Finding Happiness Knowing When to Say “No” and When to Say “Yes!”

walk outsideI’ve recently had two remarkable experiences that are so closely tied together in an absolutely unintentional way. Were they an accident? Probably not.

This Rambling was inspired by an article I came across recently in USA TODAY about “happiness.” It caught my attention because I’ve personally been reflecting on the idea of “joy.” I believe happiness can come and go so quickly while joy or joyfulness seems (to me) to be the bedrock of a wholehearted and fulfilling life.

What is the difference between “joy” and “happiness”? Here are some thoughts on my perspective:

Happiness is a temporary state of mind about how we are feeling; it’s short-lived. Happiness is like hunger: When we are hungry, we eat and are no longer hungry. A sense of happiness needs to be continually fed. Don’t get me wrong, I love being happy. When we are happy it activates our endorphins, which makes us feel good. But happiness can be fleeting and temporary. It is triggered by something we see, someone we are with, a great experience, a personal accomplishment, or seeing the accomplishments of a family member or someone we care about.

Joyfulness is far deeper, far more meaningful. I find it tends to linger longer than moments of happiness. It adds substance and resilience to our life. The depths of joyfulness can carry us through those times in life when we are experiencing sadness.

When I was younger and in the earlier stages of my career I was driven to succeed. I kept my calendar crammed full. I would always make room for one more appointment, one more opportunity to engage, one more opportunity to prove to myself and others (including my friend and mentor, my dad) that I could do it! It was nearly impossible for me to ever say “no.” What I have since learned (that was also highlighted in the article) is that I was cheating myself: I was not giving those around me the quality time they needed. I just wanted to “get it done” so I could move on to the next thing. I felt good, I think I was happy, yet I did not have a foundation of joy.

I just returned from my first ever solo vacation with Backroads, a travel company that organizes biking and hiking tours for like-minded professionals. I signed up for a bike tour through California wine country including Sonoma and Redwood. I made the decision to do this over six months ago as a way of saying “YES!” to Bob and “NO” to a work schedule. I made the decision to embrace life and to expand my experiences, including meeting a new array of friends. I wanted to leave my comfort zone and add to my inner perspectives on life, culture, and people and to challenge myself to do something new and fun. I found not only happiness, but built a stronger base of joyfulness from this experience. I said “NO” to a few days of work commitments and “YES” to my soul, my heart, and my mind. I came back better as to who I am, what I want to be, and with a new commitment to embracing others and life experiences.

As I was sitting having a leisurely breakfast before leaving Sonoma to return home, I was reflecting on my experience and how I was feeling. I opened the USA TODAY newspaper and there was an article that popped up in a section I normally do not read: “Finding Happiness through NO.” I smiled at the coincidence of my just completed experience and the article that landed in my lap. This article tied my past few days together and reinforced that this will not be my last experience to wholeheartedly expand BOB, to embrace life, and to embrace new friends around the country. I’m glad I took the time to read the article as it added so much to my engagement with those I’d met on the trip.

So, I’ll share with you some of the questions that I ask myself:

  • Do you experience happiness? How do you define it?
  • How do you handle sadness and disappointment?
  • What are you doing each day to strive for happiness? How focused are you on the negatives?
  • Where do gratefulness and grace fit into happiness?
  • How do you define being joyful?
  • Are you intentionally striving to have an inner feeling of joy and if so, what are you doing?
  • What else can you do to enhance happiness, build on joyfulness, and be more resilient during times of sadness?
  • How do you think you carry yourself when happy, when sad, and when you have joyfulness?
  • Have you ever thought about the lasting and powerful impact on wholeheartedness and intentional living when your bucket is being filled with a deeper and more meaningful feeling of joy?
  • Are you thankful for your gifts and blessings? If not, get out in the world and experience the others, their lives, problems and joys. By doing so, your paradigm on life and your blessings will dramatically change.

Be happy, yet strive for being joyful and thankful for all the blessings and gifts you have been given, earned, and learned through intentional and wholehearted living

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Civility

I was given an article found in the Mpls Star and Tribune this past weekend from a very good friend that struck a cord that is the basis for this rambling.

