Gratitude begets generosity

In my mind today, I am thinking about birthdays, summertime, grandchildren, and friendships. I am so so grateful for all of the love that shows up in my life every single day. I recently had my 52nd birthday. I can’t tell you how much beauty and love was poured into me from so many people. I received so many wonderful well wishes and even gifts from people that I haven’t been able to be around in a while because of the pandemic and just distance. That’s something you need to understand students. True friendships will never end. It may be someone you went to kindergarten with but that love is always there and sparks so many beautiful memories. We all have seasons to go through in our lives. The people and friends that surround us are what make it so special. It’s not that you had the best set of cleats on the softball team or if you were the most popular in school. It is about the true friendships that weave in and out of your life until you go to the next chapter. I am so amazed that God has gifted me with so much time. I am so very grateful for the time. Students that is the second objective of the day. Let me reiterate the first one in case the back row of students was doodling on their paper. The first objective of today is knowing that love and friendships are eternal. The second objective today is the most valuable thing in anyone’s life is time. Think about it, students. Time is something that we give to others. We give them our time. Let me break it down for you. All of those times when you listen to others without speaking that is treasure. All of those times when you meet others just to help them be okay and have lunch to talk over problems or just to enjoy each other’s company, that is treasure. Especially when you feel like you have no time to spare and you do it anyway, that is true friendship and that is true treasure. So many of us want to think of treasure in terms of materialistic things. That is so far from the truth. Things that pass away on this Earth are not treasure. The memories and the love you share, giving your time to others is the true treasure of this life. I am so grateful for the 52 years of time that God has given me. I take each day as an absolute gift. The time that God is giving me is the time for me to share God’s love to those around me. It is not because I’m in a wheelchair and I have ALS; it is because that’s what we are created to do. We are created to live in communion with each other and to love one another as brothers and sisters. I didn’t say it was easy but it is so very worth it. Why do I give so much time to the local library? Why do I give so much time to Matthew 25:40? Why do I give so much time to my little book club every month? Why do I give so much time to the children at the church that I attend? Why do I give so much time to my friends? Why do I give so much time to you students? It is because gratitude begets generosity. I am so very grateful for every second of my life. Generosity is something we are in great need of during this season of Earth. Most people are wanting to look and point fingers at those who are not being what they need to be. Competition and comparison are killing our nation. I don’t know what news is fake or not anymore whenever I open my phone. Everyone has an agenda and they all want to brainwash us to their agendas. Everything that we need to know students and this is objective number three for the day is simply to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and to love others the way you love yourself. As I look out onto social media and to other things like news and commercials, it’s all telling us it’s all about us. It’s all about what we want. I’m not talking about civil rights. Yes we all deserve civil rights but the lives that we build are not contingent to things that we get like money or status or cars. I totally understand that people are born into different situations. Some of these situations are not so great. How do people rise above horrible situations? How do we pursue happiness? That’s a question for the ages. We have the right to pursue happiness and happiness is not a given. Look at history. There are so many atrocious events in human history but there are also so many beautiful stories of those who rise above horrible situations. It’s not just a black or white question. We want happiness for others. The objective that is so crucial right now is that happiness is nothing that you will be able to attain of your own volition. You cannot be the God of your life. If you surrender to commercialism and materialistic culture or science, then you are allowing that to be the God of your life. I remember something I read a long time ago that stated happiness is being content with what you have and where you are. I have seen so many children in my lifetime as a teacher that have no reason to be joyful. Their homes are broken. Their parents are addicted. They are raising their siblings. They are not allowed to be children in their own right. This is a tragedy. If we want to satisfy our needs at the cost of our children then we have missed the mark. The world is trying to have a paradigm shift. We are trying to shift from parents being selfless and what they build for their children to being selfish. It will never work. The most important commodity in every culture is their children. Let me say that again. The most important commodity in every culture is their children. How are we as Americans treating our children? It breaks my heart to see so many broken families and parents and children. If you want to erase a culture, what do you do? You attack their children. If you look at our culture in America today, what do you see? Be real with yourself. Ask any teacher today and they will tell you that our society is in trouble. Another thing that we need to look really hard at is how people are treated who try desperately to raise their children in a Christian home but they are mocked within our societal structure. If women choose to stay home and raise their children, they are mocked. They are made to feel less than. Is this right? When someone gets pregnant because of unprotected sex or even an abusive situation what is the first default people come to in our society? Abortion. I know there are people who have been raped and have conceived a child from that situation. It is never okay to take a life. Thou shall not kill. There are so many variants and arguments to this. I am not belittling the people who have been abused and conceived. What I am trying to get you to see is when someone has a child or has sex what is going to happen or possibly happen? Conception. The start of a new soul within another person. Who has the right to abort another person? The same thing goes for the death penalty. We have so many ways to do things differently but we choose to do them according to man’s rules. We have forgotten God’s rules. I know so many people that have had abortions and they regret it. Many of those were girls with wealthy parents. Some were just girls that were not ready or it was not the right time. If you look at the statistics many of the aborted in our country are minorities. Is this okay? There are so many people that would love to be parents but the system is not for children anymore. I don’t really know if it ever was. I am telling you today students that the first thing we should protect in our country is our children. It doesn’t matter the color of the skin or the situation they are born in, we should protect children. How do you do that? Love. Children do not need materialistic things. All they need is love. All we need is love. So students review today’s lesson. Objective one is true friendships are eternal. Go out and make a new friend today. The second objective is time is the biggest treasure given to you as a human being. Go out and spend your time on something beautiful. It may just be sitting out looking at nature but do it! Yes it’s homework. And last but not least happiness is something that comes from within and you need to remember how you get happiness. Love God and love each other the way you love yourself. I have so much faith that you will do these things and you will start your journey of gratitude begets generosity. You want to have that heart that freely flows love to others. Why? It is what we are called to do, love. So yes your homework is to go out and to love others the way you love yourself. Don’t pick someone like your mother. Yes love her but back row students find someone that you have a beef with and then show them some kindness. You will be amazed at what love can do! It can turn sinners into saints. It can turn bullies into team players. It can help you build a kingdom of God. Thank you for being so generous and reading my blogs. I am eternally grateful.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Grateful Gal
Quotes of the day:
“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
— Dr. Seuss

