The Power We All Possess

Most ordinary people feel as if we have no power.

I’m not talking the “calm the wind and the waves” and “heal the blind” sort of power. Even the most delusional of earth’s mighty men and women know that they don’t have that.

angels landing zion national park hiking steve henderson painting

Climbing to the top involves a series of small steps. Where Angels Land, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

What most ordinary people feel is that we have no power to make a difference, because we don’t possess outrageous amounts of money, and the ability to influence (or manipulate) people and circumstances that accompany those funds. But that attitude overlooks the power that every human being possesses, regardless of who we are, who our father was, and how many people scrape and bow as we walk by.

All of us have the power to choose how we will act: honestly or dishonestly, kindly or harshly, honorably or with cowardice. With a word or a tone, we have the ability to build up another human being, or tear them down to a point of devastation. We can judge, critique, slander, and demolish. Or we can withhold judgment, listen, encourage, and build up.

Every single day, throughout the day, we have the power to do this.

“Ah, but my words and actions don’t affect millions,” we say. “I’m just a nobody.”

First of all, nobody is a nobody.

And secondly, we really need to get away from this misconception that quantity matters so very, very much. The fear that our actions and thoughts mean so little prevents us from actively going out and doing good. But to the person to whom we show compassion, brotherly love, understanding (or if nothing more, the lack of malice), we have made a difference. These things build upon themselves.

The artwork, Where Angels Land, shows the heights we can reach when we’re willing to continuously put one foot in front of the other. One of the most popular trails in Zion National Park (where 4.5 million people visit a year), Angels Landing is difficult: five miles round trip, 1,500 elevation gain, 21 steep switchbacks at the end, and a 1,000 foot drop off at the spine.

Theoretically, a rich, powerful person could get there on a helicopter, but millions of ordinary people make it to the top, one small step at a time.

Every word, every action, every thought is a step — and every step takes us upward or downward, depending upon where we choose to place our feet.

That’s a power that we all possess.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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You’re Unique — So Be Unique

Every human being is unique, different, and distinctive.

The imaginary world of movies pretends to celebrate this fact, and maverick protagonists are popular. But their problems aren’t our problems, and their issues are rarely if ever solved in a realistic, believable fashion. Too boring.

woman walking zion southwest heels beauty steve henderson art

As we walk our path in life, let us do so with singularity, distinction, and grace. Light of Zion, art print by Steve Henderson

In the real world, we battle with constant pressure to conform, much of which is thanks to those movies, “reality” TV shows, magazines, and celebrity Instagram feeds. If we don’t watch it, we’ll focus on being cool more than anything else — driving the right car, wearing trendy clothes, speaking savvy jargon, and walking along — head bobbing and body twitching to the music in our ears (how cool is that?)  — as we pretend to be in a movie of our own.

But in focusing on being cool, we are in severe danger of no longer being ourselves.

The artwork, Light of Zion, celebrates the beauty and . . . idiosyncrasy of being ourselves.
A young woman walks through the landscape of Zion National Park in Utah, but, contrary to conventional and logical expectations, she isn’t wearing sporty attire and hiking boots.

Rather, she dons heels, long dress, a gauzy wrap — an ensemble more appropriate to a party than a hike.

“That’s weird,” observers think. “If she twists her ankle she deserves it.”

Such is the reaction people get when they choose to be themselves — when we follow our heart, walk the path set before us, think and question, pursue our goals, dream our dreams. To outsiders, what we’re doing looks unrealistic and incongruous — unconventional and illogical — and there is always that helpful person who assiduously points out to us the challenges, drawbacks and difficulties we face, as if we had not thought of them, nor dwelt upon them, ourselves.

But there is a fine line between “facing reality” — which to the helpful persons consists of giving up on the fantastic and settling for the confines of a box — and diligently moving forward to achieve something difficult, in the face of improbable odds.

In the movies, it’s all tucked up and solved in two hours.

