I visited a Maori meeting house in New Zealand and learned a traditional Maori form of greeting. Two people shake their right hands and at the same time place their left hand on the other person’s shoulder. The head is bent, eyes closed and their foreheads touch as their noses are pressed together twice. The two people are said to share the breath of life with one another.
Although we may not greet people in the traditional Maori style, perhaps the way we speak or act towards others when we meet them can breathe life into their existence. Research shows one effective way for high school teachers to make a difference in the lives of their students is to simply greet them by name whenever they meet them in the school hallways or classrooms. It lets students know someone recognizes them and appreciates their presence in the school community. Could this be exactly the ‘breath of life’ some teenagers need?
I used to take daily early morning walks with my mother. I noticed how she made a point of saying a friendly hello or ‘good morning’ to each person we met. I sometimes wondered if perhaps my mother’s cheerful greeting was the one warm kind word some lonely people received that day.
Maori Meeting House in New Zealand
The Maori exchange the breath of life when they greet others. We too have the opportunity to ‘breathe life’ into someone’s day when we greet them in a warm and friendly way.
A Maori Jesus
When my husband Dave encounters someone on the street asking for money he almost always stops to chat with them and then gives them some cash. This is exactly what the Pope recently recommended we do during Lent. The pontiff urges us to smile and talk to beggars and homeless people and then give them money. He says we are not to worry what the needy person spends the money on. He stresses the importance of making a personal connection with them.
Pamphlets available at various downtown Winnipeg businesses suggest a different strategy. They say we should donate to local charities like Siloam Mission and the Salvation Army and then refer panhandlers to those places.
I often encounter four or five people asking for money on my way to work downtown. Since I’m usually in a hurry I give the first one I encounter coins and then say ‘sorry’ to the others.
My husband’s strategy and the one the Pope suggests are probably more compassionate and in keeping with Christ’s example. Perhaps I should try it during Lent. If I make sure I leave in plenty of time for work I’d have enough minutes to stop and say hello to each person I meet who is asking for money. It certainly wouldn’t hurt me financially to give everyone I meet some change. I could even make sure I have change in my pocket each time I leave the house to facilitate this. I’m going to try and get on the same page as my husband and the pope.
Questions at the Vatican
My Former Church and the Pope
During this past week in 2012 I wrote about the four different golf courses we had been to in Phoenix with Dave’s brother Paul and our sister-in-law Shirley.
The bell outside the school we taught at on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona.
I also wrote about going to visit the Hopi Mission School where we used to be teachers.
During this past week in 2013 I wrote about going out to dinner with my Uncle Herb who was holidaying in Phoenix. I also wrote about a golf reunion with Dave’s Manitoba golfing buddies and their wives at the Arizona home we had rented in Gold Canyon.
During this past week in 2014 I wrote about making Chinese dumplings in Florida at the home of our friends Jeff and Anna.
Dave gets suited up in the dive shop for our manatee swim.
I also wrote about going swimming with manatees in Crystal River on a trip Jeff had arranged for us.
During this past week in 2015 I wrote about a fun night at our favorite Phoenix restaurant with friends. I also wrote about our visit to the Grand Canyon.
During this past week in 2016 I wrote about going swimming in a waterfall pool in Costa Rica. I also wrote about a musical walk we took in a bamboo forest there.
You’ve already read on my blog what we have been up to this past week here in Arizona. I wonder what I will be writing about next year at this time.
“Your post was FANTASTIC! I loved it.” One of my readers responded to my blog Real and Messy and Honest with those words. He told me people get far more enjoyment from reading stories about how things went wrong than they do from reading stories that include lots of details about how great and interesting and enjoyable everything turned out to be. The post Real and Messy and Honest was certainly the most popular thing I have written in a long time, garnering many views and comments.
My cousin Carol said this was my funniest post yet. My cousin Fred took time to write a humorous personal reflection on Facebook about each thing that had gone wrong for us. His funny responses ended with a link to the Monty Python video of the song Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from the movie Life of Brian.
