Let your light shine…

November 18, 2014

“ As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”  ― Nelson Mandela

We occasionally sing a little song in church that has the line, “This little light of mine; I’, going to let it shine.” That little ditty comes from the gospel song titled This Little Light of Mine and is a favorite for children’s choirs.

The essence of the message in that little song is that the singer is going to let his/her faith shinewalking candle through in the things that they do. I like Mandela’s take on that because it is true that by our actions and deeds we unconsciously empower others to act the same way – to let their own lights shine through.

Have you ever been in a group where one person breaks the ice by speaking to others or sharing a story? Did you notice that after that person got things started everyone eventually joined in? It’s human nature. Most of us don’t like to be the first to speak or to say hello to others; we prefer to hold back and wait for someone else to initiate things. Sometimes I’m that way, especially if I walk into a social situation with a whole bunch of people that I don’t know.

I’m a Chamber Ambassador in our local Chamber of Commerce and one of my duties as an
introductionAmbassador is to make sure that visitors to our various social and networking functions, like our Coffee Club, don’t end up standing in the corner of the room like a deer in the headlights. That can happen very easily, since most of the people who regularly go to our events know each other and tend to clump together in ad hoc little cliques during the events (that’s human nature, too). So my job is to take the visitor by the hand and introduce them around to the others in the room. A side benefit for me is that it forces me to overcome my own natural reticence in those same situations.

The little saying doesn’t necessarily have to have an overtly religious meaning. At it’s core is the thought to let your personality shine through; to let what you have to contribute to the situation – your knowledge, your opinions and your thoughts –  come out and be heard. All too often I find that people hold back because they think that they have nothing to contribute. That is especiallyopinionated true if the conversation or situation is being dominated by an opinionated blowhard who believes that he or she is the smartest person in the room. However, there is one thing which that person absolutely does not know and that is what your opinion is on the topic at hand. Whatever that opinion is, it comes from a different point of view than any other that has already been expressed. Let your light (and opinion) shine at that moment and you may be the catalyst that sparks a good conversation in the group, rather than having to put up with a domineering bore.

Religious connotations aside, another meaning for this little ditty focuses upon doing good, helping others and doing what is right. The impact of one person taking the initiative to start something good, do something good or say something good can be amazing. We hear all the time about some post on You Tube “going viral”, meaning that is has suddenly attracted thousand or even  millions of views. Someone initially posted that video to let it’s light shine. We also have seen the commercial on TV about saving for retirement where a very small domino is tipped over into a slightly larger domino which then tips over onto a bigger one, and so on, and so on; until at the end this huge domino falls. That first domino was a little light being allowed to shine. To see a video about that domino effect, click here.

So, do you let your light shine or do you hold back and wait for others to go first? Mandel’s message was, that by letting your light shine through acts or deeds or words, you give permission to others to let their lights out to shine, too. Soon you have a room full of shining lights. Here is a great example of a flash mob that was started by a single singer and takes on a life of its own as more and more people let their lights shine – the Do-Re-Mi video. Don’t you think that every traveler in that train station had a better day because of being a part of that? I do.

Have a great day and let your light shine – someone needs a jump start from you today.

Saying goodbye…

November 17, 2014

“I’ll see you down the road!”  (Circus good-bye) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack explained that this phrase was often used by circus people in the heyday of traveling circuses. Jack went on to expound a bit on the fact that circus people are just like anyone else and to talk about the fact that traveling circuses often have a chaplain with them to serve the religious needs of the troop’s members.

Several years ago my wife and I visited Circus World in Baraboo, Wisconsin.  Circus World in Baraboo is one of Wisconsin Dells greatest attractions for Family Fun, Magic Shows, Circus Animals and more! That is if you visit it during the summer, while they are putting on daily shows. We happened to visit during the off-season, but it was still a fascinating place, with a huge collection of historic circus memorabilia. Baraboo, Wisconsin is where the traveling circuses of the early 20th Century used to circus1winter over and has the world’s largest collection of circus wagons from the era when the entire circus (animals and all) traveled about in large, ornate wagons.

Eventually those wagons were loaded onto trains for transport over long distances; however, the wagons were off-loaded at the edge of the town in which the circus was playing and used in a parade through the streets of the town as a promotion for the upcoming performances. There was usually a big calliope wagon leading the parade and many of the wagons may have been pulled by elephants.  The circus parade was quite an event in those cities and towns.

But, getting back to the quote for today; “I’ll see you down the road” was more than just the typical good-bye phrase, “I’ll see you later.” Contained within it is the acknowledgement of the common trapeesselifestyle shared by the circus troop of living on the road. It also had the positive connotation that this was really not good bye, because I fully expect to see you again. It might not have been unusual for certain acts to join or leave the troop, depending upon the size of the booking for the next town. There were also circuses that had both three-ring shows and single-ring shows, again depending upon the size of the expected audiences in the town.

