Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Year's Eve Meditation


C. Coimbra photo


St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556), founder of the Society of Jesus or Jesuits, proposed a daily exercise which he called the Examen of Consciousness or the Daily Examen—a simple exercise in discernment. Rather than focusing on what went right or wrong, how you failed or succeeded throughout the day, this exercise encourages you to reflect on moments when you were aware of God—when you were present to Love—and those times when you were forgetful or distracted.

Center yourself in silence and an awareness of God’s presence. Recall the day—or, on this New Year’s Eve, the entire past year—with an open spirit. Notice the emotions, sensations, and thoughts that arise as you review recent events. Let your attention settle on one of these instances and look for God’s presence within it, whether you were aware at the time or not. Pray from this memory and within this present moment.

Release the day (or year) with gratitude and rest in God’s love.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Good News from 2016




Excerpted from a CNN news report:  The Good News from 2016


  • There's finally peace in Colombia 
  • Non-violent protests helped impeach a president in South Korea 
  • Gambia voted out a dictator 
  • The military no longer rules Myanmar 
  • Lebanon picked a leader - after 45 tries 
  • A Pope and a Russian Orthodox patriarch met for the first time in 1,000 years
  • That big ozone hole over the Antarctic is starting to heal 
  • India planted 50 million trees -- in one day! 
  • Norway banned deforestation 
  • The Paris Agreement to limit global warming is now international law


Read more good news:  http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/29/world/good-things-that-happened-2016-trnd/index.html

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Recycling Parking Meters for Charity



Cities have employed outdated parking meters to collect money for charities and other causes for many years.

A new strategy makes parking meters set up for credit and debit card-enabled meters giving donors the option to use their card to give in larger quantities.

In San Diego, the program has been successful for specific charities, including the Downtown San Diego Partnership’s Movin’ Home campaign.

Athens, GA, has been using four of its retired parking meters to collect donations for the homeless since 2003 … the existing meters gather around $400 every six months…

New Haven, Conn is among the latest to install the meters , meant to generate supplemental funds for homeless services

Denver install edthe meters in 2007. Other cities with meters include Pasadena, California; Indianapolis; Orlando, Florida and Corpus Christi, Texas.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

5 Beneficial Resolutions for the New Year



Tips for inner renewal for the New Year, a condensed version of 5 Alternatives to Making New Year’s Resolutions by Melissa Eisler for the Chopra Center

1. Schedule a Quarterly Retreat
It’s easy to get caught up in your busy schedule. Balancing work, family, friends, and other commitments can take up all of your time and energy, leaving little room for yourself. It’s time to change that. If you don’t find time for self-care, you are at risk for burnout and will slowly wear yourself down and not be able to care for others.

Every few months, take a one-day retreat or weekend workshop where you focus on YOU. Find somewhere you can go that will have minimal distraction, so your mind won’t be tempted to jump from one thing to the next. Here are a few ideas. Don’t forget to plan them ahead so they don’t become another forgotten item on the to-do list:

  • Escape into the mountains with your journal and a good book. Write down all the things you love about yourself.
  • Spend an entire day at a spa. Get one or two treatments in the morning, then enjoy the facilities for the rest of the afternoon. Reflect on your mission and purpose in life.
  • Visit a monastery or yoga center. Spend the day in prayer, meditation, and yoga to reconnect to your mind, body, and soul.

2. Identify Your People
Instead of committing to new things to do, commit to the people you want to spend time with this year. Life is too precious to spend it with people who bring you down. As much as possible, surround yourself with those who lift you up, challenge you, and support you in becoming who you want to be.

Make a list of everyone in your life who is good for you. Who brings out the best in you? Who makes you laugh? Who leaves you in a good mood? Then, narrow down that the list to the most important five to 10 people. Figure out a way to regularly connect with them throughout the year, and plan things ahead of time. Here are some ideas:

  • Monthly dinners
  • Weekly coffee dates
  • Exercising together twice a week
  • Exploring different parts of your city
  • Weekend trips to the country

3. Process the Past Year
When you only concentrate on the year ahead, you can forget what got you here in the first place. Spend some time processing all that happened this past year—the good, the bad, and everything in between. Refrain from passing judgement on things, but rather respect that they are part of your journey and have helped you build the foundation for your future.

Create spaces for reflection by:

  • Lighting a candle, sitting in a comfy chair, and writing down your thoughts in a journal.
  • Having dinner with a friend and processing your year in four-month chunks over appetizers, main course, and dessert.
  • Putting together a music playlist that represents your year, and then creating a piece of art while listening to it.
  • Reserving a time for meditation to think back over the past year. Visualize where you started and where you’ve ended up.

4. Express Gratitude
When practiced regularly, gratitude can help you maintain a fresh perspective and steer you away from daily stress. To start the new year, make a list of things in your life for which you are thankful. Sit and reflect on why you are thankful for those things—the why is something often left out of basic gratitude practices. You might begin to see a pattern for what’s important to you and what brings you joy.

Next, make a list of people for whom you are thankful. Take time to write each person a note expressing why you are thankful for them, without any expectation to hear back. This is your chance to bless their life as they start a new year.

5. Give Yourself the Year Off
Instead of trying to change yourself, find some comfort in who are you—right here and right now. It can become exhausting to constantly make changes in your life. Imagine a life where you can just sit with yourself in acceptance.

Here are some ways to practice self-acceptance:

  • Make a list of all of the things about yourself you are proud of
  • Write yourself a letter expressing why you’re worthy of love
  • Ask others to tell you what they admire in you
  • Meditate with the mantra, “I am enough.”
  • Of course there’s nothing wrong with wanting to grow and improve different aspects of yourself, but before starting that journey, learn to accept where you are in the present moment. Then see what naturally comes about when you don’t force changes to life.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Send Love, Healing on New Year's Day




January 1, 2017 at 12-noon, no matter where you are in the world. Be a part of one of the most powerful programs to help create a better future.

Send Love and Healing to a friend who is hurting or a nation whose citizens are hurting such as the people living in the Middle East to help create a more peaceful world. For anywhere there is more Love, there is more Joy and where there is Joy there is more Peace.

Joy in Motion—Taking Action. Think of ways to bring more Joy into your life and into the life of someone else and then go and make it happen. Everyday, look for ways you can bring one new Joy into your life and into the life of another. If you are with family and friends ask them to talk about the Joys and Loves in their life and how they can bring more Joy into their lives and into the lives of others. Spread the Joy! Visit more about the Global Moment of Joy and Gratitude http://www.charterforcompassion.org/global-moment-of-joy

Monday, December 26, 2016

Radio Garden. Worldwide Radio Access



Editor's Note: This is the coolest thing ever! Listen to radio broadcasting from most anywhere on the planet.

You can now listen to music from around the world. From the Pacific sounds of Radio Guam to the Siberian tunes of Radio Sabir, a new interactive 3d map allows you to listen live to thousands of radio stations across the globe.

Radio Garden features radio broadcasts from hundreds of countries around the world. Just click on a marker on this interactive map and you can tune in to local radio stations which provide live internet radio streams. Radio Garden is a great way to explore the sounds of different cultures around the world. It also provides an interesting insight into the broadcasting traditions of different countries.

As well as the thousands of live radio streams Radio Garden includes a 'History' section which features audio clips from the selected country's radio history. The map also includes a 'Jingles' sestion providing a "crash course in (global) station identification".

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Holiday Short Story: A Crystal Returns



Editor's Note: We hope you enjoy the series of short stories that the Daily Prism will feature for the next few days.  Each story shows the good in us.

Christmas Crystal
Christmas Short Story by RL Williams


“Fa-la-la-la-la … la-la-la-la,” echoes the family of four as they sing to usher in Christmas Eve on their walk home.

“Let’s sing some more,” young Joey beams.

“Ok,” Mom agrees as the four stroll down the city sidewalk.

“Dad, you start,” Joey’s sister Melissa suggests.

After a few more minutes of harmonious fun, the family approaches their small white wood frame house.

“Look,” Mom says as she points toward the house, “the front door is open.”

They cautiously walk up the steps to the partially open front door and notice the broken doorframe and busted door handle.

“Oh, no. Someone has broken into our house,” Dad concludes.

