ARE YOU A GOOD NEIGHBOR?

Even the casual follower of this blog, not to mention anyone who knows me personally, knows that I am a big fan of Mr. Rogers. A host of a children’s television program, but also a modern day teacher and philosopher who mastered the art of human fundamentals. That is to say he could break down the most complex subject so that children could understand. Divorce? He had a show for that. Senseless violence? He was able to talk to children about that. In doing so, he took subjects that were multi-layered and broke them down to the most basic aspect.

By doing this to benefit children, I think it had the unexpected result of benefiting adults as well. Just as a star athlete will practice the basic moves in which their sport is made of, we as adults must practice basic emotional and societal actions. There are steps such as finding a way to not only express our feelings in a healthy way, but allowing others to do the same that can make a huge impact on the world. Discovering what to do when you are mad. How to help yourself when you feel lonely. These are lessons that Mr. Rogers taught to children every day on his television show but that many of us have forgotten in this crazy work-a-day world.

The quotes in the two pictures I have featured represent 2 paths to changing the world. Sounds like a bold claim. Follow 2 quotes from a man who used to host a television show for children and we could change the world? Remember how an athlete becomes a star. They practice the fundamentals every day until they can do them without thinking. Let us get back to our human fundamentals. At a basic level all of humans have a great deal in common. We all want to be loved. We all want to be treated well. We all would like to be significant in some way. We want to feel like we make a difference.

Let us look at these two pieces of advice. The first one is to “offering, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.” He implores us to imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like. Can you imagine what your neighborhood would be like if everyone offered just one kind word to another person? If people walking around complimenting each other makes you think of a ‘neighborhood of make believe’, that should tell you how far we have strayed from human decency. How difficult is it to offer a person one kind word? How much effort does that take? Even offering them one kind thought. Is that really that difficult? Of course it isn’t. So why is it that imagining people doing that seems so far removed from reality? What can we do about it? We can let it start with us. When you see your neighbors share with them a kind thought or at least a kind word. Watch the difference it makes. Become that agent of change.

The second quote is a little more complex in both thought and words, but still something even a child could understand and certainly something an adult could do. It really breaks down into 2 sections. The first is, “To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now” A few things I would like to point out. First is the word strive. We may not always be successful in our attempts to accept those who are different than us. It takes a great amount of patience and compassion. Not only with the people who are different, but ourselves who may fail to do so. What is important is that we are striving to do so. If our intent is to love and accept our neighbor as they are, more often than not we will succeed in doing so. In the times we fail, we can apologize and even ask for their help in understanding. The second part is to “go on caring through the joyful times and through times that may bring us pain.” Right now a lot of people are experiencing pain and tough times. All of them for their own reasons. It may be difficult to understand what they are facing if we ourselves have not faced similar situations. It is for that reason it is so important that we go on caring for our neighbors.

It is the basic things that will allow us to become a united people. It is being loving and caring for each other. In this global world and economy that will live in, it is understand that we are all neighbors. We have the unique ability to affect people not only in our direct neighborhood, but in our world neighborhood as well. Will we use that power to divide or will we use it to show love to our neighbor and bring us closer together?

BEST NEWS SO FAR IN MY JOURNEY WITH CORONAVIRUS

That’s me rocking the quarantine look. Today is roughly day 6 since being diagnosed with coronavirus. It is the best I have felt so far. Shortness of breath is hanging on, but getting better. As an example, last Monday I took out the garbage and didn’t even get back to the house before feeling winded. Today, I took out both the garbage and recyclables and was just a little short of breath when I got back inside. This may not seem like a big difference but I sure felt better. The dizziness is also getting better. It seems less intense and certainly less frequent. Also, my sense of smell seems to be returning slowly. This symptom is the worst. It affects your sense of taste as well. I am hoping it continues to get better every day.

People are asking me what Margie and I are doing during this time. We are doing the same as many of you. We take turns watching movies, we play games and are creating and enjoying meals together. We also have read to each other. Margie has a hard time staying awake during reading so I usually read out loud to her. I rather enjoy this as I feel it is an activity that brings us closer together and we both get to learn something in the process.

One of the books I read during this time was How to live to be 100…or more. It was written by the comedy legend George Burns. I was never a big George Burns fan until recently. Not only does his humor amuse me, but in many ways his relationship with his wife Gracie Allen reminds me a fair deal of Margie and I. People ask how we can work together, live together and sleep together without killing each other. This quarantine time was not that big of an adjustment for us because we do spend a lot of time together. (about the only time we are apart is when I am at the post office) Doing so takes a great bit of effort and comprimise. I am sure a lot of you are discovering this as we speak. I think it is a great way to get to know your partner and strengthen your relationship.

