Where You Heading? –
I’ve spent much of this week thinking about my past and considering my future. It’s always scary, wondering what’s around the corner.
I started two new jail classes this week. One of the first disciplines I teach is for them to consider their present and think about their future. The first part is necessary because it helps us take stock of what we’ve done, who we are, and how choices have led us to this place in our lives. After you’ve accepted where and who you are, then you decide if it is where you want to stay. “If you keep doing what you’re doing you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”
Most of the men I work with tell me they want to make better choices, be better men and fathers but it’s not enough to want, action must be taken. Different choices must be made to be a different man and father. I explain that; “What you do today determines who you’ll be, what you’ll be, tomorrow.”
This is true for all of us.
I was speaking with a friend this week who is incredibly busy. So busy it seems things that need to get done will never get accomplished. As we spoke I heard the hurry in their voice. “I’ve got to do this, then that, then the next!” Simply listening made me tired. I know the feeling of having too much stuff to get done and that all the time in the world doesn’t seem enough. I also know when I feel like that, take on that burden, I am stepping out of mindfulness and stillness. I am allowing the world and its chaotic rhythm sweep me away to a place where I don’t belong.
After my friend’s list was given I told them it sounded like they needed a nap, a time of stillness and letting go of lists, chores, to-do’s and embracing a still and mellow attitude. “Things will get done,’ I told my friend, ‘do what you can and leave what you can’t. Eventually, all the important stuff will be taken care of and all the rest? Who cares.”
If we aren’t careful we can fill our lives with so much to do that nothing gets done, not even living.
There are three kinds of problems; those we can live with, those we can do something about and those we must separate ourselves from.
It’s the last one which gives us the most trouble. Living with something aggravating and, at least in the present moment, is unchangeable can be a challenge. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we can tolerate a lot. This approach can create more hassles if something needs to be changed and we lack the direction, motivation or passion to do something.
Taking control, bending problems to our will, throwing our shoulder into a problem is an attitude we find easy. There’s nothing like grabbing a difficulty by the throat and forcibly doing away with it, changing it to our liking. The risk here is we can make a situation worse if we are too hasty, too stubborn or not wise enough in our decision-making.
Leaving it, for most of us, takes the greatest strength. To be faced with a problem and not change it but change ourselves, how we approach it, takes courage and trust. When we put up with it we are sullen and prone to negative thoughts and spirits. When we take hold of it and wrestle with it, we feel we are in control. When we decide to let go, step back, allow the problem to exist and find contentment at the same time, we have reached a place of genuine spiritual and intellectual maturity.
It happened several weeks ago but has happened before many times and chances are will happen again. A stranger, someone we don’t know and not sure we want to, approaches us and asks us for assistance. This last time it was at a gas station when a long, matted hair, holes in his shirt and pants man, with a gas can in his hand asked me to buy him some gas. I always feel vulnerable and suspicious when anything similar to this happens and try to take a look around without being obvious. I was almost finished filling my tank and told him to set his canister down and proceeded to give him enough to almost fill it. When I finished he said; “Thank you,” took the container and went back to where he and another person were sitting. I opened the front door, sat in the driver’s seat and told the story to Beth who had watched from inside our car.
It’s been a rule of mine for as long as I can remember to not ask or demand from someone what they will do with money, gas or whatever when I give it to them. I understand some people take advantage of others and use people’s generosity for nefarious purposes. I know others need genuine help. I also believe in serving angels unaware and there’s no doubt I can’t tell the difference between the three. When I give it is a letting go of the abundance I sometimes have and allow others to use it as they deem necessary.
Assisting another in need is often vague. However, giving to another isn’t about how they use the gift but having a heart that’s willing to help.
Yesterday I wrote about hearing the sound of a kitten but not being able to find it (“Listen” (https://thewannabesaint.com/2017/09/08/listen/). Today, I saw it for the first time. However, it wasn’t the way I wanted to be introduced. I was weeding near outdoor shelves and the weed whacker was on full throttle. Grass and dirt flying everywhere and when I was right next to the outdoor shelf all of a sudden the gray kitten (I now know what color it is) shot out from under the shelf running for dear life. I immediately turned off and put down the weed eater and went looking for it. Using my best “meow” and “here kitty kitty” I tried locating it to introduce myself and assure it wasn’t in any danger but no luck. It was in too much distress to come out of whatever hiding place it discovered. After I finished with the weeding I put out a little food and some water in hopes it will show up again. We’ll just have to wait and see.
A friend, who is a teacher, posted on Facebook that it can be difficult to reach students because of the trauma and distress they face in other parts of their lives. He lamented the impact a teacher can have because of the other challenges and difficulties his students are facing on a daily basis. I find this true in my work with men as well. Whether they are incarcerated, in a rehabilitation clinic, non-residential, divorced or living with mom and the children, most of these men have a painful story. They are impacted by their past experiences of neglect, abuse, heartbreaking home lives, and lack of positive male and female role models. These not only affect their current behavior but also wire their brains and condition their bodies to react in mostly negative ways.
What I’ve learned is that I can’t fix these men. It’s not in my power. What I can do is show them respect and kindness. I try to connect with each one personally. If I can establish a relationship built on kindness and respect amazing things can happen. I’m unable to help them all but I try and trust this is enough.