(The photo above is one of my favorite photos of my childhood family.)
After I got home from the book study group on a mid-winter January eve in 2014, my mind started to go into deep thought about a word. What word? Well, that was the question at the time.
The woman’s book group always gathered in one of the member’s homes where all of us drank coffee, tea, and enjoyed a dessert treat. We laughed and told our personal stories and then delved into the evening’s book topic. The book group’s main facilitator at that time was a woman named Penny. Penny always had brilliant insights and ideas. Everyone adored her creative mind and fun humor. On this 2014 evening, Penny posed a word challenge to the group. “You select a word,” she said and then continued, “your word will assist you through this new year with meditations and insight for your personal journey and growth.”
“Why should we do this?” asked Nancy whose logical mind was simply curious now.
“The word should embody what you want to be or what you want to work on during this New Year. It can be used instead of a New Year’s resolution. Your word will be a way to apply change into your life, a sort of guiding light.”
You could hear only silence as all of us started to think and then willingly accept the invitation to spend the next week in the selection of our word.
“You will need to spend time in deep contemplation, meditation and prayer.” Penny explained. “Your word will be a powerful aid to you in the coming year, and one that will guide you to a better self understanding.” Then, Penny told us, “I already picked my word”.
We all leaned forward in anticipation. “My word is BEGIN,” she said.
I loved Penny, but that word seemed an odd choice. Really, “begin?” Too simple? Or was it? Hmm, I would have to think about that later.
“Wow” I thought, “there is a lot at stake here.”
I am fascinated with words and I also possess the less than admirable trait of needing to be competitive. If I had to choose a word and go back to the next group meeting, I wanted my word to be the best, the most powerful. Certainly, I could do better than “begin.” My word would have to rock-and-roll the book group. I needed to win.
Over the next few days, I found myself saying various words out loud and waiting for a sign from the Universe. “Adventure, unconditional, boldness, ” I said testing those words. But, an annoying word begin to continue to come to me. I squelched it. It was not the grandiose word that I wanted. While at work, I listened carefully to conversations hoping to find that word that would impress. “Authentic and connection” seemed like good choices. But there it was again, that word creeping into my mind and becoming only the more powerful. I felt now, like the word was some sort of gift from the Universe but it was such an odd choice. Why would I even think this word? It wasn’t even a very pretty word. It wasn’t going to give me a winning edge.
Well, by now, you will want me to get on with it. The word that came to me in a repetitive way was “PRESERVE.”
I laughed at my chance to be a “word winner.” After all, doesn’t the word preserve make you think of pickles or jam?
In great humility to the Universe, I accepted this was my gift. My gift was the word “preserve” and I would just have to go with it. I was unsure of how to support the word, so at the next book study when we all shared our words, I was under no illusion that my word would wow the group. My word was the type of word that would only garner a few sweet smiles from friends who would then be announcing their profound choices.
I was right. My word underwhelmed everyone there.
But, it did not take long for my word to begin to work in my life. “Preserve” I would say to myself in the morning as I sipped my coffee while looking at some family photos.
PRESERVE…I stopped in my tracks. My word was perfect. These photos needed to be preserved in a way that they could be archived, indexed and shared. The actual original photos were only in my possession and could not be shared easily with other family. From that day forward, I began digitally preserving and sharing thousands of photographs all in indexed and searchable data cloud based websites. These photos have been viewed countless times by family, cousins, genealogists, historians, and others.
PRESERVE…my father was 90 years old at the time I made this word selection. His life, his memories, his stories needed to be preserved. I started the mission of documenting his life story. This was a man who had done remarkable things and was also the father who told whimsical talking stories about his dog Rover and his childhood adventures in the 1920’s. His WWII stories were stand outs. His work as the scientific advisor to the US Army was a story of genius. I started to research and write. I engaged myself in many conversations with my father and I promised him that I would continue to share his legacy and his stories. As I continued in this pursuit, I also realized that his story was the human story and I started to blog about so many others.
PRESERVE…friendships, associations, memories, ancestry, documents, our planet.
PRESERVE…I needed to start thinking about preserving my health. I began the habit of a morning walk that continues throughout these past 5 years. And, often these walks begin with my whispering the word that did become a guiding light.
Yes, my word, was and still is…”PRESERVE.”