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.

WHY I DO NOT HATEĀ 

I warn you this post will touch on subjects that are not that pleasant to discuss. It is not the point of this website to delve into the realm of politics or any controversial topics, but sometimes they provide us with the opportunity to shine the light on ways we can improve both ourselves and the world. This is one of those opportunities. I caution that at first this post may sound negative and depressing, but I challenge the reader to stick with me until the end to find the message of hope.

The other night my lady and I saw the movie The Promise. A very fine movie with a very important message. The movie is a love story told with the backdrop of the Armenian genocide. During the first World War Turkey, who sided with Germany, took the lives of almost 2 million Armenians. Perhaps you may have not heard of this until now. There are very good reasons why. First, Turkey has never admitted to this atrocity and claims all of those lives were lost during a “Voluntary relocation”. I am not sure about you, but I have never heard of 2 million volunteering to move at the same time. Another reason you may not have heard of the lose of all of these innocent men, women and children is because another country that has refused to officially recognize this event in history is the United States of America. Why? Quite simply, they need the use of air bases in Turkey for their interests in the middle east. Hearing these facts and knowing I am Armenian one may assume I hate, or have a prejudice against Turkish people. I do not. I have a friend named George. He owns an ice cream stand with the best ice cream I have tasted. We often laugh and I enjoy supporting his endeavors. He is Turkish.

In the Second World War we are all too familiar with the tragic loss of the lives of 6 million of our Jewish brothers and sisters. Innocent victims who gave their lives for nothing more than their spiritual beliefs. I am not Jewish, but I feel the anguish of what their people went through, and in many ways, are still going through.

That was still not the largest genocide in history. In the course of the founding of the country I live in 100 million, yes you read that number correct, Native Americans were killed in the name of civilization and expansion. Most of the ‘killers’ in this case were Christians who thought they were claiming lands from a less deserving people. They included not just the military who fired shots, but politicians who starved out innocent families after forcibly relocating them. If this all sounds a bit contrived I invite you to read the book Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee or study the trail of tears.

Why is this not part of the history we are taught in schools? One, patriotism. It would be hard for some to love a country knowing some of the terrible things that occurred in it’s founding. Also, the ones who win the wars write the books to teach the people. Often decedents of the very people who committed these acts are the ones teaching our children. Being that I am also Native American one could assume I harbor ill will against my own country or people who belong to the faith that murdered many of my ancestors. I do not. My friend Cari is a devout Christian who I feel honored to call my friend. Cari and I not only have healthy discussions on the differences in our beliefs, but how we can use both to help make the world a better place.

So, the question you may be asking yourself is why, or more to the point, how can I not harbor any ill will against any of these groups? There are several reasons I would like to share with you and tell you what you can do if you find yourself the victim of hate or racial discrimination. Believe or not, on occasion I still am.

The first reason I have nothing but love for these people is forgiveness. People often view forgiveness as a weakness. It is quite the opposite. To suffer at the hands of others or to be openly and unfairly judged based on your faith, race, religion or any such trait and to be able to forgive takes far more courage and strength than to continue the cycle of hate. More importantly, forgiveness is the gift you give yourself. This holds true for may reasons as well. When you hold hate and anger in your heart it not only steals your joy and slowly kills your spirit, but actually has many negative physical effects as well.

When you close your heart to people because they are different from you, or because they hurt you it can cost you the ability to get to know a great many wonderful people. When this is done on a large scale as mentioned in the examples above we lose even more. In the movie I mentioned one of the main characters is a promising medical student. He is very talented and has a natural passion for healing. That ability goes unused for many years simply because of the nationality he happens to be. His imprisonment was not only his loss, but a loss to all of those he could have been helping. Can you imagine if we had lost Albert Einstein to the Jewish holocaust? What would the world have all missed out on?

Another reason not to continue the cycle of hate is understanding. In the case of the three examples mentioned above there had been generations of teaching to masses of people to learn to hate, or at the very least think less of certain people. In most cases it stems from governments against other governments. Can you think of even some beliefs in your own family that you may not agree with? One of the greatest weapons now is knowledge. My grandfather taught me a great number of important things. I am going to quote him here the best I can remember. He told me “Never hate somebody you don’t fully understand. If you still dislike them, you still don’t fully understand them.” Getting to know all the different cultures on this beautiful planet can bring us a great deal of compassion. You do not have to agree with them, but understanding traditions and faith make it very difficult to keep any hate in your heart.

What if you find yourself victim of such ill will? Here is my sound advice I not only tell everyone in this situation, but follow myself – be the best version of yourself. You do this for several reasons. First, it shows the person’s ignorance for what it truly is. Second, you make the best representation of the very group they are persecuting. Frank Sinatra said it best when he said, “The best revenge is massive success.” Consider some of the famous Armenians (Cher and the Kardashians) or Native Americans (Johnny Depp and Chuck Norris). Now whether or not you enjoy these people’s talents they all have achieved a great deal of success.

