The events of the world have been weighing heavy on my mind lately. Our senseless inability to simply share love and compassion with all those around us, no matter who they are, makes me sad for a world that we could be living in. Recently, a question popped into my mind that continued to expand the more I thought about it. I asked myself this, “If we had never been taught that there was a difference between black and white, would there ever have been a difference?”
As I began to ponder this question, the ramifications of the answer to that expanded far beyond simply black and white. I started to apply the same question to all the things that we have come to believe as different, simply because society has deemed them so. The prejudices that are taught to us from an early age, influenced by our surroundings and socioeconomic influences, ultimately determine what we ourselves believe. That which we experience along our life path continues to effect beliefs that were established in our early years. We start to see why it is so difficult to change that which we have been conditioned to see as “normal”.
Think for a moment what the world would be like if we had not been conditioned to judge, hate, discriminate or compartmentalize. Think what it would be like if we were not separated into black, white, brown, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Gay, Republican, Democrat, and the list goes on. What if we all simply fell into one category, human beings all doing our part to navigate our life path the best that we know how. The world would immediately be void of prejudice, hate, suicide, self harm, mental illness and all the things we force on people simply because we try and make people who we want them to be, or fail to accept them simply for who they are. If we had never been taught that they are different, then different would have never existed.
There is no question that these are thoughts of a utopian world. However, we all have in us the power to make that world a reality. When we see the world through the eyes of love and compassion and accept all people for who they are, we begin to influence those around us to do the same. If we can plant those seeds now, we offer future generations a chance to live in a world far different than that which we are currently experiencing. We see signs of that happening already. If we nurture and grow those seeds, the possibility of a much different world could actually become a reality. Plant your seed today and begin to make the change that world so desperately needs.
When we are born, our lives are a clean slate and the possibilities for what we can become are endless. The early foundations that are set for us can either put us on a path to realizing our potential or hinder us from achieving our true greatness, depending on the circumstances. Fortunately for me, I experienced the former. Throughout my childhood, I was supported by my parents and grandmother in whatever endeavor I chose to pursue. Whether it be writing, music, theater, public speaking or band, there was never a time that I looked out into the seats and didn’t see a smiling proud face looking back at me.
As we grow through our teens and adult years, the responsibility for discovering our own self worth and purpose starts to lie within ourselves. We have made mistakes along the way that have caused us to alter our life course, to attempt to become the person that we believe that we want to be. From those mistakes we build foundations, one brick at a time, that will see us through to adulthood and beyond. As we search for our purpose in those years, opportunities will come and go until we eventually find the place where we are supposed to be. When that happens we know it, because we feel it in our hearts and it consumes the very fiber of our being.
For me, that moment was walking into my grandmother’s senior community for the first time. It had taken me 53 years to get to the point that I discovered my purpose. When it finally arrived, it showed itself with no reservation. From the first delivery of cards I made to my grandmother’s community, I knew that my reason for being was finally showing itself and the path that I was supposed to take became very clear. Along the way there would be trials and tribulations, but every step of the journey would make the endeavor stronger and better than the year before.
When I founded the Bring Smiles to Seniors program, I said that I had a little dream that I hoped would one day become a big reality. I remember being so excited in our first year when we delivered 7,719 cards to senior communities all around the Tampa Bay area. When that number grew to 18,180 then 40,515 and eventually 71,586 in subsequent years, the validation of my purpose become even more clear. Then the year 2020 came.
This week the Bring Smiles to Seniors program delivered its 100,000th card for the year. More than we did in the first three years combined. Along this journey, I have met some of the most amazing people that have shown compassion, love and caring. They are the epitome of the kind of selflessness that makes the world a better place. I assembled an incredible team of people who give tirelessly of their time to run the program. We have made almost 1,000 deliveries to senior communities across the county and in other parts of the world. All along staying true to our purpose to bring smiles to seniors, one card, one smile at a time.
I am lucky that I discovered my purpose in the middle of my life. That means that hopefully I get many years to continue to experience the joy of that purpose. No matter what stage in life we discover it, when it happens we know. Our heart and mind will tell us and we will feel it in our soul. Never give up your dream of finding your purpose. When you do, and I know you will, it is then that an abundant life really begins.
