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Lifetime Resolutions

Hello My Dear Readers,

I’m not really one for New Years Resolutions, but recently, God has been reminding me of my goals and dreams in this life. When I seem to be down or discouraged, something happens or someone says something that reminds me that His plans for me are still unfolding…perfectly. With that being said, I have created a list of goals and hopes that I want to aspire to not this year, but for the rest of my life. These are my prayers and dreams that I want to never stop striving for, no matter where I am in life.

Dear Lord,

For this year and for ever more:

  • Keep me humble
  • Help me to continue laughing at myself
  • Please don’t let me lose my dorkiness and nerdiness, and may I continue to never be ashamed of it
  • Don’t ever let me lose my compassion and empathy for others
  • Help me to grow in patience and forgiveness
  • Strengthen my love and respect of others
  • Help to me to be better a wife and best friend to my one and only
  • Don’t ever let me stop dreaming
  • Strengthen my hope and trust in myself and most of all, in You
  • Until You say it’s time for me to have children, help me to devote myself and my life entirely to my husband and those around me for You
  • Help me, Lord, to always see You in those who are suffering and in pain, especially those who show otherwise
  • And please, may Your Light continue to shine through me

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

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The Small Things

Dear Readers,

We all have a lot going on in our lives that tend to occupy our minds and worry us more than we should allow. There are times when I am so focused on a project that I find it very hard to sit still or focus on something else without feeling guilt or anxiety. The little or big things that go on in our worlds tend to make us oblivious to the larger world that we live in. Your neighbor, a store clerk, a customer, a teacher, a co-worker, or whomever may not know what you’re going through, but even so, they are still in this world with you and may be going through the same problems that are probably even greater than yours. I believe that everyone could use a blessing, a good cheer, or something to make their day and perhaps, lives, a little brighter.

When I was senior in high school, my dance teacher took some of my classmates and me to a very expensive restaurant to celebrate our graduation. Little did we know that the gentleman who was dining alone across from us overheard our conversations and generously decided to pay for all six or seven of our meals. This was of course a wonderful surprise, but I’m talking about making a difference in someone’s day by doing the seemingly small and insignificant things that really matter:

  • Looking someone in the eye and giving them a genuine greeting and genuinely wishing them a good day.
  • Putting back unwanted store merchandise in the correct location.
  • Stopping your car to allow a waiting driver to pull in front of you.
  • Greeting people who you normally don’t notice or speak to.

I know these may seem meaningless or senseless to some, but from being on both sides of each scenario, I can tell you they make a difference. From the sudden gleam in a janitor’s eyes to the feeling of relief that someone cares, I can tell you that it’s worth it. So please, stop and see someone today and try to do so everyday.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

 

Something is Enough

Tacloban_Typhoon_Haiyan_2013-11-13

“This image was originally posted to Flickr by Trocaire at http://flickr.com/photos/8485582@N07/10882117144. It was reviewed on 16 November 2013 by the FlickreviewR robot and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.”-Wikipedia Commons

Dear Readers,

There are and have been so many disasters in the world. And for some particular reason, my heart especially aches worse for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan — in the Phillippines and around the world. Lately, I cannot seem to shake the feeling that people seem to be ignoring the suffering of the world or have forgotten about it already. Now of course the media has a significant impact. Even so…

My own theory is that many of us feel that there is nothing we can do for those suffering in the world. Some may feel like they don’t have the money or time to contribute, and therefore they shut themselves off to the pain of what’s happening around them. I can understand that, and to those people I say Something is Enough. Prayer is enough. A thought of well being for others is enough. And if you want to take it a step further, do something in honor of those in need. Donate blood. Donate clothes and food. It can even be something as simple as giving someone a smile or a genuine, heart-felt wish for a good day. I believe that God placed us on this Earth to be of help to someone, no matter how far or near they may be. The greatness of our lives is reflected in how we devote it to others. So for today, for tomorrow, and the days to come, pray for someone, smile at someone, do something in honor of someone. And please don’t ever forget. As an author, my goal is to inspire you and touch your hearts and minds, make you see something different. And I hope these words have touched you.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Do Not Forget

girl-62328_640Hi Everyone,

This past week, I have read some blog posts that really reached out and touched me.  That is because they reminded me of these important things:

