"Don't ask permission, beg forgiveness." It's what we tell our summer guests as the only house rule. It may seem simple, but what I have come to realize is that permission is a funny thing. When we were kids, we needed a lot of permission: permission to leave the dinner table, permission to take out the car, permission to borrow a necklace or hair ribbon. Permission was the ubiquitous elephant in the room you could never get around.
We don't ask permission that much any more, and yet, while our moral norms have broadened in some ways (i.e., I can now wear pants anywhere, LOL), we have, in fact, become more stifled as the list of things we can't talk about is growing daily. Politics is definite dinner party stopper, as is right to life or right to death, gun control, the military; even world peace seems fraught with politically correct innuendo. So it is no surprise that any discussion of the supernatural raises eyebrows.
It's a reason why people look for a special place to explore the miraculous, and why we continue to be asked to speak about miracles. Once we share our own miracle stories, others feel comfortable opening up and disclosing theirs. We give them permission, not in so many words, but through our actions where it counts.
It seems now, often instead of granting permission, we've moved into a restrictive realm of what you can and cannot do. I was reminded of that recently while buying birthday candles for my mom's 95th birthday cake. Striking up a conversation with the floor sweeper in the bakery, she mentioned her own grandmother, who at 95 was making up her own rules of what she could do (much to the concern of her adult children.) Since the woman lived until well past 105, the philosopher floor sweeper confided in me that that was the secret: just do what you can do, for as long as you can do it - no permission needed. It sounded like an effective strategy, so I started to look around for other examples.
In reading David Baron's wonderful book American Eclipse, he writes about Maria Mitchell of Nantucket who was a noted astronomer and professor at Vassar. She didn't seek permission to take her group of females across the country to Denver in 1879 to study the total solar eclipse, she just did it; even after the government declined their funding believing women were too fragile to make the tedious trip. Yet, it is in the doing where we find the wonder, the joy and inspiration for others.
Too many times we hold back from following our plans and dreams for fear of what others might think or we wait for permission that will never come. Instead, we must remember to be bold. And when we have doubts, which will surely come as we try something new, whether it's following our heart, stepping outside the box or even speaking of miracles, it helps to keep Goethe's words close to our soul and believe that once you begin: Yes, YOU Can. Permission Granted. (Joan)
A few evenings ago, I walked by a panhandler, cup in hand, asking for change, hardly an unusual occurrence in New York City. As I passed him by, I turned around and did what I frequently do in these situations. We made eye contact and I said not tonight, but I hope you have a good evening. A few yards away I hailed a cab and was struggling to close the heavy van door when the panhandler ran up to help and closed it for me. He smiled and waved as we drove away. A silent message of thanks, I suppose, for acknowledging his presence.
It got me thinking about human connection and the universal language we all share. I was reminded of an early morning a few months ago with my 2-year old grandson, Shiloh. We have our little morning rituals, he and I, one of which is to simultaneously say, "Good morning to the day," as I pull up his bedroom shade. On this particular April morning NYC was in the midst of an unseasonable snowstorm. Shiloh stood in his crib and for a moment stared at the swirling, dancing, fluffy snow, and then he began to laugh - down to his toes, taken by surprise, a pint-size bundle of mirth. I couldn't help but be drawn in, to see what he saw, a bit of heaven on earth.
This July most of us have been riveted by the plight of the Thai Wild Boar soccer team, twelve boys and their coach caught deep in a cave when the rains came. Their plight became our plight. Countries and individuals sent help, expertise and money. We could understand their fear, we prayed in every language and religion for their survival against impossible odds. One brave diver lost his life and many more continued to risk theirs until the end, when one of the Thai Navy Seals wrote, "We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what. All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave." I imagine a collective, planet-wide sigh of relief. In a world at odds with itself, there were no sides to choose and no discussion to be had.
There is a human language available to us where we have an opportunity "to make music that will melt the stars."* Gratitude. Joy. Universal Connection. No words required.
I am hardly an international business tycoon, generally more used to titles like mother, wife, sister, friend, author, consultant, volunteer – even so, I have logged nearly 100,000 air miles since January and it's just barely mid-year! I guess that’s why so many of my experiences are travel-related ones, like the story of James – our inaugural blog, which was the first time I experienced an airport miracle. But there have been others, like the time I was in Puerto Rico returning to California to regroup before a miracle talk in Boston, where after slipping and fracturing a couple of vertebrae in my back, through the kindness of strangers my heels got swapped for sneakers that were tied ever so gently before being escorted to the next airplane gate so I could make it home. The folks who helped didn’t know me from Adam and yet they stopped, even after I signed my life away by refusing transport to the local hospital.
I was reminded of the kindness of strangers again this month when I found myself debilitated because of a solid nose plant on the armrest of my airplane seat while boarding the plane. (Long story but suffice it to say people should always move to allow entry to the window seat instead of becoming a tripping hazard.) With a face the size of a beach ball and having delayed the flight to await the paramedics, I was stunned when the woman across the aisle introduced herself and said she’d look out for me if I needed anything. From my “reclining” position with a face mask of ice, “Just raise your hand,” she said, “and I’ll get help.” As if she didn’t have enough to do with occupying her 10-month old on the 6-hour flight across the country.
