Reaching out from the dark side…

June 22, 2015

I get emails about people deciding to “follow” what I’m posting here. I appreciate that others find what I write to be something that they want to read and read more of over time. Hopefully I will be able to keep them interested or amused or both.

I visit every site and blog of everyone who “follows” or “likes” my blog, assuming that they give me enough information to get to their site/blog. Not all do. I may “like” their site in return, but I am so overwhelmed with daily emails now that I seldom choose the follow option, which would result in even more emails every time they post something. I do return from time to time to their sites to see what has been posted, since I was last there.

girl cryingA significantly large number of sites that I visit are filled with posts that have themes that I might classify as “reaching out from the dark side.” These are sites that are posted by people who are in the midst of pain or sorrow or anguish in their lives and apparently find some relief or release in the act of posting missives about their pain or anguish.  I get that. Writing about such things is very cathartic. Many are from what I would describe as “young people” and many are still searching for meaning in their lives. I get that, too.

I’m actually amazed and thankful that more of these people haven’t reached a stage of cynicism where they would lash out and attack a site like mine that may be perceived as having simplistic and overly positive advice for dealing with life. The “don’t worry; be happy” message that I often post may not only fall on deaf ears, but can actually offend those who are intent on being unhappy. By-and-large the people whom I mightsurrounded by sharks anger make up a relatively small group. Most people would rather be happy in their lives, but many don’t know how to fight the depression or despair that they are faced with on a day-to-day basis.

I hope that’s where my little blog comes in handy. The people who don’t want to be helped probably don’t reach out through blogging or most other means of communicating. I think that those who do share their mental state and the things that have put them there are asking for understanding AND help through their blogs. Help doesn’t necessarily mean professional help; most of the time it just means that they would like someone to sit with, to share with and to commiserate with. You can be that someone by reading their blog and leaving a comment or sharing a private message of support. Sometimes just finding a way to say, “Me too”, is enough, because it lets them know that they are not alone.

dark alleyThink of it this way – You are walking down the street and pass a dark alley. From the darkness comes a faint voice
that you hear calling out, “Help me.”  What do you do? Do you hurry your step so that you can get past the alley quicker or do you look in to see who it is that is calling for help? Do you enter the alley and try to help or do you turn instead and walk away? Yes, it is a bit scary. After all I did say that the calls come from a dark alley – places that are unfamiliar to us; places that we’d never go (or so we think), places that are dark. People can appear to be scary when they are depressed, even if they are not standing in an alley.

Life is full of those moments. People all around us are quietly calling for help. Some are calling out from the dark alleys of society (the dark side) but most are just calling you from right next door. These are your neighbors and co-workers, the people that you go to church with and the people that you socialize with on a regular basis. Do you recognize their calls for help? Do they need to scream at you to be heard? Are you so wrapped up in yourself that you cannot see or hear their pain, their needs? When they reach out will you be ready to help or will you turn away and hurry on about your business, afraid to get involved?

And, what if it is you who need the help? What do you think the poor traveler who had been beaten and robbed alongGood Samatitanthe road thought of the people who chose to ignore him lying there, until the Good Samaritan came along? What were those others thinking anyway? Do you relate more to them than to the Samaritan? After all, you have places to go and people to see; you can’t be bothered to help that poor fellow standing at the side of the road with his little sign. Maybe he did something to deserve his fate, you think. He’s not one of us, anyway; so, it’s best to just ignore him and pass him by. Do you think he understood? Do you think he forgave you?

So the lesson is that if you can help you should; because, someday it may be you standing at the end of that dark alley calling out for help or alongside the road with your little sign. Have a great week ahead and keep your eyes open and helping handsyour ear tuned for those calls for help. You can make a positive difference in somebody’s life this week just by answering the call – Hi, do you need help. Can I help? How can I help? Want to talk about what’s wrong? I’m so sorry, tell me about it.

Go for it. They’ll be glad you did and so will you. Reach into that dark place and pull someone into the light of the Son.


