Are you upbeat or beat up?

December 16, 2015

I got that little saying in an email from Michael Angelo Caruso. Michael is a sales trainer, a speaking coach and motivational speaker. You can learn more about him at his web site. I met Micheal at a Rotary Club function a couple of years ago. He was billed at that event as “The World’s Best Speaker.” It was a title that he gave himself and which he uses to get himself motivated to speak at events. He is one of the best speakers that I have seen. Michael went on to write in the email:

“The French novelist, Jean Giraudoux once famously said, “If you can’t be sincere, fake it.”

The same is true for enthusiasm. It’s hard to be upbeat all the time.  Some people wake up enthusiastic and go to bed that way, too.  The rest of us have to work at it. It’s worth noting that we attract like-minded people, so it’s a good idea to put a little effort toward being more upbeat.”

Energizer BunnyAll of us fall on the enthusiasm spectrum somewhere between the Energizer Bunny on the upbeat end and Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh on the beat-up end. You’ve probably met a few people who were almost disgustingly upbeat and enthusiastic and most of us know someone who is alwayseeore down on themselves and complaining about everything that is happening in their lives. At one end is upbeat and at the other is beat up. Which end of that spectrum would people that you meet during the day place you at on that spectrum? Why?

One doesn’t have to act like a cheerleader on a Starbucks overdose to be considered upbeat. The easiest way to be considered upbeat is to smile. sad looking manunfortunately, most people don’t realize that their “at rest” facial expression is anything but a smile. It takes a conscious effort to smile. Most people don’t look as “neutral” as they think when they’re not smiling; in fact, many look unhappy, maybe even angry or in pain. Just look in the mirror without trying to put on any particular look and see what others see. Where do you think that “at rest” look puts you on the upbeat-to-beat-up spectrum in other people’s eyes? How attractive is that?

When people look at you; if you have a smile on your face, it may make them smile, too. They wonder what you’re so happy about. They want to meet you so they can ask about that smile. When they see a frowning or angry looking face, they want to avoid you and not get involved ingirls hugging whatever it is that has made you so down. People avoid eye contact with others who look like they’re mad or sad. As Caruso points out (and most life coaches agree), people tend to gravitate towards like-minded people and a person’s visage is the first indication of that likeness. If you’re in a happy, upbeat mood you want meet and share that feeling with other happy, upbeat gloomy guypeople, or at least those who look that way. You don’t seek out Mr. Grumpy to share your upbeat mood.

So, you have a choice every day to leave the house and go out into the world looking like someone that others would want to meet and interact with or looking like someone with the plague who should be avoided at all costs. Your demeanor is shouting, “Hey, let me share my joy with you” or it’s warning, “Stay away or I’ll probably bite your head off.” You might as well have a sign hanging around your neck with those quotes on it.

Caruso also had some advice for people to help them get in a happy mood or at least fake it until they can. He suggests that in talking or writing, to sound more enthusiastic use strong adjectives in front of your nouns. So it is not just a day or even a great day but a REALLY great day, maybe even a SUPER day. How can you wish those upon someone and not sound upbeat? When someone asks how you are; don’t just say OK – say I’m walking manFANTASTIC and say it like you mean it. If nothing else, they’ll wonder what got into you to make you so happy. An interesting side-effect of doing that is that you’ll start to feel that way once you’ve said it a few times; because your mind will begin to supply you with the reasons that you are feeling fantastic. Not only that, but other upbeat people will start associating with you, because, as Caruso says, like-minded people attract each other.

So take an extra moment before you leave the house this morning and put smiling dogon a happy face; tell yourself that you feel FANTASTIC; and get ready to greet the world from the upbeat end of the spectrum. After all; that’s where the rainbows end, and not in the gloom at the beat-up end of the spectrum. Have a GREAT and HAPPY day. I feel FANTASTIC and I hope I see you today, so that I can share my upbeat mood.

