Wednesday, October 31, 2012


It is an election year, as I am sure you are well aware.  And as I am sure you well know, Election Day is right around the corner.  Soon, the campaigns that have been flooding our eyes and ears will come to an end, and we will instead hear and read about the results of the election, the success of one political party over another, and the impending changes that are about to take effect.  And inevitably, we will also have an opportunity to voice our opinions, and consider those that have been shared by others, regarding the perceived well-being of our nation, its people, and our future as American citizens. 
Like many of you, I have partaken in numerous political discussions over the past few weeks, and I have read and overheard even more than I have participated in.  In doing so, I have listened to people as they passionately express their political beliefs and their adamant intentions of voting for the party they believe in,  formulating an argument for and against one party or the other, their representing candidates, and the numerous issues that will be on the ballot this year.  And on the contrary, I have heard countless people say that they do not intend to vote at all because they feel torn on an issue or they do not support either candidate this election year. 
As I listen to these arguments and discussions, I cannot help but to consider my own beliefs and opinions about what is “best” for our nation as I see it.  Yet regardless of my own political beliefs, and whether or not they are in agreement with others, I do think that it is important to vote.  I think that, as a members of a democracy, it is important to take this opportunity to raise our voice by casting our vote and advocate for what we believe in.
When I was twenty-one years old, I had my first opportunity to vote in a presidential election, though I was uncertain of my political beliefs.  Unsure of who I would vote for, I told my dad that I would sit this one out.  Upon hearing that, my father brought me up to speed on both candidates and he urged me to vote for who best represented my personal beliefs.  After he did so, he told me, “Ellie, it is important to vote.  Voting is a responsibility, an obligation, and a privilege a citizen of this country.”
I believe my father is right.  No matter your political beliefs, do cast your vote this Tuesday.  See to it that you fulfill your responsibility of advocating for what you believe in and know that you are privileged to have such an opportunity to do so.   

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Step By Step

When I was very young, my family spent a few days vacationing at Itasca State Park.  I was only four or five years old at the time, and I remember very little about the trip.  In fact, the only thing I remember about that summer vacation at all is visiting the source of the Mississippi River. I know that my mother and my sister were with me, I assume that my father was too, and if my memory serves me correctly, I was also accompanied by my aunt and my three cousins.  I don’t remember how we had spent that morning or the afternoon, nor do I remember arriving to the park.  Rather, my memory begins and ends with me being in what seemed to be the middle of the Mississippi River, carefully stepping from one slippery stone to another, as I tried to make my way across the water and to the shore.  My sister may have played alongside me, my mother may have encouraged me as I went, and I likely lost my footing from time to time.  However, if these things did occur, I do not remember them.  I remember one thing and one thing only:  carefully, yet clumsily, making my way across that mighty river. 

Of course, this memory is hardly remarkable.  But I do think that it represents an unmistakable metaphor for the journey that is life.  For, it is so often that we find ourselves in the middle of somewhere (or, nowhere for that matter) not knowing how we got there, or where exactly we intend to go.  We may not know what step it is that we are going to take next, and we may feel completely uncertain how, much less where, our feet will land as we put one foot in front of the other and carry on.  Yet, we continue to move forward, despite our uncertainty.  And we have faith that our journey will lead us to where we need to be.  For now. 

Much like in my memory of walking across the source of the Mississippi River, sometimes it is not our destination that matters most.  And paradoxically, sometimes it is not the particulars of the journey that is most important either.  Rather, sometimes, it is the faith that we have in ourselves and the forward movement that we are making in the face of uncertainty that is most valuable to us at that time.   

So, if you find yourself stumbling from stone to stone, and you feel unsure about where it is that you are heading, do not lose heart.  Remember that progress is not only measured by the direction we are heading, nor does happiness always depend upon the shore that we reach.  In fact, it is not even the stones that we step on that most determine our outcome.  Rather, what is most important during these times is the courage to act despite apprehension, the ability to persevere despite difficulty, and the faith that who we are and what we are made of is greater than any obstacle we may encounter. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012


If you have ever been a part of a relationship, I am willing to bet that you have also found yourself amidst an internal struggle that is, at least in part, due to something that has happened within that relationship. Something that was confusing, hurtful, or upsetting. Something that was difficult to let go of, move on from, or understand. As such, I am willing to bet that whatever it was that had caused you discomfort has also had a lasting impact on you in some meaningful way. Perhaps it has influenced how you approach people. Perhaps it taught you a valuable lesson. Perhaps it shaped you in some other meaningful way, for better or for worse. Rarely do we make it through such things without an impact being made.
Because of this, it comes as no surprise that such lesson can be quite difficult to learn. That we may be rendered incapable of embracing a lesson until we are capable of approaching the situation from an entirely different perspective. A perspective that does not focus on the hurt and is instead driven by a compassionate empathy for all that are involved. A perspective that allows us to let go of what may otherwise hard to set free.
When you take a moment to think about the implications of approaching painful circumstance in such a loving way, it is no wonder that many of us undergo a transformation of sorts as we move forward. It is no wonder that we also begin to soften, forgive, and let go of that which has hurt us in the past. I say that this is no wonder, because I believe that when we are able to approach another human being from a point of compassion, we begin to see life through their eyes, instead of through our own, and in doing so, we often gain a better understanding of their true intentions and greater insight into their deeper experiences. Rather than being convinced that we have been hurt by their selfishness or deceit, we may see instead that they were driven by another force entirely. Or, rather than looking down upon them with disappointment, judgment, or condemnation, we may soften our gaze and realize that they are coming from a place that we otherwise may not understand.
And of course, as I say this, please understand that I do not mean to minimize any pain that has been experienced, nor excuse any wounds that have been inflicted. I only mean to say that it does seem to feel better, and therefore take us farther, when we are able to invest in love and compassion and allow our pain to be transformed, rather than submerge ourselves in negative and destructive emotions.
So today, if you find yourself revisiting a painful relationship, I challenge you to consider the alternative perspective. Attempt to understand what may otherwise be unfathomable. Reject the victim mentality and let go of blame. Instead, hold fast to your optimism in humankind and have faith in what you believe to be good.