D A R E
we believe that there’s more that connects us
than we are aware. . .
D A R E
and D A R E
Live Like It. . .
Because in the end. . .
THERE IS ONLY US
Who Cares - What Matters
“The two most important days in your life are
THE DAY YOU ARE BORN
a n d
THE DAY YOU FIND OUT WHY”
We celebrate a person’s Birthday
Not because of the Day that they were born
But because of what they have born
Because of what they have given Birth in us. . .
I’ve celebrated well over 37
of my wife,
And not one of them
has ever been without the over apparent
R E C O G N I T I O N
are far more better
no so much
because she’s been Born
but because of what she has BIRTHED
in us. . .
in everyone she meets
or those who come across
which means that the best
Birthday Gift of all
Is what you cause to be born in others. . .
Your are the next Rung
on all of our Ladder’s
that take us Higher
. . .Always Higher
There’s no Candle on a Cake
that could ever illuminate more
u n e x t i n g u i s h a b l e
Some actually powerfully prove
never compares to the
F L A M E
and spread to others
. . .talk about a
fortunate inextinguishable inferno. . .
It’s not what we remember
So much as what we can’t
seem to ever forget
When you met me
my wings weren’t broken~~
They didn’t exist
Even before you could become
a magical wind
that could make Soar
You became my Wings
and I’ve never landed
or found a reason
to graze the ground
the same way
M O M E N T S
L I F E T I M E S
(and I just can’t stop smiling YOU)
One of the official languages of South Africa is Zulu (isiZulu in Zulu). It is spoken by about 10 million people. There is a word in Zulu that is used in greetings: “Sawubona”.
It means, “I see you.” Not in the sense of, “I see you standing before me, and I see that you are wearing blue jeans and sweater, and I see that your hair is done up today, and I see that you are wearing your glasses instead of contacts.”
Sawubona is much more than that.
At its heart, Sawubona means, “I see you as a person with a history and culture and hopes and dreams and fears. I see you for who you are. I see you and I respect you.”
Sawubona has been described by worker and community leader Orland Bishop as an invitation to participate in each other’s life. Sawubona, he says, means that people give each other what they need to enhance that moment of life.
Every time I stand before a person, a patient or an audience, a gathering of persons, I remind myself with a deep, purposely cleansing breath what I invite you do; KNOW that these are not nameless, faceless people who are are before you. They are individuals with lives that are as rich and complicated as yours. They are people who want to be seen, who want to be understood, who want to be helped, who want to be respected.
As you look, as you see, pause a moment and think, Sawubona. I see you.
If you carry that intention, bring that forth purposely, you will be looked back at with eyes that say, “Yebo sawubona. We see you too.”
AS A CARING CATALYST
I don’t look at you with my eyes
I see you in my
H E A R T
and accept you as you
A R E
not to be
but possibly be
S A W U B O N A
HAPPY MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR DAY
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. . .
We don’t quite say that the way that we do
HAPPY NEW YEAR
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY
huh. . .
Like most Monday morning blogs this is not a video that I researched or that I sought out, it is one that found me and now haunts me. As I listen to this video from Martin Luther King Jr. about the Good Samaritan, which was a part of his I HAVE BEEN TO THE MOUNTAIN TOP speech, I quickly realized that not only am I not the Good Samaritan, I am not even close to being the not-so-Good-Samaritan.
Quick: if you could describe your life to this point in just one single word what would it be? Seriously, mine might be ENCHANTED. I live a ENCHANTED LIFE; I really do. I am a severely white privileged male that has never really felt what racism is all about; or poverty; or disadvantage; or choice of sexual orientation, or. . . . Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked hard for everything that I’ve gotten and I’ve tried to do right by another person, not just by treating them the way that I want to be treated but really trying to go the extra step past the Mountain Top and finding out how they would like to be treated and then actually treating them that way. I have never joined a demonstration. I have never participated in a March. I have never protested. I would like to believe that part of me being a Caring Catalyst and trying to be a better One each day, is trying to convince myself that person by person the world itself changes and that I have an active part in participating in that every single encounter that I have with every single person.
