Sunday, December 30, 2018

So, We Are At The End.

Or are we at the start?

We are at the end of 2018. And for many folks that alone is worth a celebration. A lot of hard things happened in 2018.

But we are also at the start of 2019. We can make it a better year. We can make the New Year a time to celebrate a new beginning. And we can begin again to make a better world.

What would you like to do in 2019 that you didn't do this year? What would you like to do differently?

How might you be more compassionate? How might you be able to help others in ways you never have before? What might you do to make someone's world better?

That is our quest for 2019, to be better change agents for good. Where would you like to start? There are countless ways to do it. Which one will you choose?

As you celebrate over the next two days, remember to celebrate the new beginning of a better world by doing some kindness for someone. Do acts of kindness every day and your new year will be the best yet.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

"What Did You Get?"

When I was a kid at Christmas, the kids on our block would go from one friend's house to another to see what we each got for Christmas. We'd exclaim about things we'd asked for or things we wanted but hadn't asked for. It was great if you got a sled and it was snowing. If it wasn't snowing, kids with bikes were out trying them. It was a great day for all.

But now I care more about what I gave than what I got. I love figuring out just the right thing for each person. I'm not good at wrapping, but I wrap them anyway. And put a tag with "to" and "from" on it for each gift.That's fun before Christmas. And then on Christmas I get to see people's face light up when they open their gift. For me, that is the best part of Christmas.

And these days, since our family has everything they need and most of what they want, it is more challenging. I don't have the income I used to, to can't give the really big gifts they want. So what we do now is donate to the Heifer Project in honor of each person. And we find some little thing to wrap that somehow connects to the idea of the gift. Like this year we donated a bunch of baby chicks for a nephew and put the honor card on a box of chicken dressing mix.

We gave my spouse's sister and husband tree seedlings in their honor and wrapped the honor card in a dishtowel that had a picture of a cardinal in a tree. The most challening was the nephew we donated a flock of geese in his honor. What in the world could we wrap that connected to geese? I got it! We wraped up a package of goose liver!

Changing the world, making a positive difference can be fun. What did you give this holiday that made a positive impact on someone's life?

What did you give?

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Are You Ready?

So, how often have you been asked, "Are you ready for the holiday?" Well, that's not what I'm asking. I'm pretty sure you are ready, or nearly ready, for the holidays, or you would be in the next day or two.

What I'm asking is, "Are you ready to make the world better?" Don't worry. I'm not asking you to change the whole world by Friday. I'm asking if you are in the state of readiness. Are you motivated to make something good happen? 

That's all I'm really asking of you. I want you to keep the idea of doing something good in the front of your mind. Keep yourself ready to make a positive difference to someone. You don't have to change the whole world. I'm asking you to made someone's world better somehow.

It is the little acts of kindness that make a difference to the lives of others, changing their world in positive ways. So what are you doing this week to make a difference? There should be numerous opportunities during this holiday season. Make doing good a habit by doing it often.

This afternoon I'll be wrapping warm winter hats I've collected over the past month to be distributed to the more than one hundred unsheltered homeless on Christmas. Last year we collected warm neck scarves, over two hundred of them. Sound like an impossible project? Not when you ask others to help. And othere people are glad for the opportunity.

So, you see, you don't have to make the world better on your own. Together we can do amazing things. Be a catalist for good.

Are you ready?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

I Try to Imagine

Empathy requires us to stand in another's shoes and experience their situation and the emotions that go with that. I try to imagine being homeless and living on the street, under a bridge, in a camp made of tarpolians. It is really hard to imagine because I have never been so without resources that I didn't have a clean dry space to sleep.

I have been homeless a couple of times, but I always had someone who would take me in until I could get on my feet again. At night when I'm going to sleep in my soft, warm bed I wonder what it would be like to try to sleep on a piece of cardboard on concrete or on the ground in some weeds. I can't imagine doing it. If I were lucky enough to have a sleeping bag, which isn't very likely, I might manage it. But if it was raining or snowing? I don't think so.

I am grateful for my warm, dry, safe house. I'm grateful that I don't worry about where I might get my next meal. We went to the grocery store today and spent nearly $200 in groceries. If I was living on the street I couldn't carry much food even if I could buy it. And the likelihood of having a hot meal is pretty small unless I can find somewhere that they were giving out free meals. If I was new to homelessness I might not know where to go for any help.Sometimes during the day I go to the kitchen for a snack and have several choices to choose from. That sure wouldn't be possible if I were living on the street.

