Little does he know he is my hero. 19 months ago we were hit with the worst pandemic in my life time. We were all a bit confused and not sure exactly what to do. I washed my hands constantly, kept as far away from people as possible and Clorox wipes became my best friend. A few weeks in, I saw people in other countries on lock down and wearing masks. I went into mask mode very early on. I am, by no means, patting myself on the back, but I have never caught Covid-19. Anyway, enough about me, because this blog is about Mark. Early on, in the spring of 2020, I saw a lot of buzz on Facebook about Mark Hughes, owner of Regalia clothing store, giving away masks to nursing home residents. Soon after, he was putting masks outside his business asking people to pick them up and use them for free. I would bet half of Eureka Springs was running around wearing very cool handmade masks they picked up on White Street in front of Regalia. Mark reached out to our community and brought many into the compassion-giving business with him. It became a loving, saving lives community love fest; an army of caring people. Eureka Springs has always been a place of goodness and healing, so what better time to hone up on kindness skills following his leadership.
A crew of 25 people produced 3,500 face-masks to give away to the public free of charge from March 15th to May 1st of 2020. Since that time, Mark has sewn and sold over 9,000 masks, as well as giving many away and donating some to various organizations.
To this day, Mark has advocated for community safety and unity. We are a small town that thrives on tourists. I am sure he has probably lost some financial gain by proudly displaying his commitment to making masks, with large signs right in front of his business. But I doubt if that bothers Mark. He is too busy being a compassionate, good citizen. I am always looking for love in action. When I thanked him for his community service he just said, “If you think that’s something, wait till you get the count on how many monarch butterflies we release by the end of the year”!
So if you find yourself in Eureka Springs Arkansas, head down White Street to Regalia Handmade Clothing Studio and give Mark a well deserved "thank you" and purchase a piece of his amazing handmade clothing, and a mask or two.
Oh, and if you happen to see a monarch butterfly while you are visiting Eureka Springs, you might want to thank Mark for that too.
Can tears cleanse wounds? They are a saline solution. Do they wash over emotional scars and mend the hurt?
My tears flow like waterfalls. Are they as beautiful? As magnificent? Releasing pain, fear and sometimes joy.
And why were we told not to cry? If crying heals our inner pain. We should have been told to cry, to feel and to be real.
Where do tears go that are left inside? Do they rot or become moldy and corrupt emotions? Or do they simply die?
I have always been a 'cry baby'. Never pulled up my big girl pants. Saggy pants and wet face, my mantra.
My motto, let it flow, laughter or tears. The easier you cry, the better you shall laugh. For they are two sides of the same being.
Messy? Yes, life is one big mess! We spend our time mopping the floor with our tears and sweeping the remnants of healing.
I have never regretted a tear, a smile or an apology. Those are the gems of a life freely lived. A real, authentic life.
Today is the 4th of July, 2021. I had planned a big celebration. We were going to watch fireworks off our new pontoon boat down at the Marina. The boat is the culmination of a 60 year dream and celebrating that on the 4th seemed like a dream come true. A special celebration after 18 months of a pandemic that kept us away from all special events seemed like a mighty good idea. I planned to invite a few friends along, have pizza and wine and snacks.
It is the 4th of July and I am laying in bed because I can't walk without assistance. Tangled in wishes again. I typically start my day with coffee and a walk through my small garden to soak in the beauty of the flowers and the promise of a few fresh vegetables in the mid summer. Because I have been in bed for four days, I have missed those walks. I have a huge appreciation for those who cannot take a walk at all; those who find themselves in dark places that they cannot soon be free from. I have found in my tangled dreams a clarity of love and acceptance. My sweet husband has taken pictures of the garden and texted them to me, so I might enjoy the beauty and keep my dream alive. My friends have brought me coffee and pastries and meals. Today my dear friend brought me a basket of fruit and cheeses and crackers with little American flags decorating the amazing gift. Prayers sent my way left me in total peace during my surgery. I have had a slight setback and another small spoiled plan. But in its place life has left me a huge bouquet of unexpected poured out love, and in my pain, bits of laughter so real that it conquered the soreness. It is hard to put to words what those little flags meant. They will be remembered by me more than any huge fireworks show. Kindness is a healing balm and I will take it over any shining award or brilliantly laid plan I can conceive. Life never fails to bring us struggles. I suppose that is life's greatest gift. We see much more clearly in our dim days than in our bright ones. We focus in on what is important and real when we are flat on our backs.
