Tag Archives: caring

I’m back! Encouragement for today – never stop trying to make a difference, to yourself and others

Man, what a busy couple of months this has been. Between the normal things of summer, a funeral for a friend’s mother, and the number of hours I have been volunteering at the local ambulance corps, it seems like I’ve been hitting the ground running almost every day.

You know what, though? After almost 13 years of being a home dad with 2 special needs kids, it feels good. Sure, I was busy with them, their schooling and making sure that the school system did what it was supposed to do where they were concerned, but it wasn’t the same. This is just – different. How? I don’t know if I can put it into words but I’ll try.

Working at the ambulance corps has taught me a lot about myself. It’s forced me to move out of my comfort zone (a zone that is reinforced by the fact that I fall somewhere on the autistic spectrum, and so it can be very hard for me to move from the familiar to the unfamiliar) to make new friends and learn to work and be part of a team again, and it’s also taught me that being older isn’t the same as being DEAD.

Did you catch that? It’s not. I was 44 when I received my certification as a New York State Certified First Responder. 44. I am working with a lady (and I am proud to call her that, too, as well as one of the most phenomenal friends I have ever been blessed to have) who is 30 and is a paramedic. Most of the other people in my class were significantly younger than I was. It would have been easy to just back off, drop out and say “Nah, I’m too old for this. Too old to change, to stick my neck out. I waited too long/started too late.” MAN am I glad I didn’t! I would have missed out on so very much, not the least of which was learning an entirely new skill set in order to be certified!

In the short time that I have worked with the Corps I have personally participated in:

  • Helping to ease the worry and concern of people who needed to be transported to the hospital, generally by informing them that I’m the driver and I “won’t do a stitch over NINETY” (That never fails to make them laugh) or some remark about running people off the road if I have to. (That gets a chuckle, too)
  • Reassuring those in distress that we will give them the absolute best care we can, and also to help the families realize that and ensure they know how to get to the facility to which we are bringing their family member
  • Learning to use the ambulance both in non-priority (no lights and sirens) and priority (lights, sirens, and the whole 9 yards) calls, and the safe way to do both. (Contrary to popular belief, you don’t just hit the lights, hit the sirens and stomp the gas)
  • Resuscitating a man who had gone into a full blown cardiac emergency (we’re talking no pulse, heart stopped, the works) and by the grace of God, giving him more time to live and hopefully get those things corrected that had caused it to happen

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Guys, gals, aliens from other planets – whoever is reading this – if you take nothing else away from this, take this away. Until the day comes when you stop breathing for good, it is never too late. It’s never too late to make a positive difference to someone else, or to yourself. It’s never too late to make a change in your life, to pursue a dream, or to learn something new.

The only one stopping you, many times – is YOU.

So, what do you say?

God bless, my friends.

“Fat is Fabulous?” … Enabling vs. Tough Love vs. “Shaming”

This one may get me in trouble.  I concede that. Hopefully people will read this completely, to the end, and not just assume what I’m going to say and switch off. If you choose to, well, hopefully you’ll come back.

A few things I am NOT going to say:

  1. Fat people (or “morbidly obese,” to use the medical term) are all lazy, shiftless, good for nothing’s who care nothing for themselves and are too lazy to stop shoving food in their face. That’s a broad brush statement, and, in some cases is simply not true. I am well aware that there are legitimate disabilities, physical and genetic challenges, as well as side effects from medications and other issues that can make weight gain almost inevitable, and weight loss VERY difficult.  (The flip side of that is that, far too often, that is used as an excuse for being morbidly obese when such conditions do not exist, but I digress)
  2. Fat people deserve to be made fun of, shamed, put down, and otherwise ostracized in public, and at every chance. NO. There are only two groups of people that I believe deserve to have the above things done to them; pedophiles and rapists. (At the risk of sounding belligerent, if that makes me a bad person, I don’t know what to tell you. I’d rather you think me a “bad” person than a dishonest one.) Other than that, I don’t engage in or support the idea that by shaming people, we’ll make them better. There are far too many studies to list that say the exact opposite, especially as concerns people who are already obese. Feel free to do a search for “Does shaming work?” and draw your own conclusions. I never claimed to be the voice of God, after all.
  3. Fat is anything over your BMI. BMI has been shown to be misleading, outdated and in some cases, even dangerous. There are too many factors to being healthy then can be shown in a simple “height vs. weight ratio.” (In point of fact, my own cardiologist told me that should I ever reach MY BMI, he’d be concerned for me because I’d most likely look like a scarecrow) There’s a difference between “plus size” and “obese.” I don’t define healthy (nor do many, actually) by the airbrushed bikini model, or the Barbie doll.
  4. Being fat is o.k., healthy, and if you say anything different, you’re a bigoted, narrow minded hater and you just can’t stand to let people live their own lives.

