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One of my passions is reading and I enjoy coming across inspirational articles from other authors. Recently, I came across an essay that is usually attributed to Charlie Chaplin, but upon further research, I found there was controversy as to whether or not he actually penned these words. Apparently, no one really knows for sure. Regardless, the words are very inspiring and I would like to share them with you here.
“As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know this is AUTHENTICITY.
As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody as I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it RESPECT.
As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it MATURITY.
As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it SELF-CONFIDENCE.
As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it SIMPLICITY.
As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health: food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is LOVE OF ONESELF.
As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since, I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is MODESTY.
As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it FULFILLMENT.
As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection WISDOM OF THE HEART.
We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations, or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing, new worlds are born. Today I know THAT IS LIFE!”
In past articles, I have written how extremely important it is to totally and unconditionally love ourselves. I remember at one time I was told that to love ourselves was arrogant and vain. There is a huge difference between arrogance and having a healthy self-esteem. Arrogance means we think we are better than everyone else. Having a healthy self-esteem means we know we are the best there is, yet it has nothing to do with anyone else.
We should all be trying to improve ourselves and trying to be the best that we can be! Is it easy? Not for most of us. Not for me anyway. I have to constantly work on myself. If you heard some of the things I said to myself and how I can beat myself to a pulp with my thoughts, you’d be surprised! It’s a constant process of learning to love every cell of our being: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Joel Osteen said, “Don't ever criticize yourself. Don't go around all day long thinking, 'I'm unattractive, I'm slow, I'm not as smart as my brother.' God wasn't having a bad day when he made you... If you don't love yourself in the right way, you can't love your neighbor. You can't be as good as you are supposed to be.”
No matter who wrote the above essay, it’s a good guide to follow in learning to love ourselves. And just as it is with anything, it takes practice. We are all diamonds in the rough, being cut, sanded, and polished. But no matter what our diamonds look like or where we are on our life’s journey, we can all learn to sparkle, and we were all meant to shine!
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper July 24, 2015.
“Don’t speak to me about your religion; first show it to me in how you treat other people. Don’t tell me how much you love your God; show me in how much you love all his children. Don’t preach to me your passion for your faith; teach me through your compassion for your neighbors. In the end, I’m not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as I am in how you choose to live and give.” This is one of my all-time favorite quotes spoken by Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey, whom I absolutely adore!
I totally agree with his statement. Living by example is such a greater influence and testimony than any words we could ever speak. Have you ever heard someone say they stood for one thing, but then heard them speak words that completely contradict what they say they believe? We see this in a lot of churches in particular (not all). We say God is Love, that Jesus taught kindness and compassion, and yet we hear too many words of hatred coming from the pulpits, books, and articles, and that’s sad. I can just see Jesus looking at our world with a tear streaming down his cheek and saying, “What part of loving one another do you not understand?”
We’ve all heard about the recent horrific tragedy with the church shootings at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. People from all over the world are sending their condolences to the family, friends, and church members. Why is it that we have to have this kind of heartbreaking catastrophe to unite us and bring us together on a greater scale?
This is one church that “gets it.” Instead of reacting with violence, they held a service of healing, and it was reported that every Charleston church and over 100 more across the country rang their church bells at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 21, to show solidarity. Not only that, over 20,000 people gathered Sunday night to join hands across the Ravenel Bridge for the Peace Unity event in support of those affected by the church shootings. People from the community and all across the country came in the spirit of love and unity.
Rev. Dr. Norvel Goff, Sr., who led Sunday’s service, said that people were astonished that some of the relatives of the people killed had spoken “of forgiveness and didn’t have malice in their hearts” when speaking of the man who committed this atrocity. People were expecting them instead to riot. But Goff stated, "They just don't know us because we are a people of faith, and we believe that when we put our forces and our heads together working for a common good, there is nothing we cannot accomplish together in the name of Jesus." This is a church whose foundation is unconditional love, the very things Jesus taught. This is a church that is a great example as to how churches should be.