“Adults are just outdated children.”
— Dr. Seuss

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
— Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa

“Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.”
— Lady Bird Johnson, Former First Lady of the United States

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
— Margaret Mead, cultural anthropologist

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
— Billy Graham, evangelist


Eternal Home

“God . . . has planted eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3: 11 NLT).

When I was born, my family lived on Perry Circle in our small town. Although it was part of our government housing authority or the “Jets” or “The West Side,” it was home. My mother was so grateful for indoor plumbing and the amenities of “city living.” She took pride in that opportunity to have a home that was safe for her five children. She had many angels that helped her deal with life’s bumps: an unreliable alcoholic husband, five children, and acquiring a skill to provide for her family.

My amazing mother was able to complete a CNA license and find decent work to provide stability in our home. My father was able to pull himself together long enough for us to get a special assistance loan to buy a house in a small neighborhood. The mortgage note was $80 for 30 years. It guaranteed my mother’s children a home and set down roots for all of us. My mother had social workers that advised her to hang on to her house. They were proud of my hard working mother for fighting through poverty and becoming self-sufficient. Our new home was a blessing.

Today, I think of my mother’s story. The first chapter that was written as a sharecropper’s daughter and the struggles that shape you. The chapters about marrying young to a charismatic, charming alcoholic that left her with a broken heart and a lot of strife. The chapters of overcoming poverty and reconciling with a husband fighting to find redemption in his sobriety that spoke volumes of character to her children. My mother is now living her final chapters of this earthly life in the home that she paid for with blood, sweat, and tears. Thanks be to God she still lives there today even though Alzheimer’s disease is threatening her earthly finale.

My mother knew how important having a home is. She knew her earthly chapter urged her to make a home for her children. My wise mother also knew that her final earthly home wasn’t her last destination. Regardless of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, she stills tells us that there is more.

I love the home that my husband and I have built together. It’s been a refuge for our children, family, and grandchildren. It’s only 7 miles from where my story began on Perry Circle. Like my mother, I’ve enjoyed my earthly journey potholes included. My heart seeks for a more eternal home just as hers does.

My heart is sadden by those who have lost faith that there is more. Not realizing there is a God. The culture of our world implies that peace and happiness are attainable through satisfying our human desires through selfishness, freedom, and indulgence. Have you ever heard someone say, “I want to be miserable?” Me either but when I roll around in my chair I see an awful lot of miserable people. I’m so grateful for my mom who “walked the walk” and showed me true love and happiness. She did everything out of love. Why? God had whispered to her through many prayers and written on her heart that we are all on a journey through this life to eternity where we will find our home in the heart of God.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Eternal Home Loving Gal

Quote of the Day:
“When you hold your baby in your arms the first time, and you think of all the things you can say and do to influence him, it’s a tremendous responsibility. What you do with him can influence not only him, but everyone he meets and not for a day or a month or a year but for time and eternity.”
Rose Kennedy

Choices

We all have choices. These are what shape our lives. As a teenager: Do we avoid the happening parties of our youth because we want to keep ourselves from smoking pot or drinking underage? Do we risk our reputation of being cool? Do we risk awakening a demon of addiction to fit in with the popular clique? Do we trade sex in hopes of receiving love? Do we miss a social gathering to complete important assignments? Do we sleep in or go to church on Sunday? Do we text and drive? Do we study? Do we complete our assignments? Do we cheat on tests and homework? Do we skip school? Do we embrace others or snub them? Being a teenager is so hard. Making good choices are not at all popular if you want to be popular. I didn’t always make the best choices in my youth but thanks be to God I came it on the other side alive without an addiction problem and wiser. Some of my peers weren’t so lucky. Choices.

