WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED IN VEGAS??

It is a little past noon as I write this. I’m sitting in Urban Joe’s, a quaint coffee shop in West Allis, Wisconsin where I live. Curtis, a very charming and congenial young man is working with his wife Danielle. It would seem to be the prefect Monday, with one exception – Las Vegas.

Last night was the deadliest shooting in US history. 58 innocent people lost their lives. People on the television as well as in the coffee shop are musing as to what the motive may be and how could this even happen. Questions you may be asking yourself.

Routinely I am asked if the world seems to be getting worse. We hear about terror attacks across the globe and right next door. The level of divide between people seems to be growing.

To me the answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. I believe, sadly, this sort of violence has been around nearly as long as mankind has. If we review the pages of history we can easily find examples of that. What has changed is the ‘closeness’ of the world. We can hear what happened across the globe seconds after it has transpired. We also hear about every incident. News that used to be relegated to the town it occurred in can now be viewed online by someone half way around the world.

There are two things I would like point out at this time. First is not to give in to the going of fear being pushed on us by the media. Let us not start treating each other with harshness based on judgements we have come to from world events. When we hear about certain groups of people perpetrating crimes it is easy to fall victim to the temptations to pass that judgement on to others who may belong to that group. The only way for us to overcome the social challenges that face us is through treating each other with love, respect and compassion. An “eye for an eye” mentality can only lead us to a blind world.

While we are on the subject of solutions, let us explore how we can help ourselves not feel overwhelmed by all the negative news we are exposed to. This is something I first wrote about in 2012 and several times sense. I refer to a story shared by one of my favorite philosophers, Mr. Fred Rodgers. He once shared a story of asking his mom about the negative news on the television. His mom gave him advice I think we could all use today. She told him, quite simply, “Look for the helpers.”

In the wake up both this tragic event, the recent hurricanes and earthquakes we have seen a flood of people rushing to help from across countries, to across the globe. These heroic efforts can get lost in the deluge of reporting on the Loss of property, lives and love for our fellow humanity. I encourage you to dig deep and read a few of these. See even in the darkest hours of humanity there are always beacons of light. Stay in love and light my friends.

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.

DON’T CONFUSE THE TWO

This is a tough one. When we are emotionally hurt it can leave a scar worse than a physical scar. Sometimes we even have a habit of dating the same kind of people who treat us poorly. If you couple that with the intense emotional pain that we feel it is so wonder our brains can link things together and come up with some pretty strange conclusions! We can believe all relationships cause pain. Of course we can look around and see proof that is not true. You can get hurt in most relationships, but if two people truly care about each other it becomes an opportunity for growth and becoming closer. The abusive, painful relationships are not relationships at all. There is no relating or respect, but instead more of a using. When we get hurt it may be difficult to realize that, but realize it we must or we prevent ourselves from experiencing all the wonderful things a healthy relationship can offer.

Not only relationships can be affected by this way of thinking. For example, I was bitten by the same type of dog on several occasions. Most dogs rather enjoy my company and I must confess I enjoy their company far more than some humans I have come across. Still the link to the physical pain and the fact is was the same breed and I am not the biggest fan of those particular dogs. That is a link I formed in my head. I could have developed the belief that all dogs were bad, or even lost my love for animals. Luckily I had many fun and not painful experiences before that so those never came to be.

So let us look at our beliefs and see how we came to develop them and if they have any validity. Perhaps we have drawn the wrong conclusions. Maybe in my case I happened across some bad dog owners? Perhaps I need to learn to modify my behavior around those types of dogs or learn more about them?

If ever we have beliefs that are absolute such as “All men are bad” “All people of this belief are bad” we need to really take a look at them more closely. Very rarely do things in this world fit in absolutes. Even gravity is known to work a little sketchy in certain parts of the world. Please share this blog post and website with those you car for.

JUST ONE OF THOSE DAYS!

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Many times in my life I find myself in situations where I do not come out on top. Almost always those situations leave me with a great lesson or at the very least a great story. This is just such a story.

During high school I had a friend named Matt. We are still friends, this just happens to take place when we were both in high school. Often we strolled home together and discussed life,love and our philosophy about them both. During one such conversation when I remarked what an amazing day I was having a pigeon, in what was surely an attempt to keep me humble or prove how good his aim was, decided to use me as his personal bathroom. After my companion had a chuckle at my expense we began to do our best to remove the memory of the bird.

Fast forward a few days later, the next time the two of us found ourselves walking the same path. As we passed a local historical society I saw…a pigeon. I calmly and politely asked Matt for a rock and informed him I was going to have pigeon for dinner.

His response is one I will never forget. He looked me dead in the eye and said “you can’t hate all pigeons because one pooped on your head. That’s like racism”. After giving him a look that most have looked like a mix of insanity and confusion, I stopped looking for a weapon, shrugged my shoulders and walked on.

Other than providing you with a bit of humor in your day, this story serves a purpose. When someone treats me harshly I am reminded to look further to what may be behind their actions. I also do not judge the group based on the actions of the select few.

So next time you see a pigeon remember this story and remember to not hate any person (or bird) based on the actions of one.

YOU’RE A PEACH!

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It always hurts a little when someone may not be our biggest fan. Especially if you are doing your best to be the best person you can be. Personally I find this hard to take at times because I care so deeply for people. When we factor in personal beliefs such as prejudice or racism the reasons people may not like you often have more to do with them and the way they look at the world. People’s opinion can also be colored by their past experiences. Perhaps they had an abusive uncle named Neil growing up. If they meet me they very well may not even take the chance to get to know me, or worse yet decide they do not like me based solely on my name. This can hold true for the color of your skin, the way you dress, what job you hold and a million other reasons. Before we start thinking to ourselves how ridiculous this may all sound, understand a lot of these opinions can come with some strong emotional attachment. In the case of racism, it may be how the person was raised and sadly beliefs that were engrained in them before they had to learn the truth about people. If the person has had a strong negative experience such as physical or sexual abuse related to someone who shares traits that you have, that judgment may also include a great deal of fear.

So what is the takeaway from all of this? Understand that people not liking you can often be none of your business. We must greet this judgment with a good deal of compassion. We rarely, if ever, know the story behind it. Is this easy? Absolutely not. It does, however benefit us in the long run. Changing anger and frustration into compassion and understanding helps us deal with the negative actions associated with people not enjoying our company. Another important thing this does is not reinforce their negative opinion. If someone chooses to not like us for reasons of their own creation the worst thing we can do is reinforce them. Do your best to show them what a great person they are missing out on. If they still choose not to like you, which often may be the case, treat their opinion with compassion and respect. Continue to be the best you can be and focus on those who do love you. At the very least you have left them with a good example of what a person can be. Remember like the picture says above, “Some people just don’t like peaches”

Feel free to share this post on your social media pages as well as with anyone you think could benefit. Feel free to leave any other suggestions you may have in the comments below.

LOVE THEM ALL

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Yesterday we spoke of change and how important it was to embrace it. Here is another subject we should consider going into the next year, diversity. I know that can be a buzz word around the office and for HR purposes, but I am talking about personal diversity.

What do I mean by personal diversity? Imagine being surrounded by people exactly the same as yourself. Dating someone exactly like yourself, talking to people who think just like you do, watch the same shows, go to the same places. Life would not be very exciting. You would never learn about great new places to explore, new foods to try and new experiences to have. So in the coming year we should make a point to expand our personal social circle. Find people who can teach you, who can inspire you and who can bring something new to your life experience. It will be one of the best gifts you can give yourself in the new year!