The Ripple Effect


“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop

I believe in the ripple effect. Sometimes we meet people who are angry and belligerent, but as a woman I know said, “don’t take it personally, we don’t know what is going on in that person’s life, what challenges they face or what wounds they carry”. I think that is excellent advice.

To respond without anger, without judgement is often not easy, but it is always the better choice Responding, or reacting to anger with more anger only escalates the situation. However, it can be difficult. After all we are all only human and each carrying our own baggage, so to speak. It’s not easy to unpack the bag; to rid ourselves of recriminations, desire for vengeance, etc. If we can respond with calmness we often see a much better result.

With that said, I don’t think we should lay down and allow people to walk all over us – we don’t have to be a doormat. It’s a fine line at times, this balancing act between self-care and care for others. But I do believe in the ripple effect – the random acts of kindness; the acts of compassion and mercy. Acts of kindness make me feel good and I believe makes the other person feel good as well. Perhaps they will ‘pay it forward’ and be kind to the next person they interact with.

Conversely to act in anger, to speak harmful words, also have a ripple effect causing us to feel awful and the other person as well. I am only human. I make mistakes, but I hope I have learned enough to not repeat them. I hope I will sow more seeds of compassion than seeds of wrath in my lifetime. We cannot change the world, but we can change what we do in our own small corner of it.

“A tree is known by its fruit, a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost, he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” – Saint Basil

 

 

 

 

LOOKING FOR PEACE


Since that horrible day on the 19th November in 2016 my family have all been looking for peace. Today was the final day of a trial that began a year after my brother was stolen from us by an impaired driver. There have been many hard days, and others where we found comfort in one another and in each of our individual little families. It’s been a brutal journey. I hope we can each finally find a measure of peace now that the trial has finally come to its conclusion. After 18 months of hell we can finally lay our brother to rest and do the best we can to go on with our lives. We will continue to mourn his loss. It was just so senseless and so unnecessary – and that is what has made it all the more difficult to let go. And especially with a criminal trial dragging us back to that day over and over again. It’s been torture to say the least. But, perhaps now we can begin to let go of all the dregs of bitterness, anger, and remorse that has plagued us all. We are looking for peace and I pray we each find it.

The tormentors and the tormented


“When faced with senseless drama, spiteful criticisms and misguided opinions, walking away is the best way to stand up for yourself. To respond with anger is an endorsement of their attitude.” – Dodinsky

It is so easy to respond with anger to situations and circumstances that seem to be unjust and unfair. It is not easy to take the high road. It’s all fine and good to sprout clichés like “consider where it comes from”, for there is truth in that. Conversely, ‘it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease’.  I am torn between these ideas as well as the Christian admonishments to ‘turn the other cheek’ yet on the other hand, ‘do not sin by silence when you should defend”.

I try to bear in mind that each individual is coming from their own unique background and so have their own frame of reference, which I may or may not understand. Constructive criticism is a good thing, when it is, in fact, constructive and delivered in such a way that it does not attack the person. Too often, however, biting words are spoken – words meant to wound. At times like this I try to remember that the tormentors are also the tormented. After all people with good self esteem, the happy and content people, do not strive to feel better by inflicting harm or by destroying the reputation of another. It seems to me it is individuals suffering from low self esteem; from a lack of understanding; or from ignorance that tend to strike out to blame and maim.

There is a time to stand up and be heard. There is a time to bite your tongue and maintain silence.  I am praying for the gift of wisdom to discern which is best in any given situation.

Thoughts and Prayers


I have been thinking a lot about thoughts and prayers after the backlash following the horrific shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It is not hard to understand the anguish and the anger that follows such a senseless and tragic catastrophe.  My heart goes out to the people in this community and to the American people as a whole. “Thoughts and prayers” have become a terrible cliché after so many mass shootings. It seems trite and useless, I am sure. The phrase that is meant as an expression of sympathy; as an expression of unity and empathy has been viewed as an insult to many when government action is not taken.

I am a child of the 60s and well remember the student protests in regards to the Vietnam War; to racial segregation; to injustices in general. I remember the sit-ins that were met with armed soldiers in some cases. The movie, ‘The Trial of Billy Jack’ springs to mind. We were the generation that wanted real change – and many of us still do. Sadly, violence is too often the response to a peaceful demonstration for change in many places in the world.

