As I drive down Elliot Road every day, I focus on the scenery that lines the street. Bus stop attendees, people waiting to cross the intersection, and the constantly changing array of retail establishments–all of them are part of my daily view of the world around me during my drive.
There’s one man, that at 4:50 PM every day, is walking down the sidewalk on the south side of the street. Sometimes he walks east, and sometimes west. And the one thing that strikes me about him is that he is always filthy.
Homeless? Not sure. Maybe he is a blue collar worker whose job includes drywall, paint or cement. He wears an array of clothes, all filthy. His shoulder-length hair is as close to a mullet as it can be without actually being one, and he has a Sonny Bono moustache that seems out of place in this day and age. He is tall and thin and his shirt is always tucked in, and he walks with a swagger that says, “I know who I am.”
Well I am glad that he does, because he seems an enigma to me. One doesn’t see too many people with those attributes–neat, trim, confident and filthy–and it makes me want to stop and ask him what his life is all about. But, of course, I don’t, because it’s not my place to do so.
And every time I see him, it impresses me that he is OK with being dirty. He is OK with showing his true self in public without concern about what others think of his looks. He knows who he is and he’s OK with it.
Thanks for the example, mystery man.
Your Children are Watching You
There’s something about learning by doing. After the January 12 earthquake in Haiti I learned more about my son than I had known about him in the first 12 years of his life. As he watched the people crying on CNN, being dug out of the rubble, bloody and homeless with no food or water, I saw my son’s eyes well up. He turned to me and he said, “We really need to help them! Look at those children; they have nothing to do.” The thoughts of a child, concerned about the welfare of other children, because he had been in their place at one time.
And so with that, he conjured up the idea of sending yoyos down to the children so they had something to play with while Haiti was being rebuilt. We set about creating a website, yoyosforhaiti.com, and he wrote letters to all of the major yoyo manufacturers, who applauded him for his kindness and thoughtfulness towards the Haitian children. All but one contributed, as well as many individuals, and some went way out of their way to ensure that he met his goal of 500. It took a little while and some diligence on his part, but he followed through and he reached his goal. We took pictures along the way; we sent the press releases to CNN and the local news came to interview him. They asked him where his idea had originated, and his answer surprised even me. He said, “I know what it feels like to lose it all. I was homeless and I lost everything–even my cat–in Hurricane Katrina, and so I can understand how these children feel and I want them to feel better.” My eyes welled up, as did those of the cameraman and the anchorwoman. For I thought that he had been too young during the Hurricane to equate it with a more adult-oriented sense of loss.
Here was true human compassion albeit in a small package; but it shows that kindness is still prevalent in our world and it gives me hope. This is how we should want our children to grow up. I was proud see my son display such love and empathy towards children he will never meet. I wanted to avoid taking any credit for myself. Yet when I look back at the little things that I’ve enjoyed giving to other people: those I don’t know; animals; children; the homeless–I realized that he had been watching from the sidelines all along. I was setting an example without even trying. And my mother had done the same thing before my own childish eyes, always giving as much she could despite having very little. She always had a smile for everyone she met, as do I to this day.
And so we pass the tendency for compassion down from generation to generation. We should be planning these lessons if they don’t come naturally to us, and we must ensure that those little acts of kindness are seen by our children and those around us. And when you see your child perform an act of kindness, make sure that praise and show appreciation. Because with the ripple effect, anybody who sees such acts is positively affected by them–whether they be a smile, a cold drink or a yoyo–and each observer will positively affect another in some small way.
Recently, I was shopping for a horse that I could just throw a saddle on and ride around the neighborhood. I already share a beautiful Arabian mare, but she is a prima donna that hates to get her hooves dirty. Not the right horse for riding around the neighborhood.
I scoured the papers, online classifieds, Horse Training Sites, and the feed store bulletin board for the perfect horse. There were gorgeous options–Quarter Horses, Friesians, Saddlebreds and Paso Finos with shiny coats and proud stances.
And then I came across an ad on Craig’s List: “APQA Paint Horse, $900″
And memories of my childhood dreams arose of riding bareback across the plains just like Pocahontas did…and I had to further investigate the advertisement. The pictures were fuzzy, but there was a You Tube video that showed the horse jumping in an arena. From a fuzzy distance, she looked like a decent horse for the money. So out I drove, all the way across town, to see her in person.
