Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pride in Service

A Dublin Café - the hostess was chatting with me about our visit and giving me suggestions of things to see.

I have returned from our dream trip from Ireland.  Decompressing over the past week has left me with many insights into our two seemingly similar, yet definitely different cultures.  Aside from the obvious, I realized that in Ireland there is a completely (and I mean completely!) different work ethics.  Let me explain.

On our first day on the isle of Eire, I noticed that the women cleaning the toilets were smiling and greeted women as they came into the facility.  I, of course, returned the greeting, smiling back.  How nice, I thought, but I didn't ponder on it for long.

Next, I noticed that the bus and tram drivers smiled at patrons, answering questions completely and politely. In addition, the vehicles we road in as well as the stations were immaculate.  The same was found when we went to tea at the local museum cafés. 

What got me really thinking, however, was the museum staff - everyone from the docents to the security guards.  Not once did we encounter anyone not willing to explain something, give advice, directions or assistance, even if it meant walking with us to show us what we needed to know or do.

(Don't think for a moment that life in Ireland is perfect.  There are problems there, same as everywhere.  Their banks messed them over the same as ours.  Unemployment is as big a challenge.  There are homeless people and addicts.  But, there is a difference in how people approach there day-to-day work,  that I couldn't help but notice.)

After pondering for the past week, I have come to the realization that in Ireland, where children don't appear to be pushed from infancy to go to college, there is still pride in doing service work as well as handiwork.  Carpenters are proud to be carpenters, masons are proud to be masons, waitstaff are proud to be waitstaff.  Artists, poets, and musicians are a pride to a family, not considered less than perfect, or worse yet, failures. Walking the streets of Dublin, we saw tailors, cobblers and bakeries, something that we see too few of, if any, here in the US.

I have come to believe that here in the US, we have done a disservice to our children by expecting all of them to be college/university educated. Go to any town in the States and there are machine shops and factories lying empty and rotting. Working with your hands is something we have come to disdain, rather than admire. For instance, tool and die makers - a craft my grandfather was proud to be a master of at the Gillette factory in Boston - are hard to find in the US now.  If things aren't being sent out of the country, then they are being done with computers and robotics, for which you need a college degree in order to operate the machines.

Why is it that we cannot be proud of our children if they want to become mechanics or plumbers or woodworkers? What is wrong with taking pride in construction work?  My Dad was one of the people that dug out and built the Callahan Tunnel in Boston.  To his dying day, he was proud of the work he did and the men who worked with him.

If we really want this country to be great, we need to push for less college readiness testing and more opportunities for children to use their individual gifts and talents in a way that suits them.  After all, happiness in life is essential for a balanced, productive, and content human being.  Rather than eliminating shop, art, and music classes, we need to promote them, allowing children to feel pride in the work they do as well as their creative accomplishments. In addition, we need to stop pressuring our children to be the number one best overall.  Being the best they, individually, can be is what is important.

As an educator with over 40 years of teaching behind me, I have seen the heartbreak of a child who wants nothing else than to be a farmer or a singer or a mechanic, being forced onto the college track only to end up either dropping out with a host of emotional and mental issues or becoming a graduate with no joy in what they do for a living and no hope of changing it for fear of disappointing their parents.

Life is too short.  As old as I am, I know without a doubt that happiness and contentment in ourselves and what we do is the key to a fulfilled life.  We need to rethink what we are doing to our children and ourselves in this country before we no longer have options.

More on alternatives to college:

We Need Alternatives to Traditional College Education

Alternatives to College - various articles in the Huffington Post

Alternatives to Traditional College Education


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What’s in Your Spiritual Backpack?

No matter where we go in life, we must deal with people, events and things that may or may not be difficult. Having the right "tools" at hand makes our journey less stressful and much more fulfilling.

Our guest writer, Lorraine Ash shares her tips on what to take in our spiritual backpacks during Life's journey as we participate in the WOW! Women on Writing blog tour for her new book, Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life.

In this uplifting memoir, Lorraine Ash uses her own life experiences to explore inner landscapes where the seeds of divine healing and insight reside. These are the landscapes on which we create our own meaning and find the resiliency to thrive in a changing and challenging world. 

 Photo credit: ©Asdf_1 | 
Today, Lorraine answers for us the question, "What is in your spiritual backpack?" 

Any traveler, from a hiker to a spiritual seeker, loves talking about maps, directions, and roads traveled. They ask which ones lead to the summit, whether that be a real-world mountain or a state of mind. 

Getting lost from time to time is enlightening, too. It certainly worked for Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

But what we carry in our proverbial spiritual backpacks - otherwise known as the contents of our minds - is as key to the journey as any external destination or surprise along the way. Your mind, like mine, is filled with truths, hard earned from our experiences on all the trails we’ve ever traversed. I’ve learned never to trade in those truths for some shiny new tantalizing thing I want to believe. 

Here are seven I carry wherever I roam: 

1. The world is not a maze. It is a teacher, diverse and complex enough to offer lessons for billions of people. 

2. Inner guides and natural inclinations are not delusions of grandeur. They are muses who suggest starting points, and key turns, in our life journeys. 

3. The soul is not a financial portfolio or resume. Its contents are not to be weighed, measured, or compared. 

4. Truth contains everything, including negativity and positivity. 

5. The human psyche is vast. Yet, most folks live on a small island in the mind devoted to aspiring, achieving, and stressing; they ignore the oceans of peace and perspective that surround it. 

6. A family legacy is not a random stroke of good or bad fortune. For everyone, it is both. 

7. Many lost souls walk the planet. They live among us, sometimes with us. Some are powerful. Recognize them. Pray for them. But do not follow them. 

Question: What time-tested lesson learned on the road of life do you hold most dear? Post yours in the comments!

About the Author: Lorraine Ash, MA, is an author, journalist, and essayist as well as a writing teacher. Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life is her second book. Her first memoir, Life Touches Life: A Mother's Story of Stillbirth and Healing, was published by NewSage Press and has circulated throughout the United States as well as in the Middle East, Australia, Europe, China, Canada, and Mexico. Lorraine also is a veteran journalist, whose feature articles and series have won seventeen national, state, and regional awards and have appeared in daily newspapers across the country. Lorraine belongs to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, Bill.

Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life is available in a variety of formats and online stores, all presented here,  

Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life is also available a digital audiobook. Find it at and as well as in the iTunes store. 

Reach Lorraine at - , or