A Drop Becomes a Ripple Becoming a Wave

Life is Beautiful

Life is Beautiful (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

I was commenting on a friend’s Facebook post today, trying to put across the message that we need a little more positivity in the world and how positivity catches hold, just like negativity, if we let it.

So, here’s the deal. (Yes, I’m on the soap box again.)  I don’t post negative stuff on Facebook, or this blog for that matter. It’s a conscious choice. I decided that what I put out into the world will try to be positive and beautiful and kind. Not to say I’m not aware of the myriad of things about this country, the world, the way things are politically and spiritually and environmentally, etc., etc., etc., and on, and on, and on, that could be changed. Or frankly, need to be changed. I know there are issues. I know there are things that are wrong. I know we all have varying ideas about what those things are. I’m aware. I just choose, being the person I am on the this planet, to only put out positive energy. At least, that’s what I strive to do.

Here’s why. There’s enough bullshit out there already. There’s enough opinion and doomsday predictions and nasty words and accusations and scare tactics and bullying behavior and finger-pointing and hurtfulness to fill pages and pages for years and years. Frankly, it doesn’t really solve anything, or do us any good. It’s divisive and has about as much impact as spitting in the wind.

I believe in what comes around goes around, do unto others, being kind to our fellow humans and the planet, what you put out you get back 10 fold, I believe in being the change I wish to see in the world. And the change I wish to see in the world is that we all become kinder, gentler, less judging, more helpful, less greedy, not as self-centered, nicer versions of ourselves. We can choose to look at all that’s wrong, pointing fingers and shouting doomsday predictions, or we can look at what’s right, and build on that. We can try for understanding and compassion instead of accusations and tearing people down. Ideas, even if they aren’t yours or mine, are all valid.   None of us have all the answers. Which brings me to the thought that a little less arrogance would also be in order. Thinking we have all the answers is the first step to not getting any worthwhile answers at all. And believing we know, without a doubt, what’s best for our neighbors, our towns, our country, or the world, is crazy thinking.  Just sayin’.  No one knows everything, and the moment we start to think we do, we’ve cut off our nose to spite our face. We can only try our best, try to evolve with our problems, and try to respect each other. We all, whoever we are, deserve at least some modicum of respect. As human beings with feelings if nothing else.

So, I know there’s a lot going on in the world.  I know some of it isn’t good.  I know some of it needs to be changed.  But, I also know that there’s beauty and light and love and kindness and compassion and gentleness and giving and loving and respecting and grace out there.  People are, generally, good.  Most of us want the same things in life.  Most of us want not only ourselves but our fellow humans to be well, to be happy, to be fulfilled and to have joy.  Most of us are good people doing the best we can to get by, to have a life, to make a better future for our children and grandchildren.  We are more alike than we aren’t.

Like I used to tell the kids I worked with, “use your powers (and there are many) for good, not evil”.  You have a choice.  I choose to try to emphasize the love and beauty and light and joy in the world.  Not to say my way is better than any other way, but it’s my way, and this is my blog.  This is the best way for me.  It helps to remind me, every day, that there are good people out there and good things happening.  It helps me remember that we are more the same than different and that there’s so much creativity and goodness in the world.  If I seek out the positive, I find it.

I think of it like this… a drop of light creates a ripple of kindness, which leads to waves of joy and compassion and understanding that flow out well beyond where that one drop started.  Just think what would happen if we all got together and tried compassion and understanding and joy for change.  Think of what could happen.  Think of the huge wonderful waves that shared energy would create.  Think of how beautiful that would be.

 

Facing the Book of My Life

10560687754_1d56bece29_bVapor.

I was sitting outside this morning, enjoying a bit of time before the heat and humidity forced me back inside.  I had a cup of coffee and was chatting with K about our trip to Oregon this year, going over some of the little details of the trip out, discussing some of the things we will do while we’re there.  During the discussion I started thinking about all of our people out there, which I often do.  I wondered if we would get to see most of them, I hoped we would.

