See a need, Fill a need…

November 29, 2014

“See a need, fill a need.” – Story headline from a recent Realtor magazine. Every year Realtor Magazine runs a special contest and story about the Realtor who has contributed the most to their community. They call their chosen Realtor the Good Neighbor of the year. This year’s winner is Jane Locke of South Carolina who saw a need for financial help for families with children with disabilities and diseases that wasn’t being filled by existing charities; so she and a group of like-minded people in her area started Carolina Children’s Charity to fill that need. Find out more about that charity at http://www.carolinachildren.org/

caringWe often have the tendency to think that we can’t make a difference through just our own small local efforts; but such is not the case. It is also not the case that every effort has to be a large one in and of itself. Lots and lots of little efforts eventually accumulate and make a difference. Even a small, seemingly insignificant effort may make the difference in someone else’s life. If they go on to also make a difference by doing something the whole thing can snowball into a huge difference.

I think a key to filling a need that you may see is to be happy within yourself that you did the deed or filled the need and not to be disappointed if no one else noticed or praised you for having done it. Sometimes you will get a “thank you” if you do something for someone else that they see; however, many times the good works that you do are not such that they would be recognized by giving moneywhomever you helped. You must also feel good about your contribution, no matter how small when compared to others; so long as your effort was sincere and honest. That is especially true if you are just doing things to raise money for a worthy cause. So what, if you managed to give or collect $20 and someone else gave $200 or even $2,000? If your $20 represented your honest effort to help and was given without expectations of any reward, it is as important as the larger amounts.

Much of the time the needs that you might see are not about money; rather they are about the need for services – drivers to deliver Meals on Wheels, for instance; or people to visit shut-ins. volunteer builderSometimes the need s are well behind the scenes and out of the spotlight, such as packing the meals that will be delivered or putting together gift boxes to be sent overseas to our troops. Sometimes it involves joining a groups to accomplish a big task, like building a house for someone in need. Sometimes the needs are very personal – providing someone to listen and talk with for a person who has gone through a loss or who may be suffering through an illness. Maybe it’s just being there in programs such as Big Brother or Big Sister to provide role models and companionship.

We actually “see” needs around us all the time; it’s just that we‘re too busy to stop and help, to fill the need; or we think we are too busy.  All too often the things that we are “busy with” are superficial or contrived and have little actual meaning or consequence. We have created the illusion of being busy out of things like checking our email or texting or playing a game on our helping elderly
phones. Our distractions and amusements have morphed into our “busy.” In the meantime, the needs are still there unfulfilled; we just don’t have the time to look for them or see them because we are “busy.” Take the time out of your busy lifestyle to look around and recognize the needs that are all around you. Fill just a few of those needs and you will feel so much better about yourself and about life. You may even find that you didn’t miss checking your phone or texting while you were actually helping get something meaningful accomplished.

So, today, resolve to See a need, Fill a need.  You likely won’t be in the headlines in tomorrow’s paper, but you will feel really great about yourself as you drift off to sleep tonight. If the need you filled happened to involve direct contact and help for another person that will make two happy people at the end of the day. Have a great and meaningful weekend.

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Three little words that may change your life – Give yourself permission…

November 28, 2014

I’m kind of a work-aholic (I suppose there really is no way to be kind of a work-aholic) and my wife often tells me to “give yourself permission” to stop or take a break. As I thought about those three little words, I realized not only what good advice she was giving me, but just how important it can be to empower yourself.

Certainly, giving yourself permission to take a break is a good thing and can save you from becoming stressed out or overworked. There are many other things that you need to give yourself permission for that may also be life changing or life enhancing.

chasing goal You need to give yourself permission to fail every now and then. Not every endeavor will result in a win or getting done what you set out to accomplish. Sometimes you just have to tell yourself that it’s OK to fail, as long as you tried your best and you can learn something from the failure. It’s OK to be wrong every now and then, too. For many people that is a hard permission to grant themselves (or to admit to themselves). “Perfection is an illusion. Allow yourself room to make mistakes and permission to be happy regardless of outcome.”  ― Dawn Gluskin

Many people await someone else’s permission to take a chance or try something new, when they could easily just give themselves permission. For some, even allowing a relationship to progress to the point of making a real commitment is something that they have a problem giving themselves permission to do. For some the issue may be be the permission to feel your emotions. “I gave myself permission to feel and experience all of my emotions. In order to do that, I had to stop being afraid to feel. In order to do that, I taught myself to believe that no matter what I felt or what happened when I felt it, I would be okay.” – Iyanla Vanzant

Have you given yourself permission to feel and experience your emotions, or do you stifle them while you seek someone remorsefulelse to give you permission? Let me string together two quotes – “Don’t look for society to give you permission to be yourself.” ― Steve Maraboli and “When you are open to others, you give permission to those around you to be open to you.” ― Bryant McGill. So, give yourself permission to be you and to be open about yourself and your feelings. Others will open up to you.

