Gratidue and Generosity: Karma Kitchen

I can’t tell you how many times I have begun the process of learning one thing only to find that I am meant to learn a different (but often related) lesson. This is what has been happening for the past 10 days with the 428 Days Gratitude Challenge. I started with the idea that I would explore gratitude and gratefulness. I imagined that I would write some letters of thanks to people that have touched my life or meditate on messages of gratitude. Yes…I will probably do those things. However, I find that each day my focus on gratitude is motivating me to explore generosity. I am being led to acknowledge the beautiful parts of our world AND look for ways to contribute to them. It is an unexpected, but valuable lesson. Take a look at the work of Karma Kitchen. They are a beautiful example of this idea!

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No Need For Thanks


Like many of you, I was raised to be kind to others and do the right thing.  That means that I hold the elevator when I see someone running to catch it.  It means that I ask to help if I see another person struggling to carry a heavy load.  It means that I let another driver merge into my lane when I spot that tiny light blinking on the corner of the car.  I’m sure you do many of these very same things (and more) each day.  Here’s the piece that I’ve been struggling with: Why does my gut turn just a little bit when my beautiful act of kindness goes unnoticed or ignored?  Why do I grip the steering wheel just a bit tighter when I don’t get that thank you wave from the driver I just allowed in front of me?  Truth be told, I am struggling with this.

The other night, I was talking with my wife about some volunteer work we have been doing for a local community organization.  In the conversation, I said to her, “We’re both giving a lot of time to this, but it seems like you’re the only one they ever seem to thank. I’m getting pretty sick and tired of that!”

“Yeah?” she responded. “I don’t know. I think they appreciate both of us.”

“Are you kidding me?” I said. “They hardly say a word to me. They don’t even acknowledge my presence half the time.” I then went on to list the variety of amazing things I have done for the organization for which they have failed to thank me. Not exactly my best moment.  Even as I rattled off my contributions to my wife, I felt a saddening disappointment.  It was as if, in my frustration, I was making the conscious decision to rip apart something that I knew in my soul was beautiful.

As I am walking the path of the current For 28 Days Gratitude Challenge, I have been thinking a lot about the ways that I show appreciation to others and to our world for all of the beauty they contribute of my life.  I’ve realized that while I often felt grateful, many times I failed to express my gratitude; a humbling realization to say the least. I also discovered countless other examples of grace and beauty in my world that I had overlooked because I did not take the time to see them…to focus on them.  There are most likely other beautiful acts, people, ideas, and creations that I am missing even as I type these words.  However, I’ve come to understand that my unawareness of these things only limits my expression of gratitude for them. It does not limit their beauty. This has been an important lesson for me to learn.

This brings me back to those important life lessons from my childhood: be kind to others and do the right thing. I still hold on to these.  The new question for me is WHY? Why should I be kind to others? Why should I hold that elevator door or help to carry that heavy load?  This is what I have come to believe: I do these things because a unique beauty exists within me and I exist to share it with others in our world.  Whether it is acknowledged by others or not does not limit its beauty. However, I can decide to limit their beauty by withholding my contributions to the world out of a fear that they will not be valued or recognized as beautiful.  In doing so, I only limit myself and resign to live a life that is a mere fraction of what it has the potential to be. Where’s the fun in that?

So As I enter Day 9 of my 28 day journey, I am deciding to live a life that is rooted in my desire to contribute my unique beauty to our world regardless of how others may or may not express gratitude. So go ahead Mr. Blue Mini-Van with the Honor Roll Student. Come on over.  I’ll make room.  I see your blinker.


A Lesson In Gratitude

My experience with 428 Days has been life changing. For the past three months, I have been tweaking small parts of my life in an effort to become more open to change. It has been a wonderful journey that, like most journeys, has come with its own set of forks in the road, potholes, and beautiful sunsets.  What has been most interesting is the ways in which the different challenges are connecting with each other. For example, two months ago, I challenged myself to see more beautiful in my world. It was a transformative challenge, and the impact has stuck with me. In short, Seeing Beautiful has become a habit.

