I spent Thanksgiving with some family friends of mine in Ithaca, N.Y. While I was there I sat next to a woman who it turns out met me years ago when my family lived in North Carolina. Talking to her brought up a very particular memory that I would just as soon forget.

Around the time this woman met me, when I was 8 years old or so, my family went to a group meditation regularly on Sunday nights. Usually the kids would go outside and play in the front yard while the adults meditated. During one meditation my brother, three years my senior, said something or did something that set me off. I was so angry at him I sat on his back and started pounding his head into the grass. As soon as my outburst finished I felt so ashamed and so embarrassed I sat in the front seat of our minivan for the rest of the evening. All I could do was cry and berate myself for lashing out. I felt so horrible I didn’t even go into the house for dinner.

I’ve rationalized the event many times – it was years ago, I learned my lesson, I won’t do it again, etc. – but the burning pit of shame stayed with me until now, 17 years later. Meeting this woman I still felt a burning pit of guilt/shame/embarrassment.

I think many people feel the same way about something they’ve done. I think most of us, if not all, have some moments and some memories we’re not proud of. Things we wish we could go back in time and change. For me at least, tied into the guilt/shame/embarrassment is love. My inner dialogue goes something like this: “I’m a bad girl, I did a bad thing and now no one can ever love me. How could they? What I did was horrendous.”

The truth is what I did was not so horrendous, not so horrible. And even if it was, that doesn’t mean I’m any less deserving of love. I know this isn’t the popular point of view but I firmly believe even pedophiles, rapists, mass murderers, etc. deserve love. No I don’t think they should go unpunished, I don’t condone behavior that harms others, but that doesn’t mean those people are any less deserving of love. And nor am I.

What I’m learning is to forgive myself for everything I’ve done in the past I don’t like. To look at what I’ve done and do more than say, “Well, I know better now.” To look at what I’ve done and say, “That wasn’t your best moment but I love you anyway.” That’s what unconditional love is. Love no matter what I do or say or think or feel. I also know God’s love for me will never diminish. There is nothing I can do that will make God love me any less. And I’m moving to a place where I too feel the same way. Where I know there is no act I can commit that’s so horrendous I don’t deserve to be loved. A place where I love myself deeply and completely no matter what.

I have the same wish for others. Because truly, making mistakes doesn’t mean you deserve love any less.

I dream of a world where we can look into the depths of our pasts with love and compassion. Where we forgive ourselves for everything we perceive to be “bad.” Where we let the past go because we know we deserve unconditional love no matter what. I dream of a world where we not only love ourselves unconditionally but those around us. Where live in a world filled with love and light and hope. A world where love is boundless and plentiful.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Right now I’m in Chicago, sitting on the bed in my hotel room. This past week has been hectic for me because I started off in Boston, trotted up to Ithaca, and then ended up here in the Windy City. When my life starts to get crazy it’s easy for me to lose sight of myself. To become engrossed in getting from point A to point B, finding something to eat, and accomplishing everything on my to-do list. My mind gets wrapped up in the mundane and I forget who I am.

Tonight I passed by the Holy Name Cathedral on North State St. and I felt compelled to walk in. Even though I’m Jewish I love Cathedrals and feel no compunction about attending other people’s religious services. (Even if I have no idea what’s going on.) I sat in the very last row and soaked in my surroundings. The high arched ceiling, the wooden pews, the stained glass windows, the maroon robes of the choir. I allowed all my cares and worries of the day to ebb out of me as I looked at the magnificence that lay before me.

As I sat in the last pew wearing my bulky lavender winter coat, my shopping bag next to me, the choir sang the introit:

Ad te levavi animam meam: Deus meus in te confide, non eru bes cam: neque irrideant me inimici mei: etenim universi qui te exspectant, non condundenttur. Ps. Vias tuas, Domine, demonstra mihi: et semitas tuas edoceme.

Which translates into:

Unto you have I lifted up my soul. O God, I trust in you, let me not be put to shame; do not allow my enemies to laugh at me; for none of those who are awaiting you will be disappointed. V. Make your ways known unto me, O Lord, and teach me your paths.

