A Kinder World at Walmart

I was in line at a busy Walmart the other day with a cart full of grocery items. The cashier, a lady who appeared to be in her late sixties, didn’t smile or say hello as I unloaded my cart. I was buying so many items that my purchases filled the counter from end to end. As she looked at my order, the cashier turned off her light and snapped to the woman in line behind me “I’m closed!”

As I turned to look at the woman behind me, I noticed that, not only had she pushed a cart full of items to the counter, but she was also pushing a large wheelchair holding a developmentally disabled teen-aged girl who was curled up in a fetal position.

When the cashier turned off her light, the woman softly said “Oh no. I have to go find another aisle.” She didn’t make a fuss or tell the cashier that she was in line before her light went off, she simply dropped her head and proceeded to try to turn around her heavy cart and the wheelchair. Having just searched for an aisle myself, I knew that all of the aisles were full of customers and this woman would now have to push her passenger to another full aisle, then return to ours to get her cart of groceries and push that, too.  And my heart sank.

I wanted to ask the cashier if the woman could go ahead of me, but she was halfway through my order and my heart sank further still.   As I stood there throwing darts at the cashier with my eyes, I wondered how such a sweet looking lady could be so cruel.  I contemplated finding a manager to complain and I had some very not-so-nice thoughts about her in my head.

I continued to look back and forth between the lady who was struggling to move both the cart and the wheelchair and the cashier who looked like she could care less, and I began to pray for this world to become a kinder place. And the more I prayed, the less animosity I felt toward that cashier.  I began to think that perhaps she cares for a sick person herself, at home… someone she was anxious to get home to. Or perhaps she was sick herself and just desperately needed to leave. I began to stop judging her and started to pray for whatever her situation was.

As she murmured my total and I began to pay, the cashier reached over and turned her light back on! I stared at her in disbelief, wondering if I was on an episode of What Would You Do.  Surely, if she took another customer after turning away that woman, I was going to start looking for a manager.

Then the cashier leaned over her counter and yelled to the customer she had turned away, “Come on back. I’ll take you.” The customer had so much to push, between the cart and the wheelchair, that she hadn’t gotten far and turned around.

Though I don’t know what made that cashier change her mind, I was able to leave Walmart with a lifted spirit and a renewed hope in the kindness of our world. And I believe that if we all  pray for the same, that more lights will turn on in dark places.

Let’s get together sometime!

These four words…we utter them often, don’t we?

We see each other in the grocery store, hug, smile, chat for a while then walk away with a “Let’s get together sometime.”

We sit together at ballgames and concerts, cheering our kids on to victory and enjoying each other’s company. And when the event ends we wave and say “This was great. Let’s get together sometime.”

We worship together in the sanctuary, shake hands and chat after service, then wish each other a blessed week and shuffle off with a “we really ought to get together sometime.”

And to show our commitment, we even exchange numbers with a casual, well-intended “I’ll call you this week, so we can get together.”

These occasions occur frequently to most of us… but how often do we actually receive or make that call?

About a month ago, my husband and I were chatting with two couples after church that we chat with often before going home. When it was time to leave, we said the usual “Let’s get together sometime,” and headed for the door.

But that Sunday, something magical happened. One of the other husbands said “No! We’re not leaving here until we make a plan to get together, right here, right now!”

He said it with such intensity and authority that we were jolted into submission. It was fantastic! We made arrangements, right then and there, to have brunch two weeks later. When that day came, we had a wonderful time and we’re going to be fast friends. And did I mention she’s Anita Baker’s number two fan?

So, my readers and friends, I encourage you to follow through with the good intentions you’re putting off today and to do it right now. Don’t shy away from these opportunities. Many good things come from networking. Enlarge yours. Make those plans.

And your other good intentions…do those too! There’s no time like the present to begin that exercise program. Start that business. Write that book. Apologize to that loved one. Reach out to that old friend. Apply for that new job!

What are you waiting for? Tomorrow is not promised. If you meant it when you said you’d get together, make it happen. Someone out there needs someone just like you in their life. That friendship or thing you’ve been meaning to try out could be just the blessing you’ve been waiting for.

So get together!

