The First Shall Be Last

Let’s pretend you and I are at a well-lit cafe on a sidestreet in Paris. Perhaps it is the vibrant section of Belleville, full of artistic twenty-somethings, near a used bookshop, not far from the skinny platform on which Edith Piaf used to stand and sing.

Imagine we are talking about love and life, which are my favorite things to talk about, and even democracy, and society, and the way people function when it comes to money, and social standing.

You know what I would pay attention to, if I were curious about you, if I wanted to see what makes you tick? If I was trying to uncover whether I’d want to spend more time with you?

I’d look at how you treat the waiter.

Because waiters are some of my favorite people, and they are the ones who give me refuge when I travel, or even when I’m close to home. Waiters live and breathe hospitality (the decent ones, of course), and when I am walking through a large city, or even a quiet countryside, and I find myself at a cafe, and I’m able to order food after several long hours of being hungry, and a waiter delivers that food and gets me a carafe de l’eau, I feel like a princess, and I feel like I’ve come home. And the waiter talks to me, and asks me where I’m from, and responds to my requests. So I don’t take a waiter for granted.

If you’re not kind to the waiter, you’re on my watchlist, because I’m not interested in hanging out with anyone who thinks he or she is better than anyone else, who has some inherent mindset that she is elevated above others in some kind of way.

The thing that wounded people like to do, even people who do not know or admit they are wounded, is find some sort of validation and vindication in placing themselves along an invisible hierarchy in life. They like to paint a little picture of how it all works, a kind of social ladder, and their place in that social ladder. And they either take comfort in where they are located in that ladder, if it’s relatively high, or they feel like self-righteous victims for being lower, as though there is some value in being at the bottom, so they cling to that as part of their identity because it establishes what they feel to be self-worth in victimhood.

Dear Lord, please do not do either of these things, and scrap your ladder altogether, and simply focus on goals. A ladder may exist in the man-made world, but it is not an emblem of truth according to what is inside you, or what it is inside every person. The amount of money you have, or your social status and recognition, is not indicative of your inherent value, or anyone else’s. Each person you meet will offer their own unique gifts. Kindness and a generous spirit wins, though, all the way.

It is hard to believe this in a culture obsessed with money. The wise people know that it’s just a tool, or a consequence.

Which brings me to this next piece of philosophy.

The spiritual teacher is a mirror for you, and what comes out in you when you are in the presence of a spiritual teacher is either the best part of you, or a part you need to look at more carefully, a part that is holding you back.

You could say everyone is your spiritual teacher, in some way. Everyone is your mirror. This is possible, but it’s also confusing to the overthinking brain, and if you’re looking in everyone for a “teacher,” you’re going to have option paralysis trying to find pieces of yourself in the many-colored mirrors of the world.

So set yourself on this: a spiritual teacher is someone who creates some sort of animation in you. Or, a spiritual teacher is someone who slows you down, makes you pause. Or a spiritual teacher is someone who makes you sit back and think, and enhances your curiosity. If you’re moving through life feeling numb, you may be sleeping too deeply to acknowledge a spiritual teacher, but one will certainly come, and you’ll recognize her by the way her presence forces you to open your eyes.

The spiritual teacher may draw out the truest parts of you, the juiciest bits, because you feel safe in her presence, comfortable enough to be yourself, even when being yourself is somewhat surprising. Or you may notice harder, washed-out edges that present themselves inside you, something you didn’t want to see or know.

As a yogi and a shapeshifter, the greatest spiritual teacher, Jesus, was able to adapt and be flexible for what any particular moment called for. He was always, consistently, light and love, but that didn’t mean that he was always calm and blissed out and smelling like roses. People think an enlightened person has no personality, and that their eyes are always half-closed and nothing phases them. This could not be farther from the truth. Human beings are a mimicry of the many faces of the divine, and anyone worth their salt who is teaching you a lesson is going to have their own personal brand in doing so. Because one person is not another, see. We are made of the same essence, but we all have our own unique flavor. And so Jesus, or a spiritual teacher you know, would have brought different gifts to the table in different milieus, in order to relate to the people in front of him, because the divine works as a moving through.