God Bless America
The home of the free white man.
The place where a black man’s life is not worth $20.
And black youth dare not walk alone.
God Bless America
The stolen land of the greedy.
Where Native women disappear and traffickers need not fear.
For that taken life holds no value or price.
God Bless America
The unguided times, as green flags of money love fly.
Where bigots roam where buffalo used to be.
This is the land of the free.
God Bless America
Where children go hungry and elders die alone.
Where crooked politicians reign unchained
and claim evil as good.
Where a man's life is taken in broad daylight
as passersby still hold hope to a dream.
But $20 can't buy that dream anymore.
God Bless America.
Typically we would be preparing to set off for South Dakota about right now. We go to support the Big Foot riders and spend time with family and friends. This year we will participate from afar. Last year we took our friend Dr. Jesse Lopez up to the ride and spent a week supporting in any way we could. After the ride was over, we headed back home in a horrific snow storm, but that is another story. For some reason, what stands out to me is a moment from the first morning during saddle up time. It was early and it was cold. There is always kind of an excited frenzy on the first morning of the ride. Seeing old friends and finding horses, bridles and saddles, enough to go around for about 100 riders. Young people, first timers and the old veterans all preparing to make a sacrificial journey to honor the ancestors and prepare a path for the future generations. On that morning I was mulling around lost in the activity. The sun was barely up and the ground was covered in old snow and people and horse prints. I heard someone ask me for help. It was a young man probably 14 or 15 riding high above me on a Lakota horse. He asked me if I would look on the ground. A lens had fallen out of his glasses. I looked up and sure enough, there he was, glasses on with one lens missing. I thought, "This is impossible", but I said "Sure, I am really good at finding things." I couldn't believe what I had just said, because in this place at this time, to find a transparent lens among the snow, twigs and prints was just impossible! So I quickly called on St. Anthony in my silent prayer. Within 5 seconds, on the ground I saw it, as if light were shining all around it, the lens! A small miracle. I picked it up and handed it to him, feeling for a moment like a superhero. I knew this young boy didn't have spare glasses and besides, he was setting off for a 6 day sacrifice. I really don't know why that moment meant so much to me. I never caught that young man's name and didn't see him again. It is not the giant moments that define our value but the little helping we do along the way each day. The Chief Big Foot Memorial Ride is a miracle in itself. That these young people would be willing to brave the bitter cold and sacrifice any comfort at all to take a journey that reminds us what is truly important in this life. And do it with joy and with perseverance. I am humbled to serve a warm bowl of soup, gather up warm socks to give away and help with buying feed for the horses. John's Lakota grandpa taught him 'there are no small things, everything is sacred'. I sure felt that lesson as I reached down to the cold rich ground and grabbed up a solitary lens and handed it to a real superhero on a horse. God protect and bless the riders this 2020 Big Foot Memorial Ride.
For more about the Big Foot Ride, watch this moving video:
Return to Wounded Knee
John and I love Christmas. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the cards, the gifts and the gatherings. This being 2020, the gatherings are out. We will miss them. To make up for them we will load up on all the other facets.
It is cloudy and raining heavy this morning. It is a week before Thanksgiving. I've written a lot about this pandemic. There may not be one for another hundred years. I want my great grandchildren and their grandchildren to know about this time. The year grandma was not invited to Christmas dinner. As illness and death surround me like this dark, ominous storm outside my window, I bask in Christmas magic tucked in to a holiday dream my husband and I created over the last 30 years. I've often contemplated why we love Christmas so much. This morning a clarity has arrived. We both suffered in life in many ways. The first few years of our childhood were somewhat normal. We were embraced in the loving arms of our families. Christmas traditions were a normal part of our early years. Then suddenly we were both cast out into the darkness of unfamiliarity. John through divorce and me through death. Both of our experiences were followed by years of abuse and neglect. During those days Christmas was a time of reprieve, a small taste of normalcy. And through the grace of God and wonder of the years, we found our place in life together.
