Giving Money on the Street – My History of Failure

I live in Sacramento. Like many urban areas, the number of people living in tents under the freeway continues to grow. People wait at intersections or outside stores and ask me for money.

I am moved and want to help, but I don’t know what actual help looks like. The scope of the problem paralyzes me – immense and complex with a confusing mix of structural, societal, economic, medical, psychological and personal factors. The situation requires me to ask, what are the limits of my moral obligation to others?

I feel powerless to affect real change at a large scale, but there must be something I can do at the human scale, a response that alleviates suffering in a meaningful way. I have tried different approaches over the years, struggling to find something that does more good than harm. I never know if I am succeeding.

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Wise Words – We Only Have What We Give

“We only have what we give.”

Isabel Allende

You have gifts to give that only you can deliver. You bring to the table a set of qualities, thoughts, quirks and capacities that no one else possesses. The beauty, flaws, swirls and knots in your grain are the result of your adventurous, stress-fractured, fun-filled, glorious roller coaster of a life. The universe has been growing itself for 14 billion years, waiting to claim its prize, which has shown up in you.

You are uniquely qualified to be you, fully and precisely you, dropped into a world that needs exactly that.

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The Divine Human Journey

I think of myself as a spiritual person, but I have many moments when I’m gripped by anger, resentment, irritation or shutdown. Why does this keep happening? Don’t these episodes hold me back from making spiritual progress?

Well, maybe those episodes are the point. Those moments are not to be avoided or suppressed, they are the fertile ground of our growth. Maybe it works like this.

Let’s say the purpose of the human journey is to bring Divine Light into the world of form. We come into the world as sparks of the Divine, fully immersed, wholly connected, with no sense of a separate self. We don’t even know we’re Sacred, we just sense life as pure being.

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Wise Words – Our True Shelter Is in Our Relationships

“Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine

It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”

Irish proverb

Ah, the Irish. They have a wondrous way of shifting the light with a few simple words. I first heard this proverb from Pádraig Ó Tuama, Irish poet, theologian, and host of the brilliant podcast Poetry Unbound. Above are Padriag’s versions in both English and Irish Gaelic. 

I’m struck by three powerful spots in this short verse. The first is the word, ‘shelter.’ We think of a shelter as a place that protects us from the elements, both outer and inner. It is a refuge, a place of safety where we can relax and recharge. Shelter brings to mind feelings of home, the place where we can tend to all of life’s joys and sorrows. In times of joy, we’re enlivened and want to share our good fortune. In sorrow, we’re exhausted and need support in grieving our losses.

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Wise Words – Love That Is Not Expressed Cannot Flow

“Love that is not expressed is like a check that is never cashed.  It doesn’t do any good for anyone.”

Raj Sisodia

I want to be a vehicle for giving and receiving love. What else is my spiritual practice for? On my best days, I give love freely. But there are also days when I am hesitant and leave that check uncashed. Why? Because giving love carries risk. There is a potential cost to my well-being.

Expressing love reveals that I care, which can make me feel vulnerable for several reasons. There is my fear of rejection. I may be afraid of looking foolish and simplistic for being so free with my love. Or I may fear someone will take advantage of me; they may interpret my openness as naiveté, a signal that my guard is down. Or I may worry my gift of love will do no good, that it will be wasted.

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We Are Already Connected

My house is about four blocks away, so I didn’t hear it when it fell. A huge legacy oak snapped in the wind during a lashing rain storm that hit on New Year’s Eve. On its way down, it took out a utility pole. I didn’t know anything was wrong until I noticed the street lights were out and the houses across the street looked black.

I stepped out into the rain and saw that the homes on my side of the street were lit, a string of Christmas lights shining brightly all the way down. But the homes on the other side were all dark.

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Prayer for 2023

Audio of Prayer for 2023

When a new year opens, the future can feel ripe with possibility. In our current times, life seems especially challenging, even frightening. No doubt 2023 will bring difficulties, trials, opportunities, joys and surprises.

Whatever unfolds will be part of the next layer of our growth. Our approach to change and challenge will dictate how we respond to what shows up. Let’s meet the year with the intention that events will evoke the best in us – opportunities to show compassion, to pause before we judge, to see the bigger picture, to meet life as it is while never losing our desire to nudge it to good.

Prayer is a personal matter. We each have our own conceptions of the Divine Mystery. For me, prayer opens me to deeper ways of relating to that Mystery. Here is my prayer for 2023 – an offering, a request, a question, a commitment and a conversation with Spirit.

Prayer for 2023

Spirit, I am here. I invite you to me.
Let me open to you and feel the power of your presence.
Awaken me to be present as the witness of my life.

Strengthen me to listen when I hear the hurting of the world,
To not shrink back but to step forward,
To bring forth my talents to a world that needs me now and
To recognize my fears and triggers as illuminations on the path.

If I could have an answer, show me here –
How can I serve?
Where are my gifts needed most?
How can my small piece be used for good?

Let me also feel the joy, hear the laughter and see
The brilliance all around me and within me.
Open my heart to the trouble and the beauty of the world together,
Embedded in the pattern of creation, a template that is perfect and whole.

Help me to remember that waking up is hard and takes hardship,
That my waking and my healing are called for now,
That I am up for this and that I am not alone.

Be with me as I incarnate your two great powers: to be aware and to love.
I pray that I accept this world, this life and this challenge.

Grateful for the blessings of my life,
By the grace of all that is,


(Audio of Prayer for 2023)

Photo by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash

Wise Words – Longfellow’s Advice On Empathy

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. ”    

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Think of someone in your life whom you dislike.  I’m sure you have your reasons.  Maybe they’ve hurt you or mistreated you.  If I listened to you recount the offensive things they’ve done, I am sure I’d agree.  The problem is, we tend to reduce people to the two dimensions of a cut-out figure, a thin slice of the expansive and complex person that they are. 

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Driving for Goodness’ Sake

Coming up to the intersection, I saw that the oncoming driver was in a pickle.  He had started to make a left hand turn in front of me and was blocking part of my lane, but he was stopped because the cars ahead of him were backed up.  I could tell he was stuck and wouldn’t be able to clear my lane before I got there.  He tried to back up, but there were other left-turners behind him.  He had no place go. 

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