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CALLEJA (DIARIO DE NAVARRA)

Abel Mutai, an athlete on the verge of winning a race, misjudged where the finish line was and stopped running too early. Another runner, Ivan Fernandez Anaya, could have run past Mutai and won the race; instead, he helped Mutai cross the finish line and came in second.

“He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed.” said Fernandez Anaya. The photo of him helping Mutai across the finish line went viral, garnering praise from all over the world. When asked for a comment, however, his coach voiced his disappointment. “The gesture has made him a better person, but not a better athlete,” Martin Fiz told El Pais. “He has wasted an occasion. Winning always makes you more of an athlete. You have to go out to win.”

In another race, two Olympic runners collided, and, as the race went on, they helped each other carry on to the finish line. Neither runner won the official race, but later, both were given a special commendation for sportsmanship.

Some things are more important than a trophy. Maybe we should change the term, “human race” to “human family.” Life’s not a competition. Don’t listen to the naysayers, even if it’s your own coach. We’re all on the same team. 

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person holding camera lensMy son knows when I happen across a spider in the house by the karate-sounding “ke-yai!” noise I emit. The spider is startled by me, too, but I’m sure its perspective is different.

Growing up, Mama Spider taught her son about humans: “Don’t stare honey. I know that’s a face only a mother could love, but God has a purpose for all creatures. Now let’s get out of here before that monstrosity squashes us!”

That seems to be how some religious groups see each other: If you’re not just like us, you’re a threat. The other day, my Lyft driver asked me if I was a Christian. When he went on to say something pejorative about Muslims, I knew we didn’t share the same perspective.

In photography, “perspective” is a term for a visual effect that causes objects to appear smaller as their distance from the viewer increases. In life, if you haven’t gone through a particular experience, it may seem far away and foreign to you.

Your perspective can change based on your status in society and net worth as well. Asked about how young comedians can get their big break, Jerry Seinfeld said, “The good thing about comedy is that anyone who’s talented usually makes it.” It must be spirit-crushing for struggling comics out there to hear their comedy idol make such a statement when they haven’t found success yet. 

The only way to keep your own karma clean is to assume there’s validity in the experience of others. So before you squash that spider — or another human being’s spirit — take a moment to adjust your lens. It might just broaden your perspective.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 NIV

“Mouthwash Cancels Out Benefits of Exercise.” Even before reading the article, it was clear the headline was misleading. Sure enough, hours later, it was revised to: “Mouthwash Cancels Out Key Benefits of Exercise, One Study Finds.

These old newspaper headlines show the importance of word choice:

Amphibious pitcher makes debute funniest newspaper headlines

funniest newspaper headlines

funniest newspaper headlines

Of course, sometimes, the editor is just having fun with wordplay, as in the case of the psychic who couldn’t predict her own arrest.

Choosing just the right word is an editor’s job, but it’s just as important for you and I to give consideration to the impact of the things we say to one another.

With all the negativity in the news lately, it’s more important than ever to choose your words carefully. You never know what someone’s going through as you encounter them in the course of a day.

So if the cashier should have said, “Thank you, have a good day,” but didn’t, maybe she just can’t wish you what she doesn’t have herself. Maybe her baby wouldn’t sleep last night and the dog wouldn’t stop barking. Perhaps when she got to work two minutes late, the boss read her the riot act. It’s possible she can’t find the energy to have a bad day, and at the same time, wish someone else a good day.

If you’ve been there yourself, try to find it in your heart to forgive these minor infractions. Your kindness could be the catalyst that enables her to have a good day, and in turn, wish a good day to others.

On jury duty years ago, we were given a break during a case so we could stretch our legs. I went to the snack store, picked up some noshes and got in line. When it was my turn, the cashier asked, “What have you got today, ma’am?” In response, I said, “Oh, just a couple of these things,” and absent-mindedly waved toward my snacks. “I’m sorry, ma’am, you’re going to have to be more specific,” he said. “You see, I’m unsighted.”

I apologized profusely — so much so that he realized I didn’t just mean I was sorry for the flip answer. I’ll never forget his response. He said, “No need to feel sorry, ma’am. If the Good Lord had wanted me to be sighted, he would’ve given me sight. I work around it.” 

