We are inclined to unity

I’ve always been amazed watching animals in nature instinctively moving in sync — in harmony — with one another. It could be hundreds of birds in flight, fish swimming, herds running. Each one is so in tune with the movement of the others around them that their behavior seems scripted — orchestrated.

Photo by Harrison Haines on

We humans are instinctively capable of finding unity too. When we walk in groups, we often adjust our pace to be in step with those around us. In crowds, we start out handclapping on our own, but within seconds, hundreds of us can clap in unison.

When’s the last time you participated in a stadium wave? It takes only a handful of clustered people to stand and raise their arms in unison. Spontaneously, the people seated in the section next to them know precisely when it is their time to mimic the action. Soon the rhythm of the wave is coursing around the stadium until it loops a few times and the energy dies out.

Also, think about sporting events where you get caught up in the chanting of the crowd. Sparked by enthusiasm, choruses ring out in unison, chanting the encouraging, “I believe that we will win!” or the great-play celebration, “Olé, Olé, Olé” or the ever taunting, very specific, “Air Ball!”

One of my favorite examples is a live performance I watch on TV of Paul McCartney enchanting his concert audience with the Beatles’ biggest #1 hit song, “Hey Jude.” The song itself is about optimism and togetherness, and the coda’s repetitive “nah, nah, nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, hey Jude” is like a heartfelt lullaby. This along with the crowd’s raised arms waving and clapping in unison. I wanted very much to be there in the moment among everyone.

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These forms of unity get us involved in the excitement, bring us together as a crowd, and remind us that our enjoyment of this event and our presence in this moment make us one. We feel connected. This increases our empathy, and we become more sociable to one another.

…so then why does it feel like these days so many people are trying to divide us?

The world has been changing always. Evolving. Advancing. And while many of us need some time to adjust to change, it feels like a large portion of people have come to a dead stop. They’ve thrown out their anchors, settled into their box-shaped comfort zones, and are refusing to pursue unity with anyone outside of their “kind.”

I see these separatists as people who will turn their backs on others without giving them a chance to express their ideas or perspective. I feel separatists are not open to alternative points of view; they believe all others are simply wrong. Rather than rising up to accept people for what they have in common with others, separatists want to sink down and find the line that severs their connections to others.

In my heart, I’m a unifier. I want to know more about people who are different than me so that my outlook and perspective can grow and become more diverse. I want to learn from people who have had different experiences than me. Relying on their examples, I can avoid mistakes or achieve success that I otherwise would not have known about. And my acknowledgement of their experiences gives them validation that they’ve improved others’ lives through their own.

Here are some examples of how a separatist sees personal differences vs. a unifier:

Personal Difference
Two people are sports fans, but for rival teams.
The Separatist
Feels only the rivalry; sees the other as an “enemy.”
The Unifier
Wants to connect based on how much they both love this sport. “Who’s your favorite player?” “Let’s set a friendly wager!”

When you think of NBA player rivalries, hardly any other is bigger than Boston Celtics’ Larry Bird and the Lakers’ Magic Johnson. They first competed against one another in an NCAA championship game between Indiana and Michigan States, respectively. As pros, they competed against each other in the NBA finals three times. Both players are in the NBA Hall of Fame. With such fierce competition between them, you’d think they’d have often wished the worst for their rival. Instead they were and still are the best of friends.

In a book they published together, When the Game Was Ours, Johnson tells how they went from being rivals to being friends, “Then Larry and I sat down for lunch, and I tell you, we figured out we’re so much alike. We’re both from the Midwest, we grew up poor, our families [are] everything to us, basketball is everything to us. So that changed my whole outlook on Larry Bird.”

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Personal Difference
Two people want to improve life in their communities, but they align with different political parties.
The Separatist
Cannot “cross the aisle” in order to prioritize their common goals.
The Unifier
Is interested in collaborating and will listen to opposing viewpoints in order to develop the most-well-rounded solution.

