Three little words that can change your life… Can I help? (3 of ?)

March 23, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

In yesterday’s post I discussed how hard it is for some, especially men, to admit that they need help and to ask for it. Today let’s look at a simple little sentence that seems is equally hard for many, if not most. Can I help? It probably is used in sentence contexts of more than three words, like “Can I help you?” or “Can I help with that?”, but they all start the same way, with a conscious effort t reach out and offer your help.

caringThat sounds so easy to say, much easier than the sentence “I need help”; however, offering your help, volunteering or rushing to someone’s aid in a time of need is something that we all hesitate on to some degree. We see stories on the news all the time about local “heroes” who run into burning buildings to rescue someone or pull people from burning cars at an accident scene. One thing that is fairly common when they are interviewed afterwards is the statement, “I didn’t even think about it I just acted.” That’s sort of the nature of emergency situations and how we as humans react to them.

But what about all of those times when it isn’t an emergency, it isn’t a burning building or a car crash; maybe it’s just seeing someone with a flat tire along the highway or seeing an older person having trouble getting across the street or loading her car at the grocery store. We’re actually pretty good about those things, too; but all too often we are too busy, in too big of a hurry and we avert our eyes or turn away.

Now, take the case of the neighbor that you see crying on her front porch or the fellow office worker that you see has had too much to drink at the office party. What then? Or how about the call from the church asking if you can visit some shut-in congregation members or maybe asking if you can drive to deliver Easter Baskets of food to several needy families. Is it getting tougher to say yes to those situations?

dissapointed ladyHow about that co-worker that just got the layoff notice, the woman next door who seems to always have a bruise on her face or the neighbor who just lost his wife to cancer. Can you help them?  Of course you can, but will you. After all you’ve got a life, too; and, you have things to do. You have work and golf on the weekends and kids games to go to and on and on. You just don’t have time, do you? Or do you and you just don’t want to take the time to offer that help?

“Never underestimate the difference YOU can make in the lives of others. Step forward, reach out and help. This week reach to someone that might need a lift” ― Pablo

You may not know what you can do to help. Don’t worry; just being there for that person is a great start. Being a good listener is probably the best way to help initially and you can go from there. Obviously there is only so much that you have the skills to help with, but maybe you are there for the purpose of helping that person seek the professional counseling that they need. Don’t try to be a psychologist yourself, but try to get that person to see one if things are really that bad. Sometimes just letting them talk things out is all that they needed; but sometimes they need that final push to seek more help than you can give them – perhaps a shelter for battered helping handwomen or a professional grief counselor. Take their hand and lead them to that help.

“I don’t want to live in the kind of world where we don’t look out for each other. Not just the people that are close to us, but anybody who needs a helping hand. I can’t change the way anybody else thinks, or what they choose to do, but I can do my bit.” ― Charles de Lint

All of us can do our little bit to help.

Maybe it gets down to a choice that you make because you “don’t want to get involved.” I would submit that you’re already involved. You are a fellow human being and one of the things that defines us as humans is our ability to have compassion for others.

The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another. – Thomas Merton

So you see that you are already involved, you just haven’t committed to play your role in things yet.

If all of the above is not enough to convince you to reach out and help someone, then do it for yourself; to bring purpose to your life. I discussed the end game in life in the 11th post of my Eleven Hints for Life series.

When you get to the end, the things that you will remember and bring that smile to your face are the times that you didn’t turn your back on the opportunity to help someone, the times that you weren’t too busy to reach out; the times that you made a difference in someone’s life just by being there and offering to help. Some of those you’ve helped will probably show up at your funeral and some may even know that they are there because you stopped to help. You’ll know, too!

“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.” ― Leo Buscaglia

Can you help? Yes, you can.

Three little words that can change your life… “I need help.” (2 of ? in a series)

March 22, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

If the first three word sentence – I love you – is the biggie, then today’s three word sentence may be the hardest for many to say. First you have to admit it to yourself and then you have to say it out loud to someone else. I suspect that people who work in various self-help groups, like AA or DA or GA, would tell you that admitting it or, maybe better stated, realizing that you need help is the biggest barrier to getting the help that you need.