Thinking about the people you miss sometimes leads to thinking about the life you’ve had.  Mine has been amazing so far.  Amazing, mostly, because of the people who have been in my life, either for a short time or for most of it.  It’s the people, you see, who make a life what it is.  It’s the experiences you have with those people who make the memories you hold on to, that make this journey we are all on worth the ride.

In that short time sitting outside I ran the gamut of my life, thinking about antics on playgrounds, singing silly songs in high school hallways, riding around in my Plymouth Scamp, playing frisbee in dark parks, skipping class to go to the coast, bridesmaids dresses, card games, talks in coffee shops, bike rides, racquetball, drive-in movies, travel to far away places, crying together, music shared, and laughter.  So much laughter.  So many smiles.  I have what seems like an endless litany of shared experiences.

My thoughts then turned to Facebook, which really isn’t that strange of a leap to make.  I realized, during this short accounting of my life, that I am friends on Facebook with people from all phases of my life.  I have managed to gather them there, these parts of my life, parts of myself.  I can look at my friends list and see people I knew in grade school, people I spent time with in high school, people I met in college, and people from my work life afterward. And I realized something else… I love them all.  I love them like I love those versions of myself.  The versions of me I was when I knew them.  I hold those parts of myself close, trying to remember who I’ve been, how far I’ve traveled in life, and who these wonderful people have become themselves.  Who we are all becoming, every day as we move forward in life.

It’s a deep thought, not easily articulated.  I guess I will say this.  I love Facebook.  Not for the games or the re-posting or the political stuff I seem to be inundated with every day, but for the connection.  I love it for the window into people’s lives.  For the thoughts and photos and snippets of things that are important to them.  People I’ve loved, people I still love for who they were to me,  who they are to me now.  People who have made my life what it is, who have made me who I am.  I’m grateful for this connection, for this window.  I’m blessed to have been able to renew those ties to my former self, my younger self, and to stay connected to family and friends in far away places.

Before Facebook these parts of my life were like vapor.  Diffused.  Slightly transparent.  Now, though still removed and in far off places, they are re-connected to me.  And I am, miraculously, reconnected to myself, to my past, to this life I’ve lived and am living, and to the people that have made this life.  I’m grateful for that.

 

Happy Birthday, Dad

ImageToday would’ve been my dad’s 71st birthday.  71.

I imagine him, smiling, moving quickly from one project to another, eyes sparkling like only his did, laughing that fantastically gregarious laugh.  I imagine him surrounded by his children, their spouses, his grandchildren, his wife.  He is drinking coffee, with cream and loads of sugar, and eating a cheese sandwich.  His hair is gray, it went that way early, which is something he passed to the seven of his children, and his clunky black glasses are perched on his nose.  He’s wearing a pair of polyester pants, some funky loafers, a knit polo shirt, and some off-color windbreaker.  He’s legally blind, but you’d never know it by the way he zips around, managing to never run into anything.  His spirit, which has always been joyful and silly and free, is a big presence in this space.  He fills it.  I imagine him giving me a hug, so tight, full of all the things he could never really say.  Afterward he sits down at his pedal steel guitar and he plays.  Man, does he play.  His skill is unmatched, his notes hitting with perfection, and his smile gets even bigger, if that’s possible.  Then he begins to sing….

Today would’ve been my dad’s 71st birthday.  He’s been gone for nearly 8 years now.  I miss him still….

Happy birthday, Dad.

Desert Winds

It’s windy out there tonight.  I can hear the rattling of the blinds as the wind whips in, rustling them, causing a banging on the window frame.  I may have to shut the window, but maybe I’ll put up with it, I love the cool desert night air.  And I love the sound of the wind, whipping by outside.  Whistling, then howling, then still.  It is a symphony.

It’s after 11:00 in Vegas.  It was warm today, 79 and blue sky.  I wore shorts and a t-shirt, had on my slide shoes and had to squint when I was out driving around.  I think the people who live here think it’s still sort of cold.  They are used to the heat.  My body doesn’t expect it until June.  I live in the Midwest after all.

