A very close friend of mine (Samantha) recently adopted, as a single parent, a six year old daughter (Justine or J-girl as I like to call her). Through our many long distance phone conversations walking through the adoption process together we have talked about a multitude of things, most specifically Samantha’s experience as an adoptive parent and the subsequent reactions of those around her. As a Social Worker and also an adopted child myself this experience as shared through my dear friends eyes has been a journey that I cherish and learn through almost daily.
It was several weeks ago that Samantha said something to me that has continued to resonate deep in my heart and I feel compelled to share it with you. As Samantha navigates the system of social workers, school boards, play therapists along with her own personal support system she understands that others see Justine in different ways. Some see behavior, other’s see brokenness and sadly some see nothing but challenges. Discussing this one night, Samantha made an awe inspiring comment about where she comes from on this; she told me that from the minute she met Justine she “saw her”. This reference had to be explained to me but is related to the movie Avatar where the characters say to each other “ I see you” instead of I love you. (It has the same meaning but much, much deeper). She saw Justine for the beauty that resonates out of her six year old little body, sees her where she is and not where she should be, sees her exactly in the moment and because of this it allows her a level of patience and understanding that she never before has experienced.
This is when it hit me. In this month of Love celebrated by some of us through Family Day and Valentine’s Day we attempt to honor each other through gestures of love……time together, gifts, cards and the like. Thinking deeper on this, can we actually say that we ‘see’ those that we love? And can and does this extend to the greater work that we do on a daily basis when interacting with those in our worlds? Challenging thought isn’t it? To see each other, I think provides hope and light where maybe there wasn’t any before.
As an eternal optimist I believe that most of us do this, but maybe not as much as we like. So why don’t we spend the month leaning into this and do our level best to fully ‘see’ those around us, let the other stuff slide away. Because I truly believe that all of us share one commonality – the desire to be seen for who we are- it validates that our journey’s are special and in turn so are we.
Do you believe?
Working for a not for profit agency our greatest accomplishment in any given year is to raise funds and awareness for what we do as an agency and to successfully deliver programs to our neighbours. The what and how has historically been the messaging required for communication purposes to the general public. Taking this one step further, I gave some thought to what it means to engage others in our agency, not just from a financial donor perspective but from a general engagement one- explaining to other the why behind what we do.
What we get to do each and every year here at SIRCH is ‘sell’ what we do. We sell our program ideas to potential funders, we sell our culture to potential volunteers, we sell our annual activities and program implementation to potential donors. We do this by highlighting WHAT we do (programming) and HOW we do it (ran a farm tour for the County to increase education on locally grown food)……..and I have always thought that we are clear on the WHY we do it until today.
For a Not for profit the WHY is everything isn’t it? For individuals, I think the WHY should be the first question on our lips when we undertake any activity, initiative, and endeavour. I don’t think that we do this near regularly enough, nor with enough verve and vigour. And herein lies a connection that I had never thought of: the WHY is linked to our fundamental beliefs surrounding the work that we do. So really it is not necessarily a message of WHY, it is a message of I BELIEVE. Of course, according to many psychologists, belief is just simply our brain’s limbic system choosing to make irrational decisions based on our emotional state “Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true” Wikipedia
For a not for profit, the why we do what we do is inextricably bound to belief – our belief that every person has value; that every person has intrinsic strengths and abilities to share; that how we treat the most vulnerable in our community defines us as a community; that everyone individually can make a difference but that as a group, a community that difference can become exponential. At SIRCH we are making a difference in the world. This extends to our volunteers, whose blood sweat and tears are fueled by a belief that what they do makes a difference. And the community at large- donors, partners also require this belief in order to be engaged, donate, support. The great thing about this, the “ah ha” moment for me is that we all SHARE a similar set of beliefs that binds us together!
I suppose the point that I am trying to get to could have been simply stated at the beginning of this article, but I wanted to share this journey of thought with you in order to get to this: it is a common thread of belief that fuels our beautiful County…belief that we can and do make a difference, belief in the kindness of others, belief that things will change for the better that makes our feet hit the ground most mornings. Aldous Huxley is quoted as saying “Before your feet hit the ground each morning repeat these words, I believe, I believe, I believe”. What will fuel your fire this New Year? What do you believe in?
Happy New Year, may the year ahead be fueled with optimistic belief and an understanding of the why behind what you do each day to make the world a better place.
Here comes the Christmas trivia! Some of our everyday traditions date back hundreds of years. See how many of the questions you know. The answers are below.
1. Where is the world’s largest Christmas tree and how big is it?
2. How many reindeer drive Santa’s sleigh (counting Rudolph)?
3. Which 2 reindeer were named after weather phenomena?
4. Who was the author of “A Christmas Carol?”
5. Who was the star of the movie titled “White Christmas?”
6. Which country was the first to use the tradition of Christmas trees?
7. Where did the legend of Santa Claus come from?
8. Where did the real St. Nicholas live?
9. Which country is the largest exporter of Christmas trees?
10. Which of these was not a gift given by the Wise Men to the Baby Jesus – gold, silver, myrrh or frankincense?
11. How many ghosts are there in the book or movie “A Christmas Carol?”
12. Which Christmas song holds the credit as the most-selling Christmas single of all time?
13. What are the two most popular Christmas colors after red and green?
14. “Greensleeves” is another name for what song?
