KEEP THE DARKNESS AT BAY

I saw this picture on the Facebook page of my local neighborhood association. (That would be the East Allis Neighborhood Association.) I found it to ring so true. A lot of us can fall into the rut of thinking there is nothing we can do to change the world. This is far from true.

One of the problems that can generate such thinking is having us think we need a grand gesture in order to make a big difference in the world and the lives of those in it. It is the little things that make the big differences. To prove this is more than a cliché saying that you can find on a Hallmark greeting card, I am going to share two personal stories with you that reflects how this can work both positively and negatively. I think once you see both sides of the equation you will begin to not only intellectually appreciate this, but understand it emotionally as well. This is important because once something gets into our spirit we are more likely to act on it.

I am going to start with the negative example for no other reason than we can end on a positive note. The other day at work I was checking with a group of mail carriers to see if they had anything to go to the other post office to which I was headed. That day I happened to be wearing a new colgne that I just purchased. I am not sure how you are, but I am always a little nervous when trying a new fragerance for the first time. As I passed one of the carriers she expressed her displeasure on how it smelled to her. Not that big of a deal. Normally that would just be a valuable source of feedback. It was, however, they way it which she did so that made all the difference. Instead of letting me know she did not find my new scent pleasing one on one, she began yelling to the whole post office about how terrible it was. To her this was no big deal, but it threw my day for a loop. Considering I have never said anything but compliments to this lady, it really got under my skin. Her small act had a rather big impact on my day.

On the exact opposite side of the coin, I would like to share a great example of how a simple act can make someone’s day. I was at home and had just stepped out of the shower. Wearing just the bare essentials, shall we say, I was digging in the closet for a shirt to wear on a special date I was taking my beautiful lady on. That very lady stuck her head in the room I was in to check on my progress of getting ready. Observing me looking for my shirt in the closet she remarked, “You look very sexy my love.” Mind you her and I always do our best to make sure we point out things we love about each other often. She doesn’t often use the word ‘sexy’ and that really made me feel good. I work hard to look appealing for her and to know that was working really meant a lot. For the rest of our date I had a smile in my heart thanks to her off-handed compliment.

Whether it is paying someone a compliment, picking up a piece of trash to help the neighborhood look better or making a small charitable donation, it is the little things that make a big difference. You may think how can picking up one piece of trash make my neighborhood look better? If we extrapolate that over a few hundred neighbors that is a lot of trash! Now what if those same 200 or so neighbors decide picking up one piece of trash is not worth the effort? Now you have 200 pieces of trash floating around the neighborhood. The same works for the charitable donation. I have roughly 40,000 followers for this blog in about 100 countries. The thought of what it would be like if each one sent me $5 has not escaped my thinking. To them $5 would most likely not be that big of a deal, but multiply that times 40,000 and it becomes substantial. If they all decided that donating $5 would not make much of a difference, no money would show up at all. Think of how this works for your favorite charity next time you ponder if your small donation would make a difference.

We may all not be able to do the grand acts we desire, but we can all do something. By doing even a small something we become part of the solution. If we decide that a small act is not worth bothering with, we remain part of the problem. Do what you can with what you have today and know even your small acts can have a great impact. 

WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?


I have always been a big fan of Mr. Rogers as most of you know. I find his teachings of personal and relational fundamentals good for both children and adults. Another thing I enjoyed about that television show was the neighborhood. Not only did most of the people make an effort to get to know each other, but they seemed to work even harder at treating each other with kindness, dignity and respect. One couldn’t help to walk away from an episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood without thinking how great it would be to live in a neighborhood like that.
Whether you were watching that show, Leave it to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet or countless others where they left their doors unlocked and people regularly greeted each other in passing on the street or in the grocery store, you couldn’t help but feel a little sense of envy. I am sure we all wished we lived in communities like this. The problem is short of moving every couple of years to stay ahead of the spread of crime and anonymity would be difficult to do from a financial standpoint. What other solutions are there? I always strongly advocate doing our best personally to make our neighborhoods better. That means working to get to know your neighbors. Be helpful and friendly when the opportunities present themselves. Be a part of the solution instead of the problem.
Still, individual efforts can only take us so far. Wouldn’t it be great if these individuals had a place to gather and work together to transform their neighborhoods into something better? I am here to tell you there is and they are called – Neighborhood Associations. In West Allis Wisconsin where I live we have a few of them. I proudly belong to one called the East Allis Neighborhood Association. There will be more information on how to join this fabulous group in a moment. First let me tell a little bit more about Neighborhood Associations.
A Neighborhood Association is a group of neighbors who get together to share their ideas, thoughts, feelings and work cooperatively to make their neighborhood a better place to live and work. In the specific example of the East Allis Neighborhood Association, they recently transformed a plot of land into a butterfly garden. This not only improved aesthetics of the neighborhood, but give a home to all-important pollinators. This spring they worked with another group to hold an Easter egg hunt at a local park. It gave the children a safe and enjoyable outing and allowed the parents to meet and develop a sense of community.
This Neighborhood Association is a not-for-profit organization run by residents and business volunteers only. The dues and donations help fund events and projects, like the ones mentioned above and so many more, to better the neighborhood and community. How much are the dues to be a part of this great solution to help make our neighborhoods a better place for all of us? They are a mere $10 for residents and $20 for businesses a year! What a better way to show both your neighbors and your customers that you care for the community you are in and want to work to make it even better?
If you want more information on joining this fabulous group feel free to email them at EANAWestAllis@gmail.com or call Robin at (414) 617-8357 or Jon at (414) 430-0282. If your neighborhood does not have an Association, perhaps talking to neighbors and setting one up could help improve your community. Personally, I am both happy and proud to belong to an organization the provides so many ways to volunteer and improve your community.

