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The Mundane and the Glitz

When the mundane and the glitz come at you in one combined image, it jars the psyche. This time was no different. However, the encountered objects of the mundane and the glitz were.

As I donned my running gear and hit the trail early on New Year’s Eve morning, I thought about how I’d devoured more food than I should have eaten over the past week of Christmas celebration. Lamenting the impact of my actions upon my life-long exercise of choice, I jolted to a halt by what I saw at my feet. It wasn’t animal excrement. Fortunately that issue had been greatly reduced by the newly installed doggie depositories placed throughout the neighborhood by the local Homeowner’s Association. (Thank goodness!) Nor was the halting moment charmed by the discovery of a twenty dollar bill. Although I had found dollar bills and many coins over the course of multiple decades of puttering along the path of wherever I happened to be. No, this was a much greater treasure than a monetary find.

The unexpected glow of the abstract relief on the square of cement at my feet consumed my attention and I abruptly skid to a halt. An amorphous puddle of silver sparkle lay spewed across the non-descript grey stone ground. A rainbow of colors sparkled and dazzled as the rays of the bright early morning sunshine spotlighted the glitter splattered before me. Stunned by the effervescence of this sight against the contrasting drab cement that framed the glitter, made me think of the old year fading and giving credence and support for the New Year ahead.

mundane and glitz

An amorphous puddle of silver sparkle lay spewed across the non-descript grey stone ground.

The past year of 2015 had been a very good one overall, celebrating family, friends, travel, reading, writing, work and home!

What would the new year of 2016 bring?

Clearly, the unknown is always shrouded with a certain amount of angst and fear. Yet, the unusual spatter of silver, molded into an incongruous mass spoke loudly on this nostalgic final day in this time and place.

We don’t know what lies ahead, but living many decades of life assured me that adequate strength and tools would be there when needed.

The non-descript and indefinite can have a silvery lining, one that glows and reflects elements of unknown beauty and pleasure. Through faith and inner strength the glitz in the mundane, and even the pain can be found.

AUTUMN OF LIFE

A recent walk through my daughter’s midwestern neighborhood gave me pause.

AUTUMN OF LIFE

Autumn of Life

Colorful snippets of life

“When summer turns to winter and the autumn disappears,” are age-old lyrics may conjure Baby Boomer thoughts of graduation and farewell to friends. Although I rarely think of this tune, the words went off like firecrackers on New Year’s Eve during a brisk morning walk on a recent visit to my Midwestern roots.

The color changes of maples and oaks, not a part of our relocated southwestern living, roused all of those latent, but familiar, senses with more than a mix of déjà vu. The generational lifecycle that never occurred to me in my twenties clearly stretched into the blue skies on that fall morning a generation later.

Missing was the scorched, earthen scent of burning leaves, so much a part of younger days with a blazing fireplace and chestnuts in the oven. The smells that filled my nostrils only reflected the nipping, brisk air of late fall, forewarning a pending frost to bring more color changes to the flourishing giants.

It was Saturday, and neighbors had the routine in place, including the piles of fallen and raked leaves.

Although a little more mechanized with power blowers,  kids still tugged and scratched metal rakes snatching the edge of the sidewalks as piles of wilted color and crumbled brown foliage filled the curbside.

The gleeful art of leaf-pile-leaping would soon tempt the youthful workers. A reward for labor, unless a swish of wind would whip up and blow the burnt orange leaves back to the lawns and streets.

The dampened life that clung in anticipation of the mac truck jaws that would haul the piles away on Monday morning lay in wake. Clean. Neat. Not so unlike the autumn of our lives with beauty flourishing and fading. Yet among the brightly colored foliage stood the bare, solid structure underpinning the beauty. The strength of the trunk, the branches and the span of naked reach was equally as beautiful. It was the solid structure of support. Clean. Neat. Substantial.

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The foundation of the beauty

The memory of the beauty that once was unleashed a greater structure.

FREEDOM RIDERS

On May 4, 1961, 436 people risked their lives to fight for human equality, and against racial discrimination, in the deep south. They were called the FREEDOM RIDERS, because they boarded buses in our nation’s capitol, Washington, D.C., and rode to New Orleans,  to proclaim the solidarity of their union for the FREEDOM for all races. By their courageous actions, they pronounced their opposition to the Jim Crow laws that separated races and denigrated black Americans to separate restrooms, restaurants, seating on buses and public arenas.

Fortunately, last week a friend called to tell me that Oprah was televising a commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the historic event.  We taped the hour-long special, and later sat in awe, captured in the horror of what some Americans did to their own people. The documentary showed how mostly college students, and some older adults – both black and white – united together in support of equal rights and freedom.  Tears filled my eyes as I watched people in the southern cities of Alabama and Mississippi beat the FREEDOM RIDERS with clubs, sticks and other weapons. We saw members of the Ku Klux Klan organization, who were blind supporters of the segregationist laws that prevailed, viciously attack,  maim and even take the lives of many of those on the buses.