Like most, you were probably with me until we hit number 4. Number 4 may enter the realm of “Ouch! Wait a second” because it requires two things that seem to be in short supply in our society today  – the ability to show tough love, and the ability to not engage in enabling. Too many people believe that “unconditional love” means you accept every single thing about a person, good and bad, and never, ever say anything about the bad because, if you do, well, you don’t love them unconditionally.

Well, no. That’s not true. It’s not true from a social standpoint, nor from a moral standpoint, nor even from a psychological standpoint. As the image associated with today’s post says, “Unconditional love doesn’t mean you have to unconditionally accept bad behaviors.” The hard reality of life is that being obese is not healthy. It’s not good for your body. It leads to increased chances of far too many health problems for me to list here. Feel free to check them out yourselves: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/risks

So what’s the Boot of Truth? The Boot is this – I am not, for a moment, suggesting that we stop every obese person on the street and start lighting into them about the harm they are doing themselves, or the ticking time bomb that is going to go off in our health care system as all these obesity related health issues come to pass. Not at all. People STILL have to choose the life they live. I am, however, saying that we can take a stand against the Social Justice Warriors who try and spread the lie that if you don’t agree that “Fat is Normal, Harmless and Beautiful,” you’re some kind of bigot by refuting it with facts and refusing to go along with it. Shaming someone is not the same thing as telling the truth, any more than quoting crime statistics makes you a racist because in some areas of the country, more blacks are killed by other blacks than they are by other races or ethnic groups. I AM saying that if you have loved ones or friends who are seriously overweight, love them enough to say something. (In the case of friends, I would also add the caveat that it depends on the level of friendship and trust you have with them. Not all friendships are the same, or of the same depth.) That tired old trope about the husband sleeping on the couch because he spoke about his wife’s weight may be good in a TV sitcom, but will it be as funny if someday, you’re looking down at her in a funeral home because she died of a weight related illness? Wives, would it be worth it if it’s your husband who died FAR too early of a massive heart attack/stroke because he was overweight and “Oh well, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings” or even worse, “It’s not my place to judge.” Would it be worth it were it a friend whom you loved dearly but to whom you never said anything, for the same reasons?

HERE’S A HOT NEWS FLASH – IT’S NOT JUDGING SOMEONE TO LOVE THEM ENOUGH TO POINT OUT WHEN THEY ARE HURTING THEMSELVES. I, personally, have buried far too many people who, had they had someone who cared enough to speak to them (and to be fair, they had chosen to listen), may have lived longer. Not saying something and allowing someone to continue with self-destructive behaviors or harmful behaviors, whatever they may be, isn’t love. It’s enabling. (Do a search for Compassion vs. Enabling. It’s eye opening, believe me)

As much as I find the web page “Rational Wiki” to be distasteful in many respects, I agree with these statements, with which I’ll close:

“Studies have shown that actually shaming obese people really will do nothing to encourage them to lose weight, and will probably make matters worse by provoking comfort eating and other negative psychological effects. The problem comes when HAES (Health At Every Size) advocates interpret genuine, well-intentioned offers of support from medical practitioners or family members as “shaming”, refuse to recognize their obesity as a problem or refuse to even recognize their obesity exists or can (or should) be defined as existing.

