Empathy Moves Mountains

This is just a reminder that your empathy will always be more important, more impactful, and more life changing to this world than your opinion ever will be. Empathy removes confining walls and allows space for healing and understanding. Empathy moves mountains. – Kate Held

In My Opinion, now, more than ever (or so it seems) in this hateful political, intolerant climate, we desperately need to consider the experience of those around us. We all tend to be in our own bubble, just trying to get from A to B as fast as possible and with the least amount of difficulty. For some of us, A and B are fantastic destinations filled with people we love and work that’s important. For some, A and B is barely tolerable and always hellish in the journey and destination.

Putting our feet into someone else’s life is empathy. Some empathetic reflexes don’t require thinking…we wince when we see someone get hurt, for exp. (Unless someone trips in a movie or TV series or my living room, then it’s just an automatic laugh-out-load reflex to me. I cannot control this reaction, it’s guaranteed and loud and probably says more about my base sense of humor than I would like to acknowledge) — But true empathy, requires thinking. I’m fascinated by the people who walk my part of the planet whose work it is to serve me in someway. Fast food servers always break my heart because I know this must be one of the hardest jobs ever. When I encounter a person of a certain age working at McDonalds my heart breaks on the spot and so I genuinely ask how they’re doing and do my best to make them laugh.

Recently I’ve developed an addiction to McDonalds Mocha Frappe’s, in my defense I’ve been ridiculously sick for the last 3 months which is what brought me to order one in the first place. Starbucks was all the way across the street. I was down, exhausted, coughing uncontrollably, and on my way to teach dance. Like a gift from God this phenomenal, delishishness sang to me from that lighted order board in the drive-thru and upon the first sip gave me the will to live I’d been lacking. There is no excuse as to why I keep going back. That is just weak-willed-sloth-like behavior in search of frozen mocha happiness drizzled in chocolate. DO NOT EVER TRY ONE OF THESE. You will live to regret the extra pounds included in each serving.

But, I digress. A couple of weaks (spelled this way intentionally) ago, at the McDonald’s window where they take the low, low amount of $2.16 for a small mocha frappe, I slightly recognized the profile and voice of the cashier. Hesitantly I spoke her name very quietly, in case I was wrong, and yes, it was this old pseudo-friend. She’s now in her 50’s, divorced and I happen to know she lost custody of her kids…and she’s a cashier at McDonalds. This is an irregular person for me, someone I needed to cut out of our lives, but at this moment I wanted to comfort/encourage/respect/forgive her, because this has to be a such tough part of her life. She didn’t let on to me if she was embarrassed to be seen, in fact, she smiled and laughed when she said “Yep! Cashier at McDonalds!” I’m hoping she’s just happy to be getting back on her feet and doesn’t feel the need for empathy.

Our lives collide with peeps living a different life every time we pull out of the garage: the homeless person with a dog on the corner, the botox-ed woman in designer clothes cutting in front everyone else to valet park her Beamer at the Vig, the father of 5 who is screaming and running after each kid simultaneously in Albertsons wishing he’d given birth to goats instead of these small slippery humans, the neighbor who can afford to completely make-over their entire house and yard on a whim, the neighbor who hasn’t even looked at the weeds in their yard in 2 years…and then, there’s our children. Our children have a different world to survive than we, their parents, have experienced. Looking in their eyes, if at all possible (!) and purposefully listening will bring our lives to a level playing field in almost any scenario.

However, today there was another mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, CA. One of our families favorite places that is home to people whom we love and cherish. The 307th mass killing this year. Three Hundred and Seven. And this is where I find my empathy completely lacking. There are too just too many horrific examples of lifestyles colliding; school shooter, mugger, rapist, angry politicians from any party, slanderous omnipresent political ad’s, large white SUV’s on the freeway in a bigger hurry than I am, and sometimes just coming into contact with our cat’s innate predatory nature is just more than anyone should be able to withstand.  I’m thinking that maybe if we knew someone before they became a menace to humanity and animal life, paid attention to their walk on this planet they wouldn’t arrive at the choices they’ve made or perhaps would’ve been moved toward seeking help before hateful words or murder…It’s just a theory and a theory I don’t know if I can achieve. We all have mountains to move, some are Everest, some are really more of a bunny hill. The size of the mountain doesn’t matter, it’s how we speak to it that does. Here in America we have way too many Everests.

Let your hearts be broken by that which breaks the heart of God.

My heart breaks on a daily basis lately. Hence this post.

Are you capable of empathizing with ‘irregular people’? Please let me know how.

TIA

 

How to be Beautiful, Part 1

Beauty Tip #1:

Lovely, right?

Our beauty, or lack of, is always, merely the reflection of where we are directing our gaze. 

