My name is Bhakti Mary. I grew up in Hattiesburg Mississippi - a state with the worst education system in the United States - dead last, #50 of 50. Growing up, I watched my father work as a janitor for a minimum wage $4.25 per hour for the Main Street United Methodist Church. He was the only black man to work in the church; no minorities attended the church. This week when I looked at the online gallery of the church, I saw many pictures that reflected a diverse congregation but this wasn't the case in the 80s and 90s. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. We grew up vegetarian; the word "fast food" was not in our vocabulary. We grew most of our food in a garden....a garden on part of the nearly 5 acres our 980 sq ft home built in 1952 sat on. We dug up the land by hand with the few shovels we had and planted beans, potatoes, and other vegetables every year. Today this home is not worth much money. But then, it was all we had...7 of us lived in these 980 square feet.
I really didn't like growing up and I was sad about it for a long time. If you're feeling sad about your home situation, I can certainly understand - but trust me when I say it won't last forever. Life's struggles will become greater AND life's rewards will become grander. We grew up in a manner that my father felt was right and a manner he could afford which meant no furniture, no television, no radio, no friends over to the home, no telephone conversations, no after school activities, no summer camps, no sports, no designer clothes, no nails done, no hair did, no allowance etc. My mother sewed a lot of our clothing and even other items such as backpacks. Can you imagine going to high school with clothing your mother sewed?
Even though I grew up in just one state - Mississippi-, I have since travelled to 14 countries and all over this beautiful land called the United States. I am an Air Force Academy graduate. I don't run away from home any more. My home today is larger than the house I grew up in - you don't have to stay where you are today and where you are today is no guarantee of where you will be tomorrow. But you do have to be HAPPY just where you are. You have to always be life's student and you have to always move towards love. Your faith in a higher power will also certainly help you feel love and grace. My heart is as full as it has ever been and it still has room to grow.
I have a handsome 9 year old son who respects his elders, expresses thankfulness, and brings a smile to the face of most people he meets. I am a divorced woman and my son knows and loves me AND his dad equally. I teach him the lessons I am going to share with you today. I share them because I care...in this moment, I take very seriously my opportunity to experience my life with you in front of me.
Alright, let's talk about the lessons!
The Bible says in Proverbs 12:11 “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” Nothing replaces hard work. Consciously and deliberately develop the habit of working hard. Not everyone knows how to work hard. You can also develop the habit of working smartly. But most of us can learn to work hard before we learn to work smart.
Can you think of a time when you really worked hard at something? How did it feel?
A simple practice you can adopt today is to always do your homework. Don't wait until the last minute either. Do it before you play video games or watch tv.
My three siblings and I did not have a college fund and none of us ever received any money from our parents after the age of 18. We had to work hard for everything we ever got. REALLY HARD! But when an opportunity came along, we didn't sit on the sideline. We got in the game - we waited in the line, we practiced hard, we looked for heroes and followed them. I may still go to a party from time to time, I may hang out with my friends - but I also have two college degrees and continue to educate myself every chance I get. I also work two jobs. I write about some of the things I am here to talk to you about today. I raise my child. I take care of a house. Life is about balance. As a child you must play, but you must also work hard.
Another simple practice that will help you to work harder and more effectively is to avoid doing more than one thing at once. Don't eat and watch TV for example. Enjoy the food, and then enjoy the entertainment.
What are some ways you can work harder?
BE GRATEFUL. (LOVE LIFE)
The Bible says in Psalms 118:24 This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it and in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 In everything give thanks. In everything...Experiencing gratitude in every present moment deepens your awareness. You have so much to be grateful for. When you think of things you can be thankful for, you will find that your mood can improve. I am thankful for this chance to share some of the most important lessons I have learned with you today.
What is something you are thankful for today?
I know what it's like to be that little kid searching for love - love from parents, love from friends, love from that crush...and the search will continue but there's something you need to know - it's a secret that I will share with you today. Love is inside of you - it always has been and it always will be. Everything you do is an expression of how much you love. If you succeed at loving yourself, everything will be okay.
A simple practice you can adopt today is to thank God for one thing each morning before you get out of bed.
What are some ways you can express your love for living?
DON'T LET FEAR STOP YOU.
The Bible says in 2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. Don't operate out of fear and don't always take the convenient path of least resistance. Don't dodge failure.
What is something you are afraid of?
I have always been afraid of new opportunities. I now try to notice when my heart when it pounds a little harder out of fear, and I realize that just then, it might be time to take a chance and to be brave.
A simple practice you can adopt today is to talk to your parents about something you have been afraid to talk to them about. Ask them how to be brave and how to have courage when you feel sad, fearful, or disappointed. Listen with the intention of understanding and learning.
What are some ways you can overcome fear?
REALIZE THAT NO ONE OWES YOU ANYTHING.
Try not to feel entitled to anything. Entitlement is when you think that someone HAS to do something for you or give you something. Most of the things that you believe should be done for you DO NOT have to be done for you. Recognize that you must earn good deeds. The golden rule definitely applies. You cannot act out or misbehave and then expect people to respond in kindness. When have you used the golden rule?
When I was growing up, I felt entitled to things other than what I had which caused me to run away from home several times and to even steal things that did not belong to me, or to demand things from my parents. Now, I have learned to appreciate the things that I have and to find gratitude. When you feel entitled to something, you are saying that you don't need to work for it. Take care of all of the things that your parents or family has worked hard for AND find something you are willing to work hard for.
A simple practice you can adopt today is to start using "please" whenever you ask for anything and use "thank you" when you receive something. That something could be something as simple as a hug or a smile.
What are some ways you can use the golden rule in the future?
DON'T MAKE EXCUSES.
No excuses. Stop right now from making excuses for your bad behavior. Just own your actions and work to do better next time. That's all people who love you want -- progress towards better choices. What is something you want to be better at?
I learned the hard way that when I mess up, no one cares WHY. I just admit my mistake and learn the lesson. Someone once told me - that in every experience good or bad, there is a lesson. Focus on the lessons - use them to turn ordinary experiences into extraordinary experiences. Don't get stuck in the mistake world. Be amazing by LEARNING YOUR LESSON.
A simple practice you can adopt today is to start saying the words "I will do better next time" when you get in trouble for something. Actually mean it though.
What are some areas you can stop making excuses in?
It is my hope that you will remember this conversation in times when you feel fear, when you want to make an excuse, when you want someone to give you something, when you feel lazy or when you feel ungrateful. Life is not a box of chocolates. It is a journey where you must learn and practice good habits starting right now.
One of my all time favorite phrases is "semper ad meliora". It is a Latin phrase that means "always towards better things". Surround yourself by people who encourage you to do good today and to do even better tomorrow.
Ms. Bhakti Mary
I am an optimistic, positive, generous and driven author who is passionate about self-improvement.
The essence of who you are does not lie in the past. What matters is what you are willing to do NOW. You are the presence.