The only sense that is common in the long run is the sense of change--and we all instinctively avoid it.
--E. B. White
Nature reveals to us a world that is always changing. No two sunsets are alike. Winter brings invigorating days while spring brings new buds and blossoms every day. Summer brings lazy warmth and star-filled evenings while fall brings crisp afternoons and a sense of nostalgia.
Even though nature shows us a constantly changing world, we often resist the changes in our own lives. Changes can be both hard and sad, yet they are a part of life. Perhaps we are moving on to a new school or a new neighborhood, or perhaps we are feeling the changes that come with a divorce in the family.
With every change we say a sad goodbye to something old, something familiar--in the same way we feel sadness for summer's end when the first leaves begin to fall. Yet every change also offers us the excitement and potential of a new season--with its own opportunity for new smells, special gifts, and invigorating days.
How have I changed today?
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.
To worry about something ahead of time is a waste of time and energy that could be better spent on living a full life today.
For instance, if we spend hours today worrying about an important test at school tomorrow, we can't very well concentrate on studying. And if we lie awake tonight agonizing over what we don't know or haven't studied, we're going to be exhausted tomorrow when we take the test.
Wouldn't it be much better to focus on doing all we can today to prepare for the test, and then, knowing we've done our best, let go of it tonight and get a good night's sleep? In fact, if we do that every day of the year, when a big test comes along, we'll know we're as ready as we can be, and won't have a thing to worry about. What a relief it is to know we've done our best today and every day.
What can I do well today so I won't worry about it tomorrow?
Fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.
No one is brave every moment; each of us feels awkward, shy, perhaps even ugly or dumb part of the time. If we could understand that about each other, it would make it easier for us to be friendly and willing to talk to someone new. Instead, we often sit back, waiting to be noticed; waiting for someone to invite us to join in an activity.
We are all so much alike, yet we are so certain we're different. Being self-conscious is normal. Even those who are the most popular suffer the same fears as the rest of us. The better we understand the ways we are the same, the easier it will be to make friends with someone new. And it's through friends that we grow and are strengthened for whatever lies ahead.
What new person can I offer friendship to today?
One will rarely err if extreme actions be ascribed to vanity, ordinary actions to habit, and mean actions to fear.
Sometimes we begin to believe someone close to us is being mean deliberately. This may happen when a good friend suddenly stops inviting us to her house. She may be scared to have others over because her parents are having problems, or for some other reason that has nothing to do with us.
But we often fear that it is because of something we said or did. We find ourselves becoming scared and pulling away. If we ask for God's help in turning our fear around, we can overcome it and ask our friend why she stopped inviting us over. Most times we will find that our friend had no idea her actions affected us the way they did. We can then laugh at ourselves for our fears and applaud ourselves for overcoming them.
What treasure might I find beneath my fear today?
All power is a trust. We are accountable for its exercise. From people and for people all power springs, and all must exist.
The sun is power. It warms, it burns, it feeds the plants without which we could not live. Yet, for all its power, the sun cannot make so much as a rainbow by itself. For that, it needs the rain, at just the right time and angle.
No matter how strong we are--or smart or talented or attractive--we realize our full power only by filtering it through others. Our most meaningful achievements are born of combined efforts. Even when we do something that feels like ours alone--paint a painting, win an award, hit a home run--there is always a constellation of friends and family and teachers, even enemies, who've been a part of our success.
Like the rain's part in the rainbow, the contributions of others do not detract from our achievements, but enhance them and bring them to their fullest light.
How are others enhancing my growth today?
The bough which has been downward thrust by force of strength to bend its top to earth, so soon as the pressing hand is gone, looks up again straight to the sky above.
When we are down, low, depressed, why can't we ignore the desire to rise up again? Because we're like plants that need pure air, water, and sun. Because no matter how bent and old, we just keep wanting to grow up. Because there is a natural spring in us like that which makes flowers leap from the earth in May. Because we have hidden wings. And if we listen, we can feel the difference between wrong and right: we know the difference even with our eyes closed. Therefore we should not try putting ourselves down, for we will spring up again, sure as Spring.
