Neighbors

I don’t care if you are religious or not. I don’t care if you love God or hate Him or think He’s made up. If you are a good person, then you want to take care of the people around you.

I feel powerless over so much in the world.

People kill each other. People kill themselves. People die of disease, of starvation. People get lost. People get taken. There is so much of the world that I am powerless to touch, or to help, or to heal. The interconnectedness of the world places many of the world’s ills in my view and there is nothing that I can do about most of it. And sometimes that powerlessness paralyzes me.

Do you ever feel powerless?

Good people take care of the people around them. I want to be a good person. But in the face of such overwhelming despair, how do I accomplish that? I can’t reach half-way across the globe and change the state of the Middle-East or solve world hunger.

But what if that is not really my responsibility. In my mind, I have a concept that would work spectacularly well if implemented properly and that would expand exponentially. What if I am only responsible for helping the people that I come in contact with? What if I just focused each day on helping the people I encounter? Just them. What if I stopped agonizing over the people on the other side of the world and only focused on the cashier at Walmart, or the guy walking his dog, or the person sitting next to me at the library?

I used to think of power as a single force that was binary in nature. Either you possess it or you don’t. Now I think that power is a snowflake in a blizzard or a droplet in the ocean or ants in a colony. It is thousands of small and simple things all pushing in the same direction toward the same goal.

Imagine if everyone did that. What if everyone focused every day on lifting the people around them? Imagine the love that would pour over the earth as that tidal wave of service moved from person to person across the globe.

That is the power that I want to have. That is the power that I want to be a part of even if I am only one snowflake or one droplet because that power will change the world.

I don’t care if you are religious or not. I don’t care if you love God or hate Him or think He’s made up or you just don’t know or care. If you are a good person, then you want to take care of the people around you. So during this season when some of us will be celebrating Christ, and some Christmas, and some other Holy Days, and some just enjoying family, make an extra effort to lift your neighbor. They are not hard to find, they are all around you.

Light the Darkness,

Dana Nevels

NOTE: If you need some ideas on ways to serve, go to Light the World (Mormon.org). Full disclosure this link will take you to a religious website, but it also has really good ideas for nice things that you can do to be good to others, so if you don’t like the religious stuff on there, ignore it and just steal the good ideas. 😉

Fearless

What would my life be like if I didn’t make any of my decisions out of fear?

Little children are the best teachers in the world. They don’t know rules. I’m not saying that they don’t know what the rules are, I’m saying they don’t know that rules are even a thing. So they just do stuff. They do what they want whenever they want. And it is this näive hedonism that I want to talk about today.

There are hard and fast rules in the world. There are. I didn’t make them up, but you have to live by them or face the consequences. Rules like never put something on the floor for a pregnant woman to pick up, and only wear double denim when you want to look amazing. Just kidding. But really there are rules. Learning them is really important. I’m not going to list them all here, that’s not really my point here. There are also a ton of rules that people just made up, and life seems to be the intersect of trying to abide by the real ones and ferret out and ignore the fake ones.

This is where children are the best teachers. They push other children down out of anger or greed and we tell them no. We teach them the rules that you don’t hurt others because they make you angry and that you don’t hurt others because they have something you want. We teach them to avoid what is wrong, but they teach us about embracing what is right.

They teach us about unconditional love, about forgiveness, about trying new things without fear or embarrassment or shame. What would my life be like if I didn’t make any of my decisions out of fear? What would your life be like?

Maybe we should find out.

Light The Darkness,

Dana Nevels

The Audit

I performed an informal audit of my life this weekend.

I performed an informal audit of my life this weekend.

Some people do this just before January 1st.

I do it just before Thanksgiving as a gesture of good faith that my body will survive the avalanche of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that I will subject it to.

Here is what I discovered during my audit: If everything that I care about was assigned a value according to my “Time Spent Voluntarily” with or doing that thing, Facebook might be at the top of the list. I mean, I would make a chart, but that might be embarrassing . . . okay, you win. See my Life Audit Chart of Shame below:

capture

 

Suffice it to say, I have cut my Facebook usage down to zero for the foreseeable future.

But it made me think about what an incredibly accurate unit of measurement “Time Spent Voluntarily” is. If you value something, you spend time doing it. If you value someone, you spend time with that person. You don’t have to be forced or coerced or threatened, you engage voluntarily because you want to.

Time is also an unflinchingly honest measure. Time doesn’t lie. If you are an artist, and you consistently spend exactly 0% of your available time drawing or painting or sculpting, then your art probably is not really of value to you. If you value your family more than you value fishing, and you regularly spend twice as much time alone in a kayak with a fishing rod than you do at home, you may need to reassess which you really value more.

There are obviously things that are more or less out of our control like working hours (although there is something to be said for spending those hours doing something that you value too) and sleep hours (for me those are sacrosanct). But for the rest of our lives, how we spend our time says everything.

Sometimes we just get into our routine, and we lose track of where our available time is going. We think we are putting it into the things that we value most, but our timecard tells another story. If that is you, consider doing a life audit of your own. Watch where your available time goes for a day or a week and assess if you are putting those free hours toward the things that you value most.

