Time to Look in the Mirror

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

We see what we want to see.  That’s part of the problem.

I was perusing Facebook, which I must say prompts many posts on this blog, and I saw a theme.  Negativity.  Plain and simple.

There were posts about “those” people.  Of one sort of another.  You know them, the idiots, the ridiculous, the terrible, the stupid, the crazy, the deluded, the poor things… them.   They seem to be everywhere, “these” people.  They must be.  Everyone is talking about them.

Then it hit me.

We are a beautiful lot, humanity.  A tapestry like no other.  Preferences, likes and dislikes, and ways of being in the world that differ from each other.  We are sad or happy, diet coke or Pepsi, Chevy or Ford, Republican or Democrat,  dressing on the side or on the salad, rural or city,  cream or taking it black, gay or straight, married or single, serious or silly, tomAto or tomato, and on and on and on.  We love our families the best way we know how, we want the best for our kids or grandkids, we want to earn a decent living, take vacations, laugh a lot, and we want the right to live peacefully, with joy.  Each and every one of us.

But it’s not that simple.  Because what I noticed today, as I was perusing, was that people see what they want to see.  They notice what they want to notice.  I bet they don’t even know they’re doing it.  We seize on information, posts, articles, videos, that speak to us.  Things that in some way support our world view.  There’s probably a theme to how we post, what we post, etc., only we don’t even know it.

We need to pay attention.  To ourselves.  Instead of looking out at what that idiot said or didn’t say, which by the way, in and of itself, that language on its own, is wrong.  I would hope no one would put me in a class of “those idiots”, just because I happen to align myself with a certain ideology.  But they do.  Friends have posted many things about liberals being idiots or crazy or wrong or disturbed or… it goes on.  I’m shocked by it, every time.  Just as I’m sure some of my more conservative friends feel shocked or hurt when a liberal friend of theirs posts something about those idiotic conservatives.  Let’s be honest… none of us are idiotic.  We just don’t agree with each other.  That doesn’t make me an idiot, it just makes a person with a different opinion.

But I digress.   This doesn’t just apply to politics.  I noticed it applies to many things… the videos people choose to post, the things they choose to put out into the world under their own names…. it’s interesting.  Are you a person who posts things that are generally positive, generally informative, upbeat, things that speak to beauty and light and love.  I’ve seen those people, and honestly, I hope I’m one of them.  Or are you someone who sees the dark and the crazy and the wrong in everything and then feels the need to put it out there?  And if so, why? So others like you can agree how bad everything is, or so that you can enlighten those of us who may be Pollyannas who try to look for the good?  I’m not being rhetorical.  I really want to know.

There are people who feel the need to fight everything, against life and what they see as wrongdoing.  I get trying to fight for what you think is right.  I get speaking your mind and your truth.  What I don’t get is a person coming across some debasing or derogatory or hurtful thing and re-posting it.  What’s the purpose of spreading that kind of negativity?  If you have strong opinions, if you feel things are wrong in the world and need fixing, find what you think are some solutions, speak to issues from the place of problem-solving, not finger-pointing.  Re-posting terrible things, some not even based on truth, just for the sake of talking bad about someone or something, is wrong.  You aren’t shining a light on them, you’re shining a terrible light on yourself.

We need to look at ourselves.  Decide if we want to be people who create solutions, who seek a more beautiful world for all of us, or are we people who debase, make fun of, and act from fear.  Who do we want to be?  How do we want to live?  What do we want to be putting out there into the world?  What do we want to be teaching our kids about how to be in the world?  Hurtful to others, or uplifting to others.  It’s up to us.

Look in a mirror.  Look at your personal news feeds.  Look at everything you’ve posted in the last year and judge for yourself.  What kind of person are you?  Are you happy with that?  If not.  Change.  Let’s lift people up.  Let’s inspire with kindness and goodness and love. Let’s try to speak from joy.  From positivity.  From a place of understanding, humility, and love.

I know there are things wrong in the world.  I know there are things that need to be changed.  One of those things is people calling other people idiots or other derogatory names.  One of those things is people being hurtful just, it seems, to be hurtful.  Let’s start being, and communicating, like intelligent humans.  After all, we are.  Sometimes I think we just forget ourselves.  Get swept up.  Let’s be better.  Let’s look with better eyes and hearts at a world that is a beautiful, wondrous place.  Let’s talk about that.

