Saturday, December 31, 2011

Intent on my Relationships

I like New Year's and I like the idea of New Year's resolutions. Not the making of them. No. The making of resolutions can be scary. I mean -- seriously -- how many resolutions have I made and not kept? But I do like the 'idea' of resolutions -- like goals, they give me something to aspire to, something to work towards, to attain, to want to do to create more of what I want in my life -- challenge is, the breaking of making resolutions leaves me feelings dispirited. And so, I avoid making resolutions with the excuse -- silly things. If I'm going to break them. Why make them?

Because it's not about the resolutions I make. It's about the process I go through to create them.

It's in the self-assessment that I grow, that I find my truth, that I see where my weaknesses/soft spots/excuses have created opportunities for me to NOT live my best life yet. It's in the creating of resolutions I find myself with room to grow.

When I shift my perspective to focusing on the process of creating resolutions, I let go of the outcome and move into a healthier state of being.

One of the resolutions I've made this year comes out of spending the day with my eldest daughter yesterday.

In May of this year, she moved to Vancouver. In the process, I haven't given much thought to how I am going to live with my daughter living so far away (800 miles) I've basically just treated the distance between us as a non-issue. And yet, it is a factor in our relationship moving forward as she has no intent of ever moving back to Calgary -- and at this point in time, I'm not moving to the coast.

How am I going to keep our communication open? How do I keep the intimacy in our relationship strong so that we continue to enjoy the kind of relationship we've had? One where sharing our joys and our sorrows is central to our communication. One where I am focused on deepening our interactions -- not just letting them slide into the peripheral of surface talk that happens when I engage from my place of, I'm busy right now honey, let's chat later.

When communicating over a telephone, or SKYPE, or email, or text, 'later' can be dangerous as it's not as easy to just cuddle up and chat because you're both in the same place at the same time, or you've got ten minutes to connect, or a couple of hours to chat over a shared meal.

It's hard to be intimate when your mode of communication precludes connecting on a real and physical plane.

Unless I'm intentional in my communication, that is. Then it doesn't matter what the plane we're on, what matter is what I'm communicating, and most importantly, how engaged I am in our communication.

And that's the resolution I've made. To be 100% engaged in any communication I participate in.

With my eldest daughter that means being intentional in when we communicate AND when we communicate being focused only on our communication -- not being distracted by something I'm reading on my monitor, or doing the dishes while chatting, or whatever I do that takes me away from being 100% attentive on our conversation.

Which brings me to the core of my communication issue with my daughter -- I have not yet accepted she's moved away. That she is not physically present in the same city. Just a block or two away. Down the street, or a five minute drive away.

I still think she's at home and haven't consciously embraced this new reality.

Time to get real on the new circumstances of her life so that we can have real intimacy in our life -- as it is, not as I'm pretending it to be!

When seen through the filter of 'what do I want more of in my life?' I let go of my oppositional perspective that states, 'resolutions are stupid, nobody keeps them so why make them' to a place of balance. To that place where I know I am 100% responsible for my life. 100% accountable for what happens in it -- and from that place of accountability, I breathe deeply into my truth. If I want to have more intimacy and closeness in my relationships, I need to resolve to paying attention, being intentional and being present in my relationships, no matter where life has taken the one's I love.

Happy New Year everyone.

May your year be filled with living your best life yet. May you all enjoy a year of making a difference in everything that surrounds you, filling your world with Love.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Year of Making a Difference (a new blog)

Light shimmers on the water. Day breaks unseen, the eastern sky hidden behind the concrete wall of the city claiming its space here at the edge of the sea.

I am in Vancouver. Sitting in the living room of my dear friend BA's apartment. She has graciously given us her home while she is away. I sit looking out over English Bay, night slowly ligthening to day.

And... I don't feel like writing this morning. I feel like meditating. Sitting. Contemplating the view. I feel like dancing. Like singing. Like swirling about and spinning around and falling to the ground in a heap of laughter and giggles and little girl elation.

Ain't Life Gtand!

We had lunch yesterday at The Sylvia Hotel, just down the waterfront from where we are staying, it is where C.C. and I stayed, and had planned on staying if offers of accommodation hadn't appeared from my girlfriend and from my sister and her husband -- how sweet is that? Two options. One in North Van. One in the Eastend. And, because Alexis, my daughter, lives and works just across the Burrard Street Bridge in Kitsalano, we opted for downtown.

We took the Aquabus across the Bay yesterday. Walked along the seafront, the sky dove grey above us. The rain would pour down later, but for our afternoon walk, it was misty and soft and oh so deliciously moist. After a prairie winter, my parched skin welcomes the moisture, soaking it in like sunshine.

There was a woman on the SkyTrain as we took the Canada Line from the airport downtown. She got on, sat beside me and promptly asked, "You visiting or coming home?" I think it might have been the suitcases piled in front of me that gave away the fact we were coming from the airport. "Visiting," I replied.

She sighed. "To grey skies. I just got back from Mexico. Two weeks in the sunshine. I need to spend more time there." And in the course of three SkyTrain stops we shared laughter and tidbits of our lives. Her 23 year old son suprrised her with welcoming her home to a clean house. She wanted a Golden Retriever but he wanted a German Shepherd. People are scared of them, you know? One woman even picked up her little white dog and foisted it up into a tree until she'd walked past with "Stella", the German Shepherd. The woman held her dog in the tree, pointed at Stella and said -- there's a bad dog. Don't come out of the tree until it's safe.

People are funny.

We make judgments. Decisions. Leap to conclusions all based on past experiences, things we've read or heard or been told by others.

Stella would never hurt even a flea, the woman told me. She's such a wuss.

And then her stop came and she struggled to her feet. Had a knee replacement last year she told me. It works great in Mexico but here. Man, the dampness gets to it. good luck. Have a great visit. Happy New Year! and she was gone. A brief encounter flowing away like the SkyTrain moving on to its next stop. Lives intersected. Stories exchanged. Moving on.

I am into moving on mode these days. Into moving beyond my fears and trepidations of 'what's next' into embracing all that is and all that can be when I move into this place where possibility exists far beyond my wildest imaginings.

One of the 'openings' I've stepped into is a new project that I will begin on January 1. It stems from a comment I made as I was chatting with a co-worker on my last day at the homeless shelter -- where I used to work :). "One of the gifts from this place," I told him, "is the fact that everyday, I knew, I was making a difference."

And I realized, what would I do to make a difference when I wasn't working there. How could I consciously shcoose, and keep, making a difference at the forefront of my mind.

