A few weeks ago, a movie was suggested to me. Named St Vincent, and starring Bill Murray, I found it to be a good story well acted - but I am not sure I got out of it the message which was intended.
In this movie, Bill Murray plays the role of a grumpy, gruff, and rather rude older alcoholic dude who becomes the semi unwilling baby sitter to the kid next door. Within a short time, the boy and he get closer, and as the movie progresses, Bill Murray enhances the kid’s life by mentoring him in various ways. At the end of the movie (spoiler alert) the kid stands in front of his whole class and declares Murray to be a Saint.
I’m skipping over a bunch of good scenes here, just so I can get to my point.
Which is the “Saint” part.
Throughout the film, some vignettes - past and present - allow us some peeking into the guy’s heart: he was a war hero. He has, for the last eight years, gone to tenderly visit his Alzheimer afflicted wife everyday (he even takes her laundry home to wash it himself). He grumpily takes care of his friends. Under the tough facade, yes he is a good man. And yes, it is always touching to see a gruff old dude act sweetly. The contrast gets to us, and we love to get misty-eyed about that sort of things. It makes for a good movie, too.
Yet - and to me that’s a big yet - during the course of a normal day, this guy goes out into the world and is generally pretty darn rude to people who cross his path. Not beating anyone up or anything, but fairly regularly leaving people feeling like poop for having spent a few minutes around him. Sometimes it’s his words, and sometimes it’s his vibe. Results are about the same.
So at the end of the movie, when the boy gets on the school stage and declares his buddy to be a Saint ... I am not so sure. To me, if anyone is a Saint, it may be the kid for being able to see so much good in the guy.
Maybe you’ve seen the film, and maybe you don’t agree with my take on it. The person who suggested I watch it certainly doesn’t. Maybe I am going to get a whole bunch of emails telling me what I have missed, too. That’s ok.
Where am I going with this?
Let me explain:
Last week while in Nice, France, and even though I had made it clear that I didn’t want to go on the Promenade des Anglais, following the terrible 14th of July events, my GPS decided otherwise, and I found myself driving multiple times on the very street where so much heartache took place, so recently. My heart felt like it weighed 200 pounds, and I was reminded of all the pain, all the unfixable pain that had taken place in just the last 6 months, all over the world. All the people whose lives have been shattered, whose hearts live with a big gaping hole in them.
I was reminded of all the things over which I have so little control, when it comes to the intrinsic color of someone’s inner terrain.
And pretty soon, this reminded me of all the things over which I DO have control when it comes to slightly bettering someone’s day: I have control over the words I use, even in a short interaction with a stranger. I have control over my smile, when I see someone in the street. I have control over my energy, my vibe, too.
I have control over whether I leave things better than I found them - or not.
In a way, that’s a Super Power.
Back to the film, Murray’s character, as we all do, also has control over his words. And no matter how good a guy he may be when someone gets to know him well, the fact that he chooses to waste his Super Power - but rather use its opposite - on a daily basis - makes me decidedly withhold my vote for him as a Saint.
There are a whole lot of hearts broken all over the planet, today. Most likely a whole lot of tender hearts just in our neighborhoods, too. Which means that there are a whole lot of opportunities to use our Super Power and ... to leave things better than we found them. One tiny interaction at a time.
I see this is a daily opportunity, an hourly one, even. It is an opportunity that takes place at the grocery store as much as at home. With lovable creatures like babies and puppies, and with less lovable people like the ones who cut us off on the freeway and the smelly homeless lady down the street. With our kids, and with the waitress. With ourselves, too.
Today, I invite you to meet a little challenge with me. I invite you to pledge adding some goodness to the world, one little tiny bit of sweetness at a time. With just a smile, even.
At zero financial cost.
And then I invite you to invite anyone you know to join in with us, in that pledge. I am thinking that if 1,000 of us take that pledge, that’s going to make at least 10,000 people’s day a little bit better. And while we cannot change the big picture, making 10,000 people’s day a little bit better is a really good start.
