“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

A lifetime ago I was privileged to work with folks who were everyday heroes in desperate circumstances. They were people transitioning into the mainstream and the workplace from welfare, foster youth programs, homelessness, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, catastrophic illness,  disability, prison, violent environments, and job layoffs and plant closures.

There were many things we could do to help our clients. We helped them find jobs and housing. We encouraged them to get G.E.D.s and vocational training or retraining. We found ways to address learning disabilities and get people out of abusive relationships. We offered classes on nutrition and parenting. We facilitated a sense of community and support.  In true hero fashion, our clients worked hard.  They took advantage of and were grateful for whatever was made available to them. They honored their contracts and did all the extra things that can make a difference between failure and success. Over eighty-percent successfully turned their lives around.

In those days, my responsibilities included teaching a three-unit community college career-development class. To provide  inspiration through the often overwhelming ups-and-downs,  some of us made our students Keep Smiling Bags. A Buddhist might call these bags a Metta* Bag; a Catholic, a Caritas* Bag; a Jew, a Chesid* Bag, a Muslim, a Birr bag. To a Native American it might be a Medicine Bag. Since I learn from all and affiliate with none, I just call it a Keep Smiling Bag. It’s a gift of love and inspiration and you might even say it’s about attitude adjustment.

In these trying times, you may have a few people in your life who could use a Keep Smiling Bag. The bags also make nice token gifts for birthdays or holidays or as get-well gifts or party favors. Those who are crafty may especially enjoy this exercise and will no doubt create beautiful and unusual presentations, perhaps doing the card in calligraphy or hand-crafting the bag or hand-sewing cloth pouches in place of paper bags.

If you do make Keep Smiling Bags, make them with the intention to heal.

Here are the supplies you’ll need to gather:

  • Small, cheerful gift bags
  • Little decorative erasers
  • Glass marbles
  • Colored rubber bands
  • Assorted colored crayons
  • Silk ribbons
  • Silver stars
  • Birthday candles
  • Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses
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Gather the trinkets and place them into the bag.
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Prepare this instruction card to go with the trinkets:
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♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

These are a few things to get you through the day:
  1. Eraser –  to erase your negative self-talk
  2. Marbles – for when you think you’ve lost yours (you haven’t)
  3. Rubber band – s-t-r-e-t-c-h yourself into new activities. new points of view, new enthusiasms
  4. Crayons – events may color your life, you choose the colors
  5. Silk ribbon – to tie everything together when it seems life is falling apart
  6. Stars – to get to the top of the mountain, you have to reach for the stars
  7. Candle – your inner light shines bright no matter what the circumstances of your life
  8. Hugs & Kisses – Someone cares. Me! 🙂.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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metta, caritas, and chesid ~ all mean loving kindness, birr (Islam) deep love
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 – Jamie Dedes
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© 2010, 2013, essay & photo of roses, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Photo credits ~ Gift Bag, Ann Cervova, Public Domain Pictures.net. 
Hershey’s Kisses, courtesy of IvoShandor,  CreativeCommons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license via Wikipedia. 
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Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

14 thoughts on “The Keep Smiling Bag

  1. A great idea! Gifts of encouragement go a long way with me. Victoria – I still have the prayer shawl that our church group made for my husband. My children and I each got one as well. I kept his because it is larger and uses my favorite fall colors. My blue-eyed daughter has mine. One of my colleagues at Old World made me a beautiful little card attached to a piece of wood with a knot hole in it to encourage me to get past the knots in the process of taking on the challenges of work. Her thoughtfulness and the time she put into creating something memorable and personal blew me away. Kindness is incredibly powerful!

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  2. Jamie: What a lovely idea. I was looking for something beyond our usual driven way to think about gifts for birthdays or holidays. Your “Keep Smiling Bag” is just the kind of thing I was thinking about. And the universal languages– of “metta”: “charitas”, “chesid” and “birr”– also captures the essential of what is contained in the “Keep Smiling Bag!”

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  3. This is sweet, Jamie. When I was a Girl Scout leader of troop with only cookie money to fund activities, the only way to thank volunteers was from the heart, and we would put together little cards with symbols like this. ( I remember we included a Life Saver.) I never thought of them as Medicine Bags, but I love that idea, and it was true enough.

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