Compassion and Generosity Never Go Out of Style

It's A Wonderful Life Village
It’s A Wonderful Life Village

“Instead of judging people by their past, stand by them and help repair their future.” –Heidie Diasanta

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.” –Abigail Van Buren

This week’s blog post is a difficult one to write, because this past week my family was split in two. I won’t recite every detail, except to say that my brother and the older of my sisters felt it necessary to accuse my youngest sister of abusing our mother and their children. Harsh words have been exchanged with plenty of blame to go around. This incident has made me think long and hard about forgiveness, compassion and generosity.

My youngest sister and brother-in-law have been struggling financially for about six months. It’s hard to understand if you’ve never been in their position, but being poor takes a lot of effort. I’ve done what I can to support them along the way. I think they are amazing, because they have never given up. From my perspective, they’ve been on an amazing spiritual journey, learning about themselves and trusting that the trials they’re going through are leading them to their purpose. I’m amazed that their relationship with each other has grown stronger, and their children continue to thrive, even with all the chaos going on around them. Both my sister and her husband have finally found jobs that are both meaningful, and that will help them build the life they want.

What distresses me the most is that from my point of view, my brother and sister lack compassion for my youngest sister’s situation. Oh I understand my brother and sister think they are protecting our Mother. At least that’s what I hope motivates them. The thing is, they’ve been off living their own lives, and not really engaged with the rest of us for many years. They don’t understand how the relationships among the rest of us have grown over the time they’ve been away. So why my siblings feel the need to kick my youngest sister and her husband just when they’re picking themselves up, I can’t fathom.

On the one hand I’m shocked and hurt by what has occurred. On the other, I know that the only way I can help heal the rift is to send love and light to the situation every single day. Miracles can happen. This miracle may take some time to manifest, but I know from experience that relationships can be healed. My youngest sister and I were estranged from each other for some years, but after much forgiveness work on both sides, we’ve built a stronger relationship than we had previously.

As you probably understand, this fracas has caused me to think deeply about compassion, generosity, and forgiveness all of which I learned from my parents. As I struggle to try to understand what’s happened in my family, today I found two things that helped me recommit to follow my parents lead of being generous and compassionate.

The first was a video published in Nick Ortner’s The Tapping Solution newsletter. It was originally a TEDx talk by Michael Norton at Harvard University in 2011. The title of the talk is: “How to buy happiness.” The point of the video is that money CAN buy you happiness, if you give some away to help others. The study the talk is based on gives amazing evidence to support Michael Norton’s premise. As I listened, I was struck with the fact that the reason Christmas is such a joy-filled season, is because we’re spending money on the perfect gifts to give others. The amazing thing is, the amount of money you give away doesn’t have to be large to make you feel better about your life. The reverse is true if you hoard money, your life is not any happier, and possibly less happy. Hum, I couldn’t help but think of my sister and brother.

The second inspirational piece was an article posted by A Mighty Girl, a group I follow on Facebook. The article was about a young woman, Dominique Harrison-Bentzen, who is a college student in Preston, England. She’d lost her ATM card, and was stranded after an evening out with friends. She had no money for a taxi. A homeless man, Robbie, offered her all the money he had, about $5 so she could get home. She was able to find her way home without using the money he so generously offered. However, she so touched by his gesture, that she started a fund raising page on Facebook so she could raise enough money to pay for an apartment for him. Well, of course, much more money than was needed for the apartment came in and she was able to give the money to other charities in the area that provide for the homeless. Needless to say, her story went viral and she’s starting a new campaign on Facebook to help others.

Both those stories inspired me. First off, compassion and caring not only makes us happier, it’s also big news. We want to hear inspirational stories like these. Forgiveness, compassion and caring are what’s going to change the world. If you’ve been reading my posts for any length of time, you know I’m continually writing about turning away from negative thoughts and feelings and embracing the positive. In the past I’ve apologized for that, but not any longer.