An Alabama teacher I know who sheltered and offered food to many of the FREEDOM RIDERS, saw the pain and suffering they experienced.  “If it wasn’t for these people, the Civil Rights legislation that came from Martin Luther King’s march  may never been born,” she said. “Those folks suffered plenty, but it was for an important cause and it made a difference.”

As I noted in last week’s post:  “Never believe that a few caring people cannot change the world . . . that is all who ever have.”    Margaret Mead, anthropologist.

By taking a stand and modeling courage to follow the Character Traits we have been looking at over these past weeks, we can all make a difference in our children – even if only in small ways.

How have you or someone you know made a difference in your life or the life of another by their courage?

CARE BEARS CAN BE ALIVE AND WELL

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. . . that is all who ever  have.”                          

  ~ Margaret Mead, American Anthropologist ~

No parent ever said, “I don’t want my child to grow into caring human being.” Placing value on caring for other people is something we all want for our children. We also want them to care for all life, property, and our global environment. Over the past few decades, especially, we have become more aware of our responsibility to the future well being of our earth.

We know that example through our words and actions speaks volumes to children and shows them what significant adult(s) in their lives believe is important; and, what they will internalize and follow. Many of us may not have grown with the most relevant and comprehensive examples of how to care for life and our global environment. Now, however, we can address elements of caring that need to be taught, while taking specific steps that will teach children the behaviors we want them to model. Below are some ways you can help teach your child about the character trait and major pillar, CARING.

  • Caring for self: By providing healthy meals, minimizing sweets, carbonated drinks, salts and unhealthy fats, we teach our children that our body is a temple and we are in charge of caring for it to the best of our ability. Along with healthy eating, other habits such as exercise, cleanliness and order teach children personal care.
  • Caring for the needs of others: By attending to the emotional needs of children, we show them we care for their feelings. When we see others upset, we can model good listening, emotional support and help to ease the personal pain of another. We should identify the actions and tell the child what we are doing and why it is important as well. The child will then become aware of what it means to support and care for another person’s feelings.
  • Caring for those less fortunate: By participating in food drives for the hungry, donating used toys to needy shelters (perhaps a toy-cleaning day quarterly), and saving a part of allowance money earned to give to a favorite charity can be incorporated into a family routine. Volunteering as a family – perhaps to give time to work in food kitchen – is a fantastic way to model helping those in need.
  • Caring for life: By having children take responsibility for pets and plants, they learn the need to care for all living things. If you do not have any pets, perhaps your child can interact with the pet of a friend or family member to teach them how to be gentle and caring.
  • Caring for the environment: By making sure waste and debris are picked up, children learn environmental care. Through awareness of the amount of water and electricity being used at home, they learn environmental conservation. It is through the example of the adults who are significant in their lives that kids learn that the earth is our home and that it is important to take care of it for the future.

Raising caring kids is something that requires awareness on the part of adults in that magical sphere of influence. By considering these steps, parents, grandparents, teachers and all significant adults can guide children toward becoming caring adults.

What ideas can you share that have helped you teach some element of CARING to a child? Did you experience a caring family life when you were growing up? What did you learn from your parents/family/teachers/significant adults that taught you be a more caring person?

TEEN VOLUNTEERS and SERVICE LEADERSHIP

I had a nightmare last week. The kind where you awake in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat. Fortunately, after a few moments, I happily realized it wasn’t true-to-life and breathed a sigh of relief. 

We have all had a bad dream experience at one time or another. My dream revealed a ceremony where all of the libraries in the Phoenix metropolitan area closed their doors- permanently. With no funds, the doors had to close. In one rising crescendo, a bell chimed off in the distance. All the library branch managers stood at attention with large golden keys in hand. Upon the twelfth gong, all keys turned and the doors were closed for good.  Sound pretty far-fetched? Not so. My dream is a reality for some communities. A tragic reality!

Less than one year ago, in the affluent Troy, MI community, boasting top schools, pine trees, large homes and spacious front and backyards, this dream was the community’s worst nightmare. When voters chose not to pass the required millage proposal, all of the libraries in this Northeastern Detroit suburb shut their doors — for good. What a travesty to not be able to visit your local library and select a book, or even wait two or three days for your request to be filled, transferred from another location and be placed on the shelf with your name, awaiting your pickup.

Learning of these closings from relatives who live in Troy, brought the loss very close to home. I thought of the many wonderful experiences my own (now adult) children had with family visits to the public library and how they have passed that love to their children. As grandparents, my husband and I enjoy the story hours, puppet shows and simple visits where we can plop on a soft cusion and read a book to our grandkids! It doesn’t get much better that! 

Kudos to those who make our libraries such a vital part of our communities and extra cheers sent to the teenagers who are leaders through their service and who make a difference.  Please read about the great work our kids are doing for our Phoenix area public libraries in the May Community blog of Raising Arizona Kids magazine. 

Do you know of other kids who are making a difference in their community because of their service leadership?