Category Archives: Reflections

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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Pilgrim or Tourist?

I am giving a sermon this morning on the difference between being a pilgrim and a tourist.  A tourist goes through life just seeing sights, avoiding personal commitments and remaining untouched by their experiences. Pilgrims, on the other hand, invest time, talk and interest in the people they meet and allow themselves to be changed by their experiences.  I am going to offer my listeners four suggestions for how they can be pilgrims rather than tourists.

My husband dave consults a map before we start hiking around Pompei

  1. Plan ahead.  In his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces Joseph Campbell says when on the threshold of a new adventure, we should consult allies like maps, music, artwork, books or people that point us in the right direction. We can plan ahead by learning about new places we will visit. We can plan ahead for the birth of a grandchild, a visit from friends or even for the journey of our own death.

    Cycling with family around Lake Konstanz

  2. Enjoy the journey as much as your arrival at your destination. Gregory the Great, said, “do not avoid the journey, hastening to the arrival point, for the journey itself can be an occasion for growth.” I am trying to get a children’s book published. It is a long journey but I am enjoying the new people I am meeting and the things I am learning. It will have been a good experience whether I ever publish a book or not. One year we went on a bicycle trip around Lake Konstanz in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  The journey was the whole point, not arriving at our final destination.

    With a school principal in Cambodia, I got to know

  3. Make friends. Keenan Kelsey an American Presbyterian minister says, “Living participation is what separates the pilgrim from the tourist. The tourist remains an aloof observer as if they were at the theatre. They are never a part of the show.” Pilgrims make a point of interacting with people. They talk to those sitting next to them on a city bus, partnered with them on the golf course, or beside them on a tour. Many years ago I began to do this very deliberately and it has been transforming.

    Sometimes I reflect on my experiences with sketches

  4. Reflect on your experience. Niebuhr wrote that pilgrims are poets who create after taking a journey. We aren’t all poets but as we journey through life some of us reflect on our experiences by writing songs or stories. Some people sketch or paint or get together to talk with others who have made similar journeys.  One thing that helps me reflect on my life journey is keeping this blog.

    With my Advanced Composition class in Hong Kong-Living and Working in China was a transformative experience for me

    Walter R. Rossi says “tourists evaluate the success of a trip by how many different souvenirs they bring home and the number of places they can list as having visited. On life’s journey do some of us determine our success by how many things we accumulate and how many accomplishments we can list? Rossi says pilgrims deem a journey a success by the way it has transformed them as a person.

    On the journey of life will you be a pilgrim or a tourist? 

Other posts………

Crossing Abbey Road

Do Not Become Alarmed

Does She Have A Chance

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Good News- Part 2

 It’s true. 

Other good news……..

Ozone Hole

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Just A Tiny Thing Makes All the Difference

I am at the gym doing my stretches. There’s one where I stand like a crane on one foot holding the other up to my rear and trying to balance on just one leg. At my age, it’s not always easy. But………if I put even a fingertip against a wall or some other support I can keep my balance for as long as I like. Just a tiny fingertip makes all the difference.

 

When I used to present peacemaking workshops I often told the parable of the snowflake. Snowflakes were falling on a pine branch and even as the 999,999th flake landed the branch still remained on the tree. However, when the one-millionth snowflake was added the branch broke and fell to the ground.  Just one tiny snowflake that weighed practically nothing made all the difference. 

I recently read an article that said taking a single deep breath can improve your overall well being in five different ways! It increases awareness of your surroundings, reduces anxiety, gives your mind focus, relieves pain and provides healing. Just one tiny breath makes all the difference. 

The Dalai Lama once reminded us that if we think tiny things don’t make a difference we should remember what a difference it makes to try sleeping in a room with a mosquito.  

Other posts……….

A Smile Makes A Difference

What A Difference

 

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Another Friend For the Moment

I made another friend for the moment on Tuesday.  I was standing at the bus stop near one of the elementary schools in Winnipeg’s inner city where I supervise student teachers.  It was cold and snowy and the bus was late. There was one other woman waiting with me and she asked if I could look and see if the bus was coming since her eyesight wasn’t great. I peered down the street but told her I couldn’t see the bus yet. 

