Listen as Others Share

Listen as others Share

Pentecost 122

 

You can ask Google just about anything.  Ask it how to make your life more extraordinary and you will find page after page with lists of ways to “live better”.  On many of these lists is an admonition to listen and share.  Listen to the stories of others and then share in the living we all share on this planet.

“Hey there.  I’m Brandon.  I get really passionate about things.  At some time in my life, I’ve been obsessed or borderline-obsessed with saltwater aquariums, the baritone euphonium, reading, piano, filming, financial markets, New York City, and photography.  I studied History at the University of Georgia.  During my senior year of college, I took out $3,000 in student loans and bet it on Barack Obama to win the presidency.  A friend heard about this bet and got me a job trading bonds on the Chicago Board of Trade.  I traded for three years.  It went really well for awhile.  But then it went really bad. Whoops. After I lost my trading job, I decided to move to New York City and take portraits of strangers on the street. Mom wasn’t too happy about that decision, but so far it’s gone pretty well. I’ve taken nearly 5,000 portraits and written 50 stories. And I’ve met some amazing people along the way.”

 

This paragraph is on the home page of the website for Humans of New York.  Now a best-selling published book and the subject of a highly successful blog, Brandon Stanton’s intro doesn’t really tell the whole story.  In 2010 he had a goal to take ten thousand New Yorkers’ pictures and plot them on a map.  I have often had the same thought regarding pictures of my family.  The amazing thing about Brandon’s photography, though, is the story that each picture tells.  The Georgia native began taking pictures as a hobby while living in Chicago.  He has since traveled under the auspices of the United Nations, taking part in a fifty-day trip through ten nations.  One year he did the same in Pakistan and Iran and crowd funded a project to help end bonded labor in Pakistan.

 

Stanton’s photographs are not technically perfect.  After all, he was a history major in college.  What they do, however, is bring the human condition into focus.  They capture a moment in time that is an entire book.  Not all of the minute portraits are completely candid shots. There are the critics as well.  Recently, Robert John Boyle published an article at salon.com regarding the sugarcoating of Brandon’s subjects and the presentation that Boyle called “sentimentality”.

 

Over the most recent December holiday season Brandon Stanton raised over half a million dollars to help Syrian refugees.  Boyle considers the “dumbing down” of the political aspect outweighs any good the money might accomplish.  It is a common debate in the world of humanitarian efforts.

 

The visual content of the pictures found within Humans of New York make us listen, not only to the subject of the photograph but to the world around us.  When all we hear is our own ego, we are unable to hear reality and the needs the world is calling us to repair.

 

“When my husband was dying, I said: Moe, how am I supposed to live without you? He told me: take the love you have for me and spread it around.”  This anecdote from Stanton’s blog and book is just one example of the truths found accompanying each picture.  One of my favorites is the young child Stanton saw.  Wanting to take her picture he started asking nearby adults “Does she belong to you?”  Suddenly the little girl responded “I belong to myself!”

 

What if we listened to the world as belonging to each of us?  Observe a group of mothers and you will learn that each seems to know her own baby’s cry and what that cry means.  When I was single I laughed at the thought of understanding a baby’s cry… and then I became a mother.  I soon became one of “those mothers’.  Most of us dog owners can recognize our own dog’s bark and usually what it means.  (My cats also speak to me but we all know that cats merely do that to get our attention.  After all, no human is smart enough to understand cat-speak!)

 

When we listen – not just hear but really listen – great things can happen.  Stephen Covey knew how often we fail to really listen: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  I wonder what would happen if we would just listen, really listen, to what the world is telling us, to what our neighbors are saying.  I think Leo Buscaglia, another best-selling author,  penned it succinctly:  “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

 

Our living is not just about us.  A friend told me how she ran into an acquaintance last week.  “Are you mad at me?” was the first thing out of the acquaintance’s mouth, not “Hello!” or “How are you?”  My friend realized that the woman had no interest in the acquaintance’s story; her world revolved around her.  Other people have much to teach us and often that is found in their story.  We can make our own existence so much better when we listen and learn.

