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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.

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Earhart kind action

Acts of kindness.  Recently I took an online class through Yale. The focus was on rewiring your behavior to elevate your mood.  Basically what habits can we each build that rewire us, replacing anxious feelings with happiness.

Each week, we were given a challenge, a behavior to engage in throughout the week.  One week was random acts of kindness.  It could be as simple as thanking a clerk by name or paying for someone else’s coffee.

I thought it was simply that my father was in one hospital that week and my brother-in-law in another.  I was ragged and worried and this was just too much.  Too much!

But as we finished up the class earlier this week, I read other peoples comments.  This seemed to be one of the hardest habits to build.  “When I stalked through my day thinking ‘I have to find one person to be nice to,’ it really stressed me out. When I loosened up and noted whenever I was nice, it was much easier and I actually did it.”

Observe and engage in kind acts vs treating them like a duty.  One way worked.  The other didn’t.

Maybe this is just another facet of actually seeing those around us and following the Golden Rule?

–SueBE

Rainforest, Palm Trees, Moss, Amazon Indians, Tree

What if you woke up one day and realized your life had been brought to you by Comcast? Little did you know, you could’ve switched providers and had a better life. Wouldn’t that be a shock to the system!

I’ve never been able to understand how anyone can claim ownership of the internet. Why are we paying companies to provide us with what really should belong to everyone for free?

An indigenous tribe in Ecuador won a landmark case against oil companies last week, preventing them from drilling in the Amazon rainforest. It took me a moment to wrap my head around that. This native tribe had to navigate the country’s legal system when they have their own internal system of government. Then they had to ask permission to prevent interlopers from coming into their home and taking whatever they wanted.

Who owns the Amazon rainforest? Please don’t tell me Jeff Bezos. Cuz I’ll punch ya. And nobody would believe you if you reported me to the police. That Kindly Auntie? She would never! 🙂

We seem to find many inventive ways to do the wrong thing at the expense of other people, or of the planet. Let’s designate a day where we do the right thing no matter what other people might get away with doing. We’ll come up with a catchy name for it, let’s see… we’ll call it: Today. And let’s extend it indefinitely and do it every day for the rest of our lives.

The blueberries I had with breakfast this morning were so big, they could’ve been plums-in-training! I was so amazed, I took a picture of them, putting them next to other fruit for perspective.

Now, you could look at that blueberry and say, Sure, you’re big for a blueberry, but why can’t you be as big as this Mandarin orange? Or this Pink Lady apple?

Berries can’t conform to dimensions they can’t possibly live up to. Why should they? They’re perfect for what they are.

It might seem like we’re in a big race with each other, based on the fact it’s called “the human race,” but that’s not the case. We’re all running, or walking, or meandering on our own pathway.

It’s never helpful to say, “Why can’t you be like the other…”:

  • Students
  • Siblings
  • Employees
  • Believers
  • Writers
  • Runners
  • People somewhere in the world

Those others can do this thing well. Why can’t you?

Comparing is actually a passive-aggressive way of trying to control others, as well as a quick-and-dirty way of deciding how to treat people. If you believe someone is not trying their best, you feel justified in mistreating them.

Remember: it’s how you treat those you consider “the least among us” that really shows the world who you are.

You can’t possibly know God if you don’t treat people with respect. That’s across the board. Even the people you think aren’t trying.

If you’re doing your best, why not assume others are as well? It might not be your best, but it may be the best they can do right now. And who knows? One day they might catch up and even surpass you. They’ll remember you were kind to them as you raced past. Maybe they’ll even offer you a Gatorade and some freakishly large blueberries!

In my day, sonny (cue nostalgic music), we used to quietly hold the world together with a pat on the back and a kind word. Nobody noticed but that one child who scraped his knee on the playground who we helped up. Or that person in the grocery aisle who couldn’t reach a can on a shelf, so you got it for them.

As short as I am (5”4), there was an older lady even shorter. She couldn’t reach the can of peas on the top shelf so she looked at it, looked at me, and tilted her head quizzically. She didn’t have to ask. In fact, she didn’t. She just knew a kind face when she saw it.

When my son and his friends were younger, they were amused by what one young man termed Ruth’s Random Rules. One such rule is that when anyone sneezes, everyone is to say “God bless you.” Don’t believe in God? Okay, say “Gesundheit.” Or “Salud.” Even, “I acknowledge that you have sneezed and you are in the same general vicinity as I am; now I shall go back to ignoring you.” Whatever you have to say — but in this home, young men, we shall be civilized.

Another one was that the boys were required to take our dog into the yard every hour on the hour. They thought they were doing me a favor and doing a nice thing for Sheena, which is true. But they were also getting exercise. I wanted to codify it so they had an excuse to take a break from the video game, a real reason to get out into the yard on a sunny summer day.

If you do your best and treat others with kindness every day, those small moments accumulate into a big bunch of blessings.

Yesterday, I had jury duty.  To put it kindly, I was not looking forward to a single part of it.  Let’s just say that this isn’t the first time I’ve been called and I am never selected for a jury.  So don’t lecture me.  No, seriously.  Do not.

That was where I was mentally when the judge took the lectern.  He introduced himself and thanked everyone for being there.  I managed not to roll my eyes. “No, seriously.  I’m not saying that because it’s your civic duty.  I’m saying that because you are all making a huge sacrifice.  You are missing work, volunteer activities and time with your family and friends.”  The more he talked, the more we understood.  He got it and we felt appreciated because clearly we the people had been seen and heard.  The change that came over the group was amazing.

