Wondering Through the Day

11 Oct

Some days you wonder where the time goes. Some days you wonder where your focus has gone to. Some days you wonder how you got through the day without strangling someone, but how often do you wonder how blessed you are? Lately, I am almost overwhelmed with wonder. I have been reading stories of the Syrian refugees who are stepping onto a boat that may or may not carry them to a safer place. They are risking death and the death of their children to flee their homes to arrive in a country where they don’t speak the language and may not be welcome. They don’t even have enough money to buy a cup of coffee, and whatever your views on their legal or illegal status, stop for a moment and think about that. I cannot imagine being so afraid for my life that I would risk getting into an overloaded boat with my children not knowing if we will live to see the next day. I don’t even want to wonder what that feels like. When the Jews were fleeing Hitler, did we send them back to Germany, Austria and Poland? I don’t know. I am almost afraid to know, and I hope we have learned and evolved since then. When they get to what they hope will be freedom, they are put in camps with little to no sanitation and no grocery stores, markets or gardens to feed them. It o. I now have a different perspective that ccurs to me that I might throw out more food than they eat. There was a time I would feel shame and guilt about that I’ll get to soon.

I also know a couple who is sitting in a hospital after their child’s second open heart surgery, and their baby is not even two. I know what it is to have a child with extraordinary needs. I do not know what it is like to have one in this situation. I do not know what it’s like to make the decision to be with my child or to work to pay my bills. I wonder how they will recover financially from this because I know how difficult it can be to overcome the financial hurdles of huge hospital bills and expensive medications. I wonder why drug companies, who already make so much money, seem to gouge those who struggle most, and yet, there are programs through the drug companies that help financially, if you know to ask. For ten years, we didn’t know to ask and I wonder how much we paid that we didn’t have to.

Then there is another kind of wonder. It is the wonder of seeing the human spirit at its best. It is watching a video of an eight year old boy who has cerebral palsy finish a triathlon. If you haven’t seen the video, here is the link to watch it: http://cbsn.ws/1Itm9cX. I watched that boy leave his walker to cross the finish line unaided and fall not once, but twice and get up to finish what he started. I watched the photographer taking his picture as he made his way to the finish line make a move to help and then realize that the boy would have been disqualified if he received help, so the photographer stepped back and let the boy struggle to have his moment despite the monumental effort it took. I have sat in wonder watching other parents do the same for their extraordinary child. They hide their fear and encourage when they want to step in and make the struggle go away. They hide the pain they feel of every failure so that they can encourage their child to succeed. They build their child up and send them into a world when they would much rather keep their child safe at home, and they do whatever is necessary to give that child a good life, an empowered life, and they sit in wonder as parents who struggle with bigger issues than their own make it look easy and parents who have children with no extraordinary needs complain about the littlest things.

I wonder how people can take their blessings for granted, but then I remember I was one of those people. I didn’t understand anyone’s struggles but my own and I didn’t want to. I thought everyone could just do something to create a better life and if they didn’t, it was their own fault. I was young and judgmental and completely unaware of the privileged life I lived. I don’t apologize for that because we need people of privilege. We need people who know what it’s like to have a good life so that they can help others have it too. You see, I don’t believe we need government programs to change our country and the world. I believe WE need to do that. We need to stop posting about what everyone else should be doing about the struggles in the world and do it ourselves. If you have a passion for the homeless, help out in a shelter. If you have a passion for teens, help out at a boys/girls club or a runaway shelter. If you know someone who needs financial help and you have the means to help them, set up a charitable site for them or just send them money. When you help others, you learn to be compassionate. You learn their stories and you become grateful for your own. You realize if everyone’s challenges were thrown into a pile, you would take yours back.

So many say that we need to take care of our own first, and I agree with that on many levels. We need to be the best providers, parents and people we can be, but at some point you have to make a choice to focus on what you can get or what you can give. If you’re a Christian, Jesus told the wealthy to give up half of what they own and give it to the poor. I’m not even asking you to do that. I’m just asking you to give something. I will admit something to you. We buy lottery tickets now and then, especially when the jackpot gets above $100 million. It’s so much fun to think of what we would do with that kind of money, and the last time we bought a ticket with my family around, one of my sons said, “Well, if we do win, we’ll only get half of what’s left over after taxes because Mom will give half of it away.” At first it sounded like an insult, but when I looked at my son there was a teasing pride on his face, and I knew he would enjoy giving that money away as much as I would. As a parent, you wonder if your children are paying attention. After that comment, I knew for sure that they were. You see, we live in an area of great affluence. When we moved into our home, the median income in our small city of 30,000+ residents was $107,000, and we were making less than half of that at the time. My children grew up with other children who routinely traveled the world, wore high end clothing, always had the newest electronic game or gadget and often got cars their own parents couldn’t afford for their 16th birthdays. We used to joke about living in the slums of our city, although most of the homes are worth over $100,000 and ours is one of the bigger ones.

