Me: “How’s your day?”
Cashier: “It was so-so. But you have a really beautiful smile and I feel so much better about my day now because of you.” (He said this as he put his hand to his heart and there was something about that gesture that really meant a lot to me.)
This is an interaction I had yesterday after I had a really terrible day. To be honest, I forced myself to smile at this cashier because I was trying to make myself feel better. And the smile did help me, or at least it helped me feel better to make someone else’s day better.
Small gestures make a big impact. Sometimes something as simple as a “hi, how are you?”, meaning it, and smiling really does help. So here’s a smile today if you need one. Pass it on. Let’s work on bringing the light where and when we can to anyone who needs it.
The most valuable gifts we can give others are our time and attention. So often what others need is just someone to really listen. Grateful for my good set of ears and my ability to offer help, support, and encouragement. We’re all just walking each other home.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You’ll always find people who are helping.” -Fred Rogers
I keep coming back to this. I’m so glad we had Mister Rogers. I wish we still did. I’m so grateful for his example. The helpers help us to keep going. And we can follow their lead. No matter how bad things are, we will always feel better, be better, and make the world better if we decide to be the helpers we’re looking for. Nothing gets better unless we get better, and we have the power to do that. Right now, right where we are, with exactly what we have. There is always a way to help. So let’s find it.
“We’re all just walking each other home.” ~Ram Dass
This week I spent time with graduate students at Cornell Tech, helping them with their product development portfolio projects, and with a friend who needed some advice about how to move forward in a difficult professional situation. In both these instances, I felt alive being able to offer help, support, and advice. These circumstances reminded me of this quote by Ram Dass. If we aren’t helping each other through this life, then what’s the point, right?
This. This is how you find your tribe:
when they hear
this is how
~Nayyirah Waheed, poet
As I think about my own storytelling projects, I am reminded of my introduction to it when I was a young child.
I grew up in a rural area where Native American culture is still very much alive. We had a family friend who was a Mohawk chief, Chief Black Bear. We would often go to visit his trading post. He was a very tall, solid, regal man. I was fascinated by him. I remember the jewelry, items fashioned from animal skins, the art, and the tobacco pipes carved from natural items. I have no Native American heritage in my blood, but I somehow felt very much at home in his culture. I still do.
One year for Christmas, my mom bought me several books about Native American history. The way they live and what they believe makes complete sense to me. They take care of the planet and each other. They believe in the connectedness of the heavens above and the Earth below. And their storytelling—that’s what captivates me the most. They make deep wisdom palpable, even to a child.
Yesterday I learned about how some members of some tribes welcome people back from war. There is a recognition that they must have transition time. They go with the medicine man for a number of days to literally and figuratively have the blood washed away. The trauma of war is recognized and processed. They deal with this in the light so that it doesn’t get subsumed into the shadows. They grieve. They’re cleaned. They’re healed so that they can return whole.
Setting war aside, if we just look at our own grieving process today with any lens, we often don’t allow space or time for it. We are supposed to move on quickly and in earnest to sunny skies and smiles. We are told to let it go as quickly and cleanly as possible. Though truthfully we hang onto things inside of us. We don’t always give ourselves time to adequately mourn our losses and reflect on what we’ve learned. And so it piles up, and up and up and up until we literally collapse under it. We do ourselves a disservice all in an effort to get on with it. Except we haven’t gotten on with anything. We are playing a role, and eventually we will have to leave the stage and all of our grief will be there waiting in the wings. And we will feel alone and isolated and ashamed of it. And we will bear it until we can’t.
Our society is dealing with massive public issues now, issues that have been ignored and swept under the rug for too long by too many. Of course they now seem unwieldy. Look how much time they’ve had to grow unattended. We cannot and should not shrink away from dealing with them now, no matter how large they loom. If we don’t recognize and set ourselves on a course to solve them, that task will fall to the next generation and the generation after that. Bringing them into the light is painful, but it is the only way to create a better tomorrow. Have faith, and let’s get to work. We can do hard things, together.
Today I march for people who cannot march for themselves, for people who have been marginalized, silenced, and cast aside as less than. I have been lucky in life that I was afforded opportunities to rise above my challenges and hardships, financial and otherwise. Yes, I worked hard, and yes, there were many people who helped me in countless ways. I didn’t get where I am alone. I march to pay forward my good fortune. I understand at a deep and relentless level that injustice against any single person is injustice for our society as a whole, and we shouldn’t rest until everyone has not just equality, but equity.
My 2018 resolution can be summed up in one word: Yes. My friend, Ria, recently told me about an article she read in which the author explained that when you commit to saying yes, your day ends up in a completely different place than where it started. And I’m all for that. Yes to:
I’m going to make 2018 the best year of my life so far in every way. And I’m going to lift others as I rise. We’re doing this.
“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” ~Shirley Chisholm, first black woman elected to the United States Congress, first black candidate for a major party’s nomination for President, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination
In other words, make your own space. Get in there, and create one. An invitation isn’t always offered. And while I would love to tell you that patience is a virtue, I’ve found that patience creates just one thing—waiting. For our turn. To be smart enough, capable enough, and experienced enough. We are constantly waiting to be ready to do something. Stop waiting. The truth is you are enough, right now, just as you are. And if for some reason that doesn’t work, then create the whole damn table and invite people to join you. Make room for yourself and for others. There’s so much more to be gained by all of us if we foster inclusion rather than exclusion. Open up your mind, heart, eyes, and ears. Speak up, rise up, and take others with you. That’s the name of the game in 2018, and we’re all invited to play.