Every Voice Matters

January 18, 2016


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is one of my favorite inspirational quotes. It is fitting in so many different circumstances, not only in the context that Dr. King used it. I believe the crux of the quote is that we are all responsible for the well-being of others, and when we strive for this, we improve our own lives in the process.

Dr. King could have remained silent. He could have quietly gone about his life and still made an impact as a pastor, father of four, and husband. He could have died an old man. But he had to do more. During his short life, Dr. King made a lasting impression that continues to impact our nation and world today. He was a proponent of peace, love, and equality — something that, unfortunately, we are still searching for nearly fifty years after his death. Many people (especially men, it seems) will roll their eyes when the words peace, love, and equality are mentioned. Perhaps there is some correlation with flowery hippies that comes across as unmanly to some. But, honestly, what could be more important in life? To me, as a father and husband myself, there is nothing I want more. Not just for my family, but for everyone.

Various sources report that FBI files contained hundreds of death threats towards Dr. King. Despite these threats, he repeatedly stood in front of thousands, delivering his message. That’s manliness in my book — standing up to the fear of death in order to help make change a reality. I know that I have never had to be so brave. As we all know, Dr. King was ultimately assassinated. A peaceful, loving, Nobel Prize winning pastor, father and husband’s life was ended by the bullet of a racist coward. I won’t mention his name, although I imagine that Dr. King would want him to be forgiven.

Whether you are enjoying a day off work or school, complaining about the bank being closed, or just going about your day as usual, please take a moment to think about what Dr. King did to help not only the civil rights movement, but the progression of our nation as a whole. Despite his early death, Dr. King had an extraordinary life. He lived like few others until his final breath, refusing to remain silent about things that matter. May we all do the same.

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Republicans are idiots and Democrats are morons. By my calculations, that makes most of us pretty stupid — and, more importantly, pretty similar.

You can’t scroll through social media (not to mention turn on a TV) without being bombarded by hateful, politically-fueled messages. These missiles are fired from both sides of the aisle, and there is apparently no shortage of ammunition. Pick a topic of debate, and there will be numerous memes or quotes just a few clicks away that will do a wonderful job of pissing someone off. I try to ignore most of it, but I get so tired of lies or gross exaggerations being displayed as facts. Sadly, I think most of the people who make these posts assume that they are spreading worthwhile, truthful information. This is a problem, and it is slowly causing a greater divide between many of us. A divide that doesn’t need to be more than a small fracture. I don’t like getting involved in political discussions, let alone rhetoric, but I also feel like we need to speak up.

By “us” and “we,” I’m referring to most of us. Not the people constantly tweeting about their favorite presidential candidate, but the Average Joes who really just want Americans (and the rest of the world) to get along and be generally happy. You don’t hear from us often because we may not have a lot to say. Many of us are looking at Facebook so we don’t miss the pictures of our nephew’s soccer game, not so we can get into a debate about deporting illegal immigrants. In a word, maybe we are boring. People on the fringes are typically not boring. They may be certifiably nuts, but they get peoples’ attention — right or wrong — and that’s what gets spread around by social and news media outlets. No one is interested in reading or hearing about some fella saying “I believe responsible gun ownership should certainly be allowed, and that thorough background checks should also be required.” Yeah, it’s mundane to many people. Probably because most of us think that way to begin with.

You could say we are boring, but maybe a better word is rational. Sure, we have opinions, but we also know that others are entitled to their opinions, too. The last time I checked, differing opinions and mutual respect was what made this country great. The writer Dean Jackson said, “There can be disagreement without disrespect.” I know we will always have different mentalities on some topics, but I hope for the most part that we can agree to disagree in a respectful way. I truly believe that the vast majority of Americans have each others’ backs. If someone is disrespectful to you, feel good knowing that most Americans at least wouldn’t agree with their tactics.

If you are someone who feels compelled to share opinionated posts, I’m glad you have the freedom to do so. However, do everyone a favor by checking the validity of your post before putting it out there for everyone and your grandmother to see (and judge). Nothing makes a person — who is simultaneously trying to prove a point and annoy others — look worse than to spew false information. It’s dangerous and irresponsible. Especially if it’s done in a hateful way. There is never an excuse for being hateful to anyone.

Unfortunately there will always be a small segment of our population who are overly extreme in their beliefs and refuse to compromise. They are also the people who will inhibit positive change from occurring. We are all Americans and we are all human. Don’t get caught up in the trash you see on social media. Most Republicans don’t think all Muslims are terrorists, and most Democrats don’t want capitalism to cease to exist. Mostly, please don’t spread lies or hate. Let’s hang on to our dignity by always remaining respectful.

