AM I YOUR BROTHER?

I cannot claim complete credit for this blog. Then again, that can be said for most of my blogs. This one was specifically inspired by my coworker Jon. We were driving back from helping a different coworker who had gotten a flat tire. At this point, let me give you a brief description of Jon. He is a mild-mannered man who has spent time living abroad. Jon does not yell and when he speaks you can tell a lot of thought goes into what he says. In short, Jon is a good man who you would want to spend some time around.

Back to our conversation. We were discussing his time living in Korea and he mentioned the respect people have for each other there. He also noted something I found to be of great interest. He told me it was his experience that people around the same age referred to each other as brother and sister and those older than you are spoken to with a greater degree of respect. I shared with him my knowledge of Native American culture and how others are often referred to as brother and sister as well. I also told him how elders are called grandmother and grandfather. They are also held in high regard because of all they have lived and been through. I wrote about the importance of older people and the wisdom and experience they contain in an earlier post, but it bears repeating. Those wonderful souls are living treasures that will be lost with their passing. To treat them with anything less than respect is a disgrace.

As we continued to muse and discuss the subject, we both came to the conclusion that there is a correlation with how you view and address people and the amount of respect you have for them. After all, unless your name happens to be Cain, you would not likely wish to kill your brother. If we go back far enough we are more than likely related in some form or fashion. Even if not related genetically, we can be brothers and sisters ideologically. Even if we differ slightly in some regards we are all striving for the best life we can have for ourselves and for the ones we love.

Keeping this knowledge in mind, let us look for what we have in common instead of what divides us and we will find we are all brothers and sisters in some way. Jon, for example, is my brother in that we both have the same struggles and experiences working for the United States Postal Service. That can be said of my friends Chris, Laura, Christine, John, Don, Raul, Beth, Julie and many others I know. I have brothers and sisters who have the unique understanding of the bartending arena. Lisa, Matty, Dylan, Ashley, Jenny, Autumn, Emily, Rebecca, Audra, Alysa and more. Then there are my brothers and sisters in the literary field. Ursula, Aura, Stefanie, Cari, Andrada, Kelly and more. Margie is even my sister in that she is a creative entrepreneur. Although calling each other brother and sister would be a bit awkward. I have a brother in my friend Russ as we have been through so much and have a lot of love and respect for each other. Which brings me to my sister Michelle, an amazing lady who is the best sister a guy could have!

You see all of these people, with one exception, are not actually related to me. I do view them all with a feeling of Kinship beyond what I would refer to a friend. Next time you find yourself walking into a coffee shop or fast food place think of the person behind the counter as your brother or sister in working with the public. We all know the struggles that can be. When someone cuts you off in traffic, know they are your brother and sister in trying to get home to their family or maybe to work on time. That is not to say that brothers and sisters won’t make you angry or you may not agree sometimes, but that does not make them any less your brother or sister.

Feel free to recognize people you would be proud to call brother and sister in the comments below.


WHAT IS YOUR STORY?

This blog post created itself last night. After Margie and I had finished our Wednesday night show and found ourselves driving with our friend Kelly. We began sharing defining moments from our childhood that defined who we are today. It caused me to reflect on a few moments that I would like to share with you. More so, it made me think of something far more important that we will get to right after this moment of reflection.

For those of you who may have been reading my writings of late, I have shared the story of my senior year English teacher. On the final day before graduation, she pulled me aside and said in an almost pleading tone, “I pray to God you will never have a career involving writing.” Given the evidence up to that point I would have been inclined to agree with her, but here we are.

Another fun story involved a teacher I had for business. She was a kindly lady. She kind of reminded me of someone’s grandmother from a Norman Rockwell painting. My relationship with this wonderful woman was great. We laughed, smiled and shared many good conversations. I would have said I was the perfect student with one glaring exception. In this class it just so happened I was surrounded by friends of mine. It also happened these were friends that like conversation as much as I did. Daily we shared conversations about life, love and our pursuit of happiness. When the time came out for giving everyone a grade I still recall what this teacher wrote. Written next to my grade was the comment, “Neil will do a lot better in life when he understands you can’t make a living discussing life and its challenges with people.” Once again, here we are. Discussing life and how to positively approach and overcome its challenges. Granted you might be reading this in Greenland, South Africa or Fiji while I am here in West Allis, Wisconsin, but virtually we are engaged in this conversation.

Let me share a more comical example from my youth. Second grade I do believe. I had a good friend who had just moved away and I found myself in trouble for something. That part seems to remain vague. As punishment I was to stand with my back against the wall and watch the other kids enjoying recess and playing on the playground. Sounds a little cruel in hindsight but I guess it served as a lesson – almost. As I was standing there I thought of a joke. One of the kids walked by and I told him my joke. He thought it was so funny he went to bring other kids to hear it. Before recess was over I found myself doing what could be described as a forced stand up comedy routine.

