Wednesday, September 28, 2016

You Can't Make Me!

Remember that childhood retort? Well, it certainly is true of kindness. Someone or something might pressure you be nice or polite. But true kindness comes from your heart and only you can choose it. " Every genuinely kind act in this world is a result of someone having chosen to do it if their own free will."*

Being kind is a private matter involving our heart, head and soul. Choice is our personal power. Only you can make choices for yourself. Yes, sometimes the pressure toward certain choices can be strong. But you have to make the choice about how to respond. And each choice is important to you because our choices determine who we are. And every choice is an opportunity to change who we are - for better or worse.

When we are kind our words and actions make a statement about who we are. "An act of kindness is an act of self-expression."* So knowing your true self helps you make choices that are good for you, as well as for others.

This is where courage comes in. Sometimes we are not kind because we are afraid - afraid we will be taken advantage of, afraid that opening your heart will result in rejection, afraid because you don't know how the other will react, afraid to let your true self be seen.. Sometimes kindness means making tough decisions. Kindness is not for whimps!

There are always people who will try to make you feel bad when we show our vulnerability. But you have a choice. You can choose to do it anyway. If your life is defined by other people's opinion of you, you will never be happy or fulfilled, because you will never please everyone. Decide who you want to be - and be it!

When you risk being kind you are becoming more human. You connect with people who need your help as kin - we are all related. You make human contact with them and remind them that they are part of the human family. You also reaffirm your humanity to yourself.

So, be kind. It is ultimately who your are.

* A short course in kindness by Margot Silk Forrest

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Empathy, the Path to Peace

Empathy brings us together in ways that make healing possible. It is a vital skill for creating kindness in the world. It helps us connect with other's feelings so that we can be truly kind and not just nice or polite.

Just what is empathy? And how do we practice it?  

The power of empathy: Helen Riess at TEDxMiddlebury 

Brene' Brown makes it simple:

 We can change our world when we begin to be more empathetic. Seeing through another's perspective it is easier to find solutions to problems and to make peace with the people in our lives. Living with empathy enriches us.

Can you share in the comments an experience you've had that was transformed by empathy? 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

So Why Aren't More People Kind?

So it is easier to be nice than to be kind. [Remember, you can be both at the same time but that isn't always the case. If you are nice just to be polite, you probably aren't being kind. Check last post to learn the difference] Being nice is easier because it takes less commitment or energy investment. I think most people are nice most of the time. That is how we get along.

So why aren't more of us kind more of the time? Fewer of us go out of our way, even a little, to be kind for a variety of reasons. We are in a hurry and choose not to take the the time. This may be the biggest reason we aren't kind.

Fear is another. Maybe we are afraid to go out of our comfort zone to speak to a stranger. Or we are afraid the "other" will expect too much from us. Or we are afraid we will be rebuffed, embarrassed by a refusal.Most of our fear is unfounded. And most of us are more than capable of dealing with any of those scenarios.

Other things that may keep us from being kind are anger, emotional or physical pain, hatred, selfishness, self-importance, cynicism, stress, exhaustion, apathy, distrust, denial, fear of taking the risk, pessimism, loss of faith, disdain, self-hatred, shame, and unconsciousness. When you notice yourself or someone else failing to be kind,you may be suffering from any or several of these.

Unconsciousness is the more pervasive, I think. People often are so self-absorbed that they don't even see when someone else needs some kindness. They live in their own little world, detached from others. And even when they notice others they may not have empathy for others, may be incapable of imagining what the other is feeling. Part of the problem with our society right now is that we have lost our connection to others, real human connection, in spite of the constant contact with technoloby.

But just as all the negativity that bombards us is contagious, kindness is also contagious. That is why it is important for you to share stories of kindness that you have seen. That is why it is important to share those stories on social media, radio and television. The more we see of it the more likely we and others will also be kind.