There is no question that life looks different for most of us right now. The inability to go to restaurants, theaters, stores and many of the places that we we normally frequent, have altered our norm. We feel like life has come to a standstill as we struggle to remember the current day or hour, as each looks a lot like the other. Those of us that are lucky enough to have people at home have it a bit better than those that are home alone. However, we all struggle to find our new normal.
Yes, things may be a little different in our life garden. But, in that entire garden of different are new sprouts that, if cultivated, provide us the nourishment that we need to continue to work towards the person that we want to become. Never have we had more time to focus on ourselves, who we are, and who we want to be, than now. The extra hours in a day that we often wish we had, now provide an opportunity for us to steal a little time for ourselves and do those things that we may have only dreamed of.
Working full time and running the Bring Smiles to Seniors program often left little time to ensure that I was doing all the things that I needed to do to nourish my soul. Now, if I want to sit outside with a book for a bit, I can. If I want to meditate in my pool, I can. If I want to focus on my body and health, I can. If I want to spend more time focusing on the things that matter and not the frivolous things that don’t, I can. Each and every act progress towards the person that I want to become.
All of us have our laundry list of things that we want to accomplish in our lives. Don’t let these times of isolation create opportunities for despair. Our lives our only on hold if allow them to be. Dust off that list and check off the boxes one task at a time. Make this unprecedented time your time and continue on your journey to become the person you really want to be.
One would think that in times such as these that we face today, the natural thing for people to do would be to come together with compassion, the like of which has never been seen. Individuals would be going out of their way to take care of their fellow person, and to help ensure the safety and mental well being of all those around them. We have seen it before through dark times in our history, yet this time seems to be different.
Rather than outlets for sharing stories of compassion, charity and love, social media outlets seemed to have become vessels where we are able to see the worst side of humanity. Every move we make is often capturing the ugliest that people have to offer. The good things that are happening are overshadowed by society’s need to see the latest video of a person going out of their way to portray the sense of entitlement and division that has engulfed the very way we live.
It is in these times that we have to dig deep and fight to ensure that our own moral fiber is used to overshadow that which is going on around us. Each of us has the power within us to change the world with just one deed. Every act of compassion, charity and sharing of love, counteracts that act of aggression and entitlement that we encounter. Rather than being drawn into the mire, it is more important than ever to ensure that we are countering the actions of others with the caring and calmness that we know resides in our heart. When we are the example, we have the ability to enact change, one person, one act at a time.
Having a lot of time at home during this pandemic certainly gives us a lot of time to reflect on our life. For some it is a chance to focus on where our life path has taken us and where we have yet to go. For others, it might be a little too much time to reflect on the things that could have been or the areas where we feel we have not been as successful in what we have tried to accomplish. It is at those times that it is easy to let the voices of others affect our ability to see our self worth. Especially if one happens to be at home with them, where they are constantly reminded.
The reality is that no one can determine our self worth, although the world and society would often like to try. Many people around us are more than willing to be free with their opinions, as they struggle to define their own value. We see it on social media, videos, movies, news reports and just about every where we look. People trying to prop up their value by ensuring that others feel bad about their own. What we often fail to realize is that the only reason they are able to do that is because we give them the power to do so.
When we take that power back and refuse to let others diminish our worth, our life changes completely. Suddenly, success and worth are there because we believe it and will it to be. The more comfortable we become in our own skin and focus on those things that make us the special person that we are, the more secure we become in believing that our worth matters. Never has that been more important than during the times where we currently find ourselves.
This pandemic has put many in situations that they could have never anticipated. The mere strain of trying to survive opens the door for all kinds of opportunities to diminish our self worth. It is hard enough to keep ourselves from affecting the level of worth that we feel. That makes it even more important to ensure that we are not letting others decrease our value, simply because they have the inability to see our worth. Only we have the power to validate who and what we are. Define and enhance your self worth by taking the power from those that don’t have the ability to see the magnificence of the person standing in front of them.