“Stay back,” Dad commands, holding out his arm as a barrier. “Go back out to the sidewalk in case someone is still in there.”

Dad proceeds slowly, pushing the front door to its fully open position.

He enters the small one-story house and quickly determines the burglars are not there.

“Honey,” he yells out, “come on in now. It’s safe.”

As the rest of the family approaches, Dad calls the police.

Mom, Melissa, and Joey walk in the front room and look at their house with dismay. Furniture and other belongings are strewn about and overturned. Drawers have been emptied on the floor.

Looking around the front room, Joey makes another sad discovery. “Our Christmas presents are gone.”

They go outside and sit on the front steps to await the police.

About an hour later, the police arrive and observe the remnants of an all-too-common burglary.

“Ma’am,” the police officer consoles, “sorry this had to happen to you guys, especially on Christmas Eve.”

“That’s OK,” Mom replies, “I guess things sometime happen for a reason. Don’t know what we are going to do to replace the Christmas presents though.”

Arms folded, Mom looks around and notices what looks like some glass on the floor.

“Oh, my goodness,” she laments on closer inspection, “my crystal heart. It’s shattered …”

She pauses as sadness envelops her spirit.

Dad approaches and consoles her. “Honey, I am so sorry.”

Her tears are impossible to keep back as she retreats to the bedroom.

Dad and the police officer look at each other.

“That crystal heart was given to her by her mother. It has been passed down from generation to generation. It was the one thing she really valued and cherished,” Dad explains.

“Sorry,” the officer empathizes, “the burglars probably knocked it over or just threw it to the ground out of meanness.”

The officer stoops down and examines the pieces of the shattered personal treasure.

“Would it be ok if I took the pieces?” he asks.

“Sure,” Dad replies, “it’s not worth anything broken.”

The officer carefully picks up the pieces of the heart and places them in a thick plastic bag.

“Well, my report is complete,” the officer notes. “We will be in touch if we find out anything.”

“Thanks,” Dad replies.

“Try and have a merry Christmas,” the officer says as he disappears into the night. Dad closes the front door and locks it the best he can, considering the damage that has been done to it.

The rest of Christmas Eve was a solemn and long several hours. The distraught foursome sat together in the front room attempting to muster some Christmas spirit but each try fell short.

“I think we should try and get some sleep,” Mom finally suggests as she gets up, kisses Melissa and Joey, and goes into the bedroom.

Soon after, Dad tucks Joey and Melissa in bed and then retreats to the bedroom to see what he can do for Mom.

“I put the kids in bed,” he sighs, acknowledging the sad reality of the evening’s events.

“This is the worst Christmas I can remember,” Mom says.

“Honey, I am so sorry about all this, and your crystal heart …” Dad pauses as he struggles to find the right words.

“And the kids too,” she comments, “what about Melissa and Joey. No presents for them.” Tears fill her eyes once again.

“I know,” Dad sighs, “I know …”

Melissa and Joey knock on the bedroom door a few minutes later.

“I can’t sleep,” Joey complains.

“Me neither,” Melissa adds, “I’m scared.”

All four huddle together. It seems like an eternity before they finally fall asleep.

The early morning hours finally pass.

“Ding-dong,” rings out, startling Mom, Dad, Melissa, and Joey into consciousness.

Dad sits up, glancing at the alarm clock that displays 9:17AM.

“Wow,” he thinks to himself, “we overslept … and on Christmas morning too.”

He jumps out of bed and puts on his robe as the doorbell rings a second time.

“Coming!” he shouts, approaching and unlocking the front door.

Opening the door, he notices a familiar face.

“Good morning and merry Christmas,” a voice proclaims. It is the police officer from the night before with a woman by his side.

“Hello,” Dad responds, “did you find out something about the burglary?”

“No, not yet,” the officer answers. “This is my wife, Veronica.”

“Hello, Veronica,” Dad replies as Mom joins them at the door.

“Won’t you come in?” Mom invites.

“Thank you,” Veronica acknowledges as they enter the front room carrying a large brown grocery bag.

Melissa and Joey have now joined everyone in the front room.

“Let me explain our visit this morning,” the officer starts.

“When I got home last night, I told Veronica about what had happened here, with the burglary, stolen presents, and your shattered crystal heart.”

The mention of the broken heart causes Mom to tear up once again.

“Well, we just couldn’t get to sleep and decided to do what we could to help out,” Veronica adds. “So, we brought some gifts for both of you and your two children.”

The officer reaches into the bag and brings out a new baseball glove that he hands to a smiling Joey.

“Wow,” Joey responds as his smile lights up his boyish face.

Veronica reaches into the bag and pulls out a large stuffed bear for Melissa.

“Thank you,” Melissa says as she hugs the bear.

After a brief pause, the officer reaches into the bag once more and takes out the remaining gifts, four small white boxes.

Veronica hands one of the small boxes to each family member.

Melissa opens her box and finds a crystal ballerina that she holds up to the light.

“Oh,” she says as she smiles, “it’s so pretty.”

Joey opens his box and takes out a small crystal sailboat. “Cool,” Joey approves.

Mom carefully opens her box and removes a beautiful crystal butterfly.

“Oh my,” she gazes in amazement, “it’s so lovely.”

Dad opens his box to reveal a small oval mirror base with four people figures mounted on it made out of crystal.

“That is incredible,” Dad comments, “such detail. A mom, a dad, and a little boy and girl … a family.”

There is a brief silence as everyone enjoys the happiness of the moment.

“It wasn’t necessary for you to go out and buy these expensive crystal gifts for us,” Mom says.

The officer interrupts, “you don’t quite understand. The four crystal gifts were made from the pieces of your broken crystal heart. My wife works with crystal and made them from the pieces.”

Mom, holding her new crystal butterfly, turns to Veronica, “it’s just incredible how you can take something shattered into so many pieces and make something so beautiful.”

Veronica smiles and replies, “within the pieces of something broken there are the seeds for something really wonderful waiting to be created.”

After a few minutes, Veronica notices the time.

“We best be going now,” she announces.

They all get up and head for the front door.

An additional thank you echoes from both Joey and Melissa.

Dad shakes Veronica’s hand, then her husband’s hand, offering yet another thank you.

“After last night, I thought this was going to be my worst Christmas,” Dad confesses. “But it has turned out to be one of the best.”

Veronica and her husband head out into the bright new Christmas day.

“Dad,” Melissa asks, “it was really neat how that lady was able to take all those broken pieces and put them back together to make these pretty gifts, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, it was,” Dad replies. “Sometimes broken things, like people, can be made better if someone is around to care.”

Melissa smiles, followed by smiles from Joey, Dad, and then Mom.


***

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays
http://www.holidayshortstory.com/holidaystory/christmascrystal/crystal1.html

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Hanukkah Story Story: Candles in the Window


Public domain photo

Editor's note:  With Chanukah to begin soon, we are sharing this special story for the season of light.

Candles in a Window
A Hanukkah Story by Nicholas Gordon

You may read or download this Chanukah story free for any personal or non-commercial purpose. https://www.poemsforfree.com/fcandl.html

As Solomon Simon lay on his deathbed in Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, he asked his only grandchild Raphael to make him one last promise.

"What's that, Grandpa?" Raphael asked, holding his grandfather's surprisingly strong right hand.

"Promise me you'll put your Hanukkah candles in the window."

"But I don't light Hanukkah candles, Grandpa."

"Then I guess you'll have to start."

Solomon squeezed his grandson's hand and smiled.

"I'm not religious," Raphael protested. "I don't believe in God."

"You don't have to believe, Raphael. You just do it. The belief comes."

"I'm not even Jewish, Grandpa."

"Please," Solomon pleaded. "Promise me. It's a little thing."

Raphael was silent, inside in turmoil. It wasn't such a little thing. He had been raised a New Age sort of Buddhist by his Chinese-American mother. His wife was an African-American Catholic, which was how they were raising their son.

He knew why his grandfather was so insistent. The old man wanted to make sure a little Judaism survived in the mix. But he was asking a lot. Especially to put the Hanukkah candles in the window. That was a public statement Raphael really didn't want to make, mainly because it wasn't true.