 

Take Five

Take Five

Pentecost 99

 

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.  Two years ago this month I had to do a bit of parenting I never thought I would ever have to do.  I had to answer a text from one of my sons at college and on a church retreat regarding a news story he wanted to know about, more specifically if I had heard or seen on television.  Was there a report of a body found in an area lake?  I answered yes and then asked why.  Two days later I was hugging him as he came home for the funeral of one of his closest friends who had committed suicide.

 

Every year more than 800 000 people take their own life and there are many more people who attempt suicide. Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities and entire countries and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind. Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds globally in 2012.

 

Let me repeat that number – eight hundred thousand.  For every person who commits suicide there are many more who attempt it and even more who have thought about it.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death among those ages fifteen to twenty-nine years of age.  While seventy-five per cent of all suicides occur in love and middle-income countries, suicide is a problem that touches all socioeconomic levels.  The ingestion of pesticide, hanging, and firearms are some of the most common methods of suicide worldwide. 

 

Suicide is a serious public health problem, one that is completely preventable.  Today and tomorrow I will focus on this health problem and hope you will take five minutes to connect and show care to someone in your midst.  Trust me – Someone is counting on you and you might just be a life-saver to that person.

 

Everyone is at risk for suicide.  The link between suicide and mental health disorders, particularly depression and substance abuse such as alcohol is well-known, especially in high income nations, many suicides are impulsive acts.  They occur in a moment of crisis and exemplify a breakdown in the ability to cope with the stresses of life.  Financial problems, relationship breakups or chronic pain and illness are often the leading stressors that result in suicide.

 

There are some events associated with suicidal behavior, events such as conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss of a loved one.  Suicide rates are also high among those groups often bullied or targets which are seen as being outside the mainstream.  These vulnerable groups experiencing discrimination include refugees, migrant workers and their families, indigenous people, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/intersex (LGBTI) people, and prisoners.  The strongest indicator and risk factor for suicide is a previous attempt.

 

Someone you know has thought about suicide, possibly even yourself.  Each and every life is too precious for us not to take five minutes out of our busy day to connect with someone, everyone, and show them we care.  I will post more tomorrow on how you can be a superhero and save the life of someone who know and care about.  For today, please know that suicide is not an answer and that we do care.  You are a valuable member of mankind.  We need you, not just your memory.  Your life has meaning and purpose. 

 

Envision the Possibilities

Envision the Possibilities

Pentecost 91

 

If you are reading this, then at some point today you awoke.  Maybe not completely or willingly, but you changed from a sleep state to a state of being awake.  But how awake are you?  I mean, really awake.  All too often we go through our day on auto-pilot.  We do the same things by rote; habits comprise our living.  What if we took a leap of faith and envisioned something greater?
“Hey there;  I’m Brandon.  I get really passionate about things.  At some time in my life, I’ve been obsessed or borderline-obsessed with saltwater aquariums, the baritone euphonium, reading, piano, filming, financial markets, New York City, and photography.  I studied History at the University of Georgia.  During my senior year of college, I took out $3,000 in student loans and bet it on Barack Obama to win the presidency.  A friend heard about this bet and got me a job trading bonds on the Chicago Board of Trade.  I traded for three years.  It went really well for awhile.  But then it went really bad. Whoops. After I lost my trading job, I decided to move to New York City and take portraits of strangers on the street. Mom wasn’t too happy about that decision, but so far it’s gone pretty well. I’ve taken nearly 5,000 portraits and written 50 stories. And I’ve met some amazing people along the way.”

