Friday, November 11, 2016

Grace Under Pressure: America's Teachers


Wednesday, November 9th, 2016, the day after the most contentious presidential election in our recent memory,
was a school day.

School teachers and principals everywhere had to find a way, any way, to create unity in a time of division and open cruelty.

Donald Trump is now the President.

Donald Trump - who acted throughout the entire election season in a disrespectful, antagonistic, loud-mouthed, divisive way - won.

So, teachers who work on holding their students to standards of respect, tolerance and kindness for the first time had to look at their President and then look away.

Then they had to enter their classrooms and find a way to change the message.

As the universe would have it, I had to be in classrooms that day.
Normally, in the fall, I only go into classrooms on Mondays and Tuesdays, but because of a scheduling glitch I had to be there this Wednesday.

I like to think of it as divine intervention.

I was melancholy watching so much hatred and vitriol and as someone who loves children - hangs out with children all the time - I couldn't comprehend this new reality for them.
For us.

What would school be like?
What would my student teachers face?
How could a school create unity when the country was so divided?

How can you hold kids accountable when the adults in the room are acting anything but?

I walked onto an elementary school campus and was greeted with three third graders marching and saying: "We need a recount. Recount. Recount."
Who even knows that word in third grade?

I walked into a classroom before school had even started and found two veteran teachers in tears...and my student teacher just quietly watching.

"What do we tell the students?
How can we ask our students to behave with kindness and respect when we have this President?"

Good questions.

But time was ticking.
They didn't have a script.
No instruction manual...
students were coming.

Deep breaths.
Game faces on.

Good morning.

I watched it unfold in classroom after classroom.

Sat in awe as teachers comforted and listened.

Sometimes they gathered their students together and reaffirmed for them that this school in this place was safe and most importantly was theirs.

Sometimes they talked about democracy and founding fathers and the idea that every single one of us gets a vote.

I watched a student teacher guarantee her students safety, tolerance and respect in such a commanding way that I got teary eyed taking my notes with her words.
She helped her students see the beauty in our nation...
in our equality...
in our traditions and our government.

She offered every student herself.

If they didn't feel safe;
if they felt like they wanted to talk;
if they wanted to share a story...
she was there to listen.

I know a teacher who took the last part of the day to make friendship bracelets.
"Go ahead and work on a bracelet and think about who you will give it to in this classroom."

We are all friends here.

That guidance.
That steady hand.
Those loving arms.
Big hearts.
Listening ears...
that's what happened in school today.

All around the country, America's teachers steadied the course.
They went to work...
picking up the pieces and creating a beautiful mosaic.

Holding the expectations high.
Showing children what it means to be American.

These incredible people are stitching our children together,
binding them with love and kindness.

Living tolerance.
Breathing respect.
Inhaling peace.
Exhaling chaos.

If you want to know where to look during this time of disequilibrium and division...stop at a school.

Watch a teacher in action.
Listen to her big book about friendship.
Let the music of children's voices float over you.
Rise to the expectations of a child's best version of you.

We can do this.

We have their example.

Follow their rules:

Be safe.
Be productive.
Be kind.

America's teachers offer all of us a glimpse of extraordinary grace
during the least ordinary of times.

All we can do is follow their lead.






Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Growth Mindset - Literally!

Do you recognize Dr. Suess's Oh! The Places You Go! Here's one of the places I've been hanging out lately.
Yes, my arms are sore. 


It's been eight weeks of being one legged from a broken ankle. 
No weight-bearing.
It shouldn't really be that big a deal right? 
I'm in good health otherwise...but this whole thing has shaken me. 
Big time.


Every single step, every single movement, even sleeping or waiting at a stand still, is difficult.

Every ordinary difficulty: your keys falling under the car, your scrap of paper on the ground, putting your suitcase away, taking a shower, buying groceries, eating, sitting, waiting in a line...everything.is.hard.

Or you can tell yourself: another chance to be brave.
And, man, am I brave!

It can become a mental test...
as the universe would have it, I had decided to embrace a new way of looking at students and learning right before this whole thing happened.

Two days before that fateful meeting of basketball and foot,
I excitedly told Caroline that the theme for this school year was having a "Growth Mindset".

