What’s the Highlight of YOUR Day?

Yesterday, I was walking the dog. She was having a glorious romp…chasing squirrels, sniffing something in every yard, happily encountering canine friends…. I thought, “This is the highlight of her day!” and she has it to look forward to every day.

Suddenly the thought occurred to me, “What’s the highlight of MY day?”

I was challenged to think of anything I have planned for every day that I would consider a highlight… something I do each day that brings me great joy. Yes, there are highlights monthly, even weekly, but don’t we deserve joy each day?

Then I wondered whether I couldn’t come up with a daily highlight because I don’t have a sweet spot planned into every day, or because I don’t appreciate the sweet spots that are there. Sometimes we get so busy, it feels as if we’re running from task to task. That makes it easy to overlook the special moments in each day. Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

So if I were to ask you — as I did one of my colleagues — what the highlight is of YOUR day, would you have a good answer?  Rashida’s was that she looks forward to cuddling with her one-year-old at his bedtime, and shortly before hers. Great answer! And it happens every day, at least right now. When he’s three or five, she’ll probably need to find a new highlight, because preschoolers seldom hold still for cuddle periods.

That’s the thing about those sweet spots… as life moves on, we have to look for new ones.

So I’ve decided to add twenty minutes of dance or reading into each day, and relish those precious moments of “me” time. I also started savoring those precious moments when my husband and I hold hands right before we fall asleep.  I’ll be looking for more daily moments I’ve taken for granted to add to my cache of daily highlights.

So what’s the highlight of YOUR day?

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A Child Named Hope

I  take up “the pen” today because it’s the only way I know to wrestle with disquieting feelings I’ve had recently.

aidAs a marketing person, I post to many social media sites – both my own and to those for which I work. One Thursday, about two weeks ago, I had a most unsettling experience.

Through one of the non-profit facebook sites I run, I received a message where the writer asked whether the organization I posted for is truly community-oriented, or “a liberal propaganda house.” He pointed out that there are conservatives and libertarians in the community.

We had a relatively positive message exchange, where I indicated the organization welcomes everyone, and that, as a public access television station, we broadcast everything submitted, except media that advocates violence.

The individual pointed out that recent posts were “Left of Center.”

I thanked him for pointing this out, and stated that our purpose was not to alienate anyone.

Now I will say that the leanings of most of the people who work at this organization ARE, in fact, “left of center.”  As one of the more diverse organizations in the city of Rochester, attracting people of all ages, socioeconomic levels, ethnicities, political leanings and religions, that is the mindset of those who tend to apply for jobs and work there. It also tends to be the mindset of many of the independent producers whose work is shown on the channel. So, the individual writing is probably accurate in his assessment that the posts I have made have a tendency to be somewhat liberal. Following his comment, I actually thought about the fact that we should, perhaps, reevaluate our social media strategy to make it “more balanced.”

Then, in thinking about this exchange, I was curious what had prompted his note.  I clicked on the story I’d posted. That is when I became unsettled.

togetherIt was a story and photo, originally posted by Malia Obama, about Anja Ringgren Loven, a Danish woman doing social working in Nigeria. The first photo showed her feeding an abandoned and severely malnourished two-year-old Nigerian child. In the second photo, it shows the same young woman holding the child at some later point in time. She has now adopted the child, who she named Hope. He is the picture of health and clearly shines with the love he feels.

When I originally shared this post, I considered it a purely inspirational story…the story of one human coming to the aid of another.

As someone who has adopted children internationally, I know that there are some who would say this child has been robbed of his heritage. To those critics, I would say, “Better robbed of his heritage than robbed of his life,” which is likely what would have happened. Every child should have the chance for love, no matter what.

But to discover that this post could, in any way, be construed as a political message totally flabbergasted me.

I am distressed and disgusted that this election cycle has catalyzed a toxic environment that has become so divisive and so polarizing that politics trump humanity and a story such as this can be construed as anything other than inspirational.

What have we, as a nation, come to when we cannot simply rejoice in the rescue of A Child Named Hope?

Disclaimer: This is the opinion of Carol White Llewellyn and should not be construed as representing the opinions of anyone within any of the organizations with which she works.

 

From a Child: Celebrate Achievements with a Wall of Brilliance

Rishi's wall of greatness
Rishi’s Wall of Brilliance

The other day, my friend Ashweeta posted a photo on facebook that caught my attention. It was of a wall in her home that her young son had decorated, all on his own, with his accomplishments from kindergarten.

Now this was no ordinary wall of accomplishments. This was a wall showing his hard-won victory. You see, Ash had adopted Rishi from India, the country where her parents and older brothers had been born, when the boy was three. As with many adopted children — especially those adopted beyond infancy — Rishi has had to work harder than most children to attain those successes.

Now, the wall virtually blooms with achievements, a daily reminder for both of them of the great possibilities ahead….

When I contacted Ash to ask permission to write about her story, she gladly agreed and told me that the wall had helped her realize something very important.