In real life, it’s a daily walk — a walk of beauty and grace, of determination and grit, of distinction and aplomb. And for some, sandals instead of hiking boots.

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People Who Can’t Say “Please” and “Thank You” Have a Problem

The words “please” and “thank you” are great equalizers. When we use them, we’re saying to another person,

“I am asking you to do something as a favor to me, and I am grateful for your willingness to do it.”

The understanding is that we, in another situation, will do the same for them.

stillness indian women grand canyon serenity steve henderson art

Side by side we are with one another, we are brothers and sisters who share one planet. Stillness, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

In our society, we are taught — often without words — that some people do not need to use please and thank you because Who they are, and What they ask, is so much greater  than the relationship between them and other people. The military comes immediately to mind, and on its heels, the defense of its practices:

“Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if commanding officers had to say please and thank you, all the time, to their subordinates? They require instant obedience to their commands.”

It’s a valid thought, but another thought is,

“Can you imagine how bad it is for people to have the illusion that they are greater, grander, and more important than other people, and thereby do not need to behave with courtesy?”

But let’s say that it’s appropriate, within the military, to dispense with democratic politeness. The problem comes when we adopt a military attitude throughout our society: corporations, schoolrooms, churches, even families — any place with an artificial hierarchy is in danger of creating a caste system, one in which the demands of those who call themselves leaders are expected to be acceded to by those deemed followers.

Sadly, many good people who want to be good parents have been taught — by certain charlatans who call themselves Christian — that they are the general of the family (man first, woman second), and the privates, the children, need to snap to attention, instantly obey, and say “Yes, Sir,” and “No, Ma’am.” One of the places military thinking definitely does not belong is within the home. Rather, the family setting is the place to learn how to treat one another well and kindly, so that when we go out “into the world” — the office, the grocery store, the sidewalks — we act toward others the way we want others to act toward us.

The artwork, Stillness, reminds us of who we are on this planet. Two women — one sitting, one standing — look out into the vastness of the Grand Canyon, marveling at their place in the world. They are not leaders, magnates, generals, royalty, celebrities — they are people, sisters on a planet, part of a family of human beings who get along best when we don’t consider one better than the other, privileged to demand as opposed to ask.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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It’s Time to Trust Our Own Judgment

It’s amazing — and sad — how little we trust our own judgment.

Of course, it’s not unusual. We’ve been trained since childhood to listen to the teacher, follow the pastor, accede to the dictates of the doctor, nod at the words of the politician, buy products hawked by the celebrity, and accept the pronouncements of the scientist.

silver sea coast beach ocean woman umbrella wading steve henderson art

The purpose of our lives, why we are here, what dreams we long to pursue — each one of us is the expert on these. By the Silver Sea, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

These are the experts, we are told, and their words trump our thoughts. And while there is much to be said about students learning from teachers — not all people who call themselves teachers are necessarily so, not all “experts” agree, and not all leaders deserve to be in their position.

Indeed, one of the hallmarks of a person of true wisdom is that they readily admit they don’t know everything. They could be wrong. They may know a lot about a subject, but the more they know, the more they recognize what they don’t know. In all honesty, they cannot propound statements in stone.

A wise person — and to become one of these is a reachable goal for all of us — seeks out other wise people, and we learn from them. The wiser we grow, the more easily we see the counterfeits — the “confident” speaker, the arrogant promoter, the person who pronounces his opinion and expects us to accept it without question.

The artwork, By the Silver Sea, shows a young woman wading barefoot in the surf. A slight smile plays upon her face because she is alone with her thoughts, and she is comfortable with their presence. Whether she is an “expert” — a speaker, a scholar, a scientist, a preacher, a teacher, a person with multitudinous Instagram followers — we do not know, because what matters is that she is an expert on herself: she knows what she likes, she knows her dreams, she knows it will take much to achieve them, she knows her limitations, and she is willing to undergo the process of learning, questioning, trying, failing, falling, picking herself up, and continuing to move forward.

