You always gain by giving love. ~ Reese Witherspoon Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
One of my favourite songs recently is a song called Love God, Love People by the very talented Danny Gokey. As I was praying at the beginning of the pandemic, concerned about how I was to navigate the new normal, this song came to my attention. It became my roadmap for how to live life each day. In the early days of pandemic teaching, I played this theme song every day before I Iogged on reminding myself that despite all the unknowns, loving God and loving people daily was certainly something I could do. As I began to ponder how to really love people, I have come up with five creative strategies we all can use that convey to others compassion and that we value them.
Compliment freely How amazing is it when we receive a compliment? I tell you it can literally make your day. I recently opened my Microsoft Teams Board email and had an eight second voice message from a student that said “Hi Mrs. Romualdi. I miss you. You are the best teacher!” Eight seconds and BOOM! My day is totally made! So powerful! I am working at giving compliments more freely. In the past I have been guilty of thinking nice things about people but not saying it to them. I would think things like: “She is so generous and kind,” or “He is such a talented speaker” but never tell that individual. I now try to make a conscious effort to tell that person what I appreciate about him or her. We call them appreciation statements. It can be done in person, in an email or even in a card. Trust me these words add such value to people’s lives and may even be life changing for someone who is needing encouragement desperately.
Do simple acts of kindness Never underestimate simple acts of kindness. They are the gestures that are usually unnoticed by the crowd but often resonate the most with the recipient. Treating someone to a coffee, babysitting a neighbour’s kids, offering a helping hand when needed or taking care of a friend’s pets while they are away are all examples of little things that can touch someone’s heart very deeply. Kindness leaves a lasting impression on everyone and is never wasted. Years ago, when I was doing substance abuse counselling one of my clients was crying sharing about his financial struggles and how he couldn’t even afford a coffee and a muffin at Tim Horton’s. I was smiling as he shared, and he inquired about this as he was confused as to why I was smiling when he was sharing his hardship. As luck would have it, The Roll up the Rim campaign was on at that time and guess who just rolled up the rim and won a free coffee and muffin? My client was so touched and grateful to receive this simple blessing from me and I felt so good to encourage him even if it was just in a small way.
Actively listen People need someone to listen to them. Not only is it important to listen but reallly hear what they are saying. By giving people our attention, eye contact, open posture and listening ear we let them know they are important to us and what they are saying means something to us. When we actively listen it is helpful to say things like “I am sorry that happened to you,” or “That must have been so difficult,” or “How can I help you?” It is important to let them tell their story. Avoid jumping in piggybacking on what they are sharing with your own scenario unless that person asks for that. There is something very special when another person gives someone their full attention and that person feels free to truly share his or her heart.
Give the gift of time The gift of time goes hand and hand with other strategies that I have mentioned such as acts of kindness and active listening, but it goes a bit further. When we clear our schedules to come to another’s aid or spend time with someone despite an extremely busy schedule that person feels that they are a priority. We all have hectic lifestyles and too often the comment of “We should have coffee sometime,” holds no weight because no one ever makes it happen. By putting it on your schedule, making a commitment to that person, your friendship can grow to new heights because it truly shows people who is there for them when needed.
Call out greatness In a recent church service, our pastor talked about ICNU statements. This is when you say to someone, “I see in you…” whatever it may be. For instance, you can say: “I see in you great organizational skills,” or “I see in you that you are an extremely dedicated employee.” You look for things in people and let them know what you notice. I look for leadership potential in my students and purposely put them in situations that will foster that development. I tell them where they excel and let them know that I see greatness in each and every one of them. There have been many situations where people have spoken out love and belief in people and called them to greatness in areas that they never thought possible. I heard the author Gary Paulsen speak years ago at a conference about his very difficult childhood. He was raised in an alcoholic and abusive home and for this reason he spent most of his free time as a young child in the safe haven of the local library. Books became his refuge, and the library became his home away from home. The librarian there became an incredible mentor for him, encouraging him daily and helping him develop both a love of reading and a talent for writing. He openly stated that if not for her, he would not be the person he is today. She saw greatness in a young boy living in poverty and through that he stepped into his true calling. I had a similar experience where a high school teacher shared with me that he felt I had the perfect personality and skillset to be an effective elementary school teacher. At the time I did not see it, but the seed was planted. Here I am today now doing exactly that!
