Spare Change

His words came out strung together like they were separated by dashes instead of spaces. Spare-any-change-thank-you. Spare-any-change-thank-you. Spare-any-change-thank-you.

It took me a block’s walk to decipher what he was saying. The hurried rhythm of his chant tap-danced in my ears as I turned the corner toward Pioneer Square in downtown Portland.

A young man in a tan leather jacket leaned against the black iron gate of the Pioneer Courthouse and casually thumbed through his phone. A few feet away, a woman wearing an oversized pink sweatshirt rummaged through a shiny, silver garbage can.

Was it the moodiness of a gray, winter day luring me to further analyze, or were the man’s words about more than just pocket money? Instead of asking for coins, what if he were asking for real change? As in: Can you spare to make a change? Thank you.

Three blocks later, while waiting for the crosswalk to turn, a man sitting in a wheelchair suddenly burst into song.

“I’m so tired of this world, I feel like I could bust!” he crooned to a surprisingly cheerful melody. His weathered, tan skin stood out beneath a white baseball cap.

We made eye contact and his lips parted into a sheepish smile; a beige, unlit cigarette hung from his bottom lip. It was like a confession, and I was his witness. I returned his smile, and then crossed the street, feeling both humbled by this tiny moment of connection and weighed down by my own sadness about the way things are.

And so on my bus ride home, I wondered what it would take to shift our culture of  individualism to one that truly cared about the well-being of the collective. As long as we keep failing to recognize how simply another’s position could have been ours, we deny our shared vulnerability in an uncertain world. (A flurry of bad luck and our lot could be quite different.)

Maybe things will change in 2019, maybe they won’t; but today I was reminded how a simple walk through the city can prompt us to consider whether or not we can, collectively, spare any change.

Be More like Babies & Live Happier

I’m deeply immersed in writing a blog post for work when suddenly I hear a sound that causes me to pause. I look up from my tiny window table at the coffee shop and meet eyes with the most glowing, chubby, angelic face. She’s standing in the middle of the room, halfway between her mother and me. She smiles at me ecstatically as if this very moment is the most joyous moment there ever was; her eyes are sparkling like a lake aglow with the first rays of sunrise.

And then the sound again – it’s somewhere between a howl and a squeal and it fills the room with a burst of energy. The whole mood of the place shifts. Heads lift from computers and suddenly people are smiling and alert, looking around at one another and aware of the day beginning. A sound like that can only be the result of a soul so thrilled to be alive and so excited by the tiny details of the world around her that her delight is literally spilling over, and simply cannot be held back. Little sprays of spittle are bursting into the sunlit room from her mouth with each consecutive squeal. In her hands is a plastic cup which she’s stuffed with napkins. She’s carting it around like a dog might carry his bone — like treasure.

Now I’m alternating between typing sentences, sipping my coffee and staring back at this little two-foot-tall being who is dazzling the room with her contagious joy. She stares at me wide-eyed with a look of pure serenity and happiness on her face. I can’t help but feel what she’s feeling and I find myself smiling back at her cheerfully. The grin doesn’t ware off, even after I shift my eyes back to my screen. In fact, I feel notably lighter.

I think to myself: I want what she’s got. And then: what if adults could be more like babies?

Now I’m not saying we should all go around drooling and making non-sensical sounds in public places at one another (mainly because that would probably land you in jail, not because it wouldn’t be totally comical and even fun), but there is something to be learned from this baby’s outlook on the world. For one thing, we could all smile more often at strangers, because just this one act has the power to change a person’s mood and even outlook on the day. Did you know that humans have an incredible ability to transmit emotion to one another through our faces via a thing called mirror neurons? Mirror neurons allow us to mimic what another person emotes by merely looking at them (read more about that here).

Can we all wake up each day looking at the world as if it’s brand new and full of possibilities like the baby girl in the coffee shop does? Probably not, because we’re adults, and over time we’ve discovered that we’re flawed and broken in places, and not always capable of motivating ourselves to be our best. BUT even if you could think this thought once a week, it could foster a positive belief system that would lift you up when things get rough and create more opportunities because you are remaining open to them.

