Do you care enough to actually do?

March 21, 2017

“You can lift the weight of caring by doing” – from a recent State Farm TV ad.

The TV ad that State Farm has been running lately is really heart tugging, which is what it was designed to be. It shows an average Joe is several settings with people and animals in obvious need around him. You can see that he sees their need and feels bad about it, but he doesn’t do anything in the ad. Watching the ad, the viewer can see the growing weight in his heart of caring but not doing. Point taken that it is not enough just to be aware of and care about the plight of others and of animals; you must also do something. Do you care enough to actually do?

We all carry the weight of caring. It is not possible to pass the man on the corner holding man with cardboard signup his ratty cardboard sign that asks for help for him and his family without caring; yet few stop to offer help. We may feel good about holding the door open for someone else somewhere, but too few make the effort to open the door to an animal shelter cage and rescue a lonely dog or cat. It feels good to drop a dollar into a donation bucket outside the local superstore; but only a few actually go to the homeless shelter to volunteer to serve food or offer services. Do you care enough to actually do?

At the end of the day, we may pray and thank God for all that he has given us; but do we think back on all of the opportunities that he gave us to serve others that we chose to ignore. We may even say “there but for the Grace of God go I”; but hold back on saying praying“God, please give me the courage to go there and help”. It’s easy to hurry past the needy or ignore those in pain or despair by looking the other way; after all we’re busy people with lives of our own to lead and mouths to feed. Someone else will provide for those people you may think; or, you can adopt the saying that the University of Michigan basketball team has been using in the NCAA Tournament – “Why no us?” Do you care enough to actually do?

The keys to actually doing something other than just caring are focus and prioritizing. You can solve all of the problems of the world nor meet the needs of everyone that you might encounter in life; however, you can focus on one or a few needs and prioritize them in your life. That may mean finding one person sitting alone in a care home and befriending them. depression4It may mean volunteering for Meals on Wheels and delivering meals and conversations to a few elderly shut-ins. It may mean adopting a pet or volunteering to work at a n animal shelter on weekends. It could mean volunteering to work on a house for Habitat for Humanity or bringing food to your church and then delivering food baskets to the needy at Easter. Maybe it’s befriending that lonely kid at school that nobody seems to like and who seems so down all the time. You know lots of things that need to be done and which you could do; but, do you care enough to actually do?

The point of the TV commercial and of this post is not to send you off on your day with a big guilt trip; but rather to start you thinking about what you can do to turn the care that you have in your heart for other into actions. Many people wait until they are older and helperperhaps retired before they get into volunteer work. It’s great that they eventually did do something about their caring, but it is not necessary to wait. Earlier in life most of us think that we are too busy with work and family to take the time to do work for others, but that is just rationalization. Make your volunteering a part of family life. Take the family with you to do that work. Let your children see and participate in the work that you choose to do in service to others. It is a great life lesson for them and it shows them that you really do care enough to actually do?

Have a great and caring day doing for others!


Reach out and touch…

December 20, 2016

“Strange, isn’t it?  Each man’s life touches so many other lives.”  (Clarence) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Remember when you were little and your mom would take you into a shop or maybe to someone’s house and she would tell you, “Be careful and don’t touch anything”? And even though you were careful, you did touch some things and sometimes something got knocked over and some even were broken. Remember how you felt bad and maybe even cried? Did that make you stop touching things? How about touching people.do-not-touch

Well, life can be like that. Sometimes, even though we’re being careful a relationship that we’ve had with someone else gets broken. Maybe you didn’t set out to break that relationship. Maybe it was just an accident. Then again, maybe it was something that you did knowingly. Maybe you said some things about them that you now regret. Maybe you rejected an invitation or left them off a list of people that you invited to something. Maybe you got to know more about them and discovered some things that are just too alien or repulsive to you to be masked by the things that you liked about them. For whatever the reason, maybe that relationship failed.

You cannot let that failure or a few failures stop you from reaching out and touching others and allowing them to touch you. Maybe you will become a bit more guarded and less quick painted into cornerto open up to others, but you cannot allow yourself to become an island, set apart from others, unapproachable and cold. Man, by nature, is a pack animal. We want to belong to a pack and run with a pack. We are social animals and being social means touching others and letting them touch us. The fact that every now and then, even though we might be being careful, we break something doesn’t mean that we stop trying, stop interacting and being social.

There is a term in social media circles for those who never join in the posts, but who just sign in to the group and read all of the posts. They are called “lurkers”. In real life there are always people who hover around the edges of events like dances, watching from the periphery but never joining in the dancing. They are sometimes called wall flowers. Both of these examples are classic cases of people who look but don’t touch. They are also sadask for dance cases of people who are not touched by others, because of their reticence. If you see someone like that, make the effort to reach out and touch them. They need that interaction and you may be surprised that they actually have the potential to make significant contributions to the conversation, once they are pulled out of their protective, “don’t touch” shells.

