Are we connecting in ways that matter?

Global Neighborhood

“To love one’s country is natural, but why must it end at that border?” Pablo Cassals

Have you ever heard these words as a child: “Finish your vegetables, because poor people are starving”? It didn’t mean much to me then because I had never seen someone starving in China or India or anywhere. Today, because of cable television, we regularly see the hungry faces of people in other countries in our living rooms, kitchens, and classrooms. It makes the plight of others more tangible.

Global NeighborhoodGlobal has become local. As our awareness has expanded, we are experiencing a universal connection that can transform everyone into a neighbor with the click of a button.

Is anyone really so far away? Even if people look different than we do, are they really?  Don’t they hurt like we do when they lose a loved one? Don’t they suffer if they lose their homes or businesses? And don’t they feel despair when they’re hungry, sick, lonely, or weary? It’s evident that our neighbors are everywhere and we all need each other’s help.

With each world crisis, we are reminded that in one moment our lives can change. In one moment we could lose all that we love and hold dear. The people living in the Philippines, who share the same moon, sun, and planet as we do, experienced a series of moments when the winds and waters shifted and thousands of lives were lost, while thousands more were changed forever. Our fellow world citizens are hungry, thirsty, injured. Many have lost their loved ones, homes, and even entire villages.

We don’t have to belong to the same family, community, neighborhood, or country to extend a helping hand, to offer financial, physical, or emotional support. In fact, we are all part of one tribe: It’s called the human race. Millions of us throughout the world share a heart connection as we join in prayers for the health, safety and well-being of the victims of cataclysmic disasters around the globe.

Regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs, we have come to realize that what we do for or to each other matters. As our concept of neighborhood expands to global proportions, we express our currency of love by seeing a need and doing our best to meet it. In doing so, we discover and experience the sense of oneness that almost all religions speak about—a connection to the divine source of life itself—and we are all equal participants.

Revised excerpt from Love Is the New Currency by Linda Commito

If you are looking for ways to help, here are a couple of organizations making huge differences:

  • Advancing Compassion Project (www.advancingcompassion.org) is a U.S. based non-profit directing all Philippines-designated donations to several groups providing critical on the ground relief activities, including the Philippine Red Cross, CARE International and Action Against Hunger.
  • ShelterBox USA (www.shelterboxusa.org) is accepting donations toward the purchase of shelter box tents for those in the Philippines.

 

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Helping Children to Walk a Path of Kindness

By Linda Commito

I grew up in easier times. Although most of us never talked about kindness, we lived by The Golden Rule, treating others with respect and caring. It was a simple life where neighbors knew and helped each other, we were safe at home and at school, and we felt cared for, with a roof over our heads, enough food to eat, and someone to turn to in times of trouble.

Fast forward to today’s world where it’s sometimes difficult to feel positive and hopeful – especially after reading the daily news.  How can we create a more loving world for children who may not have the support systems that we grew up with? We can each make a difference in our own unique way. In fact, most often it is the simplest things that people have said or done for us that have changed the focus or direction of our lives.

I realized that if I truly wanted to make a difference by getting a message of love and kindness out into the world I needed to take it up a notch, and what better place to start than with children?  I had already been working as a part-time volunteer at Alta Vista Elementary School, a Title One school in Sarasota, Florida, where Principal Dr. Barbara Shirley and Assistant Principal Dehea Smith foster an environment that emphasizes the qualities of caring, responsibility, trust, honesty and family. Here was a perfect opportunity to do more.

Alta Vista’s students come from diverse cultures and backgrounds and have multiple challenges, yet I found them to be engaging and open to learning. I proposed doing a kindness project at the school, which we called Kindness Starts with Me.            

Kindness Starts With Me

“What does kindness look like? How are you kind at home and at school?” I asked some students sitting in a circle on the floor, hands waving as they eagerly offered to share what they were doing to be kind.

“Kindness is helping someone to sound out words that they don’t know,” said one student.  Others offered: “Kindness is not calling someone Kindness starts with me project at Alta Vista Elementary Schoolnames.”  “I am kind when I let someone use my eraser, or give someone a pencil.” “Kindness is inviting a new student to play at recess” or “Helping someone with a broken arm to carry their tray.”  At home: “I am kind when I share my toys or read to my little sister,” or “I am kind when I help my mom to cook.”