And what about appropriate clothes to deal with the weather? I might have a coat, but it would probably be cheap and not warm enough for winter winds. And how many changes of clothes do you think I'd have? I'd have no access to a laundry and would just wear whatever I had for as long as it held together. Clean, dry socks would be a godsend.

I might find a bed in a homeless shelter occasionally, but not always. They fill up really quickly and if you're not there at just the right time you get closed out. You have to arrange to be nearby at the time they open. That might not be possible often. And in the shelter there is only a bed, no shower or food. And you sleep with lots of people in a room, so it isn't quiet and doesn't feel very safe. It is known that your stuff gets stolen. Sometimes people get beaten up. Hard to believe, but it is often safer on the street than in a shelter.

I don't know how they manage to survive. I doubt if I could do it. That is why one of my primary causes that I support is a group that helps provide items needed for the unsheltered homeless in our area. The need is so great. I know I can't solve the overall problem, but I can provide things like new clean socks, food that doesn't have to heated, toiletries, warm hats, gloves, scarves, etc., each month.

That is my act of kindness, motivated by empathy and compassion. What's yours?

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Developing Empathy

Empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another. It is feeling what they feel and understanding their experience.

It is putting aside your viewpoint and trying to see things from the other person's point of view.

It is validating the other person's experience without trying to critique or change it.

It requires that you examine your own attitude and that you listen to the other person with an open mind.

It is asking what the other person would do rather than just telling them what you would do.

And, like any ability, it gets better with practice.

Compassion is the feeling you have when you are confronted with another's suffering and feel motivated to relive the other's suffering. Empathy plus compassion lead to true acts of  kindness. The other person feels valued and empowered.

Practice your empathy and compassion with the people around you. Take time to listen to their needs, follow the formula for empathy above and watch how relationships change. Start small, hear out your child's complaints. See things from their perspective. Ask what they want to do and support them in finding solutions.

There is no end of possiblities for practicing empathy. Homelessness, poverty, chronic illness, fearfulness, are to be found everywhere when you look. Make a decision to act in true kindness.

Share your experiences with other readers on the blog. Support each other in practicing empathy, compassion, and true acts of kindness.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

What Motivates Your Acts of Kindness?

When you are walking down the street and see someone like the man above, what do you feel? What do you do? There are many feelings that may be involved if you take the moment to experience them. Most of us glance away because we don't want to have feelings that would motivate us to get involved. What might we learn about ourselves if we examined our feelings? What action might we take?

Many folks do acts of kindness out of altruism, because it is what they believe is the right thing to do. But true kindness requires empathy and compassion. There is a YouTube video that explains so much more clearly than I can. Have a look, it's only four minutes:


We need to nurture empathy and compassion in ourselves and our family, then spread it to everyone we can. That is what can change the world for the better.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Kindness 101 Homework

Last blog gave the elements of kindness. Now it is time to practice making it part of your life. Begin by taking some quiet time to think about what you need to nurture yourself. Because, being kind to yourself will help you be a kinder person overall.

How might you be kind to yourself. Consider how you are feeling these days. What would feel really good? Some time alone? Or time with special positive people? Getting to bed earlier? Getting up earlier? Playing a game with family members or friends? Seeing a funny movie? Eating healtier? Going for a run? Going for a swim? Explore the ways you can build into your week the things that nurture you as a person.

Maybe you have been wanting to start a journal but haven't taken the time. Build time into your day for half and hour of writing in your journal and getting to know yourself better. By journalling or sitting quietly, connect with the inner you. Listen to your thoughts without judging. Then think positive and encouraging thoughts.

Make a plan for taking care of you. Do something that nurtures you.

One way to be kind to others is to take time to listen to them, truly listen. What are their thoughts and dreams, what do they want out of life, what nurtures them? They may not have taken time to listen to themselves. Talking to you, a good listener, can help them find that inner person in them. But no matter what the conversation, your taking time to listen tells them that you value them. This will nurture them and the relationship with them.

Do something that nurtures someone else.