We tend to think spirituality is like the social ladder I’ve described above, a practice of attainment. We acquire and acquire and acquire all these mysteries, this information and practice, all these experiences. But then we are left, in the end, with just a different sort of capitalism, and just one more label for ourselves about all the things we have acquired. This is why I am reluctant to say to anyone that I am “spiritual,” because people don’t know what it means, and I prefer to talk in verbs rather than adjectives.

True Spirituality is a stripping away of all our labels and preconceptions and notions, until we begin to recognize and see the world for what it is, what exists at the root of all of us, this golden, blooming gem. And we operate from that deep, well-rooted place, and not from any sort of hierarchy.

Jesus’s brand is not all blissed out, like smoking marijuana in a white room, all C’est la vie, and “love your neighbor, dude.” And it is not sitting under a tree and sorting out the ways of the universe and having people come to him so he can teach.

Jesus is warm and vibrant, deeply compassionate and alive, traveling from place to place, going wherever he is called. Jesus sees himself, first and foremost, as a servant, led by God to do good work in the world. He had passion in his compassion, vitality in his words and heart, and was constantly moved my people’s faith. That’s what impressed him first and foremost, you know. That’s what brought him to his knees. It was not someone’s daily practices and how they could check the box to show how dedicated they were. It was not someone’s social standing, or whether they were particularly liked. It was not someone’s intellect and how many followers they had. What impressed him was faith. It was when people simply believed who he said he was. He was strong, and knowing of so much, but also human, and of course all humans get a little lonely. But what lifted him up was the way people trusted in him, and came to him, and confided in him, and that humbled him more than anything else in the world, because he just loved people, especially people who could sort through the social ladders and the bullshit and see what was true.

You didn’t have to have a lot of money to discover that. You didn’t have to have a ton of education. You simply had to be humble enough to believe, and ask for help, and your prayers were answered in some manner or form.

Now, perhaps we have finished our plate of pasta, and the wine is down to the last drop. I have finished smoking my cigarette, mon cherie, and it is a nasty habit, but one I only take up while I’m here.

So let’s pay the nice waiter and take a walk, darling. Let’s find an overlook and gaze at the lights. The Eiffel Tower is beaming.

Your Wealth Is Your Relationships

Hi there. Thanks for being there.

I just woke up after a 12-hour rest. I can’t remember the last time I slept for 12 hours.

But Paris is dark in the winter, and this apartment is quiet, and my body really needs rest, and it needed some distance in order to reset and go deep and renew so I can come back out into the world again, refreshed.

People don’t stress this enough about travel, how it feeds your soul, and how your soul is the thing you should always be watering, so it can grow. (Or else you’re going to keep coming back as a human for a bunch more centuries, and doesn’t that seem tiring? So invest in your soul-growth now. You won’t regret it. And that is today’s public service announcement, though I suspect there will be others.)

So I woke up today wondering what my blockages are, recognizing how strange it is the way things do or don’t develop in this life, and considering if I should change my habits and feed myself each morning with others’ words before jumping right into writing my own down. Is this blog a healthy use of my time?

There is this scene in the movie Hope Floatswhich is totally a brilliant movie but so few people probably appreciate it, where the Harry Connick, Jr. character is talking to the Sandra Bullock character, showing her around a house he is building. And she sees that he has all this creative talent in one particular area (I forget what it was, carpentry?), and she asks him why he’s not doing that more widely, as a career. And he says something along the lines of, and I’m paraphrasing and this is going to sound like shit, “What, and do it to make money like America tells you to do and beat it to a pulp and twist it every which way to make a living out of it so that it’s no longer the thing I love to do?”

I gotta find a clip of that scene, but that message and moment comes up for me a lot throughout my days. The way we take our talents and assume we need to GO BIG. The way we look at money as the be-all, end-all. The way we think that the way we make a living is the thing that defines us most in the world.

