Feast of Dignity

likesilkto from Pixabay

“We all belong here equally…Just by being born onto the earth we are accepted and the earth supports us. We don’t have to be especially good. We don’t have to accomplish anything. We don’t even have to be healthy.” – Polly Horvath, My One Hundred Adventures

Remember the anticipation of your first day of school? Parents and teachers offered encouragement and reassurance by cheerfully talking about all the opportunities to make new friends. Did you ever move to a different neighborhood or change jobs? I imagine that questions of finding welcoming neighbors or fitting in with your new colleagues crossed your mind during your transition. These thoughts are likely due to the fact that human beings have a psychological need for love and belonging. In humanistic psychology, the human need for belonging aligns with our inclinations as social creatures. Our emotional relationships are driven by our connections among our family, as well as social and community groups. And sometimes, we have the fortune of being a bystander to the fulfillment of this need of belonging and the nurturing of the soul…

Finally! Lunch time arrived after a long morning of training. Three of my colleagues and I tried to decide on a place to eat among the wide variety of options on Restaurant Row. Fortunately, there was something for each of us. One of my colleagues chose savory Mexican food while another was in the mood for an acai bowl with lots of fruity goodness. My third colleague and I chose a popular Chinese restaurant with lots of tasty options to satisfy our hunger. We agreed that we would all meet in the Chinese restaurant to eat as there were several tables available.

Upon getting in line to order our food, I took notice of a man standing in line third from the end. He caught my attention because he looked so terribly sad and uncomfortable in line. His eyes shifted from person to person to see if anyone was looking at him.  However, everyone appeared to be enjoying their lunch breaks from the surrounding office buildings as indicated by their slacks, pencil skirts, button down shirts, or dresses and busy conversations about work or preoccupations with cell phones. His energy of loneliness loomed heavily amid the busy-ness of the space. Somehow I sensed that he was hoping that no one would notice his slouching shoulders, disheveled appearance and the way he clutched a half empty bag of chocolate puff cereal. I concluded that this man was struggling in a way that he was not accustomed to existing.

As I made my way through the line selecting entrees and side dishes, my heart couldn’t ignore that tug of compassion toward the lonely man. I wondered where he had gone. Then I noticed him sitting alone with only a small beverage and that half bag of cereal. In that moment I reasoned that he only had enough money to buy that small drink. I felt compelled to purchase a gift card for him thinking he’s likely very hungry.

As I approached him, I searched for the right words to say. This was not a gesture of charity. This was not a Random Act of Kindness to check off a “good-deed-done” list. It wasn’t even about helping this man. To be quite honest, I wasn’t quite sure what it was all about. All I knew was that my intention felt different from other times that I done the very same thing. I knew I didn’t want to add shame or embarrassment by asking him, “When was your last meal?” or “Are you hungry?” So I simply asked what I might have asked anyone else in the restaurant. “Do you come here very often?”

 He replied, “No.”

“Well, I have a gift card for you if you ever come back here again.” I discretely place the card on the table as he quietly said, “Thanks.”

I walked away silently wishing him well  and proceeded to a table to rejoin the busy-ness by eating a hurried lunch, engaging in conversation with my colleagues about the training and discussing how we can apply it to our work as instructional coaches. Unbeknownst to me, the connection established between me and the lonely man created a portal to glimpse the inner workings of the human spirit. From my seat, I happened to see the man slowly get back in line with the gift card in hand. What I witnessed and experienced next has changed me.

As he inched his way to the front of the line, something was happening to him. With every choice of food item, this man transformed from somber to joyful, from uncomfortable to owning his space. He literally stood taller and skipped sideways along the glorious window of food choices much like a child in the aisles of a toy store. He proudly paid for his lunch and joined the busy-ness.  He neatly arranged his plate, napkin, utensils, and small drink. With a smile, he stared at his food for a moment before digging in. His delight could hardly be contained as he practically danced in his seat with every bite of food. He was no longer the man I saw just a few moments earlier.

The blessing was indeed mine. This man taught me a deeply profound lesson of acceptance and the embrace of all others. Each and every one of us yearns to be seen for who we are at the core of our existence. And it is in this core where we find that which binds us to each other. It is where we find all that we share and have in common. I realize now that my very simple gesture was all about seeing myself in this man who by appearance alone seemed worlds apart from my life. He didn’t need my help. Afterall, once the meal was over, what would he have been left with in the end? He was hungry to be seen. The once sad and lonely man ascended to the collective “we.” The energy coming from him now screamed, “I belong!” You see, there was no “we” in that shared space as long as he was not a part of it.

 I wept through the rest of my lunch that day. My colleagues gracefully accepted my simple and watered down version of the cause for my tears. Though I sat with them for that meal, in reality, I mindfully shared a feast of gratitude with a dignified man.

