Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Heartfelt New Year’s Resolution: Show You Care!

I heard the sirens behind me before I saw the flashing lights of an ambulance, followed closely by a fire truck. Like everyone else on the roadway, I looked around trying to figure out where the ambulance was heading, and as soon as I saw the lights, eased my car over to the right side of the road. Only the ambulance wasn’t traveling in the direction of traffic, the ambulance was heading for whichever side of the roadway was clear, if only for a few car-lengths -  much to the surprise, no doubt, of those in the oncoming lane of traffic.

I figured it must be a truly urgent emergency for the ambulance and fire truck to be commandeering both sides of Pacific Coast Highway. Nonetheless, drivers on either side were nudging their cars onto the side, out of the way. At no time did the ambulance have to blow its horn, slow down, or do anything else to get where it needed to go.

We care. We really do. In moments of crisis, large or small, our respect for one another simply as human beings, shows up. I am reminded of a very touching video posted in the final weeks of the chaotic Presidential campaigns, which featured a woman trying to find the owner of a lost dog found wandering in a parking lot. It was an “equal opportunity” posting, in that the same situation was played out in both Trump and Clinton rallies. The woman wore a “Trump” t-shirt in the Clinton situation, and a “Clinton” t-shirt in the Trump situation. Didn’t matter. People in both rallies, without exception, treated the woman with respect, and tried their very best to help her find the dog’s owner. Small crisis, true, but oh-so-telling.

We care. We really do. So what if, this New Year, we made a resolution to show our caring, our respect for our shared humanity, when it isn’t a matter of a lost dog or tragic accident? What if, just as a matter of course, throughout our most ordinary of days, we made the effort to give people the benefit of the doubt, to assume people are doing their best (including ourselves!), and to respect them, regardless of whether or not we agree with them.

I know, it’s easier to do with lost dogs than it is with co-workers or family, much less strangers who are rude to us or ignore us altogether. But heck, we’re still all in this together, and a little bit of respect and consideration goes a long way.

And who knows? Someone may give you some of that respect and consideration when you least expect it, in a most delightful way.

Happy New Year!

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Ultimate Holiday Gift That Truly Keeps On Giving

The airport was crowded, noisy, chaotic. Nothing unusual about that. I was waiting, properly queued up, to board my flight. To my right was a line of nine wheelchair-bound folk also waiting patiently. All but one, who was waiting not so patiently. She was sixth in the line of pre-boarding wheelchairs, and she was not happy about it. She muttered and groused about how long it was taking, and who did they think they were to put her sixth in line, she’d get a terrible seat, and it was going to be too hot anyway or too cold, they  could never get the air right, and she’d probably be next to someone coughing and hacking, and for sure she’d get sick….

How much complaining can one person do? I wondered to myself. Considering that the flight was boarding in plenty of good time to leave right on schedule, that she was being wheeled on as a pre-boarder before everyone else, so no worries about getting pretty much whatever seat she wanted, what on earth did she have to be so grouchy about?

Then it hit me. I was complaining about the lady complaining! Ack! Right on the heels of my very unpleasant self-discovery, I remembered my own litany of “woe is me” yada-yada during a meeting I attended the previous week: “This is a complete waste of my time. What am I doing here? Gosh, still another 45 minutes to go? This is ridiculous.” And on and on, albeit silently, just as grouchy-ouchy as the airport lady.

That did it. I decided that the best possible gift I could give to my friends and family this Holiday season wasn’t one wrapped in sparkly red-and-green ribbon, but rather one lovingly wrapped in good intentions. A three-parter, actually.

1. I would cease to complain about whatever I didn’t like about what was going on.
Period. I would zip it, put a lid on it, change the subject, go to my happy place, do whatever it took to quit complaining, out loud or in my head.

2. I would take responsibility for my situation. If I didn’t like something, I would change it. If I couldn’t change the situation, I’d walk away or change the channel, and leave it be. If I could neither change it nor walk away, I’d daydream, go somewhere else in my head. Which given my over-developed imagination is pretty easy to do.

