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The Lyft driver drove me to my doctor’s appointment, and as we pulled into the parking lot, he told me he was a pastor, and asked, “Do you mind if I pray for you? Because I believe Jesus heals.”

“So do I,” I said. “I’ll take all the prayers I can get.”

He came around to help me out and held the car door open. I said, “‘Preciate that, son. And thanks for your prayers.” I went into the building. As I got onto the elevator, I realized he was still standing by the open car door. He finally – reluctantly – went back to the driver’s seat.

Oh. Did he intend to stand there next to the car and hold hands to pray with me? Right there? That would have been different. In that case, I would have declined. It wasn’t just the issue of praying in public, but also of its being done in that location. Blocking the doorway where ambulances drop off sick patients for their medical appointments.

In some ways, his prayer would have been a performance. Publicity for his church. He could just as easily have prayed for me as he drove away. It reminded me of the time an acquaintance zeroed in on me at a gathering. Said she really wanted to talk to me. She’d heard about my health issues. That I’d gotten separated. She said, “I really think you could benefit from my support group.” It turned out to be Transcendental Meditation. So she’d sought me out, thinking I was a mess. Huh. I literally said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and left.

You can help people in a way that really benefits them, or you can meet the quota of your clique. Souls saved. Public prayers accomplished. Check.

The best way to represent your beliefs is to be a human being. Offer an ear to listen. A word of kindness. If you keep pushing your product despite resistance, you’re just another door-to-door salesperson.

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Journalist Sarah Jeong was recently named to the New York Times Editorial Board, and since that announcement, her past provocative tweets (for example: “#CancelWhitePeople”) have made the news. She said she’d been attacked online repeatedly by racists and misogynists and had used obnoxious tweets as a way of “counter-trolling” the trolls.

This reminds me of the time I overheard one of my son’s friends using a racial epithet. I barged into the room and reiterated my house rules. “Listen. I don’t care if you guys use expletives when you’re in the heat of a video game. But here in this house, there are three words I never want to hear. The ‘F’ word (pejorative for a gay person). The ‘R’ word (pejorative for an intellectually disabled person). The ‘N’ word (pejorative for an African American.) Those words are only ever used to hurt. They’re weapons. If I hear you use them once, twice, I’ll warn you. Three times, you’re out of here. That’s your first warning, son.”

The boy was instantly remorseful and told me that he was just kidding. He’d meant no harm. My son said, “It’s okay Ma, he was just trolling. Everybody knew he didn’t mean it.”

That was my first exposure to Troll Culture. A kind of over-the-top, so-outrageous-it-should-be-obvious-I’m-joking way of interacting. The Columbia Journalism Review explores the trend through the lens of “the largest fault line within journalism today: the one between journalists who have grown up on the internet, and the media organizations who haven’t.” (Please note: the article contains offensive language.)

At the end of the day, when you troll people – even if somebody trolled you first – you’re still a troll. Using the tactics of those who want to disparage or even destroy you makes you no better than they are.

Fashions come and go, so maybe it will become fashionable again to take the high road. Instead of rolling around in the mud with our detractors, we’ll decide clean living is much better for the soul – and for the world at large.

Being trolled by a fan seems an oxymoron, but reading SueBE’s post about opposite day, I was reminded of author George RR Martin. Game of Thrones fans have been trolling him to stop living the high life and finish the last book already.

My theory is that Martin has no intention of finishing the series, because once he does, fans may forget about him. Even if they seem to be holding him in contempt, they’re still holding onto him. I guess it’s better to hear invective than to be invisible. Also, there’s the very real possibility that he’s got “you’re-not-the-boss-of-me” syndrome. Fans yell at him to finish the book? He’ll show them. Not gonna do it.

There are sycophants, and then there are psycho-phants. Star Wars fans? Trolling actors to the point that they leave social media? What is wrong with this picture?

In the same way, when you bully someone for being a bully, you’re now part of the problem. We’ve got deep divisions in this country right now, extending all the way to the dining table. There are Washington DC restaurants in the news for refusing to serve political operatives with whom they disagree. I suppose they have the right not to serve any patron. And anyway, wouldn’t you rather know someone hates your guts before they’re alone in a back room with your food?

Still, there must be a better way to make a point that to heckle each other in this way. Fighting fire with fire just leads to a big conflagration. Sooner or later, someone’s going to get burned.

Mother’s Day started with a power outage this morning around 9 AM.

Hm. Looked at my phone. Only half charged.

Can’t use the internet.

I’ll read my books on Kindle. But… no service. My books are in the cloud.

Well. I’ll go start my coffee.

But. No water.

Hm. Oh wait! I saved my coffee from last night. It’s in the fridge! Yay.

But. No microwave.

Getting chilly in here. Let me turn up the heat.

But. No heat.