I’ve been grappling with those belief systems, those practices, for years, and I don’t know that I’ve come onto the other side with any sort of clear philosophy. My philosophy has been getting by. My philosophy has been one day at a time, living in the here and now. And I could say more about this, but I have other things to cover. I just know that the way our culture operates when it comes to money is to save it and hoard it and withhold from sharing it with others. I know that the way our culture operates is to suggest that we need to plan for the future, even though the future may never come, or the future may look different than we expected, or we may die before we get to spend that money in our investment accounts, or that we think a person’s life should be an exchange for lots of dollars, so that we are supposed to be comforted about the absence of someone we love because we’ve been given a big check. (Arthur Miller taught me that one.)

Man, can you believe I’m this brilliant and thoughtful and not yet (and may never be) famous, and I’m writing only to you, my dedicated reader?

Thanks.

I know that when you set your mind to something, or you feel in tune with a place you want to go, or something you need to do in this life because it speaks to you in a really big way, the money just comes.

It does not come in a way that is exactly the day you want, perhaps. Or it does not come in a way that is a lot extra money so that you are SET FOR LIFE, and never have to worry about how you’re going to spend money again. It just happens. That is the way it has happened for me. And because I’m aware that traveling feeds my soul in a way that nothing else does, I make it a priority. I am not a big spender, but I am not a–how do you say?–miser either. I don’t reuse my bags of tea. I feel like shit when I don’t eat leftovers, I’ll tell you that much, because that’s a terrible waste. But if I have to live the rest of my life in an apartment, but I get to go to coffee shops and meet people, and travel when I feel the call, and wear the clothes I have right now which is plenty, as long as I don’t gain a bunch of weight?

All’s good.

So, this obsession we have in our culture about money as though it is a God, or fear as though it is a God, or Resistance as though it is a God, forgetting who is actually God, and recognizing that all the rest are just tools to get us further in line with or move further away from God and purpose and calling and beauty and truth, well, you need to develop a new way inside you because fucking TrumpWorld is not going to teach you anything.

I can’t believe it’s only Monday.

Your wealth in this life has very little to do with your bank account, because baby, that shit can disappear in a heartbeat. We know the way money goes.

And also, as an aside, before I get into relationships, I invested all this money in a university program to be a writer and then when I was in Paris, in the summer, reading my little used book of Rilke that cost $8 from a used bookstore, I realized he was telling me all you needed to become a writer, and feeding a homeless person did more for me than sitting in front of a heady guy freaking out because he couldn’t make sense of life but he had a lot of photocopied papers. (But the people were nice!)

So what provides true and long-lasting value in this life are your relationships, and those are the things that deserve a lot of your attention, more than you’re probably giving them. Many of us become habitual about relationships and take the people in our lives for granted, or at least we do that until they leave, which gets us all in crisis mode. I don’t really operate this way, because I show appreciation all the time for the people I love, and I’m disappointed when other people do not, because they’re missing something. When I went through divorce and saw the way people were there for me, and how little money I had, and how I really didn’t know what was going to happen financially and that I would lose a lot of what I owned, I saw what really mattered, what True Wealth was, and it was the people who love you, and it is the kindness of people. That is True Wealth, my friend. It is not having an enormous house and being breathless all the time, and forming all kinds of addictive behaviors to fight your demons or embody them, and feeling terribly alone all the time even though you have enough savings to pay for your kids going to college. (Maybe college is not worth its salt anymore, you know? And I teach at a college, and have for years, so I know a thing or two.)

True Wealth is someone giving you a hug when you need it, or inviting you to dinner. True Wealth is laughing with your partner, or sitting on the floor and listening to music in a lamplit room. True Wealth is sitting on the beach in the early morning and listening to the waves crash, and the mist on your skin, and the stars above you.

