Living a life of service

Queen Elizabeth II

The tributes for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II continue to pour in. Despite differing opinions on the institution of the monarchy and legacy of colonialism, the world seems united in celebrating a remarkable woman who dedicated her life to public service and who for 70 years was a stable, reassuring presence in turbulent times.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately of what it means to live a life of service. Ghandi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Most of us live a life of service in small ways, as parents, good neighbours and community members, and in some cases, in our career choices. Health care providers, first responders and elected officials all dedicate their lives to helping or serving others. But for many of us, the concept of living a life of service is not how we would describe our day-to-day life or even our purpose in life.

Living a life of service is different than having purpose. You can have purpose, a passion or focus that makes you happy and feel alive but doesn’t involve serving others.

The world and the people in it seem a bit lost these days. Perhaps the best way to find ourselves again is to be more intentional in leading a life of service.

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Advice from a sunflower

sunflower

For some reason, this spoke to me this week.

Be bright

Be kind

Be sunny and positive

Spread seeds of happiness

Rise, shine and hold your head high

Have a happy week and smile if you see a sunflower.

The end or the beginning

Special guest blogger in sunlight

Special guest post by Dave Swinton

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the end.  How will it unfold?  How will people remember me? Will people remember me at all?

What will be my most remembered quality? Hardworking, caring, empathetic, or just a latent comedian telling lame jokes to captive family members.

I have also been thinking about some other people near and dear to me who are also thinking about the same subject.

For me it is only about retirement; for others it is a different beginning.

I am always in awe of how my father at 91 views his future as not an end but rather a new beginning. An ascension from his earthly form to something much better.

Always a deeply religious person, he sees a new beginning with my mother and all the benefits of a life deeply rooted in faith.

For me it is much simpler. Puttering around my gardens, cutting firewood with the odd day of fishing sprinkled in. Long walks with our dog and of course spending endless days travelling with my loving partner.

The point is to think less about the end of one chapter and more about the beginning of the next.

Signs of happiness

We were driving to Georgia this spring, and one of the billboard signs on the side of the highway said, “Put your positive pants on”.

I didn’t get a chance to take a picture, but it made me smile and laugh and think about all the wonderful motivational signs on happiness.

Here are some of my favourites. You can buy most of these from etsy.com or Amazon. Have a happy week!

Why limit happy to an hour
Those who say only sunshine brings happiness have never danced in the rain
Be happy sign
John Lennon quote on happiness
Irish blessing
All our visitors bring happiness, some by coming, some by going
The key to happiness is low expectations
If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!
My all-time favourite, a fridge magnet the girls gave me one year for Mother’s Day!

Advice from a sea turtle

Girl walking on a beach

I’ve been dreaming of white sandy beaches and palm trees lately. It made me think of one of my favourite passages, “Advice from a sea turtle”:

Swim with the current
Be a good navigator
Stay calm under pressure
Be well travelled
Think long term
Age gracefully
Spend time at the beach

Have a happy week!

Discover the spiritual insights of Haiku

Haiku poem

By guest blogger Alison Taylor

The second decade of the twenty-first century has been one that will go down in the history books that is for sure. I have made a conscientious effort to stay focused on the positive.

One of the positive things that has happened to me is the discovery of poetry. I really was not much of a poetry fan and have avoided it for most of my life. However, with most of my days spent in front of a screen, I needed something that was a departure from the digital “screen in your face” world.

I discovered Haiku. Funny enough I discovered my new appreciation for the art via social media, but then it morphed into a challenge for me. I started writing random thoughts using Haiku.

Haiku is a form of poetry that originates from Japan and consists of three phrases with a 5, 7, 5 syllable pattern.

I found a notebook I bought a few years ago while in York, England. So I already was starting from a happy memory of a place I love and it set the stage for my Haiku writing adventure. I would transport to somewhere else with my notebook and write. No big commitment needed, just let my mind wander and three sentences later a Haiku was born.

I started sending my friends some inspirational Haiku’s when they were having a tough day. Then I added it to notes in birthday cards and now it just calms my mind and a Haiku will pop into my head and I write it down. Here are a couple I wrote for this blog. Maybe you want to give it a try?

