Reality Reflection: Helplessness

I think one of the reasons I don’t watch the news very much is because when I really think about what’s going on I feel helpless to really do anything. I’m not a cop, I can’t chase down bad guys; I’m not a medical doctor, I can’t cure crazy diseases; I’m not a politician, I can’t change or help a vote; I’m not a conservationist, I can’t save a forest from logging destruction; I’m not a political scientist or foreign emissary, I can’t help avoid WW3. But it’s not just about the big things, it’s about feeling helpless when there’s an accident near me or someone’s struggling to walk to their car or someone’s lost a dog.

Yes, we’ve talked and will continue to talk about how important and invaluable the little actions that each of us do throughout our lives. Yes I can call in a tip about a bad guy I saw from the news, I can donate to medical research facilities, I can vote in every election, I can plant trees, I can drive safer myself, or I can help someone cross the road. I can do something in each of the situations mentioned, but when they’re presented on the news or on a video and there’s nothing I can do in that moment, how can I not feel some amount of helplessness?

I think feeling that helplessness is healthy and normal. It’s a good indication that you’re still feeling and emotionally connected with the world. It means that you’ve got concern for your fellow humans and everything else that makes up this great world of ours. Unfortunately, for most of us though it also means that we have to accept being uncomfortable and unhappy with some things in life. Most of us simply can’t fix everything, no matter how much we rant, rave and feel bad.

Sometimes it helps to find what’s ‘glass half full’ in the situation, and even doing that little something like I mentioned earlier can help you feel a little less helpless. Unfortunately, until we all find that magical spider or the DNA to make us a superhero, we can’t be everything to everyone everywhere in the world. We have to stick to being superheros in our own part of the world.

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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.

The Choice of Unity

As we think about this month’s topic of help and of all that is going on around the US and the world, today I want to take a minute to talk about the topic of unity. It’s where people come together over something that essentially erases barriers. It’s when people who are rich and poor are both affected by a flood. It’s when people who are of multiple spiritual practices come together to say a prayer for healing in a city after a violent attack. It’s even when kids of various cultures, races, and sexes come together to play on a playground before school. Unity doesn’t mean that the differences don’t exist, it means that they’re ignored for a reason and/or for a time.

The Bible is interesting because there were some pretty clear divisions in the early books, but after the birth and death of Jesus some things changed. Take a look at these passages from Ephesians and Galatians:

“So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.” Ephesians 2:19

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

What became clear after Jesus death, and what Jesus emphasized through His ministry, is that faith is more important than your heritage, your race, your political beliefs, your economic status or where you call home. Being different is the way God made us, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t focus more on the things that bring us together, and the things that God has called us to, than the things that would separate us.

This week I encourage you to look for and encourage opportunities of unity, opportunities to work together and help each other. If we want to see more unity and more teamwork in the world, that has to be our focus instead of our differences.

Helping Others

This month the topic we’re talking about is one that’s become more appropriate with the events of the past few weeks, the topic is helping. It’s something we’re seeing in a major way in Texas and other southern states following Hurricane Harvey. It’s something we see and do as a regular part of our daily lives. We also make choices not to help those who need it, sometimes for reasonable reasons, other times because we’re lazy, selfish, or just plain mean.

There are countless ways you can be a help. You can start a business and sell something someone needs. You can raise dogs as part of a seeing eye, mobility or veteran organization. You can hold the door for someone. You can donate to a cause. You can recognize the good work someone did. You can add boxes and cans to a food drive. You can volunteer with a home building organization. You can babysit for a family who just lost a grandparent. You can plant a garden. You can offer to drive a coworker whose car is in the office to work. You can help paint a neighbor’s fence. You can do your least favorite chore to help a family member who is sick or injured out. You can tutor kids. You can run a support group.

I could probably come up with hundreds of ways someone can be a help. There are plenty of excuses that we put out about why we’re not doing something to help, but the fact is with all the technology today, something even as simple as sending out a Tweet or Facebook post can be a help to someone. The biggest thing to remember about being a help is the attitude and willingness behind it. No, you don’t have to help everyone or in every situation, but when a situation comes along that you can be a help with, you should. How will you help someone today?