Because this, we can do.
With a big hug,
PS: to invite others to join us, you can forward this email or share on FB straight from the top left of pledge page.
Before we left on our Retreat, Elisabeth suggested we print some Sprinkling cards in French and bring them wit us. What a fun idea! Even though for years I have been saying that the Happiness Sprinkling would not fly in France (I have visions of getting tomatoes thrown at us while we hold Signs), I recognize that this may be just my story, and old one at that, and completely off base. Ready to walk my talk from our Lighten Up! course and not believe everything I think, I ordered three sets of Sprinkling cards in French, for us to take along.
On the first day of class, we distributed the little stacks of cards. They said: Bisous (kisses), La Vie est Belle (life is beautiful) and Tout Ira Bien (all will be well). Equipped with our stashes, we soon headed out into the small town on Antibes and began leaving them in random places. I was a little shy at first, but warmed up to it as the card I left on the post office box was gone within minutes.
Sitting down together at lunch, I hear one of our most vivacious co traveling friend explain the little cards to the owner of the restaurant, and giving her a few. Instinctively - and as I am once again running the old story - I make myself very still, hoping I wont be asked to join in on the conversation. No such luck. My friend points to me and tells the lady that I started the movement and that I can tell her more. And what do you know? it turns out the restaurant owner wants to know more. Oh boy. So here I am, putting my baby at the mercy of a classically critical French mind, explaining the hows and the whys. The lady listens for a good while and I can not read her reaction. Finally, she launches into a whole tirade of why this is brilliant, of how tired she is of seeing her compatriots' “tetes d’enterrement” (funeral faces) of late, and how needed this is. Wow... We talk a little bit more, and as she leaves, I catch a huge smile on my friend’s face, on the other end of the table.
Fast forward an hour or so and our waiter deposits the bill in the middle of our table.
I open it, ready to begin the daily ritual of reading who ate what and how much we each owe, and right there, on top of the bill, I find one of our little cards - in English! It reads: Everything will be Alright. Looking up at the waiter, I can tell that he is extremely pleased, with a super big smile. He Sprinkled us, and reminded us that our bill was going to be alright (turns out that he actually gave us the wrong bill, and when he brought the correct one, which was more expensive, he laughed as he told us that this one would be a little bit less alright).
We were all giddy! After a day of Sprinkling quietly around the old town, bringing our Anacortes born work to the other side of the world, everything suddenly felt very “round” and for me, quite touching, as not only were we Sprinkling in France, but we had just gotten Sprinkled as well.
Great "in the field" lesson about questioning our old stories, and the card is right on: La Vie est Belle.
A week from today, several of us will wake up in a beautiful villa in the South of France, ready to enjoy our first full day of Retreat together. We have no class planned for that day, just easing into the time change, getting to know our little village - and our swimming pool - and eating delicious food prepared just for us.
What's not to love?
Nothing, really. It's all a big batch of upcoming yumminess and I am beyond thrilled to share my home country with a great group of people.
Yet, at three in the morning, stuff was moving around in my brain, moving around enough to wake me up.
Leaving takes some work. Lists, delegating, preparing, preparing for what we can't anticipate, too.
There is the Center to take care of, my home, the Airbnb, the kitty (and having just lost her sister, she needs extra love)... a whole other bunch of goodness to put in good hands, making sure these good hands have everything they need to do their job.
Hence the waking up at three in the morning, mainly with one particular situation doing some funny cartwheels in the dark.
Knowing it wasn't going to stop on its own, I turned on the light and grabbed a pen and paper.
"Finding the Thread" saved my night. This super simple process is really powerful, I am telling you.
Within less than 5 minutes, I had my answer. Just like that.
And so, even though I already shared this with you recently, I am sharing it again this morning. Because I feel it is that good, and because you may have missed it, and because I want to.
Next time, your mind starts to make swirlies, give it a shot?
Wishing you an awesome day!