Many people go through life asking that preverbal question, “Why am I here?” Most realize that we were given this gift of life for a reason, but often go through it trying to figure out why that gift was given. Some discover their purpose early in life, while some search well into their later years. Unfortunately, many aren’t able to figure it out by the time their life is complete. For those of us who are fortunate enough to discover our purpose, the meaning it gives our life is immeasurable. The one thing that we have in common is that we not only act like what we do makes a difference, we know it does.
When I founded the Bring Smiles to Seniors program, I discovered my why. Visiting my grandmother in her senior community, I noticed that there were many individuals who were not as lucky as she to have family who cared. The bare walls of rooms and sullen faces of those who were residents, led me to an immediate conclusion that there had to be something more that could be done. From the first delivery, I knew what the program I had started was doing to make a difference in the lives of those who were being reminded by that simple piece of paper that they still mattered. While I knew and believed that, I had no idea the broader impact that purpose was going to have on more than just the seniors on the receiving end of cards.
Although designed to help seniors, I soon discovered that “help” was going to have greater meaning. Individuals involved in the program were able to find new purpose in their own lives. Those facing unimaginable adversities had a reason to hope again. People who felt the loss of loved ones discovered a new faith in humanity, compassion and the kindness that still existed in the world. Individuals from across the world came together to form a community that serves as an example of what can happen when we harness “the power of we”. Despite all of this goodness, the one question that I often hear is whether or not what an individual is doing is good enough. My answer is always the same.
It was one card that caused the woman in the senior community to speak when she had not spoken since arriving at the community. It was one card that made the man move to take it from someone’s hand, when the community thought he was completely immobile. It was one card that reminded that senior that woke up feeling alone in the world that they were remembered and loved. Finally, it was that one card that made a difference in someone’s life because someone believed what they did mattered. How large or small the effort isn’t important. The fact that an individual believes that what they do makes a difference, is all the motivation that is needed to feel the satisfaction of their action.
All efforts, large or small, should fuel us to act as if we what we are doing matters. Perfection and quantity isn’t what makes the difference. It is the love, dedication and passion for what we do that ultimately makes the lives we serve and the world we live in a little better.
Over the course of sharing messages, I have often talked about the 1,440 minutes that we are given in a day and how important it is to make each one of those the best that it can be. The next second that we take another breath comes with the opportunity to make that second anything we desire. We can wipe the slate clean, complete an unfinished endeavor, or simply continue living the life path that we have discovered is best for us. If we fail to grab that second and make it extraordinary, we may not even realize its value until that second becomes simply a memory.
We often live so mired in the past that we lack the energy to recognize the future. We don’t understand that we don’t have to be trapped by our past misgivings, but with that new breath, have the opportunity to create the future for ourselves that we want to live. We know in our minds that it is impossible to change anything that has happened up until that breath we take, but we lack the confidence to know that the cycle doesn’t need to continue, it can change.
Our failure to move forward often is a result of our inability to let go. We feel the need to continue to beat ourselves up for transgressions, berate ourselves for failures, and lack a sense of self confidence to understand that we have the power to create a way out. The one person that has total control of what happens in that next breath that we take is ourselves. It is that first step forward on a new life path, with all the energy and strength we can muster to make it our own, that is totally within our ability. Breaking the control of those who think they can make that determination for us, and realizing that we have complete power of our future, is what ultimately puts on the past to success.
Today, sit for sixty seconds. Know that there is a new future about to happen when that sixty seconds is complete. When that sixtieth second passes, use that next second to make the commitment that every second that happens thereafter belongs to you. Embrace that second, make it your own, and live it before it becomes just a memory.
If you happen to be subscribed to the App Inspiring Quotes, you saw that the quote today was from Yohannes Gebregeorgis. It said, “The beginning of wisdom is to do away with fear”. This got me to thinking about my experience in the Air Force when I was stationed in Adana, Turkey.
Adana was a remote assignment in the southern part of Turkey. When I was there, the country was under martial law and it was pretty difficult to walk anywhere without seeing men with machine guns. Stepping off the base was like walking into a world that had been frozen in time. Buildings were old and run down, stores were dim with bad electricity and using the telephone meant going to the local telephone station where they would attempt to make a phone call for you, which rarely went through. For anyone who had any ounce of fear of things that were unfamiliar, the thought of stepping over the threshold of the base was met with anxiety that caused many to never take the step. That was not the case for me.