The mirror doesn’t lie; but it doesn’t show the whole you…

December 15, 2015

One of the regular readers my blog posts sent me a nice note about my last post – Who are you? In the comment she mentioned that she will ask that question as she looks in the mirror and hopes that she likes the answer.

Unless the mirror that she was referring to is in her mind she may be looking in the wrong place. We spend entirely too much time physically looking at ourselves in the mirror, ugly mirrorbecause we believe that it shows us what the world sees when they see us. Wrong. The mirror provides a mere glimpse of what the world sees when it encounters us. We do not come into focus in the eyes of others until they get to know the parts of us that the mirror cannot reflect. We look and we see “I’m too fat or my ears are too big or my hair is terrible today or my clothes aren’t the latest style or I’m ugly or I’m not this or I’m not that.” Why do we do that to ourselves? Because we lack the self-confidence to just say, “this is me, take me as I am and get to know me”.

Maybe instead of starting out the day insecure with how we look or how we are dressed, we need instead to adjust how we are going to act towards others. One little quote that I saw provides a great starting point for every day –

“Be the person your dog thinks you are.”  (Lab Rescue)

For non-dog people, this may be a bit hard to grasp; however, dog people know that a dog excited dogis the most undemanding and appreciative companion that you could ever have. Dogs love their owners and that love expresses itself in happy tail wagging and licking and jumping and excitement at their every return after being way. They are genuinely happy to see you. Dogs don’t judge you on your looks or your clothes; they judge you on the affection that you share with them and they reward you with unconditional love in return.

Now, it’s not recommended that you jump around excitedly and lick the people that you meet during the day, but you can be genuinely happy to see them. You can show your interest in them by being an attentive listener and engaging them in meaningful conversation, rather than the meaningless banter that goes along with air kisses in too many modern encounters. You could put away your smartphone and actually talk. You could ask about their family and tell them about yours. All the while bits and pieces of wholook in miror you really are will be revealed in ways that the mirror could never show them. They will begin to see the real you. The mirror doesn’t lie, it just doesn’t show the whole truth about you.

So, the secret is to worry less about how you look and more about how you interact with others so that they can see the real you. Beauty is not really just in the eye of the beholder, it is in the mind’s eye, too. Your beauty is expressed through your words and actions. You may have heard someone called a really beautiful person when it had nothing at all to do with how they look. That is an inner beauty that will never fade and will always outshine whatever the mirror tells you. Bring that beauty to the surface every day and let it shine.

Interesting things happens, when you really get into believing in your inner beauty and letting it out; you begin to see differences in the mirror, too. It begins with the smile that comes with feeling good about yourself and it continues with the self-confidence to dress andhappiness act in ways that also makes you feel good. You may lose a few pounds, not because you thought you were fat, but because it makes you feel better. You may try a new hair style, not because you’ve seen it on some model in a magazine somewhere; but, because the new style is more about the “you” that you want to be. People will notice, too, that you carry yourself differently – confidently and with more pose. Why? Because you feel good about yourself and you want to share that good feeling with others.

So, when you look in the mirror in the morning and ask “Who are you?” let your immediate answer be, “I’m going to be someone that I’d like to meet, if I met me on the street.” Be the beautiful, loving and caring person that your dog thinks that you are – because you are. Have a great big beautiful day!

Who are you?

December 14, 2015

“Who Are You?”, composed by Pete Townsend, is the title track on The Who’s 1978 album, Who Are You. Black Sabbath did a song with the same title in 1973, which was written by Ozzy Osbourne, for their fifth album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, but it is not even close to being the same song – check it out.

mystery womanMany of us spend a lifetime trying to figure out the answer to that question. Some wander about “in search of themselves.” Some just can’t seem to like the person that they see in the mirror and continually try to be someone or something else. Some turn to alcohol or drugs, which just add to the fog of not knowing who are you?