Our first Christmas together as friends, I was going through a cancer diagnosis and a rocky divorce. I was broke, sick and confused. Christmas snuck up on me. One of my students gifted me with a little 3 inch wooden Christmas tree. I took that little tree home to my trashed out temporary townhouse and put it on the table. That was it, that was my simple magic making. 30 years later, I still have that tree and it comes to remind me each year of the true and simple meaning of Christmas. Now, when I look at it next to my huge 12 foot tree with 400 decorations from 29 years of memories, that little tree says God's love is bigger than my challenges, bigger than death and divorce and cancer and yes, now a pandemic. God's love is huge and is as real in a three inch tree as in a Christmas wonderland.
The following Christmas, a year after cancer, John and I had followed friendship with love. I had moved into a house I bought on my own. Painted the living room walls light magenta and covered the floors with thick dark magenta carpet. I took a day off from teaching in early December and John and I went to a Christmas tree farm and cut down our first Christmas tree together. It was a cold day and a light snow was falling. We drank hot chocolate and brought that perfect magical tree into my magenta fairy room and decorated it. I was in love with that moment and also knew I wanted to spend every Christmas with this partner in creativity. By the next Christmas, John was down on one knee asking me to be his wife. It was Christmas day when he proposed with a song he wrote called 'Will You'. He proposed to me in his childhood bedroom, the one he spent years of abuse in. It was fitting because as we closed that door we opened the one to prosperity and healing. Did I mention I said YES! Nine months later we were married.
John and I built our magical life of love and abundance out of a need to balance out the years of loneliness and lack. We have succeeded. This beauty inside these walls does not negate the dark clouds outside, but is richer because of them. The lights shine brighter in the darkness. A child, a baby in a cradle, born in humility is that light. His life is the mystery and the majesty of this season. His life is the hope and the shining beauty of the meaning of why we celebrate.
John and I have tried to co-create that wonder each day of our lives, with special attention given to these few weeks. We light the fire, I bake the cookies, we decorate to the extreme. Our home is an expression of love for each other and for our friends and family.
We gather with you all in our memories and in our hopes for the future.
We left Salt Lake City early on Sept 11th. We were heading to Great Bend, Kansas to the Shafer Gallery for a concert on Sept 12th. After several hours of early morning driving we got a phone call from my mom. It was sketchy. She only said that our country was under attack and New York had been the spot of the first attack. We were deep in the Rocky Mountains and had no service at all. I couldn't call my mom back, we couldn't get any stations on the radio. We drove a couple more hours just wondering what the hell was going on. Finally, in the early afternoon we found a small town, got gas and found a restaurant open. On the TV they played over and over the footage of the carnage at the twin towers. Everyone around us was in shock. We ate, got back in the car. We drove in silence the first hour. After awhile we talked about what we could do to help. The album 'Heal' was conceived on that day as we traveled and felt the great loss and pain of our fellow citizens. We also began plans for our first Mending Medicine Retreat.
As we stopped for the night, lucky to score the last room in a small town, we contemplated; should our show go on the next evening? After calling the college and concert promoter we made the decision to go through with the concert. It was such an amazing evening of healing that we gained a much greater appreciation of our vision for our music and life. That two day journey, that 21 hours on the road, became a turning point for us. After 9/11, there became a point to the trajectory of our music touring. We had been set forth to bring a healing balm into a hurting world. I can only imagine how many others turned their lives toward love after that tremendous day of hate. The light always shines brighter than the darkness. The love is a mountain, the hate is a flea. We remember this day each year and we let it turn our compassionate light on high beam.
1965 on the 'Edmund Pettus bridge' was a defining moment in my life. I was only 10 years old but I made a life-long decision that day; my life was meaningless if I didn't live it fighting injustice. I am 65 years old, and although I am no John Lewis, I have taken his call to 'good trouble' seriously. 55 years ago I knew my faith would not stand along side apathy and injustice. As I watched John Lewis cross the river today, I took a photo off the TV as his body rested half way across the bridge. I said to myself, 'John Lewis, you led us half way there, thank you!' Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. set us on the path, and now in the year 2020 it is time for us as a people to struggle on and finish the dream set before us. I probably will not live to see the finish line but maybe, like John Lewis, I can taste the victory and know that equality can be realized in this country. The BLM is taking up the banner and marching forward. Wonderful things are happening, but we have such a long way to go to defeat racism and bigotry. One of my heroes crossed the bridge today to be met with a victor’s reward. Unlike 1965 when he was beaten and almost lost his life. Miraculously, he lived and served and now is greeted with the words from his Lord, 'Well done my good and faithful servant'. When I read John Lewis' book I was in awe of his gentle and courageous spirit. Always loving, always forgiving. I know that I am quick to retaliate and to hold grudges. As I travel my last days here on this Earth, I will aspire to not only take up the banner of justice but to call upon John to help me with the humble part. A great man who followed a greater God has walked among us. Let us follow him and honor him by creating a world of justice, courage and compassion.
