Do Some Good

I run a network where bloggers can get help and feedback for improving their blogs. Because of it, I face challenges and unpleasant moments every week, but I also get to see the goodness within people occasionally surface. For example, I recently watched a chat conversation unfold where a new blogger was asking for help with a technical issue, and a more experienced blogger offered ideas and suggestions that wound up solving the problem altogether. The experienced blogger didn’t have to take the time to carefully type out and explain her thoughts. It didn’t appear to benefit her in any way. But I’ve come to realize that those seemingly non-beneficial moments have greater perks than we may realize.

My own hope in others, and humanity in general, is always strengthened when I witness or receive acts of service. Whether it’s people holding doors open for one another, strangers stopping to help pick up the contents from a broken bag of groceries, coworkers helping to re-stack a pile of dropped papers, or anyone simply removing a stray piece of hair from someone else’s clothing, it always brings a smile to my face.

What’s more amazing is the sudden change in mood or attitude that it can offer. Each person who receives help is usually appreciative and grateful for it. However, that’s not nearly as wonderful as what it does for the person offering such kind acts of service. Additionally, it benefits everyone else around who witnesses it. A single kind action can uplift multiple people whose attitudes may then uplift others later. It can begin a domino effect that can last for an entire day, or week, or longer. And sometimes, it might just come back around to affect you when you need it.

When was the last time you did something kind for someone else, even if it inconvenienced you a little bit?

I challenge you to take a moment today and tomorrow to slow down, notice others around you, and then find a way to do something kind for one or more of them. It can be small and simple. It can be grand or big. Whatever it is, do it with a smile, and you might be surprised at how your day (and the days of others) could improve.

A Midnight Stroll

My husband and I have only been married for 3 and a half years (and we’ve been best friends for over 7 years). But I’m pretty sure we have already figured out one of many not-so-secretive secrets to keeping a strong and happy marriage.

We go through cycles of being entirely thrilled about our marriage, and then slowly trickle into feeling complacent about it. Our marriage is never really bad, but we both just end up feeling bored, like it’s become some mundane thing. And when that happens, we find ourselves drawing apart and starting to feel unhappy together. That slows or even stops our forward walk in life because our minds are so focused on the sorrowful state in which we find ourselves.

The solution? Reconnect.

Do something together that allows you time to communicate openly. No matter where or how, remind yourselves why you fell in love. By sitting with each other in a moment away from the pressures of daily life, you give yourselves time to refocus and reset your priorities. It offers the opportunity to recognize what is most important in your forward walk together.  I call these moments “midnight strolls.”

Sometimes it’s dinner and a date. Sometimes it’s a spontaneous afternoon drive. Sometimes it’s sitting on the floor of the living room, simply holding hands. Sometimes it’s sitting on the kitchen counter eating ice cream straight from the carton. And sometimes, it’s an actual midnight stroll down an old country road.

why you fell in love

Last week I was feeling frustrated with Bob, and he was irritated with me. He’s been busy studying to get his real estate license, I’ve been busy working online and pursuing partnerships with companies for my website, and we’ve both been trying to get the other to take care of our 1-year-old son. Obviously we needed to talk some things over and communicate our needs and goals, but it just hadn’t happened. We each started resenting the other. Our priorities were not the same, and by the end of the week we were both so stressed out and upset that we weren’t very far from wanting to give up on our marriage all together.

Luckily, I married an incredible man who is absolutely devoted to me. Late on Saturday night, Bob asked me to take a walk with him. As I was putting on my shoes and jacket, he went outside to wait for me. I crept down the stairs of my parents’ darkened house (where we’ve been visiting for the summer) and slipped out the front door. The cool night air and surprisingly bright moonlight began to rekindle something inside of me. I hadn’t realized that spending so much of my time working in front my computer had drained my energy and creativity. We walked down the long gravel driveway, mostly in silence and hands in our pockets. We walked to the end of the paved road, and sat and talked openly about how we’d been feeling. After a while, we walked back toward the house and stopped to sit on one of the hay wagons next to the hay barn. And then something almost magical happened.

We laughed together. We started to be genuinely silly and tell jokes and laugh at ourselves. And then I felt my love for my best friend getting stronger. As we continued to talk, we held hands again–something we hadn’t done all week. Before long, my love and adoration for my wonderful husband was so strong that it was practically tangible, and I couldn’t get enough of him. The irritation disappeared, the resentment faded, our selfishness was brushed aside, and we were reminded why we fell in love and got married in the first place. And then we talked about what we needed from one another. He told me all about how he needed me to support him. I told him what I needed him to do to help me be successful. And just like that, we were willing to help each other out in ways we had been avoiding all week long. We were walking forward again, both individually and together.