 

No matter how much money you have or what job you do, our purpose in life is to help one another.  From something as small as a smile, to something as quiet as a prayer, to something as big as a hug, we are not alone on this Earth because we’re supposed to act like we are.  We are all together in this world to serve one another.  That is a direct reflection of spiritual, Godly beliefs and His light.  It is a direct reflection of who we are as a person.  Do not forget this.  And do not forget these quotes:

May you cultivate a servant’s heart so that if wealth comes your way…you will be generous to those in need. -Bill Tonnis, http://billtonnismusic.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/enter-the-kingdom/

Humility does not mean you think less of yourself –it means you think of yourself less. -Ken Blanchard

And finally, I will leave you all today with this amazing, beautiful story of kindness and compassion from Quotes Via Text’s blog:

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.” I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.
As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart wen out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, I saw a tear in his eye.

As I handed him his glasses, I said “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.” He looked at me and said, “Hey, thanks!” There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to a private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before. We talked all the way home, and I carried his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes. We hung all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!” He just laughed and handed me half the books. Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship.

Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak.

Graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him. Boy, sometimes I was jealous. Today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. “Thanks,” he said.
As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach, but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.”

I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying all his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. “Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.” I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize it’s depth.
Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person’s life. For better or for worse.

http://quotesviatext.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/story/

 

Peace and Love Everyone

Ariffa

What Matsui Can Teach about Education & Community

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons, provided by Chris Ptacek.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons, provided by Chris Ptacek.

In 2009 the Yankees won the world series against the Philadelphia Phillies…mostly because of Hideki Matsui.  Now, this is just personal opinion, but I am not the only one that feels this way.  That night, Matsui became the first Japanese-born player and full-time designated hitter in the history of MLB to win the world series MVP award.  Matsui was my favorite athlete even before this happened, so I was of course extremely upset when the Yankees did not sign him the next season.  And although Matsui played for other teams, he remained my favorite player, never forgotten by Yankees fans and non-Yankees fans.  And it was yesterday afternoon that Matsui signed a minor league contract with the Yankees, officially retiring as one.

I sat teary-eyed through the entire ceremony not because Matsui is my favorite athlete but because of what he stands for.  The best way to describe Matsui is quiet, humble strength.  You see, Matsui is the only Yankee to hit a grand slam at his first, I mean first, at bat.  He went 4-4 and 3-4 on his first two days back after returning from wrist surgery that had him out for several months.  And through it all, Matsui remained humble and a true definition of a team player.  He actually apologized for getting injured, and shies away from talking about himself.  He has stated that he felt like he didn’t deserve the MVP award, and although most players would name this as their shining moment in their career, Matsui named a victory against the Boston Red Sox as his favorite moment because the Yankees won the game in a total team effort.

The way I feel about it is that one can be a great baseball player and have awesome numbers, but if your attitude sucks and you’re all about yourself then, to me, those numbers mean absolutely nothing.  Besides his quiet strength and humility, what I like most about Matsui is that the man has a sense of humor.  He is known for playing jokes on his teammates and every once in a while you could catch him making faces at the camera.  Oh, how I miss watching him play!

So, how does this relate to education?  Well, say there was this great teacher, and you asked him or her what their best/favorite moment was in their profession.  What would you think if the teacher said, “Winning educator of the year” as opposed to “Watching my students evolve” or “Seeing my students light up when they understand something” or “One of my students telling me that I’m their role model”? Matsui represents greatness by being great through others.  One is a great player and a great teacher through the action, influence, and aid of those outside themselves.  With education being more and more about testing and numbers and treating students like they’re all the same, I know that it can be quite difficult to truly teach and help a student.

Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr

Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr

Matsui represents how a community should be.  A community should be, well…a community.  This simply means placing others above yourself and being there for them and actually caring.  Matsui reminds me of who I am, who I want to be, and who I have to be in order to consider myself truly successful.  I am only as great as the impact that my words and life has on others.