There is also nothing intrinsically wrong with self-acceptance, but balanced self-reflection and self-criticism is also an important component of normal psychological well being — “I hate all of myself entirely and I am awful” and “I unconditionally love everything about myself and I am perfect” are almost as unhealthy as each other, while HAES would have one believe that the latter is the right approach, ignoring the more sensible middle ground of reasonable self-critique. Similarly, an obsession with weight and calorie intake to the exclusion of all else is extremely unhealthy (indeed, that is more or less the definition of an eating disorder) but that isn’t what anyone (least of all a doctor) would rationally advocate or is advocating, and it certainly doesn’t mean that completely ignoring calorie intake or weight is a good idea. The real solution is to do what humans are meant to do; eat a sensible, balanced diet rich in vegetables and complex carbohydrates and low on (not entirely without) sugars and simple/refined carbohydrates and processed foods.”

Thank God I have a wife who cares enough to watch out for me, and I for her. Can you say the same, if not about a wife or husband, then about a friend? Do YOU care enough about them, or they about you, to be able to speak to you in love and compassion, or do they have to enable you, or you them, in order to show they “really” care about you?

Think about it.

God bless today, my friends.

“Change, and not a moment too soon!”

Hello all! I haven’t posted in the last short while but the reason has been a good one; I received word about a week ago that I have been accepted to begin a volunteer position with a local EMS ambulance corps. I have, as you may imagine, been busy with taking the necessary prep courses online, as well as getting my physical, being fitted for the necessary breathing filters and the like.

I am very pleased to have been given this opportunity, and am looking forward to being able to put my skills to use in serving and giving back to the community. (That phrase always sounds trite, to me; I wish there was a better one) Fear not, though, the blog will continue, and with my next post I will continue with my theme of giving my opinions and findings on various survival related/preparedness related gear.

Thank you for continuing to check out The Takedown, and keep coming back! It should be a wild ride, from here on out! For those that do, your prayers would be appreciated and, if you do not, your good thoughts and well wishes would be equally appreciated!

See you soon!

 

What happened to humor? Part II

**Note: I came back and edited the title of this post after seeing that my original post used the word ‘humor’ as opposed to ‘comedy.’ I did want it to be a “Part II” and felt that it fit better that way. — The Doctor

For those who may not know, Will Ferrell is set to play the late former President, Ronald Reagan, in an upcoming movie. Listed as a “comedy,” it’s supposed to be a humorous look at the President as he suffers from advanced dementia stemming from Alzheimer’s and is convinced by an intern that he’s an actor playing the part of the President in a movie. (The ‘suffered from dementia’ thing is a standard go-to for those who wish to put down the former President, although as I understand it, the premise has been pretty thoroughly debunked and, conveniently enough, both he and his wife are dead, now)

When I saw a headline regarding the movie, I was immediately reminded of a scene from The Mark of Zorro, starring Tyrone Power. The scene comes at the end, after the bad guy has renounced his seat of power and announces that because “his health is endangered” (meaning he didn’t want to get the business end of El Zorro’s sword!) he is returning to Spain. As he leaves, the priest takes him by the arm and, brandishing a pistol, says the following:

And now, your Excellency, I personally will accompany you to the wharf at San Pedro. I wish to bless your voyage – and ask God to REWARD you according to your MERITS.”

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am not a hand wringing person who feels that just because I don’t like something, it should be banned or not produced. (Well, there are exceptions to that rule, but they are extreme ones like child pornography and the like) I do believe, though, that there are some things that simply are not funny and are not subjects for comedy. In this instance, I am not alone. The responses to the movie seem to be along the same lines; both friends AND foes of Reagan; admirers and detractors, are coming forward to decry the premise for one simple reason. Alzheimer’s is not funny. People who have watched loved ones degenerate, not recognize them, and then finally waste slowly away and die can tell you that. 

