Share Your Stories! Contribute to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Next Book: Post 5

ContributeToABookIn her latest Share Your Stories post, Holly Elissa Bruno examines the universal truth that we all yearn for joy. Join in conversation with Holly Elissa and share your thoughts about the ways that searching for happiness amid not-so-happy circumstances can also be a great catalyst for second chances.

“When we come in contact with one who is inspiring, radiant, and spiritual, those same qualities rise up in us.”


“…Qualities rise up in us”

Like you, I prefer a happy heart.

I prefer hopeful to pessimistic and open to closed. I adore a child’s unbidden smile and a dog’s unstoppable wagging body.

I applaud the teacher who, after a long day, opened his front door to be greeted like a returning hero by his dog. If one enthusiastic greeting didn’t uplift the teacher’s spirits enough, he walked directly through his house, out his back door, and around to the front again to be greeted by his pup once again with undying ebullience.

You get the picture: suffering is optional. We can choose hope, can’t we?

Brahms, the elegantly uplifting composer, was raised in a brothel where his mother worked. Neglected, Brahms neither experienced nor learned abiding love. To survive, he played the piano and imagined symphonies. Despite (and/or because of) his broken heart, Brahms’ musical compositions are so poignantly hopeful, he is said to be “smiling through his tears.”

Finding our way out of being downhearted is the definition of a second chance: Do not be discouraged ever, as you struggle along the way. It is the greatest possible detriment to your progress, the worst obstacle you can create to block your path (Paramananda).Staying downhearted steals our ability to enjoy anything. When we lose the light in our own eyes, we lose our ability to spark light in others’ eyes.

Don’t get me wrong—we have reason to feel discouraged. Maybe what a teacher thought was her best lesson plan flops. Maybe Alzheimer’s steals a mother’s capacity to remember her children. Perhaps a long awaited adoption falls through. Maybe I am fired from a job or my friend discovers she inherited the depression gene. Each loss can puncture anyone’s optimism. Abiding in that dark place of downheartedness can begin to feel permanent.

I’ll share one thing I know to be true: Something in our nature yearns for joy. We get “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Brahms managed to smile and cry at the same time. He didn’t pretend he wasn’t lonely. He found he could plumb the depth of his sadness to create something triumphant and enduring.

Arthur Fielder, long time Boston Pops Director, ached intensely from arthritis throughout his body. But when he stepped before the audience that loved him and that he loved, his limp became a stride.

As we give ourselves a second chance, we offer hope to others. One hopeful heart uplifts another. In the presence of a resilient soul, “…those same qualities rise up in us.” No matter how dark the day, we can make a choice: stay open to the possibility of hope. I may feel discouraged; but, each time I enter a room of expectant children or adults, I get a second chance to seek a joyful connection.

Joy, after all, is our birthright. We prefer a happy heart.

Share your stories and tell me: What is Brahms’ secret to creating wonder out of loss? What stirs even the oldest pup’s heart when the teacher walks through his front door? What soothes a wounded spirit until it is restored? What helps you climb out of discouragement, especially when you have ample cause to feel downhearted?

BY LEAVING A COMMENT, I hereby give my permission to Redleaf Press to use my story and quote me (all names will be changed) in Holly Elissa Bruno’s upcoming book on second chances, including in all revised editions of the book, in all formats (including print and electronic) now known or developed in the future, in all languages and territories, and in any other subsidiary editions of the book, and in promotional materials published by Redleaf Press, as it sees fit.

If you’re new to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Share Your Stories series, you can learn more about the project here and read previous posts here. We invite you to share as often and openly as you want—on this post, previous posts, and future posts. Your comments will provide Holly Elissa with unique insight as she writes her next book, and she looks forward to continuing the conversation after the book is published.

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16 Responses to Share Your Stories! Contribute to Holly Elissa Bruno’s Next Book: Post 5

  1. Sue Knisely says:

    When I get discouraged, I pray to my God. I start thinking about all of the things I have to be thankful for. I look out at nature and look for little miracles. I dig in the dirt to plant so that I remember hope.The choice I make in doing those things have comforted me over and over again through loss, I always end up with a restored sense of hope. There’s always joy in knowing my God has bigger and better plans for my future. Then, my joy is restored.

    • Dear Sue,

      Ah. Planting a garden. What a healing exercise.

      Yesterday, as I tamped rich brown soil down around my tender new Italian basil plants, I stopped to take in my world: the meadow, the maples, the lake, the (for real) blue bird watching over the garden.

      Two months ago, this garden was tamped down by a heavy graying blanket of snow on snow.

      That winter blanket, the “poor man’s fertilizer” was just as necessary for the basil to flourish as is today’s sun.

      Thank you for the loving reminder that gratitude changes everything. Being thankful for what is, rather than worrying about what isn’t? That’s a life-saver.

      Your words remind me of a poet (Tennyson?) who said: “…into each life a little rain must fall. Some days must be dark and dreary.”

      Amen to finding light within the darkness,

      Holly Elissa

  2. kendalle3187 says:

    WE can always choose hope and JOY, Just Offer Yourself. the best in you that you can offer.
    Self=what is in you that is unique to you and will enrich others lives through you!!!
    One of these days I’ll do another workshop on JOY.

    • Dear Liz,

      Thank you for blogging again.

      The last time, you wrote about helping earthworms besieged by rain storms.

      This time, you remind us that by offering our perfectly imperfect selves to help another, we restore joy. And not just joy to others, but to ourselves.

      I love that emerging principle about second chances:
      Each time I even unconsciously offer a hand to another person, I step up to a brighter place as well. We uplift one another.