She uses her judgment to live the one and only life she has been given on this earth. Not somebody else’s.


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Nobody Likes Waiting

Waiting is something that few, if any, people do well.

“I’m just impatient,” some say, as if that were unusual and distinctive. It’s along the lines of announcing, “I like to travel and do fun things,” or, “I sure do enjoy being with people I care about.”

waiting horses barn farm country ranch steve henderson painting

Side by side, two friends wait. Waiting is easier to do when we share the experience with another. Waiting, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

In other words, not liking to wait is normal, and most people chafe at it.

Now I’m not talking so much about waiting in line at the grocery store or library desk, which generally takes a few minutes of our day. The people who agitate over this are truly impatient, or so ridiculously short on time that life, to them, must be a series of frustrations. These poor people are in danger of being swallowed by our corporate business culture mentality, the one that extols efficiency at all costs, and drives its subjects to constant, relentless, high speed.

The waiting to which I refer is that slow, constant, daily expectation of change — we seek a new job, or long for a relationship, or simply want something in lives to be different, or better, and are working toward it on our end on a daily basis.

We’re waiting on or for a dream, actually, a deeper fulfillment of something in our lives, and these things don’t Just Happen. Those who know or relate to God refer to it as waiting for an answer to prayer.

The artwork, Waiting, shows two horses in their paddock, waiting for the time that their human companion will arrive and take them out. They are together, yet separated by a fence — which is how we often find ourselves as humans. We may share a dream with another, but we are still separate people, and while we wait together, we also do so on our own.

That being said, it’s more pleasurable sharing the experience of waiting with another, a friend, companion, or family member with whom we can talk about what we’re waiting for, encourage one another, and speak without fear of being chided for our hopes. Oddly, it is through this process that we grow into better, kinder people — patient people who understand, or try to understand, the hurts and needs, the hopes and desires of others.

And while, “becoming a better person” seems like something our mother would say, a poor substitute for what we really want, think about the people who seem to get what they want, when they want it, and however much of it they can grasp.

They would be far better people if they had to wait a bit.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Home Is a Treasure That No One Can Buy

“I feel at home here.”

When someone says this, most people instantly understand what they mean.

autumn memories fall country home rural farm steve henderson painting

“Coming home” is something to look forward to. Autumn Memories, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

They feel welcome, safe, accepted, free to be themselves without judgment or criticism. They are surrounded by people who love them, things that matter.

Home is a special place, a place like no other.

To see this, try replacing “home” with other places where we spend our time, places we’re told are filled with a sense of family and warmth and goodness:

“I feel so at office here.”

“Relax. Make yourself at hospital.”

“My schoolroom is your schoolroom.”

“Work is where my heart is.”

It doesn’t really work, does it?

Now realistically, not all homes are safe, good places: there are people who do not feel treasured and protected at home, relaxed and assured, but rather than tear down the concept of home and substitute it with . . . work, school, church, hospital rooms . . . it is better to acknowledge that a home where one does not want to be is an aberration.

We want to bring the concept of home into places where it does not exist, not replace home with impersonal arenas that pretend to possess the attributes of home when they do not.

The artwork, Autumn Memories, invites us to a place of warmth and welcome, goodness and kindness, acceptance and love. The traveler walks down the driveway, drawn toward the rural farmhouse, lights glowing from the windows. Inside, a warm meal awaits, eager conversation between people who want to know about one another’s day, quiet moments when there is no need to speak.

These are gifts we can all give one another, regardless of whether we are in our home, or at the office, in the grocery store, by the hospital bed. While the element of privacy is generally missing in public areas, the need for acceptance and kindness, patience and understanding, safety and freedom, is very real, very necessary, and very within our abilities to give.

Home is a treasure worth desiring, valuing, and protecting, a treasure so priceless that no one can buy it, but everyone deserves it.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Are We Truly a Divided People?

We are an agitated people.

