New Beginnings

You probably noticed that I made quite a few updates to my LinkedIn profile.  That’s because I’m making some major changes in my life.   If you know me even a little bit, you know how committed I am to combating issues of economic injustice in our society.  Unemployment, underemployment, discrimination in the workforce, inadequate training and education and financial illiteracy have a chokehold on many of our cities and towns.  The generational poverty and hopelessness I’ve seen in the urban areas of Philadelphia and Wilmington break my heart.  People lack the education and skills to get a decent job that pays a living wage.  Neighborhoods are plagued by crime and drugs.  Schools are underfunded and, in many cases, unsafe.

For many years, I’ve tried to help through my volunteer efforts.  It’s not enough.  I can do more.  The late Dr. Stephen Covey said, “[v]oice lies at the nexus of talent (your natural gifts and abilities), passion (those things that naturally inspire, motivate, energize and excite you), need (including what the world needs enough to pay you for) and conscience (that which assures you of what is right and actually prompts you to do it).  Engaging in work…that taps your talent and fuels your passion – that rises out of a great need in the world that you feel drawn by conscience to meet – therein lies your voice, your calling, your soul’s code.”

I first read those words in 2004 but I don’t think I fully understood them until these last few years.  My family background, every job I’ve had, my education, my time spent practicing law, being unemployed and underemployed, my volunteerism, my health and financial struggles, my music, my teaching experience and my religious study – all of it was for the purpose of bringing me to where I am today.  I’ve found my voice.  I am called to be a Unitarian Universalist minister and to use my energy working in the community to heal our world both from the “inside-out” and the “outside-in.”  This means meeting people wherever they are on their journey and helping them find their way to their personal truth.  If people are spiritually healthy from the inside-out they can do the outside-in work our communities so desperately need.  It means leading a congregation in its efforts to promote peace, justice and love in our world.  It means working one-on-one with those who most need help and joining forces with other people, other congregations, corporations, organizations and government to build a global Beloved Community.  That is my soul’s code.

I’ve spent the last 18 months focusing on my health, getting my mind and body strong again.  Through meditation, reflection and counsel with trusted friends and advisors, I’ve refocused professionally as well.  Now, I’m ready to take the next steps.  I was accepted to the Master of Divinity program at Meadville Lombard Theological School and begin classes this month.  Next week, I will start my new role as Director, Center for Employment and Training at the People’s Emergency Center in Philadelphia (http://pec-cares.org).  I’m honored and excited to be part of this amazing organization that’s been a pillar of the community for more than 20 years.  I’ll also continue to make speaking appearances in the Delaware Valley and, of course, will remain an active Toastmaster, helping others find their voice and communicate their message to the world.

Thank you to the friends, family and colleagues who’ve supported me and continue to encourage me on this journey.  I love you all.

Connie

May 8, 2015

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What exactly does “WHOLE” mean?

INTRODUCTION

Complete.  Full.  Balanced.  We know all the buzzwords.  Call it whatever you want.  We all strive for a full, complete and balanced life.  I prefer to call it a “WHOLE” life.  A whole life is one where your health, finances, career and relationships are all in alignment and working together for your greatest good.  When you are whole and aligned, you are your best and most authentic self.  When you are whole, nothing is too big for you to achieve.  You are health and strong, your finances are in order, you’re doing work you love and you have satisfying relationships with family and friends.  Nothing is impossible for the person living a whole life.

 The First Component:  HEALTH

Health is the most important of the four components.  Without your health, it doesn’t matter whether you have money, a career or personal relationships.  Health is always priority one. 

1.    Physical Health

This slice of health refers to the condition of our physical body and the functioning of its internal systems.  Flexibility, blood pressure, cardiovascular endurance and strength are all measures of physical health. 

2.      Emotional Health

Emotional health refers to our psychological well-being.  It is how we feel internally about ourselves.  Emotional health is measured by self-esteem, confidence, hope and contentment. 

