Sunday

Deep caring and love holds my world together

Deep caring and love holds my world together. Looking back at old photographs and laughing and crying through the memories. Planting seeds, nurturing, watering, and seeing an oak tree grow in my backyard. The memory of first meeting you 45 years ago and falling in love with you again, and again, and again. My fathers laughter and hearty hello as he enjoyed the hot tub. 

The love that ties my life together is woven with connection and resilience. I always bounce back. These bridges of love can never be broken. They fuel our souls as we stand for life, dare to love in the face of hatred, dare to step up when someone has fallen, and dare to speak up when someone has been silenced.

We must walk together through the storms of life. Sometimes we will carry each other. Sometimes we will create a path for others to follow.





Solitude

I enjoy solitude. Being alone is revitalizing for me. Being alone is not lonely. It is refueling. 

I believe we can all benefit from finding a quiet center. In my solitude, I can unmask my ego and let it rest. In solitude and quiet I listen to the "still, small voice." I listen to the voice that gave me life. I rest in the hands that bring me health and healing. I rejoice in the freedom of not doing. I love in the unconditional love. In solitude, I am reminded I am a human being not a human doing. I am more than the sum of all of my efforts. I know my life is a gift to be shared and in the sharing, we are twice blessed. New life springs forth from solitude. Every breath is a gift.



Spring...

Yellow forsythia is brightening my sight.
Lilacs are starting to bloom.
Pink, white, and lavender are painting the neighborhood.

No matter that I am aging, in my heart is a delighted child. 
I love the experience of joy, new life, and a fresh spring.

The thoughts I focus on are what creates my life experience.

If the world you see does not bring you joy, it may be time to choose a new thought process. 

Life is full of joy, beauty, and complexity. 

It is also full of opportunity and choice. 

We are here for love, beauty, and to express our divinity.



What do we need to become ready to respond?

"We have learned a bit too late in the day that action springs not from thought but from a readiness for responsibility… Silence in the face of evil is evil itself; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In World War II Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran minister escaped from the Gestapo to New York City. He chose to return to Germany to oppose Hitler. He was arrested, spent 18 months in prison, and was hanged shortly before American forces liberated the prison. 

Like Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis, Bonhoeffer made "good trouble."

What is calling us to act? Where is our silence causing more pain? Is it social justice? Is it poverty? Is it mental health for all? Is it economic inequity? Is it climate change? 

What do we need to become ready to respond?

In conversation with a trusted friend, discuss a time in your life when you responded with action; when you stood up and spoke up. Discuss the feelings leading up to your actions, doing, and after you taking action.





We all make choices...

We all make choices.  We can be consumed with stress and fear, or rise above it.  The stress and fear that we focus on, holds us hostage.  We live a reactionary, quick fix, short-term existence.

I find the option is to feel the fear, feel the stress, and be aware of the transformation it brings.  Awareness is the key to living in the moment.  Living in the moment brings us into unity and harmony with life.  

Every day brings us new opportunities and choices.  We can live in respect and caring for others and for ourselves.  We can choose to be thoughtful and kind with our words and actions.

We can choose to renew our commitment to our spiritual growth and wellness.  We can reflect on our intentions and motivations, and be aware of the environments we create.



All life is sacred and I am grateful

"The great lesson from the true mystics...is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one's daily life, in one's neighbors, friends, and family, in one's backyard." 

- Abraham Maslow

What a blessed life I have been living. The sacred is in my wife Sandra; how she genuinely cares for everyone. She listens tirelessly to our sons. She cares for our special needs daughter sun up till bedtime and often beyond.

Our daughter Ashley is an emanation of the Divine. She has no language or conscious movement and yet she beams unconditional love. Our neighbors are kind and friendly. Our extended family is loving. Our friends are family, beautifully supportive, and compassionate.

Our backyard is full of nature; dear, hawks, all kinds of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks, and now, spring is revealing the flowers, blossoms, and bees.

All life is sacred and I am grateful.



Good Enough

Sometimes good enough is good enough. 

I am a champion of Self-Awareness. I think Self-Awareness is the pre-eminent Social Emotional Learning skill. I believe it is the beginning for our health and success as human beings. Self-Awareness asks us to gently and kindly assess our current growth and development. Who am I? And how am I?

I am not a fan of hyper-critical self-analysis. Dwelling on our weaknesses and constantly berating ourselves for not being good enough or perfect is self-defeating and destructive.

We are a year into the pandemic. We are all looking forward to good physical and mental health. We are all looking forward to connecting again, literally connecting. A hug, a handshake, a pat on the back, will feel miraculous.

Be kind and gentle with yourself. That is good enough.