3. I’d put my focus on what was working for me, on whatever I could find to genuinely like or appreciate in the situation. I could, in that time-waster meeting, for example, have shifted my focus from the time-wasting to deliberately looking for even a single nugget of useful information. I’ll bet with just a tiny bit of effort, I could have found something of value to take home with me.

I’ve been practicing my Holiday gift approach, cracking myself up at how much internal complaining I seem to be capable of, but at least now aware of it, and with a game plan I’m actively working on. Does it take patience, determination, persistence? Sure. But what the heck, as far as I’m concerned, it’s well worth it—my small contribution toward peace on earth, good-will towards all.

Best wishes for a wonderful Holiday Season!!

How to Get Along With Family During the Holidays

What will family gatherings be like as the holidays begin? The presidential race has made it a tough year on relationships between family members who don’t agree on politics. That rawness is still going to be around during the holidays as we gather to celebrate the season.

The perfect holiday present we can give family this year isn’t one wrapped in sparkly red-and-green ribbon, but rather one lovingly wrapped in good intentions.

Here are guidelines to follow during the holidays to keep relationships—and gatherings--peaceful.

--Cease to complain or argue when you hear something that you don’t like. Period. Zip it, put a lid on it, change the subject, go to your happy place. Do whatever it takes to stop an argument before it starts. No one is going to change someone else’s mind.

--Take responsibility for your situation. If you don’t like what someone says and you feel your blood pressure rise, walk away. You may not have control over the words and actions of your crazy Uncle Harry, but you have control of what you say and do. And by the way, keeping your blood pressure under control is good for your cardiovascular system, which leads to a longer, healthier life.

--Find common ground. Focus on whatever you can genuinely appreciate. It could be great taste of your mom’s pumpkin pie, catching up on family member activities or celebrating the addition of a new baby niece or nephew. With just a tiny bit of effort, you can find something of value and joy that can be shared with others.

Does this approach take patience, determination, persistence? Sure, but it’s well worth the try—and a small yet meaningful contribution toward peace on earth, goodwill towards all.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Ride the Wave: Hawaii 5-0’s Surprising Lesson in Thankfulness

Just the other night, I was watching one of my favorite TV shows, “Hawaii 5-0,” where one of the main characters featured in that night’s episode was a young woman, a veteran, who’d served in Afghanistan, during which time she’d lost both legs. The show was forthright in its brief portrayal of some of the tough challenges such vets can face: depression, falling into substance abuse to alleviate the physical and mental anguish, homelessness.

But the clincher, for me, was to see this young woman, who (in the story) had been a surfing champion before her service, find the courage (with help from one of the show’s regulars) to ride the waves in her bikini on a board equipped with special hand-holds so she could “stand” proud and true, on the little bit that was left of her upper legs, a surfer once again.

I still cry when I think of it. Not only because I think the show is to be commended for its refusal to hide the character’s disability, but because it brought home to me vividly, that every one of our lives matter and have meaning.  Disabled lives, black lives, vet lives, transgender lives, homeless lives, children’s lives, white lives, Native American lives, immigrant lives, and all the other lives too numerous to mention. No matter what label or category you prefer to use to describe yourself (“Other” is my favorite), the truth is that all our lives are important.

You matter. You count. You are important. And so is everyone else in your world. In this season, where thankfulness is the order of the day, I want to be thankful for all those in my world. I want to remember, when someone annoys me, or does something differently than I would, or makes me downright mad, that, as my friend Mike Dooley so wisely says: “People are always doing the best they can, with what they’ve got, from where they are.” Regardless of what anyone else thinks of how they’re going about things.

That includes you, and me. And everyone else. To look at oneself and others as doing the best they can in that moment is humbling. It kicks in my compassion, my patience, and reminds me to try to understand others, rather than knee-jerk into criticism or blame.

And for that, I am deeply, truly thankful.