And so.... I decided to bring making a difference into my consciousness everyday by making 2012 "A Year of Making a Difference."

I've set up a blog (I also set up the domain but can't quite figure out how to make it happen properly so will have to wait until I'm back at my laptop to figure that out -- I'm using my iPad while I'm away). Nevertheless, my blog is called, "A Year of Making a Difference." Everyday, I will post about one thing I did that day to make a difference in the world -- it could be as simple as choosing not to drive a car for a day to lessen my ecological footprint, or it could be as simple as buying a coffee for a stranger. The 'differences' I make will be me consciously choosing to live on purpose, to choose to do one thing everyday for someone else that is not about 'getting in return' and completely about giving.

Please join me on the journey -- the blog will go live on January 1. I am excited about the possibilities.

the address is: http://ayearofmakingadifference.wordpress.com -- there's nothing there yet. I have to work on getting it properly set up -- but it will be ready to rock and roll on the first day of 2012!

Namaste.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

In the light


There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.   Edith Wharton 
Today, C.C. and I are off to Vancouver for a few days to visit my eldest daughter, a young woman who is the light, whose smile and grace reflect light at all times.

Because, in the end, no matter if we are the light or its reflection, light shares its brilliance freely -- and when we stand in the light, we become part of the light and in that becoming, light grows, darkness fades and shadows lessen.

I have a friend who is standing in the light. She is casting out the shadows, pushing back at the darkness. 

It is hard work this moving from the shadow into the light. And it is important. For even in the shadows her light has cast a beautiful brilliance on the world that radiates everywhere. That illuminates so much for others to see the wonder and beauty all around. Even in the darkness, she is the light.

Yesterday, I left the shelter for the last time. I said my good-byes, hugged and cried and drove away knowing, next time I'm there will be under different circumstances.

It was touching and it was difficult. There are so many people in that place where darkness shadows people's dreams. So many people who have touched my heart and my life and shown me how to stand in the light. Peter held my hand and told me he will always be in love with me. (I didn't know he was :) and I am touched) Gary sobbed as I hugged him. "I'm angry at you," he said. "Now everything will change."

And it will. Change. And it will. Be different. 

Just as I am different since first walking into that place in May of 2006.

I am different. I am the same. In that place  have learned to claim my light and be it. To reflect it. To share it. To cherish it.

I walk in the light. I cannot take my light away from that place. I can only carry it with me, but what light I cast while there, will be carried in the corners and the folds of the hearts and people whom I touched and who touched me. We are all different for our encounters. We are all embraced by each other. We are all 'the same', human beings on the journey of our lifetimes.

Just as my friend is different and the same since someone came into her life and tried to dim her light, turn it off, shut it out.

But no one can do that -- no one has the power to turn off our light, unless they choose to end our lives. And while living in the darkness of someone else's abuse feels like a living death, it is and always will be, their abuse. Not ours.

I am praying for my friend today. Praying and wanting her to know -- she is a light that brightens up my world everyday. Her light is filtered through love and caring and kindness and generosity and just plain old smartness. Her light is a light that illuminates hearts and minds and souls.

And, I am praying for the souls who continue to sit at the shelter hoping for light to illuminate the path away from that place where the darkness called 'homeless' shadows their every step.

I am praying for the light.

And now, I must run. I've got to tidy up the house. Undo Christmas decorations. and did I mention do laundry and pack?  Yup. I'm off to Vancouver and I've much to do before we take flight -- I was emotionally drained last night and chose to simply sit in the softness of the Christmas tree lights twinkling in the night as C.C. lay on the sofa reading and I relaxed in the reading corner, enjoying the quietness of the evening all around..

Namaste.




Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Maybe Next Time

My last day at the shelter. I am moving on.

Yesterday, I went down to the second floor day area to help serve lunch (the day area is a large open space with room for seating of 500+ people -- meals are served here, people can sit and watch TV, read, chat, play cards, etc.). As I walked through the tables, placing a plate of food in front of each guest, I smiled and wished people "Bon Appetit".

News of my imminent departure is everywhere.

"Hey! How can you leave us?" one woman asked.

"Everyone needs to leave this place at some point," I told her. "I figure maybe if I leave it will make space for others to leave too."

"I'm out of here next month," she said.

"I'm so glad for you," I replied.

And she stood up and hugged me. "We're going to miss you," she said.

And I told her the truth. "I'm going to miss you too."

I am going to miss the people in this place. I am going to miss the feeling of being part of humankind awash in the angst and turmoil, joy and love of being human. Of being in a place where the struggle to find the way home goes beyond one's physical address, to pierce right into the heart of our human condition.

This is a place where everyone fearlessly gathers up the broken pieces to carefully fit each delicate shape into a tapestry of life that is taped, and woven, and stitched and stapled and glued together to complete a portrait of a life flowing from whole to broken to whole again and in and out and around all that makes us human.

There are a lot of broken hearts, beat up dreams and shattered illusions at the shelter. And always, there is Love.

I felt it yesterday as I served lunch with two families who make it their tradition to come in as a group and help out for a day every holiday season.

I felt it walking through the tables chatting and laughing with the people we serve.

I felt it standing at the back of the room with a staff member chatting about 'next moves'.

And I felt it when a young woman came running up to throw her arms around my neck and say, "I'm back."

"It's lovely to see you," I replied. "But I'm sorry to see you here."

"Yeah, me too," she responded. And then she laughed, shrugged her shoulders. "I did well this time. I lasted on the outside a whole year, all by myself. Maybe I'll do better next time."

She did do well. She told me once that all her troubles came because of men in her life. To last a year on 'the outside' alone is a remarkable feat for her.

And I am reminded -- Baby steps. Baby steps. Maybe next time she'll feel less like she is on the outside looking into to a world where everyone else knows where they belong. Maybe next time, she'll get lucky and find that place inside where she is always at home and never has to come back to this place to get in from the cold because outside is so much warmer and welcoming.

And until that time, I am grateful there is this place where those who feel 'the outside' is not a welcoming and sustainable environment have a place to come home to for as long as they need it.

And yes, I am going to miss this place.

And yes, I know I'll be okay, because working here I have learned there is no better place to be than in my heart. And if home is where the heart is, there's no place like home when I surrender and fall in Love.

********************************************

In a world of this time it'll be different, where the belief of next time I'll be lucky, reigns like stardust scattered across a dark sky, there is always a next time, always a chance to do it different, make it happen, have luck on your side. In honour of all the 'next times' out there, I went in search of one of my all time favourite songs -- from the 1972 hit Cabaret, Liza Minnelli sings, "Maybe Next Time".