There is not enough good news lately. And way too much bad news. When I began to write this journal piece, I decided it had to be encouraging. Well here is the thing, two days ago I fell outside while walking down to the lake. I sprained my ankle and tore a ligament in it and now it looks like I swallowed a baseball and it fell straight through me to my foot! I thought quarantined was bad, well turns out it's not. Being bedridden in pain, now that's bad. Here is the encouraging part; I didn't break anything. I had no plans anyway and I have learned to be much more careful and deliberate in my movements. I can still laugh and I can still hope. Joy does not ever walk away, we just sometimes don't feel like experiencing it. As soon as we laugh, as soon as we lighten up, fear and anxiety fly away. Distraction is very important right now during this present upheaval. Perspective is an amazing healer. It always comes with a dose of gratitude. I have continually sought the beauty in this tragic moment. Not to ignore the pain but to lighten the pain. Gratitude has been my drug of choice. With my fall I kept telling myself how truly lucky I was for not breaking something worse. So while I'm feeling pretty frustrated and looking for some light at the end of the tunnel, I look inward, that's where the light is. Just gotta pull that light past the dark heartaches and let it shine on the aftermath of the storm and let a rainbow appear. More storms, more light and more rainbows. Much love to you all, looking forward to us meeting again and sharing the love.
Compassion is currently a buzz word, as it should be. Compassion is the opposite of bullying. It looks deeper than the surface of an individual and grants grace as opposed to judgement. Compassion starts with the ability to feel empathy. Compassion is the fruit of empathy. In our highly charged culture of self survival and the Facebook world of instant response, we have somehow lost the art of contemplation. It is the ability to understand someone else’s viewpoint and to care about another person's feelings that will allow you to heal broken relationships. A person must first be able to connect to their own feelings and be able to articulate them before they can recognize someone else’s feelings. It takes time and depth to show compassion. It takes perspective and wholeness to heal. Take, for example, the discord in politics the last 4 years. Friends and family torn through anger and self-righteousness. Why? I, for one, am probably one of the most hot headed liberals you will ever meet. I have made my share of knee-jerk reactions and have had to apologize more times than I want. But when I take the time, sleep on it and consider the underlying message of the victim or the attacker, it usually boils down to fear or misunderstanding. So what is the truth, what matters? Love matters, kindness matters and peace matters. If we open the morning with a commitment to compassion, ignore what doesn’t matter and choose empathy, we will heal 90% of our relationships. Some cannot be healed and that is okay. Develop the wisdom to know the difference. Be compassionate first with yourself. Forgive and nurture the person you are and make sure to laugh at yourself. That is good medicine. Why take yourself so serious? No offense, but each one of us plays a very small part in the overall scheme of things. The irony is that, through love, we play a huge part in the cosmos. Consider how quickly a political or cultural atmosphere changes. Be bold and be kind. Resist and love. These concepts are not mutually exclusive. You can stand up for what you believe without stepping on someone else. We are all learning, we are all growing and we are all heading to the same end. On the journey, acts of compassion will pave the way for a life of beauty and purpose. Be quick to forgive, to understand and to allow for differing opinions. The forest teaches us the beauty of diversity. Human beings are full of the magnificence of individuality. See us as a field of wildflowers. We can coexist and we can love each other not in spite of our differences but because of our differences.
It is the ever-present longing in the heart to give out what truth and goodness lies inside. It is the courage to speak up when fear tries to build a wall. Love is a quiet moment and a raging sea. It exists in every conversation and every silent thought. Love is not minimal but as expansive as the stars in the night sky. It is as plentiful as the grains of sand on the ocean border. Without love there is nothing. In love we are created and we are born. In love we take our last breath and enter into the hands of love. There is no place love does not exist, even in the depths of hell, love is remembered. So worry not will you know love, because love knows you and will not abandon you.
Love is as you are, so be love and let love be love.