Reality Reflection: Leaving a Legacy

As you know from other blog posts I’ve been thinking a lot about the violent events that have happened over the past few weeks, and of course this week my heart and prayers are with the people of Texas and Louisiana who are dealing with Harvey. Along with these events, around the country people are going back to school. School is supposed to be a safe place, a place that helps prepare you for what your future holds. I know that some get very little from their school experience, and even less from the actual textbook/class studies. While I wish that wasn’t the case, simply put there’s no good way right now of truly designing a program that looks similar to what kids experience now and provides the necessary socialization, all while giving the really necessary customized education platform. However that doesn’t mean that teachers should give up.  I think teachers should have the same goal as everyone else: impact just one person positively every day. I can only name a small handful of my teachers from all my years (k-12 and 4.5 years of college) who had a truly lasting positive effect on my life. Yes, I did learn from my education and have some memories of activities, classes or particular topics that still speak to me today. I can’t say that I really enjoyed my education for the most part or found it as valuable as it could be, but who knows, I’m still young and maybe there are things that will still have a greater impact on my future.

What’s my point in this? These 3 events have me thinking about legacy. What legacy are we leaving with all the anger, hate, and violence? Are we really making a difference? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to stand up when there are injustices, I sign lots of petitions every week and support organizations that help those who aren’t as blessed or healthy as I am. What legacy are we leaving by allowing the hate to stand and continue through the generations? I’m not saying we all have to be willing to give up our lives for everyone, just that there has to be a degree of human respect.

In many past storms there has been a positive legacy left by the countless men, women and organizations who have stepped in during or immediately after the storm. While there are always issues and visible devastation remaining years later, sometimes just knowing that someone is willing to step in and put their life on hold so that your life can begin to be rebuilt can be invaluable. I can remember being so thankful for all the trucks I saw on the roads that had license plates from other states (some very far away) coming in to help get power back into homes after some of the big storms the Northeast had a few years back. Many people may have even had power back at that point, but just seeing their willingness to come and help out with not only the immediate fixing but also the rebuilding was incredibly touching. I pray that those impacted by Harvey will see an equally heartfelt response, and I look forward to hearing stories over the next few weeks and months of how we came together as a nation.

So what about you? Do you have the opportunity to help leave a positive legacy on our world today? Yes, you do because you can donate to Harvey relief, send out a tweet letting them know you’re praying, or even volunteer to go down and help if you’re out of a job. You can also make someone’s day by encouraging them or helping them with their groceries or pay for their coffee. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter. Yes, you could choose to leave a legacy of hate, but why would you?

Listening for Encouragement

Psalm 23 is one of the most recognizable Bible passages. Many people hear it in church, but it’s also often shared at funerals or with those who are going through a challenging time in their lives. In some ways it reminds me of the Serenity Prayer which is used by countless self-help programs and groups. One of the things I love about Psalm 23 is that it brings us through the journey of our lives in just 6 short verses, talking about both high points and low points that we go through.

As I was thinking about this chapter and about our topic of the month I was reminded that sometimes what we need is to hear something as simple as Psalm 23 to find the peace, hope, encouragement, strength and perseverance to make it through another day. It’s not about having all the answers, having tons of money, having lots of friends, being well-known, or not having any issues or challenge or problems in life. That’s not the story of Faith or the Bible, despite what some people may say.

Throughout the Bible we’re reminded that there will be challenges we face and there is no guarantee of a great life on earth. However, we are assured if we’re people of faith that God will go with us through all challenges we face and that we’ve got the hope of heaven to look forward to because Jesus died for our sins and rose again. Earth is a chance for us to learn from the challenges we face, to
explore our individuality, to develop the gifts God has given each of us, to encourage each other, and to pave a better way for the next generation. Perfection isn’t expected or the goal on earth, instead it’s to live a life worthy of the God you believe in.

If you’re going through a challenging time in your life, I encourage you to print out copies of Psalm 23 and maybe even the Serenity Prayer to post in locations around your home, workplace, and car and anywhere else you go frequently. Don’t give up because it seems like the darkness is lasting for so long or the mountain seems too high. Rely on God to bring you through, and don’t forget to ask for help if you need it. After all, Jesus didn’t do His years of ministry on earth alone, He had men who worked closely with Him and women that He taught and trusted too.