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The Light and the Two Wolves
“Keep the faith. The light always wins. Always.”
I sat there staring at the sign; its message spoke to the core of my beliefs, of who I am.
These days it seems like everyone lets the news consume their every waking moment. They let the news influence their normal way of thinking, their previous rational mindset, and drive friends, co-workers and family members apart. It’s no surprise that this nation is now as divided as it was during the Civil War. And it’s not just the political scene; everywhere we turn there’s something bad going on somewhere. All of this combined makes it easy to feel dispirited, and to be filled with fear and foreboding of what lies ahead. It’s enough to make a person want to hole up at home and never go out for fear that the sky is falling.
So, what can one do? There’s really only one way to keep from falling into that pit of despair. Do exactly what that simple phrase instructed. Keep the faith that life will get better. I recommend one more thing to keep you out of that pit of vipers – don’t watch the news. It’s full of doom and gloom. Other than to see an occasional story about an underdog school sports team winning a game against a larger, more talented team, you just don’t see anything positive on the news these days. Just think for a moment, wouldn’t it be nice if the media ran stories about people helping one another, about kindness, about people giving back, and all the joyful, wonderful acts of goodness going on all around us, every single day? Sure, they run such stories at Thanksgiving and at Christmas, but what about the rest of the year?
You have to wonder, how did we get to this crossroads, that negativity has become the norm? Then I remembered a story that I heard years ago and realized that is exactly what has happened. It’s an ancient tale called the Two Wolves thought to be of either Cherokee or Lenape origin. It goes like this:
An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life..."A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.
"One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego. The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
"Which wolf will win?"
The old chief simply replied, "The one you feed."
I think that we find ourselves in our current state of pessimism and despondency because somewhere, at some point, our society chose to feed the evil wolf. I don’t know about you, but I have never chosen to feed that evil wolf; I’ve always chosen the good wolf. I believe that we all have a choice in life to decide for ourselves how we will live our lives, what kind of attitude we will have, and to take responsibility not just for our own happiness, but also to live honorably and honestly. I have never allowed anyone to decide my happiness or my destiny for me. This has been the foundation of my faith and why I have always believed in the light. To believe in anything less is to succumb to and get caught up in what the media and others are trying to shove down our throats – that we live in dark times, that we are inherently evil and racist and whatever else you want to allow someone to call you. Do you believe that about yourself? I certainly don’t believe it about myself. I know that I’m a good person and I know that when and wherever I can I step forward and do what is right and just and decent. I can’t live my life any other way.
Unfortunately, the evil wolf is running rampant these days in every corner of our society. That however, does not have to be anyone’s fate. You can choose to feed the good wolf. Practice kindness every single day, especially toward people who are anything but kind to you. Don’t fall for their maliciousness and keep your perspective in check. A quote that I read the other day summed it up well. It said “Should you ever find yourself the victim of other people’s bitterness, jealousy, lies and insecurities….don’t be mad. Remember things could be worse. You could be them.”
Be bigger than that. Be better than that. Remember. The light always wins. Always.
Celebrating Thanksgiving Every Day of the Year
By Jeffree Wyn Itrich
Now I consider myself a pretty good baker and my family does too, which is why I’ve worn my family’s baking crown since I was a teenager. That is until the year my niece came to Thanksgiving dinner and brought her sweet potato pie. When I saw it, I thought that it looked just like my pumpkin pie. No biggie, my crown is intact. But one bite of that pie and my baking crown fell off my head and smack into a bowl of whipped cream. I was shocked. I didn’t know my niece could cook much less make a sweet potato pie that rivaled, no, surpassed anything I’d ever made. I still dream about that pie, which brings me back to my first point - being thankful and appreciating one another. While some people might have been jealous to have their crown knocked off their heads, to the contrary, I was thrilled to see that my dear niece had not only grown into a smart, capable woman, but one who could bake as well, no, better than me. I was so proud of her. And immeasurably thankful.