In our modern lifestyle this good-bye might be appropriate for those who are ardent campers or RV’ers. Those people tend to see each other in different camp settings as they travel around. Some groups, likecamper the Tin Can Tourists that focus upon vintage travel trailer living are very organized and hold rallies and events to celebrate their hobby and lifestyle. Tin Can Tourists have one of those events out at Camp Dearborn every summer. I’m sure that the phrase, “I’ll see you down the road”, would be a very appropriate good-bye for members of that group.

woman wving on motor scooterI suppose one can also make the case that life is a journey and the phrase, “I’ll see you down the road”, is an appropriate way to say, “See you later.” It makes one sound sophisticated or, at least somehow, more worldly. Try it and see what reaction you get from those that you meet. As we head into the new week, I’ll see you down the road with more posts.



The person I was meant to be…

November 16, 2014

A reader of one of my recent blog posts sent me a little note of thanks for reminding her that it was OK to just be yourself, as she put it “to be the person that I was meant to be.” That brought to mind how many times we might say to ourselves “I never meant to be that way” or “ maybe “it was meant to be” or perhaps “this is the way that God meant it to be.”

I’m not a believer in predetermined destiny. I think we all create our own destinies. I was always taught that God allows us all free will, but reveals to us a correct path if we just ask – “correct” in the sense of making better decisions rather than one that lead us into trouble. There are people who wear those little rubber bracelets that have the initials WWJD on them – What Would Jesus Do – as a reminder to stop and think before making life’s decisions. For them, it’s a way to interject some of the lessons of the Bible back into the decision-making in their daily lives.

Back to the original opening thought. The intent of this person’s email was to say thanks for making me feel better about just being myself, about loving myself for who I am and for not worrying about what others may think about that. So, it’s not so much that she was meant to be who she is; but, rather, that, who she has turned out to be is OK with her. She is at peace with herself and that, for many, is a huge victory in life. I have known many people who never seemed to get comfortable with who they are. They were always striving to be like someone else and thus they were always unhappy when they could not achieve that goal. It is truly a happy thing when you can be at peace with who you have turned out to be.

I’ve also see the cute little phrase “Lord, please make me the person that my dog thinks I am” on T-shirts and other things and it points to the same thought process. Your dog gives unconditional love to you and asks for your love back. What could be more straightforward or simpler than that? If we all lived life with no other guidance than that, I suspect the world would be a much better place.

Are you at peace with who you’ve turned out to be? If not, get one of those little WWJD bracelets and dogwear it for a while. Maybe it will cause you to stop and take different directions on the life decisions that you have to make. Go get a dog, too. And, don’t get a puppy, get some lonely dog at the pound who needs a home. He (or she) needs you as much as you need him and that will work well for both of you. Think of it this way – you’re both lonely and afraid and in a cage that life has landed you in and both of you can free the other to live a better life. Then try to live up to the phrase on the T-shirt and be the person that your dog thinks you are.

Have a great week ahead!

Bob Dylan was wrong on this…

November 15, 2014

“What’s money?  A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to.”  (Bob Dylan)

I’ve had a tough time with that Bob Dylan quote ever since I saw it on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Dylan was a pop-culture giant of the era that I grew up in and had a massive influence on the music of the time; but he was a crappy philosopher if he believed that quote. One can make a quote like that only if one has enough money already to have become a cynic.

If I were to modify Dylan’s quote, so that it makes more sense to me it would read, “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he can to make others’ lives better.”

Success isn’t about money. That part I think Dylan had right. It isn’t about possessions or titles or power. Success is about being well thought of by others because you cared and you helped. Success is man winning raceabout being happy with yourself at the end of the day because you know that you gave it your best effort and got as much done as you could. Success is seldom measured in the miles that you’ve traveled, but rather in the few inches of progress that you’ve made. Accolades and applause are external things that sometimes come with it, but success really is an internal thing in which you take your own measure of what you’ve accomplished verses what you set out to do. If you’ve set the bar high for yourself, successes are just progress reports along the way to that higher goal.

reaching goalSometimes we take on things that we know going in we cannot beat. Worthy causes like overcoming world hunger or finding the cure for cancer or ending domestic violence are just too big for any one person to be able to claim success; however, if you define a reasonable role for yourself – maybe in terms of fund raising for a charitable organization that is fighting the fight, or maybe in terms of personal service to the cause; you can reach your personal goals and justifiably declare yourself to be a success.  It is important to pause after those little successes and celebrate, before taking on the next goal. Just as I have opined here in the past about liking yourself; it is important to reward yourself for success in achieving your goals.

