Dec02

Publisher - December 2021

Publisher0921“You may find that making a difference for others
makes the biggest difference in you.”
— Brian Williams, Journalist 

One night I was traveling from Columbia, SC, back home to Hilton Head Island. My daughter, who was then 19 years old and two of my cousin’s little girls were with me. It was summertime, and they were going to spend a week with us. You can imagine the excitement in the car. The only problem, it was late, dark, pouring buckets of rain, and shortly outside of Columbia on I-26, the traffic came to a complete halt.

We were in quite the precarious situation. As each of us sat there waiting and wondering, the tension grew. I could tell the girls were worried and even a little scared. We literally were in complete darkness. We had no idea as to when the traffic would start moving again, if the rain was going to let up, or how long we would be stuck.

Finally, this sweet voice from the back seat broke the worry-filled silence. Laura Lynn, the youngest in the car at 8 years old, said, “Well, if we look on the bright side, we are going to the beach for a week!”

We all laughed and the mood lightened. We started talking about all the things we were going to do together. Though we sat on the interstate for more than an hour, we all began to look at the bright side, and it changed everything.

One of my all-time favorite philosophies is change your attitude, change your world, and there’s no better time than the holidays to start. Everyone’s “world” is shaped almost wholly by what she or he focuses on, and focus is made up of attitude, actions and reactions. In other words, you can train yourself to not automatically think negatively! When you do, your life will naturally lighten up and become happier and more rewarding. As an added bonus, your anger and frustration will soften and diminish, too.

Every situation can be viewed as good or bad; it all depends on who’s doing the viewing. Of course, there are those who thrive on negativity and drama. However, if you are tired of drama and ready for a more peaceful life—and who isn’t?—it’s easy to change your world with a few attitude adjustments. Simply put, focus on, and look for, the good. I promise you will find what you seek.

Instead of grumbling over a long grocery line, just go with it. Lamenting and getting yourself into a tizzy doesn’t make it any shorter. That’s what really needs to be understood: Whether you are mad about the line, or fine with the line, the line still exists. If you’re upset over it, the only one suffering is you—the prisoner of your own negative attitude.

What if you approached it like this? It’s the holidays; expect lines. Be happy for lines, for it means people are prospering. Use the time in line to gather your thoughts, or to just breathe and pause for a moment. Be mindful of your surroundings while you’re in line, take them in and enjoy them. In fact, go a step further and let someone with only a few items go in front of you. The Bible teaches us in Proverbs 11:25, “A generous person will prosper, he who refreshes others, will himself be refreshed.”

Speaking of being a generous person, let’s talk about making a difference, because the two go hand-in-hand. There are a million and one ways to make a positive difference, and I promise any thing you choose to do will bring you as much satisfaction and happiness, as those you may be helping.

I was a long-time member of Toastmasters International, which is a group dedicated to the development of public speaking and leadership. One day, I was scrolling through my emails, and one of them caught my attention. It was asking Toastmasters from the Lowcountry to help charter a new Toastmasters Club at the Allendale Correctional Institution in Fairfax, SC, which is 77 miles of all back roads from my house. In all my busyness of running Pink and trying to maintain balance in my life, I responded yes to that email.

Are you kidding me? What was wrong with me? Why did I add something else to my already impossible dubious to-do list?

I had never been to a prison. I told myself I said yes, because as a writer, I needed to open myself to new experiences. What if I write a novel, and I needed to know what prison is like?” Nonetheless, the actual task involved getting a new Toastmasters Club with 25 male prisoners off the ground and operating successfully.

I drove that 77 miles back and forth twice a month. Each time I arrived at the prison, I went through the grueling pat down, shoes-off, no purse ritual. Each time, I was treated as though I was probably up to no good. One thing was for sure, I could not run late. Getting through the security house was a process, and it was never hurried. Once through, I had to walk the long sidewalk inside the fences, to the front door and wait until I was buzzed in. Then there were several more buzzer doors to pass through to get to the meeting room. Visiting a prison is no joke; it is intense every time. Your freedom stays in the car when you walk into prison.

My experience at this prison with those men changed my life. I went there with a heart to serve, but also with expectations to receive. And, receive I did, but not how I thought. This is hands down one of the best things I have ever done. I gained their trust and helped those men find their voices. I listened to their stories, some of them horrifying and tragic. They improved, grew and flourished not only as speakers, but also as human beings. Some of them felt heard for the first time ever. What happened at those meetings was magical. Big, bad men, hugging. But through it all, I couldn’t believe how my life was so enriched. In giving my time, knowledge and effort, I became alive with joy and fulfillment. What a blessing that was for almost two years.

You are not going to believe how you feel when you change your focus and/or help make a difference. Just these two things will light up your holidays brighter than Clark Griswold’s house, and you will instantly feel the magic of Christmas. In fact, you may even BE the magic of Christmas for someone!

Thank you for reading Paisley. You are a gift to me and the magic of the magazine. May this year’s holiday spirit be more meaningful than ever to you and yours.

Passion, Peace & Paisley,
Elizabeth Millen

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