I’m missing my honey and don’t much like being so far away from her, but am glad I came.  Friends like these are gifts.

It’s amazing how people can be so different, and yet have so much love for each other.  I was a bit nervous about coming.  Not sure how, after all these years, we would get on.   Hoping it would be the same, wondering if all of life’s ups and downs might have changed us all somehow, made us different people.  Those ups and downs have changed us, all of us, but who we are, and have always been, to and for each other remains.  Distance and time haven’t altered that.  Thank god.

I am blessed to have these people in my life.  And with them, as I always have felt, I am home.  We’ve been in each others lives for so long there’s a comfort and certainty that is reassuring and magical.  There’s a peace that happens not brought by any one of us, but made by our presence together.  Deep love and understanding resides there.

Understanding.

Hanging On To Life

Hanging On To Life (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

We may be different, see the world differently, but we understand each other and know, always, that there’s a love and a respect and a kindness there.

My wish for the world is that people would feel this sort of kinship in their lives.  I’ve been lucky enough to feel this with several people throughout the course of my life.  Spectacular people, each and every one.

This tapestry of lovely humanness is overwhelming, and as I sit here, the blind still banging on the sill, I feel an incredible sense of humble gratitude for how fortunate I am, for how full my life is of beautiful people, and for the sounds of the wind, right outside the window.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

What Makes a Marriage

I’m married.  At least K and I feel we’re married.  We’ve already had two marriage “ceremonies”.  One on a beach in Maui, just the two of us, words spoken, rings exchanged, sand ceremony, poetry read, and lots of love.  We consider that one our real marriage ceremony.  It might not, technically, have been legal, but it was sincere, honest, and full of love.  It had everything, everything we needed and wanted anyway.  It was beautiful, and perfect.  The second, not actually a ceremony, was when I walked into the courthouse, paid the filing fee, and left with a domestic partnership certificate for the two of us.  We had to certify that we’d lived together for a certain length of time, by then we’d been together for a few years.

Now, nearly 11 years later, we’re living in Illinois, not Oregon, and in June, when the Illinois marriage law takes effect, we can, once again, get married.  We find this funny by the way.  Not funny that we’ve had to wait for marriage or hope for marriage or long for equality, but funny that this will be our third time.  We joke that maybe this time it will stick.  One can only hope.

All of this has me thinking.  What makes a marriage?

In June we will take our domestic partnership certificate in to the courthouse here in Illinois and exchange it for a marriage license.  They will back date our marriage license to the date we got our domestic partnership, which is great.  It means we will be considered legally married from that date, which was like, oh, six or seven years ago.  I can’t remember.  It wasn’t THE marriage so we honestly don’t even know the date we did it.  I’m sure it says on the certificate.  And, suddenly, miraculously, we will be, after all these years, legally married.

192513_10151471565185802_1069606502_o

The thing is, we are already married.  When we made those vows to each other on that beach in Maui, we meant them.  We didn’t need someone else to sanction it, or tell us it was OK.  We just needed to hear from each other that we loved and were loved in return.

So what’s the big deal about legal.  Well, it is a big deal.  Not so much to us, or to our friends and family who I think all consider us already married as well.  It’s a big deal because we will be protected under the law.  The taxes we pay will, finally, be used to our benefit, and we won’t be paying for other people to enjoy freedoms and benefits that to this point we weren’t allowed.  We will be the same.

The same.  That’s the thing, really.  We are the same as everyone else.  I know I’ve said this before.  We laugh, we love, we have friends and go to family functions with both sides of our families.  We work and do the dishes and go out to dinner and clean our bathrooms and mow our lawn.  We vacation, collecting heart rocks on every trip, take our dogs to the groomer, and go to the movies.  We babysit our grandchildren and buy organic food and go on bike rides.  We live.  We live and yet we’ve always felt just a little bit separate.  We’ve been made to feel separate. We’ve been told we are less than.  We aren’t.  But this is why gay groups have sprung up and gay people have banded together and held each others hands and been out and proud to be out.  We’ve had to. We’ve had to in order to feel what community feels like, since the larger community has shunned and pushed us away for so long.

