3.30.2015

returning to our selves

we’ve all had times when we’ve been appalled by someone else’s technology use. recently i was aghast as i witnessed a father and his young daughter share a meal wherein he scrolled through screen after screen on his phone, interacting with his precious one only to tell her to stop fidgeting and eat. he, literally, never made eye contact with her. i know you’ve seen this too. this and so much more. i imagine we also share a nagging sense of wonder about our own engagement with the glowing screens that occupy so much of our days. it’s easy to notice what is wrong about everyone else’s use and to ignore our own growing dependence.

we move through our days in so little touch with our selves. we attend to dizzying sources of stimulation and respond to message indicators of all sorts. we carry on “conversations” in brilliantly effective asynchronous manners, typing and talking into our devices and pushing “send” without forethought or consideration of how said messages will be received. we consume complex ideas (think your favorite news/information site) and inane ones (think you tube) with little distinction all while standing in line to retrieve the coffee order that we’ve texted and paid for in advance of our arrival. we exercise when our fitbits tell us to, feel tired when they tell us we haven’t slept well, and drive where the google voice directs us. so much for listening to our bodies or looking to the sun, stars, or street signs for guidance.

i have to believe we are missing out.

neuropsychologists, philosophers, theologians, poets, contemplatives, and grandmothers of all stripes offer evidence that the way we are (or are not) present in and to our embodied experience shapes not only our own personal experience but also the experiences of those around us. the ways in which we are listened and attended to impacts the manner with which we share ourselves. the attention we pay to the sights, smells, and sounds around us determines the level of impact that our context has upon our being. when we move through such context filtering out embodied stimuli by attending to our digital devices we miss out on opportunities for real time stretching and growth. 

our devices have become familiar friends, allowing us places of refuge and “known-ness” whenever we need them. our reliance upon them makes life comfortable and convenient to such a great extent that we are rarely required to dig deep to find out what we are really made of. gone are the days of wrestling with a map, of having to memorize an address or phone number, of happening on a complete flop of a restaurant, of having to wait until morning for just about anything (a conversation, a purchase, to be entertained). with this has gone any kind of consistent internal checking in with ones self about how resilient and resourceful we really might be able to be. while this is not, in and of itself, a terrible thing, i believe we are at risk of conveniencing ourselves to death. 

it is time to engage; time to put our phones down and look up and around, to smell the smells that offend and taste flavors previously unknown. it is time to look into the eyes of the person taking our orders and to catch the eye of a passerby even if only to acknowledge a shared humanity with a caring, empathic glance or to grow our ability to handle awkward moments. time to leave the phone in the trunk or backpack in order to really notice the space that we are in, to listen more fully to the sounds or the people we are with. it’s time to step outside to check the weather and to look inside to see if we are tired, or hungry, or need a good long walk. time to stretch ourselves to enjoy an experience without taking a single photo or posting anything about it simply because it might grow our internal world to do so. it is time to wrestle with a complex thought or two rather than skimming unending sources for more more more.

living in a culture and time that glorifies multi tasking means that a majority of us have come to think that attention divided between our devices and whatever else we are doing is a benign reality. more than anything else, i would like to question this assumption. when we are attending to a screen (of any kind) we are less present first to our selves and second to others. this is everything but benign. it makes our awareness of our own selves less atuned which deeply impacts our relationships with the people, things, ideas, and realities around us.

in the coming month i am making a concerted effort to expand my single mindedness and committing to expand my comfort with checking in with my self before doing so with a device or content that a device brings to me. i am going to work at being present to the sensual stimuli around me, the ideas and feelings within me, and the message indicators of my body more and those of devices less. i intend to encounter others more fully and to grow my ability to tolerate discomfort and inconvenience in every good and stretching way.


would you like to join me and the community of others who are doing the same? if so, click here to sign up for a ten minute device free experiential challenge to be delivered to your email box each day in april. these will be stress free, easy to do experiences which will require almost no pre-preparation (some days you might need a writing tool and paper). you choose your ten minutes and go from there. i would love to embark on this experience together, knowing our shared health and groundedness will only make the world a better place to truly live.