I guess I can only speak for myself, but my family and friends are both Republicans and Democrats — and I appreciate hearing their different opinions. We don’t agree on everything, but that’s okay. We all make some good points worth considering, and while we aren’t always brilliant, we are rarely idiots or morons (although everyone is entitled to an occasional bad day). Truth be told, we are all really quite similar. 

Autumn Leaves

January 5, 2016

  
seems most folks love the autumn leaves

 

“oh yeah, that’s real nice” I say with a smile

but mostly I’m just thinkin’ it means the cold is comin’

– and sooner than they know

 

the pretty leaves match the rust on the bridges and the dirty gray sky blends good with the streets ’round here

there’re nights when those streets are almost hot and you don’t even dream of a blanket

– but not this time a year

 

some afternoons the sun peaks through all them buildings and makes it clear to the ground

oh yeah I lay there in the warmth like a dog does when it shines in the window of a house

– movin’ every so often til it can’t hit me no more

 

oh yeah I had a house once

wasn’t so great bein’ all cooped up like that

– stayed warm enough though that’s the truth

 

some won’t make it through when the winter hits full on

it takes a knack you know

a man needs more than smokes and somethin’ to drink

– but those sure help yes sir

 

ain’t no big deal I’ll be fine you watch

oh yeah

– I’m gonna have my spring again

 

  
I understand the idea behind them. The intention is great. But please don’t do it. Don’t make resolutions this year — or ever again. Hear me out on this.

We all make or have made resolutions at the start of a new year. Sometimes they are almost said in jest because the resolutor has the keen self awareness to understand they are a pipe dream:

“I’m drinking less and joining a gym (resolutor chuckles). No, actually I mean it, I’m gonna give it a real shot this year (more chuckles).”

Other times the resolution is very serious:

“I’m drinking less and joining a gym (no chuckles).”

I recently heard a great business idea. It’s a large gym that is stocked with state-of-the-art exercise equipment in January, and is then transformed into a well-stocked bar from February through December.

If you feel the need to make resolutions, may I suggest that you instead make goals. Everyone should have goals. A goal is a way to make a change for the better. Change is necessary in order to grow physically, mentally, spiritually, financially, etc. You may think that resolutions and goals are the same thing, but I would argue that they are entirely different. A resolution is something that is practically expected (and accepted) to fail. It’s a wish that probably wasn’t really thought out or given a real chance to succeed. A goal is a set of specific plans created to turn something that is realistically possible into a reality.

Use SMART goals, which are written and tracked. Here is an example that will be more effective than resolving to join a gym.

Goal – I will lose weight.

Specific – I will lose X pounds.

Measurable – X is measurable and can be tracked by weighing myself every X and recording the data.

Action – I will get some kind of physical activity X number of days each week. I will eat better by limiting X.

Realistic – I can have a cheat meal (or day) X times a week.

Timetable – My goal will be reached by X.

The entire goal has to be attainable, so don’t declare you will become a vegetarian in order to lose twenty pounds. Don’t plan on running every day or losing ten pounds each week. Give yourself some — but not too much — wiggle room. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Still, there are a lot of X’s in this example, and it is probably no coincidence that many goals end up getting X’ed out.

SMART goals are good, but even better is making the decision to be more mindful of the present. Setting a goal — the outcome of which is somewhere down the road — is fine, but what about today? Mindfulness doesn’t happen over night; it is a practice and an attitude that can take years to master. Focusing on today instead of feeling guilt and remorse for what happened yesterday, or experiencing fear and anxiety about what may (or may not) happen tomorrow, is very counter-culture. It sure seems to make sense to me, though.

I’m far from a master at being mindful (hell, I have to remind myself to be mindful almost daily, assuming I remember…), but over the past year I’ve worked hard on living in the present and focusing on living well each day. By “living well,” I mean being physically active, finding ways to be mentally stimulated, being kind and helpful to others, spending more time with my family, and just generally appreciating and enjoying life as much as possible. It doesn’t mean that everything is perfect, and as I said, I’m far from a master, but I can say that over the last nine months I have lost weight, I haven’t been sick (not even a cough or cold), I sleep better (and I’m not a good sleeper by nature), and I’m happier than I’ve been at any time in my life.

I have no desire to make any resolutions this year. I will simply keep trying to live well. William Morris wrote, “The true secret to happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” Forget about making this year better than the last. Go out and make today the best it can be. Make yourself better than you were yesterday. Be grateful for all the good life has to offer. Be kind and generous. And then watch how your life improves and everything starts falling into place. Seriously.

Never mind Happy New Year, here’s to a happy today. Cheers.