As Thanksgiving Day approaches here in the US, it’s a time to give thanks to the people, circumstances, and gifts in our lives. As a fun way to illicit that spirit of thanksgiving in others, we can provide a gift to someone or to a community in need. May the following testimony open your heart and warm your soul.
“To the man in line behind me at the Gainesville Target, who saw that after hitting my grocery budget limit, I decided to put back my pumpkin spice candle and the cosmetics that I had picked out…
You didn’t know that I always save my stuff for last and usually end up putting it back.
You didn’t know that the two fussy kids that I had with me were only two out of four.
You didn’t know that I have postpartum depression from the youngest babe and that I use scent as a way to boost my mood.
You didn’t know that this week has been full of sick kids, parent-teacher conferences, and emergency dental visits and I was so looking forward to lighting that candle at nap time and just taking a minute to relax.
Even without knowing that, you saw me… You saw me as a human, not just the mom in front of you that was distracted and going too slow. You heard me say that I’d like to put those items back and you said no, you would be getting them for me.”
This commentary, courtesy of “Love What Matters,” speaks to the challenges faced by those around us. It could be a person you failed to see because you were caught up in your own world, your own thoughts, your own purpose. We all struggle at times, but just remember, there is always someone struggling more. Always be kind, you never know what someone is going through. Take a moment when you are about your errands, to be situationally aware. Look for those opportunities to bless others. The returns are 10 fold, and in doing so, you also bless yourself.
In a bigger picture, the In the Spirit of Love Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded to help those in need. Each person is naturally born with a Spirit of Love. The foundations mission is to encourage each heart to live that Love. We are always looking to expand our reach thru hearts across the world who want to make a difference. Where there is great love, there is always miracles.
You can make a difference in making this world a better place. Many people don’t even try because it seems so overwhelming. But imagine if each person acted in kindness, extended a helping hand and cared for others. What a wonderful world it would be!
A couple of fun kindness health facts from Dartmouth.edu:
“Kindness is contagious! The positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward.” This means one good deed in a crowded area can create a domino effect and improve the day of dozens of people!”
Did you know that “Witnessing acts of kindness produces oxytocin, occasionally referred to as the ‘love hormone’ which aids in lowering blood pressure and improving your overall heart-health. Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we’re in anxious or shy in a social situation.”
So never underestimate the difference a single act of kindness can make to the one you are helping and those who witnessed your act of kindness. You can change the world one heart at a time.
We’ve mentioned self-care in other blogs, yet it is so important that we will expand on it here to include self-love. What does it mean to love yourself or to practice self-love? Were you taught that this is a bad thing, that it is selfish, that you should instead be selfless? We should indeed aspire to show love to others but, in reality, the love and acceptance of self is one of the greatest requirements to happiness and long lasting relationships. When the flight attendant tells you to put on your oxygen mask first before assisting another, it is for good reason. You simply cannot take care of (love) another if you cannot take care of (love) yourself primarily.
Research not only points to the benefits of self-love, but it also shows that self-criticism is comparable to self-sabotage. It actually hurts performance, productivity and well-being. Expressing as a people-pleaser, for example, may seem altruistic, but in reality, it’s a call for self-love. It is the needing/wanting of validation from others while ignoring the true value of yourself. It’s chasing after love that already lies within you. The truth is, you are wonderfully made, special, with a history and purpose unique to you. If you believe in your value and honor yourself, you need no other person(s) to shower you with praises. You know your worth.
Perspective is key. How you view your past can directly affect how you value self. Are you hard on yourself for the past experiences that you deem as mistakes? Perhaps mistakes should be redefined as ‘opportunities to learn and grow.’ After all, it is through our mistakes that we find personal growth, learning and meaning. Through mistakes we can determine what we want and don’t want, what we need and don’t need. It may be time to appreciate past ‘mistakes’ as a stepping stone to something greater. Be compassionate with yourself. You are in the process of evolving into something truly magnificent. Life is a process of learning and change. Embrace all that life brings your way. It has and will continue to make you who you are. In the meantime, guard your thoughts about self.