But even with that being said, I’m an equal opportunity kind of guy. How about a humorous movie about that AIDS thing? I mean, it’s been some 30+ years since that came on the scene. I’m sure a joking movie about Freddy Mercury’s life and contraction of AIDS would be o.k., right? How about a funny movie about Steve Jobs dying of cancer? Hey here’s one – think of the laughs, as one comment said, if we did a movie about a member of a prominent family who wrecked his car and left a young woman to drown in it. As he comes out of the water with a neck brace, he exclaims, “It needs more cowbell!” Think of the hilarity! Or how about a funny movie about suicide? I mean, we could do one on no less than the funniest man on Earth – Robin Williams. That would HAVE to be humorous, right? Or rape! Now THERE’S a subject I’m sure you could get big laughs with.

No? What’s the difference? I mean – what’s it matter? Make fun of disabled people, mental retardation, children with things like Down Syndrome – it’s just a joke, right?

The Boot of Truth? Yes, there are those who feel that literally ANYTHING is fair game for comedy. I am not one of them. Some things are better left alone. Even comedy needs limits – good taste is still good taste. Some “jokes” say a lot about the person who makes them – and even more about those who laugh at them, whether they laugh sincerely, or for other reasons. I’m not advocating preaching at people, or being one of those finger wagging nannies who constantly reminds people “THAT’S NOT FUNNY!!!” because, in truth, that’s not a proper response, either. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply not laugh, or ignore the comment.

What I am suggesting is this: take a look inside your own heart and see what you feel and think about it. Only you can decide what you’ll do in these situations but I hope that many, like me, will choose to object and make their voices heard in the most direct way possible; don’t give a dime to this movie, or projects like it. Someone, somewhere, has to say, “Enough.”

I don’t wish ill on anyone, but Will Farrell and others like him had better hope that what the priest said in The Mark of Zorro doesn’t come true. Should the Almighty choose to take note and reward him according to his merits, he may find himself in a very uncomfortable position. I don’t believe in “karma,” but I know I wouldn’t want to make a movie like that and then suddenly develop Alzheimer’s myself, or find a family member had.

Poetic justice, not karma, can be a real pain, sometimes.

God bless today, my friends.

 

 

 

 

In honor of Superman (the real one, I guess you’d say)

**The image used can be seen at full size, here. Unfortunately I had to resize it to fit on the blog post.- The Doctor 

I was doing some reading and I saw this today. It really made me think. Written by Grant Morrison who, I presume, is a recent author/writer of some of the newer Superman comics, it puts some ideas forth that I had not thought of, but can definitely agree with and identify with. I believe that there is some definite encouragement here in the form of this sentiment – underneath, we’re ALL ‘Superman’ if we want to be and choose to be. He’s the pinnacle of what it means to CHOOSE to do good with the abilities you have, whatever they may be, instead of taking the easier way and looking out only for yourself or using the circumstances of your life as a reason to cause pain to others. 

I draw this contrast because there seems to be almost a mania with the character of Batman these days, but as I have expressed before, Batman may ultimately do “good” in some form, but he himself is as dark and in many ways as twisted as the criminals he fights. (I keep going back to The Real Ghostbusters – “When Good adopts the ways of Evil, it becomes Evil.”) That, to me, is the inherent difference between Superman and the current incarnations of The Batman, and why I prefer one over the other. Batman is the opposite; he’s what happens when you let the circumstances of your life decide who you are, now and forever, and make you dark and angry instead of trying to rise above them. No matter what spin is put on it, Batman is, in his current incarnations, a sick man who never let go of his parents’ death and lives on the pain it caused him.

I don’t see that as a particularly encouraging role model. Do you?

All that aside, I hope you find the quote, below, as encouraging as I did, and it lifts your spirits today.

God bless you today, my friends!

“In the end, I saw Superman not as a superhero or even a science fiction character, but as a story of Everyman. We’re all Superman in our own adventures. We have our own Fortresses of Solitude we retreat to, with our own special collections of valued stuff, our own super–pets, our own “Bottle Cities” that we feel guilty for neglecting. We have our own peers and rivals and bizarre emotional or moral tangles to deal with.