Be kind.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Kindness 101

We think we know what kindness is. But it is good to look at the fundamentals of kindness to be more likely to make our acts of kindness more effective. The fundamentals, according to Atkins and Salzhauer in The Kindness Advangage: cultivating compassionate and connected children, are:
(be) Yourself

Acceptance of others as they are is a great kindness in this age of fearing and hating others for what they are when they are different from us. In order to accept others we need to be fully accepting of ourselves as we are. When this occurs we are more open to exchanging ideas and customs with others. This, then, helps bring us together. We can find ways to relate to others rather than keeping our distance. We can be aware of our differences, aknowlege them and how they contribute to our uniqueness, but we don't allow the differences to interfere with acceptance. Make connections with people who are different from you.

Commitment to making kindness a way of life for you and your family will begin to change the world. It is easy to think of being kind, but we need to act on it when given a chance. And watch for those opportunities as we encounter our world. "Being kind involves your whole being: body, mind, and heart." You may find that it is easier to see the opportuniteis to choose kindness when you are alone, but try not to ignore them when you are with someone else. That way you will be modeling kindness to others and encourage them to be more kind.

Connection with others and sharing ideas is the foundation for a meaningful relationship. Connecting with someone is about paying attention, listening, watching, and being there. "Dispite language, culture, neighborhood, or physical differences, we have the ability to connect with anyone, because at our core we are the same." When you connect, truly connect, for even a few minutes, you have a better chance to know what kind of kindness the other person needs. Sometimes making that connection is the kindness they need at that moment.

Empathy is  the abiity to understand another person's internal experience, whether you agree or disagree with that experience. Empathy is unlike sympathy, when you make assumptions about how the other person is feeling. Understanding someone else's experience requires you to listen carefully and watch closely, putting your own reactions aside and focus on the other person's experience. We can try to understand their situation from both our head and our heart, making our responses meaningfult to them. What you need may not be what they need.

Giving kindness is the action that results from your kind thoughts and your awareness of the other person's needs or wants. Giving to others benefits even the giver. It creates a positive response in our brain that makes us feel good. There are lots of ways to give, of course. And as you become more empathic your giving will become more gratifying to you and the other person as well.

Interest can lead you to opportunities for kindness. Learn more about what interests you, and look for opportunities for acts of kindness. That interest might move you to help someone or do something and become part of something greater than yourself. There are myriad causes in the world where help is needed. Find what interests you and explore its opportunities for acts of kindness.

Nurturing gives a person the feeling that someone cares.There are countless opportunities to nurture relationships with people, animals, and plants, just by noticing and doing something. Give an honest compliment, bring someone coffee or share a snack, tend to a plant with watering or fertilizing, even a handshake can be a nurturing gesture. In this busy world where folks keep their distance, human touch has become pretty rare. And with concerns about sexual harrassment people shy away from touch. There are, however, clearly friendly caring touches of a hand or shoulder to make a point or share a laugh. 

Observing is vital for learning where kindness is needed, where opportunities for acts of kindness can be found. There is much to see when we open our eyes and ears and minds to notice what otheres are doing. We may discover new things. What you observe may make you to think and act in a different way. And take time to smell the roses; be kind to yourself.

Questioning can broaden your perspective with new information. There are things we don't understand happening around us all the time. Questioning is probably the best way toward understanding and learning where acts of kindness are needed, what kinds of acts of kindness would be most appreciated. Question things that don't seem right. Investigate ways to make changes for the better.

(be) Yourself. Remember that there is no one else just like you. Everyone can offer something unique to the world. We can share our uniqueness for good in the world. Take pride in your strengths or talents so that you feel good about yourself. You are more likely to give of yourself when you value your uniqueness. Good self-esteem helps us be more engaged in our world and willing to act on the opportunities of kindness we discover.

Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.             - Eleanor Roosevelt, politician, diplomat, activist.
And one more thing that helps you to be kind is your own gratitude. When you are aware of and grateful for all that you have, no matter what your financial status, you realize that there is always something that you can give. Give your time, your talent, your money, your ideas, your attention, out of gratitude for what you already have yourself.

*This post is based on information in The Kindness Advangage: cultivating compassionate and connected children, byDale Atkins PhD, and Amanda Salzhauer, MSW.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Nurturing Kindness

Nurturing kindness makes for happier people, more harmonious homes and a healthier society. If you've been noticing the current environment you have found folks looking for happiness. Unfortunately, many are turning to unhealthy habits to look for happiness. Addictions are at epidemic proportions. While drugs or other addictive behaviors may give a momentary feeling of happiness or deaden our uncomfortable feelings, there is no happiness there. Ask any recovering addict if they were happier when they were using than when they were clear of the addiction.

