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Posted: April 01, 2005

Spiritual Caregiving

Generous Wisdom: Collected and Shared for All to Benefit

(Editor's Note: Wisdom comes in many forms, from many sources some expected and others a pleasant surprise. The key is to always listen and then make our judgment: Is this for me? Is this a true path to a goal? Steve Lawler, an Episcopal priest, ethics consultant and writer, "listened" to the readers of Spirituality & Health magazine. This is a collection of what he heard.)

Do five things that scare you every day.
At one moment in my life, I decided that I would do five things that scared me every day. These might include making a difficult phone call, signing up for a class, reaching out to befriend a new person, or something truly scary, such as skydiving, buying a ticket to a foreign country, or committing to running the marathon. Of course, I rarely did five every day, but it was amazing how committing myself to reach beyond what I thought possible opened my life and made me, essentially a timid person, brave.

-- Carey Lovelace, New York City

See the four-year-old.
As a parish minister, I am intimately accountable to an entire community, and some folks are very high-maintenance indeed! There was a time when I used to respond to everyone's needs, demands, and anxieties with a sense that I needed to fix them or their problems, all while trying to hide my own fear of rejection and criticism. One morning at church I was preparing to lead our weekly worship service when a beloved elder member came into my study to talk, as is his custom almost every Sunday morning, when I am most busy and unavailable. As usual, he launched into a complicated request that had nothing to do with the worship service. I prayed that I would not lose my temper, and suddenly I had a vision of him as a little boy of four. The vision was so clear, and the little boy so endearing, that I was suddenly able to be present to the man in an affectionate way and simply let him know that I needed to go into the sanctuary but that we'd talk after church. From that day on, when anyone is anxious, upset or needy, I picture them as they must have looked as a little child.
-- Name withheld

Use "and."
I have learned to use the word "and" instead of the words "but" and "or." In almost all circumstances it allows me to see two views or options as coexistent, instead of mutually exclusive.
-- Chris McIntosh, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

When you cry, it washes your eyes and you see better.
I learned that from my grandmother, and it has always helped me get through things by just letting myself have a good old-fashioned cry. Crying is a wonderful release and afterward there is a sense of peace and relaxation all through your body.
-- Noreen Agis, Middletown, New York

To God.
Several years ago, while visiting the studio of my cousin who is a graphic artist, I noticed those two words written on a tiny piece of paper taped to the upper left corner of her computer monitor. When I asked about it, she said she had adapted the practice from Mozart, who wrote those words at the start of his musical scores. Taping those words to her monitor reminded her that every job she undertook was ultimately completed for the betterment of God's kingdom. I adapted the practice to my own life. Each morning as I roll out of bed, I say, "This day to God." I find it easier to be compassionate and forgiving, to put myself in others' shoes, to deal with the trials and tribulations that come my way.
-- Laurie Wozniak, Buffalo, New York

Hand to heart.
I put my hand on my chest when I want to thank the universe for something, often for simply existing. It's a common word in international body language that helps me slip into contemplation -- even when my mind won't hold steady or my heart stay focused. No one notices -- except the hidden forces around me -- who seem to grin at my harmony.
-- Bill Cleary, Burlington, Vermont

How can I see this differently?
Asking that question is one simple discipline that has given me wonderful results over the last year. When I hit a brick wall in my work, or a client is having a hard time, or I feel some awful judgment or negativity swell up in me, I ask the question -- and by God's grace I can almost always see something I missed before and look at it with new eyes.
-- Nancy Hein, Lynchburg, Virginia

This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at Contact staff directly via email at

© 2005 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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