I felt I’d really grasped the concept when I saw him as Everyman, or rather as the dreamself of Everyman. That “S” is the radiant emblem of divinity we reveal when we rip off our stuffy shirts, our social masks, our neuroses, our constructed selves, and become who we truly are. Batman is obviously much cooler, but that’s because he’s a very energetic and adolescent fantasy character: a handsome billionaire playboy in black leather with a butler at this beck and call, better cars and gadgetry than James Bond, a horde of fetish femme fatales baying around his heels and no boss. That guy’s Superman day and night.

Superman grew up baling hay on a farm. He goes to work, for a boss, in an office. He pines after a hard–working gal. Only when he tears off his shirt does that heroic, ideal inner self come to life. That’s actually a much more adult fantasy than the one Batman’s peddling but it also makes Superman a little harder to sell. He’s much more of a working class superhero.

American writers often say they find it difficult to write Superman. They say he’s too powerful; you can’t give him problems. But Superman is a metaphor. For me, Superman has the same problems we do, but on a Paul Bunyan scale. If Superman walks the dog, he walks it around the asteroid belt because it can fly in space. When Superman’s relatives visit, they come from the 31st century and bring some hellish monster conqueror from the future. But it’s still a story about your relatives visiting.”

What happened to humor?

I have, as of late, been thoroughly enjoying video clips of Craig Ferguson cutting up with the late Robin Williams on Ferguson’s late night TV show of years past. They are a treat to me, although I have to confess that too much of the good Mr. Williams (especially when laced with a heavy dose of Mr. Ferguson) tends to make me somewhat manic for the rest of the day! My sons love it – my wife keeps edging toward the phone, smiling. Go figure.

I digress, though.

Today, I came across this clip of Craig Ferguson, and it truly made me sit back and do some thinking. It also gave me the post that you are now reading. Yes, it has some humor interspersed, but the overall message is a very serious one. Here’s the clip:

When he got done, I sat and thought about what he had said and realized that I, like him, agree that many times, the price that is paid in the name of “humor” is simply too high. When we look at the Anna Nicole Simpsons, the Britney Spears, the Lindsay Lohans – these are people who, although they are ultimately responsible for their actions, need help, and need it badly. They aren’t, to me, proper fodder for jokes and comedy routines. It’s like when Family Guy started featuring the old man who was a pedophile (Herbert, I believe his name is) – I remember distinctly telling a friend of mine that at that point, I stopped watching it. They had crossed a line that, to me, you don’t cross. There’s nothing funny about a pedophile, at least not to me. (To be fair, FG had been getting closer to that line for a LONG time, but that was finally the last straw, I guess you would say) When you look at the trainwrecks of lives that we now regularly see and follow on TV, on “reality shows” and the like, somehow they stop being funny when you realize that that’s a real person you’re watching, who is suffering real consequences for their very real actions. Craig Ferguson had, at the time of this video, been 15 years sober. He knew what it was to have been at the bottom, and to have found help and to fight every day to stay sober, and keep his life in order. Although I’ve never been an alcoholic, I know what it is like to lose complete control of your life and have to, essentially, rebuild it and realize just exactly who you are and what you’re doing. He realized that it wasn’t a subject for quick, cheap laughs and I applaud him for it.

Now, why am I saying this? Am a Fascist who wants to censor free speech or ban “that” kind of humor? Hell no. People have the right to choose what they find funny and not. What I am is a person who believes, as apparently Mr. Ferguson does, that sometimes there is a line in humor, and that we need to be cautious of crossing it. When you make humor out of someone destroying their lives, harming themselves or others, and the like, I firmly believe that you’ve forgotten the very real things that you, yourself, have done that have harmed you or others – or if nothing else, have forgotten a simple thing like compassion. Compassion doesn’t mean you excuse the behavior – but it does mean that you don’t join in with the roar of the crowd like a bloody coliseum. Humor doesn’t need to be cruel in order to be humor.

