Be the Change: Your Journey to Give

“The Beauty of the Butterfly,” Photo by Me! (August 2016)

Today would have been my last Love Notes 20 post, but I decided to prolong the fun. My partner faced some challenges and needed a little extra time to get her last card to me, so instead of posting about the cards I received for the final prompt, I’m sharing with you the letter I sent in response to the final prompt.

“Be the change.”

When I considered the prompt, so many thoughts raced through my mind that I hardly knew how to tackle it. I ruminated for many days; then, during my prayer and meditation moments one morning, I read a thought that stuck with me and coincided with the theme.

Here’s a summary:

In order to see God’s vision for your life and become part of God’s story, there are four promises you must claim:

  • You have a gift only you can give.
  • Someone has a need only you can meet, only you can heal—no matter how inadequate you feel.
  • Joy is the journey where the gift and the need collide. God’s path for your life is a collision course. The intersection where your gift crashes into the world’s need is where you will truly begin to live.
  • Your journey to give your gift will break you…but it will also make you.  –[from Better Than You Can Imagine: God’s Calling, Your Adventure by Patrick Quinn, emphasis mine]

After reading this, I knew I had to share this with my penfriends, so I sent them a letter instead of a postcard or notecard.

The excerpt from Better Than You Can Imagine unveils a principle I embrace. If we are to be the change, then we have to find the gift someone needs—the world needs—that only we can give. We don’t just wake up one morning and decide what we’re going to give. We decide to accept and share the gift, but discovering this gift is a journey—not a decision.

Imagine how much collective change we can create if all individuals would take the journey to find that one thing and exercise it. We would literally change the world! As we partner with God on finding this “great need,” our lives are transformed from the inside out and we experience the “symbiotic” nature of change: the world opens up and reveals to us what it needs and we open up and provide.

Far too often we get caught up in the idea of making a name for ourselves or doing something grand when what seems smallest can make a huge impact on someone’s life and on the world.

A long time ago, I read “A Grammarian’s Funeral,” a poem by Robert Browning, which celebrates the grammarian’s lifelong dedication to Greek language study and his discovery of the articles. While he lived, his colleagues criticized his “wasting his life” and his brilliant mind on such trifles. For them his work was menial, but, though they seem a small contribution, the articles—a, an, and the—are so essential to our languages.

Like the grammarian, we must be keenly focused on finding our part and then doing it. In doing our “small” part, we change the whole.

I encourage you, if you have not already done so, take the journey to find your unique gift and be the change. In affecting even one person’s life, you’re doing your part to change the entire world. The possibilities are amazing!

Sunny Inspiration: Look Up!

My neighbor’s sunflowers came in beautifully and I made a few trips to capture them in their various stages. I managed to capture dozens of pics–one is featured in Finding Love Notes, Naturally, posted a couple of weeks ago.

I decided to work with a couple of the photos yesterday–one featuring a sunflower with its “face” turned upward and the other a “downcast” flower leaning away from another that is still full of life. The photos were on my mind and I wanted to combine them with words that speak their language.

The blooms are visual reminders that when the “stuff” of life is coming at us full force, all we have to do is stand firm, “face the Sun,” and rest in the embrace of the One who is always near.

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” Sunflower PhotoArt by Me!

Sometimes, it’s necessary to face our problems “head on,” stare them down, and conquer them. At other times–when things are out of our control and bigger than we could ever imagine–we have to turn away from our struggles and focus our attention on the One who handles the insurmountable and scary situations for us. Otherwise, the worry and stress can affect our health.

“God Is Near the Broken-Hearted,” Sunflowers PhotoArt by Me!

We feel alone in such situations–it seems no one understands, can provide the comfort we need or help us manage our problems. It is imperative to know that we are not alone, that God is near, cradling us in His protective arms, and carrying us through the difficulties.

When we train our focus heavenward, our problems are placed in proper perspective, and we learn to trust the “Lover of our souls” to manage all our concerns so we can go on living and loving without distress.

I prefer to see sunflowers with a sunny disposition, but the sunflower in the second photo communicated so profoundly and beautifully the message of Psalm 34:18 that I had to capture it–even with the photo-bombing bee. The bee might seem a distraction, an annoyance even, but without bees there would be no flowers.

Wishing you a week filled with sunshine and good things…

Encore? Let Kindness Bloom!

My little “sister” Brittany of OrdinarilyExtraordinaryMom requested an “encore” of Kindness Week. I don’t think that will happen anytime soon, but maybe, this bit of kindness will satisfy for now.