Surrounded by media, saturated with “news,” inundated by commentary and analysis, we begin and end and live our days in an atmosphere of fear and anxiety, us versus them, right versus left, and this right versus that wrong.

This is a calm place, set in the very middle of noise and freeway traffic. Evening on the Willamette, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

The more “news” we watch, the more analysts we follow, the more political speeches we hear, the more we are encouraged to see the problems as insurmountable, solvable only by fighting, combat, hostility, and dispute.

Obviously, there are problems. At base, they stem from greed, deception, selfishness, arrogance, and untrammeled ambition, because if we lived with the attitude that we are all family members sharing one earth, we wouldn’t countenance some members treating other members with disdain, cruelty, and disfavor.

“Ah, but that’s too simplistic, and you are naive,” we are told. “The situation is very complex.”

Indeed it is, more complex than the options we are given: vote for this, support him, listen to her, hate them, focus on that, censor “dangerous material.” The “other side” is told the opposite. Constantly, the answer involves dissent, division, disunity, and discord, but — and this is important — no serious, meaningful discussion. Such an attitude will rip any healthy family apart.

The artwork, Evening on the Willamette River, encourages us to step away from this atmosphere of agitation and angst, this place where we focus on disagreement and suspicion and noise and hate — even as we are in the midst of it — and think things through calmly, quietly, reflectively.

Intriguingly, this section of the river — so peaceful, so serene, so tranquil — is set in the middle of an urban freeway system. Not very far away, thousands of vehicles rush relentlessly past, in an area that is anything but calming, reflective, and thoughtful.

But at the river it is quiet, and there is great beauty in the shadows of the trees across the surface of the water, the soft glow of sunset in the twilight sky. As we focus on goodness, stillness, and quietude, we see the way we would like the world, our lives, our family to be, and we realize we won’t get there when our hearts are filled with fear and hate.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Managing Thinking, Creative People — Why?

Look it up on the Internet sometime: how to manage people. It’s something business and corporation interests obsess about:

How to Manage People Who Don’t Want to Be Managed

Managing Difficult People

Don’t Manage: Lead

Be the Leader That People Follow

lady lake woman alpine wilderness mountains independence steve henderson art

Step by step, independent people move forward. With persistence, they find themselves in unusual, beautiful places. Lady of the Lake, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

The essential theme revolves around a power in charge who is pulling, prodding, pushing, nudging, pressing, herding, and manipulating people into doing things that they probably don’t want to do. Because, if they wanted to do these things, and these things were worthwhile and good, people wouldn’t need so much convincing.

Intelligent, creative people do not need to be herded, like sheep, into thinking and doing interesting, meaningful things. They do, however, need to be coerced — subtly or forcibly — into performing meaningless, dull, prosaic, boring tasks that do not satisfy the human drive to use our skills and talents for the betterment of others, but are very necessary for the efficient and profitable running of a business or an empire.

The greater the creativity and intelligence — which corporate business needs for innovative products that sell, movies that “entertain,” or effective military weaponry — the greater challenge in controlling the people responsible for developing these products. Hence, the proliferation of articles on managing people.

The artwork, Lady of the Lake, illustrates the mind and mindfulness of the creative individual. She walks her own path. She continues steadily, persistently forward, one step at a time, with the ultimate goal of going someplace intriguing, interesting, a bit magical, and well worth being in.

She doesn’t mind that she doesn’t look or act like everyone else, because her goals are not to be treated like a member of  “the masses,” but to live — although it will be challenging to do so — as a free individual, a human being in all her uniqueness, and not a machine, or a consumer unit, or a nameless, faceless employee.

Deep inside her, in a place that is remote and inaccessible to the outside, external forces of business, commerce, consumerism, materialism, propaganda, peer pressure, and coercion, are her thoughts. And our thoughts — our ability to reason, to question, to analyze, to wonder, to imagine, to plan — are what keep us free.