I don’t like what these people are doing to themselves – but I also won’t sit and gleefully watch them drive themselves into the ground. It could just as easily be me, there, being watched by others, if there were circumstances in my life that had been different, and if I had not, by the grace of God, gotten help and had real and true friends and family who helped and supported me. Every day is a battle to make sure that it doesn’t become me.

You know what? It could just as easily be YOU.

If it IS you, remember something he said at the end – there are people who can help. They’re very close to the front of the telephone directory, or a few keystrokes away on the internet. You are not alone. Don’t give up.

God bless today, my friends.

 

 

Builders or wreckers?

This post will by no means be a Scripture lesson, although the idea for it came as I was reading a passage from John in my Bible this morning. For those not familiar with the story, a lame man was healed by Christ after being afflicted for some 80+ years. (If you want the entire story, you can find it in John 5:1-15) What struck me as I read it was that immediately – right after Jesus told the man “Get up, take up your bed and walk” and he did so, the next part of the verse says “And that day was the Sabbath.” Guess what? The Jewish leaders of the time immediately came to the man and said, in colloquial terms,  “Hey – this is the Sabbath – it’s against the rules for you to be carrying your bed.” The story then continues to say that they began to actively persecute Christ because He was doing those things on the Sabbath. When I read that, I laughed right out loud, and shook my head somewhat ruefully at how little we, as a people, have changed in the 2000 years since Christ walked the Earth. I mean, if you believe the story is true (which, obviously, I do) instead of being happy that the man had been healed, they immediately began berating him for breaking the rules and finding fault in what had been done. They were experts at turning lemonade into lemons, you might say. They were wreckers, instead of builders. (Nice plug for the title, eh? 😀 )

“Ok,” you may be saying, “So what?” So this. Have you read the comment sections of any news articles lately? Perused the comments of things posted on social media? It doesn’t matter what the story is; how positive or uplifting, or how tragic and heartbreaking, there invariably are those who come along and feel that it is their God-given duty to point out something negative or something judgmental about the situation. They come thundering like gangbusters, making lemons out of lemonade and finding the dark cloud in every silver lining. By way of examples: snow slides off a roof and buries three children, one of whom dies. In among the expressions of grief and sorrow are those going on about how the parents should have kept the roof clean, or THIS is why you DON’T have metal roofs. A person posts about how they are going through a tough time for X or Y reason, and someone comes along with condemnation about their lifestyle, or even worse, some trite “Christian” statement about their need for God or lack of faith, or something similar.

We’re experts at judging others, and pointing out their faults and failings – and also experts at ignoring our own, a great many times. We tear down much more easily and quickly than we build up.

Want some encouragement? IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY. None of us HAVE to do that. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am by no means advocating the “lack of tough love” lifestyle put forth by so many, also known as the “I can’t say anything because…” Sometimes, there are situations in which we are called upon to take a stand, draw a boundary, or even ‘tell a harsh truth, wanting ten more times to tell a loving lie,’ to paraphrase a quote by Robert Brault. Compassion is not enabling. However, I firmly believe that those times are much fewer than what we may think. The encouragement I spoke of, above, comes in realizing that we can be builders instead of wreckers. We can uplift people instead of tearing them down. We can help instead of hurt, and when all else fails, we can choose to keep our bloody mouths shut instead of criticizing. (OUCH!! The author took a hit on that one. No pedestals here!)

I close with this poem, taken from the book God’s Minutes, and written by Carmelo Benvenga. May it come to your mind as it has to mine, and remind us all that we have a choice every minute of every day; the choice to be a Builder or a Wrecker.

God bless, today, my friends.

I watched them tearing a building down, a gang of men in a busy town. With a “Ho, heave ho!” and a lusty yell, they swung a beam and a sidewall fell.  I asked a foreman, “Are these men skilled, and they kind you would hire if you were to build?” He laughed and said, “Why no, indeed, just common laborers are all I need. They can easily wreck in a day or two what builders have taken years to do.”

So I said to myself as I went on my way, ‘What part in the game of life do I play? Am I a Builder, who builds with care, thoughtfully measuring with rule and square? Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan, patiently doing the best I can? Or am I a Wrecker, who walks the town – content with the labor of tearing down?’

