Raising Happy and Wise Kids

This past week I got to experience a small slice of what used to pass for normal summer life when the main street near where I live closed the road for the restaurants to use, and families were able to come out, some with small kids and dogs and walk around and be out and about and eat. There were a few very young kids who were running with no care in the world and it was a hopeful experience and reminder of what we’re working towards and why. Which also got me thinking about what it means to be an adult and how important it is to find a balance between letting kids be kids and preparing them for the challenges they’ll experience and have to work through as adults.

One of the most important things for us to teach them is about working with others. How to love, listen, work to understand, what teamwork is, how to ask for help when you need it, and how to build win-win-win relationships. This virus has been a big reminder of and exercise in working with others as we’ve worked within our communities to support each other and talked with other medical communities around the world both to learn from them and support them. We would not be getting through this virus (or countless other situations) without the help of others, even if it’s just an ear to listen.

By talking through situations at the dinner or breakfast table, by showing your kids different cultures and parts of the world, by having get-togethers with family and friends, by committing to work and family consistently you’re showing your kids how to be a responsible adult and be part of the world that we all share. And pairing those experiences with lots of play time, family time and time to learn and discover who they are, your kids will hopefully grow up into well-rounded and wise adults who can also make a great contribution to the world. What are you teaching your kids about how to work with others?

Not My Problem?

On Monday the US Supreme Court decided a case regarding discrimination “because of” sex at work. The decision was in favor of LGBTQ rights and the LGBTQ community, saying that it’s illegal to discriminate or have job bias on people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s interesting timing for this case to be decided, because it’s Pride month, and for many it’s the first bit of good news they’ve gotten since the year started.

I was reading this article which summed things up, and read an interesting line that I wanted to talk about today. Unfortunately, the article has since been edited, but essentially the line from one of the dissenting judges was about how it wasn’t a Supreme Court issue. It got me thinking about how that could be said about a lot of life. The people who pick up garbage and recycling from our streets and dumpsters could argue that our garbage isn’t their issue. The people at the phone stores could argue it’s not their issue when we screw up our phones. Those who don’t have any damage after a natural disaster could argue that their neighbor’s damage isn’t their issue so they don’t have to help. Those who have never done any outright discrimination against any of the many segments of our world population could argue that the many issues people report in the world aren’t their problem.

As I was thinking about the comment in the article, I realized that while all of those things may be true, sometimes you have to step up and do the clean up even if it’s not your “fault” or directly your issue. There sometimes comes a time when you just have to choose to be the bigger person and make the tough decisions; decisions that people haven’t had the courage to make or aren’t able to come to a consensus with. Sometimes you have to think about what’s best for the community, for the people that you share the world with and let that be your guide. For example, countless businesses and people stepped out of their comfort zone over the past few months to create and share products to support their nation and the world in the fight against the virus. They didn’t have to, but they chose to do it any way because it was the right thing to do or they could do it.

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, people struggling in many different ways, some for longer than you may have ever known if you even know. I’m not going to suggest that you try to fix everything or help everyone, it’s not realistic. Instead, I simply suggest that when you run into someone facing a challenge or dealing with an issue, while it may not be your issue, if you can do something about it or something to help them, consider doing so.  It may not be your problem, but it is someone’s problem, and everyone needs a little help from time to time.

Men Who Set The Example

One of the holidays we have this month here in the US is Father’s Day. While the world has changed a lot in the past few months and years, some things remain the same, and one of those things is that children everywhere need are good male (and female) figures in their lives, whether their father and/or another guy who can set a good example for them as a male figure. I don’t know why it seems like there are fewer good male figures in the world, maybe because men don’t have the same physical connection women have to their children, or feel like they aren’t as needed when it comes to the next generation, or because they tend to succumb to the poor lifestyle choices more than women do.

The world is made up of men and women of all cultures, histories, experiences, and life paths, some of whom have made good decisions and others who haven’t. One of the best ways to make sure that the next generation is given the best advantage they can to learn and grow and make the world a better place, is if they’re able to build healthy relationships with both men and women. Obviously, the original intention was to have the parents and grandparents have close relationships with kids, but sometimes that doesn’t work out. And I’ve always encouraged the concept of tribes, that we have a network of people who work together to raise children in the best ways we all know how.

I do believe that women can be great leaders and do just about everything by themselves if they’ve got the experience, will or training, but there’s something about many men that make them natural leaders, and a woman isn’t a man and only men can share what it’s like to be a man or explain things from a man’s perspective. I’m thankful for the male friends I have that are doing the hard work of being present and raising their kids the best they can. The only way we’ll be able to turn the tide of crime and prejudice and violence in our world is if we all step up, and one of the most important places to do so is with the next generation.

