There is an old Chinese tale about a woman whose only son died. In her grief, she went to the holy man and said, "What prayers, what magical incantations do you have to bring my son back to life?"
Instead of sending her away or reasoning with her, he said to her, "Fetch me a mustard seed from a home that has never known sorrow. We will use it to drive the sorrow out of your life." The woman went off at once in search of that magical mustard seed.
She came first to a splendid mansion, knocked at the door, and said, "I am looking for a home that has never known sorrow. Is this such a place? It is very important to me."
They told her, "You've certainly come to the wrong place," and began to describe all the tragic things that recently had befallen them.
The woman said to herself, "Who is better able to help these poor, unfortunate people that I, who have had misfortune of my own?" She stayed to comfort them, then went on in search of a home that had never known sorrow. But wherever she turned, in hovels and in other places, she found one tale after another of sadness and misfortune. She became so involved in ministering to other people's grief that ultimately she forgot about her quest for the magical mustard seed, never realizing that it had, in fact, driven the sorrow out of her life.
At a turbulent public meeting once I lost my temper and said some harsh and sarcastic things. The proposal I was supporting was promptly defeated. My father who was there, said nothing, but that night, on my pillow I found a marked passage from Aristotle: "Anybody can become angry--that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way--that is not within everybody's power and is not easy."
A samurai, a very proud warrior, came to see a Zen Master one day. The samurai was very famous, but looking at the beauty of the Master and the Grace of the moment, he suddenly felt inferior.
He said to the Master, "Why am I feeling inferior? Just a moment ago everything was okay. As I entered your court suddenly I felt inferior. I have never felt like that before. I have faced death many times, and I have never felt any fear -- why am I now feeling frightened?"
The Master said, "Wait. When everyone else has gone, I will answer. "
People continued the whole day to come and see the Master, and the samurai was getting more and more tired waiting. By evening the room was empty, and the samurai said, "Now, can you answer me?"
The Master said, "Come outside."
It was a full moon night, the moon was just rising on the horizen. And he said, "Look at these trees. This tree is high in the sky and this small one beside it. They both have existed beside my window for years, and there has never been any problem. The smaller tree has never said to the big tree, 'Why do I feel inferior before you?' This tree is small, and that tree is big -- why have I never heard a whisper of it?"
The samurai said, "Because they can't compare."
The Master replied, "Then you need not ask me. You know the answer."
Talk happiness. The world is sad enough
Without your woes. No path is wholly rough;
Look for the places that are smooth and clear,
And speak of those, to rest the weary ear
Of Earth, so hurt by one continuous strain
Of human discontent and grief and pain.
Talk faith. The world is better off without
Your uttered ignorance and morbid doubt.
If you have faith in God, or man, or self,
Say so. If not, push back upon the shelf
Of silence all your thoughts, till faith shall come;
No one will grieve because your lips are dumb.
Talk health. The dreary, never-changing tale
Of mortal maladies is worn and stale.
You cannot charm, or interest, or please
By harping on that minor chord, disease.
Say you are well, or all is well with you,
And God shall hear your words and make them true.
By Bill Greer, Chicken Soup for the Veteran's Soul
I was off to go back to work one evening and my two children were busy sewing things on the sewing machine. My eleven year old daughter was, in the midst of her project, going to assist her older brother in making a little cushion. I left, and in a few hours returned to find a mess in the kitchen, front room, and both children sitting in front of the television.
Having had a long day, I was very short with my greeting to them and then I noticed the material my daughter had used. It had been purchased to make a color coordinated baby blanket, and now had chunks cut out of almost every piece of fabric. Not stopping to listen, I exploded at the children and explained how angry I was at what had been done.
My daughter listened to me sheepishly, not trying to defend herself at all, but the pain could be seen written across her face. She retreated to her room quietly, and spent some time in there alone before she came out to say good night and once again apologize for the mistake she had made.