Candy Coated Kindness

candy-caneWe were out and about again today, running more errands, getting ready for some upcoming Christmas festivities.  Since we were going out we thought today would be a good day for the candy cane caper.  Sounds more adventurous or slightly naughty than it was, but it ended up being pretty nice.  We’d purchased a box of big sized candy canes a while back in preparation and today we took them around and passed them out to people, saying Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, giving people a smile as we did.  Librarians, people sitting at a cafe, the ladies who work at the coffee roasters we go to, a couple of policemen, and a girl sitting outside waiting for a ride were all recipients.  My honey is really good at this.  Her smile can light up a room.  Every single person who got a candy cane smiled back at us.  We gave a few of the people two candy canes telling them one was for them and one was for them to hand out to someone else.  A sweet bit of shared kindness.

Kindness Hits You Where You Live

Today might have been the most simple act of kindness we’ve done to date.  We were kind to each other.  We slept in, laughed, talked, shopped, did laundry, cooked, did dishes, drank our nightly decaf, held hands, showed each other cool photos online, took the pups for a nice walk, problem solved a couple of things, said I love you and thanks honey a few times, and had a pretty quiet day together.  It’s important to be aware of your spouse, to be kind to them.  We do a pretty good job of that most of the time, but it’s good to talk about it, good to be present with it.  It’s a form of kindness that’s not talked about enough.  It’s great and important to be kind to others, but it’s equally important, if not more so, to be kind to the people you are closest to, people who you share your life with.  

Keeping The Cold at Bay With Kindness

hand-warmersWe found a big package of handwarmers at the bottom of our hat/scarf bin in our closet. At some point we bought them in bulk. Each little package is a pack of two handwarmers. It’s very cold out today so our act of kindness was to drive around our towns, both Champaign and Urbana, for a couple of hours handing out packs of handwarmers to people at bus stops and other people just walking around who looked really cold. We would pull up and K would roll down her window or jump out and offer up a package of handwarmers to the person. Some took them, others didn’t. One guy said he didn’t need them because he had socks on his hands. K tried to convince him socks weren’t warm enough. He smiled, laughed a little, and still refused. We gave that pack to the next cold looking person we saw. Even the people who refused them smiled at us. The people that took them were very grateful. Small kindnesses mean something.

Notes of Kindness

notesWe go to the library a lot.  I’m a huge fan.  All sorts of people use the libary, which is one of the things that makes it so awesome.  It’s an amazing resource.  One of the things we thought we would do as we go forward with this whole kindness adventure was to write out a bunch of positive notes on post-its and randomly place them around for people to find.  Since we go to the library a lot, and since there are all sorts of people there, we thought it would be a good place to put the notes.  Today was the day.  We note-bombed the library.  I don’t know how many notes we made up, there were a lot of them.  We each took part of the pack of them and snuck around putting them in places like seats, and on the copier, and on a book I was returning, and in the elevators.  We put them all over. They all said different things, like “you have a beautiful smile” or “you are braver than you know” or “you are loved”.  It was so much fun.  Everyone loves hearing something nice. We hope there will be a few extra smiles today at the library.

Smiling With Kindness

handsWe decided, really since we started this whole adventure, but today especially, that we would be mindful of being outwardly open, friendly, chatty, interested, and kind toward whoever we came in contact with.  In all actuality, we are like this for the most part, in our daily lives, but it puts an extra special twist on it when you do it mindfully.  So today, as we ran some errands, we made sure to look people in the eyes, smile at them, be silly, chat, make conversation, shake hands if it was possible.  We ended up getting a lot of smiles in return.  Again, sometimes it’s the smaller things that make all the difference in life.  A smile costs nothing.  Interest in other people as humans costs nothing.  Being a tad silly, and chatty, costs nothing.  And all of those things together show a kindness, an openness, toward other people, which might just make them feel more kind and open as they go through the rest of their day.  Maybe it starts a wave of kindness.  And if not, smiling at people generally gets them to smile back.  It’s worth it.

Postmarked With Kindness

fullsizerenderToday’s act of kindness involved sending a few notes to a few people we were thinking of and just wanted to say hello to.  Getting mail is cool.  It makes people smile.  Let’s them know you were thinking of them.  Mail is kind.  Send mail.

