Sunday, December 22, 2013

People Matter

My last post was a long one, and I thank you for sticking it out with me.  Originally, I was going to divide it into two posts, but I didn’t want to leave part of it hanging there with an unfinished idea.  I needed to get it all out.
It brought me back to a post that I read a few months ago that called out my own biases against others and helped me understand that I needed to give more respect and understanding.  Kathy Escobar wrote a blog post about the infamous question of What’s Your Position On?  Have you ever asked that question before deciding if you could respect someone or not?  I have.  And I am ashamed of that.  Kathy wrote about how the question is usually asked not out of wanting to understand someone better, but out of a need of our own to decide if we can respect someone or not, if they are on our team or the other one.

The question is divisive.
Although I was ashamed of being called out, I was grateful as well.  I needed that eye opener of the assumptions I made about people when I found out those answers.  And maybe I wasn’t always asking the question, maybe their perspectives on life were coming out in conversation, and I would immediately put up a wall that would close down further discussion.

I wasn’t being respectful of another person’s position or perspective.  I was no longer interested in their story.
I was being lazy.

In our current world of updating a status with a one liner or a quick like/share, we don’t take the time to stop and think.  And negatively always spreads faster than kindness and understanding.
Have you noticed that before?  Someone around you is having a bad day and the mood spreads. It is easier to express frustration with someone than take a breath.  Sarcasm flies out of the mouth before the heart can stop it.

Respect and kindness can be challenging.  And time consuming.
Sometimes, we want to numbly move along.

But in this numbness, we are quick to write or say harsh words.  We don’t stop to think.
Words matter.  Actions matter.

People matter.
When we ask this question of wanting someone’s position on an issue out of a need to make a determination if we are aligned with them or not, if we can show respect for them or not, we are dismissing their value as a person.  Suddenly, we only see them as an issue.  We no longer want to hear their story.

We start to lose our humanity in the process. 
We stop caring about people who may not agree with our issue.  Someone from the other team.

And that is a choice that we are actively making.  I am reminded of Jacob Marley from a Christmas Carol:
“I wear the chain I forged in life....I made it link by link, and yard by yard;
I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

When we make this choice, we lose our compassion for others.  Because we think people need to do things our way, think the way that we do.
We all lose with that choice.  Because we put everyone in their little boxes, where we can forget about them…where we don’t have to care about them.

What happens when we try to understand someone’s perspective on their issue?  Their story?  What happens when we look for our common humanity?
It’s uncomfortable.  We have to get beyond the labels, the issues.  Sometimes it feels like that goes against every fiber of our being.

The result though….the result is that we have richer relationships with people. 
The result is that the impulse to spout out a sarcastic word, email or status update diminishes.  Maybe it doesn’t completely go away.  We aren’t perfect after all.  But maybe instead of posting that, we take a breath and leave it.  We start a conversation with someone.  We remember that we love this person and want to be respectful.

This is a work in progress for me.  Perfection doesn’t exist. 
I think to another Jacob Marley gem:

"Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
It’s funny to me that I quote Jacob Marley here because when I was a kid and saw the many remakes of a Christmas Carol, I was often scared of the ghost, simply because he was angry ghost.  With the eyes of an adult, I see why he was so passionate.
Because people matter.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Blessed are the Peacemakers

I thought a long while about writing this post.  I even prayed about writing this post because I needed guidance.

I kept checking in with myself.  Am I just having a bad day?  No, pretty good day.  Did I have a hard week at work?  Sometimes I focus on random things as a way to cope with the reality of how hard my job is.  Well, this week had its challenges like any other.

A thought kept rolling around in my head.  A prayer that we say in church, a prayer of confession in which we ask for forgiveness and include forgiveness for what we have left undone.  And this week, while I am speaking those words, I didn’t want this to be one of those things left undone on my heart.
I think a few disclaimers might be in order before I get started with the business of this post. 

· This post is a reflection of my personal beliefs.  I’m sure you have your own.  It’s ok if we don’t agree.  When we get down to it, this is my blog so it is all about me anyway.
· I don’t want to argue about the Bible.  So please don’t read this post with a bunch of biblical quotes in your head that you want to throw at me.  Seriously, it won’t change my opinion.

