Tag Archives: generosity

Check your ego at the door

I once belonged to a networking group of about a dozen people, all leaders in our field. One of the ground rules for our networking sessions was to “check your ego at the door.” We all claimed to be “servant leaders” which would imply that our egos would be kept in check, but the reality was that when two or more successful people got together, a game of one-upmanship often ensued.

Some of these people had international reputations; others were leaders in our local community. The “ego” rule made it possible for us to meet as equals. If someone started name-dropping or praising their own achievements, another member would gently recall the rule. It got to the point that only one word was needed to rein in an inflated sense of self. “Ego,” someone would say.

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I have often thought of that rule, especially when working with nonprofit boards which are usually made up of successful community leaders. I gently remind them that the most important thing about nonprofits is the mission, and I invite them to stay focused on advancing the mission of the organization rather than focusing on their individual contributions.

I am fortunate that my dad was not into hero-worship; he often said that everyone “puts his pants on one leg at a time.” No one was any more important than anyone else in my dad’s eyes. His attitude has stayed with me, and I think it has served me well. (I do have to admit, though, that I was somewhat starstruck the time I was standing next to Ray Charles at JFK Airport and when I was sitting just a few feet away from the Pope.)

Competition is a cornerstone of capitalism, and it is common to encounter successful people who love to tell you how they built up their company or scored some big deal. My eyes tend to glaze over during those monologues; I am much more interested in those who praise all the people who made their success possible.

My friend Ted was one of those people. He was a successful lawyer, well-known in his field and treated like a big deal at his work. He was very generous with his resources and often donated to the nonprofit where I worked—always requesting anonymity. “Don’t let your right hand know what your left is doing,” (Matthew 6:3) was one of his favorite Bible quotes.

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I think all of this has come to mind because I am leaving my profession to embark on the next chapter of my life. When I told my boss I was leaving, she repeated something she has said to me several times since our two nonprofits merged a few years ago—she is amazed that I gave up my job as executive director and set aside my ego for the sake of the mission.

Perhaps it is unusual; for me, though, it was remembering to stay focused on the mission and to check my ego at the door.

The lodger

A lodger moved in a few weeks ago

and every day I watch her comings and goings.

Most of the time she sits,

but occasionally she flits away to get something to eat.

When I walk by,

she darts to the other side of the yard,

perches on the fence

and waits for me to go inside,

as though she is startled by my presence,

as though she has forgotten that I live here too.

Each time she leaves, her mate swoops in and

stands on the edge of the nest,

hovering but never sitting,

waiting for her return,

standing guard over their unborn.

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Joy

Gratitude

Peace

Resilience

Abundance

Generosity

Hope

Trust

Acceptance

Faith

Forgiveness

Contentment

Movement

Dream

These are my words.

I want to live into them and

out of them.

Breathing in their fullness and

letting go of whatever blocks the way.

Every moment of every day matters, and

I want to make a choice

to live

fully,

in every moment.

Ever hopeful

Lightly, touch my heart lightly.

It was once shattered into a million pieces,

and when it was put back together,

some pieces went missing,

like a jigsaw puzzle that has been

put together and taken apart,

passed from sister to sister,

friend to friend,

and along the way a piece is lost.

The picture is no longer whole, intact,

but it is still beautiful,

with its one spot left open,

hopeful, ever hopeful.

Life is too short…

Life is too short to drink cheap wine,

a friend used to say

as he sipped his favorite red wine.

He died young

but enjoyed lots of fine wine

in his short life.

What will you do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver asked.

She, too, knew the how fragile life could be

and the urgency of embracing the moment.

Even if we live for

eighty years or ninety,

is it ever enough?

Is there not one more thing to be done,

one more place to see,

one more goal to accomplish,

one more person to forgive?

Say yes to the invitation,

accept change,

act on impulses,

be kind and generous,

eat good food and

drink good wine.

Live each day as if it were your last.

Learning from bees

Clover covers my lawn like a blanket,

small, white puffs that lighten up the dark green of the grass.

The sweet fragrance of the flowers draws bees to my yard.

From my porch, I can see the white buds swaying slightly,

and I know the bees are on the move,

flitting from flower to flower,

gathering nectar.

I am cautious when walking across the yard,

not wanting to disturb a bee going about his business,

not wanting to feel the sting of his displeasure.

