Category Archives: Blessings

The Power of Kindness

I’m thrilled to have a guest blogger today, Karen Cioffi.  Below is a reprint of a post from her site.  It’s a great reminder of the power of small acts of kindness. At the end of the post Karen is offering a great promotion for writers and those who are involved in marketing.

This article is a departure from my regular postings, but I read a touching story yesterday, sent from Hope Clark, in the Funds for Writers newsletter. It told the story of a freshman nerd who got bullied and a kind stranger who took action.

The gist of the story: Walking home from school one Friday, a boy noticed another boy (the nerd) carrying a load of books. Watching, he saw a group of kids deliberately knock him down. He felt sorry for the boy and instead of just walking by, he stopped and helped. The boys ended up becoming best friends.

Years later, after thriving and growing during high school, the nerd was giving the graduation speech. He revealed that the Friday he met his best friend, he planned to kill himself that weekend. That’s why he had all his books and belongings from school, to save his mom the grief of having to get them. His best friend, without ever knowing until then, had saved his life with a simple act of kindness and friendship.

This is not the only story about how a kind act actually saved someone’s life; there are many such true stories.

The point is: One small act of kindness can turn someone’s day around, can turn anger into calmness, can save a life.

And, that act of kindness can have a rippling affect. That high school nerd went on to become a doctor – who knows how many lives he saved or might save. But, the rippling effect doesn’t have to be in the form of a doctor, it can be another act of kindness, a smile, a helping hand to someone else.

I recently listened in on a webinar about breaking through your own stumbling blocks, no matter how deep rooted they are. One of the points delved into the fact that each of us is from an original source, most of us consider that source God. Since we’re all created by God, we are all basically one.

While this isn’t a great revelation, this philosophy has been around a while, it does remind us that we should do unto others as we’d have them do to us . . . since we are all one.

Would you prefer a kind word or an angry word, a smile or a frown, being brought down or encouraged, a slap or a kiss. You get the idea.

Our actions cause reactions in those we interact with – you just never know what that one simple act of kindness or friendliness will cultivate.

The world has many heroes, such as firefighters, those in the military, the police, rescuers, and so on, who risk their lives to help others and save lives. A kind word, an act of kindness, a friendly gesture, while not heroic and on a much smaller scale, has the same capability.

Years ago I listened to a speech about how during the gold rush people worked hard to search through dirt and rock to find gold. It brought out that we should do the same toward people. Rather than quickly finding fault, take the time and effort to search for the good in others. Search for the gold.

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Karen Cioffi is a published author, freelance writer, and marketer, and to start the New Year with a BANG, from Jan. 1 through Feb. 28, 2012, she is offering all her writing and marketing e-books (purchased directly from her site/s using the Paypal SHOPPING CART) for a $1.19 each. And, this will include new titles added within that time period.  For a complete list of the available titles and links to more information:

http://www.karencioffiwritingandmarketing.com/2011/12/2012-writing-and-marketing-ebook.html

For a complete list (with brief descriptions of each ebook) go to:

http://www.karencioffiwritingandmarketing.com/p/karens-books.html

A Thanksgiving Tradition: three things of joy

Sometimes family traditions have a way of slipping through the cracks of everyday life. My family’s Thanksgiving tradition usually began at the beginning of November.  Each evening over dinner, we would all share three things we were thankful for and then tie one red bow for each thing.  Eventually these bows adorned our Christmas tree.  So on November 18th, I emailed my kids (they don’t live at home anymore) and husband with my three things for the day and asked them to do the same through the end of the month.

As a mom, I’m the one who usually gets the traditions rolling. I’ve come to learn that things don’t need to be perfect nor do we need to do everything the way we once did to find value in our traditions.  Traditions are about connections.  They can morph a little, but returning to our traditions brings us closer together.

For more info the “three things” tradition, check out my post https://theadvantagepoint.wordpress.com/2010/12/11/a-holiday-challenge/

This week:  Review your traditions. Are there some that need to be nurtured?

