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Love Beyond Borders

Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words and everything in the world understands it. ~Frances Hodgson Burnett

I remember the first time we met. I walked into her hospital room with a little trepidation about the pocketful of knowledge scoured from her chart regarding her medical history and descent.

I could see the veil of pain, discomfort, and weariness on her face. I could see the question marks stamped in her gaze to me. I was acutely aware of the fact this pain and weariness was not of a surgical or medical origin. There was a discerned understanding within me that haunted memories were carried in the folds of her heart and stamped impressions on her face.

Silently, I pulled the Ipad on wheels towards us to ring in my communication lifeline. A Facetime call was placed to the medical translation organization, which supplies translators of any language of the globe to us. We provide her medical number to begin our slow and awkward introduction to one another. Our initial conversation would begin with each of us speaking to the translator on the screen and who then restrung our words across the canyon of cultural differences and language barriers to one another.

Painstakingly I learn the juggle of talking in two to three sentences at once and then waiting for the translator to build our communication bridge in her Arabic language. I explain who I am, what my purpose is today, and ask of her physical pain and understanding of her surgical precautions we must work within today.

Slowly, we thread the ebb and flow of our broken dialogue through the needle hole of our virtually present translator to build a physical therapist/patient relationship on one single goal she desires most in her heart. She wants to walk again one day.

Each day, our treatment sessions were tediously worked through with the painful process of learning to trust each other while building her physical strength.

Our relationship grew more comfortable as we learned ways to communicate with one another based on prior treatment sessions, in addition to hand gestures, body language, and our eyes. We began to trust our own mode of communication with one another to a pivotal point of no longer needing the lifeline of a translator for every session.

One day, I decided to call up the translator for assistance in a conversation with my patient about her progress and how to prepare for discharge to her home environment. I was prepared to discuss home safety, find out more about support system in the home, and arrange for equipment. What started as a conversation about her future turned into a testimony of her past:

After saving for 25 years, her husband and she happily traveled from their village to the big city of Aleppo in her native country of Syria. They settled in for a future they had worked so hard to finally begin. Aleppo was the largest and most prosperous city in the country at the time.

Then, in an instant, her life crumbled around her. As the bombs ripped through the city, her new home and all they worked for disintegrated along with the streets and buildings. All the promises the city housed for these residents turned to rubble and dust. They found themselves running for their lives.

With nothing more than the clothes on their back, they followed the surge of empty handed and desperate Syrians across the borders to refugee camps.

In a tent city on the soil of Turkey, she began to put the pieces of the latest events together. Frantically she searched out hope of contacting her four grown children. Days were spent searching for answers. What will become of us? Where will we go now? No longer in her home country, yet not a citizen of the land she has found herself in, she is left with no more energy to process the horrors she just witnessed, or the horrors she must live through in this new reality.

Days bled into months and word reached the refugees that other countries are devising a plan to offer assistance out of the nameless, hopeless deluge of tents. Finally, her husband received word that he and his wife would receive travel graces to come to America. But, because of the vast number of people receiving assistance, there was no guarantee of when her grown children’s families would receive their own lottery ticket of exodus.

Alas, they found themselves in America, but not without a heavy price. It took many weeks to discover the rest of her family’s fate. All of her children are now searching out new beginnings in other countries including Germany, Iraq, and Turkey. Like seeds in the wind, her family will learn to root on the soil they landed on and start over again.

The journey from Aleppo, the nights of sleeping in a tent in Turkey, and the journey to America did not fare well on my new patient. By the time they arrived here, her osteoporotic hips had failed her and her husband was carrying her.

Now I sit in a therapy gym with nothing to offer for her story but my hand grasping hers and my steady and compassionate gaze for her to reflect her pain into.

Humbly, I drove home from work that day with her voice echoing her heartbroken story in Arabic through my soul.