What is the main way I try to put myself down?
Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves.
Isn't that always the way? We cope with major events, like births and weddings, fairly well. It is the little things--so inconsequential in the long run--that upset us. If the kids don't pick up their rooms, or dinner is late, or we can't go to the movies because we haven't done our homework, we become irritated and annoyed. Minor things like these upset us much more than they should.
Are they really so important? A messy room is not a terminal illness. A late dinner won't affect our health unless we get so upset about it we make ourselves sick. We'll survive.
If we think back to the last time we were angry or upset, does it seem important now? We probably can't even remember why we reacted that way. How much better life is when we let go of the little irritations.
What irritation can I let go of today?
Sometimes it takes a rainy day just to let you know, everything's gonna be alright.
Rainy days let us slow down. We are busy people, driving ourselves to go places and get things done. But rain seems to slow life down, even in our hearts. And slowing down can show us the peace in our lives, the peace of knowing we have all we need right inside us. The pressures of the world can drop away for a time while we reflect.
As the rain soaks into the ground, its serenity enters our hearts. Leaves on trees begin to look more green. Plants and flowers are no longer thirsty. When we slow down, we can be comforted by what we have in our hearts, knowing everything is going to be all right.
What comfort can I find within myself right now?
Sometimes when we feel sorry for ourselves we will sit alone in our bedroom. We may even feel so down in the dumps that we decide to stay there, indulging in self-pity, thinking about how the world is against us.
However, if we use our imagination to step outside our own point of view for a moment, we might think differently. If we were deer in the forest, we would be thinking about keeping safe from the wolves, and where our next meal would be coming from.
The animals have no time to feel sorry for themselves, they are too busy doing what has to be done to survive, and each thing that happens presents a new survival problem to be solved.
When we feel blue, it helps to keep this in mind. If we have the time to feel down, and can get physically comfortable while doing it, how bad can the problem really be?
In what ways is my life comfortable, easy, and full of love?
Before he closed his eyes, he let them wander round his old room . . . familiar and friendly things . . . which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted on for the same simple welcome.
When they moved into the house, the room at the top of the stairs was just a junk room. As the years passed, they slowly transformed the room into a guest room.
When they decided they needed another voice in the house, they transformed the room again: out went the fold-out couch, in came a crib and rocking chair; off went the art gallery prints from the walls, up went Winnie-the-Pooh. It was no longer a guest room, but a place for the baby, a new--and permanent--member of the family.
We always have room for more in our lives. When we are ready for it, what we need for growth will emerge.
What do the rooms inside our homes and ourselves have to tell us about the way we live our lives?
I love him and I cannot seem to find him.
Where can we find the ones we love? Do they always live in our world, or do we have to go out of our way? They often are not at home; we can find them at their work. Their play is different from ours; we could try having their kind of fun.
Too often, we look only for friends who are much like ourselves, and we tend to avoid those who are not. This kind of narrow-mindedness isn't fair to ourselves or others. We are each unique, like the pieces of a puzzle. We are each necessary to the whole picture.
When we go out of our way to know someone else better, we stretch our own boundaries, we give ourselves new space in which to grow.
What part of my life can I discover in someone new today?
Whoever is happy will make others happy, too.
Anne Frank had good reason to be unhappy, full of fear, and deeply discouraged. Years of her life were spent in a small apartment hiding from the Nazis who wanted to destroy her and her family. Yet even in this little hiding place she had happiness. It was something she had inside which did not depend on what happened around her. She had riches of the heart. She had faith that kept her going. She had love and concern for her family and others which made even a restricted life very rich with feelings. It is tempting to believe that we will be happy when we have something outside ourselves which will make us happy. But happiness is not something we have to find outside; the seeds are in our hearts already.
What happiness can I find in my latest setback?
Walk. Don't walk.
