ARE YOU AN ANGEL?

When I first saw this picture I thought to myself, “An angel, really?” After a few moments of contemplation, my thoughts changed. How do we view angels? As an entity that looks over us from above, guiding our actions, encouraging us and keeping us safe. How do we define a great friend? Someone who stays by our side, giving us advice, encouraging us and looking out for us. Other than the geographical location they are very similar.

It has me taking a more venerable look at several of my friends. Unlike the ethereal beings to which I am drawing a comparison, friends make mistakes. Even the best friend can have a bad day. Perhaps they take their frustrations of the day out on us because they feel safe and comfortable in our presence? They may put their needs ahead of ours. They may treat us harshly or say something hurtful either by accident or because they have succumb to their emotions.

Does this mean friends are not human angels? Not at all. Through those lessons, if we truly love our friends, they can teach us how to be forgiving, understanding and compassionate. Something angels cannot do. Maybe angels use these ‘human angels’ to help teach us these lessons? I am not sure. What I am sure of is that I am blessed to have many friends who have looked out for me, tried to keep me safe and gave me an encouraging word when I needed one. To me that is a definition of a human angel.

This week let us approach this idea in two ways. First, take a look at some of our closest friends. Do they qualify as human angels? Chances are in some form or fashion they just might. I hear a lot of voices throughout the day. My stomach tells me pizza for dinner everyday is ok. There are the things my body tells me after the gym, but I do not think they are fit to type here. The closest things to an angelic voice that I hear is from someone I deeply care about telling me they feel the same. Let us, in our own way, recognize these human angels. It doesn’t have to be anything grand. In fact, if you are shy or nervous as to what they may think you don’t have to tell them at all. In my life all of my friends know I am crazy, so I am not worried. Even just taking a moment to yourself to think, “This person is a human angel.” That will be enough to cause a shift in how you see that person.

The second part is being a human angel. Again, this does not mean trying to be perfect or walking around in a toga playing a harp, but doing our best to treat others the best we can. With love, respect and compassion. Do you think anyone would describe you as a human angel?

YOUR MOST USEFUL ASSET

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What is your most useful asset? Are you smart? Are you physically attractive? Maybe you are strong? Perhaps you have a lot of wealth? Maybe you are a good conversationalist? The ironic thing about any of these traits, is that they are of little use unless they are put into the service of others. If you are strong, but do nothing with your muscles how useful are they? If you acquire a great deal of wealth, but never spend anything what good does that wealth amount to?

Each one of us has assets. Maybe it is a nice smile? Maybe a good deal of compassion? As the week draws to a close, let us spend the weekend taking stock of our unique skills and talents. After we do so, let us also find ways in which we can put them into the service of others. The picture above gives us three very good ideas. Let us make sure we approach others with our hearts full of love, our ears ready to listen to all they have to share and our hands ready to help them as they need.

In our modern world many people will do anything for a feeling of significance. What many of them fail to realize is that you do not need to make a video for YouTube of you doing something ridiculous or dangerous. You do not have to prove how important or better you are than anyone else. To be a truly useful, valuable and yes, important person, all you have to do is be of service to others. Who would not want to be around someone who is loving, listens to what we have to say and is always willing to help.

If you still want to make that crazy video for the internet, why not show off your talent in the service of others? Use that amazing smile to brighten the lives of others. Use that wealth to help those less fortunate. Maybe use your muscles to help your neighbor with a project they are working on. The more you help others, the more useful you become.

A LESSON I HAVE LEARNED

There are a handful of lessons I have learned in my life that really stuck with me and defined who I am to this very day. One of them I was told was that “If you hate someone or something you just do not know enough about it. If you learn about it and still hate it, that does not mean it is bad, it means you still have more to learn.” This is something I keep with me to this very day.

If we are being honest, we would have to admit there are lots of messages telling us who we should dislike, who the bad guys are and why. From politics, sports and even religion have messages telling us that there are people who are less than us. When we read about some violent episode conducted by a group of people it can be easy to say “Look this group of people are evil.” If we were to apply that same guilt by association to every terrible act that has been done I fear we would all belong to some group of evil.

How can we ever not harbor some sort of negative emotions towards people who by their very acts cause the death of hundred, or even thousands of people? It is a very difficult question to answer. Quite often we must look back in history for answers as to why things happen today. Was there an event in history where this group of people were made to suffer under the group they attacked?