 

This paragraph is on the home page of the website for Humans of New York.  Now a best-selling published book and the subject of a highly successful blog, Brandon Stanton’s intro doesn’t really tell the whole story.  In 2010 he had a goal to take ten thousand New Yorkers’ pictures and plot them on a map.  The amazing thing about Brandon’s photography, though, is the story that each picture tells.  The Georgia native began taking pictures as a hobby while living in Chicago.  He has since traveled under the auspices of the United Nations, taking part in a fifty-day trip through ten nations.  Last year he did the same in Pakistan and Iran and crowd funded a project to help end bonded labor in Pakistan.

 

Stanton’s photographs are not technically perfect.  After all, he was a history major in college.  What they do, however, is bring the human condition into focus.  They capture a moment in time that is an entire book.  Not all of the minute portraits are completely candid shots. There are the critics as well.  Recently, Robert John Boyle published an article at salon.com regarding the sugarcoating of Brandon’s subjects and the presentation that Boyle called “sentimentality”.

 

Last year, Brandon Stanton raised over half a million dollars to help Syrian refugees.    The visual content of the pictures found within Humans of New York make us listen, not only to the subject of the photograph but to the world around us.   Brandon Stanton’s pictures shake us up, and wake us up.  Suddenly we are not just seeing the same people we might pass every day.  Suddenly we are envisioning something more.

 

When all we hear is our own ego, we are unable to hear reality and the needs the world is calling us to repair.  “When my husband was dying, I said: Moe, how am I supposed to live without you? He told me: take the love you have for me and spread it around.”  This anecdote from Stanton’s blog and book is just one example of the truths found accompanying each picture.  One of my favorites is the young child Stanton saw.  Wanting to take her picture he started asking nearby adults “Does she belong to you?”  Suddenly the little girl responded “I belong to myself!”  This young girl is already envisioning her future.

 

What if we listened to the world as a potential success, and that success as belonging to each of us?  Observe a group of mothers and you will learn that each seems to know her own baby’s cry and what that cry means.  When I was single I laughed at the thought of understanding a baby’s cry… and then I became a mother.  I soon became one of “those mothers’.  Most of us dog owners can recognize our own dog’s bark and usually what it means.  (My cats also speak to me but we all know that cats merely do that to get our attention.  After all, no human is smart enough to understand cat-speak!)

 

When we listen – not just hear but really listen – great things can happen.  Stephen Covey knew how often we fail to really listen: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  We each can envision the possibilities of success, not just for us but for the world, if we would just listen, really listen, to what the world is telling us, to what our neighbors are saying.  I think Leo Buscaglia, another best-selling author,  penned it succinctly:  “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  Envision a better today and you will make it happen.  Envision the possibilities of the future and we will have a better tomorrow and an extraordinary life.

 

Connection to Gratitude

Connection to Gratitude

Pentecost 88

 

“At the heart of virtue is knowledge of the good.”  This quote is from Timothy Sedgwick, Academic Dean for Academic Affairs and Vice President and the Clinton S. Quin Professor of Christian Ethics at Virginia Theological Seminary.  Actually Dr. Sedgwick is best known as an Episcopal ethicist, a fact of being that surprises many being.   Not that I mean he should not be known for his standing but that we have such things as ethicists and that they exist within a denomination.

 

Try as I do to keep this blog open for all religions and spiritualties, at some point we must admit to our commonality and the search for that which is good.  To deny such would be, in my humble opinion, denying the existence of life itself.

 

Life is lived in relationship to others.  No matter who you are, what you have, your profession, your status or lack thereof…All life is lived in relationship to others – people, places, things, and the whole of creation.  This is a concept also posited in Sedgwick’s book “The Christian Moral Life”.  One of the more interesting things he discusses, however, is not in the text of the book but in the very first footnote:  “The narrative understanding of ethics as a matter of setting, character, and plot has its origins in Aristotle’s “Poems”.