For many of us, the last few months have been an emotional rollercoaster. While the world seems to implode around us, our feelings of fear, anger, resentment and even isolation are causing us to take a look within ourselves and rely on our own feelings even more than ever. While individuals whom we have entrusted with our safety, security and well being have seemed to make decisions that are detrimental to those very goals, it has become necessary for us to learn self preservation of our health and mental well being. Not only for us, but for our families as well by using all the tools we have learned throughout our life journey.
One thing that I have focused on this year is the need to control the emotions that I feel and not let others and outside influences affect me. That has become more important than ever. Not being able to do all the things that I love has caused me to draw on strength of being comfortable with me and who I am, rather than all those around me who are choosing a different path. While other’s actions risk putting me and my family in danger, especially dealing with a father battling Lymphoma, I can not let their actions consume my life to a point that I lose sight of who I am and who I want to be. I can only be responsible for us and do the things I need to do to keep my family safe.
Exercise and meditation have been my saving grace as we stay within the four walls as my particular state, Florida, grapples with the Pandemic that we face. I have learned not to glue myself to the 24 hour news cycle. I have focused more on my Bring Smiles to Seniors program. I have tried to find those things that enlighten my soul rather than darken it. I have relied on my friends to pull me out of those dark places that it is only natural to go in times like this. Especially when I find myself becoming the person that I don’t want to be.
While these are unprecedented times, they are but a small part of the journey of our life path. While bad, they also have goodness in them as we see people doing things for others that we might not otherwise see. We are going through periods of self discovery that are giving us new tools that will help us navigate future things to come. Tools that we might not have otherwise had. We care about and show concern for others a little more in our periods of isolation, when we might otherwise be just focusing on ourselves. At the end of it all, and there will be an end to this, I do believe that we are going to come out on the other side a different people where money, possessions and the desire for more are not going to be the normal.
As you navigate this time, I hope that you are finding some spiritual enlightenment that helps you get through what we are all experiencing. Love your family, friends and even yourself a little more. Embrace the strength and power that is within you to endure. Prepare to exit this experience with a little more kindness, compassion and love for a world that is going to need it. We all have the power to make a difference and how we use that power is going to be the key to a different world.
This quote from Eleanor Roosevelt might just be one of my favorite quotes ever. I am a big proponent of the future. It holds all our possibilities, dreams and eventual realities. It provides us opportunities for change, life altering experiences and a path to achieve our dreams. The future can be anything we want it to be, if we only believe that dreams can come true. If we truly believe.
When I was growing up as a kid, I always wanted to do something great. Not necessarily to be rich and famous, but I dreamed of a life full of meaning and passion. Along the way I had opportunities to do good things for good people and also made mistakes that set me back from the life I wanted to live. I had self doubt, low self esteem and all the things that teens and young adults experience as they navigate their life path. In my adult life through mergers and changes, I lost jobs where I had devoted greater than ten years of my life that caused me to start over. Yet, I still had that dream to live a life full of meaning and passion. It was only when I finally discovered not defining my life by jobs, money and possessions was the key that I needed to achieving that dream.
One would think that walking into a nursing home for the first time to visit a grandmother would be the beginning of a long lonely road, not a moment of self discovery. When those visits led to the creation of the Bring Smiles to Seniors program, it was only then that I realized that achieving your dreams were possible. Over the next four years I would meet people all over the world that became part of an amazing movement to remind seniors that they are loved. My dream of living a life full of meaning and passion was not only realized, it helped me believe how beautiful dreams can be.
When I speak about the Bring Smiles to Seniors program, I tell everyone that I had a little dream that became a very big reality. Not only for the hundreds of thousands of seniors that we have made smile, but for me and my own life journey. On days when I am down and need a pick me up, I focus on the change my volunteers, the people who participate in our program and I bring to the senior community every day. My hope for you is that you too believe in the beauty of your dreams. Not only believe in them, but fight for them, love them and make them your own. They may not come over night, but they will come. When they do, what a beautiful experience it is.
Many of us are in a constant search for happiness for those things that will bring our lives into the panacea that we all want it to be. The issue is that we often torpedo that very effort simply by doing everything in our power to hold on to those very things that are keeping us from the happiness that we deserve.
