"The smile starts in the heart and shines through the eyes, unless you're one of the unlucky veterans without eyes who just has to give a broken grin and keep on loving life despite the difficulties."
I LOVE that. My nephew just heard a man say that last week in France. My nephew is serving as a Christian missionary in Toulouse, France, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). It is one of the highlights of my week to read his letters and learn about all the people he is serving. He's only 20 years old, yet he is dedicating 2 years to serve as a missionary. Pretty amazing.
The gentleman who said, "The smile starts in the heart . . . " was originally from Tahiti. My nephew heard him speak in a church meeting. He also talked about a club for WWI veterans on his Tahitian island called "La Gueule Cassé" (I think it means, the broken hangover). All of this got me thinking that sometimes life IS hard, but we can still keep on loving life.
His comment about giving a broken grin and continuing to love love despite the difficulties reminds me of an excellent speech called, "Come What May, and Love It", by Joseph B. Wirthlin. It is a classic speech that has helped me a lot.
After Heath Ledger died, I first heard the Australian idiom, "Cutting down the tall poppy" during a t.v. special about his life. This tall poppy syndrome is a "pattern of behaviour where people who stand out from the crowd because of exceptional skill or ability (the “tall poppies”) get “cut down to size” by their peers. It’s the tendency in human beings to criticise or sabotage those who are more successful than others"*. Heath Ledger was a victim of this "tall poppysyndrome" when he returned to his native country of Australia for a movie premier, and on other occasions.
How often do we cut down the tall poppy? Sometimes we cut down the tall poppy outloud with criticism, or more often, silently in our thoughts. Is there someone in your life (a friend, relative or acquaintance) that seems happy, talented, beautiful or successful, and, for whatever reason, you wish they weren't? Or is there a public figure you feel that way about?
What kind of negative feelings take up residence in our soul when we allow ourselves feel that way? Jealousy? Insecurity? Bitterness? Resentment? A hard heart? Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent". Take a second to think if you ever have those feelings about a certain person ~ you may have never even mentioned it to anyone else.
What does it reveal to others about ourselves when we criticize? Perhaps the same things. That we are jealous, insecure, bitter, resentful or heard hearted. We seem to be demonstrating the childish behavior, "If I can't have it, neither can you". What happens to our heart when we feel this way? It seems to shrink to the size of a pea, just like the Grinch's heart in one part of Dr. Seuss' story, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
How can we change? Be glad for the happiness of others! That is the first positive thing we can do toward the successful, talented people we know or observe. If someone is experiencing success, or JOY, try sharing in that joy with them. The word 'rejoice' (re-JOY'ce), means to "again/ be glad". The Latin prefix "re" means 'again'. So, try sharing 'again' with someone's joy. Pay them a compliment, or just tell them how happy you are for their success. Tell someone else about their success. Or, just THINK about how happy you are for them, and treat them accordingly. You may surprise yourself when your heart softens and you make room for love and acceptance. It's a GREAT feeling (as you know). Second, pay attention to the tendency to cut down the tall poppy. When you start down that bitter road, just turn around and choose the higher road ~ choosing to share in the joy they are feeling.
What does this have to do with HOPE? If negative thoughts are taking up all the space in your thoughts at any given moment, there's no room for hope at that moment. I'm a firm believer in kicking out the negative stuff in my soul to make room for hope, positive feelings and positive thoughts. In other words, out with the bad, in with the good. If we need more hope to help us deal with challenges, we need all the room we can create in our minds, bodies and spirits. Rejoicing with people instead of cutting them down is a big step. When we create that sacred space in ourselves, it miraculously fills up with:
*Acceptance ~ of others and ourselves.
*Love ~ of others and ourselves.
*Peacefulness ~ we feel at peace with what we have been given, and with our better choices.
*Faith ~ that Jesus Christ knows how we feel, and blesses us when we choose the better path.
*Hope ~ that Christ, who continues to stand out from all others, forgives us and always gives us a second chance to improve. He was "cut down" and chose to love those who were against Him. He continues to love all of us, and He rejoices with all of us when we choose that higher road. Always.
Last Sunday I heard an Easter message by Jeffrey R. Holland entitled, "None Were With Him". I can't think of anything to write that could better convey the magnitude of what the Savior did for you and for me to offer HOPE, than what Jeffrey R. Holland says in this Easter message:
This is a blog about Hope. Today is Easter ~ the most hopeful of all holiday season's of the year; a time to ponder that Jesus Christ is the true messenger of hope and renewal. This is the most important message of hope in the history of the world.
Jesus Christ offers each one of us hope. He gave His life so that we might live. His loving, omnibenevolent gift is available to ALL: you, me, your friend and any enemy. May you find the true hope Christ offers you and embrace it fully. May this lasting, eternal hope carry you through any trials you may have or may yet face. YOU ARE SO LOVED.
This week, being Easter time, has me thinking about Michaelangelo's famous sculpture, Pieta, possibly the "world's most famous religious sculpture"*. I saw this sculpture in St. Peter's basilica, when I was once lucky enough to go to Rome. I just stared and stared at the image of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, holding her Son after he had been taken down from his suffering on the cross.
St. Peter's Basilica website writes, "As she holds Jesus' lifeless body on her lap, the Virgin's face emanates sweetness, serenity and a majestic acceptance of this immense sorrow, combined with her faith in the Redeemer. It seems almost as if Jesus is about to reawaken from a tranquil sleep and that after so much suffering and thorns, the rose of resurrection is about to bloom. As we contemplate the Pieta which conveys peace and tranquility, we can feel that the great sufferings of life and its pain can be mitigated."
I believe in the eternal hope that comes from faith in the resurrection because of Jesus Christ. I wonder if Mary knew that three days later her Son would rise again.
I believe in the eternal hope that comes through the gift Christ gave us through His suffering for our sorrows and sins ~ to become clean again from our sins if we repent.
Lowell Bennion (1908 ~ 1996) has a philosophical creed that continues to inspire me. He was an extraordinary man of service. I've been reminded this week that serving another person gets us outside of ourselves ~ and HOPE, joy and peace replace whatever negative thoughts or feelings we were having.
I've been thinking a lot this week about the impact that one person, like Lowell Bennion, can have on so many. The first food bank and homeless shelters in Utah were founded by Lowell Bennion. My grandfather, Bill Swinyard, and Lowell were neighbors and they loved to go around the neighborhood to visit people together. He used to make Lowell laugh so much. My memories of Lowell mostly have to do with his genuine smile and the way I felt when I was around him. It wasn't until many years later that I understood the impact he made on so many lives.
Here is Lowell Bennion's philosophical creed (and photo) which I have on my fridge. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:
LOWELL BENNION'S PHILISOPHICAL CREED
Learn to like what doesn't cost much
Learn to like reading, conversation, music.
Learn to like plain food, plain service, plain cooking.
Learn to like fields, trees, brooks, hiking, rowing, climbing hills.
Learn to like people, even though some of them may be different . . . different from you.
Learn to like to work and enjoy the satisfaction doing your job as well as it can be done.
Learn to like the song of birds, the companionship of dogs.
Learn to like gardening, puttering around the house,
and fixing things.
Learn to like the sunrise and sunset, the beating of rain on the roof and windows, and the gentle fall of snow on a winter day.
Learn to keep your wants simple and refuse to be controlled by the likes and dislikes of others.
So far today I've done alright. I haven't gossiped, haven't lost my temper, haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or over-indulgent. I'm very thankful for that. But, in a few minutes, God, I'm going to get out of bed. And from then on, I'm probably going to need a lot more help.