What the world needs now is truly love sweet love. That is no joke! People now more than ever need to feel they are loved, and they matter. By incorporating simple ways to love people into our daily routines we are blessing others more than we may even realize.
Until next time, ~ Dana
John 15:12: My command is this love each other as I have loved you.
Little Lessons Learned: Showing people they are loved is not rocket science. Each one of us has all we need to get the job done. Let’s do it today.
“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.” ~ Josh Shipp
Many years ago, I had an experience with a certain teacher I will never forget. I have had many positive experiences with teachers throughout the years, but sadly this encounter was clearly not one of them. I have always struggled in art class. I have other talents, but visual arts is clearly not one of them. I realized this early on but in elementary school we do not have the option to opt out of subjects we are not good at. Fortunately, as we enter high school, we get that option, and I was very happy and relieved about that.
On several occasions my artwork was ridiculed by this teacher in front of the class. I was used as an example of what “not to do” while the teacher laughed centering me out in the worst way possible. For this reason, I hated art class and was always nervous with this teacher. Despite my lack of talent, I always gave a valiant effort in each assignment. I remember praying that this teacher would recognize that over my abilities but continuously I was the recipient of open criticism in front of my peers. I knew I never wanted to treat a child this way ever! I am a teacher now and I always praise kid’s artwork, giving kind suggestions to those who struggle like me remembering how I felt as a kid. I did not fully realize how profoundly I had been affected by this experience though until I entered teacher’s college.
In teacher’s college I had a wonderful, kind, and warm art teacher. She had an infectious presence and wanted to convey her love for art to all she met. Our first assignment was to draw a dog. While others worked happily on their canine creations, I sat literally frozen with my pencil in hand. She kindly asked “What’s wrong Dana? Where is your dog?” I replied “I don’t know where to start? What type of dog should I draw?” With a sparkle in her eye, she replied “Any dog you want! There is no right or wrong here!” I thought … really? Wow! What a different attitude than what I was used to. I hesitantly began but, in the end, I drew a wiener dog that was not half bad actually. So different to have someone believe in me, instead of criticize. Her faith in me got me started on my assignment.
A favourite read aloud of mine is Ish by Peter H. Reynolds. In this story Ramon loves to draw, anything, anywhere but his love of drawing is crushed when his brother laughs at his creations. It leaves Ramon rattled and discouraged ready to give up drawing all together until his kind younger sister reminds him that drawings do not have to be absolutely perfect to have value. This notion liberates Ramon as he realizes that he can draw pictures that resemble things such as his fish drawing could be “fish-ish” or his house drawing could be “house-ish.” By looking at his artwork through this new lense Ramon sees himself as talented, and capable. What a beautiful story. I sure can relate to Ramon. I realized that I could make "ish" drawings too. I also know I want to be like Ramon’s sister and help bring out the greatness in people not squash their hopes and self esteem.
Recently I have discovered a wonderful resource that is called Art for Kids Hub. Through this magical and life changing YouTube channel, you are taught to draw adorable pictures step by step in a process called directed drawings. My students love doing these drawings and believe it or not so do I! When the task is broken down in tiny steps, even the most struggling artist can create something beautiful. I teach second grade. I was shocked at what my students drew in the end. Even more I was stunned at what I drew and very proud as well I might add. Something I once dreaded was something I actually looked forward to doing with my students. I must admit I chuckled to myself when one of my kiddos said “Wow! Mrs. R. You are an amazing artist!” I thought… Wow if you only knew!
We are all a work in progress in so many areas and that is perfectly ok. We all have areas we excel, areas we struggle a bit in and areas that are clearly not our forte. That is what makes everyone so beautiful. I am so glad we are all so different and blessed with different talents and abilities. When we acknowledge our strengths and limitations that makes us relatable and authentic. Maybe you feel “ish” in some area of your life. Don’t worry about it my friend. Keep working on it but in the meantime know there is still profound beauty in imperfection.
Until next time, ~ Dana
1 Peter 4:10 (NLT): God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
Little Lesson Learned: Be open to learning and growing. Self awareness is a wonderful thing, but don’t forget you are perfect just the way you are.