 

Your life is a narrative, a series of events and your reaction to them.  At each moment in our living, we ask and answer the questions “What do I do?”  “What will I purchase?”  “Where will I go?”  One question leads to another and the way in which we answer them becomes the narrative of our lives.  Our answers to those and other questions signify that life is painful and has recovery.  Why would this be important?  It is important because such is true for all of us – Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Still-Deciding, Refuse-to-Decide, Spiritualist, etc., etc., etc.  If indeed life is lived in relationship to others, then there will be pain, disappointment, unpleasantness, and even betrayal.   There should also be gratitude.

 

We have, in these past several days discussed gratitude and how being thankful can cultivate a better life for those we encounter and for ourselves.  In essence, we have planted a garden, a garden of self and a garden of gratitude.  Every garden has its pests.  Some arrive blown by the wind but others are intentional visitors.  They plunder the young bulbs out of the earth and disrupt the fragile seeds.  They expose what needs to stay buried and eat what can then never become part of our harvest.  Even the weather can invade our ideal setting of the garden.

 

Life is much the same.  There are those people who seem to want only to destroy our tranquil souls and there are always the unexpected life events that, much like a sudden storm, can turn our lives upside down in an instant.  Taking a few moments for the fine art of gratitude, connecting to those things for which we are thankful, can help us weather whatever life throws at us, whatever so-called “pests” happen to come our way.

 

It is how we connect to these people and events that determines our own  narrative, our own life story.  How we connect to our living determines who we are, what self we have planted and nurtured in our being.  Loss can lead to greater understanding and appreciation if we allow ourselves to learn and grow from it.  In his book “The Moral Christian Life”, Sedgwick describes something he calls the Covenant of Hospitality.

 

‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  There are many variations of this saying which appears in Hebrews Chapter 13, verse 2.  It is sage wisdom and the very definition of who we are.  How we treat and connect to those who can seemingly do nothing for us speaks volumes as to whom we are as beings.

 

The connections we make in our life are a mirror of our souls.  I am not just talking about the people we know or the charities we may support.  I am talking about the connections we have to our pets, our material possessions, and yes, even our dreams.  Herman Melville wrote about such connections.  “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”

 

John Lennon explained it a little differently.  “A dream you dream alone is only a dream.  A dream you dream together is reality.”  When we connect with the world and everything in it for positive results, then we are truly living the best self and life we can offer.  Lennon wrote: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.  Someday I hope you’ll join us…and the world will live as one.”  We need not only to dream but to give thanks.  It will not only help illuminate our own narrative of life, it can change that of a neighbor or fellow treaveler.

 

 

On This Day

On This Day

Pentecost 67

 

On this day in history in 1944, a fifteen-year-old girl stopped hiding in a hidden section of her father’s spice and jam warehouse in Amsterdam.  Born in Germany in 1929, the family has moved to Holland eleven years earlier to escape religious persecution of the Jewish people led by Adolf Hitler.  The young girl had attended a Montessori school with her Dutch friends until Hitler moved his intolerant ideals to Holland.  The family had lived for two years in their hiding place, along with another Jewish family and a Jewish dentist, a single man. 

 

Those hiding in this Dutch warehouse were able to do so with the help of a Christian employee of the spice and jam company.  For over two years, the employee practiced the humanity of their faith so that the Jewish families hiding out might be able to live and live their faith, though different.  The Allies landing on the beaches of Normandy France gave all involved in Amsterdam hope but two months later, On August 4th, German soldier discovered them.  The two Christian employees and all of the Jews were arrested and shipped to Auschwitz death camp in Poland.  As the Russians liberated Poland that fall, this fifteen-year-old girl was moved with her sister to a concentration camp in Germany.  Both contracted typhus and died in March, 1945.  Less than two months later British soldiers liberated the Bergen-Belsen camp where the young girls had died.  Of the ten arrested on this date in Amsterdam, only Otto Frank, the girl’s father, survived.  On this date in 1944, Anne Frank was taken prisoner, her only crime being the fact that she was alive and of the Jewish faith.