3.10.2015

documentaries and feature films worth watching

since i often suggest that people watch one quality film for every mindless one they consume, i am also often asked for recommendations. there are a gazillion places to find lists of films meeting all kinds of criteria. this is simply a list of high quality, thought provoking films that i can personally recommend. these are not all family friendly picks. please do your research before viewing them in order to determine if they are right for you and/or your audience.

feature films
get low
darjeeling limited
the band’s visit
the king’s speech
where do we go now?
cairo time
amreeka
catch me if you can
don juan de marco
what’s eating gilbert grape? tucker
real women have curves offsides
a serious man
invictus
starting out in the evening
robot and frank
once
the last station
an education
beginners
the descendants
ides of march
big fish
second hand lions
bright star
slumdog millionaire
up in the air
the last station 
documentary
the eyes of tammy faye into great silence
afghan star
being elmo
bill cunningham new york
louder than a bomb
somewhere between
undefeated
marwencol
a touch of greatness
paul williams still alive
wasteland
this is not a movie
the way we get by
pom wonderful’s greatest movie ever sold
the world according to sesame street september issue
a man named pearl
the corporation
mad hot ballroom
pina
jiro dreams of sushi
ai wei wei
last train home
queen of versailles
young at heart
a day in the life
pressure cooker
the king of kong
my architect: a son’s journey
philosophy kings
kings of pastry
pressure cooker
catfish
i like killing flies
nursery university
exit through the gift shop
the beauty academy of kabul
walmart: the high cost of low price
the corporation
praying with lior
the war room
searching for sugarman
30 days (morgan spurlock)
america’s heart and soul
brooklyn castle
5 broken cameras
arise the movie
skateistan
first position
march of the penguins
born into brothels
craig’s list joe
king of corn
miss representation
america the beautiful
miss navajo
stories we tell
we steal secrets
this is not a movie
march of the penguins
alive inside
keep on keepin’ on
citizen four

2.14.2015

how to have (and give) a goodenough valentines day

valentine’s day is here. why not embrace it this year? there is no need to panic. no cards to make or flowers to purchase. you already have all that is required to honor those you encounter today. all you need now is courage and creativity plus a few ordinary household objects like paper, a writing utensil, and, possibly, some tape. 

in short order, here are some ideas.

1 pay no attention to conventional norms. the observance of valentines day does not need to be limited to lovers. you can find something to love in just about everyone if you try and expressing this care is important both for your own growth as well as for theirs.

2 put aside fears of rejection and ridicule in order to make space for the empathic care of others. your own personal discomfort won’t seem so bad when it’s placed beside the joy another might feel as a result of your meager efforts. you can handle awkward. trust me. you can.

3 get your resilient flexibility on. not everyone is comfortable accepting recognition, kindness, and love externally. internally, however, almost everyone feels caught off guard in the best of ways by being seen and treated with genuine care. if you are brave enough to take the risk to honor someone, very likely they will feel deeply blessed. they just might not show it. be prepared for this so you aren’t stopped in your tracks by a lack of gratitude.

4 carry a “packet” of a few basic supplies. mine includes side walk chalk, lipstick, and pre-printed slips of paper that say “i love you because” with room to add some reasons. yours, however, might simply include paper, pen, and tape. sticky notes are a plus. some kind of little candy or trinket that you can distribute throughout the day might be fun. nothing needs to be fancy. you yourself are your best supply. all the rest is just frosting on the cake.

5 set out on your day with a sense of awareness. look for opportunities to thank people, to recognize the efforts of others, and to express respect and care for those you meet or those who are behind the scenes at the places you visit. people who are cleaning public restrooms, stocking the shelves at the market, making your meal, doing your dry cleaning, washing your dishes at a restaurant, responding to your customer service call/email, delivering your mail, seeing you at the after hours/weekend clinic,  or taking your ticket at the theater are perfect “targets.” they do their work almost invisibly and are rarely thanked. prepare your mind and heart to notice these dedicated people today and determine to recognize them in whatever way you can.