Now, on Day 3 of my 428 Days Gratitude Challenge, I am learning that my attempt to be more grateful is connect to my experiments with Seeing Beautiful. This film by cinematographer, Louie Schwartzberg, is a perfect example of this. In it, he connects an awareness of the beauty in our world to a lesson in gratitude. In the same ways that I learned to acknowledge the beauty of my world during Septembers challenge, I am now learning to celebrate that beauty through gratitude.  In the same way that I realized just how much beauty there was around me during the September challenge, I am now reminded that there are just as many opportunities to be grateful.  And just as I realized that much of the beauty in my world was found in my relationships with other people, I am also realizing that many of my opportunities for gratitude are connected to others in my life.  These same ideas are expressed simply by the older gentleman spotlighted in the film:

And so I wish you that you would open your heart to all these blessings and let them flow through you that everyone who you would meet on this day will be blessed by you. Just by your eyes…by your smile…by your touch…just by your presence. Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you then it will really be a good day.

With that being said…I wish you a good day.

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The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude

This month, I have decided to commit to changing one small thing in my life…for the next 28 days I focus on being grateful and showing gratitude. The idea was inspired by the video above. I stumbled across it one day while browsing around on the net.  The title contained words that I immediately connected with…Science…Happiness…Experiment…and Gratitude.  I figured I could give 7 minutes of my life to see what an experiment in gratitude actually looked like.  What I witnessed was video of individuals engaged in the simple act of showing gratitude.  However, what was even more inspiring was the immediate effect the act seemed to have on their lives.  They smiled. They laughed. They cried. They experienced what seemed to me to be a rush of love and joy by simply connecting with another human being in a celebration of gratitude.  That’s all it took for me to realize that I also wanted to experiment with gratitude.

Like many people, I’ve been reminded to be thankful for the blessings in my life.  I must admit that sometimes the pressures, frustrations, and disappointments in my life make it very difficult to say, “Thank you.”  More often, I find myself asking, “why” during those moments.  I often forget or take for granted those parts of our world for which I should be grateful, and, as a result, my world can seem bleak and disconnected from things like…happiness, passion, joy, beauty, and love.

For the next 28 days I am committing myself to the work of being grateful.  However, I want to go beyond merely acknowledging the wonderful parts of my life.  While this is important, I don’t feel that it would represent a true 428 Days experiment.  I want to do more.  I want to find ways to rediscover those parts of my life that I have forgotten; those relationships, passions, and ideas that, for whatever reason, I have taken for granted.  I also want to go beyond simply being grateful.  I want to celebrate the blessings in my world by showing gratitude. Like the people in the video, I want to look for opportunities to share my gratefulness with others in ways that go beyond a polite thank you.  This will be the true challenge for the next 28 days.  However, it is also the part I am most excited about experiencing!

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Play Happens When You Least Expect It


Many of you may know that I am a science guy.  I love the stuff.  In fact, I spend much of my time in the passionate pursuit of opportunities to turn people on to science!  One of the ways that I accomplish this is by hosting the Science Wondershop at The Children’s Museum of Atlanta on Sundays throughout the year.  Basically, the Science Wondershop is a science play workshop for children and their parents.  We make a mess, blow things up, get loud, and learn a little science along the way.  This past weekend, I brought dry ice to the Science Wondershop.  I thought I would give the parents some ideas for their upcoming Halloween celebrations.  Basically, we dropped dry ice into a cup of warm water, added some liquid dish detergent, and had an absolute ball playing with the results.  Like many weekends, I came home with left over materials from the Wondershop, and decided to explore a little science play with my own kids.  What happened next was unexpected, but a wonderful example of how the Play Challenge has changed my life.  We started with some of the same basic explorations I introduced at the museum.


We dropped a chunk of dry ice into a glass of warm water and watched it bubble.  The kids giggled as they watched the fog of gas roll over the sides of the glass.  I talked to them about the science of sublimation and states of matter.  They seemed content to dip their fingers in the bubbling liquid and blow streams of water vapor around the surface of the table.  I decided to take a cue from them (like I have done many times during this challenge) and look for opportunities to simply play with the materials.