We’ve already been hearing church leaders, politicians, and media hosts ranting and making all kinds of speculations. Some are saying this was a war on Christianity. No, it is not, and it has been proven otherwise. This crime was committed by a young man who was in so much pain that he was either going to take it out on others, himself, or both.
Hate is taught. It is taught in so many of our homes, and believe it or not, it is taught in so many of our churches. Get on the Internet and you can find YouTube videos of ministers propagating the vitriol in their sermons. We’re also hearing it from the media (hate-talk TV and hate-talk radio), as well as from many politicians. When are we going to say ENOUGH!?!?!?
Hate is taught, but so is love, and unconditional love is a much stronger force than any hate could ever be. We have to plant the seeds of love in everyone around us, particularly our children, and it doesn’t have to be just our own children. Hate and racism will never go away, but with enough love, we can lessen it with time. We’re already doing it! People who commit these ghastly crimes are actually teaching us to love and they are bringing people from all over the world together in peace and harmony!
Martin Luther King, Jr., stated, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Darkness is only the absence of light, and if enough of us join together in the collective consciousness of love, peace, compassion, and kindness, then we can embrace that darkness with our light and bring healing to our world.
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper June 26, 2015.
“Pay It Forward” was a movie released in 2000 about a twelve year old boy named Trevor who unknowingly started a huge movement by coming up with an idea for a school project that he called Pay It Forward. The assignment the teacher gave his students was to come up with a plan that would change the world. Trevor’s idea was that one person would do an act of kindness for three people and then each of those three people would do an act of kindness for three people and the acts of kindness would spread around the world. Because Trevor didn’t see the immediate results of those kindnesses, he thinks that the plan was a failure. What he didn’t know was that the movement was working and was having far reaching effects all across the country and people were making a difference just with their small acts of kindness. Many of those acts ended up being bigger than people could ever know because lives were even saved.
It’s a beautiful movie and one I would highly recommend. Before the movie was released, Catherine Ryan Hyde, the author of the 1999 novel, established the Pay It Forward Foundation. According to their website, the Foundation was established “as a catalyst to inspire growth for the Pay It Forward philosophy, acts of kindness among strangers, generating a ripple effect from one person to the next, one community to the next.” (payitforwardfoundation.org)
There was also a Pay It Forward Day established and the website claims that there were over three million people in seventy countries around the world participating in these celebrations in 2015. The next Pay It Forward Day will be on April 28, 2016 and you can go to their website at payitforwardday.com to find out how you and your community can participate.
It always warms my heart when I see people committing random acts of kindness, or even when people go out of their way to help others. I see a lot of these stories on Facebook and many of them have caused me to bawl a river of tears because the stories were so heartwarming. There are many stories where people have nothing and yet they are willing to give everything if it helps anyone in any way. The problem is that so many of us get so busy in our own lives that we don’t think to reach out to others even in the smallest ways.
There are so many things we can do to commit random acts of kindness that won’t take more than a moment or two from our day. Personally, I’ve made it a habit to look for ways to help people when I’m out and about. It doesn’t cost me a thing, but the rewards are great. It not only makes the other person feel good, but it makes me feel good and it lifts all of us up.
There are so many things we can do to make a difference in our own neighborhoods. The other day, my dad’s mower stopped working and our neighbor lent us his one push mower and then came over with his riding mower and helped mow the lawn. It may not have seemed like much to the neighbor, but it was a wonderful gesture to us. That’s being a good neighbor and we so appreciated his kindness! And once in awhile, we see letters to the editor in the Herald Citizen newspaper where someone thanked Cookevillians who went out of their way to help complete strangers.
It really doesn’t take much to be kind. Leo Buscaglia said, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Barbara De Angelis stated, “Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and the bless you, the giver.” And Mother Teresa said, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile.”
I love it when the Dalai Lama said, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” Can you imagine if all religions had kindness as their core philosophy? Jesus and all the other great spiritual masters taught us to be of service to our fellow beings and to harm no one, but do we follow their teachings?
