Category Archives: Relationships

What Next?

Car on Highway
What Next?

Service is Joy

“What next?” These words escaped from Sandra Wilson on her drive back from the University of Wisconsin. Suddenly overcome by sadness and heaviness of heart, she parked on the side of the road to regain her composure.

Her last child, Nathan, is now off to college and although she had been preparing for this day for months, it only now became a reality. “What next?” Since her divorce a decade earlier, all she did revolved around her three children. She loved them and was happy at their progress into adulthood but she also felt an overwhelming feeling of abandonment, a loneliness that ate her up. As she watched the cars zoom by with tears dripping slowly down her face, she entertained the thought of joining her beloved mother in the afterlife. “What next, what do I have to look forward to?” It was not that long ago she graduated from college with great hopes of a future with a loving family and a fulfilling career. All that is behind her now. How quickly the years go by, she mused.

Suddenly, her day dreaming was interrupted by an old green Isuzu pick-up truck which barely made it off the road and was parked just ahead of her. Something was obviously wrong so she wiped away her tears and proceeded to find out if the stranded gentleman needed any help. His truck had run out of gas and he was extremely grateful to Ms. Wilson for her help in driving him to a gas station to procure gas and bringing him back to his vehicle.

Her service to the stranger erased her previous anxiety of living alone without her children. She had found the answer to her question, “What next?” Daily, every single human being is given the opportunity to find true joy through service. This simple realization was helpful to Ms. Wilson because it was the absence of joy which she feared with Nathan’s departure and she now knows that joy is ever-present through genuine service.

Every charm of life passes, only love remains because it is the very essence of life. Where love is absent there is no life, just mere existence. Where love is present, however, there is also service and thus joy.

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” 

~Rabindranath Tagore

Zainab’s Mother

Love… It was because of her Love

Meryem was abandoned by her family for marrying below her status only to later discover that the man she gave up her family for would himself abandon her. His ever growing frustration with the very high levels of unemployment in early 1980s Turkey led to his affair with alcoholism, which subsequently derailed their marriage.

As the sole provider for her two girls, Meryem had to leave the only place she called home in order to put food on the table and send her daughters to school. She worked as a janitor in West Germany for ten years, indifferent to the cold-heartedness of her German neighbors who were threatened by the flood of Turkish workers inhabiting their city. She slept on the street with her daughters on few occasions when she was unable to gather enough money to pay for their accommodation.

Despite the difficulties, Meryem made every sacrifice to ensure Zainab and her sister Zehru did not lack the essentials for their education. Many years later Zainab, who became a successful author, asked her mother about one particular incident. This event was so clear in Zainab’s memory, it had such an impact on her because it was the only time she ever saw her invincible mother cry.

It was a cold February evening in their second year in West Germany, Zainab was seven years old. Meryem paced around a popular street corner with her girls asking for spare change from passers-by when a  young German woman with compassionate green eyes approached them. She took off her coat and wrapped it around the shivering Meryem. Seeing the hungry faces of the little girls, she emptied her purse of all the cash in her possession. She embraced Meryem warmly, waved to the girls and continued on towards her destination.

“Mother”, Zainab asked, “you have been through so much hardship without once outwardly showing any sign of defeat, why did you break down in tears after that kind woman embraced you and placed her coat around you?”

“It was because of her LOVE my dear,” responded Meryem.

“You can steel your heart against any type of trouble, any kind of horror. But a simple act of kindness from a complete stranger will unstitch you.” 

Chris Abani

 

The Three Sieves of Speech

The annual August road trip from Maryland to South Carolina had become a tradition in the Baker household. Grandma was always thrilled to see her ever growing grandchildren, Paul and Tessa. Their parents, John and Maureen, both grew up near Greenville, SC before moving to Maryland for college some twenty years back.

Camping, fishing, golfing and storytelling were always on the agenda during their one week stay with their vivacious eighty six year old grandmother. They all especially enjoyed sitting at her feet after dinner listening to new stories she had written within the past year of their last visit. “Tell us a story” Maureen requested.