For example:

Beaming with pride for someone else.  I am photographed often in this particular state. I’m a wife, mother, teacher, general “lover of all things sweet and beautiful and good” and I look better when I observe anyone doing even remotely well, and  smiling with every cell. It is a selfless moment, it is a reflection of where I am directing my attention. Beaming with pride looks like this on me and my very patient man: 

In Haiti when we learned how to take a selfie!

more “How to be Beautiful, Part 1”

Black Rock Coffee Bar-A Very Good Place

Black Rock Coffee Bar

We have this great place in my hood to meet for coffee, or to get a little work done with a cup of coffee out among other human beings. The first time I walked into this new place to meet a friend, Kathy (she’s very nice, you should try to meet her there for coffee too), I immediately noticed that I suddenly was in a better frame of mind. I almost never notice things like that, but goodness is obvious here the moment you walk in.

Coffee brings us together, doesn’t it? It’s a bit of a treat. It provides a socially acceptable meeting location for our stimulant fixes.

It’s possible that the late, great, NBC sitcom Friends and Central Perk may have given us this gift of a great way to hang together. Phoebe, Joey, Rachel, Chandler, Ross and Rachel became a family at Central Perk. more “Black Rock Coffee Bar-A Very Good Place”

The Kindness War

“There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”

Stephen Stills 1967

Kindness is at war with evil.

The battle lines are being drawn by celebrities, politicians, comedians, some cats, my next door neighbor. It’s a battle to fight violence, judgement, hatred, intolerance, apathy, by way of being consciously kind.

It’s a victimless war.

It’s a hard time to believe in people right now–between child detention, the constant revelations of the #MeToo movement, the racial, economic and gender-based injustices we witness every day.

It could not be a better time for a movie about Mister Rogers. But, when has there ever been a time when it wasn’t a good idea to listen to a peaceful man? Our family went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor this past weekend. It was a 10 PM showing on a Friday night after a long week. We were in recliners at the Harkins at the mall. I had a glass of champagne to sip during the movie. Our kids came with us, they’re 20 and 22, and we’d all been swimming in 110 heat for most of the day.  Although,It was the perfect storm to sleep from opening to ending credits, no one slept. It was even kinda riveting. It’s a very quiet, beautiful film about a very quiet, beautiful man who embodies unconditional love. He makes seeking kindness first seem easy. It isn’t always. But, Fred Rogers shows that kindness is a choice we can make daily, that feelings are important and valid, and that love, or its vacancy, is the dynamic force behind our actions.

And then there’s Lady Gaga!!! She’s so much more than we were led to believe at her beginning. She is actively speaking out to make a difference in the world she sees. Personally, I see humans in most places trying to change the world by spreading kindness.

Here’s a thing: To be consciously kind takes a little effort, but not nearly as much as hate requires.

Then! Here in Chandler, is my friend Helen. Un-frickin-believable Helen.

If she reads on facebook that I’m sick or injured, which, to put into perspective, I am injured/sick more often than not-that-way, she goes into high alert as to how she can ease my pain. For exp: a coffee mug of George Clooney’s self-portrait (a personal fave), An In-N-Out gift card, root beer, chocolate covered cherries when my father died because he loved those things, anything from Disneyland that involves magic or Tigger. These perfect gifts will just appear on my doorstep, and after Helen ding dong ditches at a speed only a 5 year-old should be able to achieve, I will open the door to see only the evidence of love and compassion sitting in a potted plant. I’m just one of hundreds of people she stalks for goodness.  My daughter, Hannah, calls her S.O.G. for Sister of God. We are humbled by her very nature. S.O.G. you rock.

Let’s be Helen today and do one thing for one person who doesn’t expect or maybe even deserve a little surprise. Even a flower from your yard on their front door is enough. Let me know if you actually do this please!

Your one act of kindness shared can reach the world. This little blog alone is reaching Russia. You have a chance to reach across this huge cultural divide just by saying “Hi.” Or “I put a flower on my neighbors door. They never noticed it…”

Aforementioned cat changing the world…

Neighbors For Good

I see a world where we continually define ourselves by the way in which we are divided.

Our family moved to Chandler, Arizona from Los Angeles 18 years ago. We found a nice house we could almost afford in a safe neighborhood. My husband and I had two small daughters at the time. I suggested leaving L.A. the day helicopters were hovering over our house bellowing repeatedly through a blow horn for everyone to lock all doors and windows and stay inside. An armed robber was thought to be hiding in one of our backyards after shooting the owner of our corner grocery store. I love LA, but life in Chandler has been way less “survival of the fittest.”

The first day of house shopping brought us into 20 identical, beige, stucco houses in 20 different neighborhoods between Scottsdale and Chandler. more “Neighbors For Good”

Just For Today

Maybe just for today we can find a way to offer hope just by being open to someone else’s walk through humanity. In my opinion, this is vitally important because now more than ever, Americans seem to rise up through tragedy just too often to keep going on. 

Jane, a friend of mine from my distant adolescence in California, posted this on Facebook after one of our way too many mass shootings, or maybe it was in response to the divisiveness of our political climate… more “Just For Today”