At the end of the introit, the choir at Holy Name just kept repeating the word “animam” over and over again. Animam is a Latin derivative of the word for soul. The closest I can come to sharing my experience with you all is this YouTube video from some other place:

As I listened to the choir chant “animam” again and again I was reminded of my true nature, of who I really am. I remembered I am more than this body, I am more than this mind, I am more than this life. I remembered I am that. I am that song, that music, that person, that feeling of expansiveness, that indescribable spiritual something that separates the mundane from the celestial. I am that.

It was such an awesome and lovely reminder and I sincerely hope when others are entrenched in the hustle and bustle they too will gravitate toward something that gives them a feeling of expansion, whether it’s a sunset or a gorgeous piece of music. It’s easy to get caught up in it all but we are so much more than we give ourselves credit for. It’s just a matter of remembering.

I dream of a world where people know who they truly are, know they are more than flesh and blood and bones. Where people know they are magnificent, divine creatures capable of anything. Where people sprout metaphorical wings and soar above the clouds coasting on a spiritual high. A world where people see magic in the everyday and feel expansive and uplifted at all times.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

There is a quote (and I can’t for the life of me find it) that says something like, “If a child speaks the truth accept it immediately. If even a great teacher proclaims a falsehood, reject it at once.”

Before this week I really wanted to follow someone blindly. I really wanted to be shrouded in ignorance and let someone else discern the truth for me. I wanted to be led and not have to worry about anything. I wanted someone else to know all the answers and to just tell them to me.

As a child the people I followed blindly were my parents. It was painful when I learned my parents are indeed human and thus make mistakes. After I learned I couldn’t follow my parents blindly I turned to spiritual teachers. Spiritual teachers must know everything and thus I can accept whatever they say, right? Except the spiritual teachers who encourage blind faith, who encourage their followers to never question anything, have a tendency to be the drink-the-Kool-aid variety. Yet, a part of me really wanted that. Really wanted someone else to come along and fill my brain so I didn’t have to think at all.

I don’t know for sure why people join cults but I think it might be so they don’t have to discern anything for themselves. It’s so tempting to surround one’s self with someone who speaks with conviction and confidence. Someone who claims to know all the answers. Someone who talks about the future and seems to know things. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of, “So and so said” to give authority to a statement. “Well if so and so said it, it must be true!” I think most people long for an ultimate authority, an ultimate truth, and that’s why Christians quote Bible verses and Jews the Torah and Muslims the Qua’ran. People are looking for a lasting and inarguable Truth. A truth above all other Truths.

I am no different. But this week I painfully learned no person speaks the Truth for all people at all times. The guiding principle I must rely on is my own higher self. The divinity within me. The only voice I must listen to is my intuition. If I think something is wrong, then it’s wrong for me. No one else has all the answers because everybody is just trying to figure out things for themselves. Beside the fact, as far as I know, all spiritual faiths say divinity resides within. We don’t need to go outside ourselves looking for answers. How can I truly honor that notion if I think someone else will be able to tell me how to run my life? Or that someone else knows better than I do what’s in my best interest?

The entire point of the spiritual path is to find God within me, and that means looking to myself for answers. Tapping into my higher power to learn my own Truth. It means living awake, it means discerning for myself what is in my best interest and what is not. It means trusting myself.

And so while learning the lesson of self-discernment was painful, I see now I am walking toward enlightenment. And enlightenment means knowing truth resides within me.

I dream of a world where we honor the God within us. Where we trust in ourselves and our intuitive ability. Where we seek within for the answers to our questions. Where we become self-discerning and autonomous knowing the truth within us is authority enough. I dream of a world where we allow for multiple truths, realizing the truth looks different from person to person. I dream of a world where we wake up our minds and bring our God-hood to the surface.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

“Why didn’t she dedicate a song to me? Why didn’t he mention me in the thank you’s? Pay attention to me! Why aren’t you showing how much you care???”

