Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Family Treasure

Michael Josephson of Character Counts is one of my favorite commentators. He recently published this story and I wanted to share it with all my friends. It is about choice.

“A 6-year-old girl I’ll call Sarah knocked over a display case that contained a much-cherished vase once owned by her great-grandmother. Her mom loved that vase and frequently referred to it as the family treasure. The vase hit the floor with a loud crash and shattered into pieces. Sarah, shocked and frightened at what she’d done, screamed and began sobbing.

Her mom came running into the room fearing the worst. Seeing the shattered vase, her heart sank. Then she saw Sarah sitting on the floor wailing. “I’m sorry, Mommy. I’m sorry, Mommy. I broke the family treasure!”

Seeing despair on her daughter’s face, the mother’s heart plunged further.
Faced with two powerful and conflicting instincts – one toward anger and blame, the other toward compassion and forgiveness, she sat next to Sarah, pulled her on her lap, and kissed her tears. “Sweetheart, when I ran in here, I was terrified that something bad had happened to our family’s most precious treasure. But thank God, you’re okay. Sarah, you are the family treasure.”

Sarah’s mom turned what could have been a painful incident and a lifelong source of guilt into an enduring source of affirmation and worthiness.

I wonder if I would have had the presence of mind to realize in the instant after an upsetting event that I could choose my reaction and that my choice would have a permanent impact on someone I love.

The reaction of Sarah’s mom was nothing short of heroic and stands as a reminder that, even in the face of powerful emotions, we do have choices – and they really matter.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

This is my variation of a parable told by Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, which in turn was derived from a true incident from one of his congregants.”

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Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sense and Sensibility

When I talk about senses, I am not talking about sight, smell, touch, taste, etc. I am talking about something perhaps a little bigger. I am talking about those senses which give meaning to our lives. I am talking about having a sense of who we are in this world that we live in.

Sense of independence
When I gave up driving four years ago I worried that I would lose my sense of independence. I have not. What I have learned is that my independence is not dependent on my driving, ability to get my own meals or take care of all my daily needs. My independence is found in my thoughts, feelings, actions and words. Yes, my disability requires me to be more dependent on others than I ever dreamed of. But thankfully, that is not where my sense of independence comes from.

Sense of community
We all belong to something that is bigger than ourselves. But belonging is not enough. We must be participants too. Being a participant means that our goals are not driven by just what is good for ourselves. Instead we are driven by what is good for everyone.

Sense of humor
“I don’t think that I should use self-deprecating humor. But I think you should.”
We must first be able to laugh at ourselves. Then we can laugh with the world around us. Laughter leads to joy and joy is contagious. Be the source and cause of laughter. Life is too short to go without it.

Sense of wonder.
Marvel at the world around us. Be impressed by the beauty of life. Find majesty in sunsets and awe in the miracle of life being created. Be inspired by the power of the human spirit. Love the fact that you are alive and savor everything that life has to offer.

Sense of purpose
This can best be defined as the quality of having a definite purpose in life. Know why are you here and find the meaning your life has. Make a difference to someone or something and wake up everyday feeling great about the opportunity that each day offers.

We may lose our sense of taste or smell as we get older and that is okay. What we really want is to develop these other senses. After all, it may be the only truly sensible way to approach life.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Two Emotional

There is a theory, perhaps a philosophy, which says that there are only two emotions: Fear and Love. Everything else falls under one of those two emotions.

So why is this important? It is important because if we can recognize our negative or “fear driven” emotions, we might be able to do something about them. When we control our emotions, we control our lives. Of course we may not always have control over what happens in our lives, but we can control how we feel or respond to what happens.

Recognizing our emotions is relevant to every aspect of our lives. How we feel about our relationships, money, politics, health, work, prejudices, and more are all determined by whether we are coming from a place of love or fear.

Racism and prejudice are driven by fear. That a person looks different is the cause of that fear. Being different makes them ‘unknown’ and we are always, or at least often, afraid of that which we don’t know. Once we get to know someone who looks different, that fear and our prejudice goes away. Fear of the unknown is a most basic and primal fear. But we are humans and can reason and rationalize and overcome our fears….and our prejudices.

Using a wheelchair makes me different and I experience a kind of fear and prejudice when I go out in public. I often make it a point to be particularly friendly in order to help others overcome their fears. Once that is done, they can treat me with love and don’t we all deserve that?

Fear based emotions rarely do us or anyone any good. These include hate, prejudice, distrust, doubt, pessimism, disgust and more. Love based emotions would be just the opposite; love, acceptance, trust, confidence, optimism, respect, etc.

Being able to recognize our emotions and fears gives us the opportunity to examine our feelings and ask ourselves “What are we afraid of?” If we can do that, we might not only be able to change how we feel, we just might change the world.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why my disability is better.

As I see it, disability comes to us one of three ways. We are born with it. We have a disease or condition that is progressive. Or, it is the sudden effect of some trauma or event. This is a generalization and I know there are exceptions to these rules, but bear with me.

In my case, I lived many years in good health before getting my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The diagnosis was found after experiencing some minor symptoms (tingling, numbness and some leg weakness).Since then there have been many more symptoms and “disabling conditions.” Because it is a progressive disease, these symptoms have “revealed” themselves to me over time, giving me the opportunity to adjust and make necessary changes both physically and mentally.

I consider this time to make adjustments a real advantage to having MS, or any other degenerative condition. Although I may not know what the future will be, I do know that I can count on time to adjust.

Now someone who is born with a disability may feel as though they have an advantage. It is what they have always known and nothing to have to get used to. Nothing has been “taken away” and there is no adjusting or adjustment to be made. Their life is the same as it has always been.

The person who has had an accident or sudden trauma as the cause of their disability may feel differently altogether. Yes, they have had to make adjustments, but typically only once and then they are done. Their physical condition may be forever changed, but there is no uncertainty about their future. What is done is done. They know what they have and what they have to deal with.

We may not have control over whether or not we have a disability. But we always have control over how we feel about it.

Whatever the nature or cause of our disability, or whatever challenges or conditions we may face in life, I hope that you will see and embrace its advantages. In other words, be grateful for what you got. It is the hand we were dealt. Let’s play it as best we can.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.