Be The Change

Beacon Of Hope

Beacon of HopeMedium: Oil

Size: 20 X 20, gallery wrapped canvas

Price: SOLD

Photo Reference: Andi St. Germain Photography

Throughout this election season, I have been wanting to paint what I am feeling. This is what I came up with as I thought about my hope for our country. There are days that my thoughts are very black. But, always, there is a point of light – a beacon calling to me to have faith and hope – a beacon of hope. To acknowledge that while times are dark and uncertain, to look around me at the acts of kindness that are happening, at the people who believe in love, not hate. To remember who we are, and what we stand for.

Prints are available if you also need a Beacon of Hope to hang on your wall.

 

The Power of Choice

“Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”  – Chinese proverb

As I wrote my morning pages this last week (a morning mind dump so you can concentrate on what is creatively important for the day), I kept remembering that we have a choice in how we view our world. The thoughts we hold in our heart are reflected in what we see, what we pay attention to, and how we create our day to day lives.

A Beacon of LightWe get to choose! We can look out on a world of beauty, that beacon of light, or we can look at the darkness of the box we have chosen to live in.

Do we choose beauty, love and hope? Or, do we choose darkness, hate and fear? Do we choose to believe we are safe, or do we choose to believe that everyone is out to get us? Do we choose to be kind, compassionate, and understanding? Or, do we choose to scream, yell and be hateful?

Our thoughts are prayers. What we think about all the time is what will show up for us. This is powerful! We get to create our reality – the world we live in. And, while we do this, how does it ripple throughout our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities, and our world? How are you impacting the people around you?

We are facing the shadow side of our country manifesting in our politics and our streets. Many of our countrymen and women are choosing fear. The only way to fight fear is with love. And our job is to love in the face of this fear. To be mindful and compassionate. To embrace those who are trembling. And, to teach by our actions, words and creative living.

What is your world view? What is your choice? How are you impacting the environment around you?

When Did Compassion Become A Bad Thing?

Almost forty-three years ago, I met and fell in love with an immigrant. He was twenty-five years old at the time, and recently returned from U. S. military service in Vietnam. He had a green card, as did his parents, and had been in the United States for nineteen years. About six months later, he asked me to marry him. My father objected because he was not a citizen of the United States. Because my sweet man loved me, he studied hard, passed the test and became a naturalized citizen. He chose not to tell his family because it would upset his father, who was unhappy living here in the United States.

As a shy young bride, I really wanted to be accepted by his family, and I spent hours talking to his mother. Over the years, I slowly learned her story, one that continues to astonish me, and pull me deeply into heartfelt respect and love for such an amazing woman. Not long before she passed away a few years ago, we listened to one more story. The story of how she and Pop escaped over the fence from East Germany to West German in 1946, defying death to reach freedom. They each carried a pack weighing about 50 lb. (all they could carry with them), bribed a guard with a pocket watch and a bottle of vodka, and climbed from sure deportation back to Russia for Mom to a poor, but free existence. Mom was three months pregnant with my husband, and Pop agreed to leave his family in order to save his wife and his unborn child.

Mom, her sisters and mother, Oma, escaped from the Ukraine in the midst of WWII. They were from the German community in Russia, that was now being subjected to pogroms, and terrorized on a regular basis. The escaped with a small trunk filled with their possessions, and the clothes they could carry, through Poland and on in to what would become East Germany. Mom served as an interpreter between the Germans and the Russian army during the early occupation of East Germany. Being who she was, her life was placed in jeopardy several times because she would not walk away from her values and do what the Russian military wanted her to do. When she found out her and her family’s names had been placed on a deportation list back to Russia, she knew they needed to get to safety. Her sisters and mother escaped East Germany on a ship bound for camps in Paraguay, and Mom and Pop headed for the border.

Six years later, Pop again agreed to leave his home in order to immigrate to the United States, a country whose politics he didn’t agree with, with Mom and his three children, Karl-Heinz being the oldest. They were sponsored by Mom’s sister, Tante Kathe, received their green cards, and moved to Kansas to start their lives in this country. The family moved to Omaha several years later, and settled there.

Three times, Mom left her familiar surroundings, twice illegally, to get away from violence and horrible living conditions. Twice, Pop left to move his family to a better life.