Standardized tests are not for human beings because humans are not standard

Education has its roots in the Latin word 'educere', which means 'to lead out'. True education is not about stuffing in more information and knowledge. True education is drawing out the skills, character, and wisdom that is already in a child and nurturing those qualities.

We must end the oppression of standardized tests. Even in the current pandemic of 2020/2021, educators are being told to prepare for standardized tests this spring. Are you kidding me? Children, parents, and teachers have barely had a chance to get to know each other, let alone focus on curriculum and some great con-artist wants to test our children and hold educators accountable.

The opportunity of the pandemic is to speak the truth. Standardized tests are like the emperor with no clothes. We don't need more knowledge shoved into our children's minds so they can prove to the multi-billion dollar system that they have a good memory.

We need to focus on wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge and information applied so humanity becomes better at being human. We must return to the old "other side of the report card". We must teach critical thinking skills, how to discover what is truth. We need a much greater focus on problem-solving, character development, and social and emotional learning.

If the past year of chaos, with its divided politics, social justice or injustice, and COVID-19 has taught us anything, it has taught us the need for human teaching and human learning. We must help our children develop and practice the skills for learning and being human.

The research of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, CASEL.org, documents the need for self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

In our search for wisdom, we must include the voices and perspectives of women, blacks, hispanics, indigenous people, and other underrepresented and underserved groups.

In a nation that is torn apart, we must teach the power of love, compassion, empathy, trust, forgiveness, and gratitude.

If we explored all academic content through the lens of Social Emotional Learning we would reduce and possibly eliminate hunger, lack of resources, hate crimes, lack of clean water, lack of electricity, mental health concerns, and addiction.

This of course would be a major restructuring of education, or maybe not. I have been an educator for 48 years and every fellow teacher I ever met, in the tens of thousands, are in some way trying to teach social emotional skills.

The young people I meet want to change the world and the teachers I meet want to nurture their passion.

Young people want to heal the planet, climate change, war, starvation, racism, and sexism.

When we integrate Social Emotional Learning into every content area, we will be raising the priority of three new essential R's, respect for self and others, responsibility for everything I think, feel, say, and do, and healthy relationships.

We will move education to be the vehicle that will elevate civilization. We will finally experience what it feels like to be civil, to solve conflict without violence, to live without fear of being different, to act for the greater good, and to love unconditionally.



Teachers

Our roles as teachers are multifaceted. We nurture, instruct, inspire, put out fires, intervene, assess, connect, and arouse curiosity. We also have the power to create deep dialogue in an emotionally safe environment. Often we introduce learners to their creativity and with our support, we help them change the world. When our students are supported, they experience unity with us, with each other, and with the content we are presenting.

I think all of this is contained in one word. Love.

Being in communication and communion with our students helps us build community. This building process helps us all expand into areas we never dreamed of. It enhances our perspective and enriches our understanding.

Wonderful teachers are deep, endless wells of vitality, and transformation. The interdependence between teachers and students creates the tapestry of life.



I have learned so much from my failures

 "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." - Robert F. Kennedy

I have learned so much from my failures.  I have learned resilience, empathy, and self compassion.  I have learned that I am far from perfect and I am a good and caring soul.  I now look for the good and caring soul in everyone.

I have survived so much; business mistakes and failures, the pain of losing family and loved ones to illness and death, the loss of normal this past year, and most recently, a quadruple bypass.  I have never put much energy into guilt and now I seek to let go of judgement.

My mistakes and failures have taught me so many great lessons.  Trust, trust, and trust again.  Never be embarrassed to be real and authentic.  Let your imagination and creativity flow.  Speak your truth.  Be kind, always be kind.  Be grateful, always be grateful.

Forgive.




Both broken and radiant...

 "We are all in the same boat – radiant and broken…" – Sy Safransky

Every living thing has been broken. If not broken, it has a scratch, a dent, a nick, a gouge, a crack, or a hole in it. Every heart, has at some time, been broken or bruised. To be alive is to be both broken and radiant.

Being authentic and vulnerable is living with our brokenness and our radiance. When I am wounded, when I break, I reflexively close tight. The key is to remember you have been broken before and recovered. You can trust again. You can open your heart again. When you open your heart, the radiance pours out like sunbeams through a cloud. 

Throughout life, every one of us experiences some hurt, grief, or loss that breaks us. At this time, we choose. We choose to say yes and bounce back and return to life or we say no and choose to diminish.

When you are wounded, broken, and you fear you cannot go on, that is your moment to remember. Remember, you have been here before and you have returned.

Returned to life, returned to love.



Walls...

"They say there is a window from one heart to another; 
but how can there be a window where no wall remains?" ~ Rumi

Rumi, a great spiritual poet, reminds us of our potential as human beings. We are designed to connect.

