Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Saving Souls Now … Not Later

On Friday past, my client closed early for the Christmas holidays and I suddenly found myself with the gift of a couple of free hours.  As I thought about the best way to spend them, I remembered Jordan Hamilton’s invitation to come down to visit him when I had some time.

Jordan is the Manager of External Relations for the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre (known as the DI), the largest center of its kind in North America.  In a shelter designed to accommodate 500 people, it is not uncommon for this center to provide shelter for as many as 1300 people at once.

I reached out to Jordan, he indicated that he had some time available and I stopped down to pay a visit.  He had promised me that I would be inspired.

He and the DI didn’t disappoint.

I have toured many shelters of this type in my travels but this one blew me away.

The DI doesn’t just provide a shelter for those in need.  They plant the seeds of hope and love in every guest who stays with them. 

While many shelters do the best they can to provide a warm bed and a meal to those in need, the DI goes above and beyond.  The inspiring staff and volunteers at the DI provide those who are down on their luck with the foundation necessary to rediscover their talents and potential and thus the opportunity to rebuild their lives.

Many of these people are where they are because they have given up on themselves and therefore assume the rest of the world has given up on them also.  The DI helps reverse this belief system, an important first step to helping these people to help themselves.

Their talent and potential burns bright!  They just need help to bring this light out where everyone can see it.

For example, I happened to view a piece of art by one of the guests, a gentleman whom I will identify as “M'”.  It had a flamenco theme that was good as anything I have seen in some of the best art galleries in the world.  I found out it was for sale and so I asked him what he wanted for it.  “I dunno”, he said, “maybe a couple of hundred bucks?”.

I was stunned.  His talent can command thousands and I told him as such.  His face brightened up and said “Ok, how about $2000?” and he laughed.

Now you’re talking, M!

These people have not lost their pride or potential – it’s just buried under the weight of life experiences that would stagger any of us.

They don’t need us to teach them what their potential is.  They just need help lifting the weight off and to allow their potential to shine.  They need a break like the many we have received; the many we may not be cognizant of or may not be willing to admit we have been blessed with.

We should also be aware that many of us may be closer to being a guest of a place like the DI than we realize.  All it takes is one event too many and we could be there.

There, but for the Grace of God, go I.

Holding on to Hope

In a world of uncertainty, it is easy to lose hope when one sees so many people in need.

However, I see it differently.

When I meet people like Jordan and others, whether it be at the DI or so many other places dedicated to helping those in need, I am reminded of the power of hope that these dedicated, heart-filled people bring to those who feel that hope, light and love have left them behind.

I am often approached by well-intentioned people who appeal to me to help save the souls of others so that those who are downtrodden are prepared when they meet their Creator.

After I see places like the DI, my response to those “soul savers” would be a little different.

Forget about saving people’s souls for when they meet their Creator.  Save these people here and now and let their Creator take care of them when their end-of-times has come.

And in doing so, maybe you will have prepared yourself when it is your turn to meet your Creator.

The world is waiting for you to use your talents to make a difference in the lives of others.

What are you waiting for?

In service and servanthood,


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I Couldn’t Have Said It Better

I am sitting here taking a breather after a complex few days; a breather to think about the beauty and complexity of Life and Life Purpose.

In times when my brain seeks answers, one of my favorite authors to turn to is Henri Nouwen, specifically books such as “The Return of the Prodigal Son” or “Home Tonight – Further Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son”. 

I came upon this quote in “Home Tonight” that particularly resonated with me and I wanted to share it.  After I read this, I sought out the creator of this powerful piece.   The originator of this piece, Oriah, can be found here.   Check her out – I think your heart and Spirit will be moved by her.

Here is what I read in Nouwen today.

The Invitation by Oriah
It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

These are deep words that resonate with me on many levels, words that demand answers from me.

I am curious if they touch your heart in the same way.

All I know is, when it comes to describing Life Purpose, I couldn’t have said it any better.

In service and servanthood,


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Appreciating Our Blessings in Challenging Times

Sharing this story has become an annual tradition for me at this time of year and so, by popular demand, I share it once again.

Some years ago when my oldest son was very young, I had pulled into a Toys R Us parking lot in New Jersey on Christmas Eve to buy him more "stuff".  For my son to have so much stuff that he rivaled Toys R Us in inventory still didn't seem enough for some reason.

Just before I stepped out of my vehicle, a story came on my favorite National Public Radio station (WNYC in New York to be exact) and something about it caught my ear.

For the next 10 minutes, I sat in silence and listened to the story.  When the story was over, I started the truck and drove out of the parking lot in silence. 

I had received an important message about Christmas when I needed to hear it.

The teacher always appears when the student is ready and my Christmases have never been the same since.

Of the many traditions I have at Christmas, there are two that I find to be important.

1. I always listen to this story at least once.

2. I always share it with others and encourage them to listen to it.

The story I am referring to can be found here and in the video below.

When I think about my family, my friends and Life itself, I consider myself to be extremely blessed.

With that, I thank YOU for what you do - for the light and love you bring to so many.

In an uncertain world, every day we are alive is still an incredible gift.

In a world that experiences difficult moments, there are still miracles being created.

In a world that experiences war and hostility, there are still many examples of love and generosity.

In a world that experiences adversity and challenge, there exists unlimited opportunity and potential.

In a world that may seem to embrace greed, there are examples of incredible generosity.

Despite the many challenges we face, we have many reminders that we still live in a beautiful world.  Sometimes the reminders are obvious while at other times we need to dig deep to find them. 

Sometimes we need the help of others to help us find the “breathing room” to see them. 

And many times, other people need our help.

The reminders are there and that is what matters.

As you celebrate this Holiday Season, please remember those who are not as fortunate.  There is more than enough love to go around – we just need to make the effort to share it unconditionally.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy EID or Merry Yule. 

However you celebrate these days, cherish them. 

And help others to find a way to cherish them as well.

In service and servanthood, love and gratitude.


For those who can’t find the links on the NPR website to hear the story, they can be found here:

Windows Media Player

Real Media Player