Monday, May 31, 2010

Stand, Salute, Remember...

Stop To Salute On Memorial Day
By: Captain John Rasmussen

EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina -- It was raining "cats and dogs" and I was late for physical training.

Traffic was backed up at Fort Campbell, Ky., and was moving way too slowly. I was probably going to be late, and I was growing more and more impatient.

The pace slowed almost to a standstill as I passed Memorial Grove, the site built to honor the soldiers who died in the Gander airplane crash, the worst redeployment accident in the history of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

Because it was close to Memorial Day, a small American flag had been placed in the ground next to each soldier's memorial plaque.

My concern at the time, however, was getting past the bottleneck, getting out of the rain, and getting to PT on time.

All of a sudden, infuriatingly, just as the traffic was getting started again, the car in front of me stopped.

A soldier, a private of course, jumped out in the pouring rain and ran over toward the grove.

I couldn't believe it! This knucklehead was holding up everyone for who knows what kind of prank. Horns were honking.

I waited to see the butt-chewing that I wanted him to get for making me late.

He was getting soaked to the skin. His BDUs were plastered to his frame. I watched-as he ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the small American flag that had fallen to the ground in the wind and the rain, and set it upright again.

Then, slowly, he came to attention, saluted, ran back to his car, and drove off.

I'll never forget that incident. That soldier, whose name I will never know, taught me more about duty, honor, and respect than a hundred books or a thousand lectures.

That simple salute -- that single act of honoring his fallen brother and his flag -- encapsulated all the Army values in one gesture for me. It said, "I will never forget. I will keep the faith. I will finish the mission. I am an American soldier."

I thank God for examples like that.

And on this Memorial Day, I will remember all those who paid the ultimate price for my freedom, and one private, soaked to the skin, who honored them.



Tuesday, May 25, 2010

POETography: On a Bridge

POETography is when you post what you're thinking in words, phrases, stories, or poetry about the photograph above. It can be whatever comes to your mind. It can be a personal memory...

I personally love this photo because there are multiple focal points: the runner, the group of girls to the left, the Brooklyn Bridge, New York...

So what do you think? Comment here or at our Facebook page (!/pages/The-Universal-Soul/175779326361?ref=ts) with your thoughts, words, or poetry.

As before, I've will post my response in the comments section to get the ball rolling. Check it out and post your own... Don't be a stranger! ;)

Last month's POETography:

March’s POETography:

February's POETography:

January's POETography:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Be Random. Be Kind.

Yes, I know, I have neglected my monthly Random Acts of Kindness…

So to make up for it, I’ve got a Random Act of Kindness I’ve experienced this month, along with some Random Acts that our readers have contributed. I hope this lifts your day… And PLEASE share your stories in the comments or via e-mail at


“Kindness on Aisle Seven”
K.A. Phinney

My husband and I were doing our grocery shopping the other day after work. We’ve been trying to save every penny since going on our own version of The Debt Diet. While we were standing in aisle seven, deciding on which brand of snack bars to buy and which one will be the best “bang for the buck,” an elderly woman slowly made her way toward us.

“Excuse me,” she said.

We both turned to her. I was worried she was confused or needed help with something.

“Here. Take this,” she mouthed assertively. A crumpled paper was folded in her hand.

I was a little surprised by what she was trying to do. So I looked at my husband, and tentatively reached out to receive her gift.

She continued on. “It’s a $5.00 coupon for the grocery store. It expires tomorrow, and I haven’t got use for it. I’ve got one already. So take it, if it helps. Looks like you’ve got a lot of groceries to buy.” She smiled.

“Wow!” my husband and I said in unison. We were both blown away.

“Thank you so much.” I continued. “This is really, really nice of you.”

“You’re very welcome,” she replied. And with that, she smiled, turned around, and slowly wheeled her cart down the aisle.

She slipped quietly out of our sight, as my husband and I were still frozen in the moment.

To be honest, we were almost in shock, but it wasn’t over the $5.00 dollars we would save because of her. We were charmed and blessed by her kindness, and by her divine timing.