In 1997, I volunteered as an usher for a national summit that led to the formation of America’s Promise Alliance. The objective was to improve the lives of millions of at-risk youths. The reason I was attracted to the event is because it was co-convened by political opposites, Presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush. As stated by President Clinton, the goal of the summit was “to mobilize America’s citizen power in a united effort to solve our common problems, especially those that threaten our young people.”

Over the past 20+ years, the alliance has accumulated nearly 400 corporate, private, non-profit, education, and faith-based partners.

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas on

Personal Difference
Two people each have goals to unite and inspire others, but they are not of the same religion.
The Separatist
Chooses to work alone as the other is “misguided” or “misinformed.”
The Unifier
Wants to broaden their perspective in order to develop messages that people can relate to on many levels.

I’d been reading a book called The Book of Joy, which is co-authored by Tibetan Buddhist, the Dalai Lama, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In the 300-page book, I dog-eared just one page for the message that most resonated with me, a quote from the Dalai Lama:

“If we stress secondary level of differences–my nation, my religion, my color–then we notice the differences. Like this moment now in Africa, there is too much emphasis on this nation or that nation. They should think that we are same Africans. Furthermore, we are same human beings. Same with religion: Shiite and Sunni, or Christian and Muslim. We are same human beings. These differences between religions are personal matters. When we relate to others from the place of compassion it goes to the first level, the human level, not the secondary level of difference. Then you can even have compassion for your enemy.”

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Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know

We can’t be judgmental of separatists. Some people have been raised to believe their parents’ and greater family’s ways and beliefs are the only correct choice. Or they commit such loyalty to a group or organization that they shut out any outsiders or new ideas.

Similarly, even open minded people don’t know what they don’t know until they make a conscious effort to focus on the “new” or the “other.”

I recently watched a video that is part of a series launched by former NFL player and current sports analyst Emmanuel Acho. This was following the wave of racial unrest ignited in America. In the video, TV personalities Chip and Joanna Gaines bring their children to Acho to ask him questions about racial relations.

Chip relayed a story about how he and his family had not had a lot of experience with cancer, but a few years ago he met a woman with cancer who conveyed her story to him about what life is like as a cancer patient. Then he and the family became advocates for cancer patients and their families, and have supported a lot of cancer-related initiatives since then.

He said, “…once I learned about it and understood it and it affected my soul, I couldn’t unforget it.”

He said it was the same kind of light-bulb moment when he realized he doesn’t know what it’s like to be a black person or part of a black family living in America.

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Many people — myself included — had simply never felt the need or desire to think this way. But now that this issue has come front and center (again), this may be the start of a greater level of social equilibrium.

People who are willing to let go of fear and anger, who are willing to be seen as vulnerable and still learning have the most to gain in this world and have the greatest potential to bring the rest of us with them toward empathy, compassion, and love.

Let’s move forward together

Balance is the key to harmony. We’re in this boat together. I may prefer the view on the starboard side while you prefer the view on the port side, but if you row your oar at a different rate than I’m rowing mine, we’re just going to keep moving in a circle. We each can have our own points of view and still move forward together in unity. For the greater good, you have to be willing to try.

Thank you for spending these moments with me, thinking about life. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to share it. Spread some seeds…


A blog that’s gone to the dogs

I’m a dog person. Perhaps I could have been a cat person, but cats make my eyes burn like Vesuvius and my nose pour like Niagara Falls. So dog person it is. I’ve known a lot of dogs in my life, and I’ve been incredibly blessed to have shared my home and my family with three very special dogs.

IMO, dogs are powerful healing machines. I’ve felt a love from each one of my three that is unlike any other. It’s a love that inspires me to spread gratitude and compassion to everyone around me.

June holds some meaningful memories for me and my dogs, and this blog is for them.


When I was in ninth grade, my family got the runt of a Lab/Shephard litter. My parents named him Sam. He was considered a family dog; he loved everyone in the family, but I became his person.

Those high school years were tough for me. I am the youngest of three siblings, and my brother and sister were out of the house, living their own lives by then. I was left without any allies to deal with our alcoholic dad who — every day — played fetch with my emotions and self-esteem. At the same time, my mom was strict like a Catholic school nun. As such, I didn’t have a lot of friends.

