A Survival Guide for Uncertain Times Week 2: Communicate

Ponte che collega le persone

“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.” –Mother Teresa

A few weeks ago, I attended the New York City Women’s March. When I got home, I received a call from a friend who voted for Donald Trump.  He felt the Women’s March was divisive and portrayed those who had voted for Donald Trump as horrible people. He said he was not a horrible person simply because he voted for Donald Trump over Hilary Clinton. He told me he had seen on the news signs from the march that proclaimed, “He is not my president,” and “Dump Trump.” He heard a clip from Madonna in Washington, DC that he found violent and upsetting. I tried to express to him how wonderful the March was for me and how the people at these marches care about important issues facing the world today. But my friend could only focus on the negatives he has seen on the news.

As I lay awake in bed that night, I felt overwhelmed that my relationship with this dear old friend had become so argumentative. The next day I called him back. The first thing I said was, “Donald Trump is President of the United States.  I don’t want to discuss the election and I just want to focus on what is happening today.  Let’s talk facts.”

As the discussion continued, the things my friend said to me sounded like a string of Fox News sound bites. I probably sounded to him like a tape of MSNBC sound bites!  Again, we were getting nowhere.  My friend and I took a pause. We each Continue reading…

Soothing the Pain of Rejection When “Mother Teresa” Unfriends You on Facebook

Close up on a man and a woman holding hands at a wooden table

.that love is not what you want, it is what you are. It is very important to not get these two confused. If you think that love is what you want, you will go searching all over the place. If you think love is what you are, you will go sharing it all over the place. The second approach will cause you to find what the searching will never reveal.  —Neale Donald Walsch

As we all know, Facebook’s biggest perk is being able to keep in touch with people that we knew long ago or just met this morning. However, our interactions on Facebook can also bring the feelings of REJECTION when people you know UNFRIEND YOU. I was quite unaware of the impact of the “unfriend” button until a few days ago. A friend of mine, whom I can easily describe as one of the most giving and altruistic people I have ever met, recently won a very prestigious award for her work. While we are not best friends, we have done some nice charity events together and I thought we had a strong relationship. So the other day, I went on Facebook to share news of her award with my friends and I noticed that she is no longer my Facebook friend. What did I do to be UNFRIENDED by the closest I would ever come to someone like “Mother Teresa?”

Continue reading…

The Joy Of Giving

Hand Giving Love Symbol

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.  Mother Teresa

A few years ago, I found $300 dollars on the street. I knew someone must have dropped it but I had no way of finding him or her. I gave one hundred dollars to my friend who was with me and I placed the other two hundred dollars in the side pocket of my handbag. For months I walked around with the money in my handbag not finding anything worthy of my spending those two special hundred dollars bills. After a few months of holding the money, I was walking by a deli and a homeless man asked me for money. I paused and looked into his eyes and I felt them pierce through my heart. It seemed like the perfect moment to use some of the found money. I asked him if he would like a meal. He replied he’d like coffee with whole milk and one sugar, and a turkey sandwich on club with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato and American cheese with the bread slightly toasted. I was definitely startled by his detailed order but I went immediately into the deli to buy his meal. It was lunch hour and there were several people in front of me. I was able to get the coffee with milk and sugar quickly but needing the slightly toasted bread would be the barrier to my quick exit. I stood there impatiently the entire time and it took about 25 minutes to get his complete order. I walked outside and gave the man his food. He barely looked at me and muttered thank you and I walked away. I was joyful that I bought this man lunch, but I felt slightly annoyed by his elaborate order and the time it took to get the food, and then by his muted reaction to receiving it.

When I got home I made myself a cup of tea with milk and honey and ate some imported chocolate. As I ate my elaborate snack, I realized there is no reason why the homeless man shouldn’t want coffee with milk and sugar and a special sandwich. I thought he is no different than me, as I sat there eating my special chocolate. And how dare I ask if he wants a meal and then expect him to limit what he may want and how long it should take me to get it? Was I really saying I would help you as long as you do it within my boundaries and say thank you the way I want you to? The incident made me reflect on what is my intention when I give and how open is my heart.

Most of us have enjoyed the act of giving to a friend, family member, charitable organization or even a stranger. But I think sometimes, even though we are giving with the best intentions, we expect things to go a certain way or to get something in return. We may expect that people will receive our gifts, favors or donations graciously, thank us in an appropriate manner or that our giving will have a certain impact on an individual or an organization. We also have an expectation about the time and effort it will take to give to someone else. While there is nothing wrong with having expectations, it really can limit our joy of giving and the ultimate experience for everyone involved. Our expectations often taint the act of giving because we can never know how things will be received or how a situation will turn out. It often can lead to anger or disappointment if the person we helped doesn’t return the kindness or appreciate the gift the way we want them to. This also may lead to us giving less to a particular person or organization, not because of their need is less but because of how we felt when our expectations didn’t pan out.

But when we can release our expectations and help another person with the pure intention of just giving, it can be one of the most thrilling aspects of our lives, even when we hear or see no reaction or get nothing in return. Then we can just focus on helping another human being to alleviate some of their daily suffering or spreading some joy. I’m not suggesting that we remove all boundaries and let people take advantage of us; I’m merely stating that most of us can probably give a little more to the people in our lives without thinking what we want or expect in return. With a more open and giving heart, we can create a ripple of kindness and love in the universe – if even for just one moment. As Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

As I am finishing this blog, my telephone just rang. It was an elderly lady that lives in my building. She is in a rehabilitation center because of a fall a few weeks ago, and she asked if I can pick her up from the center at the end of this week. All I can think in this moment is how lucky I am to be able to help her in her time of need. Maybe I am the one receiving the gift? Just Maybe.

If You Judge People, You Have No Time To Love Them. Mother Teresa

Liebespackerl

A friend of mine just moved away. We weren’t very close and one of the reasons was that I found it very difficult to be with her. She was often complaining about her ex-husband being the cause of all her problems, she was always starting new businesses that she never followed through on and I was not always clear if she was telling the truth. After she left town, I was sitting with a group of women and these women also thought my friend was complicated, but they all had amazing stories of great times with her. She was very spontaneous, funny and loved to go out and live it up. She was also very dedicated to her children. And yet I could not recall one moment that I had with her that was interesting or fun.

Later that day I came across the Mother Teresa quote, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Although I was always trying to help my friend, I realized my judgments about her had interfered with my enjoyment of her company. I am not really sure that I was ever present for her. Was she difficult? Absolutely, but my judgments about what she “needed to do to improve her life” kept me from having a more loving and enjoyable relationship even for just an evening or a moment.

Our judgments interfere with many of our relationships. They give us a sense of righteousness, but sometimes all that is really happening is that we are not getting what we want from the other person or they are not doing what we think is best for them. In fact, judging someone is an easy path. It is much more challenging to be loving, accepting and kind when the person in front of us is not acting the way we want them to. The act of loving is going beyond our “likes and dislikes” and surrendering our judgments so we can freely share our love with another person and celebrate their magnificence and not their failings. I’m not suggesting that we ignore the truth about how we feel someone acted towards us or how they acted in a particular situation, but that instead we also allow ourselves to see the whole person. Often we will find there is so much beauty when we are less judgmental and more loving. We can enjoy the essence of another person and the moment we are sharing together.

So even if we find our mother-in-law is difficult, our best friend is opinionated or our children are not listening or doing well in school, let’s try not to miss out on enjoying what we can with each of them. What could be more important about being human than sharing the warmth and love that resides in our heart? As for my friend, I don’t regret trying to help her, but Maybe when she comes back to town we can go out and just enjoy each other’s company! It could be a blast!