Scientists/Psychologists  have studyied happiness for yearsThe look for what makes people happy, thrive, and flourish. They have found that performing positive activities, expressing gratitude or doing acts of kindness, boosts happiness.

This applies to children as well as adults. Kids that do acts of kindness on a regular basis were more sociall accepted, improved their academic experience, increase their inclusivity and make them less likely to bully othere as teens. Nurturing kindness in children is a good investment in the future of our families and community.

You can experience the "helper's high" when diectly helping others. "There is a release of endorphins, a feeling of satisfaction, and overall improvement in physical and emotional health." There are changes in the brain when people think good thoughts do kind acts, or even observe other people performing kind acts.* This is one reason that Social Media posts about actis of kindness can make us feel better when we see them than when we see posts that are negative, hateful, or cruel.

When stressed or in pain, people are looking for ways to feel better. We now know that helping others will help them too. So in a time of high stress, do something for someone else. You will feel better and they will too.

So be kind. My next post will explore the fundamentals of kindness. If you've ever experienced a negative reaction to your kindness, we will explore why.

*This post is based on the book The Kindness Advantage: cultivating compassion and connected children  by Dale Atkins, PhD and Amanda Salzhauer, MSW.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Cultivating Compassion and Connection

Due to internet connection issues this is being published late. Will catch up for next week, hopefully.

In order to have a better world we need to connect with others differently. We must connect with kindness and compassion. But too many people have not been taught to do that. While technology gives us so many new ways to connect, we still aren't really connecting. Family meals, if they still happen with everyone together, are mostly everyone with their smart phones texting. So families aren't even connecting.

So it is up to those of us who want to create a better world to nurture compassion and connection in our families and with others. Children growing up in this age are more and more isolated by technology. Face time with warm bodies is less  and less time for them. I see parents on their phones when with their little kids and I wonder if they will grow up without knowing how to relate to others without a phone or ipad. Will they know how to converse with other people that are right there with them?

So we need to begin modeling connection. Limit the amount of time you spend on your phone or computer when you are with your children. Set aside time to be truly there for them. Read together, talk about their day, and really listen. Value what they say. Ask them serious questions. And have a "no tech" mealtime.

Relate to other adults with openness and kindness. Practice discussing issues without judging. Listen to what others have to say. Take time to converse beyond "Hi" and "How ya doing." And when you walk down the street or through a hallway in a building, make eye contact and smile, say "Hi."
Let folks know they have been seen and that they matter.

Your child and the people around you are watching, even if unconsciously. The way you connect with others will say a lot about you. And it can encourage others to do more to reach out and connect.

But why connect with kindness? Kindness leads to other good things: compassion, better relationships, future success, improved self-esteem, and good mental and physical health. Doesn't everyone want that? Won't that make a better world? I'm reading The Kindness Advantage; cultivating compassionate and connected children, by Dale Atkins, PhD. and Amanda Salzhauer, MSW. I figured that what we teach a child we can also teach an adult who didn't learn as a child.

So over the next week or so I'll be sharing what I find in it. I hope you as a parent or your inner child will find something helpful.

No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, an the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness dos to others is that it makes them kind themselves.                                                    Amelia Earhart, pilot

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

How About a New Thanksgiving Tradition?

This year, while you are waiting for the turkey to roast or after you've consumed the last of your Thanksgiving dessert, take some time to write thank you note. Yeah, those old fashioned handwritten notes to thank people for what you appreciate about them. I suppose if you don't know their mailing address and you won't see them for the next week you could do it by email. But there is something really special about a handwritten note.

Write notes of gratitude to folks who we usually don't acknowlege how important what they do or who they are to us with much in the way of gratitude. Like the custodian of your school or office, the clerk at you post office or other public service, your pastor, your teacher, your spouse's parents, your mail carrier, a doorman, a maid, a baby sitter, the day care workers, your boss, your secretary or other support staff, a police officer, a firefighter, a doctor, a nurse. You get the idea.

So much that we are thankful for is a result of someone else's behavior. While we may acknowlege that we are thankful that there are medical services available to us, but how often do we express gratitude for spacific reasons, like "I'm grateful for your patience when I struggle to explain what hurts and how."

It is important that you are spacific. It is more meaningful if you have taken the time to identify some specific thing they do/did that you are grateful for.

So, turn Thanksgiving into a day of giving thanks to those we sometimes take for granted or we feel grateful but don't say it specifically.

And I want to than you for reading my blog. It means a lot to me that someone reads what I've written. It is extremely gratifying if you leave a comment.