In his post today, Jack wrote about the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” and how the main character in the movie, George Bailey, was shown by his Christmas angel how important his life is within the lives of others – how he touched them. Like George, most of us don’t stop to consider what impact we might be having on others. In fact, most of the time we have no idea what the impact is of anything that we have done.

Charity advertisers know how to plug into that feeling by showing you pictures of the people that your donation will be helping, so that you feel good about putting your dollar into the bucket. There is another ad for a breakfast food that shows the person who walking manconsumed that food spreading a smile to the many people that he meets that day. His smile is then passed on to another person and from them to yet another.is smile is then passed on to another an then from them to yet another. How nice it would be if we could see the kind word of greeting that we speak or the smile that we share being spread from person to person throughout the day. Maybe we have to use our imagination, but the ripple effect of you smile or you friendly “Hi, how are you?” does spread far and wide.

There is a theory called “Chaos Theory” that postulates that all things are somehow interconnected. Under Chaos Theory the wind created by the flapping of a butterfly in China eventually has an impact on the weather in America, even though the local impact in China was minute. Perhaps the smile that you share today in America will cause someone else to smile in China a few days from now. Maybe the meal that you provide to someone in Africa today because of the dollar that you dropped in a donation bucket will be enough to sustain a child who will grow up to be a great leader in the future. Maybe the hug that you give someone who is hurting today will be enough to draw them back from the abyss and get them started back to a more normal life. Those things will never happen if you don’t reach out and touch others in some way.

Along the way, as you reach out and touch others, you find that you are touched by othersbeing kind 1 and that they have an impact on your life, on the decisions that you make and on how you feel about yourself.  We all seek the approval of others, but what we are really seeking is to be touched by them – to allow our souls to feel the touch of sharing with another’s soul. The feeling that it really is a wonderful life doesn’t take place unless you allow it to happen by reaching out and touching others and them allowing them to touch you.

Reach out touch and be touched today…

 


Get old; but, never change…

September 14, 2016

“A pretty face will get old, a nice body will change, but a good person will always be a good person.”  (Unknown) – seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Getting old is inevitable, along with the physical changes that go along with that; smiling older fcehowever, a man or women that others might describe as a beautiful human being will remain a beautiful person in the eyes of the beholder, as long as they never stop being a good person.

So, what does it take to be perceived as a “good person?” That is a simple question that is harder to answer than it might seem.

A piece on the Huffington Post had this take on it –  In David Brooks’ viral New York Times piece “The Moral Bucket List,” he shares his own interpretation: “They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued … Those are the people we want to be.”

A Google search on the term good person turned up this rather long list of the traits of a good person on the Web site www.lifehack.org – 15 Simple Traits of A Truly Good Person

BY KYLE ROBBINS

  1. They are honest in relationships.
  2. They complement others when deserved.
  3. They call their parents regularly.
  4. They are polite.
  5. They are kind to everyone.
  6. They are generous with their belongings.
  7. They remember their manners.
  8. They think of others.
  9. They go the extra mile.
  10. They are kind to loved ones.
  11. They smile.
  12. They make the best out of every situation.
  13. They make friends easily.
  14. They don’t take things for granted.
  15. They are consistent.

 

Maybe you don’t have all 15 traits (few probably would, especially the one about calling your parents often); but, you can still be viewed as a good person and view yourself as a good person. Most people who think of themselves as good people attribute a large part of that to their upbringing, to their parents and teachers. Many also include the influence ofpreacher with children coaches or scout leaders or others who had impact in their formative years. For many, their church life – their Sunday School teachers and pastors – help them become good people.

If you read down the list of the 15 traits of a good person you might note that almost all of the traits are expressed outwardly, towards others. The remaining traits work to bring inner peace in life’s situations. Another thing that you might notice is that none of these character traits are things that age will have an adverse impact upon; they aren’t physical abilities or attributes that fade with age. That’s why a good person will always be a good person.

One might ask, “Why isn’t everyone a good person?” If you look at the list again; think about how many of those traits can get pushed aside by selfishness, arrogance or pride. How many of those things can get buried under the weight of ambition or envy. How arrogantdifficult it would be to be a good person, if your life is ruled by prejudices and hate. How easy is it in the rush for material success to just ignore others; rather than being polite and caring and kind? In the back of our minds most of us know what is right, but the demands of  our world often overwhelm us and the temptations are often too great for us to take the time to look back there, in the back of our minds, and see what is right.