She saw that day I could not fathom the horrors she experienced, I could not even utter the words “I’m sorry” and they equal the depth of sorrow she poured on my ears. My speechless trickle of a tear down my cheek became the salty trail between my heart and hers. Our few remaining days of her two-week stay had a different air surrounding them.

We built a fond attachment to one another. When I entered her room, a happy and bright smile crossed her face, almost making it to her eyes, which housed bottomless wells of life experiences I will never truly understand. We began to communicate in our own special ticks and sign language providing a strange scene to the others in the rehab gym as they watched us work together.

On my last day with this brave woman, I knew I would likely never see her again. We embraced. We reviewed our daily ritual of Arabic and English words we had learned in our broken conversations about weather, elephants, children, and tattoos.

She was babbling away as we hugged. I pay attention to her eyes in our usual way as we somehow learned the innate talent of having conversation with nothing more than ripples of emotion pouring out of our eyes.

I saw a fondness slightly deeper pooling over in her eyes. She smiled and grabbed my hand into both of hers and pulled me emphatically towards her heart. Then as clear as I’ve ever heard her speak an English word, she said, “Goodbye. I love you.”

My eyes misted. I felt a mother hen’s pride exchange between us, two mothers who know a different galaxy of struggle, hardship, devotion, and love. My tears were a bipolar mixture of maternal attachment and learned, professional detachment fighting one another.

I smiled, prepared for this moment. I knew I had to share my sentiments with her before I had even arrived to work that morning. I had a message waiting for her too. My message was going to be how proud I was of her progress. I was going to rave of her courage and hard work to walk, even if it was clumsily and only ten feet. Instead, tears streamed from those haunting eyes as I proudly responded with my new final message to her in her native language:

‘ahbak

أحبك

I love you

Reflecting On The Past

“A person often meets his destiny on a road he took to avoid it.” ~ Jean de La Fontaine

 

 

The last few months have been a time of reflection and meditation.

I have taken inventory of where I have been and lessons learned from it.

This is what I have learned.

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  1. Life is messy. Handle with flexibility.

You can create a list of goals and think you have it all figured out. But in the blink of an eye, you don’t.

The first time this happened was when I found out I was going to have a baby. My plans were aligned. My applications were in place for a Masters degree. I was sure my destiny was carefully road-mapped out. But the relationship I thought had come to an end brought me the surprise of motherhood when I least expected it.

As a result, I discarded the original dream of a Duke University degree and laid out a Plan B that would encompass the love and joy of a child. Finishing college with a child on my hip was no easy feat, but the results were more beautiful than I could have imagined. I would not trade this path for any other in the universe. She became my Plan A overnight and for that I am grateful.

Now, I am wrapping up a two-year plan that entailed stepping away from a career, which served me well for ten years. I thought I would retire from that line of work. However, I found it was not serving my health and well being any longer. But, I am thriving in my new calling. Ironically, I am utilizing the degree I attained 24 years ago when that bundle of joy became my world.

What is so interesting is I thought that “moving up” in my career would have brought me greater financial security and a higher sense of fulfillment. This change of plans is bringing me more joy than I imagined. Returning to my first career choice has opened my lifestyle to greater opportunities to experience love, joy, and peace.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life ahead of us.” ~Joseph Campbell

 

  1. Let go of your search for vindication and validation

Everyone has motivators in their life. Joy. Peace. Love. Success. Money. Children. For some, it is the search for validation. But the most crippling motivator could be vindication.

It can be debilitating, this hunger for validation or vindication. A thirst for vindication can become a prison. This hungry need to prove something can drastically alter your judgment.

You know your spouse is unfaithful, but you want to assuage your guilt of leaving the marriage by proving to them what you know. You don’t want to take the blame for destroying your family’s sand castle, so you wait for the moment you have the evidence. And you keep living in it and seeking the moment of validation so you can walk away with assurance. Months. Years. Opportunity lost to break free of this shifting confusion.

