I Am Only One

I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
-Helen Keller

You wonder sometimes how one person can do any possible good in this world.  How one person can make a difference.  How one can be the change. We are all like tiny starfish scattered on a sand-swept seashore. Helpless to rescue ourselves. Often absolutely powerless to rectify our dismal state of affairs. And what of those seen as our salvation? What good is it to them in rescuing the one lone being when there are so many others lying there beside? What possible good can one tiny being salvaged be, amongst the many, many others who are not?

What difference does rescuing one mean in the larger scheme of things?

I had one student tell me this week something that has remained in my thoughts for two solid days straight. I cannot quit this thought, not remove it from my mind. It is there, and because it is, I must address it. Must listen to the quiet thoughts that run like cool waters through my sub-conscious, sending small shivers up my spine.

We’ll say it was a little girl who spoke. Could have just as easily been a boy. But nevertheless, a child. And that child: she told me she felt loved at school.

At school, no less.

I asked the question, but only because it was in that book we were reading.  That book about feelings.  And because we were talking about feelings, I asked them about love. Asked about when and where we as humans might feel caring, compassionate love. And among the many, many others who responded in the affirmative about love in its many capacities within family, she did not. She just made the very small motion to me that she felt loved best at school.

My breaking heart. I cannot rid my thoughts of the enormity of this travesty.  It hurts to even think about it.

And yet, is this not such a wonder, such a gift?

To know that one child feels loved. That one feels noticed, feels seen. That s/he feels cared for and loved within the safe haven of the classroom. That school has allowed a cushion to form for him, for her, that it has provided a soft landing, a gentle reprieve? It is a blessing in all its many capacities to know that even if as few as just one child has left the school building feeling loved, our work as teachers has been accomplished.

Teachers are not often connected with notions of heartfelt love and care. It’s not really in our mandate. It might even be frowned upon, a little. We are not parents, not guardians. We are not true providers. But we are caregivers just the same. And if a child needs us to notice them, care for them, reach out to them among the many, many we see and interact with each and every day, and we can do so with loving-kindness and genuine care: we must.

We absolutely must.

That one child’s life is worth the risk it takes to reach out to them in love.  It is worth the time, the effort and the investment.

I am only one teacher: as such, the task seems overwhelming in its most accurate description. But in spite of this, I am still one teacher.

I can reach the one student that needs me to love her/love him most.

The Grace that is Gratitude

I am walking along, feet feeling chafed along the inside of my sneakers. These shoes are wearing thin. And I feel the many miles I have walked in them so very much tonight. Feel the tired, the exhaustion, feel the weariness. But with the sunset in the distance, the wind at my back- it is a good night to take pause for thought. A good night to think and wonder at the life I have been given.

Even as I call to mind- first the few minor irritants in my day-to-day life; those things that cause me slight annoyance and minor setbacks (and then, later recalling the good- is not that just the way: glass half-full!), I am reminded that these are still gifts for which to be thankful. For we are called to be thankful in everything. Not only in the good, in the pleasant, and in the enjoyable: but to give thanks in everything.

In everything?

Even in those moments we feel we have failed?
In those moments we feel we have been wronged?
In those moments we feel we have been misunderstood?
Even then?
In those moments when we’ve been slighted, offended, hurt or angered? Then?
Even then?

Oh, but yes, offer thanks in everything. For in offering gratitude in everything, that blanket of grace that covers and permeates all, we open the door for understanding more of what we were meant to know about thanksgiving. In everything, we learn. In all our life experiences, we come to know, come to understand. Come to glean meaning about ourselves, about the others whom we share this living space, and about God’s compassionate, merciful, holy love.

So even when we have little to be grateful for, it is still enough. Little is much. It is enough. There is always something to cling to, always something on which to build a foundation of gratitude. Even if only for the little things we count as graces.

