Stay Warm

 
Stay Warm
 

Stay Warm

Most of my interactions with both friends and strangers this week here in the frozen Upper Midwest have ended with the same two words. Whether checking out at the grocery store or coffee shop, talking on the phone, or exchanging emails, the most commonly shared words of the week have been, "Stay warm."  For fun, I started counting how many times I have either said or heard these words, and as I write this it's been eleven times already just today, and it's only mid-afternoon.  Given that the temperature the past few days has reached 25 below zero here several days in a row, exchanging a reminder to "Stay warm" seems only appropriate. 


For the record, I really don't like bitter cold weather. I get really cranky when it's too cold to spend time outside. I get cranky when I have to constantly shovel and spread salt on our sidewalk. I get cranky when my furnace acts up, as it has this week. I get cranky when the fitness center we belong to is closed for most of the week (it is connected to our local high school and closes when school is canceled, as it has been the last three days). I get cranky when meetings get canceled due to cold or snow, and when the mail is cancelled, too. And, yes, I understand that's a lot of crankiness!


So in the midst of my episodes of crankiness this week, I suddenly realized I was receiving a regular message throughout the day of how to manage my moodiness. This message was hidden in plain sight, but when I realized it, it truly made a difference.  It happened a few days ago when someone once again uttered the words, "Stay warm" to me. For some reason, this time I heard those words in a whole new way. Rather than hearing them as reminding me to make good choices related to my physical well-being, I instead started hearing the words, "Stay warm" as a reminder for me to make good choices related to my emotional well-being.  


I have learned that staying warm emotionally is the perfect antidote for crankiness. I realized that just because its cold and stormy outside doesn't mean I have to be cold and stormy inside. Not that I don't still suffer short bouts of crankiness, but the very fact that I have set the intention to try and "Stay warm" is making a big difference. 


I am grateful that the forecast in our area for the next few days is for much warmer weather.  And while I may not be grateful for the extreme cold we have recently endured, I am thankful for the simple two-word lesson that so many people shared with me this week. 


You have probably already anticipated how this column is going to end..... "Stay warm" everyone.


Subscribe Now to Weekly Words of Wellness:

Click the button below to signup for the e-mail version of Weekly Words of Wellness. This weekly article can be shared with your community electronically and/or used for group discussion.

You can unsubscribe at any time.

Coming Alive Through Small Acts of Kindness

 
Coming Alive Through Small Acts of Kindness
 

Coming Alive Through Small Acts of Kindness

My friend Matt Gunter, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, recently posted the story below on his Facebook page. He had received the story from a friend of his, and now it's my turn to share it with you. Its message is too beautiful not to be shared. I hope you agree, and will, in turn, share it with others. 


Howard Thurman sat on a train platform in his hometown of Daytona, Florida in 1915, crying his heart out. His family had raised enough money to send him to school, but he didn't have enough money to pay special shipping for his borrowed steamer trunk, which the ticket agent had just told him was too shabby and fragile to transport as regular baggage.


There were no schools for black children like Howard beyond 7th grade in Daytona, and to be unable to go to Florida Baptist Academy in Jacksonville would be the end of this brilliant young man's dreams. "Presently I opened my eyes and saw before me a large pair of work shoes. My eyes crawled upward until I saw the man's face. He was a black man, dressed in overalls and a denim cap. As he looked down at me, he rolled a cigarette and lit it. 


Then he said, "Boy, what in hell are you crying about?"

And I told him.


"If you're trying to get out of this damn town to get an education, the least I can try to do is help you. Come with me," he said.

He took me around to the agent and asked: "How much does it take to send this boy's trunk to Jacksonville?"


Then he took out his rawhide money bag and counted the money out. When the agent handed him the receipt, he handed it to me. Then, without a word, he turned and disappeared down the railroad track. I never saw him again."


Thurman got to Jacksonville. His battered old steamer trunk got there too. He grew up to be "an influential African American author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader. He was Dean of Chapel at Howard University and Boston University for more than two decades, wrote 21 books, and in 1944 helped found a multicultural church. Thurman, along with Mordecai Johnson and Vernon Johns, was considered one of the three greatest African-American preachers in the early 20th-century." (Wikipedia)


He was very close friends with an Atlanta preacher named Martin Luther King and a he became a lifelong friend and mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr. One of his most well-known quotes about the world needing more people who have come alive appears with his photo in the box at the top of this column.


We cannot know how much influence even the smallest act of kindness can have. Very few people will ever be a Howard Thurman. Even fewer will ever be a Martin Luther King, Jr. - but every single one of us, everyone, can be that man at the train station.

So what small act of kindness might we do for another today, something that just might help us and/or them to come alive? 



The story of what happened to Howard Thurman at the train station is told by him in, With Head and Heart, the Autobiography of Howard Thurman.


Subscribe Now to Weekly Words of Wellness:

Click the button below to signup for the e-mail version of Weekly Words of Wellness. This weekly article can be shared with your community electronically and/or used for group discussion.

You can unsubscribe at any time.

Pay Attention. Be Astonished. Tell About It.

 
Pay Attention. Be Astonished. Tell About It.
 

Pay Attention. Be Astonished. Tell About It.

Mary Oliver, my absolute favorite poet, died this week at the age of eighty-three, and there is an ache in my heart. Accompanying the sadness is the gratitude I feel for how thoroughly she has enriched my life. Her poems make the deep accessible, describing the most profound and sacred mysteries of life with words that always stir my heart and soul. 


Writer Ruth Franklin perfectly captures the essence of this Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. "The way she writes these poems that feel like prayers, she channels the voice of somebody who it seems might possibly have access to God. I think her work does give a sense of someone who is in tune with the deepest mysteries of the universe."