 

Fifty-two years earlier a man and his wife were found dead, having been the victims of an ax attack.  One of their daughters was later tried for the crime and found not guilty.  In the court of public opinion, however, she was deemed guilty.  “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks.  When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty -one.”   The Borden crime scene was full of evidence.  Finger-printing was quite common in Europe but the Fall River, Massachusetts authorities never used it on the axe handle found at the scene.  Given the choice of accusing Lizzie or the housekeeper, the only two people known to be in the residence at the time, they accused the younger of the two daughters.  Deliberations of the jury took only ninety-minutes to acquit her but the veil of guilt continued to envelope Lizzie until her death thirty-five years later and even now.

 

Lizzie Borden was already considered a “spinster” when these deaths occurred, as was her sister, Emma.  The rhyme quoted above is also inaccurate.  Lizzie Borden’s mother had died years earlier and her father had remarried.   The step-mother Abby was not well-liked by the two daughters of the family.  Andrew Borden, who received not forty-one but ten or eleven hits with a hatchet, not an axe, was also not well-liked in his hometown.  A millionaire, he often argued about spending his wealth and was considered a miserly, frugal and unpleasant man.  No one seemed surprised he met his death in such a manner and few grieved over the loss of these two people.  The two sisters, Emma and Lizzie later grew apart although they died within days of each other in 1927.

 

Two women each had significant life events on this day in history, August 4th.  I am certain there are many more who consider today life-changing although their names are not recorded in history.  On this day in 2012, Oscar Pistorius becomes the first amputee to compete at the Olympic Games in the 400 meters, representing South Africa.  On this day in 1936, Jesse Owens continues to excel at the Olympic Games, angering the head of the host country for the games, Adolf Hitler of Germany.

 

We like to think we are in control of our fate but in truth, we can only control so much.  We do make a contribution to the world, however, in our daily living.  Anne Frank wrote in a diary to help pass the days living in a wall-off portion of her father’s warehouse where the windows were covered and no one was allowed to flush the toilet in the day time so as to avoid detection.  Because her diary was overlooked by the Nazi soldiers that took her prisoner, later found by one of her father’s employees who then kept it, confident in her faith that one day she would again see the family, we have insight into the life of the families who remained hidden for two years.

 

Lizzie Borden did not keep a diary of that fateful day but neither did she live in the shadows, hiding out after her acquittal.  She remained in her hometown and lived a life quite common with those of her social-economic status.  For many, the stinginess of Andrew Borden and his untimely, gruesome death proved a lesson in mistreating one’s family and putting too high a value on the accumulation of wealth.  The family lived like those with much less income, without indoor plumbing or the conveniences considered common for the time.  The tight reins with which he lived his life and ran his own home led to his death, many believed, and some used his demise as proof that money does not always, if ever, buy happiness.

 

Perhaps it is from the two track stars that we can take the most lessons.  Today Oscar Pistorius is sitting in a jail cell, having been found guilty in the death of his fiancé.   Pistorius claims it was a case of mistaken identity; her family says it was negligence born out of his own controlling ways.  Pistorius shot into a bathroom where his fiancé was hiding.  The reasons for her hiding are disputed and Pistorius has testified under oath he thought she was an intruder.  Whether the true story, on this day in 2012 he ran the race of a lifetime and proved to the world that being an amputee would not sideline him.

 

Jesse Owens was one of ten children and born on September 12th in Oakville, Alabama in 1913.  This less than auspicious start of life bore no evidence of the victories he would garner as a track and field star.  In 1922 the family moved to Cleveland Ohio and Jesse discovered a passion for running.  His efforts at competition in 1935 have been called “the greatest forty-five minutes in sports’ history”.  In four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics were proof that Hitler’s claim of Aryan race supremacy was incorrect.

 

Jesse Owens returned to the United States a hero but also a man of color.  He rpudly waved during his ticker tape parade in New York City but then later could not enter through the front doors of the hotel hosting a reception in his honor because of his race.  While guests were escorted through the majestic front doors and up the public elevators to the reception hall, Jesse had to enter through the deliver entrance and ride the freight elevator.  He might have proven to the world that racial bias was unfounded but he returned to a country whose laws protected such discrimination.