So I went back to bed to bundle up. Just then, I heard a car pulling into my neighbor’s driveway, music blaring. Man, that’s loud. What an idiot. Had to catch myself there. No need to be unkind.

It reminded me of the time my father was teaching me to drive. “Watch the idiot,” he said, as another driver encroached on my lane. I had to laugh at the memory. He was always glad to see me when I would visit the house. And my mother would greet me by saying, “You’re the greatest!”

It’s fitting that this happened on Mother’s Day, as we all have a mother (here or in Heaven) and we often take for granted how much she means to us.

In today’s climate, just reminding yourself not to be unkind is an act of kindness. Usually, people aren’t blasting their music to annoy you, but to enjoy their own life. The power goes out sometimes. It’s nothing personal.

This was a gift to me today. A reminder to appreciate the power, all the way up to the power source.

Do something today to show appreciation for all that God provides.

Or at least, don’t be an idiot.🙂You’re lucky, and you know it. This is a good day to remind yourself of the blessings you take for granted.

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

Well, I took a catnap yesterday, and had a dream in which a voice was slowly repeating three letters.

“C…H…U…”

CHU. Huh. Doesn’t ring a bell. So I looked up “Chu” to see if it means anything in another language.

In Japanese, it’s the sound of a kiss.

In French, it’s the past participle of “choir.”

In Vietnamese, it means “all right.”

All of these translations lead in to my post for today, about the way we engage with each other.

An unwanted kiss is not a kiss at all. It’s an assault. In reaction to all of the men in the news accused of impropriety, there has been a choir of voices calling for change. Jane Fonda said the answer to dealing with toxic men in power is to put women in charge. Maybe, but I’ve got to say, I’ve worked for women managers who were toxic as well.

I think the answer may be to regard each interaction as a micro-loan of energy.

Of course, this is already a concept, and it’s called “karma.” But if we think of it as exchanging a gift with every interaction, it’s easier to develop it as a habit.

What if you realized that every time you were disrespectful to someone, karma would come back instantly, only – here’s the twist – not to you, but to a loved one? In a way, it happens that way already, if you think of the whole of humanity as your extended family.

Most people want to do the right thing. They want everyone to be “all right.” I truly believe that. Maybe in this moment of revelation and demand for action, we can rise above our need for a pound of flesh and get back to the golden rule.

Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

Fell in with the wrong crowd.

(But in truth, they were the wrong crowd.)

Comments were taken out of context.

(But in truth, the comments as reported were quoted verbatim.)

It was all in good fun.

(But in truth, as a person in power, that’s your unilateral decision.)

So many actors and producers have been accused of sexual impropriety that it’s spawned a hashtag: “#MeToo.” The repugnant details have been bad enough to process, but there seems to be a new allegation every day.

Dustin Hoffman was accused of harassing a young woman on a movie set, and he apologized, but also said, inexplicably, “It is not reflective of who I am.”

But in truth.. what you do and say? That’s who you are.

Hoffman’s director on that movie spoke in his defense, only making things worse. Speaking of the allegation that the actor had grabbed the woman’s backside, the director said, “It may have happened, but again in a funny way.”

Donna Karan claims her victim-blaming, woman-shaming comments were – wait for it – taken out of context. In truth, she was quoted accurately. She even smile-sneered every time she made the same outrageous point. “How do we display ourselves?” Smile. “Are we asking for it?” Smile. Meantime, I wonder what she would say if asked the same question. In this interview, she’s wearing heavy eye make-up. Her shoulders are exposed in a revealing gown. Let’s put the same question to her. What are you asking for?

No woman dresses with the intention of going out into the world to be attacked. It just doesn’t happen that way. There’s no such thing as “she asked for it.”

Let’s start here: I believe you. Sometimes in movies – and in real life – the bad guys win. But in truth, this can be a real moment of solidarity. If we stand together, it could be the start of taking back our power.

The #MeToo movement has reached ubiquity: We all know what it means when a woman (or man) posts these words to social media. Ruth gave a powerful breakdown of the situation. In fact, she changed the way I thought about my own history. I believed I could never forgive the men who have harassed or assaulted me over the years. But then a funny thing happened — I made a list.

I listed all the times I could remember someone making me feel unsafe, or someone physically or verbally assaulting me. Over the days, the list grew. It is now quite substantial. But in making the list, the power these people had over me dropped to zero.

Maybe it’s seeing their names, or the lack of them — some names I never knew, some I’ve forgotten, like “Warehouse Creep” and “King of Bear Country.” Just faceless, nameless ghosts. Not even worth remembering. In other cases, it was a matter of perspective. I can look back now on the man who kept calling me “Kiddo” and rubbing my thigh on a car ride home from the first (and last) time I babysat his 6-year-old son, who spent the entire night talking about big breasted women — as if such a thing could mean anything to a child that young — and think, “How little he must have had in his life!” It’s almost sad.