So, every night, as you end the day, reflect on the little personal successes that you’ve had.  Successes don’t always have to be defined in terms of external things or causes; they may be as small as not eatingman thinking that second donut in your effort to lose weight or maybe making that extra little effort at the gym. Acknowledge yourself and your efforts. Celebrate your little successes and then plan to build on them for tomorrow. There is an old saying about success building upon success; and that can become true in your life.

Many times, if your focus is on things other than yourself, it may be hard to see anything of any significance that you accomplished during the day towards that bigger, external goal. Maybe you didn’t collect a single dime of donations or help a single needy person; however, if you were out there spreading the word about the need you have been successful.  If you educated one person who didn’t know about or understand the cause or the need, you have been successful.  If, through your actions and deeds, you have influenced one more person to join the cause, you have been successful.

So, how do you define being successful? Are you still measuring your success against some monetary goal? Is getting that new car or that bigger house the key to your success? Is getting to that executive level job the only way that you will be successful in your mind? Is having power success for you? So, why are you not smiling? Did that last raise or promotion bring you the feeling of success that you strugglewere seeking; or did it just leave you with that empty feeling that there must be more to life that just those pursuit of those things.

The good news is that there is more to life and it has little to do with most of what you may have been chasing in your pursuit of success.  The other good news is that there is a great book for you to read as a guide to achieving the success that you long for – it’s called the Bible. The bad news is that the author of most of the advice in that great book was not impressed with material things. In fact he advised those who would follow him to sell all that they had and give the money to the poor. You may not have to go that far, but you do need to do a radical reset of what you define as success in life.  A favorable side-effect of doing that is that what makes you happy in life also gets reset. In the end, you may well be living your life by this philosophy –  “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he can to make others’ lives better.”

Strangely enough,your life will get better, too; and you will feel like a success.

Embrace your little happy’s

November 14, 2014

“I’m happier now, because…”  (Nataly Kogan)  – from a recent post at the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Kogan’s book – 3 Minutes A Day tells about Nataly who founded “Happier, Inc.”  After discovering that chasing the “big happy” wasn’t working, she began to look for the little happys in her life, like making a smilely-faced pancake for her young daughter…the things that brought her joy.  Her Happier website invites people to share their small, tiny, positive moments.

man mad at himselfFor most people the realization will eventually set in that chasing the big happys often only results in disappointments or frustration in life. Learning to be satisfied with life’s little everyday happy moments is a much better path to take.  Happiness is often accompanied by a sense of contentment, at least for a little while. But, life goes on and it is all too easy for one notice out on the horizon the next big happy that could be chased.  Once that next big thing becomes the thing to chase in order to be happy, the feeling of contentment with the current fades quickly away.

I suppose that we could all say, “I’m happier now, because it’s Friday”, but that isn’t the point that Nataly is trying to get across. I suspect that we all fall into the trap of chasing what she calls “the big happy.” In my mind that is when you have this big thing out there that you just feel sure will make you happy if you ever get it or achieve it. Maybe that thing is a possession – “I’ll be happy of I get that new car”; or, maybe it’s achieving some goal or accomplishing some task, like, “I’ll be happy if I get that promotion.” For some people the key to their happiness is supposedly to travel to some exotic place. For many the belief is that happiness will be theirs when they meet Mr. or Ms. Right.

The point that Kogan seems to be making is that we can all be happier if we focus on all of life’s little smiling manvictories and happy moments that we experience every day, instead of becoming obsessed with chasing a few “big happys.”  What are the little things that make you happy? Would you smile and be happy, if only for the moment, if someone gave you a pancake shaped like a smiley face?  The fact is that we get lots of smiley faces every day, if we just know how to look for them. Sometimes they are gestures of thanks for something that you did, like holding a door open for someone or helping a stranger carry something. Many times they are the small, sometimes hasty, thank-you’s that we get from significant others or children for something rather ordinary that we did for them. Learn to accept them as little smiley faces in your life and be happier because of them.

bathWhat little things in your daily life make you happier? These are your little happy’s. Accept them and embrace them. They are what takes life beyond tolerable and makes it worthwhile. You may find that a strange side-effect of being satisfied and content with life’s little happy’s is that life’s big happy’s just naturally happen, too. It’s all part of living life with a positive mental attitude.

