Category Archives: As We Move Forward

What are we focused on? How can we move forward in the hardest times?

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Toward Altruism

As We Move Forward: Toward Altruism

Helping Across

Altruism is when we act to promote someone else’s welfare, even at a risk or cost to ourselves. Scientists speculate that altruism has such deep roots in human nature because helping and cooperation promote the survival of our species. Obviously, altruism is not something we are born with. As infants, the only thing that matters is immediate gratification. This total obsession with self represents the other extreme of true altruism. Throughout our lives, we find ourselves at various points on the spectrum between these two opposites.

As we develop relationships in our lives, we discover a lot about ourselves in relation to self-centeredness and altruism. We are drawn to people who behave in a more altruistic manner. We all want to be around someone who places our interests above their own. Ideally, parents and other close relatives demonstrate altruism in their relationships with us. Parents routinely put the needs of their children ahead of their own. We can all recall friends, teachers, and other significant people in our lives who sacrificially offered themselves and their abilities to help us achieve the things we want in our lives.

What is it that sets someone apart as being more on the side of altruism? Is your first thought in a situation what is going to benefit someone else or you? Are you more interested in what is happening in someone else’s life or in yours?

Another way of determining if we have altruistic motives or not is to ask ourselves what outcomes we look for in the things we face in life. Is it more important to win or to create a win/win scenario for you? Is it more important to you to understand someone else or that they understand you?

Helping Hand

Our culture seems to place a high value on being heard and not so much on understanding what other people are saying. There is and always has been a strong need for people who are not only willing to listen to the needs of others but who are willing to put those needs ahead of their own.

As we move forward, it can be helpful to ask ourselves how much we value someone. Are we able and willing to put their wants and needs ahead of our own? When can you remember someone setting aside their own needs and feelings to be sure yours were met? That is true altruism. The world needs that. We can make an incredible difference in someone’s life by putting their needs ahead of our own.

As we move forward, let’s make that our goal whenever possible.

Life Is A Ride

As We Move Forward: Life Is A Ride

Coaster
Photo by Damon Lam on Unsplash

When I was four or five I remember visiting an amusement park with my grandparents. I rode a number of the rides in the kiddie section. Feeling adventurous, I begged my grandmother to let me ride the roller coaster. Very reluctantly she let me ride the roller coaster in the kiddie section. As the ride attendant was getting everyone settled in, I can recall feeling very brave and grown-up.

Suddenly it was time to start the ride. I was secured and watching my grandparents as things started to move. Suddenly, as I realized I was totally out of control, I became terrified. I didn’t raise my arms and shout with excitement. As I remember it, I cried, begging to get off the ride. As I recall, I did not stop crying until the little roller coaster made its two times around the track, and the ride ended.

I am pretty certain I never rode that particular ride again. Although I have ridden a number of roller coasters over the years, none have had quite the impact on me as that first one. There are many similarities to that and subsequent rides as to life in general. I tend to approach all rides with a wide range of emotions. Depending on whether the ride is familiar or new to me, my emotions may range from eager anticipation to real anxiety bordering on fear.

I have not ridden a roller coaster for several years now. One of the last times was when the adults in our group were riding a ride for which our two grandchildren were too young. I took them on another ride. No sooner had the ride started than our grandchildren started crying. At that moment it became clear to me that I had misjudged this ride and its effect on the young children I was trying to keep entertained. All three of us could not wait until that ride ended.

Life is often something we find ourselves experiencing, with very little idea of how we arrived at the place we find ourselves. We are secured in a position where we experience being out of control, with no real idea of where things are going. Life keeps going faster and faster. We can’t get off. Sometimes we hold our arms up and shout with wild excitement. Sometimes we just hold on with our eyes closed, trying to hang on until the ride is over.

Schooling could be an example of some of the segments of the ride that makes up our life. While we get to make more and more choices as we journey through school, it does go faster and faster, and at times we sense being out of control. We just hang on till the end.