She was mixed with 26 other horses, grazing in a field. Her markings were, well, odd. Not the beautiful cow spots that most of you are used to in a paint horse. She is an overo, which looked like someone had splattered bleach on her brown coat, leaving tiny, irregular white spots in really strange places. She is no beauty; she was a hundred pounds underweight, filthy and had matted mane and tail–but her eyes were clear, and she seemed to have the disposition I was looking for. Calm, easy to ride, not readily excitable.
It turns out that this owner had taken the horse as repayment of a debt that was owed to her–exactly $900–and wanted to turn the horse into cash, thus eliminating one more mouth to feed. It was obvious that she didn’t want to put too much effort into restoring the horse back to health, although I give her credit for taking better care of her than her previous bankrupt owner.
So I wrote the check, and she delivered the horse, complete with papers, to the riding facility where I had rented a stall. This facility housed show horses, and sported teenage girls posting with their black velvet caps darting up and down on their perfectly clipped trotting mounts. The arrival of my horse caused quite a stir–a silent one, if you get my drift–not because of her beauty, but rather because of the lack of it. On this property full of high-maintenance show horses, mine stumbled out of the trailer like a homeless bum after he finishes his wine in the bag. Shaggy, dirty, with hay in her forelock, she looked around in fright at all of the horror struck people with gaping mouths.
I had bought a nag.
“She’s got a great disposition,” I told my disbelieving friends. “She just needs a little training and care.” They said nothing, but their lips were pursed, and their gazes turned away from my new horse and far across the field.
The trainers were ever positive, since they were being paid well to do as much as they could do in 30 days. They made no promises. We put her in her stall, which must have looked like Plum Sykes’ penthouse to her, where she ate for 2 hours straight. I named her “Tuesday.”
At first, the reports from the trainers were grim, and the other horse owners made a wide berth when we went a-walking. But then, last night, we worked her again, and the real Tuesday started to emerge. With food in her stomach, and attention directed toward her training, I could finally see a glimpse of the horse she would be. She held her head higher, her gait was more steady as she regained musculature and balance, and her willingness to please her rider was evident now that she was no longer starving.
I am not so sure she is the kind of horse I can just throw a saddle on and ride around the neighborhood.
But I am sure that she was meant to be with us at this time…to teach us that first impressions aren’t always right, no matter what psychologists say the statistics are. After all, what if she were human? Unkempt, unfed, forgotten and lost. We see them all the time, and many of us are quick to judge the external appearance rather than considering the soul that is trapped inside.
Here’s a video of the real “Tuesday” the day before I brought her home.
This morning, while moving boxes in my garage, my son shrieked when I displaced an enormous black widow spider from her lair. I am not in the habit of killing any bug, no matter how dangerous it may be. Rather, I will capture it for a few hours, observe its habits, and then let it go. So into a Mason jar went the spider, and she resided for the day on my son’s desk next to the computer monitor. As night fell, we made a trip a mile away, and left the spider in a privet bush so that she could continue on with her life.
Back in 2005 I lost my home, my business and all my belongings in Hurricane Katrina. In a 12-hour period my entire life was transformed from a comfortable home-owning artist and entrepreneur into a homeless single mother with a confused child and three days worth of clothes in a suitcase. There are few words that can really describe the feeling of sudden hopelessness and desperation I felt in those few days after the storm.
What happened afterward was nothing short of a miracle. After sifting through what the looters left, inhaling mold and dodging rotting beams, my mind cleared and I went into survival mode. I made calls, researched my options, and made plans to put my life together again. I took donations where I used to be the one giving them (including 9 boxes sent from Microsoft–thank you!!), checked in on fellow friends in the area, and wrote down goals. I was displaced, but I was not lost.
Now the spider and I, we have a lot in common. We were both taken from our comfortable surroundings by something beyond our control, and we both ended up somewhere we never thought we’d never be. I can only hope that she rebuilds her life as well as I did, and that she enjoys her new surroundings.
Experts say that the recession is over. What great news that is for those of us who may be a little tired of the black cloud of depression looming over us, but despite this wonderful revelation, the thunder is still rumbling. This article in Newsweek touts that “The Recession Is Over! But Not for You!”
Why not for me? Can’t I be happy too?
And plopped right in the center of the article is a photo montage of the greediest people that are to blame for all of this mess. The article continues to keep us beaten down and cringing: “Having survived a near-death economic experience, Americans now need to focus on surviving what’s likely to be a pokey, painful recovery.”
Talk about a dose of guilt for those who actually don’t live every day just to survive! Now I’m not knocking those that are down on their luck, but I am emphasizing here that we can decide which rain goggles we choose to look through. Do yours show sun in the near distance, or just more rain?
