Unexpected Kindness – by Phylor

Kindness Blog ♥️

woman at train station

Most times I waited for the train, she was there, whatever time of day it was. White wires to white player = apple world. She never arrived without these wires, nor a method to become de-tangled.

We never spoke to each other. No hellos or fine weather predictions. She was my totem. Days she wasn’t there felt strange and out of place.

Yet, we had made little or no contact. No thank you for the stable sense of having her there at the train stop. I kept meaning to say hello, or comment about the weather. But the distance she kept from me and the other passengers seemed to be a fortress she built around herself.

One harried afternoon, as I waited for the train, I heard a voice: Miss, Miss. It took me a moment to realize the miss was me. I turned and to my surprise it was…

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Lessons on Empathy. What can we learn from Ferguson!!

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With each day comes more news of events much like Ferguson Missouri unfolding. Yet another unarmed person is loosing their life in the hands of police. While death is nothing new, loosing a life to someone who’s supposed to protect you isn’t something we’d like to be a normal everyday occurrence. The events unfolding in Ferguson has become yet another issue that is polarizing, now religion, politics are not the only issues of polarization. I wanted to take some time away from writing about my usual topics such as Love, Relationships, and Self-help to talk about this. How can something like this drive us apart, how is it not bringing people together, why does it separate us? While the issue is very complicated, and picking a particular side is easy, my mind prefers to look at it from a deeper angle. In the recent weeks what I’ve been thinking about is how there seems to be a lack of connection to those involved, to really understand where they’re coming from. For me I believe that part of the reason the events from Ferguson can happen in our communities, and why it seems to polarize other communities is a lack of empathy. I’d like to spend some time talking a bit about that and other closely knit factors.

Practice empathy not sympathy!

I tend to be a more logical person, while I doimage have emotions, and express them quite often. When it comes to making decisions I tend to be a bit more logical. While emotions are necessary, they do cause us to make decisions on things that are perceived, rather than actual evidence. Before I get further, let’s talk a bit about empathy. In a little video I found while researching this topic, Brene Brown gives a great explanation of empathy: The Power of Empathy. Brene defines empathy as having 4 elements: perspective taking, staying away from judgement, recognizing emotion, and communicating that feeling with people. In order to have empathy, we have to be able to put ourselves into someone else’s shoe. In the video she describes this as climbing down into the cave with someone else. It’s very important that we not pass judgement, “well I won’t have…” or “you’re stupid, it’s your fault.” Just by recognizing someone’s emotion it can change the conversation, “it sounds like you’re angry” “I can see that you’re upset.” By acknowledging someone else’s emotion you’re saying that you’re paying attention to THEM. In contrast sympathy is slightly different, but it is perceived vastly different. Sympathy in essence is sticking your head into the cave and saying “wow that looks really bad down there.” Sympathy is acknowledging that something is wrong, but not being willing to step into the mud yourself, you want to stay out of the mess yourself. As Brene says,

Empathetic responses don’t start with “at least”

I had a miscarriage “at least you can get pregnant.”

My marriage is falling apart, “at least you have a marriage.”

So to specifically understand why the Black community in Ferguson is so outraged, we have to fully understand what THEY’RE going through. We can’t necessarily look at the events there through OUR lenses, unless of course you’re living in Ferguson.

Our Perspective forms our Reality

This brings me to a central point that I think needs to be stressed. Our perspectives shape our reality, and this is where emotions could lead us astray. Regardless of what another person says or does, our perspectives will sometimes show us things that are not there. In the work I do I’ve encountered many upset customers, and one particular experience is still fresh in my mind. I spoke to a customer who was not happy with their experience, and felt that they had been treated badly. While I had no desire to follow the policy that initially caused this bad experience. I even tried telling the customer that I wasn’t going to continue to push the issue, but didn’t even get to say that before they began berating me. Not to worry there’s more to the story, but my point is that despite my actual intentions, the customer perceived that they were being treated unfairly, even though I was not actually engaging in the same behavior. It fascinates me that even in the presence of video evidence, people will still maintain there perspectives. Take football for example, there will be a video clearly showing whether a player was out of bounds or not. Despite what that video actually shows, there will be 2 people hotly contesting that the player was either out of bounds or in. Why is it despite concrete evidence people will still say that things are the way they think, even if actual physical evidence says contrary?

Good also exists in bad situations

In a TEDtalk about Courage, one of the presenters Janine di Giovanni talks about her experience as a War Correspondent. Check out her full TEDtalk What does it take to cover a War? In the radio segment the host asks her why does she continue to go to war torn countries to report, and something she said stuck with me. Janine said that although she has seen many tragic and horrific things, she has also seen a lot of good and courageous people in those places. Although there is a lot of darkness there, she has also seen light shine through in the darkness. While I had a previous post that talks about this but from a religious perspective, that is not what she is talking about here. To understand why this is relevant, you have to remember that our world is full of duality, good and evil does co exist. I’ve heard people ask in times of pain “why did this happen to ME” “why did god let this happen to ME” While I’m not here to defend God, a particular verse kept coming up this week:

