Nothing Changes Unless We Do

Based on a recent phone call, I am aware that my last post on seeing all people as precious brought up some stuff. So, here’s my response:

1) Yes, I am aware that most of us have driven past someone who is stranded on the road.

2) I don’t know anyone who gives money to everyone on the side of the road asking for it.

3) I do not expect to and know I cannot possibly help everyone I see who is hurting in some way or another, but…

4) I can do MORE to help make this world a better place every, single day.

We’ve spent months hearing the news regarding the Penn State sexual abuse scandal and then the devastating Colorado movie shootings last week. Every day, it seems there are tragedies that remind us that life is short and unpredictable and messier than we thought the previous day.

At the gym the other night, I wondered how many people were there trying to relieve stress. It’s ironic that the day’s headlines were plastered on practically every flat screen TV that spanned the enormous room. It seems even at the gym we can’t escape the negative yuck that is swirling around us. Sometimes, we may even feel like there is nothing good or safe or happy in the world. While we can’t ease everyone’s suffering or snap our fingers to take away pain, all hope is not lost.

My God calls us to love one another. There are big ways and small ways we can do this. Every day, choosing to make more of an effort to show love to people all around us proves that we can make a difference. All is not lost. There is hope. There is good in the world.

However, focusing on others is not always easy for me. I am polite. I smile and chat with strangers, but I am usually lost in my own thoughts, which sadly (but honestly) also usually have to do with me. So, this means slowing down my pace in the grocery store or wherever I happen to be and seeing with fresh, interested eyes all that is happening around me.

I heard someone say that nothing changes unless we do. So, here are some easy ways to spread kindness–randomly or not and potentially change someone’s day:

  • Write a thank you note for your mail carrier/ garbage collector and leave it in the mailbox or on top of your trash can/ recycling box (no stamp needed)
  • Buy a box of popsicles and share with those who are working outside on these terribly hot days
  • Open the door for someone
  • If you still write checks, scribble a quick thank you 🙂 in the memo section
  • Help someone load groceries into the car
  • Cut up some fruit and take it to a neighbor’s house/ apartment (it’s a great way to meet those living around you)
  • Write a quick note for your coworker, friend, significant other, or kids on a post-it (they’re inexpensive and you have a pretty good guarantee that it will stay where you leave it)
  • Give a stranger $5 just because
  • Smile

It’s interesting how helping others does something internally for us, as well. Giving someone else a tasty treat can also be a treat for you!

What are some ways you fight negativity and selfishness, in order to bring more love into this world?

*Image from Google

An Unexpected Lesson (Review)

A couple weeks ago we were on our way to sun and fun. Swimsuits, flip flops, beach towels were packed (sunscreen was forgotten–isn’t there always something?). Despite the packed cooler filled with goodies for the drive, we had to make a stop for M&Ms and kettle chips. Oooh, junk just adds to the fun of going on vacation!

It was my turn in the driver’s seat, and Brian settled in for a nap.

If you’ve never driven through South Carolina, let’s just say there’s nothing redeeming during that journey. Flat and boring, boring and flat. If you have to go to the bathroom, take some toilet paper since you might drive for hours without finding an exit or even seeing a billboard. This particular drive felt like the real neverending story without that almost-cute-but-just-too-strange dog-faced creature (children of the ’80’s, do you remember that movie?).

So, I drove on and on and on and saw a green and yellow car on the side of the road, flashers on. Whew! That sucks. It’s such a hot day, I thought and then actually closed the vents, since the A/C was a little too cold. As I passed, I noticed the lone driver was pregnant.

I continued on. We have vacation to start! Yet, as I tried to forget her, I felt a little less excited about getting there and a little more like a heartless heap of snot.

Why didn’t I stop? What could have I done anyway? Who knows if and how far she would have needed us to drive her? This could take all day!

And then, I realized even if I did nothing else, I could have given her a very cold bottle of water from our cooler packed with goodies.

But I didn’t. And I didn’t go back (I felt better since there was no exit anywhere nearby to turn around, but then I felt even. worse. for her since there was no exit nearby).

About a hour later, I passed someone else whose car was parked on the side of the road with the hood up. As I kept driving, he was walking…walking down this monotonous road on this incredibly hot day. At least there actually happened to be an exit about half a mile away.

Once we reached our destination and for days filled our stomachs with deliciousness, I walked past a woman crying for food in a place where people spend money like it truly does grow on trees. Ah, I didn’t have my wallet with me and couldn’t have helped her. So glad I dodged that one! It can be so… awkward.

You know, I still wonder how it would have been if I would have just stopped to talk to her like the couple I later saw who did that very thing. Oh, and on our initial drive, eventually, that green and yellow car sped past us, but I didn’t feel much better.

