medicines without prescriptions

Wise Words on Flexibility in Education and Youth Work

November 5th, 2014

“You have to be aware of where your group is and be ready and willing to throw the plans and curriculum out the window when there are issues to be dealt with today. Forging ahead with your plans without acknowledging their issues simply shows that you are unaware, or worse, don’t really care. Adapting plans and being present builds trust and commitment for tomorrow when it is time to get back to work. Being present and being flexible are crucial.”

– Anderson Williams, entrepreneur, artist, and educational consultant

Peter Benson on Valuing Young People

October 29th, 2014

“Every kid deserves to be seen, heard, valued, included and loved by many adults in her/his neighborhoods, families, schools, programs and communities”

–Peter Benson, youth development expert

Summer Days 12

October 20th, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

Summer, our tail wagging, body wiggling, four-pawed bundle of pure joy, showed up in our lives, in our opinion, to share with us how to live from a deeper place of gratitude and to enjoy life’s moments happily.

Summer, a beautiful black and white border collie/lab, has been THE Gratitude Coach for 12 ½ years of our lives who was sent to teach us personally. When you are daily confronted with unconditional love, acceptance and enthusiastic eagerness just because you exist, you tend to pay attention to what that person – or dog – has to communicate.

To date, Summer’s time with us has passed on these lessons:

  1. Show love first thing each morning.
  2. Be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love.
  3. Delight in the now.
  4. Always show appreciation to others.
  5. Work and contribute.
  6. Presume friendship.
  7. Just be.IMG_3955
  8. Sleep and eat regularly.
  9. Offer presence.
  10. Be patient.
  11. Play. Always play.

And it was only in a traumatic, life-changing event that Pete and I were able to articulate a final parting lesson from Summer . . .

Lesson #12: Enjoy everything, no matter what.

It was on a Tuesday, after a long weekend of Summer being sick (unusual for her because she always bounced back after a max of two days), that we went into the vet and were shocked with the news that no dog owners want to hear: our sweet dog was terminally ill and the kindest thing we could do was let her go. I won’t belabor the particulars, only enough to make her lesson point. Summer gave no indication that she was doing poorly over the weeks or months leading to her passing. She followed all the rules of the lessons she had taught us, although some days might have been slightly slower and she did sleep a little bit more (both of which we chalked up to the nearing of her thirteenth birthday). Regardless, she religiously continued to show enthusiasm for each moment and to live each moment to the fullest that she was capable of doing.

It was on her last day – armed with the new knowledge that she had probably been sick for awhile – that we were struck at how she exemplified enjoy everything, no matter what. Never did she show pain in the time leading up to this Tuesday. And on this Tuesday, while lethargic in the morning and obviously not feeling well, she enthusiastically got into the car for every trip we made that day (four total including two to the vet – a lot of jumping in and out!).

Knowing it was her last day, we made sure we had one more play day together so that she could enjoy her favorite dogs, places and things to do. At the park, she explored and made her own path off the beaten trail. At our friends’ house, she exchanged sniffs and licks with her doggie friends and received head rubs from her human friends. Tired afterwards, she pulled away to herself to rest but allowed me to read to her and be near her while we waited for the time to go back to the vet. And going back to the vet? She eagerly looked out the windows and showed every sign of enjoying the ride and being with us. Even at the vet’s, she showed interest in other dogs and humans who were around.

And then she called it a day. But it was a great day. Despite feeling awful. Despite having given up eating a couple of days before. Despite the cancer eating away inside her which was causing her to waste away. Despite it all, Summer lived her life out to the fullest, and it was in this last day that we shook our heads with amazement at how long she had been showing us how to enjoy everything, no matter what.

No matter what physical pain may grab you; no matter what disease may try to ravish your body; no matter what age you may be; no matter what job you may have or not have; no matter what obstacles life may hand you . . . you can still enjoy the life you have. You can be in each moment and savor it or devour it or inhale it. You can choose. It’s your choice. It’s within you to do it.

And that may be the best example of grateful living in action that I’ve ever seen lived out. The challenge now is to follow that example. Evidently Summer thought we were ready. Are you?