(and I laughed as I watched her sing. Most of my life I've been told -- you look just like Liza Minnelli. It's funny, I never really saw it and as she started to sing I thought, "maybe this time".  Nope.... but, there's always next time.)






Tuesday, December 27, 2011

One world. One humankind. One word.

The New Year is approaching. Just five sleeps away, it looms upon the horizon of a new year dawning.

What about the last?

At Abbey of the Arts, Christine Valters Paintner invites everyone to let a word find them and to meditate on that word throughout the year.

Last year, my word was Renewal.  I was intrigued by this word. Intrigued and somewhat flummoxed. What was I to renew? My faith? In God? In humanity? In trusting in the moment?

It was, I realize as this year draws to a close, all of that, and more.

2011 was the year of renewing my belief in Love. In the beauty of One. In the power of humankind. In the fragility and possibility of one moment.

It was the year of coming home to my heart, in finding myself at peace within me, no matter where in the world peace was being challenged, coming apart or falling to pieces.

It was in the pieces I found myself connecting to the One. It was in the pieces I found my belief strengthening.

I believe this is a world of wonder. A world of possibility. A world, broken and abused, by humankind, not some 'other' but we, the human beings who inhabit this planet are creating the havoc we witness in our world.

Sure, there are storms and eruptions of the earth and other natural disasters. But the greatest disaster of all is the harm and pain we cause eachother upon this planet, and the devastation we cause to this giant ball spinning through space. We hurtle through space, orbiting the sun and drawing ever closer to its heat through the tearing away of the protective membranes that keep our world from burning up. And through it all we tell ourselves, 'we are invincible'. We are humankind. We will live forever.

Maybe. But not in this world. No, forever after comes on some distant plane of another's creation.

In this world, we are the destroyers and the builders. We are the war-makers and the peace-keepers. We are the killers and the creators. The haters and the Lovers.

We are the only one's making Love. The only one's making War.

We are one planet. One people. One world.

When will we renew our belief in humankind? When will we step into Love and let go of killing one another?

The New Year is but five sleeps away.

It's never too late to change direction.

Never too late to choose Love, not hatred. Peace, not war. It's never too late to have a change of heart. Never too late to forgive.

As I look back on 2011 I see a year of growth. Of moments of turmoil and many more moments of grace than I can count.

It is in those moments I focus my attention. It is in those moments of grace I am renewed. And as my spirit is renewed, my word for 2012 calls stronger to my heart -- Suppleness.

Yes. to let go of rigid thinking. To let go of judgment and criticism. To be soft and gentle in my approach in the coming year.

What's your word?

AND -- once you've found your word, please share it here, and/or, at Abbey of the Arts.

Namaste.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Love sparkles all around

 
It is Boxing Day morning. The house slumbers -- which makes sense as 'the other's' chose to stay up and play boardgames until the wee hours while I opted for my bed around 11. The second load of dishes is going through the dishwasher, the living room is cleared -- except of course for the sparkly glitter that litters the living room rug, and most surfaces. It shot out of the plastic cap guns C.C. bought for the stockings -- they're filled with tiny nerf balls, he told me as we wrapped presents Christmas Eve and watched both the original and the 1994 version of Miracle on 34th Street.

He was mistaken. They're filled with tiny pieces of confetti glitter which we discovered yesterday morning while unwrapping gifts. Ryan, Liseanne's boyfriend, dug through his stocking, found the cap gun and pop! A loud bang ensued followed by tiny bits of multi-coloured pieces of confetti falling all around.

Place Card Treasure Boxes
It was rather funny (and pretty) -- and C.C. did vacuum it all up. But then, after dinner, after my mother and sister and her husband had left. After Taylor, C.C.s son's, girlfriend arrived and the board games were hauled out, a battle ensued -- who could startle the person beside them the most by popping a cap gun. Needless to say, the living room is littered with tiny pieces of coloured tinfoil sparkling all around -- it does look pretty and Liseanne has promised to vacuum it all up before she and Ryan leave for Ryan's hometown two hours away where they will redo Christmas all over again tonight.

It was a good Christmas -- and a sad one. For the first time since she was born 25 years ago, my eldest daughter Alexis wasn't here.

And I missed her terribly. Even as I type this I fear the sadness, and the tears.

Centre Piece
I had a theme for dinner last night. Treasures. I painted and glittered up small treasure chests and inside each one placed a heart with the name of each guest. These were the placecards telling people where they were to sit, and even more, telling them of what a treasure they are in my life. In the centre of the table I placed a big star shaped box that I filled with beads and jewels.

Pre-dinner snoozes
And the kitty guards the pop gun
Family and friends are my greatest treasure I told everyone. At this table are the people I treasure most -- except Alexis was missing and though she did come visit on Skype, it was not the same. I am so very grateful for the pre-Christmas dinner we had when she came for my birthday earlier this month. And, C.C. and I are flying to Vancouver on Thursday to spend a few days with her as well as my sister and hopefully my dear friend BA. Both Anne and BA were at the pre-Christmas dinner -- keeping the circle connected.

It's the thing about Christmas, about family, about our world. These days we are so mobile, so far flung at times, it's hard to get everyone together at one time.

I guess this Christmas is a foretelling of years to come, when both girls, and C.C.'s son and daughter too, take off to visit the world and find themselves in places far away on that very special day of the year.

And so, I carry them in my heart. Now and always. In my heart they are always present, even when I can't wrap my arms around them and say, I love you. They are in my heart and my heart always knows, Love is all it can carry.

And while this Christmas felt like a hole was in my heart missing a child who has brought me such joy and love and laughter and tears and beauty, my heart can only be filled with Love and gratitude for her presence in my life.

Thank you Mr. Turkey
Jackie and Mum
I am blessed. And I am grateful. And I am weary -- and that's okay. Today is a day to relax. To feel the house settle around me again. I sit in the quiet of morning, the tree lights sparkle. Music plays softly in the background and I take a deep breath as grace descends and Love sparkles all around.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

And so this is Christmas.

Tiny white lights twinkle on the tree, the balls and stringed boughs of tiny glass beads glitter. And at the top of the tree, the angel, wings spread wide, heralds in good tidings of comfort and joy. Beneath the tree, brightly wrapped parcels are stacked as Ellie sleeps on guard at the edge of the treasures yet to be uncovered.

I sit in candlelight. The house wrapped in a warm, blanket of sleep, The chanting of Stile Antico playing softly in the background.

There is peace in my world.

May there be peace in yours.

