Pearls of Hope

Happy New Year!

On New Year’s Day I was invited to attend a heart-warming Kawanzaa celebration online.  Kawanzaa was created in 1966 by American Maulana Karenga with the motivation of providing African Americans a holiday to celebrate Black heritage and culture. The week-long celebration (December 26-January 1st) incorporates African harvest traditions and derives from a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits.” The keynote speaker was Atena Danner, a literacy learning facilitator, who read 7 of her dynamic poems to honor the 7 principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Each poem released pearls of hope for a better future for all.

Another celebration treat was a Lion King video of the song, Circle of Life: “From the day we arrive on the planet…there’s more to see than can ever be seen / More to do than can ever be done….” Yes, but each person can do SOMETHING.

Participants were encouraged to write into the “chat” their intentions for the coming year. I was touched by the many hopes for harmony and peace for all. My intention was to increase my listening to other people’s differing opinions. What if everyone became a better listener when others said things that one considers “different?” Too often we only speak and listen to people who have similar viewpoints to our own. We protect ourselves from disagreements. We miss out on the chance to discover the pearls of others. As a Nigerian proverb reminds, “A pearl is only a pearl once it’s out of its shell.”

Is it time to break out of some shell you have constructed over time? Pick a new intention to harvest this year. Now pick a start date (and savor it). Motivational writer Daniel Pink offers a list of 86 calendar days that are auspicious for new beginnings: 12 first days of the months, 52 Mondays, the 4 days that begin each season, July 4th, your favorite holiday, a birthday, the first day back from vacation, or an anniversary date (wedding, first date, divorce). Your start-up intention can embody hope in this new year.

Chilean-American Isabel Allende was forced to leave her homeland during a military coup that resulted in the assassination of her relative, Salvador Allende, president of Chile. Traumatized and exiled in Venezuela–and wanting to keep her family memories alive– Allende began a writing habit. She wrote a series of unmailed letters when her 99-year-old grandfather was dying in Chile and she could not visit him. Allende’s letter-writing turned into a 500-page first novel, The House of the Spirits. Allende began her writing January 8th. She now waits for that day to begin each new novel.

You can set intentions on ANY day you declare as auspicious, but TODAY is another possibility.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

44. What is one hope-intention that you can embody?

45. How will you nurture the motivation part of you to make it happen?   

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.

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