I was reminded that I have been on the side of the road with a flat tire waiting for help to arrive. No strangers stopped to help me, either. As I sweated in my car for close to a hour, I saw hundreds of cars and trucks speed past my own with a force that shook me.

I have not, however, been the crying woman asking for food.

If I needed money so I could eat, I would want to be seen and heard and treated like a living, breathing and very hungry person.

We see these kinds of situations everyday. While at times I’d like to jump in and help, it’s true to say that most of the time I don’t. Is it just easier to walk as if we have blinders on or to tell ourselves that it’s “safer” to stay away? After all, we’ve heard the stories of people who make the choice to beg for money instead of taking an available job or appear to be homeless with a nice car parked around the corner. And oh, the dangers! (Really, I am aware that putting myself in certain situations is not safe, but this is not my point.)

Our vacation was fantastic for a lot of ways. One unexpected reason is that I have remembered what I teach my students and apparently, need to keep learning and practicing.

We are all people with very real needs and hurts with a desire to be seen and heard and loved. Everywhere I look, I want to really see and treat people as if they are in fact, precious. And newsflash: It’s just not my job to decide if they are being authentic or not.

So, giving money doesn’t feel right? Well, even a kind word and a smile can make an impact.

Is this something you struggle with, too? How do you decide in those moments how to deal with it?

Vacation!

I love getting out the suitcase and heading just about anywhere! Well, all over the past few weeks I’ve been to the beach, visited out of state family and had friends stay for weekend fun.

While I love having time off from anything, I always find myself itching to get back into my own real-life routine. It’s like leaving the exhilaration of being somewhere else for my own kind of comfy comfort. So, I’m back, and I’m thankful you are, too!

Here are some pics from some of our adventures:

Yes, happy birhtday, America!

Eat More Beef at Brookgreen Gardens (we call it Bacon!)

View from Waterfront Park in Charleston, SC

Funny how riding this was my idea. NOT funny how I hated every minute of it despite the air conditioning.

How many people can you fit on a sailboat?

Brookgreen Gardens

I love this! No yard. A few flowers… and a dog door with a window?

Huntington Beach, SC

Having a Place To Go Is a Home

My older brother and I were usually with my dad and stepmom for the 4th of July. There was just something about watching the fireworks from the roof deck of their apartment and then making the mad dash down the seven flights of stairs to beat the rush to Friendly’s for ice cream sundaes.

If we were back at home (with our other parents) for the holiday, we loaded up the car with watermelon and other yumminess after cooking out in the summer heat. We always found a fireworks show and ooh-ed and ahh-ed with everyone else, before sitting in a very long line of cars, all trying to make it home. Still, I love watching fireworks.

After reading my friend Joy’s post this morning, I was reminded of those days of splitting holidays with both families, something that became a part of me–so much that it still feels like something is off if I don’t travel for Christmas or Thanksgiving.

It’s ironic then, that the past two weeks held travels to two homes to see family, which included both sets of parents. One house, I haven’t even seen in almost ten years and wondered how I would feel once there. The other, well, I never lived there, but it is special just the same.

Last night, after some time of catching up, plenty of food and hugs for the road, the car was loaded and the journey home began. There’s something about being alone for a couple of hours. My mind wanders….

There is a framed card on my fireplace mantle that I bought years ago when I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere. The picture is of a dilapidated blue truck with a family’s belongings piled on top. Even with the absence of excess packed in boxes marked kitchen or bathroom, there is happiness. How do I know? Well, the people inside–the ones crammed inside the truck are smiling

The caption says: Having a place to go — is a home.  Having someone to love — is a family.

I am thankful that during those childhood days of the drives and flights back and forth from one set of parents to another I had a place to go. I had two places to go, even though things were not perfect in lots of ways. With two families, I have lots of people to love.

I am also grateful for the ways they love others.

I am amazed by my older brother’s love and strength and humility when it comes to his adopted daughter. His selflessness shines through by just being there for her and loving her and trying to help her navigate her teenage years. He also has been a source of support for my other brother who, well, just needs more support than anyone of us really know.

Then, there is my sister, who has cared for our mom after surgery. She has a huge heart and will get up in the middle of the night to help someone even is she is sick herself or has to work the next day.

For quite a while, my dad and stepmother were the primary caregivers for my aunt, who could no longer care for herself. I doubt this was part of their retirement dreams way back when, but they stepped in and did it anyway.

No one can prepare for any of the tough stuff that happens. It’s just what life hands us. During difficult situations, we find out what we are made of; don’t we?

When everything about life is unpredictable, I know to the depths of my soul how much I am loved.

After driving for several hours through lightning and driving rain, I made it back to my own home sweet home. I am thankful for my own place to go.