“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
My father never told me… he was not a talkative man… but the way he looked at me, the way he treated me made me feel that way. I never stop admiring how my dad seemed to always intuitively know what was the best for me, without reading any fancy parenting books or having any teaching degrees. I never stopped feeling his silent love.
At the time when men were rarely actively involved in parenting, my dad was always there for me, taking me for long walks, bathing me, putting me to sleep, calming all my fears… And I was a very fearful child scared of everything imaginable: darkness, heights, being alone, fights and arguments, snakes, worms, caterpillars, mice and rats to name a few…
Dad always asked the right questions, listened without making any assumptions or twisting the meaning of what he heard. Even when he disagreed, he rarely argued – he always found another way… Like the time when I saw him chopping the wood and then picked up his axe. “Don’t touch my axe”, he said. “Why? If you can chop the wood, why can’t I?” “Because you are not much bigger than that axe and I don’t want you to chop your head off”, he patiently explained. “Don’t worry,” I laughed. “My head is probably the only part of my body that I’ll never be able to chop off.” He did not argue, but made sure no axe was ever left within my reach…
Dad never used gender stereotypes. He never told me that I am a girl and therefore should behave or do things in a certain way. He just accepted me the way I was, without trying to mould me into anything else. It felt like a breath of fresh air, a welcome break from my mum’s and grandma’s constant nagging: “You are a girl, so you should be dressed like this, you should talk like that, you should do this and don’t do that….” I could never quite comprehend where my mum and grandma got all those dos and don’ts, which somehow I always managed to get wrong…
While my dad rarely expressed himself in words, he had other ways of getting his point across. His communication toolbox included not only admiring looks, but also silent staring, rolling eyes, raised eyebrows, all sorts of winks and a million of other facial expressions. I’m sure, there were some pulled hair too every now and then…
While parenting my own children, I met a lot of truly amazing dads and learnt lots more from them than from any parenting books or my teaching degrees. I never stopped admiring their creativity, ability to make any activity fun, patience, intuition and perfectly balanced approach to setting boundaries to provide maximum opportunities for challenges and freedom while keeping all risks under control.
It never stops puzzling me however that so many dads rarely recognise their amazing parenting abilities and intuition and are often quick to retreat and silence their views on parenting. Something that Celia Lashlie also noted in her book “He’ll be OK”.
Do not doubt your parenting skills. Follow your heart, trust your intuition and have fun.
Children do change us and our lives in lots of ways. Enjoy this special period in your life, treasure all the wonderful moments you are having with your children and stop pulling out your hair over not-so-wonderful ones….
Eighty years ago, a middle-aged, mid-ranking diplomat sank into deep depression and watched his hair turn grey in days, as he saw the streets of Bordeaux filling with Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis.
As Portugal’s consul in Bordeaux, Aristides de Sousa Mendes faced a moral dilemma. Should he obey government orders or listen to his own conscience and supply Jews with the visas that would allow them to escape from advancing German forces?
Sousa Mendes’ remarkable response means he is remembered as a hero by survivors and descendants of the thousands he helped to flee.
But his initiative also spelt the end of a diplomatic career under Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, and the rest of his life was spent in penury.
Portugal finally granted official recognition to its disobedient diplomat on 9 June 2020, and parliament decided a monument in the National Pantheon should bear his name.
It was mid-June 1940 and Hitler’s forces were days from completing victory over France. Paris fell on 14 June and an armistice was signed just over a week later.
Portugal’s diplomatic corps was under strict instruction from the right-wing Salazar dictatorship that visas should be issued to refugee Jews and stateless people only with express permission from Lisbon.
For those thronging Bordeaux’s streets hoping to cross into Spain and escape Nazi persecution there was no time to wait….
In a letter dated 13 June 1940 Sousa Mendes wrote: “Here the situation is horrible, and I am in bed because of a strong nervous breakdown.”
“No-one really knows what went through his mind in those two or three days,” says Dr Paldiel, who ran the Righteous Among the Nations department at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial centre for 25 years.
“Some say the duty of a diplomat is to obey orders from above, even if those instructions are not moral…
Whatever did go through the diplomat’s mind, Sousa Mendes emerged on Monday 17 June with a new determination.
According to his son, Pedro Nuno de Sousa Mendes, “he strode out of his bedroom, flung open the door to the chancellery, and announced in a loud voice: ‘From now on I’m giving everyone visas. There will be no more nationalities, races or religions’.”
No-one knows for sure how many transit visas were issued, allowing refugees to pass from France into Spain and travel onward to Portugal. But estimates range between 10,000 and 30,000, and most sought to cross the Atlantic to a variety of American destinations.
Salazar’s Portugal would later be praised for its role in allowing refugees to escape from Nazi occupation and repression, but Sousa Mendes was expelled from the diplomatic corps and left without a pension. This condemned him to live the rest of his life in the most absolute misery. Sousa Mendes survived thanks to a soup kitchen run by Lisbon’s Jewish community. In 1954 he died in obscurity, still disgraced in the eyes of Portugal’s government. His family home in Cabanas de Viriato fell into ruin, and remains so today.
“Sousa Mendes was mistreated by Salazar. He died in misery as a pauper, and his children emigrated to try to find a future somewhere else,” says Henri Dyner (one of the people saved by Sousa Mendes).
Henri’s family ended up in Brazil, before he moved to the US for professional reasons. But he remembers a man who had courage in his convictions.
“The way things are in the world today, we need more people prepared to stand up for what is right and take a stand.”
Over the years I collected a number of real stories of compassion from different time periods, cultures and geographic locations. Among them are:
I’m always looking for more stories of compassion, so if you know any, please share them via a comment. Thanks so much.