Someone is waiting to talk to you today…

May 17, 2015

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”  (Carl Sagan) – I saw that little saying some time ago on the Jack’s Winning Words blog and filed it away for future comments.

saganSagan is one of the great scientific minds of our time and he is certainly right about great things waiting to be known.  Just in my lifetime some many great things have been discovered or done that there would not be enough room to list them here. The pace of discovery has picked up too, as seemingly the more that was discovered the wider the frontiers for even more discoveries. Sometimes I wonder, what took them so long to make the connections between one thing and another in order to see even more things that were hitherto unknown. Sometimes it’s the development of instruments or tools that hold up discovery for a while, but many times it is just man’s inability to see beyond the obvious or the current and to look for something new just beyond what is currently known.

I think the same little phrase could be easily modified to read, “Somewhere someone incredible is waiting to be known.”  Don’t you often wonder, “ I wonder what their story is?”;  as you pass by someone, maybe someone with an unique look or perhaps an intriguing “air” about them. Haven’t you ever seen someone across the room at a party or gathering and wonder who they are and what their story is, what they do, where they came from and where they’re going? Maybe you’ve overheard someone talking about living overseas and wondered how that must have been. Perhaps you’ve listeninglistened to a speaker and thought about what they must have gone through to get to this point in their life.  There are all examples of incredible people who are waiting to be discovered.

While our lives all march forward with time they do not do so in parallel; rather they come and go from all sorts of angles, intersecting our lives for a moment and then disappearing off in their own direction. What makes life really interesting is those few moments of intersection when we can share experiences and knowledge with each other. Many people think their lives to be uninteresting or even boring; but, most have actually done or seen or experienced things that others may not have, so they do have something to share. The problem is that none of take enough time during those moments of intersection with others to really get to know them and let them know you. Admittedly, a chance meeting at a gathering is unlikely to be that opportunity; however, we do get more than that with many people in our lives. How often do we actually explore their lives and share ours?

I wrote recently about conceit and perhaps it is that which tends to drive us to focus upon ourselves, rather than to blah blahexplore what the other person has to offer. If you spend the entire time with with someone them telling them about your trip to the grocery store or the little league game, they may not have time to tell you their story about going to tiger Stadium and meeting Justine Verlander. If you care more about relating your story of your last vacation to Disney World, you may miss their story about meeting the Pope in Rome. Maybe your child’s latest bout with pink eye is more important than finding out from a woman that you meet that her mother went to school with your mother and that her mother almost married your dad; but, you’ll never know that because you never got around to listening to their story.

Then there are the stories of the people that we avoid. The homeless man sleeping in the doorway may have been a successful businessman and a family man – how did he get here? The bag lady pushing the grocery cart down the street wasn’t born on the street. How did she get here? Does she have a family somewhere? What does she need to get back on her feet? How will you ever know if you don’t ask? There are so many people whom we might meet with stories that might help us better understand different perspectives on life, if only we engaged with them in conversations. It is so much easier to sit back and condemn people who pursue the GLBT lifestyle than to engage them in meaningful conversations that might help us better understand. It is also easy to dismiss and avoid those of different faiths that we do not understand, rather than seeking an understanding of their view of God and the influence of faith and religion on their lives.

Don’t you think that the Good Samaritan in the Bible story probably talked with the man that he helped on the road that day and even listened to his story; or do you believe that he just threw a few Shekels at the inn keeper that he took thatGood Samatitan
man to and told him to take care of the robbery victim. Using charitable giving is sometimes so convenient because we don’t have to take the time to actually meet the poor people that our money is supposedly helping.  Just dump a buck or two in the can of the poor guy sitting on the sidewalk, but try not to make eye contact. His sign says that he’s a homeless Vet; did it ever occur to you to ask how the hell he got there after serving his country?

Somewhere someone incredible is waiting to be known; but you’ll have to look them in the eye and listen to their story. Maybe someone will take interest in you long enough to listen to your story. We will all get there someday – to that place where we are hoping that someone wants to take the time to talk to us and listen to our story. Be that someone for someone else today.


Be a rainbow today…

May 13, 2015

“Try to be the rainbow in someone’s cloud.”  (Maya Angelou) When I saw that recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog, I knew that I had to write something about it.