Thank you, Hideki Matsui.  I hope and pray that one day I can share these words with you in person.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

In Honor Of…

candles-141892_640Dear Readers,

I’ve been feeling a bit down lately, so to cheer myself up, and perhaps some of you as well, I have decided to write today’s post about compassion.  It’s actually a repost from when I first started blogging, but its meaning is the same, nonetheless:

I sometimes get the feeling that we as a society are afraid feel and let others see our emotion and compassion.  And sometimes we can just be flat out cold.  I’m sure some of you have seen the show “What Would You Do?,” well this is a story from a first hand experience.  I used to live in New York City (NYC), and as most know, NYC has thousands of homeless on the streets and in the subway trains.  Sometimes that person is not homeless, but a severely disabled or scarred member of society that needs some change for surgery or what not.  More often than not, these people are asking for money and food.  As a child, you learn to adapt to your surroundings and you observe and blend into what is “normal.”  Therefore as a child, I thought it was completely normal to ignore a person in need and pretend that they are not literally standing in front of you asking for help.

I moved away from the city when I was ten, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I rode the subways and walked the streets of NYC again (I was visiting family).  I cannot describe the immense pain and heartache I felt.  The majority of that emotion was not only because the person was disabled or homeless.  It was because 1) That person was being ignored by a train full of people or by hundreds of passerby and 2) I could not imagine how that person themselves felt to hear complete silence or no movement of help towards them when they ask for it (not to say that there weren’t some noble souls).  Whenever I could, I gave to those on the subway some money and offered a prayer of blessing to those on the street and to those I did not have cash for.  Like most, I sometimes wondered if they would actually use that money for good, and you know what I thought to myself?  I say “it’s on them.”  It’s on their soul if they decide to take advantage of person when he/she is doing something that they see right.  I say to myself “don’t worry what others think, or what that person may do with the money.  You’re doing what you think and feel is right.”  I sometimes feel like we use the “they’ll use it for alcohol” excuse because we are afraid to show compassion for fear of being looked at as weak or foolish.  If something is the right thing to do and it feels good, why not do it?

What is ironic about this topic is that emotion is treated completely differently when it comes to the media.  Although it is their job to tell the news (and stretch the truth), the media tends to focus much too much on drama, and it is at times ridiculous and even offense.  I will never forget when Steve Irwin died and the media asked his beautiful daughter, Bindi what she thought Steve would be saying to her at that time.  Can you get any more invasive that?  And with a child?  Bindi smartly responded (and I’m sure her mother wisely prepared her for this intrusion) that the answer to that question was private.  When the media was interviewing survivors after the 2011 tsunami in Japan some of the first words that they used to describe a man was “he looked like he’s been crying for days.”  Then there was the question of “I know it’s hard on you, but can you describe how you’re feeling right now?”  In tragedies of the past and tragedies of today this stupid question has never failed to be asked.  We as viewers see the damage, destruction and the same horrific and saddened faces of people who have suffered because the media shows them over and over.  We do not need to know how they feel because we can see it.

Good deeds of course happen everyday, and sometimes the media does capture it.  I’m sure that most have heard the story about a cop buying and giving boots to a homeless man.  Although it is great to hear good news often, I sometimes wonder why this has to be news in general.  Then I remember my past experiences and realize that it is quite rare to see something like this happen.  This is a good thing, and yet it is a reminder of something sad.  With that being said, good deeds should be done in the shadows (when it can be helped of course).  And whether we feel brave enough to do it in the open or do it when no one is looking, we can sometimes feel helpless, which can make us not help at all.  We can feel helpless because we may feel like we are not able to effectively reach those in need whether they are near or far away (so we can therefore feel like our help has no impact), or because we simply don’t carry cash to give to those in need (I rarely carry cash).  And to that I say “in honor of.”  What I mean is, if you feel like you cannot help someone for whatever reason, do something in honor of them.  For example, you can donate clothes in honor of those in natural disasters who lost everything.  You can donate blood in honor of those who lost their lives.  “In honor of” can also simply be giving someone a thought or prayer of hope and well-being.  Even if you have the money in your pocket to give to those in need, just giving them a simple blessing from the heart is doing something.  Do Something.  I promise it will make you feel good and perhaps make you a little happier.

