It’s almost two weeks after Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean and Florida leaving a path of devastation, despair and sadness. But if we take a moment to look back on the storm we can find examples of incredible kindness, sensitivity and hope where we rose to be our best selves even in the midst of the chaos.
When I went to church this past Sunday morning, along with many other Floridians, I was moved to tears during much of the service. The church was packed as everyone came to give thanks for making it safely through the storm – whether suffering material losses or not, everyone was thankful to have their family and friends safe. When I entered the church and gazed down the long hallway – I felt so much of a sense of pride and amazement at seeing the stacks of supplies that were there for anyone who needed it – food, paper goods, diapers, water and more – serving not only our church but the entire community and the needs of all.
Before the hurricane hit, as preparations were being made and immediately after when everyone was helping with the clean up that will be on-going for a long time, no one cared what anyone’s race, ethnicity or sexual orientation was – it did not matter! Everyone dropped everything to help in some way. Think about it. Should it really take something like a hurricane to make us reach out to one another with kindness, respect and love? I hope not but if it does, let’s keep in mind what could have happened, be grateful that it didn’t happen and act as if we can be the person that we were during the storm even if the storm never comes.
The actress Viola Davis won the best Oscar for best supporting actress earlier this year for her phenomenal performance in the movie “Fences” with Denzel Washington. She brought me to tears as I witnessed the dignity with which she portrayed her character’s anguish and pain. Outstanding in every way!
Just as stirring as her performance in the movie was her acceptance speech at the Oscars. She always displays a profound sense of humility and looks outside of herself and the accolades heaped upon her to give thanks to others for the blessings and success she has received. In her speech she said the following:
“There is one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered and that’s the graveyard. People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories – the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost. I became an artist and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”
While I was moved by her words, I would add that we do not always need to look to the graveyard for our stories and inspiration. We can and should look to the youth in our communities who struggle to overcome tremendous odds to just stay alive and become responsible members of society. We can also look to people we see each and every day including friends and strangers, people at work, those who are ill or elderly – ordinary people who are alive and here can inspire us just as much as those who have left us.
As an actress, Ms. Davis inspires millions on the big screen. As an extraordinary ordinary person each one of us can strive to inspire, encourage, listen to and hear the stories of someone we interact with each and every day. We may not be able to make a movie of their lives but we can let them know that we hear them and that none of us is alone so long as others care. So I thank you, Viola, for giving us words to ponder and inspiring us to listen!
It’s been said before and certainly has not gone unnoticed everywhere you look. We are suffering from a serious lack of kindness in the way we treat each other.
As I was stepping outside of a restaurant last week to stretch a little, I opened the door and saw two women approaching. The first (“Mary”) was 60ish and about ten steps behind her was an elderly woman (“Joy”) around 80ish. Joy was using a walker and Mary kept admonishing to hurry up. I was not sure of the relationship between the two but clearly they were traveling together. I was happy to hold the door thinking that Mary would take the door and wait for Joy to catch up.
However, Mary just passed me without acknowledgment and proceeded to the hostess stand to be seated. I was surprised but happy to continue holding the door and told Joy to take her time until she, too, was in the restaurant. A few minutes later when I returned to my seat, the two were seated together reading menus. I do not know what happened between the two women prior to arriving at the restaurant but to leave an elderly woman with a walker to fend for herself at the door was more than a bit rude.
Whether it is someone we know or a stranger, it only takes a few seconds of our time to extend a courtesy and make someone’s journey a little easier. Whether it is holding a door, helping someone lighten a load, extending a supportive hand, or just giving a smile that might be the only one someone has had that day – a few precious seconds to perform random act of kindness can make the difference of a lifetime. Try it! You may like it!
A lot of people spend their entire lives living in the same city where they grew up. In some cases, living in the same community only a few doors away from family and friends. I did the same.
A lot of people go off to college and then settle elsewhere not returning to their hometown but deciding to strike with their new found independence. I went away to college as well but that away was less than 12 miles from my home.
As I looked at what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be for this chapter of my life, I realized that there was time for yet another great adventure – leaving home and living somewhere else. After giving a lot of thought to where, we decided to make the move to a Florida. Let the adventure begin!
Of course, such decisions are fraught with some heaviness and even a little guilt over leaving family and friends. But help them understand why you are leaving and they will support your decision. Most important, don’t make the move to run away from something because you will only take it with you. Rather, run towards something – a new beginning. Think of the possibilities that await you.
The people you love, the friends and family you have known all of your life, those who have fed your soul, lifted you up, supported you and helped to make you who you are will always be there and will remain a part of your life – like that air you breathe. You will be there for them as you always have been even if it is at a distance. Sure some of the spontaneity of last minute gatherings will be lost but the relationships will continue to grow and be a part of you forever. It isn’t about being easy. It is about making the effort and being present no matter what form it takes.
So hold on to your past, hold tighter to the present and jump into the future with both feet on the ground dancing in the rain.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about dancing in the rain.”*
My favorite expression of all times. I use it as my signature on my emails and as a silent chant in my head when things seem to be rough. Everyone’s journey is from time to time fraught with challenges which may seem to rock your very being. As we get older, we only hope that it becomes easier to manage our expectations and our reactions to those situations which give rise to the challenges.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed and consumed by a difficult time that is facing you. Whether it is a serious illness, the loss of a loved one or a friend, a serious argument with or disappointment in a loved one or a friend, the loss of a job, uncertainty about the future, it can all be difficult to handle and make us question how to move forward on our own journey. When we feel alone and confused, it is easy to start with the negative and get bogged down so that we can no longer move forward. What we should do is start with the positives – even the smallest things that we take for granted each day – and then with gratitude in mind for what we do have, we can better face the challenge in front of us.
This is a good time of year to step back and take a look at our lives and how we handle adversity. Do we truly turn lemons into lemonade or dance in the rain? Do you stand in the rain until your clothes, hair, and spirit feel heavy like a weight that adds to the burden you are carrying? In Spring and Summer, we shed the layers that cover us in the winter whether it be literally in terms of dressing for the cold weather or figuratively in coming out of the short dark days into the bright sunshine of summer where we can feel lighter and caressed by the sunlight and renewed energy around us. With that to move us forward and continue our journey.