Can We Really Make The World A Better Place?

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The other night I had the pleasure of meeting Maggie Doyne, the founder of The BlinkNow Foundation, who is truly changing the world one child at a time.  At the age of 27, Maggie has 42 Nepalese children who call her mom and live with her in Kopila Valley Children’s Home, which was built brick-by-brick by Maggie and the local community in Nepal. Maggie has also built the Kopila Valley Primary School, which is attended by 400 Nepalese children, and a women’s health clinic. Maggie truly believes that if every child in the world is provided with their most basic needs and rights—a safe home, medical care, an education, and love, they will grow to be leaders and end cycles of poverty and violence in our world.

A few nights later, I had the pleasure of introducing Maggie to Maro Chermayeff, the Executive Producer and Director of the movie Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women. Maro has traveled all over the world with award winning journalist Nicholas D. Kristof bringing to light dramatic stories of oppressed women and children, and introducing us to people that make a difference.

I was honored and overwhelmed to be sitting with these two women who are having such an important positive impact on the world.  At the age of 27, Maggie is having such a profound impact on the children of Nepal, and Maro is preparing to leave to film in Haiti and parts of Africa.  At one point in the evening I blurted out, “I need to do more.  I don’t think I am capable of doing what either of you do everyday.”  Maro turned to me and said, “It doesn’t matter what you do.  Just do something.  One act. One thing that makes the world a better place.  Just something. That will make all the difference.”

I think that is why some of us don’t act because we feel that our small acts won’t make a dent in the numerous problems the world faces. But Maybe what Maro said to me is true: every act does matter. It reminds me of the story about the Boy and the Starfish.  The story is told as follows:

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water.
Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean. As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.

The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied, “I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. “But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”
The boy looked down, frowning for a moment; then bent down to pick up another starfish, smiling as he threw it back into the sea. He replied, 


“I made a huge difference to that one!”

If you are interested, you can check out the work that Maggie is doing in Nepal through The BlinkNow Foundation and help her build a high school for the beautiful children.  You could also find something to do in your neighborhood, local school or charity, or even help an elderly neighbor.  If we all create more acts of kindness each day MAYBE we can make a difference and actually make the world a better place!!  It is DEFINITELY worth a try!!

“If You Judge People, You Have No Time To Love Them.” Mother Teresa

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A friend of mine just moved away. We weren’t very close and one of the reasons was that I found it very difficult to be with her. She was often complaining about her ex-husband being the cause of all her problems, she was always starting new businesses that she never followed through on and I was not always clear if she was telling the truth. After she left town, I was sitting with a group of women and these women also thought my friend was complicated, but they all had amazing stories of great times with her. She was very spontaneous, funny and loved to go out and live it up. She was also very dedicated to her children. And yet I could not recall one moment that I had with her that was interesting or fun.

Later that day I came across the Mother Teresa quote, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Although I was always trying to help my friend, I realized my judgments about her had interfered with my enjoyment of her company. I am not really sure that I was ever present for her.  Was she difficult? Absolutely, but my judgments about what she “needed to do to improve her life” kept me from having a more loving and enjoyable relationship even for just an evening or a moment.

Our judgments interfere with many of our relationships. They give us a sense of righteousness, but sometimes all that is really happening is that we are not getting what we want from the other person or they are not doing what we think is best for them.  In fact, judging someone is an easy path.  It is much more challenging to be loving, accepting and kind when the person in front of us is not acting the way we want them to. The act of loving is going beyond our “likes and dislikes” and surrendering our judgments so we can freely share our love with another person and celebrate their magnificence and not their failings. I’m not suggesting that we ignore the truth about how we feel someone acted towards us or how they acted in a particular situation, but that instead we also allow ourselves to see the whole person. Often we will find there is so much beauty when we are less judgmental and more loving. We can enjoy the essence of another person and the moment we are sharing together.

So even if we find our mother-in-law is difficult, our best friend is opinionated or our children are not listening or doing well in school, let’s try not to miss out on enjoying what we can with each of them. What could be more important about being human than sharing the warmth and love that resides in our heart? As for my friend, I don’t regret trying to help her, but Maybe when she comes back to town we can go out and just enjoy each other’s company! It could be a blast!

Maybe, it is Good!!!

The other day my client Jessica, an interior designer, called me and said, “Allison, you are going to be so disappointed in me.  My largest client called me yesterday and said it was imperative that I call her back immediately.  When I could not get in touch with her, I immediately started to worry that something I ordered was incorrect or that she was unhappy with my work or perhaps she was going to fire me.” Jessica paused for a moment and after catching her breath, she continued. “I could not sleep last night and made myself sick with worry of what could possibly be wrong.  I finally spoke to my client this morning; she was calling to tell me that she wanted to introduce me to her friend who wants to hire a designer for her new home in Westchester.” After pausing again, Jessica gave a big sigh. “All that worry and emotional pain for nothing,” she said, “and the thought never even occurred to me that Maybe she wanted to give me some good news about a potential job.”