He was about to say, "I wish I could . . ." when he looked up and saw that his grandfather had fallen asleep. That was how he had become from the medication -- likely to fall asleep at any moment, even in mid-sentence.

Raphael thanked the God he didn't believe in and slipped out of the room without having to tell his grandfather yes or no. But when the old man fell into a coma the next day and died three days later, Raphael was not happy that he hadn't had the opportunity to answer him. While not saying no was different from saying yes, there remained a residue of obligation that Raphael would rather have done without.

Through the abbreviated period of mourning -- the funeral and burial in the morning, the four hours of shiva (down from the customary seven days) in the afternoon, Raphael said nothing to his father about his grandfather's dying request. He still hadn't decided what to do about it.

His inclination was to do nothing, but at the murky bottom of that choice something gnawed at him. It wasn't that he thought the soul of his grandfather was looking down at him -- dead was dead, as far as he was concerned. Nor was it any promise he might implicitly have made by not explicitly saying no.

Instead, it was something alive in him, perhaps a reincarnation of his grandfather (though Raphael, despite his Buddhist upbringing, did not believe in reincarnation) -- an actual desire to do it, a little factoid struggling to break free of the mud below.

When Raphael thought about his grandfather, Hanukkah candles in the window loomed large in his memories. He had been brought up in Sacramento among his mother's Chinese-American family. But since his mother, unlike his father, believed firmly in the importance of family, he had often spent Christmas vacation visiting his grandfather in the Bronx, first with his father and mother, then with his mother, then by himself.

Whenever Hanukkah had fallen close enough to Christmas, he would watch his grandfather light the candles in the kitchen, then bring the lit menorah over to the sill of the living room window, where the little flames danced and glowed in the early winter darkness.

The living room window looked out onto an air shaft, and Raphael could see other Hanukkah candles placed in windows up and down the air shaft, like friendly people waving.

He remembered a certain peace and satisfaction in his grandfather's face as he said the Hebrew prayers, a sense of something beautiful beautifully done, an enjoyment of the musical phrase drawn out and savored at the end. Somehow, he thought, that shouldn't be gone from his life now that his grandfather was gone. It would be a memory of his grandfather embedded in his life. A sort of reincarnation.

At the end of that long day of saying goodbye to his grandfather, he said goodbye to his father at the airport. He was flying back to Cleveland, his father back to San Francisco, where he lived with his sixth wife -- like all his wives, of whom Raphael's mother had been the first, a former student.

"Grandpa asked me to put my Hanukkah candles in the window," he said as they shared a drink before going off to their separate gates.

"You don't light Hanukkah candles, do you?" his father asked.

"Not at the moment."

"Are you going to do it?"

"I don't know."

His father, as always, looked right through him. "You always were a sentimentalist," he said.

"You say that as an accusation."

"Well, it is. You don't believe in that crap, not for a second, so the whole thing is a lie, not just to your family and neighbors but also to yourself. Which is what sentimentalists do. They lie."

"Sometimes you just do something for whatever reasons and the truth tags along."

"The truth never tags along," his father said decisively. "It's just there. In stone."

It felt more like Play-Doh for the first few days after Raphael arrived home in Shaker Heights, as he shaped and re-shaped it, studied it , then re-shaped it again.

One late afternoon after he and his wife Letitia had come into the kitchen after setting up Christmas decorations on their snow-covered front lawn, he broached the subject of his grandfather's last request.

"He asked you to do what?" Letitia asked with the little side-to-side motion of the head that in some African-American women signaled defiance.

"Light Hanukkah candles and put the menorah in the window."

"You didn't promise him, did you?"

"No," Raphael admitted. "He died before I could answer him."

"Well, then."

She took out a colander and began to wash some string beans.

Xavier, their nine-year-old son, came in from throwing snowballs at Harry, their mutt from the pound, who had the body of a pit bull covered by the bristle of a wire-haired terrier.

Raphael looked at his Black-Asian-Jewish child and wondered what he, Xavier, would make of all these heritages, and what he, Raphael, could do to help him.

"Your father thinking about lighting Hanukkah candles and putting them in the window," Letitia said.

"For Pop-Pop?"

"For good. Every year."

"That's nice," Xavier said. "They're pretty."

"They're Jewish," Letitia said.

"Whatever."

Xavier finished hanging up his wet ski jacket, pulled off his boots, and vanished into his room, leaving Harry shaking off the melting snow in the middle of the kitchen floor.

"This something you really want to do?" Letitia asked.

"Yes," Raphael answered.

Letitia shrugged. "People gonna wonder."

Raphael kissed her on the cheek, sure for the first time about what he wanted to do, and went upstairs to call his mother.

"O-o-o-o-o-h, how nice!" she cooed. "Channeling your grandfather!"

"Not channeling him," Raphael said. "Just remembering him."

"You'll see. You'll light the candles and believe me, you'll feel his hand guiding your arm."

"You think so."

"I know so. He'll be so happy!"

Then Raphael clicked on the computer to do some research on a subject he knew almost nothing about.

When the first night of Hanukkah arrived, the little family gathered in the kitchen. Raphael put on a yarmulka and one on Xavier, and Letitia wore a shawl over her head. Raphael struck a match, lit the Shamos candle, and began the blessings, singing them in Hebrew, blending a melody he had gotten on the Internet with what he remembered from evenings with his grandfather.

When he was finished, two candles, the Shamos and the candle for the first night, flickered on the menorah.

As he had seen his grandfather do so many times, he carried the menorah carefully over to the sill of the picture window in the living room, shading the flames with the palm of his free hand. It shone out into the suburban night, along with the Christmas decorations, for all to see.

As his mother had predicted, as he carried the menorah into the living room and placed it on the sill, he felt eerily as though his grandfather had stepped into his body , as though for a moment he was his grandfather and was watching the glow of the candles through his grandfather's approving eyes.

Raphael wished only that he had told him yes while he was still alive.

"You happy now?" Letitia asked.

"Yes," he said, watching Xavier watch the flames. He gave Xavier a Hanukkah card with a five-dollar bill in it, calculated to make Xavier ecstatic about the idea of celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah, and Letitia a card which told her how much sharing the holiday with her meant to him.

Then he stepped out of his house and walked over to the sidewalk to see the effect of the menorah from the street.

The two candles in the window overlooked a natural pine tree on the front lawn decorated with blinking colored lights. Near the pine tree three brightly lit reindeer looked on with wonder.

What his grandfather could no longer do, Raphael had taken over, blending it with the rest of his inner melange so that in his family it would not die, at least not yet.

Raphael wished that his grandfather could see it. Well, why not imagine that he could and was pleased? He crunched out into the middle of the freshly plowed street, shouted, "Yes, Grandpa! I promise!", and waved up at the cold black sky.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Short Story: A Letter for Christmas

Public Domain photo by George Hodan

Editor's Note: We hope you enjoy the series of short stories that the Daily Prism will feature for the next few days.  Each story shows the good in us.

The Christmas Letter
 Christmas Short Story by RL Williams

“Good afternoon, Miss Bumpers,” I greeted with a wave as the elderly lady made her way to the curb with an air of happy anticipation.

“Hello,” she replied, opening the creaking rusty door of an empty mailbox.

“Oh my,” Miss Bumpers said with sudden disappointment.

“Expecting something?” I asked.

“I was hoping a letter would come today. Oh well, it looks like it won’t be here for Christmas,” she sighed as she walked dejectedly back to her front door and disappeared into her small well-kept house.

“Wonder what that’s all about?” I thought, noticing another neighbor approaching on the sidewalk.

“Hi, Sandy, Merry Christmas,” I acknowledged.

“Merry Christmas to you too,” she replied.

“Hey, what’s up with Miss Bumpers?” I asked. “She seemed really down when she checked her mailbox and nothing was there.”

“Oh, you probably don’t know about her, since you just moved here a few weeks ago,” Sandy answered.

“Miss Bumpers’ husband passed away several years ago and she went into an emotional tailspin,” Sandy explained. “The person you bought your house from would send her a Christmas letter every year after that, saying some encouraging things to lift her spirits. It became a tradition she looked forward to since she has no family around here.”

“So, she’s still waiting for this year’s letter,” I surmised.

