My CMS

Delayed gratification

Written By: Fiona - Dec• 05•12

In July 2010, I took to the road with my children’s novel, Crackpot, to 45 schools scattered throughout Victoria, over a period of six weeks.

The toll of travelling and presenting the same story, the same gig, the same gags, the same message, over and over was wearing.  At a few low moments I’d ask myself the ‘why’ question: “Why am I doing this?” On this particular morning, nearing the end of the tour,  I didn’t have an answer.

I’d hit a slump.  I’d had enough.  I was tired. I was bored with myself.  I felt ineffective, drained, and unable to muster up any enthusiasm for the ‘difficult’ school I was about to visit.  (After researching its demographics the night before, I’d learned that 85% of the children – many of whom were indigenous – came from families where both parents were unemployed.)  I doubted I was up to the task.

As I left the warmth of the house, with my wheelie case dragging its sorry wheels behind me, I wished for a miracle of a flat tyre that would prevent me going.  But alas, no: all tyres were pumped.  It was, however, very foggy.  Perhaps too unsafe to drive? Nope. As soon as I left the valley, the fog lifted and sunshine broke through.  Rotten sunshine!

As I pulled into the school grounds, I took a minute to visualise a positive, happy outcome – it can’t hurt, I reasoned – before making my way along the path that lead to the school. Rushing towards me at break-neck speed was a teacher (you can spot them a mile off).  She was smiling. ‘You must be Fiona! Thank you so much for coming. I have to rush off to pick up some kids who can’t get to school today, but if you head into the main office, someone will take you to the class. I’ll catch up with you later!’ – and then she was gone.

Kids who can’t get to school?  Boy. She’s committed.

Once I’d signed in at reception, a grade six girl, coughing asthmatically, welcomed me and took me to the class. As we were reaching the end of the corridor I heard the raised voice of a teacher: ‘If you kids use that kind of language again, you’re in serious trouble! Take this as a warning, okay? Now show some respect!’

Don’t let that be my class, don’t let that be my class…

It was.

Kids were scattered everywhere: on the floor, on tables, on couches, on chairs.  They looked like a motley lot, but seemed happy enough, as did the teachers.  As I was introduced, I scanned their faces: there was a look about them, as was the room.  It wasn’t unpleasant, just different to what I’d been in so far. It was chaotic, but ordered; rough, but with softness; sad, but with life.  I took a breath and decided to go off-script. These guys needed me to tell them something a little different: not a mamsy pamsy, soft-centred feel-good talk, but a real, down to earth, relevant story.

I took a breath, and began.

‘I used to think I was dumb. Stupid,’  I said.

Stunned silence.

‘My prep teacher told me this when I was five, in a school not far from here. ‘

There was an audible, collective exhale from everyone in the room. Kids lent forward to listen more intently. Their keen attention spurred me on.  ‘And guess what?’

‘What?’ they chorused.

‘I’m not dumb. I’m not stupid.  And guess what else?’

‘What?’

‘I believed I was for about 30 years.’

I can’t remember how I segued from my Stupid Story, to telling them about my journey as a writer, and then onto what it was I came there for: to tell the kids there was more right with them than wrong with them. That they had more strengths than weaknesses.

For many of these children, this was new information.  Just like it had been for me when I was told the same thing.

The lights were on, and everybody was home.

For four weeks I’d been going from school to school, from one country town to the next, and it had been long and hard. It was moments like this one though, that affirmed why I was doing what I was doing.

I felt humbled by these kids’ openness, their engagement, and the commitment and dedication of their teachers. And I left feeling energized, fulfilled, and gratified.

Yes, gratified.  That’s the word.

This is why I do this.

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The Long and Winding Road

Written By: Fiona - Nov• 21•12

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a children’s author, so when an opportunity came up to write a 5,000 word children’s story for the final semester of my undergraduate year at university, way back in 1999, I jumped at the opportunity. There was a catch, though: the deadline for submissions was that very day, leaving me only a few hours to knock up the story proposal to a committee of academics to see if my project was worthy.

There was another catch: I didn’t have a story.