So stop thinking about how it’s money that brought you all those things, and start recognizing it’s God, and that God acts through people, and money is just God’s tool here and there, and God operates in ways we don’t expect or always know how or why, but it comes, and when you’re in tune with God and you put God first, money finds its way because it’s not the idol, it’s just the management.

Now, listen to this song. This is a really good song.

 

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

God or Money?

I have no interest today talking to people who have all their shit figured out. The people whose lives are together and orderly, for whom everything is perfect and squeaky clean. The people who have an organized silverware drawer and a steady job with 401K benefits and have quiet, perfunctory sex before sleeping next to a stack of barely cracked books. Those people can go read some other blog. Those people can sip their tea and read the newspaper and drive their clean cars to work while NPR babbles in the background.

I’m talking to you, the person who is a fucking mess. God, I love you. The woman who is barely holding it together each morning as she gets her kids out the door for school. The man who is so desperate and hungry for love and affection, he’s thinking of cheating on his wife. The teenager who has so many emotions, she doesn’t know whether to cry or poop.

Those are the people I’m after. Those are the people I want to bring into the fold.

Yesterday, I was in a bookstore, and I went into the Christian aisle, which I never ever go in, and I looked at the titles because I want a new book by Cynthia Bourgeault but she’s too brilliant to be in the Barnes & Noble Christian aisle. And there are all these titles with these straight-teethed white people with coiffed hair telling you about Jesus. Jesus saves and Jesus loves and Come to Jesus and all that. And it made me feel really ick. Like really, really ick. Because Jesus is fucking black. And Jesus is fucking Hispanic. And Jesus is fucking on the street corner with his hand out, begging for food.

And Jesus is in your heart and your soul and will always answer every single question you have, and will always measure up, and will always deliver you, and these ugly books don’t show you that.

So why the fuck would someone like me, who is infinitely cool, start talking to people about Jesus. Dear God. It is so embarrassing, sometimes. It is so awkward to say his name and be grouped with other people who say his name, people who I wonder if I have anything in common with. People who are more interested in belonging to a tribe than they are in seeking out the truth, in having their lives constantly break apart and be formed anew again. People who smile wide and pretend everything is great! It’s super! and really they’re fucking dying inside and riddled with doubt and doing all kinds of weird things in all kinds of dark corners.

(If you’re doing weird things in dark corners, I still love you, as long as you’re not molesting kids. Or adults. Or anybody. Knock that shit off, motherfucker.)

So how do you know truth, and how do you know what’s real, when people who say they know the truth and they know what’s real feel like liars, feel false, feel unauthentic? That’s fucking tough. That’s one of the biggest questions of life. And I don’t have an easy answer for you. I just know I’ve always wanted the truth, and it’s been my destiny and my soul’s deepest desire, and I’ve been digging for a lifetime, never giving up until I found it, and I did. And I found it in SexyJesus, who has no issues with things like sex and cunnilingus. He’s totally fine with that, by the way. That was a huge relief.

So what I can tell you about finding truth is that it is a lot of inner work. You do not find truth by being lazy, or by handing the reigns over to someone else. Nope. NoSiree. It would be nice if we could think that, wouldn’t it? Just hand your life over to someone else to figure it all out? But that would make you a weakling, a pussy, so don’t do that. (Although pussies are pretty nice! I have one! She’s awesome!)

You gotta get inside, baby. You gotta keep asking the questions and searching and rolling stuff around in your hands and in your mind and especially, most especially, in your heart. And then you’ll have a breakthrough, and then you’ll ask more questions. And anytime you think you have it all figured out, that’s when you know a fall is coming. Because God is all about making you fall, over and over again. Falling is heaven. Falling is when you don’t know where to put your feet. Falling is weightless, it is surrender, it is when you know you are not in control, and that knowledge, honey, is the greatest place you can be, even when it feels like hell.

(I hear my grandmother is reading my blog now. I wonder how she feels about all this pussy talk! Just an aside.)