Grandma closed her eyes briefly as if thinking of an appropriate story and then began…

Plato

 One day, the old wise Socrates walks down the streets, when all of a sudden a man runs up to him “Socrates I have to tell you something about your friend who…”

“Hold up” Socrates interrupts him “About the story you are about to tell me, did you put it through the three sieves?”

“Three sieves?” The man asks “What three sieves?”

“Let’s try it” Socrates says.

“The first sieve is the one of truth, did you examine what you were about to tell me if it is true?” Socrates asks.

“Well no, I just overheard it” The man says.

“Ah, well then you have used the second sieve, the sieve of good?” Socrates asks “Is it something good what you are about to tell me?”

“Ehm no, on the contrary” the man answers.

“Hmmm” The wise man says “Let’s use the third sieve then, is it necessary to tell me what you are so excited about?” 

“No not necessary” the man says.

“Well” Socrates says with a smile “If the story you are about to tell me is not true, good or necessary, just forget it and do not bother me with it.” *

Imagine how much trouble and headache can be avoided by speaking only what is good, true and necessary. Serenity, calmness of mind, is the result of continued effort in self-control and humility. Only when a man ceases to give his unrequested opinion on every subject but rather speaks only when, where and how it is necessary can he begin to call humility his own. The gift of speech becomes a curse and leads to unrest when its powers are lent to gossip, slander and unnecessary chatter. Patiently observe the effect of your words on your being, only then does the greatness of the story become  undoubtedly evident.

Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

~ Rumi

* Source- Unknown

Mothers Day Gift

little girls in open fieldPatricia took her four year old daughter, Audrey, to the park as she does every Saturday morning. Audrey excitedly ran towards the slides while Patricia sat on one of the park benches. She whipped out her phone to check her “to do list” for the day and realized that she was yet to get her mother  a Mothers Day gift.

Patricia went through a divorce in the past year and her mother was a great source of support for her especially during the initial stages of the divorce process. She wanted to show her appreciation by giving her mother a special gift this Mothers Day. She thought hard for ideas but nothing worthy surfaced. She turned towards Audrey, who was just then laughing with a playmate as they both ran around the field. “She looks so happy,” Patricia whispered pensively with a smile. In that moment Audrey had given her a special gift- the gift of a child’s happiness to its mother.

From this experience, she now knew what to get her mother. Hearing her children sing always brought her mother joy because it meant they were happy.  Patricia decided she would send her mother a video of herself and Audrey singing the “You are my Sunshine” song. Her mother sang this song to Patricia as a child and loved it whenever little Patricia sang along.

………..

What can a four year old give her mother on Mothers Day? What can one give The Creator to show gratitude for the gift of life? Simply to be happy, to enliven our activity with joy. For what else can one give to HIM who has it all?

Kyle’s Story

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on Friday? He must really be a nerd.” I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up, and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes.

My heart went out to him. So I jogged over to him, and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, “those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.” He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.

I helped him pick up his books and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before, but we talked all the way home, and I carried his books.

He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes.

We hung out all weekend, and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. And my friends thought the same of him. Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books every day!” He just laughed and handed me half the books.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became good friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak.

On graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. I could see that he was nervous about his speech, so I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smile. “Thanks,” he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, you teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach—but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.” I just looked at my friend in disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. “Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.”

I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and Dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture, you can change a person’s life.

Author: Unknown

All That Glitters is not Gold

OrangesDorothy, a stay at home mother, does most of her food shopping at Costco on Fridays. On one particular Friday, she saw two dozen oranges packaged in a beautifully designed box. The box had stunning artistic shapes on all four sides and came with a Bowie-class knife of pattern-welded steel.

The exquisite exterior of the box so caught her attention that she forgot to inspect the oranges inside the box. Upon arriving home and arranging the groceries, she realized that half of the oranges were rotten. Disappointed, she grabbed the box and drove back to Costco to return the rotten oranges.

…..