You have the gut instinct this relationship is not going to be healthy for you, but you want to understand why. Why are you attracted to them? What if you are wrong? Perhaps they are just in a bad space in their own life and need a chance to turn it around. You commit to seeing it through because before you realize it you have invested, and the threads of your own sanity are now sewn into the fabric of their dysfunction.

You search for the exit out of this amusement park. Slowly, your validation is anchored on this person willingly handing you the ticket of departure from their rollercoaster ride, a permission slip to blameless freedom.

Letting go of this motivator was the biggest relief I have experienced. Suddenly I could see clearly who I am instead of what I wanted to prove.

IMG_0597It took years, but the person I was desperately seeking vindication from was finally revealed for their true colors. It only happened when I stopped caring. It only came to fruition when my own opinion of myself was built on a foundation, which did not include the stones with their name engraved upon it.

“You can’t rip the skin from the snake. It will shed its skin when it’s ready.” ~Hari Dass Baba

  1. Life is fragile. Handle with mindfulness

A lack of mindfulness is best described as living in autopilot without a realization of what is actually happening around you. Washing the dishes while creating a grocery list, driving to work and not remembering the commute, or sitting in front of the television without an awareness of what is displayed on the screen are examples of performing activities mindlessly.

Living in this manner increases anxiety and depression. Learning to live mindfully means you pay attention to only the moment you are in without allowing your mind to wander like a stray puppy to all of the other parts of your life.

Living with mindfulness means you experience the current activity with no judgment surrounding it.

I used to spend my days multi-tasking all of the expectations that were thrown my way. As a result, I struggled with anxiety, depression, and increased forgetfulness.

Now, I attend to the task at hand with all of my heart and mind and then move on to the next.

When it is time to commute to work, I drive to work without creating a reaction to the condition of the commute.

When it is time to go to sleep, I close my eyes and go to sleep without a thought of tomorrow.

At first, I thought I would never be able to get everything accomplished living this way. But, I see am more productive with less anxiety. I enjoy each moment of the day with a new realization of how fortunate I am to be where I am today.

Be where you are now.IMG_4962

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.” ~Walt Whitman

What About Me?

Everyone has a history. Nobody comes from a life free of struggle. Can we step back and listen?

As a nation, we look at the activity occurring at this time and get a very diabolical reaction. We hear many voices express a wide bandwidth of emotion – from joy and relief to panic and overwhelming sadness. There is a very clear line drawn in the sand in today’s environment attempting to divide us into distinct parties. You are with one and therefore against the other on many social platforms including religion, marriage, education, and socioeconomic status.

How did we get here? What has happened that we are now a nation that, on one hand, screams acceptance and liberty for all but, on the other, spits contemptuous words at someone who does not live their life on the same side of the invisible social fence?

The Generation Theory

We are a nation with four distinct generations making adult decisions. We should not be surprised that we have this melting pot of expectations for the ideal life. On one end of the spectrum, the Traditionalists are making decisions in the “golden years” of their life. On the other, the Millennials are beginning to impact the business atmosphere in the twilight of their adulthood. Mixed in the middle are the very different groups of Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers. This peculiar mix of standards has led to numerous workshops and studies on how to navigate the workplace environment.

Each generation has been and continues to be molded by the experiences and observations of the prior generation, creating a turn of events that have brought us here. As illustrated in this chart, no matter which generation you come from, you have a set of ideals on social acceptance and rules of engagement.

According to the Strauss-Howe generational theory,  history repeats itself about every 90 years in four, consecutive turnings known as “saeculums.” Each “turn” is associated with the generation that paves the way for the next and builds to a continuous turn of events. The four turnings look like this (with the suggested generation identified in each description):

  • High: An era in which both the availability of social order and the demand for social order are high. (Tradionalist)
  • Awakening: The availability of social order is high, but the demand for such order is low.  (Baby Boom)
  • Unraveling: The mood of this era is in many ways the opposite of a High. Institutions are weak and distrusted, while individualism is strong and flourishing. (GenX)
  • Crisis: An era in which America’s institutional life is torn down and rebuilt from the ground up—always in response to a perceived threat to the nation’s very survival. Civic authority revives, cultural expression finds a community purpose, and people begin to locate themselves as members of a larger group. (Millennial)

While this theory is highly argued and has received numerous reviews ranging from praise to criticism, we can probably agree with the words of David Kaiser that this is  “a provocative and immensely entertaining outline of American history.”