Today, live in answer to her challenge. Follow her example.

Summer, July 9, 2002 – June 17, 2014

If you need a dog in your life or want to support abandoned dogs and cats, consider one of the agencies that help support strays and abandoned animals. We got Summer from Freedom Farms who set up at Pet Smart in Rivergate on Saturdays. Good people who are doing heroic work in caring for animals.

 

13 Ways to Enhance Your Brain

October 15th, 2014

Scientists have been doing such much work with the brain.  In our latest book,  Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth, we combined the best of the best in research with our experience in classrooms, teams and youth organizations to create 13 ways to enhance the brain.

1. Get Moving

2. Include Novelty and Exploration

3. Challenge the Brain

4. Talk to One Another

5. Smile, Laugh, and Develop a Sense of Humor

6.  Incorporate Music

7.  Take Time for Meditation

8.  Make Time for Feedback and Reflection

9.  Reduce Stress

10. Drink Water and Lots of it!

11. Practice Focusing and Keeping Attention

12. Feed Short- and Long-Term Memory

13. Yawn and Yawn Often

In the book, we explain more about the science behind each brain enhancer and give you concrete strategies to integrate into your program/classroom/club to enhance youth brains.  Check it out!

Summer Days 11

October 13th, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

I read the other day in an article on play that dogs play their whole lives and never forget play in their routine. It’s simply part of who they are and what they do. My personal experience proves this to be true especially with my Summer Girl, my border collie/lab, who came into my husband’s and my life as one of our two canine kids.

In Summer Days 3, as we talked about delighting in the now, we mentioned that Summer often created her own form of “play”:  stalking the edge of the forest to look for stray crickets to chase as we walked, or hunting for bunnies and nosing frogs in water holes. In addition to these acts, Summer has been known to play with her food (bringing it from the bowl into the living room, dropping food on the carpet to get one kernel at a time). She has been known to dive into her bed and attack it; play with chew toys or rawhides (of course!); or play with Lacey and us. We have chased each other in circles around the house. But our favorite game involved guard duty.  We could literally look outside, WHISPER the signal “Lacey, Summer – squirrel” or sometimes simply “squirrel” and the two dogs would tear off to go outside and chase the offending squirrel or squirrels out of the backyard (usually across the top of the fence around the yard to a particular tree).

Did you notice I said, whisper?  How in-tuned to the idea of play is that? A mere whisper could bring it out of her!

Obvious to anyone who owns or owned a dog is his or her inborn ability to play and thus we have:

Lesson #11: Play. Always Play.  IMG_3973

We had to name it, even if it’s an obvious lesson because it’s still a valuable lesson. There are high connections between play and gratitude. When we play, we are less stressed, more present, more alive and more in the moment. Those playful moments bring about gratitude as a natural response. And yet we often neglect to play as we get older in order to work. (And if you want ideas on how to play, check out our books, Great Group Games, Great Group Games for Kids and Great Group Games on the Go.)

IMG_2245How do you like to play? How do you define it? What does it look like for you? Reading a book? Watching a movie? Playing board games or cards? Being silly with a friend? Taking a moment to run backwards in your workout? Having the windows down and the wind whipping your face? Today as you go about your normal routine, don’t forget to take a moment to play – whatever that looks like for you. You know what play is. It makes you smile, lightens your heart and makes you feel free and young. Put it on your list of “must do” today: go play.

You can read all the gratitude lessons we’ve learned from our four-legged Gratitude Guru and learn for yourself how to: show love first thing each morning; be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love; delight in the now; always show appreciation to others; work and contribute; presume friendship; just be; sleep and eat regularly; offer presence; be patient; and play.

3 Strategies for Expanding Power

October 8th, 2014
excerpted from Groups Troops, Clubs and Classrooms by Ragsdale and Saylor

To expand power effectively, you need to develop leadership in youth, and this requires some strategy. Having a concrete plan may help you “let go” of your old idea of power more easily as you begin to share and expand power with youth.