I suspect that this is more of a guy problem than it is for women. From fairly early childhood boys are taught and conditioned to try to be self-reliant, to be stoic in our pain or disappointments and to keep a stiff upper lip and carry on. You don’t cry when you get hurt, you “shake it off.” In some street-level scenarios this goes even further and we are taught not to be snitches, even though we know that fingering the perpetrator of a crime to the proper authorities is the right thing to do. We are essentially taught to hold it in; to try to work it out ourselves; not to ask for outside help. Running to mommy to get help with the bully who is bugging you is considered to be bad.

And so it goes from a young age. We build layer upon layer of self-reinforcing rationale for not asking for help. It is after all not the manly thing to do. When we finally get to adulthood we are faced with a completely new set of challenges. How do we deal with getting laid off when there is a new baby on the way? How do we deal with having gambled away this week’s paycheck, even though the rent is due? How do we deal with homing home so drunk so many nights that we can’t remember when the last time was that we saw our kids before they went to bed? How do we deal with feeling like we have let down the one that we promised to cherish and protect through thick and through thin?

Like crap, would be the quick and easy answer to those questions; but, that does not really face the problem. The problem in many, if not all of those cases, is that you need help. The good news is that help is out there; all over the place, among your family and friend, in churches, in groups and organizations like AA, DA and GA that are just waiting to help you. The bad news for most is that you have to realize that you need it and ask for it. No one is going to come knocking on your door and say, “Hey, I was just out here and wondering if you need help?”  You need to ask.

So, how do you get to the point where you can ask for help? For some it is only possible when they are staring into the abyss and realize that the next step in that direction leads to the end. They literally have to be scared to death or scared of death, before they will act. For many it can be arriving at the logical end of the line of all of the things that they thought that they could do by themselves. They literally have to exhaust all possible alternatives that they can think of. The problem with both of those approaches is that they often lose those that they love along the way, because they let things go on for too long and resisted getting help to change. Ask any ex-wife of an abusive spouse how long they stayed just hoping that the one they loved at one time would get help that they never sought.

Let me suggest a different way to cope. If you’ve hit a problem or recognized that you have a problem that you don’t know how you can solve yourself, admit that to yourself first and then free yourself to seek help. For some, with a religious foundation to their lives, that may start by admitting in prayer that you need help. I have found in my life that the simple prayer, “Not my will, but thy will be done”, frees me from the baggage of being stubbornly self-reliant and allows me to move from being isolated by my own stubbornness to asking for help. I’ve always found the help I needed, once I found the will to ask for it.

For others it may be that sitting down and talking about the issue with a loved one or good friend will be the start. They’ve probably been telling your for some time to get help, but you weren’t listening . Maybe they can even suggest where to get the help that you need. I almost assure you that they will be supportive, because they’ve probably been concerned about you for some time and this will let them be a par to the help that you need. For an unfortunate few it may be that the ride in the back seat of a police car will be what it takes. That is usually too late to recover without consequences; but it can be the sobering experience that pushes you over the edge and allows you to ask for help.

If nothing else, maybe here’s a way to start when you are dealing with a problem that you feel lost about. Go find a mirror and look into it and say, “I need help…I can’t do this by myself.” Don’t just say it once; say it over and over until you have peeled away those layers of resistance and believe it and are ready to act upon that thought. Don’t be surprised if the guy you see in the mirror has a tear running down his cheek. He needs help…offer yours – get him help.

Three little words that can change your life…I love you. (1 of ?)

March 21, 2014

Today I start a new series of post without a clue as to how many there may be in the series. Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share my comments on those words with the world.

loving coupleOK, let’s start with the biggie – “I love you.” I don’t know of to any other three word sentences that will follow in this series that can have the impact of those three, once you have the right person to share them with. Now, it’s true that you have probably used them before in your life, with family and maybe even with best friends; however, they take on a completely new level of meaning once you have found your life partner. I’ve been with my wife for 48 years now and we make it a point to say those three words to each other every day; and we mean it.