“Yes,” Sandy answered. “A few months after he moved into a nursing home, he passed away. He always typed the letter and signed it ‘A Friend’ so she never knew who it was from. I didn’t have the heart to tell her what had happened to him.”

“And there is no one to send that letter now,” I confirmed.

“Kind of sad,” Sandy frowned. “Well, I’ve got to go. It’s starting to get dark. We are having a Christmas Eve dinner and I have to get everything ready.”

“OK, Merry Christmas,” I said, turning back toward my house.

As I walked up the front steps to my Christmas adorned porch I looked over at Miss Bumpers’ house and noticed one lonely light on inside. Looking around at our outdoor Christmas decorations I was reminded of the joy and happiness of the season and how exciting Christmas was growing up as a child.

After pausing a moment I opened the front door and went inside.

“It’s getting cold out there,” I advised as I entered the family room, noticing my young son and daughter next to our lighted six-foot Christmas tree.

“Hey guys,” I smiled. “I’ve got a fun project for us. You want to help?”

“Sure,” Rebecca affirmed.

“Me too,” Charlie agreed.

“Let’s see, how am I going to do this?” I thought to myself.

“We need some paper, scissors, an envelope and that old typewriter out in the garage,” I said, as we went to gather the necessary items.

“Here’s what we are going to do,” I explained. “Since Christmas is about giving, we are going to write a Christmas letter to give to Miss Bumpers next door.”

“What do we want to say?” I asked Charlie and Sandy as I put a sheet of paper in the typewriter, hoping a flash or brilliance would show itself.

We all looked at each other.

“How about Merry Christmas?” Charlie broke the silence.

“And let’s tell her we hope her Christmas wishes come true,” Rebecca adds.

“OK,” I agreed as I pecked away at the old typewriter keys, thankful that the aging machine still worked and relieved that the old ribbon yielded letters that were halfway readable.

For the next half hour, the three of us composed a masterpiece, or at least the best we could do given the self-imposed deadline and our abilities to convey encouraging thoughts and ideas.

“Now we will sign it ‘A Friend’,” I commented as I finished my typing.

We sealed the letter in an envelope that I had typed her address on. We pasted an old used stamp in the corner.

“Done. What do you think?” I asked Charlie and Sandy as I held up the finished project.

“I like our letter,” Charlie offered.

“Me too, I think it is a good letter,” Sandy agreed.

“Let’s take the letter next door,” I said before the three of us headed out the front door.

We arrived at Miss Bumpers’ front door and Charlie reached up to ring the doorbell.

A few moments later the porch light turned on and she answered the door.

“Good evening, Miss Bumpers,” I said with a smile.

“Hello,” she said in a tired voice.

“It looks like we have a letter that was supposed to be for you,” I offered as I handed her the envelope.

“Oh my goodness,” she said with an immediate excitement and smile.

“Thank you. I was wondering what had happened to this letter,” a grateful Miss Bumpers commented.

“Knowing that someone cares means the world to me,” she said as she wiped away a tear.

“Well, Miss Bumpers,” I added, “I’m sure more people care than you know. Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas to you and your family too,” she replied as a new found happy spirit emerged.

We turned and headed home, all three of us with energized smiles.

“Wow, she really seemed to like our Christmas letter,” Charlie observed.

“Funny how something like a simple little letter can make her so happy,” Rebecca added.

“Yes,” I agreed as I thought for a moment. “Sometimes it’s the small things that can make all of us happy.”


***

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays
http://www.holidayshortstory.com/holidaystory/christmasletter/letter1.html

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter Solstice Story: A Chippewa Tale of Winter



Editor's Note: We hope you enjoy the series of short stories that the Daily Prism will feature for the next few days.  Each story shows the good in us.


Every winter, the birds fly south. One winter, a hell-diver (also called a grebe) told all of the other birds that he would stay for the winter to take care of two of his friends who had been injured and couldn't fly south. Both of his friends, a whooping crane and mallard duck, had broken wings. To feed them, he got fish by diving through a hole in the ice. But the Spirit of Winter got jealous of his success at fishing and froze the water after the hell-diver had dived through his hole below the ice. But the hell-diver swam to shore where there were a lot of reeds and bulrushes. He pulled one of them down through the ice with his bill to make a hole in the ice and so he got out and flew home.

When he got home, he saw that someone was peeking in the door of his wigwam. It was the Spirit of Winter, who did not like him and who was trying to freeze him out. The hell-diver got a big fire going, but it was still cold in the wigwam because the Spirit of Winter was right there making it cold. But the hell-diver tricked the Spirit of Winter by mopping his face with a handkerchief and saying, "Gee, but it's hot in here!" The Spirit of Winter thought the fire was hot enough to melt him, so he ran away.

One day the hell-diver decided to have a feast. He got some wild rice and sent a duck to invite the Spirit of Winter, but it was so cold that the duck froze to death before he got there. Then he sent Partridge with the invitation. She got very cold too, but she dove under the snow to warm up and then went on again. She reached the Spirit of Winter and invited him to the hell-diver's feast.

When the Spirit of Winter came to the feast, it was like a blizzard coming in the door of the wigwam. He had icicles on his nose and face. Hell-diver built the fire higher and higher, and it began to get warm inside the wigwam. The icicles began to melt on the Spirit of Winter's face. He was getting awfully warm, but he liked the wild rice that hell-diver had at his feast and wanted to keep eating.

Hell-diver said, "Whew! It's very warm in here. It must be spring already." The Spirit of Winter got scared and grabbed his blanket and ran out of the wigwam. With his fire, Hell-diver had brought the spring and outside, things were already melting and there were just patches of snow here and there. The Spirit of Winter had a hard time getting back to his home in the north, where there is always snow.

(Adapted from Victor Barnouw, 1977, Wisconsin Chippewa Myths and Tales and Their Relation to Chippewa Life, Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Short Story Time: Christmas to the Rescue

Public Doman photo by Linnaea Mallette

Editor's Note: We hope you enjoy the series of short stories that the Daily Prism will feature for the next few days.  Each story shows the good in us.

Christmas to the Rescue
 Christmas Short Story by RL Williams


“Snow, cold, wind, and I am stuck in this train station on Christmas Eve afternoon,” Andy mumbled, looking around the sparsely populated terminal.

“What a way to spend a holiday,” he lamented.

“Attention!” the loudspeaker echoed. “The Silver Streak Express is now arriving. The train’s departure will be delayed due to snow and deteriorating weather conditions.”

“Oh great, I might not get home for Christmas,” Andy said as he got up from the uncomfortable bench seat and walked toward the ticket counter.

After confirming the delay and getting no estimated departure time, Andy returned to his seat and positioned himself between two new weather refugees.

“Stuck here too?” he asked one lady sitting close-by.

“Yes,” she replied, “and it's snowing outside. I’m visiting from Florida and this much snow is exciting.”

“I’m from Chicago so I’m not that thrilled about it,” he explained. “Besides, it might mean we spend Christmas in this train station.”

“Attention!” the loudspeaker blurted again. “No further trains will be arriving or departing this afternoon or evening due to bad weather.”

“Well, that’s it. We’re stranded,” Andy sighed as he rose and walked over to a window.

He noticed the snow was falling at a heavier rate. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a small brown haired animal moving down the whitened sidewalk in a haphazard pattern.

A woman approached, sweeping the floor.

“That looks like a dog out there,” he pointed out the window.

“Yes, that’s Nosee,” the woman responded. “He’s been hanging around here the past week or so. I try to feed him when I can. Oh, and he’s going blind. I call him No - see.”

“Poor little fella,” Andy empathized.

“I heard his owner dumped him,” the lady said. “Maybe they didn’t want a blind or sick dog. It happens you know. Wish I could take him home but I can’t afford it right now. If I take him to the city shelter, he would be put to sleep.”

“It will be getting dark soon and colder too,” Andy noted before returning to his seat.

A few minutes passed and Andy grew increasingly anxious thinking about the plight of the dog.

“I think I will see if I can bring him in here, maybe get him some water and something to eat,” Andy thought, seeking to ease his concern.

He put on his coat and ventured outside in search of Nosee.

