Column
December 18, 2018

A holiday gift

By Marguerite Jill Dye

Do you have a friend whose healing hugs and spoken words encourage and inspire you? Do you have a friend who sees your strengths and teaches you how to overcome weaknesses? I do. Argentine born artist Graciela Giles emanates love, joy, and healing energy. Mom introduced us years ago. She feels like my sister.

Graciela stopped by to share her joy that her late husband will receive a special award for his life contribution to the arts. Jamaica-born Herbie Rose shared his immense joie de vivre through his vibrant plein air paintings, teaching watercolor painting to hundreds of students, and his efforts in community building.

Herbie founded an artist community in an affordable, rundown neighborhood that needed revitalizing. Fellow artists invested their savings and energy in Herbie’s beautiful vision: the Village of the Arts. Artists now live and work in cottages that double as their studio/galleries. People flock to their openings and events. Herbie left a trail of love and happiness throughout his long and productive life. I can’t imagine a richer path of being a blessing to all he met. We are happy and grateful for his recognition.

I told Graciela about a wonderful day I’d spent at home just catching up. I was so exhausted, I’d decided to re-energize our house and myself. I cleansed our space with burning sage, rang a bell, danced to music, and used other feng shui cures from the Tao of Dana. (taoofdana.com). Since disorganization and clutter are energy drainers, I tackled a couple of closets and shelves and found objects I’d lost and needed. I planted flowers in pretty pots, dusted, and tidied up. It was the first day in a very long time that I hadn’t put myself under pressure to accomplish a goal or meet a deadline. The day transformed me from exhausted to joyful as I floated around like a butterfly.

“You need more days like that,” Graciela wisely said. “That’s why I mix it up: things I must do with things that I love.” She’d been overcome by grief since Herbie, her soulmate, had passed away. “Since I love to dance and teach I decided to schedule both several days a week. Now I manage to get things done by doing chores in between. I’m enjoying life, once again.”

Graciela has a way of showing up whenever I’m troubled, ill, or blue. (We think Mom, in spirit, nudges her). She’s teaching me to prioritize, conserve my strength, and send healing thoughts to people in need instead of absorbing their energy and feelings (which leaves me down and exhausted). This is a tough lesson to learn, especially for an empath. But Graciela points out that taking on someone’s negative feelings in the name of compassion is no help to them or myself. By imagining a protective shield, then sending heart energy for their healing instead, a more positive vibe may be maintained and possibly have an impact. I’ll strive to make it my “go to” plan.

Pastor Hannah Sotak and the First United Methodist Church have positively impacted Rutland through their love, joy, and community action. The congregation moved from the Williams Street grand granite building to 60 Strongs Ave. (the former Mintzer Brothers where Dad bought most of his building supplies!). Rather than pay outrageous heating bills and repairs in the historic church, they’ve chosen a more practical approach to demonstrate love through action. In getting to know their Rutland neighbors through weekly walks to determine their needs, the church provides a day time reprieve from loneliness, hopelessness, and bitter cold temperatures. A joy-filled community service and supper brings people together from diverse backgrounds. What Rev. Hannah has accomplished reminds me of a priest we met on Spain’s Northern Camino. Padre Ernesto first traveled the world, then opened an albergue in his grandfather’s home. The message he teaches pilgrims he hosts is that helping the needy isn’t enough: we must also include them at the table. This is precisely what Pastor Hannah has done with her committed congregation.

The joy of neighbor helping neighbor can be seen all over Vermont, throughout our nation, and our world. Such acts are transformative for giver and receiver, like what Anne Lezak and Dr. Harry Chen experienced while helping to build and expand Uganda’s palliative and emergency health care. Chen now leads the University of Vermont’s Center for Health and Wellbeing and Lezak has returned to Mercy Connections Burlington and continues to consult in Uganda on a part-time basis. Their service brings healing and solace to many and has filled their hearts with joy and love.

May the holidays fill you with joy and love, too.

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