A few hours later, as I was preparing to go to bed, there on my bed lay a beautiful, little cushion made out of the forbidden fabric, with the words "I LOVE MOM". Alongside it was a note apologizing again, and the innocence in which she had taken the fabric.
To this day, I still get tears in my eyes when I think of how I reacted and still feel the pain of my actions. It was I who then sheepishly went to her and apologized profusely for my actions. I display with great pride the cushion on my bed, and use it as a constant reminder that nothing in this world is greater than a child's love.
Author Unknown, from "Preacher's Illustration Service, # 969"
A woman attended her 20-year high school reunion. There she encountered her freshman year art teacher. She told him that she decided to go to college as a result of his inspiration, and that she was an art professor, now, at a large state university.
At the end of the evening's festivities, the teacher searched out his former student, shook her hand and said, "Thank you for saying those nice things about my teaching. You've really made my day."
"You're welcome," said the woman as she hugged him, "But let me thank you--you've made my life!"
I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention, especially if it's given from the heart. When people are talking, there's no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they're saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it. Most of us don't value ourselves or our love enough to know this. It has taken me a long time to believe in the power of simple saying, "I'm so sorry," when someone is in pain. And meaning it.
One of my patients told me that when she tried to tell her story people often interrupted to tell her that they once had something just like that happen to them. Subtly her pain became a story about themselves. Eventually she stopped talking to most people. It was just too lonely. We connect through listening. When we interrupt what someone is saying to let them know that we understand, we move the focus of attention to ourselves. When we listen, they know we care. Many people with cancer can talk about the relief of having someone just listen.
I have even learned to respond to someone crying by just listening. In the old days I used to reach for the tissues, until I realized that passing a person a tissue may be just another way to shut them down, to take them out of their experience of sadness and grief. Now I just listen. When they have cried all they need to cry, they find me there with them.
This simple thing has not been that easy to learn. It certainly went against everything I had been taught since I was very young. I thought people listened only because they were too timid to speak or did not know the answer. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well intentioned words.
Recently I took a sheet of paper and divided it into two columns: "Yes People," and "No People." Then I thought about individuals I knew and wrote their names in the appropriate column. What a shock it was to see the length of the "No" list.
These were the people who heard someone say, "You can't do that!" and they believed it. Now they were saying, "It can't be done!" and their negativity was affecting the lives of others.
If your friends made such a list right now, under which heading would they write your name? Do they see you as enthusiastic, affirmative and optimistic? Or do they believe you see more problems than solutions?
It's time to knock the "t" off the "can't." I like the words of author Frank Hughes: "I will say this about being an optimist; even when things don't turn out well, you are certain they will get better."
You are only a decision away from responding with hope instead of fear, with encouragement instead of criticism, with belief instead of despair. It's your choice!
1. You get motivated by doing things, not by thinking about them.
2. Next time you are upset, remember it's not so much people who make you angry, as it is your thoughts about them.
3. Whatever thoughts are causing you pain, they are only thoughts. You can change a thought.
4. Where did we get the idea that if we don't forgive people, they suffer?
5. The only way to beat fear is to face it.
6. If we are honest with ourselves, we can list almost everything that's ever happened to us - and see how we helped create it.
7. The happiest people don't worry too much about whether life is fair or not. They just get on with it.
8. If you want peace of mind, stop labeling everything that happens as "good" or "bad."
9. You give your best not because you need to impress people. You give your best because that's the only way to enjoy your work.
10. When life is sweet and that little voice says, "It can't last!" tell yourself, "Maybe it's about to get better!"
11. Loving people means giving them freedom to be who they choose to be and where they choose to be. Love is allowing people to be in your life out of choice.
Fear not and be thankful. Know your every need is being taken care of. If you are thankful, then you drive out fear. Do not worry about what is ahead; the journey ahead is assured. Have you not been brought forth so far in spite of all fears? Have you not traveled safely through all the trials, sorrows and tribulations of life? You never walk alone. Look back only to recognize the beauty you left behind; do not regret the past. Bless it -- for had you not traveled by that path you would not be here.