No, I’m not a Good Samaritan. I’m the guy that is too busy to stop because I have business to do; important business, maybe even business that affects peoples lives. No, I’m not a Good Samaritan not because I don’t stop and help, or because I’m sometimes afraid I may to become that victim I too, may be misunderstood or harshly judged. No, but possibly because I have a great way of RATIONALIZING everything away so that I can feel just a little bit better about myself (one-not-that-all-important-act-but-makes-me-look-good-without-trying-all-that-hard. . . .
I don’t do good with vacations or paid time off, so every year I rarely take a week or two weeks off at a time. I’m better at taking days off especially Friday and Mondays. I, on purpose, take my birthday off. I take my wife, Erin’s, Birthday off. I take off good Friday every year usually the Monday after Easter and yes now Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I usually take these days off to spend them with people that I love and people who love me. In particular, I take off Martin Luther King Jr. Day, just like Good Friday, to reflect, to ask myself, ‘why am I not the not-so-Good Samaritan; why am I the one that would go to the other side of the road; why am I the one, that being as privileged as I am, would make myself feel better by literally, just writing a check and mailing it in? Tough questions, but not always elicit the most honest answers. Somehow, just asking the questions helps, eases me as it inspires, challenges me not by attempting to answering the questions with my words or my mouth, but with my actions. Hoping, just hoping, that what I might do for ANOTHER, personally, intentionally, and yes maybe even, intimately, will not only be world changing for them but also mean the universe to me, too.
HAPPY MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY
. . .today. . .tomorrow. . .for-an-ever
let’s not pass each other by
but attend to each’s wounds
and heal as we are healed
no matter what
no matter who
no matter when
no matter how
to get one step higher than
THE MOUNTAIN TOP
This is the time of the year
when you both
run into people you haven’t seen in a long time
and meet new people
sometimes quite randomly as you are
it calls for
C O N V E R S A T I O N
which can actually
and soothe others. . .
and make us all wonder:
Summer Allen, Ph.D., is a Research/Writing Fellow with the Greater Good Science Center. A graduate of Carleton College and Brown University, Summer now writes for a variety of publications including weekly blog posts for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She helps us TALK ABOUT IT. . .
When we talk to strangers, if we talk to them, we often default to “small talk” or “chit-chat.” We may muse about the weather or a recent movie or what we did over the weekend. This surface-level talk may keep us comfortable, but it’s often unfulfilling.
What prevents us from deepening our conversations with strangers?
A recent study by Michael Kardas, Amit Kumar, and Nicholas Epley published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychologyfinds that we tend to underestimate how much strangers are interested in and care about our more personal revelations. They also mistakenly assume that conversations with strangers will be uncomfortable and unrewarding. These miscalibrated expectations create a psychological barrier that prevents us from having more “deep talk.”
The study raises a question for all of us: What if we took more chances in connecting with strangers?
In the study’s first set of experiments, the researchers told participants that they would answer and discuss four deep questions with a stranger, like, “For what in your life do you feel most grateful?” and “Can you describe a time you cried in front of another person?”
After reading the questions, but before meeting their randomly assigned conversation partner, participants predicted how interested they would be in hearing the other person’s answers, how interested they expected the other person would be in hearing their answers, how awkward they would feel during the conversation, how much they would like the other person, and how happy they would feel about the conversation. After 10 minutes spent discussing the deep questions with their partner, participants answered questions about how the conversation actually went.
Overall, participants weren’t very good at predicting how the conversation would go. They underestimated how interested they and their conversation partner would be in each other’s answers, as well as how connected and happy they’d feel afterward. They also overestimated the awkwardness of the conversation.
“Not only does having a deep conversation with another person seem to be a surprisingly positive experience, it seems to be more positive than having a shallow conversation,” write the researchers.
The researchers hypothesized that the reason people have such a tendency to avoid deeper conversations with strangers is because they believe strangers won’t care about their answers or find them interesting.