 

Also on this day, swimmer Michael Phelps received his eighteenth gold medal.  AS he stood on the medal platform, announcers worldwide described the scene in which Phelps received what was being called “his last medal”.  Tomorrow Michael Phelps will carry the USA flag in the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics and compete once again, hoping for yet another medal…or two.

 

Hopefully today will bring you joy as you run the great race of life.  Hopefully nothing will victimize you nor will you experience discrimination or errors in judgement.  We each write the history of our lives.  We cannot control everything but, with any luck, we can control ourselves and our responses.  We can make extraordinary by living our faith, showing respect to all, and being at peace with each other.

The New Daily Habit

The New Daily Habit

Pentecost 36

 

I must admit that when I began this series I never expected anyone to ask “Why?”  Who could possibly argue with someone recommending good deeds and then giving at least one suggestion every day?  What could possibly be wrong with thinking of others and helping one’s neighbor?

 

We live in a world where life is not a given.  Yesterday’s bombing at the airport in Istanbul is just one example.  Over forty people were brutally murdered because of someone’s selfish motivation which, despite rhetoric to the opposite, has no basis in any religion whatsoever.  While most of us do not face such dramatic events every day, there are unknown or hidden dangers in our daily living.  Anyone could be hit by a moving vehicle.  Natural disasters occur daily and [people die from illness every hour.  We tend to take life for granted and we should not.

 

A good deed is, quite simply, something done for another person.  Pentecost is a season on many church calendars known as the Ordinary Time, simply because it has no special services.  It begins fifty days after Easter and ends the day before the first Sunday in Advent.  It is a season of regular living without holidays or special services.   For many people, it is that time on the church calendar in which people take personal vacations and attendance drops.  IT is not marked by anything special; thus, the name for it is the Ordinary Time.

 

I proposed at the beginning of this series that no time is really ordinary.  Each new day is a gift, given to us by whomever or whatever you feel is responsible for Creation.  In earlier series we have discussed the variety of Creation myths that have encouraged life on this planet but it all boils down to this one summation:  Life is a gift given freely and without reference to whomever truly “deserves” it.  I had hoped in this blog series to encourage all to make something extraordinary out of the ordinary.

 

If asked, most people will admit to having visions of grandeur regarding their time on this earth or, if you are an astronaut, time spent revolving around the earth.  (Pop quiz: Can you name those living on the International Space Station at this very minute?  See, even that has not become ordinary!)  Most of us would like to think our time on this planet in what we call our life accounts for something.  We would like to think that when we pass, someone will remember us.

 

 

It has been said that fame is a fickle mistress and indeed public opinion changes more often than the seconds tick on a clock.  What does not change is the good that we do for another person.  Some schools are now including this in their curriculum.  Doing something nice will hopefully one day become a daily habit.

 

TMS School is located in Richmond Hills, Ontario, Canada.  They recently decided to embark on a new initiative, “One School, Thousands of Good Deeds”.  Their mission was simple: “Each TMS student, family and staff member is encouraged to perform at least one good deed a day out of their normal routine to help someone else. The good deed can be for a classmate, family member, someone in the community, or a charitable organization. The deeds will embody Grace and Courtesy and our TMS Ideals. “

The school explained just how this initiative would work. “Good deeds, in the context of our initiative, are actions that an individual performs that help someone else. Good deeds should be appropriate for the age of our students. We welcome students to repeat deeds completed by other individuals and remind our students and families that this is not a competition.  Examples of good deeds may include: sharing a toy, collecting goods for a charitable cause, cleaning up a park, giving up a seat on a bus, running an event for a good cause, going on a service trip to help a community, and much, much more! No good deed is too small.”

