I recently saw a film about a well-known American baseball player in the 1940’s. It depicted the challenges of and racism toward a black athlete entering a strictly white sports team. Some parts of the movie were difficult to watch because the hatred was so clearly portrayed. It didn’t seem to matter to the team’s other players that this rookie was a phenomenal athlete or that the team’s improved standings as a result of his playing would benefit all of them. At least…not a first.
Eventually, much of the initial bigotry and prejudice amongst team members subsided, thanks to a forward-thinking team owner. The ideas associated with general racial discrimination became more specific over time. They became more discriminating about their discrimination. What an idea!
I find it interesting that two words, so similar in form, can be so different in meaning. Discrimination has synonyms like: bias, favoritism, prejudice, bigotry and intolerance. Discriminating, on the other hand, uses words like: sharp, astute, selected, perspective and discerning. Except for the positioning of the final two letters of each word, they’re identical. So where is all this going?
Any discrimination I have faced in life has not been racially based. Religious, yes. Gender, yes. Economic, yes. Nationality, yes. As a result, those experiences have made me more discriminating, whether I’m close to someone or not. For example, I’ve felt the pangs of religious discrimination from family members; it can come from anywhere. That experience had a significant influence on my efforts today to warmly welcome everyone who chooses to explore New Thought teachings and, in particular, our Spiritual community and church.
Much Good for my personal and Spiritual growth has resulted from those past hurts. I am…
more selective about what I share about myself or when I voice my opinion. I don’t need to comment on everything.
diligent in keeping an open or objective perspective about the world, to be more accepting of people as they are…neutral, non-judgmental. (It takes a little more effort and sharp focus when the people are closer to you in relationship. )
able to separate the person (that child of God) from their misbehavior, which has allowed me to practice forgiveness more readily.
an astute observer, noticing details about a person’s words, body movements, voice tone, or other communication methods. As I really see people, I’m able to notice their vulnerability, their authentic Self, and offer compassion and kindness that connects us at a heart-level, a soul-level, where we recognize we are all part of that Divine Oneness.
These are discriminating ideas that I offer to you now as well. If we were to hone our discriminating skills, using the four bullet points above, we might never experience discrimination again. Think about it. Isn’t it about time?
One of the aspects of our family home, the one we’ve moved back into in recent months, is that – as one friend commented – it has character. Yes, it does. It has unique attributes that give it its own personality and atmosphere, similar to the way people have theirs. It got me wondering, “How does this happen to a house? How do we recognize when a person has character? What does that really mean?”
A few definitions for “character” include: personality, disposition, moral fiber, nature, spirit, and more. When applied to a house, it must come from its architects and, eventually, its residents. We can witness over time how a homeowner or family adds to the personality of a house through its décor, landscaping, and wear-and-tear – the livingness of life. The nicks and bruises, repairs and improvements, even the human or animal scents of those who live there, all modify the original structure. Modifications can be the result of a family’s growth, such as changing a paint color of a room to indicate a boy or girl occupies that space, adding an addition or remodeling a basement as individual interests expand. The space becomes personalized and takes on features that are connected to its occupants and their life events.
This happens to us as well. Our physical development as humans begins in the womb, before we even enter this outer world. We’re born into a family or situation that begins to mold the person we can become – through traditions, rituals, customs, rules, etc. We begin to engage in the shared world, go to schools, join activities, groups and churches, make friends and adversaries, get jobs, and have all sorts of relationships. Every interaction and experience impacts us in some way…it just does.
You may not remember every single thing in detail, but your participation is forever logged in your being, whether physically, mentally or spiritually. It shapes the person you become – and you are always becoming more of who you are capable of being. This “what” – this beingness of you – is your character. Just like a home – the nicks and bruises of life, the self-improvements and growth opportunities, the mental expansion that experiences naturally provide – your personality, nature, and spirit are impacted. These factors and more shape the person you are and how you respond to the world and all its interactions of life.
Your character is your way of being in the world, how you think about it, and your part in it. It’s the way you react or respond… judge or accept… blame or take responsibility… avoid or participate… reject or choose. While aspects of character, such as honesty, integrity, ethics, etc., are shared by all, each person’s interpretation of those aspects is what makes their character unique to them. I learned a quotation decades ago that has served me well: “The true character of a man is what he does when no one is looking.” (This applies to women, too.)