“6 Steps to Make America Civil….and a little greater”

This is not a very creative personally thought out Rambling. I feel that rather than attempting to make my own creative commentary on these “6”, I am proving a copy of the article for the substance of this Rambling as I feel the article expanded enough on the “6” that it created sufficient insight for all of us to consider as we live our lives and engage in those around us.

ENJOY……

Civility 3Civility 4Civility 2

Keep these “6” posted on your refrigerator, on your computer, in your thoughts as civility leads to such great outcomes!

 

 

Tackling Fear, Developing Trust, & Embracing a Wholehearted Life

Welcome to Season 3 of my Ramblings. Let’s start off with a challenge and consider that perhaps we should give our brains something better to do than watching the news or dwelling on the past. They can both bring you down!

You become what you think about all day long.                                                                                                  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stop and think about this statement, it sounds simple enough, but after a period of reflection the deeper meaning becomes apparent and the need to put this into action can create either a sense of fear and challenge or (if we’re lucky enough) comfort.

It sounds so easy, “do not dwell on the past,” but as intelligent creatures, our brains have a magnificent capacity to remember, especially when it comes to relationships. There are things in our lives (perhaps from a past relationship) that can hit us at the core of our heart, mind, and soul that are difficult to move beyond. The problem is if you don’t deal with something, it can manifest into an unhealthy mindset whether you are aware of it or not. Instead of simply dwelling on something, tackle it head on and resolve it so that it becomes part of your “conscious intelligence” and not a behavior flaw that prevents you from living your life in a wholehearted and healthy manner. We can become intentional in living out what we have learned and use it to strengthen our relationships moving forward.

I find that getting really personal, really vulnerable, not just with others, but with yourself requires the ability and acceptance of giving up some control.

I am not sure what is most difficult and creates the most fear: wondering what may happen when you “give up” (or share) control or actually having the courage to give away some control to someone else. I believe it’s an act of vulnerability. I have struggled with this for a long time and have discovered that allowing others to be in control is liberating. It helps us build relationships, create intimacy, comfort, and trust. Is it possible to have mutual, or collaborative control? I am of the conclusion this is called “a partnership!” whether it is in business or our personal life.

What do we gain when we release our grip on control? We can be more relaxed and have more meaningful experiences in our personal and professional relationships. We gain increased personal value and productivity. In business, we can develop a more positive and creative work environment. In our personal lives, we can gain a more meaningful and closer connection of the mind and soul with our partner that has priceless long-term value. In both our professional and personal lives this value carries us through the inevitable ebbs and flows of life especially when we encounter detours and roadblocks. When we build relationships that have trust at their foundation, we can not only survive life’s challenges and conflicts, but flourish.

So how is this done? I can only share what has worked for me.

  • Reading: What a miraculous discovery! (I wrote about this in an earlier blog) As I have spent more time reading, my perspectives have changed. I have created more depth in my life and find that I have more meaningful conversations that go beyond chatting about the weather. And it has shaped my heart, too. Reading books on diverse topics has clearly helped improve my relationships. I believe you need to love yourself and value yourself before you can offer love to someone else (particularly romantic love). Remember the saying: “Beware of the naked man who offers you his shirt.”
  • Life experiences: We can either live in a bubble, or go outside the bubble and experience life. Think about the Caribou Coffee slogan: “Life is Short, Stay Awake for it!” For me, staying awake requires engagement, leaving my comfort zone, and experiencing life through travel, volunteering, and social engagement. When I travel I try to intentionally absorb what I’m seeing and experiencing and learn from it.
  • Recognize that change is good: (but it can also be very difficult) I believe we can experience borderline dysfunctional failure in our personal and professional life3 C's of life when we continue to repeat the same mistakes and get the same unsuccessful outcomes. If we do not like the results we’re getting, we need to work on discovering the trigger points and commit to changing. But it needs to be for your reasons, not anyone else’s. However, while the reasons need to be our own, it doesn’t mean we need to do it by ourselves. . .
  • Get help from others: We cannot stop growing and must get help from others who are objective and have a caring heart. I spend time with a pastor and a mentor who are teaching me about wholehearted living. Need a kick start on doing some of this work for yourself? Check out Brené Brown’s Ted talks and then read her book The Gift of Imperfection. Adopt her trust process of BRAVERY and start living a Wholehearted Life! I encourage you to listen to this from Brené Brown on how empathy helps us create connection with others: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw&sns=em
  • Develop a friendship with someone who truly and deeply understands you (and vice versa!). Allow for emotional intimacy as it will carry you farther in life thanFriendship is the secret physical intimacy (but don’t dismiss the value of physical intimacy). You can develop intimacy through vulnerability, passion, and wonder—I believe this is a God-given gift that is the foundation of LIVING A WHOLEHEARTED LIFE. A truly intimate relationship will carry you through the difficult times as you live your life and get older.
  • Develop a few MARBLE JAR relationships. These are based on:
    • Trust
    • Vulnerability
    • Empathy