For quite awhile, educators have been throwing around the term "Growth Mindset" and I've been doing that famous thing we all do when we think we already know about things: 
"Oh yeah, yeah, yeah..."

But then I started listening to Jo Boaler - math educator extraordinaire - and my mind started soaking it in. Jo Boaler is an educational math researcher and she is revolutionizing the way math is being taught. Her research out of Stanford is stunning; her results are extraordinary.

I became a convert.

The tenets of a "Growth Mindset" include these things:
Struggle is the sweet spot of learning - this is where your brain grows. During struggle, you form new synapses and create new brain pathways. You want to struggle. [In classrooms that really embody the Growth Mindset, it is not unusual to hear a student say in a disappointed way, "Aww, I didn't get to struggle!" when somebody else shouts out the answer.] 

Mistakes are a good thing. There is no shame. There should be no embarrassment. Accept that mistakes are going to happen...wait for them and feel excited. When we analyze our mistakes, more growth happens.

Speed is not important. Deep thinking matters. Careful consideration matters. Considering different viewpoints and other angles matters. What is so awesome about being speedy? That's for Google. Humans can slow down and focus on what matters.

The Power of Yet - our brain has plasticity...it changes and grows with every new experience. If you can't do something, it doesn't mean you won't. With the right support, you can learn and do anything!

• There is absolutely no research that supports the idea that you are born with a "math brain" or an "art gift". Simply untrue. These are the limits we place on ourselves and on our children or students. We MUST dismantle that fixed mindset

If you believe you can, you can! Ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy...that is real.

Imagine learning in a classroom that embraces a Growth Mindset?

How about living with a Growth Mindset?

I highly recommend it!

These past eight weeks have been ridiculous.
Difficult.
Annoying.
Agonizing.
Slow.
Humbling.

But with a Growth Mindset, they have been bearable. 
Every insane obstacle became an opportunity for my brain to grow. I accepted my mistakes. I keep telling myself that I have The Power of Yet with me. Instead of thinking of all the things I couldn't do, I was able to tell myself YET and believe that I will - eventually.

These eight weeks have been hard...but if I hadn't believed in the Growth Mindset, 
I would have been in a full funk.
And, hey! I am literally growing something...not just my brain.

It's clear that this injury is going to take a long while to heal fully.
No biking.
No walking my dog.
No long walks just because...
but with a Growth Mindset, I know I will do those things again.

It's a tiny, powerful word: YET.

I'll get there.
Eventually.


Until then, go enjoy your ankles. :)




Friday, September 23, 2016

Help! Thanks! and Wow! The Combo Platter


I got a phone call a couple of weeks ago from my sister-in-law asking me if I would be willing to say the blessing before the Rehearsal Dinner of my nephew, Andrew, and his bride, Jenny.

I paused.

I'm a big fan of blessings...any kind.
Lord knows we need them...
but I don't really feel like the person who should be giving them out.

But, this was a special ask...and of course, I couldn't say no.
At the end of the conversation there came a reminder,
"You know, Beth, not everyone who will be at the wedding is Catholic, so..."
and the unspoken message that this can't be too preachy...
too religious...
too Jesus-y.

Of course.

Now what?

I was gifted with the blessing of giving a blessing.
I had better figure it out.

It's been 32 days since I broke my ankle...
who's counting?
Me!
Which means that my normal gift of thinking deeply in the shower just hasn't been with me.
I'm too worried about not bearing any weight on my ankle in a slippery shower.
All of my focus is on the task at hand...
no time to think.

Like a yoga practice, I usually enter the shower with an intention.
Let my mind tumble it over as the water pours over me...
but all of that had gone out the window with my broken ankle.

After the conversation with Audrey, I tried to think of a simple blessing.
I wanted it to contain the magic of love,
the gift of family,
the power of the sublime mysterious.

In the shower, I was profoundly grateful to see my ankle, however swollen, once again.
My cast was off and I could (slightly) stretch this newborn ankle.
I could shower without a covering over my leg.
I still could not bear any weight...but I felt less broken.

I let the water run down and soaked in thanksgiving.

Thank you!

Thank you Dr. Angel for setting it right.
Thank you bones for slowly healing.
Thank you city for clean, hot water.
Thank you shower and soap and suds.
Thank you.

