Simple

I am too busy to put something up today so I thought I would leave you with a story I wrote in 1999.

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Two years ago when my family moved to the Midwest, we did so in search of a “simpler” life. After burning the candles at both ends, we felt it was time to slow down. We wanted to have the time to stop and smell the roses, and to enjoy the “simple” things in life. I thought I knew what those “simple” things were until we met Boone during a mountain trek while in Thailand.

Boone was 33 years old then. Gracious and quiet, he used to be a sustenance farmer. In his village he eked out a meager living cultivating rice and growing vegetables. His was a simple life, yet Boone wanted more. He wanted more than to just sustain himself, he wanted to have some money set aside for a rainy day. So Boone gave up farming and he dedicated his life to learning how to speak English in an effort to improve his life. Now he leads jungle treks for foreign tourists who pay a lot of money to forget their busy lives and experience the “simple life” of the hill tribe people in Northern Thailand.

I got to know Boone very well on our two day trek and I think he got to know me better than he wanted to as he carried my pack for most of the trek. I would like to say that I lead the group due to Boone’s pack carrying generosity. I can’t. He carried my pack in hopes that I would arrive at the remote village sometime within the same week as the others in the group. Going straight up mountains and then straight down did terrible things to my knees and by the end of the day I was beginning to think that knee replacement surgery sounded like fun; if it involved being evaced out by helicopter.

That night while sitting around the campfire in the thatched roof village, Boone and I discussed his former “simple” way of life. I asked him about the concerns that idealistic academics have expressed about the hill people losing their culture and their “simple” ways of life due to the lure of money from Westerners.

“They think we have a “simple” life,” said Boone. “Those people should try to live such a life. What is “simple” about trying to keep your children fed on a daily basis? What is “simple” about having no money for clothes or to send your child to school? What is simple about watching a loved one die because you cannot afford proper medical care?” Boone told me that everyone wants a better life, a color TV and a satellite dish so they can learn about and discover the world in an effort to improve theirs.

Early the next morning when the rooster sounded the alarm, as I lay on the grass floor, every muscle in spasm, I contemplated my “simpler” life. Money could not buy me a cool breeze when I desperately needed it on the top of that mountain. It could not stop my heart from racing nor quell an aching thirst. Yet, money was able to buy me something else. Understanding. An understanding of why people risk life and limb to come to the United States or other nations in search of a “simpler” life. Never again will I just listen to the put-downs of those who criticize our new citizens who haven’t yet learned their new language. Because for them getting here was the battle. The language is just a minor skirmish.

Isn’t it ironic that wile the people of the so-called “third world” are attempting to “simplify” their lives many of us in the states are attempting to do so, only from the opposite end of the spectrum. In truth, maybe simplifying is really just letting go of old beliefs, allowing new possibilities to enter our lives and stopping to smell the roses. Or maybe, it’s as Boone said. Maybe it’s as “simple” as a new color TV, satellite dish and a little money saved for a rainy day.

Fences- A Positive Post

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Yesterday Paul needed to get some service hours in for Scouts. He elected to paint the fence at our church. It was hot and the fence sat square in the path of the intense rays of the scorching sun. Six hours spent working in the sun is difficult for anyone but even more so for a young autistic teenage boy with no previous painting experience. Fortunately, one of the older members of our congregation (R) was there to provide guidance and cheer him on.

I love it when old and young connect. There is something almost magical that happens when wisdom meets youth. Learning occurs in an unstructured setting and life’s lessons are conveyed easily. More importantly, both parties share those things that are important to them and greater understanding of the world and each other is obtained by both.

When he arrived home Paul was stoked and could hardly wait to tell me about his afternoon. But it wasn’t the fence he talked about. It was the connection that he made that mattered the most to him.

“Did you know that R served in the Korean War?” my sweet Korean boy asked.

“I had no idea,” I replied.

And so Paul sat with me and excitedly told me all that R had shared with him. Things about the war, what the country of Paul’s birth looked like back then, and how his life had changed because of his service. They also talked about what boys did growing up in the 40’s, how times have become more complicated and R’s ideas about the important things in life. But most of all Paul gained a friend. A man who could teach and discuss without being parental. A person with whom Paul could relate his troubles regarding peers in school and his concerns for the world as he navigates becoming a young adult.

It’s funny how sometimes in doing things for others you gain something special and totally unexpected for yourself.  This weekend Paul learned from R the value of a friendship with someone older and wiser than himself. He learned to share problems and issues and listen to good advice in return. And more than just learning about how to paint fences he was also taught how to mend a few too.