I saved this example for last because it was by far the darkest example. I was part of a group called ‘peer helpers’ in high school. The program was designed to help students who were facing addiction, abuse or any other emotional trauma. To me it sounded like a great idea on the surface. It became apparent very quickly that I disagreed with the approach of the program. It seemed to approach the issues from that of the adults who formed the group and not of the youths facing the challenges. I soon politely left the group. All would have been ok with one exception. I really did have the desire to help and still talked to many of the kids I had met in the program. I tried methods I believed might reach them. This was especially true because most of them had stopped asking for help from the Peer Helpers program.

Again, this would have all been good, but my locker happened to be right across the hallway from the lady who was in charge of the program. Once she noticed that quite a few of the students who left her group were coming up to my locker and asking questions she stormed over. She issued what can only be viewed as a veiled threat. She yelled how dare I think I could help kids better than she could and I better stop what I was doing “or else.” I really wasn’t trying to do anything but help people the best way I thought I could. I continued to do so with a little more discretion. Two days before I was set to graduate I was summoned to the principle’s office. When I arrived the teacher was there along with several police officers. This teacher, this adult, this individual who is supposed to be an example told all of them I had threatened to physically harm her. Not only was that a total lie, but I had no malice towards this woman, merely a difference in philosophy. Luckily, with the support and sworn statements of my character from other instructors I had and her changing her story several times the matter was all but dropped.

What is the point of all of these stories? The point is that anyone of these stories could have had a very negative impact on my life. What made the difference is that I chose what they meant to me. My high school English teacher could have prevented me from ever starting this site which has close to 1000 posts. What she told me could have dissuaded me from ever writing my book A Happy Life for Busy People. My business teacher tried to convince me there was no future in listening to the challenges people face in life and trying to help create solutions, but that is the basis of all I do.

Through my punishment that day in second grade I learned the power of humor to reach people. I also learned that sometimes when the world seems to be taken away from you, the best solution is to make the world come to you. It is a theme that kind of plays throughout the videos on my YouTube channel. It also showed me new and wonderful ways to make friends. The lesson that if you can introduce your material to enough people it can really change your situation didn’t escape me either.

The final dark situation could have steered me in many different directions. I could have decided not to trust authority. Certainly learning that ego can override professionalism and make people act in ways they shouldn’t. I could have decided that it meant if I try to do things on my own in a way I feel will help the most people it will lead to trouble and could land me in jail. Of course it also showed me the value of displaying and acting with the best character and highest standards.

What is your story? What events have transformed your life? Have you let them decide what you can or can’t do? Are they putting limits on your life or are you using them to motivate you? The story of our lives should not be told through the mouths or actions of others. Realize you are not a victim of your past but a victor over it. You have made it to today despite what you have been told and what has happened to you. Do not let your past or those in it steal your power for a strong future. Find the empowerment in every challenge you have faced, or may now be facing.

WHAT DO THE SIGNS MEAN?

While going through some of my childhood items my mother found cleaning out a closet in her house, I came across this little item. I found the irony in this because I could not have been very old, I am guessing 6 or so, when I wrote in this notebook. The thought bubble above Snoopy’s head could have very well been a warning from the universe. It could have been I was just a big fan of Peanuts and Charlie Brown. Although personally I think I am more like the character of Linus.

What this made me think of is how perhaps talents we have may be innate. If you would have asked me what I wanted to be at the age of 6, I highly doubt my answer would have been best-selling author and blog writer, but that is what I am on my way to becoming. Did I somehow already know that is what I was destined to do?

To add to the feelings of irony, found with this notebook was a collection of stories I had composed back in third grade. Other than noting my grammar has not improved a great deal since then, my writing style was oddly the same. The fact that these two items were found at this point in my life seems interesting to me. Sometime after receiving an A+ for my writing in third grade, I had transitioned to being warned by my teacher my senior year in high school never to pursue a career in writing. Had I come across these items at that time they would have totally meant something different.

Does timing and current life situations dictate what things mean or are we destined to find and become certain things in life? I guess that falls to a matter of opinion. As for me and my little Snoopy notebook, there are several ways in which I could view this. I could say that perhaps my grammar will never be good if it hasn’t improved in thirty  years. I could say that my writing was better received in third grade than it is now. That may very well be true, but there is another way to look at it. A more positive way. I will  just take it as a sign from the universe that being an author is really something that has always been a part of who I was. Also a sign and reminder that I am pursuing the write life path.

