Author Archives: David Bloom

How Big Is Your World?

As We Move Forward: How Big Is Your World?

Kid

When we are little, our world seems immense. Gradually it expands to include those immediately around us. Our world at this point seems complete and big enough. Some of my first memories of my world include the house my family lived in addition to my room and the rest of the house, I remember our yards where I played. I experienced one of the first traumas in my world in that yard. One day a dog in the neighborhood snapped at me. That triggered a fear of dogs that’s lasted into my adult years. I did not want to pass that fear on to our children.

My world soon grew to include my grandparents’ house. It was near-by, and we were there very often. One of my world-expanding memories came when my parents brought my sister thereafter they left the hospital with her.

My world continued to grow as I met and interacted with other kids in the neighborhood. My memories of this expanding phase of my world tell me it was a positive time, and my expanding world seemed big enough to encompass my growth. Our landlords in that house lived next door to us. I remember hearing that the husband died, and they decided to sell our house.

I watched my world expand as my parents decided to buy a house that was yet to be built. We visited the “lot” and came back frequently to watch the house come to life before our eyes. I recall a morning in that house that made my world suddenly seem small. I came downstairs and saw my parents and my grandfather sitting in the living room. As I started looking for my grandmother, my father took me into another room and said, “Your grandmother died today.” My first encounter with death suddenly made my world seem very small.

Sometimes things happen in our world that limits its growth in certain ways. I grew up near Lake Erie. I was not given the opportunity to learn to swim. I finally learned many years later, but my world is smaller because I am not as skilled as a swimmer. There are many things in our lives that either make our Le larger or smaller.

Recently my wife and I had an experience that made our world larger. We visited our fiftieth state. Both internal and external things can have an impact on our lives, making our world larger in a physical and emotional realm. I know there are people who have never traveled out of their town, their state, or their country. I also know people who have traveled to countries I may not even know the names of.

World

As we move forward, we can be aware of many things that can impact the size of our world. It can be difficult to deal with some of the things that make us aware of how small our world can seem at a particular time of crisis. We can be aware of feelings like helplessness or hopelessness. These moments can test us as we move through them. These crises do pass. Our world will adjust to fit its new size after the crisis has passed.

As we move forward, we can also be aware of the effect crises can have on others and the size of their world, both before and after a crisis. Perhaps these awarenesses on our part can help us and adjust to the changing size of worlds, ours, and others. How big is your world right now, and how did it get to be this size?

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We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

Amid Change

As We Move Forward: Amid Change

River

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, said, ” No man ever steps in the same river twice.” This is an interesting metaphor both of life and change. We are born in the context of change. Our birth affects not only us but the people closest to us. I stood in the pulpits of the churches I was serving in 1975 on Children’s Sunday and said it was my last Children’s Sunday as a perfect parent. I knew that soon our twins would be born, and actual parenting, mistakes, and all would replace my theoretical knowledge of being a parent.

A lot was going on in our lives at that time. Gail was in Graduate school, and I was beginning my career as a pastor. Even though much of our lives remained the same as they had been, the addition of children to our lives changed them forever.

Sometimes change comes as an event or series of events that forever alter the circumstances of life. World War I took people out of their mostly rural roots and gave them a vision of a larger world. A line from a popular song of the era asked, “How ya gonna keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris (pronounced pair EE in the song)”. World War II did the same thing for the next generation. Suddenly families were stretched all over, making the traditional multi-generational family living all in the same place less the norm.

The home took on a new meaning as people brought their new experiences into familiar settings. Like the river that is continuously changing, new life experiences make even the same setting activities different.

Life-changing experiences can happen suddenly. We were at Universal Studios, Florida, on September 10, 2001. We went again on September 14. Walking in the same place was radically different. I remember wondering if it was OK to enjoy ourselves. The world changed on September 11, 2001. We can never return to the way things were before that day. We do things differently than we did on September 10.