Getting to the “I love you” stage with someone else is not easy. Just saying it out loud is a challenge for some; but, once said, it becomes the most liberating, most warming and most comforting thing in your life. Not only does it make the person that you just said it too feel great; it makes you feel great, too. Why is that? Well, it has to do with letting your shields down and exposing yourself, your feelings, your dreams, your desires, and your hopes. You sort of lay it all out on the line when you use those three words with conviction. It is founded on trust and commitment to each other. When you find that special someone who reciprocates that love and openness you will also know what contentment is in your life.

Making sure that it is the right person to say those words to is why so many are so cautious, so slow to get to that point; especially if they’ve had an experience where their feeling s were not in sync with the other person. It’s a major “ouchie” when you’ve just laid your heart out there and it got stomped upon. That really doesn’t happen all that often, but the stories are out there to keep the fear level up. Yet, without taking that risk; without laying it on the line and exposing yourself to whatever is coming, you cannot and will not get to that point where the ultimate reply comes your way – “ love you, too.” SCORE!!!

And what about the “I’m just not ready to make a commitment” angle on this? That’s valid and there is no place in that relationship for the” I love you” words. Maybe “I lust you” fits better. That happens a lot before you are issued your big boy/girl panties.  It’s just a fact or stage of life. Most grow out of that stage and desire something more, something even more satisfying than good sex, in a relationship; some don’t and they make great TV shows about people like them. I won’t attempt to comment on who grows out of that stage first – men or women; but I suspect that we all have an idea on that. Just remember that Peter Pan, after all, was a boy who never grew up.

Great things happen when you finally get to that stage with someone. For one, you stop wasting a lot of time putting on young couplefalse pretenses; on trying to hide who are really are because you are concerned that you are not handsome/pretty enough or not refined enough or not interesting enough or not whatever enough. Enough already! Now you can just be you with someone that you have gotten to a point at which they accept you for who you are, just as you accept them for what and who they are.

So, once you get past the stage where “I love you” is written in tiny letters on a little candy heart that you give to someone on Valentine’s Day and when you move on from mistaking sex for love; then find that one person with whom you can share your life, let down your guard, say, “I love you” and understand what that really means. Those three words will change your life.

Eleven Hints for Life – 11 of 11

March 20, 2014

11. Love begins with a smile, grows with a kiss, ends with a tear. When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you’re the one smiling and everyone around you is crying. – Unknown

babyWow, this little hint certainly covers a lot of ground – from birth to death – and in between has time to witness the beginning and end of a relationship.

Interestingly, it harkens back to tip # 6 about smiles and smiling. I think it also borrows from tip # 7, since you get to the end of life with a smile, not by holding back; but, rather by doing. The smile on your face is because you don’t have a bucket list, you have a list of things accomplished in life.

I suspect that the Irish have the right idea about funerals in their concept of a wake – a celebration of the life of the funeraldeceased. After all, that person is now in the only place where he/she will live forever – in our memories.  So, why not celebrate those memories and have a good laugh about those times, rather than a tear.

I would add to the advice of our hint some of these quotes –

“There isn’t so much to be afraid of, out there. I can remember thinking it was funny to find that out, on the last night of my life; I’d spent the rest of it being afraid of everything.”

― Nick Hornby

“When the time comes for you to leave this earth, if it doesn’t become a lesser place with your absence, then you have wasted your life.”

― Shaun Hick

So, this hint is really more about advice to the living than end-game advice to the dying.  Don’t waste your life and don’t be afraid of everything. Remember that a life given in service to others is one that will never be forgotten. Having said that, it is important to note that a life given in service does not always mean that you have to drop everything, sell everything and abandon everything and run off to some foreign land to serve soup to the poor. Sometimes we get hung caringup on what how we can serve others or how much. We get worried that our little daily acts of service don’t each have much impact. I would offer this quote –

“The goodness of the world in which we live is the accumulated goodness of many small and seemingly inconsequential acts.” ― Gorden B Hinckley

Do what you can, where you can and when you can to serve the needs of others. Some days that might involve doing big things and on others it might just mean making a kind gesture to someone who just needs encouragement. The idea is to get out of your self-centered mode of living and recognize and act upon the needs of those around you.

