Wednesday, March 27, 2013


How many times are we asked 'what is your occupation?' It is as if who we are is defined solely by what our occupation is.  Think about it. Does anyone ever ask 'who are you, what are you living for, what makes your heart sing, what brings you joy and laughter, what makes you cry?'

"What was my occupation?  I finally gave up and said "Person." ~ M.C. Richards

I thought about this quote this morning as I was waiting to get my blood drawn yet again, for a problem yet determined. The young Hispanic lady came into the room with no smile on her face and looking very tired and bored and facing yet another day, just like the day before and the day before that. 

I shivered and expressed how chilly it was outside and how strange that was after two days ago it was a balmy 87 degrees.  The conversation proceeded to how blessed we are in South Texas to have it 52 degrees outside, when the east coast is experiencing blizzards. 
The ice was broken and she began to smile. As she started drawing three containers of blood. she began telling me, with great exuberance, how she had stopped her car on the way to work because there was an Axis deer crossing the freeway.  "Everyone was slowing down and I pulled over to get a picture of it."  With a most endearing expression she giggled and said, 'I just felt so Mexican.'
I smiled and wished her a beautiful day, as I shared her joy. I didn't have to think twice about what her occupation was.  I already knew.  But in the few short minutes I was with her, I knew she was a good person, a kind person, a person who wanted to share the excitement and thrill of seeing an Axis deer on her way to work... a deer "with the largest and longest horns I have ever seen."  I knew instantly what made her heart sing in just less than five minutes.
Our days are filled with joys and sorrows, successes and failures.  Sometimes we have to look for them and sometimes we have to engage another 'person' in conversation and look beyond their occupation. It is then we allow them to be real.
Today it might be fun to pose the question as to who you are.  Not what you do. What do you stand for and why?
As for me, I am a person who stands for sanity, safety, respect, love, pursuing my hopes, passion, and above all helping those that need it the most, those who are lost, sick, weak, wounded, fragile, injured ~ those whose essential condition is fractured and in need of mending, understanding, and desperately needing to be heard. People whose inner wells are depleted and dry. This is my passion and my mission.
Don't wait for people to be friendly, show them how. Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you ~ not because they aren't nice, but because you are.

There are way too many people out there that are too busy, too insensitive, too uncaring, too preoccupied, as they go steamrolling through their days, missing many, many cues, sailing right past choice moments never to be repeated where they could have made a difference in a life just by holding a hand, saying they understand, that they care, and offering hope. Wrapping your arms around someone who is in pain and afraid can often mean the world.  It tells them they are not alone and that you, deep down inside, truly care about them as a person.
"When we feel love and kindness towards others, it not only makes other feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness an peace. ~ Dalai Lama

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


The more I have been involved with non profits and their members and people in general for decades, the more I notice that there are most assuredly those who wish to be in the limelight with questionable motives, and then there are those who are diligently working in the shadows. Today I write about Angels in the Shadows.

Personalities shouldn't interfere with doing the right thing.  Trying to outdo the other person or another 'like' organization shouldn't become a part of your agenda, your master plan, your goal. What happened to caring?  Really caring about the other guy! Why so much competition?  So much anger?

Then there are the people we meet daily.  You know, the ones on the street.  The dry cleaners, the checker at the grocery store, the waitress.  We ask 'How are you?" But do we really care?  Do they respond with a simple 'fine'? Do we ever really want to know?  Do we want to listen, to hear, to care?

 "How are you today?" What if we said "oh not so good"?  Then we hear a simple 'sorry'. Did that person really care, or do we just ask or respond benignly because it is the thing to do? Are they just too busy or important to really honestly care how we are?

What if after they say 'fine', we say 'no ... are you?" Then listen!
Perhaps then you might hear personal stories of people struggling, in crisis, in a medical situation they can't control, in turmoil at home, their pressures and troubles, and on and on. 
Perhaps then we would not feel so isolated.  I know I do.  I want to be heard as much as the next guy.  I want to feel 'real'!!! I think deep down inside we all want to be real.  But how many give us that opportunity?
Today try engaging, truly engaging someone. See what happens. Your connection to those in your daily life will deepen and perhaps, just perhaps, others will see you in a different light.