“He couldn’t have gone far, he can’t see very well,” Andy recounted, looking high and low for any clue to Nosee’s whereabouts.

“Looks like some tracks in the snow lead over there,” Andy followed into an alley.

“Here boy,” Andy yelled. “Here Nosee …”

Not a sound was heard in response.

Andy turned and walked back toward the street. Looking back one last time, he noticed an old cardboard box on its side in the back corner of the alley.

He hesitated and then decided to walk back and check the box.

Andy stooped down and noticed a familiar little brown haired creature. It was Nosee huddled in the box surrounded by trash.

“Hey Nosee,” Andy offered.

The little dog’s head looked up slowly in Andy’s direction seeming to stare right through him.

“Hi boy,” Andy said as he reached out to cautiously pet Nosee.

Andy noticed the odd looking grey clouded opaque eyes, an indication that Nosee was indeed going blind.

“Let’s get you inside where it’s warm,” he said, scooping up Nosee in his arms.

Drained of energy, the animal did not resist.

After a short walk back into the train station, Andy took off his coat and set the dog down on the bench seat using his coat as a makeshift dog bed.

Andy approached the ticket window and asked if they had a bowl he could use for some water for his new found friend.

“Well, we don’t allow pets in here,” the station clerk said.

“Look, it’s Christmas Eve, and I can’t let the poor animal starve or freeze to death outside,” Andy replied.

“Hmmm,” the clerk thought a moment. “I didn’t see any dog in here. Dog? What dog?”

Both Andy and the clerk smiled.

“See the lady over there about a bowl and water,” the clerk added, pointing to the lady Andy had met earlier sweeping by the window.

Andy and the lady procured a water bowl and a few scraps of roast beef from a lunch box sandwich she had.

After a few sips of water, Nosee scarfed down the roast beef as if he had not eaten for a week.

“Feel better boy?” Andy asked, patting Nosee on the head.

Nosee looked up with a slight whimper. His attempt at a puppy dog smile said it all.

Andy sat there with Nosee in his lap on his folded coat as the evening hours passed.

The terminal grew silent and they both fell asleep.

“Attention!” the loudspeaker blared out for the first time in hours, waking Andy. “The Silver Streak Express will be departing shortly from Gate 2. All passengers please report there.”

The crossroad Andy had been dreading was finally here.

“What to do with you?” he questioned, looking at Nosee.

Nosee looked at Andy with an expression that seemed to say “thank you” yet also “good-bye” as if expecting to be abandoned again.

Andy stood up holding Nosee and strolled in the direction of Gate 2. The station clerk was ahead doubling as ticket checker.

“Well, we don’t allow pets on our trains,” the clerk informed in a deja-vu experience.

“It’s Christmas …” Andy stated before being interrupted.

“I don’t see any dogs here,” the ticket checker smiled, pointing the way to the train.

Andy returned the smile and walked down the corridor, dog in arms, knowing he did the right thing.

Nosee was exhibiting a doggie smile too, panting with tongue hanging out.

Moments before Andy stepped on the train, a familiar sound echoed.

“Attention!” the loudspeaker bellowed, “Merry Christmas … and good luck Nosee.”


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays
http://www.holidayshortstory.com

Monday, December 19, 2016

Short Story for Christmas: Special Home for Special Puppy

Public Domain photo by George Hodan

Editor's Note: We hope you enjoy the series of short stories that the Daily Prism has featured for the last few days.  Each story showed the good in us.

Snowflake
Christmas Short Story by RL Williams


Ten-year-old Becky stood in front of the pet store, looking through the large window at the puppies and kittens. She smiled and giggled at the well-groomed animals excited by her attention.

“I wonder how much one of these costs?” she thought, putting her hands in her coat pockets on this cold day before Christmas.

Becky walked in and gazed at the selection of adorable kittens and puppies.

“May I help you?” an approaching lady inquired.

“I’m looking for a present for my sister, maybe a kitten or a puppy. How much are these?” Becky asked, pointing to a row of caged puppies.

“We have some for forty-five dollars on up to several hundred dollars,” the saleslady replied.

“I only have nine dollars and some cents,” she said sadly.

“Well, I’m sorry. We don’t have anything that inexpensive.”

“OK,” Becky said as she looked around the small store.

The lady left to help another customer.

Becky wandered towards the back of the store. Her eyes were caught by a lone cage in a corner that housed a small frail white puppy.

“Hi little doggie,” Becky said to the almost lifeless animal.

The puppy strained to lift its head, acknowledging Becky’s presence. One ear rose up slightly and its frowning eyes opened halfway.

“Come here boy,” she prompted the puppy. It tried to get up, but immediately fell back.

“What’s wrong with you? Are you OK?” Becky asked.

The saleslady noticed Becky in the back corner and approached.

“How much is this puppy?” Becky asked.

“Oh, you don’t want that one,” the saleslady sighed. “He’s got a bad leg and can’t walk. He wouldn’t make a good pet.”

“But if I wanted to buy him, how much?” Becky asked.

“No honey, he’s not for sale. Save your money or get your parents to come back with you and buy one of those nice puppies up front on display. Now run along dear,” the lady snapped.

“My sister would like that puppy,” she said as the saleslady hurried away.

“Bye bye,” Becky said to the puppy. She left the store and headed home, saddened by her empathy for the frail little dog.

Becky’s mom was busy preparing food for tomorrow, Christmas Day. “Becky, why don’t you go watch TV or play. Your sister won’t be home until four-thirty this afternoon, so you’ll have to keep yourself occupied.”

“OK,” she responded. She went into the family room and turned on the TV.

She couldn’t help but think about the lonesome puppy. The more she thought about it, the sadder she became. “I wish I could do something to get that puppy, but I guess there’s nothing I can do,” she conceded.

Moments later, she noticed a man and woman on TV talking about ‘getting what you want out of life.’ She turned up the volume and listened.

“Well, Andy, why is it that most people can’t seem to reach their goals or get what they want out of life?” the lady on TV asked.

“Interesting question,” the man replied, “and the answer is primarily because they don’t believe they can achieve what they want to. And those that think they can don’t follow-through on their ideas and decisions with action. One of the most important things that can make success happen is taking action.”

The lady replied, “that sounds so simple.”

“It is,” he agreed, “and most people have a good idea of what they should do, but they don’t take action and they give up. If it’s important, you will find the time, you will find a way, you will not give up. When you do this you realize your own power.”

The lady smiled and asked her guest, “OK, Andy, I have something that’s important to me that I feel I must do. What do I do to make it happen?”

He smiled and answered, “you have got to believe with certainty that it will happen. You have to ask yourself the question ‘what will it take to make this happen?’ And then you have to take action and be committed to making that important dream happen. Be persistent and don’t give up!”

Becky excitedly hopped up from her chair. She knew what she had to do. She put on her coat and headed out the door. “I’m going to the pet store Mom.”

“Be careful, and don’t be too long,” her mom admonished.

The pet store was busy with Christmas shoppers making last minute purchases. Becky entered the store and headed straight to the back corner where her new friend was caged.

“Hi boy,” she said happily. “I’m going to get you out of here, and take you home with me.”

The little puppy responded with more enthusiasm, sensing an air of excitement in Becky’s voice.

The same saleslady from Becky’s prior visit approached. “Back again huh. I thought I told you before that this one’s not for sale and …”

Becky interrupted, “uh, excuse me ma’am, but,” she hesitated and, regaining her confidence, said politely but sternly in a raised voice, “what would it take to be able to take this puppy home with me today?”

Somewhat dismayed by Becky’s unexpectedly direct question, the saleslady paused and thought a moment.

“I’m sorry. This one’s not for sale,” the saleslady replied. “Now go along home.”

Undaunted by the rebuff, Becky turned and approached a second lady who she assumed worked there. “Excuse me ma’am, but I would like to know what it would take to buy that puppy?” she asked, pointing to the lonesome cage in the corner.

This saleslady replied, “I don’t think that one’s for sale. We have some very nice puppies out front …”

Becky interrupted, “but I want that one in the corner. What would it take to get that puppy?”

The saleslady paused a moment and said, “you don’t want that one. It has a bad leg and can’t run and jump. And it can’t …”

Becky politely but unwaveringly interrupted again, “that doesn’t matter to me. I know my sister would love that puppy. What would it take to buy that puppy TODAY?”