A house becomes a home…a baby becomes an adult. Every transformation may include pain and hard work. The final result depends on the effort made throughout the process and the quality of mind put into the creation. As long as you are breathing, you will never be finished creating the person you can become and the character you hold within. And isn’t that a wonderful thing!
The New Year’s holiday is a already a fading memory, the Super Bowl is done, and there’s a bit of a lull before the next big holiday sneaks up on us. In recent moments of reflection, I realized that (1) my husband and I have a special wedding anniversary coming up in May; (2) my desire to start a new business will soon become a reality; and (3) devotion to my spiritual journey and expression grows deeper every day. All of these reflections have at least one trait in common – commitment.
I believe everyone knows and expresses commitment in some way, most assuredly to an interest or passion that gives them joy, something which they have a part in creating. Such effort is relatively easy to give in such a case, even if challenges occur along the way – you keep going. However, there are some situations in life that we are not always able to end exactly when we want. It takes conscious and concerted effort to give positive attention to something that no longer makes your soul sing.
One meaning of “commitment” is to pledge or vow, a gift of the mind and heart to give of ourselves willingly to what we love or cherish. Another meaning is that of obligation, when a task is required out of duty or responsibility. A person can grow through duty, whether you enjoy the experience or not. It can take time to appreciate the experience, to look back on it eventually with fondness at the growth that occurred.
I’ve come to know that the greatest commitment we can make is to our own soul’s journey, to become the grandest expression of who we are or can become. In the words of George Bernard Shaw: “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die…” I want to explore all my talents and develop those I haven’t discovered yet… to fill my mind with the great wisdoms of the world… to love life, family and serve my community… to allow Spirit to express through and as the best me possible.
My commitment to Self, in this manner, in no way robs anyone of anything. In fact, it requires that I give more of myself to the world, for the Good of all and me. The Master Teacher, Jesus, taught “As you give, you receive.”
Commitment…dedication…focus…truly has its own rewards.
According to the definitions offered on Wikipedia…PRIDE is “an inwardly directed emotion that carries two common meanings.” First, with a negative connotation, pride refers to “an inflated sense of one’s personal status or accomplishments, often used synonymously with hubris [extreme arrogance].” Second, and with a positive connotation, pride refers to “a satisfied sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, or a fulfilled feeling of belonging.”
While I’ve been aware of the first definition since childhood, I prefer the second meaning, and here’s why…
I believe that having ‘pride’ in one’s community – whether it be where you live, go to school, your church or work, or participation in a cause – pride creates a bond for the Good of that group. As a group that is proud of their connection, people tend to take greater care of their community and one another. There’s a positive connection of belonging, of being united, of having one focus. We grow in the process.
Groups identify themselves in various ways; you see it everywhere. Sports teams have their mascots. Businesses have their logos. Schools have certain colors. Churches have a symbol of faith. Employees wear name badges. Professions have uniforms. It doesn’t matter what the identifier is; it matters that we can identify one another because of these symbols. We recognize our connecting interest to such groups through these visual signs. What about the invisible signs of individual pride?
One way to express individual pride (invisibly) is to do your best or be your best – the best expression of who you are. You can complete a task or job to the best of your capability and knowledge. You can leave a campsite (this earth) better than you found it. You can bring love, peace and joy to a situation where there was none. You can express yourself through your talents, your personal style, your beliefs, how you care for your body or home, and/or the way you live in the world.
Pride starts from within you…how you feel about yourself…and radiates outward. The negative description of pride is the result of an inflated sense of self; it never goes beyond the individual’s ego. The positive definition is when one feels that sense of pride within and shares it with the rest of the world in a generous and healthy way. We are all unique so our individual expression of this “virtue” is also distinctive.
In what ways do you show pride in the world – for yourself or with others? Perhaps some independent self-reflection can empower you to express in expanded ways and, thus, benefit you and the world.
I finally find myself in a work environment – corporate-based but within the educational realm – where I am inspired by the integrity and passion for service of the people, the leaders, within the organization for the customers (students) they serve.
There is an atmosphere of truly wanting to do the right thing, even if that means putting on hold all the other active projects so this immediate issue – be it a student in need or a policy that needs urgent support – can have full attention. No excuses. There is the expectation that everything can be better; a striving for higher quality, open and direct communication with one another, full disclosure and performing at your highest capability. This is my work heaven. This is where I thrive.