So you ask what is an angel in the shadows.
To me this is a person who does the right thing for the right reasons.  A person who works, not to be glorified or glamorized or to get another accolade or certificate, but someone who does what they do because they so deeply and passionately believe in, and care about, what they are doing that they don't know any other way to be.  A person who wants to make a difference because a difference needs to be made.

As I write this my housekeeper is cleaning my office.  Just moments ago, I stopped typing and turned around and asked her how she was.  Our eyes locked. She really knew I cared.  She started telling me about her daughter who has panic attacks and is terrified of being in public. She wants to be a nurse but is having trouble focusing. She is seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist and that is why her mom is cleaning houses ~ to pay for her doctor bills. We talked.  I cared. And I learned.  I know her and she knows now, that at least to me, she is 'real'. 

So today try and become an angel in the shadows.  Really care about the people you meet, the waiter, the next door neighbor, the postman.  Engage them for a moment and you will find that they are not much different than you.  We all face battles, and we all have people in our lives that need to feel someone really does care.  Someone really knows that they are 'real.'

Monday, March 4, 2013


Sometimes things happen that we are present for and miss completely.  Sometimes things happen that we don't understand.  Sometimes things happen that totally throw us off balance.  And then sometimes things happen that are quite simply almost impossible to understand even though we were witness to them.
I still find the abilities and intuitive nature of a dog one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.  I don't understand it.  I now simply accept it, after seeing inexplicable things happen time and time again by my therapy dogs, Penny, Gracie, and now Kelsie.
A little over a week ago I was in the rehab gym at the VA with a patient.  A Vietnam vet, who had recently lost his left leg below the knee, was laying on the mat just inches above the floor with the physical therapist working with him on increasing muscle tone in that leg.  The patient invited Kelsie onto the mat.  She most willingly jumped up and snuggled up close to his side and laid her head on his shoulder as taught.  She delicately sniffed his neck and then settled in to do what she does best~provide a distraction from pain while this man lifted his stump with a 5 pound weight on it multiple times. He rubbed her side, took his hand and scratched under her therapy dog vest, and then stroked her from head to tail, all the while talking about his dog at home!

The session lasted about 15 minutes. After the weight was removed, I told the gentleman how pleased we had been to spend some time with him and wished him well, as he was to be released from the hospital the next day.
I told Kelsie, "up".  She instantly stood and I waited and waited for her to jump off the mat, as she is trained to do.  She would not budge!  She planted all four feet onto the mat and stood rock solid.  I again told her 'off'.  And again nothing.  I gave her leash a gentle pull and again nothing.  I quite honestly was flabbergasted.  For as long as I have had her in service, she has been impeccable in obedient behavior.  Until this time. It boarded on embarrassing.
I then took a deep breath and decided to listen to what she was trying to tell me.  I gave her free reign. She turned and went back to the gentleman, still lying on the mat, sat down next to him and ever so gently laid her head on his chest.  Then I knew.  She was trying to tell all of us something. The man softly petted her head and gave the top of her head a little kiss.  She then stood up, backed up, and came to me and jumped off the mat.
I did not have a doubt in the world but what this man had had a heart attack or was going to.  As soon as he returned to his room, I intercepted the PT and his nurse and asked them if he was aware of what Kelsie had done in front of us all.  He said he thought it was odd, but didn't really pay much attention.  I told him my suspicion about the man's heart and without a missed beat, the PT told me that he had/has multiple coronary problems. Kelsie did everything possible to tell us herself. 
I love what I do.  I love Animal Assisted Therapy.  But most of all I love the surprises and mystery of it all.  Kelsie knew.  She just quite simply knew.  What happened was to be recorded on his medical record.  Kelsie was unaware of doing anything out of the ordinary.  But she did get extra love and pats that night and a few extra dog biscuits.
I learned to pay more attention.  To listen, to observe, to quite simply be more aware.
God bless this dog and all others like her who have great wisdom in their hearts. For it is from them that we can all become better people, more observant people, and more aware.