What will you do with your opportunities today?

October 16, 2019

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog come s this tidbit of wisdom – “The world is full of abundance and opportunity.  Too many come with a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel.”  (Ben Sweetland) 

This refers to the preverbal “toe in the water” approach to life and the opportunities that we encounter. Far too many allow their fear of failure prevent them from even trying, when opportunity knocks at their door.  Others may be held back by prejudices or misunderstanding, especially in opportunities that require that we interact with someone who is “different.”

The opportunities to know someone else are abundant for most. Just think about the number of people that you encounter during a normal day. Do you come with a teaspoon to those opportunities or do you embrace them whole-heartedly with a steam shovel, open-arms approach? What are your first thoughts when encountering someone new? Are they questions about who they are, where they come from and what fascinating things you might learn from them? Perhaps they are thoughts of fear or distrust and perhaps even hate, because of how they look? Do you go in the offensive to welcome and greet them or put up your defenses to avoid or put them off?

Each encounter with someone new should be viewed as an opportunity, not a threat. These are people who bring with them memories and knowledge about things that you have not encountered. They have back-stories that can be fascinating. They have opinions and points of view that you may never have considered. They allow you to add their perspective to your view of things. They expand your realm of human experience by sharing theirs. You can’t achieve that with an object, a non-human thing. No matter how fascinating it might seem initially, it cannot share with you. Even a beloved pet provides only a one-sided relationship, as much as we try to give voice to them. Only a relationship with another human is one that may be truly enrich our lives through its sharing.

Can you put aside your fears and prejudices long enough to allow yourself a real opportunity for a relationship with someone new and perhaps different? Opportunities often hold out the chance for rewards, if you take advantage of them. The rewards of friendship, companionship and perhaps even love are there for the taking in your encounters with new people. How you chose to share those opportunities for relationships is up to you. Will you use a teaspoon or bring your steam shovel into the relationship? Are you willing to give the relationship as much as you get from it? A lot depends upon how you approach it. The opportunities are all around you. I suggest that you get out your steam shovel and dig in.

Hi, my name’s Norm and I’m glad to meet you.

Just accept me…

December 23, 2016

Recently, I spent some research time trying to gain and appreciation and understanding of two separate groups that are sometimes marginalized within our society.  One group are those with what we classify as brain or mental disorders of some sort, whether it is someone on the autism spectrum or someone struggling with depression or other disorders of that nature. The other group is made up of those living a different lifestyle who identify with being in the GLBTQI community. I posted here a few times along the way (see Trying to understand others without a frame of reference and What does depression feel like. Then I wrote about being there for those in need, Don’t try to understand and don’t judge, just be there.

acceptI didn’t realize it at the time, because I hadn’t gone back and liked for a common thread, but there was a theme that ran through all of articles and posts that I had read and referenced in those posts. The theme is the request from all of the people who may be living in any of those groups that they just be accepted.

As I went back and read more from each blog that I had visited I could see a common undercurrent that said – I do not want your pity. I do not need your “help”. Who and what I am cannot be “cured” by your misguided efforts. Who and what I am is not contagious and I will not infect you. I am not like you; but, I’m not asking you to change and become like me. All I ask is that you accept me.

It is part of our human nature to believe that anyone who is not like us somehow wants toarrogant be like us or would somehow be better off if they were more like us. That belief is based upon the rather egotistical viewpoint that we represent “normal” and be definition those who are not like us mus be sick or somehow are abnormal. So, we jump in to try to “help”; but that help carries demands for change and conformity to what we see and define as the norms of our group, for which we have usurped the title “society”. Behavior that is not like ours is defined as somehow being anti-social and wrong. We feel that we must do something about that. While all the while, the person that we are trying to “help” is saying:

Love me without restriction, trust me without fear, want me without demand and accept me for who I am – Unknown

I certainly hear all sorts of rationalization for this behavior of fear and loathing from people when encountering those who are different. Sometimes it is “Holier than thou” predjuicesappeals to religion or the Bible, sometimes it is just ignorance manifesting itself in fears of catching whatever it is that they find offensive. Many times parental concerns about the influence of these different people on children are sited as the justification for the bad behavior that we call prejudice. Yet that different person is not going to steal the minds of our children or infect the world with their difference; rather they are just standing there and asking you to accept them as they are.

For those living those alternative lifestyles or living with the pain and confusion of a brain or mental disorder, many times the problems caused by being perceived to be different are compounded by those seeking to either avoid them or help/cure them, when all they really want to be accepted and treated as you would want others to treat you. For most, the simplest way to put this is –

Love me for who I am, not for who you want me to be. – Unknown

Christmas is a great time to give the gift of acceptance to all who you encounter. Accept mangersomeone different from you today and maybe you will find that it will allow you to Stretch your mind and grow as a person.

Have a great Holiday season!

Be the thermostat in someone’s life…

December 19, 2013

“You’ve got to be a thermostat rather than a thermometer.”  (Cornel West) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Jack went on to say a little about being the agent that helps cool down heated situations or warm up chilled relationships. I suspect that this is also what Cornel West had in mind when he coined that phrase.

thermometerWe all act much of the time in the role of the thermometer, reflecting the heat of the moment or reacting to a cold shoulder or chilled relationship. It’s human nature to sense and react to things in our surroundings; however, it is an act of conscientious human concern to act more like the thermostat and adjust what is going on in the environment to bring it more in line with the normal.

Things can get heated quickly, whether it’s an argument that gets out of hand or perhaps just a misunderstanding that is carried too far. One can move from slightly miffed to angry all too quickly if there is nothing to moderate the situation. That’s where the person acting like a thermostat comes into play. Someone who can step in and bring the cooling voice of reason to a situation is often the only thing that prevents anger from boiling over into actions or words that would be long regretted by all involved. In many cases the words have already been uttered and neither side can find a way to apologize or take them back.

In situations of chilly or cold relationships, the thermostat provides that spark of warmth to thaw the situation out and allow love back into the equation. People don’t naturally dislike or hate others; they may getthermostat into situations where something – an act or maybe a perceived snub (real or imagined) – puts a chilly barrier between them and someone that they love(d). Sometimes people get trapped by those icy barriers and can’t find their way back. A third party, acting as a thermostat, can provide the initial warmth to melt the barrier and perhaps provide the spark to rekindle the love that was there at one time.

There’s another way to look at this role and that is one that is well defined in a recent series of ads for HAP (Health Alliance Plan) on TV in which a lady who is a HAP Customer Services Rep defines her role in talking to HAP customers as a problem solver – “a human aspirin” as she puts it. She takes away their headaches over healthcare issue. The thermostat role is sort of like a human aspirin role in pained human relationships.

I suspect that the biggest roadblock for most is a reluctance to get involved. It is easier to say, “That’s their problem, let them work it out. I don’t want to seem to be a busybody.” You are willing to just observe the heat or the cold between the parties (or between yourself and someone else, but not to take any action to help).  That’s taking the thermometer approach.

At that moment when you are ready to just take the temperature of things in a situation, but not act; maybe you should ask yourself, “If it were me in this situation, would I want someone to help? If I was in danger of losing the loving relationship with a friend, a wife, a bother or mother or father over this issue or misunderstanding; would I want someone to intercede and help work this out?” You’re not being a busybody; you’re being a true friend – a thermostat in this person’s life. So, be the thermostat and not just the thermometer.