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. 

perspective

People Post

It’s no secret I enjoy people in general. I enjoy meeting new people. Talking to people. Building relationships. Socializing.

The list could go on an on. However I thought about a handful of new people I met this month. So many different backgrounds. I enjoyed the varying spirits, energies, attitudes, etc. It confirmed again how much I enjoy people generally. And in today’s world how genuinely nice people can be despite different backgrounds or ways of life.

Not all of these folks will stick around long term. Some may have a distance between us limiting time spent. Some may be colleagues you see before they shipped off to a new destination. No matter what the circumstances I met new people and learned a few things. How amazing is that.

These kind of relationships are exciting. Noteworthy. Maybe even blog material quality, hence this post. Then there are those folks in your life that just seem to be stuck there. Lurking in the shadows. Like flies on shit or worse. The ones you want to go away. Maybe even far away but they just linger like a bad smell. A stench!

At times I have maybe two of those floating nearby for one reason or another, but right I now I have four crazies lurking in my vicinity. These four individuals alone may not be so annoying or demotivating, however,  combined they are a toxic cocktail. A mix nobody would ever order up. If these four had a cocktail drink named after them it would be called ‘sewer water’. Hopefully you catch my drift that I’m not fond of any of these characters.

This is really odd to me since I generally get along with everyone or anyone I choose to communicate with. Funny thing is I have no desire to speak, socialize or mingle in any way with the sewer water crew as I’ve named them! For me it’s a tough pill to swallow that I have to say I am not fond of people because I actually adore people in general.

The world today has a unique backdrop. A pandemic. Most folks have never lived through one and I can see some may be sour to an extent because of these extenuating circumstances. However, some people are just negative Nellies and they are unable to see in the mirror just how unapproachable or unbearable it is to be around them.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. I guess I will leave on the note that I can’t make every sour patch person like others. I can just make a conscious choice to walk away from negative people. 
Taking the high road is also better than joining the ranks of the complainers of the world. Life is too precious to let others steal your joy but if you are a negative Nelly or sour puss open your eyes! You may be surprised what comes your way if you are kind.

Kindness matters today. 

perspective

Be Still

There I was packed in the plane like a sardine in a can. 24 rows deep. 4 across each aisle. Racked and stacked you’d say. The plane is full.

No 6 feet distanced. Lots of people. Recycled air. Masks up. Here we go. Cheers to a great flight. Up up and away we go.

As I sit still I look over my shoulder and see the peaceful sky. There we are floating in the clouds with the border of the baby blue sky. I enjoyed the peacefulness of being still. The calm. The beauty. The colors.

This is such a variance from my crazy hectic days in the office. Escapes like these with picturesque scenery help me appreciate life and all the experiences one can have as long as their eyes are open.

In that moment it took away the tears of the girl by my side feeling anxious in the sky. The mask. The extra people. The sardine-like atmosphere. Watering eyes over the mask showed the pain. Shaking of the leg showed discomfort. Grasping jewelry around her neck for comfort. How were we so close yet I felt calm and she felt fear?

If I could take it away the pain and fear I would. As we move along the calmness peeks through her fear. The discomfort was temporary thank goodness. A movie is on. A snack in hand. A little water to wash away the woes.

The other neighbor is a technology guru. Clicking on the wifi. Surfing movies. Wait, I need to sneeze. Oh my not on a plane. Yup not once, twice. We giggle in the row a little. Good thing my mask was up! My neighbor didn’t flinch on her technology. Cropping and editing photos. Music in the ears. Not even phased. I’m even learning how to make cartoon images on an iPad from the neighboring seat. It’s so fun to see how others pass time.

Meanwhile, I just keep floating in the cloud. Glancing into the horizon. Thinking about tomorrow. Visualizing the fun and adventures ahead on my little trip. Time to wrap this post up.

That was a long 15 minutes if I do say so myself. This story is real. You may be the most fearless person and boom anxiety can hit. Without warning. Surround yourself with people who know you and can see your struggles so that you can be comforted when your world is closing in on you.

For now I will be still and enjoy my trip above the clouds. My special place where I am just floating in thought as I write some blogs on this very day.

Sending you a smile and wink from the sky above. Somewhere over Jackson, Mississippi. I giggled a little as I wrote that state. M-i-squiggly lines-I-squiggly lines-i-pp-i as I recall from my childhood school days.

perspective

One Stormy Night

A rumbling sound. A light flicker. I was awake. A loud thunder. More light flashes. All seemed to get quiet but I was already startled and stirred.

I lay idle. More flashes. Flickers of lights across the back windows. One side window. The other side window. Then all on the back windows lighting up like a Christmas light show.

Rumbles that shake the house. More thunder. Now I’m wide awake. The sound of rain is constant. Now I hear the clock ticking. I hear sirens in the distance. I wonder what has happened at this wee hour.

The thunder shifts to the distance but the length of rumbling thunder and loud booms within are ever so disturbing. The sound is just blah on many levels. It’s kept me awake far too long.

I try to fall asleep but the distant flickers and thunder are preventing a full restful state. Oh how I need my sleep to rejuvenate. I wonder how many others were bothered by the storm?

