Category: Uncategorised (page 1 of 6)

Morning Pages – My Take

 Following on from last week’s thoughts on meditation, this week’s blog features another way of clearing static from the mind, morning pages.

Julia Cameron, in her seminal book for writers, The Artist’s Way, insists that morning pages –three long-hand pages of stream-of-consciousness writing — are essential to the creative process.  Her theory is that we purge ourselves of mind static by writing it all down on the morning pages and are then free to get on with our work of creativity.

Anne Lamott, in her book Bird by Bird, instructs her students to start with childhood memories in their quest to “tell the truth” in stories.

I try to combine these two pieces of advice in my writing exercises.  Yes, I do writing exercises.  Just like a pianist practices scales, every artist/performer must keep her tools in good working order.  In other words, practice.  Many of my writer friends consider morning pages a waste of time.  The thirty minutes spent spewing drivel — their words, not mine — could be better spent on the current work.  That may be true for some, but I find doing some exercises before getting into the real work of the day, makes that real work more enjoyable, more poetic and more “true.”  However, I do choose which exercise to practice.

If my vocabulary seems to have shrunk to the same ten verbs repeated over and over, I do a “beautiful words” exercise.  Some words resonate with me, perhaps not with you, but the morning pages are for the writer not the reader.  So, I’ll fill a page with words like lilacs, lady, lavender, lollygag, lamp, luggage, lily, lollapalooza . . .  It doesn’t really matter what the words are, I’m just opening my mind to the beauty of language and calling some of those buried syllables to the forefront.  When I’ve finished, I go to my WIP and the words, that have been laboured and blocked,  now flow joyfully.

Often I’ll use my morning pages to create emotion.  Here’s where the instruction to start with childhood memories is invaluable.  As adults we’ve learned to be civilized, to bite down on harsh words, to take a balanced approach.  As adults, we’ve learned to flat-line our emotions.  As children, we had no such constraints.  If we were happy, we were ecstatic, if we were angry, we were in a red-hot fury, if we were hurt our very souls wept with the pain.  If the scene in my story demands that my heroine be angry, I’ll do a writing exercise recalling a moment in childhood or the teenage years when I shook my fist in the face of my tormentor and shouted out my righteous rage.

To make these exercises effective for the story teller, they must go into detail.  Remember the room you were in when the event took place.  Describe it in every tiny detail.  Try to recall if there was music or bird song or the hum of a furnace.  What did it smell like?  What were you wearing?  In the morning pages, you want to go deep into your memory.  As well as putting you in the appropriate emotional state, the writing will put you into deep point-of-view as well.  The scene you write after this writing practice will be more “true” than any you made up out of your conscious mind.  Don’t worry about running out of material.  Flannery O’Connor   said that anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life.

Morning pages can take the form of character interviews or a diary entry.  Here is where I explore my character, sound out her childhood memories, let her dream without constraint of money or time or circumstance.  When I put that character into the story, most of what I wrote in the morning pages will never make the published page, but the essence of what I wrote, forms the character and the more “true” that character is, the better the story.

Make up your own writing exercises.  Practice them.  See if it doesn’t make your writing – or painting, or sewing, or teaching or gardening – more satisfying.

If you haven’t read “he Artist’s Way, or Bird by Bird I highly recommend them.

Blurb

 

My apologies to anyone who received repeated posts on E. Pauline Johnson. This website has been the victim of some malicious hacker.  The nasties were too deep to clean, so we had to rebuild the whole site.  My techie assures me it now safe.  Why are there so many evil-doers in the world and what benefit do they gain from turning innocent people’s lives upside down, not to mention the cost!  Okay, enough rant.  On to writing business.

 

Recently I attended a workshop on writing the back cover blurb to your story. The instructor was the fabulous Shelley Adina Sneft Bates – she writes under all those names –and the worksheet looked straightforward.

To begin she told us to write a “shout line.” That’s the line that goes at the top of your back blurb, maybe on your website or advertising copy.  It’s a single sentence that intrigues the reader and suggests something about the story.

I’m no good at summarizing a whole book into one line, but my attempt, “You’ll need a rifle,” said the preacher, Received applause and a big thumbs up.  I felt pretty good.

The first paragraph of the blurb on a romance novel is supposed to talk about the heroine, the second paragraph introduces the hero and the third paragraph provides the setting and the conflict and a hook. All in about 200 words.