 

A brief, but encouraging thought for today on being yourself

I don’t know how well you can read the image that I have included with this post, but I also have put it here, in case it’s not very clear. Why? Because it’s important, that’s why. It was one of those “jaw dropped open and I felt like I’d been slapped RIGHT upside the head” moments for me, today. Do they suck, sometimes? Yeah! Growing as a person does, many times. Would I change it or not have those moments happen? NO WAY. I’ll be willing to keep learning and growing as long as the Good Lord sees fit to keep bringing things my way. Here’s the image:

Dont chase 2

 

I can’t say it any better than that, so I won’t. Stop chasing people, whomever they may be, or whatever the interest. Stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t jump a puddle for you. Life is too short. I immediately thought of two people I had known, both female, one of whom I was obsessed with and whom I pursued across Hell’s Half Acre, even though it was a complete waste of time and ultimately ended up being a nightmare, and one who, to this day, is still quietly my friend and whom I never paid the attention that was deserved, as the friend she was.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to contact that second person, ask her forgiveness and, God willing, make it right. If there’s someone like that in your life, I hope you are compelled to do the same.

God bless, my friends.

 

I’m back – and a reminder to “Say it now!”

Hello all! Thank you to those who have been checking The Takedown in the interim of relative silence, post wise, and those who keep coming back faithfully when a new post pops up from yours truly. Things have been quite busy on this end, but the time had come for a new post, and here it is.

I have in my possession a book given to me in 1977 by my aunt (yeah, I know that makes me fairly old by a lot of standards but hey, getting old is a privilege, and one denied to a lot of people, so I don’t mind!), the title of which is God’s Minutes. In it a story is read of a group of children who go to a florist to buy flowers for their friend, Mickey. In true heartstring-tugging fashion, you find that the boy had been killed in a traffic accident, and the children wondered if they could buy a nice bouquet of yellow roses with their collection, which was some eighteen cents. The florist, of course, agrees, and the children sorrowfully march off with their flowers to give them to their deceased playmate.

The story ends on a note, however, that is the subject of this post. It ends by saying that the saddest thing is that Mickey would never know the love being shown to him, nor of the care and affection of his friends. They were showing it, sadly, after he was gone. It ends with this poem, which I can say honestly has come to my mind from time to time, since first reading this book after it was given to me (I was 7 at the time):

I’d rather have one little rose from the garden of a friend, than all the choicest flowers when this weary life will end. I’d rather have one pleasant word in kindness said to me, than flattery when my heart is still, and life has ceased to be. I would rather have a loving smile from friends I know are true, than tears shed ’round my casket when to this world I bid adieu. Bring me all the flowers today, whether white or pink or red – I’d rather have one flower now than a truckload when I’m dead. 

Friends, our life can be busy and, thanks to our technological connections, it gets busier all the time. We’re connected by email, text, cell phone, Facebook,  Twitter, and a hundred other things that keep us in constant touch; yet how often do we take the time, one human being to another, to truly let those who matter to us know that they do? All too often the story told of here plays out in reality; the platitudes, the love, the caring is shown after the person has died, while in life they may have never known or realized that they had those who felt that way about them.

Don’t let the Mickey in your life leave this world without knowing. Don’t worry about “Oh I’ll look foolish,” or “Oh, I’m far too MANLY to show my heart like that,” or even worse “I don’t need to say it – he/she/they already know it.”

Tell them. Bring those flowers today. Do it now, while you have the chance. Believe me when I tell you, it makes a difference and, as one who has been on the receiving end of that type of statement at the bedside of a friend who would shortly thereafter die, it can literally change your life. 

Do it today. God bless, my friends.

 

“Nice” vs. “Kind” –

Did you know that there is a difference between nice and kind? I know, it may be difficult to believe, given that our society (and society in general) uses those terms interchangeably, but trust me when I say that there is not only a difference, but there is a large one. Discovering that has not only been a tremendous source of encouragement to me, but it also has served to free me from burdens that, in some cases, I didn’t even know I was carrying. I pray that to whatever degree, this post may do the same for whomever reads it.