What’s Happening Today?

We are seeing the destruction of social relationships occur every day. Regardless of your generation, most can attest to having recently had some emotionally charged conversation about a current event, either globally, nationally, or locally.

We have become a society that has created personal identities for ourselves based on how we view everyone surrounding us. As a result, it seems we are continuously streaming our personal views of others’ private choices for the public to judge. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blog sites are just an example. In the midst of our global scrambling for validation, we may have created an environment that resonates in the words of Timothy Keller:

If we get our very identity, our sense of worth, from our political position, then politics is not really about politics, it is about us. Through our cause we are getting a self, our worth. That means we must despise and demonize the opposition. If we get our identity from our ethnicity or socioeconomic status, then we have to feel superior to those of other classes and races. If you are profoundly proud of being an open-minded, tolerant soul, you will be extremely indignant toward people you think are bigots. If you are a very moral person, you will feel very superior to people you think are licentious…

Somehow, the art of dialogue between two disagreeing parties has been lost. This brings to mind the Heineken commercial, labeled #openyourworld that so beautifully laid out this lost art-form and what happens when we find a way to restore it. The way Heineken brought two polar sets of beliefs together on common ground to have a conversation about who they are outside of the labels resulted in respectful friendships despite their differences.

If we are to survive this turbulent time in American history, perhaps the answer is to step back and observe how we got here to begin with. If we look at past generations and all that they fought for, we will see that each brought us to this moment. This moment is of realization that we are in fact a melting pot of choices in a country established on freedom and equality for all.

What About Me?

How can we walk out of our boxes of standards and come to understand that we are all screaming the same plea?

“What about me?” is the same message we all have to say.

From the forgotten senior lying in a nursing home to the Millennial hoping to find her true identity in her college dorm room.

From the Vietnam veteran who sacrificed for a confusing war to the single teenage mom hoping to make ends meet while finishing school.

From the young attorney working to make an impact to the groundskeeper providing care in the dairy barn.

We are all asking ourselves in this time, “What about me?”

Just Listen

If the Strauss-Howe theory is what we are experiencing in our nation today, then the theory suggests we may be in a crisis. Regardless of anyone’s opinion of the model, we can probably agree this is a time of unrest.

Can we survive a crisis? Would it change our destiny if we took off our labels and stopped screaming, “What about me?” to instead listen? What if we sit down with someone who defies our own political beliefs and ask the person to share who they are  beneath the label?

Everyone has a history. Nobody comes from a life free of struggle. If we can understand the language of each generation, can we respect the journey we are individually experiencing?

Perhaps we can walk out of our comfortable corners of life and pay attention to the gift of diversity as we are surrounded by people that all long for the same things: peace and joy.

Here’s the challenge: Let’s take off the labels. Let’s stop moving into the conversation with the need to justify yourself.

Let’s listen.

We may find you like your neighbor, despite his sign in the yard.

We may discover a friend, regardless of her marital status.

We may learn compassion for the heartaches experienced daily by the person who is “different.”

“Don’t judge me on the chapter you walked in on” ~ author unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hardest Forgiveness Lesson

“Be gentle with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others.”

People say it’s hard to forgive someone who is not sorry. And they are correct in this notion if we live in the reality that one must first offer penance before forgiveness can occur. They are right to feel exhausted at carrying both the sting of a wrong and the burden of it’s consequences. They are justified in the humility they realize when they see  no justification for the bad things someone else brought on.

But let’s talk about a harder forgiveness.

What’s harder is to forgive yourself. You know. Those moments you don’t allow yourself to be happy with an accomplishment because it wasn’t large enough. The times you made a silly choice and you paid for it. The sour stomach you have over not paying attention then and silently living with “I told you so” inside your head now.