Last week I was in Panama, which is known for a large presence of ex-pats from the United States. Although most of the ex-pats that choose to move there permanently–for the near-American lifestyle without the conspicuous consumerism and general selfishness of its North American counterpart–were kind and like-hearted lovers of life, the visitors who were there for a short time stuck out like sore thumbs among the soft-spoken and humble Panamanians. Being an American who was visiting with an intention to retire there, I was stuck in the middle, yet I bordered on sympathy for the natives who suffered from the derision, disrespect and condescension of my visiting fellow countrymen.
“If Panama is going to make it, they have to step it up. This service stinks.”
“See this thing the Indians made? It’s cut out of a nut called the tagua. I think it’s ugly, but if you have some aunt somewhere that likes this kind of stuff, you can buy it here.”
“This place is so behind the times. I don’t know how people can live like this.”
These were some of the statements I collected, and cringed at hearing, on my recent stay in Panama.
Although I love my country, I was shocked and disgusted at the treatment those people endured from the tourists visiting their homeland. They were expected to speak English, and if they didn’t, then they were fair game to be discussed in the presence of those that did.
My question to them and to anyone else who would suggest that all people should adopt our (insane and unhealthy) lifestyle:
Why don’t you stay home if you like it so much? Why bother traveling?
The key to guilt-free travel is to embrace the differences from the place in which we normally exist, drink in the uniqueness of the lifestyle and leave a benevolent footprint. Let’s thank our hosts and return with positive experiences to pass on to those at home.
As much as I love to watch Anderson Cooper, I can’t bear to hear him lament on the economy. I’m not singling him out, but rather the material he and other anchors deliver in gut-wrenching, spirit-melting droves:
How is the Law of Attraction affected by the inundation of this endless negative news?
Since the Law of Attraction implies that what we visualize, feel and desire will be manifested in our physical world, it’s just possible that: the more this information remains in the forefront of our consciousness; is the subject of our conversations around coffee; and is overheard and absorbed by our children, the more of it we’ll continue to see. If the Universe delivers more of the same, then we are sure to experience more of the negativity presented to us by the media.
I’m not suggesting that you should avoid watching television, reading the paper or listening to radio news, but when is enough enough? The media itself is not to blame, for in their eyes they are only delivering what we ask for. But what if we asked for the good stuff? What if the happy stuff was delivered at the beginning of a newscast, much as a performance review is delivered by our bosses?
“I really think you’ve made some great improvements in your efficiency, Kimberly, and your attendance record is impeccable. You work with integrity and it is obvious you strive to learn.”
“There are a few areas on which you may consider spending a little time. For instance, your reports contain typos that a quick spell check could prevent, and perhaps your tone of voice on the phone could be a little softer to those in need.”
The POSITIVE, and then the NEGATIVE.
Could we see Anderson try this?
“Today marked a great improvement in the reduction of polluted water in South Africa thanks to the concerted efforts of the country’s major mining companies, who are adopting practices that reduce mining-related runoff into the country’s waterways. Further work is still required to provide safe drinking water for the country’s 44 million residents.”
I don’t know about you, but I would be much more willing to donate time or money if I felt it would actually make a difference in continuing the upswing of improvement.
I have no idea how to put this into motion, so if you know Anderson, please send him my way.
Although it’s on the decline thanks to modern medicine, leprosy is alive and kicking in many third world countries. I was in Morocco, and the man sitting (armless, by the way) on the dirty street corner smiled at me with barely 3 teeth remaining in his mouth. I was in a hurry to meet a wool rug merchant who was offering me a private showing of his best handmade rugs, and I didn’t want to be late. I quickly smiled back to the leper and was on my way.
But it isn’t merely the disease-stricken that drew my attention on that and other trips. It was the kids running after me on the remote island of Lombok when I rode in on the back of a truck. There were six other people on the truck with me, but the kids knew to thrust their hands out to me rather than the other visitors. Perhaps it was my snow-white skin, or the fact that I even gave them the attention at all; but there it was, that compelling feeling that I had to give to anyone extending a hand out for help.
And so here we begin a thread on how we can enjoy guilt-free travel no matter where we end up. For no matter which country you visit–which includes our own, if you care to look for it–there will be financial disparity between the citizens. And unless you are whisked off to the Ritz Carlton immediately upon landing your Gulfstream, then you are likely to have exposur to those less fortunate than you.
I will be leaving for Panama on June 21, 2009, and will be reporting from there about our travels and how we handled the poverty surrounding us.