Please do not believe that I am saying that you should never spend time on things you like (fishing is awesome as is art), I am actually proposing the opposite. Spend your free time doing things and being with the people you love. Be intentional about how you spend your time and you will never regret it.

Light The Darkness,

Dana Nevels

Enough

When you do your best, it is enough.

I have learned something about love from being a parent. Not from my love for my children, but from their love for me. I feel like everyone is born with a heart the size of the universe and life does its level best to shrink it down small enough to fit inside your chest. Then we spend the rest of our lives trying to make it grow back again.

But the love of a child is so earnest, so pure. You don’t have to do much to retain it or earn it. When you do your best, it is enough.

If you are a parent or a human you inevitably have times when you feel like you are not worthy because you are flawed. But you are worthy. You are enough. Just you. Just as you are. Do you have room to improve? Yes. Are there things about you that can be better? You bet. Are you a work in progress? We all are.

Being enough is not failure. Enough can take you past perfectionism. Enough can ease you through self-doubt. Enough can bring you to the point where you can start to like yourself again. Enough can carry you safely through the darkest of nights into the sunlight beyond. Please do not feel ashamed of just being enough. It is all you ever need to be.

Light The Darkness,

Dana Nevels

Don’t Say No To Me

How do you accept a negative answer when you know that your parent can give you what you want?

I have a toddler. The word “no” erupts from my lips more than 100 times per day. I hate it. My toddler hates it. So many “nos.” We are at the point where sass has entered my little one’s soul. I don’t know when it happened, but one day she became my little mirror. Where once my little sunflower would absorb everything, now everything I send out gets shot right back at me. It is terrifying when she reflects me. There is so much about myself that I need to change. So very much.

My little one, like everyone else, has a limit.

“Don’t say no to me,” is what I hear when she has reached her limit.

She is more like me than I would wish.

“Don’t say no to me.” Those words have been on my lips daily for the past six months when I speak to my Father.

How do you accept a negative answer when you know that your parent can give you what you want?

It makes her angry. It makes me angry.

Somehow I have to teach her. Somehow I have to help her understand why I say “no” when she wants to help me take something out of a hot oven, or cut vegetables, or when she doesn’t want to sit in her car seat. But she doesn’t understand. Not yet. Not really. Not today.

One day she will understand why I said “no”. One day she will know that I only had her best interests at heart. One day she will know that I only said “no” because I love her.

I hope that one day I will understand all of His “nos” too.

Light The Darkness,

Dana Nevels

 

 

 

 

Missing Communication

Without love you miss communication altogether.

Today at church we had a lesson about teaching and we were asked to draw the first thing that we thought of. The logical picture was a stick figure, a blackboard, desks, and students. I stink at drawing. My brother who is a very good artist would say that I just have not taken the time to practice. I haven’t and I stink. So I drew two hearts – one inside of the other. I drew hearts because real teaching requires love. Two hearts because it takes two people to learn: each with love enough to listen. Without love you miss communication altogether.

The Greeks called is Agapé. Christians call it Charity. It is the ultimate love of God and one’s neighbor. It is lacking and we need it now more than ever. Otherwise, we are going to keep talking at each other and we are going to keep missing each other. We are not listening. We are not communicating. We are not learning.

The love that I am referring to is hard. Really hard. It is so slippery in the face of all that we experience. This love is what it takes to forgive cruelty and hate. This love is what it takes to dispel fear. This love transcends language. This love is the most powerful force in the universe.

In our day to day interactions with the people around us, in our conversations with family and friends and strangers, we need people who listen, who share real experiences, and who assume the best of each other. We need people who have this ability to love.

I met a man during my time in the psych ward. He originated from a different background and Black English was his native tongue. It is not mine, and I had difficulty understanding him. Nevertheless, we spend hours talking about life, about defeat, and about God. All I could do was listen. He taught me about poverty and prison. He taught me about pride and humility. He taught me about redemption and about paying attention to the signals God is sending. This man knew things I could not know because he has lived a life I have not lived. I had to listen carefully to be able to understand: not to judge, or to respond, or to correct. Just to understand. And in this process, I came to love him.

It is easy to label people, put them in boxes, and ignore them. It is harder to love them. But if we allow that love into our lives it will change us for the better.

Light the Darkness,

Dana Nevels

Light the World

Today, I want to issue a call to action.

The goal of Light The Darkness is to bring light and hope to those who may be struggling. But today, I want to issue a call to action.

There is going to be a global initiative started by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to perform one act of service every day in the month of December. It is called Light the World. It actually begins December 1, but I’m starting today because I feel like there are some people who may need a little more light right now.

I challenge you to commit to doing one act of service, however small, for someone each day of the month of December. I promise that each time you serve, you will feel greater peace, hope, and joy in your life as you help the people around you.

If you do it, even just once, leave a comment about how it went (even if you comment anonymously).

Oh and the more you serve, and share, and the more people that are involved, the more people will be served.

Light the World,

Light the Darkness,

Dana Nevels