Finally, here’s my own personal Bonus Hint – Hint # 12

For a long and happy life, exercise three things daily – your body, your mind and your faith. Have a great life!

Eleven Hints for Life – 10 of 11

March 19, 2014

10. The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything they just make the most of everything that comes along their way. – Unknown

Some of these hints are easier than others to find a positive message to take away. This one is easy to agree with but perhaps a little harder to put into practice. The world around us is so focused upon trying to define happiness in terms of the possessions that we have – how many and how good they are – that it is easy to get swept up in those thoughts.

The key in this little hint is to be found in the words “…they just make the most of everything…” Whether it is the things that they have or the things that come their way, the happiest of people not only accept what they have or get, but they find joy in having those things and do not waste time  being jealous or envious of things that they don’t have.

“Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.” – Jack Londoncards

In the song The Gambler there is the line “every hands a winner and every hands a loser, it how you play the game.” Happy people take the cards that they are dealt and find joy in just being in the game. They don’t waste time and energy coveting what someone else has; instead they enjoy want they have to the fullest. Most of the time, you find these people to be the types that value family and relationships above all else, except their faith. They are happy because they don’t let the pursuit of possessions get in the way of what is really important.

And what of those who are not living according to todays’ hint? A saying from the blog Jack’s Winning Words sums it up fairly well –

“You’d be surprised at how many unhappy people there are.  They focus too much on their wants, not their needs.”  (Cayman Islander)

Somehow I have to believe that this Cayman Islander and many of the people who live the Caribbean island lifestyle actually do live by the words of today’s hint.

chasing brass ringSo, rather than spending time worrying and being unhappy about what you don’t have; spend time making the most out of what you do have and out of the relationships that you have with the people that you love who are sharing it with you. Happiness is not to be found in possessions, but rather in sharing love with other people and enjoying each other.

After all, could that new car that you’ve been focusing so much attention upon getting ever give you a hug and say, “I still love you”, at the end of a bad day?  Can that big flat screen TV that you covet so much ever hold your hand and tell you that everything will be alright when you’ve just been laid off? And try having a meaningful conversation with that new pair of shoes that you want so much or sitting on the porch swing with that new appliance that you’ve been wanting for so long. Now, re-imagine those same scenarios with the ones in your life that you love and you will start to understand that the real joy in life comes not from having things but from sharing your life with other people.porch swing

“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” – Charles Spurgeon

Go back and re-read Hint # 3 and then find that someone in your life to sit on the porch swing with.


Eleven Hints for Life – 9 of 11

March 18, 2014

9. “A careless word may kindle strife. A cruel word may wreck a life. A timely word may level stress. But a loving word may heal and bless.” –  Unknown

That is a nice little poem to live by and a reminder of the power of words. Words have begun and ended wars, made friends and enemies, ended relationships and led to marriages. Words have the power to sting or to cut; but they also have the power to sooth or to heal.

angry wordsWe live in a world were words have taken on new power, as much as anything because of their new reach. Cruel words posted on Facebook or Tweeted for all to see have a greater ability to cause hurt and harm than ever before. Harsh or callous words posted on Yelp or Angie’s List can ruin a business’s reputation in an instant. Words thrown out in anger can linger forever in the Internet cloud and come back to haunt us when it is least desirable.

“of all the weapons of destruction that man could invent, the most terrible-and the most powerful-was the word. Daggers and spears left traces of blood; arrows could be seen at a distance. Poisons were detected in the end and avoided. But the word managed to destroy without leaving clues.”  ― Paulo Coelho

Many companies now do Internet searches for the writings and postings of job candidates, to see if they are as consistently honest and pleasant as they might have appeared during an interview. Perhaps this caution by George Bernard Shaw is more applicable today that ever.