And that's when I remembered:
Anne Lamott

She's the one who distilled every prayer ever written in any faith into three simple one word prayers:

Help!
Thanks!
Wow!

Her book by the same title had intrigued me...
was it really possible to simplify prayer that much?

For me, for Anne, it was.

And so it came to be that in a candlelit room last Friday night I found the simple words to bless a beautiful couple.

Andrew and Jenny.

Andrew was a Wow from the very start.
My first chance to be an aunt.
A smart, funny, darling guy...who found his match in kind, intelligent Jenny.
Another Wow.
A Wow for the gorgeous spot where you are choosing to marry - Carmel, California.
A giant-sized WOW that both sets of parents are still married and here in this moment, healthy, 
getting to see this gift.
A Wow for the family and friends who traveled so far to be here.
A Wow for love and the magic of connection.
Just Wow.

And then there's Help.
I'm in the middle of the Help prayer almost everyday with this ankle so...
please always remember to ask for Help.
Look at this room, take a mental picture, remember this moment forever...
...because these are your 2am people.
You can ask any of us at any time to come and Help.
We will.
Look at each other and don't be afraid to yell Help!
You will need it...
marriage is like that.

And finally, there is Thanks!
Thank you for this country that lets us gather and keeps us safe and envelopes us in freedom.
Thank you for the careful parenting and love that has always surrounded you both so that you could be ready to find another.
Thank you for health.
For love.
For Anne Lamott and 
three simple prayers...
for blessings and blessed moments.
Thank you for the gift of family and friends.
Most especially, thank you for this moment right now:

A crystal moment of pure love and joy.

Sometimes one simple prayer isn't enough.
Sometimes you need the combo platter...
a deluxe portion of all three.

Last Friday night was one of those times.
Help! Thanks! and a whole lotta Wow!
Thank you for such a gift.
Blessings to you, Andrew and Jenny.

Congratulations! 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Diminished Capacity


On Saturday, I attended a funeral.
For a single mom...of 8 children.

Yes, 8 children.

Her name was Bernadette
She was the definition of love and light.
Sunshine and faith.

It's an absolutely huge loss for all of us.
Impossible to understand.
Please keep all of us in your prayers, but most especially, Bernadette's beautiful kids.

*****

On Sunday, I dislocated and fractured my ankle.
I wish it was a good story but it was a terrible combination of a basketball near my desk.

I had the gift of an incredible crew who stabilized my ankle and got it ready for more x-rays and orthopedist recommendations -- 
Dr. Angel lived up to her name. I am forever grateful for the kindness and care I received in that emergency room:
Alicia, the nurse, Mike, the X-ray guy, and many others.

It's no fun.
A real drag.

Oh well.

*****

On Monday, Patrick had to get his blood drawn and we had to wait for the blood count numbers.
Tuesday, he had his big appointment with both his cardiologist and his oncologist to just have a check up...see how his heart is doing...make sure it all still looks good after having leukemia years ago.

Those blood count numbers still, 11 years later, haunt me.

All day long, I wait on the panel of numbers.
Acting casual.
Heart racing.

The numbers should be good.
Everything in Patrick's world has been healthy for quite awhile.
I try to talk myself down off the ledge.

Deep breaths.

So, on Monday night, waiting for the numbers,
I try to check Patrick's email and Kaiser account that would give me the full range of numbers.
The nitty gritty details.

But I couldn't remember his pin code. 
So I had to call for help.

If you're 13 years of age or older, your medical information is private and separate from your parents.
No kidding.
Parents need their child's permission to see anything in their record.

That's messed up.

I know I will have medical bureaucrats telling me why it's not messed up...
but on Monday night, it was messed up...
and on Thursday morning, it still is.

I just wanted to know his blood count numbers.

So, I call up Kaiser and ask them to give me the numbers.
I ask to have access to Patrick's medical online information.
AS HIS MOTHER.

I even use the Down Syndrome card, thinking it might give me an edge.

"Oh well, now that you mention that, Mrs. Foraker, I can help you get in to his records."

Awesome.
I'm so stoked.

Leg up on pillows, I follow the voice's advice.
I click this and type in this and get to new page after new page that is letting me into the system...

...and then I have a choice:

I have to click that my family member has "diminished capacity".

What on earth??