I’ll end this post with a quote from A Course In Miracles which I found just after the blow up in my family. It has helped me put my feelings into perspective. “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” I know that my youngest sister, her husband, my husband and I have been seeking the barriers within ourselves that keep us from accepting love. I write from experience, when you go inside and break down those barriers, your life will become messy for a while. You have to go though a time of what I call cosmic closet cleaning. However, when things in our lives fall apart, we’ve got a golden opportunity to build something new. That’s what I celebrate, because the alternative is to stagnate, which, in my opinion, is a very dark place in which to live.

I hope your holidays with family and friends are rich and happy, though I know that sometimes they are quite stressful. There can be a blessing in that for you. And remember, being generous, sharing money and compassion to others makes you feel better about yourself, and makes you happier.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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A Dish of Forgiveness All Around

Chapel of the Red Rocks
Chapel of the Red Rocks

“When we think we have been hurt by someone in the past, we build up defenses to protect ourselves from being hurt in the future. So the fearful past causes a fearful future and the past and future become one. We cannot love when we feel fear …. When we release the fearful past and forgive everyone, we will experience total love and oneness with all.” –Gerald G. Jampolsky

“When you know better, you do better.” –Maya Angelou

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I’m a fan of Super Soul Sunday on OWN. Last Sunday, Oprah’s guest was one of my favorite teachers and authors, Marianne Williamson. They began talking about Marianne’s campaign for nomination as a Congressional candidate, but late in the discussion their conversation turned to the violence in Ferguson, Missouri and what that’s all about. Oprah brought up an article that Marianne had written for the Huffington Post. You can click the link and go read it for yourself. I don’t want to rehash what Marianne has already written so beautifully. What I do want to write about is the mental and emotional journey I’ve been taking since listening to Marianne and Oprah’s discussion.

First of all let me state that I am a white person. I was raised to believe that EVERYONE deserves to be treated with respect, so some of the discussions that have been going on lately about how white people need to take a good look at their attitudes about racism, rubbed me the wrong way. But Oprah and Marianne’s discussion got me thinking about forgiveness. Slavery was one of the most horrendous episodes in our nation’s history. Another one is how we treated the Native Americans. White people, for the most part, were behind both of those terrible situations. I think Marianne is right, white people don’t want to think of the horrible things that whites did in our country’s past. Most of us think that we weren’t alive then, so it has nothing to do with us.

But here’s the thing, we’ll never heal our racial wounds if we don’t forgive ourselves for our impulse to ignore what happened. We can’t expect anything to get better if we don’t take responsibility for what’s happening right now. And what’s happening right now is, whites want to point to the Civil Right’s Movement of the 60s and 70s and say, “It’s already been healed. The laws have been passed, we’re all equal now.” As we’re seeing in recent events, that’s just not true. The discussion and practice to make everyone equal is far from over.

So, I take responsibility for my assumption that African American’s just needed to forgive us and move on, and for not forgiving myself and my ancestors for what they may have done. We as white people need to stop glossing over our discomfort with what has happened to African and Native Americans due to white aggression and greed. We need to look into those dark places and expose our true feelings about the differences of race and culture in this country. We need to acknowledge that we’re not the top of the heap, and in reality, never have been.

If we’re going to survive the myriad problems we face right now, we need to do some deep soul searching and forgive ourselves and then others. We’ve got to stop letting the past get in our way of creating a new future.

This blog is my public declaration that I’m committed to healing and forgiving myself for not acknowledging the deep wounds caused by white people in our country’s history. I’m with Marianne and support any efforts our government makes to make reparation to any group that we’ve wronged. Making reparation is our collective acknowledgement of what happened, and that we want to make it as right as possible and build a new future together.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Where Are We After 9/11?

U.S. Constitution
U.S. Constitution

“What separates us from the animals, what separates us from the chaos, is our ability to mourn people we’ve never met.” ― David Levithan, Love Is the Higher Law

“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” –Henry Van Dyke

Tomorrow is the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11. There’s been a bit of traffic on the social networks about the attacks with people reminiscing about their experiences and what they learned from the events of that day. I was deeply touched by a heart wrenching article by a journalist who interviewed the husband of one of the victims on flight 93 a few days after the plane crashed. He was remembering how open the husband was with his feelings of loss and grief. He was deeply touched when the husband asked him if he wanted to listen to the wife’s last messages. Her voice was calm and full of love.