Overcoming the Odds to Graduate

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”~~Ben Okri

I recently found myself at the graduation ceremony for Prologue’s alternative schools in Chicago.  To be honest, I really didn’t want to go and how I got there is another story, but I soon realized that I was amongst a very special group of young people.  The Prologue schools are primarily for students 18 to 24 years old who have dropped out of high school. Instead of getting a GED they attend a Prologue school to get a high school education.

I have attended many high school graduations, but have never been to one anything like this. My two sons graduated from Walter Payton College Prep, a topped ranked school in Illinois.  Payton is filled with students considered to be academic achievers.  In contrast, this graduation was for students that few believed would ever even achieve a high school diploma or succeed in life.   The graduation was in the Peoples Church on Lawrence Avenue.  At night the Peoples Church becomes a homeless shelter; during the day community events and church services are held there. Security guards circled the premises to keep out anyone without an invitation.  The audience was rowdy and somewhat disruptive, but the graduates attentive and respectful.  It didn’t take me long to discover that I was witnessing an amazing event.  I found myself at one of the most moving graduations I have ever attended; even watching my own sons graduate did not elicit as many tears for me as this graduation did.

Instead of having guest speakers, six students spoke. Of the six, five cried as they gave their speech.  They cried tears of joy and tears of thankfulness as they shared their stories.  There was the young man whose mom died when he was 13.  With her death, he dropped out of school and lived on the streets.  His grandmother took him in and he went back to school; then at 15 his grandmother died.  Once again, he spent several years living on the streets.  Eventually with hard work, determination and an amazing staff he graduated.

A petite 20 year old woman also received her diploma that day.  She dropped out of school at 15.  Her mother who had been helping raise her children, became gravely ill and needed her help.  She spent the next four years caring for her mother and her children.  Never letting go of her dream, at 19, she enrolled in one of the Prologue schools and stood before us, full of anticipation of achieving her next goal—a college education. The only speaker who did not cry was a young man who dropped out of high school six different times.  He said, “I was trouble, and no one believed I would ever do this. For a long time I didn’t believe I could do this.”   Now at 22, he received his high school diploma.

One hundred students graduated that day. All these students were dropouts that few believed had any potential to succeed.  Four students of the 100 received full rides to college.  One young man received a full ride to four different universities, one of them being Princeton.  He was still deciding were he would attend.

How did these young people from seemingly hopeless situations succeed?  I believe there were three key ingredients that helped them on their path.  First, they had a goal…a dream to graduate from school and improve their lives.  But a dream alone is not enough.  They had to do the hard work required, the action needed to graduate. They had to work and study, even when the environment around them made it nearly impossible. The third ingredient to their success was they had mentors, especially at the school, that believed in them and their dreams and helped guide them on their path.  These students are a testament to the possibility of overcoming great odds.  Having the privilege to witness their achievement was a great gift for me.

This week:  Put your struggles in perspective and remember if these graduates overcame their struggles, so can you. Have your dream, take the required action, and find people who support and mentor you on your journey.

 

A Holiday Challenge

“Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” — Jean Baptiste Massieu

When my children were little as a way to embrace the spirit of the season, each day, we would all share three things we were thankful for and tie three red bows.  Eventually these bows adorned our Christmas tree. Not having young children at home anymore I called my college students in the beginning of November and asked them to email three things each day.  When I asked my husband, he agreed but balked about doing it every day.  His protesting didn’t last long.  Everyone emailed three things each day to each other.  It gave us all a window into each other’s lives that we don’t always get to see.  I went to the computer each morning excited to see what would be revealed.  Here’s a small sample of some of our thanks.

  1. Dad putting me in dance
  2. The Rockies
  3. Being with Freckles during her last season.
  4. Putting on the winter scarf
  5. A mother who wants to keep a family scattered across the country together via email
  6. My new rollerblades that I got for five dollars at the thrift store
  7. Playing hockey tonight
  8. Blackhawks on TV
  9. The smell of fall in the air
  10. 70 degrees in November
  11. The kids on the block
  12. Billy’s stint selling Cutco – without it I would never have owned Cutco knives!
  13. I actually like my classes
  14. Potato leek soup in about an hour and the new potato peeler
  15. Hot cider
  16. Visits and scrabble with Granny

This month, I asked my family to email each other acts of kindness.  This also is similar to something we did when they were younger that produced more bows on our Christmas tree.  I’ve challenged my college students to email their acts of kindness and my husband and I will do the same.   My challenge to my readers is to record or acknowledge each day an act of kindness.  Small acts are welcome and sometimes have a greater impact than you will ever know.  I kind word, a smile, opening the door for a stranger…these things all can make a difference.   If you take the challenge, come back here and comment and let me know how it goes.

