Gifted, Blessed, and with Joy to give


The past two weeks have been incredibly busy, as I am sure they have been for most of us. Christmas is such a blessed time of year, and one I have always loved, but it can also be a stressful time of year with marketing geniuses doing their best to manipulate the masses into buying whatever they may be hocking. For those who are already under financial constraints the pressure can be intolerable, and the emphasis on family depressing for those of us who do not have the support of a loved one(s). So, Christmas can bring a mixed bag of joy and sadness – joy for some, utter dejection for others.

Two weeks ago, I had to call an ambulance to take my husband to hospital and within a few days I was visited by the flu which set me on my butt and added to the stress. In the midst of all this was the pressure I was putting on myself to get ready for Christmas, forgetting we always have choices…. maybe they’re not great choices, but they are choices.

Not long ago a friend gifted me with tickets to Tom Jackson’s Huron Christmas Carol. We were supposed to go together but my friend had to opt out. So, she gave me the tickets so my husband and I could go together. As I sat in the theatre with my husband listening to the beautiful music and laughing at the anecdotes Tom was sharing, I could feel the tension ease off my neck and shoulders.

The entertainer was talking about joy; about gifts; about what we can do for one another – sometimes something as simple as a smile can be a much-needed gift for another. What ‘finest gift’ can we bring?

This was cause for a lot of reflection on my part. We don’t have much money. My husband has been on a disability pension for many years and my job is only part-time,leaving little cash to spare. Giving gifts is a great pleasure for me and for along time I found it quite depressing that I could not give the things I would have liked to give. I do what I can.

And then I met people who are homeless. One man gifted me with his sense of humour that made me laugh so hard that tears started to roll down my cheeks. Another humbled me with a gift of candy – a quiet, gentle person – he reminded me of the innate goodness of humanity and the dignity inherent within all of us that should be respected and celebrated. His gift was pure joy as it came from the heart. Another bakes banana bread and brings it to the library to give to the people who work there. His gift was recognition of the people who go over and beyond what it required of them in their paid positions. His gift was gratitude. A so-called ‘mentally disabled’ woman helped me remember the joy of presence as she regaled me with stories of her life and doings. So, in the end it isn’t the physical gift that matters is it? It is the gifts of compassion, empathy, and connection that are the true gifts.

We all have joy to give, if we choose to do so. We are all gifted in some way –talented in some way. We are all blessed with something special and unique to ourselves. May this Christmas help us identify and share our blessings with others.

All of this


All of this I commit to you

This fumbling, bumbling human error

Ah, but is it a mistake?

A flaw in the grand design,

Wires crossed and misshapen

Tangled beyond repair?

Yet here I stand before you

Covered in my scars

Blemishes abound

All of this, I commit to you

And you gently take in hand

All of life beneath

the swollen stars

That tumble through the night

And separate the strands

Upon the weary lands

Sick and poor

Wearied to the bone

You lift us to your heart

And gently breathe new life

Into what was thought

forever gone

Mercy rides again

upon its fiercest steed

Filling and completing

Replenishing each need

In fits and starts

to begin anew;

Wounds healed, bodies strengthened

And all of this I commit to you

All of this

Quality of Life


Angel holding bunny

I write this to honour a young man I once had the privilege of working with. He was confined to a wheelchair and spent his days alternately in his chair or laying in bed. He could not see well as he was partially blind. He also could not speak much and only uttered two words that made sense: “mama” and “No”. Mostly he uttered guttural sounds, but oh my, he could laugh. I remember describing him to friends of ours and the first thing they asked was, “what kind of quality of life is that?” And they felt sorry for him. Yet it was this young man who taught me much about what ‘quality of life’ really means.