“I’m sorry, but we’re busy and I need to help some other people,” the saleslady said, brushing her off.

The vision of the man on TV saying don’t give up replayed again in Becky’s mind. She looked around for another employee, and spotted a third person, an older man, coming out of a storeroom.

“Excuse me, sir,” Becky waved, “I have a very important question about one of your pets.” The man came over and asked Becky what she wanted.

“I want that puppy over there, the one all by itself. What would it take to get that puppy now? I want it for a Christmas present for my sister.”

“Oh,” the man said, “that little puppy has a bad leg and he wouldn’t make a very nice pet. I’m very sorry. He’s not for sale.”

Her enthusiasm dampened a bit, but she remembered the passionate TV spiel about not giving up and looking for a way to make this dream a reality. “What can I do to make this happen?” she asked herself. She walked around the store asking herself this question over and over … finally she had an idea.

She headed out and asked the man, “how late are you open tonight?”

“Until six-o’clock,” he replied.

It was now four-thirty. She knew she had to hurry.

The air grew colder as the afternoon waned.

The pet store clock now read quarter-to-six. The hectic day was coming to an end, and the three pet store employees were breathing a sigh of relief. One saleslady looked around the store at the many empty cages, empty due to their occupants finding new homes for Christmas.

The front door opened. Becky hurried in brimming with confidence and proclaimed, “I’m here to buy that little puppy in the back.”

“Like we told you before, you don’t want that one,” the saleslady responded.

Becky’s mom entered pushing her sister’s wheelchair.

“That puppy back there would make a great present for my sister,” Becky said, leading her sister to the lone cage in the corner.

All three salespeople converged on Becky, her sister, and her mom.

The older man tried again to explain, “I’m really sorry, but this little puppy is not for sale. He has a bad leg, he can’t walk, he can’t jump, he can’t play …” the man paused, looking at Becky’s wheelchair-bound sister. He stood there, first confused and then awakened by the reality that confronted him.

Becky’s sister looked at the small frail puppy and said, “I would love to have this one because I know how it feels to have legs that don’t work right. I’ll name him Snowflake because he is a special one-of-a-kind present. I understand Snowflake.”

Everyone stood around looking at each other, everyone knowing that all involved had just received a Christmas gift in the form of a very important lesson about life.


***

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays
http://www.holidayshortstory.com/holidaystory/homeholidays/homeholidays1.html

Thursday, December 15, 2016

3 Ways to Help Generosity in Children



Editor's Note:  The following is an edited version of "How to Help Kids Learn to Love Giving" from Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.  Click the above link for the complete essay.

Children enjoy holiday giving


During the holidays, opportunities abound to help kids understand why and how to help people in need, with food drives proliferating and countless organizations making pitches for end-of-year donations.

And there’s scientific evidence that kids should be receptive to those messages: Research suggests that they have a deeply rooted instinct to share and to help others, from the time they’re very young—one study even found that toddlers enjoy giving to others more than they like getting treats for themselves. Kids, it seems, have a strong, natural drive to be kind and generous.

1. Be a role model—and explain why you do what you do

Research stretching back decades has found that kids are more likely to be kind and generous when they have at least one parent who models that behavior for them. But more recently, research by Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm of Indiana University has underscored that it’s also important for parents to have conversations with their kids about generosity.

2. Help them understand the need

For kids to feel compelled to help others, first they have to recognize that their help is actually needed.

Here parents can tap into kids’ strong—perhaps innate—propensity for empathy, which enables them to pick up on the emotions and needs of others. Studies suggest that kids are more likely to help people in need when they try to see the world through their eyes or identify things they have in common. A personal, human connection to someone makes that person’s needs feel more real, harder to ignore, and thus motivates us to alleviate his or her suffering.

3. Help them see the impact

A significant finding from research among adults is that they’ll derive greater happiness from their generosity—and thus be more motivated to give again—if they’re able to see the impact it has on others.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Multicultural Books for School Library



The beauty and diversity of Los Angeles can be found right in the heart of the city at City Language Immersion Charter School. This charter school embraces the multitude of cultures represented in Los Angeles and ensures that the school’s curriculum embraces and highlights the unique heritage of each culture by equally giving a voice to everyone’s culture and heritage through Literature.

The Parent Volunteer Committee of City Language Immersion Charter School has decided to organize a project where they bring multicultural books and educational curriculum and resources into the school. This volunteer group plan to purchase the “LEAD CHARACTER CULTURAL DIVERSITY” Book Collection. The books in this collection represent the following: African American/Black, Latino/Hispanic American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American/American Indian, Caucasian/White, World Cultures, and Culturally Encompassing books in addition to a wide variety of multicultural educational curriculum and learning resources.

This book would allow students to not only enhance their reading comprehension skills but deepen the students’ appreciation for cultural diversity and empathy and respect for others.By developing a library that houses books representing various cultures, the students can broaden their worldview and appreciate the beauty of cultural diversity.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Notes from a Compassion Workshop for "Trying Circumstances"


Editor's note:  A recent webinar "Compassionate Practices in Trying Circumstances" was offered by the nonprofit Charter for Compassion with author Jennifer Wilhoit.  The following are notes from the webinar shared with participants. The Daily Prism highlighted parts of the notes for ease of reading.

For the writing prompts, allow yourself 3 minutes to write your thoughts as they come to you.

Opening quote by Karen Armstrong: “Compassion is not an option. It's the key to our survival.”

Jennifer Wilhoit:

In trying circumstances, I have identified a threefold pattern for moving through it, back to well-being and wholeness...


  • Acknowledging Grief – what we fear, what we fear we’ll lose, what we’ve already lost
  • Embracing Compassion – for ourselves, for others
  • Being a Kind Action Practitioner – on behalf of others

The following are a writing practice and a nature-oriented practice for each of the areas: grief, compassion, kind action.

GRIEF

Writing Prompt: What have you lost? Or, What are you afraid of losing? And how does that feel?

* We let the non-judgmental page hold our honest, sometimes complex or conflicted feelings and experiences of life.

** This is a way to work with grief.

 Nature Mini Prompt: Take a minute to consider what type of area in nature feels good to you. Where outside do you feel nurtured when you feel afraid or sad?

Translate this to actual outdoor/nature practice: “Being Held By Nature”:


  • Identify a safe, comfortable, private, easily-accessible outdoor space.
  • Go and rest there (sit, walk, lie down) on a regular basis.
  • Notice what remains the same. Notice what changes from visit to visit.


* We let nature hold us during hard times.

** This is another soothing way to move through grief.

COMPASSION

Writing Prompt: What things do you do to take really good care of others who are hurting? [list them.] Which of the things you listed are you willing to do for yourself? Who can you ask to help hold your difficult feelings? Are you willing to ask for help?

* When we recognize that we instinctively know how to nurture others, we can remember that we need to care for ourselves.

** This is a way to nurture compassion for ourselves.

Nature Mini Prompt: Demo with an image of a tree in the foreground by a lake with clouds and mountains in background...Here’s what I see in this nature image... What in this image do you connect with? What item – plant, animal who might inhabit this place – do you feel interested in? How are you different from this tree, water body? Appreciate this nature being that looks so different from you. Carrying this feeling of appreciation into your experiences with other humans, with whom can you imagine sitting in appreciation who might appear or behave or believe very different(ly) from you?

Translate this to actual outdoor/nature practice: “Commonalities With Nature”:

In nature, focus on what is different from you – for example, a tree.

  • Looking at the tree (or plant, animal, landscape), think about everything you have in common with it. Consider shape, size, color, texture, the need for air, how it moves or is still.
  • Appreciate this sameness with “other.”

* When we can find our sameness with a nonhuman being, it reminds us that we also have the potential to find common ground with other human beings.

** This is a way to nurture compassion for others.

KIND ACTION

Writing Prompt: How can you actually begin to act more kindly in and toward the world? Create as long a list as you can right now.

* When we recognize that we already have ideas for how to be kind, we are closer to actually generating more kindness in the world.