Many men see themselves primarily within the context of their jobs or careers. They know where they fit within an organization. They have a boss and co-workers and many have clearly defined roles, which they get comfortable fulfilling. Those men often have serious problems coping with life if they are suddenly removed from the comfort of that setting, mystery personthrough a layoff or a retirement. Military veterans especially have that issue when they get out of the service. In the service you always know who you are what is expected of you. You have an infrastructure all around you and cohorts sharing your experiences. Leaving that structure is particularly hard on those who have served their country. They knew who they were and they don’t know who they are now. Sure they have roles at home, with family and friends; but it was at work or in the service where they could identify and really answer the question, who are you?

Many women seem to have a more balanced view of who they are and what roles they play. IF asked, “Who are you?” they might just as quickly
mystery girlanswer that they are a mother and a wife as they would identify what they do at work. They might express their identity in terms of friendships and roles within their day-to-day lives that have little to do with work. More and more, of course are in the workplace and achieving great success, but fewer than men seem to be as dependent upon their place within their work organization for their sense of identity; to help them answer the question, who are you?

I’m not sure when we start focusing enough attention upon our identities to start asking ourselves who we are. I suspect it’s sometime around Middle School age, when we starting encountering a more structured environment in school and within the social structures that fall out of that environment. We are in this group or that group. We are an athlete or a geek or maybe a Goth. We may run with the “in crowd’ or be called a loner. Perhaps we start worrying about who we are at the same time that exclusionothers start trying to classify us and either welcome us or exclude us from various groups. Certainly we become more aware of the exclusions and perhaps more concerned about “fitting in” somewhere, with some group. It is through membership to those groups that we begin to formulate the answer to the question, who are you?

There’s an interesting saying from Mitch Albom, author of the book – The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto – “Everyone joins a band in this life.  Only some of them play music.” 

Mitch is pointing out that all of us join various organizations, either formal groups or casual bands of people. Our membership in those groups or band serves to add to our sense of identity. Albom is also saying that the bands are made up on many people with different roles, only some of whom actually play the music. Many of the members of th4e band are called “roadies”. These are the people who travel with the bands and do all of the behind-the-scenes set up and teardown work that is needed to put on the show. Most of us are probably roadies in the groups that we belong to and not the ones who go on stage and actually perform. Being roadies in the bands that we belong to adds to the character that is the answer to the question – Who are you?

For most, the biggest influence on who we are comes from our significant family relationships – child, spouse, parent, caregiver.  Those roles change over time and there is again a great difference between the influence and sense of identity in our lives based upon the sex of the
family grroupperson. There are few (but it is not unheard of) instances in the animal world (including mankind) where the male is the caregiver to the young. The roles of wife, mother and caregiver strongly impact the sense of identity for most women; while most men focus more on achieving identity from their role as “breadwinner” – the great hunter for the family. With that mantle comes the requirement to be more stoic; more focused upon success in business and less on empathy at home.  Caregiving takes a back seat to providing the means to survive and prosper. Standing off and watching from afar all too often takes the place of being involved and helping at home. The home becomes the man’s “castle” whereas for the woman it might be viewed as her “nest”. It’s not the best answer, but for many it is the only answer that they can see to the question, who are you?

Eventually, we all get old enough and perhaps wise enough to finally get comfortable with a self-image that is a composite of all of the roles that we play. For many men that time comes after retirement and getting over the shock of losing that portion of the identity that we thought we had. Many look back in regret at all of the missed opportunities to play bigger roles in the lives of their children or perhaps to have done a better job as a husband. Some wives may look back at the importance of the role of mother and regret that it overpowered the role of wife. Most let go of that past and embrace the new reality of making the best of the time that remains to take on the identities of grandparents, loving spouses and grandparentscaregivers. You have another chance to provide a new answer to the question. It is perhaps that time that you also conclude that who you are is less about how other people want to classify you and more about being comfortable in your own skin and in roles of your own choosing. It turns out that you finally know the answer to the question, who are you?