Start keeping track of judgmental thoughts you have about yourself and others. Write them in your journal, then rewrite them with a focus to create a positive counter-thought. Put those positive thoughts on sticky notes and place them in various locations in your environment. Changing your thoughts can have a profound impact on changing your life. Remember that joy is not tied to circumstance. Whatever is going on in your life, rise up and choose joy. Acceptance means never turning your back on yourself. Make a decision today to love and respect yourself. If you don’t, odds are, no one else will. You are, in essence, setting the bar for how others can/will treat you.
“Loving everything about yourself – even the unacceptable – is an act of personal power.
Remember your value doesn’t lie in how your body looks
Don’t be afraid to let go of toxic people
Process your fears
Trust yourself to make good decisions for yourself
Take every opportunity life presents or create your own goals/dreams
Put yourself first
Feel pain and joy as fully as you can
Exercise boldness in public
See beauty in simple things
Be kind to yourself
Self-love is about accepting what you’ve been through and the choices you’ve made because you now know that you acted on the knowledge and experiences that you had to date, at that time. Sure you have evolved and may be a different person now than you were then. Your today’s choice may be different than yesterday’s choice. This is progress. Don’t be hard on yourself. Self-judgment can be harsh and may not lead to healthy progress. Self-acceptance of all of who you are is a key to self-love. Your journey is different than anyone else’s and the ride you have been on has made you who you are. Love yourself foremost by accepting all parts of you, mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. You are so special and you totally got this.
As a tourist traveling through Europe, it was not unusual to find myself at the mercy of a localite. I could be immobile, physically stuck without the kindness of a stranger. It meant surrendering to the moment and trusting in the outcome that was to be.
For example, I took a train to Verona Italy, a place made famous by Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” At the train station, we needed to take a bus to the hotel; and no, I do not speak Italian. I had done some research and knew what bus number to board. However, bus after bus came and departed, all of the wrong bus number. Finally, I walked around a bus and asked the driver if he went to our hotel. When he said yes, my family and I boarded. It was a very hot day and the bus was tightly packed with people, mostly standing. I then realized that I had no idea where or when to get off the bus and because I could not see the driver, I had little assurance that he would tell me when to step off. I was most definitely in a pickle. It became quite clear that if I did not seek the assistance of a stranger, I would risk spending the rest of my vacation circling Verona. The woman standing next to me did not speak English, but she knew the hotel and was kind enough to hold up the number of fingers representing the number of stops ahead of me, until I reached my destination.
What a blessing it is when someone goes out of their way to be kind. Can you remember a time when someone asked you for help, perhaps asking you for directions to a particular place? Were you eager and willing to help them? Your act of kindness was not just a benefit to them, but also to you. You see, researchers have found that when we show acts of kindness to others, we release oxytocin, which makes us feel happy in the process. Both parties involved with the transaction will experience reduced anxiety due to lower cortisol levels, and a feeling of gratitude for the connection with one another. According to the Mayo Clinic, being good to others boosts serotonin and dopamine levels, the neurotransmitters in the brain that give you feelings of satisfaction and well-being. Random studies have suggested doing acts of kindness to feel happier, more confident, more resilient and more empowered.
So why not bless others without being asked. Showing kindness may create laughter, a chuckle, surely a smile. It begins with the understanding that we all struggle, we all suffer, we all have bad days. When we take a moment to bless a stranger, we create space for them, acceptance, and in doing so, the heaven expands and the angels sing. Why not be the person that brings warmth and value to someone else, with no expectation in return. After all, a candle does not lose its flame when lighting another candle.
“Don’t wait to be kind. Don’t wait for someone else to be kind first. Don’t wait for better circumstances or for someone to change. Just be kind, because you never know how much someone needs it.” Nikki Banas – Walk the Earth
Kindness is always a choice. Scout out the opportunities to bless others with your kindness. And when you do, please tell us the story, Care and Share.
why were you moved to do what you did?
what exactly did you do?
how did the other person respond?