Of course, I was initially very happy for my client that she had a lead for some new work and I congratulated her.  After that, I said that I would never be disappointed in someone if they did not use Maybe. Maybe is not about handling something the right way or the wrong way. For me, choosing Maybe as a life philosophy is about living life with less emotional pain and suffering. If a situation in my life looks bad or something unexpected happens, instead of starting to worry or plan for the worst possible outcome, I pause for a moment and enter the realm of Maybe.  Maybe is a doorway for me to see that the situation that I am facing may still turn out to have a positive outcome or Maybe there is another way to achieve my goal or Maybe I will find peace with whatever I am experiencing.  This way, instead of shutting down with fear and worry, I am able to relax my mind and open up to all that is possible.

We all have many moments like Jessica had yesterday with her client.  Give Maybe a try and let me know what happens!!

Choosing Love

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Scarlett Lewis Meeting the Dalai Lama

Last weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Scarlett Lewis, whose six-year-old son Jesse was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December in Newtown, Connecticut. One might expect that Scarlett would talk about gun control and new legislation, but instead she spoke about love and forgiveness. Scarlett said that the enormity of the Sandy Hook tragedy began with an angry thought that Adam Lanza, the shooter, had as a child and that thought could have been changed to a loving one had he possessed the tools and ability to make another choice. She asks everyone to honor her son by taking one angry thought each day and turning it into a loving one. Scarlett believes that over time that one loving thought will change the world and it will become a better and safer place for our children.

Scarlett has also started the Jesse Lewis Foundation to create awareness in our children and communities so that all of us can choose love over anger, gratitude over entitlement and forgiveness and compassion over bitterness. Part of this initiative will be creating curricula in schools to give children the tools to choose love. Scarlett has also written a book entitled Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope & Forgiveness, which will be released by Hay House this week. Although the book has religious undertones and might not resonate with every reader, Scarlett’s choice in choosing love over anger is an astonishing lesson for us all.

So how can we apply this to our own lives? Can we really just wake up and say today I forgive my boss for being nasty and treating me unfairly or my husband for taking his bad mood out on me or my neighbor for being inconsiderate and loud? Can it be that easy? Maybe for some, but for most of us letting go of anger and choosing love is a process. This is how I’m doing it in my own life, and I hope it helps you.

First, I make the decision to choose love over anger. It is a purposeful decision. Sometimes it takes me a while to recognize I am angry and I must catch myself and think, “I choose love over anger.” Does the anger then go away immediately? Most of the time NO, but it creates an awareness of my anger and a mindfulness about the situation. It creates an avenue to let it go and that becomes an opening for me to move out of my anger and into love over time.

The second thing that I do is “cook” my anger. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a great book about this called Anger, in which he teaches the reader to breathe and stay with your anger until you can cool your mind and your heart of rage.  This becomes easier with mindfulness and although it can take up to twenty minutes, if you only have a minute or two it will still help. Other people use techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique, (you can read about it online) which I also find effective. It consists of tapping certain meridian points on the body while you are connecting with the emotion that is causing you pain.  After learning about this technique, I have definitely felt more calm and clear-minded in anger challenging moments. You can use this one or find another that works for you.

Third, once my mind is cleared, I’m able to start thinking about where the other person is coming from. Maybe they were struggling or suffering in that moment or something terrible happened to them in the past that made them act in the way that hurt me and made me angry. This doesn’t mean that they are not responsible for their behavior, but it nurtures compassion in me and the ability to keep anger from taking up more space in my head.

Sometimes I do all of the above things and the anger passes and other times I still feel the anger but it will be different. For me it becomes softer and not as all-encompassing. I may need to confront the person who made me angry but I am able to do it from a place of compassion and avoid generating more anger.  Other times, more space from the incident helps me let go of the anger that remains.

When I am successful in choosing love over anger and I can really process it, I feel more peaceful and joyful about life and all of my relationships. More and more I find that what I am angry about is not that big of a deal.  I teach these methods to my children and I hope they will carry it throughout their lives so their hearts can be free and filled with joy and not the darkness that anger breeds within.

And I stand with Scarlett Lewis; her choice to choose love over anger in the most heartbreaking circumstances should inspire us all to take one angry thought today and turn it into LOVE for all of us!