Stop Go Stop –
Yesterday, on my way to a community men’s group in Shelbyville, TN I came upon some road construction. The line of traffic wasn’t too long and there was a man holding one of those signs with “stop” on one side and “slow” on the other. After a few moments he turned the sign around and we began to creep along. Suddenly, after only flipping the sign around he did it again! The car in front of me slammed on its breaks as did I. Raising my shoulders and my hands as if to say; “What’s happening?” I watched the sign man walk across the road to a county work truck in the other lane, throw his sign in the back and hop in. The man was done working for the day. His job was finished and he left the rest of us to figure out how to untangle ourselves from his mess. Eventually, traffic began to move and soon we were all back on our way to our destination.
On the road of life, there are people & happenings which slow or stop our progress. This is not always a bad thing. Rest and reflection give us time to renew and make sure we are still headed in the correct direction. However, there are those times when people are only concerned about themselves and put roadblocks in our way because it makes life easier for them. Wisdom allows us to know the difference between the two and how to navigate around them and get moving again.
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Recurring Problems –
When our Siberian Husky was young he chewed the fur off of his tail the first time he “casted.” Twice, or more, a year a Siberian Husky will shed its underfur, the bottom coat next to the skin, that allows a Husky to survive in extreme cold. When “casting” happens there’s a lot of scratching and chewing on his part, brushing and grooming on ours. Earlier this summer, for the first time in his life, Trooper contracted fleas. We washed him, sprayed him, brushed him, all in an effort to give him some relief. We were able to rid him of the fleas but washed him and sprayed him too much. This dried out the skin and caused more itching and biting. Earlier this week we noticed he had chewed and licked a bare spot on his back. We asked a specialist about what we could do and they recommended Coconut oil applied to the bare spot which will soothe his skin, stop the itching, and, hopefully, allow him relief and his fur to grow back.
Trooper is thirteen years old and this is the first time he’s done this behavior since he was a few months old. Old patterns of handling problems, challenges, and difficulties die hard. We think we’ve learned and know better only to repeat a negative pattern of behavior. New skills, ways of dealing with life and its ups and downs, good and bad, are necessary if we’re to live life moving forward instead of circling back again and again.
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I think the world stinks! Somedays. Other days its okay and on a rare occasion I see the best in humanity and what we’re capable of and it makes the day brighter.
Earlier this week a man was contemplating ending his life. It’s not an easy decision to make but he had decided at least to walk to the bridge and then choose his next step. People say that those who threaten don’t want to commit suicide they want attention. It’s only those who choose to do it secretly, commit the act in privacy who are serious. This is not true. When someone decides to take their own life they may choose to do it in any number of ways, telling or not telling any number of people. This is why all threats of suicide should be taken seriously.
Back to the man on the bridge, contemplating his existence, his purpose in life and whether both were at an end. As he wrestled with one of life’s ultimate decisions police and crisis personnel tried to persuade him not to do it. Then, semi-truckers began to pull under the bridge and stop! They were doing their best to fill up enough space under the bridge that the man couldn’t end his life. They had loads to deliver, jobs to do, families to feed and paychecks to earn but they put their livelihoods aside to try to convince this man that people cared. Read story: (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2018/04/24/a-man-nearly-jumped-off-an-overpass-13-truckers-made-a-safety-net/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.006906aecec9)
Life is hard, the world is a mess, our nation is falling apart. Each of us can do something to show someone who feels unloved how much we care, clean up our part of the planet, heal our community and be the difference between life and death.
Outside our kitchen window, beside the front door is a bird’s nest under a wooden box. Inside this nest are several baby birds that apparently need a lot of attention. Because of where they are situated we can hear them every time they begin to cry for their parents and believe me when I write; “We can hear them!” They also cry each time we go out the front door because of the vibration. I want to pick the box up and look at them. I want to tell them to; “Pipe down! and give mom and dad a break!” However, I dare not risk disturbing the nest, the birds or frighten off the parents during this delicate time of growth.