So how can we make this a kinder world? First we need to practice kindness ourselves and teach our children to be kind. Then we need to share that kindness with others, spread it around like sunshine. We need to develop the ability to have empathy for others. It all begins with empathy. "One of the fist signs of empathy is the emerging sense that you and I are we." (Robert A Furely in The Joy of Kindness.

In the forward to Love is Letting Go of Fear, Hugh Prather wrote "I can be of no real help to another unless I see that the two of us are in this together, that all of our differences are superficial and meaningless, and that only the countless ways we are alie have any importance at all." Interacting with people this way takes away most of the barriers to kindness. When we are able to see others as Us rather than Them, kindness is the obvious choice for us and the barriers begin to slip away.

But if we refuse to experience our own feelings we cannot connect with another's feelings.And this denial of our feelings is more common than we would like to acknowledge. Addictions block access to one's feelings. Alcohol abuse, drug abuse, compulsive gambling, shopping, hoarding, etc., add keep you from the painful feelings hidden beneath. The addiction culture seems to be spreading. Maybe we can made a difference in that by having empathy for those who are caught up in it rather than being angry or judgmental toward them. This would be kindness.

We can learn from small children. They are more often kind than those who are older. Little ones will run to help a little friend who has stumbled or skinned a knee or lost a toy. The offer comfort and they do something to help.

Let's be more like them. Let's make this world a kind place. How did you improve your empathy this week? Share in the comments something you did this week that was kind.

Oh, and you could be kind and share this post on FaceBook, Twitter, or email. Just click on the share button. Maybe we can start a kindness epidemic!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

What Does It Mean to Be Kind?

Can you be nice without being kind? You know you have seen it, probably even done it. You did or said something just to be polite. Your being nice to them was unkind to you. For instance, You did something for someone without really being present with them, a handout perhaps, that was really easy, didn’t require much of yourself. Maybe you handed a dollar to a panhandler and hurried past them. Being kind would have required you step outside your comfort zone to make real human contact with that person – eye contact, a greeting, maybe even a brief conversation with the human being they are. The dollar is nice. The human contact is kind. Are you kind or are you just nice?

Nothing wrong with being nice, of course. It is easy. And sometimes it is greatly appreciated even though you didn’t invest much of yourself in it. What is a problem, however, is when your being nice when it is done because you believe other people’s needs and feelings are more important than your own. When you value others’ feelings more than your own you don’t feel good about yourself and it makes it hard to take the time or effort to be good to someone else. Like with co-dependency you end up feeling powerless, unloved, worthless or depressed.

Of course, being nice and being kind can coexist. But too often we do something nice and think we have fulfilled our responsibility to the other members of the human tribe. But have we been present to the other? Have we invested anything of ourselves? You may intend to be kind, you offer assistance “if they ever need it.” But do you follow through and actually take the time and effort to understand the other’s situation and make a real difference? Kindness is an investment that goes beyond just the willingness to help.

All this has me taking a hard look at my “acts of kindness”. How often am I really only being nice? How might I go further and be truly kind? It is easy for me to get tangled in trying to sort this out. I’m basically a nice person, was raised to be nice. So when have I gone the next step and been kind? I used to pack an extra bag lunch once a week to give to a panhandler who was almost always on the corner of the highway exit that I passed on my way to do my volunteer job. I never made an opportunity to get to know him or learn how he got to the point of begging. So at what point did I move into kindness from being nice?

As I look at it now I don’t think I did make it an act of kindness, not really. I invested a little time and effort, but not much of myself. It was a little out of my comfort zone to make any contact with a homeless panhandler, though. So what do you think?

Keep an eye out for kindness as you move through your week. What do you see others do that you think is kind? I like sharing those kinds of things on social media. I subscribe to the Good News Network and share various posts on FaceBook. I also share Random Acts of Kindness. Why do I bother with that? Because the more kindness we see the more kindness we are likely to feel and do. And sharing that encourages others to be kind.

Think about how Pay It Forward has worked. Kindness is a way to pay it forward. Pass it on.