Fortunately, my brain loves the challenge of a deadline mixed in with a bit of pressure, so it rose to the occasion by landing a title at my feet:  ‘My Mother, the Comedian’. Once the portal was open, the main protagonist, Phoebe Wallace, landed with a thud, followed by her mother Marge (‘Mad Margie Wallace’), her annoying younger vampire-obsessed brother Jake, and her absent, Ringmaster father, all in quick succession. Voila! There it was. I met the deadline and got the green light.

My desire to write for children had become a living reality as I thrashed away on my keyboard with energy and enthusiasm for the second half of the year. My lecturer, a children’s author herself, was full of praise for my final product, going so far as telling me she thought the story worthy of being published.

The words ‘this is publishable!’ from a peer is like music to a writer’s ears. A few months later the dream became closer and closer to reality, when I received an email from Penguin Books, saying “We love your story, and would like to consider having you as our new author.”

Imagine how I felt: Here I was, a mother to three children (including two year old twins), newly mortgaged to the hilt, and at the tail-end of a degree I never thought I was capable of accomplishing, and now an almost-children’s author! Yep, I was peaky, perky, happy. So, so happy I happy-danced around the house, pumped the air with victory punches, and sent out ‘Dreams DO come true!’ emails to all my friends, far and wide. I even threw a ‘Penguin Party’ in celebration.

Three months later, the Penguin pulled out. There was no contract.

Imagine how I felt: Lousy. Defeated. Depressed. Useless. Stupid. Foolish. Embarrassed. I put the manuscript away and got on with being a mother and paying the mortgage.

A year went by, and one optimistic day I pulled that manuscript out and gave it another shot, figuring that if one large publisher thought it had merit, there must be something there. So I rewrote, and resubmitted to another publisher. I waited the mandatory (back then) three months for a response (or not), then sent it to another publisher. And another, and another.

Each time my manuscript was returned in an A4 envelope, addressed to me in my own handwriting (I followed the publisher’s requirements down to a tee), I’d sigh. Sometimes I’d even cry. With each rejection, a little piece of hope would break off and die.

Fortunately, I had a lot of hope. A few years later, I took the manuscript out again and saw the holes in it that publishers had seen, and I had not. I rewrote, re-edited, resubmitted, but this time to literary agents. More A4 enveloped returns. Nada. Zippo. Nout.

Rejection, rejection, rejection.

No amount of positive thinking, visualisation or self-help books were enough to get this manuscript over the publishing standards hurdle. I’d got the message from the universe. The penguins had spoken. It was time to give it up, to let it go.

But still, I wasn’t quite ready to give up on Phoebe and her family. They’d been sitting there like playthings all these years while I moved them into position and out again, lifted them up and dropped them, shaped them and moulded them. I’d stuffed them into envelopes and sent them all around Australia. I’d even been bold enough to post them to the USA! And all the while, they stayed. They waited.

I decided to approach the whole rewriting differently. I asked myself questions: ‘Why is this character the way they are? What motivates this character? What’s the bottom line here? What is this story really about?’ My characters clapped and cheered. Phoebe was jumping up and down with glee, and her mum was singing. Her ringmaster-dad was nodding his head and her little brother was just being annoying.

My hands were on fire. I wrote again, but this time the manuscript grew from a short story to a book; to a story with plots and subplots and a theme or two (father absence, friendship). My Mother the Comedian the story, became Crackpot, the book.

I entered Crackpot in a competition.

It won. (Imagine how I felt?)

I entered it in a bigger competition.

It won. (Imagine how I felt!)

I signed up with a literary agent. (IMAGINE HOW I FELT?!)

…And then for two years, nothing. (How naïve I was, thinking an agent was a guaranteed home run.)

I eventually parted ways with the agent and took Phoebe and her family back into my own rejection-ready hands. One last shot, that’s all it was getting, then it was all over red rover.

One last shot.

I’d given this dream ten years of my life. A whole decade.

One. Last. Shot.

I sent the manuscript out to a small, independent publisher.

Two days later they called.

Four months later, a courier arrived with a box of books. My books. By me, a children’s author!