Committing random acts of kindness is a great way to start. Find ways to pay it forward. Kindness is contagious, and personally, that’s one thing I don’t mind catching and spreading around.
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper June 19, 2015.
Many of us who are on a serious spiritual path are students of life. We love to learn and search for that perfect enlightened wisdom that will put us on the path of being even more spiritual. But that’s where we are misled. We somehow feel that if we read more, take more classes, meditate for longer periods, etc., that these will put us on a faster course to enlightenment. In reality, we are already on our spiritual path. Whatever it is we are experiencing in the here and now is the spiritual path we are meant to be on. It is in this very present moment.
We sometimes tend to make the mistake that many if not most of our answers are ‘out there’ and that we need to learn through someone or something else. Because we are taught from birth that we have to get our knowledge and wisdom from others, we don’t know that we can go within and listen to that still small voice that speaks with only unconditional love. Jesus stated repeatedly that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us.
Jim Palmer in his book “Notes from (Over) the Edge” stated, “The truth is that there is no act more sacred than being present in the moment and simply responding to the situation as it requires. If this is all you did all day, this would be a profound spiritual life. Your life is your spiritual path. Your life, the way it is right now with everything that is in it, is your reason and purpose for being here. There is nothing to insert into your life to make it more spiritual. God is inseparable from every moment of life and living.”
We know that living a spiritual life means living with love, peace, compassion, kindness, and caring for our fellow beings. We don’t have to pursue these things; we can be these things! If we want to be a testimony to our faith and what we believe, we can be the love, peace, compassion, and so on. There is no greater demonstration than by living by example! Because we are secure in what we believe, we also know that we don’t have to force our beliefs on anyone else.
The other issue we run into is that we are constantly judging everything in our lives as good or bad. We have this idea of how we think things should be so we miss the very message the situation or experience is bringing us. What is good for one person may be bad for another and vice versa. Therefore, it is only our perception or the way we see things that colors our experiences as good or bad. Life just is. The secret is in finding the good in everyone and everything. I’m not saying it’s easy. I know when I look for the good in everything, I can usually find it no matter how big or small.
The other thing is that there are other people who will try to tell you that they have all the answers and that you have to accept their answers for yourself or believe the way they do. When we are constantly relying on others to tell us what to believe based on what they believe, we miss out on so much more that the Universe would have for us to learn. That’s not to say that what others tell you or what they believe is wrong. There is so much we can learn from others. A good teacher will allow you to find your own beliefs and not condemn you because you may come to a different conclusion.
We can still walk a personal spiritual path and continue to belong to various religions or churches. Your personal spiritual journey does not mean you have to give these up or abandon any beliefs you may already have. It’s more of an awakening of consciousness and discovering your inner divine magnificence that has nothing to do with anyone else. The Bible says that we were ALL made in the image of God (or the God of your understanding), which means we ALL have that divine essence that is in everyone and everything.
We can all go directly to the Source of the All-That-Is without relying on others to do it for us. It’s also okay to ask questions and search for our own answers. As Ram Dass said, “The spiritual journey is individual, highly personal. It can’t be organized or regulated. It isn’t true that everyone should follow one path. Listen to your own truth.”
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper May 29, 2015.
Several years ago, I went on two exciting cruises with Richard Simmons, the health/exercise expert, and had a fabulous time! Richard used to facilitate what he called a ‘Cruise to Lose’ every year, and I had the privilege of being on his last cruise before he stopped doing them. I’ve always loved Richard, but meeting him and getting to know him endeared me to him that much more. His love and compassion for people with health issues runs deep and he takes it very seriously in that he does whatever he can to help others.
I was only a few pounds overweight, but like many people nowadays, I was addicted to sugar and chocolate. They’re my comfort foods and when I’m stressed, upset, or angry, they’re the first things I turn to.
