Rise up Reflections September 2016 marks the end of one full year of participating in the Daily Questions at Gratefulness.org. What amazes even me (!) is that I didn’t miss even one day all year long no matter where I was on the planet. That’s 365 Daily Questions received and reflected upon in writing each and every day.
Soon after beginning this project I discovered that it became a daily spiritual practice for me as well. Over the last twelve months something else also happened too: I developed a number of genuine, real and caring online relationships with people at the Gratefulness site who participate regularly in the Daily Questions. And a handful of these good people have chosen on their own to join my mailing list here at Rise This Day. For that, to be sure, I am honored.
Tomorrow I begin my 366th day of answering the Daily Questions. But before I do, a few of the questions this month were specifically meaningful to me, particularly September 8, 11, 21 and 28.
Thanks for taking the time to visit and read what I share here. Hopefully it will prove useful to you, too.
September 1: How does gratefulness open me to healing?
Being mindful of what gratefulness is and keeping it in my head and heart and prayerfully on a daily basis creates, if you will, a kind of new ‘space,’ of new possibilities and ways of seeing and being in the world. It gets me out of my own little orbit of “self” and into the wider galaxy of being interconnected and interdependent with and among others. When gratefulness is truly expressed and heartfelt, when it comes from that deeper place within, it possesses and sends forth its own kind of energy that heals wherever it goes.
September 2: How can I help to preserve what is sacred to me?
I don’t see myself “preserving” what is sacred to me. Instead, I see myself being prayerful and mindful of those things around me that nurture and sustain my soul, revealing what I experience as the presence of the Spirit at work in my life.
September 3: How can I make a positive difference for someone who is suffering?
It’s been my experience that what people who are suffering most appreciate from another is for that person to be present to them, to converse, share, sometimes laughing, sometimes touching and doing, however possible, the plain and ordinary things that people do within their daily lives among each other.
September 4: How can I teach someone, by my actions, how to be a grateful person?
Whether doing social work or ministry among children, teens and adults, perhaps the most effective teaching I have ever done, without instruction, was by example and by “being.” At least that’s what many told me years later. Hopefully most of it was useful. Whether or not I taught them to be a more grateful person though would be hard to measure. That’s a question only they could answer.
September 5: What “Thank you” is longing to be expressed to a member of your family?
I’m not sure that any “thank-you’s are longing to be expressed to members of my family because we all live near to one another, and the “hello’s” and the “helpings” and the “thank-you’s” all seem to flow seamlessly back and forth. But I do get the meaning of today’s question and the need to conscientiously express our gratitude to those closest to us.
September 6: What contributions am I making to the world without even knowing it?
Personally, I strive to live life peacefully, to be inclusive and welcoming of others who hail from different cultures and traditions. I can only hope that in some small way, as just one person, that this makes a positive contribution to the world.
September 7: How have I focused on the good in others today?
It was so early when I read this that I figured I needed to wait until I actually saw and interacted with a few “good” people, of which there are usually many!
September 8: How can I leverage my blessings to improve someone else’s life?
In a way, one of my goals when creating my site at Rise This Day.com was to do just that—to share what I’ve learned from working with and caring for others down through the years, with images and words as best I can, as a source of inspiration and nurture to those who visit. I’m satisfied to a degree that that has happened, though I hope to take it to another level as we move along. That’s my “macro” response to today’s great question.
A “micro” response though, for me, are the times that I can make myself available to individuals to meet, talk, walk, drive them to medical appointments, attend to pastoral care matters, and the like. That to me feels equally important because it is something of myself that I can give that has clear value to others and brings them comfort also.
September 9: What experiences are offering me perspective?
For starters, just waking up into a new day offers me perspective; including:
moments of quiet meditation,
pondering the Daily Questions,
seeing the sun rise while rowing,
hearing the changing songs of September peepers,
listening to friends,
and learning from my blind dog.
September 10: What can I do today to show kindness towards myself?
Probably two things, one physical and the other emotional: Cut back a bit on some of the yard work I’ve been doing especially when my back begins to hurt; and somehow finding a way to feel less frustrated when I don’t get as much time in doing photography or writing as I had hoped due to doing other things that are equally as deserving of my time. It seems like such a silly thing to feel because I also know and treasure just how blessed and rich my life is, too.