It’s my hope that this Father’s Day, with all the challenge and change we’ve seen over the past few months, that it will inspire more men than ever to truly step up for the next generation, showing them how to lead a life of integrity, hard work, wisdom and love. It’s not about being perfect or having lots of money, but about making good decisions, showing how to get up when you’ve stumbled or fallen, and consistently following through on the commitments you make. What have the good men in your life taught you?

Ready for a Fresh Start

We’ve finished 5 months of 2020, although they felt more like at least a year in and of themselves. Of course with finishing another month means we’ve entered into a new one. I love fresh starts and new months because we sometimes do get stuck in ruts and need a little help, psychological or physical or otherwise, to get out and moving again. It’s particularly interesting because we’re really beginning to emerge from months of being stuck at home to fight or avoid the virus, and now restrictions are being lifted and slowly we’re able to get back to a level of business as usual over the next few months.

Fresh starts don’t mean that the past can be erased or forgotten. On my other blog today I referenced the phrase “you can forgive someone but not forget their actions.” The past couple of months have been painful on many levels, pain that most of us alive today haven’t experienced before. With the events of George’s mistreatment and death, plus the unacceptable deaths of other African Americans over the past few weeks, months and years related to racism or inaccurate racial profiling, the pain has reached a new point as we enter this new month. We clearly haven’t won the war on racism yet, and regardless of how some people are acting today, we haven’t beaten the virus yet either (just take a look at the news and the many thousand new cases that have appeared in our country and other countries around the world today alone).

So where do we go from here with our brand shiny new month? I think we start by remembering that we don’t have to do life alone. That means that we support each other with our ears and hearts as we listen, with our bank accounts as we buy the products and services others sell, and physically supporting each other in whatever ways and whenever it’s safe to do so. There’s no rule that says we have to go big or go home with life right now, it’s going to be the small but steady steps we take in truly learning to work together as a community, hearing the issues we each have, truly caring about the issues we each have, and being willing to work a little harder so we all have win-win-win experiences whenever possible.

Life wasn’t perfect 4 months ago, and it won’t be perfect 4 months from now. But we can choose with each new day to make that day as good as or better than the day before. Choose to do one kind act for someone, choose to do one thing that will help the economy start moving again, choose to do one thing that will make your future better each and every day. We may have our own individual dreams and goals in life, but no one should ever think or feel that they’re alone, because they’re not.  We’re all part of this world together.

First or Last, and What’s Fair?

As I was dealing with another frustration in a line of frustrations from the past few months the phrase “first come, first serve” came to mind. There are some advantages to being first. When you choose to be first in things you get what could be cool toys before others, are often seen as trendy, get to be on the forefront of discovery and innovation, and don’t miss out on things because you’re getting it before there’s any chance of it running out.

But being first also means there’s a (good) chance of getting a dud or there being a lot of bugs to work out or it being far inferior to the product that will eventually get to market. There also aren’t any reviews or other people’s opinions you can seek, because no one else has it and can tell you if it’s worth the time and effort.

I know that life isn’t truly “fair,” that we shouldn’t expect something or be mad at others for having something, and right now there’s a whole lot of “it’s not fair!” going around. But it would be nice if for once someone stood up for the little guy and for the masses, and went outside of the big box stores (physical and virtual of all kinds from restaurants to grocers to airlines to clothing distributors etc.), and worked on something other than corporate greed and the almighty dollar (Pound, Yen, Euro, etc.). I’m not suggesting that we should all be first or billionaires or own big companies or have no limits on things. Just thinking on some level that it’s wrong that more of us don’t have stability of finances, health, or access to resources.

Maybe this pandemic can be good for something and we can do better about working together to give everyone who wants access to it: a job they can work hard at and enjoy and make a good living at, health care to the level they want and need it on, and a level of security of the other physical and emotional needs that make this world go round like love, kindness and a place to call home. Where would you start to make this world a better place for everyone?

Creative Success

Over the past few weeks and likely for months to come, we’ll be seeing lots of examples of creativity. Not only have many of us been given the opportunity to be home and able to work on our home improvement projects that we may have put off, we’re also asked to be more creative when it comes to planning for meals and feeding our families, as well as getting creative about how we can support our communities from our homes while many people aren’t working.

I’ve been taking note of the politicians in my community that are both working hard and communicating frequently with their constituents and the organizations who are contributing in ways to those who are struggling and organizations who are working with the community and government to help those in need. They’re organizations and politicians and leaders that I want to support into the future both as life returns to a level of normal and to watch in the future from a success perspective.