Relationships and work environments can follow the same pattern. How often have we entered a new relationship or a new job without a clear idea of what was ahead? In both jobs and relationships, we can experience periods of being out of control. We can also experience things going faster and faster. Like on a ride, sometimes we wave our arms in the air and shout with excitement while at other times we just hang on so as not to fall off.

As we move forward, it might be interesting to look at how many times in our lives we experience being on a ride. The things that change involve how out of control we feel, how fast the ride goes, and how comfortable we feel about what we are experiencing.

We are also on these ride experiences with others. We may be able to help fellow riders by sharing our riding experiences with them. Whose life experience can you help make more enjoyable?

As We Move Forward: Slavery

One of the first things I remember feeling sadness over as I learned about the history of our country is the whole subject of slavery. I will admit most of what I know about slavery comes from what I have read and some of the historic sites I have visited over the years. I have come to think of slavery as a cancer that seems to have gotten into this country as it was being formed.

I have discovered that the idea of people owning other people began long before the founding and establishment of our country. It makes me sad to know that the practice is practiced today in many parts of our world. One of my earliest thoughts was that slavery is a cancer that got into our culture as our country was being formed.

At one time I thought that the plantation system that developed in the south was dependent on slavery for its operation. After visiting a number of southern plantation sites, I have come to a different conclusion. I now believe many of this country’s plantations were unwieldy and unstable. I think a different economy, made up of smaller farms, could have and probably would have developed with paid laborers. I am not a historian, and this observation is not based on any hard data, just my anecdotal observations over the years.

I am impressed with how many of the founders of our country worked to keep slavery from being woven into the fabric of our culture. History is filled with the heroic efforts of so many to overcome this evil. It is a sad commentary that we had to fight a war as part of the effort to remove this practice from our country.

One of the reasons I see slavery as a cancer on our nation is the lasting effect it continues to wield on all of us. Over my life, there have been a number of noble attempts to overcome the effects slavery has had on our country. Many of these efforts have produced good results, but it seems to me we are still suffering from most of the basic underlying issues.

There are other types of slavery that can affect our lives. Literally, people are still slaves to those who engage in trafficking. We can be enslaved by addiction to things like alcohol and drugs. The effects of these forms of slavery can be devastating and can have long-lasting consequences. From some reports I’ve seen on the news, the time of crisis we are experiencing seems to be increasing both the incidence and the negative effects of some of these types of slavery.

As we move forward, we might want to examine some of the people who have worked to combat slavery in the earlier period of our country. Do their lives and their efforts give us any insights as to how we can help combat some current forms of slavery?

Are there people we know who are experiencing any forms of slavery? Are there things we can do to help them? Some of the people in the Abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad were ordinary people who saw an opportunity to help others and took advantage of it. What’s one thing you can do to make a difference in someone’s struggle against slavery?

As We Move Forward: Handling Bad News

Getting Bad News

We have all dealt with bad news in our lives. Bad news might be described as the report of an unhappy recent event—to an unwanted or undesirable individual or circumstance. That pretty much describes anything that goes against what we would like to have happened. As children, being told we have to eat all the food on our plate, including the spinach, could be considered bad news. The same thing could be said about being told we have to pick up our room, take a bath or go to bed before we are ready.

It would certainly be bad news to have an older, bigger kid threaten you with harm if you did not do exactly what he wanted, like giving him your lunch money every day in exchange for not beating you up. Even though schools have a zero tolerance policy toward bullying, reports indicate that kids receive bad news from bullies regularly.

Bad news does not always involve threats or violence. Learning that your best friend is moving away would certainly be considered bad news. It would also be bad news to get a bad grade on a test or to learn you were not chosen for a team or did not receive a part in a play you had tried out for.

Several things these examples have in common is the fact that they may be traumatic, but they would probably not be considered life-threatening. They might, however, be life altering depending on hoe seriously they impacted the people involved. The way we respond to bad news has a lot to with how we feel about ourselves and our place in the world. There are a number of aspects to the transmission of bad news. We think primarily of the recipient of the news, and that is certainly an important part of the transmission of bad news. One thing we tend not to take into consideration is the person giving the bad news.

