Wise Words for Creating solutions That Work forAll

Here in St. Louis, the doldrums of winter are giving way to spring. Buds are appearing on the trees, blades of green grass pushing out of the ground, and flowers are bursting into bloom. Everywhere new growth is beginning to emerge. In celebration of new growth, this post focuses on the emergence of solutions that honor the the best of ourselves while adapting to change in meeting the needs of all.

The challenge of our economy has shown us the damage that can be done by a competitive dominator system in which “winner takes all.” In the old economy, the gains of the wealthy few were made at the expense of the whole. It was assumed that the greater wealth of the elite would trickle down to others. It did not happen.

Today, the pursuit of self-interest of any one part can no longer be allowed to undermine the greater good. As the novelty of materialism wears off, people are cutting back from excess consumption. Insteady, they are seeking the happiness that comes from relationships and a sense of well being. For this kind of happiness, solutions that benefit the best interest of the whole are important. These solutions are not cut and dried. Instead, they evolve over time. Just like seeds that begin to sprout when conditions are right, inclusive solutions require attitudes that favor an openness to diversity.

In America, a melting pot, appreciating diversity is an ongoing challenge of life. Even in families, members often have diverse views. In meeting these challenges, I have often found it helpful to reflect on the wisdom of the ages. My mother will be celebrating her 90th birthday this week. In celebration of her birthday, I would like to share three of her attitudes that have helped us to appreciate diversity in our family. It is my hope that you will find them useful in your own relationships.


Gratitude is a wonder and appreciation for life. It can be seen in a reverence for the Divine, or a higher power. It reflects the ability in all things to be thankful. The word gratitude stems from the Latin word, gratia, meaning, “grace.” Expressing gratitude gives a sense of well being and connectedness with others. In families it is important because it helps all members to feel included and accepted. Beyond the ability to express appreciation and thankfulness, gratitude requires an ability to refrain from statements that divide.

In our family it was my mother’s quietness that had the biggest impact. All of us were accepted, regardless of our personal views. There were no favorites, no comments on differing religious or political views and when discussions were loud, her silence spoke volumes. It let us know that we had to turn to a power greater than ourselves. The ultimate solution did not rest with any one person, there was a higher source and it was from this source that the solutions emerged. For this, we are very grateful.

Focus on the Positive

We heard it often. “If it doesn’t help, don’t say it.” Today research shows the many benefits of focusing on the positive. People become more engaged, more tolerant of differences, more productive, more creative, and are more able to share resources. Even better, we become happier and healthier.

Many times there is a belief in families that in order to be in harmony with each other, all have to want and believe in the same things. Then, when differing views emerge, the consequence is family feuds over one way or another. When the focus is on the positive, diversity allows our awareness to expand to include the different points view. We just need know the situations in which each point of view works best. Family members still can unite around their deeper values and strengths.

Faith over Fear

What do you do when you face the unknown and the going gets tough? I remember my mother’s words, “Take one moment at a time.” If a challenge or goal is too big, break it down into small steps, tune into the positive, and stay on course, choosing faith over fear.

Last December my sister and I were driving through a blizzard on the way to the family home up North. I was the driver. I am almost blind in one eye and was not sure what I was seeing out of the other. The night was dark, the roads were icy, and visibility was poor. Should I take the lane to the right, exit and stop, or take the lane to the left and bravely continue on? The radio was out, so my sister called the family up North for a weather and road report.

They let us know, sixty miles ahead, the roads were clear. The decision was made, “Stay on course.” This was fearsome for me. Big trucks and cars were in the right lane and I had to pass them. Then I remembered, I only needed to pass one vehicle at a time. All the way along I had the encouragement from my sister and the family team. We made it through the blizzard, the roads became clear, and we sailed in for a great homecoming.

It was the teamwork that made the journey a success. Finding solutions that work for all is a journey to the unknown. There are areas where each of us is weak and others where each is strong. No one person has the whole answer. When you break the task down and bring in the strengths of whole, the whole group benefits because it is united rather than splitting up in arguments and fear. It gives the added strength to push through the adversity.

Now we are celebrating the success of my mother reaching her 90th birthday. I am deeply grateful to the many people that have helped to make this possible: Family members, caregivers, doctors, friends, our faith family, and all of you who have come into our lives because you care.

May these principles help you celebrate your own emergence.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Alice

©Alice G Vlietstra, 2010