A Response to Violence

I’ve been receiving lots of emails about the violent deaths of black men and women around the US over the past few months and especially these past few days, and you probably have too.  I’ve shared some thoughts on violence before, but to sum up I believe it’s sometimes necessary, but only for reasons of showing your strength or defending those who are weaker and in trouble.  I don’t believe violence should be the answer to fear, differences, disagreements or the way to gain power.  We each have our differences and our similarities.  Just because we’re different in one way or another, it doesn’t make it right to treat anyone as less than a human with rights.  We all have our biases and beliefs, but if we really believe we’re meant to live in a global, connected world, we have to start working together at some point in time.

So today I wanted to share with you a few of the comments I have heard that stood out to me, I may reflect in depth on some of them on the Life and Spirituality blog over the coming days and weeks as well.

“We[‘ve] talked about the terror some of us feel in our own homes. Scared of feeling rejected, ignored, dismissed, or unheard by the people who matter most, we reactively retreat to passivity and self-protection.  This is not the path to peace in our own homes, nor in our own hearts…Ultimately, learn to represent your fullest self to the fullest. That way you give yourself, and the ones who matter most, the best chance at the relationships we all crave.”  Hal Runkel

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“… the attack is a reminder that no life will be safe and truly valued until we also confront the broader American culture of violence.”  Kai Wright

“There is a deep wound in this nation and we must re-double our commitment to be a part of healing it — and it must be done nonviolently.  The only way we can truly generate healing is to take the skills and values of peacebuilding deep into our communities.”  Matthew Albracht

“Everybody’s got to reach deep down and find some empathy.  If you cried for the brother who bled out next to his fiancee, but you didn’t cry this morning for those police officers, it’s time to do a heart check.  If you cried for those police officers, but you have a hard time taking seriously all these videos that are coming out about African Americans dying, it’s time to do a heart check.  Because we are either going to come together or come apart.  There’s enough pain on both sides that there should be some empathy starting to kick in.’  Van Jones

“You need the courage to push yourself beyond your own fears.  You need to embrace your fears in order to make your life everything it was meant to be.”  Chris Howard

The world you grew up in is much different than it was for your parents, and the world your kids and their kids grow up in will be much different than the world you grew up in.  I want a world that will be a place to grow, thrive and blossom, and that’s not possible if the threat of violence remains so high.  What world do you want to create for your future generations?

The Karma of Kindness

Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves.   This isn’t a bad thing unless we’re the only thing we think about and if we’re not considerate of the impact that our thoughts, purchases and actions could have on someone else.  Because from where I sit I can see at least 11 people who would be impacted if I stood up and yelled something loud and obnoxious (I’m working at Starbucks today).  Whether you believe in karma or not, it’s pretty simple to prove that your actions and words do have an impact on those around you.

But back to my original point: it’s not a bad thing to spend time thinking about yourself.  If we were completely selfless we’d make some decisions that would be really unhealthy for us or could hurt us, which could actually end up hurting others, especially if we’re depended on by kids.  Refusing to have an opinion or take care of yourself is a mistake, but so is being so focused on yourself that you ignore the needs of others.  It’s also a mistake to be so focused on the karma aspect of things that you don’t leave room for being OK with failures or unexpected blessings.

Taking the time to do something nice for someone else, to be honest with them about something or make a decision based on the negative impact of one option over the other are things that show that you’re both responsible and respectful.  Living life as a points system or creating lots of “IOU’s” and “you owe me’s” shouldn’t be your goal.  It should be your goal to be considerate of the needs of others as well as your own.  After all, the well known statement is “together we can change the world.”

The truth is that you may not be repaid by the same person for your kind or inconsiderate actions, but in one way or another you will be repaid for being selfish, inconsiderate, kind or thoughtful.  It comes down to whether or not you want to be repaid with kindness down the road, or end up in the mud.

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”  Princess Diana

Kindness Anyway

It’s not always easy to be kind.  You can always find rude and nasty people if you look hard enough (sometimes it’s too easy to find them).  Kindness is more than doing a good deed now and again, but it does start that way.  As I was contemplating the darker side of kindness, if you will, I ran across this poem:

“The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.”
Kent M. Keith

It’s not easy to be ourselves when the world seems out to get us and no one else.  It’s not easy to show kindness in the face of hatred.  Being the bigger person takes effort.  But the only way the world will change is one act of kindness at a time.  This is one of the lessons one of my heroes, Nelson Mandela, learned while he was imprisoned.  He learned that what got him into the situation he was in was certainly not going to be what got him out of it; he had to change.  And change he did.

We’ve each got a similar choice to make.  No we may not be in a physical prison, but we too have to realize that what got us into the not so good places we can find ourselves in is not what will get us out.  Let’s change the world one kindness at a time.

