Relationship Tape

What a wonderful metaphor I encountered innocently last week!

One of my students claims that she is very clumsy. This I learnt as I observed that her 12 inch (30cm) ruler was broken and repaired with…scotch tape and her spectacles handles were taped to the frame as they had broken off sometime ago.

As we joked about her clumsiness, a thought hit me. Many things can be broken and repaired simply by applying tape or glue. I myself had broken my cell phone once and repaired it with tape. Many torn pages were held precariously together with tape or staples.

If only it were so simple to mend broken relationships!

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However relationships are formed between living, breathing, emotional beings. We grow into relationships, daily doing things to earn trust, to build rapport, to show support and to demonstrate our love for another human being or for that matter an animal, a pet.

The human ego , the psyche, is extremely fragile. Some more than others. It takes time to forge bonds. They are tested time and time again. And sadly in an instant of volatility, one mistake, one harsh word, one misunderstood emotion or one misstep can cause those carefully crafted to bonds to snap!

Perhaps it is a good thing that this type of breakage is difficult to repair. Had it been easier then less effort and time would be spent on trying to build rather than break down bonds.

What if there was some sort of relationship tape or staple or glue that  could be used to mend a broken relationship or heal a hurting heart?

After we laughed about this direction that our conversation had shifted into, it became clear that there is a way.

Of course nothing worthwhile comes without a lot of hard work. So this “relationship tape” comes through the practices of faith, humility, gratitude and forgiveness.

Each one of those is a huge mouthful for anyone. In today’s technologically advanced world, people have become worshipers of the Universe. Alternatively they claim to be atheists or highly open minded so that anything goes. Faith though is integral in any undertaking. We do things not knowing the final outcomes and that in itself is faith.

Spiritual faith gives us a freedom and strength to be able to release perceived or real hurts and helps us to see the good in spite of the bad. It provides for us a foundation of integrity, morals and values that is needed for the development of civility and social consciousness.

Humility, gratitude and forgiveness come with faith. That does not mean it comes easily. We are human and hence imperfect beings. No matter what our religious persuasion or faith may be, practicing these big guns of character definitions is difficult. Difficult not impossible.

By adopting a humble approach, we can see things with new lenses. We can learn to put others before self. Not easy by any standard but with daily practice it becomes more integrated into our behaviours.

Gratitude makes us cast a backward glance and recognize the good that others may have done for us, even the ones who are currently doing something to bring pain. It makes us see the small efforts, not just the large gestures.

Forgiveness is perhaps one of the most difficult practices. But when we incorporate faith, gratitude and humility into our habits, then forgiveness comes much more easily.

Our “relationship tape” then is formed by the melding together of faith, humility, gratitude and forgiveness.

The next time you mend a torn page or stick a broken ornament, remember that relationships can be mended too…with the right “tape”.



Building Blocks

 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.”                                                                                     1 Corinthians 3:10


Sunday lunch plate:

Sunday Lunch courtesy

A traditional Sunday lunch in Trinidad and Tobago consists of rice, beans, stewed chicken or beef, callaloo, macaroni pie, ground provisions and a fresh green salad. This is usually accompanied by a large jug of juice. Having such a wide array of dishes, there is generally enough left over for the next day.

Callaloo is a well-blended hodge podge of ingredients. To the unfamiliar eye it may appear unappealing – a thick, green mush. Once you get past the appearance, it is absolutely delicious and very nutritious. But what really is a callaloo? What does it consist of?

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The main ingredient is the dasheen bush leaf. The leaves are obtained from the taro plant (Colocasia esculenta) and are best for cooking when young and tender. Some people use the “rolled” leaves :younger leaves which have not yet matured to unfurl in all their glory and splendor. Others use the more mature, open leaves. The leaves may be folded or shredded and the stems are sliced.

To the bush, tender, sliced okra pods are added. The okra produces mucilage when sliced and cooked. This helps to improve the viscosity of the final callaloo. To obtain a thicker product, a greater proportion of okra may be used.

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Good crab is another staple for a great callaloo. Some cooks use salted meat as an alternative to crab. This is particularly useful to cater for persons with seafood allergies. The best type of crab for callaloo is the “blue crab”, although any type may be used depending on availability and budget.

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To these three basic ingredients, the flavourings are now added. Chipped pumpkin adds flavor and nutritional value. The taste of the callaloo depends on the right blend of chives, parsley, celery, fine thyme, garlic, onions, hot pepper, pimento peppers, salt and black pepper. There are also some “secret ingredients’ added by various cooks; these are indeed “secret” and personal and are best revealed by individual chefs.

The pot is “set” as we say, by placing the crabs or meat into the pot first, then adding all the seasonings, the pumpkin, okra, a green hot pepper and lastly the dasheen bush stems and leaves. These are covered with water and coconut milk before placing the pot on the lighted stove.