Start small. Begin to notice the everyday moments when youth defer power to you when they could easily hold onto it themselves and change the power flow. For example, if a young person comes to you and asks for a definition of a word, hold back and refrain from giving him the answer. Ask him where he could find the answer for himself. In this simple moment, you have asked him to think, recognize he has the power to find the answer, and realize his own sufficiency. He can claim, in a small way, his own power. And, for you, it begins to generate a discipline of sharing power, giving back to your youth what they can do for themselves.

            Think through the little tasks and what youth can already do. What do they already have the skills, know-how, and resources to pull off? What goes into making your classroom or program work? Do you have snacks? Play music? Icebreakers? If your youth can research a subject online, order snacks, kick off meetings, or lead icebreakers, then why are you doing it? Surely, children can help choose music or lay out snacks. Surely, teens can lead icebreakers. As they assume these responsibilities, you can do something else. As youth get more experience, they gain a stronger sense of ownership and skills, and you will be able to do more as a group. When you successfully share power, you can do more with your time (personally and as a group) and you expand the power. You create a space of shared interests and tip the cultural idea of claiming and deferring power to one that says, “You’re more powerful now and so am I.”

Identify where young people need training and then train them. As an adult, you are accountable for the processes in your programs and for what you teach. If an opportunity comes up for a young person to speak before a business group, you can’t just say “go for it” and expect great results. Instead, you help that young person prepare for public speaking. Likewise, you can help a child find an icebreaker or prepare to lead a discussion. You will also need to guide the young person in accepting the accountability side of sharing and expanding power. Part of sharing power is preparing young people to be ready to take on their newfound power. Some tasks or jobs simply require training, and it’s up to you to provide it.

Training can be time consuming, and how a young person completes a task will not look like how you do it. That’s okay. But over time, your efforts will be multiplied because of your team leadership approach. You will get more done, and you will have a bigger impact on the youth than if you maintained the cultural norm to claim and keep all power for yourself.

Want more strategies for giving youth power and helping youth lead?  Check out more from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

 

Core Beliefs about the Rights of Young People

October 1st, 2014
  • Every young person, despite deficits or challenges, has strengths, resources, and gifts, even if obscured. They have the right to discover those strengths and who they are.
  • Youth are capable and competent. They have the responsibility and the right to give of themselves to others and to make a difference.
  • Youth need the transformational power of hope. When youth believe there is hope for a better future, they are able to envision, face, and strive for that future. They have the right to dream big, aspire to greatness, and have meaningful opportunities.
  • Youth need safe places to grow and explore. They have the right to be safe.
  • Every youth needs caring adults to surround them with support and opportunities to encourage their growth. They have the right to have adults who believe in them and tell them so. Repeatedly.

Adults who are able to say yes to these core beliefs exercise a final, unswerving commitment.  They never abandon a faith in the inner power, giftedness, and greatness of young people. They look for even the minutest indicator of greatness as confirmation. They listen to the dreams of youth, encourage them, expect greatness, believe in them, vocalize that belief, and continuously call forth the strengths youth have within themselves. They actively work to help youth realize their potential, recognize it, and live fully from it.

Wanna learn more about supporting young people?  Check out our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

 

Positive Youth Development Poem: Believe in Me

September 24th, 2014

Believe in Me

Believe in me.

Believe that I have promise for a positive future.

Believe in my strengths and help me grow stronger.

Believe that I can learn from my mistakes and overcome past failures.

Believe that I can make smart choices.

Believe that I can grow and change.

Believe that I can have strong character.

Believe that I can be responsible.

Believe that I can respect myself and others.

Believe that I can resolve conflicts peacefully.

Believe that I can stay away from negative situations.

Believe that I can learn skills for my future.

Believe that I can set and achieve goals.

Believe that I can do well at school.

Believe that I can influence others for good.

Believe that I have gifts to offer.

Believe that I can contribute to the community.

Believe that I can live a life of purpose.

Believe in me.