I have had the experience of being with several people during their death. There is probably nothing more traumatic than getting word of the death of a lived one, especially if that death is unexpected. I have accompanied a police officer to inform a family of the tragic accident that took the life of a husband/father. I don’t think I will ever forget the scene when they opened the door. Seeing me with the officer confirmed what they had feared.

II have never been fired from a job, and for more than forty years I never had to deal directly with the issue of job termination. I now know first hand what it is like to tell someone their employment is ended. Although each time this happens, it is following a deliberate attempt to solve the problem before taking this action, I have never spoken these words without a deep sense of sadness over the changes this would cause in this person’s life. Giving bad news can be as traumatic in its own way as receiving bad news. There are consequences whenever bad news is delivered.

Thinking

As we move forward, let’s remember that bad news is given and received even in the midst of a crisis. The crisis may increase the impact of the bad news. It can be like trying to run with a leg injury. Emotions brought on by the crisis may affect the giver and the receiver of bad news in ways that would not happen if the individuals involved were not in crisis.

As we move forward, we might want to ask how the crisis we are experiencing is affecting us and those around us as we both receive and have to deliver bad news. If we can separate the crisis from the bad news, we may be better able to handle the bad news.

Staying On The Path

As We Move Forward: Staying On The Path

Path

An essential word in describing movement from one place to another is the word path. A path may be described as a way beaten, formed, or trodden by the feet of persons or animals. A narrow walk or way: a path through a garden; a bicycle path. A route, course, or track along which something moves: the path of a hurricane. One interesting thing about a path is that people have travelled it before, probably many times before. A path is possibly, but not necessarily always the best, most direct route from one place to another.

There is an implied safety concerning a path. Because it is well-defined and has been travelled by others, we might tend to feel some level of safety and security in following the path. A number of hospitals use a system of paths to guide people from the main entrance to a desired destination. Many hospitals have been added to many times, making directions difficult to give and more difficult to follow. In addition, many people coming to a hospital may be experiencing stress due to the medical condition of themselves or the person they are coming to see. These hospitals may have a number of paths in different colors painted on the floor beginning at or near the entrance.

At the reception desk, a visitor may be told to follow the red path to the emergency room, the blue path to the intensive care unit, the white path to X-Ray or whatever path leads to the desired destination. This can guide someone through a very complicated series of turns, doors etc. they also give a person the single task of following one particular color both to reach a given destination and to return to the entrance when finished.

I have spent a lot of time in many hospitals over the years and gotten lost enough times to appreciate a path painted on the floor to appreciate them when they exist. Similarly, one of the largest cemeteries in the country is in Cincinnati, OH. They use a series of paths of various colors painted on the roads within the cemetery to guide people to the appropriate section. I have ridden with funeral directors who relied on the paths to guide them to the proper section of the cemetery. I can’t imagine how much comfort it must be to a family member looking for a particular grave to have those paths to guide them.

Not every path offers even an implied guarantee of safe passage. An iconic movie path-The Yellow Brick Road, The path offers only the hope of reaching The Emerald City. It contains several sources of danger for the people following it.

We all follow paths in various areas of our lives. Few of us strike out on totally new direction in every area of our lives all the time. As very young children, we tend to follow the path set for us by the influential people in our live. At certain points we follow the path of a teacher, mentor or someone else we admire and trust. Even when we go in new directions, we are often guided by paths first travelled by others.

Path

These paths are important, especially when we get off them for a moment. It is important to have a path travelled by people we trust to find our way back. We are only lost when we can’t get back to the that we can trust to lead us to our destination.

As we move forward it is helpful to periodically check where we are relates the path. Especially in a crisis, it is easy to lose sight of the path that will get us to our destination. It is crucial to at least keep in sight people who are on the correct path. Better still if we remain on the correct path and can help guide others. May our journey and the choice of our path bring us to the destination we want to reach. The path is important.

