Monica J. Griffith

Guiding Light Coaching

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Today is the end of Volunteer Week.

I’ll share a bit of history in the origins for this week of recognition.

In Canada, National Volunteer Week was first conceived in 1943 as a way to celebrate the contribution made by women on the home front to the war effort. After World War II ended, National Volunteer Week declined in popularity until the 1960s when it revived and eventually began gaining popularity in the United States as well.

National Volunteer Week in the United States was first established via Presidential Proclamation signed by Richard Nixon in 1974, as a way to recognize and celebrate the efforts of volunteers. Since then, the original emphasis on celebration has widened; the week has become a nationwide effort to urge people to get out and volunteer in their communities. Every April, charities and communities reinforce the week’s official theme (“Celebrating People in Action”) by recognizing volunteers and fostering a culture of service.

Why bring this topic to the Coach’s Corner? Today is my Volunteer Day. Each Friday, I offer my coaching services to Veterans and the Military families who have so courageously put themselves in harm’s way. I am not sharing this for any self-recognition or praise, rather to acknowledge the many volunteers in our midst who quietly go about the matters of doing for others.

For some, it is a payback for benefits they may have received. They may be grateful for a previous hand-out or gift or support. In essence, they are returning the favor to others in gratitude or appreciation for support they received in a time of need.

For others, it is a pay-it-forward. Perhaps they have lived a very blessed life and have not noticed the volunteers who supported them. Or, they may not know from whom they received assistance; nevertheless, they want to give time and talent so that others may prosper.

Regardless of the reason or circumstance, we are a ‘community’ of souls – each reliant on others. I see a volunteer as one who chooses or willingly expresses to undertake a service to the benefit of others without the expectation of compensation. Where would we be without the millions of volunteers who contribute to each and every one of us?

Take a moment today. Look around. Who has contributed, crossed your path, made a difference for you today? Who has made a difference just because they are giving – just because they are willing and they can? Do you see them? Would you say: Thank you, to these generous souls.

Perspective.

It really is all about one’s perspective.

What do you see in this picture – – a weed to be mowed or killed with a good shot of Round-up? Something that gets in your way of having a beautiful lawn or garden? A pesky annoyance? Has it been there for so very long that you no longer even notice that once yellow burst of color has now lost its glow and has become a white fluff of the stuff that begs you search out the allergy medicine?

Or – do you see the possibilities of a wish coming true? That long ago story told by a loving grandparent or parent or even an older sibling. The story I know is when you close your eyes and think really, really hard about something, you see in it your dreams and in your imagination. Were you told: if you bend over and very gently pick this delicate white mass of airy wisps’, close your eyes, dream, wish and blow that your wish will come true? You do this and open your eyes to see your wish floating with the breeze and you patiently wait for your wish to be fulfilled.

I recently learned that the dandelion is the only flower that represents the 3 celestial bodies – the sun, moon and stars. The yellow flower resembles the sun, the puff ball appears like the moon and the dispersing seeds represent the stars. I also learned the dandelion flower opens to greet the morning sun and closes in the evening to sleep. This knowledge heightens my excitement of my wish reaching the desire of my wish. Just breathe in the idea that this tiny flower/weed has such enormous symbolism.

Back to perspective.

How different is my frame of reference on this tiny flower/weed when I see it as the sun, moon and stars? I think of the morning sun as it gently awakens this yellow burst of petals and in the evening as the sun dips and the moon rises how those tiny golden blades slowly close for a snuggly rest. And after only a few days of sun and rest, this tiny flower/weed closes tightly, the canary color fades as seeds are produced. The now matured flower stalk boldly rises several inches – raises its now fluffy seed head to catch the next breeze and begin once again.

Ok, Coach! Just what in the world does this ‘perspective’ story have to do with me?

Hmmm…Take a look around. Are there ‘weeds’ in your world’s garden or lawn? People or processes or tasks or thoughts, etc., that, in your experience/perspective, are weeds? Perhaps you see these as something to be dug up, rooted out or hit with super-strength Round-up. And, perhaps this is correct!

However, what if you take a fresh look – from another perspective! Is it possible that these people, processes, tasks or thoughts are dandelions that need only to be experienced as the sun, the moon and the stars?

What about you? Would you take another look – not as the gardener, but as the plant? What if you are the dandelion! Are you willing to allow the morning sun gently awaken your yellow burst of viewpoint and experience the moon slowly close your mind for a snuggly rest? And what will it be like to give permission to boldly rise as your newly developed mindset catches the next breeze and begins anew?