Civil rights champion Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent his short life teaching us about how to love. Love is a glorious thing, but without action it is just a thing. Dr. King had a dream, a beautiful dream, where people would be eager to take up for one another, where compassion would reign. We live in a world today, where we really could use a living hero. Simple kindness has been forgotten. Hatred and division has been bought and paid for. We have blatant KKK and Nazi’s boldly walking the streets of our communities. We have bullies striking out at everyone and everything they fear. We have name-calling and lies being hurled from political pulpits. Families divided by ideology. But I’m not in despair. I see truth currently rising like a mighty tide. I see neighbors reaching out with an open hand of generosity. I see a dream waking up through a nightmare where the majority of people will protect the disenfranchised, the poor, the hungry and the abused. I see a silent army of caring, feeling soldiers of good. To say 'I love you' is hollow. To live, to act, to sacrifice I love you can move mountains. Today in memory of Dr. King, do something. Rise up and make a difference in someone’s life. Give what you have to someone who needs it, whether it’s a hug, a cup of coffee, a letter, a phone call or an encouraging word. Do not support bullies and haters. Speak up with kindness and say no, that is not okay. Please do not walk by the needy, do not be silent about racism. Exercise love because dormant love is not love at all.
Thank you Dr. King for the example you have given us!
Love is a Verb!
My memory is not the best. I usually attribute that to trauma; at the age of 12 from my father’s sudden death. Also the 60s drug culture and my tendency to throw caution to the wind. Writing has helped me to open up some of those closed portals to yesterday. My lack of memory has served me well by sheltering me from many painful experiences. But it has also dwarfed me in that I am unable to recollect pleasant memories, including those from my love-filled childhood. I’ve never held on to old pictures or family memorabilia. I have no items from my childhood, no baby books, no precious family photos; nothing to lose, right? Nothing useless to cling to, like a dear memory of a person who will eventually be ripped away from you. These contracts we make in our psyche are strong. They can rule our life and destroy it too.
So I am attempting to pry open locked doors and step into my memory.
I oil the locks with tears and use strong intention to see a face, hear a voice, feel a feeling. It’s not easy. One I have been able to pull out is the memory of my dad reluctantly agreeing to read the morning funnies to me. Since he was a firefighter and only home half the time, every other Sunday was his ‘sleep in until church’ day. The morning paper would arrive early. I was ready. I would tear through the useless news and head straight to the comic section, which I referred to as the ‘funnies’. I would perch myself outside of my parents bedroom while all my brothers and sisters were still fast asleep. The moment I heard movement and saw my mom come out the bedroom door into the kitchen, I made my move. I moved close to the bed rustling the paper loud enough so my dad would certainly wake up. He would lift up, look down, and I suppose make an instant decision, send me away so he could sleep or invite me up so he could daddy. It was always the latter. I would say, “Daddy will you read me the funnies? Please?” He would say, “Get up here, which one do you want first?” And I would point to ‘Little Lulu’. Then, for the next 15 or 20 minutes, I would have what I wanted most in the world, my dad’s total and undivided attention. I would giggle and he would say, “Just one more Peggy” and read ‘Peanuts’ and put down the paper and then I would giggle and say “Just one more daddy”. That is where I learned the art of persuasion and the truth of love.
Oh sweet memories, like dreams, you sometimes hide from us, but when you appear and let us in we find treasures richer than gold.
December 15th, 2019. Only 2weeks left in this decade. Sitting by the fire, drinking coffee this morning in contemplation. Most mornings I contemplate. How is it time goes by so fast? Lately it seems like wake up, go to bed. The hours in between slip through my grasp like sand. I certainly cannot hold on. Even my play moments are haunted by the reality of my life giving way to years. I wonder how many other 65 year olds feel this way? I wonder will I connect again to the life force of youth?
These are serious moments, probably brought on by fatigue and stress. I wish I would have asked my mom about this. I wish I would have asked my mom a lot. She had so much wisdom.
I know I have lived more happy days than sad and I know I have given more than I have taken. Perhaps that is the best we can hope for. I have experienced far more love than hatred and danced far more times than sat out. Tears have come easily as has laughter. My faith has remained, though tried. I’ve learned there is no joy in material gain and fame is fleeting. A grandchild’s hug is more powerful than an ocean sunset and hearing I love you is a greater gift than gold. In the quiet stillness is the voice of God. In the grip of fear are the hands of angels and in the height of despair is the hope of tomorrow. This life, though fleeting and failing is a gift. Amid the morning quiet, the fire sings, the birds dance, the coffee warms my soul and the words I write give meaning to my simple life. I reach for gratitude to gain perspective through my tears and find a hidden treasure among the ruins. A thankful heart will sustain me as morning contemplations release me.