That's because we were just talking on the drive over to the grocery about how so many people are treating each other with such rudeness and disregard nowadays.

And then just like that! God sends another messenger to remind us that kindness is still alive and well.

You’ve got to love his timing.


Random Acts From Our Readers:

Ms. Jennifer Cox writes…

I've been immersing myself in anything and everything positive for almost two years now. My Facebook status updates are positive and affirmative quotes 90% of the time, and I love to Facebook "share" all the threads from groups just like yours with all of my friends all of the time. It benefits me tremendously to be surrounded by all of this wonderful energy, and I always want to spread the love.

Apparently, I'm not alone! I was in Big Y (local grocery store) the other day and was standing with my cart, texting my kids to see what they wanted for dinner, when I realized someone that had been walking past me was slowing to a stop. I lifted my head up to see who it was, and standing there in front of me was the cutest, little... old man.

He smiled widely and said, "Here, you can have the last one," and extended his hand.

In it was a business-size card. However, this was no ordinary business card. It was a SMILE CARD. On the back it read this: "Keep this card with you always... Let it remind you that someone is thinking about you right now and smiling! You're a very special person. Here's hoping that just holding this card will put some extra sunshine in your day! Put on a happy face and watch others start smiling too!"

And in that moment I realized, it all really does come full circle.

Ms. Auxy Espinoza writes…

Hi. I have a super soft spot for the elderly. I have helped three of them to date.

The first one was a very old lady crossing the street. Through the corner of my eye I caught something; it was her legs going up in the air as she hit the floor. I immediately pulled over, made sure she was okay, and drove her home.

The second one was an elderly man who was running after a water bottle a jogger had dropped, and he fell face first on the pavement. I happen to be driving by and jumped out of my car to see if I could help him. He was more embarrassed than hurt, but I was able to help him up and laugh it off with him to make him feel better.

The third one was another older lady who I saw on the ground right after she landed. She tried to lean on a mailbox and missed it. Along with two others, I was able to lift her. The others left, but I couldn't leave her, so I asked her if I could call someone for her. She said there was no one to call because her kids were just teens. I offered to give her a ride home. Somehow, I was able to take her all the way home and make her some tea. Her teenager thanked me for helping his mom.

Acts of kindness come naturally to me, and I love making others feel good.


Thank you, Jennifer and Auxy, for sharing with us! And thank you to all the people out there who dare to be random... and dare to be KIND!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Like a Child

When I was a little girl, my sister and I would spend the length of our summer days building indoor forts made of sheets and pillows. We’d fill them with books and toys and stuffed animals. I remember the afternoon sun would flood through the long floor to ceiling windows of our home and splay across our creation. We’d play in those forts all day, invite our mother to visit for snacks, and sleep in them at night.

We were safe and warm, tucked inside. Nothing mattered. The world was there inside those billowing walls, and that was everything.

Those memories are some of my most precious ones… especially now that we are all grown up. And like bees, we are busy swarming from bud to bud, making a life for ourselves and tasting the sweet gifts life has to offer.

But sometimes in the comings and goings, we are stung. And sometimes there’s a crash landing as we navigate the world and all its complexities.

It’s times like those that make me yearn for childhood, lazy summer days, and the shelter of our forts. It’s times like these, when I feel so far off from the beginning years of my life, that I need a little shelter.

I saw a little girl today, running out of a craft store right behind her mother. She had the biggest smile on her face. She skipped and giggled. The sun shined down on her and the technicolored bouquet of silk flowers in her hand. I thought, If only we could be children again… she has her whole life in front of her.

And for a moment, I wished I was her.

But, I am me.

And God put me where he wanted me, when he wanted me. I may not be able to slip inside a sheeted fort with my little sister again; I may not be able to run through the streets with silk flowers in my hands, but I can work to protect the aspects of myself that are childlike.

Growing older doesn’t mean we have to completely relinquish the irreplaceable spark of childhood.

So like a child, we must work to keep the doors of our heart open, as many of you have instructed. We must trust and give others the benefit of the doubt, like a child. And we must see the good in everything, like a child.