“Choose silence of all virtues, for by it you hear other men’s imperfections, and conceal your own.”

So, slow down a bit and chose your words more carefully. Engage your brain before startingtalking down your mouth. The words you use say as much about you and who you really are as what it is you’re trying to say. They also send a message to the listener about your attitude and your ability to listen to and understand their words. So be cautious as you use words in your life: remember this little saying –

“Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.”  ― Jodi PicoultSalem Falls

Perhaps we should all focus more attention on using the words that sooth and heal, the words that encourage and cheer, and the words that embrace and express love. For, if we spit out angry words like crashes of thunder or screams of pain; then, when we express words of warmth and love, they will flow from our lips like music and delight the ears upon which they fall.

Use the power of your words wisely and hopefully for good. have a nice day


Eleven Hints for Life – 8 of 11

March 17, 2014

8. Always put yourself in the other’s shoes. If you feel that it hurts you, it probably hurts the person too. – Unknown

Well, this hint seems to be close to a no-brainer, or is it? While this sounds like a simple interpretation of the so-called Golden Rule; another quote from George Bernard Shaw may cause you to pause and think a bit on this one.

colorful shoes “Do not do unto others as you expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.”

What Shaw is saying to us is important to us because we are all want to put ourselves in those others shoes by interpreting the situation for them through our on perspective. I suspect that hurtful things are hurtful no matter what perspective you view them from and because of that our hint for the day is valid; however, in many other cases of trying to put ourselves in the other persons shoes we simply are not operating from the same frame of reference as they are and we may be way off base.

Shaw’s advice is particularly true when you try to cross cultural boundaries. If you did not grew up African-American or Asian or Indian or whatever the culture of the other person may be, then you cannot easily slip into their shoes and make any kind of a value judgment of the situation or how that person would react. Shaw was not talking just about tastes, it’s about your frame of reference to the world and how that may vary greatly from someone else’s.

I found a good read on this topic by a PhD who happened to write for the site. He identified 8 factors that impact communications when you start crossing cultures. They are:

Cultural Identity

Racial Identity

Ethnic Identity

Gender Role Identity

Individual Personality

Social Class Identity

Age Identity

Roles Identity

You can click here to read the whole article. He identifies himself as ecoggins at the site and in his bio. What ecoggins is saying is that you might have to slip into 8 pairs of shoes to truly understand where that other person is coming from, which is really to say that it is impossible.

I guess it is best to leave today’s hint alone at its most simple level – if you feel it would hurt you if someone said it or did it to you, then there is a good chance that it angry womanwould hurt someone else, too; so, don’t do it.

Maybe the thing to focus upon in today’s hint is to ask what is motivating the thing that you were about to do or say about (or to) someone else that might hurt them. What kind of behavior on their part is driving you to do or say anything that you would feel hurt about if someone did or said it to you?

If you stop and ask that question; maybe you can then refocus upon what you really need to be expending your energy upon; which is to find a way to forgive them for whatever has driven you to this point, so that you can move on with your life. Start by admitting that you don’t understand their point of view (their frame of reference on things) well enough to understand what made them do whatever it is that you are thnk about itreacting to. Perhaps they did not stop and think about how it might hurt you. But causing a hurt back is not the answer.

One of the least understood but most liberating of human reactions to bad things that others do to us is our ability to forgive. You can see it in news stories of the loved ones of a victim of a heinous crime forgiving the person who committed the crime. The initial reaction is to ask, how could they do that? Once you understand the power of forgiveness; the real question is, “how could they not do that?” Forgiveness is so important to our well-being that the staff at the Mayo Clinic posted an article about it. To read what they have to say, click here.

So, this hint for life can serve a couple of purposes. It can hopefully prevent you new shoesfrom doing or saying something hurtful; and, it can help you deal better with someone who has done or said something hurtful to you. Either way, you get to try on a new pair of shoes, and who doesn’t like to do that.