Good Deeds Cards were passed out to each child so that they could establish a set of goals for the school year regarding this project.  Students shared their good deeds with each other in class to help exchange ideas and inspire each other.  Some were quite simple.  One young kindergarten noticed that two chairs were not pushed in under the table as he sat down to eat his lunch so he pushed the chairs in to avoid someone tripping over them.  Others organized a book drive in which unneeded books from the school as well as students’ homes were collected and then donated to towns in poverty areas without libraries as well as being taken to a women’s shelter.

 

One class decided to hold class at a park across the street from their school but first, cleaned the park up, picking up litter and broken tree branches.  Another student’s family provided a meal for a visiting basketball team while others shared their lunch with students who had forgotten theirs.  One student gave his birthday money to a local charity while another gave up her seat on a subway train to an elderly man.  Sometimes the good deeds were simply giving a compliment to another person while others included helping a teacher clean up after art class.  A parent told of visiting the school with her baby in his stroller.  At a stair case several young boys raced down laughing.  They passed the parent and teacher giving the tour and then suddenly turned around and offered to carry the baby stroller up the stairs for the parent.

 

TMS School is installing doing good deeds as a daily habit for its students.  They are encouraging their students to think outside of the box that is their own being and think of how they can help others.  Like their initiative stated, “No good deed is too small.”  No life is really ordinary and no two days are exactly alike.  It is up to us to make our lives matter, to make this Ordinary Time into something extraordinary.

20/20

20/20

Pentecost 25

 

If you are lucky enough to have good eye healthcare, give thanks.  You know then the series of question asked at an eye exam:  “Is it better now… or now?  Which is better – one or two; three or four?”  All these questions, which are often repeated countless times, are to ascertain what one can see and what prescription aids in one’s vision.

 

We need to ask ourselves those same questions at the end of the day or when we are about to make a snap judgment about someone.  “Here is how I responded to this situation.  Was it effective?  What could I have done differently?”

 

How we interact with people depends on our thought processes.  Are we discriminating based upon fear or do we allow new experiences to broaden our horizons?  IN other words do we instantly react with fear when we meet someone from a different culture or religion or do we trust ourselves to learn something?

 

In just a few weeks the Greater Good Science Center will host a week-long event to help encourage broader socio-emotional learning for teachers.  Similar to our most recent post about gratitude, this week will include leaders from education, health care, and business whose purpose is to explore how gratitude can build better practices and strengthen goals and objectives.

 

Many of us have a very narrow field of vision and an even shorter memory.  We need to allow ourselves to grow and that will need to include seeing new things with interest instead of fear.  When we only allow ourselves to see what we already know, then we prevent ourselves from growing.  We stunt our own emotional, physical, and mental growth.

 

Our vision needs to grow with us and with the world.  We cannot see or define things as we did as children.  Life is about evolving and growing.  “A man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has waster thirty years of his life.”  That sentence said by Muhammed Ali rings of truth, as loudly as any bell in any of his boxing matches.

 

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”  Muhammed Ali did the best he could with what he had and continued to improve every day.

 

The only way to become a better person is to broaden our field of vision and see what the world offers.  Spiritual author Anthon St. Maarten explains:  “Never surrender your hopes and dreams to the fateful limitations others have placed on their own lives. The vision of your true destiny does not reside within the blinkered outlook of the naysayers and the doom prophets. Judge not by their words, but accept advice based on the evidence of actual results. Do not be surprised should you find a complete absence of anything mystical or miraculous in the manifested reality of those who are so eager to advise you. Friends and family who suffer the lack of abundance, joy, love, fulfillment and prosperity in their own lives really have no business imposing their self-limiting beliefs on your reality experience.”

 

Without a vision tomorrow become a chore, drudgery that will often simply be a repetition of today’s mistakes.  The person who broadens their field of vision will create a vision for the future.  The most famous blind person in the world, Helen Keller, knew this to be true.  “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but no vision.”  Go to bed tonight and ask yourself what will improve your vision for tomorrow and then arise and make it happen!