“I remember crying one night because I was so scared that first grade would be too hard for him. Then I saw that wall he put up, and I realized that it didn’t matter where he was – this is where he is and it’s perfect. I call it the wall of brilliance”

She went on to say, “ I’m going to follow in my boy’s footsteps and create my own wall of greatness – things that I forgot I did. The logo of the first job where I felt that I made it, the lease from my first apt., my Hunter College ID, etc…Funny when I looked at Rishi’s wall, it took me a long time to figure out what my wall would look like. How can we move forward if we forget how brilliant we really are?”

I was touched and inspired by what Ash wrote.

Today, more than ever, we are on a constant treadmill…to make more money, to get the next promotion, to build our business, to get more social media followers, to finish the next project, to create the next technological advance that will corner the market, to write our next novel or create our next major work. Even contemporary expressions such as “You’re only as good as your last …” allude to “the next one.” Apparently, the status quo is not to be celebrated.

And yet….

As Ash says, how can we move forward if we forget how brilliant we really are?

I am not denying the virtue of advancements and progress. They are essential. But it is equally vital to celebrate the now of each success, to carve a notch in your personal totem so that where you have been will keep you on track and buoy your confidence to take you where you are going.

Each person has to find his or her own best way to celebrate achievements. Perhaps it’s with a special activity or an evening of celebration. Or maybe your successes belong written in a journal, or captured in photos in an album. Or why not try Rishi’s method? Create your own wall of brilliance to share with those you love who will help you celebrate your greatness!

 

 

Ferguson: Different Tools for a Different Outcome?

McLuhanLast week, I came upon a quote by philosopher, writer and educator Marshall McLuhan that resonated with me: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and thereafter, our tools shape us.”

Years ago, for a conference I organized, I was working with  Doug Goodman, an uber-talented photographer who works for Ad Age and a host of other high-profile clients. Our organization always relied upon him to photograph the staff  and chronicle the litany of meetings we held throughout the year.

I was surprised that, when he heard a brief description of one employee, without even hearing the man’s name,  he was immediately able to identify the individual.

I realized, at that moment, how looking through the lens of a camera honed a photographer’s vision and perspective. In Doug’s case, since he specializes in portraits and events, the camera gives him a particular view on people and how their personalities, skills and idiosyncrasies are reflected on their faces and conveyed through their body and the clothing they choose to wear.  In all his shoots, his camera functions as a tool to “see into his subject’s soul” and capture the essence of the individual. He excels at that, and his camera functions as the tool that shapes his world, which is filled with friends, beauty, light and intelligence.

Now I juxtapose the camera with a very different type of tool.

In recent weeks, many across the nation have been outraged at the shooting death of the unarmed youth Michael Brown Jr. It has been the catalyst to a widening chasm filling, from both sides, with a fermenting brew of distrust, fear, suspicion and outrage. For the community’s sake, I hope this event does not engender the long-term troubling effects and insidious repercussions I fear.

If you look at an event such as this through McLuhan’s perspective, I can’t help but think that the tools issued to police – guns and tazers, pepper spray and tear gas, handcuffs and bulletproof vests – shape their perspective of the world and the community around them as a darker, more sinister place where weapons are needed for everyday life.

What if police officers  were given another type of “tool?”

I’ve recently read articles about the reduction in police violence within communities in which officers are required to wear cameras on their uniforms. That’s great if it helps, but it doesn’t get at the root of the problem, which I see as a “them” and “us” mentality between officers and residents.

What if a police officer’s arsenal of tools  for protecting the community was augmented to include volunteer time? Volunteer time, not in the community in which they live, but within the community in which they serve. Suppose  5% of the time for which they are paid was given back in the form of service to a volunteer program of their choice…at a rec center, for a reading program, to a youth sports program, in a soup kitchen, at a drug rehab center or some other initiative that contributed to the welfare of the community in which they serve?

No doubt, many police officers do volunteer work. But what if their experience on their beat was shaped by their paid volunteer service, within the footprint of their beat, where they had the opportunity to get to know residents on a personal level…to know their interests and hobbies, their families and friends, the joys and tragedies of the lives of those they are paid to protect? What if each officer who is paid for a 40 hour work week were encouraged to commit 2  hours of each week to paid volunteer service within his community, from day one of working there?

Some may say this is a naïve proposal, but in my personal experience, when you really get to know someone — especially people who are very different from those you encounter in your daily life — it’s hard to see them as the enemy. From my perspective, familiarity breeds understanding, compassion and often, friendship, rather than the contempt suggested by the old idiom.

There are many objections that could be raised in opposition to this idea: from budget restrictions and taxpayer objections, to  concerns over officer safety (especially in communities where there is a long history of distrust between residents and the police force).

But I’d like to throw down the gauntlet and challenge communities to try it.

If the police force in your community already does this, or if you as an officer already commit volunteer time within the community your serve, I’d be interested in hearing if it has changed your perspective, and if so, how?