Mission accomplished.

____________________________

So what is the moral of the story? ‘Never, ever give up’? No, I don’t believe that, as sometimes we have to know when to let go.

‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’? No, that’s too clichéd.

There isn’t a moral. It’s just a story about a girl with a dream, growing and learning on the job, taking risks, being brave, hopeful, practicing patience, and being persistent.

Most of all, though, it’s about fulfilling a life-long dream.

Next!

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Fiona the Brave

Written By: Fiona - Nov• 13•12

I don’t like confrontation. I find it difficult to stand up for my rights against boisterous opposition and I will never, ever, bungee jump. But I will travel alone to faraway places, initiate the occasional ‘crucial conversation’, and I have been known to partake in a few adventurous activities, despite my fear and terror. So me, brave? Nah,  not really. It’s not a word I’d use to describe myself.

…Up until a few months ago.

Picture this: a cold winter’s night, on holiday with my two teenage sons, staying in a big old home on the side of a hill in a picturesque part of Victoria. There I am in my flannelette pjs, knitting with size 10 needles, in front of the wood fire, mellow in the warmth, watching TV.  One son does the same (without the fire, knitting or pjs) in the family room, and the other son has gone to bed with his music and earplugs.

Suddenly, there’s a banging noise coming from the kitchen-end of the house.  I go to investigate, and see that Alex heard the noise too. He’s looking around the room, trying to decide where it came from.

‘Possums’, I deduce.

‘Big ones,’ he says.

Sam wanders into the kitchen, earplugs dangling.

‘Did you hear that?’ we both ask him.

‘Hear what?’

‘Possums. Big ones. Thumping on the roof.’

Sam shakes his head and goes to the sink.

BANG BANG BANG BANG

There it is again.

The three of us, eyes like saucers, look around. Look up. Look scared.

‘That no possum,’ I say. ‘Besides, it sounded like it was coming from both sides of the house. From the walls.’ I don’t know any nocturnal animals that abseil…

Something’s not right.

‘Is the front door locked?’ I ask Alex.

‘Don’t think so,’ he says.

‘Will you lock it?’.

‘Don’t think so,’ he says.

‘Okay, I’ll lock the front door. You guys check the side doors. Snib the locks.’ It’s a command, not a request.

With a combination of fear, caution and stealth, we complete our tasks. My gut flips. And it’s then when I see it: fear in my children’s eyes.

That’s all it takes. Not one nano second more or less, and I’m running towards the front door like a mad woman possessed.

In one swift action, I unlock the door, flip on the outside light and burst through the pretty coloured plastic streamers, and roar into the dark night, intentionally lowering the register of my voice (hoping I will sound like a big man, not the  mulberry-pink fluffy dressing-gowned middle-aged woman that I am).

‘NICK OFF YOU MONGRELS!’ No sooner have I flung open the door and flicked on the light when I hear the sound of a dozen footsteps running away from the house, down the steep driveway and the rickety stairs into the night.

My hackles rise and my voice drops another register.

‘YOU COME BACK HERE AND I’LL CALL THE COPS!’ My voice echoes across the sleepy valley. (‘COPs OPs Ops ops…’)

Sam and Alex are standing at the door, watching and listening to their crazy, testosterone-pumped mother. They high-five me.

‘Go the mother!’ (said me).

‘Mongrels,’ I say, still pumped. ‘Scared the wits out of them, I reckon.’ I shake my head a little, not because of the adrenalin pumping through my veins, but because I used the word mongrel twice in as many minutes. My inner bloke was having a field day.

I grin at my boys. I’m not too old or too scared to protect my children. Show me their fear and I lose mine.

I feel proud.

I think they do, too.

Yeah, that’s right: don’t mess with the Mumma.

I am Fiona, hear me roar.

FOOTNOTE: I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I was too scared.

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Some more kindess to give!

Written By: Fiona - Nov• 09•12

Just in-case you missed out last time we have some free ‘Kindness Cards’ for you….  they are the cards you leave behind when you do an act of kindness, as a way to keep the kindness moving forward.