The woman said, “I don’t recognize you.  You musn’t be from this neighborhood.”  I explained what I was doing there and she said she was taking the bus to pick up her great grandson from kindergarten.  I told her I had two grandchildren and another one arriving soon.  We kept on chatting about our kids and grandkids and by the time the bus arrived I had found out she was providing full time care for her great grandson because his mother was trying to get her life turned around and the boy’s grandmother, the daughter of the woman I was talking to,  had been beaten to death by her abusive boyfriend.

I discovered the woman and I were the same age. She told me she found it pretty tough caring for her active great grandson but she had no choice.  She was glad next year he would be in grade one all day and was very happy he had been accepted into a school where he would be taught Ojibwe/Cree. 

She told me how scary her neighborhood had become with so many needles lying around.  She makes it a personal mission to look for discarded needles on the street and takes them to the neighborhood pharmacy where they can be disposed of safely.  She’d found three needles that day just walking from her home to the bus stop where we were standing. 

Our bus arrived and my new friend sat across from me after we’d boarded. She told me she was teaching her great grandson some traditional dances.  She had been a dancer performing at pow wows and other events for many years.  I told her about the dresses for the Jingle Dance made by Anishinaabe artist Barry Ace that we’d had on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery where I work part time.  She told me she’d made herself six different jingle dresses and then we talked about the different kinds of jingles you can sew onto the dresses and where you could get them and how some women make their own jingles. 

The bus pulled up to her great grandson’s daycare just then.  I told her it had been nice talking to her and wished her well.  She waved to me from the sidewalk after she’d exited the bus. I really haven’t stopped thinking about the women and her story since. 

I’ve written before about how interesting it is to make what I call friends for the moment.  I learn so much from them. My friend for the moment on Tuesday was no exception. 

Other posts………

She’s Making Jingles

My Mother’s Friends

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Who Would You Invite to A Feast?

During Lent our church is having services centered on the theme The Hunger and the Feast. Last Sunday our pastor asked us to think about who we would invite to enjoy a feast with us if we could invite anyone living or dead.  I have been thinking about that a fair bit this week and I would agree with our pastor who said he would invite his own family-his wife and children and grandchildren.  

Sketch I did of our family at the Forks this last Christmas

Our whole family is only together once or twice a year for a couple of days since our older son lives in Saskatoon with his partner and our grandchildren. Our other son and his partner live here in Winnipeg but they are both busy professional musicians whose work often involves travel.  To coordinate our schedules more than once a year is difficult.  I would love to sit down at a feast with all of them and just visit and catch up on our lives.   I am never happier than when we are all together.  

With my Mom at Christmas a year and a half before she died

At first I thought I might want to have a feast with beloved members of my family who have died.  My amazing and supportive mother, my kind and caring mother-in-law, my two grandmothers- talented, funny and intelligent women.  But I think that would just make me way too sad.  I miss them as it is and getting a chance to see them again might only make my grief over losing them more intense. 

Posing with my daughter-in-law and her sister and the statues of The Famous Five in Ottawa

Then I wondered if I might want to feast with a famous writer like Jane Austen or a poet like Mary Oliver.  Perhaps a brilliant artist like Emily Carr or a singer like Carol King. Maybe a world leader like New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern or one of Canada’s Famous Five who convinced the courts to acknowledge that women were people in the eyes of the law. Should I invite a new Testament character like Jesus’ mother or an Old Testament character like Queen Esther? Although I would love to chat with legendary folks like the outstanding ones I’ve mentioned we don’t really have a personal connection and I might feel nervous in their presence. 

No I really think if I could share a feast with anyone it would be my family. Who would you invite to your feast? 

Other posts……….

Seeing the Great Wall With My Family

Leise Reiselt Der Schnee

I Held You Before Your Mother Did

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