Embrace life and challenge fear head on! Live like there is no tomorrow. Develop strong relationships, a sense of grace, and the belief of being truly blessed.

Elephants, Haiti, and Life Experiences = Growth and Being Alive and Present!

I have been thinking about what topic I might use as my final Rambling for the season. I’ve been waiting for just the right trigger—something that touched my heart in a way that is worthy to write and Ramble about. Once again, this Rambling is being guided by something far greater than myself.

On the surface, the three elements of the title for this Rambling appear to be far ranging elephant whisperand diverse. However, the idea came to me as I was finishing the book, The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony, as I was flying home from Haiti. Perhaps it was a combination of reading this book and reflecting on my trip and my experiences. Or perhaps there was a gentle hand being placed on my shoulder saying, “This is it, Bob!” that triggered this Rambling.

Everyone has their own life path as to how they achieve personal growth. Take this Rambling as a summary of mine and feel free to use what applies to your own life. I write these Ramblings as a reflection of my thoughts and with the desire that they challenge you, the reader, to determine what applies to your own personal life, even if it is just a simple sentence or random thought. I hope these ramblings provide value. Perhaps you can reflect on this in tandem with a significant person in your life. I believe this kind of reflection on life can help create an amazing intimate union. (That in itself is a life lesson I learned, somewhat painfully, due to my own immaturity and being overly prideful.)

Life can hand us some unplanned challenges to the heart and soul. We can be kicked in the head and stabbed in the heart. We retreat into our shell of self-pity and a “woe is me feeling.” However, while I was in Haiti working with a team from Haiti Teen Challenge, I was reminded of my own personal blessings. I was quickly humbled and ashamed of the thoughts and feelings of self-pity I’ve had. I was reminded of the power of faith, selfless acts, compassion, and the heart-healing benefit of servanthood.

IMG_7338IMG_7311Haiti Child

 

 

 

Haiti Teen Challenge brought me back to the greatness of family, devotion, learning, stretching personal boundaries and comfort zones, and standing up for what you believe, not to please those around you, but to stand firm in who you are with grace, vulnerability, and courage. Yup, life experiences do shape your purpose and who you are if you let them. A vulnerable, open, and courageous heart can be filled in a way that you cannot imagine if you let it and rid yourself of shame, guilt, and being prideful and instead, live with courage, transparency, and vulnerability. (Boy is that easy to write and say, but so painfully hard to put into practice.) It takes time to learn how to do this effectively and naturally and to have the courage to accept that there will be mistakes during the learning curve. However, as I am learning, perseverance allows us to take small steps in the right direction that slowly shape who we are and how we live and who we become.

I’ve often heard, “It is who you are, not what you do, that is critical.” (In the past, my family of origin clouded that understanding.) Today I feel so blessed that I understandHaiti Bob and Children the core of this statement as never before. It is now part of my internal mantra—I constantly remind myself of it when I get too caught up with nonmeaningful self-indulgences and prideful beliefs.