[I’m reading A Short Course in Kindness by Margot Silk Forrest. Have any of you read it? Much of what I’m posting is based on her book as it applies to my life.]

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Are You Kind?

Would anyone say you are a kind person? What does it mean to be kind? One dictionary definition of "kindness" is: "Noun: the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate." Is that it?

So can you be kind sometimes? Does that make you a kind person?

Other qualities the dictionary included were: affection, warmth, gentleness, concern, care, consideration, helpfulness, thoughtfulness, unselfishness, selflessness, altruism, compassion, sympathy, understanding, big-heartedness, benevolence, benignity, friendliness, hospitality, neighborliness, generosity, magnanimity, and charitableness!

WHEW! That's a tall order if you have to be all of that to be kind!

I'd say I'm lots of those things some of the time. Does that make me a kind person? I'd like to think so. But isn't kindness more than something we do? Isn't it something we feel, or something that is part of who we are?

A person could commit acts of kindness for other reasons than because they are just caring or loving. You see people do it to get recognition or to get something in return. Is that still kindness? Is that person a kind person? Or are they simply manipulative or selfish? Wouldn't motive play a role in determining who is kind?

I'm doing some reading about kindness, so it will probably show up in future posts. And I'd really like to know what you think about kindness. What does it mean to you? Give me some direction in the comments below.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

It's About Bacon

Unless you are Muslim or a vegetarian you probably consume bacon in one form or another. So
almost everyone has an opinion about bacon.

Ancient Romans gave us ham. Anglo-Saxons gave us bacon. It is the food of kings and common folk. Tasty, versatile, economical and ubiquitous. Brown N' Serve (precooked) bacon was introduced to the American public in the 1960s. USA consumption plummeted in when cholesterol was "discovered" and nitrates caused a stir. Turkey bacon surfaced in the 1990s. People today are redisovering the joys of bacon. In moderation. Bacon pairs perfectly with sweet (chocolate, cookies, ice cream)and to savory (potato chips, salad dressings, Bloody Marys). The possibilities are infinite! What have you seen made with bacon?

What is bacon?
"Bacon. The side of a pig cured with salt in a single piece. The word originally meant pork of any type, fresh or cured, but this older usage had died out by the 17th century. Bacon, in the modern sense, is peculiarly a product of he British Isles, or is produced abroad to British methods...Preserved pork, including sides salted to make bacon, held a place of primary importance in the British diet in past centuries....British pigs for both fresh and salted meat had been much improved in the 18th century. The first large-scale bacon curing business was set up in the 1770s by John Harris in Wiltshire...Wiltshire remains the main bacon-producing area of Britain..."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 47)

Why call it "bacon?"
"Bacon. Etyomologically, bacon means meat from the 'back of an animal'. The word appears to come from a prehistoric Germanic base *bak-, which was also the source of English back. Germanic bakkon passed into Frankish bako, which French borrowed as bacon. English acquired the word in the twelfth century, and seems at first to have used it as a synonym for the native term flitch, 'side of cured pig meat'. By the fourteenth century, however, we find it being applied to the cured meat itself..."
---An A-Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 14-5)

Bacon "dates back to the Roman Empire, although it was called petaso at the time, and has a tradition of being cheap, available, easy to cook, consistently appealing to the taste buds, and having a place in various cultures." But these days it is everywhere, seemingly. I have even seen a menu with a bacon sundae!

Personally, I am not a fan of bacon flavored everything. I like mine fried and served with eggs or on a cheese burger or  bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. But let's just have a look at some bacon "treats".

Justin Esch, co-founder of J & D's Foods, with his friend Dave Lefow, founder their bacon-centric company. Their first creation and staple is bacon salt. But when an intern's project of creating bacon lip balm went viral, they realized that the way it would get free media for its more ligitimate products like bacon salt and baconnaise [bacon flavored mayonaise] would be to create a string of ridiculous kitsch items for the holiday season. This is when bacon saving cream, bacon lube, bacon soda, bacon coffins, and most recnetly bacon deodorant were born.