Merry Christmas my friends. Your presence here throughout the year has added joy and laughter to my world. Your presence is the present of friendship, of shared experience, of Love.

Thank you everyone!

Merry Christmas. May the blessings of this holy season fill your world with wonder. May you know the Love the Christchild brings every year as we celebrate this holy of days together. No matter our faith. No matter our skin tone, or political affiliations. No matter the depth of our pockets or the thickness of the soles of our shoes, may we all be united today, and everyday, through Peace. Hope. Love and Joy.

Wishing you and your world the blessings of this season of joy.

And... A Christmas Eve song for everyone.

I was moved in the midst of the chaos of gift-buying and wrapping and preparing for this day, to write a song of Advent.  It was, as they say, the spirit moving within me for I know not where the song came from. And then, I decided to record it, me singing my words -- to allow myself to be vulnerable in that moment of creating and to share my song with you.

Namaste.



20111223 162024 by Louiseg88
The Advent of the Christchild


Christmas Eve looms
bright as a star
shining on high
guiding
shepherds
wisemen too
to the one they seek

Allelluia
Allelluia
a savior’s born
of Mary

hark the herald
angels sing
this child will bring
Peace.
Hope and Love
this child will bring
Peace.
Hope and Love

Mary in dark
manger lies
swaddling the babe
while Joseph stands guard
and angels sing
on high

Alleluia
alleluia
a savior’s born
of Mary

Oh sinner man
fall down on bended knee
this child has come
to free your soul
and set your spirit free

Alleluia
alleluia
a savior’s born
of Mary
  
Good tidings reign
o’er the land
and constellations
shimmer
a child is born
to save the world
and angels sing on high.

Alleluia
alleluia
a savior’s born
of Mary

Alleluia
alleluia
a savior’s born
of Mary

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thank you Marianne Williamson

My youngest daughter was aghast.  "Mom. You posted a link to an article about yourself on your Facebook. Isn't that narcissistic?"

"Probably." I replied. "But why shouldn't I post it? The reporter wrote it for people to read. I was honoured and humbled by her desire to do something to celebrate my work in the homeless sector. And, I appreciated her support in helping me shine my light to inspire others to shine theirs."

"Wouldn't not posting it be false? I am proud of what Katie Turner wrote in Metro News. I want her to know she's touched my heart. What better way than to share the story?"

It's a funny conundrum. Be proud of what you've done -- but don't talk about it. And a refrain from childhood flits through my mind -- don't be vain.  And the refrain from Carly Simon's 1972 hit joins in the cacophony of self-censorship. "You're so vain. I bet you think this song is about you. You're so vain."

But I don't think this song is 'about' me. Just as I don't think what I've done is about me. It's about living my magnificence. Being my best. Sharing my brilliance -- and inspiring others to see that they can too. -- Live their magnificence. Be their best. Share their brilliance.

And yet, for all my spaciousness around my daughter's comments, I come home and see several people have commented on my FB link -- and I don't want to read what they wrote. I want to pull down the mention of the article and pretend -- it doesn't matter.

But it does. Matter.

Because I don't want to buy into the notion that celebrating me is bad. I don't want to hide my light for fear it makes others feel uncomfortable -- or think less of me.

Thank you Marianne Williamson.  My deepest fear is not that I am inadequate. My deepest fear is that I am powerful beyond measure.

People will always think of you what they will. As I learned many years ago -- Your opinion of me is none of my business. My opinion of me is what makes the difference for me, just as your opinion of you should be the most important opinion you listen to.

And so I come full circle. I was honoured by a reporter wanting to write a tribute as a farewell and a 'coming out from the shelter' story. She wanted to say, 'job well done'.

And I appreciate it. Because, as I leave this place where I have worked for almost six years, giving my best to shine a light on homelessness, I feel thankful to have had the opportunity, and the space to do a 'job well done'.

And my daughter's boyfriend chimes in. "Actually. I think it's pretty smart. If you're looking for new contracts and to let people know what you're doing next, what better way than that?  Isn't that what you did everyday. Get the media to tell the stories so that people knew what the shelter and homelessness was all about?"

Yes. And for the same reason I wrote The Dandelion Spirit and did a host of other things around women and abuse, I want my story of living in the light of magnificence to be heard so that everyone will do the same -- no matter their circumstances. No matter their condition. No matter where they stand on the street.

Yeah. I'm okay.

In fact, I'm awesome!  Just like you! Let's be awesome together and give the world our best! In our best, we create a world of difference.

Namaste.


Friday, December 23, 2011

A Rag Doll for Leah

It is hard, in this festive season to catch your breath, to chill out and just relax and spend time chatting with someone special for no reason other than that they are special. This week I had just such an opportunity. I'd asked a co-worker one day when she dropped by my office what one of her favourite Christmas gifts was, and she presented me with a story of such hope and grace that I asked if I could share it. "Of course," she replied. "I would be honoured."
I am grateful for Leah sharing her story -- it is filled with love and joy and that special thing called grace which she spreads where ever she goes.

************************

A Rag Doll for Leah
A Christmas Gift of Hope


Leah -- inside the tent during
On the Roof. Off the Street. 
When she was five Leah R. didn’t know that being a guest at the Calgary Fireman’s Children's Christmas party would give her something she could hold onto for the rest of her life. That something was hope which came in the form of a Rag Doll she received as a gift at the party. That day, over 35 years ago, when she walked into the Saddledome, her eyes were wide with wonder. “I couldn’t imagine how all those people were there just for us. For me and my sister and other kids like us. Kids whose mom’s couldn’t afford presents under the tree, or kids who just didn’t have moms and dads to take care of them.”

And yet, there they were, all those people Leah couldn’t imagine, standing with open arms and wide smiles, treating them with kindness and attention. Making them feel special. Giving them a present.
In Leah’s case, the present was a Rag Doll. “I thought she was perfect and all I could do was hold onto her,” she laughs as she tells the story. We are sitting in the Medical Office of the DI, the homeless shelter where we both work. After years working as a frontline staff, primarily in Intox, a large sleeping area for people under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Leah now contributes to the team as the Medical Assistant. 

 “I loved that doll,” she adds, her eyes misting with tears. “She was a connection to my mom. To my past. To the hope that one day we’d spend Christmas with her together again.

It was that doll who would carry Leah through 11 foster homes and too many backseats of a Social Worker’s car, looking back through the window as she waved good-bye. “That day of the Fireman’s Christmas party I was too excited to connect the presence of Social Services with being taken away from my mother. I thought I’d live with her forever.”