Just as one does not purchase oranges based principally on the beauty of the box that protects it, one should not get carried away by the physical body which protects the real man, the spirit.   A lot of hardship can be avoided in relationships if more attention were paid to the state of the spirit as opposed to the vessel that shields it.

On first meeting a potential spouse or business partner, the man
who relies only on his earthly senses in his assessment exposes himself to grave disappointment because the earthly senses can only observe the transient form. The true person is eternal and therefore cannot be fully understood by earthly senses which are familiar only with the change of forms. The intuition on the other hand is never deceived because, being spiritual, it sees the true nature of the other person.

How does one know when the intuition speaks? It is unique to each person but know that it never considers earthly distinction (wit, academic merits, wealth, eloquence, physical “beauty” etc.). It speaks to the nature of the other’s spirit.

 

Lonnie and Jack

Father.SonLonnie, a truck driver who usually works through the night, came home unexpectedly one night at 11 pm. He went into his fourteen year old son’s room and to his surprise Jack was nowhere to be found. Lonnie has been a good father to Jack since his mother left them after his birth; he loved his son and was very protective of him. He had told Jack on several occasions never to leave the house after 7 pm without first seeking his permission.

Lonnie waited for his son in the living room all night. The longer he waited, the more anger stirred within him. “How long has this child been sneaking out?” He thought to himself.

Jack suddenly walked in just before dawn…

“Where have you been?  You foolish child, I work my tail off to put food on the table and this is what you’ve been doing behind my back? You defy my authority…. If I ever catch you…!”

From then on, Lonnie began coming home sporadically to check on his son and always found him in bed as the experience of his last outing was still fresh in Jack’s mind. A few months later, however, Jack again went out to a party with his friends without his father’s permission. It just so happens that Lonnie left work early that day because he had back pain. “This boy left the house again without my permission? What should I do with him?”

As he pondered over the situation, he thought of all the pranks he played on his parents as a teenager. He remembered that his father’s yelling never had a positive impact on him, all it did was make him plan the next adventure more meticulously so as not to get caught. He laughed as he thought of this. His mother was able to reach him because he felt her love for him in the words which always followed the spanking. With his father, he never felt this love. It was only anger and irritation that his son disobeyed him and defied his authority.

With this recognition, Lonnie met Jack calmly as he walked into the house around 3 am. He explained to him why he did not want him out late at night. The teenager, who was at first shocked by his father’s measured response, listened attentively and for the first time felt ashamed for betraying his father’s trust. He no longer saw his father as his adversary but as a confidant because he now understood that his father’s actions were driven by the love he had for him.

 

 

The Right Mentor

The Right MentorSamuel has been overweight for years but his weight never bothered him. He walks with his head held high and takes great pride in his work as a janitor at a law firm in downtown Boston.

On a normal Tuesday afternoon at work, he receives an urgent call from a nearby hospital about his mother who was just rushed in after a heart attack. Samuel’s mother was also obese and her obesity caused the buildup of plaque on the inside of her coronary arteries which decreased the space through which blood could flow to her heart muscle, hence the heart attack.

Upon arriving at the hospital and seeing his mother, Samuel decides to change his lifestyle and lose weight. He cannot afford a gym membership or a nutritionist so he asks his friend, Melissa, for advice. Melissa is very intelligent and knows a lot about the recommended daily servings of each food group, the various types of exercises and even the health risks of obesity but there is one problem… she is obese.

Susan on the other hand, is quiet but is in tip top shape. She is not as intelligent as Melissa but she puts to practice the little she knows. Samuel quickly learns that Melissa cannot be of use to him because she always speaks of workout routines she has read about but never actually done. So he goes to Susan and she shows him a simple ten minute circuit training workout she does every morning which he decides to adopt. After two months and six hundred minutes of exercise, Samuel was astonished with the results of the simple exercise routine. He had lost fifteen pounds and felt much healthier than he had in years.

…….

An alert man will seek his mentors among those who have become what he aspires to be and not those who merely speak eloquently about it.