Thursday, March 24, 2016

Share The Light

             I sat at a local grocery store deli.  My heart was heavy, thinking about the attacks, and my teacher who was in a hospital half way around the world in a coma.  I thought of the words I had shared that morning about kindness, and my thoughts returned to the kindness of my teacher.  My mind flooded with all of the expressions of and reflections of his kindness that I had read since that sudden morning.  I bowed my head to offer a simple prayer over my meal, and to pray, once again, for Richard.
            Almost instantly I heard a voice say, “You are fifteen dollars short.” My head snapped up and something propelled me out of my seat and over to the register.
            “Can I pay the difference?” I heard myself say.
            As the bag boy was beginning to remove two large packages of chicken thighs from the grocery bags, I looked at the customer in line.  There stood a tall, very dark, kind looking man.  He spoke to me in a thick accent.
            “What you mean?”
            “Can I pay for the rest of the groceries?”
            I looked at the cashier. 
            “You can pay for them if you want to,” she said.
            “My teacher is in the hospital,” I began to stammer, my voice thick with emotion. “He was injured in the attacks yesterday.  He is in a coma.           
“He was hurt?  I so sorry,” the customer with the kind eyes replied.
“I invited my friends to share kindness today on his behalf.  Will you please let me do this, for him?”
“Yes, thank you. “
            As the young boy returned the chicken, the cashier instructed the man to swipe his card, and then allowed me to swipe mine for the remainder.
            The amount was $14.43.
            “Please pray for Richard,” I implored.
            “We will,” said the customer, the cashier, and the bagger. “We will pray for him.”
            It took all of three minutes.  Three minutes to share the light.  Three minutes to join together in common humanity, kindness, and faith. 
            It cost all of $14.43 to create a shift in the darkness, to invite strangers into the light of hope, to share the light.
            The customer needed kindness.  Richard would have offered that kindness.  He wasn’t there, but I was.
            We all have three minutes.  We all have some resource.  We all have kindness within us.
            Choose to share the light.  Choose to chase away the darkness. Choose to act.  Small things, multiplied, can change the world.  Go and do something today.

Share the light with others by tagging your stories #sharethelight, and post to our Facebook group Share the Light.  Join the movement.  Make a difference.  Shine on.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Light that Shines in Brussels

            I’ve been thinking today about light.  It seems the brighter the light, the greater the effort of darkness to overcome it.
            I had a teacher once who embodied light.  He welcomed every student into his classroom with a smile.  He called us by name, he laughed, he taught us about light.  We could sense that what he was teaching us was true, because the teachings were a part of him.  The light radiated from him. 
            He left his home and family to share that light.  He spent two years in the dangerous Ivory Coast of Africa.  We all prayed for his safety there.  We worried and wondered and hoped he would return without incident.  He did.
            He left again, to France.  He had served there as a young man sharing the light of his faith many years before.  He was thrilled to return and continue his service.  We did not worry about danger there.
            Until this morning, when in a simple effort to travel to an airport with some younger missionaries, darkness invaded.  Exploded.  Shattered into his light. 
            I have prayed for him all day, for his family, his injuries, that his light would not be diminished in this way.
            I have prayed with friends, other students, family members, people who do not know him, joining with me to invoke light. 
            And that is how the darkness will fail.  Darkness cannot withstand the presence of light.  It must flee.  As our light combines in intensity, refusing to give in to darkness, it must leave. 
            My teacher sparked a light within me that has grown into a fervent flame.  He has taught so many others who were changed by that light.  His light grows in us.  And as we unite in that light, to shine to the world, the darkness will leave.  Hope will prevail. 

Be well, Richard Norby, we are shining for you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

He Is The Gift

It is 12:03 - technically Christmas morning.  All the gifts are wrapped, stockings are filled, everyone else is asleep and the house is still and quiet.  I have been reflecting all day on the gifts of Christmas.

At the beginning of the month, my church posted a video about Christmas  It was a tender reminder of how easy it is to get lost in the commercialism that pervades this time of year.  I had a quiet prompting to write something each day about gifts - simple ways to share the true gifts of Christmas that had nothing to do with money.

My experiment started slowly by taking quick, random snapshots of things that caught my eye and my heart.  Most days it would only take a minute or two to post a thought, and let it simmer on Facebook.  But soon I started to see the beauty resonate in these small, simple sharings.  People from broad walks of my life started coming together to comment, like or share these posts.  I was amazed at the universal resonance these simple gifts had with many different people.  Some days friends told me that was just what they needed to hear that day.  Other times friends shared thoughts or experiences with me that touched my heart deeply and were exactly what I needed to hear.

And I found myself focusing on the true gifts of Christmas.  I did very little shopping, spent minimal time in stores and instead found myself looking at life to teach me the lessons I needed each day this month.  Seeking to find gifts of the heart and share them.  My heart softened, my mind cleared and peace began to pervade my heart.