At the end of the article the author stated that he believes good always overcomes evil, and he enumerated the various times in history when good has prevailed. But now, he pointed out, we’re facing a new threat from ISIS. His focus was on all the things going on in the Middle East. In doing so, he missed a big problem right here in this country.

Understandably the events of that terrible day sent us into shock, grief and fear. For those of us who were old enough to remember, the images of that day and the emotions we felt are seared into our memory. We will never forget them as long as we live. I want to say right now that I honor all those who died, whether they were in the planes, buildings, or trying to save people. But I feel like we’ve let the fear and confusion of that day rule our choices. We’re not as tolerant as we used to be.

Okay, I know I can put a positive spin on any situation. If you’ve been reading my blog this past year and a half, you know that. But as I wrote in my last post, we’ve come to a dangerous crossroads in this country. The evil isn’t only in the Middle East, or in the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine. It’s here in our cities and towns. We’ve let fear co-opt our better judgment in many ways. At least some of us have.

In recent weeks police departments armed with military gear, have attacked peaceful demonstrators protesting against racially motivated police attacks. They’ve arrested fast-food workers, who, again, were demonstrating peacefully trying to get their companies to pay them a living wage, and we continue to have a whole section of the Republican Party treat our President and anyone who doesn’t think like they do with blatant disrespect.

I didn’t like President Bush. I thought he was a terrible President, but I didn’t blast him publicly. He was the President, and I kept my mouth shut, except in private conversations. Now days it seems like bashing the President and his policies is a game of one-up-manship. It’s just one indication that some people have closed their minds and are increasingly hateful and intolerant.

Those who criticize the President, and who advocate using extreme force against our citizens, are proving to me that we’re dangerously close to a Nazi Germany type climate operating right here in the U.S., and I think it all started on September 11, 2001. We got so caught up in protecting ourselves, that it’s had unexpected consequences. I believe many people live in the fear that we’ll experience another day just like that one, even though it was thirteen years ago and the world is a very different place now.

Go back to our Constitution and take a good look at the rights it gives us as citizens.

Amendment I states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment IV states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Admittedly I’m not an expert on the Constitution of the United States. But, it seems some people’s rights have been seriously violated of late. Those who have acted against the Constitution have acted out of fear. I know from personal experience that fear can rule your life to such an extent that you are able to twist authoritative documents to support your position no matter how paranoid or hateful your position may be. There are sectors of our society that have become so focused on self-preservation, that they are willing to do anything to protect themselves. They can’t see that they’ve gone over to the dark side and are violating the rights of others.

I agree with that journalist who remembered the interview so long ago that still affects him to this day. Good does always overcome evil. But good has to be awake and paying attention or things can get out of hand. I think we’ve come to the point where we’re in danger of evil getting a strong foothold. If it does, we’ll have a very difficult time overcoming it.

How do we overcome the extremists who are so full of fear that they can’t see straight? This is a secret they can’t understand, “…the energy of a loving thought is enormously more powerful than that of a negative one.” –David R. Hawkings, M.D., Ph.D., Power VS. Force. And as he points out on page 282 of his book, one individual who calibrates at the level of 300 counterbalances 90,000 individuals who calibrate below 200. Of course, the higher your calibration, the higher the number of people below 200 you counterbalance.

Trying reason with the extremely fearful won’t work, nor will resisting what they’re trying to do. The only thing that will work is to practice meditation, self-discipline, and love. Cleaning up our issues, releasing our fear and learning to love ourselves and others will help set our country and the world on a new path away from fear and hatred. That’s how we shrink evil. That’s how we heal the world.