I drive to work each day excited to be going there and anxious to contribute to the greater good in any way I’m able. I know I’m appreciated for what I do, because no one is afraid or embarrassed to say “thank you” or “that was really helpful.” I expect a cooperative environment because that is what I’m putting forth in my work efforts. My tasks are interlaced with many others and yet everything I need to complete a project shows up, on time, and in the best way possible. It opens the door for equal reciprocation and cooperation…and so the cycle continues spiraling upward toward a greater respect for one another and one another’s talents.
My intent is to continue recognizing the good that surrounds me so I can reflect that back to others in my life…at work and elsewhere. I am so blessed to be surrounded by integrity, respectfully appreciated, and given the opportunity to express my talents for the greater good of those we serve. I am truly blessed.
The other day I was once again reminded why I help friends and clients with their websites. There’s more to it than just enjoying the creative side of the design or my perfectionistic tendencies of correcting punctuation errors. There’s the deeper motivation to right a wrong…what I define as an unwarranted business practice in the world of website maintenance.
My new client wants to make changes to her six-year-old website; it’s time for an update. To do this, of course, I need log-in information and passwords, the hosting company URL address, and any other account details she can offer. (If she still has a contract with the firm, they’re most likely not going to allow me access to her account.) But it’s been six years; she can’t remember any contract and there have certainly been no updates by the website design/hosting company. So she gives them a call.
Not only will they NOT give her – the client and owner of the site – access to her account, they tell her THEY own the content on her site. This is her business site, mind you. The design/hosting company has added industry-specific features (add-on templates) that they also provide to other similar sites – competitors to my client – but she wrote a good deal of the content information as well. Plus, while they’ve been charging her a hefty monthly fee to host the site (with no changes for six years!), now they want an equally hefty hourly or contract fee to make any updates. This scenario infuriates me enough to write about it!
It’s my opinion that a business owner owns his/her own website content – at least the portion they write themselves or that which they contract to have written for them. I also believe that, if the client wants access to their website to make simple changes (or those within their skill set to do so), give them access. If the business owner messes up the site, the designer can then be paid to straighten it out. And the business owner can decide in the future if they want to walk that path again.
When I assist a client with their site, I give them a number of options:
They can write the content; I’ll edit. After all, they know their business much better than I do.
I can make the design and text changes, widget uploads, suggestions for improvement…or I can teach them how to do it. Most business owners don’t have the time, desire or skills to do this, but I believe it should be their choice – not my dictate. I get paid either for doing the work or consulting/teaching them.
If at any time I’m not available to assist with their project or they can find it done more cheaply somewhere else (unlikely at this point), they can turn it over to another designer/contractor. That’s the beauty of free enterprise and competition. But to hold someone hostage like my client has experienced, I consider that totally unethical!!!
My client now faces the decisions of staying with this original design/hosting company and continuing to pay their escalating fees and sales pressure to totally redesign her site (for thousands of dollars!) …OR…have me (or another independent website designer) start all over to give her a site that she can have access to whenever she wants by whomever she wants. She has already stated to me that she does not want to do the updates herself (no time and limited website skills). It actually might be cheaper in the long run to have her site re-designed, but she has concern about losing some of the features already on the site (all those handy template add-ons). Maybe it’s the familiarity with what’s been there for so long.
Until she makes a decision, I’ve got work to do on her blog. See, I can share.
I’ve come to the conclusion that you can tell a great deal about a person’s character based upon the way they tend their yard (“garden” as it’s referred to by our Australian friends, and the term I prefer to use). A correlation can be made to such activities when examining how a person faces life’s challenges, relationships and successes. Granted, not everyone likes to garden; that could be why there are so many landscaping companies available from which to choose. But in that, hiring professionals to maintain one’s property, there shows a level of integrity and concern, a hint to the homeowner’s character.
I’ve spent the past few days dedicated to cleaning up the large garden of my former home, preparing it for the realtor’s photographer and in hopes of making it more appealing to potential buyers. Each feature of the garden brought back memories of its design, installation, and years of maintenance, primarily by the strength of my own hands (and back). I’ve cleared ground, planted trees and flowers, and worked in sun and rain – alone and with family members – to create a garden and peaceful retreat in nature. It’s a park-like setting and a lovely sanctuary when it’s all cleaned up!
