Have a Little Faith

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By now you’ve probably already started playing the tune of “Have a Little Faith” by John Hiatt in your head, if not humming out loud. Good.

This classic song, coupled with Mitch Albom’s book and new movie by the same title, serves as a good reminder of letting go of what we cannot control. What do I mean by this? I’m talking about putting all fears aside. Stepping out of comfort zones. Taking leaps in a new direction. And, just trusting — ourselves and others.

Too often the word “faith” gets associated with religion or belief. While I practice both of these things, I’m learning doing so is only scratching the surface of the true definition of the word. In his book Albom writes “”‘faith is about doing.  You are how you act, not just how you believe.”‘

Touché, my friend.  

Is “faith” — whatever the definition — hard to have? You better believe it. But, faith comes in many forms.

A little girl recently sat near her mother at a coffee shop and was visibly upset. Not upset in the way of throwing a child-like temper tantrum. This fit of expression seemed to have more substance than that. She sat with her mother and older brother in a small coffee shop, located inside a popular grocery store, running her tiny fingers through her unbrushed hair as if trying to avoid the topic of conversation.

The mother and her children were not ordering coffee or truffles. Instead, they bought a loaf of bread in the grocery store and were sharing the snack while waiting for the bank to open on the same side of the store.

“Mommy, is she in heaven now?” she said.

My ears perked up.

“Yes, hunny she has gone to doggy heaven,” her mother answered quietly.

My heart sank. Having been in the shoes of that little girl earlier in my life, I felt her pain. I didn’t know her dog and I didn’t know their story. But, I’m not sure I needed to. (I imagine their story is similar to this one of another little girl coping with the loss of a pet)

The clock struck nine ‘o clock in the morning. The mom and her two children stood up, pushed in their chairs and put the twist tie on the loaf of bread before starting to leave.

“Don’t forget the bread,” the boy said.

“Someone else needs it more than we do,” she said.

Faith.

As the holidays draw near, we are reminded of traditional religion and routine. But, not necessarily of traditional faith.

Following a life-changing move this summer, I will spend Christmas without my family for the first time this year. My husband will be working, and until about two weeks ago, my plan was to watch Christmas movies and listen to Kenny G’s Holiday CD with my 15 month-old daughter in our pajamas.

My daughter and I have received three invitations from families in our new city after just meeting. At first, I felt like they were offering because they felt they had to. Or, it was the “right thing to do”. But after one kind woman extended an invitation an hour after meeting her, I realized they are offering because they want to and might truly enjoy our company.

If this would have happened last year, I probably would have politely declined the offers and stayed home at the risk of feeling uncomfortable. This year, my daughter and I will spend time baking cookies to share with our new friends and celebrate Christmas in a new way. Not uncomfortable,  just different.

I challenge you to step out of your box this season and trust a complete stranger. Have a little faith.

And, watch this video. It’s sure to raise your spirits this holiday season.

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Living is Learning

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I recently sat near two business women who were exchanging insights about how to be successful in their work, which happened to be consulting. The woman appearing more experienced in this field was sharing an experience of how she once had an opportunity to speak to a group of surgeons.

While preparing her year-end presentation, she said she wanted to start by asking the intellectual, hard working group what they had learned that year. She paused for a second, and went on to say she decided to leave that question out.

“Mostly because I don’t even know how I would answer the question,” she told the younger professional. “We are always learning. Every day.”

How true.

What’s interesting about the concept of learning is that it never ends. We’re not always keen to accepting or admiting the fact we are learning, but try to be — for those teaching you. Think about it…. when you are given the opportunity to teach someone something new, it’s a nice feeling. Sometimes it becomes your turn to let someone else be the teacher while you sit back and enjoy the learning experience.

As the year 2011 is quickly coming to a close, this conversation caused me to reflect and think of the learnings I’ve had in one year. A few of those include: there are some things in life we cannot control; family is most important; never take sunshine for granted; and strangers are people, too.

What about you? If the woman asked what you have learned this year and you were in the audience, what would your answer be?

Stay curious with an open mind and you will learn even more.

Honoring Veterans Day: “Cup of Joe” History

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Thanks to a Facebook post by Caribou Coffee, I’ve learned where the phrase “cup of joe” is derived from and wanted to share.