Nature, Mini Prompt: Photo of nature altar in downtown Seattle

Translate this to actual outdoor/nature: “Giving To Nature” (Make a nature altar.):

  • In an outdoor space, look at what covers the ground.
  • Find some objects (stones, fallen leaves, shells, seeds...or use the sand/dirt that IS the ground.).
  • Place the objects you find in a circle, or some other pleasing shape. If you’re in a very barren area (i.e. - desert), you can draw a circle in the dirt or sand. If you’re in a place that has been littered, you can use that trash as part of your altar design.

* When we offer beauty “for no reason” and with no expectation of “thank you” – we have moved into kind action.

** This is a way to spread goodness during troubling times.
____

Invitation to Action: How will you commit to one or more of these practices? Which one(s)? How often? Please write a short intention that expresses this commitment.

Closing quote by Ann Zwinger: “Dryness promotes the formation of flower buds...flowering is, after all, not an aesthetic contribution, but a survival mechanism.”

May you use this trying time to bloom into compassionate, peaceful action.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Celebrate Your Individualism This Holiday


Holidays (holy days) are a part of most every culture that we know.  It's a likely safe assumption, that stress comes to many as we celebrate our respective beliefs.  Paula Prober, a psychotherapist in private practice reposted on her blog, "Fifteen Reminders to Help you Make it Through the "Holidaze."  Click the link to read the entire 15 reminders. Meanwhile, in Prober's words:

You’re not too intense if you can’t totally enjoy the holiday because people around the globe are suffering, the ice caps are melting and you’re distracted by your need to find and manifest your purpose on the planet.

You’re not too idealistic if you believe that it’s still possible for a transformation to occur where the peoples of the world embrace compassion over fear.

Friday, December 9, 2016

7 Days of Peace Meditations

C. Coimbra photo


1. Sunday: Being for Peace

Today take five minutes to meditate for peace. Put your attention on your heart and inwardly repeat these four words: peace, harmony, laughter, and love.


2. Monday: Thinking for Peace

Today introduce the intention of peace in your thoughts. Take a few moments of silence, then repeat this prayer: “Let all beings be happy, loved, and peaceful. Let the whole world experience these things.”

3. Tuesday: Feeling for Peace

Today is the day to experience the emotions of peace. The emotions of peace are compassion, understanding, and love.

4.  Wednesday: Speaking for Peace

Today, the purpose of speaking is to create happiness in the listener. Have this intention: Today every word I utter will be chosen consciously. I will refrain from complaints, condemnation, and criticism.

5. Thursday: Acting for Peace

Today is the day to help someone in need. Help can take many forms. Tell yourself: “Today I will offer help without asking for gratitude or recognition.”

6.  Friday: Creating for Peace

Today, come up with at least one creative idea to resolve a conflict, either in your personal life or your family circle or among friends. Intend to create trust and eliminate hidden hostility and suspicion – the two great enemies of peace.

7.  Saturday: Sharing for Peace

Today, share your practice of peacemaking with two people. As more of us participate in this sharing, our practice will expand into a critical mass, reaching many instead of a few.

As you continue to embrace the love and serenity that is your true nature, you step into your full potential as a change agent for the entire world.
---from the Chopra Center and written by Deepak Chopra, M.D.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Free Compassion Webinar, 12/8/16



Dec 8, 2016 9:00 AM in (GMT-8:00) Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Many of us around the globe feel that we are at an uncomfortable and paralyzing turning point. This video call is being offered to people who want to move through the day, the world, and these changes, with compassion and in peace.

In this call, you will have an opportunity to explore some simple writing- and nature-based practices that can support us in these trying times. What is a “practice”? How can writing or the natural world help us? What do grief, compassion, and peaceful action have in common?


We will address these questions through guided activities you can use as ongoing tools for

1) coping with grief,
2) fostering compassion for yourself and others, and
3) behaving more kindly, peaceably, and compassionately even in the face of challenges.

At the end of the call, you will have an opportunity to ask questions about the practices or process we’ve covered. You will leave the call with tangible tools you can use any time grief, non-compassionate thoughts, or aggressive action feel like the only possible reactions to what is happening around us. We ask you to bring to the call ample writing paper and pens for this experiential, hands-on offering. You will receive the most from the call if you are able to join using your computer’s video; visual images will be part of the presentation. However, we welcome you even if you are not able to join with a video connection.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Syrian "White Helmets" Pledge 'Humanity, Solidarity, Impartiality'

White Helmet photo


When the bombs rain down, the Syrian Civil Defence rushes in. In a place where public services no longer function these unarmed volunteers risk their lives to help anyone in need - regardless of their religion or politics. Known as the White Helmets these volunteer rescue workers operate in the most dangerous place on earth.

As the conflict in Syria worsens, ordinary people are paying the highest price. More than 50 bombs and mortars a day land on some neighbourhoods in Syria. Many are rusty barrels filled with nails and explosives, rolled out the back of government helicopters -- bakeries and markets are the most commonly hit targets. When this happens the White Helmets rush in to search for life in the rubble - fully aware that more bombs may fall on the same site. These volunteers have saved 73,530 lives - and this number is growing daily.

NEUTRAL
The volunteers save people on all sides of the conflict - pledging commitment to the principles of “Humanity, Solidarity, Impartiality” as outlined by the International Civil Defence Organisation. This pledge guides every response, every action, every life saved - so that in a time of destruction, all Syrians have the hope of a lifeline.





Monday, December 5, 2016

Seven Global Changemakers



Seven change makers for peace and justice from around the globe were recently partially funded by The Pollination Project.
  • Aviram Rozin and Yorit Rozin, Sadhana. Forest Animal Sanctuary, Auroville, India. Rescued animals and community members come together for peaceful interactions while learning about local reforestation projects.
  • Mohammed Tahir and Carmela Mancini.  Slum-Library Project, Accra, Ghana. Students are engaged in safe and healthy activities, including a library and a multipurpose playground.
  • Nakinti Besumbu Nofuru and Della Bii-mai. Stop Sexual Harassment in Commercial Buses During All Night Travels!, Bamenda, Cameroon. School going youth are sensitized on night travels and sexual harassment while bus stations are decorated with awareness posters.
  • Carlos Lemus. Promoting and Giving the Monarch Butterfly and Other Pollinators a Helping Hand, Reedley, California, USA. Youth create awareness campaigns designed to create safe spaces for monarch butterflies while beautifying communities.
  • Delilah Sharp. Identify Your Dream Corporation, Pontiac, Michigan, USA. Early aged youth are engaged in conversations and educational opportunities about death, grief and coping mechanisms, aimed to unlock their potential.
  • Emmanuel Eyoh Ms Ima Obong Expo. Food for IDPS in Nigeria, Bornu, Nigeria. Vegetable gardens are placed in the community to help fight hunger and malnutrition while advocating for a vegan lifestyle.
  • Sylvain Picker. SeedTheGlobe, Montreal, Canada. Super food seed balls are created to regenerate ecosystems and provide impoverished communities with organic farming techniques.


--From the Huffington Post

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Building Blocks of Inspiring Everyday Heroism


It's almost ordinary when one Daily Prism search for content leads to another interesting and positive piece of news and content. A post from this week opened the window to the Heroic Imagination Project, "... a project that develops and implements research, education, corporate and public initiative to inspire and encourage everyday heroism."

From the website:

Heroic Imagination Project (HIP) defines heroism as intentional action in service to others in need or to humanity by defending a moral cause, without personal gain and with awareness of likely personal costs. Heroism is the creation of a “bright line” of morality on an issue that is defended, upheld and promoted despite pressures to do otherwise.

Heroism may involve an impulsive action, saving a life, or may be reflective, planning a course of action to oppose injustice & immorality. Heroes act against injustice and cruelty and stand up for principled values that make our society a better place for all citizens.

Heroes come in many forms, young and old, male and female, who are mostly ordinary, everyday people whose acts of heroism qualify as extraordinary. Anyone can be a hero anytime an opportunity arises to stand up for what is right and just and to speak out against injustice, corruption and other evils. Focusing on We rather than Me, they form essential links among us; they forge our Human Connection.

We have created a core program of 6 modules we call “Understanding Human Nature”. Each module contributes to the training of everyday heroes in a profound and unique way. We differ from other approaches to social change in two major ways.

