TOGETHER IS THE ONLY WAY FORWARD

Today we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. American minister and civil rights leader. This gentleman is someone I greatly admire. He had the bravery to stand up and bring to light the deplorable treatment of his race. Knowing standing up to speak his mind and do what is right may very well cost him his very life is something I cannot grasp. Not only to do so on a personal level, but in the national spotlight so that every person full of hate would know exactly who you were and where you lived. Risking not only your safety, but that of your family and friends. How many of us would be willing to do that just because it is the right and just thing to do?

That bravery, as amazing and mind-blowing as it is to me, is not what I admire and respect most about this man. It is something entirely different and something we can learn from his legacy. His bravery to me is easily trumped by a skill that I think has gotten lost in those who crusade for causes of both racial and social justice – compassion. In everything he stood for, Dr. King never advocated revenge, he never proposed the use of violence or crime. He never asked to be given anything other than equality, which all people, everywhere, so richly deserve.

Reading this may sound like compassion is nothing to difficult, but think of this, in the time Dr. King was alive, he was spit on, called vile unspeakable names, physically assaulted, had his life and the life of his family threatened, and as we all know, ended up having his life taken.

Throughout all of this one would not blame him if he screamed things in return such as, “You owe me!” or wanted to burn down their houses and threaten their families in return. I certainly do not want to imagine what my reaction would be if I were treated in the same fashion.

What impresses me most about Martin Luther King Jr. is his not only willingness, but insistence on working together. Dr. King understood that to make equality work we need not only the qualities of bravery, strength, and persistence, but also those of compassion, faith and understanding. Much like Nelson Mandela when he was released after having 25 years of his life taken away solely because of his race, he did not seek revenge, but said “Let us work together to lead our country.” When I read that my first thought was, “he said what?!” How many of us would be able to put our egos and feelings of vengeance aside for the greater good? How many of us would be able to understand that violence and crime are not protests and will not lead to a solution.

Which brings me to another thing I deeply admire about Martin Luther King Jr. He always encouraged every member of his race to be the most upstanding individuals they could be. There is nothing that takes away the validity of prejudice, than proving their venomous opinions wrong through right action. Just as there is nothing that feeds the fire of hatred propagated by those filled with racism and prejudice than behaving just as they describe. There is nothing that shows these traits as being archaic and asinine as forcing someone to say, “See that person helping the homeless over there with a smile and compassion? We should hate them because they are gay/black/Muslim/left-handed or whatever idiotic hatred I feel like spewing today.” Then they are the ones who look foolish.

Any intelligent person knows there are good and bad people in each and every group you examine. In today’s world where hate can often steal the front page, we must work harder than ever to love and understand one another. We must do so by not only passing laws to punish discrimination, but more importantly by addressing beliefs and behavior behind the actions of hatred. Real change happens first in the heart, then in the court of law.

It will take all the strength we have not to respond to judgment and hatred thrust upon us with hatred of our own, but we must be vigilant in our fight to make the world a more peaceful and loving place. We must do that by not only being the best person we can be, but having patience, understanding and compassion for those who need it the most, those who hate.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. that I feel captures what we have been discussing here today.

“Darkness cannot drive our darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

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OPEN THE DOOR!

I have always heard the saying, “If life closes the door, open a window.” Which made sense to me. Sometimes the way we think things should work, are just not the way they do work. On occasion, we need to look for alternative ways in which to approach a situation. Never have I stopped and thought about the aspect of the actual act of a door closing. Of course, in these sayings this is actually a metaphor. Still, it holds true whether in a metaphor or in reality. If you knew inside a room was a million dollars just waiting for you, no strings attached, and suddenly the door closed in front of you what would you do? Would you say, “Oh well, that would have been nice.” and walk away? Would you start to look for that ‘window’ or another way in? In most cases, when faced with that situation in reality, the first thing most of us would do is reach out and try the door handle. If it didn’t open perhaps we would investigate why. Even if we found the door to be locked, we may try forcing it open or picking the lock.

Why is it then, when faced with this metaphorical situation in life we seldom try to open the door? Is it due to a lack of passion? Perhaps our why is not strong enough? It is said Walt Disney was turned down by 300 banks before his loan to open Disneyland was approved. That is a lot of doors that were shut on him. In some cases, past experience has taught us we cannot open the door. Maybe that was true then, but think of how much we learn each and every day. With additional skills and experience we very well could open doors that in the past remained closed to us.

