I first published this story several years ago. It seemed fitting to share it again today.
As seasons change and the weather cools down, we see geese flying south for the winter. We hear their honking and see that familiar V formation in the sky.
I’m sure that most of us have heard the reasoning for this formation. Scientists have discovered that as each bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in V formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone. If a goose falls out of formation, it feels the drag and resistance of flying alone and quickly rejoins the formation.
Did you know that the reason the geese honk from behind is to encourage the others to keep up their speed? Also, when the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back and another takes its place as lead.
There are so many lessons for us here. First, people sharing a common direction can get where they’re going quicker and easier by traveling together. We should keep company with those heading in the same direction as us. Second, it makes sense to take turns doing the hard jobs and to remember to encourage those taking the lead.
Another thing about geese is when one gets sick or injured and falls out of formation, two others follow it down for protection and help. They stay together until it is either able to fly, or dead, and then they launch out again. They either fly on their own or join with another formation until they catch up to their group.
The final lesson here is to stand by each other. We should protect and care for each other. It is also good to make new friends who seem to be going in our direction.
If we follow the same guidelines as these geese, how much better would our lives be?
The words came from behind me. I heard, “That’s good,” then, “Magnificent.” After a slight pause came, “Really nice.”
I only had to wait a few moments to see who was the recipient of this encouragement. A young boy rode past me on his bicycle. He wobbled a little. A slightly older brother followed closely and continued his support and encouragement as they carried on down the path.
The words of one gave confidence to his brother to keep going. These boys were a perfect example of the impact our words can have on each other.
Later, on another area of pathway, I came across words written in coloured chalk. They said, “You are loved.” The child who wrote these words brightened my day and probably that of many others as well.
Our words have the power to wound, discourage and anger. They can also bring healing, support, and a sense of well-being. In these troubled and uncertain times, I have observed too many cases of words used as weapons.
I am reminded of a passage in the Bible where it says, “they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” In today’s language, this would say, beat their swords into shovels and their spears into hoes.
To me, this shows our weapons can be modified into tools used to cultivate a better life. Instead of attacking each other, we can work together for the common good.
Like it or not, my words will have an impact on others. Do I want them to cause hurt and dissention or do I want them to offer encouragement so we can work together to create a better future? The decision is up to each of us. I’ve made my choice, how about you?
In August I was given the opportunity to try a new activity. Since I have a healthy respect, (bordering on fear), of water, the idea of paddle boarding brought mixed emotions.
My friend assured me the water was not deep and I’d be fine. She patiently showed me how to get on the board and how to go from sitting to standing. I was nervous but determined. To say I was excited when I managed to stand and maintain my balance would be an understatement.
After a few minutes I was feeling quite confident with my newfound skill. An insect landed on my arm and I used the other arm to swat it away. This caused me to not only lose focus, but my balance as well. My worst fear was realized as I plunged under the water.
Fortunately, the water was not deep and I was able to get on my feet with no difficulty. My friend told me I’d just done the most graceful backwards swan drive she’d ever seen! I may not have been graceful getting on the board but it sounded like I made up for it when falling off!
When I considered what happened, I realized my balance was lost because I got distracted and stopped focusing on what I was doing. The lack of focus was what caused my fall.
How often in life has that happened? More times than I care to admit! Distractions are all around me and if I give them my attention I’m bound to stumble and fall. Sometimes I can get back on my feet and other times I end up over my head. At the best, my goal is delayed. At worst, it has come to an untimely end.
My experience with paddle boarding reinforced an important life lesson. If I want to live a productive life I need to keep my focus on what is of importance.
It was a beautiful sunny morning when I paused to enjoy the reflection of trees on a smooth as glass pond. On the other side of the water, something caused me to stare in disbelief.
My eyes must be deceiving me, I thought. A closer look was needed. Unfortunately, my initial impression was confirmed. Although we were still in the first half of August, the leaves on a small tree had turned from green to a reddish orange.
I knew that summer would come to an end but wasn’t ready for it to happen yet. Shouldn’t we have another month before fall arrived?