I think we have a choice as to how we interpret the things that happen to us in life. Whether we view them as positive and inspirational, or negative and foreboding is up to us and has a great deal of influence on the quality of our life.

SO GRATEFUL…

This picture all but brings tears of joy and excitement to my eyes. Why? Am I a freak about cartography? Not exactly. This picture, not exactly clear, is a map of all the countries of the world. The exciting part is that all of the red,orange and yellow countries are ones where someone has read my writing. It amounts to well over 100 countries. If, five years ago when I started this website you had told me I would affect the lives of people in over 100 countries I would have been hard-pressed to believe you. with followers numbering in the tens of thousands, daily my words have the potential to bring joy to a lot of hearts and minds. I view that as not only a great reward, but a great responsibility.

The countries that are not colored in excite me as well. They simply mean there are even more people that I can positively impact. Although I am not exactly sure what has prevented my words from reaching them so far, (Greenland and Iceland what does a fellow have to do?) but it keeps me working hard each and every day. The joy I have in reading comments from people across the globe from Armenia to Zimbabwe fills my heart with more joy than I can convey.

I just wanted to take a moment and keep all of you up to date as to how many lives we can all touch through this website. Whether it is a comment, like, share or sending me an idea of something you would like me to write about, our words reach readers in ever corner of the world. I look forward to reaching and connecting with more of you in the future.

If you would like to leave a suggestion for a topic to be covered on this website, tell the story of how it has affected your life, or simply say what corner of the world you read it in and hello to myself and our other readers that would be amazing!

WHAT NOW?

When I decided to be a motivational speaker I thought it would be an easy and natural progression. Taking the material in both my book and website and sharing it with people would be simple and enjoyable. What challenges could come from sharing how to live a more positive and rewarding life with others.

I have discovered being able to appreciate the beauty in others and express that beauty in the written words has bestowed upon me one of the most challenging, yet personally rewarding honors I have faced. In the past 12 months I have spoken at 5 funerals. Being asked to speak about the life of someone who everyone in attendance cared so deeply for is both a tremendous honor, and great responsibility. One that I do not take lightly. It has also taught me to learn and think a great deal about how I approach the subject of death. In doing so, I have discovered what will not only help ease the burden of grief we feel when we lose someone we love but will help them live on every day in our lives. I would like to share what I learned with all of you in hopes it may help you or someone you know who may be experiencing the grief of losing someone you love.

On May 8th our family experienced a great loss in the mother of my lovely lady, Margie. Shortly after her mom’s passing, Margie asked if I would like to speak at the funeral. I must confess to having cringed a little. Being that my love and respect for both of those ladies was quite high, it was an honor, but it would be an emotional challenge to deliver. Certainly, when asked to perform such an important honor, it is hard to say no. As I began to think about what I would say, a new challenge presented itself. I was about to compose words about the woman the lady in my life was lucky enough to call her mom. Nothing but the best would do. The words came to me at 3 o’clock one morning. I grabbed my laptop to capture them.

In all my writing I try to give the reader something they can use to reduce the stress, or in this case grief in their life and add some joy or positivity. Fortunately for me, Margie’s mother, Ruthanne, led life that provided most of what I needed to say.

Most eulogies include memories of the person they honor. I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to answer the question that all of us, in some form or fashion, have in our hearts and minds when we lose someone we love – now what? What do we do now that we have lost a great parent, grandparent, spouse or even dear friend? How do we keep them alive both in our hearts and the world around us? How can we help their legacy live on?

I am going to share what works for me in hopes that it may help you. I have found although honoring someone with a memorial or candle-light vigil is thoughtful, the event is over in a day. For me, the best way to keep someone alive in our hearts and in our daily life is to replace some of the light the world has lost with their passing. I would like to explain this further by using the life of Ruthanne as an example. I must add Ruthanne gave more light in her 79 years than most people could do if given 179 years. Her life could best be summed up by recalling her last few days with us here on earth.

When Ruthanne was told her time on earth was ending, she voiced two desires. It wasn’t a fancy car or an exotic vacation. She wanted to go to the casino and karaoke one more time. She wanted to die as she lived, feeling the joy in her life, surrounded by the people she loved. Ruthanne understood that joy and peace are more important than status or wealth.

When it became clear she was not going to leave the hospital we asked her if she would like us to bring her anything. Her answer spoke volumes. She said quite firmly, “I don’t need things. I need people.” Ruthanne understood the material gifts we are given we cannot take with us, but the lives we touch and the memories we create is what will live on long after we are gone. She knew the most valuable gift we can give someone is our time and our love. That is what she wanted from us.

