Self Focus –
Yesterday I travelled to see a friend. On my way, my gas tank was getting empty so I began looking for a place to stop. I spotted a gas station but it was on the other side of the road. A silly thought popped into my head; “Why don’t they put those stations on the right?” Immediately I realized how self-focused the thought was… First off all the gas station are on the right if you’re on the “right” side of the road and secondly, why would I demand a gas station on “my side?”
A few hours down the road I was in the far left lane moving with the traffic and a white, mid-2000’s, Toyota Four-Runner was in the lane going slower than the rest of the vehicles. People flashed their lights, “rode their bumper” and finally went around them. I flashed my light hoping they would take the hint but to no avail. Exasperated, I went around them as well. I kept my eye on the Fore-Runner and the driver stayed in the far left lane for miles and miles. All of a sudden it crossed all lanes into the right one. I thought; “What are they doing now?” and then I realized they were getting off at the next exit.
Wisdom teaches us to be aware of ourselves, to focus on our self at times, but not to be self-focused. The difference is to understand there are others in this world and we are to be as kind and loving to them as we should be to ourselves.
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What You Put In –
This morning I got up early to prepare for a presentation to a classroom that would be filled with teachers. It can be intimidating teaching those who teach as a profession. I prepared the coffee maker, got a shower, shaved, prepped my clothes and went back into the kitchen for a nice cup of joe. I poured the coffee slowly to avoid splashing and instead of dark brown delicious goodness, it was a hot cup of light brown water. Instantly I realized my mistake, I had forgotten to put coffee grounds in the filter. *Facepalm!* I put new water back in, made sure to also put in coffee grounds and waited. Finally, I actually had coffee in my coffee mug.
Later this morning I presented to the teachers and everything went well. They were engaged, asked questions and the eighty minutes of lecture time went by quickly which is usually a good sign. Afterward, I was packing up and a teacher asked if I could come back and present to another group of educators and parents. I told her absolutely.
The presentation I gave is powerful. I wrote it, then a media specialist added the slide format, and it was reviewed, refined and approved by our publicity department. A lot of teamwork and effort went into the presentation and it shows because it’s always engaging and informative. All the right things were put into it and all of the right things come out.
Now, if I could just remember to do this to my coffee and the rest of life…
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Us and Them?
I was in the checkout line this week behind a Hispanic family; a mom and three children. Two of the kids were hanging with mom while one was at a bargain bin admiring a bracelet with glass beads. The mother finished checking out, gathered her things and headed for the door. The problem is she forgot a child, the one admiring the bracelet. The cashier caught my eye and said; “You can come up now.” I smiled, gesturing to the girl and quipped; “I don’t think she’s ready.” “Oh. They do that all the time! Forget their children and leave the store. Come on up.” I wasn’t going to push the girl out of the way and so asked her; “Where’s your mom? Did she just go out the doors?” The little one stared at me and I’m not sure she understood what I was saying or was intimidated by a stranger. She moved and I kept my eye on the door while the cashier scanned my items. She continued to insult the mom and lumped all Hispanics together with condescending phrases; “They all do that, don’t care about their children. When I was growing up my mother would’ve never left me. She always knew where we were but they don’t care.” I finished checking out, retrieved my bag and headed out the door. I was annoyed and concerned.
When I got outside I scanned the parking lot for the mom and sure enough, she realized her child was missing and was heading back to the store. My worry dissipated. My annoyance at the cashier persists now as I am writing about it. I don’t understand how a person can casually dismiss an entire race of people. This child with the bracelet, this mom with her hands full, didn’t need judgment. They needed understanding instead of insults, someone to help the mom not forget her most precious cargo. Moms of all races have their hands full. Moms forget. Moms of all nationalities are burdened with remembering all kinds of things and if they are new to the United States of America there’s more she and her family has to deal with in a nation where a growing section of the community is hostile to them.
Instead of a fist offer a hand. Instead of a look of contempt offer empathy. Instead of judgment offer humanity.
