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Favorite Things

  "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive." -Howard Thurman   What makes you come alive?  Sounds like an unnecessary question for serious-minded people, intent on making the world a better place.  Or worse, distracting…after all, life’s too short to waste time on “ice-breaker”, touchy-feely exercises, right?  Let’s just focus on responsibility, duty, sacrifice, and leave psycho-babble tripe to encounter groups and high school student-exchange programs. I’ve been there, and thought that.  So, let me put it differently:  When you stand before your Creator someday, will God ask you why you weren’t more like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, or Abraham Lincoln…or why you weren’t more like the person YOU were meant to be?  (Hint:  It’s going to be about you).  “Coming alive” is a challenge that’s a good deal more important than one might understand at first;  far more than having and maintaining a pulse, and checking the boxes on your daily to-do list.  It’s fundamentally about becoming the vital, creative person you were meant to be;  it’s about coming alive.  O.K., so how does this happen?  How does one come alive? The most popular response is to change something about your life, shake things up, have a new experience:  a memorable vacation, a new hobby, a job change, a new home, a new relationship, bungee jumping.  This can help you “come alive” if the new experience can somehow impact you deeply enough to change old patterns.  But these experiences are too often like the defibrillator machine and paddles a hospital might use to save someone in cardiac arrest.  A quick blast of electricity, and then… There is another way; one that takes more reflection and time.  But it’s also more reliable because it taps into something already deep inside you.  Rodgers and Hammerstein provide a clue (now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write!). Recall in The Sound of Music, when Julie Andrews sings “My Favorite Things”?  She recites a litany of things that help her feel better:  raindrops, kittens, kettles, and mittens.  But it’s a good deal more than a simple list she’s racing through;  these things have memories and life-giving associations attached to them…as well as instructions. When I recite a list of just a few of my “favorites” (Jenni, my children, the beach at sunset, lavender, Santa Barbara, Gregorian chant, the Lakers, sycamore trees, pecan pie, Springsteen, Eliot), I come alive, I’m energized, and I’m reminded of what I already know. Memories are so much more than snapshots of people, places, and things from long ago. They help us learn from the past, process new information, and point the way forward; re-presenting what has worked, what we’ve cherished, and what we could still embrace.  We are reminded of how we’ve come alive before, and that we don’t need to search outside ourselves to really come alive again…for good.  We just need to remember.  Question for reflection:  What are your favorite things, and what do they tell you about coming alive?

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