Sunday, November 26, 2017

A season of kindness

Thanksgiving is over. It seems that Christmas trees have already brightened many homes. The shopping frenzy has begun. My friend Jo Anne joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. With tummies full to bursting, we all settled into conversation. All of us swore to never go Black Friday shopping. So on Friday morning I was surprised to receive a text from Jo Anne saying that she decided to return something she bought at the outlet mall. Contrary to the conversation the night before, she wanted us to go to head out into the chaos. Well, we knew it was Black Friday, but more than that, we knew how much fun we have shopping together. Conversation and laughter kept us company on the twenty-eight mile drive. Before we could even see the mall, let alone the off-ramp, we maintained the mighty speed of a Belgian mare pulling a full load of straw through a mud pit. For the next hour and forty five minutes we looked for a parking place. Hm, seemed like a decent idea when we left home. As we shopped, people plowed mindlessly into one another, others walked side by side five across, doors opened and smacked passer-byers (? so many options so I make up my own spellings). We stood in lines, dodged children set loose by unconcerned parents and found that rudeness was alive and in full swing at the mall.

It was indeed a study of humanity.  A lesson in behavior lacking the smallest amount of concern for others. Kindness seemed to take a holiday, and, indeed, I realized why it was referred to as black. I have a weird tendency to love crowds like this. They offer an opportunity to change the worn-out, stressed workers and shoppers by a mere smile or kind word. Maybe I wasn't there to shop. Giving thanks and encouragement to store employees, telling an exhausted mother that her child is beautiful, holding a door for a man and watching his startled face, telling someone standing in front of a mirror that she looks lovely. Yes, it was my day of shopping for people. A day to make black warm and loving.

Christmas is approaching. My grandchildren are making cards for the family. Well, Emma made fifteen. Nolan made three and informed me that he was done. It is a time of thinking of others and not just the presents we will buy and the celebrations lining up on the calendar. It is a time to think outside the family and to embrace a world needing to be uplifted. Please remember that those children in your lives learn by your example, the very person you show them every day. They think, they understand, they have their own thoughts that are shaped by the experiences that surround them.  Forget the presents. Forget the parties. Forget the bah-humbugs. This is indeed a season of goodwill. A time to set in motion actions that are not just for the holiday.

On Facebook I posted a story that I think is a good lesson in looking for the positive when there seems to be so much negative. It is a story about you and me and the world we can create together. It is about changing from black/white into a world of color.

The bus driver was a tired school bus driver. He didn't pay much attention to the kids. They got on, they got off. He looked straight ahead until he was rid of his load of noisy children. The last day of school before break, when I picked up the twins, Nolan bounded off the bus yelling "Happy Thanksgiving!" We got over to the car where the kids wait to wave at the bus driver as we always did. He stopped, opened his door and motioned to me. "What's the name of that boy with glasses?" he asked. I told him. "He is a great kid. He is something else. You've got a good one there." From the very beginning, Nolan always said good-bye when he exited the bus. Gradually, over the next couple months, the bus driver started nodding when Nolan pursued his exit conversation. Now when the bus pulled away, the driver waved back at the waiting twins. I am thankful that we can change the world with kindness one person at a time. Even if we are only five.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

All hands on deck

Hands. The one appendage that is used the most and gets the least amount of recognition. Today I present to you HANDS. Well, I'm sure that got your attention. You see, these words are appearing because my hands are busy doing what they enjoy. Type away, Pam!

Yes, I have had a fascination with hands since childhood. One of the first things my mother did to entertain me was to draw around my hands. Once the imprint was on paper, she would put little faces on each fingernail. It was a way to keep her little one quiet during church, but unbeknownst to her, it was by her hands that I learned. At this time of the year, our imprinted hands with faces took on a new look. My little hands became turkey feathers.

If I sat next to Dad, my hands turned into a church with and without people. He also played the game of pointing to one of my fingers in my clasped hands asking me to move it. Being poorly coordinated and lacking in concentration, I struggled. He was also pretty good at the game of alternating hands in a pile then pulling the bottom hand out to place on top. His hands were about twice the size of mine, and he showed no mercy.

When I had children, I was captivated by their small hands. First, a hand wrapped around my finger. Then a child eager to walk beside me reaching for my hand. Watching those hands grow till one day hold their own children. And now, my grandchildren reach for my hands, and I am doubly blessed. I am still in awe when I look down and see our hands together. My heart swells with love, knowing that each time is a gift to savor. Hands that will grow and grow away. Hands that reached for me when they were babies, hands that pulled my hair and grabbed my nose. Hands that held the hands of the other twin. Precious.

Years ago I found in the family Bible outlines of my grandmother's hands along with those of my mother at various ages. I hardly knew my grandmother, but seeing these hand prints gave me a little insight into the woman who took time to play with her daughter. Her large hands are now closer to the size of mine. In some strange way, I feel connected.

Our hands are full of memories. They are full of love. They are full of talent. They are helping hands and sometimes hands that need help. We clasp them in prayer, and wipe away tears. They welcome old and new friends and help those who need a hand. They applaud excellence and sometimes save a life. They throw a ball and play the piano. We can hand on goodwill and aid because our hands are indeed hand-y. With all of this to contemplate, I will wave farewell. I hope this has been a hands-on column.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Out the front door

A friend once told me that she loved living in her area, because it was away from crime and the cities. It is a quiet community that hasn't changed that much for generations. The people live in the same neighborhoods where their ancestors resided. They marry local people. Their children go to the same schools. Nothing changes but the clothing with the seasons and the babies replacing those who have passed.

Well, as we all know, that is not reality. It certainly is not part of our religious background that tells us to go out into the world and to love all people regardless of their color, their beliefs, their lifestyles. We are told not to judge and to be lights unto the world. It isn't just about prayers. It is about us as God's hands. Seems to me that we all are failing on that topic.

This isn't just about the shooting in Texas but much more. It is about the people who criticize, who are close-minded and who allow their religion, party affiliations, and families to dictate what they believe. We have come through this last year with hate being allowed to have a voice. A time when being mean to someone is accepted and our values lowered to accept things we never would under different circumstances. We joke about harassment saying women are just pushing the issue. We ignore when one more African American or Hispanic person is brutalized. We ignore pleas from other countries for help. We have an ego that just doesn't stop! Where is the heart, the love, the compassion and understanding that we all know we are supposed to have? Yet, we believe lies and ignore injustice, because it happens elsewhere.

Please, I implore you to become part of the system and not just an audience member. Vote, vote, vote. Don't vote party.  Vote for the welfare of ALL people. Call your people in congress and let a voice be heard. Support organizations for peace and equality. Support mental illness agencies. Embrace and understand those outside of your community. Don't support an issue if you do not know all sides of it. Don't believe what you read unless you check out all sides of the issue by doing your own research. Rethink what a gun can do and the necessity of it. Don't be a pawn. Be a player.

When I grew up, no one talked seriously about family problems and how to help loved ones in need to find their own help. I know in our house Mom tried to solve problems; however, I learned from working with kids at risk that we are to help them help themselves by finding resources for them to pursue and encouraging them along the way. We can't just shut out problems. Be active. Not passive.

A small community not so unlike where I grew up lost 26 people in just a few minutes. As many are in the hospital. We are not communities separated by state or country or religion or sex or belief or color. We are a united world. Americans are no better than those in other countries. We have a right to protest when we are hurt and no one seems to listen. We need to listen, folks. We need to stop judging. We need to look out the front door and see the bigger world. Please.