On the other side of that coin, though, we have family members that live below the poverty line. If it weren’t for family help, they could be out on the street. They deal with mental illness while trying to raise families. We have parents who have practically abandoned their children and left them for grandparents to raise. We have addicts in recovery and some who aren’t. My children have seen the struggle of those who have not had the privileges they have had, and it has made them appreciate their lives instead of bemoaning what they lack. They have also seen some of those with the least give the most and some of those with the most give the least. They understand that when we give away $25 to three or four causes or people we hold dear, it is the same as others giving hundreds or thousands. They also understand that the time we spend helping others has value. No, they are not perfect, but they see the world differently because of the balance of privilege and struggle in their world, and I believe it will make them better members of the human race.

Lately I have been wondering about gun violence in my country. Those outside the US seem to think we are a violent people ready to explode at any second. It hurts my soul to know that because that is not who I am or who I am raising my children to be. I understand those who are afraid of guns and want them gone because they want to feel safe. I also understand those who have had guns their entire lives and have used them to feed their families and serve in the military or as first responders who feel more fearful about not having guns to protect them. What I think about most of all is what goes on inside the mind of someone who could do so many human beings such great harm. They obviously think that taking another’s life and often their own will solve something. Several of them have been under care for mental illness, and many fear the backlash against others who are under care. There has also been talk of some of the perpetrators being on the autism spectrum, and those who are on the spectrum and those who love them fear backlash as well, but what if we look at this all from another perspective? What if we stop blaming and start treating everyone with compassion and love? When I was an angry young person, I blamed everyone else for my problems. If my husband or children would just do what I asked, I wouldn’t be angry. If people would just live like me, then I could be happy. What a load of crap. Who am I to tell everyone around me and even those I don’t know that they have to change so that I can feel better? What a bunch of narcissistic bs that is! One of the best things I ever heard about that subject came from Rita Davenport. She basically said that no one got up this morning and wondered how they could tick you off today, and I would add that if they did, that says much more about them than it does you.

Yesterday I read the following Huffington Post blog post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-paul-evans/how-i-saved-my-marriage_b_6958222.html about a marriage in trouble and how it turned around. Although it’s marriage based, the basic premise holds true in every struggle in life. One question can change it all for most people. Instead of feeling put out, infringed upon and unseen, ask what you can do today to make “it” better. If you and your spouse are at odds, ask them what you can do to make their day better and don’t do it for just one day. Do it consistently for a week or as the author of this article did, for a month. Things will change. I did this many years ago as a stay at home mom who was feeling incredibly taken for granted. Instead of griping about everything I had to do, I started asking how I could bless my family that day. It took a while, but I started to look at what I did around my house as a blessing for everyone instead of a burden for me. I began to see doing laundry as blessing my family with clean clothes. I began seeing that spending a few minutes every day sprucing up the toilet and sink in the bathroom was a blessing for me, not something I did as a martyr to give my family a clean place to use the bathroom. Yes, we did have to have some conversations about bathroom etiquette, and yes, my boys were told that if that etiquette wasn’t followed that they would be responsible for taking care of the toilet for a week, but it was said in a calm, rational way instead of mom turning into a screaming banshee because no one respected what she did. It took a while, but life began to shift, and then came the tipping point. I read an article about a school in my city where every child was on assistance. I took my donation to the school and wept as I listened to stories about children who shared toothbrushes if they had them at all, who may not have a bed and who owned only one pair of underwear. I could not look into the faces of those children and blame society or their parents for any of it. They didn’t ask to be born into their circumstances, nor did their parents. I remembered the judgmental comments of my youth that you could be poor and still be clean, and I understood that if you cannot afford to buy a second pair of underwear for your child, you certainly weren’t going to spend money on cleaning products. How could you? From far away, when reading an article, you can easily blame society, the government and people. While standing in the midst of it, you realize society, the government and “people” are not the answer. You are the answer. The way you live your life is the answer, and I am changing more every day. If something touches my soul, it is my responsibility to do something, and I am. I recycle, not because of climate change, but because I love this planet that I live on. I give money to people who need it, not through agencies that only give pennies of every dollar to the cause, but to programs that are dedicated to helping those who need help now without amassing huge salaries for themselves. I wish I could give more, but I realize that even $5 can help, and I feel so good knowing I have eased the burden of another human being. I carry homeless bags in my car filled with packs of tissues, snacks, first aid kits and water and hand them out as I travel past street corners where the homeless regularly stand. I know many of them are addicts, alcoholics and/or mentally ill but every time I’ve stopped, I’ve seen nothing but gratitude from those in need.

On a larger scale, I write and share what I’m learning as I go. I’ve stopped being angry for the most part, and when I am, I have this awesome husband who reminds me of who I really am and who asks me how he can make my life better that day. I also have this life filled with people of privilege and struggle to remind me how blessed I am and to put my struggles into perspective. I have the blessing of encountering those who struggle to see that blessings are always there, even in the worst of times because if you look for it, people can surprise you in the best of ways. For the little school in my city, the response of the people who live here was so overwhelming, the school is now referring donations to other schools in need. That is the planet that I want to help create. It’s why I no longer wonder about the “bad” stuff that happens because I know it is a call to someone or maybe even several someones to step up. It is an opportunity for someone to contribute to humanity and become more human in the process. It softens the bad and enhances the good, and I no longer wonder why it happens. I just get to work, changing me and the world. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being you and I wonder what you will do today to make the world a better place.

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