Signs direct us on our way in life. Traffic lights tell us to walk (or not), Golden Arches point us to dinner, geese flying south herald the coming winter, flashing neon tells us what to buy. We know how to read these signs of worlds and weather; they help to guide us on our journey.
We can learn to read the signs of human beings, too, to be detectives of the human spirit. Laugh lines around eyes and mouth, the texture of hands, tension in jaws and shoulders can tell much about a person, if we stop to look. All around us are signs that tell us others feel the pain and joy we feel, others need us as we need them, we are understood, and we are not alone.
The marvelous bonus in learning to read these signs in others is that we can begin to let ourselves be read, also.
Will I make good reading for others today?
I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in human beings.
--Pearl S. Buck
We owe each other respect. We cannot expect to be respected if we don't respect others around us. When we respect others, we respect their property and personal belongings as well as their self-esteem and their right to voice an opinion. Respect is a way of cooperating with each other.
We can imagine a submarine where crew members did not respect each other's personal belongings or their ability to do the job. The ship would soon stop functioning because of the chaos. In a family we live in close quarters, like a submarine crew. Respect for each other is one of the things which keeps chaos from breaking out. When we grow in respect for each other's property, abilities, and self-esteem, we soon see how valuable each member of our crew really is.
How can I show respect to those around me today?
Perhaps nature is our best assurance of immortality.
Everything in nature contributes to something else--like the hundred-year-old tree that stood tall until a wind storm. The protection it gave to thousands of birds and squirrels it now gives to insects and fungi. As it slowly decays, it nourishes the ground, and from the enriched soil grow several other trees. We human beings are part of this eternal cycle, our ideas and actions enriching those around us and influencing generations yet to come. Being part of this vast plan gives us comfort, and faith that everything that happens is meant to be. Our hearts fill with joy with the knowledge that we are needed, just as every tree is needed.
How do I fit into nature's plan today?
The house, the stars, the desert--what gives them their beauty is something that is invisible.
--Antoine de Saint Exupery
What makes our home special? Is it the shape of it, or whether or not we have carpeting? Probably not.
More likely, what makes us love a place is how we feel when we are there. Home is the familiarity of pleasant smells, activities, and special people.
And when we are caught by the beauty of the stars, isn't it something that happens inside us--the breathtaking feeling of joy that is so hard to describe? The beauty of a day or a special person in our lives cannot be captured, but it can fill and warm our hearts.
Can I measure beauty today by what I feel inside?
When people envy me I think, Oh God, don't envy me, I have my own pains.
A forest is full of many different kinds of trees--they are all sizes and shapes and shades of color. It is hard to imagine a pine tree wishing it was an oak. Or a fir tree envying the birch its white bark. Instead, each tree catches raindrops and reflects the sunshine in its own way.
We often find ourselves envying someone else. We think they have more money or more friends. We see them as better looking or luckier in some way than we are.
It is so easy to overlook our own gifts when we do this. We get fooled by what looks good and forget that all human beings have some weaknesses and pain, just like we do. Like the trees in the forest, we each have our own unique beauty and talents to offer. If we believe in ourselves, rather than envy those around us, we will grow green and tall in our own way.
What qualities do I have that someone might envy?
One is happy as a result of one's own efforts, tastes, a certain degree of courage, self-denial to a point, love of work, and, above all, a clear conscience. Happiness is no vague dream, of that I now feel certain.
"We always go get a hot fudge sundae after the school choir concert," the girl said. Her parents laughed because their daughter said always, and they had only gone to a school choir concert once. Then the parents realized that the girl really had a great idea.
"Yes," the mother said, "we always get a sundae because we like to make up new traditions. We'll have to be sure and do it tonight so we don't let the tradition fall apart before it even gets started!"
They all laughed together and started debating which restaurant had the best hot fudge sundae.
We all need to have special traditions with our families. We need celebrations that have nothing to do with official holidays. Family holidays can mean so much more to us sometimes because they celebrate our shared experiences in life and become the source of happy memories for a lifetime.
