If you find your life difficult, I have a suggestion; come join me for my son’s Basketball practice. This is no ordinary sports practice. This is a group of adults with various disabilities, including the man who shoots baskets from his wheelchair, and the young woman who shoots with her only useable arm- and she’s actually very good! There’s a young man who can’t quite follow the instruction to raise his arms higher and put some “oomph” into his shot, so his ball routinely falls halfway between the basket and the floor. Val09:8stumb

You’re wondering what kind of thing this is? It is Basketball practice for Special Olympics competition. And it is filled with good humor and just plain goodness. In Special Olympics there may be a first place and second place winner, but if 12 compete, there is also an 11th and 12th place WINNER. And there is always as I said; goodness. There are hand slaps, high fives, shouts and cheers for everyone, no matter their success or lack of success in the tasks. At the events there are volunteer huggers who stand at the finish lines and yell and cheer every athlete on, and hug every winner!

How does this relate to your life? Okay think about what you would like to accomplish in your lifetime. There is a John Lennon quote that I really admire.

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was THE key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand
the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.

Several years ago I was writing fiction, and I got stuck at the second chapter, and didn’t know how to get un-stuck. (This was after successfully completing a whole novel.) This had never happened before, perhaps because this fictional writing was based on aspects of my own life. So it seemed to me, I was lost without the direction of this work. In an attempt to rectify the situation I sat down and wrote the last chapter. Front card Oliver

At that time I was substitute teaching in public high schools, and a similar assignment, write your own obituary, was a standard one for high school students. A teenagers response would be quite different than mine, written at 50 years of age. Yet it is a reflective and introspective task that I think is worth the time and effort no matter your age.

Here’s what I believe about dreams and goals for our lives: we all need aspirations and dreams to help us on our life’s path. Sometimes we will find we need to change our goals, restructure, or just abandon something already completed or not working. That’s okay. Give yourself permission to change. Give yourself permission to be, in all life’s many permutations and aspects. Then create new paths, new shining stars to reach toward, and move on. I believe very strongly that as we watch the progression of seasonal changes, so our lives can be seen as having seasons. Change should not be optional – because without change there is stagnation. Think of a pool of water that refuses to seep away, that collects dead bugs, dripping car oil, bits of trash… Not a pretty picture. Change is/ can be/ scary, but also enlightening.

I’ll share with you another saying [by an unknown writer] that I keep in the Smile folder in my collection of sayings:

A smile can brighten the darkest day.

Think of my son and his fellow Special Olympians. A happy bunch of folks given extraordinary challenges, yet enjoying camaraderie, fellowship, belonging.  Why are some truths so simple, yet so profound?

* Cards here are from several years back. I love the sayings and visual impact.   This is my art – do not steal the images.   Thanks for respecting my talent and my wishes.

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Happy Birthday America- July 4th, 2010
The amazing book; Tattoos on the Heart, by Gregory Boyle a Jesuit priest, has left me both heart sore, and proud of this man’s work with gang members in Los Angeles for the last 20 years. What an amazing accomplishment; his work, his memory for details that made me laugh, sigh and cry, and his ongoing advocacy for people many like to avoid.
This past week brought 2 meetings with local libraries. Nato and I attended with an advocate: husband, father, brother of a woman with significant disabilities during her lifetime. He also runs a state Arc. All during the time period; from when I decided to call for the meetings to the actual BIG day- I read Father Greg’s book. Robert Frost wrote, and he quoted; “How many things have to happen to you before something occurs to you?”
And so the eye-opener for me, was realizing afterward that the array of folks around each of the tables that day, for the most part – [have] “forgotten that we belong to each other.” That’s in the book, and attributed to Mother Teresa. Oh yeah, I saw that in action!
And the last quote I’ll share is this; “The wrong idea has taken root in the world. And the idea is this: there just might be lives out there that matter less than other lives.” This by Father Greg Boyle, known to the homies and homegirls as G-dog.
WAY TO GO, Father Greg! When the first library erased the fine we owed, I said I’d just give the amount to their Friends of the Library group. I’ve changed my mind. It’s going to a group of folks who really need it. And who would be grateful to know it’s coming from someone who’s also been treated as if he matters less. Hmph, we’ll just see about that.