Looking for the right way

Looking for the right way
As I jogged towards Rice University last Monday, I had already forgotten about the theme of my morning reflection time: “Looking for the Right Way.”

A middle aged woman, looking confused, stopped me on the running path.

“Do you know the right way to 6200 Main?”

I wasn’t sure, so we talked a bit and then she told me she was looking for a place called “The Way,” which was close to Hermann Hospital.
Big hmmm.

With that clue, I knew she was going in the wrong direction; I turned her around and considered leaving her to find the way.

But a still, insistent voice whispered to me, “Show her the way.”
So I ran ahead and found the way — The Way Station, a homeless ministry at Palmer Episcopal Church, 6200 Main. And then I hustled back and showed her the way to go.

Here’s to all the people who have gone before me to show me the way.
And here’s to more opportunities to go ahead of others and show them the way.

A walk around the lake

I turned to Sarah and said, “I can’t believe I never walked around this lake before.”

The beautiful, iconic Lake Waban at Wellesley College, the lake that I peered at for hours perched on my favorite purple chair in the library, the lake that I had never rowed a boat on, taken a swim in, or shockingly, walked around.

The girl I was in the early ’80s, the oh-so-serious student, didn’t realize what she was missing.  She was on a different journey — a journey where achievement and accomplishment seemed to be the most important things in life.

Thirty years later, I’m on another journey, with different priorities. A leisurely stroll around the lake with life-long friends.  Conversations over coffee with no agenda. Deeply felt laughter remembering shared histories.  A new willingness to admit mistakes and regrets, and know that I am understood.

To all the people I know who are in transition — from high school to college, from college to first job, from full time parenting to empty nest — blessings for the journey completed.

And blessings for the journey to come.

Listening to the moments

“Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?”  This is one of the new essay prompts for the 2013-2o14 Common Application.

For the past several months, I’ve spent some time each morning reviewing the events of the prior day, using the practice of the daily examen.  As I reflect upon my day, I ask, “Where did I feel most alive?” — and “Where did I feel drained of life?”

It’s interesting to see the moments that surface in that brief period of morning quiet. As I notice the places where I feel at home, as well as the places where I feel alienated from myself,  patterns begin to emerge that help me live more purposefully.

Listening to the moments helps us listen to our lives.  As Annie Dillard wrote so eloquently, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

How are you spending your days? Where are you finding life, peace and contentment in those days? Where is the life being sucked out of you? I invite you to listen. Write down what you hear. It will be time well spent. You might even jumpstart your way to a great Common App essay.

Quick – Elevator Doors Opening!

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression — the “Elevator Pitch.” You have a minute or less to tell about yourself, your business, your project, your passion, before the elevator doors open and your fellow rider gets off. What do you say?

You’re a high school senior and you have no more than 650 words to tell your story to a overworked, tired college admissions officer. You are a non-profit organization constrained by grant application guidelines.  In order to communicate effectively in a limited time and space, you need to have a clear sense of who you are, know the specific purpose of your communication, and understand who your audience is.

Crafting a mission statement is a good place to start. Mission statements can be tailored to the particular purpose of the communication and the particular audience.  For example, the mission statement for my business, Montauk Writer, is to help individuals and non-profit organizations effectively communicate their stories.  My personal mission statement is to live faithfully by serving others, always looking to God for my direction.

Who’s riding in the elevator with you and what do you want to tell them? Quick — the doors will be opening before you know it!

Know Thyself

Digging through a box of old letters, I came across the following exchange between my father and me:

February 4, 1979
Dear Dad,
Contrary to predictions, I survived my mid-stay week. … About six of us spent three hours one night discussing what was the most important thing in life — some ideas:  religion, happiness, knowing oneself, love, and facing the reality of death.  Guess which one was mine?
Love, Suzette

February 12, 1979
Dear Suzette,
 … To  your letter. Glad your country week is over — it could have been worse — you made it through and seemed to enjoy being with the other kids. What did you think was the most important thing in life? I’d be interested in knowing.
Love, Dad

March 2, 1979
Dear Dad,
… You didn’t guess what I thought was the most important thing in life? Well, obviously, “know thyself” … 
All my love, Suzette

Knowing yourself. Knowing who you are — your strengths, your gifts, your purpose — and effectively telling your story to the world.  I’ve discovered that helping students and non-profits communicate their stories is central to who I am.

Know thyself.  It starts right there.