Happiness and Help

This month one of the topics we’re talking about is help. One of the concepts and sayings that everyone knows but many still struggle with is that of putting on your own oxygen mask before putting one on your child or whomever is in the situation with you. Especially recently we’ve been hearing and talking about all of the natural disasters going on around the US from multiple hurricanes to fires. One of the things that was noteworthy to me was how many people didn’t take the recommendation of getting out while the getting was good and called for rescue during or immediately after the dangerous storms. For the storms that followed the first storm, it was made clear that once it was too dangerous rescuers weren’t going to be coming out no matter how many times you called until it was safe for them, which makes a lot of sense because you can’t be rescued if your rescuer is dead, right?

Yes, there are times that being selfless or giving of yourself and your resources can be beneficial. There are tons of people around the US who are incredibly thankful for the donations that were made in response to the hurricanes. Some people who made donations didn’t have much to give, but they chose to give anyway because someone else had greater need than they do. But there comes a point in time that you have to stop giving selflessly and recharge and take care of yourself.

One of the biggest areas that you’re responsible for in this regard is your own happiness. Yes, if someone gave me a dog I would be happy (unless it fit inside a teacup). Yes, when I see my partner I’m happy (almost all the time). Yes, I’m happy when I read a story in the news about how good triumphed or someone was saved or rescued. None of those things am I really creating or able to influence, but they make me happy. But since the universe isn’t giving out dogs at the moment, I don’t spend all day every day with my partner and the news is full of lots of other types of stories, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of my day that isn’t influenced by those 3 things, which means that if I want happiness in the rest of my day I’ve got to do something about it.

No, I’m not pretending that every moment will be good, there are lots of challenges, both large and small, we have to face each day. That’s the way life goes right now. But we can choose to have a good attitude, take the high road and look out for ourselves and others. You can either help yourself be happy, safe, fulfilled and healthy or do your best to hurt the world. And you don’t just hurt the world by throwing bombs, killing people, or defacing national monuments, you hurt the world when you’re so self-centered that you no longer do anything to help others be happy, safe, fulfilled and healthy too.

Today I encourage you to take a step back and consider what your life needs right now. Do you need to take a step back for you and focus on yourself for a time, or is it time to step up and help others?

“I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness…” Jane Austen

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Celebrating A New Year Everyday

This week is the celebration of Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year. It celebrates something that Christians are familiar with, the creation of Adam and Eve. More than anything else it’s a period of celebration, of joy and of prayers for peace, prosperity and blessing for the new year. While it’s not a day that Christians celebrate, it is one that can teach us a few important lessons about life, faith/spirituality and our journey.

One of the most interesting things to note is that it is a celebration of Adam and Eve. If you remember they’re the people the Bible begins with, the people everyone can trace their roots back to. They’re also the people who connected this world and our lives with sin when they ate from the tree that God told them not to eat from. It’s not exactly the best moment in our collective spiritual history is it? And yet we can all agree these people are worth remembering, and their creation worth celebrating.

The other thing that I’m reminded of by the celebration of a new year in September, what is known to many as the 9th month of the given year, is that everyone has different beginnings. If you’re familiar with the business world at all you know that many businesses start their year at some time other than January 1st. Personally, it would drive me nuts to try and balance more than one calendar. But if you really think about it we’ve all got a different calendar we could go by, because very few of us were born on January 1st (technically my year begins in October).

So what can we learn from the celebration of Rosh Hashanah? First and foremost that you don’t have to be perfect, do perfect things or get it right all the time to celebrate. Sometimes the little moments and victories should be celebrated more than the big ones. Second, any day is a great day for a fresh start. Don’t say that you have to wait for 2018 to make changes in your life, you can begin today, or tomorrow, or whenever you feel inspired. Third, if God says that Adam and Eve are worth remembering, even with their really big mistake, I would say that each of us are worth remembering and celebrating as well. Finally, take time today to celebrate, and if you can’t come up with anything to celebrate, you can celebrate that you’re alive and have another day to live, learn, and love.   What will you do with today?