If you are not familiar with Mary Oliver's poetry, do yourself a favor and spend some time getting to know her work. To help you get started, I am sharing with you of my favorite of her poems, "Sometimes." You can find more of her poems in books such as American Primitive for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984 and in New and Selected Poems for which she won The National Book Award for poetry in 1992.  


Thank you, Mary, for connecting us with the Sacred both within and around us.



"Sometimes" by Mary Oliver

1.

Something came up

out of the dark.

It wasn't anything I had ever seen before.

It wasn't an animal

   or a flower,

unless it was both.

Something came up out of the water,

   a head the size of a cat

but muddy and without ears.

I don't know what God is.

I don't know what death is.

But I believe they have between them

   some fervent and necessary arrangement.

2.

Sometimes

melancholy leaves me breathless.

3.

Later I was in a field of full of sunflowers.

I was feeling the heat of midsummer. 

I was thinking of the sweet, electric

   drowse of creation,

when it began to break.

In the west, clouds gathered.

Thunderheads.

In an hour the sky was filled with them.

In an hour the sky was filled

   with the sweetness of rain and the blast of lightning.

Followed by the deep bells of thunder.

Water from the heavens! Electricity from the source!

Both of them mad to create something!

The lightning brighter than any flower.

The thunder without a drowsy bone in its body.

4.

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

5.

Two or three times in my life I discovered love.

Each time it seemed to solve everything.

Each time it solved a great many things

   but not everything.

Yet left me as grateful as if it had indeed, and

thoroughly, solved everything.

6.

God, rest in my heart

and fortify me,

take away my hunger for answers,

let the hours play upon my body

like the hands of my beloved.

Let the cathead appear again-

the smallest of your mysteries,

some wild cousin of my own blood probably-

some cousin of my own wild blood probably,

in the black dinner-bowl of the pond.

7.

Death waits for me, I know it, around

   one corner or another.

This doesn't amuse me.

Neither does it frighten me.

After the rain, I went back into the field of sunflowers.

It was cool, and I was anything but drowsy.

I walked slowly, and listened

to the crazy roots, in the drenched earth, laughing and growing.

"Sometimes" is from Red Bird by Mary Oliver, published by Beacon Press, 2008.


Subscribe Now to Weekly Words of Wellness:

Click the button below to signup for the e-mail version of Weekly Words of Wellness. This weekly article can be shared with your community electronically and/or used for group discussion.

You can unsubscribe at any time.

Living Well, in Just Four Words

 
Living Well, in Just Four Words
 

Living Well, in Just Four Words

Just four words. 

Tara Parker-Pope has been writing about health and wellness for over twenty years, both as the health columnist for the New York Times and as the author of three wellness related books. She recently wrote a column in which she wrote that all of what she has learned about living well could be summed up in just four words.

Move.

Nourish.

Reflect.

Connect.

I love the simplicity of this, and I could not agree with her more.

Move. As someone who spends a fair amount of time as a writer, it is not uncommon for me to experience writer's block at times. I have recently renewed a practice of going for a thirty-minute walk whenever I feel this way. It is amazing the positive effect, getting up and moving for a short while makes a big difference. And when I exercise on a regular basis, my mood, energy, and sleep are all significantly improved. I forget who the health educator is that I first heard this idea from, but he had a unique way of reminding people of the importance of actively moving at least thirty minutes a day. He offered a seemingly simple and even a bit amusing challenge to us all: see if you can limit being sedentary to no more than twenty-three and half hours a day.

Nourish. We, of course, already know the importance of eating healthy foods. Author Michael Pollan, who also has a gift for simplifying health wisdom, advises us to, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
When it comes to the word "nourish," what we physically eat is only part of the picture. It is equally important to monitor our daily intake of the things that nourish us both emotionally and spiritually. A focus on what truly nourishes us can have more than the originally intended meaning.

Reflect. One of the reasons I like writing this column every week is that as a fellow traveler on this journey of living well, it offers me a built in time to pause and reflect on what I personally need to remember to do to be well. I believe that the ancient philosopher Socrates was correct when he said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Taking time daily and weekly to pause and reflect on our lives, relationships, work, and service and making needed corrections are essential to our well-being.

Connect. We know that isolation is a risk factor for both physical and emotional illness, and so it stands to reason that connecting with others is a crucial factor in being well. We are wired for connection, and so nurturing our relationships is key to our well-being. The same is true for cultivating our connection with our spiritual Higher Power-with God, or however, we name our Source of life and well-being. Remembering to nurture connections in all aspects of our lives gives us positive energy.

Move. Nourish. Reflect. Connect. It indeed is as simple as that, and as hard as that. Certainly, we can remember these four simple words. And perhaps that is the first step to putting them into practice on a regular basis.


If you would like to read Tara Parker-Pope's article about these four words you can find it here.


Subscribe Now to Weekly Words of Wellness:

Click the button below to signup for the e-mail version of Weekly Words of Wellness. This weekly article can be shared with your community electronically and/or used for group discussion.

You can unsubscribe at any time.

Choose Joy

 
Choose Joy
 

Choose Joy

I am taking some vacation time this week and was going to rerun a previously written column, but had a different idea when we had a beautiful snowfall here in Wisconsin this week. After the fresh snow arrived, I heard people both praising and cursing its arrival, and it reminded me of the quote found in the photo above.


The quote speaks for itself, and begs the question: "What is the 'snow' in your life and in mine about which our attitude makes all the difference?"


Subscribe Now to Weekly Words of Wellness:

Click the button below to signup for the e-mail version of Weekly Words of Wellness. This weekly article can be shared with your community electronically and/or used for group discussion.

You can unsubscribe at any time.