Dog Days of Kindness

img_2341As most everyone can tell, we love our pups very much.  They bring so much light, joy, and love into our lives.  We also know we aren’t the only ones who feel this way about our furry family members.  Because of this we wanted to do something kind for other people’s dog and cats.  We found out about an event put on by a local organization called Hospice Hearts that is meant to help out low income people by offering vet service, grooming services, and food at reduced rates.  So we bought some food and just dropped it off for the organizers to use at the event.  We have to remember to be kind to everyone, including our furry friends.  Spread the love.

Teaching Kindness

img_2340Sebastian is an amazing little guy. Has always been.  He started kindergarten this year and he’s flourished there, growing and maturing as the year has gone on.  Teaching is a hard business, and teaching kindergarten must be impossible at times.   Hopefully it’s also rewarding.   We think Sebastian’s teacher has been great with him, and his class, this year.  It has been a good first step for him into the regular school system and a large part of that has been due to her work.  So today’s act of kindness is to show our appreciation to her by giving her a gift card good for a couple of cups of coffee or tea or hot cocoa at a local coffee place.   It’s a small token for such a big thing.

Dropping The Dime on Kindness

dimeWe were at the library, where we go frequently.  I’m a huge fan of the library.  We probably go there a couple of times a week.  Anyway, we were in the parking lot, which has meters, and we noticed the meter enforcement person pull up.  She got out and walked over to a car and started writing a ticket.  So K jumped out of our Jeep, ran over to her with a bag of change we keep in the Jeep for parking, and asked her if instead of giving tickets she would put change in the meters, K offered up our change.  The meter lady told K she couldn’t do that, and in fact her bosses had told her specifically not to do it.  She could put her job in jeopardy.  We definitely didn’t want that.  Then she says, “I haven’t gotten to that row yet”, and sort of gestured over to another row.  We took the hint.  We started moving around the lot trying to spot meters that had expired and if we found one we put change in it.  The meter lady was sort of sour when K initially approached her, but by the time they finished chatting, and she suggested the other row, she had a big grin on her face.  Sometimes acts of kindness just have to be seen to be appreciated, to lift spirits, and to make people smile.

Kindness is Our Jam

img_2314K makes great jam, so when our mail lady came up to the porch today I handed her a large jar of pear jam.   She was very happy to get it.  I think it might have made her day.  Kindness doesn’t have to cost anything, so be kind and spread joy!

The Advent of Kindness

K and I have been in a funk for a bit.  A lot of people have, we aren’t alone in this.  Mostly for us I think it’s because there’s so much anger and nastiness out there.  But when we talk about it we, being us, inevitably end up talking about how we can’t do anything personally about the really big stuff, but we can do something right here where we live.  We can volunteer, which we will do starting after the first of the year, but we can also, and I think more importantly, be kind.  Be kind, joyful, genuine, and sincere.  We can try to spread hope and love. We can look people in the eye, smile at them, and say hello.

This place of wanting to be kind is where this idea sprang from.  Starting today, we are using as a blueprint (we aren’t going to do everything on it as written, and will probably change a few of the things to better suit our personalities and such) the Random Acts of Christmas Kindness 2016 calendar we found floating around on the internet.  We printed it off, put it on the fridge, and are starting off our Kindness Advent (as we like to call it) with the first thing on the calendar, writing a letter to a soldier.

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We liked this idea very much and wanted to send something to a soldier overseas who might not get a lot of mail.  I did some research and found an organization called Any Soldier.  They have soldiers in units/regiments who act as contacts for the organization.  The organization sends you an address for one of these soldiers who then, when the get your letter, pass it on to another soldier in their unit who doesn’t get that much mail.  Very cool.  We used a card one of my friends made and gave to me a long time ago.  She does water-color and this one in particular really spoke to me.  It feels like winter and quiet and Christmas.

So here we go.  Off on this adventure of kindness.  I’m going to post every day about whatever random act of kindness, or not so random, we decide to do.  It’s our people see this and decide they themselves could do something similar, or at least smile more, say hello more, be kinder in their every day lives.  It’s our hope this helps to start an avalanche of kindness.

Honestly, we could use a bit more kindness in the world.  A bit more love.  A bit more joy.  A bit more hope.  A bit more…. so, pass it on.