So, you work harder to reach an even higher aspiration. You get cold feet when you are about to make another big purchase. You back out of an opportunity because you can’t trust that you won’t get hurt again. You build a capsule of protection around your bruised ego with more expectations and new rules to live by. You know, because you expect yourself to be better.

Slowly you become a different person. The joy isn’t as joyous. The accomplishments aren’t as big of a deal. The new opportunities are not important enough. Because you can’t let go of those moments when you let yourself down.

You pray harder. You volunteer more. You do more. When you feel a nap coming on, you chastise yourself for being lazy. When you long for a weekend of leisure, you pull up the bootstraps and work until dusk on a project, because, you expect yourself to be better. You surround yourself with people who are now bearing the burden of telling you what you want to tell yourself, “You are a good person.” You call your best friend to admit, “I’ve done a terrible thing” because you know she will say those sweet words, “It’s going to be ok” you long to hear within yourself.

You think,

“No rest for the weary.”

“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

“My children will have it better than me.”

One day, you wake up and realize, you are exhausted and you don’t even like where you ended up.

 

We grow up learning to be kind to others. We are taught to turn the other cheek.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Why do we learn this? Because we try to embrace the moral principle known as the ‘Golden Rule’, otherwise known as the ethic of reciprocity, which means we believe that people should aim to treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves – with tolerance, consideration and compassion.

Generally speaking, we believe if we do unto others kindly, they do unto us kindly, then the world will be a kinder place.

 

We learn to be kind to others. But who teaches us to be kind to ourselves? We learn to love one another, even our greatest enemy, but who teaches us to love ourselves? Shouldn’t we be learning how to be kind to ourselves so we can understand the impact of being kind to others?

If love is learned, how much better could we teach others to love just by being compassionate to ourselves? How will someone know how to love us if we can’t teach them by example?  If we all lived in this manner, then the Golden Rule would be so much more beautiful to live by because there would be an understanding of what to do unto others. In the words of Lama Yeshe, “Be gentle with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others.”

 

Be kind to yourself. Be compassionate to you. Take the time and listen to you. If you only hear the voice inside your head listing all of the things you should be doing, the reminder of how much you need to do, then it’s not the voice referenced here. It’s the one that is quiet and small and almost snuffed out, but whispering, “You are beautiful. You are worth it. It’s going to be ok.” It’s the voice that is asking you to stop and smell the flowers because it makes you smile. It’s the reminder of how much you like baseball, but you don’t want to waste the money on a ticket this season, because you don’t deserve it. The one that says you love that shade of green you almost bought for the kitchen wall, but you didn’t, because it wasn’t practical.

It’s the moment you realize you haven’t given yourself the same compassion you spend endless hours giving to others. But the truth is, compassion comes from within. If you are to be beacons of human kindness, then you must first learn forgiveness in the hardest form: forgive yourself.

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~ Buddha

 

 

 

 

The Joy Of Letting Go

She has the call of the wild beautiful world in her soul.

 

The famous quote “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” never resonated with me until the time my daughter left the country for six months. Suddenly, the reality of my duties as her mom shifted. No longer was I the rescuer of my princess in distress. No longer could I pull a “mama bear” and rise to an occasion when the universe was dealing her a tough hand.

My new role was to hold on loosely. People asked if it was difficult to be so far away from her. After all, we had a tight bond that often resembled sisterhood or best friends by the time her departure occurred.

All of the years of preparation for independence had come to fruition. I knew from the beginning when I was holding this bundle of sweetness that my role in her life was merely to prepare her for greater things. Her heart was too wild and free to be content in a small world existence.

Once she was gone, the house was too empty to stay alone. Upon her declaration that our town was never going to be home again, it seemed natural that I find my own way into the big world. I announced to her on Skype that when she returned to the country our house would not be there to greet her. She seemed equally excited for my new adventure.

passportYears have passed since and she continues to string my heart across the miles. Now our daily conversations occur from any assortment of towns, airports, jogging paths, or coffee shops.