As I type this post I am listening to the baby birds and reflecting on the needs of those around us. When we hear the needy cry we want to run to their rescue, free them from anything that might be holding them back and give them whatever they need whenever they need it. This sounds like what any person with empathy and a heart would do but can inhibit their growth. We should be careful not to let our emotions get ahead of us. The best case scenario is working with them, helping them so that, eventually, they can help themselves. If we come running each and every time they cry, giving them what they want, never teaching them how to make it without assistance, they will never learn to do and be.
One day soon the mom and dad will stop coming to the nest and the baby birds will have to make it on their own. When that day comes mom and dad’s skills at being parents for their needy ones will be revealed.
A Little Help –
This morning on my way to an appointment I approached a red traffic light. Preparing to stop I also noticed two sets of blue lights on a couple of police vehicles in the opposite lane. After coming to a full stop I observed they were helping out a driver of a tractor-trailer cab who had apparently run out of gas. I surmised this by a small, red, plastic five-gallon canister on the road near the side of the truck. It struck me as funny; this big rig and that small container of gas. Then I thought to myself; “this bit of help could be enough to get him across the street to a gas station. It might not be a lot but it may be enough to get him to place where he can, rest, fill-up, and then continue to his destination.”
Then I thought; “I hope I can be a little help to someone today.”
Today was busy! I know for some it was a holiday but my schedule was stuffed! The day started early and it felt like a sprint to the end of it. I don’t mind busy days most of the time because it keeps the time moving and there’s no boredom to fight off.
On the other hand, my wife had a holiday. Today is Martin Luther King day and she was able to sleep in, keep her PJs on and enjoy a wonderful day of doing nothing, purposefully. She’s been incredibly busy since November of last year and a day home, without me!, and zilch on her schedule was what she needed.
There is a thin line between balancing a healthy life or action and inaction. Our chaotic world and its need for non-stop entertainment, to-do lists, places to go, things to experience, can set a pace where eventually we burn out, fall apart, or both. We need to know when to stop, take our foot off the gas and be still; not just emotionally and mentally but physically.
Knowing, sensing, its time for a break, a rest, a lazy day is an important sense to develop and put into practice.
I am not a mountain. Today I yielded to the wind.
When I first went outside this morning the air was still and cool. A few hours later I went out again to go to a luncheon and the wind was blowing wildly and powerfully. I knew quickly I would need a jacket. The wind was powerful, forcing me to lean into it as I made my way to the truck. The cool wind made quick work out of my jacket and soon and felt as though it wasn’t even there.
A young man spoke with me a few days ago. He’s been having a rough time and he’s at a loss of knowing what to do. He’s not a mountain either. The winds have made quick work of the ways he protects himself and is blowing him around with no anchor to tether to.
As we talked I helped him separate what he could do with what he had to accept. We aren’t mountains. When the winds come billowing we can feel at the mercy of them and to an extent this is true. However, there’s almost always something we can do. We might feel weak compared to the power that’s blowing against us but this doesn’t mean we are powerless.
Firstly we accept the storm, the wind, the hardship and challenge they bring. We cannot stop the wind but accepting it, respecting it, allows us to stop trying to control it. We don’t have that kind of power. Secondly, in the stillness of acceptance, we discover what we can do and we act. We might not be able to do all we want but we do all we can. We can lean into the wind.
Intersections of Life –
On my way to the county jail, there is a long stretch of highway that has only one traffic signal which hangs about midway to the jail. There are flashing lights which tell drivers to prepare to stop. Each time I approach this intersection I begin to look for the flashing lights. I know that if I get past the sign with the flashing lights I don’t have to worry about the traffic signal turning red and having to stop. This afternoon I approached the sign, it never flashed me and I was able to sail on through the traffic light.
After finishing my class at the jail I had to run and errand and I turned on the road which would take me to my destination. It wasn’t long before some flashing lights caught my attention. They were warning me of construction ahead and to be ready for delays. It only seemed like forever until I was able to make it through this particular intersection.
It seems the road of life has a way of balancing out. For every unexpected joy, there is sorrow. For unplanned blessings there are hardships. For every intersection you sail through another one will take and test your patience.
The secret isn’t figuring out how to hit all the lights green, non-flashing, but to accept both with equal measure. It’s not an easy discipline to learn but one which will relieve much suffering.