And then, like some movie with a million tiny photos flashing by, I picture Patrick...
typing up Romeo and Juliet into a screenwriting app.,
creating his favorite crazy sandwich combo,
riding his bike to school,
chilling in the backyard with John,
giving relationship advice to Jack and Mary Kate,
directing his cousins and younger sister in various stage ensembles,

backwards in time...to tying his shoe
taking his first shower on his own
winning school awards
surviving open heart surgery and looking up at me as a tiny baby waiting for me to be brave enough to nurse him afterward
dancing and thriving through freaking leukemia...

...and I am embarrassed to admit that I clicked that damn button and agreed with the computer that my kid has "diminished capacity"

I sold my soul to the devil.

Yes, I protested it as I did it.
I let the voice know that I didn't agree with it...
but I was desperate. 
I wanted the numbers.

And then, the universe did what it does in moments like this...it gave me a one-two punch.

"Oh, wait, you live in Northern California, so that won't work, you'll have to get your child's pediatrician to let you access your son's records."

Of course.

The voice did have the courtesy to let me know they were
"in the normal range".

But, being a leukemia/blood count expert, that didn't help much.
I wanted the numbers.

*****

Ever since that moment, I've been trying to wrap my brain around those sickening words
"diminished capacity".

It's settled on my heart that this is the reality of how the world sees Patrick.

The truth is that at this very moment, I'm way more diminished than he is.
Can't get around at all.
I need tons of help.

Nobody begrudges me that help.

*****

We all need help.

I've found solace with Desmond Tutu's wisdom.

Speaking about Ubuntu:

"It is the essence of being human.
It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours.
I am human because I belong.
It speaks about wholeness;
it speaks about compassion.

A person with Ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share.
Such people are open and available to others,
willing to be vulnerable,
affirming of others,
do not feel threatened that others are able and good
for they have a proper self-assurance
that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole.

They know they are diminished when others are humiliated,
diminished when others are oppressed,
diminished when others are treated as if they are less than who they are.

The quality of Ubuntu gives people resilience,
enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them."

*****

So, somehow, some way I feel the need to clean the slate...
to let the world know and Kaiser know and every other person on the planet know that 
I DO NOT BELEIVE THAT PATRICK IS 
DIMINISHED IN HIS CAPACITY
In.Any.Way

That legal term needs to disappear.
NOW.
That medical model of disability needs to have bricks thrown at it.

We are all human.
Inextricably bound together.
Interdependent.
Vulnerable and Needy.

We all need support.

I want to live in a world where Ubuntu is what we expect of each other...
what we give each other.

I'm starting with myself.

World, I pledge to offer Ubuntu.
to everyone.
everyday.

Please join me.

Let no one be diminished.
by words or deeds.






Saturday, August 20, 2016

Light The Way

If I had to pick one, I'd Be A Lamp...how about you?


Light, for me, is magic.


Finding my way in the dark of night, stumbling and bumbling, feels like my true self.
Opening my eyes each morning and receiving the gift of sunlight and new eyes that can see clearly feels like some sort of angel sitting on my shoulder guiding my way.

Sun salutations?

Definitely.

Flashlights.
Fireplace warmth.
Fireworks.
Reading lamp.
Camping lantern.
Flash of a camera.
Christmas lights.
All of it - every last twinkle - makes me smile and fills my heart.


*****


My other love...books.
Ever since I've been little I've escaped into their world.
Books are friends.
They share dreams, wisdom, an alternate universe, the dangers of evil, the strength of heroes, 
the laughable, the cringeworthy, the thought-provoking.
They are what I turn to in times of deep sadness.
In boredom.
In joyful moments of lounging.
They provide supreme comfort.

Books are also a link to friends and strangers.

I remember standing in line at midnight for not one Harry Potter book but four different ones.
I got teary seeing all those people lining up, excited and energized, for a book!
Those were my people.


*****


So it only makes sense that a book would lead me to light.
Do you know Susan Branch?

I feel like I might have shared her with you before...
she's a cookbook author who handwrites every page of each book and then sprinkles it with watercolor pictures and quotes and provides the most delicious of recipes.

Her first book is called The Heart of the Home.

Her vibe is all about the beauty of home:
a carefully made meal, a mindfully set table, flowers in a vase, family.
She's about comfort and care.