In hindsight, being addicted to sugar and chocolate has been a blessing because it really helped me understand what it’s like for others whether it’s with food, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, soda, gambling, and so on. Because I was also on a serious spiritual journey, I learned not to judge anyone with addictions and I learned to have so much more love, compassion, kindness, and understanding towards others who are also struggling.
It’s so easy for us to sit back and judge those with addictions and say “All they have to do is stop.” Most people use various addictive substances to numb the pain of whatever it is they are feeling. For those with addictions we know that it’s not that easy no matter how negatively it is affecting our health or those around us. Some addictions, particularly if they are severe, not only destroy the lives of those with the addictions, but can destroy the lives of their loved ones and everyone around them.
I’ve seen many of my friends succumb to some horrible addictions. Many would say and do things they would not normally do if sober or in their right mind. No matter what the addiction, it affects our mind, body, and Spirit and puts people through literal hell on earth. And when people lose hope, they get lost in those addictions and may go into that deep, dark abyss of no return.
Some people believe that those who have serious addictions should be cast aside or we tend to demonize them, and many may end up in jail/prison when all they really need is to have access to rehabilitation. Many succeed and yet there are also many who go right back to their addiction because whatever substance they use has a very strong hold on them. Chris Prentiss stated, “At the bottom of every person’s dependency, there is always pain. Discovering the pain and healing is an essential step in ending dependency.” The key is to not treat just the addiction, but in finding the root cause that is causing the addiction in the first place.
Then there’s peer pressure where people, particularly our young, feel they have to participate in the substance abuses in order to feel accepted. Look at many of the college parties (or even high school age parties) and you’ll see the students out of control and abusing these substances to a great extent!
Part of the reason for addictions is that we do not love ourselves totally and unconditionally and we try to fill that void with something outside ourselves. When we do have that unconditional love for ourselves, we know we don’t need the substance. We know that everything we need is within. But not many of us have come to that point.
How do we in churches take care of our addicts? Do we judge them and throw them out of the church? Do we demonize them and make them feel worse than they already feel? Jesus and all the other great Spiritual Masters would never have treated anyone in these ways! Churches should be a refuge to receive love, acceptance, and maybe even some kind of assistance. We should love them just as they are and try to help them overcome their addictions!
If you have an addiction, please get help. Keep trying to succeed in overcoming. It’s not going to be easy, but when we take it one step and one day at a time, we can make progress. As T.S. Eliot said, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” You are the most important person in your recovery and you are so loved! As Deepak Chopra stated, “You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible.” I love you and I believe in you!
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper May 22, 2015.
Charles Fillmore, the founder of Unity, stated “When you feel good you sing, either audibly or silently…. Nearly anyone can sing a little song. It is a marvelous health restorer. Singing restores harmony to tense nerves. Its vibrations stir them into action thus making it possible for the ever-waiting healing Spirit to get in.”
I love to sing! I may not have perfect pitch and there are times I sing totally off key, but I sing from my heart and soul and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Singing in our church choir has been a joy for me. There are times I can sing really well, and if I listen to myself, I wonder where that voice is coming from because surely it can’t be from me. And then there are other times I sound like Kermit the Frog and I end up lip syncing my way through the music so no one will wonder where that squeaking and groaning is coming from (though some would say Kermit is a great singer!).
Music is big industry! Everywhere you look, you can see people wearing their ear buds while listening to their favorite artists. Granted, I can’t tolerate loud music where you can’t understand the words, there’s no beat, and where musical instruments are doing more screaming than playing. It seems that so much of our music anymore is just loud noise. In fact, some of the lyrics of many of our songs can be extremely negative and even frightening because they propagate so much hate and violence. Give me a positive, loving song any time!
I always say that you can tell you’re getting older when you appreciate your parents’ generation of music. I love the 40’s and 50’s genres! Music was cleaner and it was easy to sing along with the artists. When Elvis and The Beatles came on the scene, it caused an uproar as parents thought it was the end of civilization as we knew it. Today, their music is quite mild compared to what we hear today. The Beetles wrote many songs that had positive messages that we still appreciate and sing to this day, and many continue to listen to both Elvis and The Beetles.