When thinking of what we don’t have, let us remember what we do have.
When thinking of what we want, let us be grateful we have what we need.
When thinking of how we have been wounded, let us remember where we have been healed.  When thinking of wrongs in our lives, let us focus for mere moments on what has gone right? For in so doing, we will shift our thinking just enough to allow the room gratefulness needs to make a difference.

And always remember:

“Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows, and the more power you have to use it on your behalf. If you do not practice gratefulness, its benefaction will go unnoticed, and your capacity to draw on its gifts will be diminished. To be grateful is to find blessings in everything. This is the most powerful attitude to adopt, for there are blessings in everything.”
-Alan Cohen

Let Me Be One Standing

Travel anywhere on the Internet, and you will come across conversations about opening/closing doors to Syrian refugees. Discussions abound about whether opening doors will bring about an influx of terror, as well as about whether closing doors will negate our sense of social justice and responsibility. These are heavy discussions for difficult times in history. Everyone seems to have an opinion.

Jean Vanier, of L’Arche Daybreak, had this to say about the recent attack on Paris:

“I think this event urges us to follow Jesus humbly, by daring to ask us for small gestures of love and forgiveness. We can begin in our daily lives, being more present to others, so that together we remain standing.”

So then. What do I feel is my calling right now? How can I remain one standing? I think Micah 6:8 sums it up pretty succinctly:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Act Justly: when faces of weary, worn and haggard refugees stream across my Facebook feed, I am reminded again and again that these are people. They have needs and desires. They require air to breathe, the same as do I. They have families and loved ones. They have felt love- feel love. Have been loved. Have known love. In justice, I must show love as well, offering what I have. Even though what I have might be small. It might be as small as a prayer. It might be even as faint as a fleeting thought or as fragile as the whisper of an image striking my mind in quiet, speaking to my soul. But to do justice, I must seek for the best for all human beings across this globe.

Acting justly starts small. If I cannot act justly to those I know and care for, how can I act justly for others in far-flung regions? It starts here. It starts now. It starts with me.

Love Mercy: I must cleave to compassion, strive to be kind, urgently aim toward benevolence. If I have, I must give. If I can share, I must allocate. If I can offer, so I must do. In considering others better than myself, I am showing that I love mercy. In placing others needs above my own, I am showing that I love mercy. In offering my life for the betterment of another life, I am showing mercy.

Our lives are not our own. Do we not believe that we have a Father that protects us? Is He not bigger than terror? Are we not held in the hollow of His hand? Whom shall I fear?

Chris Tomlin has so beautifully written the following words:

You hear me when I call, You are my morning song
Though darkness fills the night, It cannot hide the light
Whom shall I fear?
You crush the enemy, Underneath my feet
You are my sword and shield, Though troubles linger still
Whom shall I fear?
I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies, Is always by my side
The one who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies, Is always by my side

Walk Humbly: when we refrain from extending ourselves, there can be issues of pride involved. But so can they become intertwined in our motives when we give. We must continuously contend for humility in all aspects of our life. If we have been chastened, accept and move forward. If we have been convicted, act on our convictions. If we feel strongly, question the motive that has brought about the feeling. If we do not feel strongly, we can then ask ourselves: why not? In humility, we are made more in His image. We are more of what we could be. More of what we should be.

I ask each of us—myself included—when considering what our role is in the unfolding story of world history (whether that be a story told close to home or farther abroad: what would Jesus do?

Let it be what I would do too.

On Pain

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
― C.S. Lewis

I notice lately more pain within the body. Aching pain in fingers as they type and play piano. Stabbing pain in a shoulder when I reach back. Dull pain in the stomach area when I have to do something for which I feel inadequately equipped. Searing pain in injured feet where I have numerous cracks due to sensitive skin. Crushing pain at times in the head due to years of clenching my jaw. Pain in places I previously felt nothing. Pain where I once felt fine. Pain. It accompanies me now wherever I go. Accompanies me now whatever I do.