For the past month these thoughts have flickered through my mind. I’ve wanted people to pay attention to me, to love me, to show they cared. And when I didn’t get the attention I wanted I felt dejected.

Last weekend I went to a reiki workshop a friend of mine led. He said whenever we have those thoughts, that neediness, the craving for attention from others, it’s a red-flag. It’s a message to us we’re not giving ourselves the love we so desperately need. If I’ve learned anything in the past few months it’s that everything comes from within. So when I want others to pay attention to me that really just means I want to pay attention to myself. The outside world is a reflection of my inner world, a projection if you will.

My friend reminded me I can give myself all the love I need. I have an endless supply ready and waiting at all times. He told me, “You are the love of your life.” That sentence really struck me because I am the love of my life! I don’t need to find someone else to give me love because it’s already within me! The more love I give to myself, the more it’s reflected in the outer world. The more I treat myself with love the more others do the same. When I’m feeling needy and clingy I can shower the deserted spots of my soul with love so the flowers can bloom.

I guess I just want to say it’s so easy to fall into the trap of seeking outside for the things I need. I’ve been conditioned that way – the entire capitalistic system of the U.S. is predicated on the idea. But I don’t have to buy into it. I can deeply and completely love and approve and accept myself exactly as I am right now. I can treat myself with love. I can give myself the love I need. I can shift around the love in my heart so it waters the dry parts of my soul. I can take care of me and love me and pay attention to myself. Everything I need I already have.

“In the infinity of life where I am all is perfect, whole and complete. I live in harmony and balance with everyone I know. Deep at the center of my being, there is an infinite well of love. I now allow this love to flow to the surface. It fills my heart, my body, my mind, my consciousness, my very being, and radiates out from me in all directions and returns to me multiplied. The more love I use and give, the more I have to give. The supply is endless. The use of love makes me feel good; it is an expression of my inner joy.

I love myself; therefore, I take loving care of my body. I lovingly feed it nourishing foods and beverages, I lovingly groom it and dress it, and my body lovingly responds to me with vibrant health and energy.

I love myself; therefore, I provide for myself a comfortable home, one that fills all my needs and is a pleasure to be in. I fill the rooms with the vibration of love so that all who enter, myself included, will feel this love and be nourished by it.

I love myself; therefore, I work at a job I truly enjoy doing, one that uses my creative talents and abilities, working with and for people I love and who love me, and earning a good income.

I love myself; therefore, I behave and think in a loving way to all people for I know that which I give out returns to me multiplied. I only attract loving people in my world, for they are a mirror of what I am.

I love myself; therefore, I live totally in the now, experiencing each moment as good and knowing that my future is bright and joyous and secure, for I am a beloved child of the Universe, and the Universe lovingly takes care of me now and forever more. All is well in my world.” – an affirmation from You Can Heal Your Life.

I dream of a world where the above affirmation is true for everyone. Where we experience all of those things. A world where we all deeply and completely love and approve and accept ourselves unconditionally.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

On Halloween I sat in the car with my friend and remarked how I loved her baby’s outfit. He wore an orange and white onesie that said, “I want my mummy.”

I remarked, “Little kids and old people can wear anything. I sure couldn’t pull off his outfit.”

“Yes you could,” you said.

“I guess you’re right.”

“You just wouldn’t be buying into social conformity,” she added.

That one comment got me thinking about conformity and what’s “appropriate” for people to wear. What is appropriate and who gets to define it? I understand dressing for the weather, but other than that, why is some clothing more “appropriate” than others? Why do we have a corporate culture that dictates men and women have to wear suits? Why can’t I wear an orange and white jumpsuit into the office? As long as I’m not harming myself or others what does it matter? I also realized I have such admiration and respect for people who wear whatever the heck they want with total confidence. I realized I want to be one of those people too. With more than just clothes.

I realized from my friend’s comment how much I let what other people might think of me dictate my behavior. For instance, as I walk home from work I end telephone conversations with my parents by reciting affirmations. When I get to crosswalks or too close to people I furtively mumble my affirmations or pause while I wait for the light to change. Because, ohmygod what would people think?!? Honestly they probably wouldn’t think anything. And if they did does it really matter?