Sam and I spent a lot of time hiding in my bedroom. Our house was filled with tension and fear, and I was lost and lonely. He was there for me to pet when I was sad or anxious, or he’d just stay by my side and rest his chin on me when I was too distracted to see him. Just so I wouldn’t feel alone. Sam became my emotional life preserver.

Sam became my emotional life preserver.

When I left for college, Sam relied on my mom (and she on him), but on weekends when I came home to visit, he greeted me like no one else in the family could. I began spending more and more time at school; Sam and I spent less and less time together, but he was always there to give me the best greeting whenever I came home.

When I was 24, I moved back home again; Sam was around nine or ten years old. He and I picked right back up as best friends like we had never been apart. Then the following year, my mom decided to divorce my dad. The plan was that my dad would get his own condo; my mom and I would move in with my sister, her husband and my two-year-old niece, and Sam would go live with my brother, his fiancé, and their two dogs.

I was heartbroken over being separated from Sam again. Probably more so than when I went to college. My brother and his fiancé were dog lovers, obviously, but their two dogs were bigger and rougher than Sam. I was sleeping one night in my bedroom in my sister’s house and suddenly it seemed like Sam was on the bed with me, the way he’d always been anytime we were sleeping in the same house together.

I was sobbing a little, and I looked him in the eyes and said, “I’m so sorry that you couldn’t come with me and that you got shipped to that house with those two big dogs, and I bet you never get any peace and, they’re probably messing with your food and water and toys all the time. I’m so worried about you, and I just want you to know that I love you and I hope you’re OK. Are you OK?”

Sam’s warm, dark eyes consoled me, and in a deep but kind voice he said to me, “Yea…”

Sam lived there with my brother for a few years, but one day my brother called and said he didn’t think Sam was doing so well. The vet determined that Sam had lung issues (no doubt from my parents’ chain-smoking). He told my brother and me what to watch for and that when it gets to the point when Sam is struggling too much with everyday stuff, we should bring him back.

My brother and I gave Sam all the love we had those last few days, and the rest of the family stopped by to say farewell. When we took Sam back to the vet’s office, as we sat in the waiting room, despite his suffering, Sam did everything he could to look strong and happy and to make us smile. Then when Sam was on the vet’s table, my brother and I hugged him and pet him and cried until the vet let us know that Sam had taken his last difficult breath. Then we cried some more.

Sam loved pork chop bones and playing hide-and-seek. His love for me had given me security and taught me courage on some of my scariest days and nights, and I will never forget that.


I bought a condo when I was 27. I lived there by myself less than six months when I decided I needed a companion, so I completed a greyhound adoption form. I asked for the smallest one they had. That was Gabbie. She was 50 pounds, which is as small as a full-grown greyhound should be.

I got her the month that she turned two years old. That was the minimum time an owner would hold a greyhound. If the dog hadn’t earned the owner enough money by then, they were out. So Gabbie’s size was likely her greatest gift. She didn’t have a single racing scar on her, so perhaps she either never raced because of her size, or if she did race, she was so far behind the pack that she missed all the action.

When I brought her home for the first time, she didn’t know how to go up stairs; she had never seen herself in a mirror. She didn’t know what it meant to be a pet. She didn’t come near me for two weeks. I sat on the couch one day crying because I had gotten a dog to keep me company, but all she did was lay by herself in the bedroom.

Then once she came out, she became one of the best friends I ever had. She was an incredibly graceful, poised and polite creature. Gabbie brought a lot of class to our relationship.

Gabbie brought a lot of class to our relationship.

She saw me through a couple of break-ups. She met my future husband and loved him as much as I do. She moved with us into our first house. I had been telling her for years that one day I’d get her a yard to run in, and I was so overjoyed to see her do just that for the first time.

She was with me through two pregnancies, and she was by my side as I took care of my young sons.

