Thursday, September 25, 2008

Vinegar and Honey

We all know the difference between vinegar and honey. Vinegar has its own unique taste, but when used in combination with other flavours it changes dramatically. Eaten on its own, it makes all our senses twinge and causes us to pull back. Honey, on the other hand, is always enjoyable, whether it’s found in a cup of tea, in a sauce, dripping off a golden brown piece of toast or simply on its own. Honey is always yummy.

I find this a good analogy for human interaction. Have you ever been in a situation involving others where you are hit with unbelievable frustration? When faced with these circumstances, we are all granted a moment in time to make a choice. We can get bitter, cranky and repel people, like vinegar, or we can take a step back, breathe, relax, become smooth and appealing, like honey.

Lately, I’ve found myself in this situation ~ I needed to make a choice. As most of you know, the Sohn family have been on the move once again. We’ve gone from Australia to LA, LA to Wolseley and now Wolseley to Calgary (our final destination). Moving is listed as one of the top five most stressful things to do in life. After moving a family of five across the globe, I think whoever dreamed up that list is absolutely right … moving is stressful. Thankfully, we have managed to do it with limited stress, much, much laughter and moments of absolute zaniness. I believe, however, that some of the stress experienced, not only in moving but in any situation, comes down to relying on others (human interaction). The main challenges I have faced, as we near the end of our moving journey, are with our movers and securing an arrival time for all of our family possessions. Changes in things that are agreed upon and unmet promises can be extremely disappointing.

Through this, as with any life experience, we need to learn and grow. I, being the family move co-ordinator, have made the choice to operate like honey. Rather than expressing my extreme frustration, I have calmly explained my situation and the frustration I am experiencing. I have allowed the movers room to fix the problem and to grow themselves as service providers. I have been honest with them and have remained calm and sweet through the entire process. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been firm and operated as the client who is paying a handsome fee for their services. I haven’t allowed them to walk over me, rather I have been direct but seasoned with the sweetness honey gives. This approach has allowed conversation to flow continually and I’m confident that I am not the ‘nightmare’ client that we all, at times, have become. Rather, I know that my movers are trying their best to work out a situation that will be mutually beneficial. Of course there is give and take on both sides.

So friends I encourage you this week and beyond, whatever the situation, remember honey tastes better than vinegar, plus you get and attract more and go further with honey.

Remember to keep smiling and you may find that the world and those in it will smile back at you.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Words for Life

Today, I’d like to write about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

Through our work with thefamilyroom, we get the opportunity to be quite involved in families and the dynamics that make up each individual family unit. I’m always fascinated to see and learn how people deal with issues and cope with life. Through our work, we try to help families move from coping and striving to living a family life that is thriving.

Something I have come to know and understand is that within our families (and beyond) we need to start using a few words on a regular basis that will bring healing, forgiveness, peace and so much more. These words have power – power that can diffuse situations, that can change attitudes and that can humble the hardest of hearts and minds. The words of life I’m referring to are I love you and I’m sorry.

Those few words have the ability to evoke emotion within each one of us. Even as we read them in this article, something deep within each one jumped. Imagine what they are able to achieve when spoken out to the appropriate person or situation. Hearing someone tell you that you are loved resonates within your soul. You are reminded that you matter and are cared for. Hearing someone say I’m sorry validates the pain or hurt you may feel, and then stepping from those words into forgiveness does so much more. Not a lot of work, but choices to be made.

These are very powerful and necessary words that need to be used within our families. Through these words, broken or damaged relationships can be restored, however it does require a humbling and softening within to reach a point where you can say them. Let’s be people who want and desire wholeness in our families, let’s be strong and confident, let’s face our fears, deal with our hurts and pain and put it behind us and move forward together in unity.

I hope my words today have challenged and inspired you to make a change for the better. You won’t regret it, but I know you will miss out if you don’t say I love you and I’m sorry more often.