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Summer Days 8

September 22nd, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

Lesson #8:  Sleep and eat regularly. This no-brainer lesson is one that many people often IMG_5797_2struggle with, but my border collie teacher on living well, Summer, has shown on a regular basis that along with play and work, one absolutely must get regular sleep and food. Food, for her, is simply nourishment.

Not all dogs are this way. Our other dog, our rat terrier, Lacey, is highly motivated by food and would rather have food than affection. She’s a little piggy. And, naturally, she’s also more of a couch potato who likes the idea of a walk better than the actual walk itself.

Summer, on the other hand, views food as the sustenance to fuel what’s really important – to do the things she wants to do each day. Food and sleep are staples for maintaining health, a positive outlook on life and having the energy need to do important or fun things like chasing squirrels, sprinting to beat her human in a two-legged versus four-legged race down the street, or jetting outside in a quick burst of energy to guard and check on a strange noise.

She really has exemplified balance and has set an example for minimizing an emotional attachment to food – a problem for many humans. She eats – enough, scattered throughout the day (and she has been known to eat from her doggie friends’ bowls when at their house), but her relationship with food isn’t her primary reason for existence. It doesn’t play substitute for something else. She doesn’t live to eat; she eats to live.

From her, I’ve learned the importance of balance and of caring for one’s body in order to do what counts. And as I’ve watched her in the evenings when she gets her rawhide treat, I’ve noticed that she savors it. She sits with it, waits, works on it, puts it down, rests, worries it again and so forth until done. She appreciates both regular meals and special treats.

What’s your relationship with food and rest? Do you get enough? Do you fuel up? Or is there an imbalance and you end up overdoing on either just to stay awake and keep going? And then, end up eating or drinking the wrong things (caffeine, too much sugar . . .) to get the extra jolt? What if you looked at food like you do the gas you put in your car – when you choose a particular octane to get premium performance? What if you ate that way and then slowly savored the one treat each day with gratitude and appreciation?

Today, observe what you eat. Notice how you feel when you eat, after you eat. Give thanks for the foods that nourish and aid you in being your healthiest so you can do the things you do each day. Honor your body and treat it well. You need it so be gentle with yourself.

Practice all the lessons of Summer Days: show love first thing each morning; be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love; delight in the now; always show appreciation to others; work and contribute; presume friendship; and, just be.

Three Dynamite Ways to Power Up Your Work with Youth – Webinar Invitation

September 16th, 2014
 
 
Join us for a Webinar on September 24
 
 
Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat now at: https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/758236447
 
Are you curious about what it means to truly share power with young people? Then join us for a free webinar presented by youth development experts Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor. This webinar will feature highlights from these bestselling authors’ new book, “Groups, Troops, Clubs, & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.” This webinar will discuss
• understanding what a strength-based approach means  • activating young people’s sense of power and putting their strengths into action • sustaining your own sense of power through self-care
Webinar participants will discover motivational activities that young people love and practices that can transform a program or classroom.
Title: Three Dynamite Ways to Power Up Your Work with Youth
Date: Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Time: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM CDT
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.
System Requirements         PC-based attendees         Required: Windows® 8, 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
 
Mac®-based attendees         Required: Mac OS® X 10.6 or newer
 
Mobile attendees         Required: iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ phone or Android tablet

Summer Days 7

September 15th, 2014

Summer has been the one teacher in my life journey who has taught me the most about valuing life’s moments, expressing gratitude and being happy. Of everyone I’ve encountered in my life, from strangers to those who know and love me, my 12 ½ year old black and white border collie/lab, girl’s best friend and canine constant companion, Summer, is the one who has taught me my most valuable learning in life.

Of all the lessons she has tried to convey in her special doggie way – show love first thing each morning; be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love; delight in the now; always show appreciation to others; work and contribute; and, presume friendshipit is lesson #7 that could just possibly be the most meaningful teaching of all; the one that may very well change my life.

For my life, “being” is not something I’m very good at. Staying busy? Yes. Doing? Achieving? You betcha. Doing for others? Absolutely. But “being”? Not so much. And “being Susan”? Whoa! Now you’re talking crazy. I can only do that with a few people!