And now… now we will be the same.  Still ridiculed and feared in same places, by some people, but the same legally.  We will, finally, be included, be part of the larger crowd.  We will be, honestly, the same.  Which is all we’ve ever wanted.  To continue to live normal lives and instead of being gay Tam, I’ll be Tam.  I’ll be Tam and K will be K and we will be married.  Married just like my Mom was married and my grandparents were married and K’s parents are married.

We will be married.  A piece of paper does not make a marriage, but it sure makes a marriage a legal, tangible, and a real thing in the eyes of the law.  It makes it real in the eyes of the community at large, even those who would still try to deny us.  What has, and will always be, real and true to us, will be real and true to our larger community.

Wow.

When the Cats Away

 

It’s quiet in here.

My honey is away for a few days on a business trip.  I was just sitting here working on my various blogs, yes I have more than one, and realized the only sound I’m hearing right now is the rattling of the pipe as the washing machine fills up with water.  Even the dogs are quiet, they’re sleeping.

Westminster

Westminster (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

I’m a person who enjoys quiet time, needs it in fact.  As K and I joke, I could sit quietly by myself in a room for hours with no outside stimuli, just looking at the walls, and think.  I’d be happy doing that.  I’ve done it.  It probably sounds strange.  It rejuvenates me.

Conversely my honey can’t take too much quiet time.  She can’t take sitting and not doing something for very long.  She’s a doer, a bundle of energy needing to have something to pour itself into often enough so that she doesn’t spontaneously combust.  It’s her way, and I love her for it.

We are very different in this regard.

I just realized I’ve been sitting here for a little bit of time.  Not as long as I originally thought, when this first occurred to me, as I realized I did get up to do the dishes, then to feed the dogs, then later to clean the bathrooms, then later still to do some laundry, but a long time none the less.  It’s not like I’m sitting here doing nothing, though really I guess I’m sitting here doing nothing.  Unless working on the blogs, checking Twitter and Facebook, and reading the news online counts as something.  I think it’s more fluff than substance.  No matter really, I’ve been sitting here, aforementioned activities excluded, all morning.  No radio on and there’s no TV on this floor.  Silent.

There’s a lot of light in this room, especially now that the snow has finally melted off the solar tubes.  The sky is bright blue and the temps are, amazingly enough, above freezing today.  This makes two days in a row.  I’m shocked.  It’s lovely out.

The dogs are laying on either side of me, both zonked out.  They are relaxed, and so cute.  I love them.

Our normal daily lives are a bit noisy.  Laundry going, dishwasher going, my honey on one work call after another, phone ringing, us talking to each other, radio on.  Usually the dogs are barking at squirrels or people walking by, but strangely, not today.  Maybe they know what’s going on.

I’m listening to the sounds of the world.  The faint chime on our front porch as the wind moves it just enough to clang, not more than once or twice all morning.  The unseen, but heard, sounds of the occasional car rushing by the house.  I can see the branches on trees moving, but can’t hear the wind.  Then there’s the far off sound of a fan, somewhere in the house.  The little girly just barked, muffled, in her sleep, followed by a heavy breath.  My fingers are making sounds on the keyboard as I type.  A helicopter just flew over.  I think I just heard the faint sounds of a woodpecker.  That’s all.  The rest, silence.

When K is away for work I always think to myself, maybe I’ll go see a movie, go out to dinner, meet up with some friends.  I never do.  I probably would if it was going to be longer than just a couple of days, but it isn’t.  And as much as I love my honey, and don’t like when she’s away, I do love my alone time.  So much so I don’t answer the phone, unless it’s her.  I can think of all this take out I’d love to go get, or have delivered, but I don’t want to see anyone, talk to anyone, so I make due with what we have here at the house.  I’m enjoying this too much to have it interrupted.  I could go two days and not talk to anyone other than the pups, myself, and as I said, my honey when she calls.  That’s it.