September 11: To whom would it be meaningful to write a handwritten letter or card? What would it say?
With today being the 15th anniversary of 9/11, I wish that I could sit down and write a personal handwritten note which could be read, by each of the 2,983 people who died on that horrific day.
September 12: How do I express my creativity?
I strive to express my creativity as a student through photography and writing.
September 13: What are the gifts that I have received from strangers recently?
For me, it’s usually the littlest things, unexpected and unplanned, with strangers that feel like little gifts that come and go quickly. A mutual laugh of weaving and bobbing out of each other’s way with carts at the supermarket; holding the door for a stranger in a public place, and then that person holds the next door for you and you’re both left standing in an entrance way going nowhere…and we both laugh; even a wrong number called into my phone three times by someone absolutely certain that they must have the right number can end in a laugh. But perhaps the greatest gift that I receive from strangers is the experience and joy of a shared humanity, as we move about a common community, living, making ends meet, in a park or at a concert, content to remain as strangers, yet cordial and pleased that as a whole we know that we need and want to affirm the other and in so doing it somehow affirms our own place within humanity. That too, is a gift.
September 14: What parts of my past can I forgive to live more fully today?
As for my past, I am grateful to have had one! Fortunately, I can ponder it now as a gift, too. I am not troubled by, nor do I regret any part of my past. I lived it. It was grand, no regrets and all I can hope for is to rise and live into this day fully and surrender it to yesterday by this time tomorrow.
September 15: What skills am I most grateful for?
The skills that I am most grateful for in life, thus far, is my ability to work with children, teens and parents in various settings, from one-to-one, to groups of varying sizes.
I also lead groups of people, mostly children and teens, in large field events playing games, (“New Games” concept) especially Capture the Flag, etc. Its great fun and something I am called upon to do from time to time.
I also collect small spin tops and small windup toys. I have hundreds of them and keep them in special boxes. When children, and sometimes adults, tire of what they’re doing within programs, I bring them out, open the box slowly, and they’re off! It’s about intention, presentation, and because they are so simple and rather unique, in that kids today are all about electronics and apps, these simple little toys are always a hit.
September 16: How can I make use of one of my privileges today?
I will spend a good part of my day making use of many of my privileges, actually. I’ll be driving my car, a privilege for sure, a hundred miles with a van load of kids to a retreat center for the weekend. Once there, and on staff, I’ll be leading large and small groups for the remainder of the day, talking, eating, working and playing with children and other adults. By midnight, I’ll crash into my bunk, having lived one long and privileged day for sure.
September 17: What teaches me about the fragility and resilience of life?
Over the years in work and ministry, having had the occasion to see life come, blossom, change, and sometimes letting go gracefully or otherwise, yet through it all, witnessing the strength and determination of the human spirit to embrace life fully, through all its unseen challenges just leaves me in awe at the sheer wonder, beauty, and occasional terror of life itself.
September 18: How can I free myself up to make even more of a difference for others?
On most days, I am sure I can always ramp things up more to be of greater service to others. But today, with my back condition not doing very well and near the end of staffing a retreat with children, I am at my max capacity and can do no more.
September 19: Who is in my chosen community?
Having just returned from spending a weekend staffing a retreat for Quaker Children, and spending time sharing with people of all ages, I can say with satisfaction and appreciation that my chosen community are the folks who call themselves Quakers, or more formally, members of the Religious Society of Friends.
September 20: How does caring for others enrich my life?
Caring for others, simply stated, completes my life by giving it purpose and connection. Or, as Marian Wright Eddelman said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for living on the planet.”
September 21: What new behavior do I have the opportunity to practice now?
Such an interesting if not curious question! My first reaction to today’s question was why should I want to practice a new behavior in the first place? At first blush, the question strikes me as trying on a new pair of shoes that I don’t really need. They may look good, other people may like them, but they’re not really “me.” Besides, the shoes I have on are time-tested, they’re worn somewhat, they work fine and so far they get me where I need to go. So the new shoes go back on the rack.
Yet in my heart what I know that I need to do is go barefoot. I need to back up to the basics, to reorder my expectations of what I can do physically in light of worsening back pain. Frankly, my coping behavior lately hasn’t been helpful and that really needs to change. I’m working on it. Maybe I need to find a new shoe store that carries a greater selection of ‘graceful acceptance’ and a line of ‘behaviors’ that softens the hurt that others can feel? Yes, time to go shopping!