We often hear about some organization or cause being empowering for the people involved; but, that is waiting for some outside group or event to give you permission, to empower you. Rather, have the confidence in yourself to give yourself the permissions that you think you need. Empower yourself. “Give yourself permission to get the most out of your life.” – Sandra Lee

What things are you waiting for permission to do in your life? Where do you think that permission is going to come from? cheering upYou can’t call your mom and ask for permission to fall in love. You have to give yourself that permission. Only you can grant yourself permission to stop grieving over a loss and move on with life. And, only you can give yourself permission to change your own life. “Dream and give yourself permission to envision a You that you can choose to be.” – Joy Page


Machismo not required…

November 26, 2014

“You got to go through it to get to it.”  (Joel Osteen) – as seen on a recent post at the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

That little saying, if taken out of context, seems to be just dripping with machismo, to which I would reply No Mas! The phrase men butting heads“man up” has taken on way too much testosterone over the last few years. To be a man is not about being able to withstand pain or shaking it off and getting back in the game. There is way too much evidence that the whole “shake it off” mentality is wrong and harmful. “Man up” was, is and should be about taking responsibility for your actions; and it really isn’t just about men; although “person up” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

But, do you really have to go through it to get to it? And what are the two it’s in that little phrase all about? I guess you had to hear the context in which Osteen used that phrase and it had nothing to do with going through some sort of trial or pain or test to get to heaven. Osteen’s sermon was about persevering through the tough times by remembering that God is always with you and will not abandon you, just because things are tough.

We’ve become a country full ofpills people who believe that taking a pill for things like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol  is a better answer than doing the exercise and weight loss work that really would help the most and maybe even provide a cure. Sometimes we don’t preserver and do what is needed in our relationships either; we take short-cuts or the easy way out of resolving issues with people, by using email or text messages, rather than confronting them in person.

So, there are some things that you may have to go through or figure out in order to get through life; however, you do not have to fight your way through them. I have found that taking the time to analyze the situation and trying to find a win-win solution is a good alternative answer. Life is not a football game; life is more a game of compromises and partnerships; small set-backs and small victories and making sure that you are striving for the right things and not just things. Maybe the saying should be, “You’ve got to figure it out to get to it.”

The other issue that the quote can seem to allude to is that you have to go through life’s trials alone – Mano a Mano!  Macismo, again! That was not the point of his sermon, which brought God into the picture and assured his audience that we are never alone. After all, he is a preacher and that is one of the most powerful messages of the Good News that he is trying to spread.

In Maine they have created a program called Mano en Mano (which they define as Hand in Hand) to provide assistance and guidance to those in need, especially those of diverse cultural backgrounds.  Somehow that seems to be a much better answer than just standing back and telling the people in need to tough it out.

Community Sharing logoAs we approach our uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving, we should be thankful for people who create and run programs like Mano en Mano and all of the rest of helping and sharing programs that provide help to those in need. In our area, Community Sharing, Lighthouse of Oakland County  and Meals on Wheels and so many other volunteer organizations provide assistance so that people don’t have to go through pain and suffering just to live day-to-day. If you want to be a part of the solution and not just stand by lamenting the problem, sign up to volunteer at organizations like these. Then you can say, “”I’ve got to do it tothanksgiving family help others through it; then we’ll both get to it.” Machismo not required.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

 


Let go and dream…

November 26, 2014

“The best dreams happen when you’re awake.” – Cherie Gilderbloom

I’m not sure where I saw this quote, but I knew I wanted to save it and write about it eventually. I’ve opined about having dreams and hopes many times and even about day dreaming; but this quote is really talking about our ability to “see” (to dream) a better future for ourselves.

