Thanksgiving, 2015

Finding Thankfulness and Gratitude in My Life

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”
–Henri Frederic Amiel, Swiss philosopher

The harvest is in, the garden has been put to bed, and the weather has turned cold. The days are growing shorter; winter has arrived. It is the season of a comfortable chair, a warm blanket, a mug of tea and a good book.

It is also a time of being thankful and grateful. At Thanksgiving, we gather around the table, sharing food and companionship. It is a time of quiet celebration.

Thanksgiving is a quiet, contemplative holiday with few expectations. Simply being together and sharing a meal is all that the holiday seems to require of us. Oh, and the obligatory giving of thanks. In the rush towards the consumerism and frenzy of Christmas, it seems easy to slide right by this time of giving thanks, and plunge into the next holiday.

And, when we do that, we forget to pause and reflect, and to be truly thankful.

The real holiday, the real celebration this week is a time to go inward, to truly appreciate what we have in our lives, and how we are to live, to truly be children of God. Thanksgiving is all about love, in all of its dimensions.

This year there is much to be thankful for: the necessities of life, purposeful work, time with friends and family, health, and being able to serve, to be of service.

People in my life this year have achieved much. One friend is moving into a new home, his first, very own, this is really mine, home. A year ago, he was adrift, unemployed, unsure of himself. Today, due to his hard work and his belief in all of his possibilities, he has a rich, purposeful life.

Another friend is casting aside distractions and old misery, and healing old wounds. He’s taking charge, doing healthy things, putting his life in order.

Another friend passed a test in school. He conquered his fears, his self doubts; he has conquered his sabotage of a future of rich possibilities. He is ready to move on, and he has shown to himself that he can grow, and learn, and be successful. He has climbed his own mountain, and can believe in himself.

I am recharging my own creative energies. I am writing a serious book that gives voice to those who are less fortunate. I am immersing myself in creating music and art, and being an advocate for others. I am pausing to look at the beauty of the world, in this very moment, to appreciate who I am and where I am going.

All this is scary, terrifying work. What if I actually accomplish what I dream? Are there really no barriers, no limits to what I can accomplish, if I put my mind and my soul into the effort? I might be successful? Me? But, then I will have to take on even greater challenges, and be responsible for my effort. Really? Little old me?

Yes, me. I am the one. I am the one who can change the world, one little step at a time. Changing the world is really my job. And, I can do it.

We all have our obstacles. And we are all capable of success, and believing in our strengths, our possibilities.

I am a citizen of the world and I pay attention, I learn, and I try to apply my energies and my awareness to being an instrument of positive change.

We live in troubled times. Yet that has also been true in years past. Every generation has faced that challenge, and had to answer that question, can I really accomplish my dream?

I choose to be an agent of change, and to not retreat into silence and indifference. I believe we are called to respond and to act, to be proactive, to be God’s instruments of change.

Maybe I can’t wave my magic wand and achieve world peace. But, I can move in that direction. I can bring myself and my work into a state of constructive peacefulness. I can work to nurture that energy into my family, my neighborhood, and my community.

I can make a difference.

I can join with other like-minded people, and consistently do good works.

Each of us is a peace-maker. Peace making has to start somewhere.

“Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me,” the song says.

We all have our story. Be a listener, and hear someone speak their truth, perhaps for the first time. Let everyone’s story be told, and be heard.

Each of us can do an act of kindness and compassion. Pay an act of kindness forward. Buy a stranger a coffee, help an elderly person with a package, talk to a friend, visit the sick, the lonely, the imprisoned. Maybe bring a meal to a sick neighbor. Volunteer.

Strike up a conversation while waiting at the grocery store check out. Ask the clerk how they are doing and listen to their answer. Hear them, deeply and compassionately. Hug a friend who seems upset, lost, without hope.

In any of that work, there is kindness and compassion. You are giving of yourself, and you are showing others how to be human, how to be kind and loving.

“Be the change you want to see in the world,” Mahatma Gandhi said.

Our example, just something simple, can change one person’s life. And in that, we change the world. We make our planet just a little better.

Isn’t that the Golden Rule? Isn’t that what the prophets, the scions of great religions have preached? Isn’t that being an instrument of God’s love for every one of us?

Each of us is special, unique. We are here for a reason. And, isn’t that reason to show love and compassion, to be kind, generous, thoughtful of others? By our example, we show the way, we demonstrate how people should really live, how we really are the children of God.

Today, I give thanks, and I am grateful. And, in my own, small way, I am making a difference, I am changing the world, one small act of kindness at a time.
—Neal Lemery, November 24, 2015

Go Change the World Today

How do I make a difference? How do I change the world?

At my age, I’ve figured out it’s not by leading the white horse into battle, leading my armies into the fray and conquering Europe.

But, then again, it is. I just lead my troops and fight my battles in a different way.

I am an instrument of social change. I have a voice, and I have a presence, and I talk with other people all the time.

I make my changes one person, one conversation at a time. It may be in the line at the grocery store, or at the coffee shop, or visiting with one person for a while, just the two of us, talking about life, and talking about choices. It might be by giving a book, sending a poem, or a note of encouragement, showing someone they matter, that they are important, valued, and yes, even loved.

It is the power of listening, really listening. Listening with your judgment and your ego parked at the door, listening with your heart, and simply offering to love people for who they are, deep inside.

Labels don’t mean much to me, nor does the style of someone’s hair or the fashion of their clothes. I like to look deeper than that, deep into someone’s heart, and to hear what is really on their mind, what is really going on in their soul.

The town I live in isn’t rocked by a huge earthquake when I have those quiet little conversations, when I open my heart to someone and really listen, and really have a conversation about the things that matter to them, and matter to us all. Buildings still stand and volcanoes don’t spew lava and smoke when we talk, but lives change.

Real change comes from a change in attitude, having a sense that I can change myself, my thinking, and that what I do in this world, that how I treat myself and how I treat others really does matter.

What I decide to do today, and how I will approach the problems and issues of the day, really does matter. I am the one in charge, what I feel and what I value is truly important.

Oh, I know that there are millions of other people in the state where I live, and hundreds of millions more in my country, and about six billion people around the world. Those are numbers I can’t really comprehend, and its pretty darned hard to have coffee with each one of them.

But, I can have that deep one on one conversation with myself, and with someone else. That’s manageable, that fits in my calendar, my to do list for the day. I can take the time to open my heart and really listen to someone, really hear what they are saying, and to value them for who they are, to weigh their soul against all the gold and jewels in the world, to really say that I value them for who they are, and for who they are becoming.

It is all about my intention, what I seek in that conversation, in that time together, one person with one person.

“You can do it,” are the magic words. “I believe in you.”

“I care about you,” said with love, and often, said simply by your presence at the table with them, showing up and being part of their lives, listening with your whole, loving heart.

Does this win the Battle of Gettysburg, or turn the tide at Waterloo? Do I ride my white horse up the steps of the royal palace and claim victory for the people?

I don’t need to win those kinds of battles. But, I do need to empower myself to truly live my values, and to help others see the potential they have to live decent, meaningful lives, free of the demons and darkness that often clouds their souls.

“Yes, you can,” is my battle cry, my shout for leading the revolution and winning the war.