But it was not to be. A few days after Christmas, Social Services came back, gathered up Leah and her sister, piled all their clothes into a suitcase and placed the children into the back seat of a car. “All I could take were my clothes, and my Rag Doll,” she says. And then, they drove away from the only home she’d ever known. “I remember looking out the back window, waving at my mom, not quite sure what was happening. My mom stood on the doorstep waving and crying and I was confused and excited. I was going off on an adventure and I didn’t understand what it meant but my sister [who was 1 year older] did. She was crying too and that confused me even more.”

“That was the last Christmas I ever spent with my mom,” Leah adds.

There’s a catch in her throat. A pause as she composes herself. Even now, over 35 years later, that day still touches her heart. “I know what it feels like to lose everyone you love,” she says. “I think that’s why working here [at the DI] is so important to me. I know what it feels like to believe nobody wants you, nobody loves you. As I grew older and kept getting sent from foster home to orphanage and back to foster homes I knew nobody would ever adopt me. Nobody wants a big kid. Everyone wants the cute little babies.”

That understanding lead Leah and her wife, Denise, to foster their first child four years ago. “Tyra was 14 when she came to us,” she says, a big smile lighting up her face. “It was difficult at times but I knew we had to keep loving her even when she was a handful. But who could blame her? She’d been shuttled from foster home to foster home, just like me. She believed nobody could love her.”

But Leah and Denise worked hard to show the teenage Tyra love and attention. To help her understand, no matter what she’d done, or what had happened in her life, she was lovable.

“It’s like with the clients here at the DI,” she says. “I hold onto my belief they all have a chance to have the life they dream of. They will go home one day. I have to because without believing that, I’m giving up hope and I can never give up hope.”

It was her Rag Doll that taught her about holding onto hope, no matter how dark the days. “It was my only way to hold onto my mom,” she says. “As I got older I knew I couldn’t change my mom. I couldn’t stop her drinking or even make her fit the mold the Social Workers wanted her to fit. Like, not being native, not being a single mom. I couldn’t change any of that but I could hold onto hope, and my Rag Doll gave me hope.”

Thirty-five plus years after first walking into the Saddledome and receiving her Rag Doll and the hope for a better life, Leah has come full circle. A mother to two additional foster children, Leah took her four and ten year old sons to the Fireman’s Christmas party for the first time this year. It was amazing she said.

“It was like walking into that arena all those years ago as a little girl. My eyes were wide with wonder and when the boys got treated so well and I saw them smiling and laughing and having fun, I felt the gratitude all over again,” she says. “I love how life has come full circle. The difference this time though is that our home is a safe place for my children. Our home is the one constant they have, the one place they will always know they are loved, no matter what.”

It has been a long journey for Leah from foster child to Adult Care worker to Medical Assistant at the DI. And throughout the journey, she has held onto the one constant she knows she can never give up, that one thing her Rag Doll gave her so long ago. Hope.

And just as she does for her children, she will never give up hope for the clients at the DI. “I will never give up believing in the people we serve,” she says. “I will never give up believing that they will get sober, they will go back home.” And she stops and takes a breath. “There was a time when I didn’t believe I’d ever have a home or a family of my own, and now I do. For people here, if we give up hope, who will they hold onto? I had my Rag Doll. We’re all they’ve got.”

Thank you Leah for all you do. For caring and sharing and never giving up on hope that one day everyone will find their way home. Because of you and the 200+ staff who never give up on the people we serve, Hope lives at the DI.






Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Holy Pause

I am breathing. Deeply.

I am feeling. Completely.

That which I breathe.

It is a simple equation. A deep reflection of time, in this moment right now where I breathe and feel time moving within and around and about me. Where I become completely each breath I breathe without time stealing away that which I breathe into - this moment right now.

I am breathing.

In her article, The Holy Pause: Spiritual Practices for a Time-Obsessed Culture, Abbey of the Arts Abbess Christine Valters Paintner suggests we give ourselves holy pauses throughout the day. Mini sabbaticals from the hectic chaos all around, the Holy Pause allows us to breathe and take a moment to become fully present in the now, without life's busy-ness confusing us with its insistence we get things done, check off our lists and get to where we're going faster.

I am breathing.

I pause. A Holy Pause. A pause of anticipation. Filled with expectancy, the pregnant moment expands and gives birth to my presence here. In this moment where anticipation rests and I embrace what is without looking for what more.

I am breathing.

It is challenging, this being present in the moment. Staying connected to the Holy Pause and its call to reflect, refresh and renew my soulfulness.

My mind skitters, a thousand fragments of light fracturing the moment with tantalizing strands of possibility.

Go this way.

No. That.

Take this. No. Do that.

what about...

Oh yes, what about that idea that just careened into view, its entrails steaming with the desire to pull me from the Holy Pause into doing something about, that glittering whim of a notion.

I am breathing.

I feel the pull. The yearning to move away from my breath into doing something other, something more than just being mindful of the stillness within each breath.

There are tears here in this place of stillness. Tears and a sadness that surfaces only when my mind gives way to my thinking about what it can fill itself up with to avoid the stillness and the sadness of struggling to avoid this moment right here where I listen, deeply, to my soul's cry for silence.

It is in the silence I find my heart beat. It is in the beat of my heart I find my soul stirring, reaching out to the longing of the present moment unfolding. In this moment I feel the joy of giving myself up completely and with abandon to the wonder and beauty and awe of being in this breath right now unfolding within me.

I am breathing. Deeply.

And with each breath I become part of the circle of life flowing all around me.

I inhale andI am filled with life-giving oxygen. The breath enters my body and becomes transformed into Divine and holy life.

I exhale and my breath becomes part of the Divine existence teeming with life all around me.

I am immersed in the Holy Pause filling my being present here with an awe that transcends knowing as I become one with the world around me.

In that Oneness I become each breath, co-creating my being present in this world of awesome beauty.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Letting go to hold onto Love

May I have complete and compassionate acceptance of what is instead of wishing things were different. A Zen prayer
In the Reflection portion of the Child of Light Advent course I am taking online, moderator Beth Richardson's invitation is to: "Make a list of any fears and concerns you feel today. Read through the list and ask God to take each worry, each concern, and fill you with trust. Use the prayer, "God, I give you "this worry". Shine your light on "this worry" and fill me with trust in you." 


I struggle with trust in God. Which I find frustrating and enlightening of the depth of my fear of trusting in God. 