 

Maybe There’s Hope For Us After All

IMG_5153I believe we all basically want the same things, even if we don’t agree about how we might get them.  Trying to understand each other, giving each other simple respect as human beings, goes a long way.  We all have different experiences which inform how we’ve decided to live our lives.  There are many ways to happiness.  My way works for me, yours works for you, we can agree to disagree.  And if we can, if we can stop trying to tell each other what to do, how to live, if we can be forgiving and generous of spirit, we can be sympathetic, we can hope.

I’m not a religious person.  Spiritual, yes, religious no.  But even so, through my life I’ve been fascinated with organized religion.  I’ve taken classes, studied, and I’ve been exposed to religions of differing kinds through my family and friends.  I have seen people, in regards to their religion, be their best selves, and I’ve seen them be their not so best selves.

I never understood, growing up, why my Grandma on my father’s side played favorites with her children and her grandchildren.  Her choices seemed arbitrary, nonsensical.  There seemed to be no precipitating event or behavior that caused those choices.  I was, without a doubt, a favorite.  My brother was not.  When I was small I didn’t know this, or realize it, but then I grew.  I became aware of the behaviors of adults, of the kids around me.  I started to notice how my grandmother treated my brother.  It wasn’t good.  I was all cakes and smiles and praise and good cheer, he was insulted and degraded and made fun of.  When I noticed this, I started not wanting to go to grandma’s house anymore.  I loved my brother and I knew, innately, that my grandma’s behavior was cruel and mean and not at all acceptable.  I couldn’t get past how she could be so nice to me, buying me gifts, playing games, be so loving, and then be so awful to him.  He’d done nothing wrong, yet she acted as if his mere existence repulsed her.

My grandma was also very religious.  Religious as in talking in tongues, holy rollers, and tent revivals.  This never bothered me in and of itself, though it did scare me a lot when I went to church with her and the preacher was screaming and people were falling down in the aisles.  When I visited she would sometimes tell me stories from the bible, always choosing Revelations and emphasizing how if people weren’t good they would be branded and burn.  Scary stuff for a 7-year-old, but none of that really ever deterred me from seeing her, not even when she took me to a tent revival and had me saved by another screaming man.  I started not wanting to go see her on church days, but really I still loved seeing her.  Until, that is, I realized how she treated my brother.  Once that realization hit I instantly felt an incongruity.  I wasn’t more than 9 or 10, but I remember thinking how she was a person who espoused religious beliefs of love and faith and hope, but acted against them.  She was a hypocrite.  What I felt about religion told me it should be about love and understanding and compassion, not cruelty and judgement and disdain.

The other side of my family, my mom’s, wasn’t religious at all.  I found out later my mom’s mom had grown up in a religious household, but events happened that caused her to turn away from organized religion.  I think they all went to church as a family, for a time, but eventually that faded out for most of them.  When we visited my Mom’s parents religion was never discussed.  Instead we were taught to play chess and backgammon.  The arts were encouraged, books were encouraged, music was all around.  So was laughter and love and a very tight sense of family.

I grew up in a home with an atheist (my step-dad) and an agnostic (my mom).  We didn’t talk about religion much in our house, except when my step-dad mocked it, or my mom would explain that she thought, fundamentally, the tenants of organized religions were mostly good (do unto others, kindness, hope, love, compassion) but that organized religion, in the hands of some, seemed to be used to control, conquer, and judge people.  My mom, who treats people the best of anyone I’ve ever met, with respect and compassion and kindness, was and continues to be a great  role model for me about how to be a wonderful human.

Fast forward several years in my life.  I’d taken many courses on religion, read many religious books (large sections of the Bible, the Tao, Buddhist teachings, tenets of Hinduism, parts of the Koran, etc., etc.) and had formed what is the basis of my own spiritual thought.  No one religion encompasses what I think and feel, but they all actually have things in common, and have in their own way contributed to my philosophy.

I’ve had great experiences with people who are religious as well.  Being gay, this is a tough thing as many religious people condemn me for being who I am.  But, I have some wonderful people in my life, who are very religious, and have shown me, over and over, what love, truth, kindness, and understanding are.  Which is why I want to talk about my friend, Pat.  I met him a long time ago, 17 years or so.  We worked together, were office partners, and ended up loving each other like brother and sister.  He is a super religious guy.  Very much a man of his beliefs, very solid, very sure.  I respect him immensely for that.  As you can tell, I’m not a Christian person, and I’m gay, so our deep and abiding friendship was somewhat of a surprise to both of us.  And yet, it continues.  I have deep love for him, and I know he shares the same feelings for me.  He has been, at times, a youth pastor, a regular guest preacher, and very involved with whatever church he has belonged to over the years since I’ve known him.  He’s moved a bit so has had to change churches more than once, always finding a church home and always getting very involved with it when he does.  I also respect him for that.  He’s a man of faith, and his faith is strong.

