A Life of Serving Humanity

Today in the US we’re honoring the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was best known for his work in the Civil Rights Movement and his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, but what many people may not know was the key role that faith played in his life. He actually started his career of “serving humanity” as he called it, by attending seminary and becoming a pastor. While he wasn’t ‘just’ a pastor for long (although he did preach until his death), faith was a key part in how he led and the fact that he led non-violent movements to worked on advancing civil rights.

Each year we take a look at his life because there’s so much we can learn from it, and each time I read an article or hear a bit about him, I’m reminded of something I had forgotten or learn something I didn’t know. One of the things I was reminded of this year was how young he was when he died: he was only 39. When people die that young we often feel regret for the life that has been lost and what they could have done with the many years they were likely to have had they lived a life of more typical length. I have to say that I think Dr. King did very well with the few years that he had, packing more than most of us do in his last 14 years. He certainly didn’t pick an easy journey, even with the decision to be non-violent and work from a place of peace. But because of his bravery he made a lasting positive impact on countless lives, even beyond the civil rights discussion.

Additionally today I want to think on the many people who paved the way for his work, as well as supported him in his journey. The civil rights movement is something that had been building for years, and reached a boiling point with people such as Emmett Till and Rosa Parks, erupted right as King was becoming a pastor and was most active during his last 14 years. He was also supported by people such as Billy Graham, Mahalia Jackson, Jesse Jackson, and Thich Nhat Hanh, not to mention countless people who were never named but were present or supported in some way the many protests of the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King didn’t do this alone. Yes, he was a charismatic man with big dreams, a captivating presence and the willingness to do what it took to get the attention that was necessary to finally create positive change. But he didn’t do it alone while he was alive, and because he died he couldn’t continue his work, others had to pick it up, and they did.

Maybe God has called you to be a voice, maybe God has called you to play a background role. There are no small roles, just people who aren’t content with the gifts God has given them. Today I encourage you to celebrate the opportunities God has given you to contribute to the Kingdom, however large or small, and be brave in honor of Dr. King’s life.

“The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!”” Matthew 3:3

Reality Reflection: Tit for Tat

Sometimes I wonder if we ever grow up, or if we are just children in bigger bodies. In addition to pondering this topic because of seasonal activities, I was reading the morning headlines the other day and it talked about how the US was planning some tariffs, which could result in a tit-for-tat trade war. I understand the concept of credit card fees, loan fees, repayment schedules, jail, probation, time outs, restrictions, trial runs, and contracts, just to name a few. We need rules and guidelines to make this world run without everyone doing whatever they want, to make sure that no one is persecuted or abused, and give everyone access to freedoms (unless they prove they’re not able to respect them). There’s really no such thing as a free ride, and we should be better at accepting that the only guarantees in life are death, taxes and change.

Getting back to the topic for today, there are different ways of dealing with things that don’t go our way or don’t go as expected. There’s the pointing finger, childishly high voice, throwing dirt way of telling on someone or dealing with a problem, and then there’s the mostly calm and rational discussion and negotiation option. A company may advertise that a product is back in stock, but there are limits to everything and a company certainly can’t guarantee unlimited supplies of a season’s most popular product, food or beverage, regardless of how much people may request it, or the tantrums they throw when it’s not available.

Bottom line, tit-for-tat rarely works out in anyone’s favor. Most often it ends up in more hurt feelings, more damage to undo and a mountain of new problems that weren’t there in the first place. There’s nothing wrong with going after what you want or what you think is right, or standing up for what you believe in. But if you’re really working towards a better future for not just yourself and your family but those you share the planet with, you can’t let hurt feelings, any sense of entitlement or inflated pride take a starring role in the efforts.  The next time you think about doing tit for tat, think twice about how it could come flying back in your face.

Reality Reflection: Reactions

I’m always fascinated that some of the oldest rules in the book still apply after we’ve done all the developing and changing that we have over the years (centuries).  This would include things like how the egg shape is an incredibly strong shape, gravity still gets the best of us (fortunately and unfortunately), when you point at someone there are fingers pointing back at you, weaving things together creates incredibly strong bonds, Newton’s third law, and the idea of karma and the Biblical concept of ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you.’

The one of those I’ve been contemplating lately is Newton’s third law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  It’s a very specific statement on the idea that every thing you do and everything you say creates results.  In some cases those results are consequences, in other cases they’re victories, or at the very least steps closer to victories.

The word that’s specifically used in the law is ‘reaction.’  I like this word in this context because it’s a reminder of the impact you have on others.  There’s very little that happens in your life that doesn’t have an impact on the world around you, on the next generation or more immediately on someone who is alive today.  But beyond the impact you have on their life, they have a reaction to that impact.  Sometimes it’s an over the top reaction, sometimes it’s an unexpected reaction, sometimes the reaction is blown out of proportion with the situation, sometimes it’s exactly what you expected, and sometimes there’s a delayed reaction.

It’s not just about the impact that we can have on others, but considering how they’re going to react, and if there’s a way of doing things so there isn’t any misunderstanding or to soften the reaction so that fewer people are negatively impacted.  I encourage you to think things through before you make very public moves or life-altering decisions that may have sounded like a good idea but could very well end up kicking you in the butt.

Reality Reflection: Love and Kindness

It’s been a rough week for many people. I found out someone I greatly respected passed away recently, my partner got some bad news about his knee, we remembered another 9/11, the Amazon burned, and more lives were lost to hatred or disregard. The other day my partner had on some show that featured Dr. Phil as a guest and he questioned where the humanity has gone, how we used to be able to sit down and talk things through, and now it seems like so many people wait until they’re hitting rock bottom before they’re asking for help or choosing violence over talking. I can’t help but agree, and it’s something I frequently emphasize to my business clients: the importance of remembering we’re all people, humans with feelings and needs and people they care about.