As an adult, choices are imminent. Do I go to college or a trade school? Do I go to work? Do I have children? Do I get married? Do I put God at the center of my life or what I desire: sex, partying, money, materialism, work, or myself? Do I pay my bills? Do I live off of welfare or cheat the system? Do I choose to be lazy and blame the government for my problems? Do I blame my choices on my parents because of being emotionally, physically, sexually abused, or being neglected as a child? Do I blame God? Do I blame choosing my vices over good on everything and everyone but myself? Choices.

We have choices. We can control them. It’s called free will. As a child we are exposed to choices of our guardians but one day those choices become our own. Do we choose drugs? Unprotected sex? A government check instead of working? Handouts? Being a deadbeat parent? Do we choose the opposite of what we endured or go with the flow and repeat history? It is so very hard. The cycles of poverty, abuse, and addiction are rampant. Wherever you are on your life-walk you have choices. Each one is crucial. At the center of your life should be your morals and beliefs. If those are focused on a God of Love, your choices will be clarified. We all crave to love and be loved. We want to choose happiness and to be happy. The first step towards this is to make good choices. The choice is yours.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Make Good Choices Gal

Dedicated to the Class of 2019

Quote of the Day:
“Choices are the hinges of destiny.”
Edwin Markham

In the Pursuit of Happiness

In Pursuit of Happiness

In my mind today, I’m pondering happiness. Last Sunday I asked each of my students if they were happy. All but one said yes. Great! So, I asked them, “What makes you happy?” That was tough for them. What about you? Are you happy? If you answer yes, why? What drives your happiness? See. It’s very hard to articulate. It makes you feel like you’re back in Philosophy 101, right? Help me Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates!

Remember the famous line, “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness?” Good old Thomas Jefferson borrowed it from John Locke, another philosopher. We all need to pursue happiness in this life, but how? Wealth? Popularity? Achievements?

My students and I are desperately seeking happiness, not Susan. I’m showing my age! I asked my students to try to mindfully do the right thing in each moment of each day during Lent. How do you feel when you choose to be kind to someone who is struggling? How does it feel when you help someone in class or at work? What about when you ask someone about their sick family member and then truly listen? When you let someone go before you in a long line does it make you feel warm and fuzzy when you see the gratitude on their faces? Or if someone is being harassed and you stand up for them do you feel better about the situation? I bet you know the answer. B-I-N-G-O! You are finding the illusive happiness.

Look what I found by another philosopher, “Mencius, a student of Confucius who lived 372-289 BC, believed that people were innately good and that society’s influence was to blame for bad moral character.” So if we mindfully choose to do the right and honorable thing in our life situations then those actions create goodness in our societies. Goodness is the seed of happiness. Good moral behavior is the cornerstone of good character. Some days I’m like Virginia asking not is there a Santa Claus but where are our good morals? Are they becoming myths as well?

My oldest brother told me recently he was happy. My brother is one of those men born into the world with burdens. He was cursed with uncanny good looks, an amazing personality, intellect, artistic and musically ability, and sadly the gene of addiction. He has struggled his entire 62 earthly years and recently gave in for good to his addictions. He told me he was happy. He was going to unabashedly indulge those passions of chasing a dragon with abandon. I’m sitting here in my wheelchair struggling to survive listening to him throw his life away seeking euphoria through his addictions. My heart literally breaks because he doesn’t know “happiness.” Happiness cannot be found in a bottle, pill, needle, or inhaled. Those euphoric times are temporal, fleeting, and extrinsic. He can’t see “the forest for the trees” and the tree is sitting in front of him in a wheelchair. This tree can’t drive anymore, can’t wipe my own arse, wears diapers, has to be dressed, fed, and put to bed. This tree is so happy with each breath because Sal the Happy Gal knows happiness is intrinsic. It is built of good morals. It is selfless. It has character. It chooses good when maybe bad would benefit my bank account or materialism. That’s happiness. I pray he finds it. That’s the deal kids. It can’t be given; it has to be reckoned within ones soul. I’m so very blessed. There’s nothing like ALS or cancer that jolts you and shakes you to your core. Those terminal diseases are amazing philosophers. They give such clarity in such a chaotic world.

I ask again, “Are you happy?” It’s never too late to pursue happiness. We all have the right. It’s not guaranteed. Let’s begin by building character within ourselves. Choose happiness.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Happy Gal

Quotes of the Day:
“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”
Kevyn Aucoin

“Every day is a new day, and you’ll never be able to find happiness if you don’t move on.”
Carrie Underwood

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”
Albert Schweitzer

“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.”
Henry Ward Beecher