How did the act of kindness make you feel?
When you see someone struggling, don’t be the observer, be the blessing. Equally important is sharing the good news. Perhaps we could all use more positive news in our lives. Ultimately, we want these stories to lift others, bringing feelings of encouragement, empowerment, and love for one another.
You can share your story at the In the Spirit of Love website for potential exposure in a future blog:
Your thinking and how you analyze the world around you has evolved, mostly unconsciously, over your lifetime. Your training and experiences have shaped your worldview and because no two people experience the same life, how you think is distinct to you. This is a good reason not to be judgmental of others; you have not lived the same experiences as they have. Their belief system, and yours, will be unique to personal experience.
The average person has up to 60,000 thoughts per day and according to research conducted by the National Science Foundation, 80% of those thoughts could be negative and 95% repetitive. Most people don’t monitor their thoughts in an effort to improved them. If we are not diligent with our thinking, thoughts can easily run amuck, especially when they are habitual. It’s hard to stop a snowball rolling downhill and when you continue to think those habitually negative thoughts long enough, they become a belief.
In order to break the cycle of the negative monkey mind, you must be diligent with identifying those thoughts. You need to basically stalk yourself. Pay attention to the thoughts you think and begin to question the origin, i.e., “where did that thought come from?” Ask yourself if your beliefs are justified and valid. Keep a journal. I have a friend whose father has always been very consistent about telling her how stupid she is. As she began to accept it, the thought became part of her subconscious mind. It soon grew to become a belief, a very harmful belief that is absolutely not true. So every time she tells herself how stupid she is, she needs to correct herself saying something like, “that untrue thought came from my dad. I am smart about many things.” So keep in mind that the negative thoughts you think might not have originated from you but from someone else that has influenced you, and the sooner that you replace those thoughts with a positive thought, the better.
Although thoughts, as well as the stalking of thoughts, can be painful. The practice can teach you a great many things about yourself and those around you. Growth requires self-examination. “Even though you may not actually like the feelings of inner disturbance that may come from asking key questions, you must be able to sit quietly with yourself and face them if you want to see where they come from. Once you can face your disturbances, you will realize that there may be a layer of pain seated deep in the core of your heart. This pain is so uncomfortable, so challenging, and so destructive to the individual self, that your entire life has been spent trying to avoid it. Your entire personality is built upon ways of being, thinking, acting, and believing that were developed to avoid pain. Real growth takes place when you finally decide to deal with the pain.” From The Tethered Soul by Michael A. Singer.
Exercise: Bounce technique
When experiencing a negative thought, bounce it away with a positive thought instead. Simply replace the thought with a better feeling thought. Draw a line down the center of a tablet or piece of paper, creating two columns. When you catch yourself having a negative thought, write it in the left column. Then draw an arrow leading to the right column and re-write the statement in a positive version. This will assist you in shifting your thoughts. Whenever you catch yourself in the left column, replace the thought with the right column. For example:
Words are a byproduct of our thoughts, and words, in themselves, hold a great deal of power. Pay attention to the words you use and how you use them. Never allow yourself to speak unkindly to yourself or about yourself. You may think Self-deprecation to be funny, but is it really? In reality, it’s a way of reprimanding yourself by belittling, undervaluing, or disparaging your identity. Doing so does not honor you. As they say, to thine own self be true. There is nothing in this world that can trouble you as much as your own thoughts. To be in joy, you need to accept yourself in a loving manner. Choose your words carefully and not just when speaking about yourself, but also when speaking about others. It could be said that we receive in return that which we choose to put out into the world, so choose your words and thoughts wisely.