At this point I moved from star pupil to bottom of the class. My effort had the group asking all kinds of questions that had nothing to do with my story, so my blurb must have been misleading.  Also, my story contains a love triangle, so I didn’t want to introduce only one hero on the back blurb, that would be a spoiler.  I want to reader to wonder “whom will she chose?”  I felt pretty dumb.

Was the problem my ability to write a back blurb, or was it the story itself? I have plenty of angst over my writing without any help from “my friends.”

The drive home over a mountain road in a torrential rainstorm cleared my head! While trying not to hydroplane or cross the invisible lane markings or have a panic attack, I mentally worked on my back blurb.  By the time I got home, I was much happier with it.  Not only that, I’m happier with my story.

So, two lessons learned. One is an old lesson I seem to need repeated at frequent intervals.  Namely, I cannot wedge my story into someone else’s pattern.  Those charts and headings and “musts” paralyze my brain, and I feel imprisoned by the boxes.  I know this, I just forget when confronted by a shiny new template.

Second lesson learned, the exercise of writing a back cover blurb even before the book is finished serves as a tool to clarify the plot and the story question. With those two points clearly in mind the writing and editing process is faster and more effective.

Oh, third lesson: read the weather forecast before committing to driving that road!

 

E. Pauline Johnson

Something new is happening with Canadian bank notes. For the whole of our history the notes have featured the image of the reigning monarch and former prime ministers. Now, the ten dollar bill will feature a famous Canadian woman, other than Queen Elizabeth II.

As part of the process for choosing whose picture would grace the bank note, Canadians were asked to submit suggestions. These were narrowed down to a list of fifteen: artists Emily Carr and Pitseolak Ashoona; authors L.M. Montgomery, E. Pauline Johnson and Gabrielle Roy; pioneering feminists Nellie McClung, Idola Saint-Jean and Therese Casgrain; humanitarian Lotta Hitschmanova; aircraft designer Elsie MacGill; Olympian Bobbie Rosenfeld; and businesswoman Viola Desmond.

My book club decided we’d each choose one of the candidates and read up about her and present our report at our March meeting. I chose E. Pauline Johnson.

Now, I knew she was part First Nations and I knew she was a poet, but that barely touched the surface of this amazing woman.

Born in 1861 on a reserve near Brantford, Ontario,  she took the name of Tekahionwake, and billed herself as a Mohawk Princess.  She was only about one quarter Mohawk, she was not a princess and the Indian name she assigned to herself was made up. Still, she identified strongly with her Mohawk heritage and drew on their legends and history for her own writings.

Her mother, Emily, was a Quaker, without a drop of Native blood in her veins, and some very odd views on marriage.  Emily’s own mother-in-law had objected to the marriage on the grounds that Emily was not Indian.  Her minister refused to perform the ceremony because the groom was not White.  Against this heritage, Emily enforced a social isolation on her children preventing them from being fully native or fully white. They were not to participate in kissing games, popular in Upper Canada at the time, nor to let anyone, male or female touch them, even on the hand. The result was that white neighbours considered them stuck-up and the children on the reserve called them “proudy.”

Against such a background, Pauline wrote poetry and developed a taste for dramatic acting.   She sent her poems to various magazines and a few were published. She made very little money from her writing but she gained some important friends in the literary world. Socially, she was more lonely than ever.  Pauline was popular, witty, charming and full of life. Society matrons welcomed her into their homes as an entertainer but they stood firmly against welcoming her as a prospective daughter-in-law.

In 1892 Pauline recited at a concert put on by the young Men’s Liberal Club of Toronto.   She was an “instant” success. Her stage career was launched. From there she went on to perform all across Canada, mostly one-night stands in little whistle-stop towns, but also in the cities of Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Halifax. Her goal in the beginning had been to raise enough money to travel to London, England in search of a publisher for her book of poetry. Two years later she had saved enough and struck out for England armed with letters of introduction to the Canadian High Commissioner, the Marquis of Lorne and the Marquis of Dufferin, who, with his wife, became her patron. She was soon entertaining audiences in the drawing rooms of Hanover Square, and reciting for the King and Queen.

But her main purpose in visiting London was to find a publisher for her book of poetry. Within a few months she had the necessary introductions and met John Lane, the publisher of Oscar Wilde, John Davidson, Kenneth Grahame, and others. Into this august company, came E. Pauline Johnson with her little book of poetry, The White Wampum. Quite an accomplishment for a “colonial” let alone a woman of mixed blood, and scanty education.

