Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Engine of Change

A peace filled moment to you!

I’ve been listening to a book by Dan Brown called Origin. There are all sorts of interesting things to ponder about religion and science and humanity, as there usually are in his books. There was one thing that jumped out at me that I wanted to share. It’s a prayer.
Prayer for the Future
May our philosophies keep pace with our technologies.
May our compassion keep pace with our powers.
And may love, not fear, be the engine of change.

It jumped out at me especially because of the last line. I think we all know we are in the midst of tumultuous times. There is turmoil in the environment and in our human societies. I scrolled down my news feed in Facebook the other day and the majority of what I saw were images of angry faces. It was exhausting just looking at it, but I kept scrolling because I wanted to see how far it went. Sadly, I couldn’t find an end to it. Anger and fear were the dominant emotions in most of what I saw and read. I admit, I’ve shared some of those kinds of posts myself. After the past week especially, people are on edge. Many women and men I know are feeling triggered by the debate about sexual assault. Things they have kept hidden for years are coming up and bringing with them a wide range of emotions beyond anger and fear, including shame, frustration, and even hatred. It is a challenging time, with many conflicting and volatile emotions. What I have found is missing is gentleness. It is a time when we so desperately need to offer each other and ourselves that very important gift. Be gentle.

If you need to opt out of social media right now, give yourself that gift. If you need to limit your intake of news right now, give yourself that gift. If you need to sleep more because you’re feeling emotionally exhausted, give yourself that gift. Be gentle with yourself.

Remember to be gentle with others right now too. You never know all of someone’s history. There may be something that happened to them in their life years ago that they are reacting to now. They might not even be conscious of it. Give those around you the gift of gentleness. Even those around you with whom you disagree. It is entirely possible to have a discussion of opposing points of view without resorting to anger and unkindness. If there are people in your life who are unwilling to engage in a civil way, then give the gift of gentleness by choosing not to engage. It is unlikely that that kind of discussion will change anyone’s mind or heart anyway, yet, it can serve to harden your own heart.

That is the real risk I see and feel in all of this divisiveness; it hardens hearts. It encourages us to see through the filter of us and them, right and wrong, fear and anger. It encourages us to close off and numb our hearts. It can feel like that is the only safe option. Yet, now is a time when we need to be diligent about allowing love to be our guide, insisting that love be the engine of change, not fear. We need to remind ourselves and each other of the incredibly powerful force that love is.

The world we would create with love as the engine of change is vastly different than the one we would create through fear. I’ll be reminding myself which world I want to live in and help create, and acting from there. There will be moments, or even days, when I will forget. Knowing that, starting today I will be wearing my heart compass necklace again for a while as my reminder. I hope you have a reminder of your own that you can carry with you into your days to remind you of the world you’d like to help create. I choose a world created from love, and I’m rededicating myself to that.

May the remainder of your week be fueled by love.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Loss and Transformation

A peace filled morning to you! I hope that wherever you are this week, you remain safe from powerful Hurricane Florence.

On Tuesday I was reading a blog post by Patti Digh. She was reflecting on September 11, 2001 and where we are now as a nation. The post included a list of all the names of the people who died in the attacks in the United States that day. She reads them aloud every year on September 11. I started to read them to myself last night. After an hour I wasn’t even half way through. I've been slowly reading through them all week. It was incredibly moving to read each name, not to skim over them, but to take my time and really hear each name in my head, to take the time to figure out pronunciation where I needed to. I didn’t want to rush. It felt sacred to witness each name. I thought about how many lives each of those people touched. Then I thought about the reach of the grief from the loss of those lives, the number of funerals in such a short period of time. What if you were working from home that day and lost all your officemates? The ripples reaching out from that day are unimaginable.

I remember clearly what that day was like for me, and how confused I felt by how blue the sky was. It was a gorgeous September day with a sky so blue that it hurt your eyes. I couldn’t make sense of that, of how beautiful it was on such a dark day. I was so grateful that I hadn’t driven to DC that morning. I had planned to. My path would have taken me right past the Pentagon right around the time the plane crashed there. I don’t even remember why I decided not to go, I’m just eternally grateful that I didn’t.

I didn’t lose anyone I knew personally that day. Yet the ripples were still felt in my own life. The loss I felt that day and for so many days afterward was great, and in the end transformative. For me the collective grief was palpable. I felt like I was breathing it in every single day. I remember going to New York at the beginning of October that year, and when I came up out of the subway during my visit I knew which direction to go based on where the still rising smoke was. 

One day I reached a point when I just couldn’t cry anymore. So I ignored that feeling of loss, I set it aside and chose not to look at it for a long time. Of course that wasn’t a wise choice. Those feelings just built up behind the dam I had created until the pressure was too much and the dam gave way. What flowed over the dam were words. They flowed forth in a way I had never experienced before. They flowed forth in poetry, in prose, in torrents. That flood of words transformed my life. One day I wasn’t a writer, and the next day I was. It was a gift of immense proportions for me. I discovered such joy, release, discovery, wisdom, and wonder in the process of writing, which for me is really the process of listening. Yet, I was frustrated by how something so beautiful could flow from something so terrible, because I truly could draw a line directly from September 11, 2001 to the day that dam burst.

