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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!

Thank you for stopping by! I hope that you enjoy your visit. It means more than you know.

sparkle shoes

Most people have a body part that they don’t like, some more than others. We each see our own flaws magnified, and think everyone else is looking at us too, gawking and clucking at our misfortune.

I found myself in a shoe department looking at silver shoes and sandals too pretty to be on my feet. Others had such beautiful legs and delicately trim ankles. They were able to turn pirouettes in their high heeled cage shoes with spindly heels and fashionable cut outs.

Meanwhile, I had three pairs of flats in my hands. Such is life; I have crossed the barrier where I am capable of walking in such confections of leather and lack of support.

While admiring the other shoppers, I noted three people shopping with their mothers. Another woman had just taken off her beautiful nude colored heels and reached for a pair of Keds slip on sneakers. I smiled at her and told her how impressed I was with her choice of shoes and the need for comfort. She told me that her high heels were extremely comfortable but she was picking up the sneakers for her mother who would love them.

Creeping up on the anniversary of my mother’s passing, I began to feel the loneliness and sadness that I have no right to feel. Other people have lost their mothers much earlier in life, or never known them, so I had no right to these feelings. Also, my mother suffered and died from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). In the last six months of her life, she lost the use of her limbs and her freedom. Rationally, I did not want her to continue living suffering but miss having the love of my mother.

I chatted with another woman who was trying on beautiful glittery sparkling shoes for a wedding. They looked lovely on her and I complimented her on her beautiful legs and how pretty they the shoes looked on her feet. Next, in my own insecurity, I explained that I had horrible legs which was why I hid them under maxi skirts.

In the end, I left the store without a purchase. I walked back to my car and turned on the blissful air conditioning. Then, in the quiet of a moment’s pause, I realized that I had to have gratitude for the gifts which I do have.

My legs are not horrible — because they work. I know my mother would have been proud that I understood and learned the moral of the story.

Thank you for stopping by. It means more than you know.

Whatever we’re doing could be done with one intention. That intention is that we want to wake up, we want to ripen our compassion and we want to ripen our ability to let go. We want to realize our connection with all beings. ~ Pema Chodron

humanity house

In the work that I do, I have met literally thousands of people. Yes, it does seem incredible to me in hindsight, but in all of those meetings, there is the time I spend speaking to each one-to-one. It gives me lots of time to mentally review because I cannot easily forget the troubles of another or seeing someone’s pain or struggle.

Sometimes people come to me in groups of three or four people at a time. I speak with one person and then another takes his seat as the first moves to a different part of the room. While speaking with someone having difficulty communicating, and remembering a mailing address, another person sat across the room laughing at the interaction.

I looked at him and shook my head “no.” Again, the person in front of me had difficulty recalling the information. The other person in the back of the room watched us, laughing, as if we were some program for his entertainment.
I looked at him directly, as any mother figure might, and said “It is not nice to laugh at other people.” What was the response? ‘But it is funny.’ Not an apology, not an awareness or agreement, but giving himself permission to be amused at someone else’s misfortune.

How do people laugh at another’s pain? It is a concept that is totally foreign to me. Those times in Elementary school when others laughed at me made me angry and fueled a desire to hit back.

What separates us from our emotions and clear thinking about another human being? What synapse in the brain triggers that lack of awareness or understanding?
Not fifteen minutes before, the joker was asking me to understand the needs of his family and the strain it places on all of the souls within it.

These people travel from place to place, sleeping where someone gives them a bed, and eating where someone brings them food for free. They retell the stories of existence and struggling so that another will provide a charitable response.

Do we do that as well? Go from place to place on a daily basis, holding on to the routine and allowing ourselves to stay in the pattern of repetition without conscious thought or attachment? For some, each day is merely an effort to hold on, to put one foot in front of another, until they can receive food to eat and lay down to sleep. The “simple” actions of daily living are huge and take a supreme effort to accomplish what appears to others to be the most basic of functions.

To those who help the homeless, or protect the abused by creating shelters of safety, who welcome military families while their loved ones are in the hospital*, make cancer patients and survivors feel beautiful**, and feed the hungry, my boundless appreciation goes out to you.

The kindnesses provided to those who struggle with mental*** and physical health are beyond anything understood by those unaware of their illnesses. How many people carry invisible burdens and struggle in private? Whatever small token we can give, although it is a thimble-full in an ocean of despair, tips the balance in the world. I cannot laugh at someone else’s pain or dismiss the heartache that guides their days.

If you are still here with me, Dear Reader, I suspect that you cannot as well. It is my hope that we can help to repair our world and remind others that we are not separate, nor merely observers, but meant to reach out, support, guide, aid, and empathize in an effort to heal others, and ourselves, on our daily paths.

Thank you so much for stopping by. It means more than you know.

*if you want to see the incredible work of the Fisher House, look at
**if you want to see more about bringing hope and beauty to Cancer patients, look at
***to understand more about the millions of people struggling with mental illness look at

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