Last but not least, is the world a beautiful place full of details worth admiring and being moved by? Absolutely. There’s tragedy too – but certainly every person living in Oregon knows the miracle of seeing sunlight after months on end of gray and rain. I nearly cried at the sight of a daffodil the other day. It’s these little miracles that make life enjoyable. We can either pass them by, rushing on our way to the perceived destination of “success,” or we can pause and squeal about them, let our hearts speed up a little at the thought of spring; at the thought of all the baby birds that will be born soon and the longer days offering daylight for us to frolic in after we emerge from the caves of our offices.

It might seem like a stretch, but I’m going to say it anyways: be more like babies are, baby! And let the world see your soul smile more often.

Just in time for throwback Thursday, here’s me circa 1989:

That's me.

Strutting my stuff.

26 Love Letters for My 26th Year

Today I turn 26 years old.

It was a rainy day on Thursday, but there was an unusual quality to the light that morning – as if the clouds were being lit from inside and the sky was a burning candle. I trotted up the street to a little coffee shop where you can get a slice of pie with your joe. I talked on the phone with my Dad on the way, and our conversation got me thinking…Thinking about turning 26 and how far I’ve come. Thinking of how even though I’ve struggled at times, the world manages to keep on showing me unimaginable beauty in the littlest of things. Thinking of all the people who contribute to my happiness and well-being — my family, my friends, even complete strangers who do something as simple and as important as smile back. Thinking “damn, I’m SO grateful!” And then I was hit smack-dab in the face with an idea. Right away, I knew it was a good one because it made my toes feel tingly and my heart uplifted.

I texted my housemate, Amber, to see if she’d help me. I received an energetic ‘Yes!’ and so the project began: 26 hand-written love letters to represent 26 beautiful years of living on this planet.

An organization in New York City called The World Needs More Love Letters is doing some pretty fantastic things, and when I happened across their website, I was struck with inspiration!

Writing letters felt like the perfect way to celebrate my birthday and to express my gratitude for the kindness and general magic I’ve been very blessed to receive over the years. What I want out of the project is this: to spread more goodness and touch hearts.

Amber and I began crafting letters to strangers at our dining room table, filling them with words of encouragement, wisdom and love (plus some pretty awesome doodles and stamps). We signed them “from a friend you have yet to meet” or “from a stranger who cares.” They’re anonymous and meant for whoever finds them, destined to fall into the hands who need them most in any given moment in time. They’re intended to represent little signs of life’s blessings. And we like to believe they could have the power to change the course of someone’s day, maybe even life. You never know! It could happen.

I even got my co-workers to help me out with the project. During a break at the office, we pulled out colored pens and scrawled love-words onto blank pages. We drew hearts. We laughed as we read them aloud to each other before folding them up and daydreaming about who would open them.

Today Amber and I set out to scatter the letters. It was a day full of smiles as we completed stealth love-letter missions, hiding them all over the city. We put a letter in a row of seed packets at the Portland Nursery and another in a garden fairy scene, tucked between tiny houses and lanterns. We hid them between movies in our favorite foreign film sections of the video store. We tucked them into books that held significance for us at Powell’s and in rows of greeting cards. We even taped one letter to a coffee shop’s bathroom mirror.

My favorite letter delivery of the day was when we drove up to Mt. Tabor (a lovely nature getaway in Southeast Portland) intending to leave a note in a plastic ziplock bag on a hiker’s car. Unfortunately, the rain had kept hikers away and there weren’t any cars, so Amber set out to leave the note near the trailhead. That’s when, out of the blue, a lone runner came jogging toward her; she glanced back at me, a question mark on her face. “Do it!” I yelled, cheering her on. And so just as he was about to run past her, she stuck her hand out and passed him the note. Back in the car, we grinned through the rain-freckled window as we watched the runner saunter down the trail and take a peek at the letter he was now carrying in his right hand. It was a rush of good feelings as we drove away, nodding our heads to the music. Success.

The 26 letters project has been so much fun and created such a memorable day. I enjoyed it so much, I think I’m going to do it again next year.

Nah, I don’t want to wait that long!! I’ll do it sooner. 🙂 After all, there’s nothing as sweet as writing a love letter.

Overall this has been one of the best birthdays yet and I’m feeling really good about the year ahead!

If you would like to write your own love letters (which I highly recommend!!), check out this web page for some good tips:

Here are some photos of the project and a great quote about letter-writing…enjoy, and thanks for reading!

“How wonderful it is to be able to write someone a letter! To feel like conveying your thoughts to a person, to sit at your desk and pick up a pen, to put your thoughts into words like this is truly marvelous.” ― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood


caught in the act

caught in the act