Keeping an open mind…

March 23, 2018

Jack Freed recently posted this little quote on his blog Jack’s Winning Words“I believe in having an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.”  (Arthur Hays Sulzberger)

I like that quote because sometimes, under the guise of having an open mind, people do let their common sense (their brains) fall by the wayside and end up doing stupid things. An open mind is one that is willing to consider a change in position or understanding on a topic. Everyone and everything that we interact with conjures up some mental insightpredisposition in our minds about them/it and how to react to the encounter. Sometimes, those predispositions may be strong and well as wrong and have turned into unfounded prejudices. Many times it may just be a feeling of unease or fear, if we have little or no experiences upon which to fora more positive reaction.

When you’re a child prejudices may be more excusable, because you haven’t experienced enough or learned enough to really have an informed opinion. As you grow up there is an expectation that your will gain first-hand experiences and knowledge that helps you make better decision; or at least that is the hope. A key to that growth is your ability to keep an open mind, but also to use your brain to sort, categorize and assimilate new bits of knowledge so that the basis for your reaction to events and people is based on better knowledge. Some do a better job at that than others do.

arrogantSome people really don’t have a mind that is open to change, no matter what evidence is presented that a long held conviction is wrong. They have locked their brains tightly into a reality that is theirs alone and they “see” the world from within that realm. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case in Washington these days, as the politicians there become more and more polarized. One certainly doesn’t see a lot of open minds there, just a lot of brainless behavior.

How do you start each day? Are you open to new ideas, new thoughts and new ways of seeing things? Do you see meeting new people who are different from you as an opportunity to learn or as a threat? Is your brain open to learning new things or too busy defending old prejudices, fears and unsubstantiated positions?

Being open to new ideas, new thoughts and new people does not mean blindly accepting them or immediately acting upon them, as Sulzberger was saying in his quote. You still have to engage your brain to evaluate their worth and place within your life. Some newsmirk idea may well displace old ideas that you now know were not completely right or which no longer fit for you. New people in your life may replace old friends who no longer share your values or whose position on things is no longer aligned with yours. Life happens and you move on.

So, let changes happen in your life and your outlook on life. Don’t let where you were at hold you back from where you are going. Use your brain to sort through new thoughts and beliefs and to control the pace and extent of those changes, but not to block them out. Keep an open mind. Don’t worry, your brains won’t really fall out.


Follow the children…

March 20, 2018

“The wolf will lie down with the lamb…and a little child shall lead them.”  (Isaiah 11:6)

That was the quote used in today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack used it to write about what he sees as a turning point in the movement against gun violence. He compared the recent Walkout Day, led by survivors of the recent Parkland school shootings, to the Children’s March during the civil rights movement.

I’m a participant in the Huron Valley Coalition, which is an effort to save children from becoming victims of substance abuse, mainly through educational programs for them and the community. Recently the Coalition sponsored a student round table discussion about gun violence in schools, as a means of understanding the student’s perspective on this issue. This program just happened to fall on “Walk Out” day, so that became a part of the conversation.

As was reporEnough_is_enoughted elsewhere across the country, there was a lot of confusion and very mixed support for the Walk Out within the administrations of the various schools, even within our local school district. Some teachers and administrators supported the Walk Out, while others warned students not to participate for fear of consequences later. In general, the students who spoke at this round table were disappointed in the lack of a consistent message from the adults involved and vowed to do a better job themselves next time (and they were clear that there will be a next time).

I was a bit surprised by the reported politicization of the issue within the student body. I guess I don’t recall from the ancient days of my own high school experience that students identified that much with the various political parties or their platforms. That is apparently not the case these days, as the roundtable discussion exposed the political opposition to the Walk Out within the student bodies of the various schools. Apparently, even within high school students there are strong attachments to one political point of view or the other. Political polarization starts young these days.

Even with those differences of political opinion, there seemed to be a universal feelingCandle light vigil that this has to stop, that schools need to be a safe place of learning and not a place where “shelter in place” and “active shooter” exercises are the norm. I hope that the children will continue to make noise, continue to walk out and protest the mess that the cowardly politicians in Washington cannot seem to take fix. There is no place in the woods for a hunter to use an assault weapon and there should be no place in our nation’s classrooms for them either. Had they foreseen the future, I’m sure our nation’s founders would not have included in the Constitution that every citizen has the right to bear a machine gun or assault rifle.

