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We Are All Stronger

As you embrace the start of a more “normal” summer, it’s important to give yourself room to continue to reemerge at your own pace. It’s also important to remember that new beginnings are not always easy or obvious. I’m reminded of the following story, a valuable metaphor for embracing adversity and new beginnings: A man found the cocoon of a butterfly. A small opening appeared. The man sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through the little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and could go no farther. The man decided to help, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that at any moment the wings would expand and the body would contract to the proper proportion. Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around. It never was able to fly. In his kindness and haste, the man had not understood something. A restricting cocoon and the struggle for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom. Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need to become stronger in character and determination. If nature allowed us to go through life without any obstacles, we would not learn how to be resilient and powerful. We might never fly!
I found this Father’s Day poem and it reminded me of the true value of being a parent. On the day I was born I met you, Dad. Over the first few years, I learned you were strong and always there. As I grew a few years older, I could remember you leaving home. I’d say, “Daddy where are you going?” “I have to go to work.” you used to respond.

I was very sad. I didn’t understand. You would “go to work” almost every day. 
You were almost always gone
I didn’t understand. I can still hear you saying,
“I have to go to work – I love you.
and perhaps silently hoping…
“maybe one day you’ll understand.” You worked hard.
We always had enough.
I couldn’t understand. As I grew even older,
you provided experiences and opportunities. 

From being on teams to going to camps,
I made new friends and learned a lot. 
I repeatedly changed my mind, but I always excelled.I’m grown now. 
I work hard – like you did. 
I have children of my own.
I spend more time with them
– because of you, I can.Thanks Dad, now I understand. 
Sometimes the best lessons we learn from our mothers are not the things they try to teach us directly – like how to tie our shoes or how to ride a bike. We often learn the important ones when we ask, “Why did you do that?”Here is a story I heard that reminded me of the important lessons we learn from moms:One day, I asked my mom if she would cook my favorite dinner. She said, “Follow me,” and knocked on the neighbor’s door and asked to borrow a casserole dish.I was confused because we had plenty of baking dishes at home, so I asked, “Why did you ask for something we don’t need?”She told me, “They sometimes ask us for things and I wanted them to know we all need each other. So I asked them for something small that would not burden them. By giving us something, now it will be much easier for them to ask us for something again.”Then she smiled and said, “We also never return a dish without something in it, so we get to share your favorite dinner with them.”Mother is a verb. It’s something you do. Not just who you are. – Dorothy Canfield FisherHappy Mother’s Day!
 Many years ago a young couple with three sons bought a house out in the country. The previous owner, who spoke only French, said something that made the couple think that gold could be found on the property. They told their sons, who began digging up the ground looking for wealth.After a few weeks, much of the ground around the house had been turned over, and with no gold found, the father decided to plant some seeds: corn, tomatoes, potatoes, and onions. With his sons’ help, he grew so much that he went on to open a roadside stand to sell the extra produce for a little additional money.The boys kept digging and turning over the soil as they went deeper and deeper, allowing the couple to plant even more crops.This went on for several years. The vegetable stand prospered, and soon the couple had enough money to send all of their children to university.One day the original owner came by for a visit. He had since learned English, and he asked the couple how they’d gotten started in the vegetable business. When the husband reminded him about the gold, the first owner laughed.“I didn’t say there was gold in the soil,” he explained. “I said the soil was very rich.”And as things turned out, it was.
There is an old saying from Margaret Atwood which says, “You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.” The reason I send you a story, like this, each month is because stories remind us of who we are. I hope you find a piece of yourself in this story:Once upon a time, two brothers were venturing from town to town. Along the way, they saw an old man with a white beard carrying a heavy sack over his shoulder. The old man stopped and asked the boys where they were headed. When he found out, he told them, “I want to help you.” He put a hand in his pocket and pulled out a handful of golden coins. “Which one of you wants these?” he asked.“I want them,” replied the big brother immediately.The old man then put a hand in his other pocket and pulled out a precious gem, shining like the sun, and asked again, “And who wants to have this gem?”“I want it,” the big brother answered hastily. The old man gave him the coins and the gem.Then the old man put down his sack and said, “Now who is going to help me carry this sack to the village?”The big brother said nothing. But the little brother pulled up his sleeves and bent down to help him.The old man smiled and said, “Take it with you, my boy, along with everything that is inside.”“No,” said the younger brother. “It’s not mine.”“Take it.. take it.” said the old man. “It’s my gift to you.”The little brother opened the sack, and what did he see? The bag was filled with gold coins and precious gemstones. He stood up to thank the old man, but he was nowhere to be found.Whether you are the big brother – who is assertive and leaps toward opportunity, or the little brother – who believes in hard work, or the old man – who remembers to be fair and generous, I hope you find the best of who you are in this story.
The Speed of Love