It was not receiving that gift that most concerned Ruthanne. Every person who visited her in the hospital asked her the same question, “How are you doing?” You might think she would lament the conditions that plagued her or the time she had left. Not once did I hear this. Instead, she asked people how they were doing. She did not do this just for conversation, but with the genuine sincerity of someone who truly cares. She asked to see pictures of babies and how their jobs were going. Ruthanne understood how important it is to let someone know they are loved and significant.

If you attended Ruthanne’s funeral or visited her in the hospital you would notice the people she surrounded herself with came from every race, culture and creed. Ruthanne may joke with you about your look some days, but she would never let how someone looked stop her from loving them. Although a Christian, she would not let believing in a different faith stop her from loving you. Ruthanne gave us the gift of acceptance.

Sometimes, those she loved let her down. They may have been in trouble with the law, developed habits or addictions they shouldn’t have, or even hurt her or the ones she loved. I think at some point all of us that knew her failed to live up to our own standard. What did she do when this happened? She loved us anyway. Ruthanne gave us the gift of forgiveness.

With all the gifts mentioned above that she gave us, it is easy to see why at the 79th birthday party Margie threw her over 100 people showed up. If I were to guess almost three times that many either visited or sent well-wishes when she was in the hospital. With that much love and popularity you could not blame Ruthanne if she would boast with the rest of them. When she was told people had to leave her room because more were waiting to visit her she would tell us, “I don’t know why people love me so much. I am just me.” Ruthanne gave us the gift of humility.

Ruthanne gave me those gifts and I must add giving birth to the most beautiful woman I share my life with. Sadly, she will no longer be here to teach me these gifts in person. It falls upon me and those she knew, in her honor and memory, to share these gifts with those lives we touch. Every time I am accepting, forgiving, every time I make someone laugh or remind them how important and loved they are, I will think of and thank Ruthanne for being a living example of these virtues and many more.

When we lose someone we truly love, let us all work together to replace the light the world has lost with their passing. It will not only help ease our grief, it will keep them with us every day we share the gifts that they gave us.

A NEW AVENUE EXPLORED

Recently, I had the honor of being part of an inspiring publication. See Beyond is a wonderful magazine that tackles the gritty issues facing our youth and does so while encouraging and inspiring them.

In this issue, I had the great pleasure of joining other authors while sharing the challenges I face in my career as a writer. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of such a unique and thought-provoking publication. I am already looking forward to contributing more.

CLICK ON THIS LINK TO READ MY ARTICLE ON PAGE 32 OF THIS MONTH’S ISSUE

FRIENDS WITHOUT BORDERS

This here a picture of myself and my good friend Johnny on St. Patrick’s day. I was working as a DJ at a local club that night. The story I am about to tell you serves as an example of several things. First, how small indeed the world is today. Second, how foolish things like racism and prejudice are. Third and finally, the benefits of being nice and sociable.

The back story is as follows. Johnny is a good friend of my lady, Margie. He has been a regular performer at her shows for quite some time. Before I met Johnny, Margie told me, “I think you are really going to like this guy.” She was indeed correct. Before I had the chance to discover that, however, there was some waiting involved. The reason for this waiting was due to the fact that Johnny lives in Mexico and only comes to visit at most a few times a year.

Through the last couple of visits he has read a lot of my writing and has found some things he can relate to. In fact, recently he has shared my book with people in the great state of Texas as well as other places. He has offered some very insightful feedback that has caused my writing to develop in ways it may not have otherwise. We have had some great discussions including sitting down for breakfast recently. These conversations has given birth to some great ideas that have been on this blog site and in my next book.

Speaking of books, recently Johnny has informed me that he is working on a book himself. He shared the plot with me and I must confess it sounds like a great story. I’ll update details as the situation develops. We discussed writing styles, publishing ins and outs as well as other ideas. There is no doubt his book will be a success. It is in a totally different genre than I write, but we certainly had a lot to discuss as the process and struggles of writing are the same regardless of content.

Johnny’s creativity is not limited to being a potential best-selling author. He also has several CDs available on cdbaby.com just search ‘Johnny L’. The style of his music is also something I am a fan of, classic standards from Elvis to Frank Sinatra. If you are a fan of this music or just great talent in general, I highly recommend giving him a listen.

The point of this post is several fold. If I were to make a sweeping judgment about people from the great country of Mexico I might not have the great benefits that my friendship with Johnny provides. If both Margie and I were not outgoing and genuinely friendly to the people at our shows Johnny would not have spent the time to become friends with us either. If it wasn’t for technology communication between all of us would be limited to just those few times a year. Whether you are from Mexico, Jamaica or Fiji shouldn’t matter. It is how you treat people and what you can bring to their lives. Technology is not limited by borders or culture, neither should your friendship be.