6 if a face to face, eye to eye thank you or “i appreciate you” isn’t possible, leave a note. it doesn’t need to be fancy or well written. it can be scribbled on a napkin and sent to the dishwasher on a dirty plate. it can be written on a sticky note and left on the mirror. it can be sidewalk chalked outside an establishment (or lip printed on someones rear view mirror). it doesn’t matter how you do it but let someone (or someones) know that you notice them, that they matter, that you care.

7 if you feel disappointed because you feel slighted, overlooked, or alone today, person up and either do something wonderful and fitting for yourself or ask those that love you for what you want/wish for/need. just like walking into a restaurant does not ensure you will get the food you want, living in relationship does not secure a fulfillment of your wishes. asking for what you want and need is healthy, mature, and helpful to those around you. it’s hard. it’s worth it. so is buying yourself the massage, meal, flowers, candy, or video game you hoped that someone knew you wanted.


8 treat yourself with love and it’ll pour out of you to those around you. treat others with love and it’ll come back to you. practice today with the intention of letting it spill out to tomorrow. embodied relational living (beginning with a genuine and healthy love of self) is worth all of the work it takes to achieve. just go giveget it...

2.13.2015

50 shades of awareness

on valentines day, which has long been my favorite holiday, the world will be treated to the film version of the best selling book, 50 shades of grey. if you’ve read the book, fine. if you plan to see the film, o.k. (as if it’s up to me to affirm or permit). if you’ve thought, studied, struggled, and come to a considered and positive position regarding bdsm i will absolutely listen. if, however, you are ready to queue up for the midnight showing of 50 shades just because you need some spice in your life or are curious about the hype, i’d love to talk. this conversation is, in no way, an exploration or review of the bdsm movement. it is, instead, about how we, in america, vote passively with our time, money, and energy and how much of our days are spent in mindless consumption of ideas and information. it’s about what we see and describe as “escapist.”

my vocation involves journeying with people through all kinds of life dramas and my personhood is such that i can’t help but love nearly everyone i encounter. i embrace valentines day because it gives me an opportunity to surprise people with loving gestures. i acknowledge that it is a “made up” holiday and that it has been hijacked by retailers attempting to capitalize on our collective sense of obligation. it is for this exact reason that i take a counter cultural approach to the day and celebrate everyone i encounter rather than only those i already know and love. i am aware of many others who take this same approach to many days in a variety of ways.

too often, however, we just go with the flow. we pick up the book or see the movie without really thinking. we contribute our presence, the pattern of our thoughts and actions, and our $12 admission fee to a cultural voting system that communicates “this is what i care about” to statisticians and content creators. we hear the ads for the 50 shades of grey/christian grey teddy bear never actually considering what is being advertised (“contains small parts. not suited for children”). we buy the kids meal with the bratz doll or halo toy never considering the age of the child it is given to. this mindless consumption matters.

the information and images that we consume make a difference in the way in which we live. children, raised on a constant diet of photoshopped images, grow to harbor unrealistic and hurtful body ideals (click here for research). movie goers and game players subjecting themselves to hyper-violent imagery are prone to develop calloused views and demonstrate exaggerated amounts of relational aggression (click here for research). these researched trends lead me to believe that there is no way that the messages we consume about sex are benign.

late last year an extremely popular media personality was let go from his post when 3 women brought sexual assault charges against him which included one charge of “overcoming resistance by choking.” a month later three additional women came forward with similar charges. and this is just one story. there are so many others.

i am perplexed by my own culture’s tendency to create entertainment that romanticizes abuses of power and violence of all kinds. exposing these abuses in order to invite critical thought and examination...brilliant. presenting them as mindless entertainment...in my book, not so much.

i frequently wonder if the clamoring that happens around these “spicy” themes has to do with a lack of excitement in our own embodied lives. the more we are presented with stories, movie and song recommendations, and clickable links drawn from the algorithms that our own digital histories create, the less we are presented with information that entices us. the brain is constantly looking for information that excites it. most basically, that is information that is new. while the internet brings with it the promise of farther reaching frontiers, i find that few of us set out to find them. we mostly stick with what is presented to us. 