So, follow the children. They are trying to clean up the mess that we adults have made of the country. Maybe as they get old enough to vote they will remember who in Washington stood with them and who stood with the other side. Then instead of walking out, they can walk into the voting booth and really make changes in Washington. Let’s hope so.

Be a good father; be there…

March 19, 2018

From the Jack’s winning Words blog – “Be like St. Joseph.  He’s a model for every (teacher and parent).  Children need you to walk beside them in love.”  (Pope Francis)  Today is St. Joseph’s Day, honoring the father of Jesus.

Jack went on to write a little bit about Joseph, the father of Jesus and about being there for our children. All too many fathers are so focused upon success in their careers that they fail to realize, until it’s too late, that the children that they worked so hard to man rushingprovide for have grown up and moved away. They rationalize all of the time that they spend at work instead of at home as necessary to provide all of the things that they think the family needs. Often, the only thing that the kids really wanted was more time with dad. Perhaps the saddest country song that best captured this topic was Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin.

In reality, the pursuit of career advancement and success at all costs is an ego-driven thing and, as such, is extremely selfish. The success-driven businessman is not in it for the family; they are in it for themselves. Few ever really admit that and that is the root cause for many divorces. Perhaps even their marriages are motivated by the need to appear successful, to have the perfect wife and the perfect family to fill out their resume. Those marriages seldom stand the test of time. Some may evolve into loveless arrangements of convenience for both parties.

The truth is that, if family is one’s first commitment and concern, the career that you family grroupchose to pursue will be viewed as a necessary and secondary commitment of your time and attention. An even deeper truth is that family will actually be second, after your commitment to God. Once you have made that commitment your other priorities will fall into line. When you get your priorities straight, you will also find that your level of satisfaction with life increases dramatically. A loving kiss from your partner or a hug and a heartfelt “thinks Dad” from your child is much more rewarding than another reward plaque to put up on your wall.

We often see stories in the news about children being raised in single parent homes. Many times those are children in black homes, where the father is incarcerated or perhaps even dead at an early age. It is easy to sit back and think that this is somehow different from the family where the children never see dad, because he is always “at man prayingwork”. Perhaps “at work” is his prison. In any event, the result is still the same – children being raised in what is effectively a single parent home. Grant yourself a pardon from your work prison and spend time at home with family. Don’t worry that you can’t afford to give them the latest things; the one thing that they want is you in their lives and you can give them that. Be like St Joseph and be there for your children.

Have a great week ahead with your family.

What’s within your reach?

March 17, 2018

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”  – Clarissa Pikola Estes

How often inaction is driven by thinking too big. We think about the problems of the world and they become too big for us to tackle ourselves, so we do nothing. We cannotescape provide food for the millions in Africa who are starving, so we do nothing. We cannot stop the genocides that are on going in the Middle East, so we do nothing. We cannot stop human trafficking, so we do nothing. Doing nothing is the easy choice. We fail to see what we can do right in our own back yard. What’s within your reach?

If we really took the time to stretch out and see the needs right close to us, we would be able to do plenty to reduce hunger and suffering and human exploitation right in our own towns and cities. How often do we scurry by that homeless beggar on the corner asking for our help? How easy is it for us to look the other way when we see a teenage girl selling herself on the streets to support a drug habit? How many times must we tune into the nightly news and do nothing as we see and hear about another massacre in our schools or churches. These things are happening within our reach. Stretch out and try to mend what you see every day. What’s within your reach?

We tend to let ourselves generalize the problems that we see and let them grow into homeless manseemingly unsolvable huge things that we are incapable of solving alone. It’s not just that homeless beggar, it’s all homeless people. It’s not just that one teen prostitute, it’s all people hooked on drugs. It’s not just that one crazed shooter, it’s all of the disturbed people in the world.  If we let that happen, we become paralyzed by the enormous size of the problems than we see. What’s within your reach?