So . . . how do you manage thinking, creative people?

Ultimately, you don’t.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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How Many Friends Is “Normal”?

When we live too much in the imaginary world of TV, movies, and social media, we start to believe that fantasy is reality.

Take friendship, for example.

harvesters sisters girls friends picking grapes steve henderson art

Each in her own way, according to her ability, but together. The Harvesters, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

In the land of myths, six to eight young, attractive, witty men and women regularly interact without anyone ever having to go to work, clean the toilets, or wash dishes. They just flow from one fun situation to the next, tossing out one liners and being close and supportive and connected.

Those without seven close friends orbiting about on a 24-hour basis start to think there’s something wrong with us. Why doesn’t our life look like it does on TV?

Because TV isn’t real, but our lives are. When we focus too much on the entertainment world’s voice, we forget the beauty, truth, goodness, and reality of what we have.

The artwork, The Harvesters, reminds us of this beauty. Two sisters join, each in her own way, to pick grapes under an arched portico. They are friends, true friends, because as family they share a bond that is unique, precious, and special. (And while yes, there are dysfunctional families, there are also many, many dysfunctional “friendships” — we just don’t focus on these.)

Because we are shuttled so early into schoolrooms of 30 other people all the same age, we pick up the impression that friendship is limited to our “peer group,” a group, as most of us readily concede, is as welcoming and supportive as a flock of chickens. (Ever heard of a pecking order?)

Family doesn’t count — not siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, parents, grandparents. Nor neighbors. Nor people we see every day with whom we share a welcoming smile. These can’t be friends, real friends, because they’re not all the same age, which, according to movie world, is a major requirement for friendship.

How limiting and absurd.

Friends come in all ages, from all backgrounds, and frequently so don’t fit our entertainment-derived definition of friendship that we don’t recognize them as such.

But if they care for us, and we care for them; and they’re there for us, and we’re there for them, well, they’re friends.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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So American — Assigning Value Numbers to People

In the U.S., we pride ourselves on being a classless society, but we’re really not.

We have our Hollywood idols, our political royalty, our Silicon Valley Influencers, and a selection of Instagram celebrities who are famous because . . . because . . .

good shepherd indian grand canyon sheep southwest steve henderson desert art

Good shepherds are often not monetarily rich, but they overflow with priceless qualities. The Good Shepherd, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

Since we pride ourselves on efficiency as much as we do being classless, we tend to ascribe mental numbers to people, based upon a value we assign to what they do. Lawyers, doctors, politicians, successful entrepreneurs, financiers, scientists, and of course celebrities — these are “worth” more than others, presumably because they work harder, are smarter than others, and contribute more to the world around them. Or they’re very attractive.

They “deserve” their “success.”

Conversely, people with low paying jobs of little esteem — non-leaders, non-influential, non-important, non-rich — “deserve” their obscurity and society’s disdain.

“If they wanted to make something of themselves, they would,” we sniff.

The artwork, The Good Shepherd, invites us to turn around and walk the other way, approaching people from a different perspective.

Good shepherds — people who care for others, people who do the actual difficult and physical labor of watching over young children, or very ill people, or loved ones with long-range debilitations, carry some of the lowest scores in our societal classification score.

And yet to watch over sheep, to care for them, to protect them from harm and fight off predators, takes intelligence, alertness, acumen, perseverance, and determination — all of the elements we accord to professions with the highest value scores.

More importantly, good shepherds need to be kind, compassionate, patient, and truly caring because if they’re not, the sheep won’t and don’t trust them. These latter elements, the ones that are truly important if we want our planet to operate with the idea that all humans, not just a few, matter, are singularly unmentioned when we extol the value of the top-numbered career credit scores.

It would be nice if the planet’s important people possessed rich, deep character traits, but, we shrug, you can’t have everything.

That being so, it’s best to seek out — in ourselves and others — the traits that are truly worth something. No need to wait on the leaders for this one — their focus is on other things.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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