Friday, October 23, 2015

Be The Difference

"Hope begins in the dark; the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come." (Anne Lamott)

The sun is shining this morning - yet another beautiful day in a long string of them this fall. October has been unusually dry and warm. Deborah and I have been busy working, but still able to find opportunities to get away for little adventures, like yesterday's lunch date in Ashland and a stop at a local winery.

Paschal Winery and Vineyard, Talent OR
 There's no doubt. I'm blessed and lucky to lead a good life right now: filled with love and purpose. So you might find it surprising if I told you that also at times this month, I've felt unsettled; uneasy; even a little anxious. A part of me seems to be looking for some reassurance of some kind. But why?

Perhaps it's because the seasonal change from summer to autumn as been so gradual this year; some "circadian rhythm" within me has been rattled.

But I also know the world around me has seemed to be filled with more "darkness" than ever before.
  • Violence seems to be commonplace. Shootings and bomb threats at schools - both far away and in my own community - have become a weekly occurrence. I know that has touched me.
  • The political season is in full force: Candidates shouting for attention, and attacking each other, left and right. Anger, at times, seems to rule the airwaves now.
Then there are times in the day when parts of me creak a little more stiffly as I get up out of a chair, or ache a little longer after a workout that didn't seem so hard. And a part of me understands a little better Leon Trotsky's lament: "Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man". 

But then I saw two things this week that helped me remember something valuable and lifted my spirits.

The first was this video titled, "Never, Ever Give Up". The link to it is below. You should watch it. I have several times this week.

Arthur was a middle-aged man who could've had every reason in the world to give up and/or feel sorry for himself. But he didn't. In the video, he says his life changed when he met someone who believed in him. But I think the most important change was one within. He made a choice to see possibilities in himself, instead of limitations. He chose to persevere, instead of feel sorry for himself. He chose to work hard, one day at a time - having faith that, if he did - change would come. And the result?

It did. Arthur made a difference: both for himself, and for others. I know he inspired me.

The second thing I saw was this photograph. It was taken a couple of weeks ago at the world premiere of a Hollywood film in Boston. Crowds had gathered to see the stars of the film arrive, and a photographer snapped this picture. What do you think stood out for me?

Can you see her? There in the midst of the IPhone-snapping, Instagram-sharing, Goo-goo eyed paparazzi around her is an elderly woman: Smiling and quietly enjoying the moment. Not trying to capture it for herself. Not trying to impress others by proving "where she is" and "what she's doing. Not doing anything to make herself the center of attention. Yet you can't help but see her. And because of that, she too made an impact on me. She made a difference.

Her example reminded me to not always make myself the "center of everything", and it's so easy to do so. Whether I'm feeling "on top of the world" while on a pleasant date with my wife, or worried about the news, or feeling a little self pity about getting older - in each case, I have to remember to watch the part of me that forgets that I'm part of a bigger world. Life is not just about "Me". Things change. I'm not meant to hold on to anything. I'm meant to grow from everything. And I can only do that if I'm present to the moment - not looking back to the past in regret or envy, or fearing the future.

The most important thing I learned from Arthur and the woman was even more inspiring. One person can make a difference. Each of their examples touched me and brightened my day. It all comes down to the choices we make. Do I choose to begin again when I've stumbled? What inner voice am I willing to give my attention to? What am I willing to be an expression of, right now?

One person can make a difference if they're willing to BE the difference.

Remembering that has changed my week. Remembering that has been the right thing for me to do. It has been the Pearl that brightened and reassured me.

Here's a toast to remembering it next week, and the week after too! Salut to "Being the Difference"!