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Be Radiant

A Joke for Halloween

Children and Halloween

When I moved to St. Louis so many years ago, one thing that really fascinated me was Halloween.  You see, in St. Louis when children go trick-or-treating, they are asked to tell a joke before they receive their candy.  Now perhaps this was true in Ohio, where I grew up, but I don’t remember having to tell jokes to receive candy on Halloween.  So, this seems very “St. Louis” to me.

The thing about asking a child to tell a joke, is that joke-telling becomes the real treat for the adults opening the doors.  You have the children who have spent days, maybe weeks, figuring out their “best” jokes.  You can tell these kiddos right away, they launch into joke telling before the door is even open, sometimes giving you a few jokes if you laugh hard enough.

You have the shy children, who have the joke memorized and will look at the ground as they tell it to you, so that you have to strain to hear the punch line.  But, they are brave as they tell a joke to a perfect stranger.  You have the toddlers, not even speaking in sentences yet, so the parents tell the jokes for them.  They may be little, but their eyes light up when they receive the candy!

You have the bigger children, who might be tempted to share a bit of an off-color joke.  Not at my house, for if they do I then ask them if they can’t give me a good, clean joke.  When a good, clean joke is offered they may find an extra bit of candy in their bags.

The thing about Halloween in St. Louis is that it is an opportunity to engage, to be present to those littles faces on a day when they are truly shining.  Their pride in their costumes and why they chose it for that year.  Their exuberance in running from house to house, simply for candy.  Their knowledge that somehow, today is different.  They not only get candy, they get to eat lots of it!  Oh happy day!

You know what I see?  I see their radiance.  I see these beautiful little people filled with life and energy.  I see their joyous laugh at their own jokes.  I see the bravery in a shy child.  I see the smiles of the toddlers.  I see such spirit in them all.

What will you see this evening?  Amidst the princesses and storm troopers and witches and pumpkins, look for the radiance, it will be shining brightly tonight, joke or no joke!

Author, Be Radiant, Breast Cancer Awareness, Inspirational Speaker

Perspectives On A Pink October

Breast Cancer Awareness Pumpkin for October

October is always my “crazy, busy” month.  Or, at least, it has been ever since I had breast cancer.   The brand marketer in me knows that since October is the month designated for breast cancer awareness there will be a flurry of activity as everyone jumps on the band-wagon.  And, sure enough, when October hits my book sales climb, speaking engagements occur, and social media is more active.

This year is starting out no differently, as I look at my schedule of speaking events and book signings in October.  Each year, as pink October starts, I think of the many women who are uncomfortable with Breast Cancer Awareness month.  There are many good reasons for that, as for many women, celebrating pink seems to trivialize breast cancer. I understand that.  May I say, my breast cancer was far from trivial!

The marketer in me understands that if Pink October stimulates awareness of breast cancer, a few things might happen; funding might get to the breast cancer researchers, loved ones may talk to each other about breast cancer, and patients might actually think of and get their mammograms.

So, what should we do?   Pink October is not a cure.  It is not simply funky tutus and an opportunity to party.   It is an opportunity to bring breast cancer insights into the light.  During an event last year, a fellow speaker shared that over 38% of women do NOT get a mammogram.  Wow!  During another speech, I learned of research studies identifying how to prevent metastases of HER2 breast cancer.  Those speeches occurred precisely because it was Breast Cancer Awareness month.

It occurred to me, that in fact, that is what Pink October is all about.  It is not about being trivial, it is about being accessible.  It is a symbolic representation of something that women must pay attention to: breast cancer,  For those who have not had it, breast cancer is a big scary concept. Pink is not.  Perhaps because of the wearing of pink this year, next year the number of those women not getting a mammogram will drop. Perhaps because of a pink event, a little more funding will make it’s way into the researcher’s budget.  Perhaps when a newly diagnosed person sees pink, they will have a little bit of hope in simply knowing how many others are on this breast cancer journey.

I don’t know that there is any way to measure the impact of Pink October.  I can only hope that a little pink is a unifying rallying cry against cancer.  That in the end, the gentleness of pink brings people to the conversation and then loudly shouts to the world that breast cancer is anything but trivial.

