With You In Spirit

For the rest of this week and until next week, I will be with you all in spirit only. I won’t be writing as I won’t be near a computer! The only writing I may do is the old fashioned kind with pen and paper. It will be good for my soul.

Please excuse the absence and know that any comments you make to my blog won’t be approved and emails you may write me won’t get a response until Monday of next week. (I didn’t want you to think that I was ignoring you.) Have a great rest of the week and weekend,everyone!

I’ll leave the candle burning.

(Photo courtesy of pdphoto.org)

An Open Mind

Today someone told me that I am a really open person. This was in response to a conversation we were having about my view on interracial relationships, cultures different from my own, people from different religions and my work. Being in the field of international education certainly exposes me to many people from various walks of life, different customs and cultures, religions, political beliefs and values. Perhaps I was attracted to that field precisely because of my openness.

Today I believe my friend was talking about something deeper than being an open person and that is acceptance: acceptance and a willingness to embrace people different from me, to listen to their point of view, to consider a different way of thinking and to be respectful in the process. I’m referring to acceptance of people as human beings, and not defined by gender, race, nationality, ethnic group, sexual orientation, social or economic class, or whatever label you choose to give someone.

As children growing up, we are “in training” in the development of who we are as persons, what we believe and stand for, and what we value. (In my opinion, this makes parenting the most important job that anyone can ever have. The second most important, in my view, are teachers.) Children depend upon their parents and other adults to teach them and model behaviors and values that lead us to being successful, well-adjusted adults. As children, we certainly don’t have too many choices about the beliefs and exposure to various points of views and to having an open mind unless the influential adults in our lives encourage us to do so. The rules of life are “taught” to us by our parents, other family, school, peers, our religious community or by anyone or anything that is a significant influential factor in our lives. That influence may even be television, music, cell phones and certainly the Internet.

As adults, we always have a choice about being an open person although some people choose not to exercise it. We can choose to look at a person or situation or issue differently. We can decide to have an open mind. I choose to have an open mind. I choose to accept people with different views than my own. This doesn’t mean that they will become my friends, but I choose to accept them anyway. I choose to read whatever interests me. Sometimes I read controversial pieces that I totally don’t agree with, yet the choice is mine to read them so I can gain an insight into that world. I don’t have to agree with it, but I respect people’s rights to be read and heard, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone: that is where I draw my line. (I admit that this line is often fuzzy.)

Having an open mind is so important to understanding one another. I’ve seen my share of closed minds, of people who are so adamant that their belief is the only way to think, that no matter what anyone says or does, they will not budge an inch to consider another point of view. Too often we are conditioned to grow up with the idea that our way is the only way. In the United States, we even see this expressed in two very common perceptions in the “America: Love It or Leave It” mentalities, and with our individualistic values of “Anyone can make it if they try hard enough.”

The problem with these dualistic types of thinking and these “black or white” choices is that there is always a whole lot of gray in the middle and a lot of other colors in the palette! Life is not that simple. Think about it. Have you ever found that you’ve had to defend yourself in a situation where someone has judged you for something they think you did, yet you know that wasn’t how it happened? I am sure most people can relate to this at some point in their lives. The reality is that there is no reality: only our perceptions about what we think the reality is. And our perceptions are based on our values, our culture, and our past experiences that make us “filter” the information in our own way.

As human beings, we all know what it is like to eat and sleep, yet if I were to ask you to describe what we should eat and how much sleep we should get each night, our responses will be very different. We will have all kinds of opinions on this and doctors will also give varying opinions. This is just a simple example of eating and sleeping, a rather non-controversial topic. Just think about if I were talking about abortion, gay rights, or immigration!

One thing I have learned from my work is not to assume that people all have the same perception about the simplest of things. What is an accepted rule of society in one culture may be interpreted as rude or offensive in another. The cultural differences are many in the realm of non-verbal communication such as personal space, style of dress or eye contact, and even more complex are the differences according to context. Do the rules of behavior change if a bride-to-be is meeting her future in-laws, a professional is going for a job interview, or when a person is entering a holy ground? Of course they do and the “rules” of politeness and what is considered acceptable for that culture in different contexts are not always universal, yet often we assume them to be. People know what they learn, even when they are not aware of it. Often times it is when someone is faced with a culture or situation different than their own that one realizes that differences do indeed exist.

So the challenge for me in my work is to figure out where people are at, accepting them right where they are, and then help to create experiences that will open them up to experiencing new ideas and viewpoints which will serve them in their cross-cultural adjustment. A necessary component in all of this is a self-evaluation of the habits, customs, beliefs, behaviors and values of oneself. Knowing, accepting and loving yourself is crucial to knowing, accepting and loving others.

So in the spirit of my theme for today, I’d like my readers to keep an open mind, particularly those from the U.S. and consider taking a short political quiz. What political candidate are you endorsing for President? Can you identify why you like your candidate?

For a very interesting twist, please consider taking the short survey provided by Glassbooth, a non-profit, non-partisan organization. Click on the link to go to their website and take the quiz.