Lucinda Sage-MIdgorden © 2014

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Forgiveness As Radical Love

December Sunrise
December Sunrise

“A Rattlesnake, if cornered will become so angry it will bite itself. That is exactly what the harboring of hate and resentment against others is – a biting of oneself. We think we are harming others in holding these spites and hates, but the deeper harm is to ourselves.” E. Stanley Jones

“Treat people as if they were what they should be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Forgiveness is not an easy thing to accomplish. However, it’s essential to self-healing. You can’t give Radical Love, without being willing to forgive. Here’s my forgiveness story.

Twelve years ago, the job I thought was my dream job, and the purpose of my life, was yanked out from under me. The father, a powerful person in the school district, thought his daughter should have been hired two years earlier, when they hired me. We were the only two candidates for the job. A year later she was hired for the second position in the department, and they set out to discredit me in any way they could. At the end of my second year, budget cuts came to my department, due to a failed bond measure. Since I had just earned my teaching certificate, I thought for sure, I’d be the one to keep my position. That was not the case. I was in shock.

I was furious, helpless against their attacks, wanted revenge, and hated them for treating me as if I was an obstacle instead of a human being. The fact that they could dispose of me so easily was a complete shock. I had been working for the school for six years and had a good reputation, yet I was as disposable as if nothing I had done mattered.

My supporters who were officers in the teacher’s union, confirmed that the daughter did not hold a teaching certificate, and urged me to sue. But something told me that wasn’t what I was supposed to do. I’d been given a great gift, even though I couldn’t see what that was at the moment. So, I found another teaching job in a nearby town and set about healing.

It’s taken me from then until now to forgive everyone involved in what I considered a betrayal by the school district. I had to let go of denial, and wishing the outcome had been different. At first I allowed myself to feel completely angry. I dreamed of revenge. Like the rattlesnake, I was biting myself, thinking the father and daughter were going to be poisoned. Even though the poison didn’t feel good, I wasn’t ready to let it go quite yet. My anger turned to self-recrimination. Why hadn’t I seen what was coming and blocked their efforts?

One day, about two months into the new school year, I was coming out of the local grocery store, and the father was coming in. He smiled and said, “Hi. How are you?” I just glared at him and didn’t say a word. How do you think I feel after you stole the job I loved, you B___d? What was wrong with him, why couldn’t he see what he’d done to me?

Later, when I cooled off, it hit me, He’s completely asleep. He has no idea how much he hurt me. I’m not a person to him. When I realized that, I remembered an interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio a few years earlier. I think James Lipton was interviewing Christopher Walken, but I may be wrong. In any case James Lipton asked the actor how he felt about playing so many villains. The actor said “Well, you know, the villain is the hero of his own story.” Ah, the father and daughter are the heroes of their own story. To them, I was the villain. It’s all a matter of perspective isn’t it? Somehow this little aha made me feel better. That was the day I began to heal, though I was still wounded.

For years, every time I drove by the high school, I felt physical pain at my loss. I refused to step foot in the school for blood drives, or for civic events. Eventually I was forced to do so, because of a county wide teacher’s conference, which was to be held at my former high school.

It helped that many of my former colleagues came to greet me, and tell me how much they missed me. Some of them even told me that things weren’t going so well in my old department. I know this sounds bad, but I was glad. I felt vindicated. But by then, I’d found my place in my new school district. They appreciated me, and I saw the contrast between the two districts. I was in a much better place. After that event, I was able to let go of wishing things had been different. Instead of looking back, I was determined to look forward.

Little by little I let go of parts of my anger, hurt and blame. I saw that I had called this situation to me for some larger reason that I couldn’t see at the moment. I let go of the biggest chunk of my grudge the day I realized that my new teaching position had led me toward writing. In the old position, I might never have allowed myself to uncover my long held desire to be a writer. I’d have been too busy to think about old, unrealized dreams.

I thought I’d let all the pain of that time in my life go, but a few months ago, I realized that I wasn’t completely finished with my forgiveness process. I set about letting go of those old, old hurt feelings.

As you might guess, since I came to the realization that we must practice Radical Love to heal the world, I’ve been working on sending love to people, and situations that need it. This morning in my mediation, the faces of the father and daughter came into my mind. Without any shred of anger or desire for revenge, I was able to send them love.