His strength of character was impressive, but so was the collective moral compass that switched on for those waiting in line. The man could tell which coins he was being given by their weight and size, but the bills all felt alike, so he had to ask what denomination he was being given. 

Suddenly we all had eagle eyes. You say you gave him a twenty dollar bill? Let me check on that. People were craning their necks to keep everyone else honest. It was as if a tiny Community Watch had formed spontaneously.

I think of that day when I lose faith in humanity, or when I think I’ve got it hard due to my own visual impairment, which developed later. That man soldiered on despite the hardship and got it done. And those people in line did the right thing without being asked. The truth is, the milk of human kindness hasn’t yet soured into yogurt. Just under the surface, the still, small voice is speaking loud and clear.

Agitation seems like a negative word in general, but sometimes it’s actually a good thing. For instance, when my washer stopped its agitation cycle, it backed up and water overflowed onto my basement floor. I was able to fix it, but it made me wonder: what about the agitating people in our lives?  

Everybody’s got that one person in their life who believes they’re God’s gift to the world. You know the ones I mean. They’re opinionated and belittling. Utterly insensitive.

One such person finally pushed me too far and I told him exactly what I thought of him, that he was condescending and downright rude. It didn’t faze him at all. “When the Good Lord was handing out brains, I was at the front of the line,” he said. It was his way of saying, you go ahead and have your opinions, little lady. I still know what’s best.

My theory is that God put these people into our lives to teach various lessons. Sometimes it’s patience. Sometimes it’s perspicacity: when to speak up, when to hold your tongue. 

Of course, the best approach to someone contentious is not to engage, since they live to press your buttons. It’s been my experience that they’ll eventually find other people to annoy and waft away. Keep your eyes toward the sun, and you’ll realize how small those dark clouds really are.

When I saw the headline “I will not declare a state of emergency in Newark over lead water crisis, (NJ Governor) Murphy says,” I realized that it’s probably for the best that I’m not governor of New Jersey. I’d end up doing things unilaterally based on my conscience. No doubt I’d be kicked out of office for going around all the roadblocks, like apathetic politicians and reams of red tape. 

First, I’d declare the obvious state of emergency for Newark, a city of 285,000, that hasn’t had safe drinking water since lead was found in city water lines. Next, I’d declare a state of emergency for Camden, a city with a population of 74,000, that doesn’t have a supermarket, forcing residents to rely on corner stores for their food. 

It’s a good thing I’m not governor of Arizona, either, because I’d call for a dedicated tax to establish infrastructure for the Native Americans who live on reservations and don’t have electricity, the internet, or indoor plumbing. Some even have to use flashlights to go to the outhouse in the middle of the night and haul drinking water in buckets.

I’d probably end up being a benevolent despot, trying to right all the wrongs in society in one term since I’d never be re-elected. Sure, I’ve got no experience, no crony-connections and no idea how to do the job, but my qualifications are: 

  1. I’m a human being, and,
  2. I’ve got a heart, and it’s telling me: something’s not right. 

If being denied access to food and water isn’t an emergency, what is? May those in power be hounded by Heaven until they do the right thing.

Okay. So you say you want it all? Noted.🗹 

First, you’re going to have to start with “nothing” as a baseline. See, that way, you have a frame of reference. 

Next you’re going to have “some,” to help you learn how to manage “it all” when it arrives. If you don’t learn from this phase, it’s okay. We’ll helpfully let you start over at “nothing” again to get those More Muscles in shape.

Very few ever get to “it all” because even the ones who seem to have “it all” are deeply in debt, sick from their secrets and alone in a crowd. 

The “all” you’re really seeking isn’t a big pile of money, a perfectly-coiffed and curated persona on Instagram and a happily-ever-after with a stranger you met by swiping right on a dating app.

Actually, the ache for “it all” embedded within you is something else. Just as you’ve got a heartbeat, that’s your soulbeat. It’s:

  • Being who you are, no matter what room you walk into.
  • Learning every day that you don’t have all the answers, but that the questions themselves are sometimes the point.
  • Working toward a goal to engage all your faculties and your faith at the same time.
  • Using your own experience to know that people causing pain in your life are in pain themselves and greeting that grief with grace.
  • Getting to know and love yourself just as you would a “soulmate” so that you don’t end up with a “cellmate,” both locked into the self-defeating notion that you’ve failed to complete each other.