September 22: What is one memory for which I am forever grateful?
I will forever be grateful for the memory of my farming years. Even though I have greatly enjoyed my professional work with people for three decades, my work as a farmer that came before informed, influenced and added enormous perspective to my work later in life.
September 23: What have I received from my ancestors?
A calm and steady demeanor (so I’m told), self confidence, determination, a receding hairline, glaucoma, some problem moles and a rack of arthritic joints. Thank you very much, Grampa!
September 24: What am I willing to let go of in order to be a little more free and/or happy?
Overall, I’m very fortunate in having retired one year ago at the end of September. Retirement allowed me to let go of many, many things, for which I am grateful indeed! I did need to adjust and let go of missing the kids, clients and groups that I ran, including being in the hub of day-to-day events of town government, etc. But I never missed it enough to go back to it!
Lately I’ve been working on letting go of being supremely frustrated with the limitations that my back condition places on my ability to do things. That’s been big for me. I’m not there yet, but working on it! I can only do so much to control the pain, but I can control how I choose to respond to it. That’s my learning curve for the fall months!
September 25: What aspects of the natural world are a source of inspiration to me?
Water, in all its forms, as a dew drop, in a glass, flowing in a river and in the curl of the ocean’s surf as it crashes onto the shore.
September 26: What matters most to me?
September 27: What opportunity is calling me to be fearless?
To be honest, I will need to sit on this one for a bit. At the present moment, there may be none, or there may be many….it depends on how I approach “opportunity.
September 28: What would love do?
I keep a page of love quotes on my site. However, each quote needs to have had a special meaning to me personally, whether I experienced it for myself or saw it at work in others over the years. Love is such a universal and at the same time very personal experience. While I appreciate today’s question, the construct of the sentence itself seems too vast and difficult to real in and reflect from a personal place. Here are a few of my favorite quotes by others that inform, hold and move me daily:
“Let us then see what love will do.” – William Penn. This quote by one of our Quaker luminaries is the first thing I thought of when I read today’s question. It’s an action statement, and speaks to everything I might do in any day of my life.
“My love is my weight.” – St. Augustine. Oh my yes! Sometimes love quote literally “gets in the way,” and in a good way, of what I might otherwise want to say or do sometimes. And it’s the same “weight” that keeps me waiting upon what the Spirit may be calling me to do, also.
“God is love, but get it in writing.” – Gypsy Rose Lee. I just love the grit and honesty in this statement. It’s both tongue-in-cheek and reflects our deepest human doubt about whether or not we truly believe that God is all about love…or not!
“Our lives are shaped by those who love us, and by those who refuse to love us.” – Anonymous. After decades of working with people, who are sometimes in crisis, this quote has quietly drifted through my mind many times when helping people to cope with the aftermath of living out their day to day lives knowing who loved them and who did not.
September 29: How can I enter my encounters and experiences with fewer assumptions or expectations?
Being truly at peace of mind, heart and spirit as I move through a day, I’m sure, would wipe away many preconceived expectations. But that is something I seldom achieve.
I used to counsel teens who were going into difficult situations and say to them, “keep your expectations low and your hopes high.” I’ve used this mantra many times for myself, also—that is, when I remembered to do so! For me, it helps to be aware of my own emotions, to know when and if I’m going into a situation charged or expecting a certain definite outcome. Arriving at an encounter with charged expectations frequently sets the stage for tension and confrontation.
However, possessing certain assumptions and expectations can be a good thing too. If I expect to have a good time doing something then I generally do. And conversely, if think I’m going to have a lousy time going into something then I frequently do also.
And then there’s this; sometimes possessing high expectations is also related to ones character and moral code. If I am taking a stand on a particular issue, expectations built on facts strengthen me for the way forward.
But for sure in routine day to day encounters, remembering to keep my expectations low, to smile and make eye contact when encountering others has always served me well.
September 30: How can grateful living become more of a daily practice in my life?
First of all, practicing grateful living on a daily basis has a good chance of happening by having something that sets the course and reminds me the first thing every, just like this site does! So thank you! Secondly, practicing those little “silent whispers” to myself throughout the course of the day that the day itself and all that is in it is gift, pure gift, and it is I who receives it.
Text and image by K. Lee