Some changes come as gradually as the story about putting a frog in a pan of cool water. I’ve never tried this, but the story goes that if you gradually increase the temperature, the frog will be cooked without ever realizing what has happened. It is said that a frog dropped into boiling water will jump out.

We are Moving Forward

Whether the change is sudden or gradual, it is also inevitable. Aging brings about change. Our ability to do certain things changes with age. This can be frustrating, even disturbing. It is inevitable. We can not stop most change. We cannot control many things. We can decide how we will respond to change.

As we move forward, we need to accept that change is something we all have to face. It affects different people in different ways. Change tends to bring out the best and the worst in people. When facing change, try to take a measure of how it is affecting you. Do you need to reach out to others for help in dealing with it? Can you be of help to others? As we move forward, we weave the change into the fabric of our lives. Let’s resolve to be better as a result of the changes we experience.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

Life Isn’t Fair

As We Move Forward: Life Isn’t Fair

House
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Probably every person who ever lived has said at one time or another, ”That’s not fair.” Thinking back to childhood, I remember some of the baseball games we had in our neighborhood. One boy was a far better athlete than the rest of us. It was “not fair” whichever team had him. We had special rules for him. He had to hit the ball a lot farther than we did to score a home run. We made these rules to level the playing field and make it at least possible for either team to win.

Sometimes the unfairness comes from those in authority. I remember standing in line for some function. The boy behind me said something to me. I turned around to talk to him. Because I was a good deal taller than he was, my hand made contact with the side of his head. There was no conflict, and I figured it was forgotten. A day or two later my father angrily confronted me. Apparently, this boy’s mother had approached my father about my fighting with her son. I told my father exactly what had happened. He asked me repeatedly why I had not told him about this incident.

It didn’t matter to him that there was really no incident. He kept telling me how embarrassed he was when this woman approached him, and he had no knowledge of anything happening. He went to great lengths to be sure I knew he was disappointed and embarrassed he had been. It did not matter at all that to the best of my knowledge there had been no incident. His reaction and his disappointment in me was more painful than the two days I
had to spend time in my room.

I recall one of my physical education courses in college. There were a number of activities in the class, and some of them were difficult. I have never been an athlete and did my best to do the things required in the class. There must have been a number of us struggling to complete the tasks. One day the professor, who was also the college football coach, stopped the class and yelled at us for not being able to perform well. He actually told us his football players were not given a break in the academic classes, and that he was not going to give us any breaks in his Phys. Ed. class. I remember being very surprised. We were doing our best in the class, and the fact that we were not athletically proficient seemed an unfair standard for judging our effort and participation.

Thinking Person

When our children were younger, they would occasionally tell us they thought something was unfair. To this day, I believe they could recite my response, ”Where is it written that life is fair?” We often find ourselves in situations and circumstances which seem to be or in fact are unfair. Often in life, there is no one to blame for these situations. Our responses to unfair experiences have a lot to say about the way we approach life in general. We can become fearful, critical and argumentative, or we can assess the situation and figure out what we can to endure and overcome the unfair situation we are facing.

As we move forward, it is also helpful to be aware of how others are handling unfair circumstances. Unfair circumstances tend to bring out either the best or the worst in others. Maybe “worst” behavior is someone’s best effort to cope with the unfair circumstances. Are you experiencing unfairness in your life? How are you handling it? Is your behavior helpful to others?

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

How's Our Communication?

As We Move Forward: How’s Our Communication?

Telephone

There is an old party game that many of us have probably played. It is called Telephone. Participants sit in a circle. Someone whispers a phrase to the person next to them. This continues until the last person says out loud what he heard. I have played this game several times. I have never seen a time when the final message bears any resemblance to the original message. This activity only serves to illustrate how difficult it is to communicate exactly what we intend to be certain is understood by the person hearing the message.

It is an established fact that eyewitness accounts of the same event can vary widely. This is the major reason witnesses to a major event such as a crime or an accident are interviewed separately. It is also why legal proceedings require the testimony of two or more witnesses. It is not necessarily that people do not tell the truth in these circumstances. It is just that our minds see and hear things based on what we expect to.