I was 19 years old and due to base overcrowding, I was offered the opportunity to live off base in the village. I would be living in my own apartment, in an unfamiliar world, in a country where most didn’t speak English, alone. However, there was something about crossing that line that separated the familiar with the unfamiliar that was intriguing to me, and I quickly said yes. To say the decision was daunting would be an understatement. But it would turn out to be one of the best decisions I would ever make.
I found an apartment above a store in what was commonly referred to as “rip off alley”. It was where all the stores were located where most of the base people shopped who couldn’t conquer their fear to go any further than right outside the base. I made friends with all the shopkeepers. I was invite to the home of the person who owned the store below my apartment. I learned more about the Turkish people and their culture than I otherwise would have been able to. I immersed myself in an unknown culture and learned about people I would have never known, had I decided to stay within the confines of the base around me.
In my time there, many people chose to never leave the base. I decided at that point in my life that fear would not keep me from exploring, learning and living. Conquering that fear gave me the wisdom I needed to continue to explore new places and cultures throughout the future years of my life. Using that wisdom provided me the opportunity to travel all over the world and learn about cultures and people that would show me that we are a myriad of societies, that all have their own unique contributions, that make up this beautiful world that we live in.
Fear often keeps us from living. Finding a way to overcome that fear provides us the opportunity to gain wisdom that helps us navigate our life path. Sometimes, it just takes that one little step to set us on a journey that will shape how we deal with that fear throughout all the future years of our life.
Christopher Morley said, “There is only one success, to be able to spend life in your own way”. The gift of every minute that happens after you have read that quote is your opportunity to make the next minute anything you want it to be. You can choose to let others control those minutes for you. Or, you can take ownership of them, find your inner strength, and make them the most amazing minutes of the rest of your life. This is only possible if we choose not to spend all our time looking backwards and focus on what is yet to come.
For many months in my meditation, I have been working on trying to control how I approach my future minutes. I try to acknowledge that they are filled with the opportunity to use the mistakes of my past to shape a different future. As I did that, I began to learn that there were many times that I allowed others to shape how my life was supposed to be, rather than living the life that made me happy and content. Trying to live up to others expectations, only placed unnecessary pressure on my ability to live a life that was my life as I wanted to live it. When you take hold of those reins, the confidence, excitement and strength that you experience sets you on a path that you often could have never imagined.
When you wake up in the morning and realize that you have a blank canvass in front of you that is offering the opportunity to make your life anything you want it to be, that is a reason to celebrate. Your ability to control your own destiny, walk your own life path, and create the life I you want to live, is ultimately the true gift of life. When you choose gratitude, compassion, caring and kindness over self entitlement and negativity, the possibility of a positive life path becomes more realistic.
Throughout our day, things will come our way that will attempt to derail the life we were meant to live. When we hold our head high, face adversity head on and believe in our resilience and inner strength, it is then we can live life our way. When we live a life that is true to who we are and were meant to be, it is then that our life becomes meaningful.
This message is for everyone out there who has lived a life of being told what to do, who to be, and how you should live your life. It is for those people who have had to deal with those that felt the need to live your life because they had trouble living their own. Having the ability to control who you should become somehow decreased the responsibility they had for their own lives. You became their clay to mold rather than them allowing you to live a life that was true to who you were meant to be.
In a recent conversation with my brother, he reminded me that we were lucky because our parents never put limitations or expectations on us for who we should be or what we should do. We had the freedom to explore our talents and the support to ensure that we were successful in whatever endeavor we might pursue. If something held our attention span for a minute or a year, we were never questioned for our interest and never guided to what was right for them, rather than what was right for us. It allowed us to use our imagination and creativity wherever it felt right. As a result, there is pretty much nothing that my brother and I can not do.
When we allow others to take our life paintbrush and use it to create a canvas that suits them, rather than what fits our life path, we are often robbed of the true purpose for what our life was meant to be. Unfortunately, this sometimes happens without us even knowing it. Those who are guided by controlling individuals get so caught up in what they are supposed to do, rather than what they want to do, that they never seem to break out of the box that they have been placed in. The fear of individualism becomes so great that the status quo becomes the safe place to be.