Some believe the bacon craze is over. But there are signs that this is false. “I think that’s categorically false,” said Jack in the Box spokesperson Keith Guilbault, noting that sandwiches with bacon perform categorically better and sandwiches without bacon always get bacon addition requests. “Americans absolutely love bacon. It’s one of those flavors that adds so much life.” Which is why Jack in the Box rolled out the limited time bacon milkshake last year. Yuck. Well, I've never tasted it. So my opinion probably doesn't count.

Bacon for breakfast seems as American as apple pie. And certainly bacon has been a staple to the American diet since the colonial period. Pigs are relatively easy to domesticate, and the brining/salting process that preserves bacon allowed the meat to thrive in the days prior to refrigeration. But bacon's association with the American breakfast is barely a century old. Before this most Americans ate more modest, often meatless breakfasts that might include fruit, a grain porridge [oat, wheat, or corn meals] or a roll with a cup of coffee.

Bacon became associated with the American breakfast thanks to Mr. Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud. The Austrian-born Bernays was quite good at using psychology to get people to buy a product or an idea. He was" hired by the Aluminum Company of America to use the American Dental Association to convince people that water fluridation was safe and healthy to the public. His campaign for Dixie Cups scared people into thinking the glasses they were drinking out of were unsanitary, and should be replaced by disposable cups. Bernays was even hired by President Coolidge to help run his re-election campaign in 1924, and encouraged Coolidge to invite the country’s leading vaudevillians to the White House for a meet-and-greet over pancakes. This was one of the first known political pancake breakfasts that are now so popular among presidents and council members alike.

"In the 1920s, Bernays was approached by the Beech-Nut Packing Company – producers of everything from pork products to the nostalgic Beech-Nut bubble gum. Beech-Nut wanted to increase consumer demand for bacon. Bernays turned to his agency’s internal doctor and asked him whether a heavier breakfast might be more beneficial for the American public. Knowing which way his bread was buttered, the doctor confirmed Bernays suspicion and wrote to five thousand of his doctors friends asking them to confirm it as well. This ‘study’ of doctors encouraging the American public to eat a heavier breakfast – namely ‘Bacon and Eggs’ – was published in major newspapers and magazines of the time to great success. Beech-Nut’s profits rose sharply thanks to Bernays and his team of medical professionals."*

Now, the big question is: What does bacon have to do with peace or making our world better? Absolutely nothing that I know of. I just wanted something to write about! What do you think? Do you have any "bacon stories"? Or maybe recipes with bacon? What is the strangest bacon product you've ever heard of? Leave comments about bacon.

Or, leave suggestions of what you'd like to read about on the blog. I know I'll come up with something. But I've been ill and my brain wasn't working too well. So . . . . you got bacon!

*The Complete History of How Bacon Took Over the World 
By Laura Stampler @laurastamplerNov. 15, 2013 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What is the September Equinox?

An equinox is when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of the day and the night is nearly equal. There are two equinox each year. One is in September and the other is in March.

The seasons are opposite on either side of the Equator. Therefore, the equinox in Septembers is also known as the Autumnal, or Fall, equinox, in the northern hemisphere. It is known as the Spring, or vernal, equinox.

This year in the US the Autumnal equinox is Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 10:21 AM EDT. September Equinox in Universal Coordinated Time is on Thursday September 22, 2016 at 14:21 UTC.

The September Equinox occurs the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator from north to south. The celestial equator is the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth's Equator. This happens either on September 22, 23, or 24 each year.

The Earth's axis is always tilted at an angle of around 23.4 degrees in relation to the imaginary plane created by the Earth's path around the Sun. On all the other days of the year, either the southern hemisphere or the northern hemisphere tilts a little toward the Sun. However, on the two equinoxes, the tilt of the Earth's axis is perpendicular to the Suns' rays so that they hit the equator directly.