The Business of Kindness

There are a lot of things that can make you successful, but 99% of the time hate isn’t one of them.  In fact, negative emotions like hate and anger usually repel people.  However, choosing to present a kind and welcoming attitude and face for your business can not only attract people to you, it can help bring them back over and over again.  No, I’m definitely not talking about the sickly-sweet or fake kindness that some people use.  That’s not effective in making friends, winning clients or running a business.  People don’t respond to falseness or lies.

On the other hand, the benefits of true kindness are endless: people like you, trust you, recommend you and return to you.  No, I don’t suggest you’re so kind that you get walked on, that won’t help you achieve success or the other goals of your business. There’s a line between being kind and being a pushover; being a pushover isn’t being kind to yourself or others.

Being kind in business means leaving the attitude at the door, not bringing your problems to work and choosing honesty and integrity in all work situations.  It means not cheating or doing deceptive marketing, not shorting your customers, and not treating your employees like animals.  It means contributing to the community, being respectful of employees and customers and your ultimate goal being to help people.

As those of us in the USA recognize Martin Luther King Jr. today I encourage you to remember that you can get a lot done with just words.  Choose words that will build your people and your business up, not tear it down.

Lessons of Kindness

Kids can teach us many lessons.  We just have to be open to those lessons and willing to accept wisdom from those who have less experience and fewer years than we do.  One of the biggest lessons we can learn from kids is the lesson of kindness to our fellow man.  Maybe you’ve had a random kid say hi to you in a store, or at a restaurant, or want to tell you all about the special thing that happened to them that day.  It’s simply because they want to share the love.  They want you to be as blessed as they feel.  When we choose to ignore their efforts or treat them as less than significant, we slowly crush them.  It’s no wonder that we can become boring people with little passion.

What can we do to fix that?  We can choose to look for the little, special blessings in life.  We can choose to look for the little gifts and blessings that come our way and see them as that, not just as part of our due for life.  For example, being thrilled over the perfect parking spot, your partner wanting a date night, your kids wanting to read a story, your boss wanting to talk a project concept over with you, the free coffee in the mornings, or the joyful greeting your pet gives you each day.

When you choose to see those special moments as the opportunities to let kindness into your life, not only do you present hope for the next generation, you allow hope the opportunity to take root in your life as well.  Today I invite you to open your arms to the softer side of life and see what you’re missing.  Follow your kids around for a day, try to see the world as they see it, let them tell you their stories and open your mind to the possibility that there’s lots more to life than you first imagined.

Kind Families

This week we’re joining in the celebration of Random Acts of Kindness.  Today I’ve got 10, yes just 10, things you can do as a family or as a couple to be kind to others.

1-donate unused books to the library.  Libraries love when you share gently used books with them. It means they don’t have to buy as many books and if they don’t want to add the books you donated to their circulation, they usually sell them to raise money for books they do want to buy.

2-do yardwork for an elderly neighbor.  It’s easy to pick up a couple extra sticks or offer to get the clippers out to help cut back some things that are overgrown. If you don’t have a yard and live in an apartment building, taking out the trash is another option.

3-visit an animal shelter. If your kids have been begging you for a pet and you just can’t afford one or aren’t allowed to have one (allergies, apartment rules etc.) most animal shelters would love to have you stop by for an afternoon to play with the animals.

4-share food.  It’s not expensive to pick up a can or two extra when you’re at the supermarket or cook a simple pasta meal for a family in need.  It’s also something the whole family can get involved in and excited about.

5-do something without being asked.  Everyone I know loves a surprise, like coming into a room and seeing all the toys picked up or the vacuum run without being asked!

6-help a coworker or fellow student.  Everyone has someone in their life that needs a little extra help.  Maybe there’s a big project the kids have for school and there’s a family who just lost a job, invite their kids over to do the project together with your kids, and provide the supplies.  Of course there’s always that coworker who has some project they just can’t get done, and would really appreciate if you spent an hour of your time helping them figure it out.

7-conserve energy.  This isn’t something that technically directly benefits your family (although your wallet should appreciate it), it actually shows kindness to the earth.  Turn off those lights, unplug those laptops, don’t leave the TV on when you leave the room.

8-watch your words. When you’re kind to others, they’ll be kind to you!

9-leave a generous tip.  When you’re out at a restaurant and the kids have had one of “those days” leave an extra nice tip for your server to show you appreciate them not kicking you out.

10-volunteer at a food bank or shelter.  It will give you a chance to do something good for someone else and feel good about yourself at the same time!

What are your favorite kind things to do?

The Kindness of Business

This week the world recognizes Random Acts of Kindness.  Today I’ll be sharing some thoughts related to business, on Friday I’ll share some related to family and relationships.

