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Hugs are Important

Blog by Associate Michelle Gray

Hi. My name is Michelle and I am a hugger. I always have been.

To me, a hug is the best way to say hello or goodbye, I love you, I’ll miss you, I’m sorry.

My goodbye hugs when leaving my daughters at college are a family legend; I insisted on a 30 second hug, which of course left us all laughing. But I admit I never gave my penchant for hugging much thought until recently, when I read an article on Facebook.

It began with the quote: Hugging is the most beautiful form of communication that allows the other person to know beyond a doubt that they matter.

That they matter — so simple and so easy. And so needed in these divisive times. And, quite frankly, I don’t think we hug each other enough. And I don’t know why.

About a year ago, my daughter’s best friend lost her mother. I didn’t see Annie until she came into the flower shop where I work to order flowers. I hugged her as soon as she walked in the door. Then, through our tears, we ordered the arrangements. It wasn’t until later that evening that Annie told my daughter I was the first person who had hugged her. And I admit I was shocked because a hug is my first instinct.

Current social conventions do have us conditioned not to touch others not closely related to us. I must say I really don’t agree.

And I have good company. According to a Healthline Media Inc. article, family therapist Virginia Satir once said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”  Hugs have been shown to reduce stress, pain, and fear. Hugs can make us happier and allow us to connect emotionally with others.

My job has given me the opportunity to offer hugs to grieving people, some of whom I know, many of whom I had just met. But I know without a doubt that those hugs left us both feeling a bit better.

If you would indulge me for a minute, I would ask you to place your right hand on your left shoulder and your left hand on your right shoulder. Now squeeze gently for as long you need for a hug from me. And know that you are cared for and loved.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

WHAT WILL BE DIFFERENT THIS YEAR?

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

We are less than a week into the New Year and I’m wondering how many people have already failed to keep their resolutions?

I boarded that train of thought last week, after reading a tweet from the Rev. Bernice King (youngest child of civil rights leaders Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King):

Don’t make New Year’s resolutions.
Determine what kind of everyday human you want to be. And decide if that human will be for goodness, justice, peace, and love.
And envision if that human has dreams that will lift humanity.
Then the moments, years, and minutes will matter.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against making New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I am all for anything that causes us to pause and reflect on the steps we can take to better ourselves.

Studies, however, show that about a third of resolutions do not make it past the first month. Some research indicates that one factor contributing to this failure is that, on average, it takes approximately 66 days to kick a bad habit or adopt a good one. Another factor cited is that New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on substantial changes down the road – like quitting smoking, losing weight, saving more money, getting organized, finding love, getting and staying healthy, etc. — rather than on small changes in the here and now.

I think I like Bernice King’s idea of determining what kind of everyday human you want be because it forces us to deal with the present and focus on our intentions (while New Year’s resolutions are typically about a future goal). Her suggestion obligates us to engage in mindfulness – to pay attention to our inner thoughts and feelings, to become grounded in our purpose, and to make a choice about our daily intentions.

Like I said before, there is absolutely nothing wrong with establishing future goals (through New Year’s resolutions). But if we combine goals with intention, we can find balance between future and present and – perhaps more importantly – between heart and mind (goals tend to be a product of the mind and intentions tend to come from the heart).

As we are drawn by the promise of a fresh start this year, why not embrace both mind-based goals and heart-centered intentions?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

LOOK INWARD TO FIND YOUR GIFT TO OTHERS

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

As we journey through this Advent season, turning our focus to the real meaning of Christmas, it can be easy to get distracted.

If we are not careful, things like traffic, long lines, depleted store shelves, overloaded schedules, family disharmony, and other frustrations can seize control of the peace of the season.

Although things may happen to us and things may happen around us, it Is up to us to attend to the things that happen within us.

As I reflect on the divine presence born in and around us, I have resolved to live with an open, forgiving heart and to bless others with my peaceful presence (particularly during times of frustration).

As you search your inner heart and mind for the Christ spirit within your being, what gift(s) will you give to others and to the world at Christmas and throughout the year?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

We Have One Lifetime to Make a Difference

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I am always heartened when I find inspiration that motivates me to live my best life.

Thankfully, that inspiration can be found all around us – sometimes we have to look for it, sometimes it shows up unexpectedly.

The latter happened to me a few days ago, when I read a quote from the longest-living president in American history:

“I have one life and one chance to make it count for something… My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”

No matter your politics, I think we can agree that former President Jimmy Carter has been an example of an honest man with integrity. During his post-presidency, he has remained active in public life and has consistently demonstrated his convictions, based on honesty and spirituality.

Even in his twilight years, the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, continues to provide lessons about peace, justice, fairness, honesty and integrity, while promoting and expanding human rights.

We can all learn something from his words of wisdom (cultivated by 95 years of living and 73 years of married life).

I, for one, will strive to make my life count for something by doing whatever I can to make a positive difference.

How about you?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Be Kind to Others

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

We should always be kind to others because we never know what people are going through.

Those words were uttered by one of my nephews during a recent conversation.

I responded with a resounding “Amen!” — affirming his truth — because I believe everyone can appreciate acts of kindness.

As I reflected on the conversation, I began to realize just how important his observation is, especially during the holiday season.

While the holiday season is considered a time of joy, laughter, love, and giving; it can be an exceptionally lonely and challenging time for many. In fact, depression and mental health issues often increase during the holiday season.

As you go through your daily life this holiday season (and throughout the year), remember that many people are experiencing difficulties – some are struggling financially, some are alone or lonely, some are consumed by the grief of losing loved ones. Remember that the season can be a harsh reminder of their lack of happiness, joy, laughter, love, and acceptance.

So, if you choose to do one thing this holiday season, I encourage you to be kind to others because you never know what a person is going through.

Posted in Associate Blog, News