Do you ever wonder what happened to the lost art of writing love letters? Or what about ‘mixtapes’ that were the equivalents of musical love letters, painstakingly compiled and delivered with adoration? As Valentine’s Day approaches, I started thinking about these things.Technology has changed the way we communicate and express love. For hundreds of years, the speed of communication stayed fairly constant. From smoke signals to the Pony Express, our ability to improve communication was based on speeding up the delivery of our message. But then in 1988, the internet was born and in the early 90’s, it changed the way we communicate distinctly and significantly… forever!Why write a love letter when we can tell someone “I Love You,” and share that sentiment anywhere in the world, in milliseconds? What used to take a sailor at sea, weeks or months to send or receive a message, can now be blasted through Facebook, Instagram or TikTok at the speed of light.But speed will never replace heart-felt sentiments. And maybe that’s why we get excited when we get a handwritten, stamped card in the mail. Someone took the time – to select or make the card, write a note, put a stamp on it, and finally mail it – to tell you how they feel. And maybe we need more of that these days.Happy Valentine’s Day and remember to tell the people you care about that you love them, even with the simplest technology – your words. 
A young apprentice approached the town baker asking to learn the art of baking bread. He promised to work hard and follow instructions precisely. The baker happily accepted the young apprentice.The baker began by saying, “First, we must prepare our baking room and assemble our ingredients. Today, we will be using ingredients from each of the four elements: wheat from the earth, yeast from the air, and water and salt from the sea. The fourth element of fire will transform these ordinary ingredients and produce something entirely wonderful and new – a rich crusty loaf of bread, which is far grander than any of the ingredients alone.”The apprentice followed instructions and even worked ahead preparing the area, cleaning without the slightest break. At one point even thinking the old baker may have taken a few too many breaks.The two had worked from dawn until dusk, the apprentice was exhausted but finally, it was time to take the bread out of the oven. The apprentice noticed his loaf did not rise and expand like the baker’s. “Why is my loaf heavy and flat, and yours is light and airy? I used the same flour, the same water and the same yeast as you, yet your bread is so different from mine.”The baker said, “I used one more ingredient than you – time! While you were working ahead, I was taking time to relax. But the time was not only for me, it was also for the dough. Only when given undisturbed time will the gas bubbles form inside the dough, which produces both flavor and texture.”It is equally important to work hard and relax, in order to transform into something greater than we expect.
A mentor of mine once said, “Never evaluate your life looking forward, instead turn around and examine your progress from where you’ve come from.” As we reach the end of the year, our natural tendency is to evaluate progress, results, goals and dreams based on outcomes achieved during the calendar year. The ups and downs of this year give us the opportunity to evaluate our year and set future goals based on new measures. This year has been a great teacher and here are some important lessons I’ve learned: Instead of judging success on outcomes, measure accomplishments in adaptability.Instead of evaluating progress in distance, measure the journey by turns on the path.Instead of planning based on an imagined future, be guided by the next few steps.When measuring the successes and failures of this year, remember to include the flexibility, adjustments and loving care you’ve also provided along the way.If you’ve ever heard the quote, “A setback is a setup for a comeback,” then 2021 may become a year to remember!
In a year when everything around us has changed, most of us have become pretty good at adapting. This Thanksgiving will not be like any other holiday we have shared together. I say this because we have all been stretched to adapt and do nearly everything differently. We visit each other differently, we eat differently, and we even shop for groceries differently. But the thing is, Thanksgiving is about doing the same thing, the same way… every year. Can you remember the last time a friend or family member tried to put a new spin on a traditional dish? There was at least one person who didn’t respond well to this!No matter what changes this year, the one thing that shouldn’t change is the reason we celebrate this day together. We break bread together because we are thankful. We are thankful that we are friends, we are thankful we are family, and we are thankful that no matter what, we come together in the spirit of gratitude. Because no matter what we may do differently, we will do it differently together and that should never change.Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!