30 Days of Thanksgiving: family, by blood or choice

One of the things I love about holidays are all the holiday movies.  Some are pretty cheesy and not really worth watching unless you’re really in the mood, but there are some really great ones.  One of the programs that always has great holiday movies is Charlie Brown.  Many of these movies are “classics” including the Thanksgiving one, but for some reason they’re movies we can watch every year and the next generation likes them too (and don’t think they’re dated).

The concept of the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is that one of their friends, Lucy, invites herself (and their friends) over to Charlie Brown’s for the Thanksgiving dinner.  Charlie and his friends step up to the plate and attempt to make dinner, and they do all sit down to eat together before the end of the show.

There are a couple of things that stick out to me in this story, and in many of the other Charlie Brown stories, and that’s the presence of his friends in his life, and their celebration of the holidays.

Charlie Brown and friends certainly have plenty of fights or annoy each other on a regular basis, but they always come back to being friends, supporting each other and gathering together for the holidays.  I love that they’re celebrating the holidays together even if they know it will be a bit of a rocky road before the day is over.  I also love that they’re choosing to come together as friends, and that the holidays for them are about spending time with the people and animals who mean the most to them.  Family is important, but it’s also really important to them to be with friends.

I’m thankful that although we can’t choose who brings us into the world, we can choose who we spend the rest of our lives with.  Who are you thankful for in your life?

How Would You React?

It’s not something everyone does, but when I’m out driving, whether running errands or heading to meet with a client, I listen to the radio.  I’m one of those annoying radio control freaks who constantly changes the channel and only listens to commercials if there isn’t a better option.  As I was driving yesterday I heard that it was National Sandwich Day.  The radio personality said that he called a few sandwich shops in the city where he works (a major US city) to wish them a happy sandwich day.  He went on to mention the name of a sandwich shop and said that they had hung up on him when he called and delivered his cheerful greeting.  Yes, on a major radio station a deli was called out as a grumpy (which leads one to assume they’re not customer-friendly) business.

The other day while driving I heard another story of a little child who started up a conversation with a senior gentleman at the grocery store while she and her mom were shopping.  She told the gentleman that it was her birthday and she talked to/with him for a few minutes and before heading on to do the rest of their shopping the girl asked if she could take a picture with the man.  He agreed, and her mom posted it on Facebook.  After seeing the post a friend of a friend shared that they knew the man and that the man’s wife had recently died and he’d been lonely and struggling to adjust.   The mom reached out to the man through their mutual friends and since that incident they’ve had visits and the gentleman is now part of the little girl’s family.

Why do I share these 2 stories today? I share them because the differing reactions of the people really spoke to me.  Sure, we can react like the deli did and shut people down because we think they’re rude or weird or making fun of us.  Or we can choose to say even just a simple thank you “thank you” or do a little more and be willing to meet a new person and not just judge them for how they look, how old they are or a quirk they may have.

As you finish out this week I encourage you to take a breath before going with your initial reaction in situations that aren’t the norm for you (like in these 2 stories).  Don’t just react and be a jerk or dismiss someone as silly or not important.  That deli could have gotten great publicity, but instead they’re possibly losing business as a result of a snap judgment.  There’s now another family learning from the wisdom that seniors have to offer and sharing the gift of being alive and enjoying life with each other across multiple generations.  What will your reaction be today?

Reality Reflection: Decoration Day

Did you know that Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” back in 1868? It was established by the Union veterans after the Civil War as an opportunity for everyone to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. It’s a tradition that has continued since then, and we do it for more than just soldiers too, but on days like Memorial/Decoration Day, the 4th of July and Veteran’s Day, we make extra effort to decorate in honor of the soldiers.

Why decorate? For the same reason that we wear team colors to the ball parks and school events. For the same reasons that plaids and family crests were the norm years ago. For the same reasons that we think of red and green at Christmas and pastel colors in the spring and for Easter. It’s a way of celebrating, unifying, showing respect, remembering and honoring. We decorate because it means something to us and we want people to know what’s important to us.

This Memorial Day I encourage you to decorate. Hang the flag at your house, bring flags or flowers to family member’s graves and to other veterans’ graves you know of, participate in a town parade, put a poppy in your car and any other reminders that will encourage you to remember the veterans and their families and let them know you remember them and appreciate their sacrifice.

How Do you Talk with Strangers?

Would you consider yourself an angry person?  How about someone who has lots of friends (real friends, those you actually know personally)?  Would those who know you say that you’re a generous person?  These are important things to know because like it or not we all deal with other people every day.  Sometimes we interact with those we know and other times we interact with strangers.  But whether the person is a stranger or a friend shouldn’t impact how you generally act towards them; for example, just because they’re a stranger doesn’t mean you should disrespect or ignore them. No, you may not give them a hug when you meet them like you might a friend, but you’ll still be civil to them.