“I'm gonna run. No, I'm gonna fly. I'm gonna know what it means to live and not just be alive.” (Say I Won’t, Mercy Me)
The birds are out in full force this beautiful summer. I get a large variety of them in my backyard, and they are quite interesting to observe, I must say. On more than one occasion, though I have noticed something quite peculiar when it comes to our feathered friends. Several times when I have been out driving, I have seen many different types of birds walking leisurely across the road. As they act like they own the road and are in no hurry, their cavalier behaviour repeatedly causes me great stress. As I get closer and closer, my panicked internal dialogue starts. Am I going to hit them? Will they actually use the wings they have so obviously been blessed with? Thankfully, in every case so far right at the very last minute, they choose to flap their wings and get the heck out of there! I don’t get it though. I am always left thinking… Why would they walk when they can fly? Why would they put themselves in harm’s way when they can easily soar above the danger? I have not quite figured that one out yet but have often thought how much people, myself included can at times be very similar to these silly birds.
Why do we drag our feet through life when we were destined to soar? Life is meant to be lived well. It was never meant to be something we just tolerate or do well when we are ready. Years ago I recall asking my grandfather how some of his friends were doing and he stated, “Not well. They just exist.” It broke my heart because I thought to myself, “Who wants to just exist?” Not me! Why would or should we ever settle for that?
I love the show America’s Got Talent. Recently there was an audition I will never forget. Her name was Jane Maeczewski and when performing she goes by the stage name Nightbirde. As she shared her story, she disclosed that she is battling cancer and currently has a 2% chance of survival. Her attitude was incredible as she stated, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” She sang an original song entitled It’s OK. In reality she is clearly not OK, yet she sang like an angel. Her emotional performance gave me goosebumps and earned her the golden buzzer from Simon Cowell. What an example of someone who is choosing to fly despite terrible hardship. Even her stage name, Nightbirde exemplifies her character of a bird who still sings even in the darkest time. We can learn so much from her and her approach to life. Recently her health struggles have resulted in her having to step away from the AGT competition and still she shares to her devoted fans “I am planning my future, not my legacy.” How inspiring she is and a great example of someone who has chosen to get the most out of life whatever it may offer her.
We have all been blessed with unique abilities and talents. Sharing them with the world is our gift and our responsibility. Being all we can be in life, cultivating our gifts and celebrating that should be our goal. I have met people time and time again who are settling in life, going through the motions each day whether it be in their relationships, careers, goals, or other life circumstances. It is heartbreaking when they deserve better but as they have been knocked down, they see their wings as broken. They accept life “as-is” believing they are truly not worthy of more.
We only get one chance at this life, and we need to give it our best. You are uniquely you. There is no one else exactly like you. Isn’t that an incredible thought? The world needs you, and all you can offer. Realizing that and believing you have much to offer is key.
Pinpointing your passions is a great place to start. It gets you excited and out of a rut you may find yourself in from time to time. Finding out what your talents and giftings are is essential so you can be all that you can be. Maybe you are artistic, athletic, great at computers and technology, an amazing cook, fantastic with kids, a powerful speaker or incredible with decorating and home décor. There are so many areas to consider. Do some soul searching and find out what your passion is and go after it. Maybe it will take going back to school, a sacrifice of some sort or taking a step back to move forward, but I encourage you to believe in yourself and go for it.
Several years ago, I quit a great job that I loved to go to teacher’s college. It was scary to take a risk, and have our family live off one salary with no job guarantee on the other side. Despite that risk I felt excitement and peace all at the same time. I was stepping into my calling. I felt that and I never looked back. I was made to fly, not walk and I was spreading my wings.
Change can be very scary. We all have doubts and fears. That is so normal. Is there an area of your life where you feel you are meant for more? That is a question only you can answer. I just want you to feel that you are worthy of truly living your best life in all aspects. Your wings are ready and waiting for you to use them.
The Bible says in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full!” This is my desire for you. Don’t be like the bird who was designed for so much more but chose to walk through life oblivious of the wings at his side. What a tragedy! Keep moving forward. Don’t let this world or discouragement take the wind out of your sails. Every day is a fresh start and a new chance. Spread those wings and fly my friend and I’ll be the proud one on the ground cheering you on.
Until next time, ~ Dana
Isaiah 40:31: Those whose hope is in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.
Little Lesson Learned: Flying through life gives you such a better view. Won’t you give it a try?