·This is a guilt free zone.  I took that term from one of the bosses at work.  It means that while you are reading this, if you feel that you have done what I am going to talk about, this post isn’t intended to make you feel bad.  I know that I have done this too.  This post is only intended to make us think about our actions.
So let’s get down to it.  Today I’m going to write about those two topics that people shy away from, religion and politics, but probably not in the way you think.

And the reason that I’m doing it, folks, is because I am tired.
I’ve noticed a trend the past few years.  And I am so tired.

We live in a world where we can quickly sift through headlines and posts and hit share or like.  And we don’t really process what that means.
We stopped thinking about what other people are going to think.

And I don’t mean that to suggest that we should care about what other people think about our opinions.  After all, we are entitled to them.
This is more about what other people might think when you like a post that is essentially saying to someone else, your opinion is invalid because you are (insert politically party affiliation) and I think all (insert politically party affiliation people) are idiots.

I’m tired of people saying, I hate being politically correct.  This isn’t about being politically correct.  This is about being respectful.  So are we saying, I hate being respectful or I am too lazy to be respectful.

All of us have friends/family that we disagree with.  That’s part of life.  We all have our unique opinions and experiences.
But have we ever taken the time to think about what meaning our friends/family will take from our liking or even posting something that is so divisive and unkind?  There are many times, that I have stopped myself from sharing a post in which I may agree with the opinion but dislike the delivery.  I think, how would my (insert friend/family member with a different political party affiliation/belief system) receive this?  Would they see that I liked this and wonder if I thought they were stupid and their opinion didn’t matter?

If you are facebook friends with me, there is probably something you should know.  I am liberal.  GASP!  Seriously, folks, I am a social worker.  Is this really news?  I get it, not everyone agrees with me, and that’s ok.  And just because I say, I am liberal, doesn’t mean that you suddenly know everything that I think.  Because I don’t presume to know everything about you because of your particular political party affiliation/belief system.
Here’s the thing, when I read your posts about how idiot liberals blah, blah, blah, I wonder if that is how you think of me too.  And I know that you liking a post, it isn’t about me, but I wonder if you are thinking about the meaning behind the post before you are sharing/liking it.

What I don’t want you to read is, sheesh, I can’t say anything anymore because she is so sensitive.  Because if that is how you read this, you are missing the point.
Again, it’s not about being politically correct, it’s not about people being sensitive, it is simply about being respectful.  As a sign of respect to my friends/family, I am going to think about how they might be receiving something before I post/like/share. 

I want you to know, that I still find value in you and your opinion even if you affiliate with another political party/religion/belief system.  I’m asking that you do the same for me.
And I get it, I can just unsubscribe from people’s news feeds, which I have done.  Although, I really do like some of you and want to see the pictures of your kids/dogs/life that show up in my newsfeed.  I want to hear what is going on in your life.  I want to hear about you.

And I am tired of being silent about this.  This post is about getting us to think about how we treat each other.  And I am challenging myself to do the same as well.
And folks, I am frankly tired of people saying that they are posting something that is disrespectful and unkind, saying that it is in the Bible or it is my Christian duty.  Even as Christians, we don’t agree on everything.  Personally, I don’t follow/believe every teaching in the bible.  GASP!  And maybe you think I am going to hell for that.  But can you at the very least still communicate respect with me?

Jesus was a peacemaker.  And peacemakers are respectful of others.  And being respectful means that you are willing to see the world from someone else’s point of view.  And acknowledge that you do not know everything.  I am frequently wrong.  And the times when I am right, well, there is no glory in being right.
Here were are, wrapped up in the Advent season, talking about Jesus a little more than usual these days, which is a good thing if you are someone who celebrates Christmas.

The Christmas story (both the events leading up to the birth of Jesus and the story of his life) is beautiful.  It is a story about faith, hope, love and forgiveness (and that’s a nutshell).
And when we post snark in the name of Christ, we certainly aren’t winning any people over for Jesus.  We are creating another division.  And we are separating folks from learning more about a beautiful faith.

