Category Archives: Reflections

Looking at the Positive

Someone posted this meme on Facebook this week along with the comment that things in our world are spiralling downward. They wondered what had happened to kindness, respect and lending a helping hand in our world.  I responded to this meme which I think is probably being promoted by those who have strong opinions about the abortion and assisted dying issue by saying……….

“It is important to keep in mind that things are improving. The abortion rate in Canada has been steadily dropping for almost a decade now. The infant mortality rate in the world has been cut in half in the last two decades.

There has been a steady increase in the number of hospices and death doulas in North America. These services help families as a loved one’s life ends and the opportunities we offer seniors for quality of life would be envied in many countries of the world I have traveled to.

As to your comments on this meme- my experience has been that most people are basically kind and respectful. A recent study showed that 90% of people will stop to help a stranger they see in trouble. I know we still have a long way to go but I think it is important to not only look at the negative but also the positive to give ourselves hope and faith in a brighter future.”

I think that rather than wallowing in ‘how bad things are’, and I will admit I can easily do that too, we would be better served by taking actions that give us hope. If you think life in the womb isn’t being respected advocate politically and in other ways for free birth control, more comprehensive sex education in schools, more daycare spaces and financial support for struggling post-secondary students. These are all well-researched ways to lower the abortion rate.  Give money to organizations bringing better health care, prenatal care, vaccinations for childhood diseases, better sanitation facilities and clean water to places in the world where too many children still die.  These agencies abound and we can support them with our donations. 

My husband taking his Dad for a walk

If you are worried about seniors you can volunteer at a nursing home or make sure you are visiting aging relatives as often as you can. You can advocate for more services for seniors in your community or volunteer to offer those services using your skillset. You can raise money for a hospice in your community or provide support to a family that is dealing with the terminal illness of one of its members. 

And as far as kindness, respect and lending a helping hand goes- teach those values to your children, make sure they see you behaving in that way. Find opportunities to highlight, applaud and thank people who do extend kindness, respect and a helping hand. 

I don’t think things in our world will get better if we paint a dark picture and fail to look for goodness, light and forward progress. It’s there.  We just need to see it and talk about it and keep things moving in a positive direction. 

My Facebook connection who posted the meme respectfully read my comments and she responded in a positive way, seeing the value in my sentiments.  I appreciated that. 

Other posts………

Good News

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Bus Chat

“He’s just human too.”  I was taking the bus to work the other day and about halfway down Portage Avenue the bus pulled over at a stop and the driver hopped out.  He was gone for several minutes and I looked at my watch a couple of times hoping I wouldn’t be late for work.  

The woman sitting beside me, who appeared to be about my age said, “Don’t worry.  He will be right back.  He just had to go the washroom.  These drivers have long shifts and sometimes they need to pee. He’s just human too you know.”  She told me a public washroom nearby was one frequently used by drivers.  She pointed out that our bus was actually a bit ahead of schedule and so that meant the driver had a few minutes to use the washroom. 

I was curious why the woman seemed to know so much about bus drivers’ habits.  She told me she had recently retired after working for several decades in a cafeteria that catered to bus drivers. She had come to know many drivers very well.  She had heard plenty of first-hand stories from bus drivers who had been abused or treated poorly by riders and how tough it can be to keep your cool, remain respectful and be friendly to folks throughout a long shift. She maintained that almost all the drivers she had come in contact with while working in the cafeteria were ‘really nice, hardworking people.’

The woman and I continued to chat.  She told me who she had voted for in the Canadian election the day before and why.  She asked me about my work and when I told her I was a retired school teacher and now worked with young teachers in training she thanked me for doing the work I do.  She said school had been boring and tough for her as a kid.  She was hit with a ruler if she did something wrong. But she is so impressed with the kindness and care her grandchildren get from their teachers now and the way their teachers try to make school enjoyable and interesting for them.  

As I got up to exit the bus my seatmate said good-bye and thanked me for chatting with her.  “My pleasure,” I said. 

I have been thinking about our conversation quite a bit these last couple of days wondering how much better a place our world would be if we all could remember that phrase “they’re just human too,” every time we want to criticize people.  

Other posts…………

Riding the Bus Alone At Age 5

Another Friend For the Moment

I Almost Broke My Arm Again

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Filed under Reflections, Winnipeg

Beginning With Respect

Last Sunday I gave a talk in a church and used the traditional indigenous teachings as a guide for approaching new beginnings. The first teaching I looked at was respect.  Respecting others and respecting ourselves makes new beginnings easier to navigate. 

In this 1796 painting, The Water of Life Discourse by Maria Anna Angelika Kauffmann Jesus talks respectfully with a Samaritan woman who is leading a rather unorthodox lifestyle.

I talked about how Jesus always approached the people he met with respect. He met them where they were in their lives whether they were dealing with a medical problem, had a demeaning or demonized profession, were facing mental health challenges, were working too hard or were in a bad place financially. He listened to them. He was non-judgemental, and he offered people hope for a new beginning in their lives.