No, he couldn’t walk and his limitations were severe and many. He could move his legs and one arm, and he could turn his head to a limited degree. He also had a feeding tube in his stomach through which he was given nourishment – liquid ‘meals’. I had been asked if I would come work with him as his usual care giver was going off on leave. I was scared. I didn’t think I could do it. I had never done this sort of work before and didn’t think it was a good fit, but his mother encouraged me and, in the end, I agreed to try. It has been a blessing that has had reverberations in my life.

Here is what J. taught me: He taught me there are many ways to communicate without ever speaking a word. He taught me patience. He taught me grace, endurance, forgiveness, and so much more. He taught me what real love looks like.

I would arrive in the early morning and he would be laying awake waiting for me. I would bend over and whisper good morning in his ear. He’d smile. He always smiled.

After the morning routine of bathing, dressing, and breakfast was done I would sit beside his bed and read stories to him. Sometimes I sang songs, he seemed to enjoy that. He also enjoyed games I made up as we exercised his limbs so the muscles would not atrophy. He laughed a lot. It was gratifying to hear him laugh, and when he would turn his head at the sound of my voice and smile his beautiful smile.

He loved it when his little brother, a toddler at the time, was placed on his lap. The little guy was very curious about this big brother and would often hug him and caress his face. J loved that. At other times though, he would slap J or inadvertently hurt him in some way. J would cry, deeply hurt by his little brother’s actions. But he never had the smallest inclination to strike back – he had no desire for revenge. He simply expressed his hurt and pain through tears. J never seemed to get angry – it was just not part of his makeup or personality. Thankfully these occasions were few and far between.

I worked with J for a little over a month, but the time spent with him was overall a joyous experience. He was endlessly patient with my fumbling in the early days and I came to look forward to my time with him. It was a time of great learning, on my part. And it was a time filled with grace, peace, and goodwill. J has many blessings to share with the world, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the benedictions he imparted.

 

 

Feel the fear and do it anyway – zip lining at Marble Mountain, NL


 

Photo credit: Jess Molnar

Several years ago, I was studying journalism at the local college. In the second year of the program we were sent to cover the Canadian Student Leadership Conference. It was an interesting experience, not least because during the conference we were treated to a free pass on the zipline at Marble Mountain. We had been split into several teams to cover various aspects of the gathering and it was my team that was chosen for this dubious assignment.

There were four of us on my team. I had planned to interview and photograph students from across Canada who were taking part during my trek up the mountain. One of my teammates was supposed to participate in zip lining while trying to capture photographs of the experience – she chickened out. That left us with a decision to make: who was going to bite the bullet and take the plunge?

Now, I had always had a huge fear of heights and initially I was adamant it would NOT be me.  However, one of the team was already fitted with a Go-pro camera that was attached to a helmet and she was geared up to go. Another member was struggling with the flu, which knocked him out of the running, so that left me!

I finally consented, for the good of the team. After all, I am nothing if not a team player. I remember praying earnestly that I would live to see another day and asking the Creator to take care of my husband and children. I would not look down. I concentrated on the harness that would fly me through the air and gauging the strength of the cables above that I would be sliding on. They seemed secure. I remember trembling as I stepped off the platform. I had never been so nervous or anxious in my entire life! However, by the time I stepped off the second platform (the zip line zigzags across a deep fjord) I was really enjoying myself and was yelling at the top of my lungs: Whoot! Whoot!

Coming in for a landing Whoot Whoot

Thanks to happenstance I overcame the fear and enjoyed the experience immensely. Part of the assignment was to write a story about the experience, which I did. I was pleased to hear my instructor chuckling as he read it. I learned a lot that day, not least of all was to feel the fear and do it anyway.

The Conversation


The conversation 2

 

“Come, rest upon my petals here and tell me of your story.

Where have you been, My little friend?”

Said the flower to the moth

“I roam high above, where you can never go.

I visit plants and trees and flowers sweet everywhere I travel,”

Said the moth to the flower.

“Oh, to fly up high, to soar upon the winds.

To not be planted in one place, to see beyond the wall.”

Sang the flower to the moth.