The one constant that Summer has exhibited in attitude and actions over the years is that Susan is good enough just as she is. Summer has never expected me to keep her entertained for hours; she hasn’t looked for me to put into action a five-year business plan. I haven’t had to set, meet or exceed a goal; she’s never asked that I put on a smile or pretend interest for the sake of furthering a cause or making nice. I haven’t ever had to put on masks or be anything I’m not. I’ve always just been me.

For Summer, “me” is enough.  She is happy to simply be in the same room with me. She is content to be near me whether we’re interacting or not. With her simple presence, she has communicated:

Lesson #7: Just be yourself. 

IMG_6033As I’ve pondered this lesson over the past month, I’ve realized what a great truth Summer has tried to convey and demonstrate. I’ve repeated the words “Just be Susan” often in my head when faced with moments where I might want to act differently in order to please someone else or put their desires above mine. “Just be Susan”, I’ve come to realize, holds a key to tell me how to live freely. It begs me to be confident that who I am is a gift – as is. Summer has challenged me to trust “me,” to trust myself that I am good. I am enough.

And this unbelievably wise, four-legged, tail-wagging guru – who has the brain of a four-year-old, I might add – has passed on this most valuable, personal lesson by simply embracing and enjoying my presence without me having to do anything to earn her affections and friendship except being myself.

Today, be grateful for the gift you are. Journal about the things that make you uniquely you and that you appreciate and enjoy about yourself. Be proud of who you are. When challenging situations arise and you start to get anxious over how to respond, remind yourself to “Just be you” and then trust that you are enough. Then act from who you are and see what happens. You are good. You are enough.

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

Free Service-Learning Curriculum

September 12th, 2014
This week America’s ToothFairy released its 2014-2015 Project Plan and Fundraising Guide for Students.  This year we are tackling Health Disparities, Health Professional Shortage Areas, Community Water Fluoridation, and Collaborative Approaches to Oral Health Outreach.
Please visit; http://issuu.com/amertoothfairy/docs/projectplans_packet_v2 to review the Project Plans.  If you would like a pdf copy, email youth@ncohf.org.
Visit: http://issuu.com/amertoothfairy/docs/msm_fundraisingpacket_v2_lr_ab1e7c0d58f0d5 for the Fundraising Guide.  As with the Project Plans, email youth@ncohf.org for a pdf copy.
Everything bolded in the Project Plan book is available on a password protected portal available to program registrants.
Our resources are free of charge, and all organizations/schools receive a free Community Education Kit in the mail and the opportunity to apply for scholarships, prizes, and product donations.
We also offer a Girl Scout and Boy Scout patch for $1.50 per patch (inc. S&H).  More information can be found at: http://www.ncohf.org/our-programs/youth-mentoring-program/scouts
Thank you, and have a great school year!
Katharine Shuster Correll
National Director, Youth Programs
National Children’s Oral Health Foundation: America’s ToothFairy®
4108 Park Road, Suite 300
Charlotte, NC 28209

Sneak Peek into our New Book: Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: An Essential Handbook for Working with Youth”

September 8th, 2014

We are so excited about our new book which should come in the mail any day!!  It’s called “Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: An Essential Handbook for Working with Youth“.

This inspiring guide is for teachers, volunteers, group leaders, youth counselors, coaches, and anyone who works with young people. Readers will learn about how young people are wired, how to create inviting classrooms and meeting spaces, and how to connect with students in meaningful, lasting ways. Find dozens of strategies to help young people discover their inner strengths and passions. Dozens of games, activities, icebreakers, and quizzes will keep you and your young people engaged and motivated.