Love distilled into food and friendship and family.

I found her cookbooks probably from my mom and then became a hard core fan.
I just knew we would be besties if our paths could cross. :)
But over the last few years, things have changed.

Susan Branch has moved from writing cookbooks to sharing her life story.
In the span of four years, she's written three books:

If you look carefully you can see all my tabs...loved too many pages in these books.

And so it came to pass that I shared Susan with anyone I could...
...my friend Michelle made a spontaneous road trip down with me and toddler Caroline to Susan's store in Arroyo Grande, California when it was closing
...my sister-in-law, Audrey, would share her favorite Susan Branchisms
...my friend, Kim, would read and share and meet for coffee...and even come with me to a book signing when Susan and Joe made their cross country road trip to independent bookstores all over the nation.
Martha's Vineyard was always a place to visit...someday.

I live on the west coast...it is all the way across the country.
That's a thing for another day...

...only it didn't feel like that any more.
My Somedays need to be more present-day.

How many Somedays do I have??
None.
Only this day right here.right.now.

My friend Kim was convinced we should create a trip to Martha's Vineyard with our husbands...that sounded pretty great to me...so we speculated and dreamt and discussed over coffee.

Months later she uttered the truth out loud:
"We're never going to go to Martha's Vineyard with our husbands, are we?"

It sat there...getting dusty...before I could wish out loud:
"Nope...but we could just go."

*****

It rolled around in my head.
It flexed its muscle in my heart.
The seed was sprouting and I found myself randomly smiling at the thought.
What if?
Why not?
I shouldn't.

And then, well, I started poking around...
how was John's work schedule, the kids life schedules, were there sisters who could pick up after school, a babysitter who would hang out for some hours???
Those pieces of the puzzle felt like border pieces. They felt smooth and possible.

What about flights?
Kim's schedule?
Her family?
Hotels? Ferry rides? Airport shuttles?

And like some crazy meant-to-be moment the universe kept saying 
Y-E-S.

Nothing was hard.
The flights weren't expensive.
The hotel was available.
Everything worked...so we leaped!

Within ten days of wishing out loud, it happened.
This is real. Oak Bluffs Ocean Park.
Please go there.
*****

  We chose to make our way to Martha's Vineyard in August so that we could attend 
The Grand Illumination.
Something that Susan had described in her book.


There is a Methodist campground in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard.
In the center is an outdoor covered amphitheater.
It's used for church services on Sundays...
and outdoor movies and concerts and gatherings all the other days.
Surrounding this amphitheater is grass and trees and on all four sides, tiny Gingerbread cottages. (their words, not mine)
These tiny homes are built on what used to be tent platforms.
They are every color imaginable...
blue, purple, orange, red, yellow, pink
a rainbow of relaxation.

Nothing is serious here.
Except family.
In this little spot, family is everything.

For 148 years these families have been celebrating The Grand Illumination.
They decorate their gingerbread cottages with Chinese lanterns - every front porch is adorned - and then these families sit on their front porch and chill (as Patrick likes to say) until dark.
They want to talk to you and share their family's story.
They make food for you to snack on while you visit.
Free drinks. Some houses give away glow in the dark necklaces.
Or flags.

But they all give away friendship.

Two tourists with no clue...meandering...and visiting and everyone wanting to share the secrets:
Get their early.
Bring a picnic.
Be ready to sing.
Ask the people about their houses.
Visit.
Take pictures.
Soak it all in.
These two were born on the Vineyard...lived their whole life here. Lucky.
Hand painted lanterns...just because.
A veteran just waiting to share his story.

Yes, this is the family that belongs to this home.
The woman in the pink on the right hand side made every costume for her family.


So we soak it all up, have a picnic of egg salad and turkey sandwiches made from
Skinny's Fat Sandwiches and get ready for the dark.

We know there is some sort of singing concert before the lanterns are lit...so like true groupies we stake out our seats early, expecting a California-sized crush of people.
We're here after all. :)

But, although every seat fills up, there's no frenzy.
No huffing and puffing about getting the right seat...or who is saving seats.

Right on time, the Vineyard Haven band begins a patriotic concert to rival anything you've heard in Washington, D.C. or any other hub of American life.
The Boston Pops got nothing on Vineyard Haven.