So when I read all those names last night, I felt sadness and gratitude mixed together. I was grateful for the ripples those lives made in my life even though we never knew each other. The love that the people they knew felt for them, and so the grief they felt at their loss touched my heart, and it was transformed. It’s a little uncomfortable to feel anything even near gratitude in the face of such tragedy. Yet, in a way, their loss gave me new life, and I will always feel that, in a small way, I honor them through the sharing of the words that move through me. Their lives continue to make ripples through me. I hope that wherever they are now, they feel my gratitude and smile at the ripples as they continue to move ever outward.

Now I’m grateful to Patti as well, for an opportunity to reflect on both the loss, and the transformation it gave birth to.

May the remainder of your week be illuminated by gratitude, and may you be safe from the impact of Florence.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Backwards Henry

This is a story I wrote in 2010 after I had been exploring the idea of Grace for a number of years. It was a concept that was a mystery to me. I didn't connect with any of the definitions of Grace that I had heard over the years, so I went searching for my own. The conclusion I came to for myself was that Grace is about connecting with your heart and the love that lives there, and in that moment of connection setting that love free to move into the world. In other words, Grace is love in motion, love in action. That was the definition of Grace that made the most sense to me.

What didn't make sense to me was the saying, There but for the Grace of God go I. I couldn't understand a God that would grant me Grace, but simply deny it to another. That didn't sound like the God I had come to know. So I took another look at that phrase. Backwards Henry grew out of that process. I wrote it as a children's picture book, but I think it might be for adults just as much. 😀 Enjoy! 

Backwards Henry
By Lynda Allen

            From the world’s point of view Henry often gets things backwards.  He is left handed, which doesn’t seem backwards to him.  He sometimes puts his coat on backwards.  He likes to walk backwards.  He tried to ride his bike backwards once – only once.  He even sometimes spells things bakcwadrs.

            So it was no surprise when one day he was downtown with his father and heard something backwards. 

            It was take your son or daughter to work day and Henry was overjoyed to be going in to work with his Dad.  He had put on his best pants (frontwards) and a tie and had ridden the train with his Dad. 

            Now they were walking down the sidewalk surrounded by giant buildings.  He felt very small. 

            Then he saw someone who he knew felt even smaller than he did.  There was a man sitting on the sidewalk in dirty, tattered, old clothes.  He had a little box lid in front of him with a sign written by hand.  Henry couldn’t read but he had heard about people who didn’t have homes and lived on the streets in the city and he thought this might be one of those people. 

            The man sat near a corner at a stoplight so people were passing him on two sides.  Henry looked around and saw that not many of the people noticed the man.  Henry looked at him though, while he waited for the light to change. 

            The man looked up and Henry thought he saw a light in his eyes.  The stoplight changed and Henry’s Dad tried to walk but Henry was still staring at the man.  His Dad looked down to see what Henry was doing and followed his eyes to the man.  Henry’s Dad was a compassionate man, and he looked from Henry to the man and back to his son again.  He reached in his pocket and took out a dollar bill and gave it to Henry.  Henry looked up at his Dad with wide eyes then took the dollar bill and timidly reached out toward the box top to put it in.  Henry didn’t get that backwards; he placed the bill gently in the box and smiled at the man.  The man smiled back and Henry again saw the flicker of light in his eyes.  He turned and took his father’s hand again.  As they began to walk his father said in a quiet voice, “There but for the Grace of God go I.”  Henry watched the man over his shoulder for as long as he could.

            Henry had such an exciting time at his Dad’s office making copies (a little backwards!) and answering the phone (upside down) and typing on the computer (some deleting), that by the end of the day he had almost forgotten all about the man on the corner. 

            But as they started their trip down the street to the subway station and neared the corner he remembered and began peering around other people on the sidewalk to see if he was still there.  Sure enough when they got to the corner and were waiting for the light, he could see the man was still there across the street.  Except now Henry could see that the man was leaning over against the building fast asleep. 

            The light changed and the crowd walked across the street and as Henry passed the man he looked at him and said in his small voice and in his backward way, “There but for I go the Grace of God.” 

            Several people on the sidewalk heard Henry’s words and stopped in their tracks, including his father.  Squatting down next to his son he asked, “What did you say?”  Having a feeling he had gotten it wrong again Henry repeated, “There but for I go the Grace of God.”  He looked up eagerly at his Dad, “Did I get it wrong Daddy?” 

            A small group was listening now. One woman, who had stopped, looked from Henry to the man asleep on the sidewalk then back to Henry.  She smiled brightly at Henry and said, “I think you got it just exactly right young man.”  She took out her wallet and placed a five dollar bill in the box in front of the man.  Several other people in the crowd did the same. 

            Henry looked surprised and smiled at each of them as they looked back at him.  He turned to his father who was still squatting beside him and saw tears in his eyes.  Suddenly his Dad pulled Henry into his arms and held him tightly. 

            Henry wasn’t really sure what he had done or what had happened but he knew that it was important and that he would always remember that moment and that man. 

            As they walked away Henry thought about the light he had seen in that man’s eyes and wondered about how surprised he would be when he woke up to see all that money in his box.  Henry made a wish right then that it would make the man smile. 

            Then Henry turned around and walked backwards all the way to the train station and his Dad let him.

Copyright 2010 Lynda Allen