All you have to do is sign up to our newsletter here or email your postal address details to jodie.farrell@fionatrembath.com and we will send three cards to you.  It’s that simple… like kindness.

Pass the kindness on!

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TAKING NOTICE

Written By: Fiona - Oct• 24•12

Last week I was inundated with gifts from the grades five and six kids from Arthur’s Creek Primary school. I’d spent a few months last term getting to know them all as their resident ‘Strengths Teacher’, and had been invited back for a thank you lunch. As I entered the classroom they all leapt out from their hiding place with a huge shout, with the objective being – as Ed, a grade sixer, put it – that I ‘wet my pants’. (I didn’t. But they were happy that I leapt six foot in the air with fright.)

As they hovered around me with beaming faces and brimming with enthusiasm, they each gave me a gift: a friendship bracelet, elephant ornaments, Christmas tree decorations, incense, stationery, a bottle of homemade cordial, a potted plant… the list goes on (including $20.00 from the teacher with a note: “Enjoy using this $20 to pass on another Random Act of Kindness.” More about this later.).  What I loved most though, were the cards and notes that accompanied the gifts. There’s just something about a handwritten note that resonates, long after the gifts have worn out, died or been consumed.

I’m a keeper of notes, of cards, of messages and emails that are kind, whimsical, loving, touching and honest. I even have a file named “Cards and notes to always keep’.  These notes and cards from these kids will be keepers for sure.

Gestures of appreciation and kindness can have immeasurable benefit, and can stay with a person forever.

I was in a furniture store today and overheard one of the owners sounding very distressed and upset as he spoke to someone on his phone. As I left the store I wanted to let him know that whatever it was that was upsetting him, someone he doesn’t know (ie, me) was concerned for him. But I didn’t. And ever since I’ve been home, I’ve regretted my inaction. I imagine this happens a lot: we see someone in distress but are too afraid to get involved, or to have our message misconstrued, so we turn our backs or close our eyes.

We all want to be visible, to be noticed. Reaching out to others and saying thanks, or ‘I care’, or ‘I see you’ makes us so.

With my top strengths of kindness and gratitude, it makes sense to me that not only do I get a buzz out of using these strengths, but that I also get a buzz when others are kind and grateful to me. And when it happens, I’m floored.

So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to take that $20.00 that the teacher gave me and anonymously drop off a gift to the furniture store with a hand-written note to the upset man to let him know that a stranger cares. That someone cares.

Because a little bit of kindness can go a long, long way. (As can $20.00)

FOOTNOTE:

I did it! I bought twenty dollars’ worth of boutique beer (making a gross assumption, I know) and dropped it off with a card that read “Please accept this small ‘random act of kindness’, to show you someone cares”. But because I’d bought something from the store earlier in the day, I was traceable (d’oh!), so the unhappy man just called to thank me for the gift, saying he was flabbergasted and ‘moved to tears’ when he got it. That’s the best twenty bucks I’ve ever spent.

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Everyone needs some kindness!

Written By: Fiona - Oct• 18•12

Just in-case you missed out we have some free Kindness Cards for you.  They are the cards you leave behind when you do an act of kindness, as a way to keep the kindness moving forward.

All you have to do is sign up to our newsletter here or email your postal address details to jodie.farrell@fionatrembath.com and we will send three cards to you.  It’s that simple… like kindness.

Pass the kindness on!

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HALLELUJAH!

Written By: Fiona - Oct• 17•12

The Hallelujah Chorus went off in my head a few days ago when I read a document by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development entitled, ‘Strength-based Approach’.

“The strength-based approach represents a paradigm shift – a movement away from a deficit-based approach which can lead to a long list of things considered to be ‘wrong’ with a child’s learning and development or things a child cannot do.

(http://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/earlychildhood/learning/

strengthbasedapproach.pdf  – page 6)

To see that this kind of thinking is now filtering into our primary schools from the top down is fantastic.

When asked ‘what is more important: to focus on strengths or weaknesses?’, most people, world-wide, said weaknesses. So the statement above isn’t applicable just for children; it is also through the adult lens that we first look at what’s wrong before what’s right, or what’s weak before what’s strong.