I used to love the old-time Gospel music and still do to a certain degree. I grew up singing many of the old spirituals and Tennessee Ernie Ford was always my favorite gospel singer. My all-time favorite gospel song and one of my favorite songs to sing, especially in public, is “Amazing Grace” and I sing it to the melody of “The House of the Rising Sun” made popular by the Blind Boys of Alabama among others. In the song, I do change the word ‘wretch’ to ‘soul,’ though, as I don’t believe any of us are wretches.
Today, I love the more upbeat, inspiring spiritual music that is filled with positive and affirmative lyrics. Singing is good for the heart, mind, and soul! Music and singing can be very healing! Whenever I’m feeling down or discouraged, I’ll sing many of these songs over and over to make myself feel better. If I’m hearing a lot of hatred and negativity, I like to sing the chorus from Kenny Rogers’ version of “Love Lifted Me.” “Love lifted me, love lifted me, when nothing else would do, love lifted me.” Or if I’m feeling discouraged and/or low on hope, I’ll sing, “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing gonna be all right” from the song “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley.
There are many wonderful spiritual artists who write/sing spiritual music with positive lyrics. Some of my favorites are Richard Mekdeci, Karen Drucker, Dale Worley, Lauren Lane Powell, and many more. I would highly recommend looking their music up on the Internet. There are also many secular songs with positive lyrics as well.
Music is universal and good music brings people together. There’s a wonderful organization called “Playing for Change” that was established in 2002. They take mobile recording studios and cameras all over the world and record people singing on the same track so you get a beautiful blend of cultures and voices all singing and playing the same song. Their music is phenomenal and always lifts me up! You can find them at playingforchange.org
So…. “Sing, sing a song! Sing out loud! Sing out strong! Sing of good things not bad. Sing of happy not sad. Sing, sing a song! Make it simple to last your whole life long! Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear! Just sing, sing a song.” (“Sing,” made popular by The Carpenters; lyrics and music by Joe Raposo.)
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper May 8, 2014.
A couple years out of high school (70's), I had the wonderful privilege to live on an Indian reservation in British Columbia. After seeing the movie “Billy Jack,” I fell in love with the American Indians, their culture, and their spirituality. Later, the opportunity manifested to go to the reservation through a student missionary program affiliated with the church I was attending at the time.
My first week was to go through training on Vancouver Island along with other student missionaries from all over the country. I don’t remember a whole lot from this week other than the horror I felt when I saw and heard the various religions and missionaries arguing over who would save the ‘savages.’ Savages?!?! Shocked and repulsed was an understatement! From that moment on I decided that I didn’t want anything more to do with the missionary program and that I was just going to live with my Indian brothers and sisters, love them, and accept them just as they were.
After training week was over, they divided us up into teams and sent us to different areas on the reservation. My teammate and I found ourselves living on the Okanagan Reservation near Vernon, B.C. We found ourselves first staying in a pick-up camper trailer. It was small and cramped, but we loved it. One night, we were awakened by the shaking of the camper. Nervously, we looked out to see what could be causing it and found a horse was rubbing his hind end against the corner of the camper.
The family we lived with was the Louis family consisting of the elder mom and dad, Ben and Rosie (whose home we later moved into), fifteen children (age 21 and older), and a slew of grandchildren. I immediately fell in love with every single one of them. Most, if not all, of the men and boys were rodeo cowboys, so we shared a love for horses. (Just recently, the Ben Louis family as a whole, five generations, were inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame.)
Because I was so accepting of my new family, we got along famously, and I was later told by the staff psychiatrist that I was the only student missionary out of all of them that had no culture shock.
I grew close to Ben and Rosie and they came to be like a grandmother and grandfather to me. Rosie and I kept in touch for years after I left until her death some time later. Their children and grandchildren and I also bonded and they were like brothers and sisters to me. In fact, to this day, I still consider them all my family.