So thank you. And have a thankful Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Peace by Piece

I'm afraid there is no magic formula to world peace. We can't wave a wand and say "Abracadabra". But we can begin it where we are. The beginning of world peace is to find your own state of peacefulness.

  • Practice what gives your peace: reading a book, quiet time, engaging in creative arts, listening to calmings sounds like ocean waves or birdsong. Set aside time to nurture your peacefulness and reduce stress with whatever helps you feel more peaceful.
  • Many people find meditation helpful to clear the mind and relax the body. There are many resources to help you learn to meditate. Check out videos on YouTube or contact a local organization that teaches and supports meditation. There are CDs that provide guided meditation. Find your path to peacefulness.
  • Manage your stress. Identify your stressors. Much of our stress comes from us believing that something should be different than it is, even though we have no control over changing it. When that is the case we need to change what we believe. Rather than fighting the reality of your powerlessness over a situation, accept that which you cannot change and focus on changing what you can. Sounds easier than it is. Other kinds of stressors can often be less stressful when we plan to limit our access to them, like certain types of persons or events. It often helps to take five or ten minutes a day to write about your frustrations, to express your feelings in ways that do no harm. Sometimes just writing about a situation makes it clear what you can do differently to make it less stressful. Find the stress-reducers that work for you
  • Participate in physical activity. This can address several areas in your life, making you more peaceful. It is good for your physical health and your mental health. It even helps you work off any emotions that seem to unsettle your peacefulness. While you are exercising, no matter what kind, focus on the exercise and let your mind clear. Work up to a place of peacefulness for you. Many people find exercises like running to be medatative.                                                                                                                                                         
  • Engage in self-reflection. Look inside yourself for what you tell yourself. Identify when you are being judgemental or hard on yourself. Identify negative self-talk and conscously interrupt it. Replace it with affirmations of your courage, your strengths, your worth. A sense of peace comes from being, and liking, who you want to be.                                                                          
  •  Allow and accept change. Change is often very stressful. The way you think about it can make it more or less stressful. Life is all about growing and changing and we are better off embracing change than resisting it. Cange is a learning process to a better life.Letting go of the fear of the unknown allows us to accept change. Realize that resistances causes mor turbulence in our lives. It usues more energy than acceptance.                                                                                                                                    
  • Bad habits keep you from finding a healthy balance and often interfere with your self-acceptance. Break one bad habit at a time to minimize the stress that comes with creating a new and healtier habit. Keep track of your changes by writing them down. Switch out the bad for a good habit. If you don't purposly replace the old bad habit you may create yet another bad one.
Making peace in your piece of the world begins with your own peacefulness. Find what works for you and begin the peace process right where you are.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

How Do You Make Peace?

There seems to be no limit to conflicts these days. So in order to make the world a better place we each need to address conflict with peacemaking. Bringing peace into your own life is a beginning. Bringing peace into your community, your country, and your world can follow.

For a moment, consider where there is conflict in your life. What do you struggle against? What causes you anger? What creates emotional pain? What are these conflicts about? Can you find a way to resolve them with less conflict?

Consider if they are really problems you can do something about. If there is nothing in the problem you can change, maybe the change has to be in you? Can you forgive? Can you let go? Can you accept that the problem isn't yours?

An important part of resolving problems/conflicts is compromise. Examine ways you might compromise to bring about the peace you need. In most conflict there is a common ground that both parties can find when emotions are calmed and reason reigns. Dedicate yourself to finding that place where both can agree on something and work from there.

Addressing wider conflicts will require joing with others who are willing to work for peaceful resolution. It will also mean you must look at your own role in the conflict and to withdraw from combative dialog and behavior. Peaceful resolution follows peaceful behavior. All too often we get caught up in the "anti-" whatever and fail to find the "pro" elements. Work to find positive ways to address conflicts. Rathere than be anti-war, for instance, be pro-peace. Explore the diffference. "Anti_" is still fighting.

Stand for peace by loving all. I may not agree with you. I may not even like you. But I can love you as a human being and want to do what is right for all concerned. Do the difficult work to find what that is in each situation.

What might you do today to make peace?

Sunday, November 11, 2018

How Do You Love?

Love is an action verb. That means something must happen for the verb if you use it appropriately. Yes, love is a noun, too. But in verb form it must have an action. So how do YOU love?

