“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
There have been many quotes I have used to begin posts on this blog but none have had as much of an impact on me as this very powerful string of words.
I lead a very fortunate life. I may not be rich in terms of dollars and cents but I am wealthy. I have roof over my head, a job that I love and I am surrounded by a wonderful network of friends and family who are nurturing, loving and supportive. Perhaps that energy is the fuel that brought me to this moment in my life, the moment when I realized I wanted to give more of my time to people who could use a hand and in a way I felt I was best able to help.
There is no set of standards for helping others. There is no rule book, no guideline and no complex set of algorithms. It is a simple equation. Time + Effort = Results. And for some, the results of our time and effort can make more of a difference than we will ever potentially realize.
A small group of people, including myself, spent a little over two hours of our time a week ago Sunday and the outcome of our concerted efforts will provide dinners for deserving families in our community. It was two hours out of our Sunday. We chatted, we had cocktails and we laughed. And in that small window of time, we made a huge difference. We created meals that will allow people to, not just feed their family during a tough time but, feed their family a home-cooked meal made with real food. And next Sunday, and maybe every Sunday this winter, we will do the same thing again with some familiar and some new faces and, hopefully, take another small amount of weight from the shoulders of the families we are trying to help.
If I can subsequently find myself while losing myself in the service of others, point my compass in that direction any time. I go to bed with a tired body, but with a full heart. And if my journey has taught me anything, it is that life is not defined by what you have. Life is defined by what you give.
“The man who reads lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons
There is something divinely quieting about a good book. It can take all of the external forces in our lives and make them seem non-existent for a few moments. Losing ourselves in a great story line can give us a temporary escape from reality and take us on a journey to a life outside of our own.
Although authors don’t write with us in mind, their words can give us a momentary reprieve from the demons that stalk us throughout our busy days, those demons who try to dwell in the hours that we would like spend in solitude. When you open a novel or turn on an E-reader, the chaotic minutes that you have survived during your work day cease to exist and the outside world becomes a distant memory.
If you are one of the fortunate few who can switch your work brain to the “off” position, you allow yourself to become fully involved in the plot line that the author has created. You send yourself on a journey far beyond the realm of your existence. The words on the page seep into your mind and you become lost in the world of fiction.
Those words, the way they are woven into a complex story line, allow us the ability to sink into a place of imagery and intrigue. Those words have the power to enlighten us, torture us, amuse us, make us cry and keep reality at bay as long as we will let them.
We owe it to ourselves to relish those moments of escape. We need to permit ourselves to embrace the worlds beyond our own and tune out the brash sounds of our real lives by bathing in the dulcet tones of fictitious adventure. Do yourself a favor…..grab a book, turn off the television and let yourself be transported by the rhythm of words. You will be surprised at how simple it is to live a thousand lives.
I never used to be one who could sit and watch the news on television and that habit has not drastically changed over the years. I have not ignored the reality of what is happening in the world. I have merely chosen to moderate how much negative energy I will allow inside the walls of my home. And with the most recent barrage of cynicism and hostility that has been taking centre screen on every news feed across the world, I choose, for the most part, to tune it out.
Don’t misunderstand me….I will still have a modicum of knowledge when it comes to current events, but I cannot subject myself to hearing the same stories told by a select number of news anchors who beat the same dead horse over and over again. Instead, I choose to take my positive energy and inject it back into my reality.
There is some debate as to whether or not it was Mahatma Gandhi who quoted the subject line of this post but, regardless of its origin, it holds a strong place in my resolve to make a difference, if not in the world as a whole, at least in my world. And with so much hate bubbling to the surface in the current political climates, I have resolved to love what matters.
If I think of myself as a fraction of the population of the planet, I am an infinitesimal part of the equation. But if I simply see myself as a fraction of my community, my significance becomes notably more meaningful. Perhaps I cannot make a difference on a global scale but I can certainly try to make a difference within the boundaries of my geography and that is what I am trying to do.
The world can only be changed by example, not by opinion. And now, more than ever, the world really needs us to be the change we wish to see.
After all of the negative posts, press, photos, social media, flyers, riots…..I can’t stand it any more. There is still so much good out there, laying in wait, hoping it feels safe enough to come out and be the captain of the ship in this swelling sea of anger. But I didn’t want to wait for that to happen. I needed positive energy back in my life….so I took the helm of the tiny ship I knew I could control and pointed it towards the water I knew would be still and serene.
My crazy eleventh grade teacher used to ramble on about something to do with the law of cause and effect, you get back what you give. I prefer its more poetic version “the ethic of reciprocity”. Either way, both ideas embody the notion that you do get what you give. Doing unto others is not just a lesson we learn as a child. Doing unto others should be stamped into our DNA. Doing unto others should be as commonplace as breathing. But sadly, it’s not.
I have been so eager to use my time in the best way possible, to make a difference to those who may need a hand during the months that our small town economy hibernates. Too many families who thrive in the summer feel the pinch as they stretch their Employment Insurance dollars to attempt to fill the space where their full paycheques used to reside. It is a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless.