Pat and I once had a very long very heartfelt conversation about my being gay, what he thought of it, and what he thinks the bible thinks of it as well.  At the time we had this conversation, which was several years ago now, he was not pro gay marriage.  He is a religious guy and he felt (and probably still feels) that a traditional marriage ceremony is inherently a religious ceremony.  I, who am now legally married to my partner of over 13 years, obviously disagrees with him on this point, but that’s OK, he doesn’t argue it with me.  We agree to disagree, which is OK too.  What he said to me that day, about my being gay, was beautiful.  He said that nowhere in his bible (and he knows it exceptionally well) does he interpret that people should be judged by anyone but God.  He said God teaches judge not lest ye be judged.  Judging, in and of itself, is a sin as great as any other.  He said it wasn’t his place to judge me.  He said it’s his place to love me, be kind to me, be accepting, and let God do what he will.  He believes that man is not God, and therefore shouldn’t think that he/she has the right to act as if they are acting for God.  I love Pat.  His beliefs are strong, and they don’t allow him to condemn me.  He would never do that.  He has often said he wants to bring me to his church and talk to the congregation about love, about our relationship, about how two very different people can form beautiful bonds with each other and how that’s what it should be all about.

This country, that I happen to love, was formed largely by people fleeing religious persecution.  People who weren’t able to worship and believe as they wished without consequence from their government, fled to a place where they could worship and believe as they wished.  We’ve somehow forgotten that.  If a person is not a Christian, in my experience, many Christians now seem to believe they have the right to tell that non-christian person they are somehow less than, and that they should, in essence, be cast out.  When did it become OK to judge?  When did it become OK to feel that because you believe a certain way you have the right to tell everyone else how to believe, how to be, what to do?  When did it become OK, with total arrogance, to feel that condemnation was a right anyone could have.  I don’t tell anyone what they should believe.  My feeling is that what works for you, as a person, as far as your belief system goes, is yours.  Your relationship with God, however you see him/her, is your business, your right.  I will not interfere with that, and I expect not to be interfered with.

I also expect that your religious beliefs, whatever they are, stay out of my government.  There was a reason for separation of church and state.  It was meant to protect us from any one group, who might gain power, from asserting its beliefs and wishes on to the rest of us, who could be in danger of experiencing consequences for not going along.

I know a lot of Christians now believe they are being persecuted.  I don’t see that, but I’m not them.  For all I know, it could be happening.  But here’s the thing, persecution because of religion has been going on for centuries. Since the beginning of religion.  Perpetuated both by and against people of varying religious beliefs.  I don’t think any one group, whoever you are, has the right to tell another group what to believe, how to live based on those beliefs.  Nobody should be discriminated against because of their beliefs, whatever they are.  If you have a set of rules, morals, tenants you live by based on your religion, more power to you.  I have mine, and they are no less real or valuable than yours.  As long as your beliefs aren’t hurting anyone, believe what you will.  We fear what we don’t understand.  When we fear we sometimes strike out.  When we fear we don’t always act as our better selves.  When we fear we create division and anger and hopelessness.  All things contrary to what I believe is the most important part of any religion and/or belief system… love.

I know there’s no answer, and I know some people will disagree with me, may even become incensed or angered by something I’ve said here.  And I guess that’s OK.  You are entitled to your opinion, to your feelings.  As I am.  But if you do get angry, remember this… I’m not angry with you.  I just want us to talk to each other.  To realize we are all just trying to get through it the best we can, with the most dignity, compassion, and love in our lives as possible.  I think, ultimately, most of us want the same things.  To be respected as human beings, to be allowed to believe as we wish without repercussions from our government or our fellow humans, and to live the happiest of lives possible.  If we can just meet at that place, with that realization, maybe there’s hope for us after all.

Even If I Tried – Even If I Wanted To

I just really listened to the lyrics of this song and it made me cry. Crying is not unusual for me, I’m emotional. It’s just that this basic message is one I want to shout from the rooftops — we are all people, all living our lives. So be kind, don’t judge, and love your fellow human for being just that, your fellow human. The end.