Archive | May, 2015


31 May

There is a popular saying that has several versions. Perhaps you’ve heard it, and maybe used it from time to time. “If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.” It’s an effective axiom that applies to many situations. When in doubt and unsure about something, we can apply this saying, and come up with a seemingly logical answer. It works sometimes. But what if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, but somehow actually isn’t a duck? Then we’ve missed the mark. So how can we really know?

People can appear to be standoffish and aloof when they don’t mean to. Perhaps they seem to be rude because they look away when we say hello, and won’t initiate conversation when others are around. Or they may seem to be arrogant because they tend to keep themselves apart from the group. Sometimes all of these things are true – sometimes they are standoffish, aloof, and arrogant. They are ducks. But what if someone acts this way because they are just very shy? What if it’s hard for them to interact with others? They tend to hide and don’t initiate contact because it’s not something they are comfortable with. It takes some time and understanding to figure out what is really going on with those around us. Before we start labeling them, we should probably get all the facts.

People are complex and generally don’t tell everyone everything that is going on in their lives. They keep things to themselves because they are personal, and may be difficult to talk about. They may seem to be secretive. Others may be intimidated by large group activities. There is too much going on, and it makes them uncomfortable. They may seem anti-social, when actually they just don’t like big events. And there are those who are always the first to leave the party, and don’t ever stay long. Some may think they are unfriendly because they don’t hang around to socialize. But there may be a reason they need to get home that they haven’t shared.

It’s important that we take a wide view when interpreting personal expression. Today if you find yourself making judgment calls based on what you’re seeing at a superficial level, stop for a moment and think again. Things may be far different than they seem. Give the benefit of the doubt. There is always more to the story than we know. Be the one who extends friendship and acceptance when others are labeling ducks. “If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Well, it is – sometimes. But be careful. Sometimes it’s not a duck at all.


Getting There

30 May

Each day brings with it opportunities for growth and experience. Sometimes those opportunities are fun, sometimes they’re not, sometimes we ignore them, and sometimes we embrace them. It changes from day to day. But as we go along, there will be things we want to learn and gain. We may want to extend ourselves more. We may want to change our professional lives, or our academic success. We may want to be more social or more welcoming. The list is endless, and there are a lot of things we can pursue if we want to. But learning new behaviors, and changing personal patterns isn’t always easy. Before we begin, we have to really want the change. We have to really want the growth. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, and we have to be diligent if we want to succeed.

It is said that our reach should exceed our grasp. We should be seeking beyond what we have accomplished. When we are reaching for something new, whatever that is, it’s a stretch. We have to push ourselves in a new direction. It may feel uncomfortable at first but like stretching our bodies, the more we do it, the further we can reach. We probably won’t succeed on our first attempt, but if we keep stretching, keep reaching, we will get there. This takes discipline and patience. The change may be slow, but if we work on it and keep our eyes on the goal, it will get easier to stay on track. And if we continue each day to move just a tiny bit closer, we will reach our destination. We will get to the goal, and we will be successful.

Often when we decide we need a change, we want it immediately. We can clearly see where we want to be, and waiting for it can be frustrating. Learning to get there can be hard. We can feel awkward and ungainly as we figure it out, and fine tune exactly how to go forward. Reaching beyond our grasp is challenging, but with patience, we can succeed.

Today if you are reaching for something that has eluded you, if you are trying hard to make a change that seems just out of your reach, keep stretching. Give yourself time. The goal is attainable. You’ll get there. And once you’ve succeeded, your confidence will soar. You can do anything. Keep reaching. You’re almost there.

Face in the Wind

29 May

Human beings are complicated. Each one of us is different and unique. That uniqueness gives the world depth and interest, but it can also bring difficulty as we try to understand one another, cooperate with one another, and love one another. Most of us know who we are, what we want, and how we relate and react, but understanding that in others can be tricky. It takes patience and it takes time. When you add difficult circumstances and bad decisions to the mix, we may face trials that are very difficult, and we may feel daunted. Sometimes, because of our differences and the complex nature of this life, we can get into situations that are extraordinarily hard for us. When those come, we may think we can’t face them.

When we get into situations that we don’t understand, situations that hurt us, situations that are confusing and make us feel bad, we can feel lost. It’s hard to understand. Sometimes we aren’t sure which way to go. We need direction. We need inspiration. We need help to navigate and go forward. And sometimes we don’t think we can get through it. It’s too hard. It’s just too much. And trying to navigate any difficult situation when we’re convinced we can’t do it just makes it harder.

The truth is that there is nothing that will come to us that is so complex and difficult that we can’t face it. Nothing. No matter what comes to us, even the really difficult things, the really horrible things, we can face them. It will take time, and courage, but we can figure them out. We can overcome them. We may need help, and if we do, we should seek it. We can get help, we can get advice, we can think about the issue, and eventually we can solve it. All of us have been through trying times. And we will undoubtedly have more of them before we leave this life. Each trial brings experience, understanding, and growth. It would be nice if we could get all we need without trials and problems in our lives, but that is not the case. And so, we must face the hard times. We must put our faces in the wind, and walk forward. And the good news is that we can.