15. Who tracks Santa Claus’s sleigh ride across the globe each year?
And here are the answers:
1. King’s Canyon National Park, California. Known as The General Grant Tree, special Yuletide celebrations are held under its snow-laden branches every year. Measuring 267.4 feet tall and 107.6 feet around, it is the earth’s second-largest tree. Estimated at 1,800 to 2,000 years old, the beautiful tree is the star attraction of a grove of 2,000 and 3,000-year-old sequoias.
2. Nine – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph
3. Donner means thunder in German, and Blitzen comes from the German word for lightning (blitz).
4. Charles Dickens
5. Bing Crosby
6. Germany The custom of the Christmas tree developed in Germany hundreds in the 1500’s. It acquired popularity beyond Germany during the second half of the 19th century.
7. During the 4th century. According to Dutch legend, Sinter Klaas (St. Nicholas) brought gifts at Christmastime, either through an open window or down a chimney. This legend is the basis of the Santa Claus we know and love today.
8. The real St. Nicholas lived in Turkey, where he served as bishop in the town of Myra.
9. Canada. Last year, the live Christmas tree industry pulled in $51.3 million.
11. Four — the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, and the ghost of Jacob Marley.
12. White Christmas.
13. Silver and gold.
14. “What Child Is This.”
15.. The North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD, which defends the airspace of Canada, Alaska, and the continental United States, tracks Santa Claus’s sleigh. Using data obtained from a worldwide network of radar and satellites in space, NORAD staff and more than 360 volunteers begin reporting on Santa’s progress at 5:00 a.m. MST. Real-time updates are given via e-mail, the Internet, and telecasts in French, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, and English.
Last year, people purchased over $13,000 worth of ethical gifts from SIRCH’s Gifts from the Heart Catalogue. It made a huge difference to many, many people! I thought you’d like to hear some of the stories of how SIRCH was able to help, thanks to Gifts from the Heart.
Home for Christmas!
A father of four children was diagnosed with a palliative illness, and was unable to work. The sole bread winner of his family, his illness and admission to hospital sent the family into a tail spin. With no income, things that you and I might take for granted became huge obstacles! Mom didn’t drive so finding regular transportation to the hospital was difficult. Needing to go on social assistance took a toll, and although it helped, even figuring out how to afford basic items like food, clothing, and heat added to the stress. But the greatest concern of the children was that they would not get to spend Christmas with their dad at home. He wanted to be home, but needed equipment and supports that the family simply couldn’t afford.
It was truly a joint effort – other organizations and volunteers ensured that the house was safe for dad to come home, and that nursing supports were in place. SIRCH continued to provide hospice/palliative care and as the Gifts from the Heart donations rolled in, we were also able to provide food, basic necessities, and Christmas presents for the entire family. It was a community gift, and what Christmas is all about. That dad was able to be home with his family for his last Christmas! Just weeks later he passed away.
Infant Needing Surgery
In another situation a couple had a baby who needed fairly extensive surgery. On a limited income with no family in the county, and no transportation, the couple struggled with the dilemma of how to care for their older child who was in school, and also be with their infant in the city. Thanks to your donation, SIRCH was able to help with emotional support, as well as transportation, food, and other types of practical assistance. Without knowing it, you became part of that family’s extended network.
I have to say that Christmas is the one of the best times of year to work at SIRCH Community Services. Why? Because of you! Last year your donations to our Gifts from the Heart Catalogue allowed us to directly change the lives of others not only at Christmas but throughout the entire year. As we shouted out the daily Catalogue tally (yes, we really did and it was fun!), it became a source of inspiration for all of us to continue to work harder to help those who are going through a tough time.
I hope that you will spread Christmas cheer again this year by being a friend of SIRCH. Please make a purchase from our Gifts from the Heart Catalogue. Please tell your friends, colleagues and family members about the difference they can make by choosing a “Gift from the Heart” this Holiday season.
100% of your donation will support individuals and families right here in Haliburton County. You’ll receive a beautiful gift card that you can sign and tuck in someone’s stocking, and you’ll also receive a charitable tax receipt. Most of all, you’ll know your gift is changing lives!
This post was originally published on Inspiration and Chai
As SIRCH has a Hospice program, the title caught my eye, and then the themes really resonated with me.In fact after I read this post, I tracked down a childhood friend I hadn’t spoken to in years, and spent a delightful hour and a half catching up.I hope it gives you some insights too.
Bronnie Ware is a writer and songwriter from Australia who spent several years caring for dying people in their homes. Initially written as a blog, Ware self-published the book at the end of last year. By the beginning of this year, the sharply meaningful messages had ricocheted around the world and, by March, Hay House publishers had picked it up, released it internationally and had it translated into 25 languages (and counting).It is titled ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing’.
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.