Even personal history can shed some light on why people can do acts most of us would find unspeakable. Did this person suffer years of physical and emotional abuse? Did their family constantly remind them of judgmental or even hateful beliefs that hand been handed down for generations? Were they raised in a neighborhood that also promoted these beliefs? Maybe while attending school for 8 hours a day surrounded by peers their age they learned to adopt their beliefs? They might have even did so just to fit in at first, but after years of trying to fit in those beliefs became part of their spirit.

This can be even worse when an entire society is fed information that is hateful. We can use both Nazi Germany during World War two, as well as early America as examples. In the 1930’s Germany began a campaign against the Jewish people. This was not only political, but in schools, the media and in the home. An entire generation grew up being taught a terrible doctrine of hate and evil. This resulted in the death of over 6 million men, women and children of Jewish decent. In the founding years of America the same thing happened. Americans were told the native people were uncivilized and less than they were. They were told they were violent and threatened their safety. It was also said that the Native Americans stood in the way of the prosperity and freedom of the white settlers. Again, this message was delivered in the media, the government, the home and even the church pulpit. This resulted in the death of over 100 million men, women and children. What is worse is that often entire nations and cultures were lost. Medicine and knowledge we could use today are gone forever.

Does this mean we should hate the German people who did not stand up to their government? Should we hate those who acted on the beliefs they were raised on? Should we still hate the American soldiers who killed pregnant Native American women because when they were being forced to walk from North Carolina to Oklahoma they were going to slow? Sure those acts, among many others in history are hard to understand and even harder to forgive for some people.

We must not only view the history, but be careful not to view it through our own eyes. It may be easy to say “If I was in Germany back then I would have told Hitler to go to hell !” We can say that as somebody who was raised free and without judgment. If we had been told, and often given ‘proof’ as to how bad this group of people were from the time we were born, we might act differently. While there is plenty of proof of people who have overcome very challenging situations to be loving non-violent people, it is impossible to know how we would act in the same situation. In fact, we will never know as we will never have their exact life and genetic makeup.

In a world that urges us to blame and condemn, there is very little accent on compassion and understanding. Those two elements are essential if we ever hope to change the world we live in for the better. Let me be perfectly clear on one very important point. Understanding someone’s violent action does not mean Condoning it. We can certainly condemn acts that harm others, and we should, but without following that with an equal effort to understand why they happened in the first place history would be doomed to repeat itself.

DON’T LET THE DEVIL LIE TO YOU

Ah the devil… Satan… whatever you care to call him. Some refer to this as negative side of the universe. Some just call it negativity. The name we attach to this power of evil is not important to what we are going to discuss today. What we are going to discuss is the lies we have all been fed. These come from all kinds of places, the media, coworkers, history, even well-meaning friends and family. Sometimes the voice seems to come from inside our own head.

The messages may seemed varied, but they all serve the same purpose, to lower our vibration. Whether it is politicians doing their best to convince you that a certain group of people are bad because of their skin color, religion, political belief or maybe even just based on where they live. Maybe the message is coming from the media telling you the world is going downhill fast. There is more violence than ever, there is more hate than ever. Convincing you that you have to live and walk in fear. Even our friends and family telling us not to get our hopes up about that dream we are saying or not to venture away from that seemingly safe career we have because we will fail if we try to do it on our own. They mean well, they are wanting us to be safe.

It is my belief these messages all come from the same source and are intended for the same purpose; to create a world full of fear and devoid of love. When we are divided against ourselves, when we are so busy finding reasons to hate each other it is difficult if not impossible to work together to solve the real problems that exist. Two people’s ideas put together may do a great deal to end world hunger or bring a cure to a certain disease, but if they are refusing to talk because they look different or worship or vote in a different way the world will remain darker.

I propose working together and finding the reasons to come together in a spirit of love and community to solve issues. This does not mean ignoring the problems that plague us all, but working together looking towards creating a solution instead of assigning blame. Is there more violence today or is the world better connected and we can hear about each and every incident? Are guns the problem or is it the promotion of lack of respect and sanctity of life promoted in movies, television, music and video games? I don’t pretend to know those answers. What I do know is this, by focusing on how terrible things are without an accent on finding solutions and healing the hearts and minds of people everywhere, we are letting the powers of darkness win.