Take the Quiz

Or if you need another incentive, check out the YouTube video about Glassbooth

You may find that the candidate that you are supporting is not the person who most closely lines up with your values. I’d be interested in reading your comments here after you’ve taken the quiz. Did you get the results you thought you would? I invite you to keep an open mind, even if you think you’re mind has already been made up, and take the quiz. The results may surprise you.

Tomorrow I Start

For some time now, I have been saying that I have several books I need to write. Some recent life experiences would make at least one Lifetime movie script alone! The events that took place in this last decade of my life might read like a work of fiction, and if I weren’t such a major character in the story, I probably wouldn’t believe it either!

So tonight I am making the commitment in writing (here on my blog) to start my first book tomorrow. I won’t be writing the book on the blog, but I may reflect on the experience, from time to time. I have several things I really want to write about. Now, the question is: Which do I do first?

I will meditate on it and wake up with my answer tomorrow morning, for sure! Sweet dreams!

Inspiration from a Cell Phone Salesman

This has been around for awhile but I thought I’d post it for those who haven’t yet seen it. Paul Potts, a cell phone salesman whose dream has always been to sing opera, won Britain’s Got Talent competition.

What’s your dream?

When Words Are Not Enough

The following post detours from my usual positive thinking. The urge to express myself in writing outweighed my desire to end on a positive note. I am hopeful, however, that time is on our side.

Words are very powerful. As my fellow bloggers know, we live for the right words to spread out amongst the computer screens, for the books and articles that we read and the conversations we have online. Those of us with family and friends living far away from us know the importance of communicating by telephone. The words that we express on the phone lines can be vital to keeping the relationship alive.

When we can express our words face-to-face, their impact and meaning take on a more profound effect, as the non-verbal aspects of communication can strengthen the conversations and their meanings.

Recently I had a falling out with someone very close to me. We haven’t seen each other since, but have spoken on the telephone many times. Vast amounts of words and varying emotions have been exchanged with each other over the phone, yet I find myself still in the same place: of lacking closure, with a feeling that the relationship is up in the air. It seems that no matter what words I try to use to express to show how deeply sorry I am that we are in this situation, the fact that we have not seen each other really makes the importance of these words take on a greater significance that I’d like them to. All I have are my words and they are not enough.

Perhaps it is the woman in me that longs for this face-to-face encounter, or the professional training that I’ve had as a counselor that makes me want to sit down face-to-face. I know in my heart and soul that in this case, the words we’ve exchanged with each other are not enough. No amount of writing that I can do here or talking I can do on the telephone can replace the face-to-face encounter.

I need the face-to-face. I need the eye contact: that kind of eye contact where you look into each other’s heart and soul and see complete sincerity and love. I need the embrace of a hug and the tender touch of holding a hand, and the warmth of two bodies cuddling closely in tender reconciliation. I need the fire of passion that stirs within us when we get together, igniting further our spiritual connection. I need verification that “We are worth it.”

The words are not enough.

I’m Thankful

Thanksgiving is a family time for many, myself included. This year’s holiday is a bit different for me as my immediate family is not together. One daughter is with me but the other is 1,000 miles away.

Last night that daughter so far away was in a car accident. The weather was bad but the reality was that she got distracted while driving and doesn’t really remember how she went through that red light. Judging from the account over the phone, it’s a miracle that she and the other woman were not more seriously hurt, if you consider the damage done to both vehicles.

The scare of the event reemphasized for me how much I have to be thankful for. It’s the people in my life who are important to me, our relationships with one another and the love we share. The car can be repaired, replaced or even sent to the dump! What is important is that my daughter will be ok.

So on this day of Thanksgiving, I give thanks to God that both my daughter and the driver of the other vehicle walked away from the accident. I thank God that my youngest daughter arrived here safely and that we just had a wonderful meal together. I am thankful for all the wonderful blessings of thanksgiving that were sent to me today from other family and friends. I could go on and on, but would rather spend today with my daughter, so I wish all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Appreciation in the Spirit of Thanksgiving

I recently received an email from one of my former elementary school teachers who I wrote about in my blog post called Memorable Teachers. All three of those teachers are still around, so he took the liberty of sharing my post with them. He said that I “sure made some old teachers really happy.” My 3rd grade teacher cried when my post was read to her and asked that copies be made for her children.

Although my intention in sharing the post with one teacher was to show my appreciation, the feedback I received only deepened my conviction that we need to tell the people in our lives that they are appreciated and why. If whttp://www.blogger.com/ihttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifmg/gl.link.gife knew how important this simple gesture could be in the life of someone, we’d probably do it more often.

We are reminded at this time of year to be grateful for the people in our lives. So start a new habit this Thanksgiving time and take it a step further: tell someone how much they are appreciated and why. Commit to appreciating the people you care about everyday. Don’t wait for next Thanksgiving or for making it a habit as part of your New Year’s Resolutions! Start today and make a commitment to finding someone to be grateful for each day and tell them why!