As I end this season of Ramblings, let me share some reflections and thoughts I gained from The Elephant Whisperer, thoughts that I am learning to embrace—maybe one of them will resonate with you, or trigger another thought that is critical to your life.

There are no walls between humans and elephants except those we put up ourselves, and until we allow all humans and elephants their place in the sun we can never be whole!

Every wild thing is in tune with its surroundings, awake to its fate and in absolute harmony with the planet, and focuses on what is around them. Humans, on the other hand, tend to focus introspectively on their own lives, too often brooding and magnifying problems that the animal world would not spend a millisecond of energy on!

When communicating with animals, it is critical to understand that their language, their communication, is a two-way flow of energy . . . when it has been received, you must let them know that their communication has arrived. If you do not, there is no communication! It is that simple, just like earthly and Godly relationships!

Always treat those magnificent animals with absolute respect! (Something we need to do with those around us, too!)

I will return later in September. I pray that you have received some value in reading my Ramblings this season.

HAVE A MAGNIFICANT SUMMER MY READERS. GO OUT AND EMBRACE LIFE AND YOUR PURPOSE!

Filling the Soul and Life of Others, Drip by Drip

Drip by Drip—on the surface it may seem like torture, it may seem that you cannot takeDrip by Drip anymore as you wait to fill a glass, drip by drip. And then, once you think you have filled your glass, you find there is room for more, or, you spill some of it. This is so true of our lives: We work to fill ourselves up but then we make a mistake, and we lose some of what we’ve worked so hard to achieve. It seems there’s a constant need to continue Water glassfilling the glass. We can do this through purposeful, selfless behavior, growth, and actions. By surrounding ourselves with relationships who will challenge us and add perspective that may very well be different than ours. How healthy is that? Immensely!

Recently, I was reading about the process of becoming a person of true faith and conviction. It involves three actions: Believe, Receive, Become. This not only pertains to faith but many aspects of a meaningful life and relationships.

I also read an article posted by Shaun Shelton on LinkedIn that struck me. The title of the article was: Speaking vs. Doing.” Shaun stated, “I can’t help but notice that the vast majority of speakers out there aren’t actually doers. Sadly, they talk the talk, but are unable to walk the walk . . .”

This article was a great reminder that walking the talk is critical: Do as you say and say as you do! It’s how we fill up our glass, how we lead a full, rewarding real life. It enables us to tell the truth about our experiences, experiences that are both good and bad.

Truth (being real!) reminds us what is really important. 

Esteli, Nicaragua 2017 –  I continue to be reminded and amazed by the impact of going Vilma and Family Greetingon a mission/humanitarian trip, not just the families and individuals we serve, but those who serve as well. My latest Habitat for Humanity trip was no different. This trip took us to Nicaragua and the town of Esteli. We had the privilege to build a home for Vilma, a grandmother, her daughter, Heidi; and her granddaughter, Roxie. The home they were living in had dirt floors, porous walls, and a tin roof. The home flooded during the rainy season.Vilma Home

Each day, Vilma and Roxie greeted us as we arrived in the morning and waved goodbye as we left in the afternoon (the mother had to work long hours hand rolling cigars). One afternoon, little Roxie gave me a freshly picked blue flower with a smile that said “thank you” as only a child can. Such a series of gifts of heartfelt love and appreciation asBob and Roxie with Flower expressed in their greetings, saying goodbye, as well as the gift of the flower from Roxie communicated their deep appreciation. It was a true pleasure to build a cinder block home for this family who were so genuinely gracious and appreciative. These actions in themselves were a lesson and lasting take away for us. Despite a total communication barrier, it was clear that the family deeply appreciated this gift. It greatly impacted me and those who worked on building the home.

Doing little things to express gratitude is not just important, it is everything.

As I flew home following the trip, I reflected on the experiences and gifts I’d received, it felt good!

To give and to mentor is good for everyone; the givers and the recipients gain significantly and change lives.  