My days of pulling weeds have been many. The depleting strength in my arms bear witness to years of stem grabbing, ground softening, and roots breaking under my hands’ pressure to release their rooted grip from soil not designated for their existence. I’ve discovered there’s a lot that can be learned about a person’s character simply by observing the way they go about this solitary task.
For example, a friend of mine, an avid gardener, once offered to help me catch up on my weeding chore and ease the pain my arms were experiencing from the arduous process. I welcomed such help. My husband, though skilled in so many areas, is not a gardener and left its design and maintenance to me. On the other hand, my friend professed to be quite fond of gardening and adept at pulling weeds. I was excited to have someone with such an ardent passion for gardening volunteer to help me. She and I labored near one another, each of us addressing a different plot so as not to get underfoot of the other.
For a couple of hours we pulled and tugged at the noxious growth, stacking them up in piles as we went. While evening’s light became dim, there was enough to see several large piles of wilting weeds, evidence of where she had been, left behind in the wake of her weeding frenzy. I bagged my discarded weeds as I went along. She did not. Plastic trash bags were handy and close by, but unused. I pondered this, deciding whether to continue my own direction and another flower bed or to start collecting her weed piles before darkness fell or the wind scattered them about. I decided on the latter. While she chattered away on her cell phone to a distant voice, I silently stuffed trash bags with dying, unwanted plants and started to form some opinions about this weed-pulling style. When her conversation with the distant voice ended and the thick of darkness no longer allowed us to determine what we were pulling, and without offering to help pick up any of the weed debris, she went home, with my gratitude for her time spent in my garden.
The next morning’s daylight revealed some disappointment of the experience and further evidence of what I had begun to contemplate the previous evening regarding this person’s character.
A significant number of larger weeds still remained in the areas where my friend had been working. The tops were gone, the stems were stripped of leaves, but their roots remained intact. Only the smaller, easy-to-pull species had been removed completely. Many of the leaves that had been stripped from the larger plants still lay near the stem rather than having been tossed on the collection pile…a pile that remained for someone else – me – to pick up. It wasn’t just one or two weeds here and there; in every area she had worked the previous evening, it needed to be redone to some degree.
As much as I had welcomed this friend into my outdoor sanctuary, I wondered if I would have been better off without her help. Staring at the clean-up that laid before me, I started to make sense of little things that had come up in our friendship and which I had been unable to identify until now. I realized the correlation between levels of gardening care (weeding, in particular) and character traits didn’t just be relevant to her specifically, but could pertain to anyone. I became grateful for the awareness she had brought so clearly into view.
In pulling off just the leaves of the larger weeds and leaving behind the naked stems and imbedded roots, even when there were tools handy to dig them out and a watering hose available to soften the ground, it now made sense that she had left so much unfinished – that was the way she handled many areas of her life, including the relationship she had with me.
She had often headed up other projects in which I was involved, taking the lead and the credit for the goal’s success, but leaving the details and the cleanup to be completed by others. Someone else would have to dig in to get to the bottom of the project, reveal the hidden objections and challenges, and gather up all the materials after the venture was over…so that the next task or group could come forward. It was an “ah-ha” moment for me. Once again, as a result of choosing to partner with her, I was digging in, cleaning up, and carrying out the trash while she shared with others (I learned later) how she had come to my rescue to help me with some much-needed weeding.
I reflected on my own style of gardening and how it related to my sometimes pefectionistic nature and other personality traits. I had to test my theory even further. So how does it correlate? How do I measure up to these standards of weeding?
In many ways my gardening approach is very similar to the way I conduct my life – with a plan. I approach it methodically and with foresight so that, hopefully, I won’t have to redo any steps, such as planting a tree then realizing it’s in the wrong spot and having to move it later because it won’t survive in the first spot it was planted. I’d rather take a little more time planning than have to do something repeatedly due to a lack of preparation.
