Blessings Abound

We all know the downfalls of Facebook.  It is a total “time suck,” for sure.  It does lower productivity, for sure.  (I’m sure most of us have heard of at least one boss forbidding Facebook on company time.)  It does prevent many of us from being out in the “real world” of nature, of face-to-face social interaction, of quality family time.  For instance, how many of us know couples who are each on her or his own computer responding to each other on Facebook?  I know at least three.  Crazy!  And yet, there are very real blessings to Facebook as well.

When we are separated from our friends or family – by distance or circumstances beyond our control, it is a beautiful way to keep in touch.  I can simultaneously let all my friends know when I have reached the destination of a two thousand mile car trip, for instance.  Or that I’m okay, the flooding or fires have blessedly not occurred in my immediate vicinity.  Or that I have started a new job.  Or that I’m feeling down.

When I was cooped up, feeling alone and isolated while taking care of my elder parents, having the opportunity to vent via Facebook or to lose myself in the postings of my friends was a blessing I cannot overestimate.  It helped keep me sane.  Even though I was ensconced in a home not necessarily of my choosing (without a car for a significant portion of the time,) I could still feel connected to my social network.  When I needed it, I got tremendous support from oodles of friends from all over the country.  And now, four years later, my network extends across the globe.  I am so grateful for each friend.

Facebook can be cheap therapy (if you have quality friends like I do.)  It can be cheap entertainment (dancing dog videos, funny cartoons, beautiful photos, games.)  It can mean fewer minutes on the cell phone.  (Thanks to chats and private messaging.) 

When I am lonely or bored or tired, I love Facebook.  Unlike TV, it can be interactive.  Unlike a party, I can just turn it off when I get tired.  I don’t have to dress up to visit my friends.  In fact I don’t have to dress, period!  I don’t have to put in my contacts or brush my teeth.  I don’t have to use gas driving anywhere.  I don’t have to find a babysitter or abandon my dogs (if I had kids or dogs.)  It’s a wonderful way to visit without extending more effort than I have the energy for. 

Also, I get to be friends with people I might have otherwise had to attend five hundred parties or workshops or networking lunches to meet in person.  I love that I am friends with a very sweet woman in Australia, several people in Africa, a whole slew of people in my hometown whom I have yet to meet in person, and a few well-known people who lead workshops all around the world.  (And yes, we actually do talk with one another.  We are not simply another “friend” in the contest to see who can get the most “friends.”)

I love the private groups on Facebook.  I love that via these groups I get to stay connected with what’s going on in my hometown (both my current and former one.)  I can know what events are happening and who is moving or who was just in an accident and needs prayers, food, babysitting, support.  This is the way I like the world to be.  When we need one another, in a few seconds, the word can go out to hundreds of people.  It’s the next best thing to telepathy.

Someday I may get too busy or maybe even too “evolved” to visit Facebook so much.  But for now, I am profoundly grateful. 

The other day I went to meet a new friend in town.  She was new to the area and I bought us a small vegetarian pizza to share.  Then I went to the grocery store and bought some tea bags and peanut butter and jelly.  I also stopped at the thrift store to chat with the woman who works there and while I was there, I bought two books.  Then, on the way home, I bought two peaches, two cucumbers, and an onion from the farmer selling produce at the intersection.

After my excursions, I was feeling happy.  It was nice to be out and about in my neighborhood, chatting with people and feeling connected. But I noticed I was also feeling a bit anxious because rent was due and money was tight.  I’m doing much better financially than I had been, but I confess I am still faced with these kinds of choices regularly.  Do I buy some groceries or do I save every penny until rent is paid?  Do I pay ten dollars to allow my tired body to soak in the warm healing waters of the hot springs, or do I wait because my cell phone bill is due? Sometimes I choose the conventional wisdom and I scrimp and save every dollar.  But sometimes I realize that way of living focuses on lack and it backfires.  So instead I choose a path of faith.  I trust that it is okay to take care of myself and that more money will flow to me.

On this particular day, I had to talk myself through the anxiety I felt.  I realized 1) I was hungry and I needed lunch, 2) it felt good to treat someone who was new in town because people had also been nice to me when I was new in town, 3) my larder was fairly empty and I needed those staples at the grocery store, 4) the thrift store supports the young people of the area, and 5) I was more than happy to support a local farmer. 