Chante Marie, one of my (now former) students and recent college graduate, was “inspired” by the kindness week posts too! She posted a time-lapse video of her creation “Let Kindness Bloom” on Instagram.

Here’s the finished product. [Click the image to view the short video].

“Let Kindness Bloom,” by Chante Marie

The message is sweet and to the point.  As we watch the tree blossom and come to life at Chante’s hands, we understand better the import of the words: Kindness grows and enhances life’s color and brilliance. Give it freely. Let it bloom.

Chante is a singer, composer, writer, artist, and minimalist who is on her way to grand places! More importantly, she is “quite simply” an intelligent, witty, beautiful person whom the world needs to know.  If you want to know more about Chante Marie, check out Quite Simply Minimal, her minimalist blog, or her website which provides links to her art, poetry, YouTube channel, Facebook page and more.

Be sure to sow some seeds of kindness this week!

Soaring Like a Mountain Eagle

Eagle’s Wings: Photo captured at Brechtel Park in Algiers (Westbank New Orleans, Louisiana), 2011

…and there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than the other birds upon the plain, even though they soar. –Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Kindness Matters. Period.

We wrap up our seven days of kindness posts with the postcard I crafted for Louise Gale’s Global heART Swap.  And we end where we began.

Kindness matters.

“Kindness Matters. Period.”

However, Jewel’s song was not the inspiration for the postcard. Instead, I was inspired by the many, many expressions of kindess I’ve witnessed either directly or indirectly and the powerful impact(s) they have made.

Many of us are familiar with the Ian McClaren’s quote (often attributed to Plato), “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We read this so much that it has descended into the realm of cliche. We no longer “hear” the import of the words, but the reality is that most, if not all, of us are coping with something tragic, challenging, or traumatic.

We convince ourselves that we can do nothing to help, that our small efforts don’t and won’t make much difference, but they really do and will. Our acts of kindness may change someone’s mood from desperate to hopeful and may even make the difference between life and death.

So…

Extend a little kindness in whatever form it needs to take for the situation–smile at strangers, wish someone a nice day, drive with courtesy, pay it forward, forgive, agree to disagree, or walk away. During the particular interaction with you–no matter how brief–an individual may be dealing with something that is much heavier, much more trying, so give that person a momentary break from his or her madness.

Kindness matters. Period.

Just in case you’ve missed any of the earlier posts, they’re listed below for your convenience.

Have a kind week!

Give It Like You Get It

Yesterday, I opened the Bible app and discovered that the “Verse of the Day” focused on kindness. Spirit and Light underscored the many messages about kindness expressed in the postcards I received for the latest round of the Global HeART Exchange.

I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.  –Luke 6:35-36 MSG

The verses not only teach us about how to interact with everyone, including those who don’t love us, but they also promise us we will not regret our kindnesses–ever.

“With Kindness” by Lisa C.

Do all things with kindness…

Today’s “kindness” postcard features an altered photograph of daisies created by Lisa C., a postcard pal I met via Liberate Your Art 2017. Lisa’s note captures the lesson of Luke.  Do all things with kindness, that is generously and graciously, with compassion–the way God deals with us.

Our heavenly Father showers us with compassion, even when we are at our worst, even when we behave more like His enemies than His children. He is enamored with us, absolutely loves us beyond our earthly understanding. As the beneficiaries of such compassion and deep love, how can we treat anyone unkindly?

The natural result of His kindness toward us should be an overflow of kindness to others–friend and foe alike.

Throw It Like Confetti!

There’s something about confetti that makes us all happy, giddy even. The laughter is infectious and we spread it around without even thinking about it.  That’s how we should practice kindness.

Today’s post features a kindness postcard crafted by a “newish” penfriend, Connie F. of South Carolina.

“Confetti” by Connie F.

“Throw kindness around like confetti.”

I giggled with glee when I retrieved this postcard from my post office box. The confetti is so cheering!  Notice the purple and pink flying hearts? Connie sees hearts everywhere (there’s proof in her Instagram feed). And though she says the inspiration for the winged hearts was the line from Jewel’s “Hands” (see Monday’s post), the hearts carry another message: When we freely exercise kindness, we are giving love wings and tossing it “like confetti” throughout the world.

Isn’t that what kindness is all about?

Be sure to throw some kindness around this weekend. Your small part has exponential potential to heal the world.