I’m coming to a place where I realize what other people think is really none of my business. When I get caught up in how others might be judging me it only causes stress and misery. A few months ago I wrote a post about being home alone on a Saturday night and how I choose what I feel. Part of my angst about it stemmed from this notion I’ve carried with me since high school. The idea if I stay home on the weekend I’m unlovable or pathetic or a friendless loser. Guess what? No one has ever said that to me. In fact, I’d wager people aren’t thinking about me and my weekend plans at all; they are too busy living their lives and worrying about their own weekend plans.

The flip side of worrying about what other people think is so what if they are judging me? If people think I’m a pathetic loser freak for staying home on a Saturday, so what? If people think I look ridiculous wearing an orange and white jumpsuit that says, “I want my mummy,” so what? What does it matter and who cares? Why should I let other people’s perceptions (or fear of their perceptions) limit me? My joy and my happiness is the most important thing in my world. Life is too short to spend it worrying about what’s going in my neighbor’s head.

I dream of a world where we move beyond limitation and lack. A world where we do what makes us happy, what brings us joy. I dream of a world where we realize our perception of ourselves is what matters the most. A world where we realize we are free to do whatever we want. A world where we are loved and accepted as we are unconditionally. A world where we love ourselves so deeply what other people think of us doesn’t even enter our minds. A world where we all march to the beat of our own drummer knowing we are in complete alignment with our highest selves and our highest good. A world where we allow ourselves to be who we are in every conceivable way.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

One of the best ways to make myself miserable is to start comparing myself to others. To start the ranking process to figure out who’s superior and who’s inferior. To look at someone else and feel bad because I don’t have their complexion, their body, their brains, their whatever. One of the best ways to make myself miserable is to start wanting to be someone else because I think they are better or superior to me.

U.S. culture really doesn’t help matters. It seems to me anyway, there is this overarching push to achieve, to be the best at something. And if you’re not the best then you’re just a loser. What’s that saying, “No one remembers who came in second?” And, “Second place is another name for first loser?” What lovely concepts!

This ranking thing has to go. I can’t speak for everyone but I can say for me it’s been detrimental. In high school I really wanted to be salutatorian of my class, mostly so I could give a speech at graduation. The day class rank came out I remember passing by the guidance counselor in the cafeteria and I said, “Well?” She held up three fingers. I had dropped from number two to number three. I went to my car in the parking lot and cried as I slumped over the steering wheel. I cried. Over class rank. Because I was one one-thousandth of a point lower than someone else. Really? What does it matter if I’m number two or number 200? It’s doesn’t mean I’m “worse” than anyone else.

I think partly, yes, in high school I used my class rank as a means to identify my self-worth, but I know now self-worth comes from within. Yet, I think at the root of this whole ranking, superiority/inferiority thing is a rejection of the self. Of wanting to be like someone else. To look like someone else. To have what someone else has.

One of my favorite authors Louise L. Hay says, “We are each made to be different.” It does me no good to try to be like anyone else because I end up demoralized and depressed. I am me. I am made by my creator specifically so I can be me. We are each made to be different. No one is superior or inferior to anyone. This whole rank and number one business is a human construct, which means it can be unconstructed.

We are made to be ourselves. We are made to be different. Billions of stars light up the night sky. Each is important. Each is valuable. I don’t look like Heidi Klum because I’m not supposed to look like Heidi Klum. I’m supposed to look like me. The more I love and approve and accept myself as I am the better. So I’m kicking inferiority and superiority out the door.

I dream of a world where we all love and approve and accept ourselves as we are. Where we recognize our magnificence, where we recognize our brightness. Where we know we are neither superior nor inferior to anyone else. Where we understand we are each made to be different. Where we revel in our differences and accept who we are as people. Where we come together as a bouquet of flowers, each flower beautiful in its own right, but not nearly as beautiful as when they’re bound together.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I’ve been dancing around this issue for a while now. Related to my understanding I deserve to rejoice in life, I deserve all the pleasures life has to offer, there has been this layer of inferiority. What I mean is I ask myself, “Who am I to accomplish anything great? I’m just a girl from Kansas.” A part of me believes all I could ever hope for is to get married, raise two kids, live in the suburbs and have a dog named Sparky. Because I’m just a girl from Kansas.