I Can So I Must

Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

“Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.” –Dr. Wayne Dyer

The fall season has arrived and in our house that means football and wrestling. Over the years, countless evenings have been spent watching our sons practice in their individual sport then cheering them on when it’s time to take the field or hit the mat. Our support for them continues despite the fact that one coaches a high school team that’s a 5-hour drive east from here and the other wrestles at a college that’s a 6-hour drive north. For some it may seem excessive but I humbly learned that everything happens for a reason.

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A Pedagogy for Life

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In my profile, I mention the synergy I often experience between my career life and my personal life. The past few weeks proved to be no exception. As an instructional coach in elementary education, my role allows me to engage with teachers about maintaining a growth mindset while working together to ensure our practices maximize student learning. Recently, many of my discussions with my colleagues focused on a process called the CRA Model when teaching mathematics. It’s a practice that takes students from Concrete, to Representational, and then to Abstract ways of thinking in order to develop mathematical reasoning and conceptual understanding. I’ve witnessed the powerful effectiveness of this instructional practice with students and wondered…Can this CRA process help us to reason and conceptually understand life lessons as well?

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Brown Face of Hope

“There is something different about this place where we live now. All people are free to go where they want and do what they can. Book learning swims freely around in my head and I hold it long as I want. I see a man reading a newspaper aloud and all doubt falls away. I have found hope, and it is as brown as me.”  – Excerpt from More Than Anything Else: A Story of Booker T. Washington by Marie Bradby

Image by S.Hermann & F. Richter from Pixaby

When my children started elementary school, I took advantage of the privilege granted to me as a mother who made a choice to suspend working outside of the home for a number of years. I was able to volunteer at the school to support my children academically in the classroom and continue with story time, learning activities, and art projects at home. But it didn’t take long for me to understand that my presence at their school extended farther than the academic support of my own children. This understanding became the foundation for why I chose teaching as a career.

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Bravely Curious

Image by Thomas Wolter from Pixabay

In a bright and colorful classroom, several toddlers busily moved about from toy to toy with their watchful mothers following close behind to insure safety and protection. Some mothers were able to sit and chat together, still watchful, as their little sons and daughters found activities that kept them in one place for longer than a moment or two. At Stepping Stones, parents, mostly stay-at-home moms, enjoyed the opportunity to be alongside their children in a structured setting while they learned to socialize, play, and follow their curiosities. It was a space of beginnings and hope.

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Village Elders Aren’t on the Internet

“Our ability to create has outreached our ability to use wisely the products of our inventions.” Whitney M. Young, Jr. (1921-1971) Civil rights activist

Public Domain from Pixabay

In the tradition of many ancient practices and indigenous cultures, our ancestors from all parts of the world turned to the wise for knowledge, information, and problem solving. For example the African storyteller, or griot, ensured the survival of culture and custom through telling both triumphant and disastrous stories of warriors, agriculture, or medicine. It is the way villagers learned when and how to fight, cultivate food, and heal. Today, when we seek insights, or cultural and historical wisdom, we tend to no longer turn to our knowledge keepers. We turn to…the internet. Let’s face it. Our village elders aren’t on the internet.

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The Line Between Self-Love and Egoism

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

The journey to embrace self-love and limit my ego continues to bring internal struggles that ultimately lead me to become an enhanced version of myself.  The work it takes to delve deep into the shadows of my past often feels like rummaging through a mountain of mess to find a  key to unlock yet another lesson, a renewed insight, or a universal truth. However, honoring my Self brings on unexpected external challenges as well. Much like a pebble tossed into the center of a calm pond, adjustments of my own thoughts and actions cause the energies in my environment and the people within it to ripple in kind.  And it’s not always as positive as I assume.

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Be Nice

If you have been following along in my blog, you will know that this is the fourth post in a series based on the following quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” This will be the final post in this series but certainly not the last of Dr. Dyer’s influence. The implicit challenge of ‘looking at things differently’ urges us to reconsider our previous thoughts and realities. Not always as simple as it sounds. This week I reconsider being nice.

Image by Walkerssk from Pixabay
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What is Self Care?

This post is the third in a series highlighting the way Dr. Wayne Dyer’s quote, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,” has proven to be a natural process of learning and growing in my experiences. I’ve noticed that much of our growth is defined by changing or even shedding our beliefs. Today I reflect on redefining the self.

Image by Kei Rothblack from Pixabay
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5 Things I Learned from My Children

The following post is the second in a series based on Dr. Wayne Dyer’s quote, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Given the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom for 11 years followed by a continuing career in elementary education, I’ve spent plenty of time with children over the years. Children, without intending to, remind us of the many things we forget as adulthood forces us to conform to social expectations and responsibilities. When I learned to really listen and observe children carefully, I realized that their ways actually aligned closely to what adults come to, or should I say return to, believe are important keys to life. Here are a few things (not all) I have learned from both my own children and my students:

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