awareness

I Went to Jail

I legit went to jail. Not in cuffs, not as a visitor. I went as a contractor. This vantage point was different. I got to observe the inmates cleaning. It’s their job to keep that place immaculate.

I got to observe the line formations by gender. I saw the orange jumpsuit uniforms. I heard the specific directives while in line such as “eyes forward, no talking.”

It was a lot to take in. I thought about all my freedoms. My ability to choose. My ability to say yes or no. Inmates have no choice, no independence, no rights, and certainly no individuality.  I couldn’t last a day in jail. 

I love my freedom to choose.  I love my independence. I love my individuality. Having a glimpse of what this life looked like is confirmation I never want to be there. I certainly applaud those who make it through the challenges of incarceration for those serving time as well as those outside the walls supporting them.

Today I got to leave the jail.  I didn’t get to share a smile. This was hard for me because I like to offer hope through positive actions and not being able to share a smile is hard. Maybe next visit I’ll find a way to share hope. Maybe I’ll work on my winks.

As you read this post think about those incarcerated who are suffering today. Say a prayer for them tonight.  

awareness, perspective

Struggles

Everyone has struggles in life. Some dwell on them while other move past them. Sometimes struggles are magnified and lead to homelessness. Maybe not any one reason gets that person to such a state but there is a homeless population.

Some have drug and alcohol riddled backgrounds. Others may have some bad luck and financial woes. There may even be criminals lurking to hide out. Whatever the case they are human beings living through a struggle of life.

This past week I visited a homeless shelter. It was a big one and I came around the time where many were loitering outside in the cold. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was a dressed in business attire for my work- related visit. How I felt the pit in my stomach as I strutted by those not as fortunate as me.

I heard comments about my shoes, my jacket and so on. It was a humbling experience before I even got in the door. Once I got in the building I had to clear the metal detector and other safety measures. Something I didn’t even think was needed but that shows you how naive I am.

The lobby was full of a diverse group of people. I could share my mental picture in this post however I’m opting to keep it to myself as I think many need to experience a visit for themselves to appreciate what they have and offer kindness to others.

I was escorted to the second floor on this day. I was meeting with 50 men working to better themselves through a residential program. Each had their own stories and struggles that they will soon overcome. Each was blessed to be in the program. Each was making strides today for a better tomorrow.

It was a great experience. I met some people who may not have otherwise crossed my path. My experience gave me many things to think about.

How many will graduate the program?

How many will relapse?

How many will end up in jail?

How many will not live to tell their story?

How many will help others?

How many people don’t ever get the chance to spend time with people who are trying to better themselves, to go from hopeless to hopeful? 

I will never know the answers to these questions. What I will know is I worked to improve communities today. I was kind. I extended an olive branch to others. I provide valuable information to others and my hope is that at just one received my message. The point of this post is just one. Just one person can make a difference. Just one person impacted can then make another difference. The domino effect impacts positive change. Positive actions are free. We all have the ability to offer hope and kindness to others less fortunate than us.

Never lose sight of who you are, where you came from, your life struggles and how you can impact others. I share my story today to help anyone near or far who needs hope. 

awareness

Tonight

Tonight you spoke.

Tonight I listened.

We enjoyed the chitter chatter. We were candid and honest. We built trust.

Tonight you made a promise.

Tonight I promised you.

The time we spent together was time needed. We made time. Tonight was a priority.

Tonight there might be others who need somebody to listen. Tonight others will battle fears and uncertainty. Tonight you had an option. Tonight was about you.

You have the power and grace to look past the shadows. You have the power to reclaim you. You deserve all that is in front of you.

Don’t waste time looking back on what could have been, should have been, and so on. Just focus on you. Lean on your inner circle. You trust them. They trust you.

Be open. Be candid. Be approachable. Don’t give up. Your crew needs you today, tomorrow and the next day.

I believe you can do this. Look for the sunrise tomorrow. Think of the beauty of the day. Commit to yourself that you will have a good day.

Remember you are loved by many.