SUCH AN AMAZING COMMUNITY


I seldom pass on an opportunity to brag on my community. This I do for two very important reasons. First, no matter where you live, there is always enough bad press. It seems like if people have a compliment they tell someone, but if they have a complaint they tell everyone. I guess I can understand that, negative experiences seem to impact us intensely. When we have a great experience it tends to be appreciated and quickly forgotten. I like to capture and share all the good things that happen inside of a community that everyone may not know about. I encourage you to do the same for your community. Growing a feeling of positivity can give all of your neighbors something nice to talk about instead of what is not working in the community, unless of course it is to come up with solutions.
The second reason I enjoy sharing what is great about the city of West Allis, where I live with my beautiful lady Margie, is there are quite a few people who need to get a fair share of credit. Case in point, the subject of this post. This morning I attended ‘Coffee with the mayor’. For those of you who did not see my last post about this amazing event, allow me to give you a recap. Our mayor, Dan Devine, takes time out of his busy schedule roughly once a month to meet with the citizens of the city. This is an informal gathering that anyone is allowed to attend. The mayor informs you of events happening in the city and you are free to ask questions. It is very informative and interactive. It is one of the many impressive things our mayor does to make our city great.
Today, however, there were even more reasons to be grateful for attending such an event. First on the list was the venue. It was held at a place aptly called “West Allis Cheese and Sausage”. This restaurant is owned by a gentleman named Mark Lutz. Mark has invested in his community in many ways. First he purchased several properties in the area including a restaurant he leases across the street, a butcher shop that will be open this year and he has just purchased the building next door. Last I heard he planned to use this for catering, but I am not certain. Mr. Lutz also invests in the community with his time and organizational skills. While we were there I counted no less than 3 events they are a part of that benefit everything from food pantries to the coming dog park. Mark Lutz is a great pillar of the community.
Next up was Jon Cervantes. Jon is the head of the East Allis Neighborhood Association. It is a neighborhood group that I am proud to be a member of. In addition to various projects throughout the neighborhood, that association is a catalyst for those looking to better get to know their neighbors. To that end, Mr. Cervantes hosts monthly coffee gatherings of his own and parks and other places in the neighborhood where people can meet and share stories of the neighborhood.
Lastly, in attendance was my good friend Alice Behnke. Alice runs the Facebook group, ‘West Allis News, Events & Stuff.’. It is all things West Allis. She keeps it both informative and positive. There is news of whatever is happening in the city, with a rule to make sure there is no negative bashing of the city. Alice works tirelessly to interview businesses, communicate with elected officials and share news to keep everyone informed.
In addition to these amazing people, there were lots of concerned neighbors filled with both curiosity and questions. Margie, my mother and I all enjoyed a great meal and learned a lot of information about the city.

FRIENDS AND COMMUNITY

The above picture was taken at the christmas party for the neighborhood association I belong to (East Allis Neighborhood Association) One of the goals of this neighborhood association is to encourage engagement with the community.

Not only have a felt a bond with the people in the picture above, who are in the association, but they routinely have social nights where they meet at local establishments to talk, socialize and get to know each other and the people there. Margie and I made new friends at the last social at GM’s dog house.

This particular event was held at another place called ‘Jonny Hammers’. The owner, Jon, is on the board of directors for the association and was happy to host the event. Jodi, Dave, Judy, Marie, Criag, Robin and other members were also there.