Although her objective of finding a publisher had been accomplished, Pauline soon learned that she needed to continue with her stage career in order to promote the sales of her poetry. For the next sixteen years she undertook a gruelling schedule criss-crossing Canada, with some forays into the United States and another trip to England. She acted as interpreter for a delegation of chiefs from the Vancouver area who sought an audience with King Edward VII to outline their grievances against white settlement that encroached on their reserves.

Wherever she went Pauline inspired admiration and loyalty, but romance eluded her. She was betrothed to Charles Drayton but his socially conscious family objected to the match and he eventually cried off. She fell in love with a swindler, Charles Wurz, who stole her money and then abandoned her. It is a testament to her personality that when she was dying, penniless in Vancouver and too ill to work, her friends took it upon themselves to publish a collection of her poems, and thus provide her with an income. Society matrons, her first manager, stage partners, prominent businessmen, high-ranking politicians, all rallied to help Pauline Johnson.  Flint and Feather was published in 1912 and her champions went on a marketing campaign that secured sufficient funds to care for Pauline until she died. When she passed away of breast cancer at the age of 52 in 1913, mourners lined the street as her cortege made the three-block journey to Christ Church Cathedral. Every flag in the city flew at half-mast. In accordance with her wishes, her ashes are buried in Stanley Park. She did not wish for a memorial but in 1922 the Women’s Canadian Club raised the money and erected a stone to mark her grave.

Pauline Johnson was not the woman chosen to be on Canada’s newest $10.00 bill, but she was a remarkable woman who made her own way and lived her own dreams in an age when “ladies” were expected to bow to male authority and confine themselves to the home. She proclaimed her Indian blood proudly at a time when First Nations people were excluded from many parts of Canadian life. Her most famous poem, The Song My Paddle Sings, was memorized by generations of Canadian school children, including me.

I’m so glad my book club pushed me to read the biography of this remarkable author.

Yay VIRA

Another snow day! Frankly, I’ve had enough.  The first one or two are fun, an unexpected holiday, hunker down by the fire, write, write, write.  But being housebound is getting old!  In this part of the world, we should be out in the garden.  In fact, I pruned fruit trees on the weekend, but Monday saw more snow.

I’m feeling a little cranky just now, but I am grateful that snow was no where in the forecast when VIRA held its annual Valentine’s lunch. February, Valentine’s, romance – seems a perfect combination.

For years this event was mandated by our association with Romance Writers of America® and included lots of awards for writing and volunteering. We had a keynote speaker, usually someone with a first sale – that was in the days when traditional publishing was the only way to go.

Life, and particularly writing life have changed since those early days in my career. Our group is no longer associated with RWA® but we still want to celebrate our craft and each other so, Valentine’s continues to be a highlight of our year.  We’ve cut down considerably on the formality of the occasion although we still celebrate successes and milestones.  This year we had a few more speeches than last.  I enjoyed them.  They reminded me of what it means to be a romance writer, encouraged me to embrace the new business model in  publishing and to set goals for myself for the coming year.  But mostly I enjoyed hanging out with other authors, exchanging war stories, comparing writing routines, hearing the latest from conferences others had attended.

I’d been feeling a bit isolated in my writing. I have an on-line partner whom I treasure, but nothing beats face to face.  As though to underline my feelings, I just read a blog this morning proclaiming just that notion.  “No writer succeeds alone,” and “Everyone needs support” were two of the section headings.  Yes, thought I.  Perhaps it’s because here in North America we’re in the depths of winter that there is a longing for friendly company, perhaps it’s just the fact of being a writer spending long hours alone with my thoughts, but February is definitely a time when I’m glad I have writer friends to share the journey.  We may not write the same kind of books, we may not read the same kind of books, we may be traditionally published or e-published, we may spend hours on social media or we may find social media the greatest time-suck going.  What we share is the struggle and passion of putting words to paper, of creating a story from nothing but our own imaginations, of having that euphoric moment when we write “the end.”

Merci, mes amis.  You make the journey fun.

Good-bye Stuart McLean

An iconic voice for Canada fell silent last week.  Stuart McLean, storyteller and host of CBC’s Vinyl Café lost his battle with cancer on Wednesday, Feb. 15.  He was 68.

I’ve never met Stuart McLean in person, but he has been a welcome guest in my home most Saturday’s for the past many years. His stories of Dave and Morley, their family and friends made me laugh, brought a tear to my eye, and connected me to hundreds of thousands of other Canadians, all tuned to the same radio show.