The good news is that we all have the ability to be good people. We just have to stop and let that little voice through that is trying to tell us the right things to do. For many that pause comes in times of prayer. We have a wall plaque in our kitchen that reinforces that need for quite prayer. It reads –

Make time for quite moments… for God whispers and the world is loud.man praying

Maybe you can just ask God directly by praying, “God help me be the good person that I know that I can be.”

If you make time to hear God’s whispers; you will always be a good person and that never gets old. Now, go call your mom and see how she’s doing.


Putting another leaf in your table…

September 9, 2016

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog featured this quote – “If you are more fortunate than others, it’s better to build a longer table than a taller fence.”  (Unknown)

Jack went on to write – Battle Creek, MI was once known as the city with the longest breakfast table.  It stretched several city blocks with room enough for all who wanted to come…and the food was free.  In today’s world we talk more about fences than about long tables with room for all. 

It is unfortunate that we hear so much during this political silly season about building a taller fence (a wall, actually) to keep people out, rather than about finding ways to build introducing friendbigger tables to include more people. Today’s quote is about inclusiveness and sharing and not about just trying to protect what is ours and keep it away from others. It’s about inviting others to share the bounty that you enjoy that helps you in putting another leaf in your table..

It is not hard to find people in need. One doesn’t have to look to foreign countries; there are plenty of people in need, right here in America. One has to look no further than the local school systems to see that need. In our local school district over 50% of the children in many of the schools qualify for the free school meals programs. A national program called Blessings in a Backpack was created to send these children home on weekends with enough food in a backpack to feed them for the weekend. There is a local Blessings in a Backpack group that is trying to provide that service and food to the students in need within the Huron Valley School system. . Contributing to that program is like putting another leaf in your table.

helping handsThe message of caring and inclusiveness is not restricted to just sharing food; it is really about helping other whenever and wherever you can, with things other than food, such as clothing or furniture or counseling services or housing. There are many opportunities in every community in America to be a part of efforts to help others, whether they be church related groups or just volunteer community organizations to provide helps and services for the less fortunate. In our area we have a group called Community Sharing that provides a wide variety of support to those who may need a little help. It is a group; that you could join if you are interested in putting another leaf in your table.

Those opportunities to serve are great and very worthwhile; but there is another opportunity to share something other than bread. One’s faith also provides the elca-godswork_ourhandsopportunity to share, rather than to hide or safeguard the blessings that we enjoy because of our belief in Jesus Christ. Evangelism is often considered something untoward and to be avoided. We live in a secular world, where public displays of faith are to be avoided and speaking of one’s faith best left for Sunday’s. Yet silence about the Good News seems somehow to be contributing to the height of the walls around us rather than like putting another leaf in your table.

It would seem to me that one doesn’t have to drop to their knees and begin loudly praying in public to be displaying their faith. Doing the right things, helping others, displaying compassion and inclusiveness are all ways that we can display the faith that we share and being kind 1that we want to extend to others. Doing the little things to help each day when we interact with others and see needs in others is just as important as volunteering once in a while for one of the many charitable groups in our communities. Each of those little acts of kindness and compassion is putting another leaf in your table.

So, I ask you; how long is your table? Have you put the leaves into your table to be inclusive and caring and compassionate? Are you sharing the bounty that results from your belief in Jesus with others? What are the little thigs that you can do today that will result in you putting another leaf in your table?


Be there for someone today…

May 23, 2016

“Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something and has lost something.”  (H. Jackson Brown Jr) – as seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

timidYou will meet many people this week and all of them will be people for whom the little quote above applies. Many of them may also be someone who is need of someone else to share their fears or sadness or love with; someone who cares about them and their situation or condition. Maybe that can be you.

Our typical greeting of, “How are you?” has become such a throw-away line that we really don’t expect an answer, other than perhaps the retort, “Fine, how are you?” We ask without really caring about the other person. If anything, we respond because we want to tell them about our troubles or issues, in hopes of evoking their empathy with our situation.

I meet very few people in day-to-day life who seem really interested in the response to their, “How are you?” question. The more normal interaction is with someone who is chopping at the bit to tell me about themselves ad to share their problems. When I do meet someone who is genuinely interested in understanding me it is almost immediately obvious that their opening question, was just that – the beginning of what they hope to be a dialogue that will answer their other questions, like who are you, what makes you tick, what interesting things can I learn about you and from you? I’ve written here before that Pastor Doug McMunn, Pastor of the Milford United Methodist Church, is one such person.