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Long Live Legendary Singers

What do you do when legendary singers come to your town?  Do you purchase tickets and start searching for that perfect concert outfit or do you google them to see what they currently look like and read their recent reviews?

Do you go to the show with your ears and heart open or do you stay home because somebody said, “They sure don’t sound like they used to!”

If you’re the latter, I’d like to ask a few things…

When you go to an event, do you search your closet for an outfit that looked good on you twenty years ago?

Do your outfits from twenty years ago still fit you?

When you do that dance you did in the 90’s, do you think you look the same doing it now?

Are the things that jiggle now the same things that jiggled then?

Is your hair color naturally the same?

Do you have the same energy you had at age 20?

How about your lung capacity?

If you answered “NO” to any of the above, do you expect people to treat you differently because of it?  Do you feel any less capable or gifted in your art? Have you lost all of your passion?

If not, then you should go out and support the legends that sang the songs you love…especially the ones you still know all the words to. They’re likely just as passionate about their work, as ever.

Treat your mature self to a concert of mature sound, remembering every moment that your legends aren’t the only ones that have aged. Expect a great time and you’ll find one, because good music, like good love, only gets better with time.

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On Turning 50

The month of April is here and I’ll soon be 50!

Yes, April was born in April.  What can I say…my mom was a little tired when I was born and there was a calendar in the delivery room, so….

I’m often asked if I’m excited to turn 50 and my reply is always “Yes!”  50 is a whole new chapter in life, and I can’t wait to turn the first page.

I recently read a list of things that every successful woman should do before she’s 50 and I’ve accomplished only some of the list. But, as 50 fast approaches, I don’t feel compelled to rush out and do the rest.   I believe that each woman’s journey is unique and so should be her pathway.  So, I’m skipping along on my uncharted road, knowing that there will be potholes and breakdowns, but I’ve got the number to AAA and some Fix a Flat, so it will be OK.

My successes aren’t measured by the big things.  I count every little success in life. And my 50-year-old advice to you would be to count every little success, too.

Every day you survive as a wife, husband, mother or father, is a huge success. Every time you make someone smile, you’re a success. Every time you bring someone into the knowledge of Christ is a success. Each time you give, you’re a success.  Every day you show up for work, when you don’t want to, you’re a success.  Every time you take the high road when you could’ve gone off on someone, you’re a success.  Every moment you beat sickness or disease, you’re a great success.

Every day you live is a paragraph in one huge success story.  So write until you’re out of lead and use your eraser, when needed. Re-writes and edits are acceptable.

Am I excited to turn 50?  You bet I am!  I’m excited just because I’m here and I intend to make every moment count.

So, wrinkles and gray hair, bring it on!  I’m ready to show 50 who’s boss!

Who’s with me?

 

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Until you run out of pages, there’s still room to write an epic ending-Kevin Ngo

When is the Last Time You Learned Someone’s Name?

Have you ever thought about how important it is to learn someone’s name?  I’m sure that’s not something we sit around and contemplate each day, but perhaps we should.

I’ll bet there are a number of people we speak to, each time we encounter them, whose names we don’t know.  I’ll bet we’ve had conversations with some of them, numerous times.

There’s likely a cashier, server, security guard, bus driver or custodian that we speak or wave to all the time, whose name we don’t know.  Worse yet, there are probably neighbors right next door that we could pick out in a line up, but couldn’t identify by name.

And the friendly old lady who hugs us in church every Sunday… the one who always sits in our row… what’s her name? Could she be related to the nameless co-worker that we talk to in the cafeteria?

Using someone’s name when we address them shows they’re important. It confirms that they are worth notice and that their existence matters.  It shows them respect.

If you already know all the names in your sphere, then you deserve a round of applause. But, if there’s someone whose name you should know, but don’t, ask them the next time you see them.  And use it when you see them, after that. Yours could be the only acknowledgment they’ve received in a long time.

Sounds like common sense, right? It is, but it’s worth a reminder.  Because every person should know that their existence matters.

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Are We Listening to Our Kids?

How often do we listen to our kids?  I mean REALLY listen.