I hope today’s post has reached you.  Let it light a flame inside of you.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Kingdom of the Sun Theme: Education- The Love of Teaching

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(Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Dear Readers,

Like this blog, the theme of education and what it means “to be educated” is strongly present in my book Kingdom of the Sun (to be published soon).  The love of teaching is of course significant in that one should, or as some would say, love what they do.  In order to be successfully and truly influential as a teacher and educator, I do believe that one has to have a love and connection for what they are doing.  However, I would like to discuss the love of teaching as it pertains to receiving it.  My thoughts and words are not only based on my past experiences of being a student, but on my most recent experiences of witnessing this love through the eyes of a volunteer ESL teacher.

For a short time, I was an ESL teacher to a group of 30+ adult immigrants and refugees from all over the world.  Before I was to actually teach them, I had stopped in two days prior to observe the class and meet the teacher that I would be subbing for.  On that day, I had spent some time alone with them for about half an hour before their teacher arrived, and as soon as I stepped in the classroom, I immediately noticed an energy and atmosphere that was different than anything I had ever experienced.

These students had joy, radiance, excitement, and most of all, they had respect, admiration, and gratitude.  All of them.  I was simply an observer that day, but it was not long before I was called something that I didn’t quite expect or see myself, something that Christ Himself was called: “Teacher.”  And so, it was no surprise that my heart actually fluttered, and a form of love that I did not anticipate was conceived.  I found that love growing each time they smiled wide and their eyes lit up when they saw me.  I found it growing when they thanked me when they understood something, when they thanked me at the end of the day, and when they thanked as they placed their hands over their hearts.

I constantly found myself comparing these students and their behavior to students that I was surrounded with in the past.  There were of course those who had respect and gratitude, but this was mostly not the case, especially for substitutes.  I thought about those substitutes and educators whose first days and experiences of teaching were not as joyful as mine.  I thought of them and thanked God for being truly blessed.

Once this experience was over, I then thought about how what I was doing for these students was no different than what my teachers and professors of the past did for me.  But why was the reception so different?  As I’m sure you can imagine, these ESL students are in this new place, virtually new world, and are dependent on the teacher for guidance and support to ultimately survive and prosper in their new lives (and for many of them, it was the first education they had received).  Yet, this was mostly the same for me when I was a student.  So, what is the underlying difference here?  Well, I think this answer lies in just one of the main issues with education today.  There is a poem written by a high school student that discusses how he sits in class all day, bored and pretending to be interested when all he wants is to learn something that can better himself and his life, something that he cares about.

The poem can be found here: High School

What if the education system was less about numbers and placement standings, and more about giving students what they want and need?  What if we were to listen to these students and their needs, and help them follow their own path?  Would we see changes in behavior as well as joy and passion in our students?  My experience as a teacher has strengthened the fire in me to teach and inspire through my words because with them I hold the power to change hearts, minds, and the world.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Kingdom of the Sun Theme: Seeing

leaf-117554_640Dear Readers:

What does it mean to see someone?  The line of “I see you,” was used very often in the movie Avatar, and it means just that: I see you, I acknowledge you, I feel you, I hear you, I see you.

Seeing and one’s inability and unwillingness to see is such a significant theme in Kingdom of the Sun (coming soon).  Being unseen is something that I have dealt with for all my life, and many of you deal with the same in several ways.  The way that I would like to talk about pertains to age.

When we think of age, and the stereotypes that come with it, we often think of senior citizens.  However, how often do we associate these stereotypes with the younger generation?  Growing up, I never “acted my age,” and because of that, my face, words, and body language reflected such.  To those who did not know me, I was always mistaken for being at least 5-10 years older than I actually was.  And as you can imagine, I was placed in many awkward and embarrassing situations.  And although it was annoying at times, it felt good to be acknowledged as someone I felt on the inside as opposed to a number.  However, there were many times when those who did not know me assumed that I partied, drank, was addicted to social media, and had no plans for my future.