Pop, according to my husband, refused to learn English more than he needed to. He can only ascribe that to Pop’s dislike of the way the United States divided his country, giving half to the Russians. Mom, on the other hand, worked hard to learn the language of her adopted country and insisted that her children learn and speak it at all times. Have I told you before how amazing she was? All five of her children are living examples of the sacrifice and perseverance of parents who deeply loved their children.

Their life in Omaha wasn’t easy. Pop worked in the meat packing plant until it closed (losing his pension because he was just short of working there 10 years), and then he had his own business painting the three story houses in the Dundee area of Omaha in order to support his family. Karl remembers the actions of people who couldn’t get past their hate of Germany. He remembers waking to swastikas being painted on the side of the garage, with hateful words to go with them, and having to constantly paint over them. He remembers the bullies – in school and in the community.

Why am I telling you this story?

These stories are not unique. They are the stories that could be told of the Irish, the Italians, the Czechs, the Germans before and after the war, and most recently, the Latinos. They are stories born of the desire for freedom, love and a better life. And, they are stories of heartbreak, hate and disrespect. They populate our country’s history like autumn leaves covering a struggling late summer lawn.

And, yet, many who cherish the memories of their parents and their grandparents choose to disregard their own history when they look upon those who are turning to our country for succor today. Most recently, they insist that the children who are illegals crossing the border between Mexico and the United States should be put on the first train back to their country of origin, without the process of refugee status being taken into consideration. Their countries of origin are countries of violence, poverty, and often certain death. It doesn’t seem to matter that they are children, and they deserve our compassion and care. The children are being looked upon as “tickets for the parents to come into this country, refusing to learn our language and expecting to be taken care of by our system of Social Services.”

Yesterday, I was called a “bleeding heart liberal” with some disrespect, and told that I need to wake up to reality. Because the person doing the name calling was a member of my husband’s family, it was particularly poignant. I have such immense respect for my mother-in-law and everything she endured in her life, it was hurtful to me to be belittled by a family member for having the compassion for the children who are with us now as a result of the same type of violence and terror I know Mom went through.

I know that everyone’s reality is colored by perception and the thoughts that they think on a daily basis. We see what we expect to see. When your outlook on life is so negative and bitter that you can’t make any decisions based upon fact, but only on your perceptions, reality is a very dark place to live. When you apply those negative perceptions to a group of people, you create fear and hate. I wonder if the people that are doing that recognize that they are the ones who are creating the problem. It is because of the collusion of fear and hate that we do horrible things to innocent people, especially when we are looking at them as a group rather than individual people with unique and individual stories. Stories that can bring tears to your eyes and cause your heart to swell with grief and compassion for the pain they have endured.

Here is my reality: We are here on this earth to love and care for each other. We are here to take care of the children, and if that means that we help take care of the parents, so be it.

Our purpose on this earth is not to judge who deserves to be given help and who isn’t. It is not to make money by taking it away from those who are working hard to live a better life. It is not to go to war to make sure we have control of natural resources, money and power. It is not to control who gets what rights and benefits because of our religious beliefs (are corporations people, and do they have religious beliefs?). It is not to escape paying taxes by moving revenues from sales within the United States to another country. It is not to treat people as if they are unworthy of respect and dignity. It is quite simply to love and care for each other.

My reality means that compassion is not a dirty word.

If having compassion means I am a bleeding heart liberal, so be it. I will gladly accept that judgment.

Daily Insight: May 30, 2014

“There is very little in the present that threatens us and the only thing in life we can change is our minds”

I get a daily post of thoughts and observations from a syndicated service. Today this line was included in the middle of a paragraph. As I thought about all the things taking place in MY world today, I realize that I am not threatened by anything in this immediate moment. The fears that are expressed by others are not mine. I am not required to think as everyone else thinks, and I can explore the possibilities for expansion of my mind at my speed and my own willingness to be open-minded.

I cannot expect anything more than that from anyone else.

It’s Not Personal – Until We Make It So

Praying WomanAs I sat in meditation today, I thought back on my values and priorities in life, and reflected on the political environment we are living in today. I have difficulty fathoming any environment where the behavior of the leaders of our country should be tolerated. In my experience, some or all would be fired. It’s unfortunate we cannot do so with as much ease as within the private sector. But, this is not a rant post….

I also recognize that what is occurring is not personal. As I sit here, typing, I know that there is no one in Washington who knows me, or cares about me personally. I am one of 310 million people, and it’s just not possible for them to think of me personally. This fact also makes it almost impossible for them to have any empathy or compassion for the effects of their actions – on either side. It speaks to the level of their humanity, and their ability to really LISTEN to their constituents and take action based on the people they represent.

