason Headley

As this funny video shows, there are circumstances where advice and problem solving are valuable.  and let’s be honest, women love to give advice also. Advice seems to be our cultural default. We all want to help, and we think we’re not helping if we just listen and say something like, “That would really bother me too.” Yet as I explained last week, there are times when validation is much more powerful than advice.

One of the problems with giving advice is sometime the problem is not obvious as in the nail.  As soon as we think we understand the problem, we start thinking of advice.  We might still be quiet but we are definitely not listening.  I think we are even more prone to do this with teens and children.

Mirroring Reflection by PixelAnarchy Public Domain Pixabay
Mirroring Reflection by PixelAnarchy Public Domain Pixabay

A way to avoid this is a technique called mirroring.  It’s simple, repeat back in your own words what you think the other person said.  You may feel foolish because after all, you are certain you know the problem and the solution.  Just take out the nail right?  But if you try this a few times you will see that often you are wrong.  Recently I asked my husband to do something for me.  He said yes and that was all.  I asked, “Don’t you want to know why?”

He looked at me like I was asking an overly simple question.  “No.  I know why. You want me to do it because . . .”

His understanding of my motivation was very thoughtful, insightful and WRONG.  I’m sure I have done the same to him, and I know I have done it to my children.  But hey, I’m trying to do better.

So here’s your mitzvah challenge for the day:  Listen and mirror before you give advice–or even better–give validation!

Have a great Monday!

P.S. Sorry this post was “late”.  I know you were all anxiously waiting <grin>, but it is still Monday after all.

Monday Mitzvahs were inspired by Linda Cohen’s book 1,000 Mitzvahs

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