we live similarly in our embodied spaces, preferring the familiar to the new. choosing the comfortable over the potentially awkward. this makes our lives bland. it makes us crave something tasty, complex, and different. movies, video games, even books are more than happy to provide us with an in vivo taste of the new without much “real” risk. or so we think.


there are so many ways to spend your time, energy, and money this weekend. what might it look like to invest intentionally? how might it feel to match every seemingly “escapist” form of entertainment with a mind building one? to take time and effort to consider the balance of your physical, intellectual, and emotional diet? to promote the power and beauty of the real life people all around you and to celebrate them. dominating and submitting are one thing...celebrating complexity, sharing power, and co-creating experiences are another altogether.  

1.27.2015

sanitized experience

big disclosure: i don’t use anti bacterial soap. i have no issues with those who do. i respect it’s importance and place in the world and am glad it exists. i love seeing huge dispensers of it in offices and grocery stores. in rare situations i will indulge in a pump or two...when meeting new babies and their parents or visiting the hospital or ill. most often, however, i simply wash my hands well and thoroughly with lots of hot water and bubbly soap. if i’ve handled something particularly dirty or questionable i wash my hands twice as i do when i’m sick or changing diapers.

i feel good about about this. my kids were babies when the medical news was heavily peppered with cautions about protecting our immune systems so heavily with anti-bacterials and antibiotics that we could become unable to resist common germs. i took this seriously (even though i never researched it in depth) and so far, the whole consistent use of soap and water schtick has been a system that has worked for me.

my mind works in bizarre ways so i thought a lot about my feelings about anti-bacterial soap on a recent trip. i was traveling to speak and chose to add a day to give myself some writing and down time in a new city. i cherish these little pockets of time and desire to eek every second of fun, productivity, and rest out of them. looking forward to the trip, i decided ahead of time to treat my planning like i treat my hand washing: the “old fashioned” way. this meant that i would use the internet to find and book a hotel that struck my fancy (using hotel sites alone...no review sites) and to rent a car but that i would do all other aspects of the trip checking nothing out ahead of time. no review reading. no “top 10 things to do in dallas” lists to tick off. i would simply go to dallas and have an experience. my time might not end with me having eaten the perfect food or seen the most amazing site but it would be filled with getting my hands dirty experientially and relationally in a way i rarely do anymore.

when i pulled out of the rental car garage i studied the paper map that had been left for me in my car and chose a path to the hotel. i made it there without incident and stopped at a market next door where i bought local fruit and vegetables to bring back to my room. upon check in at the hotel (which i chose as a result of my not so secret love of independent hoteliers who are bringing old travel lodges back to life) i asked where, in meat and barbecue land, i might find a hearty vegetarian meal. their suggestion was amazing and, over dinner, a server on break chatted with me about other places to be sure and eat while in town. she hugged me when i left and promised to look for me when she visits oregon. 

the next morning i hesitatingly headed to the hotel’s partner restaurant, knowing it was a meat eater’s paradise. once the waiter knew i was a (cheerful and gracious) vegetarian he began filling my table with everything non-meat related he could think of. i loved this man at once and asked him what i should see if i had 24 hours in his hometown. i wrote down everything he said. that night, armed with my two server’s ideas i mapped out the hours i had allotted for exploration. 

a tire blow-out on the freeway the next morning meant i had an extra opportunity to meet a local when mike, the triple a respondee, weighed in on all things dallas. after huge thanks and a shared selfie i followed the sound of drums to a park where i met acro yoga folks who “flew”* me and found a food truck with the best grilled cheese, tomato, and jalepeno sandwich i am sure i will ever eat. across the street at the art museum i met viviene who, when i asked if she could orient me to the museum, told me to “relax and let the art minister to me” and that i “was family and that [she] hopes someone will tell her the same if she ever gets to come to portland.” later, gazing at the spot in the road where jfk was shot i looked around and witnessed people laughing while others cried and still others walked by without seeming regard for the specificity of the place. likely, these latter folks were home and walk by us tourists all the time. this felt somehow right.

