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Young Mom with her Babies
Sat, November 1, 2014
Christine's Corner, Saturday, November 1, 2014
We’re talking this month about the healing magic of children as we head into November, a month that holds not only Thanksgiving, but also elections. Our holiday of Thanksgiving centers us in the promise of abundance - historically the celebration of a bountiful harvest after a particularly harsh winter. It also grounds us in gratitude and family as we celebrate with those we love and count our blessings for all that we are and all that we have. Each and every day provides so much for which to be grateful, and our children, particularly, remind us of that in nearly every moment.
 
November also brings elections. I’m not one to typically talk politics and in truth, politics more often produces massive eye rolls from me than lengthy discourse. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the cycle of life and I ran across a quote by Hubert Humphrey that brought it all home for me. He once said:
 
“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.”
 
That is such a true statement, and not only from the perspective of what our government can or should do, but also what we, as individuals are compelled to do to ensure that all of us have the ability to live well and live long. Yes, we need government and what it can offer us but more importantly we must gather our own personal power to recognize that we as individuals have as much, if not more, responsibility for creating the future that we want for ourselves, and one another.
 
Over the past couple of weeks and months I’ve been able to spend time with our granddaughter, Katelyn and also time with my mom and dad. I think of Kate and her arrival in our world at 26 weeks, the tremendous challenges she faced both in that journey as well as how hard she fought to be able to stay here once she arrived. I think of my mom and my dad, both in their late 70s, the lives they have lived and the impact they have had on our family and their community. I think of days and years to come when they might need more assistance. And most importantly, I am filled with hope and trust that they all feel loved and supported and cherished just for being exactly who they are.
 
I think of Kate and her innocence, her fighting spirit, her I-can-do-anything attitude and I see nothing but a bright and shiny future. Gleefully I envision the coming days and years when she learns to read, to ride a bike, and the moment she goes to school for the first time and makes new friends. I think of all I might teach her as well as all that I may learn from her little unquenchable spirit. I think of the unfathomable tally of the hospital bill when she was finally released and how often people's options are limited or lives are lost simply due to an inability to reach the "magic" number it would take to be "worth it".
 
I think of my mom and dad, and I feel eager to hear more family stories, more of their hopes and dreams. As they are in their twilight years, I’ve looked into what it might take in the future, as they need more assistance. I was amazed to discover that on average it costs between $3000-$7000 per month for assisted living, a reality that I feel certain has to be somehow just a bad joke. I think of not only my parents but all of our elderly who have spent their lives working tirelessly only to have limited options and access in the years they potentially need the most assistance. Very few working people could even afford these kinds of monthly expenses, let alone those on fixed and limited incomes.
 
I think of my friend, Dr. Craig, a man who has valiantly and successfully battled Lou Gehrig’s disease for over twenty years. According to Hubert Humphrey’s description, Dr. Craig would most definitely fall within those “living in the shadows” yet all who know him would wholeheartedly agree that no one lives more fully in the sunshine than he does. I think of how hard Dr. Craig has to work each and every moment just to physically survive, and it blows my mind to recognize that he has to work that much harder just to be able to pay for the 24 hour nursing assistance he needs to remain alive in our world.
 
I think of these things and I wonder… when did we begin to value money more than each other? We clearly don’t as individuals believe that, all we have to do is  just think of one of our loved ones to know that. How do we begin to change this? How can we as individuals help us become the society we truly want to be? What can we do to ensure that those in the dawn, in the twilight, in the shadows, and even those firmly standing in the light of day are able to live happy, healthy, fulfilling lives?
 
I know a lot of people may say that the answer to this is simply just to vote. Get out there and use your voice, they will say, and elect the people that will best represent your needs, your opinions, and your beliefs. It’s important to vote, sure, and we absolutely need to use our voices in that way. But our nation, our society doesn’t exist solely as government. Our true power is in the voice, the determination, and the passion of the individual. Sometimes I feel like somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten that.
 