It is an important question to explore. When you say you love something or someone, what do you actually do? Do you just feel all warm and fuzzy when you think of them or are with them? If that is the case, is it really loving them or loving the feeling you are having?

When you love your mate/spouse your behavior toward them will be caring, nurturing. You will do things they want. You will enjoy being with them and tell them so. You will communicate by word and deed your caring.

When you love your child, or any child, you will take care that they are safe and well. You will not do them harm, at least not intentionally. You will do things that provide safety, nurture, fun.

When you love your pet you will treat them, in many ways, as you do a child. You will see to their wellbeing, see that they have their needs met. You will be sure they are safe, they are sheltered, they are fed, they have clean water, they get exercise.

When you love your country you will take care of it as well.

What have you done that defines your love? We are coming through a very difficult time in our country. There is division, fesr, anger, even violence against others. None of these things are love.

Let's make love. No, not sex. Let's provide safety and wellbeing in our country for all people. Actually, if you want to make the world better, let's love the world.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

It Is Time to Be Nice!

O.K. The election is over. We can quit arguing with each other. It is time for us to be nice. That is how we can make the world a better place.

And if you have forgotten how to do that, here's Kid President on YouTube to explain how:

Now, let's go out there and be nice.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Are You Ready?

Have you explored your options? Have you found a choice you feel good about, or at least don't feel bad about? Are your ready to vote Tuesday?

I urge you to vote. It is your voice amplified by others that can be heard. Don't give up on our democracy. Practice it, protect it by voting.

We've voted early, many people have. It is a convenience for us, as we can choose the day and time that works for us. And the lines were not so long as at the precinct voting places. Don't know if that was a possiblity for you.

But do vote. As a citizen it is our duty. And the privelege was hard won. When we fail to use it we disappoint all those who have worked so hard, given so much, some have given their lives for us to have the right.

Let me know if you did it. Did you vote?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Will the World Know You Were Here?

What mark are you leaving on the world? Have you made much of a difference? What kind of difference is it? Are you satisfied with that mark? Or are you still working toward that mark?

At my age I often contemplate my mark on the world. I'd say my mark is mostly positive because I have worked toward that. It is my ultimate goal. But I haven't always considered that. I guess because I am closer to death than to birth, by a long margin, it is something I'm more aware of. I do, though, wonder if otheres think about the mark they will leave on the world.

Depending on your age, I suppose, you may or may not often think of your death. And I don't mean that I dwell on how or when I will die. But I do think about what I will leave behind. Have I said or done something that impacted someone enough to change their life in a positive way?

I think I probably have. I worked as a mental health counselor in the State prison system and have had many meaningful exchanges with men who have lost their way. I have seen then look at themselves in a new way. I have seen them change what they believe. It has been heartening for me to know that sometimes I have made a difference in their lives.

I have done a lot of volunteer work and helped many causes through church and civic groups. While that work is usually another degree of separation, not so much individual to individual, I know that it has made a difference in some lives. I led programs to build houses in Haiti after it was devastated, to replace firefighter equipment after Hurricane wiped out a station house on the East Coast, to make dresses and shorts for children in Africa and Honduras, to help elderly poor in our city to clear their yards to avoid city violations, to provide new Christmas gifts to 200 unsheltered homeless in our city. Most of all those folks never knew my name and all of that brings me joy.

Obviously my children and grandchildren have been part of me trying to be a good role model. They have made their mark on me, that's for sure. And I hope my being in their world has made it better somehow.

What about you? Will the world know you were here? What mark have you made on the world? Please share.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Characteristics of a Good Leader

Most good leaders leverage at least some of these characteristics.

  • Honesty: “As a small businessperson, you have no greater leverage than the truth.” - John Whittier 
It is important to stick to the truth so that you have less to remember! Seriously, though, trust is important. Without trust your leadership will be weak and people will not follow for long, especially after they see your dishonesty.

  • Ability to delegate: “Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.” - SEAL Team saying 
You are not really leading if you try to do everything yourself. You want people to participate in achieving your goal, and to do that they will need to have a role in the process. Delegate others to take on some responsibility.

  • Communication:   “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” - Ernest Hemingway
Good communication is vital for a leader. You must be able to listen to all those concerned in your process. It will help you make the best choices.

  • Sense of humor: “A true leader always keeps an element of surprise up his sleeve, which others cannot grasp but which keeps his public excited and breathless.” - Charles de Gaulle
A sense of humor will keep you sane. There will always be "bumps in the road" and keeping your mood light will help your followers to endure the bumps as well as celebrate the successes. And, as de Gaulle said, you want to keep some surprises to keep folks excited about the work.