Reader Lori says my post was recognizable and real and she is well aware no one has a perfect life, but she still appreciates writers who highlight the positive. Anita, who started following my blog when we holidayed in Costa Rica says while my blogs always have lots of great facts and pictures this post provided a change she loved. She suggested it is good to try and see the humour in the messy side of life.
Other readers said they appreciated me exposing the underbelly of my life. It proved I was real. Fellow writer Dora said she had loved my honest messy blog post but she also likes the usual cheer in my posts. My highschool friend Sandee reminded me that good things can fit into the mess of life too and my friend Arlene said my positive energy lifts her spirits so I should put a smile back on my face and keep looking at the positive side of life. A former pastor of mine thanked me for sharing and said it can be a good at times to recognize the messiness in our own lives and those of others. Many readers said the post had resonated with them because they have had very similar days to mine. One of my former teaching colleagues said the post made her laugh out loud because it was so familiar.
Fellow writer Suzanne told me not to pay heed to people who criticize me for being too positive. According to Suzanne looking for a silver lining is a gift to be admired not a fault. She loves my positivity and is glad all my posts aren’t written like Real and Messy and Honest. It would offer far too depressing an outlook on life.
One of my faithful readers Ruth said she was glad I wrote about the downside of my day. It made her laugh and realize that she and her husband aren’t alone in having heated discussions sometimes when they travel. She said she truly enjoys all my positive and enlightening posts but this realistic post was a great way to begin the year of 2017.
Heather Plett the life coach who inspired the post by asking her followers to write a real, messy and honest report about a day in their lives told me I had done a good job of completing the assigned task.
The response to this post made me think I do need to try and write my posts in a more humourous fashion and not be afraid to write about conflict or negative things at times. It also made me realize I shouldn’t change the way I write too much because most people who follow my blog do so because they like it’s positive tone and direction.
Writing Real and Messy and Honest certainly got a lot of response from my readers, response that has given me lots to think about.
What Are People Saying?
An Attitude of Gratitude
Heather Plett is a life coach I follow on social media. On New Year’s Day she did a Facebook post encouraging readers not to pledge to be shinier, happier, better versions of themselves. Instead she wrote….Let’s just pledge to be real and messy and honest. Then Heather asked her followers to share a non-shiny version of their first day of 2017. I decided to try that especially in light of a comment someone made over the holidays regarding my tendency to always look on the positive side of things rather than be realistic. So here is an honest gritty version of my start to 2017.
We spent New Year’s Eve in a pretty seedy hotel in Albuquerque New Mexico on our journey to Phoenix Arizona. My husband who had made the reservation said the hotel had received a four star rating on Trip Advisor but the threadbare towels, lack of security lock on the door, beat up woodwork and a loud rattling heating system that either left the room boiling or freezing belied the fact. Dave and I had a little dust-up soon after we arrived. We discovered we had left the cord to plug in Dave’s I-pad in our hotel room in Colorado the night before. We both thought the other person should have remembered it and Dave was only slightly less upset by my supposed negligence when we were able to find a replacement cord at Walgreens. It was $22 and after Dave made a sarcastic comment about the cost I retorted I wouldn’t order any food at dinner to make up for the $22. I stuck to my word but Dave got a pizza for dinner which he shared and he even ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio for me. The alcohol helped ease some of the tension crackling between us.
Naturally there was no coffee available in the hotel lobby as promised on New Year’s morning so we set out in search of some, only to realize that on New Years Day almost everything was closed so we drove on without coffee. About half way through the morning we encountered a blinding snowstorm. We crawled forward in a long line of cars on the icy, curvy, steep mountain roads. It was pretty intense! Things weren’t improved by the fact that Dave had a throbbing toothache. It’s been an ongoing issue that I thought he should have taken care of before we left home so I wasn’t very sympathetic. We decided to listen to the new Leonard Cohen CD I bought Dave for Christmas. I wanted to have a discussion with him about what the lyrics meant but he said as a former high school English teacher I should be able to figure out what the lyrics meant without his help. We didn’t talk much after that.