But there are those who are overly suspicious of everything and everyone else, those who see the world as a half-empty glass, and those who believe that there aren’t many good people in the world.  We all have our bad days and misunderstandings or miscommunications, but that’s no reason to assume that the rest of the world is all bad and treat them as such.

You may not fall into the category of those who believe most of the world is bad, but you may have fallen into the habit of being snarky or treating friends in a certain (less than polite) way and it spills over to how you interact with everyone else you meet.  You may not even realize you’re doing it.

But James 1:19b reminds us to: “…be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”  I’m going to pay more attention to how I interact with others this week.  You know why? Because it’s not just about those we personally and currently know, it’s about those we meet and the role they may play in our lives in our future too.  You don’t know what role a stranger you meet today may have in your life several weeks or months down the road, but if it’s a negative interaction they have with you now that may ruin the opportunities you could have with them in the future.  How do you treat others?

Who Makes You Feel Great?

The holiday season brings into sharp focus that the world revolves around people.  I have to admit to sounding like a Scrooge by the time I get off the roads at the end of the day during the holiday season, I just can’t believe who has a license to drive on the roads some times.  But there’s a lot of other joy that can be found in people especially during the holiday season.  It’s such a blessing to watch a child open a gift, especially if it’s something they really want.  And the holidays provide an opportunity if you don’t take the time on a regular basis to show the people in your lives that you do indeed appreciate them.

I’ve watched about a dozen versions on the traditional Scrooge story this year and there are tons more I haven’t watched.  The holidays (and the end of another year) also are a reminder to pay attention to the type of person we are.  Scrooge may be a holiday character but we have Scrooges in our lives all year long (you may even be one!).  We have the ability to a certain extent to choose how much time we spend with those types of people and how much influence we allow them to have in our lives.  It’s not always easy to stand up to or ignore these people though, they have very commanding, intimidating and overwhelming presences.

But I believe that each and every person has value.  You can choose to use that value to help or hurt others.  You also have a choice in how you develop the value you have.  Do you choose to spend your (free) time with people who support you and build you up and occasionally challenge you to be better, or do you choose to spend your time with people who could get you in trouble and crush your dreams?   Your choices in how you contribute to people’s lives and who you choose to contribute to yours is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.  Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you, too, can become great.”  Mark Twain

The Good of Challenges

I don’t know too many people who don’t joke at some point in time during their lives that they wish they could just move to an island and be done with the stresses and pressures of life.  We all face challenges and those challenges are not usually fun.  We don’t like pain, discomfort, suffering or failure, which is totally understandable.  But when you look at the number of people who attribute a challenge from their past to their current success or happiness it’s hard to believe that challenges are all as bad as we make them out to be.

It’s the couples who have lost a child that are more appreciative when they are able to have children.  It’s the people who spent years at a terrible job who are more appreciative of running their own business or working for a great boss.  It’s the people who grew up surrounded by gangs who are more appreciative of living in a place where gunfire is not the typical night sounds.  It’s people who have lived through and survived abuse who are able to appreciate the gift of life.

No, everyone isn’t always able to overcome their challenges, plenty of people are stuck and miserable in the challenge and refuse to conquer it or turn it into a victory.  It’s their loss for not choosing to be an overcomer, but that doesn’t have to be you.  I challenge you to choose the victories, to choose to be a bigger person, to choose to see hope in the future, and to choose to be strong and accept that part of life is tears, sadness and challenge.  Don’t give up this weekend, look for the opportunities to cross the finish line of this challenge, and if you’re not there yet, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for some support.  You’re part of a team that doesn’t leave people behind.

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” Arnold Schwarzenegger

Living a Social Life

I believe that our relationships are the best and most challenging part of life. It’s such a gift to live in 2015 and have all of the technology that we do that connects us to practically anyone anywhere. Bringing people together is one of my biggest missions as a coach and business owner, whether parents and kids, partners, or businesses and customers. It’s when we come together that the magic happens.

One of those bits of magic is social media, specifically Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. These 4 sites and those similar have given us the ability to connect, discuss, share and contribute to lives around the globe. Other sites like YouTube and Pinterest are great too, but they don’t encourage the conversation on the level of the first 4. The ability to connect with and see the lives of my friends and family that don’t live within reasonable driving distance is such a gift. Yes, lots of us have gotten sucked into the addiction of posting selfies or sharing stuff that’s not really uplifting to share, but there’s a lot more good and a lot more potential than bad.

It’s a good reminder for our lives too: things can get taken out of context, go out of control and get taken over for not so honorable purposes without our say-so or willing participation. When this happens it’s up to us to choose to be the bigger person, to remember who we are and what we stand for, and to remember that there’s a good possibility that karma exists and will bite us in the butt if we go down the wrong road. Until Jesus comes back there will always be someone who’s not concerned about the little guy, someone who is evil, someone who is lazy, and those who don’t care who gets plowed over in their pursuit of their goals.