This week:  Join the Holiday Kindness Challenge

 

Peace and Blessings,

Mary Jo

Dragonflies-the Wings of Change

“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.” –Hal Borland


It was the last week of August and the yard was full of flowers, and usually a few bees, butterflies and an occasional dragonfly. Stepping into my yard, I was surrounded by a swarm of dragonflies, swooping around like dive bombers. I love dragonflies. Their shimmering colors and luminous glow are a treat for the eye. But, I had never seen such a throng. There must have been more than 75 to 100 swirling around my small garden. Their energy felt so frenzied, I thought possibly they were responding to the nasty weather front approaching the city. Their frenetic energy almost felt like fear. I decided to sit in a chair in the middle of the yard and just watch.

I thought maybe the dragonflies had a message for me. I was amazed how they zipped right past my face. I sat there for a half hour and discovered that they were not frenzied at all. Instead they were focused, moving swiftly to achieve their goal. They twisted and turned, swooping one way and then instantly changing directions until they caught a bug. They snapped at mosquitoes, gnats and flies. Each dragonfly worked alone, yet seemed to be connected on some level with the group. Within a half hour there were very few bugs visibly left in my yard. Soon only four dragonflies were left.

Two days earlier, I officially became an empty-nester. Both of my children are away at college. For me the dragonflies were a reminder that now is the time for me to focus on my goals and work with the determination of a feasting dragonfly.

Look around and open your heart. Have you noticed any spirit messages in nature?
This week: Be open to messages from spirit in nature.

Peace and Blessings,

Mary Jo

Conscious Footsteps by Dianne Eppler Adams

When we open up to living with Spirit in our everyday lives, it seems that Spirit’s wisdom is all around us.  –Dianne Eppler Adam

 

This book is a great blend of spirituality meets practicality.  Diane has great suggestions for navigating the ever changing rhythm of our lives.  Easy to read straight through, I think this book is most useful as a bedside or coffee table book.  Read it in bite size pieces and then slowly digest it as you move through your day.  If you in need of some inspiration or comfort, Conscious Footsteps is the perfect book!   www.consciousfootsteps.com

–Mary Jo

 

Venus’s Rings

To live in hearts we leave behind…Is not to die.–Thomas Campbell

I lost my mother’s rings—her wedding bands and diamond.  After she died, it took me years before I could wear them.  I remember thinking one day, “Mom I have my own wedding ring, I can’t wear yours.”  A month later I lost my wedding band in the Wisconsin Dells.  I’ve worn her rings ever since. 

Last October, I was painting the front porch and working in the garden.  I remember taking the rings off outside, but I thought I brought them in.  I searched the front and back yard.  I searched the house.  I stopped looking and thought they would turn up.  I’ve misplaced them before and I always find them. 

It was a week before Christmas; I searched everywhere I could think of without any success.  In February, my husband left town to visit my son at school in Denver.  I decided to tear apart our bedroom and look for the rings.  I took out every drawer, poured them on the bed and even picked up the dresser to look underneath.  No rings.  I started to think that they were really gone.  I was really sad.

I asked myself would I be okay if I never found her rings.  The rings were not my mother, just her rings, and my connection with her was not in the rings but in the memories in my heart. 

 “Mom, if your rings are gone I’ll be sad, but it’s okay.  But if there is anyway you can help me get your rings back, I’d be thrilled.  I miss you mom.” 

 I crawled in bed and went to sleep.  The next morning, I opened my top dresser drawer to get a pin out of the small shelf in the corner.  I had completely forgotten about my nighttime petition.  My mother’s rings were on the top of the pin!  I thanked my mother and am wearing her rings as I write this.  It was a great reminder to ask for help, not only from those here with me now but also from those you have transitioned from this life.

 This week:  Remember to ask for help and be willing to be surprised!

 Mary Jo