Parents know this phenomenon. Children often act differently than we think they will. When we ask them, they will often have a different version of what we told them. This is one reason it is important to be as precise and consistent as we can be in all our communication. Most of the time our communication works well. We know less of what is expected of us, and we can complete our communication with others easily and with mutually satisfying results.

It is unusual or unexpected situations that put our communication skills to the test. Situations like moving to a new place, beginning a new job or having a child can put stress on our communication. Even in these situations, we have enough in common with the people in our relationships to get our thoughts and feelings across fairly well.

It is in times of crisis that these breakdowns in communication can become serious. A crisis tends to confuse communication. In uncertainty, the tendency to hear what we want to hear can become overwhelming. That may be due at least in part to a real need to regain control over some part of our life.

We get frightened in a crisis, and our fear makes us less open to hearing what someone is saying, especially when that is in conflict with what we believe to be true. Social media really doesn’t help make this communication process work any better. In an environment where it is difficult to distinguish fact from opinion, it can be very difficult to honestly and openly share ideas and have a true discussion, especially where there may be differing points of view.

Communication

As we move forward, especially in times of crisis, it is helpful to consider the emotional context of our communication. If the person or persons we are communicating with seems upset or defensive, it might be good to resist the temptation to respond in an argumentative fashion and listen to what they are saying.

Since a crisis can bring out both the best and worst in us, we should be sensitive to the underlying tone. If we can remain rational and objective in our communication, and if we can keep our communication direct and concise, we can avoid the game of Telephone. We can keep the end message as clear and accurate as possible. As we move forward, let’s make that type of communication our goal and the standard.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

Responding In The Midst Of Panic

As We Move Forward: Responding In The Midst Of Panic

News Headlines

Most of us have lived through times of panic. Some major ones could include Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination, 911. This is not an exhaustive list, but some characteristics of these and other times of panic could include a sense of total loss of control. It can also be referred to as a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior, and that often spreads quickly through a group of persons or society in general. This panic can happen on a purely individual basis. Probably everyone can recall a time when they suddenly became separated from the adult they were with. It is a feeling of total panic to suddenly realize that the adult you depend on for safety and security. Thankfully, this is usually a very time-limited experience. Once we are reunited with the important adult in our life, feelings of safety and security return.

Long term panic can set in if the separation is more serious or long-lasting such as serious illness or even death. Various forms of hysterical or irrational behavior can, and often does follow losses of this type. We know that grief can be a long, complicated process. It is sometimes the case that unresolved issues surrounding this type of loss can show up in all the forms of panic involving the person experiencing the grief’s relationships. It is not unusual for people having difficulty maintaining normal healthy relationships while working through these results of panic.

Events causing panic over wider areas, like a region, a country or the world have long-lasting effects on many people over a long period of time. The Holocaust took place more than seventy years ago. Some form of response to the panic that comes from the realization that people can behave that way toward other human beings has been experienced by everyone who has visited one of the many memorials to the people who endured this suffering. Recordings have been made of interviews with survivors. The hysterical, irrational behavior of these events shapes responses to this present day.

The shootings and other acts of violent behavior being experienced in many places cause panic in all its forms. It is very common to ask after each of these events, “How do we get over this and return to normal?” There can be a sense of helplessness and hopelessness to these panic causing events. What is the right response? How do we keep the events of the situation from dominating every part of our lives? How and when does our life and world return to normal?

Fear

As we move forward, it is helpful to realize there will be events in our lives and our world that will lead to panic and all the behavior that comes with panic. We can help keep peoples’ responses reasonable when possible. At the very least we can try not to add to the hysterical behavior we sometimes see in others.