So, listen to the words of Bobby McFerrin’s song and Don’t Worry, Be Happy. As you listen complete the sentence in this post title for yourself –“ I’m happier now, because…”


Smile your way to a great day…

November 12, 2014

“Your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn.”  (Unknown). I saw that little saying on the Jack’s Winning Words blog recently. It certainly makes sense. Have you met people who always have a frown on their faces? Speaker of the House, John Boehner, immediately comes to mind. Boehner always looks pained and unhappy, like his underwear are riding up in a permanent wedgie. I can’t recall more than one time seeing him look happy in news coverage.

I do know some people whose normal mien is a down turned mouth. At best, with a full smile on their face sad looking manheir mouths may reach a neutral position. You kind of get used to looking for other facial clues with them – a twinkle in the eye, for example. Most people actually have “at rest” facial expressions that might initially be taken the wrong way. I know that I do. When the face is completely relaxed, it does tend to droop a bit and the lips turn down. One has to work at it a bit to appear to be happy, with a smile. I think that comes fairly naturally if you are happy. The completely at rest face is an outward sign of a somewhat blank mind, but for many that results in a look that can be too serious  at best (I get that a lot) and angry at worst. The old saying, “he looks down in the mouth” might have been uttered about someone who really wasn’t sad or angry, but just looked that way to others.

So, the solution is to be cognizant of what your face looks like if it is in its normal rest position and make the effort to put a smile on it. It doesn’t have to be a big, idiotic smile; just enough so that people who meet you get the impression that you are happy or content or at least someone that they might what to get to know. Don’t be the guy or gal that others avoid because you look like you’re ready to bite someone’s head off.

It’s a much better start to a conversation if someone says, “you look happy, what’s the occasion?” than if they note, “you look mad about something, I hope it’s not something that I’ve done.” People are much moresmiling girl comfortable being curious about something good than inquiring about what appears to have you so upset. Co-workers and bosses also prefer to deal with people who seem to be in a happy frame of mind; as opposed to someone who looks like they are about to be fired.

Resolve every morning to make your day the way that your mouth curls and then make sure that it is curled up in a smile. Have a great day and a great rest of the week. It’s hump-day, which is something to smile about.


Businesses supporting worthy charities…

November 10, 2014

Recently, at one of our Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce Coffee Club events, there was a speaker from an organizationvista-maria-logo called Vista Maria. Vista Maria is a safe harbor for girls who need help. There are a great variety of reasons that a girl might end up at Vista Maria, but the bottom line is that does provide a place where they can go to be safe, get help and start the journey back to a more normal life. Vista Maria provides a physical shelter and a range of programs and services to help girls get back on track and prepare for life.

One of the issues that the representative from Vista Maria discussed was human trafficking. In our supposedly modern and sophisticated society one would seldom think of that problem as happening here, but it does. Michigan has a human trafficking problem and its location next to Canada makes it an easier target for traffickers. We are not one of the top four states for human trafficking, but likely are in the top-10 list. The top states are California, Texas, Florida and New York.

In the U.S. much of the human trafficking is for the sex trade, but a significant amount is still to be found in forced labor amounting to slavery. We’ve had cases of both in the news this past year in this area. To read a report from the Polaris organization that tracks this problem and works to get state laws enacted to combat it, click here.

Drug addiction, either directly or associated with the girls’ parents is one of the biggest problems that lead girls to Vista Maria. Many come from broken families or families that have been forced into homelessness. Some come to the shelter as children with children of their own already. Most have been forced to drop out of school due to their circumstances. Vista Maria offers shelter, services, educational opportunities and programs to get them back on their feet and headed in a better direction. You can find out more about Vista Maria at its web site – www.vistaaria.org or call 313-271-3050. Vista Maria is located in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, at 20651 W. Warren Ave. 48127.

Vista Maria was at the Coffee Club because they are one of the causes that are supported by the Affinity Foundation for
Affinity Group logoMichigan Kids (see www.agcu4mikids.org ), the charity foundation of the Affinity Group of Credit Unions – www.myagcu.org – which was the host for the Coffee Club. Affinity Group Credit Union is a group of 6 credit Unions in Southeastern Michigan. This Coffee Club was held at the Kensington Valley Community Credit Union location on John St in Highland, Michigan.

Another children-oriented program that the Affinity Group has going on right now is aimed at making a local Kid’s Holiday Brighter by filling a stocking for Christmas. One may donate $5 or any of the items on their list of things for children of various ages. Click here to view their flyer on that program.

The Affinity Group is just one of many area companies and organizations that support local or national charities. The company that I work with – Real Estate One – is a big supporter of the Michigan Special Olympics and the American Cancer Society, among others. Our company encourages employees and its associates to run local fund-raising events by matching the monies collected from those event 50 cents on the dollar, through its Real Estate One Foundation. Does your company have a charity program? Find out how you can help.