Author, Be Radiant, Catholic, faith

A Pennsylvania Dichotomy

adventure church clouds cloudy

Somehow, I always seem to look for dichotomies.  I appreciate the incongruous connections that appear in life.  A significant one appeared as I traveled the roads of Pennsylvania a few weeks ago.

As I traveled, I jumped from one radio station to another, trying to catch the news of the area.  At one point, I heard on a Catholic channel, a story shared that really struck me.  The discussion was about the two pillars of the church: Mary and Peter.

Now, I am not a theologian, so I can not speak to its truth or theology.  I was also driving, so I did not write down what station or who said what.  I can only share what I remember of the discussion.  The story went something like this.  That Christ, in his infinite wisdom called Peter the rock, on which he would build his church, the institution.  But, they explained, that Mary, carried the baby, the body of Christ, within her.  It is her mantle that wraps the body of the church, the people.  The description continued that sometimes the rock will crumble a bit and that the people are there to mend it.  Other times, the people, the body, leave the mantle of Mary and the church, the rock, is there to cause them to pause and return.

I heard the story while I was driving through the rainy mountains of Pennsylvania, for what was my first CMN conference, Catholic Marketing Network convention and trade show.  Never having been before, I was not sure what to expect.  I knew that authors and speakers and publishers and gift shop owners and all sorts of people who celebrate and support Catholicism would be coming together.  What I didn’t know was how they would interact, how they would connect with each other.

I have been to many a trade shows and conferences in my corporate, secular life.  But, this one was different.  The spirit was different.  There was no competition, there was singularity of purpose.  Authors would encourage each other before meeting with publishers, anxious to know the response a fellow author received.  Publishers connected with each other.  Gift store owners compared notes so easily.  If someone stopped you for directions, to the Adoration Chapel usually, they apologized for interrupting and were so appreciative of any assistance.  Most importantly, every conversation ended with “God Bless”.  This group of primarily lay people, were living the gospel as I understand it:  to love one another and to be in service to each other.

I really felt what it was like to be under the mantle of Mary, together.  This was part of the body of Christ.  The loving, supportive, engaging, faith-filled body that we desire to be as we live our faith.

After the convention, I continued on my journey, visiting family in New Jersey and Ohio, and showing up for a baby shower in Indiana.  I finally found myself back at home last week, as news of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s report appeared.  Heartsick and devastated, I kept thinking of the contrast.  What I experienced in Pennsylvania, at that convention was faith in a very real and living way.  This; this news of priests and Bishops and Cardinals, this news is horrific.

I have been reflecting on these dichotomies and it occurred to me that the story I heard on the roads in Pennsylvania provide a glimpse of understanding for me.  “Upon this rock, I will build my church.”  That rock is crumbling.  At the same time, the experience of this conference demonstrated to me what the “body” can be.  We can be one; loving and in service to each other.  The body stands strong for our faith, shares our faith, and can even assist in the mending of the rock.

When I speak, I often share my mantra of Be Radiant.  The intention is to let the light of God shine through you.  It struck me how hard it is to be radiant during difficult times like this.  At the same time, if the body comes together and we each share our God given radiance, perhaps we can light the path in this dark world and along with the rock that stands strong, help lead others back to God.

 

 

Author, Be Radiant

A Radiant 4th!

A Radiant 4th

I dare suggest that the Fourth of July is truly a radiant holiday.  It has always been one of my favorites, that patriotic sense of community, the celebration of America, that knowledge that we all love this one country of ours.

This deep sense of patriotism and community was inspired in me as a very young girl.  My father had grown up in Blue Island, Illinois, right outside of Chicago.  Every summer, around the fourth, we would take a road trip from Middletown, OH to Chicago to see our grandparents, cousins, and all sorts of extended family.  While for this little five year old the six-hour drive seemed never-ending, the results were always worth it.  Days upon days of playing in new spaces, with cousins I didn’t get to see nearly often enough, and grandparents who doted on us; those trips were sacred.