This is the season when most of us think about joy. It is the season for compassion. If that’s true then why are counselors seeing more clients this month? Because lack of joy is even more disheartening when it is expected; when we see the bright lights, the parties, the hustle and bustle and we are totally disconnected from it. Good News! It is okay to be disconnected from that ‘joy’ because that is not real joy.
Real joy is a deep sigh, it is a touch of blue coming through the dark clouds, it is finding a bit of butter for your toast when you thought you were out. Real joy is simple and it is quiet. It is gratitude wrapped up in a soft blanket. It is the hug you really needed, maybe just a smile, or someone remembering your name. You feel joy in your 7th direction, in your gut, that place in you that is you.
So let go of that horrible to-do list, and turn down that party you don’t want to go to. Connect to the real joy, that inner satisfaction that you are connected to you and that is enough. Be compassionate to that person inside of you first, then compassion will naturally flow out from you.
Joy to your world!
After 18 days on the road with 12 more to go, I wake up in Onset Massachusetts in a sweet little parish house. With 6 events coming up in the next three days, three towns, three different beds and lots of new friends to meet, I attempt to quiet my mind. I am almost finished with a cup of coffee, loaded with cream for comfort and longing for my bed back home. Last night saw my 6th different bed with 5 more to go before my own bed wraps itself around my familiar dreams.
As I retire, semi retire, this tour, Lord willing, will be the last major one. Along the way, I have accumulated little treasures as well as lasting friendships. My home is full of over 20 years of sparkling items that grabbed my attention and my pocket book. My heart is full of over 20 years of special loving friends that caught my heart and soul. This morning as I long for home, I have a melancholy feeling. I also have a feeling of gratefulness and awe at the many places and people John and I have touched along the way. An ending is always a new beginning, for life is a circle, not a straight line. My two new birdies are wearing glasses, I suppose a sign of my fun filled aging. I think when I place them on my mantle above the fireplace back home in my Ozark Nest with many other bird friends, I will call them 'John and Peggy' and tell them, "You are home now, enjoy the stay."
Today I woke to the news that one of my heroes has died. Elijah Cummings, a courageous man of conviction and courage has now left his body. I am sad that I will no longer hear new words of inspiration from him. He left a legacy of volumes of service and sentiments of equality. It is because of him and others like him; John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelo and so many others that I am the person I am today. Because of them, I strive to add justice and compassion to the world. Because of them, I know what sacred sacrifice can bring. I want to honor women and men of fiery conviction because without them we become a lukewarm world with people of cold hearts and empty visions.
I know that Elijah would never want accolades but I know he would forgive me for bestowing them. Kindness and courage are what make people of compassion. I am sad this morning to lose a voice of truth when there are so few in our world today. Dear God, thank you for Elijah, now may he rest in the arms of his Savior. Please send us more selfless voices who teach us that love is a verb!
When you fall in love in your 20s or 30s, you don’t really think about love in your 60s or 70s. How it changes and how it evolves. You don’t know the richness or depth that can exist between two people. How a simple glance at a party can say 'I’m ready to go home'. How a constant routine can comfort the same as an 'I love you'. How a slow kiss can awaken a sleeping memory. As I turn 65 today and think of all the moments, the memories my life has accumulated, I can barely picture them all. I didn’t know how much you could love a 7 year old boy who lives a thousand miles away from you. Or how you can ache for your departed mom. So much I didn’t know and so much I don’t know now. I certainly didn’t know the pleasure of a quiet morning slowly sipping coffee while watching the birds out my back window. I didn’t know how your sweet magenta birthday card, placed right in my morning comfort spot could bring me to tears. My life, it don’t count for nothing, but the moments of love are a full treasure chest of riches. I’ve been a little intimidated by growing old, and 65 seemed like quite a scary number, but it appears to be just another day. An opportunity to be loved and to love.