As an addendum to Marshall McLuhan’s quote, I add this plea:

 Let our tools not be those of darkness and destruction, but of light and learning. That will make all the difference in humanity’s outcome.

 

Celebrate Successes to Savor the Journey

paddling-1187322-mI’m not sure when we became such an attention deficit society.  It’s probably the result of the industrial age. Today, new technologies and inventions come along much more quickly than they did even 25 years ago. It’s simply expected. One invention makes its predecessor obsolete in a matter of months, or even weeks now, not years.

That phenomenon creates a strange type of attention deficit.

Think about the difference between a kayaker slowly paddling down a body of water, and a speedboat aficionado navigating that same waterway. In a speedboat, the landmarks come and go much more quickly. In the kayak, it’s much easier to take in and savor the scenery…to imprint it in your mind.

Our multiple and ever expanding  “to do” lists become our speed boats. It’s a race to see how many items we can check off, so we can get on to the next and the next and the next….

Some of those items on our “to do” lists have a different level of importance than others. Some are landmarks; real achievements and accomplishments, such as publishing a book, finishing a challenging project, being nominated for an award, graduating, achieving the next fitness level, getting a high grade, breaking your previous record in sports.  They merit recognition and celebration, not just another check mark.

It’s important for adults to remember that. And it’s important that we adults remind our kids of that, for their speedboats will be moving even faster.

As we speed through the 21st century at an ever quickening pace,  the one certain way to slow things down and savor the journey is to plant our own landmarks and celebrate our successes.

What will you celebrate?

 

 

 

 

Kintsukuroi: Let the Light Shine Through

Kintsukuroi
Let the Light Through

Recently, I have been feeling as if I am running short on time to make a difference on this earth.

For many years, I have been running around doing projects, undertaking activities, implementing initiatives that I hope will make “a difference” – for my family, for my daughters, for my friends, for future generations.

I worry that not enough is happening, that I’m not making the impact I want.

Today, a post on facebook from Project Happiness made me realize I need to look at my goals differently. The caption for the photo at right was “Forget perfection. Everything has cracks, it’s the only way to let the light in.”

Today, I realized that it really doesn’t matter how many initiatives I undertake, how much money I earn to give away to important causes or what stature I attain.

What matters is how I let the light in, to shine through to others, and how I touch their lives.

Those rays are stronger than any single project I could undertake or donation I could make.

Thank you, Project Happiness.

Seth Godin’s Agenda Session: Fly Above Your Fear

Photo by Dusfabian
Photo by Dusfabian

I’m working with my friend Debra Ross to design and add photography to a wonderful book she wrote with inspirational insights for parents (I’ll let you know when it’s published).  In one  essay, she writes about her daughter auditioning for a play. On the day before the audition, her daughter (then 8 years old)  looked at her and said, “I don’t want it to be tomorrow. Today is still the day when the bad thing hasn’t happened yet.”

Meaning, of course, that she hadn’t been rejected for the part.

In today’s email from Seth Godin, his post was entitled “But I might get rejected.” He was referring to the Agenda Seminar he is offering in late July. He is inviting readers to submit applications to attend this seminar in which he will be working with 15 individuals who have initiatives they are trying to fly and for which they need advice on how to land.

It was like he was speaking to me…except that I already turned in my application yesterday morning.

When I learned he was doing the seminar, I immediately decided to apply. I contacted three friends to see if they’d be references (it turned out I needed only one). I started working on the application.

Only then, did I start getting cold feet as I thought about the odds of success and whether my three initiatives were significant enough to be considered.

But in the end, I decided to submit, because I knew I’d regret more that I didn’t attempt it than if I did and I was rejected.

I remembered one amazing opportunity I was offered years ago that I turned down due to the objections of someone else in my life (Lesson: Avoid those who are not supportive of your goals and opportunities).

I also knew that, if I was rejected, the fates might shuffle the deck suddenly and opportunities might change. It’s happened on a number of occasions such as when I auditioned for the part of Anna in The King and I in high school and wasn’t chosen. Two weeks before the opening, Anna withdrew and I had the opportunity to step in and take over the part, playing it with confidence and gusto.

I was second runner up for a job in NYC. When the chosen candidate didn’t work out, I stepped in for the longest and best run of my career.

Two years ago, I applied for a NYFA boot camp, and was not initially chosen. I sent a note, reiterating my interest and asking that I be added to a waiting list. When one candidate withdrew, I was invited to attend what turned out to be a dynamic program.

The other thing I realized is the benefits I derived simply by applying. It helped me organize my thoughts around what my needs really are (to think more like a success-oriented entrepreneur). In submitting  my application, I am already one step closer to landing my initiatives.

Thanks, Seth Godin.

P.S. If you are interested in applying to Seth’s Agenda Session, the deadline is around June 4. I advise you to get your submission in sooner rather than later, because there will be a lot of demand for this program, and the deadline may move up, depending on the number of applications.

 

If you like this post, you may also want to read “Why I Love Seth Godin.”