How I envy the bees their simple lives.

They know just where to go to get what they need,

and how to do their part for the life of the colony.

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Being mindful every day

One of the joys of going on retreat is that I take the time to read the notes and reflections that I keep in the pages of my Bible. I tend to tuck things into my Bible that I want to preserve—notes of gratitude, pictures of special events, prayer requests and reflection notes from past retreats.

Flipping through my Bible this week, I came across two notes that particularly spoke to me. The first said:

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:

  1. Free your heart from hatred.
  2. Free your mind from worries.
  3. Live simply.
  4. Give more.
  5. Expect less.

Seemingly so simple, but any one of these five can trip me up. I decided to make a copy of this slip of paper and put it on my refrigerator so I can read it more often and be reminded of how simple it can be to be happy. I also tucked the original back into my Bible to be rediscovered at a later date.

The second reflection was in my friend Jim’s handwriting, and it said:

This is the beginning of a new day.

God has given me this day to use as I will.

I can waste it or use it for God.

What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it.

When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving something in its place I have traded for it.

I want it to be

gain—not loss

good not evil

success not failure,

in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it.

The morning meditation I am using for my retreat this year includes a similar reflection about looking at the twenty-four hours that are before me as an invitation and a gift—a day I have never lived before, a gift of twenty-four hours stretching out before me, inviting me to live each moment intentionally, fully awake, aware and present.

It is a good way to start every day.

And at the end of the day, I can look back with gratitude for all the gifts and blessings I was open to receive.

Do you keep little treasures in your Bible?

How do you prepare for the day? How do you review your day to gather the gifts that were presented to you?

Creating positive vibes

One of my neighbors used sidewalk chalk to create a “Positivity Path” on the sidewalk in front of her house and two neighboring houses. Each concrete slab presents a different image or quote encouraging trust and hope, with such messages as Stay Positive and You sometimes tend to think you’ve been buried. Perhaps you’ve been planted. Bloom.

I smile as I walk her “Positivity Path” every morning, pausing to read each message, grateful for the reminder to resist darkness and despair, to choose light and hope.

Her project reminds me of the paper hearts people are putting on doors and windows to show support for health care workers and first responders—those people who are putting their own safety at risk during this pandemic.

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Words of inspiration and hope also come to me in a daily email from Country & Town House, which usually focuses on travel and cultural events in the U.K. but is now sharing “Good News You Need Right Now”—stories of the ways people are showing support and having a positive impact during the COVID19 pandemic. I read each story and marvel at the thoughtfulness and selflessness of so many people around the world.

And then there are free webinars on mindfulness, meditation and prayer available online, plus free concerts from every music genre—all ways to help us remain grounded and hopeful.

Abundant generosity and kindness living side-by-side with the darkness of the coronavirus.

All those messages of thoughtfulness and hope invite to me to consider what I can do to show support and gratitude for people who provide essential services—and to create hope in my own community. They invite me to dwell in possibility instead of in panic.

I am not much of a sidewalk-chalk kind of person, but I would welcome any neighbor who wanted to add positive messages and pictures to the sidewalk in front of my house.

I can cut hearts out of construction paper to display on my door.

I can sew and will go through my fabric stash and make up some masks.

I can pray.

Perhaps the most positive thing I can do is offer support and encouragement in note cards, over the phone or on social media, especially to those who live alone and/or are facing the pandemic at the same time they are facing cancer or some other health issues.

My neighbor’s “Positivity Path” is a great reminder that this is the path I need to walk every day, in whatever ways I can.  

We can each create our own path of positive energy through acts of kindness, and beauty, and we can bring light to darkness and hope to despair. What are you doing to remain positive?

Waiting

Waiting for the hurricane to make landfall, anxious and uncertain.

Waiting for the next terror attack or mass shooting.

Waiting to see the course of disease.

I have known this anxiety before,

this waiting for some unseen danger, some impending doom.

When and where will the catastrophe strike?

And where can I find safety and security?

I suppose my safety is where it has always been.

In reaching out to another,

in kindness, in caring, in nature,

appreciating the beauty of a sunset or a bird or a flower,

feeling the wind and the warmth of the sun,

living in every moment and seeking goodness,

trusting in my place in the universe.

How blessed I am to be alive.

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