Another thing to consider is perhaps we are approaching opening the door in the wrong way. Has this ever happened to you? You see a store with its lights on and the open sign on. You walk up and pull on the door, it’s locked. You look inside and see people wandering about. You pull even harder thinking the door may be stuck. No such luck. You step back to review the hours of operation on the door and find they indeed should be open. Ready to yank on the door with all of your might, you must step aside for another shopper. This person walks right through the door…by pushing it. Sadly, I must confess this has happened to me on a few occasions. Doors in life are much like this. We can pull with all of our might and never get in. If we change our approach and push with even the slightest effort, in we go.

Think of doors that have closed in your own life. Have you tried to open them? Have you changed your approach? Before we give up or start looking for a window, perhaps we should give that door a pull, and a push as well. You know, just in case.

WHO YOU SHOULD TALK TO

Desmond Tutu has always been a person I admire. Although strong in his faith, he, along with the Dalai Lama, have put differences aside to work together for the greater good. In this single quote I think the reason they do so is summed up rather nicely.

When facing a conflict, the first thing many of us do is run to our friends to vent. Whether that venting is in person, on social media or in some other medium it generally degenerates to gossip and leads to both parties growing further apart on the issue at hand. It also reduces the amount of trust between the two parties. We see examples of this on the world stage between governments. The end result, all too often, results in war. This not only leads to the loss of countless, often innocent, lives, but decades of trust between nations and their people.

This also happens on a personal level. Working as a DJ, and as a bartender for years before that, I have seen this happen far too often. These adults have issues with each other, sometimes legitimate, sometimes petty. Rather than act in a solution oriented manner by approaching the person in a non-confrontational manner to discuss their differences, they begin complaining to others, or worse put things out there on social media. This usually results in name calling, and even others joining in and fueling the anger and hate.

This also happens on an intimate level. At my day job I have overheard men complain about their wives and girlfriends nagging them, or driving them crazy. I have heard ladies complain their husbands are inattentive and ignorant. What happens? The other party usually agrees with them, maybe even adds a story of their own and both parties leave with an even greater angst for their spouse. When they get home a loving resolution is further away then when they left that morning.

Enemies do not always have to be those we are against. As mentioned in the above examples they can be our friends, our coworkers or even those closest to us. No matter how we define those we are in conflict to, it is important to realize the only way to reach a peaceful solution is to confront them in a peaceful manner, while expressing the desire to reach a solution beneficial to all parties.

I am not foolish enough to think that this will be easy, solving conflict generally never is. The reward, if we do pursue this path, will be peace. That peace will not only benefit us, but those around us. We cannot control the actions of the governing bodies of the world, but we can set an example for them and for others by rising above the negative and petty. By doing so we will begin to foster a world full of peace and love.

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A SIMPLE FORMULA

I am forever searching for simple things the average person can do to improve the quality of their life. It is my passion. It was what found me writing a book titled A Happy Life for Busy People.

That is why I like the formula above – keep your gratitude higher than your expectations I would, however, add a caveat to that. I encourage people to expect good things to happen to them. Why? Because eventually they will. Sure, bad things will happen too but allow me to explain the difference.

When we expect negative things to happen to us, we walk around with a feeling foreboding and dread. If something good were to happen to us we wouldn’t enjoy it because we would be busy telling ourselves “Sure things seem good now, but just wait something bad always happens to me.” Imagine how you would feel with self-talk like that!

When we expect good things to happen to us, there exists a feeling of hope and, well… positive expectation. If we are expecting a positive thing to happen and along comes something negative we can just say to ourselves, “Well that wasn’t the positive thing I was expecting. It must still be on its way”

You might find yourself thinking “Wait a minute! In both examples good and bad things happened! It’s really just the same.” You would be exactly right. Good and bad things happen to everyone in some degree, but notice the difference in feeling when you change your expectations.

Then…. you add what I think is truly a superpower – gratitude. If you can remain grateful while keeping a positive expectation, you will find yourself in possession of more joy and happiness than you have known in quite some time.

As a of fact, I’m going to print this picture out and keep it in my car! I encourage you to do the same.