"We are hardwired for connection." – BrenĂ© Brown

It is our fear and need for power that erects walls. Every wall I have ever studied, from Jericho to Berlin, has come down. It is our fear, our reptilian brain's fear of anyone not like us that has created walls and systems of oppression and exclusion.

My faith tells me to "love thy neighbor as thy self." It is time to evolve. Evolve past our reptilian fears and move to our higher order thinking. Our human thinking that reaches out with human open hearts, open minds, and open hands to our brothers and sisters across all humanity.



LOVE

It is essential to love and care about ourselves so that we can love and care for others.  Your self worth and value as a human being is not dependent on anyone else.  We have to own our value.  We have to claim our worth.  We are here to love and be loved.  We are created by unlimited, unconditional love.  Each and every day we are in the embrace of God.  Your being approved of by another person is not necessary for your love to blossom.

When we love, we can heal our wounds and offer forgiveness to the broken people who have hurt us.

When we love and respect ourselves, we can forgive and let go of the hurt, anger, and resentment that weighs us down.

When we love ourselves and each other, we forgive and love again.



Continue...

I never thought of myself as a very intellectually bright person.  In school I always did well in Language Arts and Social Studies and struggled in Math and Science.  

My mantra through most of my adulthood has been, "There are thousands of people smarter than me, but no one works harder than me."

Success to me has always been measured in, "Have I been helpful? Have I been caring and compassionate? Have I been understanding and empathetic?" 

I think for the most part, I have met my goals.  I can, sadly, think of a few occasions where I have failed to be all that I wanted to be.  I live with and accept responsibility for my shortcomings.

Every failure, every mistake, has taught me valuable lessons.  I have learned humility, forgiveness, gratitude, and courage.  Now it is my great pleasure to share these lessons with anyone that will listen.  I share in graduate classes, professional development for educators, speeches, videos, and podcasts.

My mistakes have taught me that we are not alone.  We all stumble, we all fail, and it is my joy to continue to get up.  Get up, look up, and continue.  

I love to continue- continue life, continue love, and continue learning.



Forgive

"You don't forgive without loving. And I don't mean sentimentally. I don't mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, 'I forgive, I'm finished with it.'" – Maya Angelou

This powerful and courageous choice to forgive has been lifetime work for me. I am aware that I forgive fairly easily. I think I mean it. I think I am "finished with it" but I still am visited by memories and sadness. This must be the love that Maya Angelou speaks about.

I am aware that forgiveness is a gift I give myself. I am aware forgiveness is essential to my healing process. I still need to work on giving up my story on how I have been hurt. I need to let go and let God. For me letting go and letting God means moving to empathy and compassion. I can reflect on the person I perceived hurt me. I can spiritually and emotionally focus on empathy and compassion. When it is difficult to move to empathy and compassion, I can always choose to be kind.

Dear God, grant me the serenity to choose to be kind.




Everything we think, everything we feel, and everything we do, makes a difference to someone.

"The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us, 
and the light goes out." – James Baldwin

We are designed to connect. We are made to hold each other. When we hold each other, when we connect, the love multiplies. We need each other. Interdependence is our only hope moving forward. We must work together to find creative solutions to the problems of today.

"The breath of one is the breath of all, and the breath of all, 
is the breath of God." – Melanie Bacon

I am reminded of the African principle of "Ubuntu".  It means "I am because you are." We are all bonded together in a shared humanity.

Everything we think, everything we feel, and everything we do, makes a difference to someone.



What are we learning each day and with each experience?

Each experience in my life has given me skills and knowledge for what was yet to appear.

I discovered passion and commitment by choosing to do what I loved and follow that "still, small voice."  I found courage and wisdom in facing pain, fear, and loss.  When I stumbled and fell, I got back up. I kept trying, and learning, and growing.  Every decision I made created the person I am now. 

Life has been constant change. There is always something new to learn and hopefully enjoy. As I rise, again and again, I learn perseverance and grace.  I am filled with gratitude for every day of my life.  Every day and every experience has the potential to be profound.



The purpose of life is to love

The purpose of life is to love. When we love, we ripple out aspects of original creation. When we love, our life is meaningful.

I am grateful to know and experience that love and life are intertwined. Love is not something we do. Love is something we are. Our love is a way of life.  It is an orientation, a motivation, an intention that brings its own reward.



Connection is the natural state of life

Connection is the natural state of life.

We all belong. We are all included.

Even when we feel excluded, we are still part of a great, loving universe.

We are all part of the love, that universe, that one song.

We are all driven to connect, to bond, to be together.

Everything is relationship.

You are here in this relationship because you are needed, you are indispensable.

You are here because life needed your unique self.

You are a part of the intimate, unconditionally loving, Divine, universe.