The Six Modules

  1. The Bystander Effect: Transforming Passive Inaction into Heroic Actions  Help your audience overcome the social forces that can prevent them from taking action in unclear or emergency situations, and gain the skills to respond wisely and effectively.
  2. The Mindset Intervention: Replacing Fixed Mindset with Growth Mindset Help your audience shift from a fixed mindset—a belief that one cannot change one’s abilities or personal characteristics such as intelligence—
toward a growth mindset—a belief that one can improve aspects of oneself with time and effort.
  3. Enabling Social Conformity to have Positive Impact Help your audience gain an increased awareness of their automatic tendencies to conform in social situations, and replace those tendencies with healthy behaviors.
  4. Managing Stereotype Threat Effectively with Adaptive Attributions Help your audience reduce or eliminate the effects of stereotype threat and unhealthy attributions on learning and performance.
  5. Developing Situational Awareness of Authority Power Help your audience gain awareness of how group influence and situations affect decision-making, and strategies to address social situations mindfully
  6. Reversing Prejudice and Discrimination to Promote Understanding and Acceptance Help your audience gain awareness of their 
tendency to make assumptions about other people and groups, and conversely gain resilience when they experience prejudice and discrimination from others.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

8 Techniques to Combat Hate Speak

C. Coimbra photo


Editor's Note:  The following is excerpted and edited from Eight Ways to Stand Up to Hate, recently posted on the Greater Good in Action.

... In less than one week, the Southern Poverty Law Center has tallied more than 400 incidents of “hateful intimidation and harassment”—and millions of Americans now fear becoming victims of verbal and physical assaults ...

... how can you prepare to protect those who are being threatened—to stand up for the worth and dignity of every person, even when it’s uncomfortable or scary? It all starts with mentally equipping yourself for such action, and for the consequences that come with it.

... While few of us will witness an actual hate crime, anyone can be confronted with hateful language—at work, on the street, or even over dinner. Here are some strategies you can use to turn your mind toward everyday heroism—and to act in ways that reflect that commitment.

1. Educate yourself

Most of us would like to believe that when we see someone being attacked or harassed, we’ll quickly rush to their aid. But while heroic intervention can certainly arise out of empathy for others, it’s more likely to be successful when you’ve had some nuts-and-bolts real-world training.

If you don’t yet feel confident in your ability to protect someone, seek out a course or workshop that teaches how to engage in effective bystander intervention. A few good places to start: Green Dot, Hollaback!, and Response-Ability. In a 2011 University of Kentucky study, people who took part in Green Dot training reported intervening more actively when they saw someone in trouble. (Another perk: You’ll get to meet plenty of other people who share your values.)

2. Be the first to speak up

Classic social psychology studies reveal that people typically look to those around them for cues on how to behave—and that they tend to trust those cues even when doing so leads them badly astray. In the Asch conformity experiment, for example, participants were shown a picture of a line and asked to state which of three other lines equaled it in length. When other people around them chose the wrong answer, the subjects often went along with the crowd’s flawed judgment.

But if you’re aware of how people’s conformist tendencies operate, you can try to harness them for good. In a variation on the Asch experiment, people were far less likely to follow the crowd’s lead when there was just one other person near them who chose the correct line lengths. When you speak out about injustices happening in front of you, you can help tip the social balance toward truth.
By taking such a stand, you can influence people on social media, too. NYU researchers reported this year that when people using a racist slur on Twitter were scolded by a highly followed user in their “in-group,” the offenders cut way back on their use of the slur.

3. Practice being conspicuous

To defend someone who’s being threatened, you have to be willing to heed your own conscience above all else. But resisting social pressure takes serious guts, and it helps to do some trial runs to feel more at ease.

When he was teaching at Stanford, Zimbardo used to walk his students through an exercise he called “Be a Deviant for a Day”—which could mean, say, drawing a giant circle on their foreheads or wearing a pair of pink bunny slippers around campus. It’s a good way to learn what it feels like to go against the grain. “If you can practice when it’s safe,” says Australian educator Matt Langdon, founder of the Hero Construction Company, “you’re going to be more likely to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

In addition to honing your overall nonconformity game, it pays to rehearse for specific uncomfortable situations you’re likely to encounter. How are you going to react, for instance, if you see a passerby getting attacked in public—or if a friend makes a casual hateful comment at a dinner party? Psychologist Lynne Henderson’s “social fitness” research suggests that if you come up with a plan and practice it (perhaps in a role-play with a friend), you’ll be better prepared to put it into action when it’s most needed.

4. Ask for help when you need it

To stand up for someone in trouble, you’ll have to push past your own fear of making waves. Still, it’s important to strike a balance between courage and caution. You should only put yourself in danger as a last resort, after you’ve ruled out all other reasonable options. If a harasser is waving a gun and threatening to shoot, rushing into the fray probably isn’t the best idea.

“You can be an effective social change agent only if you know when to act alone, in a team, or not at all,” Zimbardo says. “When you size up a situation as dangerous, call the police or fire department or others nearby to help you do the right thing, aware that doing nothing is always the wrong thing.”
If the danger level seems low but you’re not prepared for direct confrontation, try starting a friendly conversation with the person being harassed (“I love your scarf! Where did you get it?”), which can help defuse the situation.

5. Find a heroic role model

To fortify yourself for the challenge of upholding your principles, it helps to look up to someone who has faced this kind of challenge and managed to act. It might be someone in your family who has taken in refugees from a war-torn country. Or it might be someone like civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in defiance of racist segregation laws. Having a role model can boost your heroic potential in the real world: Many Holocaust rescuers, for instance, have told researchers about selfless people in their own lives who inspired them to help people in danger.

At the same time, be wary of putting your role model on a super-human pedestal, since real-life heroes can make mistakes like anyone else. Instead, focus on specific qualities you want to emulate. “Each person’s going to have the good and bad,” Langdon says. “Maybe the good things they did are the important things.”

Don’t confine your role model search to history books, either. Look to the selfless people in your own circle of friends and acquaintances—the bonds you forge with them, and the values you share, can be a critical source of support when things get tough.

6. Make connections with people different from you

Interacting with a wide range of people on a human level can help ensure future injustices never come to be. A 2011 research review shows that when intolerant people strike up friendships with members of other groups, fears and prejudices tend to fall away.

In one extreme example, African-American pianist Daryl Davis took the risk of getting to know members of the Ku Klux Klan personally. Confronted with living evidence that their hateful ideas were wrong, a number of these men ultimately resigned from the Klan and gave Davis their hoods and robes.

Davis’ story illustrates that forging human connections with those you fear, or those who have disappointed you, in no way implies acceptance of prejudice or wrongdoing. If someone makes a bigoted remark, for instance, calling that person out—telling them you won’t stand for it—may be the highest form of love you can demonstrate.

7. Ask people what they really need

When attackers are targeting people of a particular skin color or creed, you have a responsibility to intervene if you believe all humans are valuable and worthy of protection.

In this spirit, activists have encouraged people to wear safety pins as an outward signal that they can be relied on to help in the event of an attack. But some critics have expressed concern that the pins only make wearers feel better about themselves—and that pin-wearers may not understand the true needs of those they say they want to protect.

Donning a safety pin is a good way to express your solidarity with those feeling threatened. But you can go further by making the effort to ask people you know, “How are you doing right now? How can I make sure to have your back?” Then listen carefully to what they have to say, even if some of their answers aren’t what you expected.

8. Press the mental pause button

It’s an inconvenient psychological truth: No matter how rock-solid your values are, you’ll have to guard against the tendency to overlook them in the moment.

In the famous Good Samaritan experiment conducted at Princeton University, people who were in a hurry to get somewhere were far less likely to stop and help a distressed victim in an alley. And when multiple people are watching a dire situation unfold, each individual observer is often less likely to help. Psychologists call this the bystander effect, and it’s rooted in our very human tendency to assume someone else will act.

In Heroic Imagination Project workshops, students learn to pause in high-stakes situations and ask themselves what action reflects their true values. “Take [a] brief time out before acting mindlessly or making decisions impulsively,” Zimbardo says. It only takes a second or two, but it can make a lifetime’s worth of difference to someone in trouble.