The dreams that we have when we are asleep are mostly random, unruly and mostly without any point. The dreams that you can conjure up while awake have more context and meaning for your life. They don’t have to be constrained by your current reality, but they usually take that into consideration as a starting point. It’s where you end up in those dreams that really makes them fun.

man daydreamingYou may say that a dream while you’re awake is just letting your imagination run away with you. That’s true that it takes a vivid imagination; but, it is running away with you in a direction that you control. It is a mix of fantasy and reality that is unshackled from the constraints that we normally place upon ourselves. Maybe you see yourself scoring the winning touchdown or slugging the winning home run. Perhaps you envision yourself relaxing on the beach on a tropical island or maybe you’re out on a date with the girl that you could never get up the nerve to ask out. These dreams go one step beyond the visualization that many professional athletes use to “see” their next play or move. You can come very close to actually feeling like you are experiencing the moment that is in the dream.

We often hear people who have just won something – an event, a prize or contest – say that it thinking hardfeels like they are in a dream; maybe the same is true about actually being in an awake dream – it feels like it’s real. It’s fun to think that could be the case; but, I suspect that Cherie Gilderbloom was actually talking about more than day dreaming. She may have been saying that the things that we actually experience in life, while wide awake, are much better than the things that we dream about. While dreams are fun, they are also disconcerting, because you don’t have a frame of reference in them. Dreaming while wide awake maintains a frame of reference that both anchors you and allows you to snap back into full consciousness at any time. In some cases it allows you to fold some reality back into the dream to change its direction if needed. In an awake dream you don’t forget where you left your car.

facing new dayPerhaps dreaming while you are awake is really letting your hopes direct your mind for a while. Hopes often get pushed aside or pushed out into the future. Dreaming about them brings them back to the forefront and allow you to explore them and imagine possible outcomes. Dreams based upon hopes can be a great antidote to a numbing life. Call it escapism if you like, but escaping even for a moment or two into the future that you are striving to reach can be a great motivator to continue the struggle.

dreamsWhatever the case, I think taking a little time to dream, even while you are awake, is necessary for our mental health, just like taking a little time every now and then to be silly or to play or to laugh. We cannot go through life constantly constraining ourselves to the situation at hand. We cannot always be on guard, on the ready, constantly serious and on the defense. We all have dreams that need to get out and breathe every now and then. We have aspirations that we’ve never shared with anyone that need a stage upon which to rehearse. Dreaming while we are wake provides the release necessary to let those hopes stay alive and grow. Don’t stifle yourself when it comes to dreaming.

What do you dream about while you’re awake?


Hope is stronger than fear…

November 24, 2014

I happened to watch The Hunger Games over the weekend or at least a part of it. I hadn’t seen the movie, since we seldom go to movies anymore. At the end there is a scene in which the character Bow and ArrowSnow, played by Donald Sutherland, President of the Capitol in country of Panem  says, “The only thing stronger than fear is hope.” Snow and the Capitol rule Panem through the use of fear; but the success of Katniss and Peeta give hope to the people in the outlying Districts and they begin to riot.

While it was an interesting action film; and it is not necessarily what I would pay to go see; it did have an overall moral message of good overcoming evil and of Hope for the future. I’ve written here before about Hope. In fact Hope was the only candle left burning after the other three of the four had been extinguished in my post about the Four Candles. I also wrote about it in posts titled Hope Leads to Great Memories and my post, Don’t Worry, Be Hopeful.

Of those previous posts, I think the Four Candles one applies most to today’s theme that Hope is stronger than fear. There are so many troubled places in the world today where the first two or three candles have been extinguished; where Peace and Love are hard pressed to be found or expressed. In many of those places Faith, especially faith other than the stated religion of the rulers (or the dictated lack of religion) is hard to keep lit. Even in those evil places and under the worst of circumstances Hope may still be found.

In most of those places fear is the main tool of the oppressive rulers. Fear of being found out and turtletortured or killed, if one has different religious beliefs or maybe is even of a different sect within the same religious belief. Fear is a powerful tool. Fear can cause people to cower and stay in line. Fear can turn people against each other. Fear causes people to look at their shoes when evil acts take place right in front of them. Fear allows a small minority to rule over the great majority. But fear is not a foundation upon which to build the future. Fear does not encourage and support.

Hope is the only thing stronger than fear. Hope allowed people in East Berlin to take the chance to run across mine fields and through barbed wire in order to get to freedom. Hope getting outprovides the courage and the persistence for families to make long journeys through rugged terrain in places like Iraq to get to a better place. It is Hope for a better life for their children that sustain people through the long hours of toil necessary to give their children a chance at a better life. It is Hope that allows the other three candles to be relit if only one waits long enough and has Hope enough. And it is Hope that steels the backbone and steadies the hand in the face of overwhelming odds; it certainly cannot be logic or knowledge.