Experiments bore this out. For example, in one experiment participants were able to choose from a list of shallower and deeper questions to answer with a stranger. Participants who were told beforehand that people tend to underestimate how much strangers will care about each other’s answers selected significantly more of the deeper questions than did participants who were told people tend to overestimate the caring of strangers.
Throughout the experiments in this study, a simple theme emerged: Our expectations about how conversations with strangers will go often run in a negative direction. Unfortunately, these assumptions likely govern how we interact with people we don’t know well in our day-to-day lives. As the researchers write:
Our data suggest that underestimating others’ deeply social nature—assuming that others will be more indifferent and uncaring in conversation that they actually are—could help to explain why conversations in daily life are shallower than people might prefer. Our participants consistently expected their conversations to be more awkward, and lead to weaker connections and less happiness than they actually did.
What’s unknown is to what extent these findings are generalizable. Although the experiments in this study included a range of different groups—American undergraduate and master’s students, financial services employees, international MBA students, community members in a park, and online participants—most of the experiments were conducted in the United States. So, it remains to be seen if the same results would be found in other cultures.
Here’s another open question: Do impromptu conversations with strangers differ from conversations prompted by experimenters? As the researchers acknowledge, it’s a lot easier to engage in deeper conversations when instructed to do so. And because “small talk” is a social norm in many settings, trying to engage in a more intimate conversation in the “real world” may make some people wonder if you’re angling for a date or trying to sell them something.
But other studies in more naturalistic settings suggest that we frequently make false assumptions about how interactions with strangers will likely go. In a study of train and bus commuters, people predicted that they would have a more positive experience keeping to themselves than while talking with a stranger, when the opposite was actually true. In another study, people instructed to give a compliment to a stranger overestimated how uncomfortable and bothered—and underestimated how positive—the compliment recipient would feel. And a study that included pairs of new dorm mates and strangers at a workshop found a robust “liking gap” between how much people thought strangers liked them after a conversation and how much they actually did.
Together, these studies show that we may benefit from experimenting with talking to strangers even when we don’t feel like it—and consider moving beyond small talk when we do engage in these conversations.
“If you think that a deep conversation is likely to be especially awkward, then you are unlikely to give yourself the chance to find out that you might be a little bit wrong,” write the researchers. “Only by engaging with others do people accurately understand the consequences of doing so.”
There’s another possible benefit from deepening our conversations with strangers: feeling more socially connected and even maybe gaining more friends. After all, all friends were strangers at one point, and studies have found that “deep talk” speeds up the formation of friendships.
This doesn’t mean, however, that we need to go straight for the vulnerability jugular, exposing our worst fear or past traumas while ordering a cup of coffee. Instead, we may consider asking gradually more intimate questions—or disclosing more vulnerable information about ourselves—the next time we have the opportunity to have an extended conversation with a stranger.
In fact, in this study, the researchers noticed that some pairs assigned to discuss shallow questions eventually gravitated to deeper topics, suggesting there may be a natural drive to increasing intimacy over the course of a conversation.
So if you see yourself veering toward more vulnerable territory the next time you talk to your seatmate on a plane, consider using this study as a reason to give in to the impulse. You might just walk away with a new friend—or at least feel happier and more connected than you expected.
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm of the day:
Sometimes the best Conversation
you ever could have
is the one
you never saw
h a p p e n i n g. . .
The best way to take the
C O N
out of Conversation
is this simple:
TALK IT UP
James Crews is a poet who teaches Poetry at the University at Albany and lives on a organic farm with his husband in Shaftsbury, Vermont. Each Friday he posts a poem, sometimes one of his own that serves as more than just some mere Poetry Prompt. He recently posted this:
I’ve been sitting with this very short but very powerful poem by Jane Hirshfield ever since a dear friend passed it along to me earlier in the week. It speaks to the season so many of us might find ourselves inhabiting, not only that of autumn, but a moment of loss and transition during which we’re asked to accept such changes as necessary, and perhaps even sacred. In this poem, she invites us to see each shedding tree as an icon, “thinned/back to bare wood,/without diminishment.” And there is almost a haiku-like quality to those final three lines that urges us toward deeper contemplation of the richness inherent in these wooden beings. Perhaps what we see as loss and a kind of death each year as fall comes is really just wind and weather having worshipped the trees so much they are returned to their basic essence. In this way, we might reframe any difficult season when we are worn back to our essential selves as holy, worthy of worship for the way such trying times allow us to become something new.