I haven’t coined the proper name yet, the words elude me, but the idea is a good one and today I learned that many others understand what I am trying to do and support my idea. I want to continue making Crockpot Freezer meals for families who could use a hand. By providing them with what is basically a home-cooked meal, I’m hoping they feel the support of their community. And that community, and even the communities outside of our tiny geographical location, spoke loud and clear that they are on board. In less than 24 hours of posting a Go Fund Me account, I received $1,000.00 in donations which will make about 6o meals, 60 meals made with chicken, beef, pork, potatoes and vegetables, that will serve 4 to 5 people each and allow for leftovers.
In the angry sea I noticed a tiny light on the shore and, as I got closer, I realized there was an army on that shore. And when this angry storm finally settles, I hope everyone is able to see that light and know that their army is waiting.
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else.” ~ Judy Garland
I spent much of my youth trying to be the person everyone would like. I was never ANY version of myself because I wasted too much time being concerned with who others thought I should be instead of becoming the person I was meant to be. Eventually I was able to break the cycle of trying to please everyone. I stopped feigning interest in things I had no real passion for and focused more on me. I slowly distanced myself from the users and spent far less time crossing the Great Lakes for people who wouldn’t jump over a puddle for me.
In my wisdom and older age I have learned a few things that I really like about myself. I speak three languages – English, sarcasm and profanity – and I am fluent in all three. I love to write. I don’t just do it because I enjoy it. I write because words bleed from my brain and my head feels like it will explode if I don’t expel the stories trapped inside. And I have learned to write without needing anyone else’s opinion or approval. What flows from my brain to my fingertips is what I publish on this blog and I’m very proud of the words I have shared.
I enjoy my solitude and am happy with the company I keep, whether I am home alone or spending time with friends and family. I love to cook and it doesn’t matter if it is a table for one, I will take the time to create a dining experience and not just ‘have some food’.
(my dinner last night)
Music is a big part of my life and my playlist spans the recording alphabet from Abba to Zeppelin. I could live without television but I could never have a life without movies. I will still cross oceans for people but I am much more selective when it comes to deeming who is worthy of my epic journey before I captain the ship.
I am the person I am now because I fought to become this version of myself. I stopped letting outside voices influence my decisions and started hearing the only voice that should matter – mine. It took a while to get here but I have enjoyed the journey and am really liking the view. Thanks Judy, I like your advice very much.
It is a painfully contradictory reality in my mind, but this is truly my favorite time of the year. Sure, the leaves are gone and the landscape is a gloomy blend of brown and grey. It’s depressing. And sure, the clock has slipped backwards by sixty minutes and it gets dark at 5:00 pm. That’s disheartening as well. But I have to look at the bright light that now greets me in the morning when I wake up at 6:00 am and think of all of the good things that happen in my life this time of year.
When the doors of the lodge close for the season and the work clock slows to a turtle pace, my life clock has the freedom to pick up its momentum and I have much more spare time to spend doing things for others.
There is something inherently fulfilling about being able to give my time and my skills to causes that have taken up residence in my heart. Last winter was the first of hopefully many that groups of locals gathered to make freezer crockpot meals for a family who lost their home to fire while in the hospital delivering twins. We banded together, gave our Thyme and our time, and filled their freezer with a few months worth of meals. So many of the group commented on how wonderful they felt being able to help.
And this year will be the fourth year I have organized a Toy Drive for the local children. To say the response has been incredible would be an egregious understatement. My heart swells so much when the time comes to pack up the toys for delivery that I am overwhelmed by emotion.
I had always looked at volunteers in silent awe. I knew they must feel some reward to give their time, their generosity or even just their smile or a touch of their hand to help someone’s day become a little brighter, but I had no idea how truly euphoric the feeling was until I began giving my time. And now that I have had a taste of that….I will always want more. If you have never had the chance to do any volunteer work and the opportunity presents itself to put up your hand to help, in any way, I promise you won’t regret it!
If you are a blogger, or an aspiring novelist, you may have seen the acronym NaNoWriMo, which is an abbreviated version of National Novel Writing Month. The eleventh calendar month has been designated as the month when writers challenge themselves to write 50,000 words, or more, in a time span of 30 days.
I thought this year I would board that speeding locomotive of creativity but, as the train neared the station, I stepped back and watched the silver bullet speed past my stop and continue on its journey without me.
As the caboose rattled down the tracks and the last of the smoke had cleared from the air, I realized I don’t want to put so much pressure on myself that I scare my characters away. I want them to tell their story at their pace. I have developed a relationship with these unique personalities over the last couple of years and I don’t want to be the bully in the school yard making these other kids make decisions based on any peer pressure I put on them. I will push their swings as high as they want to go but let them slow down when they want to stop pumping their legs. This is their journey and I am only here to tell it as they tell it to me.
I envy those who can focus so intently for thirty days, and perhaps if I were starting a new project I would be more eager to dive in and lose myself in the process. But, for now, I have chosen to create my own acronym – NaNoWriWin…… National Novel Writing Winter.
My writing train will still stay on track, but a track that doesn’t have such a condensed schedule. It will meander along its path, at a rate of speed that is conducive to its creativity and not just its deadline. And I can only hope that by slowing down the velocity of my train, that my silver bullet with travel through beautiful, and sometimes scary, landscapes over the next few months. I’m anticipating some bumps along the way, and perhaps a few derailments, but it is the journey that I am looking forward to and not just the moment I finally reach my destination.