Thursday, January 27, 2011

Step outside the box

In the arctic chill on Mille Lacs Lake last weekend, I viewed one of the most glorious moon lit nights I can recall. A large bright moon that hung so low in the sky it seemed almost touchable. It provided an illuminated glow on the snow covered ice that made me pause despite the below zero temperature. The experience revealed what waits when willing to step outside the box.

Spending the night in a fish house has been on my list of things to do. Shocking as it might seem to some, I wanted to give it a try. I will admit that I came into the planning process with a short list of fish house requirements, which included a backup plan. As luck would have it, the chosen weekend turned out to be one of the coldest this season. However, inside my cute and comfy fish house, I was hardly affected by the cold.

Unfortunately the fishing wasn’t the best but the fun and laughs were nonstop. Very early Sunday morning one rattle reel made its announcement of fish on (that’s fish house talk). While my brother skillfully handled the fish call, I took a walk to the out house, answering natures call. Stepping out of the fish house box fully expecting a blast of cold air, I got much more than that. The path of crunchy snow on the icy pond not only provided an ease to my walk but also a glow of bright light twinkling on the cold snow. The fish houses scattered about looked like boxes under the lights of a Christmas tree, just waiting for discovery. The moon provided a mosaic beyond imagination.

Monday morning as I contemplated my ice fishing weekend, confident that I would do it again, I realized an odd connection between my fish house experience and Be the Change. When I step outside the box, whether it’s a fish house or a new endeavor such as Be the Change, waiting for me are experiences and opportunities that would have been missed had I decided to stay inside my comfort zone, not willing to try something new.

Be the Change represents a way of thinking that might challenge comfort zones and require out of the box action that has never been done before. But waiting for us will be a health care environment that’s better than any patient, family or provider has ever experienced before, simply because we tried something new.

On the ice of Mille Lacs Lake, in the quiet still of the night, I experienced something big and bright outside of something small and simple, comparable to life with Michael. Tucked back into my fish house bunk bed following my moon lit walk, I thought about how Michael would have loved this and pictured him waiting for the next big fish.

Subtle simplistic ways provide light to Be the Change.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heard it's your birthday

It’s my daughter’s birthday this week, and it has been a busy month with all sorts of celebrations containing birthday cupcakes, brownies, chocolate ice cream and of course, presents!

Every year as we celebrate her birthday, an unwrapped present flows from her to me in what appears to be boxes of priceless memories, which fills my mother’s heart with completeness.

I envision the little girl with blonde curls and a pretty dress excited for her birthday party who now resides inside the young woman who still loves to wear a party dress and twirl with that same type of birthday-girl excitement.

Comparable to my son, Michael, my daughter also has a gifted ability to teach me valuable life lessons. Her style is just as powerful as her brother's but a bit more concealed. Upon asking, she will instruct a heartfelt message that displays her own personal journey. As a sibling, she holds a unique perspective inside the patient and family scope, but also in the unexpected life of an only child plus one angel. She demonstrates in action, not just words, what it means to be joyfully happy despite your circumstances. Her courage challenges me to stretch the perimeters of my own choices and go outside the box of possibility - another gift her life offers me.

I have been given so many treasured gifts from my daughter, especially through her words. They often resonate in me like a source of truth from the divine. A few years ago she explained to me her goal for happiness. It became a day I will never forget, setting a course for my own. “I know I can be happy up to here," she said placing her hand up to her forehead, “but I want to be happy way up to here," reaching her hand high above her head. Her explanation left me speechless and innately aware of the sacred in that brief yet sustaining display.

Each one of us should have that same goal, striving for happiness that exceeds possible and enters the unimaginable. Sadly it’s our own lack of trust and belief that sometimes prevents us from arriving at the place we were created to be. Embrace these words of wisdom, “Be happy way up to here." There you are sure to Be the Change.

Happy Birthday, Jessica!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Michael the educator

Even though he never graduated from high school or attended college, my son Michael still holds a degree in education. His life provided the kind of wisdom similar to that of an aged scholar, regardless of his young chronological age. His curriculum was pages of priceless life lessons ranging from living with a progressive disease to dying peacefully, written from the soul of a small boy with a big purpose.

Here is one of many life altering moments gracefully allowed me through Michael’s classroom. There is no course available, even taught by the best of professor that can speak into such a broad range of life experience like a child who demonstrates it. As Michael's Mother I thought I would be the one who would teach him about life but instead it was him who taught me.

As Michael’s disease progressed and his hip joints separated, he transitioned into a wheelchair. I was his transportation to and from school, waiting each afternoon for him in the school foyer. When Michael came wheeling down the hall, I would watch his friend’s trip across his wheelchair, often falling on him or each other. They never seemed bothered by it, the fun and laughs continued despite the wheelchair chaos. At one point, I decided it was going to be necessary to share my concerns and speak to his class. A few days after that decision, Michael and I were playing at the park. I noticed the kids there didn’t have the same problem with Michael’s wheelchair and kept a safe distance from him.

That’s when I realized I was the one who had an issue, not Michael or his school friends. It became clear to me that his friends didn’t see the wheelchair and that’s why they stumbled across it all the time. They just saw Michael and wanted to be close to him. I never did speak to his class; instead I was taught to enjoy the view they provided in an amazing new way.

After that experience, I never looked at a person using a wheelchair the same again including those around the wheelchair; family, friends even strangers. We don’t always get to choose who or what will educate us but many opportunities exist. Is there a young child teaching you?

For me, it was a young boy in a wheelchair teaching a course called Be the Change.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Back to work and school

The New Year’s Eve confetti has been swept up and the Christmas decorations are put away. For many, holiday break is over so it’s back to work and school. Getting back to the daily grind can be slow going, especially when it follows holiday buffets and late evening celebrations. Constant chatter about unemployment, educational cut backs, and the health care crisis doesn’t make it any easier to reclaim the race. Despite that, going back to work and school in a new year offers opportunity to apply a fresh focus and a renewal to healthy balance. An attempt to hold on to holiday promises of peace and joy all year.

In what is being referred to as a new economy, it’s nearly impossible to not consider what that really means in terms of true balance in our community as a whole, not to mention the world. Be the Change considers it necessary to create a better balance between patients, families and providers and increase the value, both fiscally and professionally, of those relationships. True reform in health care requires the patient and family perspective to be its partner. Future health care needs the human experience to speak into corporate choices and decisions. Honestly, just like in health care, education and employment, just to name a few are also in need of a Be the Change call to action.

Each of us stands in a position to provide balance by a type of educating not only found in a formal degree but also found in lessons learned through life experiences. Regardless of age or circumstance, there’s constant opportunity to be educated by others demonstrated choices. Every day we are called to challenge ourselves and others to be a better person, a better wife or husband, a better employee or employer in the decisions we make. It’s been said, “The only way to do better is to do better.” A short statement representing collective responsibility each of us holds.

In this first week of 2011, as you go back to work and school ask yourself how do I educate? How can I teach the world to do better? Then be that, not only in words but in action. Hopefully it won’t require any budget cuts, only an intention to Be the Change.