As we move forward, we can also listen and help others decide what is a reasonable response and how to find our way back to a normal existence after every incident of panic. There can be a great deal of satisfaction in helping with a rational, measured approach to situations causing panic. I encourage you to seek these responses and help others find them.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

Following Through

As We Move Forward: Following Through

Baseball batter

Almost every sporting activity has built into it the principle of follow-through. In baseball, batters are repeatedly told to follow through on every swing and to run on every hit. If the hit is a foul ball, the runner is called back, but the impulse to run until specifically instructed to stop becomes automatic in baseball players who develop real skills as players. On defense, players are taught to run each play through to completion. The training to follow through on every play is drilled until it becomes automatic.

Football is another sport where following through is essential. Once a play is begun, both the offense and defense perform their assigned tasks until the play is complete. Many times, a majority of the players on either team have no idea how the play is going. They simply complete their responsibilities fully and completely. If any player does not follow through completely on their assigned responsibility, they are taken to task for the failure.

In school, homework is an essential part of following through. Reading and writing assignments are a regular part of learning, as essential as whatever takes place in class. Successful students tend to be the ones who follow through completely with all aspects of the process. Even high intelligence can not take the place of thorough following through.

Any creative activity like singing or playing an instrument, dancing, acting and artistic achievement to name just a few are based on the idea that to successfully accomplish any of these will require being totally committed to following through. When we watch any performance, we should be aware of the dedication and commitment to following through being demonstrated by those participating in the activity.

Following through is important in all our relationships. The total devotion parents experience the first time they hold their newborn needs to be paired with a commitment to that child during their teen years. The vows a couple makes to each other on their wedding day must be coupled with the following through required as the relationship grows over the years.

Thinking

It is exciting to experience your first day on a new job. It takes following through to do that same well day after day, year after year. Sometimes it appears following through is not always the norm in our lives and in our relationships. Think about sometimes when you have followed through. How did that affect things in your life? How about times someone has not followed through when you needed and expected it.

As we move forward, it might be helpful to remember times when people have followed through in dealing with us. What difference did that make in our lives? We may want to make a determined effort to follow through in everything we do in life. Think about how much better that will make our lives and the lives of others.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

How Do You Ask For Help?

As We Move Forward: How Do You Ask For Help?

Infant

Every one of us finds ourselves in situations where we can not do everything on our own. What we do at that moment has a great bearing on how well we are able to cope with the seemingly impossible challenges we face in our lives. Actually, asking for help starts the moment we are born. Much has been written about how traumatic it is to enter this world. The cry that either comes naturally or is prompted in every newborn infant serves multiple purposes. This action fills the baby’s lungs with air. At the same time it serves to ask everyone around for the basics of survival. The newborn infant stops crying when those around hear the call for help and make the appropriate response.

Crying continues for a while as at least one of the ways a young child asks those around for help. The temperament of the child and the responses from those in the child’s environment help determine how much of the process of asking for help consists of crying and how much takes other forms, some more verbal and some more pleasant.

We all know children who seem pleasant and polite in their basic orientation to life. Is it possible their requests for help are responded to in ways that bring satisfaction and reinforce the process of asking for help in a basically pleasant manner? Of course, no one, especially a young child, is pleasant all the time, especially in the stressful process of asking for help. As we grow into adulthood, basic patterns emerge and develop. How we go about asking for help in our relationships has a lot to do with how successfully we maintain and develop satisfying and productive relationships with others.

As adults, how we ask for help has everything to do with our starting point when we confront the need for help. Some people think only in terms of how something will affect them. When these people need help, nothing matters other than getting the help they need. They often lose sight of the effect their getting help might have on others. One of the things they might overlook is the feelings others might have in being part of their getting the help they need.

Helping

Another person might recognize their need for help and honestly and openly share that. Very often, others will respond with a willingness to help meet the need. Like so many things in life, the difference is often our point of view. We all need help at times. The difference in the willingness of others to offer us the help can be in our willingness and ability to be open with others about our need for help.