It’s so easy in the busyness of our days to give a casual glance or an automatic “Umm Hmm” when our kids are talking to us. After all, while they’re rambling on, we’re cooking, cleaning, studying, chauffeuring and working on the answer to world peace, all at the same time.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about teens, it’s that they aren’t overly excited to run home and tell you about their life unless they’ve just made the varsity team.  They’ve been raised in a world where conversations are typed, hugs are virtual and feelings are expressed in emoji’s.  Verbal communication takes time and effort and they’ve got better things to do.

When your youth starts talking about their day, without prompting, something important is going on in their life.   If it weren’t of some significance, they wouldn’t be talking.  They’re likely looking for some parental advice that they’re way too cool to ask for and it may come in the form of “asking for a friend.” So dig in, question them and ask them how the situation they’re describing makes them feel.

It’s time to “stay woke” parents.  Let’s put down our phones, turn off Netflix and tune into our kids.  Let’s capture those rare moments when they’re communing with us to find out what’s causing them to acknowledge we’re in the room. Because if we don’t show them they’re important, someone else will, and whose influence would we rather they have?

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For the Love of an Aunt or an Uncle

On Thanksgiving, my niece had a seizure and became non-responsive.  She is a healthy young lady who had never had a seizure before.  She was rushed to the hospital and the family followed, desperate to see if she’d respond to emergency efforts and, if so, what her brain functionality would be.  Thankfully, she was revived, spent time in the ER and ICU, and is now home.

Those moments of not knowing her condition were horrible. My heart ached with the thought of what would happen if she didn’t wake up. She’s my sister’s child and though she’s all grown up, she’s still my little niece and I’m her “Auntie”.

It made me think about how special the relationship is between aunts and uncles and their nieces and nephews.  I know many doting aunts and uncles that love their siblings kids like their own.  They’re connected by an unbreakable bond that transcends generations and reaches down to their nieces kids and their nieces kids’ kids or their nephew’s children and their offspring.

They wouldn’t think of missing a holiday or birthday gift, graduation or recital and they keep many a secret from their siblings, on their nieces and nephews behalf.  They know who their nieces’ crush is and are willing to play defense attorney when their nephew dents the car (or vice-versa). And if the unfortunate need should arise, most aunts and uncles would be the first to step in to raise their sibling’s children.

Aunts and uncles aren’t included in the bereavement policy list of “immediate family members” at most companies, but they should be.  The legacy of love that aunts and uncles leave should be highly respected and time off should be granted for mourning their loss and for comforting parents who have then lost a sibling. I sure hope more companies see that some day.

Keep up the good love, aunties and uncles! Your family is blessed to have you!

 

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Conquering the enemy: Fear

A few years ago I wrote an article that was published in the Democrat and Chronicle, in which I referenced the movie, We Bought A Zoo.  It’s a great family film starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson.

There’s an underlying theme in the movie that shows what happens when a person sets aside their biggest fears for “an ounce of insane courage.”  Have you ever thought of what could happen if you did that? Can you imagine what the world would be like if you just said “not today” to your fears, pulled that little piece of courage out of your back pocket and waved it around in the atmosphere?

With just one ounce of insane courage, you could ask out that cute guy from the café and he could say yes. With that same ounce you could apply for the job that you’re scared you’re not qualified for, and actually get it.  That courage could even motivate you to apologize to a loved one, or perhaps use the “L” word again, after a loss.

Or maybe your ounce could prompt you to go back to school or step into a calling you know you’re meant for, but have been afraid to try.  Or it could be the encouragement to say goodbye to a bad relationship.

And perhaps that courage is all you need to leave your day job and pursue your dream of owning your own business, or the catalyst for applying for your very first mortgage.

Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.  It weighs down our potential and bears a heavy load on our possibilities. It limits your life, stifles your stamina and cripples your creativity. Don’t be obese with fear.  Lighten your load! Show it your courage and free yourself from it, one ounce and one victory at a time.

Remember: (Fear=False Evidence Appearing Real) If you haven’t tried it, where’s the proof you won’t succeed at it?

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Interview With an Old Person

When was the last time you sat down with an elderly person and asked them to tell you their story?

Two things happened this week that made me realize that I need to do this. And perhaps you should do this, as well.

During a trip to the library, I sat next to two gentleman who were deep in discussion about war. One of the men was a college student and future historian, working on his thesis. He was interviewing an 85 year-old Korean War veteran.  At the end of the interview, the veteran said “Is that it?  Is that all the questions you have for me?” It was obvious he had far more to say and, to his great relief, the young man answered “Is there more you’d like to tell?”

