A Simple Truth

I would like my life to be a statement of love and compassion–and where it isn’t, that is where my work lies.  –Ram Dass

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On Movies, Stories, and Buried Treasure

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Awhile back, I watched Life of Pi. It was beautiful. I believe I had read “visually stunning” and I cannot argue with that. I am sorry that I did not see it on the big screen. Some of the scenes literally had us “oohing” and “aahing.”

What’s interesting to me is that one of my kids was kind of interested in seeing it, one had heard it was about a boy and a tiger and wanted to see it, and one had heard from their friends that it was “long and boring” and not worth seeing, so didn’t really want to see it.

I mentioned that maybe they didn’t care for it because it wasn’t your typical exciting movie, but that did not mean it wasn’t a movie worth watching, a story worth hearing. Some movies have a slower pace and require that you give them a bit more of a chance, a bit more of an investment, but they can surprise you.

After it was finished, they were all glad they had seen it. They all liked it a lot and the one who had heard it was “boring” was glad they had not listened to their friends and had watched it with us.

It wasn’t an action movie. It wasn’t wildly exciting and didn’t have us on the edge of our seats. It required some investment up front to get to know the main character, learning his back story, before we could understand the main part of the story.

The movie really was beautiful to look at, but it also had, I thought, many subtle insights into human behavior, and some subtle lessons, woven throughout. It was well worth the time invested.

And this started me thinking …

Sometimes it is the same with people. There are those who are loud or flashy or charismatic or funny or outgoing (all in a good way) and immediately draw our attention, much like an action movie or a thriller. They draw us in right away.

Then there are those who may be shy, or quiet, or maybe who have been hurt and are a bit more hesitant to engage, or are just a bit different from us, so we either tend to overlook them because they don’t draw our attention, or maybe they are just a bit harder to get to know, for whatever reason.

Those people can take a bit more investment, a bit more persistence, a bit more “work” to get to know them. Some of those people may be written off as “boring” or “not worth the time.”

Take the time. Make the effort.

I often think of people as buried treasure, not unlike a sunken ship or a diamond mine. Some take more time and effort to get to the good stuff, but oh the payoff.

People are treasure and to be treasured. I believe I can learn something from every single person with whom I cross paths. I believe that people matter and that they contain a wealth of good things, i.e., treasure, though often we need to take the time to “dig” for it, as it is not always readily apparent. I like to think of myself as a “treasure hunter” and my treasure is found in people.

You may be surprised at what a treasure people are if you invest a little time, if you give them a chance. They are worth it.

Everyone is.

There is not a person alive who does not have a story to tell.

They might not be the most captivating storyteller. They might not have the most exciting story. Or maybe their story is absolutely stunning, just told in a simple way. Maybe they have a story that you need to hear. It could be a funny anecdote that is just the bit of humor needed to brighten your day. It could be the start of a wonderful friendship. It could be a lesson that is life-changing.

It could be buried treasure.

Shattered Glass and the Kindness of Strangers

Once upon a time, my family and I were on a week-long road trip. We traveled through several states, stopping to explore places that struck our fancy, with the last leg of our journey being an overnight hotel stay, then a day spent at a large zoo there, followed by the 6-hour drive home.

However. 

When we went out to put our bags in the truck the next morning, this is what we found.

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Someone had broken into about 10 cars in the parking lot of the hotel, smashing in the windows, and stealing everything of value inside.

Unfortunately, we had not thought to remove our car dual DVD player we had purchased for the kids for the trip, the GPS, some games, a power converter we had also purchased for the trip, and a few other items, including our checkbook.

My son, who NEVER left his Nintendo DS in the car, forgot it for the first time ever that night, and it was stolen too. If you’ve ever had a kid who was quite fond of their video games, you can imagine how unhappy he was. None of these things were visible, all hidden under the seats and in seat pockets, but the thief apparently just smashed in random vehicle windows all over the parking lot and then ransacked the insides for whatever he could find.

The glass though. It was like a bomb had exploded inward. It was EVERYWHERE. Thousands of tiny pieces of glass in every nook and cranny of the truck. I couldn’t believe one window could make that much shattered glass. We couldn’t possibly travel in it as it was. It wasn’t safe to even try to get inside. We were 6+ hours from home with all our suitcases and no place to go.

What on earth were we going to do?

We had to rely on the kindness of strangers. The hotel staff was wonderful. They gave us back our room for our kids to hang out in and a place to stow our luggage while we figured out what to do. We filed the police report and made arrangements with a glass company to come and replace the window later that day. Once all those things had been taken care of, we sat down to figure out what to do next while we waited for the truck to be fixed.

The kids were understandably quite upset, though to their credit, they tried to see it as an unexpected adventure. We loved a good adventure, and I’ve always told them some of the best parts of a road trip are the unexpected and unplanned things that happen, but this was not quite what we had in mind to make the end of our trip “exciting.”