 

 

 

 

The Fallacy Of Pulling Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps

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I confess I used to be on a BB in which a majority of the people were conservative Christians. I left the group because many people on this BB have made repeated attacks on those who are down in their luck,those who are poor, and those who are anything but white, etc. They constantly espouse the belief that Obama wants to take care of all these “losers” at the expense of all these good God fearing tax payers. Of course the word, Socialism has recently been introduced to instill more fear and justify their irrational hatred of Obama. In fact one person went so far as to write:

“The poor keep getting poorer because they keep doing whatever it was that made them poor in the first place. Ditto for the rich. There is nothing at all unexpected or unforseen about the behavior that’s responsible for most of the poverty in this country. If you ignore your education, fail to develop a work ethic, do drugs, get pregnant before you’re out of high school or before you can afford to raise a child, become a petty criminal, join a gang, hang with what you obviously know to be the wrong crowd, become a drinker, or generally comport yourself like a self-loathing slob, guess what? You’re probably not going to make a lot of money!” 

The tragedy of it all…their children are ethnic minorities in this country and many insist that their white male children have it so much harder than their non-caucasian kids. WHATTTTTTT!!!!??????

So let’s take a minute and examine the above statement and those types of thoughts that go with it. Let’s examine those persons in the military/captains of business and industry who have used their parents positions/connections and money to circumvent the system to get opportunities that others deserved. They use the political and economic systems for personal gain not based on merit but on these types of connections. And they use them in order to increase their wealth and to grab power or prestige . Even worse is their sense of entitlement to those positions. It is truly mind boggling. We don’t have to look very far to find examples of these types of people. Do the names Bush  and Trump ring a bell? Frankly, these are the people that are far more dangerous to me than any two-bit hooker. Plenty of rich people hang with the wrong crowd, become drinkers, fail to develop a work ethic, etc. Yet, they have the luxury of money, connections and family to sustain them and even promote them to places they do not deserve to be. A lot of people with higher grades/SATS etc do not get into Ivy League schools where these connections are further developed and strengthened because someone’s Daddy knows someone, they have donated to the school, or their parents have attended.It’s a system that serves to preserve itself at the expense of the less fortunate.

When I think about these issues I am reminded of that fact that during the Vietnam war many kids were able to avoid serving or served in positions that kept them in the states due to the positions/connections their parents held. People can become officers in the military because they can get into the academy that “normal” people cannot or someone who is truly deserving to be there is denied due to those connections. So to try to make the case that the poor stay poor because of their “laziness” while the rich get richer due to their “implied” hard work is not often true.

But even more troubling to me is this. So many of these conservative Christians tout the “Pick Yourself Up By Your Bootstraps” mentality. And finally we have a president who stands before them having done just that. And instead of giving him the kudos for doing what they insist all people should do and using his achievements as an inspiration for others; they turn around and renounce him. So what exactly is it that a black man is suppose to do? Stay at the bottom rung of society where you are chastised and beaten down? Or rise to the top and then you are labeled an elitist and a terrorist to boot. And if the truth be told many of these people don’t want people of color to succeed because it goes against their idea of ‘what things SHOULD look like if all is right with their world.

So the next time you hear the spiel about bootstraps and Obama acknowledge it for what it really is…racism cloaked in “proper talk ” attempting to hide the fact it is just plain hate mongering. And please, stand up and correct the intentional distortion of facts that are presented as “Truth” on Fox News to the perpetrators of your conversation. For the only way that all of mankind will be free is when hate is no longer  tolerated.

Surprise! We Are Going To…

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I’m not big into surprises. I like to plan my life in advance. If I had my way I probably would have every day of my life planned out in pencil for the few necessary erasures that would be required here and there. So imagine my surprise when B announced “I think that instead of taking this business trip to China alone I would love for you to come with me…oh and by the way, we will also go to Tibet… and Nicole is coming to babysit. So what do you say?”

Tibet. Place of my dreams. A place of full of “good” karma. A place so breathtakingly beautiful that I hear that you often just forget to breathe as you stand in front of the Himalayan Mountains in awe. It’s the place where dreamers, doers, climbers and athletic persons who are all in supreme shape go to test themselves both mentally and physically. And it’s where the base camp for Mt Everest is located which we will be visiting in the dead of winter. Frankly, I’m a little worried. Why?  I cannot do one pushup unless I plank against the wall. My idea of cold is 75 degrees and I have knee replacement surgery penciled in on my calendar for March 27, 2019. Oh and one more thing…I hate to fly. Seriously hate it and take out extra life insurance as a cushion. So why am I going?