Enjoy this week and remember to keep smiling.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

For Fathers Everywhere

It's Father's Day in Australia this weekend and, as we at the Family Room are always looking for an excuse to celebrate the important people in our lives, we would like to honour dads everywhere with this beautiful story about a father and his son.


The Pickle Jar

The pickle jar, as far back as I can remember, sat on the floor beside the dresser in my parents' bedroom.

When he got ready f or bed, Dad would empty his pockets and toss his coins into the jar. As a small boy, I was always fascinated at the sounds the coins made as they were dropped into the jar. They landed with a merry jingle when the jar was almost empty. Then the tones gradually muted to a dull thud as the jar was filled.

I used to squat on the floor in front of the jar and admire the copper and silver circles that glinted like a pirate's treasure when the sun poured through the bedroom window. When the jar was filled, Dad would sit at the kitchen table and roll the coins before taking them to the bank.

Taking the coins to the bank was always a big production. Stacked neatly in a small cardboard box, the coins were placed between Dad and me on the seat of his old truck.

Each and every time, as we drove to the bank, Dad would look at me hopefully. “Those coins are going to keep you out of the textile mill, son. You're going to do better than me. This old mill town's not going to hold you back.”

Also, each and every time, as he slid the box of rolled coins across the counter at the bank toward the cashier, he would grin proudly, “These are for my son's college fund. He'll never work at the mill all his life like me.”

We would always celebrate each deposit by stopping for an ice cream cone. I always got chocolate. Dad always got vanilla. When the clerk at the ice cream parlour handed Dad his change, he would show me the few coins nestled in his palm. “When we get home, we'll start filling the jar again.” He always let me drop the first coins into the empty jar. As they rattled around with a brief, happy jingle, we grinned at each other. “You'll get to college on pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters,” he said. “But you'll get there; I'll see to that.”

No matter how rough things got at home, Dad continued to doggedly drop his coins into the jar. Even the summer when Dad got laid off from the mill, and Mama had to serve dried beans several times a week, not a single dime was taken from the jar.

To the contrary, as Dad looked across the table at me, pouring catsup over my beans to make them more palatable, he became more determined than ever to make a way out for me. “When you finish college, Son,” he told me, his eyes glistening, “You'll never have to eat beans again – unless you want to.”

The years passed, and I finished college and took a job in another town. Once, while visiting my parents, I used the phone in their bedroom, and noticed that the pickle jar was gone. It had served its purpose and had been removed.

A lump rose in my throat as I stared at the spot beside the dresser where the jar had always stood. My dad was a man of few words, and never lectured me on the values of determination, perseverance and faith. The pickle jar had taught me all these virtues far more eloquently than the most flowery of words could have done. When I married, I told my wife, Susan, about the significant part the lowly pickle jar had played in my life as a boy. In my mind, it defined, more than anything else, how much my dad had loved me.

The first Christmas after our daughter Jessica was born, we spent the holiday with my parents. After dinner, Mom and Dad sat next to each other on the sofa, taking turns cuddling their first grandchild. Jessica began to whimper softly, and Susan took her from Dad's arms. “She probably needs to be changed,” she said, carrying the baby into my parents' bedroom to diaper her. When Susan came back into the living room, there was a strange mist in her eyes.

She handed Jessica back to Dad before taking my hand and leading me into the room. “Look,” she said softly, her eyes directing me to a spot on the floor beside the dresser. To my amazement, there, as if it had never been removed, stood the old pickle jar, the bottom already covered with coins. I walked over to the pickle jar, dug down into my pocket, and pulled out a fistful of coins. With a gamut of emotions choking me, I dropped the coins into the jar. I looked up and saw that Dad, carrying Jessica, had slipped quietly into the room. Our eyes locked, and I knew he was feeling the same emotions I felt. Neither one of us could speak.

This truly touched my heart. I know it has yours as well. Sometimes we are so busy adding up our troubles that we forget to count our blessings. Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person's life, for better or for worse.

God puts us all in each other's lives to impact one another in some way. Look for good in others.

The best and most beautiful things cannot be seen or touched - they must be felt with the heart ~ Helen Keller

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