Friday, January 31, 2014

Empathy


      Be compassionate by thinking “how would I feel?” Unfortunately, we have become desensitized to hardship, cruelty, and desperation. Since Desert Storm we have watched war occur from our living room. We wake up every morning and go to sleep every night with the horrific news of murder or rape happening in a city only one half hour away. The consistency of negative news makes us shrug our shoulders and walk away only to crawl under our blankets for protection.
     As a teacher, I have watched as each new generation enters my classroom with less and less respect for each other, faculty, and staff. I smile as they enter my class room and say, "Good morning," only to have them walk by without so much as a smile in return. Few speak to each other, for they now maintain a steady stream of conversation through texting. I create group work, so they can interact and discuss controversial issues in an empathetic manner. They are taught to listen before they speak. They are taught to be sensitive to other's opinions and beliefs.
    We are a generation of violent video games, drones which drop bombs without thought of individuals being killed or maimed, and road rage. I worry about the world I will leave behind one day. I think of the quote by Atticus Finch from the novel  To Kill A Mockingbird,  "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." (3.85-87)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Forgive


Don’t ever think you must invite your enemy over for dinner. One can forgive the person without having to become buddies. I learned that lesson many years ago when I was having a very difficult time forgiving someone. The intensity of my anger was poisoning me, and I felt sick all the time. Then a friend of mine, who is loving and Christian in her kindness, told me I didn't have to invite this person over for dinner or ever see this person again. I just had to hand over the anger to God and find peace in my heart. I thought about this for several days and then I let go. I have never looked back. I am so thankful to this individual who taught me a very important lesson. I had been raised to believe that forgiving meant I had to allow this person into my life. When my friend mentioned that one can forgive but not invite, I felt such relief as though a huge weight had been lifted. Now, I find it easy to forgive, for who am I to judge. I leave judgment to God and I brush the dirt off my sandal and move on.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Walk Away


Never remain in a situation that is making you feel awkward or uncomfortable. When I was young, I thought I was being rude if I walked away when someone was talking. That is usually correct except when one walks away from an uncomfortable situation. I can remember a situation when I was fifteen that left me extremely uncomfortable. I worked in an office furniture store owned by two men. They seemed very nice but they would often joke about sexual matters. As a young teenager, I felt awkward but did not remove myself from the office when they began joking. To tell the truth, I was much older when I came to my senses.
Today, I don't walk away. Instead, I tell the person who is saying something inappropriate that I am not comfortable. My husband and I are on the same page with this, so there have been times when someone has said something that is prejudicial, sexual, or biased and we either say something or we get up and leave after saying, "this conversation is making us uncomfortable."
No one should have to listen or be victim to lewd or nasty remarks, so from now on tell it like it is or simply walk away.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lemons



If life throws you lemons, the hell with making lemonade, make apple pie instead. Why harp on the fact that you had lemons to begin with. Why not develop a new philosophy. One that reinforces that everything in life is a lesson from which we can and should grow. Lemons are sour; apple pie is sweet and lessons should be sweet enough to enjoy the growth that was made. When my husband was thirty-five and I was thirty-two, he had a massive heart attach. That was sour beyond imagination. Yet neither of us dwelt on the lemon factor. He went on to become one of the best electrical contractors in Long Island, and I went back to college. I am and have been a full time Professor of English for many years. We disregarded the fact that we were handed a bunch of lemons. We turned the situation into apple pie and it's been a great dessert.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sincerity

Always be a person of your word. If you say you will do something, then do it. I had a friend who would say she would meet me for lunch and then shortly before we were supposed to meet, she would cancel. Sometimes, the call came minutes before the appointed time. There were times when she would agree to come over my house for dinner and then the day before or the morning of, after the groceries had been purchased, she would cancel. My husband and I dealt with it for a long time but after many cancelled dates, we finally said enough.
I was brought up that if you can't keep an appointment or do something you know you won't have time to do, then don't say you will. It's so much worse to cancel after the other person is counting on you. Have the courage to say, "I won't be able to attend," or "I can't head the committee this year." Cowards say they will because they cannot say "no" to someone in person; they would rather renege by phone or email. How sad.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Love thy neighbor...

