There But By the Grace of God Go I

No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. Warsan Shire, British writer, poet, editor and teacher

On December 4, 2000, the United Nations General Assembly instituted June 20 as World Refugee Day. It is commemorated to honor all refugees, raise awareness, and solicit support. The day is celebrated in many countries around the world. In the Roman Catholic Church, the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, instituted in 1914 by Pope Pius X, is celebrated in January.

Why should we care about refugees, much less celebrate them? In my opinion, it’s because “there but by the grace of God go I.” Had I been born in a different country, at a different time, or of a different race or religion, I too might be the person forced to leave my country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. We frequently confuse immigrant with refugee. A refugee’s choice is frequently to stay and starve, be repeatedly raped, or die. An immigrant chooses to move from one country to another. Many years ago, I helped bring a refugee family to Illinois from war-torn Lebanon. Working with this family to help them assimilate and thrive, is one of my most cherished life experiences. 

Affirmation: I’m grateful to live where I am safe.

Coaching questions: If you don’t already know, how will you learn the facts about the worldwide refugee crisis? If you know a refugee or a refugee family, how can you make a difference in their lives?

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Photo by Siddhant Soni on Unsplash

Gratefully Celebrating Mother’s Day

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melody Beattie, author

Mother’s Day can be difficult for many women, not just those of us who have lost our mothers. It can be difficult for women who are estranged from their mothers, have no children but wish they did, those who have lost a child, or those who are away from their family.

For me, gratitude always helps me cope. I’m grateful for the friendly smile, bright eyes, and sunny personality I got from my mom, I’m grateful for my three wonderful children, three step kids, eight grands, eleven step grands, and five (almost seven) step greats. What a bountiful life I have! And even though it’s a day for mothers, I am especially grateful for my dad who partnered with me to create a joyful childhood and beyond.

There will be a bit of sadness in my celebration tomorrow but mostly there will be gratitude.

Affirmation: I’m grateful.

Coaching questions: What helps you feel grateful on a difficult day? What difference can you make in someone else’s day today?

IMG_1479 (2).jpgMe and my mom, circa 1953

Mourning an Old Friend

True friends are the ones who never leave your heart, even if they leave your life for a while. Even after years apart, you pick up with them right where you left off, and even if they die they’re never dead in your heart. Unknown

Last week a dear friend of mine died. She was young, in her early 70’s (I consider anyone who is younger than me young). She had been ill for a long time so perhaps she was ready to “move on.” As friends, we shared experiences of guilt and redemption, laughter and tears. We had a honest, down-to-earth relationship. When we regularly met for lunch during our working-girl years, we always ordered the same thing. We didn’t want to waste our talk-time on looking at the menu. 

As I grieve her death, I’m reminding myself what I’ve written in my book and counseled others. I’m making an effort to focus on Ginger rather than myself. I’m remembering what she meant to me and others who loved her. I’m celebrating her freedom from pain and illness. I’m sad but grateful. Loved you, Ginger!

Affirmation: I celebrate life and friendship.

Coaching questions: How do you grieve the loss of a friend? What helps you honor your sadness while embracing gratitude? 

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Photo by Joseph Pearson on Unsplash

Who or What Are You Taking For Granted?

How quickly we forget God’s great deliverances in our lives. How easily we take for granted the miracles he performed in our past. David Wilkerson, Christian evangelist and author

It’s a cool, cloudy day in southwest Florida today. It makes me realize how I take the parade of sunny days for granted. In northern Illinois, where we used to live, clouds were the norm in the winter which is one reason we moved here. 

How easy it is to take the beautiful, constant events or people in our lives for granted. It’s important to guard against this complacency lest we dilute our attitude of gratitude. 

Affirmation: I acknowledge my daily blessings.

Coaching questions: Is there anything or anyone you’re taking for granted? What are you willing to do to remedy this? 

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Lessons Learned As We Age

Many of us have learned that happiness is a skill and a choice. Mary Pipher, clinical psychologist

In her New York Times article, The Joy of Being a Woman in Her 70’s, Pipher writes, “We have learned to look every day for humor, love and beauty. We’ve acquired an aptitude for appreciating life. Gratitude is not a virtue but a survival skill, and our capacity for it grows with our suffering.” 

In addition to gratitude Pipher talks about the importance of attitude. As we age, we learn that, though we can’t control all the circumstances of our lives, we can choose how we respond. We can choose to move forward with joy and grace.

Affirmation: I choose gratitude and joy.

Coaching questions: What new joys have you discovered as you’ve aged? How has your attitude made a difference? 

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What To Do About Ungrateful Grandsons

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude. A.A. Milne 

Today I received my first email in response to a new Ask the Life Coach column I’m writing for the Coastal Breeze, my local newspaper. The emailer wrote, “I sent each of my three grandsons $150 and never received a thank you or even a wish for a Merry Christmas.” She’s wondering what to do about this dilemma. I frequently hear a version of this from many others. An attitude of gratitude must be taught. Somewhere, someone dropped the ball and raised kids with small hearts and little appreciation. 

If the grandsons are older, I would address them directly. “Did you receive my check?” “What did you spend the money on?” Text them if they’re teens. If they are young, address your child, their parent, and ask them similar questions. Don’t sweep this under the rug if it’s bothering you. Even if the parent isn’t taking responsibility for teaching their children gratitude doesn’t mean you can’t have some influence. 

Affirmation: I model gratitude. 

Coaching questions: If you have ungrateful people in your life, how are you addressing the issue? What would happen if you spoke out about it? If you’re disappointed or angry about a lack of gratitude, don’t let the issue go unaddressed.

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1,000 Thank-Yous

When trying to go to sleep, instead of counting sheep, try counting things you’re grateful for— in alphabetical order. AJ Jacobs, author

Our national day of gratitude is behind us but I believe every day should be a day for giving thanks and AJ Jacobs, author of Thanks a Thousand, is just the guy to emulate. His book recounts his mission to thank every single person who played a part in making his morning coffee, over 1,000 people. His journey took him from coffeeshop barista to the Colombian coffee farmer to the lid designer. Oh, he also thanked the lady from pest control who kept the bugs out of the coffee warehouse. 

It’s a fact that showing gratitude is good for our physical and mental health. Studies show keeping a gratitude journal helps patients in their recovery and health-care workers’ stress levels decline by an average of 28 percent. We humans are naturally negative. Spreading gratitude is a way to make the world a better place. 

Affirmation: I’m grateful.

Coaching questions: Who have you thanked personally today? What difference does it make when someone thanks you? Think of someone who rarely receives appreciation and thank them.

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