Regardless of where or how you reconnect, you just have to do it. You might not want to. It might be hard to find the right moment. It might be easier to just drift apart. However, if you want to keep your marriage strong and healthy, you both have to sincerely try. Being married and staying happily married is something to honor and celebrate. Giving up and calling it quits on a good marriage that is temporarily in a ‘blah’ moment is backward walking. But working toward a healthy, joyful, and lasting marriage will allow you to cover twice as much ground and gain twice as much wisdom as you walk forward together.

My own parents will be married for 35 years this August. Those years have been filled with joy, laughter, sweet memories, and many “midnight strolls” to keep their marriage happy and healthy. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

And you know what? Neither would I.

moonlight farm 06 sm

The Art of Choosing

“What is freedom? Freedom is the right to choose: the right to create for oneself the alternatives of choice. With out the possibility of choice a man is not a man but a member, and instrument, a thing.” (Archibald MacLeish, Pulitzer Prize winning American Poet)

I seem, at times, to get obsessed with the idea of choice or choosing. I currently own, often reference, and defer a lot to four books specifically about the idea of choice, “The Art of Choosing,” by Sheena Iyengar, “How We Decide,” by Jonah Lehrer, “The Happiness Advantage,” by Shawn Achor, and “The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less,” by Barry Schwartz.

The idea of choice is so immersed in our lifestyle and way of being, it is much like being a fish in water.

We get the opportunity every day to make small choices that, like the rudder of a ship, can lead to very significant and different destinations. I believe strongly in the power of choice. I believe in finding the best in others and in situations. I believe that choosing to be responsive rather than resistant is life-changing. Here are two short stories from my life about the power of choosing and the course that these choices set for my life.

Years ago, I joined AmeriCorps as a VISTA, and moved from Provo, UT to Boston, MA. As an AmeriCorps VISTA, I was asked to live below the poverty line and serve a business/non-profit in exchange for experience. IT WAS HARD! There were days when I literally didn’t have food to eat and couldn’t figure out how to pay rent. But every single day when I took the subway across the Charles River and stepped out into the Financial District in downtown Boston, I couldn’t believe I was actually living and working in Boston. Not one day went by that I didn’t feel lucky, even blessed. Every bus ride, every “T” ride, every lunchtime walk around Boston Common, every homeless person I chatted with on my way to the office was a reminder of the wicked awesome choice I had made to bust out to the East Coast. That one decision to join AmeriCorps continues to influence and bless both my personal and my professional life!

I graduated with my Masters in Social Work in 2010, in the heart of the recession. People were having a very difficult time finding jobs, and my field had been hit hard. After looking for a job as a therapist for a few months, I decided to stay in my field and return to working as a Direct Care/Line Staff for a residential treatment center (RTC). I was sad to no be using my MSW, but grateful to have a full-time job. After about a year of working at that RTC, I came across a contract summer job that sounded incredible. I made the decision to quit my full-time job with benefits for a part-time, contract summer job without benefits, and it has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life! That job was ANASAZI! Since that first summer job, I have worked my way into a full-time job, and I can’t imagine my life without ANASAZI in it!

How have your choices affected your life?

choosing
Image found here: http://www.romanpichler.com/

The choices we make and the way we choose to see other people or our situations both have the ability to transform not only our current circumstances, but our trajectory in life. I hope you get a chance today to think about some of the decisions you make on regular basis and the affect they have on your way of being. Maybe it’s time to make some new decisions, to see someone with new eyes, to make amends, to choose to see the good in things around us.

The more I learn about life, the more I realize it is all about the art of choosing.

“If others are responsible for my misery, I am stuck. If I am responsible, I am free. Relieve me of responsibility and you think you do me a favor. But your relief is condemnation. Without the power to choose misery, I lack the power to choose happiness. Only those who leave me without excuse are my friends. Only they speak the truth. Only they believe in me. Only they offer hope. The power to choose is within me. I choose every minute, every day. Do I choose responsiveness, or resistance? Choose resistance, and I am blind to the choice. Nevertheless I choose. Therein lies my hope.” (Excerpts from “The Choice,” by the Arbinger Institute p.48)

Barefoot in Life and Bare-Souled in Love

Walking Barefoot at Anasazi  Attribution: Daniel Adam Freeman

What is it about walking barefoot that makes you feel so alive? Is it the feel of the earth beneath your feet? The warmth of the sand as it sifts between your toes? The exchange of energy between yourself and nature all around you? Or is it the resulting care with which we walk, and the slower, more present pace of a life lived barefoot?

If in walking barefoot we slow down and walk more carefully, and find ourselves suddenly caring more for how we walk than how far or how fast, wouldn’t it make sense that we will have a similar experience in other areas of our life if we walk bare-souled as well? Is it not our hearts that we guard the most carefully—and often times the hearts of others that we damage the most severely—as we strive to protect our own?

How then do we bridge the gap and begin to walk more bare-souled through life, and love, protect our own hearts, and still open ourselves to the experience of love?