So here’s what I am asking.
Can we be more respectful? 

Can we take one moment before going through our news feed and clicking on share/like and think is this respectful?  And not just the actual post, but the source itself, are we posting from a facebook group that is I hate…insert people who do not agree with me?  Is this dismissive of anyone who does not subscribe to my particular brand of politics/religion/personal values?
And really, is this kind?

We can be kind while expressing our opinions.  We can be respectful while expressing our opinions.
We can be peacemakers.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Beauty of Faith

Earlier this week, I heard some reflections on faith that have been rolling around in my brain. 
Have you ever heard the expression, Give it to God?  If you haven’t, it means releasing your worries to God and letting him handle it.

I have to say, when I’ve been told that, it feels really trivial.  It feels like the person saying it is simplifying my problem into a nice, neat solution. 
This reflection was so much richer than that.  This reflection was about the beauty of faith.  The beauty of releasing this idea that we have control over anything.  The beauty of hope.

These words meant so much to me in that moment.  Because in that moment, my heart was not at rest.  And my heart hadn’t been at rest in a while.
I thought about it later, I wanted that.  I wanted the peace of letting go.  In life in general, I know that I have this idea that I have control, especially at work, where I feel like I am there to help.  But I can’t even control that.  Despite my best intentions, sometimes the best I can do is sit with someone in their moment of pain because again, I have no control.  None of us really do.

I thought about what I wanted to let go of.  Stories that I have been holding onto.  Stories that I have been taking to heart.
And I realized that in my desperation to maintain this control, I lost the beauty of faith.  I lost hope.  Because I thought that if I did enough, or if someone else did enough, and I forgot about hope.

I went into this business of helping because I wanted to help people.  That seems so silly.  That is my 17 year old, high school senior self saying that.  I still feel that way though.
The great thing about wanting to help people is this belief that circumstances can change, life can be better.  Hope.

Maybe in the day to day, it is easy to forget that.  I’ve mentioned a few times that I often lose sight of my truths.
Yet this is the season of Advent.  The season of joyful hope.  The undercurrent of joy and faith. 

The undercurrent that was buried in this period of unrest.
I drove home tonight reflecting on the events of the week, the day.  My thoughts made a connection between those events and letting go of those stories that I had been holding onto.

I watched the sunset behind the mountains as I drove.
I felt the beauty of faith.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Simple Acts

My vacation ended with me going back to work still sick.  Not exactly the most restful way to return.
Last week, a coworker told me that I looked like Rene Russo from the movie, Outbreak.  The next day, I caught my reflection in the rearview mirror and realized that he was right.  Something about the natural light really brought out the worst.  My coworkers then thought it would be hilarious to put a picture of Rene Russo from Outbreak on my computer.  It was hilarious, so I left it there. 

But these past two weeks since returning from vacation have seemed really challenging.  This business of helping people wears on the soul at times.
And it’s only Tuesday.

I can’t seem to put my finger on it.  Last week, I thought, when I start feeling better, this other feeling of unrest will go away. 
It didn’t.

At the end of today’s work day, I was chatting with my supervisor and knowing that I was already home with the girls, she said, Go enjoy your kids.
And I thought, I don’t know if I can. 

And not because of them.  Because of me.  Because I had nothing else to give to anyone today. 
I sat around for a bit, lingered on the internet, spaced out on the couch while supervising homework, ate some chips.

I finally got up and started picking up the house.  I swept the salt off our front steps, emptied out the trash in my car, started dinner.

This return to normalcy, this routine of taking care of my family, brought me peace.  The girls and I sat down to a dinner of tomato soup and cheese quesadillas, and my heart felt calm.  And now, listening to the hum of the dishwasher while the girls are cozy by the Christmas tree reading books, I feel content. 
I often forget those things that help me keep it together.  I get frantic and caught up.  I forget my truths.

Today, these simple acts brought me back to my life outside of work, my real life. 
I don’t know if I will wake up tomorrow feeling the same peace. 

But tonight, I have it.