I also realized (and this was the biggie) that in spending a bit of money (and time) in my neighborhood, I was supporting my neighbors!  So really, I wasn’t being indulgent so much as neighborly.

This may sound like justification, but there is truth in it as well.  When we support the stores in our neighborhood, we support our neighbors.  When I went to the cafe, I supported the owners who own it and I supported the cook who made my pizza and the waitress who served me.  When I went to the grocery store, I supported the people who own it, the people who work there, as well as the people who raised the crops, manufactured the products, packaged the products, and transported the products.  When I went to the thrift store, I supported the non-profit which runs it and, in turn, the youth of our area which it supports.  When I do my shopping locally, I support my neighbors.

After my next bill is paid, I intend to buy some soap from the local woman who makes soaps from natural materials and I will buy candles from the local woman who makes candles from natural materials.  These I will buy from the new little store run by the sweet young couple I met about a month ago.  They live very simply in harmony with the Earth and I very much want to support them.

From the outdoor market on Saturday I might buy something small simply because I know that everyone there is trying to make a living, pay their bills, and support their family.  We are all doing our best, offering our gifts to the world and trying to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.  We need to support one another.

I have always loved the bumper sticker “Think globally, act locally.”  We all make the world a better place when we support our neighbors – not only with our money, but with our time, our hugs, our smiles.

One of the local women who has been kindest to me (and many, many others as well!) was for many, many years a single mother struggling to both make the money to support her kids as well as be a present, loving, and wise mother.  She knows what it’s like.  It is not easy to survive as a single person without a highly lucrative career.  I am grateful I don’t have the responsibility of supporting children; I have enough on my plate just supporting me!

In this community there are many people – both coupled and single, doing their best to raise their children.  They all deserve our support.  Back in the days when our ancestors lived tribally, all the women of the village looked after all the children and all the men hunted for food.  Now, somehow we’ve become more isolated and all the burden for the care and survival of children falls on one or two parents.  How did it get this way?  The children are the future and it would be both wise and kind if we all took a more active interest in helping them (and their parents) with our money, our time, and our love.

And what about our elders?  How many of our elders now live alone in isolation or just as bad, live in nursing homes but still with that feeling of being isolated, put aside, unloved?  How can we be more neighborly to our elders?  Is there an elder person whose lawn looks a bit high and scraggly?  Chances are they have arthritis and can’t move so well.  Chances are their social security check doesn’t stretch far enough to include paying someone to mow their lawn.  Let’s offer to cut their lawn.  Or perhaps they don’t drive anymore and need help getting groceries and out to doctor’s appointments.  Let’s all chip in and help our elders.

Out in the Midwest and West where the towns are few and very far between, being neighborly is essential.  Without good neighbors, people could literally die.  People need help bringing in the crops, making it through blizzards, birthing their babies.  But there are certainly needs in the city as well.  What about the woman who is working two jobs to pay the bills and her child gets ill and she realizes if she stays home for the child she risks losing her job?  What about the widower who is incapacitated by grief and has never learned to prepare food for himself?  We all need help now and then.

Let’s help each other out.  Having wonderful neighbors often means being a wonderful neighbor.  Until one has lived all alone with no one to care, one cannot imagine how big a blessing good neighbors are.  We cannot take care of the whole world; no one can take care of seven billion people.  But surely we can help our neighbors now and then.

I thank God for the blessing of good neighbors.  May your kindnesses be repaid a hundred thousand times.

Blessings to each one of you.

I am very blessed to live in a place where the nighttime sky is magnificent.  There is very little ambient light and so the stars are absolutely stunning.  There are layers upon layers of stars.  There are gloriously bright stars piercing with their utter clarity.  And there are hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands, of other stars peaking through and scattered throughout the dark domain.  The faint white cloud of our own Milky Way galaxy is visible in a great arch, inspiring great wonder in this eastern girl who for almost fifty years never saw such an amazing thing.