Reality Reflections: do your best

Today I have a simple message for you: do the best you can and be the best you can. I said it was a simple message, I didn’t say it was necessarily an easy one. The best you can doesn’t mean you’ll be perfect, that everyone will like you or that you’ll always be satisfied with yourself at the end of the day. Doing your best means that you don’t give up when the going gets tough, you don’t let the criticisms beat you down, and you choose to do the right thing rather than the easy one.

Doing your best means that you get up each and every day with the thought in mind that you’re going to give this new day your best effort, that you’re not going to give up on it, just like the sun doesn’t give up on us (it’s always behind the clouds or on the other side of the world). It means that you’re committed to being aware of what’s going on around you in the world, to have an attitude of love, care and helping others, and to believe in standing up for yourself and others.

It makes finishing a day that didn’t go so well a little easier. It makes it a little easier to sleep at night knowing that you’ll try to solve tomorrow’s problems then and that you’ve done as well as you could with today’s. It won’t “fix” other people or their problems, but it will help you find the patience to deal with them and reach peace easier when something or someone is completely outside of your control or influence.

I encourage you to choose today to be the best person you can be for your partner, your coworkers, your kids, your boss, your employees, your customers and/or yourself.

The Truth?

How often do you tell the truth? Do you try to tell the truth most of the time? Do you give the full truth to people most of the time or do you only give partial truths, holding back some things either for yourself or for them? Over the past few years honesty and truth have been given an increasingly important position in our lives and it’s a lot harder to hide things now with all the live video and phones that go everywhere with us. I don’t believe that the truth should be used to hurt someone, but truth can be an educational and self-improvement tool, especially when shared with love and good intentions.

However I know that sometimes we choose to hide from the truth. Maybe we’re scared of the answer we’ll receive, maybe we don’t want to know how far out of proportions we’ve blown something, maybe we would rather continue living in the little bubble we’ve created for ourselves, and maybe we know that if we were to receive the truth we would have to do something about it. I know the truth can sometimes be intimidating and overwhelming, but neither of those are reasons to shut yourself off from the truth.  But ultimately truth should free us to move from the lies and hiding into a better future, or at least give us the motivation to take action on moving past where we are.

Sometimes the truth is unquestionable. You can’t change the fact that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. But what my truth is regarding the best dog in the world may differ from your truth regarding the best dog in the world. Some truths can be swayed by personal opinions and experiences. However, I don’t think you can really apply the title of ‘truth’ to something unless you’ve got some solid reasons to back it up, more than just “I don’t like it.” I don’t think that this should dissuade us from sharing truth, but we should be more willing to acknowledge when something is “the” truth versus “our” or “my” truth.

Today I encourage you to step up and be open to learning the truth. Whether you are dealing with opinion truths or fact truths, the real focus should be whether it’s honest or not. Don’t ask someone to lie to you or give you partial truth, ask them for the whole truth, and ask them for their reasons or understandings that led them to that truth when appropriate. I don’t believe our world can be improved if we’re not willing to ask for the truth, share the truth and apply the truth to our lives and our world.

“The object of the superior man is truth.”  Confucius

God Remembers

The past few days and weeks in the US have been filled with remembering as we’ve remembered past hurricanes and what cities and homes used to look like. That remembering trend will continue after Hurricane Irma finishes wreaking havoc and as we’ve worked through another September 11th, remembering the men and women who died in the attacks and the men and women who worked tirelessly afterward to rescue and rebuild.

The Bible talks a lot about remembering, including one noteworthy event with Noah. After Noah and his family survive the flood God tells them that the rainbow is a promise and a sign to remember, that seeing it will remind them and God that He won’t send another flood like that to destroy the earth. Genesis 9:12-15 says:

“Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life….””

We also see in the Bible reminders to honor our elders, to care for the ill, to support those in need, and to raise up children well. And we can’t forget to mention the very memorable death and resurrection of Jesus, something that has been talked about since it happened and even some before it happened. From the miracles to the simple kindnesses, the Bible reminds us to remember each other, to remember to love, to remember to care and to remember to share. And we’re not just talking the physical and emotional things of this world, but spiritual life with Jesus as well.

This week I encourage you to remember the blessings as well as the opportunities for growth God has sent your way and to thank Him for them.