I’d designed a contraption I called a ghost bubbler using a couple of two liter bottles, some plumbing materials, and some homemade bubble solution.  Like the name implies, it uses dry ice to blow ghostly looking soap bubbles.  I demonstrated it to my kids and in no time they had mastered the art of ghost bubbling.  Then one of them looked at the other and with the confidence of one who has mastered the art of playing whispered, “I wonder what would happen if…”  That’s when things got interesting!  They grabbed one of the glasses we’d used earlier and blew a ghost bubble into it.  Not wanting to be left out, I suggested that we drop some dry ice into the glass first and then blow a bubble into it.  The result…


…a ghost bubble that seemed to grow right out of the glass.  We played with this for a while, until one of the whispered again, “What if we…”  So we pulled out one of the large plastic graduated cylinders I had sitting with my materials, added some warm water, dropped in a chunk of dry ice, and squirted in some liquid dish detergent.  I smiled as the two of them erupted in laughter as the gas filled soap bubbles…


…began to rise and spill over the side of the plastic tube. The kids grabbed at the bubbles, squeezed them in their hands, and blew them into the air.  “This is play,” I thought, “in its most basic form.”  It was unstructured.  It was imaginative.  It was driven by the simple desire to see what happens when we answer the question…what if?  I decided it was time that I contributed something to our playtime.  I grabbed an empty cup, poured in a little water, dropped in a piece of dry ice and…


…poured thick clouds of fog onto my children! They’d never taken a bath in carbon dioxide, but if the pictures are any indication, I’d say they loved their first one.  Of course, this led us to our next great idea.  If you can fill a cup with the fog, why not fill an entire bucket with it.  Quickly, I grabbed a nice sized plastic tub from my stack of science supplies.  Slowly, we poured the fog (actually carbon dioxide and water vapor) into the tub until it was full of the gas.  My children watched in amazement as the fog sloshed around inside the plastic tub.  They grinned as it reacted to the swirls of their fingertips and puff of air they blew into the tub.  In a stroke of playful genius, one of them grabbed the homemade bubble solution and…


…blew a bubble over the surface of the gas.  The bubble grew and grew until it finally drifted away from her lips and into the middle of the plastic tub. My children and I watched as it floated around the tub. We smiled as we watched the bubble bobbing effortlessly…


…on the surface of the fog.  It was a beautiful sight to see.  However, what was even more exciting was the idea that my children had discovered this amazing event through the simple act of play.  I didn’t have to provide them with a set of instructions or a YouTube video.  I didn’t need a set of PowerPoint slides or a users manual.  I simply needed to trust in my children’s ability to uncover their world by simply being inquisitive. Over the course of the past 28 days, my children have taught me this lesson over and over again.  It has been a difficult one for me to learn.  After all, I have been taught that success often lies in organization, structure, and my ability to accurately follow instructions. While I still believe that these things are important, this challenge has taught me to value those moments that are rooted in creativity, curiosity, and my ability to actively explore my own questions and ideas.  This has been my biggest discovery during the past 28 day.  It is a lesson that I will forever thank my children for teaching me.


Opportunities to Play

428 Days has taught me a very valuable lesson in the past two months: If you want something in your life, seek it out!  As I experiment with the value of Play in my life, it seems that I keep stumbling on to websites, blogs, books, and experiences that add richness and understanding to my 28 day journey.  For example, today I came across a blog post from the blog, Don’t Think About It, Play About It!  The post was pretty simple.  It included a couple of sentences and the graphic below.  However, it was exactly what I needed to broaden my ideas about the different ways that I can make room for play in my life.  What are you looking for in these 28 days?  It is probably just within your reach.  Seek it out!



Learning from the Masters of Play

I watched this video today and was reminded, once again, that somewhere along the road to adulthood, I forgot how to truly play. These past three days have really challenged me to think about my ideas about play. Every day, I am pushing myself to break through the barriers of the responsible adult for just a moment. I want to experience true play. Here is what I am learning: First, I need to move to space that may be unfamiliar to me. I need to challenge myself to feel comfortable with exploring something I don’t really know much about. Second, I need to put aside my need to judge things as good/bad, effective/ineffective, worth/unworthy, and useful/useless. This need to evaluate my play is limiting my opportunities to play. Finally, I need to be comfortable with being an authentic human being. It seems that somewhere along the way I learned about appropriate behavior for adults. Unfortunately, those lessons made very little room for play…real play. I may need to leave those lessons behind if I really want to learn the new lessons waiting for me in these 28 days.