The idea that we first look for what’s right before what’s wrong in ourselves and others has the potential to transform. If I’d had teachers in primary and secondary school who practised this, I probably wouldn’t have dropped out of school when I was 16. My memories of school are of fear, intimidation and criticism. Sure, it wasn’t all like that, but I did believe there was more wrong with me than was right.

Imagine if teachers looked for, noticed and then named the strengths of children in the classroom as a default, rather than fault-finding first? I’m sure many teachers do instinctively, but to have this as a standard way of teaching, learning and living would enable more flourishing. More wellbeing. More happiness. More job satisfaction.

If we could all notice the good in others and tell them (what’s the point if we keep it all to ourselves?), there’s a better chance of a) the good stuff expanding and b) wellbeing and self-esteem increasing. Just by shifting our focus from what’s wrong to what’s right has a trickle-effect onto our weaknesses.

If I’d been noticed for my strengths at school, my self-esteem and self-confidence would have increased. If I’d been praised more than criticised, I may have even tackled Maths rather than giving up on it. I may have asked more questions in the classroom if I felt more confident, which would have bettered my understanding of what was being taught. And most likely, I would have stayed to complete my final year. (It wasn’t until I was in my mid 30s that I had the courage to return to formal study.)

Of course this doesn’t just apply to teachers. It also applies to parents and children, to partners and spouses, and to employers and employees. When others see the best in us, we see the best in others.

“The strength-based approach is fundamental to the effective implementation of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework.’, states the Education Department’s document (in bold and in red!).

Hallelujah!

STRENGTHS FACTS:

  • We are more likely to fulfil our potential when we focus on our strengths
  • It’s difficult to create a successful relationship (and organisation etc) if the focus is on its weaknesses
  • When you use your strengths it has a trickle-effect on our weaknesses
  • Using and focusing on your strengths builds confidence and self-esteem
  • Noticing and using your strengths is an antidote to depression
  • Using your strengths increases life satisfaction
  • Strengths-based education enables better thinking and learning
  • A strengths framework promotes social citizenship (Yates and Waters, 2011)
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The Strength of Teaching

Written By: Fiona - Oct• 10•12

‘Teaching is a privilege’, I heard someone say on ABC radio just now. I concurred with a nod of my head and a ‘sure is!’ out loud.  It got me thinking how much I miss teaching, after hanging up my teacher’s hat a few years back. I’d taught editing and writing at a TAFE college for ten years, and decided the time was right to quit and concentrate on the promotion of my newly released children’s novel (Crackpot), and writing the sequels.

Listening to this teacher on the radio this morning talk about the teaching privilege had me hungering to teach again, and so being a creature of insatiable curiosity, wondered why teaching has always ‘felt like home’ to me.

The last few weeks I’ve been listening to lectures on ‘self-concordant’ goals: goals that are aligned with your personal interests and values. Goals you want to achieve rather than goals you have to achieve. Goals that resonate with This is what I love to do and This is what I care deeply about. Goals that enable you to do the things you do well as you stride towards achieving them.

It’s no wonder I yearn to teach again, given what I care deeply about is acquiring and imparting knowledge, and what I love to do is teach and write. And fortunately, the two things I know I do well are teaching and writing. Slam dunk.

But what about my strengths? How do these fit into the picture? My top five strengths are, in ranked order:

  1. Appreciation of beauty and excellence
  2. Gratitude
  3. Curiosity
  4. Love of learning
  5. Kindness

The theory is that if I can bring my top strengths into my everyday activities, I will be more fulfilled, happier and healthier. Who wouldn’t want that?  (I can testify that this works, by the way, as I’ve been putting this exact theory into practice for the last four years.)

Okay, so let’s try these strengths up against teaching.

Appreciation of beauty and excellence.

What I loved about teaching is the joy I get from seeing students grow and develop as writers and editors. Some students are natural-born writers and in studying their craft are refining their skills even more; some students have a desire that exceeds their talent, and others have a latent talent that needs to be nurtured to grow. To read prose that sings, metaphors that resonate and to see the astute observations of a great editor-in-the-making is very satisfying indeed.