LAVA LAMPThe Lava Lamp of Life

 Isn’t life interesting? Once you have committed yourself to “receive and to belong” you can later reflect on the journey you have taken as well as what lies ahead. It’s like a lava lamp (remember those?). Think about what you see when watching a lava lamp. There is this slow meandering rising of the oil to the surface; it takes its time, doesn’t flow in a straight line, and eases into differing shapes. It eventually rises to the surface and then sinks and the process continues. Isn’t this symbolic of life’s journey? Yes, as long as there is resilience and a commitment to moving, changing, and growing, as long as we can trust the process not knowing the outcome. If there is trust, we know that every time life brings us down there will be something that buoys us up again.

Our life and our relationships also undergo this type of process of morphing and change. All we have to do is trust and open ourselves up to being vulnerable, real, and transparent.

Back to my opening paragraph and DRIP, DRIP, DRIP! Each drip contributes to filling up our glass. Like the drip from a faucet, it takes time, patience, and persistence to fill up our souls through meaningful and wholehearted actions. It is inevitable that there will be some spills along the way but we continue to work on filling ourselves up, drip by drip.

I am learning that we need to give of ourselves out of love and care and not be looking for what is given back to us. Here is my parting thought:

Grace, is an easy word to say, but difficult to actually live out in its truest sense.

Amazing Grace is servanthood to others when they are in greatest need and we receive nothing in return.

It is a Good Day Every Day, not just on “GOOD FRIDAY”…….

Staying Aware and Intentional. An impromptu and my shortest rambling.

As I was at the cabin this past Friday and Saturday, I watched two Documentaries, “Planet Earth” and “Poverty Inc.”. This morning as I return from my Men’s Group, I have been struck in a far different way by all of these events in a way that 2 years ago would never have hit my consciousness as it does today and has prompted this short rambling, Ponder these thoughts;

    • As you look closely at the delicate way that the world is balanced and continues to thrive, ask yourself: “Is the way the seasons, earth positioning to the sun, the moon and how it effects the earth, the interplay of the seasons around the world, miracle of birth, of the plants and living organisms, a result of evolution or was it in the image of something far greater than evolution?” “I believe is it was an intentional creation that has evolved as it did not “just happen!”
    • Our need and desire to selflessly serve is part of being a meaningful person! Once the need for humanitarian help has passed, to serve is to teach how to fish, not to give fish, or is giving “fish” enough?
    • For those who believe. Honoring GOOD FRIDAY is only right and worthy of a meaningful THANK YOU! I believe that additionally we need to embrace that each day is a “good day!”. I am of the belief that we should stay intentional in our beliefs, gifts, blessing and remain aware of how our life is guided and touched.
    • Finally, are we thankful, and have we acknowledge our appreciation, for the input and guidance received by those around us who can challenge our thoughts and enhance our perspectives?

HAVE A GOOD WEEK!

What It has meant to me to be “One of the Seldom”

A Personal Thank You! Thank you readers for allowing me into your life with my Ramblings” I hope my Ramblings fit into the “value to read” category for you and that perhaps there have been a few crumbs you have found of value that maybe moved your own very personal needle a bit.

In early March, 2016, I posted my first Rambling. The last 13 months and 30 postings have gone by so very quickly. It is startling how fast life and time pass by. I want to say Thank You to you, my readers, for reading, commenting, and following my Rambling posts. Over the last year, there have been more than 4,100 views and 2,050 visitors from more than 6 countries.

These Ramblings have allowed me the opportunity to share my thoughts, vulnerable feelings, and life lessons learned. At the same time, I hope these ramblings have challenged you to reflect on things that may be applicable and important to your own life. Personally, the last 1½ years have gone by at warp speed, representing a period of growth, change, and maturity that has been remarkable, fun, sad, exciting, and rewarding. This time has been filled with humbleness, regrets and gratitude. As I write these adjectives, I am a bit overwhelmed by the bandwidth of outcomes and the emotions that have come from this process of growth, change, and maturing. To be a vibrant person, there will be more to come as without growth there is a loss of wholeheartedness and opportunity.