by Jane Hirshfield
Again the wind
flakes gold-leaf from the trees
and the painting darkens—
as if a thousand penitents
kissed an icon
till it thinned
back to bare wood,
Invitation for Writing & Reflection: How might you reframe a difficult season in your own life as sacred or holy, seeing how you were worn back to the truest version of yourself even while in pain?
It prompted me to write in kind:
And just like that
into a colorfully crisp confetti
of blazenous colors
that never reached the ground
into what can’t always be planted
but never fails to be garnered in
that find us all
softly soaringly sheltered
in a cooling uplifting Breath
A heavenly satisfied Sigh
May this Fall Season bring you lots of
Oooooh and A W E
In this era, where a lot of people are becoming more and more indifferent towards one another, kindness is coming at an expensive price. It is not often that you see people showing kindness towards others. BUT. . .I found this video recently where there was a prepared set of different videos to prove that wrong. Throughout the video, you can watch Santa providing warm clothes to homeless people or older woman praising stranger for doing cool tricks with skateboard and many others. As always I hope this afflicts the Caring Catalyst in you that by merely watching the video, you will realize that kindness in humanity hasn’t been lost completely and there are still people out there ready to show acts of kindness not only to their close ones, but also to any random strangers and make them emotional or even cry by their acts of kindness. THAT it’ll inspire you to bring a special warmth to Another’s CHILL. . .Enjoy watching the video. . .
Muhammad Mashali was a doctor who treated Egypt’s poorest citizens completely free of charge for 50 years.
Mashali passed away in 2020 at the age of 76.
He spent 12 hours a day in the clinic and received 30-50 patients a day. Not only did a line of people form in front of his ambulance every day, people would approach him on the street and he would give them medical advice. Dr. Muhammad Mashali never had a car or even a telephone. He walked from home to work.
When a rich man heard about his story, he gave him $20,000, a car and an apartment. But a year later, when his benefactor returned to Egypt, he learned that the doctor had sold his car to help poor patients and bought new medical equipment.
When Muhammad Mashali graduated from Cairo Medical School in 1967, he explained why he wanted to sacrifice himself for the good of others:
“My father sacrificed his life so that I could become a doctor. Then I promised God that I would not take a penny from the poor and live a life of service to people of all cultures and religions.”
BUT LABOR DAY WAS THIS PAST MONDAY. . .
or may be
or any day
you wake up
A Caring Catalyst
NOT AGAIN. . .
O N C E
M O R E. . .
MAKE YOUR JOB
SOMEONE’S PLEASURE. . .
Back in March I took a Challenge to write 15 poems of 15 lines or less in 10 days and it got turned into a Chapbook that to my surprised someone found when they Googled me and got sent Amazon. . .
In April, National Poetry Month, there was another Challenge to write 30 poems in 30 days with the top three winners getting a publishing contract with Local Gems Press; uhhhhhhhhh, I didn’t finish among the top three but the there’s more to FINISHING than completing a project or subjectively placing into a top three tier that has a poetic justice of itself. . .
I have piles of legal pads with poems or bits pieces of them all over the place, often spilling out of folders and books that surprise me with the horror/delight of:
“I WROTE THAT?”
I’ve known for a long time that I think in poetry, mostly one-liners that pop up in the middle of the night, or during a conversation or while I’m reading, walking, meditating, listening to music or hearing the story someone whotrusts me with as I sit at their bedside or hospital room or coffee shop as I listen to their lives spilling out. . .
These little pop up bubbles are blank but for brief moments as they hover above my head but they are more heart-thoughts than head-scratchers or mind-blowers and they are unstoppable. . .