Everybody has cloudy days, sad days, days of anxiety or fear, days of remorse or sorrow, perhaps just boring day; days caringwhen we could use a rainbow to cheer us up. We all also have the ability to be the person (the rainbow) who goes a little out of their ways to cheer up someone else who is having a bad day.

Some people have an almost automatic reflex to help other whom they see are in need; however, for many of us (I count myself in that number) that is not an immediate reaction. We hesitate, reluctant to “get involved.”  Maybe we mumble a few words of encouragement to them as we scurry past or perhaps we give them a quick hug, or utter a brief “I’m so sorry” and then hurry on with our day. We were polite. We were politically correct. We did our part; but we weren’t a rainbow in that person’s cloudy day.

Being a rainbow means actually taking the time to listen to the person having that cloudy day and paying attention. It girls huggingmeans asking that second question and maybe more, in order to better understand the issue that is causing the problem. It means holding on to that hug for a little longer or just reaching out and touching them in a way that says “I care.” It may mean opening up and sharing something from your life – a similar situation or one of equal seriousness to you and relating how you were able to deal with it. It may mean calling upon the Faith that you’ve spent your whole life developing and sharing it with this person. Hopefully, that Faith is the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow.

men huggingBeing a rainbow in someone’s life is yet another area where women seem to have the advantage over men. Women will run towards someone in emotional pain; while men might turn away and try not to get involved. Hugs (at least meaningful ones) don’t come easily for most men, especially if it’s for another man. Yet a fist bump or back slap doesn’t convey the same feelings. And most men hate to relate stories about times when they were down or needed help. They think that shows weakness. The essence of being a rainbow for somebody is being able to reach out from your soul and touch their soul. The rainbow doesn’t come from over there on the horizon, it comes from inside; it comes from the soul.

Pablo Neruda put it well when he wrote in The Book of Questions – “Donde termina el arco iris, en tu alma o en el horizonte?  – Where does the rainbow end, in your soul or on the horizon?”rainbow in between

Perhaps he would agree that if the rainbow actually starts in your soul and reaches out to touch the soul another; and, that is a beautiful thing. So, don’t add to the gloom of the day. Resolve to be the rainbow in someone’s life today. I suspect that just going about your day with an attitude that says “How can I help someone today?” will make your day better too.

Have a great and brightly colored day! I hope that we meet today, so that I can see how beautiful you can be.


Show someone that you care…

April 9, 2015

“People want to know how much you care before they care how much you know.”  (James F. Hind) – I’m relatively sure that this little gem came to me from the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time ago.

I’ve written here before about being a good listener – https://normsmilfordblog.com/2015/03/27/listen-up-people/. Listening is just one indication that you care about the person that you are with and what they have to say. Going beyond just listening and engaging them in a meaningful conversation is another indication.

Some would have you believe that exchanging a quick hug or an air-kiss is an indication of caring about the other person, but in many cases it’s just a perfunctory gesture with little real meaning or emotions behind it. Many people are so
opinionatedfocused upon what they have to say, thinking it to be the most important thing going on at the time, that they miss more than half of the communications exchange that was happening – the non-verbal, body-language parts. Their “let me show you how smart I am” approach to conversations quickly turns off listeners who might have their own opinions on the topic but who need to be drawn out to express those opinions. The know-it-all will wander off wondering why their remarks didn’t resonate better with the silent partner in the conversation; never realizing that their delivery itself showed that they really didn’t care to hear the opinions of others.

So, what can you do to show that you care? Maybe you can begin by focusing not upon what your next statement will be, but what your next question should be. Show the other person that you were interested enough in what they had to say to want to delve into it further and by doing so that you want to understand them and their point of view better. If you cancaring start your next remarks with Why or What or How; you stand a much better chance of both showing that you care and learning more about that person.

Another way to show that you care is by doing rather than just talking. Jump in and help them with something. Volunteer to take a part of the load that they are bearing or the task that they are performing. The old saw that “actions speak louder than words” is true and nothing shows more care than helping. Sometimes there’s nothing that you can do and the best way to show that you care is just to be empathetic and/or sympathetic. People whom you meet who are grieving a loss need that sort of support and care from you.