Through broken glass and faded dreams,
I find a place where I can scream,
This pain is huge and takes me over,
I cannot smell the scent of clover,
I kneel down and count my blessings,
For sometimes life is distressing,
I make my way through each raw minute,
Feeling blessed that I’m still in it,
This life is hard but I go on,
It’s my soul journey to walk upon,
I look out from my mind’s eye,
Never questioning or asking why,
I know that whatever happens to me,
Is to teach and set me free,
A life taken for granted is not good cause,
Take a breath to think and pause,
I am strong and intelligent,
I know I live with good intent,
The shackles that I once wore,
Can’t contain me anymore,
I am free and fly my wings,
Appreciating every thing,
Being true to who I am,
Upon my bravery I do stand.
“How a revolution erupts from a commonplace event – tidal wave from a ripple – is cause for endless astonishment…
First, a piece of news about something said or done travels quickly, more so than usual, because it is uniquely apt; it fits a half-conscious mood or caps a situation… On impulse, perhaps to snap the tension, somebody shouts in church, throws a stone through a window, which provokes a fight… As further news spread, various types of people become aroused for or against the thing now upsetting everybody’s daily life. But what is that thing? Concretely; ardent youths full of hope as they catch the drift of the idea, rowdies looking for fun, and characters with a grudge. Cranks and tolerated lunatics come out of houses, criminals out of hideouts and all assert themselves.
Manners are flouted and customs broken. Foul language and direct insult become normal, inkeeping with the rest of the excitement, buildings defaced, images destroyed, shops looted… Angry debates multiply about things long since settled: talk of free love, of priests marrying and monks breaking their vows, of property and wives in common, of sweeping out all evils, all corruption, all at once – all things new for a blissful life on earth…
Voices grow shrill, parties form and adopt names or are tagged with them in derision and contempt. Again and again comes the shock of broken friendships, broken families.”
Yes, black lives do matter, as white lives, Asian lives, Muslim lives, Christian lives – all HUMAN lives. Murderers and killers of innocent people should be held accountable for their brutal actions. Unfortunately however so often protests against brutality and injustice turn into a disastrous avalanche of the identity violence – by race, nationality, religion, occupation or other identity groupings.
In his book “Identity and Violence” Amartya Sentakes argues that viewing human beings as members of just one identity group is not just morally undesirable, but descriptively wrong. Instead, Sen invokes the myriad identities within each individual. The people of the world can be classified according to many other partitions, each of which has some—often far-reaching—relevance in our lives: nationalities, locations, occupations, social status, languages, politics, and many others, including identity common to all – HUMANS. Because all of us contain multitudes, we can choose among our identities, emphasizing those we share with others rather than those we do not.
Let’s focus on our shared identity as HUMANS while fighting against injustice, brutality and violence in this world.
All HUMAN lives matter!
I published this post 5 years ago and decided to reblog it today as so many people around the world are losing their jobs and struggling financially now. Do not despair – there are always options out there. Give yourself the time and space to identify them, rethink your priorities and refocus on the positive aspects of your life. Take care and stay well.
Have you ever lost your job or do you know someone who lost their job?
I was in my teens when my dad lost his job. He was not fired, he was not made redundant. Simply the state research institute he was working in vanished one day after perestroika, leaving over 2,000 employees unemployed with no redundancy payments, no unemployment benefits, no support. Nothing, absolutely nothing at all…
There were hardly any other jobs around at that time. Factories were closing one after another. Those who managed somehow to keep their jobs were often forced to take unpaid leave for 2-3 days a week or were not paid at all for months and months and months… They kept getting monthly payslips without pay.
“We’ll be OK”, my dad said, shrugging his shoulders and putting away his business suit, “I’ll find some work”.
Dad started his career in one of the deepest…
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Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
Tonight I held you,
As I fought back the tears.
And grieved for your family,
That have loved you for years.
You became unwell,
There was nothing to do,
We watched through the window,
And increased your O2.
I called your family,
To see if anyone could attend.
Your family needed to know,
That this was the end.
But this virus is terrifying,
And people are shielding,
How can they be there,
When Covid is so unyielding.
I held your hand,
I wiped your face,
My gloved hand on skin,
As your breathing slows pace.
You’d still smile behind your mask,
And I’d try smile back.
To comfort and reassure you,
Is now my one and only task.
Your family called,
To say their goodbyes,
We stood with the phone,
And listened to their cries.
With tears rolling down our faces,
Into the masks we all wear.
We really wanted to help them,
And show them we care.
We woke you up,
So you could hear their voice.
We described your actions.
We had no other choice.
Their words filled with sorrow,
Their hearts played bare.
They wanted the time,
To show you, they care.
You looked peaceful,
And smiled at their call,
I hope it brought you comfort,
Standing there took my all.
We deal with death,
But not like this,
No family allowed,
To give you one last kiss.
But the next family will need us,
We will need to do the same.
But I hope I gave you good care.
And I will always remember your name.
By Sarah Pirie
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
Words for Life by Max Enhrmann
Rumi (1207 – 1273)
You think you can define me,
That I’m a tick in just one box,
Like my being is a door,
That a single key unlocks,
But let me tell you something,
I have the universe inside,
I hold an untamed ocean,
With a constant changing tide,
I’m home to endless mountains,
With tips that touch the sky,
Flocks of grand migrating birds,
And deserts harsh and dry,
I house the wildest rivers,
And a host of sweeping plains,
I feel in waves of sunshine,
Or in unrelenting rains,
Don’t tell me that you know me,
That “this right here is what you are”,
I am the universe in motion,
For I was born from stars.
by Erin Hanson
Credits: Image from wordpress.com