The veteran continued to talk, taking out pictures from the war to show the young man. He even showed videos of the war on a laptop, including videos in which other people had interviewed him. His voice was filled with passion, his stories, astonishing.

I also attended a Grandparents Day celebration, where grandchildren, young and old, told their grandparents how much they meant to them. Each grandmother was read a poem or a letter and presented with a token of appreciation from her grandchildren, and each one beamed. A woman in her 30’s told her grandmother how especially important she was, because her grandmother had raised her as her own child, never once letting her know that she was her grandmother and not her mother.  With this revelation, there was not a dry eye in the building.

These events made me think about two very important things: Our seniors need to hear that they’re appreciated and they desire to be asked about their history.

They yearn for validation that their lives are meaningful and that someone cares about their contributions to the world.  They want to know that their memories are important and by sharing them, their legacy will live on, long after they do. They want to leave footprints in the earth.  I believe they deserve this honor and it’s our duty to make sure it happens.

My husband and I both lost our grandparents in 2005.  In one foul swoop, they were gone, and we’ve lost some parents, too. If you still have yours, ask them to tell you their history.  What were their dreams for their lives? Who was their first love?  And be prepared for the answers…their first love may not have been your dad.

If you don’t have seniors in your family, ask one from the community, work, a neighbor or someone from church. Pastors weren’t always pastors, nuns weren’t always nuns and the elderly weren’t always elderly. They want to be asked.  They desire and deserve your interest. You’ll gain knowledge, insight and a lot of laughs. You’ll learn something and they’ll feel appreciated and that’s a win-win!

Make it a priority.  Make time for it.  Ask them, it’ll make their day!

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Pictured above is a great book I bought for my daughter to interview my mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taming the Griper in your life

The griper.  We’ve all known one.

Some of us work with them, some of us live with them and some of us sleep with them.

The griper is that person who is just never satisfied.  They’re always unhappy about something or someone.  They’re that person who you can always count on to bring the party down.

You could give the griper everything they say their heart desires, but there’s still going to be that one little thing that isn’t quite right.  And whether legitimate or not, they plan to make sure you’re aware of it.  And they’ll likely preface it with a statement that deflects attention from the fact that they’re griping like…

“I’m not complaining, but…”
“I’m not one to gossip but…”

“I know it’s wrong to say, but…”

“Wouldn’t it be perfect if she’d just….”

 

These are key indicators that you’re about to hear the gripe of the day, nicely disguised as news you can use. And it’s easy to get swept up in the drama, especially when the griper is someone you can’t avoid.

So, what can you do about the griper in your life?  How do you get them to understand that you’re not interested in being part of Group Griper?

If it won’t negatively affect your paycheck, a good friendship or your marriage, you could just tell them directly. You can be bold about it and let them know where you stand.  Tell them what your boundaries are. Do a “drop the mic,” sort of thing.

But if the griper is a coworker, boss, relative or good friend, it’s a lot more complicated and requires more subtlety. And your spouse would likely notice if you unfriend them.

Some things you could try, are:

Refocus your conversations on something positive about the day, the company or how much they’ve accomplished since you met them, keeping in mind that you may need to update this every few hours because a true griper is rarely satisfied with just one gripe per day.

Share positive affirmations with them in person, through texts and your posts on social media.  And when you sense their day is turning in a funky direction, send them some more, but don’t bog down their messenger, tag them and 50 others, or give them another reason to gripe.

Decorate your home or office with art that speaks life.  This will remind the gripers that they’re entering a space that values peace. (The picture above is one of my favorite lamps). If you don’t have an office or cubicle, write it on your lunch bag, hang it from your rear view mirror, put a bumper sticker on your dashboard, make it a part of your digital signature, buy a necklace with a positive inscription or, if possible, a t-shirt.

It’s easy to get swept up in negativity and gripers know that. They don’t like to pity party alone, so they’ll try to get you to bring a dish. You must be prepared. Be intentional about being positive.

And, if this all sounds foreign to you because you’ve never encountered a griper, congratulations, my friend! My hope for you is simple… I hope YOU aren’t the griper.