Pray for those who are difficult to be around. It's so easy to love those who love you back. It's usually easy to love our family or our good friends, yet there are times when we have to be cordial (at the very least) to individuals who are not easy to get along with. When we're young, it's our peers at school, and when we get older, it's our colleagues. Not all relationships are loving relationships, yet there should be an attitude of respect, tolerance, and compassion. Every work place is similar to the elementary school playground. There is the clown, the bully, the popular group, etc. The difference in the workforce is that the players are adults, and some simply have not grown up. Solution? Approach the situation with professionalism and sensitivity. Difficult people need to know that their difficult personalities are undermining the  climate of the workplace and that camaraderie is essential.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bullying

If someone is being mistreated, speak up. Silence has done more harm than good. Bullying is becoming epidemic because now bullies don't only have the school ground or the work place, they also have the internet. Cyber bullying can be so damaging that it has led to suicide in some cases and long lasting emotional problems for many  victims. Years ago I taught at a public high school and learned first hand how cruel students can be. If a fight broke out, students would create a circle and watch as the two fighters went at each other until a teacher intervened or the administration was called. Students who were bullied were laughed at by onlookers.
Then, we began educating students about bullies and what one should do when witness to bullying. We explained that bullies have self esteem issues and are usually bullied at home by one or both parents or sometimes by a sibling. Students who understood they were bullies soon realized that they needed help and those who were being bullied learned they could rely on teachers and staff to work with them. Counselors helped both the bully and the victim. Had we stood by and done nothing, our students would have remained helpless and fearful, yet we spoke up and everyone gained from the experience. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Take Pride in the Way you Look

Take pride in the way you look. I admit there were times when I left the house looking like I just rolled out of bed, but I did try to remember the lesson my fifth grade teacher taught us. I remember she stopped teaching us our spelling lesson because of a young girl who walked in class dishevelled and unkempt. When the young girl sat down, our teacher told us that everyone had a bar of soap and water, so we could at least come to school clean even if we didn't have stylish clothes. She taught us to take pride in the way we looked and that people would often judge us by our appearance. I realize she lacked tact and that we should not judge people by their appearance, yet whether we like it or not, we are judged by the way we look. I don't know if the parents of that young girl were talked to, but she came to class clean and well groomed from then on. It was a good lesson  for all of us. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Listen

Be a listener – I learned it is truly better than talking, and you will have fewer chances of sticking your foot in your mouth. Most of us think we have the answers to everyone's problems. So, when friends or family come to us with their tales of woe, we ( ok, I) have a tendency of giving quick advice instead of listening. After all, isn't that what we would want? Sometimes, it is much more helpful to be a good listener than being a good talker. Listen more and speak less. Trust me, I've learned the hard way and I'm still learning!

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Dream Deferred

Langston Hughes wrote the poem "A Dream Deferred" in the early 1950's. His poem depicts a sad tale when a dream is deferred but must it be so? What if our dreams don't come true? Should we lay down and feel sorry for ourselves? I think having a dream keeps us alive and motivated; however, if our dream doesn't happen for whatever reason, then it's time to move on and think of another dream. Sometimes people don't even think of having a dream or setting a goal because they might think, "What if it doesn't come true?" But, if one limits him or herself to never thinking about what he or she might become or achieve, then how much is that person limiting their potential. I say dream and dream big. If the dream doesn't come true after you have done everything in your power, then realize that there are many other dreams out there. Dream on.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Healthy Relationships


