Charlotte A. Stout

PRIOR REFLECTIONS!
If you missed an ealier post, this page has my previous October 2017 Reflection postings.
If you want to read some earlier Reflections, click on the links below for the month you are interested in:

Sept 2017June 2017May 2017April 2017March 2017February 2017January 2017

October 27th: Feeling Full and Happy

When you first read the words above, for those who know me well, I bet your first thought was, “Charlotte just ate a caramel apple; inhaled an ice cream sundae; or, savored the flavor of multiple milk duds or red vines. Gotcha! The above title has nothing to do with filling the body with food or seeking some form of physical satisfaction. No, I am going to address feeling fulfilled and happy with life in general.

We are constantly bombarded with ads for the latest and greatest gizmo, diet, fancy car, designer clothes, fabulous restaurants, and of course physical expectations represented by thin hot looking girls, boys, women and men sporting the body of an athlete replete with the appropriate clothing. We tend to believe the ads represent reality and we should be striving to attain that existence. We should look better, dress hipper, attend the right school, find the right job, eat at better places, attend parties, and have so many friends we can’t fit them all on the roof top patio of a major resort hotel.

Do I even need to state the obvious; that attempting to attain what we “think” is right based on external stimulation is not reality? I know because I was in that place at one time. No more – well, at least I am cognizant to the outside pressure to measure up and I do my best to resist the temptation. If I find I am succumbing to the inducement to be, feel, eat or do other than what I can honestly say fills me with joy I take a moment to pull myself off the cliff’s edge, breathe and take inventory of my life.

It is hard to acknowledge that we rarely “need” all the stuff we see or hear about to make us happy. What we need to do is take a minute to assess our current state: are we safe; are we loved and do we love; are we connected to the world around us; and, are our basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and enough funds to pay the bills met? As for everything else, consider what really matters to you. It’s fine to aspire for more and live life with great passion but be really clear why what you are doing is important to you. If you are always striving to feel a fullness in your life by adding more “things” and “stuff” then you are conducting an exercise in futility.

When you find that “full” and “happy” feeling acknowledge it, hang onto it and savor it. Draw on that feeling several times a day and embrace the tingle you experience knowing you are connected to others, have your needs met and are loved. Doing this several times a day will change the tape in your brain that may be trying to tell you otherwise and lure you into that false sense of “need” and want.”

October 20th: WCFR – It’s all about the Clients

I have written before about the Women and Children’s Free Restaurant (WCFR) and Kitchen. I shared a couple of stories about some of the people who come to the restaurant. Today, I want to talk about the people who work at and volunteer for the WCFR.

WOW! A great word to express how I feel about the men and women I work with every week at the restaurant. I have never met nor worked with a more selfless group. Every minute we are at the restaurant is about making our guests feel welcome, honored, respected and fed with a helping of wonderfully nutritious food served by a staff of joyful, engaging and sensitive women (men aren’t allowed in the dining room but they are joyful in the kitchen).

The women and children who come to us for a meal leave with so much more than a full stomach. Most often they leave with a smile on their face because someone on the staff offered a kind word about their attire, asked how they were doing with total sincerity, inquired about a child or loved one, asked a child how school was going and listened intently to their response. We offer words of encouragement when we feel it is needed, but don’t lecture, criticize or condemn. For some guests WCFR is the one place they can come and feel totally safe and cared for in a dignified and happy environment.

Those of us who spend our time at the WCFR walk away feeling more blessed for the work we do. We know that many of our patrons are down on their luck. It can happen to anyone. There is no one at the restaurant who believes they are better than any of our patrons. Why, because we are all keenly aware that the roles could be reversed at any time for any one of us. If we were in the shoes of our clients would we want to be met with joy, treated with dignity and caring or be seen as “less than” because of their circumstance.

I know which one I would want. At the WCFR we will always be about conveying acceptance, dignity, respect, and joy to all our clients regardless of their life circumstances.

October 13th: You Make Us Better People

Your presence in our lives makes us better people. You may not believe that but it is true. Your stories and how you handle adversity inspires each and every one of us who have the pleasure of spending a little time with you. Who are you wonderful people? You are our special guests who choose to dine at the Women and Children’s Free Restaurant and give us an opportunity to serve you.

Why do I say you make us better people? Here are just two examples of recent experiences at the restaurant that left all of us reflective about our lives and honored to be with these people.

One guest recently celebrated a birthday. She recently got a job but is currently homeless living in her car with her precious feline companion. For her birthday she went online at the Library and asked her Facebook friends to donate to the Women and Children’s Free Restaurant in lieu of any money or gifts for her. This selfless soul raised more than $100 for the restaurant. She has nothing but chose to give so others may receive rather than receive anything special for herself on her birthday. WOW! How does one put into words the gratitude we feel toward her and her generosity? Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough but it is a start.

Enter a young mother with two little boys; one is about 4 and the other a little over a year. When she checked in she let the seating hostesses know that she became homeless just twelve hours ago and asked us to be patient with her if she seemed short or upset. The seating hostesses let me know as the Acting Floor Manager for the night and I informed the serving staff. No one made a big deal but every single server made a special effort to go over and chat with the little children and mom. None of us could believe how mom was holding it together, but she was. She engaged with her children quietly, gently and kindly. At no time did she scream, cry or disengage from being with her kids. We all marveled at her strength and courage with homelessness looming as her reality when she walked out of the restaurant.

So, we did what we do. We drew on the resources available to us to help this mom as best we could. One of our volunteer servers is a social worker in her career. We asked her to work her magic and make a few calls to shelters to see if there was a bed for mom and her babies. She found one and gave mom the information. This bought mom a little time to work something else out.

I believe the existence of the WCFR is so important. We nourish the body but also provide information on resources available to meet the basic needs of our clients and we provide mental stimulation for children and adults with our free library.

I feel more blessed every time I spend a day volunteering and engaging with our clients. Thank you for making me a better person.

October 6th: Living in Joy

I hit a funk a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t feel like I was fulfilling any purpose; felt friendless; was endlessly tired; and had a general feeling of malaise. I couldn’t put my finger on what was happening in my life to produce this uncomfortableness but I knew I had to snap out of it.

After feeling this way for five full days (felt like five years) I came across a short article about living in joy. Talk about timely! My normal state is to be thankful for everything I have and happy to be able to enjoy life to the fullest. I lost that state of consciousness for those five days.

Seeing the words “Living In Joy” shifted my whole attitude shifted from oh pitiful me to my SOP of “Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.”

I have said this in other reflections; we choose the state we want to live in. Do I want to live in a state of happiness or sadness; joy or sorrow; gratefulness or ingratitude; connected to others and the world around us or not. I know what I choose but even I have down times when I forget to be grateful, thankful, happy and connected.

As soon as I saw the words “Living In Joy” I consciously thought about my life. I can work out. I have friends who accept me even during those down days. I have food, a house, transportation and the ability to shower, dress and feed myself. Some of this may sound quite basic but for many who don’t have these items and abilities life is quite different. I feel foolish for my five day funk when I have so much to be thankful for.

I believe that if I encounter the doldrums again I will flip the switch to my new mantra, “Living in Joy.” I will think about all the people I love and who make me laugh. I will give thanks for being able to wash my hair and not gritch about how long it takes to dry. I will smile as I visualize all the activities I am involved in, the workouts I kill, and the warm glow I get thinking about everyone and everything in my life.