Even so, the seas of life will surely rock your boat at times, but you can choose your response to the storms. You are not the bad feelings nor thoughts that you get in your head. You are not the storms you walk through. You are the person experiencing the storm. The storm may knock you off your feet, but you are strong. You will rise again. Either the weather will change, you will find shelter, or you will look the storm in the eye with resilience and fortitude, because you know that storm cannot hold you back indefinitely. When you can keep a healthy perspective, your wrath exceeds that of any storm, so be mindful of your thoughts and choose wisely.
“No thought lives in your head rent-free. Each thought you have will either be an investment or a cost.” ~ T. Harv Eker
Mother Teresa was born Agnesa Gonxha Bojaxhiu, 1910, as the youngest child of Nilola and Drana in the city of Skoje, present day Macedonia. Influenced by the Jesuit parish of the Sacred Heart, she received her First Communion at age 5 and was confirmed at 6. Her father’s death at age 8 created financial challenges for the family. After a pilgrimage when she was 12, she made a decision to spread the word of Jesus’ teachings throughout the world. She left home at age 18 with a strong desire to become a missionary, traveling to Ireland to join the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Sisters of Loreto. After receiving the name Sister Mary Teresa after St. Therese of Lisieux, she learned to speak English, and departed for India to be a teacher.
Mother Teresa, whom she later became known as, completed nursing training at the Holy Family Hospital in Patna before moving to Calcutta in 1948. She had a deep yearning, from a young age, to provide service to the physical and spiritual needs of the poor. The purpose of her organization was to create a hope of survival to the needy, sick and destitute.
“Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.” Mother Teresa
An encounter with Mother Teresa as told by Susan Conroy in Mother Teresa’s Lessons of Love and Secrets of Sanity.
“During my first encounters with Mother Teresa…I was struck by her profound humility. I knew that she was world famous and I had imagined that all famous people have a sense of their own greatness, a pride that shows through in their words and manners. There was none of that in Mother Teresa. There was an apparent selflessness in her, a quality that is not easy to find, even in non-famous people. It was as if she was totally unaware of herself, as if she was aware of only God and others. I had never met anyone in my life as humble as Mother Teresa. She was as humble as the poor whom we would lift up out of the gutters. Her humility was strikingly beautiful to me. Mother Teresa embodied so many other qualities as well, qualities that are all too rare in the world today. I wished that I could have brought her home with me, shown her to everyone, and said: “Just look at her!” Her appearance, her spirit, and her presence spoke a thousand words about integrity, about God, about true beauty, about inner strength, about love. Before meeting her, I had held incredibly high expectations and hopes concerning her, and I was not disappointed in the least. The reality was even better than what I had imagined. All that I learned about her and from her had been true-to-life.”
Mother Teresa was tough yet practical, plain yet prayerful, small yet mighty. She felt that God had given, not just her, but each of us the capacity to achieve deeds in the service of others. In her words, “when a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”
She received many awards including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She founded new healing communities in South Africa, Albania, Cuba, and war torn Iraq. By 1997, her Sisters numbered nearly 4,000 members, and were established in almost 600 foundations in 123 countries of the world. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003 with her canonization approved by Pope Francis, September 2016.
The story of Mother Teresa exemplifies love in action. In her quiet way, she sparked a movement, an example of the difference that can be made by the yearning of one simple soul. She truly became the change she wished to see in the world, and in her sainthood, continues to urge each of us to make a difference in the world. What about you? Are you willing to be a spark to something big?
There is a saying, “Never look down on someone unless you’re helping them up!” When I first heard this, it struck me very deeply. It was a reminder that no matter where you find someone, they are never beneath you. They are your fellow man and should be treated as such. No one was born any differently than any other person on this planet. The only difference between you and them is the circumstance. I bet if you asked any child what they want to be when they grow up, they probably didn’t answer, “I want to be homeless” or “I want to be addicted to drugs” Experiences and wounds have led people to where they are. When we think about our fellow human beings in this frame of mind, it’s easy to reach out and help them up. So do not look past an opportunity to help someone in need, because you never know when you might need help yourself. You’ll be glad you did it to the least of these.