It Seemed Like A Good Idea

As We Move Forward: It Seemed Like A Good Idea

Opportunity

I have always enjoyed trying new things. As I think back on my life thus far, I am amazed at the things I have purchased, signed up for or attempted. Almost universally, every one of them seemed like a good idea at the time. I was thinking recently about why each of these things seemed so right at the time. What was I looking for in each situation? I think most times I was trying to solve a problem either for myself or someone else.

Sometimes the new opportunity was presented by some form of advertisement. I would respond to an ad and then receive a follow-up, by phone or in person. In all these situations, someone had something they wanted to sell me. The task was to make me see how what they were offering was a solution to what I was looking for and that the cost of what they were offering was a fair exchange for the solution being offered.

Of course, this is an over simplification of what took place each time I made one of these choices. Some choices seemed natural, like joining scouts or little league. It seemed as if everyone was doing things like this is it just seemed the right thing to do.

One of the things I’ve learned about my willingness to try new things is that my ideas need a grounding in reality. I have surrounded myself with people who can view my new ideas with objectivity and common sense. If these people see serious problems with what I am about to try, I take their advice seriously. Often they can bring an objectivity to a proposed situation that I cannot see on my own.

I also count on these trusted people to evaluate my behavior as I start something new. New experiences change us, at least mine have changed me. I want to be certain my new experiences are consistent with who I am. The responses of those I trust help me be certain my new activity seems consistent with my core beliefs. I would have to question any new activity that did not seem consistent with who I am.

Thinking

Especially in times of crisis, it becomes difficult to objectively evaluate these changes on my own. Without the guidance of people I trust, I can easily lose sight of who I am in the midst of change. I also find it helpful to proceed cautiously and deliberately with taking on new things, particularly during a crisis. This is just me, but I would rather take extra time in adopting new things, especially during a time of crisis.

As we move forward, it is important to remember that a crisis brings factors into our lives that are both confusing and beyond our control. We should always be open to trying new things, but we should be especially careful to be cautious and to seek wise counsel. Together, we will move through this time of crisis and embrace new things.

I Don’t Want To....

As We Move Forward: I Don’t Want To….

Child Moping

One of the first things a child learns to say is no. The non-verbal crying when we are unhappy leads to saying no when someone tells us to something we don’t want to do. Developmentally, this is an important part of finding our identity and developing our unique personality. To be perfectly fair, we learn to say no by first hearing others say it to us.

Saying ‘I don’t want to’ is a part of the process of beginning to make choices. I like most food. I honestly don’t remember saying I didn’t want to eat any particular food. Later in my life I discovered Lima beans. We never had them when I was growing up. I found out that was because my father did not care for them. The fact that he didn’t want to eat lima beans did not make me dislike them. In fact, it made me like them more when I discovered them as an adult.

One of my most important instances of saying ‘I don’t want to’ has to do with the use of alcohol and tobacco. Both were seen as rites of passage and symbols of adulthood when I was growing up. While I can’t exactly remember when I first said ‘I don’t want to’ with these two things, I have memories of times in my adult life when especially my saying ‘I don’t want to’ regarding alcohol was challenged.

I can remember several meals with friends where there was pressure to have just one glass of wine. I remember being at the fiftieth anniversary party for a couple in the church. They were offended I would not toast them with alcohol. I offered and ended up toasting with ginger ale, but I knew they did not understand. Of course there have been many times in life when I said or acted out ‘I don’t want to’ as a way of deciding on one thing over another.

When I finished my student teaching, both my supervising teacher and the college supervisor tried to talk me into a career in teaching rather than follow my plan to attend seminary. The affirmation and support from them felt good. I will admit to a moment of indecision. I applied to colleges, and got accepted by both. One of these colleges had strong memories. I had participated in several regional science fairs at that school. They actively recruited me. It was not easy saying ‘I don’t want to’ go to that college.