To many of those who did “know” me, I was looked down upon and still judged.  I cannot tell you the amount of times that I was called a “kid” and a “child,” or the number of times when I was told “kids your age should be…” or that I was boring for refusing to go out to clubs or stay out until 3 in the morning.  The most painful was having to literally sit in front of “superiors” and older colleagues and be ignored, not spoken to, and not even looked at because my words meant nothing.  And when a rare opportunity was given for those words to be spoken, my listeners’ eyes would gloss over or I would be asked a question that I only just answered when I had spoken.

There is something called the Role Theory in which people behave the way society expects them to behave.  Think about for a moment…

I firmly believe that 70% to 80% of the youth that does ridiculous, outrageous, and stupid things are because society and media portrays and expects them to.  They therefore believe the behavior to be okay in thinking that it’s the norm.  This Role Theory can of course be applied to many other  types of groups…What would happen if society were to be more supportive and encouraging of these groups?  What if the movies and news stations were to remove these groups from their stereotypical roles and place them into something different?  What if people no longer allowed themselves to be fed garbage and propaganda and instead think for themselves to see, truly see.  Focusing more on age, for the honor and respect of not only the other person but yourself, see people for who they are.

As I say in my book’s dedication, Kingdom of the Sun is “For anyone who has been subject to the constraints, stereotypes, blindness, and contradictions of society.”

And as the character Helena states “I believe that to judge another by age is to lack the wisdom and respect that seemingly comes with it and the gain of foolishness in its stead.”

 

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

“It’s Not That Easy”

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Dear Readers,

Do you remember the show called Meet the Natives?  It aired in 2009 on the Travel channel, and it was about a group of men from the island of Tanna in the South Pacific.  The cameras followed them as they made trips to various areas of the world and experienced things that they never would have if they stayed in Tanna.  Examples being riding a roller coaster, going to a national park, etc, etc.

One moment that stood out to me the most was when the men took a trip to New York city’s Central Park.  While exploring the park, the men came across a homeless man sleeping on a bench.  They could not comprehend why this man was sleeping in the cold when there were so many buildings and homes surrounding them.  They also could not comprehend why other people were ignoring this man and not doing anything to help him.  Now, I haven’t seen all of the Meet the Natives episodes, but this was the first and only time that I had seen them visually upset and angry.  One of them said “I can see that there are many buildings in New York, how is it possible for a man to sleep in the street?”  Another Tribesman tried to provide an explanation for this sad situation in saying, “It is clear that nobody loves him. That’s why he is sleeping out in the cold.”

And so, I ask, should there be an excuse for homelessness?  Whatever the reason be for the man’s situation, should we accept it because he lost his job or was on drugs?  Is that what someone or anyone should deserve?  It’s interesting because we tend to think and accept things as the norm until an outsider comes along and opens our eyes.  The Tanna men’s concept was so simple: brotherly love and camaraderie.  But sadly, so sadly, it is not so simple in this world.

“It’s not so simple,” “It’s not that easy.” I unfortunately hear these words a lot.  I tend to ask a lot of questions that have seemingly easy answers and solutions such as: why is that several countries have free healthcare and we don’t?  Why is that Japan recycles all of their waste, yet we have disgusting mounds of garbage on the Earth?  Why is that commercials and schools preach that going to college will guarantee one a great career, yet those “great careers” never come for most, and those “careers” end up being extremely low-paying jobs for many.  I can go on and on.  And I can keep asking “why?”  But though the solutions may be simple, it will more often than not, tie back to whether or not it will be an inconvenience for someone or if it will mean less money in someone’s pocket.  And it is because of these things that life is not as simple as it used to be.  It is because of these things that life is not as simple as it should be.  So let me ask you: Do you accept it?

“Everyone is the same, and no one is homeless”- A Tanna Tribesman

Peace and Love

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