The term "equinox" is derived from Latin, meaning "equal night." On the equinox, night and day are nearly exactly the same length of 12 hours all over the world. While this is widely accepted, it isn't entirely true. Thee equinoxes don't have exactly 12 hours of daylight.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the September equinox marks the start of autumn. Many cultures and religions celebrate or observe holidays and festivals around this event. Indigenous tribes traditionally follow the celestial calendar.

I imagine a day when the whole world pauses to celebrate the universality of these events, finding the ways we are all connected, and finding a path to world peace.

Perhaps this year you might take a few minutes to pray or to image for peace - in yourself, in your home, in your neighborhood, in your town/city/country, in the world. Mark your calendar!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

What Is Peacemaking, Anyway?

I'd love to be able to make peace happen. But I don't really know what "peacemaking" is. I only know the results. It's like the difference between wanting pie and knowing how to make pie. Well, I'm sure it isn't that simple, but I hope you get my drift.  I thought it might be helpful to explore just what is meant by "peacemaking."

Peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peace building are terms used by conflict theorists. They can easily be confused. "Peacekeeping" means keeping people from attacking each other by putting some kind of barrier between them. Sometimes this barrier is neutral soldiers - peacekeepers - from the UN or a group of neutral nations. The soldiers are only there to keep the two sides apart. They don't do anything to settle the disputants difference or to negotiate any peace agreements.

"Peacemakling" is the process of forging the settlement between the disputing parties. This can be done in negotiations directly with the two disputing parties. But it is often also done with a third party as mediator who assists with the process and communication problems. They help theparties work together effectively to draft a workable peace accord. The negotiators are often diplomats, although like in the Colombian peace agreement with the rebels, citizens are getting involved in the peacemaking process more and more. Citizen diplomacy is an increasingly common way to start the process, which an then be finalized with official diplomatic efforts.

The involvement of citizens in this process is more and more important in making a sustainable agreement. And the involvement of women is crucial as they are most affected by armed conflict. They are left to deal with the destruction of violence. 

 Peacemaking is not the final step in the peace process, however. The situations in the Middle East and Bosnia clearly demonstrate that it takes more than a peace accord to bring peace to a region. The peace accord is just a beginning, which must be followed by long-term peacebuilding--the process of normalizing relations and reconciling differences between all the citizens of the warring factions. Here too, the intervention of women is critical, as women are better at developing relationships through multiple layers of interactions. They are better able to communicate agreements and cooperation needed for peace building to succeed.**

While you and I may not be involved in the peacemaking process at a national level, we all can be more involved in peacemaking in our own families, neighborhoods, cities, and states.Some principles of peacemaking are important to learn and to share.*

  • Peacemaking should allow for healing to occur between disputing parties/groups. Anger and hatred leave many wounds, seen and unseen. There must be a place in the process for that to occur.
  • The goal is to create harmony, not to punish or remove from the community. People must find a way to cooperate toward a common goal. Forgiveness on both sides can only occur in this kind of environment.
  • The whole family or community is affected by conflict, so all must be involved in regaining harmony. Otherwise, one tiny group of people can undo all of the work of building harmony and peace.
  • Those that disturbed the peace need to be reintegrated into the group for healing to be complete. He or she is no different than us and when they are reintegrated into the group the group become whole again. It is through relationships the the group come to know and accept each other. 
  • All interactions must be done with respect and responsibiity, without the placing of blame, discredit or punishment.
  • All must agree on the final resolution. Compromise may be necessary but no single entity should have an unequal burden as a result. All must share in the consequences.
This process may take one or many sessions to resolve the conflict. Creating peace in your environment will change your world and that of those in it. So commit to persist. As my last post shows, the persistence of the Colombian people resulted in a peace accord after five decades of conflict.  The price of peace is less than the price of war, and more than worth it.

*These principles are adapted from the Navaho Peacemaking Project at

Have you ever been involved in a peacemaking or conflict resolution process. How did it work? Was the conflict resolved? Share your perspective in the comments below.