What I will tell you, is that there is nowhere you can go that God cannot go also. There is no place you will go that God is not there. God will rise up to meet you in every single instance, in every single moment you ask. But you have to ask, baby. You can’t just do this shit alone. Oh my God, it so sucks to do it alone, and when you think you can do it all alone, that’s when the devil gets in, which is your ego, which is the dark corners of your mind. Thomas Merton said, “No man is an island,” and that’s frickin’ true. And I don’t know if Thomas Merton ever had sex. That’s not important right now. What is important is to know that God works everywhere, and works through other people, almost always, so if you’re looking for some sort of God-flower to rain down from the sky, you’re not going to find it, or if that’s what you’re looking for, you wouldn’t notice it when it arrived because you live your life fucking asleep.

God is everywhere, in every leaf on a tree, in every squirrel running after a nut, in every sip of your coffee. It’s just that often we’re sleeping, so we don’t know these things. We’re operating under a haze. We’re robots. And the Great HeShe is knocking on your door, like Hello! Hey, look at me! Isn’t this cool? Isn’t this beautiful? And you’re like, let me look at this screen because the world is now delivered through a little rectangular screen.

What I want to tell you is that faith never disappoints. Ever, ever, ever. People do, honey. People disappoint sometimes. No one’s perfect. And maybe the people who fall away or disappoint you were meant to help you grow, to help you get stronger, to help you discern what really matters in life and where you should be looking, what you should be going after. It’s just that we’re friggin’ emotional, so it’s hard to understand that at the time.

It is such a glorious thing to be alive. It is such an amazing opportunity to live beyond your narrow mind, your narrow conceptions, and get into your heart, and really see, and really live, and really be alive, and welcome every opportunity as something that is meant for you, without worry or doubt or blame or fear, but with faith and trust, and the absence of obsessing over money.

Because fuck, we are all so obsessed and crazy when it comes to money. And yet so much of scripture keeps warning us about that, keeps telling us not to make money a God.

God is God. Money is money. I often wonder why God made money exist because it gets us so confused about our priorities, about what matters in this life. We hoard money when we should be sharing it. And if we were truly a Christian country, we’d be spreading that money around, spreading the wealth, recognizing that what we make or earn is not ours, but is for everybody, is an exchange of energy, is a way of healing the world.

So let go of money. Let it fall. Let it float through the air like rain. Just simply let it go. Stop thinking about it. Stop trying to acquire it, or save it, or figure it out. Just let what comes come. And what goes, go.

Then you’ll be happy.

 

Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash

The Middle Way (and a Money Conversation! On Video!)

Man, I am an intense person. I just can’t not be—it’s who I am. I take everything in my life seriously, because my life really matters to me, and my work in this world matters to me, and people really matter to me. And so because I feel deeply about like, every fucking thing!, I have a tendency to burn pretty hot.

But I’m really nice to be around! And I love to laugh! And I’ve recently let off steam by adapting a gruff, go-getter coaching tone every time I text my friend David about topics from scheduling a phone call to going Christmas shopping.

You are a a great strategy partner!

Get your mindset in gear and you will meet all of your 2019 Christmas shopping goals! This is about power, David. Do YOU have the power?

Oh my goodness, if there were only a way for someone to help me cool down. I welcome this opportunity!

So today’s post is called “The Middle Way,” because yoga is the middle way. A lot of us tend to live in extremes in our lives, and we crave balance, but we don’t know how to get there. Balance is not this linear, step by step thing. Balance is often the pendulum swing: go too far in one direction, then step back too far in the other, then find your way eventually to the middle and swing and dance for a bit before it starts all over again. That’s life, baby.

Although shit, that’s not so much my life. But what things look like on the outside and what they feel like on the inside is different, too. And I’m always a lot more concerned with how I feel on the inside, and if that’s going well, I’m happy.

I lost my train of thought.

Middle…something. The middle path, middle way…. Ummm.

Let me tell you a story.

When I was in yoga teacher training, and I was still married and my then-husband lost his job, I was kind of crying and scared. And my teacher came over to me during a pose and told me, You’re not going to be the first people in the neighborhood who are homeless.