It is in moments like these where human connection occurs, a kindness generated by kindred spirits being willing to help each other without the pretense of anonymity or isolation. It is as G. K. Chesterton said, “We men and women are all in the same boat [or plane], upon a stormy sea, and we owe each other a great and terrible loyalty.” The Broadway musical Come From Away celebrates this connection in the story of the 38 commercial jets that were forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland after the events of September 11, 2001 and the townspeople who took them in. As Gander Mayor Claude Elliott says, “What we consider the most simple thing in life is to help people. You’re not supposed to look at people’s color, their religion, their sexual orientation — you look at them as people.” It is a stirring illustration of human nature at its best.
These miracle moments, and yes, that’s what I think they are, like Katie’s bus ride with hero Rose Mapendo, Meb’s trip to Chicago to the Oprah Show and the plane ride home where she had her own "A-ha" moment, the sharing of the myriad of miracle stories we have had the honor of hearing, are the daily moments of life that are worth remembering and celebrating. Just this week social media has come alive with the story of 15-year old Clara and her example of becoming a miracle for a gentleman on her plane. These stories bring hope for resilience, for forgiveness and for building faith in humankind.
Yes, I am a “half full” person; my Rocky Raccoon face is already fading, but the warmth of another person’s caring will remain with me for a lifetime and remind me to pay it forward by being kind to others. These are the miracle gifts we can give each other, spreading kindness and connection in our personal spheres that can ripple outward and begin a wave of everyday miracles ultimately touching each of us. (Joan)
A mourning dove has built a nest on the air conditioner outside my home office window. She must have been sitting on eggs because no matter what this past crazy April could throw at her, she didn't move (as far as I could tell). When an unseasonable snowstorm hit, I watched the snowflakes pile up on her; one afternoon some days later, a thunderstorm rolled through, fierce wind ruffling her feathers and rain dripping from her wings. Still, she maintained her stoic vigil. I realize that she is supposed to feel the elements, but this air conditioner is exposed, not a leaf or branch in sight. It seemed to me under different circumstances she might have spread her wings or flown the "coop," or something to escape the barrage nature unleashed. Instead, she was single-minded in her purpose, dove comfort be damned. When the eggs hatched, the real work began and she finally flew into action to care for and feed her squabs.
There isn't a mother I know who doesn't understand the notion that just when you think the hard part is over, the real work begins. If I can just get him out of diapers; if he could just do well in school; if I can just teach her to be kind and honest and herself; if the mean girls could just leave her alone; if she could just get her license - to drive a 3000 pound machine - while dodging the minefields of alcohol, drugs and the boy next door. Oh, and find R-E-S-P-E-C-T for their mother at the same time.
Motherhood requires the wisdom of the ages and the patience of Job, usually cultivated on the fly in the trenches of the latest challenge. Failure is inevitable, so resilience is imperative. Mothers are the ultimate caregiver, the keeper of maladies and camp director; they are unconditional love personified. God had a sense of humor when She placed such burden on the shoulders of one person. Fortunately, She passed the sense of humor on, so mothers could find reason to laugh at their predicament.
Mothers may have superpowers, but they don't wear capes, making them miracles in disguise. Barbara Kingsolver seems to understand when she said, "Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws." As I write this, my mourning dove is teaching her offspring to flap their wings to prepare them to leave the nest. Her beautiful and melancholy lament, a call I have loved since my years in California, reminds me that the ultimate gift a mother brings is the one that teaches them to fly on their own and lets them go. (Katie)
Several weeks ago I lost my voice, which is really a misnomer because I know exactly where it went…somewhere off the coast of Columbia in very high seas. Was I afraid while screaming at the top of my lungs at the surging sea? Incredibly, not really. I trusted the captain and was surrounded by dear friends (and besides, nothing bad ever happens when the sun is shining, right?) It was a lesson in ceding control to those who know better than I how to handle certain situations. Needless to say we returned to port in high spirits having bonded over waves and wetness.
When I awoke the next morning dry and happy to be alive, I realized my voice had abandoned me somewhere on the high seas. I was instantly grateful that my most recent Miracle Chase presentation had been made a few days previously and my talking would be limited to small groups…what I forgot was that one of those “small groups” was my 94-year old mother who had left the cold of Boston to visit me upon my return to the U.S. later that same day.
Between mom’s “older” ears and my lack of voice, we had to learn to communicate in a new way. At first it was frustrating, me “screaming” at the top of my lungs, which was not only painful; it was painfully ineffective. What followed was a lesson in patience and understanding. We learned to communicate less in words and more in touch, in feelings and in anticipating the other’s needs. We spent a week together soaking up the warmth of the Florida sunshine creating a new relationship: one where my words were sparse and she spoke more openly. Not in a hurry to answer, since I was thinking of how to use the fewest words possible, it gave her time to frame her next thought and share a new experience.
I knew there was a lesson in our time together, not only because sometimes we think we have all the answers and hurry to fill in the blank of what we think others are asking, but because it was an opportunity to truly be present in the moment. It was a poignant reminder of Willa Cather’s words about having, “…our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes see and our ears can hear what there is about us always.” Because, as she tells us, “Where there is great love, there are always miracles.” In the silence it is easier to hear them! (Joan)