And we know that God causes everything to work together  for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28

This particular verse doesn’t get into the weeds about whether God “lets” bad things happen to people, but what it does say is that god causes things to work for good. I understand that many people reading this probably don’t share my faith, however I know that many have asked this question “why me God?” I’ve heard people try to simplify god down to this, god is good, bad things happen in the world, therefore either god isn’t good or he’s not real. I caution this kind of thinking, so let’s look at an example that will be more relevant. Many people are parents, and they consider themselves good parents, yet bad things happen to their children. When bad things happen we understand that it’s not always directly a reflection of your parenting, that you can still be a good parent. The reality is that many things happen that are outside of our control. Yet there are always opportunities for good to shine through. There is always an opportunity to offer grace to someone who treats you badly. I believe that’s what Janine has experienced in her life.

What does empathy, perspectives and good have to do with Ferguson?

I’ve lamented a bit about a few topics, but again what does it have to do with Ferguson? I believe that when we heard that story, we quickly tried to pick a side, we picked a side that associates more with our lives. We offered our sympathy, and in doing so we didn’t fully take the time to understand why the community was upset. You see while we might share similarities with Mike Brown our Daren Wilson, to understand their lives, we have to really UNDERSTAND them. To really embrace Ferguson and have an honest conversation we have to walk in the shoes of that community. As an African American male, it would be very easy for me to condemn Daren Wilson, he killed a black teen. While that might seem the case on the surface, the real story is far more dirty and murky. This could be our opportunities to really understand the lives of both Daren Wilson and Mike Brown. Especially on social media, this story has raised many divisive and visceral comments, and I’m ashamed to be a fellow human. This situation could be an opportunity for good. One of the things I was reminded from the TEDtalk was that it’s easy to make a negative comment, or to let injustice prevail. It’s much harder to stand up for good, to do the right thing. In the church sermon today about Joy, I walked away with this, sometimes we can’t really offer much help. Sometimes all we can offer is a simple gesture, but even a simple hug, is a step in the direction of empathy. Sometimes in painful situations there really is nothing we can do to make it better.

Writing is a platform for me to express my thoughts to people that are not in my immediate area. While it’s becoming easier and easier, I caution you, my readers to do so responsibly. Today the world is becoming darker, more evil, and even a small gesture will remind us that there is good. While it’s easy for me to pick a side in the Ferguson story, the act of 1 young boy has reminded me I should choose my words carefully. Some people believe they’re only words, Free Hugsbut words are very powerful. “I have a dream” are only words by themselves, but they’re also a rallying cry for the oppressed. Those words taught a nation that we can be more inclusive of our brother and sisters. I have a voice, and I refuse to use it to spew anger and hate. Mike Brown isn’t the only one who lost his life that day, in a way Daren Wilson also lost his life too. The question I ask is what can I do to not continue spreading hate and misunderstanding. A way for me to do that is to have empathy rather than sympathy. While empathy is a great place to start I must also do my part, I must be willing to step out and do good, even if I’m the only one standing. As a 12 year old showed us, even if it’s just a free hug, he’s offering all he can in that situation. Going forward a question I will as is How can I offer YOU help? Not in a Golden Rule kind of way, meaning I’ll offer you the kind of help that I would want. But to actually ask you, what do YOU need me to do for YOU?

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Finding Passion – Part 1 1/2

Here’s a piece of a larger series that everyone should read

thezombieshuffle

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In part 1 I discussed the loss of passion in relationships, and how I believe it is the leading contributor to affairs, divorce, and unhappy relationships (or at least relationships that are less happy than they could be). Loss of passion is somewhat inevitable in long term relationships, but that doesn’t have to be the case, and there are ways to try and rebuild it when it’s diminished or gone.

I was planning on talking about “ways to rebuild” in part 2, but as I started writing I realized there was something important to cover first about loss of passion. So I’m going to cheat a bit here. Instead of part 2, I now present you with Part 1 1/2!!!

Team Building

Relationships are like small groups, or teams, and in the mid 60’s a guy by the name of Bruce Tuckman came up with a theory on the stages…

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New York Diaries Part 2

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Before embarking on my New York trip I had every intention to write each day. To find things in my surroundings and use it as a prompt to write. Here I am, going into my second week of being back from New York, and I’ve only managed to write once. It seems much hasn’t really changed, now I’m back home, I’ve fallen back into my work mode. Taking the time away was great, and I can’t say that I’m feeling like I shouldn’t have gone, now I’m ready to go again! The past few weeks have been a blur, there have been so many things to write about, but I just never sat down to put it down into a coherent string of thoughts. Since I had written a Part 1, I thought it a good idea to write part 2 now.