Over the next week, the temperature dropped and so did the leaves from that particular tree. Its branches were now bare. Other trees seemed to have a few more yellow leaves each time I passed by.
I’m reminded of the game of Hide and Seek. When the chaser is finished counting and about to start seeking, he opens his eyes and says, “Ready or not, here I come!” This is true for more than the seasons or a childhood game.
While talking to a friend about something completely unrelated to weather, he said, “We knew it would come to an end one day. We just thought we could choose when and how it would happen.” Life is often like that!
I’ve lived long enough to know the world does not revolve around my timetable. I don’t have to like it but I do need to accept and make the best of it. Because, ready or not, change is often just around the corner.
Earlier in the morning the lakefront was calm and quiet. A couple of hours later the area was crowded with people, blankets, towels, coolers and the items needed for a day at the beach.
We set up our camp chairs on a grassy slope facing the water. Despite the fact I had a book with me, most of my time was spent people watching.
Laughter echoed in the air as children frolicked in the water. Several were on brightly coloured flotation devices. I watched siblings splash each other and parents introduce toddlers to the water.
A couple carried paddle boards down to the water. They climbed on, quickly found their balance, stood and paddled off. I watched their fluid strokes with admiration.
A little farther out a bright yellow kayak made its way close to the roped off beach area. On the other side of the rope a few speed boats towed water skiers.
The variety of activity was perfect for people watching.
A young boy, about three years old, ran back and forth on the pathway. A butterfly had captured his attention and he followed its flight. When it landed on a nearby patch of grass the boy slowly approached and leaned in for what I assumed was a closer look. I smiled at his curiosity and a moment later was shocked to see him stomp down and grind it into the ground. Not what I expected!
In a public setting, it is easy to watch people. On the lakefront I saw fun and laughter, some sweet loving moments and a few things I wish I hadn’t observed.
Most of us carry on with our lives unaware anyone is watching.
The fact is, I never know for sure if someone has witnessed my actions. I may be the object of someone else’s people watching. If so, what kind of impression am I leaving?
Twenty-five years ago, my husband and I attended a five-day personal development seminar. It came highly recommended but we hadn’t been given any specific information and weren’t sure what to expect.
I saw several banners on the walls. One said If Better is Possible, Is Good, Good Enough. It caught my interest because I thought my life was pretty good but knew there was room to make it better.
To say the seminar changed our lives sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. I came away happier and with the confidence to believe in myself. Our family became stronger and my marriage reached a depth I never could have imagined before. I learned firsthand that better was possible.
Over the years we witnessed countless others, including friends and family, benefit from the program. Volunteer roles allowed me to make a small difference in someone else’s life. I was stretched and challenged and learned I could do much more than I realized. Deep friendships were formed with those I served with and for.
Last week it was announced that this amazing program would not be able to continue. The global pandemic had imposed restrictions that couldn’t be overcome.
Feelings of grief and gratitude intermingle. We were not just participants or volunteers in a program, we had become family. Many are scattered across the country and we will no longer come together on a regular basis. I don’t know if, or when, I will again see these people I’ve come to care for. This is where the grief comes in.
I’ve heard the saying, Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. With that in mind, I look back in gratitude for the Choices program. It truly was the adventure of a lifetime. I am a better person because I took what I learned there and applied it to my life. The training will forever live in my heart.
I am a confident and valuable woman, gently leading and making a difference by sharing from my heart.
I met her in a lineup where we were both waiting to pay for items of clothing.
This lady was so excited with the garment she was about to purchase, she couldn’t resist telling me about it.
“When I saw this on a mannequin, I knew I had to have it,” she told me. “I don’t even know how much it cost!” She carried on to tell me this was for her six-year-old granddaughter. She explained that the two of them looked alike, and her granddaughter always says, “Same, Same, Nana.”
The little girl would be thrilled to experience the same, same in matching outfits.
I thought back to my mom knitting matching sweaters for my young daughter and I and a Cabbage Patch doll! For a child, wearing the same type of clothing as someone they look up to, helps them feel as important as that person is to them.
As an adult, I no longer want to be dressed exactly the same as someone else. I have, however, looked for other ways to emulate people I admired. If I tried to duplicate their methods, could I be as successful? Could I copy their mannerisms and be as popular?