I have no issue trusting in the security of the Internet with my credit card information. Or trusting in other drivers on the road to stick to their lanes, or in trusting a doctor, or dentist, or even my hairstylist not to make a complete botch of their job. I trust I will awaken in the morning, that the lights will turn on and water flow through the tap. I trust when I open the fridge the food will be cold and when I put bread in the toaster it will be toasted to perfection. I trust in my government to do the right thing (okay well maybe that's stretching it a little bit -- they are human) and I trust in banks and other institutions to protect my interests (right, human too). I trust in my employer to pay me at the end of each month, in my case at the end of this month and then never more. And that's okay because I trust that I have the talent and the gifts and relationships and the business acumen to build my own business. I trust business will come. That others will trust me to take care of their business. 


 I trust in my daily life because I must. There is no other way. 


 But trust in God? I don't think so. I mean, I can't even see him and seriously? He's the guy who let's the heavens fall with such force flash flooding sweeps away entire villages. 


And he's the one who let's innocent children become soldiers who kill their families and other children and strangers too. 


And he's the one who didn't stop a young boy from killing his girlfriend and three strangers and who didn't stop one man from killing over 60 prostitutes and one woman from drowning her children. 


 And really, if he can't stop one woman from killing her babies, why should I trust him? 


And the voice whispers, because you must. There is no other way. 


Oh god how I hate that voice. it won't leave me alone. And my voice, the one that convinced me to believe in a man who promised to love me 'til death do us part and got really busy on making the death part work, and the one who believed she couldn't make her dreams come true and who once gave up on her children... yeah, that inner voice I trust so much that let me down so many times screams back, there has to be another way.


Of course there has to be another way! If God can't create a world of Peace. Hope. Love and Joy why should I trust him?


That's why it's called a Leap of Faith Louise, the other voice, the one that likes to gently coax me to trust in God, whispers, Because trusting in a Divine presence is all there is to hold onto in a world of chaos, a world of miracles and light, darkness and sorrow. A world where we, the human beings who have created everything on this planet -- except the birds and the bees and the trees and the streams  -- have also created things called war and hatred and ugly Christmas sweaters -- but we won't go there, that one's too deep to fathom.

Seriously Louise. Who? What? How? When? are you going to give up distrusting the Universe and believe in something bigger than yourself?

When are you going to let go and Let God?

Good question for this morning where I sit in the quiet of my home, the Christmas tree lights twinkling, Ellie sleeping by my feet, the hum of my computer the only sound.

Good question for any morning when I awaken to find the world is as I left it when I fell asleep the night before. The world is as it is. Not as I would like it to be.

And then I sigh. A deep soul-wrenching sigh.

My angst is not because there isn't a God, or a sentient being of light in the world.

My angst is because I want to be in control and to have control I must fight believing in something greater than my mere presence in the world. And it's deeper than that. My angst is because I fight holding onto anything, including Love.

I breathe and hold out my hand. I breathe and hold out my heart. I breathe and let go of my hold on anything other than Love.

I breathe and Love enters and I know -- all is well in my world when I let go of believing I have control of my world.

I don't need control. All I need is Love.

And in that Love, God shines.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Advent: A prayer of Gratitude

I know. I know. My blog has a new look and feel this morning... I got adventurous and tested all kinds of ways to make it pretty, including borrowing a template design from the amazing Tera Zacker at Olive Vue Designs. Tera's artwork and interview was the subject of the d'Verse Poets prompt on the weekend. I wrote the poem, In the Absence of You based on one of Tera's paintings.

And because I have a 7am meeting, I am sharing the post I wrote for the Choices Blog yesterday on the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

*************************************

This is the fourth Sunday of Advent. The fourth and final Sunday in a quartet of weeks focused on the anticipation of the Christchild’s birth. it has been a time of waiting and reflection for me. A time of impending change. At the end of the year, after almost six years working in a homeless shelter, I shall be moving on, shifting gears, opening up to new challenges, new opportunities.

It is a time of sadness and of joy. Of knowing I have given my best, delivered my all in making a difference in the world of homelessness. And now, it is time. Time to move beyond the shelter doors into life beyond my wildest imaginings.

As I prepare to leave, I carry away with me the truth of what working there has meant for me. It has made me a better human being.

And at the end of my tenure at the shelter, there is nothing more that I could ask for than to know that in having spent time working and playing and sharing and growing in the shelter, I am better for the experience.

The other day a man who lives at the shelter asked me, “Did you get your coffee?” I had spent three days, three nights sleeping in a tent on the roof of the shelter as part of a fundraiser and awareness builder and one night a coffee arrived with a note from Mike. Enjoy! was all it said.

There are a lot of Mike’s at the shelter and I thought it was one of our staff. And while they supported the campout on the roof wholeheartedly, it wasn’t one of them who sent me the coffee. It was a man who has little. Who stands at ‘Cash Corner’ everyday waiting to be picked up as a day labourer by someone looking for cheap labour, no questions asked. A man struggling with his own demons, his own limitations who chose to share with me what little he has so that he could say, "thank you" to me for having spent the time drawing attention to this condition called, 'Homeless'.

I cried when I learned it was Mike who sent me up the coffee on the roof. I cried and I thanked him and felt my heart expand. He inspired me. To do my best. To never quit speaking up. To never quit giving voice to what ails our communities and our society -- poverty, addictions, mental illness, abuse... We must speak up if anyone is to hear our call for healing.

As I move beyond the shelter doors I know what is true for me – I want to give the world the best I’ve got within me. I want to share the best of me so that all around me people can find their light and shine. So that everyone knows, no matter their condition, no matter where they stand on the economic scale, no matter their address, no matter their belief system, they are magnificent.

As I prepare for the next stage of my ‘adventure of a lifetime’, I know – there’s nothing more I want to give the world than my best. There’s nothing more I want to share than my magnificence.

For in my giving my best, in sharing my magnificence, I am comforted in knowing, I will receive the gift of the ‘best’ from the world around me.

I am leaving the shelter, stepping out onto the big, broad highway of life carrying with me the most incredible gift of all – the realization that there is no us and them, there is no, I can you can’t, no quid pro quo. There is only this condition, this human condition through which we are all connected, through which we all share in the common goal of wanting to leave the world better off than when we found it.

As I prepare to leave the shelter, as I make plans for a new tomorrow, I am grateful for this time to find myself at home in a place where to belong, you must give up everything you ever owned to share in the human condition called, homeless.

As I look towards a different tomorrow, I know that I am leaving behind all that I gave and taking with me all that I have learned, all that I treasure, all that is important to me. I am taking with me all that I received in almost six years of working at a homeless shelter. I am taking away my humanity and my heart filled with gratitude.