We were looking forward to meeting all of them but were surprised by meeting some other friends as well. Our friend Lisa was having a jewelry party there. In attendance that day was Lisa’s friend, Brandy. To this point, she had been a great online friend. We discussed how great it is to have those last week. That being said, it was great to meet this young lady in person. She was friendly and effusive in her praise for my lady’s beauty and the love we share. (This is always a great way to become fast friends with Margie)

We also were blown away by the courteous and thoughtful service of the bartender Jasmin. Our other friend Lisa was there to greet us as well.

Margie and I left feeling loved and like we had made some new friends. The point is this, if you wish to make new friends, improve your community and have a good time you have to get out there. Do not spend all your time online. Read your daily inspiration from secret2anamazinglife.com and get outside! I reccomend joining a neighborhood group such as the association I mentioned. If that’s not your thing, at least get out and enjoy your neighborhood and more to the point, your neighbors!

KEEPING IT LOCAL

This first location to find new friends is as old as this country itself. The first place to find new friends is your local watering hole, corner bar, tavern or whatever term you see fit to call them. I am not someone who frequents taverns often. Working in a bar two nights a week can be sufficient for the most part, but there is a lot to be said for the mix of people you can find here.

After bartending for over 23 years, I can safely say it is one of, if not the best place to meet a great mix of people. If you need a mechanic, you know one. If you need someone to take care of your lawn, chances are one will stop in. Need to know someone who works on the railroad for your child’s school report, yes one probably has stopped in. Not only are local bars a great place to meet a wide variety of people, but they are a great place to get the vibe of the city you are in.

One evening Margie and I decided to look into a few local places we had been meaning to try. The first up was a place called Phylos. I recall this place as a young man. The sign outside left us curious about what was inside. With slogans such as “Stuff to do” and “Stuff to eat” we wondered what was included in both. Coming inside it was brought to our attention immediately that this was a place where everyone seemed to know each other. After just a few minutes of feeling like outsiders, we were greeted by the lady behind the bar. Although her physical stature was modest in nature there was no doubt she was definitely in charge of the place. Wearing a shirt with the slogan I used to be a people person, but people ruined it for me, you could tell this lady came with an amount of sarcasm.

The people around us seemed more than willing to chat and were quite welcoming. We not only had our suspicions of the bartenders sarcasm confirmed we learned she was the owner, and had been for more than 3 decades. Lois as we learned her name was also doubled as the cook on the grill behind the bar. The food smelled wonderful although we did not try any. We also learned the rocket on the front of the bar used to be a feature inside that customers could ride. Now Lois claims she is saving it. “What for?” I asked. “That is my ride out of here one day!” came the reply. As we enjoyed our beverages the other customers asked a few questions in a genuine attempt to get to know us. Taking interest in everything from Margie’s cakes to my recent winning of a city-wide poetry contest.

Second stop was a place called GM’s Dog House. Margie and I were beckoned there for an East Allis Neighborhood Association meeting they were holding. An organization I am happy to belong to. As soon as I walked in I was greeted by a young lady, Dolly, who I had the pleasure of serving several years ago when I was a bartender at a bar down the street. If you are to judge by outside appearances, the Dog House would be something you may consider passing by. It seems like your normal local corner tavern. Once inside you discover it is bright, clean and has a great selection of beverages to choose from.

Shortly after saying hello to Dolly and her friend Paul, a gentleman named Robert who used to work on my car came up to say hi. He was there with his wife Amy, who had read my book A Happy Life for Busy People. Add this to the wonderful folks who were there for the neighborhood meeting and we knew just about everyone. Craig and his wife Robin along with Jon and his wife Marie who own another amazing establishment called Jonny Hammers. Which according to my lovely lady, has some of the best wings in town.

The first bartender we met was the Melissa, who owns the bar with her husband Glen. She was welcoming and very proud of the place, as she had the right to be. She informed us of some of the fun options for entertainment. They included a wheel you could spin to win prizes. Margie even won a free drink, while I won the chance to enjoy an evening with neighbors and my beautiful lady. We also had the pleasure of being served by Nicole who played a game of bar dice with us and also shared a smile and friendly word. Margie also informed me this place had the cleanest lady’s bathroom of any bar she had ever been in. What was supposed to be a quick stop turned into several hours of connecting with old friends on one side of the bar, while making new ones on the other.

Whether you drink or not, corner bars can be a great place to meet people in the community as well as get a great feel for the city. Something you will not find in large clubs or chain establishments. With an open mind and a little conversation you can make a great deal of new friends.

Local bars not your thing? Come back tomorrow to learn of another place where friends can abound!