Striving to learn why people learn to hate others with the passion they sometimes do has given me reasons to continue to be the best version of myself and to have compassion and seek understanding of those different than me. I ask you to pause and think of what we may have lost in the over 100 million lives that were unfairly taken in the examples above. Great doctors and people of healing? Great composers and musicians? The world will never know. What we do know is if we do not stop the cycle of hate we stand to lose a lot more. Do your part by fostering understanding and cooperation between all groups. Even if you disagree with someone, do your best not to talk ill of them personally and certainly whatever group they may belong to. It may seem like innocent gossip, but it is planting the seed of hatred that may grow into the examples above.

This may all seem very dark and negative, but the point is each one of us has the power to stop the cycle of hate and to turn the world around. The responsibility lies with all of us. In short, Love one another.

BE THE CHANGE

Who doesn’t want to change the world? Who wouldn’t want the world to be a better place for everyone? Tall order right? How can we convince political rivals not to resort to bloodshed to solve their differences? How can we convince those whose hearts are filled with hate to replace it with love? In short, we can’t.

Not very inspiring I know. It is the truth. We cannot change the minds and hearts of others. That is up to them. This blog is focused on things we CAN do though. So what can we do? How do we reach those souls who need it most? How can we change the world? It is actually easier than you think. The only way we can truly touch and reach each other is through love and compassion. The woman who is credited with the quote above, Mother Teresa, changed the world on a grand scale using both love and compassion.

The good news is you do not have to surrender your life and help those people in a third world country like she did. All we have to do is show love to those around us. This is not always easy, but it will pay rewards far beyond what we can imagine. Being a shining example of love and compassion to our family will provide them with a framework to do the same. My good friend Bart recently had his first child. Both he and his wife and very caring and compassionate people who genuinely care about the world around them. It does my soul good to know such parents are raising a member of the future generation who will bring the same to the world.

So what about those who do not have the luxury of having such parents? That is why it is important to be the best example we can for everyone we encounter. Let us do our best to remember in the coming year that a lot of people do not have the benefit of a loving and compassionate example to draw from. Perhaps they have not learned how to deal with anger, or how to understand those who are different from them. They might have even been raised and taught to be full of hate and judgment. In the face of such people we need to serve them and the world around us by being that example. That is not an easy task, especially when that anger or judgment is directed at us. By fighting our temptation to reflect the same emotions back, and by ‘killing’ their judgment and anger with our love, compassion and understanding we are indeed changing the world.

EVIDENCE OF GROWTH

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Oftentimes I ask myself if I am truly getting better and growing as a person. Another question that pops in my head (other than can I convince margie to eat pizza again) is what benefits does all my study and work bring to my life? This question is important for two reasons. First, it keeps me motivated to keep improving my own life. Second, and perhaps more important, I can share with all of you the great things that will happen when you work to improve yourself and your own life. Putting in effort is a lot easier when you know there is a reward at the end of it.

So where am I going with all of this? Here is where. Last week I was taking Margie to get cake supplies at a specialty store. In the process I was confused to where the store actually was. I thought I was supposed to turn right, but as I was doing so Margie informed me I should be turning left. So I stopped and switched my turn signal. The light was red so we had to wait. Now as I thought I was going to turn right, which I could have done, the bumper of my car was in the crosswalk. A lady happen to be crossing the street and had to walk around the front of my car. Now I realize this was an inconvenience for her and it was my mistake for not knowing which way to turn. What was this lady’s reaction for having to walk around my bumper? She began to yell a string of curse words at me and waving, all be it with one finger. Margie was eager to offer this lady an explanation with equal enthusiasm. I convinced her that may not be in our best interests.

Here is what I learned. My first reaction to this was “Wow, I can’t believe she is getting that angry over something that trivial”. Then I began to recall how I used to do the same. Often our reaction is built up over early events and spills out when we have just had enough. My next thought was what this lady was doing to herself. That much anger can have bad physical consequences. It releases stress hormones which can cause us to gain weight. It raises our blood pressure and puts stress on our heart. It prematurely ages us. All this because she had to walk a few extra inches. Yelling at me was doing more damage to her. I felt compassion and then had the urge to give the lady the address of this very website. Perhaps she had a lot of stress in her life that she could use some help solving.

One more amazing thing I realized later. In the past even though I realized how ridiculous her anger may have been, being cursed out like that would have affected me. Nobody like to be yelled at, cursed out or given the one finger salute. In changing my reaction to one of compassion and concern for this lady, which has taken years of practice to do, lessened the effect it had on me. In fact, by making the situation more about her and less about me I suffered less.

We never know people’s stories and why they may be upset. This lady was correct in that my car should not have been in the crosswalk. I made a mistake and she had to walk around because of it. Still her anger towards me did her far more harm that it did me.

So remember to stop and consider if things are really worth being upset over. If you are on the receiving end, remember if you try to fight anger with anger you are only going to make things worse for you. Sure in the short term it may feel good to yell back or even worse. In the long term however, we are doing more harm to ourselves. Do your best to develop a sense of compassion. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Feel free to share this post as well as any ideas you have on developing compassion.