President Snow in The Hunger Games was right to call out Hope as the biggest threat to his reign. People with Hope will overcome fear and great odds and will eventually prevail. Once they have tasted victory, they will move on relight to the candles of Faith, Love and, eventually, Peace. I have no idea what happens in the next two episodes of the Hunger Games trilogy, but I suspect that they will inevitably move towards victory for the oppressed people of Panem and the rekindling of the other three candles.

butterfly1In our world one can hold onto Hope for people stuck in places like China and North Korea, much of the Middle East and many places in Africa, plus the places in Eastern Europe still ruled by dictatorships based upon repression and fear. If one were to pray for help for those areas, it should not be that they somehow magically change overnight (that will not happen); rather pray that Hope is kept alive in the hearts and minds of the oppressed. Eventually it will be that Hope that will allow the people to find a way to overcome the dictators and throw off the shackles of fear and repression.

In our own day-to-day lives, it is our Hopes and dreams that keep us going, too. Hope represents our future and having no Hopes would mean having no future. Many of us might Hope for better futures for our children and work to make that happen. Then, we might hold out Hope for our grandchildren’s future, too. As we get older we might shift our focus to Hoping for a long and healthy life and for comfort and security in our waning years; but, we never lose Hope. Eventually, it is the Hope found in our religious beliefs that help us overcome the biggest fear of all – the fear of death.

What are your Hopes? How does Hope help you overcome your fears. How does Hope sustain you?

I Hope you have a great and Hopeful week ahead.


Don’t allow yourself to be imprisoned.

November 22, 2014

Gandhi“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.” – Mahatma Ghandi

The sentiment expressed by Ghandi in today’s quote was echoed by Nelson Mandela years later when he was asked about his imprisonment. He put it this way in his book, Long Walk to Freedom – “I realized that they could take everything from me except my Nelson Mandelamind and my heart. They could not take those things. Those things I still had control over. And I decided not to give them away.”

There are many forms of imprisonment, some involving the legal system or powers that be and some forced upon people by circumstance. One may be incarcerated by the government in most countries of the world, sometimes just for disagreeing with that government. Both Ghandi and Mandela faced incarceration and persecution due to their fights against unjust governments. Ghandi chose the path of peaceful civil disobedience, while Mandela chose to take the fight to the government after becoming disillusioned with peaceful means. Both men were incarcerated from time to time (Mandela for many, many years) and both came to realize that, though their jailers could contain their bodies, they could not imprison their minds. In essence they found that they could not really be imprisoned while their minds could still wander free.

The same is true of people imprisoned in bodies that don’t work as they should. One of the greatest minds of our time – Stephan Hawking – has been imprisoned in a body laid to waste by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, yet his mind has soared to places that others couldn’t imagine and he has made major contributions to our understanding of space and the originals of the universe. Hawking did not let his enfeebled body imprison his mind.

In our daily lives we may encounter many examples of people who refuse to be taken prisoner by their circumstances. Some of these will be our wounded warriors who return from war with massive, life changing injuries. The ones that you often see on the news shows are ones who refuse to let their loss of limbs or other injuries imprison them in a life of dependence or self-pity. They have focused their minds on what can be, not what was or even what is. They have already freed their minds to take flight and are now training their broken bodies to follow.
man mad at himselfThere are also often stories of the victims of crime forgiving their attackers as a way to let go of the bitterness or hatred that might have been their initial reaction. These are often people who have suffered great losses; sometimes just the loss of the sense of safety or security, but, perhaps injury or the death of a loved one. The people in those stories have also reached the conclusion that holding onto feeling s of hatred or bitterness will effective imprison them, as did Mandela. Mandela had a quote that covers that, too. He recalled later the day that he was released from prison – “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” ― Nelson Mandela

For many of us, hatred or bitterness or envy or prejudice, are the things that imprison us; not physically, but in our minds. Those are the chains that we must throw off to really be free. We may be free to move about at will. We may have our physical health and full, normal use of our bodies; but, if we live in a constant state of hatred or prejudice towards others we are in a prison that is far caringworse than those suffered through my Ghandi and Mandela.

How can we avoid our mental prisons or free ourselves from the ones that we might already be in? A starting point is to acknowledge to ourselves that we have some hatred, some prejudice, some bitterness, some feelings inside, in our minds that are imprisoning us and preventing us from freely moving ahead. Once you can acknowledge the issue, the person, the problem or the thing that you have bad feelings about, you can begin to deal with it. A first step might be to ask yourself, why? Why can I not let go of this? Why can I not get beyond it?

