Tag Archives: making a difference

Looking For The Good

I was listening to NPR in my car one afternoon, and thinking about all the tragedy our world has experienced in recent months. As I approached a stoplight, I listened as the announcer reported yet another horrible, sad story. At that same time, I looked up and noticed a man at the corner, waiting for the city bus. He was exuberantly dancing and apparently singing. I opened my window and heard him singing what seemed to be a song of praise in a loud, powerful and jubilant voice. I clearly heard him sing a line about hope and joy. Interestingly, he didn’t appear to be listening to music on a phone or any other device. The music he heard was coming from within, and he was sharing it enthusiastically, with voice and body.

The juxtaposition of this moment struck me. Even in the midst of all the negative news, there is always hope. There is always joy. There is always good.

It is easy to get bogged down in the negative news that crosses our path on a daily, if not hourly basis. Stories from across the globe of wars, crime, tragedies, natural disasters, homelessness, political discontent and other depressing topics are everywhere we turn. The “instant information” world we live in can be both a blessing and a curse. I have a friend that “quit” television and newspapers a number of years ago because she grew weary of all the negative news. At first I was surprised at her decision, but later recognized the merit in her thinking.

Despite what it may seem like sometimes, there is a lot of positive news. There are a number of websites and efforts devoted only to positive news and finding the good in our world. A few examples of positive news outlets are:  www.dailygood.org, goodnewsnetwork.org, http://www.positivity.org and http://www.happynews.com. I have added a few of these websites to my Favorites Bar, and I encourage you to consider doing the same.

The negative news can’t help but affect us, especially our children. Their perception of the world is still being shaped. I think we have an obligation to the younger generations to help them find the positive in our world, and in their day-to-day lives. I also think we should encourage them to seek opportunities to help make a difference in our world, and to show compassion and kindness to others so they can be part of the good news.

There is always hope. There is always joy. There is always good. Whether at an event with thousands of people or at a city bus stop, the good is out there. Let’s all help each other find it, each and every day.

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Filed under finding the good, Making a difference, Something to think about

The Power of a Moment

It was the summer of 1974 and I had just completed the first grade. My mother, brother, sister and I had recently moved into an apartment sans my father. My parents had recently separated, and all had changed in my world. One afternoon while my younger brother and sister were off playing in other areas of our apartment, I was curled up reading a book in the living room. My mom invited me to join her beside the large, console stereo that sat behind our sofa. She was sitting in front of the open cabinet doors, flipping through a stack of albums. My mom loved music, and had a wide variety of albums by artists that reflected her varied taste. She invited me me to sit beside her and told me she had something special she wanted me to hear. Holding up the album cover so I could see it, she said, “This is one of my favorites, and I want to play you something on it.” I hadn’t remembered seeing this cover before. She carefully took the album from its white paper sleeve, secured it on the turntable, and flipped on the power switch. She placed the needle carefully on the correct track, then looked at me and said, “This is Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. Listen. Music like this always tells a story. Close your eyes and see what story comes to your mind with each part. Just listen.”

As the music wafted through the air, I watched my mom lean her body back against the stereo cabinet, close her eyes and smile a soft smile. I sat still, listened to the music and reflected on her words from a six-year-old’s perspective. As I watched, it seemed as though the music had taken her away to a special, happy place where all was right and good. I liked that.

It was around that same time that I started taking piano lessons. A friend had given my mom some old piano music. Among the collection was a book of classical music for earlier/intermediate piano students. She opened that book to page 51 — Theme from Piano Concerto No 1 by Tchaikovsky, and told me that she would love it if I would learn how to play it.

That initial moment and the one that followed held great significance for me, although I wouldn’t recognize the significance until many years later. I grew up secretly loving classical music since it wasn’t “cool” for an adolescent or teenager to admit such a thing. After several years of taking piano lessons, I was finally ready to learn this special piece of music and honor my mom’s request. Unfortunately, not long after I really started learning it, I had to stop taking lessons due to unforeseen circumstances. I eventually learned this piece on my own, but it was never as polished as I would have liked or it should have been. Despite this being the case, each time I played it, my mom would look into the living room and smile that same soft smile at me. She never said anything, just smiled. I smiled back, knowing that we understood each other and the memories that understanding held.