Mr. McLean told not only tales of his own creation, but those of others.  His “Vinyl Café Story Exchange” invited listeners to share their own stories.  “They had to be short, they had to be true, after that they could be anything at all.”  And share we did.  Stories of practical jokes, stories of reunions, days at the lake, small town happenings, poignant good-byes and a meeting with Queen Elizabeth when she was still Princess Elizabeth, and in uniform.

The stories were read on air, Stuart’s voice infusing the short paragraphs with a warmth and sincerity that gave significant to the commonplace. We heard stories from fellow citizens living thousands of miles away and they became our neighbour, just down the road.  Part of Stuart’s enduring legacy is that drawing together of Canadians from all parts of this vast country and connecting them with each other.  While provinces quarrel over tariffs and health funding and pipelines, Phil in Ontario and Kurt in Vancouver are having a chat about lost love and being a father.  Clare in Vancouver and Glen in Atikokan wrote of canoe trips.  Marlene in Sechelt and William in Brandon wrote of small miracles during a Christmas snowstorm,  quintessential Canadiana, as told by our friends and neighbours.  Listening to the Vinyl Café was like sitting around the kitchen table at home —  with thousands of your best buddies.

Stuart had a raspy voice that wrapped about his listeners like a comfy old sweater, a little tatty, a little worn, but still the favourite garment in your closet, and a rambling style that happily drifted off on tangents. A style that would drive an editor to distraction, Stick to the plot, Stuart, but which appealed to his listeners so much that they wrote their own stories in the same way.

In an age when entertainers want to be edgy, Stuart was kind. He made us laugh until our sides ached, but it was humane laughter, laughter that recognized the failings and foibles of human existence, that held up a mirror to ourselves, but the laughter was never cruel. His Arthur awards, named after a fictional dog, celebrated small acts of kindness or generosity or citizenship.  On “Arthur Day” he would telephone the recipients, on air, and explain to them about their prize.  One time he got a wrong number.  Instead of hanging up and getting back onto the on-air schedule, he started a conversation!  Turns out the recipient of that wrong number was having a hard time of it.  His father had been laid off, home life was bleak and the lad was sitting alone on Saturday morning.  He’d never heard of the Vinyl Café.  “Don’t worry,” said Stuart, “you’re in the majority.”  By the end of the call, our lonely teenager had perked up  and was looking forward to attending one of Stuart’s shows, with complimentary tickets, of course.  All this was on radio, we couldn’t see facial expressions, but that young lad’s voice went from bleak and dreary to excited and enthusiastic, full of anticipation.  That’s the kind of thing Stuart did.  I thought he should have received an Arthur award himself, for that phone call.

Now, Stuart is gone and with him the cast of characters, Dave, Morley, Mary Tarlington, Polly Anderson, Eugene and a host of others who peopled our imaginations and enriched our lives. We’ll miss them all.  When he announced his illness, Stuart said he didn’t want us to worry about him, he’d be back.  He also told a story where Sam, Dave’s son, was assured by a Tarot reader that if things didn’t work out in the end, then, it wasn’t the end yet.  So Stuart, cancer won and you lost, so this can’t be the end yet.

So long for now.  Thanks for everything.

How to Begin?

One of my Christmas holiday pleasures is new books. Whenever I’m asked what I want for Christmas I answer, “books.”  I never specify a particular book or even a genre.  It’s lovely to be surprised by what others choose.  I’ve read away out of my comfort zone as a result and have discovered some authors who are now favourites.  This year I received book one in a family saga (in translation), a biography, a pastoral series and a book of short stories.  The weather has been foul, windy and wet and cold, so I happy snuggled down with my books by the fire.  I’ve finished the translation, hopped about in the book of short stories, read three chapters of the biography and two of the series book.  I usually read only one book at a time, but one of the privileges of holidays is permission to do as the mood strikes and not to do in an orderly, organized fashion.

My books are all very different, but one thing that has surprised me, in all but the short stories, is the first line. As writers we’re told over and over again that we must “hook” the reader in the first line, present her with a story question, introduce the hero/heroine, and establish the conflict – all in the first sentence!  A daunting task, but necessary since it has recently been established that the average adult has an attention span of eight seconds.  By contrast, a goldfish can concentrate for nine seconds.  Yet, despite that evidence, all of my books took a very leisurely approach to introducing the story.