Today we also left the house for the first time. We both walked around our neighborhood. It felt good to get some fresh air. My shortness of breath would not have allowed me to go much further. It is funny to think that just 2 weeks ago I was running on a treadmill and now it is tough to walk a few blocks. It makes me grateful for my health. I am also grateful that my symptoms were mild enough I could breath, especially with my asthma. It also made me grateful for the neighborhood I live in. Margie and I live on a busy street, but the streets behind us is a rather closed in little neighborhood. It is a shame we do not take the time to walk there more often. I hope these coming days will get us a chance to see and meet more of our neighbors (from at least 6 feet away) and say hello. I recall a conversation I had with a former alderperson who said the best way to improve your neighborhood is get out in it. I couldn’t agree more.

Speaking of getting out in your neighborhood, I aim to do that as soon as possible and I encourage all of you to do the same. When this world regains a sense of normalcy, I encourage all of us to get out and support the local businesses in our neighborhoods. They are certainly going to need our help. It is not just the business and business owner (who is often a neighbor) that you will be supporting, but you will be supporting all of your neighbors who are employed there. Small businesses are what drive the economy. It is important to take care of them. By doing so we are taking care of our neighbors and our neighborhoods. Mr. Rogers would like that I dare say. If you are reading this and you live in my neighborhood, Margie and I look forward to meeting and getting to know a lot more of you. So if you see us out supporting a local business please come up say hello and introduce yourself. Let us use this challenge we have all faced to build a better world.

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING

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.

A STRONG COMMUNITY SERVED A LA CARTE!

Here is a snapshot of a festival in my city of West Allis Wisconsin. As you can see it is a street festival where a lot of people, and dogs, came out to enjoy the nice weather. It not only was a great chance to find some good deals and enjoy some great food and refreshments, but to get to know some of our neighbors as well.
We had the great pleasure of running into friends we already knew including our friend Curtis and his wife Dani (not to mention their charming son and fun-loving dog) and our friend Regina, but we also had a chance to meet some new neighbors. There were new business we had not stepped foot in that we got to see. There were also several stands we enjoyed such as a food vendor named Pigtailz and a business that sold specialty rice krispy treats.
The point here is that it not only gave us a great time but lead us to developing closer ties with many in our community. I recommend attending such festivals in your neighborhood. If they do not exist, encourage leaders and business owners to start one. If you have the chance not only get to know but support local businesses when you can. It not only helps them make a living, it also gives them a sense of pride and strengthens your community. As far as that goes, I am very excited for the steps forward my community of West Allis has taken recently and is poised to take in the future and I am going to do my best to continue to be a part of that.

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!

THE FIRST PLACE TO CREATE PEACE

How often have you heard that we live in a crazy, chaotic world? If you don’t hear it daily from someone you know, you can read it splashed across the television screen, on the front page of the daily newspaper and on every social media site you go on. Reading and absorbing all of this negative news can leave us feeling scared, overwhelmed or exhausted. Sometimes we can feel all three with a host of other unpleasant emotions thrown on top! What are we left to do when we have a day feeling this way?

What many of fail to lose sight of is the fact that if we have inner peace, the outside world has little, if any, impact on our life. Sounds great, but if having inner peace was so easy, how come everyone is not sitting in the park in a state of bliss. To some extent it is not our fault…exactly. We have been lied to by the media, politicians and others. We have been told that we should worry if hypothetically we have a world leader that seems determined to make enemies of friends, create a world filled with division and hate. We have been told to worry if others different than us seem to be receiving some sort of advantage. Countries are about to go to war. The price of oil is going to go through the roof. The stock market is going to fall through the floor.

The truth of all of this is that while some of it may have an impact in our life to a greater or lesser degree, it is mostly beyond our control. We can do what is in our power such as voting against that politician or writing our congressman. We can plan trips and do our best to make the most of the fuel we purchase. If we spend countless hours being upset and discussing or even worse disagreeing with our friends and coworkers about it, that will do us no good.

I have spoken at length about worrying about what you cannot control. The benefits to such actions simply are not there and the negatives abound. First of all it will create stress. Stress has been noted to be a factor in over 80% of medical conditions. In addition, stress causes you to age prematurely. In other words, you will look older and possibly experience health problems sooner. Sounding good so far? I didn’t think so.

As if compromising your health and physical appearance were not enough, lacking inner peace and worrying about and complaining about things outside of our control can affect our social life in a negative way. Almost nobody likes to be around someone who is stressed out and complaining all of the time. I said almost because the only people who seem not to mind are those who complain themselves. Not exactly the people you would want to surround yourself with.