We often find it very difficult to let go of the things that are creating those walls. We expend so much energy doing every thing in our power to hold on to them, that we have very little energy left to open our hearts to the happiness that we deserve. Perhaps it is simply time to give ourselves the break that we need.
Being good to ourselves should not be a chore. Forgiving ourselves for the transgressions of our past should not be an impossibility. If we expend the same energy focusing on the future and simply let go of the past, the life path ahead of us would be that much brighter and the chance for happiness that much greater.
When things seem the most dire, it is difficult to see through the fog and believe that happiness is possible. However, once we start letting go of the wall of the past, one brick at a time, the light starts to come through. As those bricks continue to fall, eventually the happiness we desire is suddenly reachable. From there we can build on that new found happiness and enrich our lives.
We are stronger than we realize and all have the power within us to leave the past behind and move toward that happier future. It isn’t always easy to find, but the capability is there. Once we master letting go, the happiness that we deserve and seek can finally be realized.
There was a time when to achieve what you wanted simply meant hard work and perseverance to see it come to fruition. Things didn’t materialize simply because we pressed a button or made a phone call. If we wanted something, we waited for it and when it finally arrived there was reason to celebrate. Today we live in a very different world.
The expectation that hard work is required to achieve what we desire has diminished greatly. Things are so readily available to us that we have come to expect that all things that we desire should come in the time we expect, not at the perfect time when they are supposed to. Think about it.
If you need an item, you simply go on the computer and in some areas it arrives within hours. Want it tomorrow? Pay for expedited shipping and voila it is sitting on your doorstep. Don’t have the means to buy it at the moment, charge it and you can immediately have it sitting in your home. There is such an array of products in stores that even if what we really wanted isn’t available, there is always an alternative to ensure that we procure it immediately. We are surrounded by nothing but availability in our lives. The mentality of having to have it now has seeped into our psyche and not necessarily in a good way.
Our want it, need it, have to have it now culture has laid waste to the our ability to appreciate that which we actually receive. Working for that which we desire and having the patience to see it come to reality when it is the right time, not the me time, allows for a greater opportunity to be grateful for what we receive. Our life path is designed that way.
As we navigate life, there are reasons that what we desire isn’t always made immediately available. Sometimes it requires lessons and adjustments along the way to get us ready to appreciate what comes our way. Sometimes we will never receive our desire at all because doing so will have an unknown detrimental effect on us. However, in most cases that which we truly want and are willing to work hard for and be “all in” on our journey to success will come. It will come if we truly need it and it will come at the perfect time.
Life is full of no. Every where we turn people are telling us what we can’t do. So much so that we start to engrain that very thought into our own lives and psyche. We often live in fear of attempting things simply because of the fear of failure. It happens in all aspects of our lives.
The seeds of self doubt that we can accomplish that which we desire are often sown early in life. We want to pursue a passion, career or hobby and we are told no by our parents because it isn’t the vision they have for us. We grow into adults and the no keeps coming. We apply for a credit card and are told no because we don’t have enough credit. We apply for a home and are told no because we don’t qualify. We get involved in relationships that we believe to be “the one” and are told no when we take the step of proposing. We attempt to sell into a client and are told no because we were beat by the competition or it wasn’t the right time. Get the picture?
We get so used to hearing no, that when we make the effort to do something for ourselves, our minds immediately expect no and failure because we seem to face it at many turns in our life. I am here to tell you that I am not one of those people who accept no. If you tell me no, I am going to do everything in my power to get that no to a yes. However, only if I have fully evaluated that yes should be the right answer. Having that mentality has served me well in both my personal and work life.
A mindful thoughtful approach to getting around that no is often what it takes. Engaging in the effort with the belief that yes is possible helps give the courage and strength to break down those walls and barriers that others are so eager to place in front of you. Sometimes no is the given answer simply to see if we have the resolve for what it takes to get to yes, thereby increasing another’s confidence in us and our abilities.
Is there something that you have wanted to do but were afraid to try. Is there a recent situation where you have been told no when there was no rational reason and yes really should have been the answer? Then go for it and be all in. Pursue a yes and find the strength and resolve to see it through. Can you get to yes if you truly desire and are willing to work for it? Yes, you can!