I’m recharging.  It soothes my soul.

I know people who like it when their spouse has to travel because they get to do things they wouldn’t normally do.  Maybe go out with friends, get a bit wild.  Nothing terrible, just cutting loose a little.  Not me.  When my cat’s away, this is how I play.  I sit, looking out the window, listening to the lovely sounds of silence.

Enhanced by Zemanta

To Be Human

Gulls at Mead

Gulls at Mead (Photo credit: Tj Parker Photography)

So much of how we see ourselves is based on how our peers, our friends, our family, and our community sees us.  Yes, if you are a person with good self-esteem you can be in the world as a more confident, relaxed, grounded individual.  But even the most secure person struggles, at times, with how they think other people see them.  We are constantly being influenced by what our friends, family, and society think of us.  Whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not, whether we admit it or not.  We carry those opinions, thoughts, comments, with us throughout the course of our lives.  Little voices of disapproval or questions about our actions, our look, and our direction pop up occasionally as annoying ghosts in our minds.  It happens to me.

I’m a pretty relaxed confident person in that I don’t care much what others think of me.  OK, more accurately, I may care a bit, but I don’t let that influence the decisions I make and the way I am in my every day life.  Most of the time.  Keyword — most. It’s strange how those little voices come up at the strangest of times.  How those negative experiences, comments, criticisms, stay with us over time, no matter how hard we try to exorcise them from our heads and our lives.

When I was a kid I spent a significant amount of time with my paternal grandmother.  She loved me so much, treated me so well.  She was not a nice person.  As I grew I realized she didn’t treat my brother as well as she treated me.  She called him names, excluded him from activities, made comments about him.  When I realized this I slowly stopped spending time with her.  I loved her, but she wasn’t good to him and I loved him.  It was my little way of standing up to her, and my not wanting to be around that sort of behavior and negativity.  Even as a kid I felt that stuff profoundly.  Negative emotion, action, etc.  I can’t stomach it.  No matter how many toys you buy me.  My aunt, who was this same grandmother’s daughter and my dad’s sister, didn’t get along that great with her own mother because of this playing favorites type of mentality. Yet, she was her.  Maybe it was to make up for how my grandmother was, but my aunt, who treated my brother like a little prince, was not nice.  She was not nice to me.  She called me names, excluded me from activities, and made comments about me.  Once, when my brother and I were at her house we were eating a meal.  She looked at me and said, “you eat like such a pig”.  Bam.  There it was.  That moment changed me a little bit forever.

For years, and even still once in a while, that little line pops into my head.  Because of that line when I was a teen and a young adult I never liked eating in front of people.  I was so self-conscious, always afraid people would see the pig in me.  The pig that she’d noticed and pointed out.  The pig that in reality didn’t exist, but existed after her comment so much in my head and my heart.

Ouch.

I grew, and grew out of those feelings.  My self-esteem took a long time (for not just this reason of course) to grow and blossom, but it did.  I realized it was her problem and that I had never been a pig, but it informed so much of how I was in the world for so long.  Perceptions.  Judgements.  Those ideas other people have of us and those we have of ourselves can be cruel and are often wrong.  I saw myself as a pig because she’d seen me that way.

We tell ourselves internal stories.  Stories about ourselves, about our world, about the people we see all around us — friends, family, strangers.  We do this all the time.  It’s how we explain things, people, interactions, relationships, to ourselves.  These stories, told as a constant monologue in our heads, are our way of explaining our world to ourselves.  This is what that means, this is what that looks like, this is how this or that person must be, and on and on.  They are really just our stories, even if they are about other people, because they are based solely on our own thoughts and experiences.  Our experience of ourselves, our histories, the path we’ve been on.  Our experiences inform our stories.  Always.