“What about kindness to animals?” I asked. Many had pets at home and loved talking about them. “I am kind when I play ball with my dog” or “when I feed my hamster.”

But most of the kids were stumped when asked, “How are you kind to yourself?” So many of us, even adults, have a difficult time finding ways to be kind to ourselves.  When I noticed their blank faces, I reminded them that being kind to ourselves allows us to more easily be kind to others. The students decided that eating healthy foods, exercising, and talking nicely to yourself, even when you made mistakes, were all important ways to practice self-kindness.

As part of the project, Mrs. Colgan, the head of the media center, and I met with 500 students, one class at a time, over the course of five weeks.  Each student was invited to create a kindness portrait – a picture of themselves being kind. Numerous volunteers had previously cut and glued colorful construction paper borders to frame the student’s artistic images. These profiles of kindness were then mounted to form “Kindness Quilts,” which were showcased in a month-long public exhibition at the Marie Selby Library. These creative, colorful profiles are now hung in the hallways of the school as reminders of the hundreds of ways to express kindness.

Kindness starts with me project at Alta Vista Elementary School

The Kindness Starts with Me program at Alta Vista Elementary School was a school-wide project that found expression not only in the kindness quilts, but also in smile cards that students filled out to acknowledge each other for the kind things they did. These cards, color-coded by class, were then put onto a large Kindness Tree in the cafeteria where students could see how quickly and easily kindness could grow.

Alta Vista Elementary School Kindness TreeAt a time when so much attention in the news has been focused on the detrimental effects of bullying, at Alta Vista daily acts of kindness are reinforced to inspire the students to become good citizens, but more importantly, to create a kinder, more loving, and accepting world.

According to Principal Dr. Barbara Shirley, “Our students have become noticeably kinder in their thought processes and we’re seeing a higher level of respect and caring about what’s going on in their classrooms and in the school.”

Future Plans

I’ve noticed that passions often have a life of their own, and I am captivated by an ongoing flame. These children and this kindness project have made me feel much more hopeful and positive about the future and I am inspired to do more.

My goal now is to put together a kindness book for each child at Alta Vista and for each classroom and office—about 650 in all. Using the children’s own artwork, the students can feel proud of what they were a part of and helped to create. It will also offer an opportunity for them to share with their brothers, sisters, and friends the ways that they can create and live in a kinder world.

And coming soon will be a “Kindness Starts With Me” website where kids can read about hundreds of ways to be kind, whether in story form or in pictures. They can then make their own unique contributions by sharing their ideas, stories, and artwork.

Here is the best part: YOU can participate! There are numerous opportunities to help – contributing personal stories for children on ways to be kind, filming, puppet skits, sharing this information and website with others via the internet, liking us on facebook.com/kindnessstartswithme, sharing blog articles on kids’ kindness, or financially helping with the costs of the books and website.

I need your help!  Please forward this newsletter to friends who have kids or grandkids.  Go to www.loveisthenewcurrency.com or the Facebook page: KindnessStartsWithMe to be updated on the latest developement of the kids kindness project. Be the first to know!

Together we can create a better world by helping more children to walk a path of kindness!

Note:  This article was originally published in the October 2013 issue of Transformation Magazine.

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In a Moment …

Boulder floods 2013

Life can change in a moment.  One day you’re healthy and the next day your life is transformed by an accident or diagnosis that will forever affect the quality of your life. One day you have a beloved parent or friend, loved one, pet… and the next day you no longer have their comforting presence or their unconditional support.

Boulder Floods 2013

And in what feels like moments, you can find your home flooded, or worse – gone, and your valued possessions ruined. Nature has no mercy and it doesn’t play favorites, much as we’d like to believe that when our house is sound while a neighbor’s is devastated by floodwaters.

The recent flooding in Colorado has been shocking and humbling as residents realize how little control any of us have over our surroundings. We’re amazed that sweet little creeks could become raging rivers, that roads we used daily have been washed away, and that entire towns need to be evacuated. How could such devastation happen so suddenly?  We realize that we can only live our life in this moment, for we never know what the next one will bring.

In the midst of the storm we feel lucky for even the smallest things – hot showers, electricity, phones or the internet that connect us to loved ones with messages:  “We’re so glad that you’re alright.  We’ve been worried. We love you.”