When I was a little girl I would cross the street from my house, sit on the tall parking lot curb, lay back and look up at the clouds. Up in the distant sky I would see moms and dads kissing, puppy dogs turn into dragons, and elephants on skateboards appear! That parking lot was my domain. Outside was where I wanted to be. I could throw a ball for hours against the side of St. Matthews school or sit and watch as the boys played wiffle ball. I practiced cheer-leading there and the safety of my house was one short run across the empty street. I could hear my mom call me for lunch, or not hear her call me to remind me of my chores. I didn’t need to be taught compassion then, it was merely a way of life. If a neighbor needed anything and we had the means to give it we did. We constantly asked the nuns and priest if they needed anything; gave people rides to the store, helped shovel a driveway or mow a shut-in's yard. Sometimes we would be rewarded with a quarter and would make haste to the candy store. Kindness was just part of the landscape, something you didn’t have to think about. I believe that kind of goodness still lives deep in the soul of our country. Throw out Facebook and cable media and useless hours of video games. Throw out labels and the me me me conversation we hear today. Throw out selfies and selfishness. Under all that veneer is a desire to care about others; a true empathy for those less fortunate and a want of pure simplicity and love. As a country, we are always first to come to the aid of those who face some kind of disaster. We desperately want to solve the problems hate causes. We don’t want to see people hurt. It is true, people are turned off by the egotistical folks and attracted to the humble.
Compassion, like clouds, is always out there. We just need the vision and the space to see it. Let’s all be a part of the beauty. It surrounds us. Just believe!
Our society is becoming more and more isolationist. We have moved from being community-based to the nuclear family way of life; closed off from our community. When was the last time you borrowed a cup of sugar from your neighbor? Do you know your neighbors’ names? I don’t. As I reach out beyond my comfort zone and give away a Compassion Coin, I see delighted recipients. But what I have heard from others is that it is difficult for them to reach out. It is unfamiliar and a bit intimidating. I pondered this response and I have some ideas about the resistance. Because we have become so isolated, taking more than a moment with a stranger feels threatening. Luckily, once we reach out we find the response of the person is delightful. The benefit of giving the Compassion Coin is not only for the receiver; actually the most benefit is to the giver. It activates our empathy space and calls us out of our isolation. Remember the old adage, “It is better to give than to receive"? If we are going to survive as a society we are going to have to get past FaceTime and into real time relationships. We are going to have to feel connected to a community. It is not enough to hold a Compassion Coin. Like compassion itself, its value is experienced in action, by giving it away. I have found so many ways to use my coins. On the days I am out and about I am looking for ways to lift someone up. I don’t always find someone but I usually do. Trust me, in the crazy world we live in I could stay safe within the walls of my made up homogenized world. But I realize we gotta reach out, we gotta love and we most definitely need to heal. My surrogate dad, Fr. Bob, told me in no uncertain terms to get out of my comfort zone, and I still heed those words today. No, it’s not comfortable to do an act of kindness to a stranger or a friend, it feels unfamiliar and that is why we need to do it! Tell fear, “You are not driving this car today, as a matter of fact, get in the back seat and be quiet.” Drive your life with confidence, paying the toll by paying it forward. Thanks my friends for letting me share. Love to you all.
When I saw this picture come across my Facebook feed late last night, I saw a story, a compassion story, and felt compelled to write about it. I awoke with it still on my mind. So, snuggled up in my oversized worn-out reflective chair, with warm cup of coffee in hand I await the flow. When I first looked at this picture I only saw children and a puppet show. I saw the brilliance of art. Art, poetry, music, theater, painting, the place where spirit meets flesh and gives creative fists to compassion. Art, where our senses are awakened and our emotions take over. It is with art that our defenses make way and the door is opened to our authenticity. In this real moment love flows. When I showed this picture to my husband, I said "Isn’t this beautiful?", and he replied, "Yes, and sad." I immediately realized, that is the connection of compassion; beauty and sorrow. A kind hand reaching out to the hurting. A puppet show for war torn children. A moment of laughter in days of fears and tears. We, as compassionate souls, offer those moments which, though fleeting, are life saving. We may not be able to hold a puppet show in the desert but we can sure be the hands that lift our neighbor out of their dry and battled places. I’ve seen dozens of these pictures of Syria destroyed and hopeless, but only this one of children and a simple puppet show has given wings to my hope. We live in a time where every day may seem like a battlefield. We live in a time when certain evil wants to uproot children from hospital beds and send them off to certain death. These times may seem unbearable. The only saving grace is to find your own way to put on a puppet show in the most unlikely place, to reach out with a hug, with a call, with a heart of love. To look at the light and call out the darkness. Call me Pollyanna if you must, but I am totally believing love will conquer hate and as a unified compassion army we will do it one small act at a time.....believe!