Blue Island to me, was the quintessential American town.  We would celebrate Independence Day there, starting the morning with the parade.  Standing along the parade route I would watch my parents talking to so many people as they made this annual pilgrimage home .  If Mom and Dad were talking, my grandmother was always there, hoisting us up so we could see, or holding our hand so we wouldn’t get lost.

I loved the parade, though the fire engines were so noisy I would always cover my ears.  We all cheered the bands and laughed at the clowns.  The parade had to be the best in the country, at least to me.  We all waved flags during the parade and if I couldn’t find mine, there were several people jumping to give me theirs.  That day, in the town of Blue Island, I felt what it meant to be American, to be part of this great country of ours.

After the parade had ended, we would find our way back to my grandmother’s and cousins’ homes for a cook-out.   The men manned the grills so that hot dogs and hamburgers were in constant supply.  We spent our afternoons eating and playing until it was time to get ready for the fireworks.  There was only one place to go for fireworks in Blue Island, Eisenhower High School.  We would get there early and Mom would put a blanket on a patch of the football field.  We would lay down on our backs and wait for the explosions of colors to light the sky above us.  I was always a little bit afraid, what if the embers came all the way down on me?

I wonder if I knew the word radiant at the time?  I don’t really know.  But, as I remember those nights, the sky was radiant.  The deep, dark night, spotted with bright, little stars would explode in color.  We would all gasp and ooh and aah at the same time, without even trying.

And now, I ask myself, isn’t the fourth of July the definition of radiance?  We are one nation, under God, with the beautiful light of fireworks connecting us all as we jointly sing God Bless America.  On the Fourth of July however, it is not just the fireworks that are radiant, but it is us.  We, the people, are radiant as we celebrate this country of ours.  We are the light, given by God, that shines most brightly at the celebration of our country’s birth.  As freedom rings, let all of us shine….

 

Be Radiant

A Light in the Dark

dependent-dementia-woman-old-70578

I was visiting with a friend today and she shared a harrowing story of her grandmother that ended quite beautifully, thanks in large part to some lovely, dare we say, radiant strangers.  It goes like this.

Her grandmother, about 85, decided to walk five blocks to a convenient store. Sure, her daughter and granddaughter were coming over in a little bit but, it was only going to take her a few minutes to run this errand.  She had planned to take her cell phone, but when she picked it up, she realized it was not working (the battery had died) and so she left it at home.

She finished her errand and decided that she really had plenty of time, so why not take the bus to her daughter’s house and save her the trip.  It would be a nice surprise.  But, that is when things got a little turned around.

The grandmother forgets things occasionally, like so many of us do.  This time however, she forgot which bus stop to take and ended up getting off at the wrong spot.  Downtown, on the south side of St. Louis, so many things looked the same to her.  She started walking the city blocks, looking for her daughter’s house.

The more she walked, the more turned around she became, the more scared, the more nervous, the more forgetful.  Day turned to night and her family was besides themselves, as it had now been 4 or 5 hours, and they had no idea where to look.

The grandmother started knocking on doors, could anyone help her?  But, by this time, so afraid, she couldn’t even remember what street she lived on, let alone where her daughter lived.  And then she found the light in the darkness.  Late Saturday night, she knocked on the door of a loving couple.  They could see she was scared and lost.  They brought her into the house, calmed her down, gave her a bit of water and tried to help her remember things.  Where was she going?  What was her address?  Was there a phone number to call?

They were at a loss because she was at a loss.  But, they had a relative who is a police officer.  They called her, could she help?  Sure enough, the police officer was able to help her figure out at least the name of her street, and she took her there.  They walked up and down the street to see what looked familiar.  And, at 3am, there was her daughter, sitting on the stoop of her house, so afraid for her mother.

As my friend, the granddaughter shared this story, still so clearly rattled, it occurred to me that the star of the story is that kind couple. How spectacular that of all the doors to knock on, that the grandmother knocked on theirs.  The family does not know who they are.  But, their kindness, their warmth, their caring for a nervous grandmother, made all the difference.  To me, they were radiant.  They were the light that dark Saturday night.