Many times, if you ask yourself those questions, you may find that you are still in some stage of denial. Holding on to the rage or the hatred or the bitterness is just a way to put off having to deal directly with the loss involved. If you can deal with accepting that loss first, it might be easier to see that holding on to those bad feelings is doing nothing to help you get on with life. In fact they are your current jailer; and both you and the person who harmed you are being held captive in the same prison cell. Put them aside and walk out of that prison. Saying “I forgive you”, to the person who butterfly 3harmed you frees both of you from that prison.

So, today, free yourself from whatever mental prisons you find yourself in and get on with life. If you are physically constrained somehow, let your mind loose and refuse to be imprisoned by cell walls or a dysfunctional body. Freedom is a concept that lives in the mind, no matter what your circumstances.


Three little words – Not So Fast!

November 19, 2014

I posted a series based upon what I described as three little words that can change your life. I did a whole bunch of posts using three word phrases that can have great meaning in one’s life. Pastor Jack Freed, the retired pastor of my church and the author of the Jack’s Winning Words blog, often supplies the inspiration for my posts in his blog. He also sent me a whole bunch of three word phrases to think about, many of them very challenging. Today’s post – Not So Fast – is one of his suggestions.

The phrase “not so fast” is used quite often is a disciplinary way, as a warning to slow down. It may man rushingbe that the advice being given is not to jump to conclusions about things or people. It may be advising that a task or pursuit be slowed down, so as not to make a mistake. For teens it’s often an admonishment not to get to serious too quickly, usually with a sexual connotation. For children it’s often quite literally an attempt to get them to slow down, before they hurt themselves. Not so fast!

For all of us the phrase, “not so fast.” Might just be good advice on living our lives. We all tend to get caught up in the rapid pace of modern life and sometimes need to be slowed down a bit. “What’s the hurry?” is a phrase that my wife uses with me a lot. She’s right; of course, there really isn’t any need to hurry most of the time. It’s just that I’ve gotten so used to getting on to the next thing that I sometimes don’t take the time to enjoy the thing that I’m doing at the moment. Not so fast!

Sometimes she’ll say, “What else have we got to do today?” Usually there isn’t anything else that is women looking at watchall that pressing, it’s just me trying to get to whatever the unknown next thing is for the day. So, maybe it’s time for me, and perhaps some of you, too, to say “not so fast.” Maybe it’s time to slow down and enjoy what we are doing now and enjoy the people that we are doing it with; rather than always looking ahead to the next thing and hurrying to get there. Not so Fast!

There are things that we can do that almost force us to slow down. Going to a baseball game is one. Baseball just isn’t a hurry up type game. There’s no shot-clock in baseball or any hurry-up, two-minute offense. There are efforts to speed up the game a bit, so as to shorten the length of games; but who really wants to cut short a day in the stand when the sun is shining, the weather is nice and there are hot dogs to be consumed. Not so fast!

multitaskerElsewhere in life there are endless examples of things that we enjoy more when we take the time to give them our full attention and time. Even in our work lives the rush to get something done in a hurry often leads to more mistakes than good. We fool ourselves into believing that we can “multi-task”, when all we are really doing is screwing up multiple things at one time. In our personal relationships, one of the biggest reasons, I believe, that so many marriages end in divorce is that there was a rush to the altar before the relationship had been given time to mature beyond the physical ardor and into true affection, understanding and love. Not so fast!

In our daily lives we hear terms like “getting a rush on” or “being on the fast track” or “getting up to speed” and “full speed ahead” to describe success, or the path to success. We have speed dating,chasing brass ring because we need to make quick decisions and get on to the next candidate. We have Fast Food places with drive-through windows so that we can eat in our cars or carry the meal home. Many of us are now connected 24 X 7 through our ever present devices and constantly temped to take a quick peek to see if we are missing anything. We spend more time seeing that we are not missing anything else than actually doing what we might be currently engage in. Not so fast!

I have slowed my pace a bit (though not enough for my wife, yet) as I get older and I try a bit harder to focus upon the moment and not worry about the future or what else I might be missing. I still check my phone way too often to see if there are new messages; although, I do note that most man relaxingnew messages are n no importance and just get deleted right away. I wasn’t missing anything anyway. I’m trying to take my wife’s advice and slow down to enjoy the moment. In other words, I’m trying to live my life – Not so fast!

What about you? Are you still on life’s treadmill with it set for an uphill run? Are you looking past the moment to see if there’s anything else to do? Are you enjoying the people you are with now or constantly looking for someone else. Here are three little words that can change your life – Not so fast!