When we are willing to remember the bigger picture, work toward the bigger goal and accept that win-win-win situations work out better for everyone in the long run we’ve got a chance of making the world a better place for our families and the next generation.

“Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected.” Mark Zuckerberg

The Start of Summer

We’re heading into the summer, my favorite season. I love the heat, the late sunsets, the bright sunshine and better moods that everyone seems to be in. Summer is a great time to be with family and friends, to enjoy the fruits of nature and get out and live a more active life. So today I thought I’d share about my 3 goals for this summer.

1-Eat local. Eating local is about more than just supporting local farm businesses, it’s about not eating junk, about being more conscious about what you eat and being more involved in food preparation too. Most people have more time in the summer and schedules are less busy, so it’s a great time to try new recipes and get the whole family involved in making dinner every night for starters.

2-spend more time outdoors. Go for a hike, join a swim club, enjoy your evening alcoholic beverage on the deck or front steps, take a walk after dinner, plant a garden, have a catch or go fishing. Nature is something that is essential to our health but we don’t get enough of it. We may not really notice that we’re lacking in vitamin n(ature), but most of us are. It’s amazing how different and good you can feel after being outside in the wide open spaces.

3-spend time with friends and family. Summer is a great time to attend outdoor concerts, sporting events, go on picnics, and plan group events because the weather is better and more people are free. This is a great time to have fun and build the relationships for the times of need and stress, and celebrate being alive with each other.

If you’re feeling stressed out and at the end of your rope there’s a good chance that things need to change in your life, that you’re not spending enough time with friends, or eating right or in nature. Take advantage of the blessing that is summer.

“Family, nature and health all go together.” Olivia Newton-John

Let’s Encourage in 2015

Something I’ve always stressed in my business and writings is the importance of people. No, that hasn’t changed with the change of the calendar, in fact we’ll probably talk about it even more this year. While I haven’t revealed my theme for the year yet, this month we’ll be talking about being prepared. One of the best ways to deal with people is to be as prepared as possible for any and all possibilities and curve balls that could come your way. When you’ve taken the time to study language and facial expressions and learned how people generally are wired you’re immediately given a step up from anyone else who goes into a situation blind. In fact, one of the quickest ways to fail a job interview is to go into the job knowing absolutely nothing about the business that you’re applying at, and one of the quickest ways to hurt a friend or your partner is to intentionally check out of the conversation because it doesn’t interest you only to be called to the carpet later for an update or help with the issue and have no clue what they’re talking about.

One thing that I know many people have been avoiding accepting or understanding for a long time is that people care. People care if you listen to them, they care if you show up, they care if you’re OK, they care about the product or service you’re offering or the job you do. It hurts when people care because it means that we can (and probably will at some point in time) let them down; it hurts to care for the same reasons. We’ve been hurt and let down before, so we’ve learned to build walls to keep people at a distance. But I’ve seen lots of evidence that people are starting to realize that that’s not the way to live. Living in a box isolated from emotion, passion, fulfillment and purpose is just not that satisfying. So we’re starting to care again, starting to get emotionally invested, and starting to put our necks out just a little bit.

If you’re as on board with this as I am, there’s a simple way that you can build those relationships without sticking your neck too far: encourage someone. It’s when you say thank you and recognize them for doing something helpful, when you take the time to compliment them, when you take the time to really listen and just share a few words in support from your heart. It’s not painful to share a few words or minutes to encourage someone, and it can make a positive impact on you and them.

A Day of Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is the celebration of Thanksgiving. It’s a time for us to eat, reflect and celebrate all the blessings we’ve experienced in the past year. It’s not about the trappings and trimmings like Christmas and who can outdo each other with the best gift. No, it’s a time for simple things; food, family and football for many, and a time for all, religious or not to take time to count our blessings and the things we’re thankful for in the past year. It’s almost an accounting before we get to the new year and set new resolutions, a time of reflection over the next month and planning on what we’ll do different or better in the next year.

But Thanksgiving is really a time for us to be present, to not worry about what tomorrow will bring or the ways we’ve failed in the past, but a chance to just be and be thankful for being alive. A time for us to set aside our differences and challenges and laugh and cry over the events of the past year; to remember those we’ve lost and celebrate those we’ve found.

Thanksgiving is really the first gift of the holiday season. A gift of being present, of letting go of the complications, and re-unwrapping all the gifts we were given over the past year all at once. It’s a chance to get in the mindset of the upcoming season of love, joy and giving and a reminder that that’s what this season is really all about.

So tomorrow I hope that you’ll take some time out of the bustle, food preparation and thoughts of gifts to make peace with the past year and anticipate the month of celebration ahead.

“Thanksgiving is the holiday of peace, the celebration of work and the simple life… a true folk-festival that speaks the poetry of the turn of the seasons, the beauty of seedtime and harvest, the ripe product of the year – and the deep, deep connection of all these things with God.” Ray Stannard Baker