This post is for anyone who needs to hear this message now or in the future. Bookmark it. Read it. Believe it. 

awareness

Listen Again

Sometimes KT writes a line that really sticks with me. To be clear, many of her posts make me think differently and many prompt me to make a change in how I approach life or how I act. This is a little different…here’s my take on her recent post about listening and what a gift it is.

Here’s the line (and I encourage you to read the whole post): Listening is the greatest gift you can give to another human.

Being a more intentional listener found its way into my goals this year. A series of conversations made me realize that I don’t sincerely listen to people as often as I should. I reflected on the fact that although people ask me all the time “how are you?” and I answer, I don’t often ask them how they are. I’m often so caught up in what I’m doing I don’t even look up. I may make a brief comment but not much else.

What am I telling people as I just let them walk by? I don’t look them in the eye. Sometimes I don’t look up from what I am doing. Sometimes I probably seem annoyed at the interruption.

I’ve been trying to reverse since since it caught my attention. When I think about it, I take the time to put down what I am doing and ask the person how they are. And then follow up with another question.

What I have noticed is that more people than I realized are hungry to share. Excited to connect. They want to tell me a bit about how they are.

I thought I was a decent listener. Now I see that I need work. The invitations to listen are everywhere. How many have I blown off because I didn’t make time or was just too into what I was doing to notice them? From my friends, my co-workers, members of my family?

Among the other unfolding lessons, the pandemic has taught me that people matter more than pretty much anything else. We can’t replace people or the opportunities we have to share with them. I have missed many, but I am committed to doing better moving forward.

I’m also on the lookout for the people who are dropping out of sight. Who haven’t I heard from in a while? Different schedules and limited opportunities to be out and about make those happenstance meetings less frequent. Who is telling me through their silence that they may need a friend? Who can I text to check in with? Who can I lift up with a funny post, a quote, a kind word? Who can I (re)start a conversation with? As KT often says, hope is free.

The motto of the StoryCorps podcast is: listening is an act of love. Who can I love today by listening to them? Who can you?

awareness

Grief

Grieving is different for everyone. Grieving is more difficult for some than others. This year I saw a lot of loss around me. Too much if you ask me, but it’s the hand I was dealt this year.
I lost a dog just before COVID. There are many times he is thought of but the memories in the heart last forever. He is running with the angels somewhere. There was just one Axel in my world. Forever a memory just like my childhood dog named Tuffy. 

Then a jovial business associate lost his battle with cancer in the early days of COVID. That was gut-wrenching but at a distance due to COVID. He made so many laugh. He inspired many in his years. He was just a big loss to many. He is better off now, in peace. No more suffering.

Then within 48 hours of my dad passing naturally my mother-in-law passed. Boom. Just like that. Two family leaders gone in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Amidst a pandemic. Travel bans, burial restrictions. So many nos. Not the goodbye one ever expected. The roller coaster and shock of a double whammy still makes me shake my head yet it still seems surreal.

Boom another colleague drops just like that. He was suffering in silence. Away from people due to isolation requirements with a low immune system. Gone and somewhat forgotten. Why? No service beyond the immediate family because of full-blown COVID. Time has passed. People have moved on. Did they forget? For those closest I see the hurt. Their healing is a delayed state. Still isolated. Lacking drive. Wondering why the circumstances are still what they are.

Time passes. Grief lingers. Everyone emotes differently. The fall/winter holidays are hard. The first Thanksgiving meal without that special somebody. That first Christmas tree without a special helper to decorate with. A new year alone. Isolation of a different kind sets in.

Depression hits some hard. Anger hits others. The pandemic is still here after so many months. Some haven’t moved on but some have. Isolation. Stress. Loneliness.

Check on your loved ones. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. I share my losses to help others who may still be grieving alone or in silence. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to miss that person. That’s all part of the process. You will have good days. You will have days that are a mess. Just keep picking yourself up and dusting yourself off. You can do it.

It’s time to honor the memories and cherish the moments you had with that special person with others. I’ve really thought about what I will do this holiday to make sure I include the one who’s missing in the celebrations of my family.

Their spirit can be echoed on in many ways. May you have a peaceful holiday no matter how you celebrate this year.

Make the most of what you have. Make memories. Share the special moments while you can. Even if it’s virtually.