Do you include others?

Regardless of your religion (or the choice to have no religion), it is important to be inclusive in your daily life. You can increase the light and goodness in the world by widening the various “safe” circles in your day. I always try to include others any chance I get. Have you ever been on the other end of this scenario? Have you ever been the new student at school? Have you ever walked past a group of students who are laughing and joining together in a non-inclusive manner? It feels lonely.

Are you a student? When you walk the halls of your middle school or you eat lunch in your high school cafeteria, there are many opportunities to spread goodness. Be brave! Speak to someone who looks lonely or who looks like they might be struggling. Did a student drop their books? Be brave! Help them pick up the books. Share your smile with them. Is a new student looking lost in the cafeteria? Is someone sitting alone at the lunch table? Be brave! Say, “Hi, I’m ______! What’s your name?”

Find a way to connect with people who might not be part of the popular group. If you start practicing this inclusion each and every day, you will become more comfortable doing so. There are so many hurting and lonely people in the world. All kinds of clubs and groups are established for the purpose of grouping us together with people who are the same as us: country clubs, sororities, political groups, unofficial groups of cliches who don’t welcome others. The list goes on and on. Personally, I am uncomfortable associating in these types of groups. I always want to include others who might not have the money to join the country club or purchase the “right” clothing.

As human beings, we must support one another in brave ways. I live in a part of the United States we call The Bible Belt. I don’t typically see Christians behaving in ways of inclusiveness. This hurts me deeply. It’s as if we, as Christians, want to build walls to “keep out the bad people,” or “protect our clean selves from those who are dirty.” You might not be a Christian, but you may know something about Christ. Christ hung out with “unclean” people. The message of the gospel is “the good news.” The good news is that God loves us and accepts us and wants us to treat each other with respect and kindness. When Christ walked this earth, he welcomed people of all class status. That’s the whole point! Are you Buddhist? Muslim? Jewish? Agnostic? It makes no difference what belief system you hold — be brave! Include others you encounter throughout your day. Be on the lookout for opportunities to give away your smile or your assistance and kindness.

The Secret of My Success

In the United States, we want things immediately: fast food, fast turn-around times on our dry-cleaning, green traffic lights on the commute to work, etc. The American work force is filled with power-driven, money-driven, and “success-driven” people (although “success” is a relative term and does not mean the same thing to everyone). We move fast, think fast, and are hungry to climb the corporate ladder as fast as we can. Sometimes we don’t care who we have to step on to reach the top of the ladder.

Twenty years ago when I back-packed through Europe, there were many experiences that made a life-long impression on me. I traveled by myself to France from Nashville (via Philadelphia), and slept in youth hostiles and small hotels for nine weeks. Everything I took with me had to fit in my backpack. I had worked hard the previous year to scrape together the funds for such an excursion. I am so grateful that I did it. My European trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it helped me become more globally minded and it gave me a clearer perspective of what is really important to me.

One thing I admire about the European culture is the pace. I did not see an urgent drive to live fast and churn, churn, churn with daily stress in order to “succeed.” Success for many Europeans is not the same as American success. I sometimes wish I had stayed in Europe and figured out a way to live there permanently. Although cheese, pasta, heavy cream, alcohol and cigarettes are consumed by many Europeans, they do not have the health issues we do here in America. The only thing I can attribute that to is the European way of life: afternoon siestas where businesses are closed for two hours to eat and rest and two- to three-hour dinners each evening with family and friends. Meals are events. Meals are valued as time to enjoy good food and the company of those you love.

I have worked in the corporate world for over 30 years, and it takes its toll on me at times. I long for the European pace of living. It is a challenge being an artist dressed up like a corporate worker. My soul rejects the corporate environment on a regular basis. Because I did not listen to my inner artist earlier in life and take the steps necessary to free myself from the corporate world, I am, for the moment, stuck in it.  I continue to pray and seek the Universe’s wisdom as I put one foot in front of the other on my artist’s path. More important than money or “success” is honoring my artist self. Finding a place where I can honor her and still provide for my family is where I want to be.

Please respond to this post with your thoughts about success and what it means to you. I would love to hear from you!