It feels rampant, cropping up everywhere. Just like its infamous side-kick: stress.

I had an aunt who died when I was a young adult. In her late forties, she was going to a Nursing Convention in New Minas, Nova Scotia on a winter’s day, when she came upon black ice. Indeed it was a patch of treacherous ice which immediately sent her tumbling over the bridge on the highway she was traveling, to a ravine far below. She broke her neck in the plummeting spiral that sent her car to its demise, but interestingly- she was aware enough in her injury to take her own pulse. She knew her neck had been broken, but she was able to relay directions to the emergency crew that worked on her, telling them exactly what to do so as to salvage what little of her systems that remained. She eventually became paralyzed as a result of that car accident (occurring in her late adulthood), an accident which left her without feeling from her chest down.

I remember one time she had relayed a story to my mother about wheeling her wheel chair into a room. Wishing to reverse, she began to back out of the room, at which time she jammed her hand in between the spokes of her wheelchair. She kept pushing and pushing on it, wondering why she could not go backwards any further. Coming to find out that it was her own hand that prevented her from moving any further, she realized her own inability to feel pain had been the cause of even more trouble for her.

Because of her inability to feel pain in most of her body, she was unable to prevent injury to herself on numerous occasions. To give another instance, she also relayed the story about burning her hand on the stove trying to remove a pot from the burner. Not realizing that her hand was on the burner, she had left her hand there on the coils so as to support herself in removing a pot. Her melting flesh what alerted her that there was a problem.

Pain is a double-edged sword. With it, we feel like we die slowly. Without it, we know we die faster. But the very response which can be so unpleasant, that which we wish we could eliminate all together, is what we need to survive. Why is it that the thing which can at times save us is the very thing we wish to free ourselves of? Certainly, pain is a necessary response to injury. Because, in truth: while pain hurts (and we don’t like hurt), it is the alarm bell that also rescues. We need the hurt further so as to experience the reality that life presents to us.

John Keats (on pain): “Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?”

And C. Joybell C. (on pain as well): “Pain is a pesky part of being human, I’ve learned it feels like a stab wound to the heart, something I wish we could all do without, in our lives here. Pain is a sudden hurt that can’t be escaped. But then I have also learned that because of pain, I can feel the beauty, tenderness, and freedom of healing. Pain feels like a fast stab wound to the heart. But then healing feels like the wind against your face when you are spreading your wings and flying through the air! We may not have wings growing out of our backs, but healing is the closest thing that will give us that wind against our faces.”
Pain is necessary. While difficult and trying, it is the body and soul’s means of sensing trouble so as to make sense of the hurt and find ways to cope. Pain makes us alive to our senses. It helps us feel, to know, to understand. And it enriches our lives by providing depth and context to an otherwise bland existence.”

I sometimes wish I could live without the pain. There are some pains that are certainly more worthwhile than others. The pain of childbirth brought me more rewards than that recurring pain I feel from stress in my abdomen, each and every day. But all my pain-body reminds me of what I have. And when equilibrium is restored, even if but for a short time, I am grateful. Grateful for the body and for the sense of pain I feel within that body.

We must learn to embrace pain, accepting that it is often through pain that we see the beauty that unfolds in its wake.  Pain reminds us all of what we have and what we so often take for granted.

How To Really Get Along With People

How to really get along with people? Well, I think it starts with seeing the best in people. Starts with finding the good. That is: it all starts with adopting a kind view to the people we encounter in our day-to-day lives. So someone messed up? Look for the plausible reasons why so as to provide a reasonable explanation. Someone offended you? Try to understand why you feel the offense. So someone said something, did something to cause you frustration? Ask them why. But be kind about it. Direct, honest questions do not nullify kindness and understanding.

She wanted to react. It would have been so easy. It was in her right, was it not? She was slighted, offended. Hurt. And did this not happen time and time again? She deserved to feel angry.