Whither Thou Goest a painting of Ruth and Naomi by Sandra Freckleton Gagon

I also talked about the Old Testament character Ruth who showed such enormous respect for her mother-in-law Naomi as the two of them traveled to Bethlehem to make a new beginning in their lives. Even after Ruth found a new husband and began her life again she continued to treat Naomi with respect.

My grade one class in our school on the Hopi Nation

I gave the personal example of starting a new teaching year and how important it was to respect where my students came from. I had to be respectful and understanding of my students’ current home and family situation, and where they were at right at that point in their learning journey, not where timelines and checklists said they should be. 

Christ in the Wilderness by Moretto da Brescia (Alessandro Bonvicino) 1515-1520 in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum

Respecting yourself during a new beginning is also important. Jesus did that. When the crowds got too much for him he would withdraw to secluded spots on boats out on the water, in gardens, in desert places to take time to pray and get away from all the demands being made on his time and attention.

On a junk boat in Hong Kong with colleagues taking time for fun and relaxation away from our busy and demanding professional lives

I talked about how when I first moved to Hong Kong I got really sick.  The demands on teachers at our international school were extremely high and I was teaching all-new curriculum and courses. I was adjusting to being far away from my children and parents, eating new kinds of foods, living in a very small space with my husband and using new modes of transportation. I was also struggling to handle the extreme heat and humidity.  I had to learn to treat myself with respect -to care for my mental and physical health, balance work and relaxation and give myself grace and time to adjust- so that a new beginning in a new place could become a positive experience.

Respect for others and respect for oneself are very important as we make new beginnings in our lives. 

Other posts………

Beginnings

A Time of New Beginnings

A Life That Adds Up to Something

 

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Half Empty or Half Full?

Is the glass half empty or half full? That’s the classic question posed by a sculpture in the reading garden at Winnipeg’s Millenium Library. It’s a giant beaker, like the sort you’d find in a science lab.  Created by architect Bill Pechet of Vancouver the sculpture is made from 22,000 kilograms of steel. It is called emptyful. Pechet has his own interpretation of the artwork something to do with the empty boundless spaces of the prairies around Winnipeg and the richness and fullness of our province’s seasons, people and heritage. I like to think emptyful is in the shape of a beaker because life is really just one big experiment and we are never sure what is going to happen.

The sculpture also makes me think about why some people tend to be optimistic looking at life through rosy lenses with a glass half full kind of perspective, while others always think first about what could go wrong, rather than what could right. They have a glass half empty approach to life. 
Winston Churchill once mused For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else. It reminds me of something Democratic candidate for American President Elizabeth Warren said in a recent debate when she chided a fellow candidate asking him why in the world he would run for office if he wasn’t optimistic that positive changes could be made.  

I think I’m a glass-half-full kind of person most of the time, but not always and not in all areas of my life.  I do know that being optimistic is far better for both my mental and physical health.

I wonder if we inherit optimism?  I suspect that while biology and nurture can influence how optimistic we are, life events and experiences can also alter our degree of optimism. 

Charles Carver of the University of Miami suggests it is best to have a balance of optimism and pessimism if we want to have safe and happy lives. You need to have a certain amount of optimism in order to make decisions about things like marriage, parenthood, travel or a career change.  Optimism can help us keep going even when our lives are tough. A little pessimism though can help us assess situations and choices more realistically and can inspire us to try to fill the half empty glass by taking actions that will improve our lives or the life of society.

On a CBC Ideas program, a panel discussion participant talked about the importance of cultivating optimism for the sake of our children and grandchildren. Our optimism will encourage our kids to have hope for the future and confidence in their ability to achieve things even if they don’t succeed right away. Cultivating an optomistic next generation is essential to the preservation of society and culture. Just look at Greta Thunberg the sixteen year old girl from Sweden whose campaign to save the environment has already garnered her a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. 

Are you a glass half empty or glass half full kind of person? 

Other posts………

600 Million Moments

Must We Live in Fear? 

An Attitude of Gratitude

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Filed under Art, Reflections, Winnipeg

Thin Places

What is a thin place?  I first heard about thin places in a sermon at my church. A quick look online and I realized the term has been adopted by all kinds of folks in the spiritual, travel and literary world to talk about special places where one feels closer to the divine, the universe, to creation. According to Eric Weiner a travel writer for the New York Times it is a place where the distance between heaven and earth collapses. Here are a couple of my thin places. This is a bridge in a park in Steinbach Manitoba where I lived for nearly four decades.  For many, many years I did a long morning walk and this bridge was included in my route.  It is here I would stop for a few minutes to think about the important people in my life and to say a prayer for each one of them. This is Tao Fong Shan the Lutheran Church we attended during the six years we lived in Hong Kong.  It was a peaceful lovely place and I so appreciated the liturgy of the Sunday evening services that settled my soul and prepared me for the week ahead.  For two years we lived nearby and early Sunday morning I would hike up to Tao Fong Shan which stood on the top of the Mountain of the Christ Wind. There was a beautiful underground crypt where I would go to pray.   During the year we lived in Arizona on the Hopi First Nation our family did lots of hiking but our favorite place to explore and climb was Coal Mine Canyon, a spot of breath-taking natural beauty not too far from our home.  Often we were the only people there.  We’d see so many colorful birds and watch legions of little brightly-hued lizards.  We’d shout out to each other just to hear the lovely echoes. The rock formations were stunning, the sky so blue, the sun so warm. It was a place to feel close to the people I loved and to the wonders of creation. And as I have written many times before our family’s cottage at Moose Lake has always been a place of beauty, peace, and solace for me.  I visit it annually and hope I can do so for the rest of my life. 