It is the fourth Sunday of Advent. As I prepare for Christmas day, for the miracle of a child's birth, I thank God and all the universe for this precious thing called my life. I thank you for being here with me every Sunday. For listening and reading and being part of this amazing journey of our lifetime shared in the wonder of being humans on the journey of our lifetimes.

I am grateful.

The question is: "What are you willing to give the world?"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A snow angel in the morning

Streaks of snow fall on my iPhone
It is snowing. Soft gentle flakes floating down in a night sky turning dark to light. I let Ellie out, shovel the walk and my neighbours too. I come in, move to the back door to let Ellie in and a thought floats through my mind as gentle as the snow settling on the branches of the pine tree outside my front door.

"You could make a snow angel," the thought whispers.

I laugh, brush it aside and call Ellie in to her breakfast.

But the thought persists. I measure it, taking stock of its prompt, calibrating the depth of its desire to let go, let loose, let playfulness rise.

I laugh again. I am still in my pajamas. Oh scandalous me. I shovelled the walk wearing nothing but my pj's under my big winter coat and boots!

I'm still laughing as I pile on my coat and hat, gloves and boots and traipse out the back door.

I can make a snow angel.

I can lie down looking up at the lightening sky. Feel the snow floating down upon my face. See the trees from below, feel the air above me.

I can make a snow angel.

And I do.

and I am laughing and feeling foolish and giddy and I don't care.

I am making a snow angel.


The sky breaks into day

Looking Up

My Snow Angel
Looking down at me looking up



Saturday, December 17, 2011

In the Absence of You (a poem)


Rain Dance -Tera Zajack 


In the Absence of You

I am dancing
barefoot
my tears falling
unseen
in the rain
streaking
down
hard and fast
against my red dress
billowing
out

outside
in the rain
you danced
barefoot

and I held
hard and fast
to my rules

you’ll catch the death of a cold
I said

and you knelt down
and took off my shoes
and we danced
barefoot
together
and you laughed
and I said
Watch out

and you said
don't stop

look and listen
to the rain

nothing can hurt you
when you're dancing
in the rain 
with me

and my bare feet felt
the cold hard cobblestones

trembling
I stopped

and you danced ahead
urging me on

and I cried, 
Stop
but it was
too late
to stop

look
and listen
before you cross

the street
empty now

I feel the absence
of you

dancing
in the rain.

This poem was written using the prompt provided over at dVerse poets and Brian Miller. The fantastic poetics prompt Brian has cooked up features four Tera Zajack's paintings along with an interview of the artist herself. 

Let yourself be inspired. Visit dVerse poets and be part of the magic.


An addendum:


Maureen inspired me to record In the Absence of You.  also, when I was a little girl, I learned a verse to protect me when crossing the street. I make reference to it in the poem -- which for those who don't know it, was from a Safety Bear whose name I forget but whose verse I've never forgotten:  


Stop
Look
and Listen
before you cross the street.


Use your eyes 
and use your ears
before you use your feet.


In the Absence of You

12 18 2011 9 05 AM by Louiseg88

At home this Christmas

A Tree for Christmas
She hasn't had a Christmas tree in four years. Not because she didn't want one. She never gave up wanting one. She didn't have one because for four years she didn't have a home to put one up in.  This year, she does.

It's not a large tree, but in her one bedroom apartment, it fits perfectly. "I love the smell," she says as she ties another silver ball onto a branch. She breathes deeply. "Oh wow! This is so exciting."

I am sitting in a chair watching her, asking questions, chatting, attaching hooks to each ball in preparation of its placement on the tree. My co-worker is holding the video camera, capturing the moment, silently observing.

I had chatted with Karen the day before when at the apartment building the shelter owns in the downtown core. I was arranging clients for a photo shoot for a new brochure that is being developed to assist in fund-raising for the shelter where I work. The goal is to pay off the mortgage so that we can convert more apartments into affordable housing units.  Karen had agreed to have her photo taken for the brochure as a way to give back to the agency that has, as she describes it, 'saved my life'.

I knew Karen when she was staying at the shelter. A tiny bird of a woman, chronic health conditions, addiction, along with a messy divorce left her without a home, or the ability to work. In her weakened state, she became one of those who 'fall through the cracks', and end up on the doorstep of the shelter. Over the course of her four years in and out of various housing programs and shelters in the city, she never had a place of her own at Christmas.

And then, in June of this year, Karen got a place of her own. A one bedroom apartment to call her home.

As I watched Karen carefully place decorations on the tree, I was moved and touched and reminded of the delicacy of this thread called the human condition. A thread made up of tiny moments that link us to the wonder, and sometimes sorrow, of being human, of being part of humankind, alone, yet not alone. Together, yet separate.

Karen's tree was a gift. A gift from a woman she met during the summer while in hospital for six weeks receiving chemotherapy. The woman, Judy, was in the next bed. For six weeks the two women from very separate and different walks of life connected. They talked and shared and when Karen got out of hospital, Judy took it upon herself to create a welcome home for Karen in her new apartment.

And that's where the magic kept unfolding.

Being released from hospital into homelessness is one of the tragedies in our social fabric. For Karen, being released back to the shelter was a given. Until management stepped in and made it possible for her to get the keys to her own place.

And then Judy stepped in and 'prettied up' the place. She held a house-warming for Karen, inviting her lady friends to come and create a place of comfort and beauty for this woman she'd met while lying in a hospital bed, recovering from her own serious medical condition.

I sat and watched and chatted with Karen yesterday and I knew it was there. In that room with us. It was palpable. The spirit of Christmas. The best of our human condition dancing in the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree that was a gift from a stranger who has become a friend and who continues to take the time to ensure this woman for whom life has not been easy, finds a less stressful, more beautiful path.

"What does having your own place this Christmas mean to you?" I asked Karen as she tossed tinsel and reminisced about Christmases past.

"It means I get to spend it with my daughter. We get to be a family."

And there it was, all over again. The meaning of Christmas. It's not in the baubles and glitter. The gifts or the Christmas cards strung along a mantle. It's right here between us. Right where we are. It's a place to belong. To be welcomed. To be together. A place where family meets and connects to what makes magic happen -- our human condition shining in Love.

Namaste.

Friday, December 16, 2011

O Come. O Come Emmanuel

It is the third week of Advent. Anticipation hangs in the air, glittering with the shimmer of a thousand candles glowing in the night.

The Christchild is coming.

I wait in expectation of the holy of holy nights when hope shall spring forth in a world of peace, joy and Love.

In the Advent meditation I am participating in we are invited this week to meditate on the words of the Christmas carol, O Come! O Come! Emmanuel.  It is one of my favourites. One of those songs that plays itself in my head, even when I'm not thinking about it.