  • Confidence: “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” - Ben Franklin 
Have confidence in yourself and in your goals. Be confident about the changes you are creating. And trust yourself to know when you are finished. There may or may not be a "finish" to chaning the world to make it better. But be aware of what is needed and confidently lead on.

  • Commitment: “The only way to do great work is to love the work you do.” - Steve Jobs
To be a truly effective leader you need to be in it for the long haul. Your commitment must be based on your compassion for the goal. You must love what you do, even when it gets hard or messy, to make a lasting difference.

  • Positive attitude: “I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier.” - Oprah Winfrey
Believe in yourself and in the goal that you are working for. Believe in your plan and your process. Even when things seem to be getting nowhere, believe that you can make a positive difference. Always see the glass as half full with faith that you can add enough to fill the glass and reach your goal.

  • Creativity: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” - Charles Swindoll 
Life happens. It brings challenges. And as leader it is up to you to come up with solutions to problems. Creative problem solving will get you through the challenges. This is when you need to listen to others and to delegate where appropriate. Problem solving is an intagral part of leadership.

  • Ability to inspire:  “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” - Robert McAfee
Folks will be inspired by your attitude and your story of why your goal is something you are passionate about. Gather stories from others as well. Bring ideas to life in stories.

  • Intuition: “Less isn’t more; just enough is more.” - Milton Glaser 
Your intuition will guide you if you learn to listen to it and have confidence in it. the human brain is amazing. And intuition is part of that amazing organ. When you "just know" something, go with it. As you exercise intuition it will strengthen and lead you in what comes next. Know when you have enough.

  • Above all else, treat others as you’d like to be treated: “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” - Gilbert Chesterton 
People like to be appreciated. Express your gratitude generously. Make your expression specific and honest. You will gain trust and faithful followers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

To Make the World a Better Place, Be a Leader!

There are many definitions of "leader". But not all of them fit if you are wanting to create real change, positive change. One definition is that a leader is someone who has followers. Broad and literal and doesn't involve a plan and a goal. You can call fans "followers", but  having fans doesn't give the fan any power or plan to follow to achieve a positive goal.
You may be a "fan" of social justice or of saving the environment. But until you influence others to act toward achieving those goals, not a whole lot will change, at lease as a result of your concern.
So what does it mean to lead? What is leadership? According to Kevin Kruse*, creator of an eLearning program for managers, and author of Employee Engagement 2.0, it is "the process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal."
He points out that the key elements of this definition are:
  • Leadership stems from social influence, not authority or power
  • Leadership requires others, and that implies they don’t need to be “direct reports”
  • No mention of personality traits, attributes, or even a title; there are many styles, many paths, to effective leadership
  • It includes a goal, not influence with no intended outcome
Does this sound to lofty an ideal for you? It's not really. You can use it to achieve even less lofty, more mundane goals. You probably use it every day to achieve family goals or community goals. The idea here is to use it to achieve goals that make the world better, even the world where you live and work.

Identify your goal and determine who and how you want to work toward the goal with you. It doesn't matter what style of leadership that fits you. The important thing is the goal.

In my next post I'll look at what makes a good leader.

*Kevin Kruse is the creator of the Leading for Employee Engagement eLearning program for managers. and author of the bestselling book, Employee Engagement 2.0.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

I'm Gonna Cop a Cattitude.

I've been writing about how to become a better person in order to create a better world. I suggest that getting a cat might do that! What can having a cat do for you?

Cats can help keep humor in your life. They can make you laugh or smile at their antics, especially kittens. Kittens are learning how to use their bodies to traverse their world. They can end up in the funniest places. Adult cats also try this, and their fails can be very funny. So get a cat to make you smile.

Cats can help you socially. They can make great ice breakers, especially if you don't have kids. Everyone love a good story about your cat or your kid. And those silly cat videos on the internet create bonds between people. When my kids were little, meeting new people was easier because we could talk about our kids. But when the kids are grown and gone, there are fewer cute stories. So get a cat.

Cats can develop your creativity. Cats find fun in all kinds of places. The love empty boxes, a laser pointer to chase, a catnip filled mouse or pocket, or anything tied to a string. Currently our cat's favorite toy is a plastic wand with a string on the end that was fastened to a jingle bell and four little feathers. The feathers are long gone, but she will chase that bell back and forth and in circles for longer than you want. I wear out after watching her do gymnastics chasing it for half an hour.
Cats help you play, which is the basis of creativity. So, get a cat.