How can you tell when you’ve met such a person? Well for one, they will spend much more time listening than talking themselves. They will ask short open-ended questions andempathy then intently listen to your answers. They will express empathy or sympathy, while also offering support and encouragement. You will also notice that you start to feel better because you found someone with whom you can share things that may have been nagging at you or even overwhelming you. Figuratively (and perhaps literally), you have found a shoulder to cry upon. You’ll feel better and they will too, for having been there for you.

How can you pay it forward? Be there for someone else this week. Be that good listener. Mean it when you ask the question, “How are you?” Stop and offer a shoulder to cry upon; then offer the support and encouragement that they need to move on in life. Help that person understand that they are not alone in their pain or sorrow or fears. Help them extract those demons and deal with them.

Do you need a hugThere is a rather famous sports clip of the late Jimmy Valvano running around the court after NC State won the 1983 National Championship game (click here to view ). He would later say that he was just running around looking for someone to hug. Many of us are like that in life. We run around through life looking for someone to hug. Be there this week to get and give that hug.


Don’t wait for the perfect situation…

April 5, 2016

“Do what you can with what you have where you are.”  (Theodore Roosevelt) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog recently.

waitingDo you tend to procrastinate because things aren’t just right for you to take action on things? We often hear people lamenting that that can’t do something because the timing isn’t right or that they aren’t where they need to be or that what they can do is not as much as they want to do…so they do nothing. “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” 

I think that Roosevelt’s advice is particularly important when one considers the big issues of our time – the poverty and need that surround us or the prejudices, intolerance and bigotry that seem to be all around us or perhaps or perhaps the pain and suffering of wars and natural disasters that we see on the nightly news.  After all, what can one individual do about those big issues? Take Roosevelts advice and “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” 

You can’t solve those problems by yourself, but you can be a part of the larger efforts thatgiving are underway to help. Join the efforts that are underway by groups like the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Lutheran Social Services or other non-profit groups. Contribute to them or, better yet, join in their fund raising efforts or in the work that they do to collect and distribute needed items of food, clothing or household goods. Volunteer to work on a house that Habitat for Humanity is building. Fill backpacks with food for the Blessings in a Backpack effort to provide food for needy school children who might not otherwise have anything to eat over the weekends. Donate money or food or household items to local groups like Community Sharing. In other words, “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” 

When you see a friend, a neighbor or relative in obvious pain due to the loss of a loved one or perhaps in a state of depression, due to the burdens of life, don’t hesitate, waiting for them to invite you to help or for that perfect moment to offer your help. Jump in and offer a shoulder to cry on, a hug to offer support and an ear to listen to their story. You don’t have to be a physiatrist to recognize their need nor a professional counselor to offer them support or relief; just, “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” 

seerving othersSo, don’t wait for life’s perfect moments to jump in and do something to help. Those moments are now, when you recognize the need and the something that you can do, the something that is needed, is for you to get started and take action. There is a theory called Chaos Theory that postulates that even the flapping of a butterfly’s wings half way around the globe causes an effect on the weather on the other side of the globe. So, be the butterfly and start flapping your wings and your little efforts to fix the problems that you see around you, where you are, with what you have to give will have an impact around the world. “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” 

Have a great and action filled week ahead.


Just be there…

October 9, 2015

“Sometimes we need someone to be there.  Not to fix anything or do anything in particular, but just to let us feel that we are cared for and supported.”  (From a picture of Charlie and Snoopy) That little saying was forwarded to me by Pastor Jack Freed from Jack’s Winning Words. Jack is a big fan of the Peanuts cartoons, assnoopy and bird am I.

For me, today’s little saying conjures up memories of snuggling on the couch in from of a fire on a cold winter night. No words are needed and there is nothing wrong or needing fixing; however, just being there together makes us both feel that all is right with the world. There are just times when having your life mate at your side or in your arms provides a very warm feeling of completeness and contentment. I think that is what Charles Schultz was thinking about when he wrote that little saying in the Peanuts cartoon.

What memories do you have of those kinds of moments? For some it might involve memories of being cradled in our mother’s arms. For others it might be time spent with a nest friend or a loved one. Whatever the moment, cherish those feelings and save them to bring up again and again as needed, when things aren’t going as we would like.

caregiver handsSometimes we play the role of the person who is there to provide the feeling of comfort and safety. Cherish that also. It is one of the most important roles that you will have in life. Caring and supporting others, especially in moments of need is a privilege and an honor, which we should take seriously. There is vulnerability and trust on the part of the person that you are supporting that must be protected and honored. They have let you into their emotional inner-circle, which is a place that few probably get to see. Be kind. Be gentle. Be respectful. Be the person that they believe you to be and play your role, even if it is just sitting there in silence and holding them. Don’t try to fix everything , just be there for them.

Have a great and caring day.