Gratitude

When a student confides – inadvertently or intentionally – I feel privileged to be placed in such trust. And when a class has gone well – the feeling is palpable when it has – I am filled with enormous gratitude at being a teacher.

Curiosity

I’m always curious about my students: where they’ve come from and what has brought them here, as adult learners, to learn the craft of writing and editing. The adage, ‘You don’t know someone until you know their story’ is true. I’m lucky to read and hear their stories.

Love of learning

Teachers are always on the lookout for better ways to teach, new areas of teaching, new information to impart. We are never on ‘off’, as news, media, writing (good and bad, fiction and non-fiction) is all fodder for our students. I love to learn and to teach what I’ve learnt.

Kindness

I’m a kind teacher. I ‘tell the truth with compassion’ as I’ve been taught, and I teach others to always speak the truth about another’s creative work with sensitivity and rationale and to be constructive, not destructive. I always give gifts at the end of a teaching year and I treat all my students with respect and care.

I should give myself an A+!

There were many pivotal moments in my teaching decade, but there’s just one that I want to share with you that encapsulates all of the above.

Inclusivity is an important part of teaching, and so when it came to my final class one year of teaching a fine bunch of adults my favourite subject, Writing for Children, I wanted to make my final words and gift relevant to each student –  in particular Trent, a student who was visually impaired.

Trent had a laugh that kills and the voice of an angel – a white Stevie Wonder. His enthusiasm was contagious and the fact that he couldn’t see, and never had, was neither here nor there. He got by and he got by well. (As an aside: you can imagine who shocked I was one morning to see Trent sitting behind the wheel of a car outside the classroom. But it wasn’t Trent, it was his identical twin brother, coming to pick him up. Trent thought this was hilarious.)

At the end of each teaching year I’d always give my students a small gift: a second-hand book, or an ‘editor’s pencil’, or various awards. This year, for this class, I wanted to remind each and every one of these wonderful students how important they all were, and how they could all go out into the world and shine. So I took the Marianne Williamson speech (made famous by Nelson Mandella) that begins: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate …” and printed it out on a scroll. But what about Trent? How could he ‘see’ this? Sure, he could hear someone read them out to him, but that’s not inclusive.

Then at the 11th hour I had a great idea. I’d also had the privilege of teaching another blind student, Nadine (she’s always said ‘I’m blind. I’m not VA. Get over it.’ I loved her chutzpah!) a few years before, who was a Braille-er. Pulling out all stops and turning my day upside down, the next day I picked up the Williamson speech printed in Braille, compliments of Nadine.

At the end of the class I presented the students with their scroll. I watched as Trent felt the shape of his, touching the ribbon that tied it together, his fingers exploring the texture and shape.

Nobody was allowed to open their scroll except for Trent, which he did. I then asked Trent to read out what was on the scroll. His hands felt the paper and his face lit up. And then he read.

I didn’t often cry as a teacher, but I did that morning, as the beauty of the moment revealed itself to us all.

I concur again: it sure is a privilege to teach.

I must get back to it.

(To see the entire Marianne Williamson speech, go to: http://skdesigns.com/internet/articles/quotes/williamson/our_deepest_fear/)

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FROM LITTLE THINGS, BIG THINGS GROW

Written By: Fiona - Oct• 04•12

I believe we need more kindness in the world, as so many of us go about our day barely making a blip on another’s radar.  Recipients of Random Acts of Kindness are noticed. It’s kind of like winning a mini lottery when you didn’t even buy a ticket.

Being intentionally kind to another is elevating. It takes you outside of yourself and lands you in the small bubble of another’s world.

I commit Random Acts of Kindness often. I might give a stranger a bunch of flowers or leave $3.50 at a café for the next coffee ordered, or give a heart-felt compliment, or help someone struggling with a skewed shopping trolley. Just last week, I stopped to chat to a homeless man – even though I was in a bit of a rush – and we laughed and chatted about our shared dislike of opera and marvelled at the bright, sunny day.