I was like, Are you sure? But I kept listening.

Then he said some other things, but he ended with, The truth is somewhere in the middle.

So we think we know the truth about a situation, and someone else may have a personal truth, or there may be information we don’t know, and so everyone has so many wonderful, vibrant and confusing stories, but the actual truth rests in the cracks in all those things. Which means we always have to be aware that there is a lot we don’t know, and be able to give ourselves over to that mystery, which is why life is so much better when there is not rigidity in our minds, but flexibility in our thinking.

And if you’re an emotional person like I am, you have a tendency to veer into extremes. I don’t do this too much anymore, because life kicked the shit out of me, but, you know, it’s common. One way or the other way. This direction or that direction. The Wisdom Path, which is a l’il side version of Christianity passed down through us feminine types, emphasizes there is always a third way in any given situation. A beautiful third force we can approach instead of the dual thinking our minds and actions typically lead us into. And then, when we take the third way, we are top-level people, unstoppable, the killin’ it kind of people who break down walls and barriers and accomplish all of our 2019 Christmas shopping goals!

Or something. You get the idea, I hope.

I don’t know why I’m telling you this. I just woke up having a conversation in my head about how people all help balance each other out, about how we develop stories and insecurities in our own lives and live in our heads and need others to talk to to recognize what is actually true, aside from what we think is true because we’re always living so isolated in our minds. And this is why I love having conversations, because they are the spice and sweetness of my life, and I Iove talking. I mean, I love quiet time, too, but after I’ve had some quiet time I am ready to talk and share and learn about someone else and how he or she sees the world, and about how he or she is going to tackle and accomplish all of her 2019 Christmas shopping goals!

But there are not a lot of people who want to have in-depth conversations. There are more people who kind of want to scroll through their social media feeds and see their world through a smartphone screen, or numb themselves out on a couch and binge watch TV. Sigh.

That’s not everyone, though! Yay!

So last week I sat down with this amazing new connection I met through a local networking business event, Chris Mouzon, whose interest as a financial expert is having real conversations about money.

I mean, who hears that and doesn’t set up an appointment to talk?

So welcome to the first episode of The Rose Compass, a videocast (maybe eventually podcast, too? I need help with technology), a platform for real conversations about all the things that make up life!

All the things! 

One of these December days I’ll start talking about Christmas.

 

Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

You Have It To Give

 

Money is the root of so much awesomeness. –Jen Sincero, author of You Are a Badass at Making Money

When I was in Europe this past summer, finding churches to pray in, places to write blog posts, I recognized heaven exists not in some far-off land, but right here, on earth. It is inside us, if we have the bravery and persistence to tap in. In every direction is beauty and depth—it often doesn’t matter which way you turn. (Which is great for me, because I constantly get lost.) What I mean by this is, when I needed a place to eat, I found one. When I needed a place to rest, I found one. When I needed a restroom, one would appear. (And cafe owners would let me use it without buying anything, if I was nice enough.)

But the big thing I think we all struggle with is the concept of heaven—this haven of riches—and actual money, which we feel often limits us in our experience of happiness, of the divine on earth. Money is not the same as wealth, or richness. Wealth, in a spiritual sense, is about having resources, and resources are not limited to paper or coins. Resources exist in our experiences, the people we know, in our talents, in love and attitude and devotion. And sometimes they exist in paper money. Money seems to be what makes many of us stumble the most. No matter how many talents we have, or ideas, or love, or grand plans, we still have to pay our bills, get out of debt, build or grow what it is around us that we want to build and grow.

Money is a concept that for many months, I’ve been trying to get my head around. I suspect I will never understand fully. Why do some people have so much, and others have so little? Why do some people own multimillion dollar houses they barely live in, and others struggle to eat or find shelter?

