Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Just say Thanks

I remember a story of being thankful I heard when I was a little girl, in my CCD (Sunday school) class that has stayed with me all these years. It is a story about ten men who were healed of Leprosy and only one said thank you. Leprosy was a terrible skin disease that was incredibly infectious. There were strict rules which a leper had to observe. The person had to live outside the village away from other people so the disease would not spread. If the sores went away, the leper had to go to the priest to be examined. If the priest said that the man was no longer contagious, he could go back and live with his family.

Here is the story from the book of Luke. Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you whole.”

As a little girl I had no idea what leprosy was and yet the impact of this story stayed with me. Only one out of ten came back to thank Jesus for healing him and I wanted to be like the one who came back to “just say thanks“. Being thankful is not only a gift to the one being thanked but it is a gift to the one doing the thanks. When we say thank you we fully acknowledge what has been given. I believe that in this acknowledgement there is a kind of faith and it is in this faith that we are made whole. Whole with the gift, whole with the giver and whole within ourselves.

When Rob and I sit down to eat, Rob sometimes thanks God for the people who labored to grow the food we are about to eat. I love that! When was the last time you thanked your mailman or the bus driver who drives your child to school or the grocery clerk at the store you frequent? There are so many people who help our lives to go smooth and easy. Why not “just say thanks”? Last month I wrote about how my apartment got flooded and the staff here at the Villas helped me. I was thinking about all they did to set me up in a hotel, fix my apartment like new again and then send cleaners in to clean everything, right down to the windows. I wondered how many times a day they hear complaints instead of thank you‘s. So, I decided to send them a thank you gift and card. They were so grateful for my thank you gift and note and made it a point to tell me how wonderful it was. I have to say, that in this one act of sending a thank you gift, helped to turn what seemed like a bad situation into a good one. You see, once we realize that all there really is is love, we also realize that the rest is an illusion.

Here’s the thing about thankfulness, it acts like a magnet. When I am thinking about all the things I am grateful for, I begin to see my world from the cup is half full perspective and then it begins to grow into my cup overflowed. The opposite is true when I begin to complain. Suddenly the cup is half empty, and then fear sets in and before I know it, by golly, not only is my cup empty, so is yours! This brings new light on the words, “Perfect love casts out all fear”.

I would like to just say thanks to my readers, who have been following my column and for all your kind words of thanks and encouragement. One such reader recently wrote, “I've always enjoyed your column in the Minuteman...your philosophy is something I try to strive for in my life.” Thank you, Liz, for your beautiful words that encourage me to continue to speak from my heart.

I welcome your emails of what you are thankful for in your life. Please share them with me at:

Colleen is a teaching artist at Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes, 12 Andover Road, Billerica, MA 978-667-1009

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Creative Acts of Kindness

I received a card in the mail this week from my son, Joe’s, 4th grade teacher. On the front of the card are the words, “Thoughtfulness is always remembered.” Inside was a picture of my son with his friend when they were in the 8th grade, along with a lovely note that reads; “Hello Colleen, Had found this picture of Joseph and his friend the summer he visited Boca. Found it in my box of prayers. Had taken the two boys out for pizza. They made me smile. Thinking of you - Much love and joy, Bridget”

It was twenty two years ago that Joseph was in Bridget’s class. We had moved from Plymouth, MA to Boca Raton, FL in the middle of his 4th grade year. After a month or so of school it came time for parent teach conferences and I went in to talk with his teacher, Ms. Bonczyk. I was curious to know how he was doing since we were in a whole new state and school. When I walked into the room she greeted me with an enthusiastic “It is so nice to meet you Mrs. Sgroi!” I though, well, this is a good sign. She proceeded to tell me what a joy Joseph was to have in her class and could not wait to meet his mom because she could tell he was from a loving home and was adjusting wonderfully. I walked out of the school a very happy mom indeed.

However the story does not end there. One day during the following school year, when my Joseph was now in the 5th grade, I received a call from Ms. Bonczyk. She was in the hospital having had bit of a physiological break-down and needed to talk to someone. She said she always felt a kind of peace around Joseph and also felt it with me when we talked during parent teacher conferences and wondered if I would come and visit her. You can imagine my surprise and yet my heart went out to her and I said yes. We fast became friends, as I visited her many times in the hospital until she got out. She then became like family and we would include her in dinners and such. After four years in Boca we moved to Williamsburg, VA but we kept in touch and when Joseph went back to Boca to visit his friend, Bridget took them out for pizza.

Zooming eighteen years to now I get this card with the inscription “Thoughtfulness is always remembered.” and I am reminded of the words of Maya Angelou, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argued that kindness and love are the "most curative herbs and agents in human intercourse". I remind myself of this daily and I listen. Listen? Listen to what? Listening to the needs around me is only the first step. It is when I listen closer, that creative acts of kindness start to seep into my thoughts. Sometimes I get so caught up into my to-do-list that I ignore those thoughts of kindness. However, the more I act on these thoughtful intentions, the more I see how it is just what that person needed. Then I get a hit of joy from listening to my inner voice of love and I receive love in return.

I believe we all hear that still small voice of kindness that sounds something like this: “Your friend’s mom is dying and she is taking care of her and you hear that little voice go on to say “Go over to your friends home and clean her house”. What do you do? Sometimes the mind will take you right out of the game with thoughts like, “I don’t have time to clean my own house, how can I make time to clean hers?!” Or maybe the mind will be a bit more crafty and say, “Oh she would think I am insulting her by going in to clean her house, as if I think she is not a good house cleaner.” Oh yes, I know the ego can turn things around to make it seem like it would be far more noble to NOT insult your friend then it would be to take a chance that your act of kindness may be just what she needs. My answer is this: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So it is not the act itself that effects them, but the love behind the act? Hummm, I can do that! Imagine hearing your friend say, “Wow! No one has ever done anything like that for me before, thank you so much!”

According to Anthony Robbins, "we are all driven by the need to fulfill six human needs. These 6 basic human needs are not just desires or wants, but profound needs which serve as the basis of every choice we make".
1. Certainty - This is the need for security, comfort and consistency
2. Uncertainty - This is need for variety, challenges,
3. Significance - The need to feel important, needed, wanted and worthy of love
4. Love and Connection - The need for feeling connected with and loved by other human beings.
5. Growth - The need for constant development emotionally, intellectually and spiritually
6. Contribution - Giving beyond ourselves and giving to others.

He goes on to say that the first four anyone can find even if they are in a street gang, but it is the last two, growth and contribution, that bring true happiness.
So the next time you hear that little voice suggest a random act of kindness, follow it where ever it may lead and you will find happiness and joy in you and in the lives you touch.

Colleen Sgroi is a teaching artist at Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes, 12 Andover Road, Billerica, 978-667-1009