I love my husband, that’s why. After a year of the “almost divorce” consisting of six months of fights, disappointments, therapy, sadness and worry; the fact that he wants us together at all is a huge testament of how hard we have worked to try and find each other again. It brings me joy to know that out of all the people he would want to spend his time with… it is me. Still. Again. Now. And even better, I want to spend time with him too as our friendship grows into something deeper and more meaningful to us at this stage in our lives.

I am also going so that I can challenge myself. No, I won’t be going for the summit but I will be standing there looking at a mountain that has spurred people to accomplish great things and brought them closer to “God” in whatever form you believe she/he takes. And I hope some of those feelings… the exhilaration, excitement, and the oneness with “another” will touch me in ways I have yet to experience in this lifetime.

Finally, I am going because I truly believe that travel is one of the keys to genuine peace with one another and within the world. Whether it is 2,000 miles or 200 ft; leaving your comfort zone is necessary for growth because it frees you from the tethers that keep you trapped within the confines of our own mind. Being away forces you to look outside yourself and sometimes dig deep within yourself to find answers to the obstacles you have put in your own way.

So, YES, I’m going to Tibet. YES, I will scamper on Everest! And YES, I will be going with the person I care about the most in the world! And if I die at least they can write on my tombstone “She summited in life just not on Everest.”

One of the things I love about blogging

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One of the things about blogging that I love is seeing all the people from different countries visit my site and I, in turn, visit theirs. It makes me happy to think that often we are all capable of understanding the emotions that the other person may be feeling even though we may live very different lives and that our shared humanity allows us to connect because we have “been there” before or faced something similar.

I have been fortunate to have traveled all over the globe. To date I have visited over 40 countries. That is because we travel cheap, go where the deals take us and we go in the off season. We also exchange houses when we travel.

The safest I ever felt at night was in Stockholm, Sweden. The happiest I have ever been was in Korea. The place I felt in awe was in the thermal baths in the ocean off the island of Kos. The place I felt the most connected to was Scotland and the place I wished I could stay longer was Ethiopia.

The number of people who have opened their homes and lives to us has been humbling. We have been invited into homes after a meeting during a meal in a restaurant and the next thing we know is we are on our way to something unexpected, special and always memorable. And what I really have learned from all this travel is that people just want to feel understood, appreciated and believe that they have been heard no matter where they live. And really 99% of the world wants the same things: peace, love, understanding, full bellies, reasonable heath care, clean water and hope for the future.

I like to think that all of us bloggers contribute in some small way to world peace and understanding. One can only hope!

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THE HAPPIEST HALLOWEEN EVER

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Sometimes I am really worried about the young people growing up in today’s impersonal world. Often it seems as if they have little compassion, are involved in things that are questionable, and spend way too much time on video games while not spending enough effort on interpersonal relationships. Tonight, I am pleased to say I am going to have to re-consider those impressions.

This Halloween Andre chose to forego the usual costuming and instead he decided to be the one to hand out candy to all the kids in the neighborhood. I remember years past when Trick-or-Treating was very hard on him. Too much commotion, too much noise and too many scary things. Yet, tonight he wanted to be part of the action; just from the safety of his own front porch.

This evening I heard constant giggling coming through our door from the little kids as they came up to the front porch where Andre was sitting, candy in hand, excited to hand it  all out. Andre talked to every child and had a running commentary going with everyone who approached. There wasn’t one person who came to our house that he didn’t  talk with and befriend. And then something magical happened.

To understand Andre, you have to understand that he has only been invited to one or two birthday parties in his entire life. While kids at school are mostly kind, he has never had much of an out-of-school relationship with anyone. His rapid speech and his way of relating to others due to his autism has made attracting and maintaining friends difficult for him and so I was amazed by what I saw as I opened the front door by chance.

There on the porch stood five gangly boys all of whom had been in Andre’s class last year. They were the popular kids, the ones THE OTHERS all wanted to be like, especially Andre. I watched as each one of them came up to him saying “Hi Andre” while giving him a teenage boy pound on the back usually reserved for young men on the football team.  All seemed glad to see him and each told him that they missed him. But the most profound moment came when one of the boys looked Andre in the eye and said, “School isn’t the same without you. You taught us all so much.”

And then they left.

“Did you see that mom? All my friends were here. I can’t believe it. Wasn’t that great!”

Yes, Andre, it was great and for more reasons than you will ever know. For those boys restored my faith in today’s teens. They are good boys with great hearts and an ability to make everyone feel liked and included. But most of all, I came to finally understand that there are all kinds of friendships, and while Andre’s are certainly different from mine, to him they are every bit as valuable. Even if those friendships occur just for a few minutes at a time on a spooky Halloween night.