According to Mikey D. of Feel Happiness, there are three basic social skills that can be adopted to make it easier to help us see the best in people. In his own words:

1. Slow Down And Be Curious About Others

Don’t rush into making judgments about other people.
Take your time and gather some information about them first.
You should enter your interactions with an open mind, curious to find the positive attributes that the other person possesses.
Wouldn’t you prefer to be interacting with a person who you actually like?
In order to see the good in other people, you need to look for it.
This takes both patience and a curious mind that is ready to accept the good attributes of others.

2. Look Them In The Eyes

This used to be a huge problem for me, and I wasn’t even aware of it for years.
As soon as I started making stronger eye contact with people, the world opened up to me. It was like I had been blind and could suddenly see.
Eye contact is an important part of your social skills toolkit for countless reasons. It is practically a prerequisite for finding the positives in other people.
When you look someone in the eyes, you stay focused on that person rather than the multitude of distractions in your head and in your environment.
Not only that, but it helps you build a connection with that person. You’d better believe that will help you see them in a more positive light.

3. Smile At Them

Usually, they will smile back.
And when they do, you immediately have good things about them (nice smile, friendly, positive attitude, etc.). That was easy.
Smiling puts you in a good mood, and will make the other person like you more.
When you feel good, it is far easier to see the good in others. And if they like you, they are more inclined to show you the positive aspects of them.
Smiling greases the wheels of this whole process.
By neglecting to smile when you talk to other people, you give up one of the easiest things you can do to help you see the good in others and have a positive interaction with them.

Thanks Mikey D. But, it all sounds so simple. Of course, we all know: it takes practice. Practice making the connection, practice keeping the connection and practice maintaining the connection. But is it worth it? You bet it is. Not only in terms of the ways we interact and connect with others, but also in terms of how we view ourselves.

The more we see the best in ourselves, the more we will see the best in the others with whom we share our lives.

And that’s as good a reason as any to get started.

Right here, right now.

Living a Paradoxical Life

“The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.”
― Kent M. Keith, The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council

Do you ever feel like you are trying to hold 25 corks underwater, but to the best of your ability you can barely keep one down under? Life is hard. There are a lot of corks, a lot of things to think about. There is your own life (and the aspiration and dreams you wish to chase). There are you own problems and battles to fight. There are your own inner struggles and outer turmoil with which to deal. Not to mention, everyone else around you living out their own stories amidst the backdrop of your own life. Somehow, their story gets intertwined with your story and then it is no longer just your life anymore: it’s our life you must think and worry over. In a world that is bent on breaking us down, I wonder: can we do things differently? Can we live a paradox? Can we live harmoniously?

Yes, but only:
If the expectation is hatred, let us then rather love.
If the expectation is blame, let us then exercise forgiveness.
If the expectation is shame, let us then give grace.
If the expectation is frustration, let us then exercise patience.
If the expectation is to react, let us then rather turn the other cheek.
In so doing, we live out life the Father’s way.

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
The Beatitudes
He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5, NIV)

To which I say: Blessed then are those who live their life in paradox. For this is far from the natural bent our hearts would follow after.

This Is My Story

I wonder if we have ever considered that our willingness to share from exposed places is what connects us in experience to others? If we do not share stories of vulnerability, share moments of weakness, share the things we consider our failures, share perceived inadequacies or share areas in which we feel insufficient, how will others ever know that they are not alone? Know that there are common experiences known to human kind of which we can speak, can cry, can maybe even laugh? How will we ever learn to accept and live beyond the sorrow, searching always for the joy?  How will we ever experience the power of forgiveness?

Our stories are what connect us.

Let me tell you a story.

I grew up in the heart of the Annapolis Valley, a small rural farming community known for its potatoes and apple orchards. My community was aptly named Melvern Square, a squared-off corridor that was also firmly tethered by four anchors: farming, family, community and faith. My father was one of many pastors called to minister in this area, ensuring that I lived my life firmly fixed within the public’s eye, on first name basis with most everyone I’d meet. This reality served to both enable and impede my personal growth and development by times, as anyone who has had parents as visible figureheads in the community can attest to.