While to others the miles may appear to be a large canyon between us, we don’t feel the vastness of the distance. We see the tendrils of our heartstrings intertwined across space. We feel the buzz of joy in each other’s voices when we share our day’s successes. We feel the sync of our heartbeats when we seek an uplifting word of compassion from one another.

Today, she leaves after a brief visit orchestrated halfway between our homes. This place is full of echoes of our laughter. The walls are still sighing from the peaceful hours we were together doing much of nothing, sometimes simply napping in the same room.

I smile because in less than a week she leaves the country again. She has the call of the wild beautiful world in her soul. She will jet across the globe on a solo adventure she has planned for only her own hungry spirit in a country far away.

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I smile because I know this is how she feels most happy, amongst the strangers of another country where she roams cobble stone streets and soaks in all the smells and sights it has to offer.

I smile because I remember the day she returned to me. I saw it in her eyes. She will always yearn for the lack of walls, the absence of sameness, the delight of adventure. She has evolved to this beautiful creature that will roam the crevices of the globe as long as she is breathing.

I smile because I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“If you love someone, you must be prepared to set them free.” ~Paulo Coelho

 

Feature image located at etsystatic.com, photography provided by Ashley Davis

 

The Art Of Letting Go

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”

It just didn’t seem natural, yet it was necessary. It was pushing against instinct, yet it was what I longed for, craved, even. My heart pounded in my chest as I kept asking myself, “Did I really purposely choose this?” The palms of my hands were sweaty as I silently gazed around at my surroundings.

This was not the most comfortable place to be sitting. I don’t remember exactly what triggered the cycle of events that led me here. But here I am. Sitting and waiting for the moment I signed up for.

I think I am ready. I have researched and analyzed all of the potential outcomes. I have wrestled with my own emotional reaction over this choice. One day I am exhilarated. The next day, I am doubtful.

airplanejumpReady or not, here I am looking out of this vessel down into wide-open nothingness. I take a deep breath, fold my arms over my chest, and I fall into the pivotal moment I had been planning for so long.

It was just like they said it would be, only more intense. I am falling so fast I can hardly move a muscle against the inertia of energy rushing through my body. I am overwhelmed at the feeling that my body will rip away from my soul, leaving it behind to hover over this action picture scene.

smilingskydiveI am screaming at the top of my lungs, pushing air through my vocal cords only to have it snuffed out by the force of the world rushing towards me at 120 mph. I recognize that I am not screaming, I am laughing. It’s all happening so fast, yet it feels like it’s never going to end.

I am given the sign. This is the time to pull the cord. Suddenly, the world stops rushing towards my face and I am floating in the most peaceful and beautiful time warp. I see the world below my feet. I feel a serene melancholy envelope me. I am moved by the thought that I could just hang here forever. I wish I could slow down the process of returning because this is where I feel the presence of peace.

But, alas, the floating is over and I bump across the rough grass on my return to reality. At once, noise and movement and excitement wash over me.

It takes days to register the experience. I can’t stop smiling. Because I made a choice to look over the lip of the door at the patches of earth and wonder, “Will I be able to let go of the threshold when the time comes?”

The one moment that resonates with my skydiving experience is when the instructor states before the jump, “It’s up to you as the jumper to let go and fall out of the plane. Nobody is going to push you or convince you. This ride is paid for. You either jump off at your stop, or you will never know what you were missing.”

Often, we are faced with major life decisions that we know we have to execute. We are in a vessel we willingly signed up to ride on, but with the tickling thought that it’s time to let go and step over the doorway into another reality. It may be a career change. Perhaps it’s the withering death of a romantic relationship. Maybe it’s the final chapter of raising your child, now an adult and moving on. But it happens to all of us. Whatever it is, do you have the strength to let go?