Why do I do this? One reason is purely selfish: it makes me feel good. Another reason is because I want the idea of kindness to catch on, and the third reason is the hope that my one small gesture has a positive impact on that person’s day. Whatever the reason, Random Acts of Kindness have the potential to be exponential.

To illustrate this, I often tell the ‘Fable of the Chessboard’, which goes a little like this:

“In India, about 1,500 years ago, a humble young man called Vishwas invented the game of chess. The King was so taken with the game he summoned Vishwas to his palace to accept a reward for such a fine invention.

Vishwas, though humble, was also very smart. He refused a reward of diamonds, rubies, sapphires, camels and even elephants – and instead requested one thing only: rice.

The King was a little insulted at such a request, but agreed to honour Vishwas’ wish: that for the first square of the chess board, The King was to give him one grain of rice, then two grains of rice for the second square, four for the third, eight for the fourth, 16 for the fifth and so on, doubling the amount each time.

The King, who was ‘mathematically challenged’, quickly accepted the inventor’s offer, thinking he’d struck a bargain with a fool, and ordered his treasurer to go away and ‘get the man his rice!’.

Vishwas and The King waited and waited and waited and waited and waited for The Treasurer’s return.  Hours turned into days, and days turned into a week. The King could wait no longer, so summoned for The Treasurer to explain his tardiness.

The Treasurer told the King in a shaky voice that it would be impossible to give the inventor his requested reward.

The Treasurer gulped.

The King frowned.

But Vishwas smiled.

Here’s why: The King owed Vishwas 18 trillion* grains of rice – enough to cover the entire surface of the world!”  (*18,446,744,073,709,551,616)

It’s the Chessboard Fable that illustrates the power of kindness. If, for every act of kindness that I do, the effect is doubled, then within a short period of time a lot of good stuff goes on. I like that idea. And you never know how one small gesture can change the course of another’s life.

So here is my challenge to you: Go ahead. Make someone’s day.

Be kind.

You never know where its influence ends…

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Forgiving and forgetting to forgive.

Written By: Fiona - Sep• 13•12

When I think of the word forgiveness, biblical scenarios come to mind of men in white caftans before a bunch of beseeching baddies begging for the all-clear so they can get up off their knees and go about their day-to-day sinning. If I strip away this archaic religiosity and start again, here’s what I come up with:

Forgiveness is about making amends; it’s about trying to understand – perhaps rationalise – something that has been said or done that is wrong. It’s about reaching out with kindness instead of holding a grudge.  Fundamentally, it’s about letting go.

And just because you may overlook, rationalise, accept something ‘as is’, or let go, doesn’t mean you condone the action, behaviour or wrongdoing. Forgiveness isn’t about tolerance.

(Just because someone apologises doesn’t mean you have to instantly forgive them. Too readily we say ‘that’s okay’, when clearly it’s not. When someone apologised to me recently over something they did that created a lot of disruption, I had to stop myself automatically responding with ‘that’s okay’ – because their behaviour wasn’t okay. What I did thank them for was the courage it took them to apologise, and that I appreciated their heart-felt apology. This, to me, was forgiving without condoning.)

Another misconception is that the act of forgiveness must include a conversation with the transgressor to let them know they have been forgiven (unless, of course, forgiveness is specifically being asked of you).

Forgiveness can be very personal. It can involve years of processing, rationalising, understanding and accepting that which cannot be changed, or it can be a single, momentary event that saves you busting your foofa valve (like forgiving that idiot who just cut you off in the traffic).

I’m lucky enough to be married to a very forgiving man. Only yesterday he forgave me for double-booking an event. I know he forgave me because he didn’t make a big deal out of it, and when I apologised he meant it when he said it was okay. (I, on the other hand, do tend to be a bit of a grudge-holder. Not a lot, but unlike Steve, it’s not one of my top strengths. But I’m working on it…)

If you want to strengthen your forgiveness muscles, practice the signature strengths of self-control, prudence and modesty. The strength of perspective is another great companion to forgiveness. And try being kinder, more loving, more compassionate.

Most importantly, give yourself – and others – permission to be human.

Even those who wear caftans.

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