I have a tendency to be practical, taking things in logical sequence, following step-by-step procedures, paying attention to the details, and evaluating the importance of each along the way. I can troubleshoot as I go, make adjustments accordingly, and end up with better results, even if it means the overall plan must change from what was originally conceived. Thus, I focus on one garden bed at a time and pull the weeds in a small section, one area at a time. None are left behind. I thoroughly clear away all unwanted weed-like flora, leaving only those flowers, plants and shrubs that have been lovingly planted and will continue to be nurtured for the gifts of scent, fruit, and beauty they bring. Yes, some weeds will come back. However, with diligent awareness and care, they become less a nuisance and reduced in number. It’s a matter of focus and commitment.
I am practical, efficient, and tenacious. As long as something has to be done, why not do it with the least amount of effort – or create the condition so it isn’t so difficult (i.e., watering the ground around the weeds). Life doesn’t have to be hard. Weeding is easiest done after a rain storm or watering with a hose. The proper tools assist with the most stubborn of weeds – dig down to the root, loosen up the surrounding soil, and the buggers don’t stand a chance of staying intact. The idea is to be smarter than the weed and not give up!
I’m discerning. Some weeds grow in the most inconvenient spots (like in the middle of your favorite bulbs or ground cover) so that digging them up is a delicate proposition. Also, the weeds may be structured in such a way that too much pulling just breaks off the top at ground level and the roots can be difficult to remove totally (e.g., thistles). I can let the ground soften through watering, hoping they’ll come out more easily, but sometimes even that doesn’t work. This is when I have to decide just how much of a perfectionist I am – how important is it to get every single weed’s root out? The answer: it’s not!
I know with every fiber of my being that the thistle will grow another stem and leaves before the season is over. I can count on it! I find peace in that assuredness of nature. Even if I don’t succeed with this one plant now, I’ll get another opportunity to uproot its minor annoyance later. I don’t have to dig up my flower bed now, damaging my precious flowers or vines, to make a point…to be the “victor of the weed” and destroy a treasure of my heart.
I am dependable. I can be counted on to finish what I start until it is complete or no longer serves a worthwhile purpose. There have been many times when I question my annual weed-pulling ritual. Gardening often takes large blocks of time, energy, and strength; it’s a perpetual act – spring comes each year and the activity starts all over again. With each new spring the foliage has grown, become more mature and, usually, more glorious! It’s the first blossoms of the season that ignite the fire in me to garden once more. It’s a call to serve Mother Nature that I cannot ignore. My hands must reach deep into the dark, pungent soil to support this new life and clear away the dead or unwanted growth of the previous winter. It’s a time of examination of what can be saved, what can be restructured, and what must be discarded. In the same way I examine those parts of me that no longer serve my highest good, those that honor the very essence of my existence, and those that need love and care to develop into something even greater. I remove the weeds of negative thought, forgive that which I cannot change, release what no longer benefits my life, and nourish those gifts in me that best serve God and humanity.
And what gifts the garden offers in return! While engaged in the garden’s repair, I reminisce about the struggle to get the children to help with mowing, the yard games we shared, the pets that have lived and died here, the parties we’ve held, and the evenings sitting with my husband in front of the outdoor fireplace, roasting marshmallows with our grandchildren, or sitting alone meditating. My husband and I were married inside this house, and we restated our vows 10 years later on the wooden bridge I had built and placed over the small pond I dug by hand.
As I kneel now on the cool damp ground, pulling weeds once again, my back is gently warmed by the sun and I am lovingly grateful to a long-ago friend for helping me on this path. Hummingbirds whiz by in their quest for nectar or convenient urban feeders. I fondly remember the faces of others who helped sow seeds here, resulting in resplendent blossoms and vivid colors. I hear the gentle trickle of my pond’s miniature waterfall, just enough of a sound to bring a sense of joy to my heart. The gentle breeze rocks the willow tree’s branches to and fro as I gaze up in amazement at how much it’s grown in just five short years. The little blue spruce I planted fourteen years ago is now taller than me. I will miss this place, this private corner in Mother Nature’s world, this sanctuary for my soul…until the next one is created.
Creating and nurturing a garden is not a voluntary act for me; it’s an integral part of who I am. And while the size, variety, and location of my garden may change as the years go by, for whatever reason, I will always have a garden and feel the need to meld with the earth…to play in the dirt…to be in awe as the miracle of life grows from a seed to a blossom. Regardless of the work and effort it takes to create and maintain it, I have to do it…and do it well!
For in its creation, the seeds of who I am are grown.