Tag Archives: inspiration

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.


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?

Art and spirituality

Art is an important part of my prayer life, and my prayer space reflects my love of art. Two pictures hang on the wall, icons sit on shelves, and I change out other pieces for different seasons or because of some movement in my spiritual life.

At the beginning of Advent, my spiritual director gave me a print of The Road to Bethlehem by Fritz von Uhde. I framed it and placed it by my Advent candles. Throughout Advent, this picture invited me to imagine the challenges of Mary and Joseph’s trek and reminded me of people on difficult journeys today. The picture invited me to reflect on these questions: What journey am I on? What path am I following? How am I helping others who are on difficult journeys?

The Road to Bethlehem, by Fritz von Uhde

Another painting in my prayer space is Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross. It is from a larger painting by Ludovico Brea called the Crucifixion.

Crucifixion, by Ludovico Brea

Mary Magdalene is my patron saint; my name is the English version of hers, and she is the person in the Bible with whom I feel the strongest connection. She epitomizes for me what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

This picture of Mary Magdalene reminds that that even when others have fled, I am to remain.


Contemplating Mary Magdalene hugging the cross, I am led to reflect on my own relationship with suffering. Am I faithful to those who suffer? Do I lean into the cross or do I back away? How do I relate to my own pain?

The Windsock Visitation, by Brother Mickey McGrath, depicts that moment when Mary visited Elizabeth and the infant leaped in Elizabeth’s womb.

The Windsock Visitation, by Mickey McGrath, OSFS

I love the bright colors and the Jane de Chantal quote, “This is the place of our delight and rest.” I resonate with the swirls in the two women’s bellies—I am a gut person and make most of my decisions based on a gut reaction.

This print reminds me to pay attention to what swirls in my gut—to my reactions to people and events—and to be aware of new life being created.

The happiness evident in the two women’s faces suggests pure joy, and this picture asks me: Where do I see new life around me or within me? Whom do I embrace with sheer joy? To whom am I bringing hope? From whom am I receiving hope?

Art offers multiple entryways into the spiritual life. I can look at a picture for years, and then notice a small detail that had been hidden. The Windsock Visitation has hung on my wall for the past five years, but only recently have I noticed a picture in the upper left corner.

Art invites me to look again and again at what seems familiar and to see something new.

Giving gifts

Tis the season for giving gifts, or so I have heard.

Why one season? Why not give gifts in every season?

Unexpected gifts at unspecified times.

Give when inspired, even in March or September.

Act on the impulse to be generous.

Bake Christmas cookies in May and give them away.

Celebrate half-birthdays or bake a cake for no reason at all.

Celebrate this day. Celebrate every day.

Each one is a gift.

Whatever you give, whenever you give it, give it with love.


My Dad had two talks with me, the first was when I was about ten and the second was when I got my driver’s license.

The first talk coincided with my starting to venture beyond my immediate neighborhood, going to the library and the movies, which were both a half-mile from home. I always went to the movies with friends, but visiting the library was a solitary activity.

Library time was sacred, and I wanted the freedom to do what I wanted for as long as I wanted. The library had the same allure as church, drawing me into its silence, scents and rituals.

At the library, I could freely live out my love of reading, and I was even praised for it. The librarians engaged me in conversations about what I had just read, asking if I had liked the book, which was my favorite character and what was my favorite part of the story. They encouraged me by offering suggestions for what I might read next.

Their encouragement made me feel normal, as if escaping through books was what one did. They inspired me to read more and to expand my horizons. The library was the place where my imagination and curiosity were unfettered. Through books, I explored other countries, peoples and cultures.

I used to wish I could live at the library, surrounded by silence and books.


My dad’s talk was about getting to and from the library.

My dad was a cop, and he believed that if his children were going to survive in the city, we had to figure things out on our own. He knew he and my mom would not be able to protect us once we left our neighborhood.

I had no curfew growing up and no defined boundaries; the whole city was mine to explore.

The advice my dad gave me was this: Always walk facing traffic—on the left side of the street—making it more difficult to be abducted. My dad explained that most children who were abducted were walking with traffic—on the right side of the street—so they did not see or hear someone approaching from behind. If I walked toward traffic, I would see who was approaching, and I would also make it more difficult for someone to snatch me because I was going in the opposite direction of cars.

Good advice.

The second talk, when I got my driver’s license, was this: While driving alone, especially at night, don’t stop if you see flashing lights approach from behind; it might not be a police car. Slow down, put on the blinker and drive to a public place (gas station, convenience store, etc.).

My dad knew what could happen to a woman alone in a car at night.

I’ve not had the flashing-lights experience, but I still follow my dad’s advice and walk facing traffic.

My dad would not have used these words, but his talks were building my resiliency toolkit, and I am grateful.