During the summer, I spent a lot of time with the grandchildren in particular. We made Jello in the ice cold streams, walked a mile to get the mail three days a week, went to rodeos, ate meals, and attended PowWow’s. I became very close to several of the grandchildren and we still keep in touch. One friend even named her son after me (Kieren).
Since that time, I have been able to visit a couple of times, though I wish I could get up there more often. On one of the visits, a friend and I went to a large PowWow. At the end when they did the Friendship Dance, I happened to look at everyone in the circle and noticed that I was the only white person. I mentioned this to my friend and she gave me a very precious compliment when she said, “Karen, when you’re up here, we don’t even think of you as being white!”
The point of this article is that when we make an effort to get to know another culture, without judgment, and only unconditional love in our hearts, we find that we have a lot in common. We learn that we’re all human beings just trying to do the best we can to get through life. And when we do this, you’d be surprised at the friendships we can make, some of them lasting a lifetime. There is also so much we can learn from each other.
As Paulo Coelho stated, “Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbor is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.” James Van Praagh said, “We are all one. Only our egos, fears, and beliefs separate us.” And Bruce Lee declared, “Under the sky, under the heaves, there is but one family.”
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper April 17, 2015.
Addendum: I love this family so much that I really do consider them all family. They've given me so much and taught me so much. Every single one of them are some of the nicest, neatest people you would ever want to meet. I miss them so much and can only hope that one day, I can get back up there to visit. They'll always be in my heart. (Pictured: Ben and Rosie Louis, Vernon, B.C. Canada)
Also, not everyone at the training on Vancouver Island called them 'Savages" so I don't want to mislead anyone into thinking it was the missionary program as a whole. There are always exceptions and people who get the wrong ideas mainly through ignorance. I'm sure that they changed their perception as soon as they met these wonderful people.
The dictionary describes an Indomitable Spirit as someone who cannot be subdued or overcome, as persons, will, or courage; unconquerable.
There are countless stories about individuals and groups of people from all over the world who have survived and overcome the most horrific circumstances in their lives. And then there are stories of those who let life experiences destroy them and they gave up by either turning to addictions and/or suicide. What is it about the mind that it can be so delicate that it can snap in an instant causing a person to succumb to the most debilitating mental and physical illnesses, yet at the same time, it can be so powerful as to help a person overcome the greatest of obstacles? We know many people who have gone through the most horrendous physical and/or mental and emotional experiences. Some let those experiences destroy them and they become barely functioning individuals. Yet others have gone through the same or similar experiences and have become stronger and better people because of those experiences.
There are many people whose autobiographies I have read and whose stories have made a huge impact on my life. Immaculee Iligibiza wrote several books, which included “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust,” and if you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it. Immaculee was a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The Hutu’s declared war on the Tutsi’s and nearly one million Tutsis…men, women, and children, were literally slaughtered by the Hutu marauders. Immaculee escaped to a nearby Hutu pastor’s home where she and seven other women hid quietly in a three foot by four foot bathroom for three months. They couldn’t make a sound because the pastor’s own family didn’t know they were in there as he had covered the door with a dresser. Hutu’s were always present searching for them. The pastor tried to sneak food in for the women when he could. When Immaculee went into hiding, she weighed 115 pounds. When she came out, she weighed 65 pounds. When the French came to establish refugee camps, the women walked down roads seeing dead bodies piled high on each side. Immaculee soon learned that with the exception of one brother, all her family and friends lost their lives all in the name of hate.
But Immaculee had a strong faith and her will to live was strong. With books from the pastor, she taught herself to speak English. When released, she committed her life to teaching peace, hope, and forgiveness, even towards those who slaughtered her family and friends. She went on to work at the United Nations, moved to the United states, received five honorary doctoral degrees, has written numerous books, became a U.S. Citizen, got married and had children, and was the recipient of the Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Reconciliation and Peace award.