Think about it…close your eyes, and think really, really hard about it; see in it your dreams; experience it in your imagination. What if you breathe deeply then very gently pick this delicate white mass of airy wisps’ – your ideas, your goals, your thoughts – and breathe life into them? Now, open your eyes. See what you are doing – how you are being. Follow those seeds and begin to plant your new garden.

Ever wonder why good things aren’t coming to you? I mean, you are a good person; you live a worthy life; you are kind and nice to others. Why is it that it seems things are not ‘going your way’?

Are you doing what you have always done? Like Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, are you waiting on a log, quietly watching the world and wondering why you cannot capture and savor the honey?

I was like Winnie and Piglet. I would sit in my office, writing my articles, reading books from famous people, watching other’s success. I held good thoughts and had brilliant ideas of what would inspire others. I studied all the newest fads and signed up for various webinars. One of my favorite movie lines is from The Field of Dreams:If you build it, they will come. Well, heck! I had built my business – that is why I took all the classes, I passed all the tests, I printed my marketing material, I have a web-site. For goodness sake! What more did I need to do? Why didn’t they come?

I see this thought-process in my clients. They have prepared to become successful entrepreneurs or they have the education and are ready to become leaders or perhaps they are parents and wondering why they are overwhelmed and the children are not a accommodating as they ‘should be’.

Here is what I have learned.

I may be ready and waiting, but waiting is not what will get me to where I want to be! It is like taking a trip. I can have my bags packed and have done all the research on the destination. I have saved and prepared. I am so looking forward to the experience and the new things I will see and do. The problem is this – – until I get into the car or on the plane or board the ship…I’m going nowhere! All the planning and saving and preparing will be for naught if I don’t get up and go! And sometimes, that physical step and movement to them is what takes the most courage, energy and determination.

Why? Because it can be scary out there! As Pooh might say: The forest can be a scary place; I don’t know what is out there!

This is when all the ‘what if’s’ start to chatter! What if I’m not good enough? What if they don’t like me? What if I fail? What if I can’t do it? What if…

Here is a question for you – – What if you stay on the log and wait? How has that been working for you?

Sometimes, we have to take that scary step forward. Yes, we may fall; yes, we may fail; yes, we may be successful – oh my! Then what! Then, we savor the sweet taste of honey! Until we take that step, that action and until we have the courage to risk possible failure – well, until then, we can never experience success!

So, don’t be a bump (or Pooh or Piglet) on a log! Let’s do this! Here we go….

A very wise woman once told me: Just say Yes! – no matter what. She backed this up with a quote from Dag Hammarskjold: “For all that has been, Thank you. For all that is to come,Yes!” Now, Mr. Hammarskjold was a Swedish statesman: Secretary General of the United Nations 1953–61: Nobel Peace Prize 1961. So, I take his counsel quite earnestly! These quotes have both scared me and saved me. That may sound odd; nevertheless, it is true.

Think about the times you said no – or stopped short of taking that ‘leap of faith’. What if you had said yes? Would you be where you are today; would you be doing what you are doing today; what might be different if you had said ‘yes!’?

Allow me to share a story with you.

My son was about 8 years old and he came home from school one day with a grand announcement: Guess what, Mom? I said you would be our Cub Scout Leader! We need a leader and I think it would be fun to be a Cub Scout! Don’t you think it would be fun to be our Leader? They said you really don’t have to know anything – so I thought it would be a good job for you. How ’bout it, Mom? Here is the number of the lady and I told her you would do it, so you gotta call her right now and get it all set up.

Wow! How do you say no to that? Of course, he ran off to play and I had this glazed, stunned feeling that I had been ‘had’ by an 8 year old! I am not sure if I was more amazed that he ‘volunteered’ me to do something I had absolutely no idea how to do, or if it was the sheer confidence he had, or how his statement: ‘you really don’t have to know anything’ spilled from his little lips so easily! What is a mother to do?

Call ‘the lady’ and say Yes! So, I did. I mean, he was so excited – how could I not?