 The night sky: Here the Milky Way is reflected in Cumberland Bay in South Georgia

I was feeling sorry for all the city and suburban folks who don’t get the pleasure of gazing upon such a magical, mystical scene.  And I was feeling sorry for the sky.  The cosmos is magnificent and amazing whether we have the ability to see it or not.  It isn’t the cosmos’ fault that we have lit our world so well with artificial light that the light of the stars and the galaxies is not visible.

When I mentioned this to a friend last night, the metaphor became immediately obvious to me.  What if we shine magnificently as the divine sparks in human form that we are, but the pollution cast by others sometimes masks or overshadows that magnificence?  Does that mean we are any less special?  No.  It simply means that our light is not always seen or appreciated.  Should we give up then and dim our light?  No!  No, no, no, no.  The world would be a poorer place if we all dimmed our light.  Rather let us shine as brightly as we can.

Marianne Williamson writes about this brilliantly in the famous quotation below (sometimes mistakenly attributed to the equally brilliant Nelson Mandela.)

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

It is my pleasure to brightly shine in this vast sky of humanity with you.  May we and the angels around us shine brightly, lighting up the darkness and creating a tapestry of unspeakable beauty.

Blessed be, fellow star beings.

Last night I went to a drumming circle.  After an opening ritual, we did some drumming together and then there was a check-in.  As the people there, one by one, shared what was going on in their lives I became aware of some great exhaustion within me.  I’ve been blessed with lots of work lately and much of it has been physically demanding. I haven’t had quite enough time for both recuperation and everything else that I want to do in my life.  So I was not only feeling physically fatigued, my psyche was fatigued as well. I was depleted, clearly and simply depleted.

Fortunately for me, Spirit had my back.  The leader had decided to make last night a healing night.  A massage table had been set up in the middle of the room and we were each to get some time on the table for healing and energy work.

I was so grateful.

I got to be the third one on the table.  A couple of people were drumming the “mother drum” while several other people laid their hands upon me.  I felt one person doing Reiki at my head.  Another had one hand under my back and another gently placed upon my belly.  A third began massaging my feet.  A fourth was holding my left hand.  Later I felt hands gently laid at the top of my chest.

When the ten minutes were over, I felt tears welling up.  I only knew three of the people in the group well enough to call friends; the others I’d only met once or twice.  And yet I felt so much love in the touch of those hands.  I very tangibly felt the love in the hearts of those good people.  I felt cared for and cared about.  And though I have many friends and know I am well-loved, it had been a long time since I’d felt tangible love like that.

I know I am not alone in this.  There are enormous numbers of single people in this country.  And even those of us who may be dating don’t necessarily get to receive the precious blessing of feeling loved.  I also think of all the astronomical numbers of elders who are living in nursing homes or alone in their old houses and never get to feel someone touching them with love.  And then I think of the married or coupled people who get too busy or too tired or perhaps too angry with one another and stop making love or stop touching with love or stop sharing words of love.  And I think of the teenagers.  And although many of them may be having sex, I imagine there are many, many who don’t really feel very loved.

There are a lot of lonely people in the world. There are a lot of touch-deprived people in the world.  There are a lot of sad or stressed or angry people in the world.  And every one of them needs love.

How can we find ways to show our love more tangibly?

In other countries, physical affection is shown more freely.  People embrace more freely, carry babies around more and longer, there is more laughter, there are more communal meals and times when villagers gather. 

In contrast,  many of us in this country live very separate lives.  Even within families there is much less time together.  Fewer families share dinner together.  In the evening people go off to their separate rooms to watch TV or play or work on their computers.  There is not only less touch, there is less interaction, period.  No wonder so many of us feel unloved. 

When I was doing hospice work and I’d go to the hospital to be with the family as their loved one neared death, often the very best thing I could do was offer a hug.  For many people, this was exactly the thing they needed.  They needed to feel that comfort.  And once they were enfolded in some caring arms, the tears that had been waiting were able to flow.

When it’s appropriate, let’s reach out and touch people more.  Let’s give more hugs.  Let’s smile more.  Let’s say nice things to one another.

This world really does need a lot more love.  Each one of us. Every one of us.

I’m sending out love to each of you, my fellow human beings reading this today.

May you feel loved.

Blessed be.