in that moment, it struck me how much i had experienced without ever looking at yelp or trip advisor. i had eaten well (stupidly well), experienced connection with a variety of people (not in-depth connection but simply that of asking and listening to what they liked and thanking them), and had seen art and historic sites.  i had found my way in a new city without the help of a disembodied voice coming from my phone and as a result actually had a sense of location and space in this new place that i sometimes never have when i travel with the help of gps exclusively. on top of all of this i didn’t feel the anxiety or sadness that i sometimes feel when i’ve over-researched what to do in a city and simply don’t have the time to make it all happen. it felt beautifully rich to have simply had a dallas experience that was directed by dallas residents.  

checking out of the hotel, i gushed to the front desk staff about my trip. i told them that i had emailed them details about how wonderful i found their hotel. as i left the parking lot i realized that i had done this at each location i found to be beautiful, meaningful, or delicious by making a verbal or written effort to express gratitude and praise to the proprieters and staff who had contributed to my experiences. each time i did this the response was something like, “if you loved us, we’d love a review on trip advisor/yelp! that’s where we succeed or fail.” this struck me. it is obvious that a satisfied and thankful customer (even a gushingly grateful and expressive one) isn’t really enough for a hard working business owner anymore. they know the power of a negative review and feel a need to capture any potential positive ones. no longer can they relish in doing the work they love or feel called to or stumbled up (whatever the case may be) but now they must also run p.r. campaigns in order to ensure their longevity.

in many ways i have come to think of internet review sites as the anti-bacterial soap of our experiential lives. these sites, at the ready to direct us toward the best of everything and away from whatever others seem to deem only worthy of a star or two, keep our experiences safe and tidy. sometimes i wonder if they keep life too safe and too tidy. there are times, of course, where resources (time, money, energy, etc) are at a minimum and doing research up front is imperative and crucial. do we really, however, need to read multiple reviews before choosing each experience we have or business we frequent every day? if we do, and we fashion our days with wonderfulness curated by the reviewers who have done the experiential work of life for us, might we begin to rely on a certain “safeness?” 

sanitized experience has it’s place. it also has it’s cost. a life lived completely inside one’s comfort zones padded by the safe and seemingly reliable opinions, critiques, and reviews of others has the potential of making a life very narrow and rigid. lives lived in this way don’t build up immune systems that can respond flexibly, handle hardship, less than the best, or the “good enough.” these lives miss out on the hilarity that can ensue when the absolute wrong route is taken or the whacky restaurant chosen. these lives visit places but don’t experience them. they inhabit spaces but aren’t fully present in them. just like bodies that are used to anti-bacterial soap, the slightest speck of dirt can cause alarm and possibly even illness.  

so why not choose an adventure? it doesn’t have to be a huge one. it might be one that simply stretches you just a little. try a restaurant you know nothing about. instead of waiting to give a review online, give it in person, allowing the business to right a wrong or celebrate a success. choose a book that simply appeals to you rather than one that’s been suggested. watch a film completely outside of the genre you prefer. read or listen to a news story from a perspective that is not your own. or, go a bit further. have a day that unfolds in a place you don’t know. you don’t have to get on a plane to do this. i bet there’s a corner of your own city (or one nearby) that you’ve never wandered in. try a spin or yoga or tennis class even though you’ve never entered a gym. go to a civic/community event you know nothing about (a town hall meeting, a dance recital, a concert at a church, or book or poetry reading) and revel in the stretching that occurs. get your hands fully dirty...knowing that there’s plenty of soap and water for whatever is left that you don’t want to keep.



*to be "flown" in acro yoga is basically to have a base person support your weight while you "play" with finding balance in different poses. while my flight looked nothing like this, here is an example of my daughter flying click here

1.14.2015

new year's resolutions (aka breathe deep. aim true.)

we’re headed into week number three of a new year. if you’re human, this likely means that you’ve been hearing, thinking, or fretting about new year’s resolutions. yours, your office mate’s, or your mother’s. those made with well intentioned planning and those chosen out of obligation to lose weight/exercise more/eat more healthy/eat less carbs/take greater control/let things go/tidy things up/make more messes...you get the drift.