What tradition can I start today?
Let me fly, says little birdie,
Mother, let me fly away.
--Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Don't we all want to fly away? Isn't there a better place out there away from home? The boy can't fly, but he can climb a tree and ride the wind. The girl, high on imaginary wings, flies to her own land of dreams. Even mothers and fathers, together and alone, need to fly--away from work, house, and the everyday same old things. But we all need to return as well. We need to know that home is the one safe place to land, that there we can rest, recover our strength, tell our tales to family and friends.
Our home is safe and comfortable, but if we never leave, even for a short while, we will never take the action necessary to bring our dreams to life.
What small comfort might I give up for today in order to make a dream come true?
There is no hope of joy except in human relations.
--Antoine de Saint Exupery
It is hard to imagine being really joyful and excited without our family and friends. We can imagine a birthday party with no one but us attending. Even if we got many gifts, we would feel empty if there were no one around to share our excitement with.
Our joy comes from each other. Even the hard times furnish us with wonderful memories for later in life. We share the good and the bad, and the rewards of both. When our lives together seem too difficult, when it's too hard to share, too crowded to think, when there are too many disagreements, we can find comfort by looking at one another once again and seeing all the ways we are truly alike, and what we share every moment that we sometimes take for granted--our food, our thoughts, the very air we breathe.
What are the things we share right now?
Things don't turn up in this world until somebody turns them up.
--James A. Garfield
We could learn from the bears in the woods how to turn up opportunities. To nourish themselves, they turn over logs and stumps to get insects. When they smell honey, they will climb a tree after it, and when they see berries they will move branches aside to get at them.
Like the bears, we need to turn up things for ourselves. Perhaps we can enter a drawing or writing contest. Maybe we can try out for a team sport or the orchestra. By doing this, we take risks which foster our growth and build confidence, and we turn our lives into fulfilling adventures.
Why wait for opportunity to knock when we can knock at opportunity's door. Whatever our interests, finding ways to enjoy them can make the most out of the opportunities around us.
What opportunities are available to me today?
Notice the difference between what happens when a man says to himself, I have failed three times, and what happens when he says, I'm a failure.
--S. I. Hayakawa
What happens to us when we call ourselves names like "failure" or "dummy"? We feel we're no good and never will be. We want to stop trying because we think we'll flub up again.
But what if we begin to use different words to describe the same results? It won't change the results, but it will change us. And it will change the way we see ourselves and our actions.
Just by changing the words we use we can feel better about ourselves. Saying, "I've failed three times," means we'll try again and again and again until we succeed. It means we know God doesn't make any failures or dummies. It means God is always with us, loving us and helping us, even when trying seems difficult.
What can I change my thinking about today?
When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or the life of another.
It is a great loss when we underestimate the importance of our efforts in the life of another. One man, who had to spend some time in a hospital, waited day after day to receive a card or a telephone call from those who cared. Some people, who he expected to call or write, did not. Others, who the man had not felt close to, and whom he did not expect to hear from, surprised him with their concern. He came to place greater value on those who had cared enough to call or send a card.
A little act, the best we have at that moment, makes a big difference to the person on the other end. Knowing this helps us make sure that all our acts, even the smallest, are as good as we can make them, because they all make a difference.
What small acts of those around me have made a difference to me?
Kindness and intelligence don't always deliver us from the pitfalls and traps.
--Barbara Grizzuti Harrison
Being human means we'll have hard times along with pleasant ones. Whether with friends, at school, or at home, we'll find reasons for sadness or anger as easily as for laughter. In every part of our lives, we're offered just what we need for growth.
Being the best we know how to be doesn't mean we'll escape confusion or pain. Through the troubling times we learn to trust in a Higher Power; we learn patience; we learn to let go and let God decide outcomes. The troubling times offer us growth and serenity, our keys to happiness.
What hidden gifts will I find in today's troubles?