Reality Reflections: Hurricane Experiences

As you know this month one of the topics we’re talking about is the topic of help. I’m so thankful to see all of the help that’s happening around the southern US in response to and in preparation for the hurricanes that have happened and are happening. I’m thankful that so much was raised for Hurricane Harvey relief before Hurricane Irma struck because the people recovering from Harvey may feel like they’ve been overshadowed or may worry that they’re not going to get support they need because the resources are heading to respond to Irma now. And while we don’t know much of the result of Irma as I write this, we have seen some of the pictures that have come from where it’s been and those places don’t look good and already people in Florida have lost power.

I lived through Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and I couldn’t help thinking about my experiences and what the people of the southern US must be or have experienced. I remember that Sandy was downgraded by the time it really struck so it wasn’t nearly as bad as they were initially predicting, which is similar to the news so far, in part this time I think because of how long it rolled along Cuba.  Although, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t have lots of damage and weren’t without power, because there was significant damage and power out for weeks in some places.  I remember feeling less secure the second night of Sandy, with the back end of the storm for some reason, so it’s not just about what happens as the storm gets to you and passes over, but the rest of the storm can be just as dangerous. And the third thing that sticks in my mind is that it is still something that people talk about and have issues over the damage and restoration that still goes on today, some 5-6 years later.

As I said I’m thankful that people are donating now, and how many people have come together even before the storms landed to help their neighbors and their communities, and I look forward to seeing how Texas, Florida, and the Southern US works together to rebuild. But the thing about help is that sometimes as important as the initial help is, there’s help that’s needed long after it seems like it should be. I think about an addict who gets the essential NARCAN and detox for a night at a hospital the one night they overdose, but then goes back to their life and their drugs the next night. Yes, that hospital stay was helpful to them, but they need more help than that. Yes, the Southern US needs help, prayers and resources now and over the next few weeks, but they’ll also need it for months and maybe even years to come, depending on how bad the storm turns out to be (and any others that happen this season). If you’re the type of person who makes a financial donation each month to an organization or various organizations or has been meaning to start, I would encourage you to start donating to a disaster relief charity like the Red Cross, Catholic Charities USACenter for Disaster Philanthropy, and of course local Texas and Florida SPCA’s, Humane Societies and food banks which can always benefit from donations whether there’s a disaster or not.

Texas and Florida have risen from Hurricanes before and I have confidence that they will do it again, but they will be able to do it better and quicker if we all pitch in to help, even if it starts with just our prayers and thoughts.

Asking for Help

This month our topic is one that can be challenging for some, the topic of help. I know it’s not always easy asking for help, and we don’t always like the answer or help we get when we ask for help. But that shouldn’t scare us away from asking for help. There are a few things to consider with regards to asking for help. First, you’re asking for the help, that means you’ve come to a point that you really can’t do it alone anymore and need another person or need advice. Second, just because you ask, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to take that advice. Third, asking for help should not be seen as a weakness or point of humiliation or something wrong.

But in many situations it’s simply too much for us to do alone, for example the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey and Irma. There’s no way that anyone truly plans to recover from a natural disaster like this, but they happen. There’s also no way to plan for the death of a partner or child, no matter how long you’ve known about their condition, you’ll still have to go through the grieving process. And, there’s no way one person can lift a king sized mattress or move an extra large bookcase, you need at least 2 people. Sometimes you’re just admitting that you’re human and it’s easier with more than one person, and there’s a reason we’re all here together.

If you’ve been here for a while you know that I’m a big believer in not being everything for everyone. I know it can be tempting to try, but there’s really no reason to be everything when there are people who can do things far better or more efficiently than you can or have more knowledge than you do. I love celebrating the expertise of others and giving them the opportunity to shine at what they do best.

So today I would challenge you to go ahead and ask for help. Maybe it will be something small like asking someone to hold the door open. Maybe it will be something bigger like asking someone to look over a proposal you’ve received. Maybe you’ll be extra brave and talk with your partner about one of the things that’s challenging you in your relationship or ask how you can better fulfill their needs in your relationship. Start small or go big, but make the choice to ask for help today.