over the week that wished 2014 farewell and 2015 good morning i was volunteering at a national young adult leadership conference. one of my tasks was to bring a 15 minute talk in one of the large general sessions. this, for me, was a challenge. give me an hour to tell you how gifted you are and how to discern what you are called to do and i’d be fine. to do that well in 15 minutes, however, felt impossible. at breakfast on the morning of the talk, a dear soul named amy, handed me a patch that said, “breathe deep, aim true.” amy is wise and her gift enabled me to let go of the driving need to hit the bullseye that morning. it’s message freed me to simply do my best, to aim at the target that i had agreed to. rarely can i do that when the anxiety of meeting a goal causes me to hold my breath, clench my teeth, and muscle into whatever task i’ve set for myself.  

to truly make a healthy resolution one must be purposeful and determined about a behavior, thought, or feeling to be cultivated, deepened, or extinguished. resolution making at its best is about careful evaluation regarding something to be altered and discerning choices about the best way to go about that. a hastily declared intention made at 11:50 on new years eve doesn’t count. neither does a commitment made out of guilt or shame or peer pressure unless it is canoodled on and considered and weighed and owned. to work toward achieving a resolution one must embrace struggle inside and out. to be resolute means to be admirably purposeful and determined. it does not mean to be perfect.


for change to take root, for habits to be broken and norms to be set, realistic and accessible plans must be made. contingencies put in place. grace stationed at the ready and plenty of kleenex and baby wipes for taking care of the tears and sweat involved in purposeful and determined living. change requires breathing deep and aiming true over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. expecting to hit a bullseye when you haven’t yet managed to hit the target is unrealistic at best and punitive at worst. don’t give up. recognize your progress. empathize with the part of you that thought/hoped/knew this would be easy and embrace the struggle that is change. aim, then breathe, then aim again. notice where your effort takes you and what you might alter to get ever closer to the center...the goal. tension and pressure and self talk that shames you will not get you there. instead, breathe deep and aim true. breathe deep and aim true. breathe deep. aim true. breathe deep. aim true. breathe deep. aim true.

12.16.2014

sanctuary

this week i tried an experiment. i offered sanctuary. i’m sharing this experiment with you because it’s december, hopes/wishes/expectations are high, the world is moving fast, and sanctuary is hard to secure.

sanctuary is defined as “a place where someone or something is protected or given shelter.” (webster) it is home, it is safety, and it takes many forms. there are physical sanctuary spaces and there are relationships that serve as sanctuary in all the important ways. the best sanctuaries provide shelter, nourishment, and basic attendance to needs. bird sanctuaries offer places to nest, food, and protection from contextual threats. natural habitat sanctuaries keep the “unnatural” out and, at the minimum, faith based sanctuaries offer space for gathering with like minded others and the Divine. sanctuary doesn’t end there though. home can be sanctuary and so can you.

while most of you reading this have a roof over your head and food in your belly you may have never considered your place of residence as a place of protection. similarly, the thought of your self as a sanctuary for others may have never entered your mind. let’s take a minute to consider these options. 

seriously...close your eyes and consider: how could my home/car/place of business/my self be a place of protection and shelter for someone in my life?

if my self welcomes your self with grace then you are protected from judgement and given shelter from abandonment, alone-ness, and more. in listening better, attending more, and taking a few risks we might both be nurtured by the sanctuary that results.

the risk i took this week involved me opening my home as a place for retreat. i didn’t sweep or clean the sinks. i didn’t plan an elaborate menu or promise great entertainment. instead, i put out some bowls of nuts and fruit, made a simple pot of soup, lit some candles, piled blankets and heating pads by the front door and invited people who are the “givers” in my community to come and go, read or sleep, journal or stare into space, and simply just be. i asked participants to walk right in between 11 and 5, find their space, and embrace the quiet of a community of people being fed by some stillness. it was a beautiful time simply because it was. 

so often we don’t offer ourselves or our homes as sanctuary simply because we lack the vision to see that what we have is exactly enough. we don’t need better answers, more advanced social/relational skills, cleaner homes, better furniture, or catered buffets. we only need our selves and what we already have. i believe that we can always stretch what we already have without going without ourselves.