Later that evening, it hit me. I could be influencing the lives and well-being of not only my son, but of eight or nine other young innocents! What in the world did I say Yes to? Is it too late to back out? Would my son ever ask me to do anything that seems so important? I hate camping – do Cub Scouts camp? What about tying knots? The only knot I remember from my Girl Scout days is a square knot – and I have to repeat “right over left and under; left over right and under”. What about the flag? Don’t they do special things with the flag? All this self-limiting’ chatter. Maybe it’s not too late to call ‘the lady’ back and tell her this is a terrible mistake. A leap of faith that this will be fine is one thing – actually doing it is quite another! Look at all the reasons (excuses, justification…) I have to say no.

And now, 30 years later, I say ‘Thank you!’ What an incredible, enlightening, courageous, fulfilling and fun experience it was to lead a pack of 10 young boys in their discovery of the world of and through scouting. It was a leap of faith. Faith that surely someone would be there to guide and support me. Faith that if I did make a mistake (and there were many!) our pack would be okay and we would all learn. Faith that my son would see that Mom does know some things – or at least can figure them out! Faith that someday, this dress-rehearsal in leadership and resilience would serve me well.

I am grateful to those young boys and their parents for the wonderful lessons and experience, as I did take much of the learning with me on my life journey. The understanding of how to motivate and excite a group of people; how to share facts and information in an exciting way; how to develop awareness of differences in nature and people and beliefs; how to listen with an open and empathetic ear/heart; how to be still and to be present to what is in front of me right now.

Sometimes, all we need to do is to breathe and to say ‘Yes!’ That simple word can transport you into a journey of (and for) a lifetime.

What do you do when you are falling apart and there is no one there to save you?

This is a question that one courageous young man put out on Face Book today.

It is the middle of a cold, dark night. It seems everyone else in the world is sleeping. This young man, however, is rudely awakened by nightmares at 2:00 in the morning. There is no going back to sleep now. This isn’t the first time – and it likely will not be the last.

So where does one go after waking like this? The only people in the house are teenagers who have to sleep for school tomorrow. The dog, while disturbed when the young man awoke, is now back to sleep. The cat never stirred. He went to Face Book. Most likely, hoping someone else was awake – one of his friends, perhaps, to give words of encouragement, hope.

And friends responded in a positive and supportive way. Words of encouragement, open invitation to call, reminders of how he had been through rough times and ‘you got this’ support. Sometimes, social media is a life-line for people who do not know where to turn at their most vulnerable moments.

Where does one go – when they feel hopeless and helpless?

Reach out. Just as this young man did. Reach out to family, friends, social media, counseling, clergy… Call on the people who love and support you. Yes – they DO! Most people have been in that cold, dark place at some point in their lives. No one really wants to be there – or see others there. And if you are the one who is being called upon or who answers that call – – the words “I am here” can be that life-line!

Reach in. Breathe deep and look at what you have accomplished. I know there are wonderful things you have done. You have contributed to others (whether they acknowledged or appreciated…you did contribute). You have come through the muck and mire and you are still here, so you are a survivor! Dig deep – look, see and tell the real truth about what a contribution you are.

Reach up. I rarely talk spirituality in my messages; nevertheless, this time it is a point I want to be clear. Reach up is ‘let go; let God’. There are times in our lives (more often than we may like to admit) when we simply must let go in order to continue. When did you last take your troubles, worries, fears, concerns and yes, your nightmares and hand them over to God? Does He ‘fix’ them? Perhaps not. Does knowing they are out of your hands, out of your control and that someone else has ‘got this’ bring you at least some sense of breathing space? Of relief? Of ease?

What does reach out, reach in, reach up really do? It creates space and shifts the focus of our attention to something worth thinking about. It is getting support and acknowledging our accomplishments and our value. It is giving our worries to someone (or something) bigger than us – even for a bit of time.

Often, the night seems to bring out the worries and concerns and nightmares that we are too busy during the day to address.

There is a saying my folks often shared. While there is some disagreement as to the origin of this quote, there is a consensus that it was authored by an English theologian and historian: “It is always darkest just before the day dawneth.” – Thomas Fuller. Today, it has morphed to: It’s always darkest before the dawn.” Why do we say that? Most of us understand the encouragement these words are meant to bring. When we are going through “dark” times, it is a reminder to have faith and hope; it’s encouraging to believe that good times are right around the corner. I take this to mean that even when I feel I am in (what I think are) the most terrible of times, I can have hope. Hope can be very powerful. Hope helps us take another step to live another day with hope of a better tomorrow.

The young man, awakened at 2:00 am from a recurring nightmare.

He is not alone.

He knows to reach out, to reach in, and to reach up with faith and hope that tomorrow will be a brighter day.

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