Sometimes the best way to show that you care is to help the other person find their way back to whatever Faith they have. Many events can take a person to the edge of the abyss and obscure the path back from the edge in darkness. There is lifes stormsno stronger light that can be used to cut through that darkness than Faith. If through your caring touch and conversation you can help them rekindle that light of their faith, you will be helping them on the journey back from the darkness of the depression that has led them to the edge. Show them that you care and remind them that God cares and help them see that nothing is impossible with His help. Perhaps you have a personal experience that you can share with them to help reinforce that message. Show that you care by sharing it with them. I think that you will find that you are as touched and reinforced by that sharing as they are and both of you will be the better for it.

So, what can you do today to show people that you care? Is there someone who has been trying to tell you something; but, you were too busy showing them how smart you are? Are their people talking at you whom you are not really caregiver handshearing? Take some time to listen. Take some time to ask questions. Take some time to get to really know those people and share their points of view. It will be time well spent. Let someone know that you care today.


Listen up people…

March 27, 2015

Today’s quote from the Jack’s Winning Words blog is -“You can’t fake listening.  It shows.”  (Raquel Welch)

A corollary to that might well be – “When you listen, do it for the sake of understanding and not just to build a reply” – as seen on various motivational sites.

The point of both is to focus upon really listening to the other person. I’m sure that mostlistener of us have faked listening to someone, perhaps our parents or a teacher or some other authority figure. They usually catch on and we get the question, “Did you hear what I just said?” Most people answer, “Yes, I heard you”; but, were they really listening to what was said or just hearing the noises that we call speech?  Most don’t appreciate how obvious their lack of attention is to the other party. It shows.

I must admit to being guilty of the second little quote more often that I’d like. It is the distraction of concentrating on a retort that causes one to interrupt the other person by starting the reply before they are finished with their initial thought. It’s rude and shows people talkinga lack of respect for them, but it happens all the time. You see this behavior a lot on TV when two or more people with differing views are placed together and asked about a topic that they disagree about. Often is just becomes a shouting match as each tries to jump in and make a point before the other has finished a thought. We have become a nation where raising the volume of out comments is somehow associated with making them more important or believable.
I’ve met a few very good listeners and it is interesting to watch them in conversational settings. Probably one of the best listeners that I’ve met is Pastor Doug McMunn of the Milford United Methodist Church. If you are ever in a conversation with him you can just see that he is listening – it’s that obvious.Just as you can tell when someone is fakinglistening it, you can also see the level of effort being put forth by a good listener to make sure that they are hearing and understanding your words and the thoughts behind them. Good listeners are almost always very good questioners, too. Since they have focused upon what was being said, they are able to pick out the points that might need clarification or expansion. Bad listeners most often miss those points and may draw bad conclusions or jump to bad decisions based upon their partial understanding of what was said (or what they think that they heard).

So, what can you do to become a better listener?

  • The most important thing, I believe is to commit that you will focus on what is being said for the time it takes; that you will not let your mind wander off into formulating your reply or your next question; but rather take in what is being said in the current moment and focus upon understanding it. One very important way to do that is to focus your eyes on the speaker. It is harder to become distracted if you are looking intently at the speaker. Don’t get creepy about it, but don’t start looking around the room at other people or things.
  • Try to pick out and organize in your mind the salient points that the speaker is trying to make. Conversational speaking almost always includes verbal fillers -“You Know” – or verbal pauses and bridges that may tend to obscure the thought that the speaker is trying to get across and sometimes it takes considerable effort to cut through that clutter to get tot eh central points that the speaker is trying to get across. Stop the speaker and ask for clarification if something that was just said doesn’t make sense to your or perhaps you just didn’t understand it.
  • Let the speaker finish their thoughts before you jump in with any reply. Most conversations have natural points at which a speaker will stop, because they have finished as are now turning the floor over to you for comments or replies. They may even provide you with the verbal clue that it is your turn to speak by asking, “What do you think?”