“Aw, but you are treasured, for your beauty and your scent.

No worries about foes like birds that would eat you, if they could,”

Said the moth to the flower.

“There are pros and cons to every Life,”

Continued he to she. The moth thought to comfort her with his words so wise

And yet the flower pined and pined for freedom to travel far.

“It’s true, I am admired, and watered every day, but if you think me safe right here

You know not all my visitors,” replied the flower,

“For there are bugs that chew my leaves, And spiders everywhere. Not to mention

honey bees That feed upon my nectar.”

“Aw, so you serve this world,

Nourishing the pollinator,” the moth cried out.

“Oh silly moth, I know the truth – that you as well

Pollinate us flowers,” she answered,

“And so, you see, we have need of thee.

When you brush your soft, soft wings

Against my little petals, you do more than tickle me

Like some ethereal feather. And when you chance to nibble me

And drink deeply of my nectar,” she shyly whispered, “you too carry my

Essence to continue seed production.”

The moth stretched out his wings and proudly strutted his stuff

He thought about all the good he did and didn’t remember why

Venus flytrap chewed up his kind, that naughty, naughty flower.

It was because the caterpillar he once was did damage to her leaves

and ruined her every finery….

The flower knew this, but did not say, for his friendship she treasured

After what seemed a lengthy pause, the moth did once more speak

“We each do our part, to bring beauty to this world, and I will speak to north wind

And ask him when you’re ready, to blow your petals far above the wall so you can see

The wonders of this world,” the moth proclaimed.

And so, it came to be, that during summer’s warmest days the flower bloomed and blossomed. But in the fall the north wind kept his promise and lifted high her petals. She traveled far beyond the wall and lived at last her dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On global warming


I have lived in Fort McMurray for nearly four years and every summer we are faced with smoke from forest fires from across Alberta, British Columbia, the prairies and Ontario, as well as the North West Territories. This summer has been no different. Last week the smoke was so dense we could smell it. It stings your eyes and throat and for people with health issues it becomes a situation where they are house bound.

Last year we had hoped to travel to B.C. but due to smoke and warnings from the health department we were forced to change our plans. My husband does have several health issues and I am sure we were not the only ones forced to alter vacation plans. So, what is my point, you may ask. My point is that besides the environmental costs caused by global warming there are many and varied economic costs as well. The cost to the tourism industry for one.

Of course, there is the huge costs to taxpayers as governments everywhere are faced with ever growing financial challenges from fighting forest fires to cleaning up after severe flooding and other so called ‘natural disasters’.

We take clean air for granted as well as clean, potable water. There is far too much we continue to take for granted. It is disappointing, to say the least, to see our provincial governments fighting against any real efforts to curb global warming, such as a carbon tax. At the same time, they are lagging in taking initiatives to deal with the fall out.

While partisan politics uses every instrument of technology such as mining data to help them shape their promises and their platforms and spend much of their time fighting one another the issues and challenges caused by global warming rage on.

I don’t have any answers except perhaps to say it is more important than ever to exercise your right to vote, in every single election, whether municipal, provincial or federal. Our future and the future of our young people and our very planet may depend on it.

Addicted to Drama?


“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” –  Malcom X

“The world is for thousands a freak show; the images flicker past and vanish; the impressions remain flat and unconnected in the soul. Thus they are easily led by the opinions of others, are content to let their impressions be shuffled and rearranged and evaluated differently.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“When distant and unfamiliar and complex things are communicated to great masses of people, the truth suffers a considerable and often a radical distortion. The complex is made over into the simple, the hypothetical into the dogmatic, and the relative into an absolute.” – Walter Lippmann

I think I need to stop reading news stories, or at least take a break for a while. It can be so depressing. I do believe in the goodness of humanity. I believe that there are more people fighting for the rights and freedoms of all races and creeds than those that would deny the same. I just wish there was more focus on that than on the cruel, vicious, and often insane ramblings of people who would malign the right and just. Last evening, I was watching America’s Got Talent with my husband. There was a young rapper performing a song about gun violence – she is only fourteen years old. That and the response of young people in Florida after the horrific school shooting there earlier this year gives me hope. We need more positive stories.