It’s weeks like these that I’m reminded of the importance of the other people that we share this world with. Of taking time to celebrate being alive and surviving through another day. Of sharing this world with amazing creatures like koalas, dogs, turtles and tigers. Of building amazing structures and infrastructure, some that last thousands of years.

It’s so simple and yet we seem to screw it up on a regular basis. None of us are perfect, so why aren’t we able to give each other more flexibility and forgiveness? Why aren’t more of us standing for rebuilding and recovery instead of fighting and defending our little corner of the universe? Why aren’t we taking the time to ask questions instead of just judging or hating? Many have gone through more tragedy in their short lives than anyone should, I’d say it’s past time to circle back to being a community.

“Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.” Barbara De Angelis

Hope and Suicide

Tuesday was World Suicide Prevention Day, and September is suicide prevention month. In line with being a leading case of death in the US, over 1 million people die from suicide each year around the world. Yesterday on my other blog I shared about 9/11 and how I couldn’t really understand the hatred or dislike that would cause people to kill others in the types of terrorist attacks we remember happening 18 years ago today. I can however understand a small portion of what people struggle with when it comes to suicide.

Depression is something I’ve worked with and on for many years, never close to considering suicide, but I do have some understanding of what it feels like to feel hopeless and lost. Unlike hatred and anger towards others, I can imagine what it feels like when these feelings reach the extremes that drive some people to suicide. I don’t think we should ever give up hope, but there comes a time when it just doesn’t seem like the miracle will be showing up. The struggle of suicide is something very personal. As much as you think about the other people in your life while you’re struggling, the things that lead you to suicide don’t leave a lot of room left in your head to navigate your way out.

I don’t have all the answers, but I’m hopeful for the first time in a long time. I’m hopeful because people of all walks of life are finally talking about their mental health struggle, even publicly on TV. I’m hopeful because it’s easier than ever to reach out for support without fanfare or sharing your situation with the world through text, email, call and messages. I’m hopeful because of everyone who gives hope to those who are lost, who listens to them and helps them connect with people who will support and not judge them. I’m hopeful because of the number of organizations, public and private, who are stepping up to share about and support help for those considering suicide. I’m hopeful because there’s more openness and understanding that anyone in any walk of life can struggle with mental illness, depression and suicide, including first responders and celebrities.

Suicide may be a personal struggle, but that doesn’t mean we give up on each other and let anyone struggle alone. The more we share, the more we support, the more we accept, the more chances we’ll have to decrease the number of suicides each year, instead of seeing them increase. Everyone faces struggles in life, but no one should struggle alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help if you’re struggling, and if someone comes to you looking for help, support them or send them to someone who can help.

When People Stand Up

Today on one of my other blogs I shared about how CNN and MSNBC are stepping up to host climate crisis town halls with some of the 2020 presidential candidates. If you follow the news at all you know that a lot of people are talking about climate and climate issues, how there’s tons of melting up at the poles, how temperatures are fluctuating and hitting extremes that they haven’t before and how there’s increased concern over the earth’s ability to host us for as many years as we want to stay here.

What impressed me about the town halls is that CNN and MSNBC stepped up when it had been made clear that the regular conventions weren’t willing to have any type of discussion about climate, despite thousands of people asking them to. CNN and MSNBC had to work to find a loophole in the rules that allowed them to have these conversations, but they did the work and now there is political and very public conversation happening about climate.

This has reminded me about the power of many individuals standing up for what’s important and how crucial it is to stand up for what’s important. If we don’t make the effort to decide what’s important and stand up for it we’ll never make progress on the big issues in our world, rather they’ll continue to compile. It also gives me hope that someone is hearing what the masses are saying and doing what it takes to step up and actually respond.

We don’t have any answers on the climate crisis nor has there been a revolution of politics, but for the first time in a long time it feels like finally there has been a victory for the people. On the heels of some tragic shootings over the summer and in the middle of a devastating hurricane, it’s encouraging to have a victory. It shows that the voices of thousands spoken together do have an impact, that if we keep going, keep up the pressure, keep speaking up, and get a little creative, maybe we can finally make changes in our world that give our kids a safer and happier place to live and make our world healthier too.

Stepping Up

It’s almost funny how we adults shy away from questions that kids sometimes ask. Yes, as adults we do know more answers than they do (for example about the birds and the bees), but there’s still a ton that we don’t know. For instance why don’t we ask or investigate when something doesn’t seem right with someone we love? Why aren’t we asking when something in our bodies doesn’t seem right or frustrates us? Why aren’t we talking with our partner before we get to the point of everything being a screaming match? Why are we still using products that are poisoning us and our world?

Why aren’t we asking for help? Are the potential answers and solutions so scary and unacceptable that we choose not to ask the questions? Or else why are we avoiding the questions, especially when asking them could do a lot of good in our lives and the world?

It’s easier than ever to find answers, even multiple answers. It’s easier than ever to connect with other people who have similar questions and experiences as you do. We could be celebrating more victories instead of dealing with more tragedies if we would just step up and ask some questions and do some research.

So go ahead and step into the coming season.  Choose to be brave and live your life to the fullest.  Choose to ask the questions that may be embarrassing or seem obvious if and when you have them.  Choose to be curious and explore what seems interesting to you.  Choose to make smarter decisions that will better support you and the world we all share.  Choose to take the best path, not (just) the fastest or easiest.  And encourage others to do the same so that we can all have more victories.