What are your thin places?  Are they places close to home or did you discover them on a trip?  Where does the distance between heaven and earth collapse for you?

Other posts……….

The View From the Church

Swimming in a Cenote

A Peaceful Mind and Heart

 

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Filed under Nature, Reflections, Religion

Six Things That Help Me Stay Positive About Our World

It is easy to become despondent when one spends too much time reading all the troubling stories in the media. I am trying hard to look for the positive and make myself think about the positive instead. Here are six things I’m doing to help me maintain an optimistic outlook. 1. I have started a new series of posts on my blog where I draw a graphic and share some good news about our world.  I have found there is actually plenty of positive news to share.

Michelle Obama visits with children at a Child Development Centre in North Carolina

2. On my Twitter newsfeed I have decided to follow politicians and columnists and opinion writers whose policies and plans give me hope that humanity is headed towards becoming a more compassionate place where we take care of each other and the natural world. People like Alexandra Ocasio- Cortez and Elizabeth Warren, Melinda Gates and Michelle Obama and Canada’s Arlene Dickinson and  Elizabeth May 

3. I have tried to write blog posts that highlight positive things happening in our world.

4. I get a newsletter in my inbox each week called The Optimist a perk of my Washington Post subscription.  It highlights positive hopeful stories the paper has run in the last week.

5. I continue to pray hopefully each night for an end to violence and poverty in our world. I donate time and money to organizations that promote those causes in a variety of ways. 

Visiting a daycare  in Runaway Bay Jamaica

6. I spend as much time as I can around children- observing them, talking with them and trying to help them, my own grandchildren, the children I give tours to at the art gallery, the children in the classrooms I visit in my job as a university supervisor, the children at my church, the children at the library, the children in my neighborhood, the children I encounter on my travels. Knowing we need to make our world a better place for them, seeing their hopefulness and trust makes me want to be more positive. 

What do you do to try and stay positive? 

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Are You A Streaker, A Stroller or a Scholar?

Visiting the Lucy Maud Montgomery House in Prince Edward Island many years ago.

I was reading a CBC story about the new interpretative center opening in July at the site of Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s home in Prince Edward Island. Montgomery has gained international fame for her classic novel Anne of Green Gables. The new center which tells the story of Montgomery’s life has been designed to meet the needs of three different kinds of visitors- the streaker, the stroller and the scholar. I hadn’t heard of those designations before but they intrigued me. I discovered the terms had been coined by an Australian museum director named George McDonald.

My husband walks briskly through an outdoor art display in Merida Mexico.  

A streaker is someone who walks briskly through a museum or art gallery or special event. They pay little attention to details, gather general impressions and may finish their visit to an exhibit without really being impacted by it at all. They are there to check the visit off their list, to say “I’ve been there” or “I’ve done that.” These kinds of visitors are also sometimes called fish because they just glide through the exhibit. 

Dave and I were in stroller mode when we visited a history museum in Quebec City.

A stroller moves more slowly and pays more attention.  They will probably stop at various places to learn more. They will absorb more than a streaker and pick up more details particularly about certain parts of an exhibit that catch their interest. They are there to have a good time but not necessarily to do a whole lot of learning. These kinds of visitors are also sometimes called butterflies because they flutter through a museum or art gallery or interpretive center alighting here and there to enjoy something that attracts their attention. 

My husband Dave was definitely in scholar mode when we visited the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, Japan.

A scholar is someone who is very interested in learning and reflecting.  They will move slowly through an exhibition looking at almost everything and reading all of the textual material.  You will see them lingering at certain points for extended periods of time. They are conscientious and diligent about having the full experience. They want to discover all the intimate details of an exhibit and ask questions. These kinds of visitors are sometimes called ants because they move very slowly and methodically and purposefully. 

Posing with Russian author Pushkin at the Wax Museum in Odessa Ukraine

Learning about streakers, strollers and scholars got me thinking that those terms might describe more than just museum visitors.  As we move through life are we streakers? Do we just rush through our busy days gliding mechanically from one obligation to another? Are we strollers? Do we take time to stop periodically to relish and enjoy experiences and events?  Are we scholars?  Are we thoughtful and purposeful? Do we read and think and reflect and question? 

At the Museum of Modern Art in New York posing with Van Gogh’s Starry Night

I think at various times and in various situations, I tend to be all three kinds of people or a combination of them. I know I don’t want to just streak through life never stopping to stroll or savor, reflect and enjoy.  But I also don’t want to spend so much time being the scholar that I accomplish little and never have time for fun. 

Are you a streaker, a stroller or a scholar? 

Other posts………

Visiting the MOMA

Feeling Sad About Odessa

Hiroshima

 

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Filed under Reflections, Travel