We can never, and I repeat, NEVER, know another person’s story.  Not really.  We think we do, we assume things and place expectations on every other person we know, see, and meet, based on what’s happened in our own lives, based on what we’ve been told, and based on what we’ve been through ourselves.  But these stories and assumptions and ideas about people are false truths.  We get arrogant and judgmental and place unfair expectations on others based on what we think we know of them, what we think we see, or what we think we would do in their place.  Instead of really knowing what we’re talking about we often fill in the blank with our own ideas of a person or a situation.  These ideas coming from, again, what our own thoughts and experiences have told us must be true.  We, as humans, do this all the time.  I do it all the time.  I try not to.  I fail.

To look at another person and automatically assume you know what they should do, how they are as a person, or how they should act, is arrogant.  To hear about another person, another group, and assume things about them without having any real interaction with them is wrong and it’s sad.  It’s harmful to them, to ourselves, and harmful to the world.  It automatically separates us from each other instead of connecting us.  Any time judgement seeps into a thought, a conversation, an opinion, we’ve lost a bit of ourselves.  We’ve lost a bit of humanity.

This is not a particularly flattering story to tell on myself, but here I go none the less.  Years ago I worked at a prison for kids.  This particular one was called a youth correctional facility, but it was a prison.  I’d just turned 23, and a few months earlier had graduated from college with a degree in psychology.  I fancied myself as liberal, open, and non-judgmental.  Part of the orientation were these little tours of the different units at the facility.  One of those units, a place called the Secure Intensive Treatment Program, was on the tour.  This particular unit, which I would end up working at three years later, after a lot more experience, was where the kids who’d committed murder and attempted murder were housed.  Basically it was what would be called maximum security in an adult prison.  I walked in there with expectation, pre-conceived notions, and prejudices I wasn’t even aware I had.  When I walked in I thought I didn’t have any prejudice, any judgement of others.  By the time I walked out I knew I was sadly and shockingly wrong about myself.

Ouch.

Part of the tour of this particular unit, other than a staff member telling me about what they did there, was a tour of the unit by a kid who lived there.  I heard this from the staff and immediately started looking around at the kids in the unit.  There were all sorts of kids there, pretty much all races and ethnic backgrounds represented.  In my mind I zeroed in on this one particular kid.  I’m not sure why.  He was big, and gruff looking, and African-American.  I was instantly afraid of him.  There were other kids there that pretty much fit his same description, but I kept saying in my head, please don’t let my tour guide be that kid.  Any other kid, but not him.  Fate has a sense of humor.  The staff couldn’t read my mind, but sure enough, he ended up being the kid the staff picked out to show me around.  I introduced myself, he introduced himself, and off we went to the various parts of the program.  He was soft-spoken, thoughtful, and explained the ins and outs of the place with wonderful perspective and detail.  I liked him instantly.

My experience, which was non-existent with criminals, very limited with African-Americans, on the fringe with people who were gruff looking, and nil with teen felons, filled in a story about this kid.  Before I even started talking to him I thought, I assumed, I knew who he was and because of those perceptions and assumptions I was afraid of him.  I was sure he would be dismissive and sarcastic and intimidating.  Sure of it.  I knew he would be scary to talk to and deal with.  I couldn’t have been more wrong and I learned a big lesson that day.  A lesson about myself and about how we see our fellow humans without even knowing them.  How we judge without having any real experience, the experience which then lets us know someone and understand them.  Let’s us see them honestly, and in a real way.

These are the traps, the stories, and the falsehoods we find ourselves in.  We go there all the time.   Intentionally or unintentionally.  I know I do.  I don’t mean to.  I try to be my better self, but I know I don’t always succeed.

