What we are facing today is the fact that through our scientific and technological genius we’ve made of this world a neighborhood. And now through our moral and ethical commitment we must make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers (and sisters)—or we will all perish together as fools. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1965 at Oberlin College
Where are we fifty-five years after MLK, leader of the American civil rights movement, made this statement? Each year, on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is observed as a “day on, not a day off.”
MLK Day of Service is intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”
Perhaps if we all take one step towards creating community, we can move closer to MLK’s dream and not perish together as fools.
Affirmation: I will take a step to empower others.
Coaching question: What do Dr. King’s words mean to you?
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Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. John Lubbock, The Use of Life
Lions sleep 15 to 20 hours per day. So do sloths. Although extreme, do their lifestyles offer a lesson for us? I believe they do. Many people today are addicted to productivity which seems to be a symptom of modernity rather than an inherent part of human nature.
Not knowing when enough is enough is making us unhappy and, at times, ill. Working less has many psychological benefits including less anxiety and stress. It also means better relationships because we spend more time with loved ones. Working less also enables us to experience the joys of doing nothing in particular.
Affirmation: I find joy in relaxation.
Coaching questions: Would working less or working more be beneficial to you? What will you do to adjust your situation?
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Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Health Resources and Services Administration
Two in five Americans report that they sometimes or always feel their social relationships are not meaningful, and one in five say they feel lonely or socially isolated. Twenty-eight percent of older adults now live by themselves. “The lack of connection can have life threatening consequences,” reports Brigham Young University professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad.
Studies have shown that poor social relationships were associated with a 29 percent increase in the risk of coronary heart disease and a 32 percent rise in the risk of stroke among other serious diseases.
The good news is that friendships reduce the risk of mortality or developing certain diseases and can speed recovery in those who fall ill. Simply reaching out to lonely people can jump-start the process of getting them to engage with neighbors and peers.
Affirmation: I am a friend.
Coaching questions: Are you lonely? What step can you take to counteract your isolation? Do you know someone who is isolated or lonely? What difference might it make if you visited or called a lonely person today?
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Those who wish to sing always find a song. Swedish proverb
I recently began singing in a church choir again. The new music director needed singers and I joined to support the program. Now, a few months later, I find myself participating out of joy rather than obligation. In addition, I have made new friends, renewed my appreciation of music, and found satisfaction in enhancing community worship.
I’m not alone. Studies show that choral singing improves our mood with a decrease in stress, depression, and anxiety. Perhaps it is the combination of deep breathing, a group setting, and the experience of joining with others to create something of beauty. Singing in a group can be especially helpful to your well- being if you’ve recently experienced a significant loss in your life.
Affirmation: I enjoy singing in the choir.
Coaching question: What makes your heart “sing?”
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Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. Thich Nhat Hanh, spiritual leader
A faith group I’m in, Girl Talk God Talk, is consciously searching for, acknowledging, sharing, and showing gratitude for the joy in their lives this year. We often take joy for granted or ignore it altogether when we are not conscious of its presence in our daily lives. On the other hand, joy can elude us as during certain seasons of our lives.
Sometimes we must create joy, other times we need only recognize the joy in us. I think this is what Hanh meant when he wrote about joy. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Choose joy and/or let it choose you—then say, “Thank you.”
Affirmation: I choose joy.
Coaching questions: Is there joy in your life everyday? If not, what can you do to raise your joy quotient? What’s one thing you can do, say, or think that will bring you joy (and a smile to your face) today?
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A good book is an event in my life. Stendhal, French writer
One of the my favorite pastimes is reading. Through the writing of the sixty-four authors I read in 2019, I had the pleasure of learning, traveling, empathizing, smiling, crying, and meeting new people. Here are a few of my favorite books.
Great fiction for book clubs: Where the Crawdads Sing, The Winter Soldier, Educated, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Outstanding non-fiction: Becoming – Michele Obama, The Moment of Lift – Melinda Gates, The Education of an Idealist – Samantha Power
Newbury Award winning book for youth – A Book About a Boy
More fiction: The Sound of Glass, The Lost Girls of Paris, City Girls, Woman In Cabin 10, The Truth According to Us, The Last Mrs. Parrish
Affirmation: Books open up the world to me.
Coaching request: If you’re not a reader, I challenge you to read a book just for fun this month. Let me know how it goes.
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Dragonflies are reminders that we are light and we can reflect light in powerful ways if we choose to do so. Robyn Nola, artist
In nearly every corner of the world, the dragonfly symbolizes change, transformation, adaptability, and self-realization. The iridescence of its wings and body is associated with one’s ability to unmask the real self and embrace true identity.
Discovering and embracing who we are is an integral aspect of our maturity. A friend of mine who is facing the challenge of addiction recovery has a dragonfly tattoo on her arm as a symbol of her transformation. To her, the dragonfly stands for hope, change, and love. It is a symbol that reminds her to embrace change and strive to be true to herself.
Affirmation: I am true to myself.
Coaching questions: In what ways have you changed and become more of your true self this past year? What symbol would you use to prompt you to reflect light and embrace self-realization?