Today if you’re going through something hard, something really difficult, have faith. You will overcome this. You will succeed. The other side is there, waiting for you. Go forward one step at a time. Take your time. Have patience. This is just a moment. It will not last forever. Your peace will return, and you will be so much stronger after this trial has passed. Hold on. Be brave. There is nothing you can’t face. There is nothing you can’t do. You can do this.

What if?

28 May

Have you ever had a near miss where the hit would have been devastating? For instance, a car pulls right in front of yours, and you have to slam on the breaks, and just before you hit it you stop. Or you slip going down the stairs, and at the last minute are able to grab the rail – just in time. Or maybe you’re at a ball game, and a wild ball whizzes past your head just as you bend forward. Near misses. What if you hadn’t been able to stop, and you hit that car going so fast? What if you had fallen all the way down the stairs to the tile floor below? What if you hadn’t bent over just as that baseball came flying at your head? Near misses are frightening. Looking back at them on the other side can shake us. We wonder, what if?

Our lives are filled with “what ifs.” A thousand things could go wrong. If we think about all the possibilities of what could end in disaster, and how many things could misfire and lead to destruction, we may begin to wonder how on earth we’ve survived for so long. Everything can turn in a moment. In a fraction of a second, everything could change. It’s unsettling to think about, but thankfully, so far, we’re still here.

In our lives we can become complacent. We have our routines, we do our stuff, we take care of things, and generally we don’t  really think about the risks of what could go wrong. If we thought about every danger that could happen, it could keep us from moving forward. After all, we really can’t be successful at anything if we’re afraid of everything, so we just soldier on, and try not to think about the “what ifs.” We assume that everything will pretty much work out, and most of the time it pretty much does. But sometimes it doesn’t. And then everything changes. We can’t predict what is coming our way. We can only deal with it when it arrives. And sometimes the “what ifs” happen to us all.

There are no guarantees for any of us. Since we don’t know what lies ahead, perhaps we shouldn’t take a single moment for granted. Perhaps we should be more thankful for each day we have that goes well. Every single day that we get to do what we want, every single day that things go well, every single day that we survive – we should be grateful.

Today, think about all the blessings you have in your life. There are a lot of them. Don’t take any of them for granted. We have a lot to be grateful for. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, but you have today. It’s a wonderful gift to have today. Don’t forget that. Make it count. And don’t forget to be thankful for it.

You Never Know

27 May

Some years ago I had a neighbor who loved her flower garden. She found great pleasure in planting lovely flowers around her home, and was always scouring the greenhouses for something new. One year, she had three children in college, and her budget was very tight. She told me she couldn’t afford to buy anything new for a while, including flowers, which was disappointing. But she said she would be fine because her garden was full and beautiful already, and it was.

One day I saw her sitting on her front porch, and walked over to say hello. She told me she had just returned from the store and had seen some gorgeous, double blossom, red hollyhocks she just adored. “I wanted them so badly,” she told me, “but I just can’t spend the extra money right now. When every penny counts you have to count every penny. It was so hard to walk away! They were so beautiful!” She laughed at how much she wanted the new flowers, and we sat and chatted for a while.

Later that summer I saw her in her yard tending her lovely garden, and I walked over to see her. She was on her hands and knees weeding, so I joined her, and together we began cleaning out her flower bed. I saw a thick, green stalk growing out of the soil and wasn’t sure if it was a weed or not, so I asked her about it. She looked at it, pondered for a moment, and said, “I don’t know what it is. It looks like celery.” I thought, “Celery? Does that grow wild?” Since we weren’t sure what it was, we decided to let it grow, and see what happened.

A couple of weeks later, my neighbor appeared at my door all excited. “You have to come and see!” she exclaimed. I had no idea what the excitement was all about but she grabbed my arm and pulled me along until I was in her yard. When we got there she pointed at her flower bed and the “wild celery” we had let grow. There before my eyes was a tall hollyhock stem with bright red buds all over it. “How did that happen?” I asked her. “I don’t know,” she said. “I just came out to do some weeding and there it was. It’s a double blossom, red hollyhock! Just like the one I couldn’t buy at the store!” I stood there staring at the plant, in wonderment. We laughed, and she said she figured it got there from seeds blown by the wind, or maybe bird droppings had planted it for her. Whatever brought it, she was beyond delighted.

As time went by, that one hollyhock became a whole flowerbed full of gorgeous red blooms. Every time I passed her house and saw them I thought about how they just appeared out of nowhere, and to someone who wanted them so badly. She lovingly tended them, and gleefully told the story of how she got them again and again.

We never know what will come to us in this life. Every day brings surprises of one sort or another. Some surprises are difficult, but some are wonderful, like my friend’s hollyhocks. Every day has potential for something new to come to us. Today, look for a surprise that may come your way. It may be quiet, so you’ll have to listen, and it may be small, so you’ll have to watch. But there will probably be something surprising for you if you just take the time to notice. This life is a wonderful gift. Every day is a blessing. And perhaps the best surprise of all is that we get to have another day to enjoy it!