The homeless are many in Portland, where I used to live.  When I was a kid visiting Portland for various activities at various times they were called bums (which speaks a lot to our judgmental nature as people).  Later on, when I was an adult living in Portland there’d be the every so often news story about the homeless problem.  I used to avoid them at all costs, try not to look them in the eye, and generally sort of pretend they didn’t exist.  I assumed I understood them, knew things about them, without knowing them at all.  Harsh, but true.  I’m not proud of it, but there it is.  On the other hand I was always sensitive to kids who lived on the street.  I worked with teens and had (still have) a soft spot for them.  I don’t know why but I’ve always loved that at risk youth population.  They are tough and vulnerable and resilient and sensitive.  Many are just downright amazing.  I had experience with homeless teens so when I saw a homeless kid on the street I often gave them some change, said hello, acknowledged them in some way.  I looked them in the eye and I saw them.  Adults living on the street — that was different for me.  I had no experience with them, other than what the media portrayed and what I’d heard other people say, so I’d avoid eye contact and walk quickly past to avoid any sort of interaction that might happen.  I didn’t really see them at all.  Where’s the humanity in that?

Ouch.

Things changed, my perceptions were altered, when on my second date with K we met a homeless woman.  We were sitting outside at a café having coffee.  The date had been going on for a while.  We were having great conversation, enjoying each other.  I saw this homeless woman half a block away, heading our direction.  She hadn’t noticed me yet so I did what I always did, I avoided her gaze, I looked away.  But as fate would have it, she approached us anyway and asked for money for coffee.  I didn’t know what to say, hemming and hawing, looking around, being generally uncomfortable.  But K — she rocked it out.  She looked at the woman, in the eyes, and said that she wouldn’t give her money but she’d buy her a coffee.  The woman said she didn’t like the coffee from the place we were sitting in front of and wanted the money so she could buy it elsewhere.  K offered to walk down the street with her to buy her coffee at another place.  The woman still refused and again asked for money.  K then offered up her own cup of coffee to the woman, who again refused and then walked away.  The point of this is I learned a great lesson that day, one of many from the woman who is now my wife.  Compassion, interaction, and most importantly — acknowledgement.  K saw that woman.  She interacted with her.  She didn’t avoid or dismiss or shun.  She engaged and talked in a meaningful and genuine way.  I loved her all the more for that.  And I learned something from her.  Now, when I see a homeless person, I see them.  I look them in the eye, I say hello.  I now, because of real experience, see the homeless as people.  People whose stories I don’t really know.  People whose experiences, the experiences that led to their homelessness in the first place, I have no way of knowing and definitely no right to judge.

I was perusing the internet the other day and came across a video of a homeless veteran who had agreed to do a little exercise with a crew of people from a ministry who have made it their mission to work with, help, and try to enrich the lives of homeless veterans.  They did a time-lapse video of the exercise.  In it they cut and colored his hair, trimmed his beard, and put a new set of clothes on him.  He couldn’t see himself until after the transformation has happened.  Finally, when they were done they brought out a huge mirror and showed him to himself.  He was stunned, mouthing the word wow before he got up and hugged a member of the team.

Seeing this video started me thinking, which led to this blog post.  This guy, who in the beginning looked exactly like what you’d expect a homeless person to look like, looked like a CEO of a company when they were done with him.  A haircut and a change of clothes is all that really happened, but it changed the perception of him.  Ours and his own.

We carry what others think of us, say about us, and the judgements they make of us around inside of ourselves.  Those thoughts and judgements always end up incorporating themselves into our lives, into the framework that makes up who we think we are.  It happens to each of us and when it does it makes us uncomfortable, chiseling away at our foundations, even though we try to keep those judgements at bay.  Yet, we turn around and do it to others.  We see people, groups, other humans and we think we know them, without knowing them.  We make up stories about them without hearing their stories.  We judge, without knowing anything about their real experiences.

Ouch.

We should know better.  We obviously don’t know better.  We should strive to do better.

Maybe if we think the best of the people around us, they will think the best of themselves.  Maybe if we work hard at being interested and connected with people they will be interested and connected.  Maybe if we treat each other with kindness and compassion instead of judgement and accusation they will be more kind and compassionate.  Maybe, just maybe, if we treat people as human beings, they will be more human.  And maybe just the act of being more connected, and compassionate, and kind, and human gives us each a bit more humanity.  Maybe if we listen more and judge less the stories we tell ourselves will contain more fact than fiction.

Maybe…