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Issue 82

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In this issue ~~

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Keeping Your Spirits Up . . .
And Making a Difference in the World

'Tis the season to be jolly . . .

Or so the song goes.  While some of us find the holiday season to be joyous and others depressing, this has been a particularly challenging year to stay cheerful.  It was about a year ago that our world experienced the tsunami in southeast Asia.  Since then, we've experienced devastating hurricanes in southeastern United States, an earthquake in Pakistan and the loss of lives through war and terrorism. Not a pretty picture.

While many of us have volunteered or donated money or goods to assist those impacted by these terrible events, we may still feel powerless to have any significant impact.  The immensity of the problems in the world make us feel small.  From there, it's easy to fall into hopelessness and despair.

Even though most of us don't have a million dollars to donate or medical skills to offer, each one of us matters and has something we can contribute. It may seem like a drop in the bucket, but remember that the vast ocean is made up of a multitude of tiny drops. By doing what we can, and joining our efforts with those of others, we can keep our own spirits up and perhaps make more of a difference than we know.

Start by sharing your creative gifts with others to help them express their pain and lift their spirits. You might feel that creating art or music or theatre is unimportant in times of crisis, but they're more important than you can imagine. What do most people do when they're feeling down? They listen to music or look at great art or seek out meaningful or uplifting entertainment to heal their souls. I remember, several years ago, seeing footage of Afghanistan and being shocked to find out that music was banned from the country. Pay attention this week every time you hear music. Imagine a world without it. Pretty desolate.

Look for places in your own life that you can heal. It's easy to wish for peace on the other side of the globe; it's a challenge when it's in your own backyard. I know from personal experience that it's hard to feel warmly toward a neighbor who's being noisy and disrespectful of your peace.

If your boundaries are being violated in some way, rather than returning it in kind, seek out ways to resolve the conflict that respect the dignity of the other party. In my case, my other neighbors and I used the authorities in our apartment building to enforce the rules, and eventually we came to peace with the offending party. Had we treated them the way they were treating us, even if they became quieter, there would be a lingering resentment. Instead, with time and effort, we have restored peace and goodwill to our floor.

Work with your spiritual path.  Use prayer or visualization to send healing to the people and places on earth that are hurting. This may not seem like much, but even scientific experiments have proven that prayer has impact. Reading scripture or other inspirational books or listening to spiritual tapes will also lift your spirits and renew your hope.

Don't be afraid to turn off or limit your exposure to the news. The constant stream of devastating reports can be depressing. If you want to stay in touch, find one appropriate newspaper or broadcast. Trust me, if there's something you really need to know, the information will reach you. Instead, find fun programs or uplifting movies, or turn off the TV and read, listen to music or spend time with people you enjoy.

Making the world a better place is a one-on-one job.  You may not be able to directly impact the macrocosm, but you can certainly make a difference in the microcosm of your own individual world, and the effect will ripple out. You have no idea when a small, seemingly insignificant gesture can turn someone's day, or their life, around.

At a recent seminar, teacher-author Caroline Myss shared the story of a man who was planning to kill himself. As he was crossing the street that day, he made eye contact with a driver stopped at the light, and she smiled at him. Something switched inside him, and he decided to live.  This is an extreme story, but we've all had experiences where a smile has lightened our day, and the person who smiled at us probably had no idea how much it meant to us.

By keeping your own spirits up, you're adding that positive note to the collective energies of the world.  Think of yourself as a candle lighting another candle. When you make someone's day better, that person will, in turn, pass it on. Be a light to the world, and trust that it makes a difference, even if you can't see it.

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Action Challenge

What can you do this week to make a difference in someone’s life and lift your own spirits? This can be anything from taking steps toward resolving a major conflict with a family member to smiling at the grocery clerk. Push yourself to go outside your comfort zone with this.

 

Wise Words

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."

~ William James

"So many people feel powerless. They feel that they don't make a difference. But great things have been done by ordinary people who have a sense of purpose and a commitment to living out of that purpose. People can make an extraordinary difference from their knowledge and their own inclinations and interests. That is available to all of us. You, too, can make an extraordinary difference. you can live from the highest sense of purpose that you can imagine and have that show up in all aspects of your life, in your work, in your community, in your country, and in your world."

~ John Denver

"You may feel like dwelling on your limits or your fears. Don't do it... A perfect prescription for a squandered, unfulfilled life is to accommodate self-defeating feelings while undercutting your finest, most productive ones."

~ Marsha Sinetar, To Build the Life You Want, Create the Work You Love

"It's important to feel that you're expected to make a difference – and that you're qualified to do so. Innovation requires a fundamental belief that individuals are important."

~ Robert Dennard

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Bookshelf

(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)

Invisible Acts of Power: Personal Choices That Create Miracles . . . Caroline Myss

These Are the Gifts I'd Like to Give to You: A Sourcebook of Joy and Encouragement . . . Douglas Pagels

I Hope You Dance . . . Mark D. Sanders, Tia Sillers

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living . . . His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, MD

The Happiness Makeover: How to Teach Yourself to Be Happy and Enjoy Every Day . . . M. J. Ryan

Joy, No Matter What: Make 3 Simple Choices To Access Inner Joy . . . Carolyn Hobbs

Five Good Minutes: 100 Morning Practices To Help You Stay Calm & Focused All Day Long . . .  Jeffrey Brantley, M.D. and Wendy Millstine

One Makes the Difference: Inspiring Actions that Change our World . . . Julia Butterfly Hill

Nothing's Too Small to Make a Difference . . . Wanda Urbanska, Frank Levering

Make a Difference: America's Guide to Volunteering and Community Service . . . Arthur I. Blaustein

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© 2006 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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