When we got to Phoenix our GPS went crazy and kept wanting us to turn left at places where there was no road just rocky areas of cacti. Finally we stopped at a Starbucks to go online and look at a map to take us to the house we have rented. Soon after we arrived Dave realized he had forgotten to bring his hair cutting clippers. He said he had put the clippers out on our bathroom counter at home so he would remember to pack them but someone must have put the clippers away before he could put them in the suitcase. Dave spent the evening watching American football on TV while I unpacked our luggage and all the groceries from my first visit to the nearby Basha’s store. I forgot to buy toilet paper.
Lots of good things happened today too but I am going to grit my teeth and not mention them in this post. How did I do with being real and messy and honest?
Your Own Critic
Words of Wisdom on a Wine Bottle
Its A Personal Decision
Jane Heinrichs is an artist and illustrator who grew up in my hometown of Steinbach. I follow Jane on social media and on her blog because I love the beautiful daily sketches she does of her family’s life in London, England. Jane gave me permission to use this sketch of her and her mother out for coffee. They are talking about what it means to live intentionally. Jane asked her Facebook followers to share what living intentionally means to them. I decided to make that my first post of 2017.
During most of my teaching career I had Socrates’ words the unexamined life is not worth living displayed somewhere in my classroom. I wanted to remind myself and my students to take time to reflect on what we were learning together and to make connections between that learning and our lives.
I examine life through my writing. Keeping journals, maintaining this blog, creating stories for children, compiling family history vignettes, writing my newspaper column and completing free-lance writing assignments, helps me to try to live intentionally- to think about what I am doing and to reflect on whether the choices I make are in line with what I value and believe.
I know there are many other ways to examine life. My husband reflects on his life experiences by talking about them with his friends, with his clients, with his golf buddies and sometimes even with total strangers. My brother meditates and does yoga. A friend is part of a book club that discusses their personal connections to what they read. My daughter-in-law takes beautiful photographs and compiles them into books. My son composes music. My father gets up at dawn to read the newspaper and his Bible and think about how the two might connect. Jane Heinrichs does sketches.
Examination and reflection are the first step to living intentionally. But you can reflect and examine endlessly and still not live intentionally. What else needs to happen? Here are a few of my ideas.
- Set goals. These can be short-term goals like organizing your desk drawers or they can be long-term goals like attempting to get a book published.
- Expand your comfort zone. It can be doing something spontaneous like walking across a swinging suspension bridge you encounter on a hike or something bigger like applying for a job at an art gallery when you aren’t an artist and haven’t had any academic training in art history.
- Settle for imperfection. I knew when I decided to take my first sketching course I’d have to settle for imperfection and I still do every time I pick up a pencil to sketch. Cooking is not my forte and every time I try a new recipe I know I have to be willing to settle for imperfection. Don’t let imperfection stop you from trying new things.
- Simplify and organize. I have been trying to do this with my possessions much more intently in the last couple years but I know there are other areas of my life still crying out for organization and getting back to basics like getting more sleep and being more fit and focusing on simple healthy foods. In addressing these issues I would be living more intentionally.
- Be thankful. I have so much to be thankful for including health, love, friends, family and meaningful work and I need to turn my attention to that every single day. I need to intentionally list the things I am thankful for and name them and be sure to include them in my prayers along with my petitions.
- Try to make the world a better place. My Dad reminded us of this in his Christmas prayer at our family gathering. While recounting our family blessings he encouraged us to think about how many people in our world are suffering and to remember it is our responsibility to address their needs in a very intentional way.
I know that living intentionally means something different to every person. Hopefully in 2017 we can all get a little closer to figuring out what it means to us.
How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. – Annie Dillard
When Did You Stop Drawing?
Off to the Circus
Gratitude to Start and End the Day