And when it all goes to hell—as we know it sometimes does—we can close our eyes, and find shelter in the memories.

…I can almost hear my sister now, giggling and calling my name. I can feel the warmth of the sun seeping through the sheets. Inside the fort, I am safe. I am a child—God’s child...

I can weather this stormy weather if I can just preserve the very nature that God gave to children first.

To simply trust God...

To only see good...

To love effortlessly...

... like a child.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Million Doors to the Human Heart

The deepest sort of pain is the agony you feel when you’ve laid yourself down for someone, and they walk all over you.

You’ve loved them. You’ve raised them up. You’ve proven your loyalty time and time again.

Yet they do the unspeakable. And after they’ve done what they’ve come to do, they accuse you of not doing enough, not being enough. They pour the proverbial salt on your wounds.

Have you ever felt that way?

Have you felt like you truly did everything in your power to love and forgive, but that it’s still not enough for them? Have you turned your cheek just to have the other slapped?

I can tell you I’ve felt like that so many times that I can’t recount them all. So I figure, if I am suffering from a pain like this, I am sure all of you out there have felt it before too.

It’s really the most desperate feeling, isn’t it?

Most times in life, when things don’t go well, it’s because you didn’t want it bad enough, or that you didn’t try hard enough, or that you made a mistake along the way. Well, that pain may hurt, but you know you have something to do with it.

The pain I am talking about is the kind that comes when you have done everything in your power to be good, to be patient, to be just, to be loving, to be forgiving. This pain I am talking about leaves you feeling helpless and unworthy because the other person doesn’t find you or your actions good enough for them.

They have rejected you in your wholeness.

They have rejected you for who you are.

And they have rejected the very best of who you are… and you are left devastated.

When this happens, how do we cope? How do we repair the brokenness? How do we come to grips with the reality that things will never be the same? How do we find a way to live with and accept the rejection and the feelings of being unworthy?

I don’t have the answers… because if I did, I wouldn’t be asking you all these questions, and so many. I’ve gotten good at dealing with all types of letdowns, but this sort of emotional crisis is the very one that holds my heart hostage and torments me long after the rejection occurs.

Please tell me, how do you deal? How do you let go and learn to open your heart again? Because that’s what I worry about the most…

There are a million doors to the human heart, but I feel them closing some days, one by one. And when they close, they are empty. And when they close, they hurt. And I am worried that when they close, I will never find the courage to open them again; rather, I will offer up my sensitivity for equanimity.

It’s so hard to live this life with a heart of open doors. It’s so hard to keep them open and harder to open them once they’ve been shut, of this I am sure.

So my question is this: Do we suffer or do we survive?

Do we leave those doors open and allow whatever comes our way to enter in? Or do we close and lock those doors to keep the world out? Suffer or survive?

In truth, I have no answers tonight.

I wish I did.

I wish I never had to ask the question at all.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Music of Heartbreak

We are all in the same boat.

And that boat is called the human experience. And right now that boat is flooding with heartbreak.

In times like these it’s our natural instinct to work wildly to expel the water from our sinking vessel. And if that doesn’t work, we're tempted to jump ship all together.

At what point do we realize the water is pouring in far faster than we can shovel it out? At what point do we jump ship? And when we jump ship, when do we return to assess the wreckage?

I don’t have the answers; perhaps that is part of the human condition. But my heartbroken friend, what I can do for you tonight is offer up the notion that you aren’t alone. You can find a Universal accord—a “distant companionship” you could say—with time, with God, and with the many who suffer along with you.

As cliché as it is—and I pray you’ll forgive me— I find looking up at a blanket of milky stars in the night sky to be very comforting. It reminds me of this Universal accord. The stars tell me I am not alone. They tell me I am connected to so many things. They tell me that as I look up and fling my words toward the sky that so many, too, are uttering the same prayers for Peace and Healing.

So as I work tirelessly to save this sinking ship (or perhaps walk away from the wreckage of heartbreak entirely), I can know that I am not alone. God is on my side. Time is my friend. And all of the heartbroken tonight will be walking with me.