Yet, we are God’s hands. However, we have to agree to be just that. We have to ‘put our money where our mouths are’ and take concrete action to give legitimacy to our thoughts and prayers.

I am Canadian, but the coverage of the most recent school shooting has been massive here. It has eclipsed the very real issues around human rights that we face in our own country. When a farmer can kill an indigenous youth and be exonerated something is terribly wrong. My heart aches for the American people, but it also aches for all Canadians and for humanity in general, for all those who are living with injustices of every kind.

“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of” – Alfred Lord Tennyson. I believe in the power of prayer; in the power of positive thought; in the inherent goodness of humanity. But our prayers must also incorporate the will to do something, to be God’s hands in this world.

Let go, let go


Let go, let go

Fear

A heavy and grotesque gargoyle

Perched upon my shoulder

Its sharp claws digging into my flesh

Making me weak

Anger

A boiling cauldron of toxic soup

Bubbling and spewing forth hateful thoughts

Making me weak

From deep within, though soft and low

A voice repeats

Let go, Let go

But I hold tight to my pain

Feeling justified

Feeling righteous

White-knuckled I scream

At all the injustices done

And the voice whispers again

Let go, let go

With herculean effort I toss them high

The fear and anger and burdens heavy

I watch them go

Lifted higher and higher

I watch them burn as they near the light

To finally explode into a million pieces

What sweet relief

To finally let go

And I thank the voice

That guides me true

And brings me back

To life anew

Choices, not mistakes


I am struggling once again. Every single time we have to revisit that trial, and in tandem, my brother’s totally needless death,  I wrestle with rage and heartbreak all over again. We have all heard it said, “but they made a mistake”. NO! It was not a mistake, it was the worst of choices – to drink and drive. Every time a person gets behind the wheel after tipping back a bottle or a glass they become a potential killer. Think about that for a moment. Every. Single. Time. Perhaps the man who took my brother’s life also thought he was sober enough to drive. I don’t know. I am not that man and I will not assume to know what he thought as he climbed into his vehicle that fateful day. So we had that conference call with the crown attorney this morning. I am not at liberty to discuss it at this time. I just needed to release some of the pent up anguish and anger that is trying to consume me.

I will say it tears the heart out of me to hear my brother’s child in tears as she responds to the events of a court date or a conference call. And I ask you, if you are a person of prayer to keep Chris’s children in your prayers. I and my siblings will deal with it the best ways we can, but his children are still in their teens and have been given a life sentence of living without their Dad.  So please, pray for them, that they will receive all the help and comfort they need. Thank you for reading my blog and my sincere apologies that I have not written something uplifting. I am, like all of us, only human.  And please, never, ever, drive while impaired in any way.

Accountability and consequences


Two weeks ago I was getting ready for my flight to Ontario to join my family and to lend my support while the trial of the man who killed my brother continued. The evidence against him is overwhelming; from the many witnesses to the collision, to professionals such as police officers, nurses, and the technician who administered the breathalyzer, and many more.

I spent a week with my sisters and brothers and some of my nieces and nephews. We are a large family, which is a huge blessing in times like this. For not only do we each receive support, we give it as well – which, I think, we all need right now. I know I certainly needed it as I sat there gripping my sister’s hand as we listened to the pathologist describe in detail the extent of the injuries Chris suffered – that was incredibly hard to hear and hard to bear – by far the most difficult thing I have ever done.

And my blood still boils recalling the complete lack – or seeming complete lack  of any remorse in the defendant’s demeanor as we watched a video of an early police interview with him. He continually denied having had anything to drink as the detective questioned him, finally owning up to having had “one beer” a half hour before the collision – a collision that witnesses said showed no braking of any kind as he sped toward my unsuspecting brother (and narrowly missing hitting at least two other vehicles). There was a total absence of any skid marks at the scene. Meanwhile the breathalyzer revealed an extremely high level of alcohol in this guy’s blood 2 hours after the collision – one beer my ass!

The lack of any sense of accountability boggles my mind. Why does this person seem to think there should not be a consequence for his actions? It mystifies me. It really does. I honestly don’t think I could ever live with myself if I ever were to cause the death of another human being.

