Green Limbs and Singing Birds
William Arthur Ward (1921-1994) was an American writer and one of this country’s most quoted inspirational writers with more than 100 articles, poems and meditations written and published in such magazines as the Reader’s Digest. He once wrote a piece based on a Chinese proverb that said, “If you keep a green limb in your heart, the singing bird will come.” The obvious application that he was asserting is that there are certain pre-set attitudes (limbs, branches) in one’s heart that are conducive to a happy life and outlook. Let’s take a look at his idea of these spiritual tree branches that can invite goodness and peace into our earthly existence.
Enthusiasm is not only contagious, it is attractive. Where there is enthusiasm there is always excitement and where there is positive excitement, there is more joy in the job, sparkle in the eye and more zest in living. “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson) You and I can practice enthusiasm by being excited about life, doing things wholeheartedly, being inspired by simple things, putting love and joy into what we do, smiling and laughing and having a great sense of humor, and having a positive spirit. As the great Vince Lombardi stated, “If you aren’t fired-up with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.”
Kindness is actually putting the words of Jesus into action when He said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31) Others have defined it as a behavior marked by principled characteristics, a pleasant frame of mind, and concern for others. It is known as a virtue, and highly esteemed as a value in many cultures and religions. Mark Twain perhaps said it most appropriately when he wrote, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
Generosity has been defined by some dictionaries as sounding very close to our previous selection with some nuance: the quality of being kind, understanding, and not selfish: the quality of being generous; especially with a willingness to give money and other valuable things to others. The famous artist, Pablo Picasso, had a very interesting take on the matter when he said that “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” The word has its origins from a deep root meaning, “excellence” which could explain why being generous truly catapults a dreary, selfish existence to something wonderful. The word’s opposites also speak volumes, as in stingy and petty. Makes you wonder what they’re going to write on our gravestones, doesn’t it?
Humor: It has been said that if we learn to laugh at ourselves we will always be amused. Do you think that’s accurate? There has got to be something remarkably healthy about being able to laugh at our own silly mistakes, foibles and other wise human fumbles. I think a good sense of humor can help us look at the world more realistically, improve our relationships and help us resist from taking ourselves too seriously. William Ward had this to say: “A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps, as you walk the tightrope of life,” while one of my heroes, Groucho Marx, was attributed with this gem: “I never forget a face but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.”
Gratitude is simply a disposition of always giving thanks, for everything and anything. When you and I are thankful for our lives, good days and bad days, for our talents and for all the people around us, our lives literally “sing with joy.” When we decide to begin and end our day with the decision that we are going to thank God and those around us, several awesome things happen: 1. We live in the present moment, 2. we block toxic and negative emotions, 3. we are better able to counteract the effects of stress, and 4. we experience a kind of solidarity (connected-ness) with others and a healthy dose of self-compassion, that is, the ability to love ourselves as God does. I think that is why some have called gratitude the “miracle disposition.”