As we move forward, it can help us remember that everyone needs help at times. As we think about our willingness to help others, it can be useful to remember how it feels to have someone take our feelings into consideration when we ask them for help. May we both offer and ask for help in a spirit of always being mindful of the role of others in the process.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

Choosing Our Heroes

As We Move Forward: Choosing Our Heroes

Hero

Who are the heroes in your life? Who do you look up to as role models for the ways you respond in various situations? Typically, our first heroes are our parents. It is amazing how each child takes for granted the belief that their particular life situation is absolutely normal. We see our parents as the absolute last word on every subject. I think most children want to grow up to be exactly like one of their parents.

This cast of heroes gradually increases as we get older and have experiences with more people. The cast of heroes can include siblings, other, usually older, children in the ever expanding world of a young child. The cast of heroes can include characters from books, movies and television as well as from real life. Children might aspire to be such things as a ballerina, a singer, a cowboy, policeman, fireman. It would be interesting to discover how many people first got the idea for their calling in life from a role model, one way of describing a hero, who played a significant role in a child’s life.

There are numerous accounts of someone like a teacher, a doctor a coach or perhaps a supervisor or boss who has served as the guide, role model, hero to give someone the vision to achieve incredible things. It is difficult to overestimate the value of this influence on the success a person is able to achieve.

Again, the question of who the heroes are in your life are presents itself. Did you reach as high as possible in choosing heroes to serve as the guiding force in your achievements? Taking a realistic look at who you have chosen as heroes and where that has gotten you can lead to a realistic appraisal of what you have accomplished so far in life.

It may be that you could have chosen loftier heroes. It is possible you might have let go of some heroes too early in life to truly benefit from their example as a guiding light in your life. Do you need to choose different heroes to guide you at this point in your life? One difficulty of growing older is that we lose some of our heroes and the source of new ones may not seem readily apparent to us.

Hero

As we move forward, it is important to examine the importance of choosing the best possible heroes in keeping the course of our lives on track. Another thing we should be aware of is that we may serve as heroes for someone else. The nature of healthy relationships requires us to keep this model of hero/role model in proper focus.

As we move forward, let us seek the best heroes possible and strive to be the best role models possible for others. Our world still needs heroes. Who are yours?

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.

Post-Truth

As We Move Forward: Post-Truth

Sometimes I think I’ve heard everything. Just about that time something seems to come along that surprises me and convinces me I have not heard it all. Recently, I began reading an article that talked about the post-truth age. This refers to a tendency more to emotional responses than objective truth in discussion or debate. This is reactive rather than responsive in which my emotional response to a given situation is far more important than any facts involved.

Emotions

Social media can be viewed as presenting examples of this phenomenon. Often the emotional responses seen on social media have little if anything to do with the facts involved in a situation. One result of this reliance on emotion over fact is the reluctance to enter into a discussion because of the reality that someone will almost certainly get upset.

I value the times in my life when I have been able to debate ideas with people who hold different viewpoints than I do. I have learned some valuable lessons by having my beliefs challenged by putting them next to radically different viewpoints in an open and honest discussion.

A way to look at behavior to see if it is following the post-truth mentality is to apply this standard. I believe that each of us does the best we can in every situation, given the information we have. When I see someone acting in a way I do not understand, I ask myself what I think they are trying to accomplish. Part of that process is to try to determine what if anything might cause me to respond the way they are.

I will be the first to admit there are times I cannot envision circumstances that would cause me to respond a certain way. That awareness tells me something extreme must be going on to make someone behave a certain way. Sometimes the act of trying to understand what someone’s behavior might be saying helps me to relate to that person in a way that benefits both of us.

Fact Finding

For me, I choose not to live in a post-truth age. Emotions are an important indicator of what might be going on in someone’s life, but I would rather base my decisions as much on facts as on emotional responses. I believe the time we spend in probing for the facts in resolving issues in our relationships is valuable.

As we move forward, may we resolve to respond rather than react in relating to others. May we make the effort to understand what might be going on in someone behaving in ways we do not understand. May we take the admonition to give others the benefit of the doubt to its fullest expression.

If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis.

We have a podcast containing the As We Move Forward articles read by Jonathan Bloom.