Guard Well That Treasure, Kindness…

Many years ago one of my good friends warned me that I was too kind and admitted that she was worried people would abuse my kindness and that would forever change me.  Though I thought this would never happen, I recalled her statement more than a decade later when I looked in the mirror and did not recognize the person I saw. A light was missing. The spark had dimmed.  The unkindness of others had taken a toll on my spirit and was beginning to affect how I interacted with everyone.

That moment in the mirror was a wake-up call.

I had an acquaintance who operated from the belief that few could be trusted and it was “better to get them before they get you.”  Even when she could plainly see (and admitted so) that she was wrong about a person’s motives, she found it difficult to change her approach. She was always in self-protective mode, and it was clear (to me, at least) that her defensiveness and abrasiveness were the result of people’s taking advantage of her kindness.

I did not want to become this person.  I did not want to assume the worst before I expected the best. I wanted (to continue) to treat people with kindness.

Today’s kindness card, designed by Cricket, reminded me of my mirror experience and underscored the lesson I learned in “guarding kindness.”

Cricket, who designs simple and elegant cards, posted a “sneak peek” of the card on Facebook, and I admired the card before I knew it was on its way to me. The bright green and the red hearts in place of fingernails were visually appealing, but I loved the words which were typed on the card using a vintage typewriter.

“Guard Well…” by Cricket

Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.  –George Sand (Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dudevant, née Dupin)

Kindness is a treasure that should be protected–given without hesitation and with no regrets. It is indeed a gift that changes the giver, even if it doesn’t change the receiver. But kindness doesn’t mean answering “yes” to every request or becoming a doormat.  As I suggested in an earlier post, one can be compassionate while saying “no,” and kindness shouldn’t cost anything.

Sometimes, people have other motives. Sometimes, people are mean. Sometimes, people are so wounded from past experiences that they know of no other way than to take advantage or hurt others.

Their behavior should not determine how we treat them, but we must learn there is kindness in walking away.

“Do Your Random Acts…”

For Lorelei, December 31, 1954 – June 15, 2017

Today, Lorelei C., one of my postcard pals was laid to rest. She was a kind soul who generously and randomly sent postcards that would arrive just when I needed a pick-me-up. Tributes on her Facebook page and the Love Notes page reveal that everyone had that experience with her.

Just hours before her passing, one of her daughters urged us all via a FB post, “Do your random acts of kindness. She loves that stuff.” I can think of no better way to honor her memory than by doing just that.

***   ***   ***

Today’s Global HeART kindness postcard features minimalist art by Christine B., the person who introduced me to the Global Art Exchange, the Love Notes community, and (indirectly) to Lorelei.  Christine sends dozens of “random” postcards every week; she clearly exemplifies “random acts of kindness.”

“Kindness,” by Christine B.

On the back of the postcard, Christine penned:

It is just too simple–be kind!

Her placing cutouts of the letters that form the word “kindness” against a plain white background makes her intent is clear. Kindness, plain and simple, is where we should place our focus in our daily interactions.

The card seems to encourage us to do our acts of kindness–without noise, without distraction, without motive or promise of reward, acknowledgement or applause. And sometimes, as Christine points out in her note, the kindness may be in “one word [that] can change someone’s entire day.”

She ends the card with the admonition:

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.  –Dalai Lama

Mere days before her passing, Lorelei was still sending postcards. “It is always possible.”

Be Kind to You!

Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others. –Lama Yeshe

Today’s kindness postcard features a mixed media piece by Colette K. of Pennsylvania.

“Count Yourself In” by Colette K.

Colette sent her artwork with a piece of advice worth heeding:

Next time, when you think of beautiful things, don’t forget to count yourself in.

The common misconception is that loving ourselves is self-centered and weak, so we pour all our energies and kindness into others and leave little or nothing for ourselves. Many of us typically miss that the fine point in the “second great commandment” is to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). If we reserve only scraps, disapproval, and unkindness for ourselves, eventually this starvation of self-love will manifest in our acts toward others.

Hollow and mechanical acts of kindness don’t always feel like kindness. So love yourself. Be kind to yourself and you will find that the kindness naturally spills over into your interactions with others.

If you’re looking for some ideas, Marelisa of Daring to Live Fully offers a list of ways to get started: 17 Ways to Be Kind To Yourself.

You can also find a lot of ideas on my self-care board on Pinterest:  Take Care!

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out yesterday’s post: Be Kind.

Until tomorrow…