Whenever you get to that stage in your life and figure out who you are, make the best of it and try to be the best person that you can be for and with those around you. Be someone who cares and is cared about. Be someone who loves and is loved in return. Be confident in yourself and mystery headyour place in life because you are living a meaningful life, helping others, sharing with others, loving others. Who are you? It’s not a question with an answer; it’s really about where you are on the journey that you are taking through life. Love yourself and be someone that others enjoy knowing and you won’t worry about the answer to that question anymore.  Have a great week ahead. You know who you are.

What will you find today – a way or an excuse?

December 10, 2015

“If it is important to you, you will find a way.  If it is not, you will find an excuse.”  (Kermit the Frog)

Creative people like Jim Henson and many cartoonists seem to also be philosophers of sorts; or at least they often come up with lots of the muppetsmeaningful and pithy advice. Today’s little saying, which I saw on my usual source for good sayings – the Jack’s Winning Words blog – is from the mouth of Kermit the Frog , but from the mind of Jim Henson, the inventor of the Muppets.

It is true that it often the case that things that we say we are going to do are not really that important to us and so we find excuses when we end up not going to gym or not attending an event or not finishing a project or not showing up to support a friend; even though we initially said that we would. If we are honest with ourselves we would admit that had we really wanted to do those things we would have found a way. It is also a bit sad when we look back on what we did instead and realize that we selfishly wasted the time with meaningless self-centered activities or no activity at all. That’s the time for the coulda, woulda, shoulda guilt trips that we too often take.

One reason that so many people find an excuse instead of a way to get looking afraidsomething done is their fear of failure. They somehow rationalize that doing nothing is better than trying and failing. They don’t think about finding a way through or around the potential for failure, they just imagine that they will fail and that scares them off. For others the roadblock to taking action on something is the constant feeling that there is something else out there that is better, more fun or more rewarding to do. Many times these are the people who end up doing nothing at all, because they couldn’t make the decision to try any one of the alternatives. Do you know people like, that? Are you one? For others it’s not the fear of failing so much as the fear of living that stops them in their tracks. They imagine all sorts of horrible things that could occur if they put themselves out there to try something. Those types of fears are whet the terrorists of the world feed upon.

So, what’s a person who is frozen in inactivity to do about overcoming the obstacles to getting things done or accomplishing one’s goals? There are lots of success coaches out there that will tell you that a key component to success is focus. You must focus on your goal or the task at hand. You
must concentrate your mental and physical energy on accomplishing whatever it is and not let you mind wander off into the weeds of thinking about dangers or failure. That is not to say that you should ignore any dangers, but rather that you should stay focused upon doing the right things that will avoid then and still get the task done. If you focus upon understanding the dangers and put your mind to making sure that you do not allow them to happen as you progress you will still have your eye on the goal and not become focused upon the risks/dangers.

A technique that many life coaches use (as do most successful athletes) is visualization. They teach you to visualize yourself being successful. They visualizingadvise you to use that visualization to practice what it is that you need to do and what you need to avoid. See yourself making that presentation that you’ve sort of been dreading. Watch yourself being successful in your attempt to ask out that person that you really would like to date. Play back the steps necessary to get to your goal time and time again and “see” the success at the end that you desire. If you can visualize it, you can accomplish it is sort of the mantra of that approach. Visualization helps you find a way and avoids allowing you to find an excuse.

So, if you happen to be reading this post before you head out for your day happinessat work or whatever you have planned today; start out your day by visualizing success or fun or happiness in whatever is in store for you today. If you’re having trouble seeing the way to success, you can always ask for a little help before you start the day. Maybe a short little prayer
that just asks “Lord, help me see the way today” will allow you to put aside your anxieties and step of on the right foot. After all, you’ll have the help of the best life coach of all.

Have a great day! See your success and happiness before you start.