Something that’s also been in the news a lot are the ways that people in the community are stepping up to both support each other and celebrate the first responders who are on the road, in the hospitals and in the essential businesses. It’s great to see companies and people really standing up for and recognizing the hard work that these people are doing. But there are more people who are staying at home than those who are out working, and that’s a huge challenge for our social world. So while it’s important to be supporting the front line workers right now, we’ve also had to get more creative about how we support each other. We’ve heard of communities gathering on their balconies to sing and cheer and chat. This morning I was reading about how the people in New Zealand gathered in their driveways to celebrate Anzac day and tonight I heard a commercial from a popular hot dog brand encouraging people to bring their grills to their front yards and do a front yard “neighborhood” cookout.

I hope that we’ll go back to many of the things we used to, but I also hope that we’ll embrace the creativity that we’ve lived with for weeks and months now, moving into the future with more curiosity, more conversation and more consideration, rather than just blindly resuming our previous daily lives. What used to bring us together, what used to help us reach success may or may not work in the future. If we’re able to learn from and apply this creativity, adaptability and willingness to learn, change and grow, I believe we’ll have an even better future and greater success than what we’ve previously experienced.

Community Awareness

This week we’ve had the opportunity to look at Earth Day on Wednesday, it’s an opportunity both to celebrate the planet that we share as well as raise awareness for the damage we’re doing to the planet and ways that we can do better for our planet. Additionally, yesterday was Arbor Day, a day dedicated to the trees, encouraging people to care for and plant them. Tuesday on this blog I talked a bit about mental health, and Wednesday on the Life and Spirituality blog I shared about the idea of progress vs. perfection.

It’s important for us to have discussions about all these topics, and many others that are difficult to talk about, because I do believe we should be working to improve both our lives and our world. I don’t think that we should constantly struggle in a negative way throughout our lives. It’s good to be challenged regularly so that we grow, but challenge to the point of struggle shouldn’t be our default or daily reality. We need to have honest discussions about different aspects of our lives, from our relationships, to our work, to mental health, to physical health, to developmental disabilities, to the environment, to politics. We talk about them not because we want to blame or shame, but to raise awareness, get help and support, and at the very least improve things for those who come after us.

This virus has brought a lot of attention on our world’s health system. While in recent years we’ve done better as a world to care for those who are ill, it’s very clear that we’re not equipped to handle this level of devastation. Of course this isn’t something we deal with often so there’s a level of understanding regarding the struggle to be prepared, but the struggle has shown that we don’t really even have a tentative plan in place for something like this (which is bad). It’s an area that we’ll very obviously be working on in the future.

This virus has also put a spotlight on our family relationships. Being essentially trapped at home with the people you live with has given some of us an abundance of time with our significant others (and any other family members we live with), and is a huge blessing. For those of us that work different times or shifts and wish we could see each other more often, we’ve been handed that opportunity. Sure, there are some challenges that we may be struggling with like finances or teaching our kids or accommodating everyone that’s trying to get work done, but they’re hopefully relatively small bumps and a small price to pay to be with each other during these challenging times.

Unfortunately, the virus has also made very clear that some couples are better off not spending all/any time together, and people in domestic violence situations are struggling greatly to get out of those abusive relationships. The UK has been one of the more outspoken nations about raising awareness for and supporting those in abusive relationships during this time as best they can, unfortunately it’s not something that will go away or just came into existence because of the virus.

I do believe that many couples can work out their differences, whether just between themselves or by working with a pastor or coach or therapist. But some people are just not good and aren’t really capable of loving some people specifically or any person in general, and some relationships just don’t work out. So while I always encourage a couple to consider how they can work things out, the fact is some couples should not be together anymore and it’s healthier for them to go their separate ways as quick as possible.

So this week while you’ve probably still got some extra time on your hands, I encourage you to support or raise awareness for some of the causes and organizations that you care about and make sure that the life you head into as we get back to our lives is one that truly supports you and will help you thrive in the future.

Earth Day for Everyone

Last week we had Easter to look to and this week you may have been playing with colored eggs and of course enjoying a little pastel candy with your kids, and coming up next week we’ve got Earth Day, all of which is good in this challenging time to help keep kids entertained and easily come up with a whole bunch of different stuff to do when they’re not doing school work (and you’ve hit your limit of electronics for the day).  Since I spent a lot of time over the past month thinking and talking about Easter, today we’re thinking ahead to Earth Day.

Earth Day is an opportunity first and foremost to honor the natural planet and remember that it’s necessary to be respectful of it and protect it so that we and many generations to come can enjoy it. Hopefully the weather will turn around from what it’s been the past week and be a little nicer this week so we can at least enjoy a bit of nature and get the kids out of the house. But even if it’s not or you can’t go out due to the virus that we find ourselves all a bit stuck by at home, you can still make plans for how you’re going to celebrate and support nature in the months to come when life gets back to a version of normal. It’s a good family activity to make plans for natural places you want to visit and ways you can all help nature out.