I’ve been living in a gilded cage, accepting the subtle messages and indoctrination about what I can hope to accomplish in my life. “You’re not born into wealth or fame? The best you can hope for is a job that pays the bills, where you’ll work until your health starts to deteriorate, a faithful spouse, and good kids.” As my friend Mark from Australia says, “We’re like automatons. We go to school, graduate, get married, have kids, retire, have grandkids, and then die.” He’s right. The sad thing is that’s all a part of me ever expected, ever hoped to achieve.

Yet when I graduated from college I felt such despair because I wasn’t satisfied with that life. I wanted my life to be about more than just going to work and being social. And the good Lord answered.

My Creator sent me people to rattle my cage, to open my door. Last night I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is a little bit psychic. He started telling me all these things I will do and accomplish in my life. My first reaction was, “What? Are you serious? I’m just a girl from Kansas! Who am I to accomplish all that??” He told me about my future not so I can strut around with a puffed up ego but rather because I am at a crossroads. I can continue to believe in limitation and lack, that I am this small, insignificant person or not. I can continue to believe I am incapable of accomplishing great things or not. I am at the point where I can embrace my destiny or I can turn away from it. I choose to embrace it.

When I asked my friend how to let go of my fear and my limiting beliefs he said in his (typically) chill manner, “You just do.” I wanted to smack him because how can it be that easy? Of course he’s right but for those of us who are, shall we say, more stubborn, I think this is where EFT comes in. And affirmations. And meditation. And all the things that help us move beyond our limitations. Because while I may not be able to do back flips and round offs right now, I certainly won’t be able to do them if I think I never can.

So I am flying out of my gilded cage and soaring to new heights. Knowing I am fully capable of accomplishing amazing things. Knowing if I continue to follow the signs and my heart’s desires my life will be even more fulfilling, more exciting, and bigger than I could have ever planned.

A friend of mine posted a youtube video that fits in really nicely with this. It lists all these people like Thomas Edison who was told he was too stupid to learn anything and how he should go into a field where he might succeed by virtue of his pleasant personality. Or Abraham Lincoln, whose fiancée died, failed at business twice, had a nervous breakdown and was defeated in eight elections. Or even one of my personal heroes, Elizabeth Gilbert, who when she wrote, “Eat, Pray, Love,” had no idea it would turn into this runaway bestseller and become adapted into a movie starring Julia Roberts. It just goes to show we don’t know what’s ahead and we are capable of so much more than we and others give us credit for.

So when someone comes along to rattle your cage, and they will, I hope you too will choose to fly out. To push through the fear, the insecurity, and the limiting beliefs. Yes the cage is comfortable and familiar but it’s too small for a bird of our stature. We deserve to spread our wings fully and fly freely. We deserve and are capable of so much more than we dreamed.

I envision a world where we cast aside the dogma and indoctrination our lives should progress in a certain way. I dream of a world where we move beyond limitation and lack to a place where we know everything is possible and our capacity to achieve is infinite. Where we know the world is big and broad and expansive. Where we know as we think so we become. Thus we think of ourselves as magnificent and glorious and capable of anything.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I’m the type of person who wants to learn a lesson and get it over with. Or if possible do it right the first time. This week I realized two things. One, life is not about “perfect.” (And what is perfect anyway?) And two, just because I’m confronted with an issue I’ve dealt with in the past doesn’t mean I’m in the same place I was before.

I don’t like making mistakes. Hate it actually. This week at work I made a mistake and had to fess up to it. My stomach roiled throughout the whole process because, “I should have known better! Why didn’t I do it right the first time?!?” In my mind if I could have come out of the womb knowing how to do everything perfectly that would be just dandy. Then I examined that, went a little deeper, and realized life is not about perfect. If I knew how to do everything already there would be no point to being alive. Seriously. If I already knew how to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” what would be the point in taking piano lessons? I think it’s the same thing with being alive. Life is a series of lessons, all with the purpose of turning us into maestros.