Many times, saying “I don’t want to” involves things that are beyond our control. Our current crisis makes us do many things that go against what we would prefer doing. As I watch people acting outside what sometimes seem like some very restrictive requirements, I can “hear” their ‘I don’t want to’ as clearly as if they were speaking the words.

Thinking

As we move forward, we can start examining the times our words, and especially our actions seem to say ‘I don’t want to’. When this behavior and these words seem to be inconsistent with what we know or have been told is the right thing to do, we might take a moment to ask ourselves why we are doing or saying that.

It’s OK to say ‘I don’t want to’. What really matters is what we ultimately do in the situation, especially in times of crisis. We can also be understanding of the ‘I don’t want to’ words and behaviors of others.

As We Move Forward: What Comes Next?

As We Move Forward: What Comes Next?

Path

We have been having some work done on the inside of our house. It has primarily involved painting and new flooring. We have not addressed any of these issues in the seventeen years since the house was built. In that time, we have acquired many things in the house. Just how many things became very evident when we started to get estimates for the painting and the new flooring. The various people talked with told us what we would have to move for each thing we wanted to have done.

It became clear that most of our home routines would have to be totally changed during these projects. While I was considering these changes and how, once the decision was made to go ahead with the projects, the changes took over our lives to a degree, it occurred to me that this was similar to the crisis we are currently in the middle of. The big difference is we did not choose the current crisis. Of course, our home decorating decisions do not pose a risk to health or life. They do, however, provoke a certain level of anxiety, at least in me.

Even with agreement that the proposed projects are the right thing, there is a very high degree to which we have to give over a lot of control to others. I have observed that both in our current projects and the crisis we are in the midst of, changing the way we do things can be very stress provoking.

What do we do next can be a highly emotionally charged question. In our current crisis, that question is driven from an outside force which we cannot seem to understand, let alone control. Because of the magnitude of the current crisis, there are consequences, medical, financial, psychological and social that can bring out these or the worst in each of us.

One of the most significant things about our projects as well as the current crisis is that things will be different going forward. At the beginning of this crisis, most of us talked about returning to normal. Now, more and more talk centers around what normal is becoming as we move through the crisis. Our house is taking on a new look as our projects come to completion. So many of the ways we do things in our world is changing before our eyes in ways we are only slowly coming to understand.

Wall

‘What comes next?” This takes on a new sense of urgency when we realize whatever it is, it’s undoubtedly something we will have to get used to. It is a certainty we will get used to and likely come to really enjoy the changes in our home. I, for my part, am not certain how many of the changes coming out of our current crisis I am going to enjoy. As we move forward, it might be interesting to think of some times in our lives when we have had to ask, “what comes next?” Was it in excitement, like our projects, like graduation, marriage, the birth of a beloved child? Was it starting college, a new job, starting a vacation? Or was it like our present crisis?

Even in a crisis like our present one, some things that come next can be good. We can find things coming next that we can look forward to. As we move forward, let’s look at what comes next in terms of the possibilities. What is one good thing you can see coming next out of this current crisis?

Life Changing Moments

As We Move Forward: Life Changing Moments

Railroad Tracks

I remember when we got the news they were going to be closing the railroad station in my hometown. I must have been very young because this story involves my grandmother. My grandmother died when I was five years old. I remember my grandfather driving us to the train station. He bought tickets for my grandmother and me to ride the train. We rode to a nearby town. My grandfather drove to this town to pick us up. They wanted me to have the experience of riding the train from my hometown.

What makes this event life changing has to do with the love my grandparents showed that day and the way it changed the way I look at things. The railroad plays an important role in my hometown. When the town was laid out, railroad overpasses were built so traffic did not have to stop for trains coming through the town.

I have ridden a number of trains in my life, in the United States and Europe. I have ridden trains as the means to get from one place to another. Having also ridden historical and specialty trains where the ride itself was the attraction. Honestly, I can say that for almost all the trains I have ridden, I have had a momentary memory of that special train trip my grandparents provided for me so many years ago.