Plus, there are a few thousand of us willing to sing.

So we belt out every tune you can imagine, beginning with, I'm not kidding,
Amazing Grace.

I just sit there, wondering, truly if this is real.
The tears come before the second verse.
Dancing children.
Entire families.
People who have been doing this for more than half a century.

Together we sing:
76 Trombones
Old New Orleans style hymn
Star Spangled Banner
Working on the Railroad
I Don't Want to March in the Infantry
Happy Birthday
In the Good Ole Summertime
Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore
Amazing Grace - just for good measure
My Hat It Has Three Corners
John Brown's Baby Has a Cold Upon Its Chest
God Bless America
Yankee Doodle
Glory Glory Hallelujah
Grand Old Flag
America the Beautiful
John Phillips Souza March

You would think we might be over it...
but in truth, we were hypnotized.

The Obamas were visiting the island while we were there.
Plenty of black SUVs lurked around every corner.
Crowds gathered all over trying to get a glimpse of the President and his family.

We never saw them...
but the whole time I was singing I was wishing he could be watching this from some little obscure Gingerbread cottage.

Wish he could see these people, our shared history...and just feel the connection we all had.

I like to pretend he got to see it.
So he can know.


And then the emcee called up the person who has come to The Grand Illumination 
for the longest time. 
For us, the woman was attending her 68th Illumination.
She had the honor of lighting the first lantern.

In the dark of that giant amphitheater we strained to see the tiniest light surrounded by a paper lantern...the woman walked to the very edge of the theater and like magic, all of the lanterns on the theater lit up in a gorgeous circle of light.

And then...poof...all of the 300 gingerbread cottages lit up.


The entire place was dark except for the glow of those lanterns...
No other way to describe it...magic.
The full moon was even trying to be part of the party.
Just in case you wanted to see the hand-painted lanterns in the dark.

The crowd was reverent and fun if that is even possible...but yes, things that seem impossible are common place around here.

The crowds were full of joy and genuine wonder...
like we all were holding our own personal firefly.

We wandered and followed the light...never caring which direction we meandered - 
feeling like we were nestled in a cocoon of candlelight.

We walked our way back to our hotel and couldn't really let it go.
Laughing and smiling, it still felt like a dream.

*****

I'm back now.

A seashell tucked into my purse right in the spot I can see it every day...
to remind me of the light in the darkness...
of dreams coming true...
of friendship and Somedays lived in the Now...
of books and authors and the magic of connection...
of beauty all around us.

Light the way.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Micro Kindness



There.
I needed to say that.

Our world is having a bit of a tizzy.
Actually, it feels like a volcano oozing magma...getting ready to blow.
Insane violence.
Nasty. Mean. Cruel.

I think we've forgotten that there are grandmothers in our world.

Would you act that way around your grandmother?
Or a brand new baby?

We have prejudice.
Institutional racism.
Poor choices.
Pathetic decisions.
Needlessly lost lives.
So much trauma for so many people that it feels like an overwhelming wave.

As Billy Joel once so wisely said,
"We didn't start the fire."

I know that...but what can we do to at least try to douse it quick?

*****

Sometimes, your heart just needs to hear some words.
The universe reaches out and taps you on the shoulder.

My gift came a few days ago with this incredible wisdom from a commencement speech by 
Nipun Mehta, creator of Service Space. 

Read his amazing words here.

There are so many jewels within the speech and so many big ideas to consider...
but the one that has stuck with me for two days...
over and over in my mind
...is the idea of micro-kindness.

Nipun ends his speech with a story of his great grandfather: 

"I want to close with a story about my great grandfather.  He was a man of little wealth who still managed to give every single day of his life.  Each morning, he had a ritual of going on a walk -- and as he walked, he diligently fed the ant hills along his path with small pinches of wheat flour.  Now that is an act of micro generosity so small that it might seem utterly negligible, in the grand scheme of the universe.  How does it matter?  It matters in that it changed him inside.  And my great grandfather's goodness shaped the worldview of my grandparents who in turn influenced that of their children -- my parents.   Today those ants and the ant hills are gone, but my great grandpa’s spirit is very much embedded in all my actions and their future ripples. It is precisely these small, often invisible, acts of inner transformation that mold the stuff of our being, and bend the arc of our shared destiny."