According to KnowYourPhrase.com, here’s a little information about the origin of the famous phrase:

The popular train of thought as to where this phrase originated, is from a man named Josephus Daniels, who banned alcohol on ships in 1914. Josephus Daniels was from North Carolina, and was a newspaper editor until he was later appointed to serve as Secretary of the Navy during World War I.

The sailors drank alcohol aboard the ship, that is until Daniels completely banned it’s use. Naturally, the sailors would have to go after the next strongest drink on the list: coffee. Since Josephus Daniels banned alcohol, effecively forcing every sailor to have coffee instead, it was only fitting that they nicknamed the the drink after him.
 

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

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“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

I sat in my own cozy coffee shop (also known as a living room with a pile of clean laundry on the floor) –  remote in one hand,  cup of coffee in the other.

In an effort to relax from a long day, I took at a look at my lengthy list of DVR recordings, settling on a new airing of Oprah Winfrey’s new “Life Class”series.

For those of you who don’t watch the new Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) or haven’t been (or won’t admit to) sucked in by the big surprises and controversial topics – Oprah Winfrey has launched a new network on cable TV. The new network still hosts shows accompanied by introductions so loud they sound like a whale in the middle of the ocean (Think: “You get a car, You get a car”). 

But, the  particular show I was watching isn’t as flashy. No special guests. No live audience. No giveaways. Instead, the show is a one-hour slot, with the objective to teach life lessons to viewers. Oprah’s the teacher, we are the students.

Today’s lesson? Stepping out of the box. A little cliche, if you ask me.

Throughout the show, Oprah posed this question to viewers: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”.

My wheels starting turning….

All fears aside.
 

Worries out the door.

I started to make a list.

If I wasn’t afraid, I would:

  • Open a wine bottle with my face in front of the cork;
  • Run a second marathon…this time pushing my daughter in a stroller;
  • Eat more ice cream;
  • Sit down with a homeless person and ask them about their dreams;
  • Take my dogs for a walk – alone and in the dark;
  • Ride more elevators;
  • Write a book;
  • Swim with my eyes open and nose unplugged;
  • Wear sweatpants to work;
  • Sing in public;
  • Set up a lemonade stand;
  • Travel the world;
  • Pick up a penny that is face down;
  • Decline life insurance;
  • Change scheduled plans at a moment’s notice;
  • Try a new ethnic food every week;
  • Drive through the mountains at night; and
  • Go down a waterslide, on my back, head first.

The point is – what’s keeping us from doing these things?

What about you? What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Andy Rooney: Cheers to Writing

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Credit: Flickr, Tumbleweed

Former writer and well-known “60 Minutes” commentator, Andy Rooney, recently passed away at the age of 92. About a month before his passing, he said goodbye in the best way he knew how – by sharing his opinion on life, being famous and writing.

He complained about being famous, but said he can’t complain about his life.

While in high school, an English teacher told him he was a good writer. It was encoragement which would shape Rooney’s 70-year writing career, and impact the rest of the world at the same time.

It’s times like now, as journalism is getting a face-lift into a new era of digital communications, we need to listen to stories from those like Rooney – the charming, yet straightforward 70 and 80-something’s –  to remind us what it means to be a writer. It’s not about the latest and greatest technologies or even about how news and publications are delivered or recieved. It is, however, about going back to the basics.

As Rooney shares in his last video, he wrote for an Army newspaper during World War II called Stars and Stripes. He then went on to work for television and radio. He continues by saying some people have the voice for radio and the face for television. But, they also need someone to write what they said in a way others could understand it. One of the classic principles of writing.

So, rather than getting caught up in the daily hoopla about the latest iPad, the newest social network or the new journalism courses in colleges, let’s go back to the basics and remember what writing is all about. It’s about thumbing through content and reorganizing, rewording and writing in a way readers can best understand.

According to Rooney, writing is also about:

  • Saying what readers want to know or are thinking about;
  • Telling the truth. There aren’t many original thoughts in this world and it’s a writer’s job to articulate the truth;
  • Writing. He says “writer’s don’t retire. They will always be a writer

I, too, was encouraged by an educator (in college) to follow the path of writing and I’m thankful for that. And, I’m thankful to people like Andy Rooney, who are teachers to writers everywhere, for sharing their wisdom and for reminding us that while the way we communicate may change, the value of the written word will never go away.