The devil made me do it…

December 9, 2015

That little phrase that is oft used in our society came to mind when I saw this quote from the Jack’s Winning Words Blog so time ago –

“Don’t allow yourself to be overcome by evil.   Take the offensive.  Overcome evil with good.”  (The Bible)

Sometimes we are overcome by evil or we do things that are evil and we look around for a scapegoat. If we find no one else to blame we may say – “The devil made me do it.”

How convenient and how illogical is that. You see; if you profess to believe in the Devil, that sort of means that you also buy into the other stuff that comes with the Devil – God, Jesus, salvation, etc. You really can’t just selectively say that you believe some of the stuff that is contained in religious beliefs. So that also means that you buy-in to the notion of God giving mankind free will – the ability to make choices on their own. So, if God gave us free will; where do you see anything in the Bible that says that He gave the Devil reign over that free will? It’s not there.

devilSo, the fact is that the Devil may have tempted you; the Devil may have enticed you; and the Devil may have somehow made it easier for you; but the Devil didn’t make you do it. You did it of your own free will. Rather than say that the Devil made you do it; admit it – “Oh crap, I did that and I’m sorry.” Then take the advice in today’s quote from the Bible and take the offensive to make sure that you do not allow yourself to be overcome or tempted by evil (The Devil). Do not choose to join the Dark Side. Take the offensive. Use the Force of your faith to overcome the temptations and allure of the wrong things. There is strength to be found in doing the right things.  There is only surrender and helplessness to be found in doing the wrong things. After all, who has ever feared being caught doing the right things?

The Devil may not be real for you, but evil exists in many forms and none of them lead to positive results that you will feel good about tomorrow. Evil is always a choice, never a foregone conclusion. Not only should you choose wisely, but there are real rewards in taking the proactive step of overcoming evil with the good that your actions show to the world. Do not allow yourself to be a disinterested by-stander to evil either.

Watching something wrong happening, especially to someone else, and dong nothing is as wrong as being a part of the act itself. If you see bullying, jump in and do something to stop it and to protect the personbully.png being bullied. If you witness domestic violence speak up and try to get help for eh person being abused. If you see someone being wronged because of a disability or other factor that should not be used to judge, speak up and try to help. Maybe the devil didn’t make you do those things; but maybe he’s the one holding you back from doing the right thing. The Devil didn’t make you do it; maybe he just made it attractive for you to do nothing. Take control and take your free will life back from the influence of the Devil. Do the right things!

Have a great and free-will week. Here’s hoping that you ignore the Devil and do the right things to overcome evil with good.

Good times and bad – which is the greater test of your faith?

December 8, 2015

When tragedy strikes or the unexpected bad things in life occur, people often say that it’s a test of the faith of the person to whom it has happened. It is certainly true that bad things that cause pain and suffering and sadness tend to bring one’s faith to the top of mind. For some it is a time of questioning that faith. How could God let this bad thing happen? girl cryingWhat was God’s purpose behind taking someone that we loved away from us? Why is this happening to me? Where are you God?

Do hard times or tragic events test our faith? Maybe; or maybe it strengthens our faith. Maybe we find that the only comfort that we can find during those times is found by turning to God and seeking the strength that we need to get through it all. For many, tragedies become defining moments for their faith. They turn to God because there is nowhere else to turn that makes any sense or offers any comfort.

But what of the good times; the day-to-day regular times in our lives where we are not facing some unexpected adversity or tragedy? For many the good times may actually pose a greater threat to and test of their faith. Complacency is a far bigger challenge to our faith than adversity. When everything is good, we tend to lose focus upon faith. We may not spend prayingtime praying or asking for help. We may not spend any time reading the Bible or thanking God for what he is giving us on a daily basis. Our prayers8 at meal times or at bed time may become perfunctory recitals of memorized words with little thought or meaning behind them.  The Devil lurks in the shadow of complacency and lures us away with the promised rewards of the good times. It is easy to wander away from God during the good times.