This idea of the tiniest of kindnesses offered freely to the most over-looked of creatures as just a way of living in the world drilled directly into my heart.

How do I go through my days?
Am I intentional, like Nipun's great grandfather?
Do I give every single day of my life?
Do I consider the influence of the smallest of movements...the tiniest of choices?

Where are the anthills in my life?
Are they starving?

I wonder about my ancestors and how they lived.
Did they find a way to feed the anthills?

It feels like Nipun's observations are exactly what is needed right now in our world.

We don't need big, grandiose, lavish goodness...although that would be lovely right now.
We need micro kindness.
I know it's micro but it's a B-I-G idea.

Moments that are seconds long but offer a second chance, a soft place to land, a bit of sunshine.
We need the space...the momentary pause, that is void of judgment...and open to possibility.
Those are the seconds that save lives.
Change lives.
Transform lives.

Today we have a chance to test out micro-kindness.

What have we got to lose?
Not a thing.
Seems like our world could use a whole bunch of people tipping the scale toward kindness.

I want to stand on that side.

Tonight, I'm grateful for the chance to keep trying.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Joy


Want to tell a graduate some words of wisdom? Share this:


We go around and spend our days with people at work or school and never really know what it is they are in love with.
Unless they randomly share a story about a family member or a special treat they've made or talk about some tickets they are buying...providing the tiniest window into what moves them.

If we're lucky, they share their love.
They reveal a love for ballet, or theater or travel, or knitting, or singing, or butterfly collecting...
or whatever.

It really doesn't matter.

Whatever they love, 
that is the secret passageway to their joy.

Like a chemical reaction, joy just bubbles up.

Caroline has had a coach for two years that loves soccer.

LOVES it.

He thinks about it at all hours of the day, researches the game, seeks out ideas for making practices engaging and learns methods of teaching very specific techniques.
He writes lengthy emails.
Offers up videos to watch.
Let's us know when the next big professional game is on so we can find a way to watch it.

I happen to have a kid who loves soccer so it's a win/win...no pun intended.

But, that's the big question...
which came first?
The chicken or the egg...did Jeremy love soccer enough to catch Caroline on fire...or was Caroline already simmering with a love that caught fire once she met a coach with the right flame.

Who cares.

What matters is that for two years Caroline has been swimming in the pool of soccer love.
And well, she's soaked.

It makes her smile...pumps her up...fills her up.

It takes a very special coach to aim for the decades after his players are done with the sport.
Decades from now, the goal is that the players will still love the sport.
Still perk up when they hear about a game or an exceptional player.
They will still smile at fancy footwork or a tremendous save all those years later.

Caroline's coach did not focus on winning.

He focused on joy.
His joy in the endeavor couldn't help but seep into the kids' idea of the sport.

His zen energy during a game radiated that joy.

Yes, yes, winning sure is fun...
but there is joy in a hard fought game that was razor close...even if you lose.
There is joy in leaving it all on the field, regardless of the score.

There's joy in a beautiful pass, a strategic kick or an incredible save...
even if the game ends with a loss.

What Jeremy knows is what all coaches who see decades down the road know:
winning or losing are just words, what matters is what you feel.

Do you feel that essential connection with your teammates?
Do you feel that what you are bringing to your team matters?
Do you feel important? Wanted? Needed?
Do you feel excited?
Empowered?

Kids sports today are often drudgery...
practices that go too long or meet too often.
Parents on the sidelines yelling useless tips...caring way way too much about the win.

All sorts of people are taking it way too seriously.

Tonight I'm grateful that Caroline has stood in Coach Jeremy's sunshine for two seasons.
Two seasons of JOY.

Joy in learning.
Joy in striving.
Joy in just playing the game.

There is no way to thank someone for sharing their joy...
except for maybe letting them see the joy that has been passed on. 


Is it the joy of a well placed kick?


The joy of friendship?


Or the joy of climbing trees with friends?

Too many joyful moments to count. 

Thank you, Jeremy, for your kindness, your gentle strength, your willingness to have fun and most importantly for your joy.

It's been contagious.

Coach Stacy...you're amazingly wonderful too...a true partner in sharing the joy.
Your support and dedication and sense of fun made this past season extra wonderful.