Gather around you those who support you, love you, and respect you. Have you ever felt drained after visiting a family member or friend? You meet for lunch or coffee and you get there full of energy and vitality only to feel down trodden, sad, and even morose when you leave. Something is not right with that relationship. Of course there are times when we need a friend or relative to listen to us, but if the instances are usually depressing, then the relationship may be hurting not only your emotional well being but also your physical well being.
How about those who don't support your dreams or aspirations? Those are the people who say, "Really? You're going back to school at your age. Do you think that's wise? It will take a toll on your family, you know." Or, how about the one who doesn't support you when you want to lose weight or quit smoking? "Oh, I've tried a dozen times, and nothing works..."
Everyone has a friend or two and a family member or more who fit the category. The trick is to realize when some relationships are toxic and when they are healthy. Evaluating and analyzing relationships is one way to assess who you are and what you need.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Punctuality


Be punctual because it shows respect for those who are expecting you. I am always on time. Everyone in my family arrives to an event on time. I am on time at work, for an appointment, for a meeting with friends or family, etc. This is what I was raised to do. I was taught that tardiness showed disrespect. Sometimes I am amazed at how late my students show up to class. I had to make a rule that my door will be locked five minutes after the beginning of class. A few of my friends think it's nothing to arrive five or ten minutes late for lunch date or sometimes they don't come at all. The excuses run from, "Oh my gosh, I totally forgot," to "I was running late all  morning long. So sorry but I'm so busy." I too am sorry but this behavior is rude and disrespectful. Remember, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you?" Well, if we want our friends, family members, clients, teachers to respect us, then we better start by showing up on time.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Kindness

Do good deeds for the sheer sake of doing them  - don’t dwell on the thanks you should receive.
My mother was the most charitable person I have known. Though we had very little, she would give what she could to those who were needy. All her life she gave to orphans, and there were times when we had barely played with a toy or worn an outfit when we would find it was missing only to find out she had packed it and sent the items to the orphanage in Italy. Her favorite saying was, "do good and forget about it but do something wrong and think about it." Both my children grew up to be charitable because they watched their mother, father, and grandmother give. We learned that when we give to others we give to ourselves. I have learned that those who give often get greater satisfaction than those who receive. I believe this to be very true. Just think about the holidays and how good we feel when we give. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we gave as we do on holidays like Christmas? That's my goal this year.  

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Respect

Respect only those who respect you as well. If you've ever heard, "respect your elders," then I say, "only if they respect you." I'm sorry but I don't agree with showing respect to anyone unless they reciprocate. Of course I begin by showing respect to everyone regardless of whether they are young or old, but if an individual disregards my kindness and sensitivity, then I dust my shoes and move on. I've seen many become door mats to others because there is no reciprocation of respect.
As a teacher, I began every new school year with this message, "I will always respect you as long as you respect me in turn. I will try to be sensitive to your needs as long as you reciprocate. If you don't, then all bets are off." I also told them, "If I ever disrespect you in any way, please let me know." 
Respect is such an important part of any relationship regardless of its forum. I have known teachers, adults, police officers, priests, doctors, and lawyers who demand respect yet look down on and disrespect students, children, congregants, patients or clients. These relationships usually disintegrate.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Love Till Your Cup Runneth Over

Sometimes we are afraid to love because we think we will get hurt, and that's very true. That can happen; however, when we hold back we may also be missing out on the best experience of our lives. It's important to know what the word love entails. Understanding that love means respect, trust, loyalty, honor, and honesty avails us with the proper tools for a solid relationship. Love does not mean one should settle; instead, it means one should find a person with those qualities that are admirable such as love of family, spiritual wellness, emotional well being, etc.
When I was nineteen years old, I was engaged to a young man who I thought was wonderful. Yet, three months before our wedding date, he hit me. I calmly asked him to take me home and then cancelled the wedding plans the following day. I never saw him again.
Several months later, I met the man I am now married to. We have been married for many wonderful years. Of course there have been ups and downs, good days and bad, but we have shared those very important qualities I mentioned before. Another very important element in a loving relationship is communication. Without it, one can kiss the relationship good-bye.