Another recent inspiring story is about Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani, Sunni Muslim girl. Malala’s father ran a chain of schools and believed that all children, both boys and girls, should be highly educated. The schools were doing really well until the Taliban militants starting taking over the Swat Valley where Malala and her family lived. These extremists banned television, music, girl’s education, and more. Malala wrote a blog under a different name for the BBC about her life and education, and she stood up to the Taliban. In October of 2012, a Taliban gunman found her on the bus after taking an exam and shot her in the face. Her story became well known and she gained support from people all over the world.
On her 16th birthday, she spoke at the UN to call for worldwide access to education. In her speech, she said, “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born ... I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I'm here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists.” She wrote a book titled “I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban” and talked about her life as a Muslim and her passion for education. The book also gave great insights into the goodness of Islam. In 2014, at the age of 17, Malala was a co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
Another story recently told in the movie “Unbroken” was about the life of USA Olympian and athlete Louis “Louie” Zamperini, who survived in a raft with two other men in the ocean for 47 days after his bomber plane was downed in WWII (one died during the ordeal). Captured by the Japanese Navy, they were sent to prisoner of war camps where they were severely beaten. When the war was over and after his release, Louis got married and became an inspirational speaker. He, too, was able to forgive those who persecuted him. A few days before his 81st birthday in 1998, he ran a leg in the Olympic Torch relay for the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
These are just a few of the many examples of people who triumphed over adversity, who went on to have successful public careers, and are using their experiences to make a difference in the world. There are many others: Survivors of the Holocaust, 9/11, POW’s, Oprah Winfrey, Helen Keller, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Victor Frankl, and countless more. I would highly recommend reading more on these and others.
But not all people who are experiencing or have overcome adversity are well-known. Many of them are people like you and me, living everyday lives. Our hardships range from the minor to the major, but regardless of what the experience, they are just as much an obstacle to overcome. Yet we all have that Indomitable Spirit within us!
Maybe you had an illness/disease and you did whatever you had to in order to survive; you have an Indomitable Spirit! Maybe you experienced an accident, abuse, financial issues, emotional issues, or whatever the issue, but you survived and made it through; you have an Indomitable Spirit! Maybe you are being bullied, but you keep on going in spite of it; you have an Indomitable Spirit! Maybe you are struggling just to get up in the morning to get through another day or another minute, but you are surviving; you have an Indomitable Spirit!
Granted, there are those who do let life destroy them and they succumb to an addiction or whatever in order to escape life. They still have an Indomitable Spirit; they’re just not aware of it! Or there are those who do end up taking their own lives. They still have an Indomitable Spirit, but for whatever reasons, they let people and/or life beat them down so much that they didn’t realize they had that power to overcome. We have to remember that people who commit suicide don’t really want to die; they just want the pain to end. I always say never take away a person’s hope because that may be all they have left.
I sometimes hear people say “If I could do it, then others can do it.” I so disagree with that statement. What I prefer to say is “If I can do it, that means it’s possible for others to do it.” We have to be careful not to judge those who do let life beat them down. We never really do know their state of mind or what they’re really going through. Everyone has a bigger story than we see or know.
There’s a quote by Marianne Williamson that I include in many of my writings and it’s become one of my favorite quotes of all time. It states: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
If you’re going through what I call “heavy-duty-life-do,” please know that you’re not alone. Everyone has something they’re going through, but everyone handles it in different ways. It really is our attitudes, our beliefs about ourselves and our world, and the thoughts we think that make a difference in how we get through life. If you’re going through something, I won’t promise that it will get better because I don’t know your story. But you DO have it in you to make it through. I really believe that if we have the attitude of looking at everything as a lesson to make us a stronger and better person, then when we get to that hindsight part of your life, we will look back and will see that it really did make us a stronger and better person. Don’t let people or life beat you down! Try to keep things in perspective. One thing I do is look at others who have it so much worse than me, and then I realize, I do have it pretty good. I’ve learned to count my blessings. Life really is beautiful and good; it’s just we humans who make it so difficult. Therefore, friends, please hang in there. It’s always possible for things to get better!