I was told not that long ago that change cannot be trusted. Prior to my father’s death almost 15 years ago, I often heard my father say, “People change but seldom!” I am so pleased that I AM ONE OF THE SELDOM. I believe change can be trusted when you can look at it with an open heart and mind. In a recent Rambling, I wrote about how the two sides of a piece of paper are like our lives: One side represents our exterior self that everyone sees and the other side represents our interior self (who we are at our core) that others feel. There is a process of growth, change, and maturing we can take to make our behavior (our exterior self) reflect our values or faith (our interior self). I am learning that this has been a process, was not an event. “Baby Steps!”.

When attending a workshop or conference listening to speakers, I seldom agree with all that is said. I am sure much like my Ramblings and how you react to things  I have written. However, if I can walk away with a crumb of “that was a good thought,” then the speaker was of personal value, then I have moved the needle of being a “better me” a degree or two in the right direction. I hope my Ramblings fit into this category for you and that perhaps there have been a few crumbs you have found of value that maybe moved your own needle a bit.

I am grateful for you, my readers. I am grateful for those who have sent me personal notes at my email address, challenged my writing and commented on the site, reactions on Facebook and LinkedIn. For all of you I just want to say, THANK YOU! Each of your comments and perspectives have been helpful and of value.

In June, I will be wrapping up this second series of Ramblings before I take a break for the summer. I have three more to write before this break. I’m already thinking about the general theme for the fall 2017 series of Rambling posts. I am sure that I will capture interesting thoughts and provocative and challenging questions from travel experiences, a church class I am co-leading this fall and  books I’ve read  or will be reading over the coming year to challenge myself and rambling readers on various aspects of life, relationships and living with meaning, substance and wholeheartedness.

Once again, thank you readers for allowing me into your life with my Ramblings.

Every Piece of Paper Has Two Sides – Love This Life and Learn to Dance in the Rain by Being REAL!

dancing in the rain

I love this life and want to dance in the rain of conflict, challenge, and growth, to meet conflict head on as opposed to pretending it is not happening, and to deal with the rain of life as it occurs as opposed to waiting for the storm and rain to pass.

While this is one of my more transparent Ramblings, it is not just about me. I hope it tells a personal story that causes you to stop and reflect on anything that resonates with you. If it does, fantastic. This Rambling was prompted by some thoughts that came to me recently as I was reading A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron. One of the book’s messages is that all creatures are born with a purpose.

I am learning to be more comfortable with the idea of “Say what you mean and mean what you say!” although I know this way of thinking may not be very Norwegian of me. Being purposeful about what you say (and do!) is about getting off the merry-go-round of just staying within the protective cradle of what is known. It’s about venturing, with purpose, into the unknown deeper aspects of our spiritual life while never forgetting to embrace our earthly life with an attitude of gratitude, passion, romance, fun, adventure, wonder, thanksgiving, and purpose.

Just as every piece of paper has two sides, there are two sides to our lives—what is seen on the outside and what is at our core. I hope I’m not the only one who spends time looking inward to discover and refine how I want both sides of my life (the exterior and interior) to be grounded and compatible in how they look, feel, and behave. I am committed to being authentic and having an internal core that has substance.

There are so many analogies floating through my thoughts that make me smile as I type out what was initially put down on paper for this Rambling. My Ramblings always start out with a thought for the subject and perhaps a title, much like the title for a book. I use the initial title not only as imagery but motivation for what is written in the Rambling. Often what I end up writing is not consistent with the initial title. It is like turning a piece of paper over to discover what was really important.

I may change the title in the same manner that I change my perspective on life.

I often change the title of my Ramblings to better match and reflect the maturing content. This morning as I hit spell check, backspaced to make corrections, and edited things I wasn’t happy with or didn’t like the flow of, and I reflected on what I wanted to convey,  it struck me that the writing process is like life: changing (backspace, delete, edit), developing (adding and learning with the help of an editor or others), and maturing (willing to change) can be fun and exciting.