Though I walk away, I am not alone.

Though it may hurt badly right now, time will heal my wounds.

Though it may take a miracle to love and trust again, God’s been known to work a miracle or two.


And as far as articulating the deep aching we feel for the loved one who’s died, who’s rejected us, who’s left us in the cold, nothing does it better for me than the song “Walk Away” by Ben Harper.
His words are my words. His words are yours.

Please listen... and know you’re not the only one.

"Walk Away"
By: Ben Harper

Oh no- here comes that sun again.
And (that) means another day without you my friend.
And it hurts me to look into the mirror at myself.
And it hurts even more to have to be with somebody else.

And it's so hard to do and so easy to say.
But sometimes - sometimes,
you just have to walk away - walk away.

With so many people to love in my life, why do I worry about one?
But you put the happy in my ness, you put the good times into my fun.

And it's so hard to do and so easy to say.
But sometimes - sometimes,
you just have to walk away - walk away and head for the door.

We've tried the goodbye so many days.
We walk in the same direction so that we could never stray.
They say if you love somebody than you have got to set them free,
but I would rather be locked to you than live in this pain and misery.
They say time will make all this go away,
but it's time that has taken my tomorrows and turned them into yesterdays.
And once again that rising sun is droppin' on down
And once again, you my friend, are nowhere to be found.

And it's so hard to do and so easy to say.
But sometimes, sometimes you just have to walk away, walk away and head for the door.
You just walk away - walk away - walk away.
You just walk away, walk on, turn and head for the door.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

No Regrets

Regret is like a boulder tied to your ankle. It's heavy, it's burdensome, and you can't shake it. And there's nowhere to hide from regret because there's no one to blame but yourself. You did it. No one else. That's a jagged pill to swallow, isn't it?

I think that in our days, as they add up, there are so many simple, ordinary opportunities that come up that give us the ability to act in greatness. Sometimes we think only superheroes and world leaders are the people that can achieve greatness by a single word spoken or the power they yield over the people.

Well, let me tell you, that is plain WRONG!

God has blessed us all with worthiness and greatness. We just have to take hold of those gifts. Our daily lives-- for the most part-- aren't glamorous: we don't have hoards of people chasing after us or near-death situations springing up that require our heroism. But what we do have is our jobs, our families, our friends, and our communities. And I can bet you that those people need a hero, and that hero is YOU!

With your words, your love, your mercy, your guidance, your forgiveness, and your support, you can help change the world you live in one person at a time. You have the gifts and the abilities to live your life extraordinarily, and you've been called to be that light in others too.

And if you don't choose to embrace the tools of life, you will regret it, not just for your cherished ones, but for yourself. If we don't choose the right thing to do in everyday living and circumstances, we will surely regret it when we look over our shoulders.

Please, don't let any opportunity to truly live and love pass you by. Because before you know it, you will have gone many, many years without truly living your life. And you'll truly regret that the mark you leave in this world and on the lives of others wasn't heroic at all.


I actually wrote the poem below about regret before I wrote the introductory part of this post. It honestly just came to me. I was drinking my morning coffee, thinking about life... And there it was. I hope it reminds you of all the gifts and opportunities you have been blessed with and that you must not let them go to waste.


"Because I Would Not"
By: K.A. Phinney

A long, long time ago, I had my words.
And I wasted them.

When I was young, I had my health.
But I neglected it.

Once, I had the favor of men.
And I misused it.

There was a time, I had power.
But I abused it.

At a point, I looked the needy in the eyes.
Yet I refused them.

For years, I was blessed with love.
And I neglected him.

I once had eyes to see all things.
But I didn’t use them.

I was given opportunities for change.
And I misspent them.

There were times I could grant forgiveness.
But I denied them.

And now I know, as I look back, I had a life.
But I squandered it because...

I would not speak.
I would not sacrifice.
I would not show mercy.
I would not love.
I would not see.
I would not change.
I would not forgive.

And because I would not, I am not.

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