      Every time you present any of your classes or workshops, you Just Offer Yourself, Liz.

      Your JOYous someday is always today.


      Holly Elissa

  3. Venitte burke says:

    As a preschool teacher over the many years, have seen so many children from the urban community of Boston gone through so many extremes; hearing gun shots, the ringing alarm of ambulance, fire trucks, police emergencies. These alarms can be themselves or family members from their home involve. Although, these parents and children are coming from these disorganized homes. They still find trust, joy and comfort in the classrooms/teachers.
    It is a pleasure to see them coming in the doors of our preschool smiling, telling their sad & good stories, looking forward to our healthy food, safe classrooms, playing with others like themselves and discussing about making it through life.
    Today, my pleasure is seeing and hearing about a student that came out doing right in the community. “Oh, how I love teaching…that is so right”!

    • Dear Venitte,

      It’s so good to hear from you! Amen to the love in your heart for each child you meet.


      We create sanctuaries where children can unfold to become who they are meant to be.

      The sanctuary you carefully and skillfully create in your classroom lives on in the spirit of each child for the rest of her life. And as you said, too many children witness violence and cruelty no child should ever have to endure.

      Your words take me back to memories of Michael Gonta, my 6th grade teacher, who was the 1st person with whom I ever felt safe and loved. That man changed my life and still does to this day.

      When I interviewed John Medina, an expert on helping traumatized children, I asked: “John, what is the most valuable thing we can offer a wounded child?”. He responded: “Safety. Let them know they are safe. Let them know with a look, a word; Let them know they are safe.”

      You choose to do that and more every day of your life.

      That’s miracle-working!

      Bless you,

      Holly Elissa

    • Hello Venitte,
      We are finishing up Holly Elissa’s new book and your comments made it into the final manuscript. We were wondering if you could grant permission to use your first name and last initial in the book? If not, we are happy to change your name in the book. You can reach me at
      Thank you!
      Ashley Robinson

  4. CJK says:

    Joy is an inside treasure that gives freely and I cant say no to…. My friend with a terminal illness who puts on his Red Sox shirt and heads off to every game smiling; survivors gathering hope in community celebrating small steps and miracles alike; a cavallier king charles spaniel snoring under my desk; and the sound of my nieces and nephews singing ….I wouldn’t trade these for one item that money can buy.

    • Thank you for each of these poignantly joyous images, CJK.

      Bless your friend who dons his Red Sox shirt with a smile. My hunch: His faith in the Sox helped turn around their slump. Every time I watch the Sox (on tv), I’ll remember your courageous friend is watching too. Joy spreads.

      Bless your nieces and nephews for singing. May they always sing, no matter how old they grow. Even when I sing off-key (which would be most of the time), my heart sings.

      And your pup! Snoring (or even farting), our pups are warm reminders that a treasure lies nearby. I just need to look.

      Survivors who come together to share their experience, strength and hope, co-create a heavenly space for each person in the room, and beyond.

      I am about to drive to Vermont to facilitate a Wellness Retreat. Thanks you your reminder, I will invite participants to notice where they are and the gifts that await them each moment.

      Best to you always,

      Holly Elissa

  5. Sharhonda says:

    This is wonderful, it made my day!!!

    • Dear Sharonda,

      Thank you for the everyday miracles you work as an educator who respectfully loves each child.

      I am glad you feel uplifted. I know you pass that inner joy onto everyone in your path.

      Thank you for all that you are and do.

      Take good care of you too,

      Holly Elissa

  6. No one knows what tomorrow brings, but there is joy in knowing that each time a child calls you by name, trust you when they are upset, or waves at you as if their first time meeting you is what makes it all real. Educators in Leadership.

    • Dear Lennail,

      Yes! The hope in a child’s eyes is a gift. As is every jammy, sticky spontaneous “I love you” hug.

      As you know so well, too many children live in chaotic worlds where trust is a rare luxury.

      Being trusted to help a wounded child? Oh my. That’s sacred.

      That is leading the way.

      Thank you so much for taking time to share your wisdom,

      Holly Elissa

  7. Jayanti says:

    Holly, I think you nailed it when you said, “we all have a choice..” Yes, we do. The way I pull myself out of my deepest sorrows, is by making a choice to face the new day with renewed strength. It’s difficult, but I make the choice. Here is a quote from one of my favorite authors, Paolo Coelho- “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” And that’s my mantra 🙂

  8. Dear Jayanti,

    Thank you for your reflection and candor.

    I know I am in trouble and need a break: either I lose my sense of humor or feel like a victim. Or both!

    Neither humorlessness nor victim-y is a state I would choose.

    When, as you said, sorrows call, I can acknowledge the sorrows, grieve a bit and, in the end, choose love. My transition from sadness to acceptance to making a choice can be sluggish depending on how deep the grief.

    However, that choice is always worth it: “…when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

    Working with children, how can we not choose to look up?


    Holly Elissa

  9. Terri Kosik says:

    This quote ….. “One day she grasped that unexpected things were always going to happen in life. And with that she realized that the only control she had was how she choose to handle them. So she made the decision to survive using courage, humor and grace …. the choice was hers” provides daily inspiration and encouragement still after 41 years in early childhood as a teacher, program administrator and E.C. faculty member.

    Each day is filled with expected and unexpected events with young children, their families and teachers that require us to respond positively with creative, pro-active, and supportive approaches. We remember the importance of mirroring to the child a calm demeanor of trust, security, confidence and comfort.

    Warm eyes, smiles full of teeth or toothless smiles, sweet and sticky hugs like real maple syrup dripping from children to their beloved teachers and from the teachers to the beloved children provides joy beyond words that inspires hope and wraps us in love.

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