I do not know the answer. I’ve been turning it to God. If I had a lot of money, I would do wondrous things with it, I tell Her. I’d live simply, and most of it would be spent on sharing, celebrating art, donating to charities, feeding people who need to be fed. My greatest expense would be travel, because I think seeing and meeting people in other places gets you out of your own head, helps you to recognize that we’re all part of a human family, not separate at all. (Jesus wandered a lot from town to town, always meeting new people. I wonder how many times he had to change those beaten-up sandals.)

I am rich, but I do not have a lot of money. I am often just trying to find some steadiness, some consistency, with my in-flow so I can plan for THE DAY I DO GREAT THINGS. And yet no single day is guaranteed. So what the HimHer God teaches me is that if I want do do good, if I want to serve, if I want to help, start with what’s right in front of me. Start with a person who asks. Because I can’t save the whole world. But I can engage in an opportunity that’s offered.

While I was in Florence months ago, I was praying about these questions. I do not come from a family who travels, and so the fact that I was in a country I always wanted to visit made me feel wealthy beyond measure. Yet on many streets, there were homeless people asking for money. I didn’t now what to do about that. The solution I came to, when I realized I had food in my purse that I could easily give away, was that instead of reaching for euros every time I came across a person, I’d respond to their request by giving food.

It wasn’t long after I came to that solution that someone was put in my path. On my last day, shortly before I was meant to leave the city, a man came up to me on the sidewalk and asked me for euros. I told him I didn’t have any, even though I did. I had 100 euros in my purse, in fact, because I had just gotten some out of the machine in case I needed cash. Next he asked for bread instead, and I agreed. He pointed behind me, to a store that had bread. So I followed him, all the while wondering what I was getting myself into. What was I doing? Was this safe?

As we walked, he asked me where I was from. And he told me he was from Nigeria, that he had been in Florence for a while, but was hoping to get back to Rome. Rome had better jobs, easier ways to make money. He led me to a line in McDonald’s, and we stood and talked as we waited for his food. “It’s really hard,” he said, shaking his head, referring to living on the streets.

“Is there a shelter you can stay in?” I asked.

He shook his head. “They cost money.”

“Do you have any family around?” I asked.

“No, they’re all back home. It’s just me here.” Then he began talking again about how he wanted to go to Rome, but he needed a bus ticket, and so until he was able to get one, he was stuck.

Was I supposed to give this guy money for a bus ticket? I started asking the Mother. I had made a decision to only give food. What now?

“Do you pray?” I asked. I didn’t know what else to say.

“Oh yes, I pray,” he said. And then he started talking about his faith. “The Lord knows my heart.” There was no rambling, no empty words. “God has a plan for all of us,” he said, and pointed to the Above. “And He has taught me strength, he’s building my character….” I could tell that his faith went deep.

And it was then I knew I was supposed to give him money for the bus fare. Because he needed it, and I had it to give. My heart started to pound. It was no time to be stingy. I had an apartment back home I lived in myself. I had a return plane ticket. I had a master’s degree. I had furniture and too many clothes and I was not worried at all about eating. I had people who could support me if things got really awful, people who would bail me out. All this guy needed, all he was asking for, was 55 dollars.

I reached into my purse and handed him all the cash I had, because there were tears in my eyes, and it didn’t make sense to count it up. His face opened, his mouth fell. And then he hugged me. “Thank you,” he said. “You will be blessed.” And then he hugged me again.

I turned to leave, wanting to find some quiet place to cry.

A better person would have thought nothing of handing this money over. A better person would have said, No sweat. Have a good day.

But I had been worried about money for months, for years. I agonized about getting a better job, or moving out of my apartment eventually into a house with a yard for my kids, even a dog. I worried each time I bought myself something that didn’t seem absolutely necessary, that the Grand Hand of God was going to point his finger and say, “You! Bad!” For a long time, I didn’t know if I could manage to live on my own anymore, or what kind of job I’d have to take despite degrees and years of work experience.

What my Beloved on High had given me, in response, was an offering. You are worried about money, He said. You want to know how to handle it. You want to be taught. Here you go. Will you listen?