It was an idyllic life in some ways.  But difficult in other ways. We were often strapped financially, but we got by. I remember trips to the country store— a one room building with wide wooden clapboards filling in the floor space, glass candy jars containing five-cent goodies lining the back wall. When the front door was cracked even so much as an inch, an old-fashioned bell signalled both your appearance and your exit, ensuring you would never peruse the ice cream freezer or chip rack anonymously. Our house was sandwiched between the community center on the right and my father’s little brown country church on the left. Behind our property was the community pond for skating on in the winter and avoiding in the summer, as we all speculated that alligators or other forms of creepy-crawlies might live in there. Across the street was the consolidated school housing grades 1-6: a school which I never had the privilege of attending.

The school I attended was a private institution located in a neighboring community. When I started school in primary, I quickly realized that my life was not what it had seemed to be. I immediately became the “other”: teased for my different religious affiliation, tortured for my family connection, belittled for my appearance. Separated for my difference. I was disconnected from the other children in many ways, and I soon came to understand the term “white trash” and its unflattering connotations, as that is what I began to feel I was while in this school. Like a piece of rubbish— unloved and undesirable.

My schooling experience was thus one in which oppression was very obvious. This same private school I attended later came to be exposed regarding “issues” of a very serious, abusive nature. These privately held secrets of the school leaders and administration came to be ‘outed’ in a very visible way via news media when I was in high school. When I now see images of residential schools, it brings to mind sordid mental pictures of what that time of life was like for both me and my classmates. That experience has forever changed the way I look at education.

So then, as long as I have been a student, I have been interested in ethics of care in classrooms. As I did not have the privilege of being exposed to ethics of care in most of my formative years of schooling, I now spend my life advocating for these pedagogies of love and care along with the foundational rights that I believe all people— young and old, are worthy of receiving and deserve to experience as a basic human right. We all deserve this kind of love and attentive care by virtue of our humanity (Gard, 2014).

Let me tell another story.

As a child, I felt so insecure. So unattractive, so unappealing. That day of which I am about to tell—still etched in my memory, that day I wore a yellow dress. We were all walking to the fire station for a field trip, and it was a beautiful, sunny day. I remember getting inside the big, red truck, and looking all around the fire station. A day up to this point that was mostly insignificant for its events, beyond this bare-bones description. But it was the walk back that will forever be imprinted in my memory.

I was just a little girl. Facing some cruel childhood bullies. Was this the day pivotal in my desire to know about the power of care in transforming lives?

Or was it the countless other days of enduring taunting, teasing, ridicule and scorn? Of living with put downs and mockery?  What was it that made me care so much about the underdog? What caused me to care so much about people?

And still another story.

Why is it that the adults in our lives still have power over us even as we ourselves have now become adults? There are adults in my life still—to this day: that I feel beholden to protect and shelter. Even though they have grievously hurt me. Even though what harm was done was more than injurious to my spirit and psyche. Why? Is it that even for them I offer a form of care?

But why is it, on the other hand, that we as adults think we have that power over children: power to influence them to even resist the urges of their own conscience. Telling them what is right or wrong, when in their hearts they already know. “This is not okay.”


A little girl told “not to tell”. Left to deal with these feelings on her own until she was an adult herself. Until she could face the monsters face on. WHY?

These run-on, ramblings—they form the foundation for some of my untold stories.
But now for a story with a happy ending.

It was the fall of my Grade 12 year, the year I remember as ‘The Move’. My father— having been relocated in his job as the pastor to a small country church, packed up alongside his wife our meagre family possessions, and then moved all that, along with four children (minus me) over the course of a weekend. It sometimes takes a weekend to unravel a family. At other times, it just takes a moment.