We are the people who are taking it personally. We have personalized all of it, even though it is not so. But for us, this is what personal looks like:

  • We are the families who work hard, but still live in poverty – and the programs that were available for us to get from meal to meal, paycheck to paycheck are shutting their doors.
  • We are the people in the tourist business who are being laid off because the parks are closed.
  • We are the senior citizens who have worked and saved to make sure we were financially secure, and that perhaps we could get by if Social Security were reduced – but are now fearful that our savings will be destroyed by politicians willing to bring our economy and our country to it’s knees.
  • We are the people who received the bodies of our loved ones, taken in combat as they fought for our country – and were told we would not receive any death benefits to ease the financial burdens we are sure to face without them.
  • I am the mother of a young man who is the benefactor of a state agency’s services that will cease on November 1, 2013, because they will lose their federal funding. The non-profit is the Nebraska Commission for the Visually Impaired and Blind, and they teach the low vision and unsighted citizens of this fine country to be self-sustaining and contributing members to society.

I can’t take the “leaders” of our government’s actions personally, because they are not. I know that I am the cause of my pain, because I create my own suffering – my anger, my disgust, and my sadness.

We have choices. All of us do. I can choose to take action, or I can choose to sit in my suffering and wallow. It is a waste of my time to suffer and wallow. I can work hard to create beauty in my piece of the Universe. I can help my child wherever I can. I can write and call my representatives and senators and share my thoughts and my expectations. But, what do I do when they blatantly tell me they don’t care – they will do what they feel called to do – even when it doesn’t represent what the people who elected them want them to do? I vote.

As a coach, I ask these questions of those leaders:

If the Representatives of the House, elected by their constituents to represent them, are not taking the action we are requesting of them, who are they representing?

What makes it so difficult to collaborate on improving a law that undoubtedly has flaws, but has withstood efforts to repeal it and declare it unconstitutional?

What gives them satisfaction about holding people and our country hostage by withholding jobs and money because they desperately want to destroy the Affordable Care Act?

If they are not willing to be leaders of character, why are they there?

What has become of their humanity?

I closed my meditation this morning with a prayer: “Divine Spirit, I pray that the “leaders” of this country look closely at their behavior and rhetoric, recognizing that both are not in our nation’s best interest. I ask that calmer minds be willing to sit down in collaborative conversation, speaking with kindness and respect, and resolve their differences in order to help us move forward as the country we profess to be. Amen”

 

You Are A Leader? Really?

WhoAreYouI’m relatively active on Facebook, and somewhat active on Twitter. I’ve made some great friends, deepened some existing relationships, gotten clients, and connected with a number of people in leadership communities who are active in social media. I’ve been impressed with quite a few people, and admire most of them.

I have even participated with 20 of them in writing a book about character-based leadership, and our wish to see changes in how people perceive their role in leadership.

Here is my dilemma; my struggle:

I know I am not perfect. I never have been. I slip up occasionally, and post things I think are funny – and I’ve inadvertently offended people. And, I have practiced what I coach, and I’ve learned from those situations, and I am much more mindful of the impression I can leave with others when I am not impeccable with my word.

Please bear with me when I ask this question:

How can anyone proclaim to be a leader, especially one who holds their character up as an example for others to follow, and post offensive statements on social media related to other people based on lies, assumptions and judgments about their religion, their race, their gender, and their character?

Leadership is about being non-judgmental, open-minded, diverse, compassionate, humble, caring, empathetic. Leadership is about communicating – listening, seeking to understand, being assertive rather than aggressive or passive-aggressive. Leadership is about seeking a win-win for everyone, and seeking the greater good. Leadership is about trust and accountability. And, yes, leadership is about setting an example.

I’m discouraged by some of my fellow leadership coaches and consultants.

Normally, I don’t say anything. But, you see, I’m also practicing being fearless and authentic – two more characteristics of leadership that I admire.

So, I have two additional questions I would like to ask:

What drives you to put statements out on Facebook and Twitter, or in the media, that are based on assumptions that are not factual and can generate hateful feelings in people who see them and trust you?

Based upon your definition of character, what stops you from being mindful of the consequences of your behavior?

Georgia Feiste, President of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, and Phoenix, AZ, is a personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator.  She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner.  Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life.  You can also find Georgia on her website, Collaborative Transitions, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.