Ruth is dead right: These people aren’t brimming with machismo and confidence. They are insecure. A real man doesn’t need to harass women to get attention. How frightened they must be! How alone! I found myself praying for them: That they find ways to get the attention they want through other means; that they can learn to feel important not by subjugating others but by doing positive things.

But most of all, I pray for a world where no girl or woman has to make a list like mine. Because although making it was cathartic, it’s not a task I would wish on anyone. Because no woman should have to have a list. Because it shouldn’t happen to begin with. Because being sad and pathetic is no excuse.

Forgiveness is divine. But wouldn’t it be nicer if there were nothing to forgive?

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Mark 8:36 NIV

There have been a lot of scoundrels in the news lately. I’ve seen a lot of people say this: “It’s a sickness.” But that’s not true.

People who use power to demean are not addicts. They live in fear and hate themselves. The world is very big, so they put on the trappings of power so they don’t appear so small.

While it is certainly a pathology, it’s not a condition that can’t be controlled.

When a young (at the time) actor inappropriately touched a VJ on MTV as a way of saying “hello,” what he was really doing was trying to gain leverage. He seemed to be unsure of himself and felt a pressure to be larger-than-life, so he did something to discombobulate her.

Emma Thompson described the scandal surrounding a predatory Hollywood producer as a manifestation of “extreme masculinity,” but I would suggest that the opposite is true.

I think such men don’t feel strong and powerful at all. They more likely feel utterly bereft. On paper, they’ve got everything that should lead to fulfillment, confidence, and peace. But somehow, they still feel as insignificant as they did before they achieved “success.”

I don’t know if there’s a “rehab” for this kind of situation. Some would say the answer is church. Getting right with God. That would be true, of course, but it wouldn’t be genuine for such an individual to find faith if it’s forced.

Going forward, maybe it’ll be easier for victims and bystanders to speak at the moment of impact. To say, This isn’t right. Cut it out. Speaking truth to power isn’t easy, but if we all stood up together, it could make a world of difference.

In the news lately, many have been asserting their right to free speech, such as football players “taking a knee” at games as the national anthem plays as a form of protest.

Last month, a Google employee wrote a message on an internal message board that leaked to the media. Women, in general, he asserted, are more neurotic than men. Maybe the women at work sensed he was taking notes and assessing them in internal memos. That would put anyone on edge!

At the end of the day, it’s a memo on a company board. Otherwise known as one man’s opinion.

In other news, Airbnb canceled the reservations of guests who may have been planning to attend a white nationalist rally.

Even if one’s views are repugnant, there’s something equally offensive about suppressing speech in this way. It’s still profiling. I believe you may be thinking of doing something with which I disagree.

Then there’s the Supreme Court case of the baker refusing to make wedding cakes for gay couples for religious reasons. I don’t get it, but would you want someone who hates you and all you stand for alone in a room with your food? What kind of negative energy (not to mention perhaps, shampoo, or something) must have gone into it?

I’d rather know right up front that someone hates the fact that I exist, even if it’s based solely on their own prejudices. They might not like me for what I believe, or what I wear, or some other random reason. It’s better to know how they feel. We don’t have to waste each other’s time. I don’t have to spend my dollars at your establishment.

It’s still a free country. You’ve got the right to be wrong.

And I’ve got the right to keep walking.

Recently I read about a pastor who made this amazing pronouncement while speaking of presidential advisors, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump: “It’s just like God to use a young Jewish couple to help Christians.”

I thought, Wow! Speaking on behalf of the Almighty is up there with a Pamplona Bull-Run in terms of risky life choices. I’d be looking over my shoulder for incoming lightning bolts!

The reverend’s familiar tone reminded me of the SNL skit in which Justin Timberlake played Peg, who always ends her hard-luck stories with the catchphrase: “Classic Peg!”

I was shaking my head as I read – the way this man of the cloth spoke about God was similar to the title of the series “That’s So Raven!”

Who could possibly know the mind of the creator of all things so well as to interpret for him? Well, we just FaceTimed the other day. Let me tell you what’s in God’s Facebook feed right now.

Heck to the no, as the late, great Jersey girl, Ms. Whitney Houston, used to say. (Had to spruce up the language a bit there, kind people. Prayer-blog, you know.) Come on now. Nobody speaks for God officially. But I’d like to think that most religions do honor him.

Every so often, I’ll look online to see what churches in my area do in their religious services. One of them insists on full immersion when baptizing new members of their church, and no one is considered a Christian until they get baptized. I looked at the pictures they posted of one such baptism, and I realized that it was just a kid’s pool in somebody’s backyard. Everyone there was dressed in shorts and t-shirts, as if they were at a barbecue!

I thought at least they would have some sort of official water tank in an actual church building, but this is how they do it in that religion.

Of course, your mileage may vary as you ride along the path of faith, but here’s a good rule of thumb: always do the right thing, and let God speak for himself.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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