Unfortunately, the old media adage “if it bleeds it leads” is still much in evidence on all types of media and humanity’s addiction to drama holds sway when it comes to what news is presented. Don’t get me wrong, it is important for these stories to be told. We do need to be informed, but I think we need balance. We need the “feel good” stories. We need to know that all is not lost and we need to know that good can and will prevail. The public outcry against children being torn from their parents at the U.S. border with Mexico did result in positive change. Yes, I know many children still are not reunited with their families, but at least the strong opposition to that horrendous policy forced change. We live in an imperfect world filled with flawed human beings, but as the example of that particular public outcry demonstrates, at our core human beings are decent and good.

 

Yellow Eye


Yellow Eye photo by Carol Morrissey Hopkins

 

Yellow eye

Peeking out of lush leaves

Tell me,

What do you see?

Do you watch as people walk past unaware?

Yellow eye

Like a chameleon you are well hidden

There among the green foliage

Do you seek to know

The mysteries of this world?

What would you say, I wonder?

To the human inhabitants of the earth

What wisdom have you gleaned?

On your patch of green

Do you have insight to impart

To all us two-legged creatures

Who pass you by without a thought

Tell me please

Yellow eye

Taking out the garbage – literally and figuratively


Yesterday was garbage day. The recycling bins are also placed at the curb for emptying. Where we live the recycling, bins are alternated each week. One is light blue and contains paper products, the other is dark blue and contains plastics and aluminum items. When my husband went to put them out he knew it was the dark bins that had to go out. Yet when he looked up and down the street he saw only light blue bins at the curb. He went against the grain and put out the dark blue one anyway. As it turns out, he was right.

So why, you may ask, am I writing about putting out the garbage? Well, it made me think of how easily led we all are. Obviously the first person to put out their bins made a mistake. Yet all our neighbours followed suit. “The blind leading the blind”, so to speak.

We read about “fake news” and the power of social media. Recently I read an article in the Globe and Mail, This lone wolf operative is shaping Ontario’s political discourse, a political analysis by Adam Radwanski (in case you want to check it out yourself).

The article talks about the ‘lone wolf’s intentions of influencing the upcoming provincial election. He created memes he shares on social media with the caption, “Ontario Proud”. It can be very misleading. The memes attack the NDP and malign the Liberal Party. Can we guess which political party this lone wolf would like to see in power? At any rate, these memes are being shared by many on social media without the slightest hesitation.

I get it. People are fed up with Wynn’s liberals and want a change. The problem is that unless we investigate a little further we will not know what hidden agenda lays behind these memes. It’s like everyone following suit with the recycling bins. It’s how Trump got elected president.  Beware the memes people post, and ‘news’ stories from questionable source, that’s all I’m saying. Think for yourself, educate yourself, and don’t be taken in by slick memes and knee-jerk emotion.

Worry: a form of prayer?


I read recently not to worry because worry is a form of prayer that can be like a self-fulfilling prophesy. I can attest to that; whether my expectations are good or whether they are fraught with worry I pretty much always get what I expect. I’ve read a lot of books on the power of positive thinking and I do believe whole-heartedly in that – if nothing else it makes you feel good and feeling good is always preferable to feeling lousy. But the concept of worry being a form of prayer is a completely new idea to me. “As within, so without”, as the saying goes. So, in that respect I can see how worry can influence people, circumstances, and situations. People seem to be drawn to happy, confident individuals more so than those who seem to have a problem for every solution.

I am not a guru. I don’t have any answers. But I do know from experience that worry never helps anything. And as my mother used to say, “it all comes out in the wash”.

“Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere”. – author unknown

And one more: “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” – Swedish proverb