So next time you hear the ‘devil’ whisper in your ear about how bad the world is, how truly bad people have become and how hopeless both you and your life are, next time you hear him whisper that you cannot withstand the storm. You need to face that demon, whether it is the media, a negative coworker or even a voice in your own head and reply with conviction that you indeed are the storm! You are a storm of love and compassion that will not be defeated. Even though you are hearing how scary and bad the world is, you will do your part to bring love and brighten a stranger’s day. When you hear about anger leading to violence and death, you can use it as a reminder to respond to hurt with empathy and compassion.

No matter what you hear about the world and people around you, the fact is that the power to change that world lies in each and every one of us. Your act of kindness and of love, no matter how small will have a ripple effect that will affect far more than you will ever know. What you may not think about is so will your anger and negative actions, even your apathy. Do not let the devil lie to you. It is you who are the storm, you who have the very power to change the world and we do so through love and compassion.

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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WE ARE LIVING MIRACLES

This is my friend Kyle and his girlfriend Jamie. Today is Kyle’s birthday. That is not the only reason I bring him to your attention today. Today is a day he will be celebrated by family and friends. They will celebrate his birth, his coming into this world. He will be the one receiving the material gifts, but the simple fact he is being thought of by so many others speaks to the fact of what a gift his life has been to them.

One of Kyle’s best traits is his humility. He may not think his life makes a great deal of difference in the grand scheme of the world. This is like many of us. We often fail to understand how the simple positive things we do affect the lives of others. Kyle, is a prime example. He is a barista at the local coffee shop I often write at. There are quite a few others that work with Kyle, but none that have his positive outlook and demeanor. His compassion for, and attitude towards his customers is second to none.

Being a friendly barista may not seem like something that can change the world, and I know Kyle may not think so, but to me, nothing is further from the truth. What we never know is the story of the people in front of us. Even close friends may not share everything that is on their mind or in their hearts. Imagine a complete stranger in a coffee shop.

How much is a positive word worth to you? How much would a smile affect you if you were having a bad day? They are priceless. You cannot buy genuine caring no matter how much money you have. Kyle gives this freely. He genuinely cares about his fellow man. In the course of career I cannot begin to imagine how many smiles he has brought to the faces of his customers and how much joy he has put in the hearts of those he has met. It would not surprise me if he has directly, or indirectly saved the lives of people who may have came in feeling their lives did not matter. He did all of this by simply being himself.

To be sure Kyle has days when he does not live up to his own expectations, as we all do. I had the honor of interviewing him and Jamie for an upcoming book of mine and learned that one of the reasons they are perfect for each other, is they realize each other is not perfect. The next time Kyle is feeling down, or does something to disappoint himself or others I hope he remembers what a gift his life is and how many miracles he has created simply by sharing the love he has for his fellow man.

Yes, today is Kyle’s birthday and we are celebrating his birth and life, but we only do so because of the difference it has made in our lives. I want to take a second to wish this fine example of a human being the happiest of birthdays followed by many more.

I encourage all of you to tag someone in this post that you feel creates miracles in the lives of others. Let them know what a difference they make.

DON’T LET THE SAME DOG BITE YOU TWICE

One of my favorite quotes to help keep peace in your mind and heart comes from Buddha, who said “holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Forgiveness truly is the gift you give yourself. Most of the time when we stay angry at people it only affects us. Think of what happens to your body when you get angry. Your blood pressure rises, you can get sick to the stomach among many other unpleasant symptoms. Imagine what would happen if we did this over a prolonged period of time. Not only would it drain our spirit and soul, but it would make us actually physically sick.

Here is the caveat about forgiving someone, it does not mean they need to be your best friend. There are some people who are destructive and surrounding yourself with them will only bring you down. I compare it to continuing to try and pet a dog you know will bite you. Unless the dog goes through some training, it will likely bite you again. Forgive the dog for biting you and then do your best to keep your distance from the dog.

Starting today, let go of anger and practice forgiveness. It does not mean you agree with their behaviour. It also does not mean you have to let them back into your life. It only means you value yourself enough to let go of negative emotions that will bring you down emotionally, spiritually and physically.