Many years later, my daughter started taking piano lessons. This prompted me to think about taking lessons again. For my initial assessment, I played for my ever-patient and wonderful teacher, a rather crude rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. I remember telling my mom this, and she seemed proud and happy that I had started taking lessons again, and would be playing this piece.

Fast forward to an afternoon in the early fall of this year. I looked through the mail and saw that our season tickets for the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks Concerts had arrived. I read through the season program, and noticed that the program for the November concert would feature Igor Kamenz, a brilliant and very accomplished pianist, performing, yes, you guessed it, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. I could hardly wait for the concert date. The anticipation of hearing this piece performed live was equivalent to Christmas morning to me as a child.

As Mr. Kamenz approached the piano at center stage, I felt the emotion build within me. I sat mesmerized as his fingers danced across the piano keys and the orchestra joined him to beautifully perform this piece in full splendor. Tears formed in my eyes and my heart swelled with the memory of the many times my mom looked in on me as I  played the much simpler version of this piece, but especially with the memory of that initial moment when she invited me to listen to this piece for the first time. Just the two of us, sitting on the floor by the console stereo when I watched her take in the music, and she invited me to do the same. It was a powerful memory. A powerful moment.

You never know when something as small as inviting someone to listen to music will make an impact. I invite you to remain open to all the seemingly insignificant moments in our life, especially with our children. You never know when a moment will really matter and make a true difference that will last a lifetime.

I don’t think my mom ever realized the power of that moment we shared, but I know I do and always will.

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Filed under Gratitude, Making a difference, Parenting, Something to think about

Having a Dream and Making a Difference

I have shared another version of this story in the past, but it is worth repeating…

I remember the day like yesterday– January 16, 1995.  I had just woken up and was preparing for my day while my husband of a few months still slept, or so I thought.  I was in the kitchen when I heard a booming voice from our bedroom say, “I have a dream!”  I looked toward the bedroom and wondered if my husband was talking in his sleep.  I waited for a second, and hearing nothing more, I went back to what I was doing.  A minute later, I heard the voice again, “I have a dream that one day…”  He definitely had my attention and he wasn’t talking in his sleep.  I walked into our bedroom and saw him sitting in bed, holding a book by Martin Luther King, Jr.  open to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  When my husband saw me walk into our bedroom, he cleared his throat and started reciting the speech from the beginning, in as much character as he could muster.  He read the entire speech as I stood there watching.  After he finished, he closed the book, then looked up at me and said, “It’s Martin Luther King Day you know?  He has always been one of my heroes.  I read his speech to you in honor of him, what he stood for, and all that he did.”

Wow.  My husband definitely caught me off guard, which he likes to do.  At first I didn’t know what to think.  Now, after eighteen more years of powerful renditions of the “I Have a Dream” speech, I too have come to understand and respect even more all that Martin Luther King did to make a difference in our country.

A few years ago my husband and I were in Washington, DC, and we took the time to visit the Lincoln Memorial.  After reading the Gettysburg address inscribed in the walls of the memorial, we stood in the exact spot where Dr. King gave his renowned speech.  It was powerful to be at the memorial of one of my favorite presidents, but add to that the opportunity to imagine what it might have been like for Dr. King to look out over a sea of people covering the mall, listening to his poignant words…well, it was amazing.  I thought again about how much this man accomplished during his life, and what a difference he made.

I think one of the things that impresses me the most about Dr. King is the fact that he believed strongly that one person could make a difference, and he was willing to devote his life to standing up for what he believed was right.  As parents, I believe we can all make an effort to encourage our children to stand up for what they believe is right.  I am concerned that many young people don’t have much drive and passion about things that really matter.  I know there are many youth to whom this characterization doesn’t fit, but overall there is clearly room for our youth to improve.  It is important to have passion.  To have conviction.  To be willing to make a stand.  To make a difference.  It is our responsibility to share stories of the great leaders like Dr. King, so our children can understand what standing up to make a difference looks like in our history.

Today is a perfect day to start the conversation with our children about living a life that models the good things that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for, and all he and other leaders before him and since did to make a difference in this world.  Maybe our children will be inspired and carry that into their future, and their children’s future.  Now, that would be a great thing.

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Filed under Making a difference, Parenting, Something to think about