And it’s not that I want vengeance on this guy – I simply want him to acknowledge the seriousness of his crime and make a public apology for the pain and suffering Chris’s family has had to live with and will continue to live with for some time to come. We all know that impaired drivers get very little in the way of jail time so a guilty sentence will not likely result in any long term incarceration.

We are still in limbo as the trial has been remanded until January and the final verdict and sentencing are months away.  It is a sad fact that it is Chris’s children, his siblings, and extended family who will serve a life sentence; a life sentence of loss that nothing can change.

Trials and tribulations


I am home again after a week with my family. It was so good to be with them and to have some true quality time with my younger sister. She and Chris and I spent all our time together as children and the bond we formed then has given us strength to carry on through this ordeal. The hardest part of the week was listening to a pathologist describe the many injuries our brother suffered – “any one of which would have been fatal”. And it was difficult to listen to the defense attorney’s attempt to blame my brother’s death on his heart condition – Chris had had heart surgery about 18 months prior to the collision.  The pathologist shot that theory to pieces.

The week was hard. It was also grace-filled with times of love and laughter in between the heartache and tears. Unfortunately in the months following Chris’s unnecessary death emotions ran high. One of my brothers was full of rage and pain and struck out in anger. His words and actions hurt the entire family. He did not join us at the court house nor at any family gatherings. He is missed. In many ways I feel like I lost two brothers as a result of that collision.  I am praying that we will be given the grace we need to move past the pain and recriminations.

Life is fragile. Life is also short, and, as in the case of my brother, Chris, can end at any given moment. None of us know when we will breathe our last breath. So I beseech you to be kind; to be patient; to be the best person you can be. Love and mercy are always needed.

Grieving and Solace


One year ago, but it feels like forever – each day a long battle with seconds and minutes leading up to this one. They have been days of unbelievable agony and days of sweet solace as family and friends reached out to one another to comfort, to support, and to befriend; to bind the deep wounds and to heal.

We have learned that at least three other drivers narrowly escaped a fatal collision that day.  One was a young mother with her three children in the car. But my brother was not so fortunate.  My brother was ripped from our lives in that violent, senseless, so-called “accident”. I have a lot of trouble with that word, mostly because it was no “accident” when that other driver lifted that bottle to his lips prior to getting behind the wheel, transforming his vehicle into a murder weapon.

Still, what does it all matter? Nothing will bring Chris back to us. He is gone and we are left to pick up the pieces. There is anger – no, there is RAGE – like nothing I have ever felt before. It passes. There is pain like I have never known before.  It passes, at least until the next wave.

I am reaching deep inside myself for something positive to say. This morning I was thinking of a book I once read by Henri Nouwen. In it he describes his struggles with grief following the death of his mother. And he leaves words of comfort and wisdom with these thoughts: had his mother not died, she would not have been able to infuse the spirits of all her loved ones with her own spirit of love and of peace.  I take comfort from his ideas.

Chris has left us all many gifts. His death brought us all even closer to one another. His generosity, his kindness, his ability to make light of life’s struggles, his wit and  his incredible sense of humour live on in all of us. Perhaps in some way we are infused with his spirit. That is my hope and my solace. So today I will celebrate his life and give thanks for all the blessings he continues to bestow.

Forgiveness: walking the talk


Forgiveness is something I have struggled to do at many points in my life. As the trial looms closer I am struggling once more to find forgiveness. Immense pain fills my heart and my head. It is torture to say the least. I know that people who are addicted to drugs of any kind have chosen to use them to numb the pain they feel.

But what if, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they commit a heinous act that results in the death of another? Have they made a terrible and grievous mistake? Was it a “mistake”? How do we hold accountable the person who causes intolerable agony? To what extent are we permitted to play judge and jury? To play God? What sentence will ever satisfy? These are some of the questions that haunt my mind and make it difficult to sleep.

I sincerely believe in the inherent goodness of humanity, but often individuals are broken and cast aside by society. “Hurt people do hurt people”. I am endeavoring to walk my talk. I do believe in the power of forgiveness to set us free. But as a wise friend says “forgiveness is not amnesia”. We may in time forgive that which we can never forget for the scar is deep.

Forgiveness
It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those who don’t deserve
It’s the opposite of how you feel
When they pain they caused is just too real
Takes everything you have to say the word
Forgiveness, forgiveness
It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you’ve got a right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying set it free
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness, forgiveness
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness
It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can