So I would submit that the good times are the greater test of one’s faith, just as doing the right thing day-in and day-out it is the greater test of one’s character than how one reacts to the unexpected adversity. Emergencies and tragedies both serve to focus us and our character and faith carry us through both; but, becoming complacent and ambivalent about things leads us to start taking things for granted or forgetting to be thankful for the peace that we might be experiencing.

The counter to complacency is the practice of good faith habits – setting bibleaside some time for daily prayer, or perhaps to read the Bible. It involves making a daily effort to acknowledge God’s role in our lives and to give thanks for the things that we have and for the lack of hardship or suffering or loss that God has blessed us with. There will be time enough to call upon our faith during dark periods; but we must also stay focused during the good times, so that we keep our faith strong and at the ready. There is a saying about character from J.C. Watts that I like – “Character is doing the right things when no one is looking.”

I think our everyday faith is much the same and I might be phrshield of faithase it this way – “Faith is living like you believe in God, even when there is no emergency.”

So, face the daily test of your faith by developing some good faith habits. Don’t just call on God for help in emergencies. Call on Him every day, maybe just to say thanks. Here’s hoping that you pass the faith test today. Keep the faith!

When making a difference makes all of the difference…

December 6, 2015

Most people spend most of their lives trying to meet expectations for themselves that were set by others. We go to school or learn a trade because that is expected of us; usually by our parents and peers. We find a mate and get married, because that is the natural state of things that are expected. We have children of our own and strive to give them “all of the things that I never had”, because that’s what parents do. We strive to get ahead, to get promoted, to make more money; so that we can buy more things – a newer car, a bigger house, a college education for our children and lots and lots of stuff (which usually ends up in a yard sale someday), because we have to keep up with the Jones.

At some point, usually fairly late in the game, we realize that most of what we are doing is making little to no difference in the world around us.  Hunger and poverty and homelessness are still there, all around us. We realize that we have been totally focused upon meeting our needs and have given very little time or attention to the needs of those around us. At church we took on one of those background roles that receive mention in the credits that role up at the end of a movie – the role of “man who sits in pew and gives money”.  Maybe we drop a buck or two into a red kettle one a year or send a check off in support of Breast Cancer Research. Perhaps we drop the old clothes or other items that we no longer want off at the Salvation Army Store, or at least the things that didn’t sell at the garage sale. Maybe we even volunteer once a year to stand on a street corner and donate 2collect money for some worthy cause (just so long as it’s not too cold or rainy).  All of those things are good and they do make some difference; and, best of all they allow us to feel good about ourselves, for a short while anyway.

Did you ever think about where that money that you gave goes, who uses it and what do they buy with it? Some charities, like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army do a good job of showing donors where the money goes and what they are buying with the money that you gave. That makes you feel good again, for a short while. But that feeling passes and sometimes you may wonder why? Maybe it’s because you realize that your giving was just a substitute for actually doing something. You aren’t out there making a difference; but, hey, you paid someone else to do it for you; so you’re good, right? Certainly, giving to good causes is great. The good that is oft done with the collective donations of hundreds or thousands of people is real and does make a difference. After all, your ten dollars may have gone to buy a Petri dish so that a cancer researcher could perform one more experiment, maybe the one that finds the cure. You will never know that the Petri dish that your donation bought was used to make that difference.

But what if you spent a morning or afternoon serving meals to homeless people at a local shelter or maybe you spent the day delivering Meals-on-Wheels meals to shut-ins who otherwise may have gone hungers? What if you volunteered on weekends to visit with elderly residents in a local assisted living facility? What if you volunteered to relieve a caregiver who is caring for a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease? What if you cared so much that you dedicated your life to serving the needs of wonderingothers? Do you think that making a difference in those ways would make a difference in your life? Do you know someone like that? Do you wish that you could be someone like that?