As an irony, the storm is not the worst I have endured in life yet it’s doing a good job keeping me awake.

Maybe life is shaking me in other ways and the storm is just how I’m relating to life’s stormy days.
Thoughts in the dark to ponder.

perspective

Pandemic Dilemmas

(A note: sometimes posts for our blog sit on the backburner. There’s all kinds of reasons for this. The post below was written in April 2020.  It has lived in the drafts folder ever since.  Current news and trends brought it back to mind these past couple of weeks, and it seems as relevant as it was then, if not more so. The resources I worry about most now are our health care workers, but as you can read, those worries were already bubbling up last April.)

It was the classic problem.

Hans has a sick child.  Hans is poor and can’t afford the medicine his child needs to live.  Is Hans morally wrong for stealing the medicine his child needs to survive?

In the eyes of the law, sure he would be wrong.  Stealing is a crime. He doesn’t have the right to take what belongs to someone else.  But is he blameworthy?  If he does it, should he go to jail for it?  If he doesn’t steal it, isn’t there a different kind of penalty?

I was a philosophy major in college, specializing in ethics, or figuring out right / wrong / morality. I shouldn’t say figuring it out, since we rarely if ever got to the bottom of anything.  But we spent a lot of time thinking about Hans and these sticky situations, where different people have different rights and those rights cross or conflict.  Moral dilemmas.  So many of the ones that interested me most involved relationships, deciding who is more important, and trying to figure out a good reason why.

I’ve had my moments of anxiety during the course of the coronavirus so far.  But it’s the dilemmas that trouble me most. I get deeply, truly sad when I think about health care workers being forced to make decisions about who has access to life saving medical equipment if supplies are running out.

Here’s an example: Two 50-year old men come in to the ER at roughly the same time, in roughly the same condition, same medical history. About the only meaningful difference is that one of them has three kids, one of them has none. Should that be the deciding factor if only one of them can have a ventilator?

Of course, it only gets more complicated.  What if the one with the kids is overweight and pre-diabetic while the other is in good overall health.  Or one is married, the other is a widower (and what if the one with the kids is the widower, or the one without kids…does that matter?)  One is an affluent business owner with many employees who depend on him, the other is on public assistance.  One is insured, the other is not.  One is African American, the other is White. Add in factors of gender, age, medical history, addiction, other ailments that might be seen as patient life choices (like smoking) and others that are genetic.  You can see how the picture gets very complicated very quickly.  What matters?  What doesn’t?  Who decides?

In our medical ethics classes, we would talk about assisted suicide and the problems with a doctor “playing God,” deciding who lives and who dies…or in the coronavirus case, who even has the chance.

I know a taste of this, from when I was the one who made the decision to take my father off of breathing support to effectively end his life.  Even though he had prepared me to do it and I felt confident it was the right thing, it still stays with me. I will just say that all of this is simpler when it is clear cut.  Still, it is not simple and never easy.

I know there are people who question if this whole pandemic is real.  If all the staying at home and disruption of our daily lives is necessary.  As a member of a family who is supported by a restaurant, I face the same economic uncertainty that has so many people anxious, restless, angry, and scared. I can’t minimize that suffering, but I hope that the help in our communities and from our leaders will sustain us for a little while until we can get the virus more or less medically managed.

What wakes me up at night, though, is thinking of the doctors.  The nurses.  The medical heroes whose hearts and minds will be scarred from watching people die that they truly wanted to help.  That they could have and would have made a valiant effort to save in nearly any other circumstance.  The people they eventually had to walk away from because there wasn’t enough equipment to go around. The trauma to their hearts and minds is immeasurable, not to mention all the people who might not have a chance to survive if we run out of ICU resources.

I believe these moments say much about our values as a culture, as a society. Can we just sit tight for a little bit? Can we help our neighbors and loved ones survive this strange and challenging moment in history?  In my mind, if we can prevent the damage to those who care for us and give everyone a chance to get access to care, as they say flattening the curve can, we should.  If you doubt that this is a real thing, please find a health care worker and listen to them.  Please.

There are a million other issues with this situation.  Reasons to be angry, stressed, depressed.  Some day I may write about my worries over my students now trying to learn at home.  Or the heroism of medical workers who continue to show up and do their jobs when they are inadequately protected.  Or the many other front line workers, often forgotten and in high risk but low-paying jobs.

Surely, some day soon I may be writing about an actual Hans, who lost his hours at his job and needs medicine for his kids. Those stories are out there and more are coming.  The economic, social, mental, and physical impacts will be spinning out for years and years. Once this initial crisis has passed, we will turn our full attention to the suffering of many other groups who need help, who need heart, who need solutions. We will be writing about this for a long time. This is an endurance test. Both our patience muscles and our helping muscles must grow, strengthen, and sustain throughout this marathon.

But for now, in this initial fury, I worry for the doctors and nurses and patients.  It takes me back to those college classrooms, before I had kids of my own, when Hans’s predicament was nothing more than an interesting little thought experiment to ponder. Now I have kids.  And a lot more to lose.  I don’t wish true dilemmas on anyone.  While there is a choice, there is no win.