I have had any number of life changing experiences-events that occurred where I could mark a difference in my life and how I viewed things before and after the event. The deaths of each of my grandparents, which took place about fifteen years apart were life-changing events for me in different ways. My grandmother was the first close relative I lost. Her death helped form some of my early memories of how I dealt with. I remember as a young child going to the visitation. I remember that my parents decided not to let me go to her funeral. Instead, I stayed with some teenaged cousins. I can recall talking with them about what was going on at that time.

I was in college when my grandfather died and I participated in his service. It had been a difficult period in our church. Several people had died in a very short period of time. I recall my pastor seeming relieved when I agreed to talk about my grandfather. I remember sharing that experience during my father’s funeral. Each of those events were ones for which I saw life differently than I had before.

Couple

There have been other events that marked a divide in the way I viewed things before and after. Among them would be my graduations, the day I met the love of my life. Our wedding is another such event. We were both in college when we got married. I will never forget being on campus the first day back in class after our wedding. Suddenly, I looked around. Things just seemed different. Suddenly, I realized that the difference was that I was married. It was amazing how that changed my view of the world!

As we move forward, there are things that happen that forever change how we see things. Some are huge. Others might not seem life changing at the time. Think of a few of your life-changing events. Which mainly affect you and a few people? Which were global? How did each change your view of your world from before to after? What can we take from these events to be better able to make use of them to make our lives better?

As We Move Forward: Revenge

As We Move Forward: Revenge

Revenge

Recently, I came across what I consider one of the most unpleasant words there is. That word is revenge. Revenge can be defined as, reprisal, retribution, vengeance suggest a punishment, or injury inflicted in return for one received. Revenge is the carrying out of a bitter desire to injure another for a wrong done to oneself or to those who are felt to be like oneself: to plot revenge. I am not competitive innately, so I do not even play games very often.

The times I have competed with someone, things ended when the event was over. I honestly don’t believe I have intentionally gone out of my way to seek revenge on someone else. That is why I find the whole idea unpleasant. That being said, I have been on the receiving end of revenge a few times in my life. Among the many feelings present in at these times, I am aware of feelings of sadness and disappointment.

That is because relationships are crucial to me. I highly value the ability to communicate with others and to work together to achieve goals. I know that sometimes I find myself disputing another person. Let’s describe this aspect of a relationship as having respect. Having told people for years that we do not have to like one another to have a working relationship. I say that what we have to give one another is respect. When we cannot offer respect to one another, we have to re-define our relationship.

To my way of thinking, the ultimate conclusion of realizing we cannot offer each other respect is to simply recognize that we cannot be in a relationship and simply go our separate ways. The idea of revenge takes that whole thing to a new level, and that is where I am troubled.

I’m certain we all know of situations where a contest, a relationship or even a disagreement has gone against one party and rather than just moving on, the “injured” party carries out an elaborate plan of revenge. Even if the object of the revenge deserved to be paid back, often the consequences of the revenge are worse than the “injury” that provoked the action.

At a time when our society is very polarized on so many levels, Some consequences of acts of revenge can cause harm to others, including people who have no part of the dispute. In times of high stress, it can be very difficult to simply let an action go or to respond with understanding and patience rather than with an angry plan to get revenge.

Outlook

As we move forward, it might be helpful to look at any times someone might have taken revenge against us. Think about how it felt. Then, think about any time we might have been tempted to take revenge on someone else. (Of course, I know we didn’t take revenge, but it’s important to think hypothetically sometimes.) What would that have been like? Aren’t we glad we are above things like that! Think about how great life would be if everyone was like us and avoided seeking revenge.

As we move forward to whatever normal looks like, wouldn’t it be great to envision our world as a revenge-free place. That can start with you and me. Will you join me in making revenge a thing of the past, and not a part of our future?