We have only to gaze into the faces of those we love to be reminded. We have only to experience what it’s like to not be able to help our loved ones to know that more substantial changes than the dwindling options offered by our government are required. Yes, we can use our voices to vote, and we must. But at what point are we willing to use our voices to say enough? Enough of this madness of valuing money more than one another. Enough – we are no longer satisfied to wait for these changes to come to us through our elected representatives. We can and will and should find the ways that we uniquely can serve some of these needs.
 
I’m both inspired and discouraged by where we are today in our world. I look at people like Boyan Slat, a teen who is making monumental advances in the effort to rid our oceans of plastic and I feel that our present may lead to a future that may actually allow us to transcend our history. I look at the increase in addressing the tragedies of our world like human trafficking and the progress we’ve made toward true equality for all, and I feel hopeful. Yes, there is much, much more work to be done but more and more people are recognizing that and are getting involved in the areas they hold dear.
 
And of course for all our progress, I also see our insanity and dysfunction. I look at the posturing and complete ridiculousness of our Congress, the passing of Citizens United, and the evaporation of our middle classes and I wonder just what it will take for us to value one another more than money. I don’t believe that’s really what we want, or mean, or will support. And yet…
 
These aren’t easy questions and there are no easy answers. But you have only to look at the unconditional love beaming from the face of a child or the wizened eyes of our elderly and feel that we simply must do more. We, each and every single one of us, have a responsibility to use our own life, our own voice to the fullest extent possible so that those who need us most have an opportunity to live to their highest potential.
 
It’s so easy in our fast changing world to feel lost, disempowered, even small. It’s tempting to look at our government, our systems, and societies and use our time to become angry or point fingers or even, yes, roll our eyes.
 
Yet somehow, somewhere deep down inside we all know better. We all know that we as individuals have much, much more power and impact on our world and one another than we’re remembering in those moments. As Katelyn has shown me so many times, we come into this world knowing exactly who we are, not feeling any sense of limitation or believing even for a moment that there isn’t one thing that we can’t accomplish or do.
 
Although we grow up and get bumped around by the world and the sometimes truly harsh lessons that life delivers our way, that truth and inner power that we arrive here with isn’t gone. It hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s just gotten a little murky, a little cloudy behind the disappointment or fears or limitations we’ve developed over the course of our lives.
 
The more that we live more fully, more authentically from the core of our hearts, the more we begin to recognize that our truest power resides within ourselves. In each and every moment we have the opportunity to raise our voice, to take a stand, to use our creativity and our energy in ways that can literally change the world in which we live. For some that may mean becoming an entrepreneur, for others it may mean raising money to help the kid down the street be able to have food to eat. The more that we live within the center of ourselves, the more we begin to reflect on what we’re saying we value in our society and question whether what we’re valuing is really reflective of what we truly believe.
  
The true wealth in our lives isn't derived from what exists within our bank or investment accounts. Take a moment to reflect on the moments in your life that have been the most fulfilling, that have touched you the deepest, that made you feel blessed to be alive. Those moments are filled with the people who have touched your heart and the experiences you were able to share together. They are what make our lives feel rich.
 
We've debated the moral test of our government for centuries. And while Humphrey's quote is profound and thought-provoking, the capacity or lack of our government to provide for us does not comprise our true litmus test. We, as individuals do. We, each person side by side, is responsible to show up fully in the world and bring all of themself to it. How else do we show, companion, and protect those we love than by modeling our own courage, determination, and passion to be all that we can be? 

How effectively and efficiently we recognize the fallacy that "money trumps people" than by living from our highest most soul-filled potential or from envisioning the lives we dream for our loved ones and ourselves?
 
I’ve looked into the faces of my loved ones and contemplated their futures. I’ve looked into the faces of strangers and realized that they deserve and desire just as much as I desire for my loved ones. We are all the same. And as we head into this season of choices, elections, holidays, abundance, and gratitude, my hope is that we all take a few moments to recognize just how powerful we, one by one, can be in making our world the place we want it to be.

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