The coconut milk is traditionally obtained by grating dried coconuts and washing the grated flesh with water. The liquid which results after squeezing out the flesh and straining is called the coconut milk. Today, the coconut milk may be added as a powder obtained from the supermarket.

When the mixture has boiled and been allowed to steep for at least thirty minutes, all the flavors become infused and the leaves become soft. At this time it is ready for blending or “swizzling”. Traditionally a swizzle stick was used but now an electric hand held immersion blender could be used for this step. This ensures that the mixture is homogeneous and smooth in appearance and texture.

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The final result is rich, thick, green and flavorful soup. It is strengthening. It is delicious. Those who are adventurous enough to try this green ‘goo’, in spite of its daunting appearance, are pleasantly surprised by its effect on the senses and tastebuds.

Even though all who make this dish using the same, basic ingredients and follow the general procedure outlined previously, the final sensory outcome may differ. As was mentioned each cook has their personal adjustment to create the best callaloo. Some use crab, others use salted meat and still others make it a vegetarian delight. The blending process may be longer or shorter depending on the cook’s preference for texture. These variations to the method underscore the different tastes of callaloo from different kitchens.

In Corinthians 3:10 we are told: “I have laid the foundation… but let each one take heed how he builds on it.” The basic recipe is set but the alterations made determine the outcome. It is our privilege to have a blueprint for life given to us by Christ. It is our duty to cautiously construct our lives using that blueprint and adding to it, not our personal interpretation but the building blocks made available through God’s Word.

Let us carefully review the foundation upon which we must build our lives and then identify the blocks which are to be placed on that foundation. After the Mosaic Law, came the gospel through Jesus Christ. In the gospel we are told that the two main commands which we must follow are: to love the Lord your God; and to love your neighbor as yourself. These two form the foundation upon which we are to build our lives.

We cannot say that we have faith and approach our heavenly Father in prayer, if we do not have love for our neighbours. Even our enemies deserve our love; our non-judgmental love. We cannot truly love God if we harbor animosity for anyone. The challenge we face in this foundational structure is to be able to love those who are unlovable or difficult for us to love.

So if someone does something to hurt you, you need to love God so much that there is no place in your heart to harbor the effect of that hurt. In other words, in obeying the first command you shield yourself from missives that are designed to make you susceptible to breaking the second command.

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So our foundation from Christ is love: God’s great love for us which commands us to love Him and to love our neighbours. This love we display must be pure; it is not a fickle love; it is not an intimate love. Rather this love is a mature, inveterate, deep-rooted love for humanity which mirrors God’s love for us, even though its value can never approach the value of God’s love.

What then are our building blocks? According to Phillipians 2:3-4, upon the foundation of love we need to lay humility. This humility must manifest itself in service to others, valuing others above yourself. This must not be advertised or done in a flashy manner. No, it must be done humbly, letting the receiver of your service feel valued and honored.

Service could mean lending a helping hand to someone who is unable to help themselves. For instance an elderly person may be unable to do simple household chores. This ought to be a wonderful opportunity for you to render service with humility; a chance for you to roll up your sleeves. Without fanfare, you can delve into such tasks as clearing a yard, mending a fence, tending to plants, doing groceries, or cooking. It does not matter what task you select; it should not be for personal glory; as long as it helps someone, you undertake that task, clothed in humility.

James 2: 14 -17 provides us with another building block: charity or generosity. Whatever resources you may have, however limited they may seem, take from them and give generously and graciously to those who may be more in need than you. Do this along with the first building block of humility.

Again charity does not need to be announced. There is no need for a megaphone or Facebook post. Give so that your right hand does not even know what your left hand is doing. This block requires some measure of detachment. When you disconnect from the tangible, from material possessions, then giving becomes second nature. It becomes easy to give and deny yourself without being sanctimonious.

Finally Romans 12:14-21 provides the cement to bind the building blocks together. Humility and charity come together in love. A loving response to an unloving gesture can soothe the savage beast. Have you ever noticed how quickly an arrogant and hubristic manner can be undermined by a soft and gentle response?

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In my lion years, as described in my first book, From Lion to Lamb, A Spiritual Journey, I was the arrogant one who would be tamed by a loving word or deed. This is one lesson I learnt well and increasingly practice. Perhaps one day I will master this lesson! We are usually unaware of the type of turmoil, mental, spiritual, emotional, or some combination of these, which manifests as a physical misdemeanor. This is why it is critical to respond compassionately especially when wronged.

These foundational blocks laid by Christ may seem foreboding. So too our Callaloo appears unappealing. However, just like the dish, the building blocks of humility, charity and love prove to be sensory delights bringing joy and satisfaction to the famished soul.


When things of this world no longer have a hold on you;

When neither king nor beggar you shun

When you can give and live and love in peace,

Then you build on God’s foundation.

To trust and collaborate, perchance to grow.

Trust exercise (web)

So I visited a school recently in the capacity of moderator.I mentioned briefly what  is the role of a moderator here.