Another holiday indulgence was to watch old movies. I love old movies, but it seems I can’t turn off my internal critic, ever.  Changes in culture and arts come gradually over time, so when a viewer jumps back thirty or fifty years, the contrast between then and now is magnified.  We’re used to starting movies with a car chase, or a gun fight.  Award-winning movies from a bygone era often start slowly, pulling the viewer into a setting or a household with long camera shots, mood-setting music and an invitation to relax and let real time slip away.  “West Side Story,” the movie, (1961) begins with a lengthy overture.  There is nothing on screen but a few black lines on an orange background.  As the music moves from jazz to ballad, the background turns pink.  That’s it.  For several minutes, theatre-goers stared at a brightly coloured screen and listened to music.  Not even the credits rolled during that opening.  Then the orange fades and a long, aerial view of New York City takes its place.  Again, long minutes pass as the camera zooms over uptown, downtown and the east side before coming to rest on the West Side.  The movie has been playing for nearly ten minutes before the first characters appear on screen.  Can you imagine making a move like that today?  The audience would all be on their cell-phones.  A lovely, heart-wrenching tale would be mere background noise to the incessant checking of e-mails, posts on facebook and texts to friends.

No one can argue that the technological revolution heralded by smart-phones hasn’t changed our world. We live at a faster pace.  We demand fast food, instant communication, a world-wide market and immediate gratification.  I saw a sign in a coffee shop the other day saying “fresh food, not fast food.  Please be patient.”  No doubt about it, the world’s in a hurry.  It makes sense to expect author’s to tell their stories at breakneck pace, to grab the reader in the first line or risk losing her altogether.  But, my unexpected delights under the Christmas tree confirm that there is an audience for a slower tempo.  The trick for writers who want to colour outside the lines of conventional wisdom, is to find that audience.  Once writer and readers have come together in mutual enjoyment, the story unfolds as it should.

So, if you’re a writer who needs time to set up the story, space to entice the reader to enter your world and mood-setting paragraphs to build the tension in your story, take heart.  There is more than one way to fill a blank page.

New Year

What is it about a new year that makes us celebrate?  Between December 31 and January 1, war, disease and poverty remain unchanged.  Exams still loom for the student.  A hangover of extra pounds from the Christmas season can plunge the body-conscious into gloom and remorse.  The next credit card statement, rife with holiday impulses lurks in the mail.  Yet, we celebrate.  We set off fireworks, we greet strangers with a “Happy New Year,” and we hug old friends with heartfelt joy.  All because the calendar declares January 1, and the year is “new.”

We like new.  I played a drawing game with friends on New Year’s Eve and the hostess bought new pencils and new paper pads.  We were as excited a school kids to hold a full-length pencil with a sharp new point and an eraser unsullied by errors.

It is axiomatic that writers dread a blank page, but I love a new notebook, all the pages clean and inviting.  Much as an artist thrills to a fresh pad of drawing paper, or the reader inhales the scent of a new book, the pages uncreased, the story promising adventure, romance, knowledge.  Could this be the one book she has longed for all her life?  It’s possible.

We like “new.”  Did you know you can actually buy “new car smell,” in a spray?  Even if your car is second hand, you can make it smell new.  Is it pure avarice that makes us crave the new?  Are we so brainwashed by advertisers that “new and improved” is our watchword?

I don’t think so.  I believe “new” fills us with hope, and it is hope that drives our celebration. We yearn for a thing that is fresh, unblemished, full of promise.  Perhaps we hope that “new” will wipe away the mistakes of the past.  “Clean slate” is more than a metaphor for old writing tools.  We long to start anew, with all the errors of the past wiped away.  As Anne Shirley famously remarked, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a day with no mistakes in it yet.”

The writer with a new notebook hopes against all evidence that the words he writes on the page will transcend any he has written before.  That, this time, he’ll  find the words that truly portray the magic and glory of the tale that burns in his mind.  This time, thinks the artist, the picture will capture all the truth of the universe in a curving line.   The driver dreams that the  new-to-him car will get better mileage, travel smoother roads and take him on incredible adventures that transform his life.

We greet the “new” with unbridled hope.  We even make resolutions based on nothing more than a box on the calendar.

Inevitably, the new notebook is filled with blots and cross-outs, erasures rub a hole in the artist’s paper and the new car gets a ding in the parking lot.  We’ve seen it happen again and again, and yet we hope.  This time will be different.

The cynics scoff at the optimists, declaring them deluded fools for continuing to hope in the face of crushing reality.  But cynics don’t sponsor refugees.  Cynics don’t find a cure for cancer and cynics don’t work for peace.  Queen Elizabeth II in her Christmas message urged us all to do “small things with great love.”  That’s a message for optimists.