We thought you might like a sneak peek into the content, so here are the section titles and chapter titles.  More to come…

Part One: Youth, Strength, and Power

Chapter One: A Strength-Based Approach to Positive Youth Development

Chapter Two: Putting Positive Youth Development to Work

Chapter Three: Understanding How Young People Are Wired

Chapter Four: How Young People Think and See the World

 

Part Two: Activating Power

Chapter Five: Preparation: The Work before the Work

Chapter Six: Connect with Them

Chapter Seven: Know Them

Chapter Eight: Engage Them

Chapter Nine: Stretch Them

Chapter Ten: Challenge Them

Chapter Eleven: Power Up

 

Part Three:  Sustaining Power

Chapter Twelve: The Practice of Self-Mastery

Chapter Thirteen: The Practice of Gratitude

Chapter Fourteen: The Practice of Recharging

Summer Days 6

September 8th, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

My ever-loving canine teacher on how to live well in this world, Summer, didn’t believe in strangers and thus her on doggy version of friendship expressed in her very doggy way was this lesson:

Lesson #6: Lean into strangers or nose them.

IMG_6342

You’ve probably seen it or experienced it. Think: Have you ever taken a dog for a walk or met a dog on a walk? Your dog or the one you met often pull said human to the new person to meet them. Assuming the dog is friendly, there is this built-in wiring to know another. Unfortunately, this knowing can be presumptuous at times (embarrassing the owner) as medium to large dogs head straight for the crotch of the new friend. (Note: if you want to avoid said embarrassment, get a small dog.)

Summer sometimes headed straight for the crotch but more frequently, she went over and leaned into the “potential new friend” with the whole side of her body. What else can you do if a dog leans into you but pet her? Summer’s theory was that by giving body hugs, said “stranger” was no longer a stranger but a new friend, one worthy of sharing affection with.

Summer presumed friendship and made it so. What would our days look like if we presumed welcome, friendship or acceptance? How different would our days look if we presumed that the universe was FOR us and not against us? Or if we presumed that others wanted to connect with us as much as we want to connect with them?

Today, presume friendship, presume welcome and make it so. I don’t suggest you express it in a doggy version, but that you do so in a very human way. Offer a smile, thanks, an expression of appreciation or a sincere compliment. Give a hug, pat a shoulder, look someone in the eye and listen. Presume goodness, send it out and watch it come back to you.

Practice all the lessons of Summer Days: show love first thing each morning; be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love; delight in the now; always show appreciation to others; and, work and contribute.

Summer Days 5

September 2nd, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

One of the unexpected lessons that my canine coach in gratitude taught me had to do with work. Summer is part border collie and as such she likes to work. Since we live in the city and not on a farm where she could herd cattle, early on she created for herself jobs to do.

It’s been a struggle to exactly name this particular lesson in happiness so I’ll give it two and you can pick the one you like:

Lesson #5: Get a job! Work is good.  Or Always contribute to the pack.

As Summer’s student, I’m still working on which of those two lesson titles is the real lesson she’s been trying to convey. Or maybe it’s both.

Regardless, early on in Summer’s 12 ½ years, she decided she had to have a job anIMG_0467d contribute to the pack. Her first job was on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5:30-8:30 p.m. every week. She created and chose the job for herself. On those evenings my husband left the house at (can you guess?) 5:30 to go teach a martial arts class. Summer would go to our workout room and sit where she could face the door that went outside and the door that opened out to the backyard. She guarded. And when he returned at 8:30 p.m., she’d leave the room and return to the family.

Her job changed when Pete let that class go. She then rolled with the change by going out into the backyard every night, announcing vocally to the neighborhood that she was on shift and she continued said announcement until her shift was over. (Thankfully her shift of barking only lasted an hour every evening, but she did change from 2 nights a week to 7 nights a week . . .)

She wasn’t asked to do either of these jobs. She just did it. She contributed to the well-being of the family and was happy to have work to do.

When you combine this lesson with the other ones she’s taught:  show love first thing each morning; be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love, delight in the now and always show appreciation to others, you begin to see a pattern of appreciating the gifts each day brings – whether that’s loved ones and others around you, the current moment, doing what you love or even the ability to contribute to make this world better for others. You take it ALL in and embrace it all. It’s all good.

Sometimes a job may seem like it’s just a job. Can you, today, find reasons to be thankful for the job you have? Can you see its value for helping others? Can you see how what you do makes a difference to someone? Identify ways what you do counts and give thanks.