The fact is that you cannot solve world hunger or cure all of the dreaded diseases of the world. You cannot help everyone that needs help or feed and clothe and house every homeless person. But, the good news is that you can help some. You can feed and clothe and find homes for some. You can make a difference for some and that will make all of the difference in your life. There is a movie just out about Mother Teresa‘s work in India called “The Letters”. I have only seen the trailers for it, but I love the part where her superior tell s her “You can’t save them all”, to which Mother Teresa replies “I can try.” You can’t be a Mother Teresa, but you can try.

There is a lady locally who has dedicated over 15 years of her life to helping the developmentally challenged adults in our area live as much of a “normal” life as they can. Patricia Peters is the current Executive DirectorPatricia Peters of S.A.L. (Supportive Alternative Living) in Milford. She joined S.A.L. in 1994 as a care giver and now runs the local organization. S.A.L. provides the staff to assist and advise and care for adult developmentally challenged people who might otherwise have to be placed in a group home or a facility of some sort.  S.A.L. does what is necessary for each individual to help them maintain an independent home. For some that is 24-hour on-site care and assistance, for others it may just entail providing advice or something as small as a ride to work or to the doctor.

The work that S.A.L. does has been funded in the past by funding from various governmental Healthcare programs and by Oakland County. Much of that funding has been drastically cut back. The need hasn’t changed, just the funding to accomplish the work. Patricia has never asked for money through donations or solicited funding through grants; however, the changes in local government funding require that new sources for funding and for staff help be pursued. It was that need and an overwhelming desire to actually being doing things that make a difference that led Patricia’s sister Nancy Frasier to leave her six figure job in Texas Nancy Frasierand move back to Michigan to help as the Development Director (which is a euphemistic title for chief fund raiser).  Nancy is a single mom who is taking a giant leap of faith, based upon her desire to help her sister and to make a difference.

I admire Nancy, and let me say right now that I’m not sure that I could take such a leap. I am sure that  Nancy will make a difference and the difference that she makes will allow her sister  to continue to the make the difference that she make through S.A.L. The organization in Milford currently serves 18 adult developmentally challenged individuals, each with their own home, due to their efforts. You can visit their new web site  and watch the video that explains what they do or to read more about the services that they provide. When you’ve watched the video and read about the services, go to the donation page and see how you can help.

If you’re really moved to help see how you might volunteer to provide some of the services that S.A. L. provides. Many of the adults that S.A.L. – Milford helps live within two blocks of my home, so they are my neighbors. I see them out and about and some of them work at the local stores that I frequent. I can get my head around  what S.A.L. is and what they do. I know exactly where my donation will go and how they might spend the money that I send to them and I can see the good that it would do.  I certainly can’t say that about most of the bigger causes to which I also contribute.

donateI know that I’ve written here about S.A.L. three times now; but, I’ll continue to write posts from time to time to keep them top of mind. S.A.L. is an organization where making a difference makes all of the difference in the lives of their clients and in our community. Visit their web site and donate if you can. You can make a difference, too.

Are you a character or do you have character?

December 2, 2015

Character is an interesting topic to discuss. It is essentially an internal trait that manifests itself in the eyes of others in the form of reputation.  Abraham Lincoln put it this way –

“Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.”

antSome people get reputations that are good. Others may use terms to describe these people such as dependable, reliable, hard-working, concerned, compassionate and on and on. That’s having a good reputation based upon good character. For others the resulting reputation is not so great. Terms used tolazy describe them may include lazy, undependable, a no-show, flaky, self-centered, selfish or diva.

So, while character and reputation oft go hand-in-hand; sometimes people may just misunderstand your actions or lack of action. You may get an undeserved reputation and you sometimes just have to let some of that run off your back. There is an old say that you need to be true to yourself. You know what’s in your heart, even if it never makes it out onto your sleeve.

John Wooden had a good take on the character/reputation duality –

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

You often hear that character is built through hard work or that it comes out of dealing with adversity. Hard work is also what shows off your character –

“Hard work spotlights the character of people: Some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses and some don’t turn up at all.”  (Sam Ewing – baseball player) – seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words Blog.