Throughout the day, I saw this effect again and again.  Someone would mess up going through security (I have no clue who that woman was, ahem), and the guard just smiled.  “Let’s try something different this time.”  And the whole time they chatted and set people at ease.   They took their jobs seriously but they saw clearly that a little kindness made the day go better for everyone.

–SueBE

What if we find out Darth Vader was really just a nice guy, if a bit misunderstood? A man in Tennessee whose father was a Star Wars fan was saddled with the name of the dark lord and seems to have a sense of humor about it.

In other off-beat news, it won’t come as a big surprise that Kafka was a terrible boyfriend, would it? Reading his letters to his fiancée, it seemed he saw everything – even love – in a, well, Kafkaesque light.

I love light-hearted stories like these. But I really love reading stories that start out on the dark side and end up reaffirming my faith in humanity.

A distressed man on the autism spectrum who had attacked his elderly parents was admitted to a Chicago hospital. Instead of sedating or subduing him, the security officers sang to him, calming him down and defusing the situation.

When a teacher saw her 7-year-old student riding his bike on a busy highway, she found out his diabetic father had collapsed at home. When he couldn’t unlock his father’s phone to call 911, he got on his bike to ride five miles to his grandmother’s house. The teacher called for help, and the boy’s father recovered.

Every bad news story starts from a place of pain, doesn’t it? The person involved may be called by different names: gunman, perpetrator, criminal. But it all starts with a “dis.” Disrespect. Feeling disenfranchised. Dismissed. Pain is like a chain letter. Someone feels slighted. They take that pain with them and slight someone else and it spreads like a virus.

The antidote to the “dis” is to not react in kind, but to unpack the pain behind the anger. Will compassion put an end to the cycle of pain? We can only live in hope.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Looking for a picture to go along with this post, I typed in the search term, “Golden Rule.” The result was the picture you see here: a ruler placed on a golden background. Oh, dear. Could it be that the younger generation has never heard this term before? Is it not being taught anymore?

Here’s a little pun. Maybe in 2020, everyone will miraculously wake up with perfect vision. Even if we still have to wear glasses, there must be a way to fine-tune our vision to see that the words we say have lasting impact. If we all woke up on January 1st and made the resolution to speak kindly to everyone, we’d be looking at a whole new world.

Last week, UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi went viral with this exuberant routine that earned her a perfect 10, but she had once quit the sport altogether. Nobody knew her struggle behind the scenes. Fans would tell her she “wasn’t good enough” or “didn’t look a certain way” and when she gained weight, she was compared to a “bird that couldn’t fly.” With fans like that, who needs enemies?

I gave up on social media this week after I realized its net effect (another pun!) on my psyche was negative more often than positive. It seems to be standard operating procedure for most to mock and provoke people who don’t see things the way they do.

If something or someone in your life isn’t building you up, it may be tearing you down. Let it go. You’ll lighten your own load and see the world more clearly.

I’m convinced that the totality of woes in this world are utterly determined, enacted and exacerbated by human selfishness — the almighty “I.” You know: I am the center of the universe; my needs are most important; everyone who isn’t me is other, and they are the problem. What we entirely forget is that we completely dependent upon one another, not just for day-to-day life, but for the overall progress of humankind. When it comes to saving the planet, saving the future or saving our souls, I is not going to cut it.

We must change our capital “I’s” into lowercase ones. For instance: I explain, sermonize, pontificate, demand; i listen. I order the world for my own benefit; i put the good of others first. I build walls; i build bridges. (You get it.) If we fail, humanity fails. No less than that hangs in the balance.

Let us whittle our serifs into tittles. (No, I’m not being obscene; “tittle” is the name of the dot on the lowercase I; serifs are the decorative little lines on a capital I.) It is the only way to become like Jesus. Yes, I know the consensus is to capitalize all things God-related out of respect, but Jesus was the littlest “i” person in all of history. Everything he did was for us — not just the “us” who lived in Middle East during his time, but all of us, for all generations, including those yet unborn. Jesus saved all of us from eternal death. Let me put it this way: Think of how many people Jesus actually knew. Now think of how many people Jesus has saved. It takes great heart and complete abandonment of ego to give one’s life not just for your friends, but for people on the other side of the planet, centuries apart from your own existence. None of us can even imagine doing that, much less do it.

The world has nearly come to ruin numerous times because of big I’s. It has always been saved by small ones. So, which do you choose? As for me, I’ll just be over here whittling down my serifs.

Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby.  They were Bumpa’s favorites and when he was sick I’d spend Sunday afternoons by his side watching them sing and dance their way across the screen.  I spent a great deal of time that fall on the Road to Wherever.

I knew Hope could sing and dance and crack a joke, but who knew he was so clever?  I’m sure someone did but it wasn’t me.  I’d compartmentalized him in my memory.  Singing, dancing, funny man.

Compartmentalization is a huge problem in our world.  Us and them.  Republican and Democrat.  Liberal and conservative.  Deserving and undeserving.

I admit that I tend to get a bit squirmy when a discussion moves towards who deserves help and who doesn’t.  Haven’t we all received help at one time that we didn’t deserve?  Maybe someone helped you change a tire or pay a bill out of the kindness of their heart.  But there is also God’s grace.  We can’t earn it.  We don’t, strictly speaking, deserve it.  But God is loving and kind and charitable.  He gave it to us anyway.

I’m not saying I’m perfect.  Far from it.  We writers compartmentalize all the time.  It’s part of how we pitch ideas and decide what information belongs in a project and what doesn’t.  Sometimes this writing habit finds its way into the larger world.  Sometimes I catch myself.  Other times?  I’m human but I like to think my heart is willing.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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