I recently heard one of my favorite radio talk show hosts make the comment "Life is a series of habits." I let that sink in for awhile then realized that if you want to change your life, you need only change your habits. That doesn't sound too daunting does it? It's a matter of giving up bad habits and cultivating good ones.
As the fifth grade teacher in a public school, it is my responsibility to have two students raise and lower the the American flag in front of the school office every school day. Its a privilege, and my students look forward to the days they get to do it.
It's not even Halloween yet and I'm already thinking about November holidays. Of course there's the biggie, Thanksgiving, but 2 weeks before that we have Veterans' Day. If you're anything like me, you are patriotic and thankful to those who stepped forward to defend our great country. I often see bumper stickers that proclaim Proud to be an American.
I think it goes even deeper than that, what if we all acknowledged we are first and foremost Blessed to be an American and we lived our lives based on that premise? A blessing is, by definition, a favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness. The day we realize it was a gift from God to be born in America we will view our citizenship differently. The very fact that you are an American is a gift. Think how different your life would be if you were born in any country in the world other than America. We have rights, freedoms, and a standard of living here that is unimaginable in other parts of the world.
Use the gift you've been given wisely. Don't squander your American citizenship. Educate yourself about American history and the good that Americans have performed all over the world. I'm not saying we haven't made mistakes, every country has. What I'm saying is, operate from the premise that American citizenship is a blessing and be aware of how fragile the gift is if it isn't acknowledged and used to cultivate goodness, liberty, and truth. Treat everyday like it's Veterans' Day.
It was during a class discussion, last October, with my 5th and 6th graders about the Europeans' goal to spread Christianity to the new world, that I stumbled upon this very sad fact. The overwhelming majority of my 29 students don't have a clue what Christianity is, what Christmas is about, who Jesus Christ is.
If you find yourself feeling down or in a funk the best thing you can do to pull yourself out of it is to do a good deed for someone else. I can't remember where I first heard those words of wisdom, but I know I have followed that advice and repeated it to friends and family many times. It's amazing how doing something kind for someone else can bring joy and peace of mind to both the giver and the receiver of the good deed.
It occurred to me recently that sometimes we get things backwards. I'm sure you've heard or read the question; What would you do today if you knew you would die tomorrow, or next week, or next year? The question is meant to prompt us to stop wasting time and go do the things that really matter- now, before it's too late. I get it. we shouldn't take our time here for granted. There are no guarantees that any of us get to live a long life. This lifetime is fleeting.
July 4th is the perfect opportunity to pause and appreciate our amazing country. I know I have done nothing whatsoever to deserve the gift I've been given. I'm speaking of course, about living in America and enjoying the freedoms that American citizenship allows me. This country has contributed more to advancing civilization in the past 238 years than any other country, even those that have been around for thousands of years. I'm proud of that.
This may sound naïve, but I have decided not to dwell on what has gone wrong with our country. Mistakes, bad decisions, corruption, and greed are part of any society. We don't have the market cornered on those traits. What America does have an abundance of is: freedom, creativity, generosity, and intelligence. We have fought wars all over the world to advance liberty for citizens of foreign countries.
So yeah, I'm wearing red, white, and blue today. I've been wishing friends and strangers a happy Independence Day since July 1. My flag is waving outside my house. I went to mass this morning to thank God for this wonderful country and to ask Him to continue to bless us with religious liberty, freedom of speech, and the ability to pursue life, liberty and happiness. After all, isn't that what you do when you have been given an amazing gift... be outwardly grateful and appreciative? God Bless America! Happy Independence Day!
I have some very good friends and family members who seem to have it all together. They are thoughtful, generous, honest, hardworking, selfless, smart, fun to be with, you get the idea. I was thinking aloud one day, and telling my daughter how truly blessed I feel to have these people in my life. She said something I will never forget.
I'm always looking for ways to make improvements to my life. At times I'm concentrating on improvements in my health (physical, emotional, spiritual), social interactions, my work, creative endeavors, you name it, I've probably tried to enhance or enrich it in my life.
I admit it. I am not very good at embracing change. In fact, I would say that many of the major changes in my life I resisted and went along only after lots of kicking and screaming. Why is that? Certainly I don't think I'm the one person on the planet who will avoid the discomfort and uncertainty of change. So why do I resist rather than embrace changes?
I've given this topic a lot of thought lately, mainly because my work world is undergoing some big changes. I'm facing uncertainty about who my new boss will be, what my new duties will be, who my new co-workers will be. It's all up in the air right now. None of the planned changes are going in a direction I would have chosen, if I had been given the choice. I guess that's the part that's hard for me. I need to come to grips with the fact that I'm not going to make the decisions that will affect my professional life. There is no element of choice involved, as far as I'm concerned.
I've spent the past four weeks wishing the changes weren't coming, and allowing myself to be sad and scared of the uncertainty that lies ahead. It occurred to me, while on a walk this morning, that the more time I spend wishing for what was the longer it will take me to adjust and move forward in my ever changing world. I decided today to embrace the changes and be grateful for the good aspects of my job.
I've completely turned my attitude around. Rather than dread the unknown, I'm going to look forward to meeting the new people who will be entering my work world. I'm going to welcome the new duties and make a point to do the best job I can. After all, that's what I'm paid to do. I'll use this as an opportunity to become stronger and more flexible because it's only a matter of time before the next change comes my way. Wish me luck!