 3.      Spiritual Health

This is where we keep the sense that there is something bigger than ourselves in the world.  This slice is the most ambiguous of the health slices because its definition dependents upon the faith of its owner.  For the religious person, it may be belief in a particular deity.  For the atheist, it may be her personal creed.  However, the most important items held in the Spiritual Health slice are our core beliefs, our values and the principles by which we live our lives.  Everyone has these, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. 

The Second Component:  RELATIONSHIPS

The relationship section of the pie refers simply to our connections to others.  Imagine it as a series of nesting circles.

1.      Family

The first section holds our relationships with close family – spouse/partner, parents, siblings, children, grandparents and , in some families, aunts uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.   The Whole person typically views family as a cohesive unit that actually enjoys each other’s company.

2.      Friends

 This middle ring extends beyond the family circle to our friends and coworkers.  The person with a Whole life has a solid circle of friends that you spend time with and who you can call for help or a shoulder to cry on at the end of a failed relationship.  Because of the many hours we spend at work each week, this circle may also contain some coworkers.

 3.      Community

This outermost ring tends to be the most complicated and the busiest.  “Community can be defined very broadly these days and it’s not at all uncommon for a person to self-identifying as belonging to many communities based on race, ethnicity, religion, age, occupation, residence, etc.  For example, here are a few of the communities to which I belong:  African Americans, unmarried women, lawyers, writers, Delawareans, Americans, humans and Unitarian Universalists.  Each of us belongs to many communities large and small.  The slice of this circle depends on how many communities you identify with and how broad they are.  The most important thing to remember is that “bigger is not better.”  She who belongs to the most communities doesn’t “win.”  The key is knowing where you’re comfortable – whether it’s in one group or in one hundred groups. 

 The Third Component:  Finances

The term “money” suggests cash or other liquid funds.  I chose the broader title of “finances” for this section so that it could include all aspects of financial management – cash, credit, debt, benefits, etc.  Each of these items is part of the financial equation. 

1.    Income

 Income refers to money or goods you receive in exchange for work or other consideration or as the result of a gift or inheritance, or as a government benefit without regard to the amount of money received or the desirability or tastefulness of the work performed.  In this regard, a monthly trust fund disbursement, realtor’s commission, cash wages, social security check and government assistance check are all considered to be exactly the same.  They are all income. 

 2.      Spending

Spending refers to how that income is used during any measurable period.  It can be a simple household budget that includes rent, phone and electricity or an elaborate spending plan that includes vacations and the management of multiple homes.  All money spends the same. 

3.      Savings and Retirement

Savings and retirement are actually types of spending and uses of income.  We save a portion of the money we receive to fund our life after we stop working and earning, i.e., retirement.  In a way, we’re “spending” by saving for retirement.  We’re using that income to buy something that we get to enjoy until later in life.  This money may fund travel in our golden years, cover our stay in a nursing home or simply purchase life insurance.  None of us knows for sure what our later years will bring but the WHOLE person has a vision of what she’d like those years to be and what financial steps she should take to achieve it.

 The Final Component:  Career

This section should probably be called Career and Learning.  The WHOLE person has so much more than a “job” in their life.   The WHOLE person has a career that they love and that is fulfilling. 

1.      Formal Education

 In 2013, a bachelor’s degree is the equivalent of a high school diploma 50 years ago.    Many entry level construction and manufacturing jobs now require a basic college degree or some other trade or specialized education.  The WHOLE person recognizes the value of formal education in life. 

 2.      Continuing Education

But the WHOLE person doesn’t stop with the formal education required for her career.  The WHOLE person continues to pursue knowledge. She is continually learning new things – languages, skills, etc., that will stimulate her mind and keep her at the top of her game professionally. 

3.      Career

 It’s no accident that career is the last item discussed here.  Some say it’s the least important element of a WHOLE life.  I’m  not sure.  Some in our society value others based on their career and the amount of income they generate from it.  The WHOLE person evaluates her career by how much she enjoys it, by how much pleasure it brings to her and others and by whether it serves the needs of her family and community. 

 

Over the next installments, I’ll share my thoughts on each component individually – discuss my triumphs and struggles and offer suggestions to help you get WHOLE.   I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts….please use the links below to respond and share feedback.