Then one day I was standing on the edge of the kitchen, getting water from the fridge dispenser, and I caught sight of Gabbie as she paused on the stairway landing before coming all the way down. Immediately I knew. How could I have missed it? I was so occupied all the time with my sons that I wasn’t noticing her health failing until that moment — when I knew it was too late.

It was almost the same story with the vet as had been the case with Sam. They told me her bloodwork indicated a severe battle with cancer; if they had to guess, they’d say it was in her stomach. For two straight weeks, anytime I was anywhere that was not in front of my sons or coworkers, I was crying. How could I have let her down like that?

Finally on a Saturday morning in June (it was the summer solstice, in fact), I woke up and knew it was time. Gabbie was 15 years old. She had become a great friend to our seven-year-old son (our four-year-old son was still too young), so I had to tell him how very sick she was before I left with her. I’ll never forgot returning from the vet and coming in the door. My son met me half-way up the stairs and saw that I had Gabbie’s collar in my hand.

I didn’t have to say a word. I can still hear him say to me, “But I wasn’t ready for this to be the last day!”

Gabbie loved running, big soft dog beds, and all of her toys. Her love for me gave me purpose when I needed to feel relevant, and I will never forget that.


Gabbie had been gone a few years when my family and I moved into our forever home. We all could feel that our family needed another dog to be complete.

While my husband looked online at every dog listed by every animal rescue in a 50-mile radius, I was seeing redheads everywhere. I’d be doing ordinary, everyday stuff when suddenly I’d see Seth Green in my head. Or I’d turn on the TV and Sean White was being interviewed.

I said to my friends, “I have no idea who’s about to come into my life, but I know they are going to have red hair.”

On Father’s Day, my husband got us all in the car, and we headed to a local shelter. We were going to meet a puppy named Tammy that had been rescued with two brothers from the side of a road. When we arrived, the shelter staff took us to a visitation room and they came walking in with the most pitiful dog I ever saw.

She was small and scrawny and shivering. None of us wanted to pet her because her head was all wet and gross. We all looked at each other with a universal look of “uh-uh” and asked if we could see a few other dogs. They said sure; first they’d put Tammy back and then come get us to walk through the kennel.

When we entered the kennel, the first stall on the left had three puppies. In the middle was skinny little Tammy with her two big, plump brothers on either side of her. Each brother had one of Tammy’s ears in their mouths.

Now I could see it. This sweet girl wasn’t pathetic at all. She was stuck living with two brothers who were torturing her and eating her share of the dog food. I couldn’t let her endure that bullying for one more second. I didn’t check with my family for agreement or reinforcement. I simply turned to the staff person and said, “She’s coming home with us right now!”

“She’s coming home with us right now!”

The name Tammy didn’t suit this smart, resilient, soft auburn girl. We considered all the names for redheads: Ginger, Scarlett, Apple, Copper… We finally settled on Rosie.

She is unlike any dog I’ve ever known. The first few weeks she was with us, I used to look her in the eyes and ask, “Who’s in there?” It felt like there were things about me that she just knew.

Rosie is eight now, and she loves ear and belly rubs, playing fetch and family dance parties.

I’m grateful for every day I have to share with her. She’s Zen in a fur coat. She entices me to be calm and mindful. She makes it possible for anyone to love as much as she loves.

So those are the stories of my dogs. I hope you have someone in your life who loves you and inspires you to love others as much as these three have done for me.

Thank you for spending these moments with me, thinking about life. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to share it. Spread some seeds…


Gratiness. Happitude.

Where does the balance rest between gratitude and happiness? Do you need to have gratitude to be happy? If you are happy, are you automatically grateful?

The other day I was watching a morning news anchor interview a celebrity. He asked her how she is coping during the pandemic. I heard her say, “I’m grateful to be happy.”

(To be honest, that’s not what she said. Later I re-watched the video and realized her reply was “I’m grateful to be healthy.” The kitchen faucet was running, which caused me to hear her incorrectly, but since what I thought I heard activated my introspection mode, that’s what I call a “happy accident.”)

I started wondering about the relationship between gratitude and happiness. Using the same remedy that appeased my curiosity about confidence and compliments, I began Googling. Here’s what I learned.