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.”~ Hermann Hesse

*photography for this experience were recorded by a videographer at Skydive Carolina in Chester SC, circa 2013

Creating Hope and Building Faith: A Labor of Love

What’s more powerful, hope or faith?

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HOPE
Have you ever stopped to think, “What is hope?” It’s a word we easily use when we are faced with challenges. Many goals and aspirations have been built on hope. The proper definition is: “feeling of want or desire that something can be had.”

Today, I looked a person in the eye who said, “I have no hope. I have lived my life to the best of my ability and now I have nothing left.” I didn’t know what to say. She’s right. She’s dying. Not because of anything she has done, but because fate has handed her the card of a shorter life. I saw hopelessness. Have you ever had someone plead with you for an answer and know that you do not have one? Have you ever had to hold the hand of another human being who had nothing to place hope in?

FAITH

Down the hall, there is a gentleman that desperately needs assistance to gain independence in order to return home. He will have nothing of it. When asked how he will perform his daily activities, his response is, “My family will take care of me.” Because he is absolutely sure that his family will commit to taking care of his needs, he sees no reason to perform any exercises that will increase his independence.

We often toss around the word faith when we are speaking of belief in a higher being. We think of “things unseen.” We automatically classify someone who has faith into a religious category. The proper definition of faith is: “confidence/trust/belief in something or someone. Observance of an obligation from loyalty.”

This man has complete faith in his supportive family and therefore does not feel obligated to perform any steps to create independence for himself. How do you properly motivate this person without dismantling his faith? How do you create strength without disrespecting his conviction?

WHAT’S MISSING?

These experiences have created an opportunity for me to ponder faith, hope, and love. I have wrestled with the question, “What’s more powerful, hope or faith?” I have dissected these two words and concluded there is a missing ingredient.

LOVE

The answer is love. The approach is love. The proper definition of love is: “profoundly tender passionate affection; affectionate concern for wellbeing.”

It sounds simple. But it’s not. When I am faced with the task of impacting a person’s life that is struggling with their hope, I step back and ask, “How can I lovingly assist this person without diluting the truth?” Because love must be cloaked in the truth.

When I face this gentleman who is determined that his family’s obligation of loyalty will float him through his days, I step back and ask, “How can I properly prepare this family to successfully meet this man’s belief in their ability to care for him?” And I lovingly uncover his strengths and teach them how to compensate for his weakness.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Faith can create a platform for strong convictions to be followed and expressed in so many aspects of life. For example, we have faith in leaders to make wise decisions. When we feel our faith is being challenged, we stand up for our beliefs and convictions and push for a change. How does that look when love is missing? What does it look like when it is full of love or compassion?

Hope is a powerful feeling. Like a drug, it can posses a person to do things they would not ordinarily have the strength to do. We can dig deep into our wellbeing and find the courage to step into or out of scenarios that would otherwise seem impossible. But, when love is missing, hope can be a gamble. We have heard the term “hopelessly in love” and have seen grown men and women make life choices that are bound to a buoy of hope with no evidence of love.

Faith and hope can be strong motivators to drive our daily activities, our relationships, and our purpose in life. But if love is missing from either of these, then what do we have left?

When I hear the words, “the greatest of these is love,” I used to think it meant that love was bigger and better than faith or hope. But what I am learning is that love is the quantitative sum of faith and hope and how we treat ourselves and others.

One of the most basic lessons of love in Buddhism is finding love for yourself. How much more powerful could we be if we were only acting and talking out of love for ourselves and others? How much stronger would our hope and faith grow if it was cloaked in love?

To the woman who feels she has no hope, I approach you with love; may you feel peace. Perhaps out of the fertile soil of love, you will find something to anchor on for hope.

To the man who is standing strongly on the conviction of his family’s duties, I bring to you and your family conversations of love; may you find strength within their loyalty.

In the sterile hours of being a healthcare provider, I will never grow weary of creating an atmosphere of love that will fuel one’s hope and faith, even if it’s all I have to offer.