So, as 2017 opens, I say “a pox on the cynics.”  Let us hope,  and work for a better world.

As for resolutions, I resolve to love more, worry less, and greet each day as a gift from God.

            Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas

I’m taking a break from this blog over Christmas.  I’ll be back in January.  I wish all my readers a very merry Christmas.   Here’s a picture of one of my favourite parts of the season, the children’s pageant presentation at church.  The actors change year after the year, but the story is eternal, the joy undimmed and the love unfailing.  Enjoy.

Christmas Short Story

I’m getting into the Christmas mood with some of my favourite things.  I’ve put up my nativity set and my Christmas village.  Last night we visited the Butchart Gardens to view the Christmas lights.  They do a wonderful job.  It’s like walking through fairyland.  Pictures can’t do it justice, but here’s one as a sample.

One of my other favourite things is Christmas stories.  I love to read them and I love to write them.  I was delighted to note that my collection of stories The Man Who Loved Christmas reached #3 on Amazon US, best seller list for Kindle short reads, Literature and Fiction.  How exciting is that?  The book is available in many formats.  To download your copy go to my book page and chose the one that’s best for you.

And speaking of Christmas stories, I have a new one.  Below is a sample.  To read the full story, please subscribe to my newsletter here

 

 

 

Joy Comes in the Morning

By

Alice Valdal

 

Go away, go away, go away.

Children’s voices, piping Christmas carols grew louder as the parade of choristers came nearer. Peggy O’Dell flattened herself against the wall of the darkened parlour not trusting the lace curtain to conceal her presence. Lace! What was wrong with good, sturdy cotton, like the ones she’d had in her own prairie home? Red and yellow roses, they were, against a creamy background. Real cotton too, that she’d ordered from the Eaton’s catalogue. No rough flour sacks for the O’Dell family.

Joy to the World!

She flinched. Her heart cramped at the sound of children’s voices any day. On Christmas Eve the pain was unbearable.

And Heaven and nature sing.

She left the window to huddle behind the sofa, alone in the dark, sick with sorrow.

Finally, after what seemed like hours but was more likely minutes, she heard the carollers scamper down the snow packed board walk. Their music and laughter faded into the night. She crept to the window and chanced a peek outside. Falling snow capped the horse trough and hitching posts with pointed hats of white, and turned everyday objects into mysterious, soft shapes. Peggy pressed her hands to her heart. Bessie and Tommy had loved the fresh snow, dashing outside to make snow angels then coming in to drip snow puddles from their boots and woollen scarves. She’d scolded them for marring her fresh-waxed floors.

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Kindness

There has been a lot of hate and ugliness spewed into the mainstream media and into social media in recent months. As an antidote, I present these tales of kindness.

A woman I know lives next door to an elderly gentleman. The man has no family and is becoming increasingly frail.  My friend is a banker, so she began helping her neighbour with his financial affairs – trips to the bank, bill payments, taxes.  Then, as time when on, she did his grocery shopping, arranged for a lawn service, cooked him some meals.  Every day she calls on him to see if he needs anything, and if he does, she provides it.

This woman has no obligation to the old man, other than the kindness required of one human to another. She is not paid for her service nor does she expect a reward.  She simply follows the golden rule and is kind.

Another woman I know goes every day to a seniors facility and reads the newspaper to those whose eyesight makes such a pleasure impossible. She chooses articles she thinks will be of most interest to the residents – mostly veterans from WWII and Korea.  She had done the same for her father and when he passed away, thought there might be others like him who would enjoy keeping up with the news and engaging in discussion about the affairs of the day.  There was no formal program for this woman to plug into, no core of volunteers to spell her off.  She simply saw a need and responded.  Another person who acts out of the kindness of her heart.

Our local newspaper runs a weekly column on acts of kindness. Amid the headlines of war and strife and disaster, these little tales are a welcome counterbalance.  We read of lost wallets returned intact, stolen bicycles replaced, ambulances called, tea and sympathy offered to someone who fell in the street.  Last week was a story of a woman who got into her car and drove to the rescue of a stranger being harassed by a deer.  Yes, we have a problem with urban deer and they can get quite aggressive, especially toward small dogs.  The woman walking her dog was trapped by a doe with a fawn.  When her rescuer appeared she was only too happy to climb into the car and be driven to safety.

In troubled times small acts of kindness can have a monumental impact. They can change the tenor of the debate.  They can remind us that we are all in this together.  They can change a child’s fear to hope.

But what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with you God. Micah 6:8 ESV

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