Monday, August 14, 2017

Why Do I Care If Others are Healthy?

The question came last Saturday morning at the Hyatt Regency in Long Beach. It was at the annual HEAL Zone Resident and Youth Leaders event, which brought together community leaders from around Southern California to discuss strategies to get people to practice "healthy eating, active living."

Sounds pretty purposeful huh? Little did I know how purposeful. It took a specific question to get me there.

During part of the 
proceedings, there came the routine question about our personal reason for attending the conference. Hmmm. Why do I do so much work so that people are healthier in my community?

That made me think of how much time I spend as a volunteer to support other people. I mean on the surface, it didn't really make too much sense. Here I am, a person still looking for real-time work but giving my time and energy for the health of others.

The question made me think of some pretty quick surface answers: so my community is happier, so my community living a better life.

The question made me also think that there must be some deeper and primal reason that existed way below the surface. 

The question made me think, actually, about this one movie called "Hear My Song."

In this film, an English man travels to Ireland to locate a famous singer who had gone underground for tax purposes. The whole movie, the man was trying to find this singer so he could ask him to return to England again. During one intense climactic scene, the English man - who wasn't trusted by those who guarded the singer - was pushed towards a steep cliff and was held by his feet, dangling there head facing down. As he dangled there so close to death, the singer had a chance to finally ask his stalker: "why are you doing this?"

The answers came like the peeling of an onion, one layer at a time.

"I'm doing it for your singing career." (Bullshit.)

"I'm doing for the people!" (Bullshit.)

"I'm doing it for the woman I love. I'm doing it for Nancy." (Bingo)

In this surrender to the deeper truth, the man was brought up from his dangling predicament and thrown onto a nearby lawn, where he laid there in a blissed out state that can only come from the reflection of the deepest truth. 

 So my answers came without me having to be dangling high above the Cliffs of Moher:

"I'm doing it for the community member." (Bullshit.)

"I'm doing it for the health of the city."  (Bullshit.)

"I'm doing it for my mom." (Bingo)

For in the days when my mom was healthy, she would garden. She would love to spend time outside tending the soil, pulling the weeds, and planting some beautiful flowers. There was a time she was indeed quite athletic - playing baseball with the neighborhood kids, playing tennis with me, catching my sister's pitching. This was all before the arthritis. This was all before the brittleness. All before the fall.

Deep down, I never want anyone to be sick. It's too heartbreaking, even for an old kid like me. For the sake of my mother, in honor of her, and in the deep desire to support in others what my mother so desperately needed, I take a stand for everyone's health. It's something in which I can find purpose ... with all my heart.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

So Much That You Care – So Little That You Know

Just when you thought you were stuck. Just when you thought your inability to make a certain celebration or special event was the final say on the matter. Just when you thought there was nothing you could do.

Little do you know.

This is a story of getting out of your way so others in your life can really receive from you in a way you might not imagine possible.

Quick story: I have a pal who was invited to a recent birthday dinner gathering for my wife. Since this man works in a business that has unpredictable hours, all he could say about attending the dinner was his infamous, “I’ll do my best.”

Now, an entire article could be written about the phrase “I’ll do my best.” But we’ll just keep it at his best didn’t include showing up or even communicating after the celebration was over.

Later on, realizing that my wife does enjoy the positive attention surrounding her birthday, I let the man know that overlooking the birthday, simply throwing out a trite “I’ll do my best” and then forgoing any other communication did not offer the care I knew existed in that baby baboon heart of his. In the past, my pal had sent cool celebratory e-mails that my wife enjoyed. Knowing this, I invited him to, without obligation, do something like his fun e-mail messages if he still wanted to lighten another person’s day. In the end, he did send one of those goofy and fun birthday e-mail messages. And it did brighten the day of my wife.

Geewiz! If people only knew. If they only knew how easy it is to make another person smile. If they knew that they did not have to attend a specific event to still have presence and impact. Is it even possible to attend every event to which you are invited? No. But even so, we can all realize that showing up doesn’t have to fall on the precise date that may hold a conflict for us. There is always a way to show up, to be present, to send the care.

Wake up world. Wake up people. You may not be able to be in two places at the same time. But you can – with a bit of creativity, drive and awareness – have your love and care be in many. many places at once.

A Change of Attitude for the Cops


Oh no, not the cops.

You know about these law enforcement officers – hiding behind that billboard sign or bush, speed gun in hand, awaiting for the next false move so they can catch the next unsuspecting victim and hand them a bulky ticket so that the city to which they serve can get that much more fat.
Cops. You know what I’m talking about. The insensitive, moneymakers for the state, finding the smallest disorderly conduct so you can be punished, and so the government machine can be fed more of your money.

Cops – those pigs, those cherry tops, those Officer Krupkes – all of which you have to be on the look out for. Not so you can be law-abiding citizens, but so you can outmaneuver them in the fake dance of law and order.

OK, OK – so this is how I used to look at the police. Pretty dark and dreary huh?

Whenever I traveled the roads and highways, and a black-and-white came up from behind me, I felt my blood pressure rise, my adrenalin surge and my stress increase. I would hold my breath and think, “Oh no, not the police, what will they want?”

Of course, I’ve had my share of encounters being pulled over, mainly for speeding, in the past. So I had real memories – on a practical and cellular level – of the experience of having an officer behind me lead to the stopping of my car and the unfortunate lengthy experience of dealing with a ticket. So my response to seeing any cop anywhere may be understandable.

And yet. A new experience.

The strangest thing happened to me. The other day, I noticed a policeman driving behind me, and my response was: “Oh cool, that’s nice to see.” What? How can that be?

In hindsight, I now can see the cause of the shift of mind, and it’s a valuable experience from which we all may gain insight.

In the time period between my two very different responses, I had started a new video project, one which focused on the potential PTSD that law officers must deal with while on duty. In my keen attention on the needs of the police personnel, I must have made a shift from anger and upset and towards compassion and understanding of the officer’s conditions. In that act of addressing their needs, such an alignment with them closed the gap within my mind.

So these people aren’t just an enemy trying to go after me. These are real men and women on a beat that is highly dangerous for their own physical, emotional and mental well-being. I made the shift in my own mind, and this altered my reality and reactions.

Perhaps such a shift can happen for any of us, and not simply for those wearing badges and carrying speed guns. Perhaps addressing the plight of another, perhaps walking in their shoes if even for just a few moments, can create such a shift – from anxiety to calm, from enmity to unity, from fear to love.

The shift for me was profound, conscious and authentic.

It is a shift I wish for any one of us living in conflict with another – even if only in our own minds.