I am not saying you have to stand on a street corner handing out cash to passersby. (That would be cute, though.) I’m just saying every day, there are people in your path who may be in need. They may be in need in a variety of ways, needing some sort of resource. Maybe it’s a hug. (I often need one of those.) Maybe it’s advice. Maybe it’s a kind word. Maybe it’s cash.

You have to take care of yourself. Of course you do. There is no expectation that you must give all you have away. But if you have done some good internal work, if you have come to a place of gratitude and acceptance of your life situation (which we should all be working toward anyway), then the next step is obvious. Your Hero begins to offer you opportunities not to compare, to judge, to pick apart, but instead to give and to serve.

The Giant HeShe says, in the gentlest of ways, Let’s look at what you have, my darling. Who is in need around you? How can you help?

You know what bothers me most about that interaction with the faithful man?

I never asked him his name.

 

“Straight From The Oven”by Anders Adermark is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Power of One

I believe in the power of one person.

The power of one person to plant good seeds to help others. The power of one person to rise up from the ash, to start something new. To dive in, jump forward, chart a brilliant, beautiful path.

And I don’t think a person should be held back by outdated ideas or old modes of thinking that don’t serve anybody, that don’t help. A person does not have to give great attention to the dark thorns that say “can’t” and “shouldn’t” and “no.”

I believe in can. I believe in could. I believe in yes. 

I believe in goodness. I believe that within everyone lies a beautiful flame of inner light.

It has taken a long time, and a very winding road, to discover that I also believe in me.

And that is why I want to change my last name, as a symbol of a turning point in my life, my 40th birthday.

It is a symbol of the new path forward, a path where I use all my previous experiences as rich compost to embark on a bold, exciting, beautiful next stage of life.

A life that is uniquely mine. A life where I am not weighed down by old beliefs in limitations. A life where I practice a faith in the limitless.

And that starts with my name.

Because when the chips are down in this world, we have only a few things. We have our bodies. We have our beliefs. We have the relationships we have formed. And we have our names.

For I am a Rose. I grew among thorns, because I knew that there was a bud inside me that held something beautiful, when it would finally have the chance to flower. I grew from the earth, from men and women who came before. I grew despite storms, despite droughts. And my petals are strong. And they are many. And I don’t lose heart. And I have come back even after falling away.

I believe in second acts. At 40, I know I have a lot of life left to live. And in order to support others in their own personal journeys, which I will always, always do, I have to live my beliefs myself. I have to embody what I want to see more of in the world.

For a long time I thought money was dirty. I turned up my nose, shied away. Underneath that was a feeling that I was undeserving. That money was evil, or something to be avoided. That only bad people had it. I put up internal blocks, unknowingly, so that it wouldn’t come to me. I did not give it the reverence it deserved. I suffered from a belief in lack. And at the same time I unwittingly worshiped money, thinking it was mightier than God.

The greatest abundance lies inside of us. It lies in what we choose to create, what we put out into the world. We have the power to generate flow, to generate abundance in our lives, not just through cash, but through kindness and love. And I believe in that dance. Often, money helps move things along. Not always. But often.

I am going to change my last name legally to Rose. It is just something I’m going to do. I am going to fill out that pile of paperwork with disgusting glee, and advertise my new name in newspapers, and announce it proudly to the world.

Because I am a person whose actions, whose words, line up with my beliefs.

The power of $1 from you can help me. Because one dollar is a beautiful gift. It cannot buy much in this world anymore, but it can show support for something you believe in. It is better than nothing. It is better than silence. One dollar is a seed that grows.

So if you have one dollar to give, please visit my Facebook fundraiser page. And if you believe in the power of one, share this message with 5 friends.

One dollar is can. One dollar is could. One dollar is Yes.

Facebook Fundraiser: Changing my last name

(Campaign goes until October 4th, but don’t wait! Because you might be like me, who always forgets to do the little things she wanted to do. 🙂 And my birthday is September 22.)