Earth Day is also an opportunity to remember that we’re all sharing this physical planet, both humans and animals. Over the past few months we’ve discovered exactly how connected we humans all are, and how challenging it is to stop something dangerous like this virus when we are as connected as we are. We’ve seen some heart warming examples of how we’re caring for each other even at great distances, and hopefully we’ll see more of that in the future as our world returns to a new normal. Maybe some of the amazing examples of how nature has been positively impacted by this virus will inspire us to do a little more to care for our planet.

How are you and your family going to care for people and planet this Earth Day?

Discovering What Matters

We’re learning many challenging lessons as a world right now, one of the most challenging being that even in our fast paced lifestyle and how connected we are, it’s still not fast enough to save more lives, find better treatments and get things back to a form of normal in the time we think it should take. It’s been a really difficult reality check for many people around the globe, because they simply weren’t prepared on many levels. They weren’t prepared to be home all the time, to work from home, to teach their children, to transition to all virtual learning, to not work for an extended period of time, to not be able to go out as often as desired, and to have the medical supplies and personnel to combat the virus. It has also revealed to many who were unaware of how connected we are as a world, how long it takes to find answers and combat things like this, and how important certain things were in our lives that we took for granted.

But we’ve also seen how quickly we can step up as a community once we realize what’s happening. Technology has made it incredibly easy to post requests and reach out to some of the most vulnerable people in our neighborhoods and lives to check on and support them. We’re also stepping outside of the technology box to keep us all connected and support each other by hanging signs of support and thanks, and putting pictures in our windows for Easter egg hunts and other types of “treasure” hunts. We’re learning how to depend on others to get us food and giving up some of the control in our lives to help others stay healthier.

We’re also working on controlling what we can and letting go of what we can’t. We do absolutely have power right now and the ability to make choices, it’s just a little different right now. These are some of the hardest lessons to learn, mostly because for the majority of us the control and choice we have to make is about staying home and navigating full-time life with those we live with. We don’t have the ability to influence or impact in many other areas right now the way we usually would in a time of struggle or tragedy because so much is closed or changed.

But even though we’re taking things slower right now and not living our normal lives, we’re seeing the light in some very important ways, and I hope that what we’re seeing now is how we’ll continue as things change and return to a version of normal. It’s my hope that we’ve realized over these past few weeks and months how important family is (both family by blood and the other people we call family), and that we should do more with family in the future, even if that just means more video calls because we live physically distant from each other. I hope we also remember how important the medical community is and how important it is to pay attention to our health and the health of others. And finally, I hope we remember this need to give and participate in community, that we would support each other as never before when we return to our lives again. What are you learning as you navigate these changes and challenges?

Doing Your Part

This weekend I was reading about the Pope and how dramatically different His world, and all faith worlds, are right now, since no one can gather in their religious spaces with all of the requirements of staying at home to stop the spread of the virus. One article I read raised the question that some people ask, and that’s where’s the church been lately? To be fair, unlike with other world-challenging situations, those of religious backgrounds can’t do a whole lot and aren’t able to minster in their typical ways. But I digress, that’s not really what we’re here to talk about today. Instead I want to talk about a variation on that question, and that’s what do we do in this situation? What is ‘our part’ (from the saying “do your part”)?

Is it staying at home? Is it cheering for medical professionals at a certain time with open windows? Is it moving the economy along? Is it giving people time to heal before the world resumes activities? Is it bringing groceries to neighbors? Is it taking a job where you can? Is it panicking? With the exception of the last idea there, I don’t believe there is one right answer. This is true for many aspects of our lives: there isn’t only one right way to success, there isn’t always a single right relationship to be in for your whole adult life, there isn’t a best nutritional plan to follow for everyone, there isn’t only one good way to raise or educate children, there isn’t one thing that makes everyone happy universally.

But it does speak to one of the most universal truths, and that’s that we’re all human and should be respected and treated as such. It means accepting that everyone won’t love you and what you’re passionate about. It means you won’t always see eye to eye with everyone on every topic. It means we’ll all work through this challenge/trauma differently.  It means we’ve each had different life experiences. But it also means that, especially when situations like these present (but not exclusive to them), it’s always good to interact with each other with compassion, love, a patient heart and mind, and a willingness to listen.

To address the earlier question, there’s one thing all of us can do, and that’s share something encouraging or supportive or even funny with others in our realm of influence. Keep sending out newsletters and blogging in your (business/non-profit) community even if they’re of a little different topic than usual. Stay connected by sharing on social media and through text and phone calls and on online communities. Pass on knowledge you have that can help someone else through this challenge. And if you feel capable of doing something beyond that, then with appropriate investigation and planning, go ahead and do that.

The only way our communities will emerge from this intact is if we make the effort to stay connected and not shy away from the world or erect mental and emotional boundaries where there are currently physical ones.  How are you keeping your community strong?