what if sanctuary is simply our full humanity being willing to welcome the full humanity of others? to love and to allow ourselves to be loved into feeling protected and nurtured and fed. what if we could offer sanctuary with a simple look, an honest word intentionally stated, or by sharing something we have that others might need? what if we allowed enough to be enough as we do so rather worrying that our offering needs to be perfect, extreme, or given without awkwardness? who cares about awkwardness when you are offering something as sacred as sanctuary. it’s bound to feel risky when our whole messy humanity gets offered up to the complex humanity of others in order to extend nurturance and safety and welcome. 

if you’re up for the risk, i’ve assembled a small list of ways you  might offer sanctuary in the coming days. i’m sure you have ideas too and i would love to hear them. if we each took even one small swing at this challenge, we might just change the world (while changing ourselves).

ways of offering “sanctuary” (from the easiest/least costly to more difficult/involved/more costly):

smile at the grocery checker. ask them about their day. genuinely listen to their answer.

look into the eyes of someone in your home/work place/church/volunteer organization/classroom and tell them one thing that you appreciate about them. don’t make it a joke.

have a conversation with someone where you listen 90% of the time and talk only 10%. resist the urge to give answers, turn the conversation to yourself, or “fix” the person you are with.

greet the poor and disenfranchised, or just “different,” among you with a smile and eye to eye contact when you encounter or pass them on the street. a “hi” wouldn’t hurt either.

if you drive kids around a lot as part of your normal routine, turn your car into a place of rest (name it something like “the calm cab”). buy small (cheap) battery operated tea light candles, travel with relaxing (but interesting) music or recorded books, and set an ambiance of quiet and rest. try some car yoga and deep breathing.

gather the change from your purse or car (or get some when shopping) and drop it into the bucket of the salvation army bell ringer when you arrive at or depart from a store. thank them for their work.

if you end up having to call customer service, work hard to make the encounter a positive one and then ask to be transferred to the phone agent’s manager in order to commend them on the great service.

carry a small stickie note pad. leave a note on the public bathroom mirror thanking the person who cleans the bathroom or stick one on your mug before putting it in the “bus your own” bin at the coffee shop, thanking the dishwasher.

rake your neighbor’s leaves/shovel your neighbor’s snow.

write a note/email/text to someone who has experienced a loss during the past year. tell them that you remember and that you care. resist the desire to offer platitudes and offer nothing but empathy and love instead.

use side walk chalk to leave encouraging notes on the sidewalk or on the ground by peoples’ car doors.

carry $5 coffee or fast food gift cards to give to those who can’t afford a hot drink on a cold day.

purchase the drink of the person behind you in line.

bring store bought goodies to the people who work at your local trash department, post office, fire department, etc. (they often can’t accept home made food items) with a note of gratitude.

go to a pet store and use the self serve machine to make a dog tag with a message such as “you matter.” place it on a ribbon or simple chain and give it to someone who needs this reminder with the instructions for them to pass it on when they find someone who needs it as much as, or more than, them.

surprise someone with a meal. drop it off with a smile and simple note that says “save the time you would have used to make your dinner and use it to stare into space, listen to music, read a book, etc.” even a simple loaf of bread, container of soup (or can of soup), a bag of salad, and some apples will do to make someone feel loved.

offer to do the laundry for someone in your life who is stretched thin. pick it up, take it home to wash and dry it, and return it the following day folded.

offer to watch someone’s children or ailing parents for an hour or two. if you have the resources, give the person you’re relieving money for coffee, a meal out, or a movie.

open your home (even if it’s messy, the dishes are dirty, or you wish it were better appointed...it’s the ultimate gift of comfort to invite others to encounter you as you truly are). light candles, offer simple food (even popcorn and water works), and provide space for people to retreat or connect. it isn’t what you serve or the decor you serve it around that will provide sanctuary for people. neither is it the intricate theme or event you plan to entertain. rather, it’s the opportunity to authentically connect with real people and our selves that speaks deeply. real people have sanctuaries that aren’t perfect and we all long to interact in honesty with our real selves invited to the table.