While chatting with the hotel staff, we mentioned we had intended to spend the day at the local zoo, but that clearly wasn’t a possibility now. And then something unexpected happened. They happened to have 4 free passes for admission to the zoo, so we would only need to purchase 1 ticket instead of 5. Then the manager and another staff member volunteered to chauffeur us there and back in their personal vehicles.

They stored our luggage safely in their office, gave us the tickets, took us to the zoo, and arranged to pick us up about 5 hours later. I am sure they felt a certain amount of responsibility to us as their hotel customers, but it was no fault of the hotel that someone had chosen to break into a slew of vehicles in their parking lot. Allowing us more time in our room to sort things out was something I think would be fairly common practice in a situation such as that.

However, I think that giving us the zoo tickets and being our personal chauffeurs so that our kids wouldn’t miss the planned trip to the zoo – and to try to boost their spirits after being upset about not only losing their things, but feeling a bit violated after seeing their truck seats covered in shards of glass – was going above and beyond, and it was enormously appreciated.

What started out as a very upsetting morning and could have been a long and unhappy day, ended up being a fun afternoon at the zoo and a rather enjoyable day. When my kids got back and talked to their friends about their vacation, as well as writing those back to school papers about summer vacation, the one statement we heard again and again was, “We got robbed!”

Certainly, it was a memorable event. My kids have been taught to be kind, and I have watched them extend kindness to strangers themselves many times over, but I think being on the receiving end of it in a situation like that and realizing what a big difference those simple kindnesses from strangers made for us that day, really brought it home to them in a personal way how kindness can make a big impact.

For me, that is what is truly memorable.

[Oh, and all that glass? The people who replaced the window vacuumed the car out for us as best they could, we laid our jackets down on our seats, and still found glass all around us. We continued to find pieces of glass coming out of seemingly nowhere not for months, but for years.]

Photo credit: jeffc5000 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Indelible Marks

I think …

Some things just leave an indelible mark on your soul.

The words that cannot be unheard.  The sights that cannot be unseen.  The actions that cannot be undone. The events that cannot be unlived.

These indelible marks are imprinted on our souls so deeply that we are forever fundamentally changed in some way.

We can move on from them, overcome them.

Unlike scars, that sometimes can be seen, but do eventually heal.

I think these indelible marks are like invisible ink, unseen, often forgotten.

Until circumstances are just right and, suddenly, like invisible ink, there they are, coming to light, surprising us, making us realize that they were there all along, still affecting us.

I also think …

that these marks don’t always have to be negative.

That you can leave positive indelible marks on another’s soul.

With caring.  With compassion.

With love.

You can mark another’s soul so deeply that those marks can come to light when they least expect it as well.

Giving them something to cling to in a time of grief.  Faith when they are lost.  A warmth in the cold.  A light in a dark night of their soul.  A reason to hold on.

Be mindful what indelible marks you leave on another’s soul.

As Jelly Beans Through the Hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives

This morning I watched this video. Oof. 

I have been very aware, particularly since my last birthday, that time grows ever shorter, that there are now more jelly beans in the bottom of my hourglass than in the top. My brain knows this. My heart knows this. My body sometimes takes great glee in reminding me.

But seeing my time like this, whittled away by all of life’s necessities and responsibilities, and then the small pile that is left, or maybe half of that pile, or maybe half of that half a pile, wow. That was incredibly sobering. From that giant pile of jellybeans, what was left was so … small.

But wait, there’s more!

Be Still My Voice

Today’s writing prompt asks if have I found my voice. I’d like to think I have by now. It’s definitely been a process, a journey.

I was a shy kid who didn’t say much. I’m not as shy now, but I still don’t say much in social settings. I’ve kind of always been one who doesn’t speak unless I feel I have something worthwhile to say; I will never be one who talks because I like to hear the sound of my own voice (I don’t).

I spend a lot of time listening. I think listening is a skill and one I’ve tried hard to acquire over the years. Active listening especially is something we have to work at – I know, because I am guilty of sometimes tuning people out when I am distracted, and I feel terrible when I catch myself doing it.

But wait, there’s more!

Because I Can

I saw the question the other day, “What do you do because you can?”

A few things popped into my head as I thought about this. I embarrass my kids (in a humorous manner) because I can. And because I know that they are growing so fast and things are changing so quickly, that those opportunities will become fewer and fewer.

I car dance and sing at the top of my lungs sometimes. When I’m out walking with my headphones, I often dance my way down the road here and there, just because I can. I hope that I always can, but who knows what aging will bring in a few decades, so I try not to waste those moments now, in case later on I cannot.

There is beauty everywhere and I try to notice it, to stop and soak it up whenever I can, and appreciate it, because I can. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I could lose my sight and be unable to see beauty again or my loved ones’ faces. I could lose my hearing and be unable to hear music or my loved ones’ voices.

But wait, there’s more!