According to my spiritual beliefs once I reach the point of perfection I will be one with God. Until then I signed up for life, for this experience, for this human body, which means I can’t be perfect. It means I will make mistakes. Because I’m learning. And learning requires mishaps and misunderstandings. The sooner I accept that the better. So I release my need for perfectionism, knowing I am making progress and that’s what life is all about.

I also know progress means I will be confronted with some of my issues time and again, but I’m still growing.

This week I heard a sermon from Rev. Michael Beckwith about how it’s a fallacy opportunity only knocks once. Instead opportunity will beat your door down until you answer it. I love that. I think life lessons are the same way. They knock again and again until we invite them in and let them live with us. Sometimes all we can handle is a short visit, but they’ll be back. And so because my lessons come a knockin’ I may think I’m not making progress. But that’s not true.

Another metaphor I love is the image of spiraling up a mountain. Oftentimes I feel like I already surpassed an issue, I already worked it out and then bam, I’m facing it again. A friend of mine said she feels the same way but what she realized is she isn’t in the same place she was before. It only feels that way, but instead she has spiraled up. She’s in the same spot as before but she’s higher up the mountain. And pretty soon she’ll reach the peak. So yes, I’m in the same place but not exactly. I’m spiraling up, up, up.

I guess I want to give myself a break and I want others to do the same. I want us to realize life isn’t about perfection or “doing it right the first time.” That’s not the contract we signed. Instead, life is about learning, screwing up, getting messy because we’re like babies learning to walk. It takes a few stumbles before we find our stride. And I also want us to know we are each spiraling up a mountain, working through our issues and life lessons but we are indeed progressing and growing. And pretty soon we’ll reach the peak.

I dream of a world where we give ourselves a break, where we treat ourselves with unconditional love. Where we know not only is it ok to make mistakes but it’s expected. Where we know life is about fumbling until we find our balance. Where we realize we are constantly evolving even when it feels otherwise. Where we realize we are magnificent and loved just as we are because we are divine children of God.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

“I deserve to rejoice in life, I deserve all the pleasures life has to offer.” This week I realized I don’t fully believe that affirmation. I don’t think I do deserve all the pleasures life has to offer. Because I’m not the president of the United States. Because I’m not famous. Because I’m not someone else. Who am I to get X? Who am I to have all these amazing things happen to me? And wrapped up in not thinking I deserve certain things is self-punishment. Since I’m not perfect, since I’m not someone else, I’m going to punish myself instead:

“Even though I sprained my ankle I think I’ll still walk to work. It’s not that bad.”

“It’s freezing outside, I have all these groceries to carry, but my hotel is only a mile away so I’ll just continue to walk. I need the exercise after all.”

I’ve done both these things (and more) – I’ve walked miles on a sprained ankle. For days. I decided to suffer in the Chicago cold instead of taking a taxi. In each of these experiences I decided something else was more important than me. I didn’t take care of myself because a part of me felt I wasn’t worth it. That I didn’t deserve it. I felt it to such a degree I decided to punish myself instead.

I bring this up because I think a lot of self-punishment masquerades as something else: “I’m being environmental by walking!” “I’m being economical by not taking a taxi!” I ask you, why is money the most important thing? Isn’t my health and well-being more important than money? Don’t I deserve to hail a taxi when it’s cold, to rest my ankle when it’s sprained, and to otherwise treat myself with love?

I haven’t treated myself with love, haven’t cherished myself as much as I could because I’ve been comparing myself to other people. I’ve been saying, “Who am I to have X? I’m nobody special.” And then I worry if I do say I deserve X, it will come across as conceited.