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Never Too Old To Play

Today began my new For 28 Days Challenge…Play! For the next 28 days, I will look for ways to incorporate more play into each day of my life. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Here’s the crazy part…I’m actually a little nervous about this one. After all, I’ve pretty much replaced all the moments of play in my life with “responsibilities.” Don’t get me wrong. I still play the occasional game of basketball. I’m good for game on my iPad when I have a moment to spare. I’ll even take my kids to the neighborhood park now and then. But rarely do I really, really PLAY!
Truth be told, I miss the days when I played with enthusiastic passion whenever I could. There is a part of me that wonders if I will be able to “do it the way I used to.” After all, it’s been a while. Then, there is the adult side of me that is over thinking every part of this challenge. It is the part that is planning for tomorrow’s play (Is it really play if you schedule it on your Google calendar?). It is the part that is wondering if I’ll do it right (Is it possible to play wrong?). It is the part of me that is concerned that I will look childish if someone sees me (Don’t adults need to play too?). These were the questions that were flooding through my mind as I sat drawing a huge chalk flower on our driveway with my kids this evening. I had a great time, but for much of the time I was questioning everything about the experience. My children, on the other hand, were playing like virtuosos. They moved effortlessly…gracefully…from one experience to another (drawing with chalk one second…digging for ants the next). Meanwhile, I stressed over the shading on the petals of my chalk flower. It seems that I have a lot to RE-learn about play, but I have 28 days to learn these lessons. After all, you are never too old to play!

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28 Days of Seeing Beautiful


At the beginning of this month, I decided to challenge myself to change one small thing in my life.  I wanted to experiment with change; something I have always struggled with.  Inspired by the work of my friend, Lydia, I decided that I would attempt to see more beautiful in my world. Simple, right?  I thought so also. However, I soon found out that this one simple change would impact my life in profound ways, challenge me to really question my own ideas about beauty, and open my eyes to a world that I had been all but blind to before I began the journey.  Now, as I end this first 28 day challenge, I find myself feeling as if I am leaving an old friend after a wonderful 28 day visit.  It is true…seeing beautiful has become a habit for me during the last month. I doubt I will ever see the world the same way.  However, I am hesitant to move on to my next 28 day challenge.  I have been enjoying such a beautiful world with this one.

I’ve also been inspired by the people who have chosen to walk this journey with me.  Like any good road trip, it is always nice to have some like-minded friends along for the ride.  I have smiled when I read your emails describing how your world was changing as you attempted to see more beautiful.  I’ve celebrated the poems and photographs you’ve sent to me.  I’ve struggled with you as you searched for the beautiful during challenging moments of your life.  Thank you for all that you have shared with me over the last month.  Your contributions have helped me to better understand the beautiful the exist in our connections to each other.

Finally, thank you to my friend, Lydia, for inspiring this work.  I look forward to continuing to See Beautiful and Create Beautiful with you in future.  To the rest of the 428 community, I hope that Seeing Beautiful in your world has become a habit for you as well.  I hope that you will join me in our next For 28 Days challenge.  Of course, if you decided not to…I hope that you challenge yourself to take on your very own 28 day challenge.  After all, small changes can change your life in big ways!

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The Macho Side of Beautiful

I made an interesting observation today. I have been participating in my 428 Days See Beautiful challenge for 17 days now. I have told lots of people about the idea. I chatted with friends over meals. I’ve discussed the impact of seeing more beautiful with folks on Facebook. I’ve even handed out some inspiring See Beautiful swag to people I’ve connected with in the community. Nothing too surprising there. Here’s the interesting part: By and large, most of these people who I have interacted with about Seeing Beautiful…are women. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had one extended conversation about the project with a man.
The tough questions that I am now facing are: Why is this happening? Am I avoiding interactions with men about the See Beautiful campaign? Is there a part of me that feels that it would be inappropriate to give another man a See Beautiful bumper sticker? I’ve really been wrestling with these questions. I believe that I have answers for most of them. I just don’t like the answers I’m getting.
The past 17 days have been inspiring, revitalizing, and just plain fun. I can’t imagine that any human being would not benefit from seeing and sharing more beautiful with the world. And yet, there is a part of me that feels that as a man I am not supposed to reveal this part of myself to the world. I am not sure when I learned this lesson. All I know is that I learned it and I learned it well.
My wife posted this short video on her Facebook page last night. I watched it and immediately connected it to my dilemma. As a father, teacher, and community member, I want the boys and men that I care about to truly experience and appreciate the parts of our world that are beautiful. In order to nurture this idea, I need to really consider some of the lessons I learned about being a man in this world. Likewise, I need to think about the lessons that I may be unconsciously teaching my own son (and daughter) about being male. Truth be told, I’m truly challenged with this one. I guess some lucky guy will be getting a See Beautiful bumper sticker!

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