They are a Blood Letting that literally allows my heart to beat better; please know, it’s NOT FOR PUBLICATION. . .that’s a poor excuse, I’ve found for writing. WRITING for WRITING, because it can’t be helped; can’t be stopped; won’t be dammed up; is a form of happiness I’ve yet to find in other ways that have uncovered this truth:
I WILL DIE WITH WORDS LEFT IN ME, NO MATTER HOW MUCH
Do you feel that? Know of it? Feel like joining me?
Well, here’s the Challenge. . .
Autumn Poetry Chapbook Challenge – Local Gems Press (localgemspoetrypress.com)
Who knows. . .
Maybe that Blank page which calls for you
is exactly what
needs to read. .
I was in college and trying to pay my way through as best as I could when of all things my grandmother, Vi got me a job that no one knew the implications. It was working at a Pipe/Tobacco store where I sold expensive Meerschaum pipes down to ones that look like Popeye would toke on in between downing cans of spinach.
The real behind the scenes stuff was the great stuff. . .I would cover for Charlie my boss, who was either out cheating on his wife or playing poker with the boys when his wife would call and he’d look the other way when I took REESES CUPS and SNICKERS for dinner; it was a good deal made better when the Pipe shop would close and I would go a half of a block down the street to his retail store where he sold a host of mostly unnecessary plastic objects and a few vinyl records. It was there that I sold hundreds of Olivia Newton-John’s records:
I never tagged her as Country-Western but that’s the section Charlie wanted to peg her under and I spent a lot of time hitting the cash register tune of glorious sales for him and her.
THIS is hardly what anyone would remember about Olivia Newton-John after hearing of her death earlier this week. WHAT IS BEING REMEMBERED AND CELEBRATED is just what a ferocious Caring Catalyst she has always been. Having been diagnosed with Breast Cancer well over 30 years ago, she never took the “WHY ME?” stance or the “I WILL NEVER DIE” denial position; Olivia made sure that something way past her last song would not just be remembered but used her platform to become an advocate, a Caring Catalyst for all cancers–spending tons of time, energy, and money building research organizations, clinics, and more.
Craig Marshall is a guy I met through National Speakers Association who often tells the story:
There’s still Olivia Newton-John…. When I was a monk, I had an coaching session with a man that told me the saddest story I ever heard. He’d been in a car accident, which killed several of his children. His wife was in a coma for months and then died. He lost his job and his dog died. It was sad beyond words. But when he ended telling me his litany of loss, he paused and looked at me and whist-fully said, “But you know what? There’s still Olivia Newton-John!” Years went by, and I found myself sitting at an outdoor restaurant table in Malibu, designing a book cover with my good friend Fred Segal.
After discussing some graphic possibilities, Freddie said, “We’re guys. We need some different input,” and he yelled over to two ladies sitting at a nearby table, “Come over here please.” They came over, sat down, and Fred started asking them about what they thought his book cover should look like. After awhile, for whatever, reason, everyone at the table got up and began talking to friends who’d entered the restaurant, leaving me alone with this poised blonde lady with an English/Australian accent. It suddenly hit me, and I said, “Are you Olivia Newton-John?” and she said yes. I told her, “I’m so glad to meet you because I want to share with you a story of a man who lost almost everything in life, but clung to you as his only inspiration.”
Olivia was always charming, and I ended up hosting several workshops at her home. She was always thoughtful, genuine and just lovely.
I don’t know why people hope their departing loved ones “rest in peace”. I wish for Olivia great music, great fun, and great friends. Her smile is what I’ll remember. It was so dazzling that she never needed to wink. Like that guy, I also believe that there will always be Olivia Newton-John.
ONE OUT OF ONE OF US DIES
is one of the harshest realities ”
any of us with a pulse
will ever wrestle
B U T
there’s something that
goes beyond the Life
we live here
and that’s the
L I F E
and that’s the
E X I S T E N C E
even make possible
way after we are gone
. . .that’s a huge part of what it means to be a Caring Catalyst
to begin in others
what will outlast us and even them
but never goes into extinction
as long as we keep sharing our very Best
for the Best of everyone else. . .
Yes, there’s still Olivia Newton-John
a Hopelessly Devoted Caring Catalyst