I arrived very early and as usual waited patiently until the relevant personnel arrived. I was greeted by a friend, who was one of the vice principals at that school. As we chatted in her office, one of  the teachers, with whom I would be working, came to let me know that they had opened the Chemistry Laboratory and were ready for me.

As he escorted me to the room, we chatted about the moderation process. I realised that he had some misgivings, so I reassured him that the process was not meant to be punitive. He very quickly let me know that that was not his concern.

He complained. I responded as best as I could. He continued to complain. I started to respond. He interrupted, became a bit emotional, then I responded. Even as I spoke, he interrupted again; this time even more agitated. His voice began to quiver; beads of perspiration began to swell, soon becoming heavy enough to cascade down his countenance.

I interrupted him because I felt that, if allowed to continue on that emotional trajectory, his perturbation would lead to embarrassment and regret. Trying to reassure him only served to exacerbate the situation. Eventually I told him that I would just look at the lab books, make notes and then call him to discuss any matters of significance.

I say this with the fullest confidence: I was not threatening. I was calm. I was reassuring. The problem was that the teacher had some preconceived notions and there were some underlying layers of frustration created by problems with which he had been dealing for some time before.

The layers had to be peeled back to reveal the sources of frustration.

He felt excluded and undervalued. This was because he claimed he did not receive sufficient communication about the moderation process. This process is being conducted for the first time in our country, in this subject.

As a result he was unsure about what to expect and had many unanswered questions, the answers to which he felt other schools had received access. He was particularly worried that it would negatively impact on his students’ grades.

At this point I must say that his school been closed because of industrial action for approximately two terms prior to the last term which ran from January to March.

His school would have received the same correspondence from the Ministry and the examining body as all other schools.

The Head of Science would have attended the same workshops as every other head in the other schools.

The thing about it though is that he still felt excluded. It was his belief, valid or not, that the communication had not filtered down to them.

It seemed too that he felt a moderator was sent by the powers that be, to question him, a seasoned teacher! Did “they” feel he was not doing a good job? Do “they” know the challenges he has to face on a quotidian basis? Are “they” aware of the many duties and responsibilities a teacher already has and if so, why are “they” adding more?

The constant interruptions led me to infer that there was some insecurity on his part and maybe even a dose of chauvinism. On that last point, the jury is still out.

As I peeled off the layers, the core of the problem was revealed. He was overwhelmed by the perceived extra volume of work and the anticipation of moderation but more conclusively, he was overworked!

Chemistry laboratories require a lab technician to do the technical stuff involved in lab preparations. Lab assistants will do just that: assist the technician. It is not a requirement for assistants to mix chemicals for example.

That school has not had a lab technician for just over one year. The teacher has had to do all preparations for lab exercises for at least four classes, in addition to teaching those and other lower level classes. His breaking point was approaching!

This situation reminded me about the principles involved in clinical supervision. Principles which are applicable to anyone in a leadership position and that means any one. We are all leaders in different ways, different positions but with a need for the same approaches to our tasks.

For any meaning in a relationship and for steady progression to maximum potential, the parties involved in any type of relationship need to actively and consciously take steps to develop the key elements of collaboration, communication and trust.

Collaboration and communication entail working closely together, sharing ideas and innovations in an attempt to achieve a mutual objective. It requires consistent reporting of new developments in both directions, leader to employee or spouse to spouse or parent to child for example.

Not only must such collaboration take place but it must be clear and simple so that there is no misunderstanding by either party. The perception of collaboration must be evident to both parties.

In so doing confusion, inferiority, devaluation, lack of motivation and frustration may be avoided. In their place the seeds of trust, planted by collaboration and proper communication, begin to take root.

This is critical in any relationship. Consider for example a romantic couple who may want to elevate their status from being single to being married. This is a big step; a step which requires deep thought and commitment. It requires placing your life and your love into a mutual basket with someone else’s.

Physically, emotionally, mentally, morally, spiritually and financially are just some of the ways in which the consequence of that decision will affect both persons.

A professional relationship also calls for commitment in various aspects of the union.

Similarly to attain growth in any relationship, all  relevant aspects of the relationship will have to be addressed. Either party will be exposed and vulnerable to the other in some way. This means that in order to move up from one rung of the relationship ladder to another there has to be a level of trust involved.

A true leader will take up the responsibility of ensuring that communication channels are always open and cogent. He or she will lead compassionately, listen actively and be encouraging.

A leader will be supportive of new ideas and help sustain ongoing projects. There will be minimum chance for frustration as matters will be attended to with expediency and wisdom. Problems will be dealt with prudently, with one party allowing the other to come to a solution, coming to a mutual agreement or suggesting a possible solution(s).

A true leader recognises that growth takes place in an atmosphere of collaboration and trust.

What type of leader are you in your relationships? Do you interact with compassion, sincerity and wisdom?