And it is heartening to know that there are kind people everywhere who are ready to offer help – a meal, a hand, a wet vac, or words of encouragement. Neighbors who were strangers just days before, are sharing whatever resources they have to ease the pain and loss of others.  Words are overheard, “Yes, I’ve experienced some water damage, but my next door neighbors have it so much worse.  Let’s help them!”

A woman whose basement was flooded with 10 feet of mud and water sent a request for help on Facebook and the next day 25 people showed up to help – many of them strangers – to form a bucket brigade and offer whatever aid they could. Communities are created around such needs – a coming together of resources, support, and connection.  We’re not alone in this after all.

Yes, life can change in a moment, but we are learning that together we are a force that can stand as one, helping each other to weather such adverse conditions.   Together we are stronger.

These are the moments that count. These are the rays of hope and sunshine that are making their way through the incessant rain.

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What Are You Noticing?

What Are You Noticing?

We drop feathers, coins, and other signs upon your path to remind you that you’re loved and never alone.”  –  from Doreen Virtue’s Angel Oracle Cards.

The signs are everywhere!  I’ve found feathers in the most unlikely places – in the ladies room of a local bookstore, in the aisle of the supermarket, or the entry to my home.

Blog by Linda Commito called What are you Noticing?And the coins, along with the feathers, always bring a smile as I look down to find a token of hope and encouragement.  Once a friend and I were walking in the middle of a neighborhood street talking about the things that seem to just show up, when we looked down and each found three coins scattered on the road.  You might have thought that we had discovered pieces of gold, and perhaps they were – golden messages reminding us that we are loved and being watched over.

While I’ve always felt that heart-shaped rocks carry such significance, most recently I have been discovering gigantic heart rocks, a hundred times the size of the ones I used to carry in my pockets.  Strangely, they were found along paths that I have walked many times, but never seen.  I wonder how many other gifts of the heart that I’ve missed while living in my head, consumed with “matters of consequence.”  What could be more valuable than this moment, person, or thing that I often pass without awareness?

Have you been noticing multiple numbers showing up in your life? Sometimes, I will consciously catch myself looking at my clock at certain 11.11times:  4:44, 12:12, 3:33.  Once I purchased a sandwich and a snack and noted the amount on the cash register: $11.11.

Threes have always been important to me.  Whenever I get the same message three times in a short period, I pay attention.  It has prompted major moves in my life – unexpected, uncharacteristic, and always fortuitous.  But the frequency of these multiple numbers has me marveling at what they portray – a more hopeful, connected world.

And most recently, I believe that I‘m in for some big changes.  Although I’m not always thrilled to encounter the messengers, snakes have been showing up to get my attention.  While snakes usually portend healing and transformation, I must admit I feel most grateful once I’m safely out of their way!

What are the signs in your life that remind you that you are loved?  Perhaps you’ll notice some new validating evidence that you are never really alone.

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Decisions, Decisions!

Narrative by Linda Commito about time, decision making and what is important in lifeThe clock ticked away, reminding me how long I had been tossing and turning as I weighed the consequences of my financial decision.  Why had I been so quick to jump at someone’s recommendation when my gut told me to wait?  “Costly mistake,” I thought, regretting the retirement money lost.

And that led me to question other decisions  … should I have hired that contractor, did I choose the right doctor, why did I make that purchase, what should I have said or not said, done or not done … and on and on it went.  At 3:00 a.m. I asked myself, “Well, Linda, are there any other things you would like to beat yourself up about?”  Silence.  I had covered quite a number of concerns for one night.  I finally fell asleep.

In the morning, I tried not to dwell any longer on my decision.  It was done.  There was nothing I could do about it. Later, as I checked my emails, I noticed a prayer request from a friend. She asked for prayers for a woman who was confronted with a difficult decision: Should she take her son off of life support?

I couldn’t imagine being faced with such a painful choice – one that no one should be forced to make.  My heart ached for this woman and the imminent loss of her son.

It gave me a new perspective.  So often, I’ve felt overwhelmed, acting as though my decisions are about life and death, when in fact, most of them never are. Life is difficult. Most times I don’t have control over what happens.  But what I can choose is the way that I show up in the world, how I engage with others in an open, loving, and authentic way that, hopefully, makes a difference.

And regards to material matters, I realize that I can only do the best I can every day with whatever challenges present themselves and then I can let go and trust that it will all work out – exactly as it’s supposed to.  And it usually does.

That night I fell asleep with a prayer on my lips.

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