And tonight I am drawn once again to the true gift of Christmas - the birth and life of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Many of my friends have wide and varying beliefs which I respect and honor deeply.  But on this day of gift giving, I hope to honor my Lord by sharing the gift of my humble witness.  I know that He lives.  Although I was born and raised in my faith as a Christian, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have gained my own witness for myself.  I have studied scripture, prayed and sought guidance, and lived the principles of this gospel for almost forty years.  My faith has carried me through the valley of the shadow of death and to the heights of my greatest joy.  All that I am and all that I have to give is because of Him.  He is not only the gift, He is my gift.

His life that began so humbly has reached out to touch all of mankind through His infinite atonement and sacrifice.  No matter where your life has taken you, you are not beyond His reach.  No matter what sorrow burdens you, you are not beyond His touch.  No matter what you hope to become, He can help you if you invite Him into your life.

Millions before me have testified and many will follow with deeper eloquence, but I add my small voice to the chorus of angels who cried, "Glory to God in the Highest, peace on earth and goodwill to men." One small voice can reach one heart at a time, and this month His voice has reached mine.

Merry Christmas.  Thank you for sharing the gift with me.

#ShareThe Gift

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Vote for Freedom

                                     I voted this morning.  In Ohio. 

            A friend of mine from another state commented to me recently that my vote ‘really counted’ because of where I lived.  Believe me, we have been surrounded by political rhetoric here unlike anywhere else I have ever lived.  From multiple daily phone calls to mailings, countless yard signs and near weekly rallies with presidential candidates in attendance, there is an energy and intensity here about this election that is palpable.  We feel the pressure.

            But while the electoral count hinges greatly on swing states such as Ohio, I disagree with my friend that her vote somehow doesn’t count as much as mine.

            I am not vocally political, but I am deeply patriotic.   There are no candidate signs in my yard, but I proudly fly my flag.  My ancestors have rarely run for civic office, but I have a deep family history of military service, to include my own husband.  I love this country.  I voted today to combine my voice with those of millions to choose my leader.  But I will not post who I voted for online.  I will not share my political opinions widely, nor loudly.  Not because I do not care about who is elected, but because I care more about preserving the freedom to choose.

            I vividly remember my first experience with communist government.  I was traveling with a musical performing group as a young college student.  We arrived at the airport in northern Vietnam to armed guards, opening and searching our luggage.  Books and personal items were confiscated – deemed inappropriate to even bring into the country.  We were instructed about what we were and were not allowed to talk about with citizens, audience members and students with whom we would associate.  The feeling in that setting was instantly suffocating to me.   My time there was full of fear and trepidation.  I worried constantly about what I was saying and whom I was speaking with.  While I dutifully respected the wishes of the country, I began to understand the value of the freedoms I had enjoyed every day of my American life. 

            I recently read Barbara Demick’s “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea”.  (Spiegel & Grau, 2010)  It is a stunning account of six North Korean citizens over fifteen years, documenting systematic governmental control, neglect and ultimately starvation of their people.  Cut off from what we would consider the very basics of modern civilization, to include electricity and access to food, people grew disillusioned with their tyrannical rule and risked life and family to escape their country.  Consistently told their sacrifice was for the greater good of the country, many simply wasted away under terrifying sovereign authority. 

            In the historically based account of 1980s India, author Shilpi Somaya Gowda recounts rampant infanticide, culturally forced abortions, and abandonment of countless girls.  Her novel “Secret Daughter” brings to light the accepted cultural notion that male heirs are superior offspring due to ancient dowry practices.  (William Morrow Paperbacks, 2011) In poverty stricken areas, girls and women are now being sold or kidnapped into brothels for prostitution, pornography and sex trafficking.  According to New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof, of the more than 10 million children prostituted around the world – more are in India than in any other country.  (“The 21st Century Slave Trade”, New York Times, April 22, 2007.)

            So as I stood peacefully in line this morning with my neighbors, awaiting the opportunity to cast my vote, my thoughts traveled around the globe.  I thought of the book I read before going to bed last night, being able to select my choice from a countless number of varying voices in my library.  I thought of the breakfast I had eaten before driving to my polling station – how I had been able to simply go to the grocery store and choose amongst thousands of options of nutritious foods.  I thought of my beautiful daughter, who I dropped off at a public high school minutes before voting, knowing she would be safe and given equal opportunity to learn there. 

            No matter who wins today, every vote is important.  Every simple ‘X’ marked in a polling station in every state in this country is significant.  It is a tangible, visible reminder of freedom - freedom in action, freedom to choose.  We choose a leader who will be free of tyranny.  We choose a leader who will allow us to continue to decide what we read and what we will say.  We choose a leader who will ensure public access to basic necessities of life.  We choose a leader who values women and recognizes our worth and contributions to society.  We cannot make a wrong choice in this regard.

We have the freedom to choose and with each and every vote today, we choose freedom.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


It all started with ceilings.