The trouble was, I could never do enough to be the same as someone else. It left me frustrated and feeling like a failure.
My efforts to be the same caused me to lose sight of my own unique qualities. I had to learn to accept and appreciate who I am and what I have to offer. Only then did I feel good about my own accomplishments.
Now, I am willing to learn from others but my goal is no longer to be the same as anyone else. Instead, I am happy to become the best version of me.
Although the temperature was still climbing, my husband and I decided to go for an afternoon walk. The new route we chose rewarded us with some lovely scenery but offered no shade to give relief from the sweltering heat.
Part way through our walk I overheard a snippet of conversation between a dad and his young son. They were standing by their bikes at the side of the path. I guessed the boy was suffering from the heat when he said to his dad, “When it’s summer, I want it to be winter and when it’s winter, I want it to be summer.”
This child had just expressed what many of us, myself included, often think. It is so easy to take life for granted and not appreciate what I have until it’s gone. Only then do I wish I had it back.
Does this sound familiar to you? I wish and are both thoughts that sabotage my enjoyment of today. Both of them are focused on a time that is in the past or the future. When my mind is occupied with these things, I fail to appreciate what I have right now.
Recently I unearthed a scrap of paper containing part of a song lyric I’d jotted down because of the impact the words had for me. They said, “Yesterday’s gone and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.”
I may need to rewrite this and put it in a prominent place as a reminder to enjoy every moment. Life is too short to wish it away.
My reasons for working with a nutritionist were twofold. Digestive issues were the main reason. The other one was to lose some of the excess weight I’d accumulated.
I was told as we addressed the digestive issues my body would start to release the weight. I wouldn’t need to stick to a calorie count or be concerned about portion control. The object was to restore balance to my body and let it heal. As that happened, the weight would take care of itself.
To let my body release the weight, rather than trying to lose it, was an unknown concept. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense.
When I lose something, it is usually unintentional. I am unable to find what was misplaced and start a search to find whatever it was. This is not what I wanted to do with my extra pounds!
It’s not only objects, like car keys, I lost. I’ve also attempted to lose a bad attitude, resentments and frustrations. Sometimes I’ve found them again when searching to make sure they were really gone!
Releasing something has an entirely different connotation. It means I willingly, intentionally give it up. I had to do this with many items when we downsized last year. The difficult process was worth it as each item I set free liberated me.
Another meaning of release is to allow or enable to escape from confinement. When I did the work to heal my emotional state, I could release anger and experience true forgiveness. Bitterness gave way to freedom and happiness, enabling me to escape from a self-imposed confinement.
My experience with the nutritionist has helped me to weigh the difference between loss and release. I’m now on the proper end of the scales both mentally and physically.
“I’ll give you my wise woman discount,” she said. “Thank you,” I replied, before joking, “Is that your nice way of saying senior?”
The answer both surprised and pleased me. I was told of her belief that seniors have much accumulated wisdom, so she truly thought of them as wise. She also told me that too many people don’t recognize or appreciate this. Needless to say, I was quickly gaining respect for this young woman!
For many years, I didn’t think of myself as wise. I don’t have the formal education that many do. I don’t always make good decisions. It took a long time to realize that these facts don’t negate the wisdom I’ve gained in my lifetime.
My wisdom has come from experience. I can’t speak for others in my age category, but for me, many of the learning experiences in my life have come from mistakes I’ve made. The longer I live, the more opportunity I have to make mistakes. They are an inevitable part of life. Over the years I’ve discovered that my mistakes have enabled me to gain wisdom.
When any of us are willing to be vulnerable and pass our experiences on to others, wisdom is shared. It’s nice to know that all the mistakes don’t have to be mine. I can learn from yours as well!
One of my favourite sources of wisdom comes from children. I have heard some profound things from my grandchildren. Young children don’t filter their words. They say what they think and feel. I have learned a lot from paying attention to them.
So, while I appreciate being called wise, I know it’s as a result of the mistakes I’ve made and also from paying attention to what I can learn from others. I’m also wise enough to accept the wise woman discount when it’s offered!