It’s at that point that you may need to take a few seconds to digest what they have said and formulate your reply or questions. Just that short pause to reflect on their words will let them know that you were really listening. Not all comments require a response or further questions; so saying something like, “Well I understand where you’re coming from on that and I’ll have to think about it” is as good of a reply as any. Other non-committal retorts might include “Well I didn’t realize until now that you felt that way. I’ll have to think about it” or perhaps, “I didn’t know that and I’ll have to look into it further.”  Of course there’s always the old stand-by , “Thanks for sharing that with me.”

man thinkingBeing a good listener is a commitment to discipline that you have to make for yourself. It takes discipline to stay focused, but you owe that focus to the speaker just as much as you would want them to focus upon what you might have to say. Your time and theirs are both important, so don’t waste either. Be a good listener to what they have to say and hopefully they will replay your efforts by listening well to your thoughts, too.

Have a great day and listen up people…


Show someone that you care…

September 17, 2014

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this – “Nothing is as bad as it seems, and nothing is as good as it seems.”  (Lou Holz)  Jack went on to write – Holz is a true motivator of people.  He’s often asked to speak at business meetings, because he makes sense in a down-to-earth way.  Lou says:  “I follow 3 rules.  Do the right thing, do the best you can and always show people you care.” 

I’ve written posts about how we sometimes let our imagination that over and make things seem worse than they are, especially situations relating to confrontations with others. I’ve also written about taking the time to celebrate even your small accomplishments, as a way to keep yourself motivated. Today I’d like to focus on that last sentence that was attributed to Holz – “Do the right thing, do the best that you can and always show people you care.”

I’ve written here about the first two thoughts in Holz’s advice, but not about that last phrase. It’s all too easy to just caring
ignore people in today’s fast-paced world of e-everything. Sometimes it is inadvertent – you just don’t see them or their needs, because your attention is riveted to that tiny screen in front of you. That’s bad.  But, sometimes you ignore people on purpose, because you just don’t want to take the time to get involved in their lives and problems. That’s worse. You are making a conscious decision to show them that you don’t care about them.

Obviously, you can’t take on all of the troubles of the world and all of the people in it; however, for the tiny fraction of the world‘s population that you know personally, it is up to you to show that you care. best friendsYou can’t really blow it off by thinking, “oh, someone else will help them”; especially if they have sought you out to share their problem. I sort of wrote about this topic in my post Reach out, I’ll be there back in 2012 and again in one of my three little words that will change your life posts – I’ll be there. The gist of those posts was to make yourself available when someone reached out for help.

Showing that you care is about more than just being there when there is a problem. It’s also about being there during the good time, to join the celebration for whatever little victory was just achieved. It’s especially important to spouses and children that the things that they achieve at home or in school be recognized and that you show that you care. Successful working husbands often will be rewarded by their companies with plaques or bonuses or other means of recognition; however, there are no awards given to the stay-at-home mom who successfully manages the home and raises the children. She is often left to tag along to the banquets or trips that her husband might have won. You can show her that you care by surprising her with an award of flowers or maybe a weekend get-away trip – something special that says, “I recognize and care about what you are doing.”

The same thought process applies to caring about your parents. Once children get out on their own and have their own families to worry about, mom and dad are often relegated to a few visits a year, maybe around the Holidays. It’s not fishing with grandpathat you don’t still love them and aren’t thankful for all that they may have done for you when you were growing up, it just that you have become too busy with your own life and that of your own family. That’s understandable and as it should be; however, make the effort to include them the important events that your family celebrates – birthdays, holidays and sports or other events that they might want to attend. It shows that you still care and that they are still an important part of your life. It also help’s your children get to know their grandparents and may give them a better understanding about how mommy or daddy grew up.

One way to show anybody that you care about them is to listen to them. We often are too impatient to take our next listeningturn to speak and so we don’t listen to what the other person is saying. This little quote from Bryant H. McGill sums it up well – “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” So, show some respect and show that you care by really listening to what the other person is saying to you. You may surprise yourself when you discover what you may have been missing by not paying attention.

So, show someone that you care today. Call your mom or dad or just a friend. When they ask what you are calling about, just tell them that you miss talking to them and just wanted to see how they are doing. You’ll make them very happy and you’ll end up happy, too.