For another beautiful example of the impact of this simple gesture to get you motivated, please click on the title page of this posting to view the movie from Simple Truths LLC.

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone!

Airport Delays and Cancellations: Choose the Right Thoughts

As a seasoned airline traveler, I have seen my share of airport delays, cancellations and unexpected overnight stays in airport hotels, most of which were not reimbursed. Having experienced a gamut of delays and cancellations caused by empty aircraft, air traffic control congestion, weather-related and the occasional mechanical malfunction of the plane itself, I thought I had seen it all.

My list called “Reasons Flights Get Delayed or Cancelled” just got longer this past weekend. On a quick weekend trip back to Iowa, I was anxious to get there on time, as it was to be a short weekend trip for a family event on Saturday morning. I took Friday off from work so I could catch an early flight out on Friday.

My experience in flying has been that the early morning flights are the best bet of actually reaching your destination on time as the day is just beginning, the planes are usually already on the ground, having “slept” there overnight, along with the flight crew, plus the usual air traffic control congestion gets worse as time goes on as the rest of the country is “waking up.” Many business travelers fly in the morning and then again at the end of day, so chances are that early morning flights will be full enough to fly as well.

For the most part, airplane travel into Iowa is rarely served on a direct flight, unless the original destination is a city in a state surrounding Iowa. So this day was no different. A connection would be required in order to reach my destination.

Everything seemed to going smoothly as all passengers were on board and seated, ready for take-off. The plane was very full and all that was left were the few remaining pieces of luggage that the baggage handlers on the ground had to stuff into the baggage department.

As is often the case, I could feel the plane vibrate to the juggling of the luggage being thrown into the compartment down below. When it stopped, it was not but a few minutes later that the pilot announced that we all had to deboard the plane as it wasn’t certain that the plane was safe for flying.

The reason? A baggage handler had driven the cart into the side of the plane! There apparently was damage to the luggage door. In order to assess the damage and to determine if the plane was safe to fly again, we had to deplane, taking all of our possessions with us and either wait it out or find alternative arrangements.

In the anxious scramble to deboard and get into three, long endless lines of people, I heard many people commenting that there was no way they were getting back on this plane as it couldn’t possibly be safe. I called my 800 number to “hold” an alternative flight, rather than stand in the long lines right away.

I watched out the windows, while workers scurried back and forth, surveying the damage, climbing into the compartment, carrying out a dog in a kennel and transporting various tools back and forth. One of the tools looked like a big wrench and another like a big hammer. I couldn’t help but imagine the workers pounding the dents in the door back with that hammer! I chuckled for a moment in the humor of my thoughts.

Yet some people around me were so impatient, worrying out loud that this plane would never make it, including one airline worker herself who had a negative attitude, showing her dissatisfaction non-verbally and stating emphatically that if she were me, she’d get another flight. I slowly felt this faint hint of doubt and insecurity creeping into my thoughts about whether to wait it out until the last possible moment or to go ahead and book myself on another connection which wouldn’t get me to Iowa really late, assuming it went on time.

My doubts and uncertainties quickly turned to an insane insecurity and on impulse, I quickly found myself calling loved ones, to leave messages that I loved them, just in case something went wrong with the plane. As I became aware of how my thoughts could snowball out of control, I was aware of how destructive those thoughts could be, and consciously made it a point to think that I was going to make my connection and get there safely and on time. As I turned my thoughts around, I noticed more and more people also chuckling about what we were watching out the window and I gravitated to a much more friendlier, optimistic airline worker who was giving it her all in assisting customers with a smile and positive attitude. In contrast to her other colleague, she encouraged me to wait a little longer.

In the end, the wait was down to the last possible minute in order for me to make my original connection, but the majority of the plane’s customers had booked themselves on other flights. So when it was announced that we could reboard our plane, I found myself with a first class upgrade as many of the business travelers had moved on to other flights. I had breakfast, flew very comfortably in first class, made my connection with only about a ten minute wait time, and got to Iowa on time. I am grateful that it all worked out, just as my thoughts intended.

So the next time you find yourself in an airport waiting, choose the right thoughts and the right people and circumstances may suddenly surround you. At the very least, you will have a much more pleasant wait than those who spend their time complaining, moaning and giving out negative vibes.

P.S. If you’re ever on a flight where the baggage handler accidentally runs into the airplane with the cart in a collision which delays you, remember that this is caused by what is called “mechanical error,” even though it was really “human error.” Mechanical reasons entitle you to meal tickets and even overnight hotel stays, if required. Happy Thanksgiving!

Acts of Kindness: Bloggers Unite!

On December 17, 2007 I will be participating in a movement among bloggers. It’s all about acts of kindness on that day. I haven’t decided yet what I will do, but I’ll let you know as we are all going to write about it. Just imagine a world if we all did purposeful acts of kindness everyday!

To learn more and join in the effort, go to the right side-bar of my blog and click on the link.