I think about the EFT video I posted a few months ago, “You are magnificent.” In it Brad Yates says discusses this very subject:

“But if I say I’m magnificent, isn’t that conceited? But in fact, isn’t that one of the greatest ways to honor my Creator? What does God really want to hear? ‘I’m sorry God apparently you screwed up with me because I’m not so great.’ Or doesn’t it honor God more to say, ‘I am magnificent. Nice job Creator. You done good.’ And the more I recognize my magnificence the more good I can do. The more good I want to do. My playing small doesn’t serve the world. Part of me thinks that to be a really good person I should think less of myself. I should think less of what I have to offer. That I’m not good enough, that what I have to offer isn’t good enough. And yet I’m grateful for all those magnificent people that didn’t feel that way. Thank God for Gandhi, for Mozart, for Da Vinci, for Martin Luther King Jr., for David Bowie, for all these people who shared their magnificence. I choose to share my magnificence. I am who I am by God’s grace. And I choose to use that grace to great effect. I am magnificent.”

There’s a difference between thinking I am magnificent, that I deserve to rejoice in all the pleasures life has to offer, and being arrogant. I think arrogance hinges on judgment, on ranking, on superiority. There’s a difference between saying, “I am magnificent,” and “I am better than you.” I can think I’m magnificent without declaring any superiority or inferiority.

What I’m learning right now is I can have all the pleasures life has to offer without coming across as conceited. I can treat myself with love, dream big, and achieve my goals without cutting down others. I can accept my good without comparing myself to anyone else. I can accept my good without ranking myself. I can accept my magnificence and let that be completely self-contained.

I dream of a world where we see our magnificence without feeling superior or inferior. Where we allow ourselves to be graced with gifts from God, knowing we completely deserve them. Knowing we are worthy of them. I dream of a world where we treat ourselves with love. Where we cherish ourselves as the divine children of God that we are.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

The president of one of the charities I support, UrbanPromise, a charity that helps kids in Camden, N.J., sent me a letter this week showing me there is hope for the future:

For the six weeks of summer, 16 teens, each having grown up in our programs, were hired to work as camp counselors and mentors for our younger camp kids…we call them StreetLeaders.

They helped interns lead recreation and Bible classes, taught our camp kids songs and skits and shepherded hundreds of Camden’s children to stimulating and just plain fun events.

And they earned money to do it! Like all teenagers, they could have done anything with that money. They could have blown all their money on video games, junk food, going out to the movies with friends…and who would have blamed them?

They worked hard for that money. They earned it. But, what they did still chokes me up. You see, they decided to give it away.

Immediately after summer camp finished, a time when most teens would have relaxed and enjoyed their humble paychecks, our StreetLeaders packed into two vans, and with their chaperones, drove non-stop to Biloxi, Mississippi to give back to those whose lives had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

They painted walls, cut and laid floor tiles, fixed floors, decontaminated mold, and cleaned up debris. Our enthusiastic kids even paid for their own meals and made contributions for gas. But most importantly, they worked non-stop for five days in blistering 100 degree bayou heat and never complained. And they wanted to keep working, especially on 55-year-old Miss Jeanine’s house.

Miss Jeanine and her family had their home destroyed and repaired in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, to only have it damaged again when severe storms came through Biloxi earlier this spring.

“My granddaughter and I have been sleeping on mattresses on the living room floor ’cause the bedroom floors were so badly damaged,” Miss Jeanine said.

Miss Jeanine’s story did not deter our wide-eyed teens. “These were the hardest-working kids I’ve ever seen,” she commented. “They’ve given me hope.”

Hope? Our kids gave her hope? Our kids, from one of the poorest, most dangerous cities in America…our kids, who most of America has forgotten…gave Miss Jeanine hope!

“Camden’s not the only place that needs help,” said 17 year old Miles, a kid that grew up in our UrbanPromise programs. “We wanted to give to another community as others have given to us.”

I think that’s the sweetest thing I’ve heard all week. These kids who’ve grown up in one of the most impoverished, dangerous places in the U.S., wanted to give back. Instead of keeping the money to themselves they used it to help others. They dedicated not only their money but their time. Their dedication to service and to others shows me another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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