I have, as of late, been blessed with the opportunity to be a listening ear/mentor/source of input for two friends of mine who are recently married. They have had their share of headaches right out of the gate (as all married couples do, I am sure) and I am thankful and honored that they value my input to whatever degree, and have allowed me to step into their lives as they begin their journey together.

During one of our conversations I relayed a point to them that my sister, a counselor in Pennsylvania, made to me; namely that there is a difference between being “nice” and being “kind.” She said it this way: “Nice is a social construct. Kindness is not.” It was after that conversation that I began to research and read on the subject, and came across an article done by one Marcia Sirota, a psychiatrist who is a columnist for the Huffington Post. If you like, you can read her article (found here) but I will touch on the pertinent points in the blog. The main differences, it is pointed out, come in the motivation and mental state of the two actions. The comparison goes like this:

Nice People

Sound familiar? God knows it did to ME. I can remember many years of my life in which I spent time being “nice” to people and could tick off almost every one of those (except being careful not to offend anyone – offending people I did with glee and relish, let me tell you!) and yet never would have admitted to myself, let alone to anyone else, that I had anything but the most altruistic motives in mind. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that although I may indeed have been a “nice” person, I surely wasn’t a “kind” person, many times.

It also makes the saying “Nice guys finish last” ring quite true, unfortunately. With that kind of outlook, you will definitely finish last, eventually.

Now let’s look at kind people.

Kind people

Wow! What a contrast, eh? When you look at the two, it really begins to show that they are nothing alike – and even more obvious is why one of them, being “nice,” would be more highly praised and favored over being “kind,” particularly in our society. I mean, really – how DARE anyone set limits or boundaries? Decide who “deserves” help and who doesn’t? (This one is especially onerous in Christian circles, where so many believe that there’s a verse that says “And Jesus said ‘Thou shalt give to anyone who sticks a hand out, because I told you to.” Never mind that there’s nothing like that in Scripture – but I digress) Take responsibility for your OWN self-care? That’s practically blasphemy today. Not care whether others like or approve of your caring for others and your compassion? I mean, this is HERESY! You MUST have the approval of others or you are NOTHING!

Right?

Yeah.  Moving on.

Ok, so why post this? What’s the point? The point is this – being nice is a trap. It’s a burden, and it’s ultimately self-defeating because until you are truly happy with yourself, you never will do enough, give enough or be approved of enough by others to make you happy. It leads to anger, frustration, and in my case, a lot of bad choices and broken friendships when I finally decided I’d “had enough” and started to do my own thing. As a friend of mine so eloquently put it, “Oh, ‘Jeremy the doormat’ isn’t here any more?” No, he wasn’t – and when he wasn’t, he wasn’t with a VENGEANCE. I was one VERY angry man, and it showed. It took a lot of hurt and eventually counseling to help me deal with it, and I’m grateful the opportunity was there to do so. I wish I could say that I have arrived, and that I am totally “kind” now, and never deal with any of the things under the “nice” category, but I’d be lying. I’m still VERY human, and that’s not the point, anyway. The point is this – what drives you, ultimately? At the end of the day, although you’d LIKE the approval of others for what you do, can you live without it, knowing you’ve still done what was good and right? Can you care for others even if no one sings your praises or pats you on the back? Can you understand that not everyone is going to like you, and what’s even more important, that when that happens, it does not always indicate a failure on YOUR part? Can you care for others and express it, unafraid, even if some may snicker or even object, so long as your expression is appropriately done? – and what’s more, realize that the problem isn’t yours; it’s theirs?

If you can, you may be more kind than nice. If you can’t, then it will be my prayer that by reading this, you may be able to begin to start your own search, your own journey toward shrugging off the burden of being “nice” and entering into the realm of joy that comes from being truly kind.

Believe me when I tell you – IT CAN BE DONE.

God bless today, my friends.