Some of our very good friends were suddenly without one.  After rebuilding their lives from a lost business and having to sell their dream home to buy and renovate a fixer upper, they had one last big project to finish.  The roof.  They had spent the day tearing off old shingles to prepare for the next day's re-roofing, when it hit.  Out of nowhere a terrible storm with 80 mph winds blew in.  They scrambled to cover the exposed roof with tarps before the clouds tore open with fury, but did not make it.  Through the evening and all night long they listened to the pouring rain, watching it seep through the tarps, into the insulation, through the light fixtures and down the walls.  Their beautifully renovated walls, paint and flooring were seeping with moisture.  They mopped puddles, caught what they could with buckets, but it was not enough.  They watched as their ceilings, now heaving under the weight of saturated insulation, began to bow.  All they could see was two years of work being washed away in one disastrous night.

We heard about it in the morning.  Sending out a clarion call for help through the powers of modern technology, friends and neighbors arrived to do what we could.  We started cutting into ceilings, catching hundreds of pounds of soggy insulation and crumbling sheetrock in the process.  We tried to help them find their way out of their disaster.

Hours later, half their home was without ceilings.  You could look through the roof rafters and see the sky, now bright and clear, beaming into their home.

I laid in bed that night, staring at my ceiling.  I thought about the insulation above me, the dry, sturdy roof over my head and the pristine sheetrock staring back at me.  Had I ever thought before that moment to be thankful for my ceiling?

It was as if life were beckoning me to see, to notice, to appreciate for the first time the blessings all around me.  And above me.

I've often said that writing is like breathing for me.  I simply must do it - to connect with my thoughts and understand the world around me.

Suddenly, writing has also become seeing for me.  Taking the opportunity to notice, and record, moments of gratitude has begun to change the way I look at the world.  It has altered what I appreciate and helped me see life in a new light.

After all, I have a ceiling.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What Moms Really Want

It's that time of year again, when everyone is scrambling to find the perfect card, flowers, and gift for Mom.  I always appreciate the sentiment and know that if my family didn't offer the obligatory tokens and handmade items from school, I would be disappointed that somehow I was forgotten.  But it really is much simpler than all of that.  Here is what I really want for Mother's Day -

An offer for a foot rub after a busy on my feet.

The smudgy fingerprints on the back door wiped clean.

To get home from a busy Tuesday afternoon to find someone noticed that it's getting late and has started dinner.

A bouquet of flowers, on a rainy Wednesday, for no reason at all.

A simple gift, seen at a store, that someone simply had to buy because it reminded them of me.  

A card in the mail, on a Thursday, with the sentence, "I love you because..."

The sneakers on the stairs to be noticed, picked up and put away where they belong.

Someone to open the fridge, fully stocked, and thank me for going to the store every week to buy nutritious food to eat so they don't go hungry.

Someone to say, sincerely, "Wow, you did my laundry again?!  Thanks - these socks look awesome."

I think most Moms do what we do, day and in and day out, simply because we love our families.  We gave life to these incredible human beings that we feel honored to raise and watch grow into adulthood.  We simply want our work to be noticed.  We want our sacrifices to be honored by those we willingly sacrifice so much for.  We want to be held in treasured remembrance for the simple things we do each day to show our love.

That's what we really want for Mother's Day.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Last Day of School

I have one hour left. After spending my first year in 14 years of motherhood having my children in school all day, the remaining minutes of solitude are upon me.

It's been different than I expected. I had grandiose plans to fill my days writing music, finishing my book, reading and practicing yoga. I imagined lunches with friends, carefree shopping trips and meeting my husband on his break. There was some of each of those things, but I found that the ordinary tasks of life still remained despite my children's physical absence during the day. Laundry still needed to be washed and folded, dishes cleaned up, dog walked, floor swept and groceries purchased. Much of the mundane remained and crowded out time for more fantastic pursuits.

But I made a discovery. There is a quiet calmness that can be found in the ordinariness of daily living. It was a bit unsettling at first to have so much time to myself, time to think my own thoughts and be with myself hours upon end. But I have grown to like my own company. Most days I fill with silence, choosing to refrain from music or television accompaniment. I have found a sweet freedom in being present with my thoughts, uninterrupted, with my hands and body busy maintaining order in my home. Not since I was a young, single student in college have I had so much time in my own mind to consider.

As the last, precious quiet moments tick away, I pause. Knowing the upcoming weeks will be filled with friends and sun, swimming pools and camps, travel and chaos, I relish the gift of the present. I try to embrace the stillness, hold it deeply in my heart and remember the secret I have learned during this year. No matter what happens around me, there is a quiet place inside. The simple motions of folding, washing, sweeping and weeding can all invite me to return to the place I have visited so often these past months. The place of peace.

I am hopeful that when the bus doors open for the last time, I can invite my children to visit that gentle garden with me, helping them embrace a slower pace of living. As we work together, we can find the rhythm of reflection in the simple tasks of life.

Welcome home boys, so happy to be with you my daughter, let me tell you a secret. Here, can you help me wash this dish?