Cats help us relax. Did you know that cuddling with your cat is actually good for yourhealth? HABRI, the Human Animal Bond Research initiative, has lots of research that indicates talking to or petting your pet has a positive, physical effect on people, lowers blood pressure, pulse rate, and breathing. That purr is good for you. So, get a cat.

Cats can offer unconcitional love, and invoke it from you. Learning to love unconditionally can certainly change the world, one person at a time. When you come home at the end of your day, having your cat happy to see you, rubbing and wanting rubbed, kneading you when you cuddle, can make your day better. And no matter what your cat has managed to get into, knocking things off surfaces, spilling their water, leaving hair on your chair while youve been gone, we really can't stay mad at our furry friend long. Your cat love you and you love it back. Spread the love. Get a cat.

However, I strongly recommend you get your pet from a reputable cat shelter where they certify the health of the cat, make sure it has it's immunazations, and is spayed or neutered before you can take it home. Unless you are becomming a breeder, be sure your cat is unable to create unwanted cats that are left to fend for themselves. And your cats need vacinnations against rabies and feline anemia. This protects your cat and any other cat it may come in contact with. So, get a cat and become a responsible pet owner.

It will make you a better person and you will make the world a better place.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Forgive and Forget? No.

Merriam Webster defines "forgive" as a transitive verb. "to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) PARDON" i.e. "forgive one's enemies"

The definition of forgive says nothing about forgetting the offense. Nor does it suggest that you do it to benefit the other person. To forgive frees you from resentment and anger. It benefits you to make you life easier, better, freer.

Forgetting the offense would not be useful. If you forgot it happened, how would you prevent it happening again in the future? Every experience gives us information to us in determining how to make your way with people, how to evaluate situations, etc. No, don't forget.

But do let go of the feelings that may still linger when you remember the event. Forgiveness enables you to clear the slate with people and move on. 

When a community, or group, or country, etc., harbors resentment against another, there is very little trust that can be built. And behavior choices are more likely to be made on the basis of feelings than on fact. How many wars and acts of violence between groups would be avoided if true forgiveness had occurred? 

Forgive others, whether they know it or not. Forgive others, whether they even care or not. Do it for your betterment and to make the world better.

Resolve conflicts peacefully and learn from the experience. Keep your old emotions out of future situations. Let the resentment go.


Sunday, October 14, 2018

No Joke! Seriously, Humor Will Make You Better, The World, Too!

Humor is an important tratit to make  ourselves and the world better. These days it can be difficult to maintain a sense of humor. But we must cultevate it for our own good and the good of the world around us.
Check out what Hope Speak had to say about it.:

The importance of sense of humor

It is said that sense of humor is one of the most important human qualities. Humor is not only good for your health physically and emotionally, but it also reinforces your relationships with your family, your friends and your coworkers.
First of all, humor is good for your physical health. Some research shows that laughter can improve your resistance to diseases by declining the stress hormones and increasing infection-fighting antibodies in your body. Besides, laughter can ease the physical tension­ and help your muscles to relax. It is not exaggerated to say that laughter is the best medicine for your body.
Moreover, having a good sense of humor helps you to stay healthy emotionally. Humor helps you to release stress and to keep an optimistic attitude. When you feel anxious or sad, good laughter can lighten your mood. The positive feelings you get when laughing will increase energy for your brain and your body. Thus, you will be able to stay more focus and look at the problems in your life from less frightening perspectives. Life always brings challenges that make you feel overwhelmed. In those cases, a good laughter can help you to overcome all those obstacles and makes your life more enjoyable.
Laughter helps you to stay emotionally healthy. 
Last but not least, humor helps to strengthen your relationships. First, friendly appearance with a bright smile on your face and a good sense of humor allow you to make good first impression with other people. Also, humor communication boosts the emotional connection that will bring people closer together and increases happiness. In addition, humor is an effective cure for disagreements, angers and hurts. During the difficult time in your relationship, sharing a hearted laughter will be enough to bridge the gap and fill the crack.
In conclusion, sense of humor is truly important in human life. Laughter brings many benefits including good physical health, positive emotions and relationships with other people. One essential point is that you should always remember to keep your smile, your humor and your optimism even during the hardest time of your life.
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