If it is peace you want, then it is gratitude you must find.

I don’t remember anyone ever talking about a journey to find gratefulness, but a journey to find happiness is talked about all the time. If happiness is your destination, then it seems like gratefulness will be one leg of your journey.

People with gratitude are seen to be more hopeful, energetic, forgiving, empathetic, and helpful. With all of those qualities taking the spotlight, negative thoughts get upstaged. Gloom is replaced with happiness, which changes your whole perspective, even across the expanse of your lifetime — past, present and future.

Your past

There’s no changing your past. Whether you see mostly happiness or something else when you look back, those days are in the book in permanent ink. Obviously, you can’t go back in time and undo your bad days, nor should you want to. Your life has been a combination of both the good and bad events and decisions that either you have chosen or have been put upon you.

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When you look back on your path, if you choose to focus on only the bad parts or only the parts that made you happy, you’re overlooking half of the story of you. You’re seeing an erratic pattern of random events that don’t add up to a complete picture.

However, when you look back and see how the good and bad stepping stones together define a clear path to where you are today, you can understand how each one has been an opportunity to grow and learn.

Being grateful for the whole path — good and bad, happy and sad — as the sum of your life means you’ve fully acknowledged your role in both your past successes and mistakes.

Your present

I think for you to feel grateful in the moment, your head and your heart need to be in agreement. For that, you may need to take an inventory of what you have vs. what you need — i.e. count your blessings. The way I see it, here are some must haves:

  • Health. You may be waging a major battle for your health, but like my mom always said, you could be in worse condition. Besides, no one is without even a minor health issue. Wherever your health falls within that range, you can be grateful for the good parts, and try not to take a single day for granted. When you feel gratitude for your health, you will work hard to improve the parts of your health that could be better.
  • People. You’ve not gotten where you are today without someone who was kind enough to offer advice or support, or to act as a role model or even an adversary, who sparked you to work harder at achieving your goals. When you are grateful for each person who has walked with you on your path, for however long or short of a time that has been, you expand your ability to feel compassion and love for others.
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  • Security. You can desire to have a bigger, fancier or more expensive house, car, toys, vacations, or whatever, but don’t be ungrateful for the ones you have now. What you have now may be just a stepping stone to bigger dreams, but these give you that perspective to know where you want to go and an idea of the level of work you need to put in to get there.
  • Purpose – Everyone wants to be needed and appreciated. You also need to be able to give warmth and value to others. Be grateful for the opportunities you have to share your natural and acquired gifts with others.

Your future

You’re here today, which means that every moment you’ve experienced from the time you were born until now has been a gift. Where do you want to go from here?

Do you want to repeat the past or go in a new direction? Both could be great options. Your past will forever guide your next steps. Having gratitude for that evolution can give you a stronger chance at steering your future in the direction you want to go.

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Here’s where gratitude can take you:

  • Positivity. Gratitude leads to optimism. Optimism is characterized by positive energy and emotions.
  • Companionship. People want to be around others who are optimistic and positive. In that regard, gratitude will strengthen your relationships with others.
  • Encouragement. When you are grateful for the people who inspire and support you, you let them know what it means for you to have them in your life. In doing this, you are also strengthening their self-esteem by letting them see they’ve made a difference in someone’s life.
  • Resilience. Gratitude is like armor in the face of stress and trauma. It helps you be more proactive in developing solutions. And with stronger relationships, you’ll be more likely to lean on close friends and family. All of this helps you move through difficult times faster and easier. This includes stress and trauma from your past, present and future.
  • Caring. More than just looking at the bright side of things, when you can maintain gratitude for even negative experiences — you can see them as opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Compassion. When you have gratitude, you’re more dedicated to helping others cope with stress and trauma by being positive and empathetic. You are more forgiving.

Think about it some more

I’m just a deep thinker. For insight from educated practitioners, a number of articles I read referenced these experts:

Thank you for spending these moments with me, thinking about life. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to share it. Spread some seeds…