Lastly, and in my mind most important, dwelling on what is wrong does little if anything to create solutions. It is important to note what is wrong in order to define what we would like to be happening, but dwelling on how wrong or terrible it is does us no good. Instead, it would be better to focus on how wonderful the solution would be and what steps we could take to make it happen.

To foster inner peace starting today let us focus and discuss what is beautiful and right with the world and how we can grow that. When we come across something that is not right, let us do what we can in our control to change it and focus on what would like to see. When we see someone who could use some inner peace, share with them what we learned in this article.

ONE CHANGE THAT COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING

It is always entertaining to discover the ways that some of the most life-changing knowledge comes to our attention. What is even more amusing is that often these moments stem from what can initially be defined as a negative experience. Another example of modern day alchemy. We all have the power to turn a negative experience into a positive one. Before I lose everyone completely, allow me to share with you the exact experience I had and the realization that came out of it.

The other afternoon I was riding my bike in the park. It was a rather hot day and I was taking my time enjoying nature in all its glory. Ahead of me was a young man around the age of 6 I would guess. As we rounded the curve in the trail there were a few birds sitting on the grass. As the young man approached them he yelled “Get out of here stupid birds! You are ugly! Goodbye stupid ugly birds!” It appeared the young man had really no malice in his words or towards the birds, but hearing that made my heart sink. My first reaction was to feel bad for the birds. I know this may sound silly as birds to not speak the same language as humans, but sending out that negative energy towards another living thing cannot be constructive. A little while later down the path, when asked his opinion of a certain tree, the child replied using the same descriptions of ‘stupid’ and ‘ugly’. Again, it is my opinion this was more a product of environment and not any malice as the young man seemed rather happy at the time.

As I found my own spirit a little brought down by the young man’s words it got me thinking. In the past I would have felt a little foolish, or even weak for allowing another person’s words and actions affect me. Now I realize it is just part of my gift as an empath and spiritual person. The event stuck in the back of my mind as I went about my day.

3 a.m. found me awake and reading on the couch when the experience popped back into the front of my mind. I began thinking how someone should tell the young man about the law of energy. It may sound silly to do so to someone at such a young age, but if we wait often habits and language patterns can become set and harder to change. What is the big deal about what words we use? Imagine several random people coming up to you and informing you that you are ugly or stupid. Can you imagine how you would feel after that? Even if you give their opinion much weight, it still would not be a good feeling. Now, imagine several random people coming up with wonder in their eyes and informing you how beautiful or inspiring you are. Can you think about how that would feel?

Words do not only affect others. When we, like the young man in the story, go around calling everything stupid or ugly. When we look for things to criticize about people, places and things. Our world becomes filled with things that we see as ugly, stupid or some other negative description. Can you imagine how it would feel to be surrounded by ugliness and stupidity every day, all day? By speaking in such a manner and seeking out the faults in everything we chose to do that to ourselves.

With my feelings working their way downward as I was thinking about all of the people who do this to themselves as well as how often I still find myself doing the same thing, a great realization came to me. If we can make our lives a living hell by the words we chose to use, could we use that same power to transform our lives to one of beauty and joy? Of course we can. There is always two sides to every story.

Immediately my mind began to work on how this could be put into use. The answer was simple. To create joy and positivity all we have to do is the opposite of what brought us the pain and negativity. In this case, what if that young man was taught to find the beauty and magnificence in everything he saw? What if we all learned how to see everything as a miracle. It was Albert Einstein who said, “There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as thought everything is a miracle.” If one of the smartest minds on the planet lived by this concept, I felt it might be wise for me to as well.

Today I am going to begin to look at the beauty in everything I see. In addition, I am going to use words like ‘wonderful’ and ‘beautiful’. If we find the beauty in everything we see, no matter how hard it may be, our lives will be filled with a great amount of beauty and joy. Can you imagine how different it would feel if we were surrounded daily by everything we thought was beautiful? Our lives, in turn, would become beautiful.

One great key to finding the beauty in even the toughest situations was supplied to me by a quote from Mr. Rogers. This quote was sent to me by a neighbor who knew I was a fan of the children’s television show host. The quote was “Frankly there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.” Perhaps if the young man in our story know that birds he was calling stupid could navigate 2000 miles without the use of a map he may not think they were so stupid after all. The greatest irony of all. After all the knowledge that came out of the afternoon in the park, the young  man’s words became a thing of beauty for all they taught me and all I could share with you.