Movies like “When Harry Met Sally” speak to my inner Romantic, I’ve mentioned previously that I have aimage vivid imagination, and sometimes play things out in my head first. While it was exciting being up on the Empire State, it was very Cold, and time to reflect was short. It did get me thinking though, Movies tend to only give you a glimpse of things. Life itself is inherently hard, and you actually have to WORK to get what you want. The days of thinking that I’ll meet that woman, and we’ll instantly lock eyes, have a great conversation, start dating and get married are over. I’m no longer that naive into thinking it happens like in the movies. What I’m not saying is that I’m giving up on Dating or finding Love. While it does get lonely being single sometimes, and it would be nice to share things with someone, like my hike today. What I’d rather not be is in a relationship and feeling lonely, or not connected to my partner. For me that is not living. Which I think is interesting, because ALL relationships have to work hard to keep “The Spark” going. It’s nothing like the movies. The good news is that I believe I’ve gained a few more tools to help me foster better relationships.

For the New Year coming up, I’m going to work on enjoying my life more, last year it was about being intentional. In a way I’m not quite sure I’ve accomplished what I thought I would have, but it’s ok, I’m still learning. This hear I want to spend more time travelling, and I feel that I’m in a better place to afford it now. New York reminded me that I still have a bit of the traveling bug in me, and I’d like to spend more time exploring that. New York also reminded me that while I love my family, I also value my independence, and I really love living out here in California. Big cities like New York have much to offer, however I want to be close to nature too, not the concrete jungle a real jungle. It is great to look out my window and see mountains and trees, and the fog coming over the hills. It’s even great breathing in the salty ocean air from time to time. I can live in a big city, but I need to get away and be surrounded by nature at times. I think that’s what I love the most about the Bay Area.

I’m learning to Love myself more deeply, and I came across something interesting a few days ago. I heard a TEDtalk by Susan Cain: The Power of IntrovertsI’ve known for some time now that I’m not a real Introvert, I show many Extroverted qualities at times, but my dominant personality is more Introverted. I like to think of Introverted and Extroverted as where you draw your energy from, instead of whether you like to be more social, or by yourself. In her talk Susan Cain echoed this same way of looking at the two, but she added something I had never heard before. In her research she found that Introverts tend to be more creative, because the quiet time gives them the space to think of ways to improve things they’re passionate about. She also talked about learning to embrace your personality, and not feel guilty for who you are, especially introverts. It’s the quiet times that we use to not just replenish ourselves, but to solve problems. I’ve lamented before about being an Extroverted Introvert, I guess the term is Ambivert. While this new explanation strokes my ego a bit, it does help shed light on why I crave quiet time so much. I’m in a stage right now where I want to spend more time alone, than being around others. Susan Cain’s finding helps me feel a little less guilty when I don’t want to spend my free time with others. While I’m learning to love myself, it’s a good start to appreciate the quiet times I spend with myself.

New York Diaries Part 1

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You probably won’t know this about me, but I lived in New York for a bit. While my family lives there, I don’t call myself a New Yorker, I only lived there for 2 years. In contrast I’ve been in California for almost 15 years now, by all accounts I’m Californian. But there is something about New York that seems to draw you in, it’s a magnificent place of diverse night-life, people, cuisine, art and so much more, and we haven’t even talked about it’s history.

For those that haven’t been to New York it would probably be a bit overwhelming, so much to see and not enough time. I promised myself that I would take some time to write while I’m here, lets face it there’s a million things to inspire writing here. Before I tell you more about my Trip so far, I’d like to share something else with you. I took some time during my flight and lay-over to read a few chapters from “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown.

…A twenty-minute walk that I do  is better than a four-mile run that I don’t do. The imperfect book that gets published is better than the perfect book that never leaves my computer.

I’ve been in a bit of a mental funk lately, not feeling motivated to write, socialize, and be around others. When it comes to writing, sometimes I feel like a bit of a perfectionist. Instead of just writing, I tend to not write unless I think it’s perfect. I think it was great for me to learn this lesson from Brene Brown before my trip, in a way it got me out of my perfectionist state. What I got from Brene’s book was to not always strive for perfection, sure there are times when something should be perfect, but is perfection right for every aspect of life? In another lesson Brene points out that perfectionism is the enemy of creativity. If you look at Painters, sure there are some boundaries, but artists have the liberty to operate outside of borders.

So what does any of this have to do with my imageNew York trip? I think it was great for me to change my attitude before coming back to New York. There’s so much inspiration here, and I needed to be in the right mood to soak it all up. New York is an interesting place. As I started saying in the beginning there’s so much exciting things here, yet as I looked around, I noticed that everyone seemed to have a bleak and down trodden look. Perhaps it’s because I was on the Subway, or perhaps it’s because it was 30 degrees outside. By the way if you’ve never riden the New York city subway, you should try it at least once before you die, of course you might also die there too. As I rode the subway I couldn’t help but think that there was so much that the City had to offer, yet I was wondering how many of those people took time to appreciate the beauty that’s right outside. Even though we’re in a closed cramped space, everyone really seemed like they were in their own bubble. This all had me asking a similar question of my own life. What things am I missing out on in life that I could be enjoying? Am I going through my life not appreciating the beauty that’s right around the corner?

So what’s the lesson? Life can be inherently hard, sometimes work, life and responsibilities get us out of focus. While life is un-folding around us, beauty is also right there. If there’s one thing I want you to remember is this, take time to enjoy the beauty around you, and we’ll all be a little happier today.