How did we do in keeping past year’s New Year’s resolution?

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, January 1, 2015

One year ago, responding to a challenge from Cochrane reader Grayce Vanden Berg, I declared my New Year’s resolution as follows: “With your help, to embrace more fully a lifestyle of peace and goodwill in 2014.”

Well, how have I done? Or rather, how have you, my coffee companions, done in helping me to embrace such a lifestyle? Here are just seven of the ways, by word and example, you’ve mentored me in embracing peace and goodwill this past year:

Pursue purpose-filled living through imagination, passion and patience. Here, Mary Lou Davis, formerly the proprietor of Bentleys Books in Cochrane (now closed; see my column for March 27), seemed to capture this thinking quite well with a quote from psychologist Carl Jung she’d posted on her store blackboard: “The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being” (my column for Jan. 23, a follow-up to Jan. 9 and 16 columns).

About such passion, Stoney Nakoda First Nation Elder Myrna Kootenay, of Morley, drawing upon her traditional upbringing and education, added that her motivation for such a pursuit has been “love, benevolence and compassion. Nothing in life is possible without love.”

Offer friendly service. Cochrane’s amazing baristas are a perfect example of building peace and goodwill through their employment (my column for April 24). About the community-building service of these folks who enlarge our lives one cup at a time, however, Cochrane author/speaker David Irvine rightly asks: “Do I actually make a conscious effort to enlarge their lives?”

Longtime proprietor of Cochrane A&W Mike Bigland, who passed away in April, was certainly an example of just such community-building service. His genial presence among his customers evoked from them a similar positive attitude toward life throughout the rest of the day (my column for May 1).

Care for the caregiver. Closely related to building goodwill through friendly service and enlarging the lives of others is caring for those who care for loved ones no longer able to care for themselves. This became especially clear from the wisdom you shared about affirming those who have loved ones afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease (my columns for May 8, 15 and 22).

Responding to the emotional/relational needs of both caregiver and patient, Calgary reader Jim Allan Monk put it so simply: “All potential happiness is still there. It’s up to the rest of us to encourage their achievements and happiness.”

Get over labelling each other stereotypically. I owe a special debt to Stoney Nakoda Elder Henry Holloway in this regard. In my July 17 column I shared the story of his 1995 speech at Cochrane Ranche Historic Site. He recalled how ranch people up and down our valley, whether of First Nations ancestry or European, would sit together on the bench outside a local saddle shop, comparing ropes, vaccinations, auction prices, etc.

“They weren’t sitting there as wasijubi (‘White People’) at one end of the bench, and as Îyethkabi (‘Stoneys’) at the other end,” he said. “They sat on that bench just as wîchastabi – just as ‘human beings’ who were enjoying each other for what they shared in common.”

Rise above hatred and practice forgiveness. Stoney Elder Tina Fox’s story of building peace and goodwill through a lifestyle of forgiveness is always with me (see my Dec. 11 column). You’ll recall her account of her visit to Uganda following the Hutu-Tutsi conflicts. Such a spirit of forgiveness empowered her hostess to take meals every day to a nearby prison – to feed the very man who had killed her husband and son!

Be a mentsch. And then there was Calgary reader Rabbi Shaul Osadchey’s great contribution on being a mentsch (my column for Nov. 20). You’ll recall how he explained that mentsch (Mensch) in Yiddish refers to a person who is “a decent and considerate individual . . . the type of person we hope our children will become.”

Be personally accountable. The year ended on a high note this past Sunday at an annual event hosted by international development specialists Drs. Michael and Judie Bopp at their home northwest of Cochrane. Appropriately, their theme for this year’s State of the World Forum was “Nurturing the Roots of Peace.”

Among the three dozen guests was our Calgary coffee companion Adam Idris. Adam is the Muslim co-chair of Abraham’s Tent, a dialogue among Calgary-area Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Baha’i leaders. Outlined by the friendly glow from the fireplace behind him, Adam noted how many religious tensions exist in the world today because we insist on pointing fingers of blame at the “Other.”

“We need to stop pointing fingers at each other and point them at ourselves,” he said. “At least then, the person we’re pointing at can actually do something about it. We each must be personally accountable.”

With these lessons in mind, then, let all of us – myself included – renew into 2015 our New Year’s resolution to continue pursuing a lifestyle of peace and goodwill as we aspire to be the kind of people we hope our children – and our world – will become. Yes, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

Thank you, my mentors. You’ve earned an A+. Happy New Year!


© 2015 Warren Harbeck

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