I have come to learn that love is a choice. It is a choice that two people make as they choose to share their hearts with each other more and more and continue to walk the path toward each others’ hearts. One day they come to trust one another enough to allow them the freedom to walk the full length of the path beneath their feet. Trust is also a choice. Love comes as that trust is respected, honored, and cherished. Along the way, there will be setbacks, there will joys, there will be trials, there will be laughter, and there will be tears. But love, as with all things that matter, depends upon us choosing to continue walking. Love depends on us choosing to walk carefully, barefoot and bare-souled, down the path beneath our feet, down the path that must be walked until we meet. And from there, a new path can begin—one that is walked together.

Just as walking barefoot changes the experience of our physical walking, so too will walking bare-souled change the experience of our emotional and spiritual walking. This poem came to me on a day at Anasazi when I felt prompted to walk nearly a mile back to my own camp barefoot. I followed that prompting and the lessons which came taught me much.

THE WALKING OF THE FEET

(by Daniel Adam Freeman)

The road of love must be walked barefoot and bare-souled.

There lies a path beneath your feet… 
will you walk until we meet?

For where the path is sandy, you will find, 
a walking that cleanses both soul and mind.

Where the path is hard-packed dirt,
a time when the walking will not hurt.

Where the path is gravel you will know,
the shattered hopes and dreams below.

Where the path is rocky you will own,
a path paved with lily pads of stone.

The path, forever altered by a flood of tears, 
changes course throughout the years.

And yet there lies beneath your feet, 
a path made to walk until we meet,
a path made for the walking of your feet.

All that remains to be seen ,
is one brave enough to walk unseen,
With careful tread and gentle step,
toward the heart that would be met…

When we walk barefoot, we notice the ground beneath our feet in much greater detail. We have to watch where we place our feet and where we choose to place our weight. As the terrain changes, so too does the way we walk and the pace at which we walk. We can feel the difference in the ground around us. There are sandy washes, large rocky patches, hard-packed dirt sections, and areas filled with sharp gravel and shale rock. Is this physical change any different than the change that takes place as we walk the figurative path toward another’s heart? I don’t think so. Just as the physical paths change with each step so too does the path of the heart change with each step.

As I walked that barefoot mile, the gravel sections were the hardest and most uncomfortable, because everything was sharp enough, and small enough, to hurt. In these places, I walked much differently—more gently and with more care—than I did at other times. These places remind me of the hopes and dreams of people that, for whatever reason, have been dashed to pieces. It is here we must tread carefully, and tenderly, as we move

Upon seeing the rocky stretches, I would begin to worry about whether or not I would cut my feet on the larger, sharper rocks or even roll my ankle between them. And yet, in walking these rocky sections, I discovered that they were of the easiest sections to traverse. From a distance they were the most frightening, and I worried about them the most. But as I came to these sections, they truly seemed to be paved with lily pads of stone, guiding me quickly on my way.

In the middle of one of the last sandy washes, I felt prompted to stop and look around. Doing so, I noticed a huge, old sycamore growing out of the sand. There was driftwood piled up against its trunk and in its branches from recent flash floods. As I looked upon it, these words came to mind, “The flash floods of emotion, rising from another’s mindless passing, scar and forever alter the path beneath your feet… but there is still a path. All that remains is one brave enough and willing enough to do the walking.”

The lessons of this experience—as well as the resulting poem—have been upon my mind often. There are two paths to consider. One path is our own, which others walk in the hopes of reaching our hearts.  It is here that others actions change and alter the paths of our heart forever. Some leave barely a trace, while others alter everything they touch for all who come behind. The second is the path we walk toward the hearts of those around us. It is here our walking affects the lives of others and the paths to their hearts. If we wear stiff boots and trod along carelessly, we may well miss many of the tender lessons upon the trail to another’s heart, and may likewise find ourselves swept away by a flash-flood of emotion that will forever alter the path for all who might walk it in the future. We must be gentle as we walk the path of someone else’s heart—just as we hope that those who would walk the path to our heart would be gentle.

The path of the heart is best walked barefoot and bare-souled, but it is up to you to do the walking. No one can walk the path of the heart for you on your behalf. It is a path that must be walked with care, love, and foresight into the future.

I wish you well on the journey of your heart. May you be blessed in your walking to both discover and appreciate the intricacies and tender lessons of the heart toward which you walk.

Placing a Child for Adoption | A Birth Mother's Story

Tamra Dawn Hyde
Tamra Dawn Hyde

In this exclusive interview, Tamra, a birth mother and adoption advocate, shares the beautiful story of her decision to place her son for adoption.

As the mission and message of ForwardWalking.com is to help others move forward in life, I could think of no better example of this than Tamra Dawn Hyde—a woman who, in my opinion, epitomizes what it means to move forward. I met Tamra in 2007 and recorded part of her story in 2008 (which can be seen here). That video, according to Tamra, has encouraged several people to choose adoption.

In February of this year, I was fortunate enough to interview Tamra again and produce this new video. Please take ten minutes out of your life to listen to Tamra’s beautiful story of adoption. I assure you that it will touch your heart.