You ARE stronger than measure! You ARE meant to shine! YOU have an IndomitableSpirit! Better yet, you ARE an Indomitable Spirit! There’s a song that I’ve been singing over and over and it goes, “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cuz every little thing’s going to be all right.” (“Three Little Birds” written by Bob Marley.) I know that in the greater scheme of things and no matter what I go through in my life, everything is going to be all right. To all those who are struggling, I love you and honor you, and am holding you in loving consciousness. Blessings to you always.
Published in the Putnam County Visions magazine April 2015 issue
While perusing Facebook recently, I came across an article about actress Sally Field and how at the beginning of her career her agent told her, “Well that's ridiculous. You can't do that, you can't get into film. You're not pretty enough. You're not good enough.” I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Field when I was pursuing an acting career in Hollywood, and trust me, she’s very beautiful and talented, and she has the awards to prove it!
Reading her story reminded me how I gave up on certain dreams because I was also told that I wasn’t pretty enough, thin enough, or talented enough. Unfortunately, because I was young and didn’t know any better, I took those beliefs and adopted them as my own. Even though I now know better, I still sometimes struggle with those beliefs because they had become so engrained in my brain. Catch me at a vulnerable moment and I find myself repeating those beliefs until my inner Spirit gives me that spiritual smack on the back of the head and says, “Karen! Snap out of it! That’s NOT who you are! You are beautiful, healthy, and talented! Those are NOT your beliefs!” I hear it, but I still don’t always believe it.
How many of us have had someone tell us something so negative and demoralizing about ourselves that we took those beliefs as our own? I think of what so many adults tell their children and they believe it. There have been numerous children who have told me that they’re stupid and no good and you can’t tell them otherwise. Who is telling them these things!?!?
I remember having a group of children repeat positive affirmations such as “I am beautiful! I am smart! I am successful!” and so on. Afterwards, a young girl came up to me and said, “Miss Karen? You know all those things you said we were? I am none of those things!” It broke my heart! I always try to lift people up with inspiring words, especially our children. We need to remember that people who tear others down are speaking more about themselves than the person they’re speaking to.
After I read the article, I went on-line to research those who overcame some serious obstacles and yet became triumphant in spite of what they were told or experienced. I found countless successful people who were told they would never make it, weren’t talented enough, and/or weren’t attractive enough, or they survived horrendous events. Many even had numerous failures. Here are some names you may or may not recognize depending on the generation you were born. I would highly recommend Googling their stories as they are fascinating and inspiring.
Oprah Winfrey, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Jim Carrey, Sylvester Stallone, Lucille Ball, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, Stephen King, Thomas Edison, Jay-Z, Simon Cowell, Steven Spielberg, the Beetles, Elvis Presley, Walt Disney, Dr. Seuss, Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln, J.K. Rowling, Colonel Sanders, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Immaculée Ilibagiza, Helen Keller, Victor Frankl, Anne Frank, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Stephen Hawking, Malala Yousafzai, and the list goes on.
There’s a great poem titled “Don’t Quit” by Edgar A. Guest called “Don’t Quit.” It states, “When things go wrong as they sometimes will; When the road you're trudging seems all up hill; When the funds are low and the debts are high, and you want to smile, but you have to sigh; When care is pressing you down a bit; Rest if you must, but don't you quit. Life is queer with its twists and turns, As every one of us sometimes learns; And many a failure turns about, When he might have won had he stuck it out; Don't give up though the pace seems slow; You may succeed with another blow; Success is failure turned inside out; The silver tint of the clouds of doubt; And you never can tell how close you are; It may be near when it seems so far; So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit, It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.”
George Bernard Shaw said, “People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get ahead in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
And Marianne Williamson stated… “We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”
So never give up! Keep going in the direction of your dreams! I believe in you!
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper April 10, 2015.