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This morning I set out early cutting and weed eating the grass. There was rain in the forecast and temperatures getting into the nineties. Used the riding mower without any trouble, push mowed around hard to reach areas and then retrieved the weed eater and noticed it needed extra string. On a shelf, in my workshop, is where I keep it and finding it I reached down to get it when something moved and jumped toward me. I had my sunglasses on and couldn’t see well but when it jumped I jumped! It landed on the ground and I realized it was a frog. I don’t know how he got up that high but he survived the fall and hopped away. “Whew!” as I exhaled and finished up the yard work without any further excitement.
As I carried the weed eater I thought about life and how the unexpected keeps us on our toes. Whether it’s something silly like a nimble reptile or more serious events which change our lives forever we never know what’s around life’s next corner. Being aware, adaptable, accepting are ways we can adjust to whatever surprise that jumps on life’s path.
This morning I had an early appointment in Nashville to being a training. I put the address in my GPS app on my phone and off I went. It took me to the exact spot I’d entered into the phone but there was one problem, it was the wrong address. It took me a moment to realize my mistake until I literally got to the end of a dead-end road. Argh! I felt my frustration starting to grow. Instead of being 30 minutes early I was going to be late. I checked the address again, realized where I made my mistake, and set off in the right direction. Trying not to let my anxiety rise to a harmful level I turned on a three-lane road and stopped at a traffic light. I was in the far right lane, an SUV in the center lane, and a sports car in the left lane. I heard yelling and realized it was the SUV driver and the sports car driver having a road rage episode. I couldn’t make out much of what they were saying and the words I could understand I don’t dare repeat.
I sat there listening and watching the living embodiment of frustration out of control; testosterone, anger, and vitriol spewing out of both of them. It made me take stock of my mood and I realized it wasn’t worth getting upset over my mistake and to let it go. I did, arrived at the training on time and am thankful for the lesson two men out of control could teach me.
Corner of My Eye –
This morning I stopped by our main offices to pick up a package and papers which had arrived. As I was leaving the building, looking through my mail, a person caught the corner of my eye. However, my interest was in my hands, not in anything else. “Hi! How are you?” I stopped in my tracks and looked up to see the person asking the question was a co-worker. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there!” I hastily replied not wanting to come off rude just unobservant. “How was your weekend?” I inquired and we chatted briefly. She left to go inside and I climbed into my truck.
Once inside I thought about my response; “I didn’t see you there.” It was an honest confession albeit not a good one. I did see someone, a shape, a movement, someone not important enough to tear myself away from looking at the package I received. When I realized it was someone I knew my demeanor and perspective changed. However, the truth is that if it wasn’t someone I knew I never would’ve given the person a second glance. I want to change that. I want to “see” everyone, acknowledge each person I possibly can, not give extra attention simply because I know them but because they are worth looking at, engaging and connecting.
I want to see every “You” there.
I listened to a conversation this week where the person told another, to their face, that they hated them. “I hated you when you left,” they said. “It took a long time to not hate you anymore.” It was an honest and startling admission. Most times people are adept at not showing the person they hate their true feelings.
It left me with a question; “Have I ever, in my life, hated someone?” I define hate; as the inability to see the good in someone. As I reflected on the question a person came to mind. If I’ve ever hated someone, according to my definition, this man fit the criteria. I had the hardest time seeing the good, the light, the benefit of his existence, the unique expression of God in him. It was, at times, impossible to not be suspicious of his motives, think of the worst outcome of his decisions, belittle his beliefs and talents. Then, one day, ranting in my head about something he had done the question came from out of the blue; “Can you see any good in this man?” My mind stopped dead in its tracks. The answer was “no, I couldn’t.” It was then I realized the problem wasn’t him it was me.
I’d love to post about how this moment fixed everything but it didn’t. However, it did give me a new way of looking at this person and my role in the frustration, anxiety, and chaos within me. It took me a long time to forgive the hurt and betrayal he had caused but I began focusing on what was going on inside of me instead of what someone was doing on the outside. This made all the difference.
“You will never see God until you can see Him in every next face you see.” #SaintMotherTeresa