In the holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge was totally unaware of how he was behaving, how he was being perceived, and how what was important to him was so misaligned. I can honestly say that in the fairly recent past, I too was naïve and had misjudged how I was being received and perceived. My overly-armored and guarded core had drastically affected relationships and my ability to be real or authentic. Change is so hard, yet I am a thankful example that change is possible if it is really important to you.

There two statements I learned from my involvement with the Wilson Learning Company years ago, “People change but seldom!” (I am one of the seldom!), and people only do things for their reason, not someone else’s! (There have been many personal reasons I have changed.)

Back to Scrooge: At the end of the story, Scrooge was awakened and his life transformed by the dreams and vision brought to him by the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future. To a far lesser degree, I too have been awakened and transformed by experiences of the past and present. The future is important to me particularly as I work to make both sides of my “paper” complement one another: the visible (behavior) and the core (strong beliefs).

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mahatma Gandhi        (Thank you Jim H. for introducing me to this quote!)

 My Ramblings have been like an evolving and ever-changing mirror of how I view myself, or better stated, how the journey of life is manifesting itself within me (as it does for all of us). I have discovered that as with my Ramblings, I have become so very picky about things in my life—I have learned that there are certain non-negotiables.

I challenge you (as well as myself) to discover who you are at your core, and to believe and be comfortable in what you discover, to live intentionally with this heartfelt belief, to shed the shield in being someone you are not, and to stop worrying about what others think (as long as who you are is ethical and kind, and what you do and say comes from the heart), much like dancing (not worrying about what others might think!).

We should learn to embrace a joyful, wholehearted, selfless, and grateful life.

Lessons in Extraordinary Courage The White Helmets

How can we, in our own simple way, be a WHITE HELMET?

As I write this rather emotional Rambling, I must acknowledge that I feel very blessed with my life, and I want to continue to embrace it with fun, passion, and life experiences. I want to share with friends and, hopefully, a significant other, all the wonders of life’s blessings. However, there are two pieces of life’s puzzle that I have come to believe are critical: puzzelselfless giving and faith. Selfless giving is the puzzle piece that is at the core of this Rambling.

If we take a deep and hard look at what goes on around us we will find that the human spirit is amazing. I am willing to wager that the vast majority of those that read these Ramblings live in a world that is sheltered, insulated, and immune to the deep tragedies and struggles that permeate the world we live in. Here’s what I mean: We know our lives are reasonably good. We know we have varying levels of success. I ask myself and you, my readers, “Do we tend to take this for granted?” Perhaps others in our circle live in similar worlds and have similar blessings which we have learned to accept as the norm. (Not that we don’t feel lucky or fortunate, but it just seems the norm.)

We read about the starving children of Africa; we hear of the tragedy and struggles of the people in Haiti; we read of the unemployed, the homeless, and those who struggle with chemical dependency and say to ourselves, “That is so sad; that is too bad; how horrific that must be.” While we may have compassion, we also may have little true understanding as our own world is so detached from the reality of the outside world.

I can relate to this. As I sit at the cabin overlooking the lake, I sometimes catch myself worrying about “Bob stuff” I feel some uneasiness, stress, or uncertainty. All my issues are based on my world of relationships and life and have no relation to how blessed I really am.

What does it take to not only embrace our own blessed life, but also have the compassion, heart, and soul to be more selfless in doing our part? Maybe that 1% effort will be life changing, not just to ourselves, but more importantly, to someone we touch.

Let me share with you a story of an amazing group of citizens in Aleppo, Syria called “THE WHITE HELMETS” that illustrates this potential.

We’ve heard and read about the horrific bombing and destruction that continues in Aleppo, Syria and other towns and villages of that country. We have witnessed scenes of the destruction, but have we really felt and seen the horror of the innocent people who are the victims?