The quiet and calm
Sun down, stars are appearing
Night time once again

Find your Happy Act
You may be surprised, who knew?
A smile on your face

And for Laurie as she ends one chapter of her career and embarks on another:

It is not goodbye
It is a new beginning
It is happy times

Reflections on the next chapter from down under

Author on a recent trip to Canada

Special guest blog post by David Dawson

Recently I sang at the funeral of one of my fellow choristers who was only 20 years older than me. He was 85. It got me thinking of what I can still do with the remaining time left on my clock.

I was inspired in my reflections by a story in The Guardian about a psychiatrist who was diagnosed with bladder cancer and told he was going to die and daydreamed about becoming an actor. At the age of 63, he enrolled at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and this month, at age 80, is the lead in the play Freud’s Last Session, at the King’s Head Theatre in London.

There are the limitations now set by age, which are about personal energy levels and the insight of a lifetime of experiences. While becoming aware of my shortcomings in life, I have accepted that I did the best I could at the time with what I had to work with.

Rather than castigate myself for not trying hard enough or being resilient enough to achieve an unimaginable goal, I would like to think all of that has prepared me for the next period of my life where I hope to do the work I have been trained to do by those around me: filling my time as much as I can with small acts of kindness. While these are small happy acts for me, I can only hope they are huge blessings for those around me. For this, I am blessed.

I’d like to leave you with a quote from The Guardian:

 “The more we are able to accept our achievements are largely out of our control, the easier it becomes to understand that our failures, and those of others, are too. And that in turn should increase our humility and the respect with which we treat our fellow citizens. Ultimately, as the writer David Roberts put it, ‘Building a more compassionate society means reminding ourselves of luck, and of the gratitude and obligations it entails.”

David Dawson has been weathering the pandemic down under with his faithful sidekick Brad the dog by his side, musing on politics, social media, religion and life.

Find meaning behind the words this season

Sign with words hope, peace, joy and love

Peace and goodwill. Comfort and joy.

You hear these words everywhere you go this time of year, in holiday cards, in songs, in greetings and on signs.

I noticed a slight variation this week on my favourite church sign. It said, “Wishing you peace, joy, happiness and strength”.

Strength. It was an interesting choice of words. Yes, more than anything right now, we need strength and resilience.

This week’s #HappyAct is to find meaning behind the words this holiday season.

May you experience,

Kindness and generosity of spirit
Love and laughter
The comfort of warm food and fond memories
Precious time to reflect and recharge
Moments of happiness and joy
And strength and acceptance to bring you peace this holiday season

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

Don’t miss next week’s special year-end edition of Top 10 Happy Acts, my favourite blog posts to help you get through another COVID winter.

And to the stranger who showed generosity of spirit and bought our hot chocolates at the McDonald’s drive-through in Kingston last Wednesday, thank you for paying it forward! We reciprocated and hope the person behind us enjoyed their McHappy Meal and chocolate shake.

Four sayings to help you be at peace with your actions

Whenever I make a mistake or am having a rough day, there are some simple phrases I repeat to myself to help keep me going.

  • One day at a time. This is especially helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Just focus on one day at a time, and chances are things will get better.
  • This too shall pass. Some people say “Time heals all wounds”. I don’t think that’s the case, but time does have the ability to dull painful memories.
  • Everything happens for a reason. If you believe this, it is far easier to accept things when they don’t go your way.
  • Forgive yourself. This is a new one I’ve adopted during COVID

I hope these sayings help you too. Have a happy week.

What’s your field of dreams?

Last week, Major League Baseball paid tribute to the 1989 movie Field of Dreams by holding a baseball game between the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox in the same Iowa corn field where the movie was filmed 30 years ago.

Just like they did in the movie, the players emerged one by one from the corn field, led by actor Kevin Costner who addressed the crowd. It was an emotional moment. You could see the wonder and joy in the players’ faces as they took the field, and you knew Costner and the players would never forget this moment.

The themes of Field of Dreams have endured: themes of family, forgiveness, redemption, and the importance of following your dreams no matter how crazy people think you are.  

If you build it, they will come.

What’s your field of dreams?