Life really is simpler than you make it out to be. 

  • Find your forte. Do that with all your heart. 
  • Find your community. Connect and show you care. 
  • Be yourself. If you meet a partner on the same page, be yourselves together.
  • Do your best. 
  • Take care of yourself. 
  • Be kind. 

Whatever you can’t figure out, turn it over to me in prayer. You may come to realize that in some ways, you already do have “it all.”

When someone says, “I owe you an apology,” have they really apologized? It seems to me that until they say the words, “I’m sorry,” it doesn’t count. Owing an apology is like saying, put it on my account!

“That show’s been running for seven seasons and I never miss it,” a commenter online said, and I had to mull that over. Does that mean they like the program? Or perhaps they don’t watch it, and frankly, they don’t miss it either?

“Hey, Ruth! Long time!” It was an old acquaintance I’d run into at the store. “You look exactly the same!” he said, to which I replied, “Thank you!” I assumed it was meant as a compliment, but was it? What if he’d actually meant, “You looked like forty miles of bad road twenty years ago, and dagnabbit, you look exactly the same today! My condolences!”

Maybe we’ll never know what other people are thinking. The best we can do is to be truthful yet tactful, choosing our words carefully. With any luck, we’ll be able to make our point in a kind and thoughtful way. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Step with care and great tact, and remember that life’s a great balancing act.” 

credit: today.com

Let’s say you had a meeting and it was crunch time. Looking over the attendees, you realize there’s a baby sitting in one of the chairs in a suit and tie. Now, that’s something you don’t see every day! 

Look at you. You can’t even hold your own head up, man! You’re drooling, babbling on about nothing, and your contribution at the last meeting was nothing but a big pile of poop. Get ahold of yourself! 

You notice the baby’s round belly under his pocket protector and bib.

You’re letting yourself go around the middle, there, pal. You really should do some crunches!

You wouldn’t expect a baby to know how to crunch numbers. Heck, they can’t even crunch granola yet! And surely a baby’s too young to hit the gym.

Different rules apply to people depending on the situation, and we don’t all develop at the same pace. Some may think that, just because they haven’t had an experience, that experience isn’t valid.

People who call others “snowflake” or “overly sensitive” are actually, let me see if I can find the technical term here in my thesaurus.. Oh yes. Insensitive clods!

Mercy. Let me re-phrase that. 

Such people don’t seem to have been born with a compassion compass, that thing inside that says, I may not understand what you’ve been through, but I can see that you’ve been profoundly affected by it.

Then again, if I label them insensitive clods, I’m the one being insensitive. 

Perhaps a better way to frame it is that they’re newborns in terms of the expression of empathy. Their mercy-muscles haven’t formed fully yet. One day they may be in a new situation and it’ll be crunch time for them. Here’s hoping the people in that room will show them some compassion.

Every once in a while, it’s nice to put the spotlight on people who were caught on camera doing the right thing. So much of what goes viral these days is about bad behavior, but there’s a lot of positive news out there if you shift your focus.

Like the young man who saw his six-year-old neighbor being attacked by a pit bull, so he ran toward the dog in an attempt to make it chase after him, which it did. He got attacked by the dog, too, but was able to get away after being bitten on the hand. Both the young man and the boy are recovering. Click here to see the video, but please be aware that it is disturbing. When I saw this video, I thought, That’s not just a Good Samaritan. That’s a great one. 

Or the group of random drivers who saw a car flip over on the highway, so they got together to push the car onto its side. Amazingly, the driver escaped the wreck with only minor cuts and bruises.

Then there’s the tractor driver who was startled when a mother bird stepped in front of his moving tractor to protect her eggs. Just in the nick of time, the driver stopped when he realized the nest was in his path. He even got down off his tractor and gave the bird some water.

Focusing on the positive is like building up your soul’s immune system. And with everything going on in the world today, we all could use a little inspiration.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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