I alone remained behind in our community, determined that I wouldn’t be trading in all I had known and loved for something new and less desirable. Sixteen is a brazen age. It is old enough to know that you can’t leave behind thirteen years worth of childhood memories, leave behind home, leave behind life; and it’s old enough to physically stay behind, watching the rest go. Yet it is not quite old enough to know exactly how to pull it all off. My parents in their wisdom allowed me the choice to remain back, so long as

I chose to live with a family friend, staying with someone they trusted. But I was on my own when it came to paying rent and looking after essentials. I agreed to their terms and so it was decided— I would stay. But the day they pulled out from the driveway of our first family home, moving van loaded up with my childhood toys, my bed and dresser, van full to the brim with my four younger siblings and weeping mother: that is a day that will forever be imprinted on my memory.

I lasted until the following Monday evening when I finally caved, coming to my senses as well as to the bittersweet realization that at sixteen, I still needed to be with my family. I needed to go ‘home’, whatever that meant now. And so, there was a scramble— a gathering of my own small assemblage of life possessions followed by a drive from one province to another. Which is to say, I found a way to reunite with my family a few days later (as bittersweet as that reunion might have felt in those earliest of moments).

The move crushed me— left me feeling as if the bottom had fallen out from my world. And it left me to cope with the difficult task of ‘starting over’, starting fresh at a time in life when one should be celebrating the finish line.

I found myself in a brand new high school, a strange place to find yourself when you are young, ‘in love’ and at what you think is the pinnacle of your school career. Starting over was humbling. Perhaps it was what I needed, although I wouldn’t have said so then. I went from knowing everyone to knowing no one. I went from being part of a crowd, to feeling outside the crowd. I went from having a presence to feeling invisible. At the time, I would have readily admitted it was my worst sixteen year-old nightmare come true, but somehow I managed to pull things together enough to make it work. I made a few friends, did well in my classes and tried to keep up on the news from my former school and friendship circle— places and people I identified in my heart as representing my real home.

But it was still hard, incredibly so.

There were a few classes in the new school that I did enjoy, especially one subject taught by Mr. D. A funny, earnest man, he infused life into the classroom with his stories, his wealth of knowledge and his love of all things chemistry. I can’t remember at what point in the semester he called me down to his classroom for a chat, but I will never forget the care and concern in his voice.

Somehow, he had seen me there in the back row of his classroom, hiding underneath a veil of resentment, shadowed by fear and insecurity; not the least of which, feeling angry that my life had been interrupted. In spite of it all, he made a point of looking past the image so as to connect with me as a person, letting me know that I had potential and possibility, showing me that he saw the best in me at a time in my life when I couldn’t see the best in my circumstances.

Mr. D. was unforgettable. Was it the chemistry lessons he delivered? The curriculum outcomes he covered? Was it his vast knowledge and seemingly infinite understanding that I remember? What was it, exactly, that forever etched his impression on my memory? What I remember now—now that I am a teacher myself, was his care: his smile, his laughter, his enthusiasm. And I remember that when I was in his class, I wasn’t invisible any longer.

And all because he saw me

For me, I care about care so very much because I have felt both the presence as well as the absence of care. In knowing care as experienced through a child’s embrace, a mother’s love— through a friend’s loyalty, through a teacher’s support, a husband’s touch: I am now better equipped to sense the absence of such when I find it missing from my life. There have certainly been days in which I have felt isolated, uncared-for, and unloved. Those were days in which I searched for care and found that it eluded me. Seeking what I could not find brought me eventually to a place of willingness to be the change I so desperately needed in my own life. While I have come to believe that care is our innate right as human beings, sometimes we must choose to be the care-giver at the on-set, so as to experience the benefits of care as might be felt within our own hearts and souls in the process. To care, that is, to be cared for and to care for one another, these processes of human interaction primarily are what define our purpose towards each other, individual living with individual.

Hand to hand, heart to heart.