If you don’t show up at all or turn up your nose at hard work you soon gain a reputation as being a “fair weather friend” or maybe no friend at all. You become a character, rather than someone with character

helping upThen there is the side of your character that begets a reputation for being a genuinely good person, someone who cares and acts out of that compassion; someone who is not just focused upon things and people who can advance their own cause; someone who does not take advantage just because the opportunity presents itself. Abigail Van Buren (of Dear Abbey fame) put it this way –

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

So; what do people think of you? Do they see you as a person of good character or just as a character? Do they see a person who works hard or a person who hardy works? Do they see your shadow or the strong, dependable truck of your tree?  Do you turn up your sleeves and jump in to help or jump back and turn up your nose; or do you just not turn up at all. It’s your character and your reputation and both are up to you. John C. Geikie put it this way

Our character is but the stamp on our souls of the free choices of good and evil we have made through life.”

Perhaps the stamps that we collect on our souls are like the hand stamps passed stampthat you get at an event venue when you leave and want to re-enter; only, in this case, we’re not trying to get back in to this venue, but to get to another, much bigger and better venue; one that we will stay in forever. So, we’d better make sure that we make the right choices and collect the right stamps on our souls. Don’t be a character; develop good character.

Have a great, character building rest of the week.

If not you, then who?

December 1, 2015

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”  (Cain’s answer to God) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Tis the season to be generous, so perhaps you have put your change into a red kettle at the mall or sent in a donation to one of the many requests that arrive in the mail this time of year. That makes you feel good and feel good about yourself, for a while. What about the rest of the year? Do you helperask yourself the same question as Cain did? Are you your brother’s keeper? Is it up to you to give, to volunteer, to make a difference?

We live in a time of declining government help and funding to provide for the needs of the disadvantaged. It’s a time when our elected officials seem more interested in arguing with each other than providing help for those in need. Cutbacks in public spending for everything from mental health care to providing basic services has shifted the burden of caring for those in need to the private sector – to churches and volunteer assistance groups. I wrote about one such group in this area called S.A.L . – Supportive Assisted Living – that provides needed services to allow developmentally challenged adults to live in homes of their own. You can read what I wrote about the group here.

S.A.L. is just one of the many groups at work in our community providing the services and help that are needed and filling the voids left by our uncaring and ineffective governments. They truly take on the role of their brother’s keepers. S.A.L. can use your help as a volunteer or paid staff and certainly as a donor. Other groups, like Community Sharing, the Red Crossseerving others and local churches provide clothing, food, shelter and services to those in
need. We see snippets on the news and then they quickly fade away. What happens to those people when they get back home with their bags of groceries or that new coat? Do we really think that everything will be OK now? We did our part; we delivered the Thanksgiving bag of groceries; now we can get back to our lives. That’s not how life works.

Groups like S.A.L. are there every day, day in and day out; providing the daily care and guidance and support that their clients need. It is that role that has been abandoned by government – the role of my brother’s keeper. S.A.L. does receive some funding through various government programs, but that funding is constantly being cut. Now, you may say; “Well that’s not government’s role”; to which I would rely, “If not the government, then who?” After all, our “government” is supposedly helping handsrepresenting we the people. So it is us who are abandoning those in need when the government abandons them. If your argument is that, “government can’t afford to provide those services”; then how do expect charities to afford to do so when you abandon that responsibility? After all, charities are funded by whom – we the people.

This all leads me to the question that serves as today’s title – if not me, then who? Who is going to provide the funding and the services, if I don’t? Who is going to step up and volunteer, if I don’t? Who is going to vote for better politicians who will care about the real issue in our society, if I diverse handsdon’t? Who will run for those offices and do that better job, if I don’t? You see, it always comes down to the individual. Who else will be inspired to take action if I don’t? Can you answer that question in your life? Do you even ask? Who will if you don’t?

Be your brother’s keeper today – give, call, volunteer, make a difference. If not you, then who? If you want to support the efforts of S.A.L., click here.