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broken-fortune-landscape

There is a desire to commune with the Universe and accept its messages in any way that we can understand. So, with great intent, and hopefully a fortuitous choice of words, I opened a fortune cookie yesterday to see what the future portends.

Instead, my thought was written by someone who probably had a tough year:

Courage Comes Through Suffering

Very inspiring, and optimistic, indeed! It was not the message I was hoping to hear in a positive frame of mind.

empathy quote maya angelou

I continued to replay those words over, and through, my brain on an internal loop (as I am wont to do).  I thought about the people whom I have had the pleasure to meet through WordPress and those who have come to me for charity and a listening heart. They have struggled, battled and continued to face challenges. One thing that they all have in common is honesty. Their struggles have made them vulnerable and brave enough to share their stories.

I have noticed that empathetic people who have gone through personal battles want to make sure that it matters. Going through a painful experience alone is hard enough, but if you are a thoughtful and introspective person, you hope that you can spare the next person from the harshness of reality, or at least be a comfort to those who recognize your experience.

life lessons force yourself elizabeth taylor

We cannot always appreciate the suffering or depth of someone else’s pain, but we are reminded by those who encourage awareness and charity to help others. Organizations like Wounded Warriors, NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness), American Cancer Society, ALSA, Habitat for Humanity, orphanages, rehabilitation centers, AA, and many other incredible groups around the world work under the principal that accountability, community, and helping others makes you a better and stronger individual. Who better to understand childrens’ charities than one who has had childhood leukemia or a cancerous tumor? Who better to understand the challenges of soldiers returning home from war than their families and caretakers who face their own battles at home every day?

Do these people gain courage? For many, that unique experiential connection and awareness comes at a price; no one would want to voluntarily suffer the illnesses and tragic circumstances that they do. Many do not feel courageous. Rather, they feel fear, anxiety and worry over diagnoses and money to pay for medication and care. Each individual, no matter how “damaged” by life and trapped in their personal struggles, wants dignity. Inside that very frightened man or woman is someone screaming for freedom and recognition as more than just a “disease” or a “victim.” Removing your ego, and seeing someone else without judgment, changes the view.

People feel great pain within dysfunctional families. Shelters don’t have enough space or the necessary funds for the too many victims of domestic abuse or the homeless. Bullying and threats don’t stop in childhood. But, each wants respect, support, and appreciation for the strength they have exhibited to continue to survive. Apathy and ignorance can imprint the “labels” deeper and further stigmatize. Pity does not heal, kindness and empathy does. Once you can place yourself in someone else’s experience, or recall and share your own, you help to make the burden a little lighter.

I may not know what it is like to be you, but I am willing to listen.

warrior quote_sittingbull

For those of you who are scared to move forward this year, take a deep breath, and keep going by putting one foot in front of the other.

Wanting to leave auld acquaintances and difficult experiences behind is understandable. But, we learn so much more, and hopefully carry and pay it forward, when we remember, represent, and stand up to help others in need.

Wishing you fortitude, compassion, peace, kindness, and empathy in the coming year!

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The ice bucket challenge has swept North America. You pour ice water over your head and challenge 3 more people to do it within 24 hours. Mark Zuckerberg challenged Bill Gates. Justin Timberlake challenged Jimmy Fallon and the Tonight Show band. CEO’s, athletes and people like you are accepting the challenge to help strike out ALS. Support the patients and families living with ALS.

It is wonderful that so many people participate and make it personal. But, please, donate to fight ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease). Put your money where your mouth is and challenge others to give to charity.

It is personal. Two members of my family died from ALS.

My mother could not lift a cup with an ice cube in it.

My aunt could not ask for one.

Please help to find a cure for this horrific disease.

http://www.alsa.org/donate

http://www.alsa.org/fight-als/ice-bucket-challenge.html

The ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig’s Disease on every front. By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through Certified Treatment Centers of Excellence, and fostering government partnerships, The Association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure. For more information about The ALS Association, visit our website at http://www.alsa.org.

Want to see who else is taking the ice bucket challenge?

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