If you find yourself in this situation, perhaps it is time to take your paintbrush back and become the artist of your own life. No matter your age, there is always time to course correct and begin to live a life that is truly yours, rather than one that someone has painted for you. The beauty of creativity is that it lies within all of us. When we use that creativity to paint the life that we were supposed to live, it is then that we truly begin to live.
Anais Nin said, “You cannot save people, you can only love them”. For those of us that have nurturing natures, this might be a hard quote to comprehend. We want to make others lives better, fix the difficulties they may be experiencing, and strive to have relationships full of peace and harmony. When we do this, it seems as though we become a magnet for those types of personalities who are in constant need of attention. Before we know it, we are so engulfed in making everyone else’s life better, that we neglect taking care of our own. It is then, that we need to find the balance that it is necessary to ensure we are living our true lives, while helping others learn the tools to take care of their own.
Throughout our lives we encounter people that are so broken, that we want to do everything in our power to do what we can to make them whole again. We often forgo our issues, because helping them with theirs makes us forget about our own. Unfortunately, we fail to realize that we don’t have the power to fix them. Only they can make that happen. We can support, encourage and motivate, but the ultimate ability to fix, lies within themselves. The more we focus on their issues and neglect our own, the harder it is to face our reality when suddenly we realize we couldn’t do what we set out to do. It is then that we are left with an even bigger struggle.
Not having the ability to save someone doesn’t mean that you don’t love them. Love is a powerful tool. However, at the end of the day, love isn’t what makes someone better. It is that person finding the inner strength to want to deal with their issues that ultimately leads them to success. If we are willing to share our knowledge, experiences, and things we have learned while we are navigating our life path, then love and support is what we can offer, and our job is done.
While we may want to save the world, we can’t. Trying to do so only negates the energy we need to live a full and meaningful life. Even though we can’t save, we can love. It is with that love that others find the inner strength to persevere and do the work necessary to make their life the best that it can be.
It is often the days of our past that define our future as we work to navigate our life path. Such is the case with me as I reflect on my road from childhood to adulthood. The evolution wasn’t necessarily easy, but the lessons that I learned along the way served as building blocks for what would become a life well lived.
As I look back over my childhood, I often find myself confused. From the outside one would think that I was the model kid. Awards in speech and debate, drum major of the high school band, winners of numerous contests in the 4H club, and model student in the classroom. Yet, despite all those successes, I lacked self confidence inside. I always walked with my head down and was constantly a magnet for bullies and those who needed to tear someone down to feel better about themselves. I allowed myself to be that target without even realizing it and failed to see a way out. It was just how things were, and as I saw it, how they were supposed to be.
Many of us share those experiences in our adolescent years. We often allow those feelings and actions to carry on through teen and early adult periods. Unfortunately, many of us experience those same feelings well into adulthood. However, for many people, there comes a point where enough is enough. We begin to learn that we have the power to change things, if only we dig deep inside to find the inner strength. We start to understand that the people responsible for making us feel lesser than the people we are have that power only because we provide fuel for that power that they use. Suddenly, we start to learn that what others think and say have no bearing on how we live our lives. It is at that moment, when we take our power back, that our life begins to change.
We often say, “if we only knew then what we know now”. The reality is then no longer matters and now is where the importance lies. Those experiences prepared us for this very moment that we live in. They strengthened us, emboldened us, and gave us the tools that we needed to make the change that was necessary, without us even realizing it. When we embrace those tools and put them into action, it is then that we begin to walk with a head held high.
Happy New Year! I love the time of year when we can use the lessons of our past to guide us to our future, and start a whole new year over again. Without a doubt, the last couple of years have been ones like we have never experienced. They have caused us to think and act differently than we otherwise would have, and in ways that we could have never imagined. For some, that action wasn’t necessarily a good thing. For others who used the experiences to dig within themselves to find their true inner strength, we found building blocks for our future that will help us navigate this new world of ours.