In the beginning notes of the week, Beth Richardson, who is guiding the course at Spirituality & Practice writes:


Words: 9th-century Latin
Music: 15th-century French


The words to this Advent hymn were translated from ninth-century Latin prayers of the Catholic Church. They were known as the "Great Antiphons" or "O Antiphons" (referring to the use of "O come" at the beginning of each antiphon). It is thought that a different antiphon was sung in the monastery on succeeding nights leading up to Christmas. Each antiphon bears a different name for the Messiah.

According to scholar Mother Thomas More, the tune, "Veni Emmanuel," was used as a processional for a community of fifteenth-century French Franciscan nuns living in Lisbon, Portugal. When I hear this hymn, I think of monks or nuns in candlelit cathedrals singing hope in the darkness of the nights before Christmas.

In the meditation course, the invitation is to deepen our understanding of this season through focusing on songs of Advent that speak to the universal truths of our humanity -- we are born in the reflection of God. We embody God's greatness. We are magnificent. We are holy. We are divine.

This is not 'God' as limited by our language, but rather a concept of God that is unlimited through a broadening of our vocabulary -- The Divine. Creator. Yaweh. Almighty Father. King of Kings. Spirit, Lord.

I like the concept of broadening my 'God vocabulary'. Of moving beyond the secular of my language to the Divine presence embodied in the collective will of man, a spirit that embraces me in wonder as I stand in Love.

I am enjoying my Advent meditations. Finding myself focusing on the spiritual elements of the season, and of my being. I am slowing down, moving inward unhooking the external drive to buy more, spend more, give more this season as I connect to the holy within and all around me.

I am breathing into my divine essence, coming home to the One. Hearing the Divine calling of my name as I embrace the beauty and the wonder of my human condition -- I am the Divine expression of God's amazing grace.

In this morning's meditation we were invited to consider the question: "What does God call me?"

Child. Friend. Believer?

"What does God call me?"

Perhaps the answer is... Home.

Namaste.

I went in search of a recording to share and found this beautiful video and recording performed and arranged by Mike Massé and Wendy Jernigan in December, 2001. Scott Slusher provided additional percussion arranging. Video assembled/edited by Mike Massé on 12/05/09.


I invite you to give yourself an Advent breather -- the video is filled with beautiful paintings depicting images of the Christchild's birth.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Make me an instrument of thy peace


Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.   Josh Billings  

 It is a week since I came 'off the roof'. A week since sleeping for three nights in a tent in the cold of winter has ended.

It has been a week of processing. Of considering. Of ruminating on the realities of what happened and how I was affected. Last night, at meditation group, my roof experience returned to enlighten me.

One of the most astounding aspects of my learning from On the Roof. Off the Street was how tiring it is to do anything. And I mean anything. Sitting in that space, curled up under my sleeping bag, everything took energy. From the idea of getting up and out of the tent to use the washroom, to getting up and out of the tent to simply look at the sky, it all took just too much energy to even think about getting it done let alone actually doing.

Sleeping in a tent in the dark of winter on a roof in the downtown core took energy -- which helped me understand why, when someone is homeless, or sleeping rough (sleeping outdoors not in a shelter), hygiene is one of the first things to go.

I thought it was because as individuals slip into that invisible place called, homeless, they fall into the ennui of not caring about themselves any longer, they just can't be bothered. And while that plays a part in the equation, I found myself slipping there because of the energy it took to simply do anything. It was so incredibly tiring to have to move around, to get up and put on boots and then go in and take off coats and then put everything back on again. 

To simply 'run out and grab something' just didn't work. The minute the cold seeps into your bones, you have to fight to warm back up -- and if sleeping rough, as in no washroom to run into, or warm kitchen to scoot inside to warm up -- any amount of cold seeping in requires more energy to dispel -- and in that condition called homeless, there's not a lot of excess energy to go around. Dispelling cold is a herculean feat not for the faint of heart and definitely not for the tired and weary.

Last night at meditation, we were invited to imagine ourselves standing on top of a high peak, the highest possible, higher even than Mt Everest. Imagine the molecules that comprise your body fall away, melt into the air, our meditation guide, Dal, counselled. Now, imagine the essence of you, the soul being, gently moving through the valley's below the peak. Imagine it wandering lightly through the villages and towns below. What do you see?

It was the sadness that hit me. As I came down into the towns I found myself in Africa. It made sense. I've been reading Romeo Dallaire's, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children.  It is not a book I wanted to read but it is a book I believe I must read. I believe it is important to know what truly goes on in our world in order to honour the human beings experiencing it and to support General Dallaire and his work to eradicate the use of child soldiers.  They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children  is a tough read. Well written, it paints a picture that challenges the scope of my western mind and its capacity to believe -- this can actually happen, be going on in our world. 

And then, in my meditation I saw them. These children whose childhood's have been ripped away. These children who have been taught to kill. 

And I felt it. The sorrow and the confusion and the disbelief of watching children killing children. Killing adults. Carrying guns and machetes. Disfiguring their families. Destroying their lives.

And I cried. And I felt the heaviness of their acts. The sorrow of their being abused.

So much pain. So much tragedy.

After the meditation exercise, Dal asked each of us what we experienced. I shared mine, and how the sadness was pervasive. It was everywhere.

Let's go back, Dal invited. As a group, let's go back to that space and feel us supporting you as you stand in the light of Love, seeing it through those eyes, that space.

It was in the going back that I found the truth.

I do not, we do not, have the answers for Africa. India. China. Syria nor even Canada or the USA or homelessness in someone's life. We do not have the power to stop what other's do in their lives.

What we have is the capacity to hold a space and be present In Love. To shine. To know. I cannot change you. I can change how I see you. I can change how I witness your life.

Sitting on the roof, feeling the tiredness of homelessness stripping away my will to 'do' or be anything other than in that tent doing nothing, I understand.

I cannot 'solve' homelessness. I can witness it through eyes of Love. I can stand In Love and know -- for homelessness to be different, I must be different. For killing to end, I must stop hating those who kill and find the courage to Love. To stand in Love and know -- Love is all there is. Love can never be destroyed, no matter how hard we try to destroy eachother.

I hear the Prayer of St. Francis, I told the group -- Make me an instrument of Thy peace.

Yes, said Dal. I hear it too. Make me an instrument of Thy service. 

Let us be the instruments of Peace. The channels of Hope. Love and Joy in a world where sorrow finds no space to grow for Love is all around.

Namaste