Thursday, February 21, 2013

On the Rez: Aspen's Heart

We’ve all heard the saying “it’s better to give than to receive,” and most people would say that they agree with that. But is it really better to give than to receive? Do you really believe that? Or maybe the better question would be do you act that out?

What if you came from a culture that had a true heart of giving, a people whose giving nature had abounded until it was overcome by a culture of takers? What if you were a Native American? Would you still think it is better to give than to receive?  
Many people on some of the poorer reservations have spent their whole lives with so little that they rely on the assistance of others just to make do. Even those who are able to take care of themselves most likely live more by the mantra “waste not, want not” than any other. In such a situation, giving to others can be very rare. That’s what makes the actions of one little girl really stand out.
The little girl is Aspen, a second grader at Windswept Academy. She was at school one day when she overheard a teacher talking to a little boy in the first grade. He had very badly chapped lips, and it must have been uncomfortable for him. The teacher told the boy to ask his grandmother to get him some ChapStick to bring to school with him the next day, so he could use it throughout the day as he needed it.  However, even simple needs like that don’t always get met. And, sure enough, the next day, he came to school without it. But Aspen had noticed the need and had guessed that it would go unmet, so she came to the rescue. Walking over to the little boy, she handed him a brand new tube of ChapStick and told him “this is your very own.”  

Yes, it was just a tube of ChapStick, but for someone who has lived a life devoid of such kindness, it was an incredible ray of sunshine. The little boy told her, “You are my first friend.” Aspen did make a friend that day. Now, he follows her around everywhere wanting to be near the one who showed him kindness in the form of a simple gift of ChapStick.

So, even with all of the troubles we may encounter or the financial problems we may face, is it better to give than to receive? I think so. We never know when we might be the first friend someone has ever had.

Thank you Aspen for teaching us that even when we don’t have much ourselves, it’s still important to help others.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Nature's Own Miracle Sound

The most powerful sound in the world is one that increases brain activity, reduces stress and can relax you after a long day at work. What is that miracle sound? To a receptive mind, it is the sound of silence.

As a single girl whose only child is of the feline persuasion, my home environment doesn’t have much naturally occurring noise. However, since I’m a product of the later 20th century, I have the short attention span that is common to my generation. As a result, my tendency leans towards turning on the television when I get home. Even if it’s only for the purpose of background noise, I feel more comfortable with the extra stimulation it offers. Unless, I go out, that’s usually how most of my days end.

In addition, I awake in the morning to a radio alarm; the car radio comes on when I start the car, and I have Pandora on my computer at work. As you can see, my life is a series of jumps from one system of input to another. This arrangement has served me well for many years with only the occasional deviation until recently.

Lately, I’ve begun to become more and more dissatisfied, and my input has begun to sound more and more like bothersome noise. Perhaps this is due to the rapidly decreasing quality of audio and video input that’s available or to my ever aging interests. Whatever the cause, lately, I have begun to find all of the input more wearying than stimulating.

As a result of this new dissatisfaction, I decided to make some drastic changes in my home. Since I don’t have the self-discipline needed to simply turn off the television, I cancelled my cable and internet connection. (The internet had to go also because I often streamed shows from Netflix.) The outcome wasn’t the boredom I expected; instead, it was a blessed silence. I took the time to just think. I read; I watched the sunset; I listened to the birds; I noticed things that I had been passing over for so many years. Time slowed down, and not in a bad way. I actually began to understand why some older people often enjoy sitting on their front porches in rocking chairs. I could relate more to people’s awe-inspired comments about sunsets and the sounds of crickets, their fishing and hiking hobbies, and the joy they had from just being out in nature. I never realized before exactly how much I was missing. All of the manufactured input I continually bombarded myself with deafened me to the wonders of the more natural, more peaceful, and more interesting input that abounded all around me.

Don’t get me wrong, I still watch the occasional television show or movie that I either buy or get in the mail from Netflix; however, I find that I don’t want to turn the television on most days. This is so different from the times in the past when I didn’t want to turn the television off. Sometimes the DVD will sit there for days before I get up enough interest to watch it. I much prefer the more intricate and longer stories in books that promote deep thought and/or the sights of nature, along with the wonderful sound of simple silence.

 If you think you can, I strongly recommend that you give it a try. Depending on how deeply you are currently entrenched into the abyss of noisy input, the time that it will take you to truly appreciate this valuable gift may vary. Just stick with it. If you can break your addiction, you, too, can truly feel the wonderful eye-opening peace that comes with the sound of silence.