FREEDOM TO BE LOCAL

Here is a picture of the local July 4th celebration in West Allis Wisconsin, where I live. I believe the group is called ‘The dancing Grannies’. I think it is awesome that seniors continue to be active and it was even better to hear people applaud and cheer for them as they went by. In this country July 4th is celebrated as Independence Day, or the day in which this country began its self-rule.

Here is me enjoying the parade with my mother and her husband. I had such a good time and do not remember enjoying a parade that much since I was a child. It got me thinking about individual freedoms we either take for granted or choose not to take advantage of. Such as who we share our time with. Ideally, this picture would have included my lovely Margie, not only would that have added to the joy I was feeling, it would have added beauty to the picture as well. Alas, she was not able to join us due to prior obligations. I could have watched the parade by myself, or even with any of the great friends I ran into. I chose to watch it with my mother because lately we have been going for walks in nature and sharing some great conversation and fun times. The freedom of who to spend your time with is a very important one to exercise.

Here are pictures of the food truck and the tasty treats that I enjoyed from it. Do you realize how many more options we have when it comes to what we eat? Only 100 years ago small local grocery stores carried a handful of options. Now, we have stores that have thousands of items to choose from. Some from halfway around the world! We can choose to eat healthy or we can choose to eat…well…pizza. Even when cooking at home recipes and even videos guiding us through how to make exotic dishes are at our fingertips.

These are pictures of the party they held at a local park after the parade. There were things to eat as you saw in the above paragraph, as well as a band, children’s games and beverages. This brought up one of the most important freedoms of all. In a world that has headlines dominated by terrorism, racism, hate and violence, a lot of people are afraid to walk the street. Sadly, that is exactly what those committing violent crimes wish for. It is my belief that one of the best ways to combat a world that seems filled with division is to get out and meet your neighbors. Holiday celebrations are a perfect place to do so. On this day I met great neighbors such as Kristin, the mayor of our fine city, my neighbor Dan and lots of others. Do yourself a favor. As you are enjoying that hamburger, sweet corn or even that frosty beverage, take a second to introduce yourself to neighbors. If you happen to see Margie and me out enjoying the holidays, feel free to introduce yourself to us.

WE ARE ALL VERY TIRED

One thing that I think we can all agree we are growing weary of is what seems to be the growing rate of violent crime in our world today. As I write this there are reports from the great state of Maryland of a shooting at a newspaper office where 5 people were killed and others were injured. It seems every night you turn on the news, or every morning you pick up the newspaper you read about senseless violence where someone has lost their life. Is this a result of better technology in communicating these crimes? Is it the result of the internet making this a smaller world? Are we becoming less tolerant? Are we becoming desensitized to violence and death due to media and video games? I imagine the answer is probably a little of all the above.

With all of the consumption of negativity you can find yourself feeling quite down. With more people reading more stories of violence we could quickly find ourselves living in a world of people depressed and losing hope. It is my belief that this lack of hope and barrage of negative news can push people who are on the edge to slip into a world of violence.

What is the solution? Are we to bury our heads in the sand and pretend all of this is not happening? The answer is both yes and no. Certainly you need to be aware of your world and what is transpiring, but you do not need to be inundated with it. You must ask yourself if reading every article on every mass shooting will do anything to enhance your life? What it will do is drain your spirit. This is why this and many other sites advocate limiting or better yet eliminating consumption of nightly news. There are apps for weather, sports or anything else you may need to know.

Is there something that we can do that is proactive? The simplest thing we can do is also one of the most powerful and also one of the most difficult. Do not let the constant feeding of negativity get us down. Easier said than done, but it can happen. When I hear of stories of great tragedy in the news I always look for the helpers. A secret I learned from Mr. Rogers. Eventually and in some way tragedy has a way of bringing the best out of some people and bringing people together. If you can’t find a helper, or even if you can, focus on being one.

When I hear of violence or some other tragic news story I know there is even more importance in what I do. The world needs more of a balance of positive to the negative. This was the very reason I began what I do. When I hear of violence in the world I use it as a stark reminder I have far more work to do, and urgent motivation to reach more souls. Victims and their families and friends are not the only people who need encouragement. Those committing the crimes may feel there is no hope. If only they knew they were people who care, even if they are half a world away.

This is where you come in. My words can’t reach everyone. Especially Iceland and Greenland who seem to be two countries I just cannot reach. What we need to do is all work on becoming lights to the world. Whether it is meeting your neighbors as discussed in last week’s post, sharing this blog or just encouraging someone who needs it. Let us all remember it is only light that can remove the darkness.