When you are discussing compassion you need to understand it’s opposite. I have come to believe that the opposite of compassion is fundamentalism.
Today the battle lines are drawn between those who would adhere to a strict line of rules or laws and those who adhere to love. Love covers a multitude of sin, fundamentalism condemns. Love accepts, fundamentalism rejects. Compassion sees the broken down and reaches out to help, where fundamentalism says ‘if you are broken down, you probably got what you deserve.’ There is no mercy, no grace, no grey area and the driving force in fundamentalism is fear. You see the results of this belief in most mass shootings, in 9/11, in ethnic superiority and in male dominated societies.
There are both religious and cultural fundamentalists. Anyone who believes they are essentially right and shows no sign of budging is a fundamentalist. They claim right to country, to God, to cultural mores, and cannot experience empathy. They cause great harm in our world. And yet the truth is these people need compassion the most. They cling to fundamentalism out of hurt and fear and loneliness. By choosing us over them we are exacerbating the problem. I’ve been trying lately to just ignore the top layer of their rhetoric and picture the hurting child who wants love and can’t seem to get or accept it. I see their actions, though sometimes horrible, as a symptom of a disease and compassion as the saving balm. It’s tough because I despise the racism, Nazism, ethnocentrism, but my negative reaction only accelerates the fire. Only love cools the flames. I’ve been an activist and a hothead my whole life. But at this phase of my life I choose to be a ‘Radical Compassionate’. Which means I am gonna have to love my fundamentalist neighbor. It’s tough but not impossible. Imagine love so abundant it lights the way for those who hate!
My favorite part of the CBS Evening News is the final segment ‘Eye on America’. It features beautiful stories of people helping one another. Inspirational stories that always make me smile. I do, however, have to sit thru 50 minutes of dark and depressing stories first. Maybe that is what makes the last ten minutes so glorious. Ten minutes of light will outshine 50 minutes of darkness every time. Here is the good news, no matter how deep the hatred; a slight bit of love will outweigh all the hate.
Imagine the world if the news was fifty minutes light and ten minutes dark. That is the goal of bcompassionate.com. And it is doable. One small act multiplied by immeasurable light. Like the story of the young girl in Arkansas who spent her time delivering love and goodies to residents in a nursing home. There is so much goodness going on all around us, most we don’t see, but it is there. People are basically good and that needs to be celebrated!
It is empathy with legs and justice in your extended hands. Compassion is love in action. When you get out of 'you' and flow with the energy of love which makes up the mind of altruism. I’ve thought long and hard about this and I’ve come to realize the only thing that matters in this life is to be a friend to my neighbors. The goal of this new blog and website is to inspire readers to reach out to touch a hurting world and place a little balm in the dry places and a listening ear in the lonely faces. Also to find the hidden treasure you carry within, to give and to create a whole world of healing. It won’t take much, maybe a phone call, a smile, a meaningful gift, a couple of dollars, a dozen cookies, and a kind word. Profound simplicity turns darkness to light. So it is with gratitude that I take this journey with you. Please be compassionate to me and share your stories with me. What compassionate acts did you witness today? In what way were you able to be used as a compassionate ambassador? Your ideas help us all, so take 5 minutes and share. Blessings.
Peggy Perry-Hill has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan. She spent many years as a public school teacher. Her goal was always to be a full time writer. She has spent the last 25 years traveling the globe with her husband John Two-Hawks, presenting concerts workshops and retreats. Her mantra has been 'making music and making friends'. Peggy has also written several books with her latest being 'Give Peas a Chance' a nostalgic 60s cookbook which she wrote to hold onto some levity in her life during the pandemic. She has facilitated Women of Wisdom (WOW) retreats for over 15 years. Peggy is the owner of Circle Studios Records and CSR Media Publishing Company. Her passion is compassion and she has stood for decades by another mantra, Love is a Verb, so her main goal in writing is to inspire her readers into action. Peggy Perry-Hill is a wife, mother, and grandmother who loves writing, music, theater and culinary arts.