So the big question you’re probably asking is where does kindness come into play in the cutthroat world of corporations?  Kindness is more than just mushy feelings, it’s an attitude and way of being that can make a big difference on your bottom line.

The first way kindness can present itself is in the person-to-person relationships, such as boss-employee and employee-customer.   The interactions that happen between these groups of people are absolutely key to the success or failure of your business.  Rarely do you have a product or service so fantastic that the people they deal with don’t matter to the customer.  Almost every customer you speak to will say they would prefer to be treated with respect, honesty and politeness, if not kindness and cheerfulness.

If your employees and the bosses of the company are treating each other well and treat their customers with respect and genuine appreciation for their spending choices, the customer is much more likely to come back.  Even if the product or service is good, some customers won’t come back because of unethical or ridiculous treatment and relationship of bosses and their employees.

The second way kindness can present itself in your business is in the little surprises and blessings you send the way of your customer.  Things like discounts for bringing your own bags, a little sample in your package of another product, free products or services (buy 10 get 1 free), or free refills during your visit.  These are things that are considered above and beyond the call of duty for a business.  These are things that make customers take notice and feel special.  They’re little ways you can show customers they matter to you.

So this week I encourage you to have something in place that will show your customers that you care about them, and share your ideas in the comments!

Whole Living: Caroling Bells

Hark! how the bells
sweet silver bells
All seem to say
throw cares away.

Christmas is here
bringing good cheer
To young and old
meek and the bold

Ding, dong, ding, dong
that is their song,
With joyful ring
all caroling

One seems to hear
words of good cheer
From everywhere
filling the air

O, how they pound
raising the sound
Oer hill and dale
telling their tale

Gaily they ring
while people sing
Songs of good cheer
Christmas is here!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!

On, on they send
on without end
Their joyful tone
to every home

From Carol of the Bells.  You can hear the song on Youtube here.

The Carol of the Bells is one of my favorite Christmas songs, one of 3 I’ll be sharing with you this week on this blog.  Christmas is all about stories, as are our lives.  My grandmother pulled out some old photos when we visited her recently and it was a lot of fun to see the stories and memories come to life.  Christmas Traditions are usually passed down for a reason, and one of those reasons is because they are what makes the holiday season special to your family.

With the holiday season I always listen for the church bells.  Most churches have gotten rid of their bells, but there are still a few near me who have bells and play them from time to time.  There’s just something so Christmasy about bells.  While bells have been used for centuries for many different purposes, if they were alive I’m sure they’d say they enjoy sharing joy the most.

So this Christmas, as you do your traditions, open your gifts and spend time with your family and friends, remember to bring the cheer with you.  Christmas is all about spreading the bell’s cheerful song.

What will you do to spread joy this year?

Whole Living: Walt’s Wisdom

“Disneyland is a work of love. We didn’t go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money.”
Walt Disney

December has many wonderful birthdays in it, including the famous Walt Disney who was born on December 5th.  While Disney is no longer with us, he has left us an incredible legacy.  Disney knew something special about life-as important as money is, there has to be love!

Without love, the difficulties of life wouldn’t be bearable.  There’s no amount of money that would make a bed warm at night or make a holiday gathering special.  No matter how much money you have, it wouldn’t be the same without people to be around and love.

As we close out this month of thinking about kindness and thanksgiving, and look forward to talking about love in December, I am reminded that these are the best days of life- days when love and compassion are so evident.

I am thankful that people take advantage of opportunities to bestow blessings upon their fellow man during this season, but wish that we would remember to do so all year long.  Disney’s dreams of animation, Disneyland and Disney World didn’t end when he died, other people have carried it on long after.

What’s stopping us from carrying on love and kindness through the year?

Just like Disney is a work of love, let’s work this year to be more loving, kind and thankful all year long.

Family Kindness

“I think what’s important for kids to know is that your decisions here on earth matter, your behavior matters and how you treat other people matters.”
Matt Damon

Teachers and those without kids have the ability to help raise kids, but they don’t have to.  Parents, on the other hand, technically don’t have a choice.  When they chose to have kids, they decided that they would show their kids how to grow up, what it means to be a good person, and help them through life as situations come up.

I think it’s hard for kids to really see that their words and actions matter today.  We live in such a clean society where we don’t see what happens to all our trash, what happens when we pour chemicals on the lawns and down the drains, and where we can bully people across the world through the internet and think it’s a joke.

In this week of thinking about kindness, I encourage you to help your kids see that what they do matters.  Maybe they won’t be the bully or the person who doesn’t recycle, but they very well could cure cancer or thank a veteran because you took the time to show them that everyone can make a difference.