There is a group of organized citizens whose mission, out of compassion for their fellow man, is to track the falling bombs, wait for them to hit, and then, Doan their WHITE HELMETS and rush to the scene to rescue or retrieve those who are trapped, injured, or killed. In one documented event, after 16 -18 hours of grueling and non-stop efforts, the White Helmets were exhausted and ready to call it a day after finding no additional signs or sounds of life. As they were about to leave they heard the faint sound of a baby’s cry. They froze in place, in silence, with their helmet lights on to see if there really was life still buried somewhere in the unimaginable rubble. They quickly realized that it wasn’t their imagination, the baby’s cry was real. There was still a life waiting to be rescued.

With renewed hope, energy, and enthusiasm the White Helmets found a 6-week-old baby, unharmed, sheltered in a small cave of ruble and debris. A White Helmet pulled the crying child to safety, holding it tightly in his arms as if it were his own as tears rolled down hisWhitel Helmets check and the cheeks of his fellow rescuers. They embraced in the joy that their efforts had made a dramatic difference and that this child will now have a chance to grow up. Who knows what may be possible? Perhaps this child will one day be a peace maker for Syria? Who knows what impact that child will have on others? What we do know is that without the dedication of the White Helmets, those selfless citizens who risk their lives to save the lives of others, that child’s potential would never have a chance.

Over the course of three years, approximately 180 dedicated White Helmets have lost their lives working to rescue an estimated 58,000 fellow citizens.

The example of the White Helmets leads me to a few questions:

  • What are we doing as blessed individuals to act as White Helmets in our own communities and in the world?
  • What are we doing to make a real difference?
  • What are we doing to share our God-given talents, gifts, blessings, and compassion to those around us?

How can we, in our own simple way, be a WHITE HELMET?

Ratio of Birth to Death is One to One!

No one gets off this planet alive—one of the guarantees life gives us is that it ends with death! (Rather profound of me, isn’t it?) However as vibrant, loving, and caring people we have a choice: As the book, Five Days at Memorial states in the final sentence, “. . . we have the luxury to prepare and resolve how we wish to make decisions!” What decisions are you going to make? Let me challenge you to read on. . .

I was recently reading about the 2005 disaster of Hurricane Katrina and how it decimated New Orleans. This natural disaster caused horrific conditions and chaos at the Memorialfive-days-at-memorial Medical Center in downtown New Orleans. The book, Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink, describes the life and death decisions the hospital’s medical staff had to make including who would live and who would die.

As I read the book I was struck with how fragile life is, the amazing dedication of the medical community, and the tough yet fragile nature of the human spirit during life changing decisions.

What really has stayed with me was the statement: “The Ratio of Birth to Death is One to One!” which has raised some interesting questions:

  • Why are Americans so unprepared for death when it occurs?
  • Generally, why do we celebrate every milestone of life except death?
  • Why does everyone want to rush to the miracle of birth yet shy away from the reality of death?

I have a few thoughts on these questions that I will frame with another series of questions that would be fun to discuss, debate, and learn from (and with) others:

  • Is it fear of the unknown?
  • Is it a total lack of belief in God and eternal life?
  • Is it a disappointment that a “wholehearted life” was not lived?
  • Is it that fascination with the wonders of the world and those within it were not a priority?
  • Is it because life has been filled with regrets and too many “I should haves”?
  • Are we disappointed that we did not stretch outside our comfort zone?
  • Is it that we embrace the miracle of life, yet do not understand the reality of death?
  • Is it that we see birth (new life) as “sweet” and “beautiful” yet death can be so painful and ugly?
  • Is it the loss of a loved one and fear of loneliness?
  • Or ???

I have many thoughts and reactions to these questions, yet to ramble in a vacuum on these seems to me a bit too self-centered as it is not about Bob, but about those we choose to live and share our lives with.

“Because I love this life,I know I shall love death as well” – Ravindranath Tagore

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Take this short Ramble as a challenge to all of us, me included, to embrace life and to honor and rejoice in death in the same manner we do in reading the last chapter of a great book, by being thankful for the time spent, for the insight it gave us, for the value it added to our lives and how we impacted others.

I invite you to go back and re-read my previous Rambling blog post, “Welcome to the Rest of your Life.”

Here is to LIFE and DEATH