With change often comes fear. Jawaharlal Nehu, who was India’s first prime minister after the country gained its independence said, “Fear builds its phantoms which are more fearsome than reality itself”. Leaving an old year behind and starting anew, not only comes with fresh possibilities, but it also has a way of raising the fears of our past as we strive to wipe the slate clean and start over again. However, starting over in the new year doesn’t mean that we forget everything we learned. Every experience we had leading up to this moment was preparation for those things that we will deal with in the future. Hopefully, we have learned from our mistakes, filed them away for reference, and made course corrections that will help us avoid those mistakes again. If we live in fear of repeating those mistakes, then it is likely that we will repeat them. If we celebrate conquering those mistakes, then the chance we will need to revisit them again becomes less likely.
As the clock turned on 2021, I made a vow to make 2022 an amazing year, no matter the adversity. I consciously made a decision to not let the crazy that is going on in the world have an impact on the life I want to live this year. I choose to make the next minutes of my life, ones I will never see again, minutes that enhance my life path, rather than lead me astray. Will it be perfect? Of course not. Things will arise that will do their best to take me off my path. How I face them, work through them and ultimately defeat the negative, will have the profound impact on how I want this year to go.
Recently, I had the opportunity to be a guest on scrapbook.com’s Life Handmade podcast. Sharing the story and mission of the Bring Smiles to Seniors program is always a special time for me. It provides me the opportunity to show the world what can happen when people come together for a common purpose and portray “the power of we”. I always try and take the opportunity to share real life stories from our journey, along with a message that we don’t have to be perfect in what we do. We just have to do it with heart.
Every day, people around the country and world create magic from bits of paper and send their creations to our program to help us in our mission to spread smiles to seniors. Over 215,000 cards this year and counting. Those creations wind up in the hands of a senior who may wake up and think that they were no longer remembered. A senior who now lacks importance to the family they raised. Even a senior who has outlived their family and has no one to remind them that they are special, they matter and most of all that they are still loved.
In the podcast interview, I talked about two special events that happened when we were starting out and delivering cards by hand. The lady who the community had never heard speak who uttered “thank you” after the card was read to her out load. The man who had to be fed, who they had never seen move, who reached out and took the card from our hand. Two examples of the power of that piece of paper when it is infused with compassion, caring and love.
We often underestimate the impact that we have on the world when we use our talents and gifts. We spend needless time questioning our worth because what we create simply, in our eyes, isn’t good enough. We forget that those who have nothing, or anything to remind them that they are special, suddenly become special when that envelope opens and reminds them that they are not forgotten.
My grandmother always taught me that caring for those that cared for us is one of life’s greatest necessities and one of its greatest gifts. God willing, the path of life takes us all to that senior time when we too will be looking for that reminder that we still belong in our little place in the world. The love we show and the compassion we share are just what we need to make that little piece of the world a little brighter for those who need.
Every day I wake up and I wonder if all the things I have laid out for myself for the day are even possible. We can plan for what may come. However, we know all to well that as we make our way through the minutes of our day, things will arise that take us off course, off our life path, and often even derail us. The question when that happens is how do we react to those changes? Do we brush it off as just another day? Do we beat ourselves up because we didn’t achieve the goals we set for ourselves? Or, do we burn the candles at both ends and do everything we can to finish our list, only to reach the end of those 24 hours having discovered it just wasn’t possible?
The amount of pressure we place on ourselves to accomplish tasks in life can often be overwhelming. Unfortunately, there is usually no one harder on us than ourselves. We set expectations so high that even the best of us could never achieve them. Then when we don’t deliver, the very person we blame is the person that worked the hardest to make it all happen, ourselves. Each and every time we face that situation, we have less confidence that our next attempt is going to be successful.
As Audrey Hepburn said, “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m Possible!” I am a firm believer that anything that we set our minds to accomplish is truly possible if we believe, invest and have the will necessary to see it through. However, that possibility is only realized when the tasks we place on ourselves are based in reality. We often spend so much time questioning whether our efforts were good enough, that we overlook all the efforts that we actually exerted. We set our expectations for ourselves so high, that even the most diligent person could never achieve that which we desired.
Maybe it is time to sit back, reset, and give ourselves a break. Our world is full of many pressures that only add to our daily routines. Social media, television, and print add to the stress levels that we are already experiencing while trying to navigate our life path. Understanding the need to be kind to ourselves as we work on completing our tasks, often gives us the patience that we need to have a little kindness for others who are doing the same. Nothing is impossible, if only we work to achieve the possible understanding our own limitations