But, what if you could help that one homeless person that you meet get back on their feet and become a productive member of society again? What if you could save that young girl from a life on the streets? What if your efforts to alert authorities about an unstable person who is headed towards becoming a shooter could prevent that from happening and stop the carnage before it happens? Do you see how taking action, even with only one person in need, can change things in the world? If you can see it, what is stopping your from doing it? Look around. What’s within your reach?

Maybe you just can’t bring yourself to act alone. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable tryingsewrving soup to approach the homeless person or the street walker with your offer to help. Maybe fear keeps you from saying anything to (or about) that unstable person. There are still ways that you can help. There are organizations that you can join and work for that provide that help and intervention. Groups like Community Sharing are here locally, within your reach. Groups like the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force exist and run hotlines that provide help. They need people to do the work that they do. They are within your reach. And there are crime tip hotlines like the Safe School Helpline in every state that provide an anonymous way for to alert the authorities about a potential problem person. That phone call is within your reach.

So, don’t become paralyzed by thinking too big. Think about what is within your reach and then take actions to do something about what you can see. If everyone, everywhere just did that the big national  problems would fade away one local solution at a time. What’s within your reach?

Love is like the Bird of Paradise…

March 15, 2018

In a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack used this quote – “The Bird of Paradise alights upon the hand that does not grasp.”  (John Berry)

Jack went on to explain that the Bird of Paradise is an actual bird, a very beautiful bird,Bird of PAradise in Indonesia and thought by many to be the first bird that God created in the Garden of Eden. To see such a bird is rare and to actually have one alight upon your hand even more rare.

It occurred to me that the quote could also apply to love. Just as the Bird of Paradise goes not wish to be grasped and possessed; love is something meant to be shared not grasp and held onto like a possession. I have heard of more than one relationship failing because one of the parties became “too possessive”, too “graspy”.

It is a fault of our human nature that we want to possess things and sometimes even to Controllingpossess people. We want them to be “ours” and ours alone. What we don’t understand is that love is a feeling that must be shared and not possessed. Saying I love you to someone does not carry with it “I own you”; but, sometimes people imply that into the relationship. Those relationships are doomed to fail. Love is something that is at the same time shared and earned in return.

One earns love in relationship through kindness, gentleness, consideration, attentiveness, loyalty and many other things that are all oriented towards giving in the relationship. Freedom is one of those things. You cannot earn the love of another by holding them captive as if they were a possession. Most often the possessor’s own insecurities and fears drive possessive behavior. Rather than show love towards the partner to earn their love in return; these insecure partners try to grasp them instead and hold them hostage.  We use terms like manipulative, domineering or controlling for men and clingy, manipulative and high-maintenance for the women in these possessive relationships. No matter what we call it, they are grasping for love.

Often these possessive relationships remain intact long enough to evolve into domesticgirl crying violence situations. It is often the case that domestic violence is driven as much by the need to control the other person as from any other reason. Once all other techniques of control fail, the possessive person is left with physical violence or threats as a mechanism of control. Domestic violence becomes the final spiral towards oblivion of a long failed relationship.

So, what is the take away from all of this? It is that love, like the Bird of Paradise, lights on the open hand of trust in a relationship. You love someone and hope that they love you back. There are things that you can do to earn that love in return andholdiing love in hand there are things that you could do that would cause love (and the Bird of Paradise) to fly away by being too possessive. Love cannot be grasped it can only be shared and it must be shared freely and without constraints. Just as the Bird of Paradise is beautiful to behold, love is a beautiful things to see and feel and even touch, but it cannot be grasped and possessed.

Share a loving day with your partner with an open hand and an open heart.

Where will you spend the rest of your life?

March 14, 2018

“My interest is in the future, because I’m going to be spending the rest of my life there.”   (Charles Kettering) – from a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write about Kettering, who was an inventor and a bit of a futurist.

Where do your interests lie? Are you stuck in the past, reminiscing about or lamenting over things that have happened in your past? Some things that we may have experienced are so strong (the word traumatic is often used) that we find it hard to put them behind us and move on. That happens a lot with soldiers who’ve been involved in wars. The term “post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS)” was invented to explain and label thisdepression 6 condition. PTSS is a leading cause of suicides among soldiers returning from prolonged or repeated duty in war zones.