I love Thanksgiving for many reasons but top of the list is how it takes a normal Thursday and turns it into a day of gratitude and thankfulness. How people turn away from their differences and instead focus on what we all have in common, what makes us human. The heart that we all share. How people respect and value and yes, cherish one another. That is the spirit of Thanksgiving and one I wish we had year round. If I found an old lamp, rubbed it, and a genie emerged offering me three wishes, I know that one of those wishes would be to instill the spirit of Thanksgiving every day of the year. What a much better world this would be, don’t you think? While it would be awfully nice for each of us to have our own personal genie to grant us the gift of living in the Thanksgiving spirit every day, I’m pretty sure that finding a genie to do our bidding probably isn’t going to happen. Nevertheless, living in the Thanksgiving spirit is doable and doesn’t require a genie. It starts with gratitude, expressing appreciation for what you have.
A few years ago I started a gratitude journal. If you’re not familiar with gratitude journals and you’re thinking they’re like the diary you may have written in as a kid or teen, not so much, or at all. A gratitude journal is simply a blank book where each day you note the date and you write down one thing you are grateful for. Just one thing. It can be more, maybe many things, but honestly, one will do, especially as you’re getting started. You’re not trying to write an encyclopedia here, but one event or conversation or meeting with someone or a surprise phone call you received. It’s not about getting a raise, although that’s always something to be grateful for, nor is it about acquiring some material item. Forget the new car, the new piece of jewelry, the new outfit you found on sale. Instead, think about those things you can’t acquire with money - that which brings you joy and you’re grateful came into your life or the life of someone you love.
Why focus on gratitude? Why not just keep a good attitude about yourself? Because practicing gratitude can spark an unconscious shift in the soul; it can raise your spirits and can open your eyes to all sorts of possibilities, things you never noticed before. If you don’t know how to practice gratitude, you’re in luck. You can deliberately cultivate gratitude. It’s an innate ability in all of us. When you live your life with gratitude, you begin to notice the small stuff like someone holding the door open for you, or just as you sit on your favorite bench to eat lunch, the clouds break and the sun shines through. Each are small but important moments that collectively add up to create a sense of well being. As the moments accumulate they also increase your natural ability to see, really see the good around you. By now I’m sure that you’re wondering, how does this journal thing work? What exactly do you write about?
Anything really. For example, in my journal I write about being grateful when I witness a spectacular sunset in the evening, because in my book, they’re all spectacular. Other times I write about hearing the cardinal’s trilling song. Sometimes we experience droughts where I live. When the skies finally open up and it pours and my garden turns green, and flower buds start forming on plants that I really didn’t think were going to survive, I write about that too. Other than the vestiges of materialism, there isn’t much I don’t write about. I see all the beauty around me, I see the goodness in others, and I see the efforts of those who are trying. Yes, I’m grateful for them too, because life isn’t easy, it isn’t perfect. As long as people keep trying, I am grateful because they’re not giving up on themselves, on their kids, or on their families. I often write about kindnesses others have shown me, I can’t write about them enough. And when someone I care about beats a near fatal disease, you can bet I write about it and I thank God in my prayers. I write about what brings me joy, what makes me happy. Life is way way too short to be miserable, so why not focus on the good, instead of sorrow?
So, here’s the wonderful added bonus of writing in a gratitude journal: you get to open it whenever you like and recall all the wonderful things you experienced, and suddenly, you’re back in those moments. Remembering and reliving the sense of gratitude you felt that day. Never mind why you felt it, believe me, you’ll remember it right away when you read what you wrote.
One last piece of business. While you can certainly write your journal on a computer, tablet, or even your phone, it’s better to actually write in a physical journal. Use a pen, a pencil, a crayon, whatever you like. Just write with your hand, unless you are physically impaired and cannot write. Why, you ask? Because physically writing takes longer than typing on a keyboard. It gives you time to think through your thoughts, whereas on a keyboard you can whip through it, and that defeats part of the purpose which is to take your time to think about what you are grateful for on this day. Once you start, make it a habit. Write everyday if you can. Pretty soon it will be like celebrating Thanksgiving every day of the year.