In the past there was not a convenient terms to use to describe people suffering from the debilitating effect s of war; so, people often talked of someone being “shell shocked” or used the term “the fog of war” to describe their behavior. However it was described, it was (and is) a condition that does not allow the person to function normally in the present, due to the memories of overwhelming events in their past. People who’ve been through natural catastrophes such as tornadoes or floods may experience a similar impact on their lives. Sometimes the death of a loved one has a similar impact.

I’m sure that psychologists and psychiatrists have lots of ways to both explain and attempt to treat PTSS. Some cases seem to be fairly mild and involve mainly becoming mentally stuck in the era of the events. I know of a few Viet Nam era vets who still walk around in their bush hats and camouflage clothing and love nothing more than talking about where they were “back in the day.” They haven’t been able to let go of that experience and move on.

depression 5Perhaps you haven’t been through anything in life as traumatizing as deployment into a war zone; however, we all have had events in our lives that were (at the time anyway) somewhat traumatizing. Those “how can I go on” moments helped shape our lives. For most there was the “ah ha” realization that, as bad as it seemed at the time; it didn’t kill us and we made it through the event. Perhaps the pain was real or maybe just deeply emotional; but we survived and life went on. It is our ability to compartmentalize and rationalize things that happen to us that helps us get through them and go on with life.

For many, it is the ability to turn to their faith to see them through life’s tough moments that makes all of the difference. One of the hallmarks of PTSS is a feeling of loneliness; of thinking that no one understands you and what you’ve been through. It is in those moments of loneliness that one’s faith in God’s assurances can make the most difference.helping hands

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8

You are never alone. God is always right there with you. He got you through the trauma and He is pointing your towards your future. Wouldn’t you rather spend the rest of your life there, in the future, rather than dwelling on the past? Don’t look back. Let go of your past and walk with God into your future.

Where will you spend the rest of your life? Look to God and see your future.

Don’t hold your breath…give back

March 13, 2018

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this little yoga saying – “When you inhale you are taking the strength from God.  When you exhale it represents the service you are giving to the world.”  Jack went on to write that we should all stop and, recognizing our breathing, contemplate our relationship with God.

But, don’t hold your breath. As you are thinking about God, think also about exhaling and giving back in service to the world. That can initially be a rather overwhelmingworries thing to contemplate, with thoughts of “What can I do? I’m just one little person” or maybe “I have no skills to help the world.” The fact is that your time and willingness to help are the only things that you need to get started making a difference in the world. Don’t hold your breath.

Maybe, like most you don’t see or know about the needs that are right in your own back yard. The fact is that the world around you is brimming with unfulfilled needs. There are people who need food prepared for them or delivered to them. There are millions of people who cannot function on a day-to-day basis without someone’s helping uphelp. There are children who are too hungry to learn in school. There are thousands in hospitals and nursing homes that long for someone to talk with. There are caregivers struggling to to get through each day without anyone to relieved them. There are families trying to deal with hardships or losses with no one to turn to for help or counseling. Don’t hold your breath.

Perhaps your challenge (excuse) is that you don’t know how to find those in need and how to get started helping. There are many organizations in every community in the country that exist to help people in need and those organizations always, always need help from volunteers willing to do the work. Those organizations can provide you with the opportunities to jump in and do what is needed. That is really the key – to be willing to do what is needed. Not everyone gets toseerving others stand on the food line serving the food when the TV cameras show up. There are many people in the background doing tasks like preparing the food or washing the dishes. Those are often thankless tasks, but essential to the process. Often, when I volunteer for something, I’ll ask, “What’s the job that nobody wants to do?” Then that’s the job I ask for. In church event’s that’s usually set-up and tear-down or perhaps washing dishes. Don’t hold your breath.

So, as you sit there in whatever pose you are holding in your yoga class, contemplate God with the breath that you took in and then focus on how you can help in your community with the breath that you ae about to exhale. Don’t hold your breath…the needs are too great and there’s a job waiting for you to serve your community. Now exhale and get out there. Don’t hold your breath.