What a relief! I can move on. I can learn to practice Radical Love, for myself and others.

Thank you to all of my followers. I love your comments, they help me grow.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Radical Love

Celeste and Shane IMG_0040 “True words aren’t eloquent;
eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.

The Master has no possessions.
The more he does for others,
the happier he is.
The more he gives to others,
the wealthier he is.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34-35. The New Revised Standard Version

I don’t usually quote The Bible even though I graduated with a Religious Studies degree. The reason I don’t is because we think we know what the quotes mean from years of going to church school classes and listening to sermons. I’d like for us to consider a new, deeper way of thinking about the above Bible quote. I’d like us to consider that Jesus was asking his disciples, us, to practice Radical Love.

What is Radical Love? I don’t claim to have any special insight on that subject. This blog is prompted by something I saw on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last week. Jon’s guest was a man who had written a book about the Koch brothers. During the course of the interview, the guest said something like, “These brothers are so wealthy that they’ll never know what it feels like to have to live on $2.00 a day.” When he said that I turned to Barry and said, “How do you reach someone like that? How do you help them find empathy for others less fortunate than they are?”

The next morning the answer came to me. We have to learn to practice Radical Love. Love is the only thing that will melt the hard-hearts of people who’ve never had to struggle to feed their family, or who’ve never lost everything. Practicing Radical Love is the only thing that will soothe the wounded hearts of people who’ve known nothing but struggle, discrimination, hatred and unending fear.

I don’t claim to be good at practicing Radical Love. Oh how often I want to make snarky comments on Facebook, or Twitter. But then I remember that we’re all connected by some indefinable something that’s linked to the Divine. And that stops me from writing the remark. Making sarcastic remarks on social media and in our daily discourse isn’t going to help the situation.

All I know is that we can change the world. But to do that, we have to be willing to change ourselves, as I’ve been writing in this blog for the last few weeks. We have to change ourselves so that we can look at another human being and see their beautiful soul, the soul that connects each of us to the greater Soul. We need to have empathy for what they are going through, and we need to love them, no matter what we think they’ve done.

That’s a tall order. I don’t do it all the time. My ego gets in the way. I get angry that the other person doesn’t see the world the way I do. When we fight against a person, we make them angry. When we fight a situation we make it worse. As Eckhart Tolle says in A New Earth, “Discontent, blaming, complaining, self-pity cannot serve as a foundation for a good future, no matter how much effort you make.”

So, all I can say about the Koch brothers and everyone like them, is that I have to send them love. I have to visualize that the love I send is getting through to their hearts so that they can become compassionate, and have empathy for others. When they feel that, they’ll stop fighting to keep the billions of dollars they own all to themselves. They’ll be willing to share it with those less fortunate.

What are your thoughts about what Radical Love might be? I’m interested to know what you think.

Ariel and Daddy (31)

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014
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You Get More With Honey Part 2

Lucinda and Barry Christmas 2013“I wish to live without hate, whim, jealousy, envy, and fear. I wish to be simple, honest, frank, natural…to face any obstacle and meet every
difficulty unabashed and unafraid.”-Elbert Hubbard

Something about the article about Donald Sterling that I wrote last week stirred up lots of discussion, and made me go back to take another look at what I was trying to say.

Over the years I’ve done a lot of personal work, which started with listening to, and observing my dad. He used to say, “You can’t change another person’s mind. You can only change yourself, and hope they’re paying attention.” I’ve taken that advice to heart. Over the years I’ve discovered something really amazing. If I stop pushing against what I don’t like in others, and just accept them for who they are, amazing changes happen.

I’m a very sensitive person, so I feel the pain of others deeply. It’s hard for me not to speak up when someone is getting abused. Here’s an example. When I was teaching high school, I had two students who were named to the State All Star Football team. They were full of themselves, and thought they ruled the world. This created a very bad situation in our classroom. There was a student in that class that everyone assumed was gay. The football players treated him very badly. When I tried to stop them from harassing him, they acted as if I had no power over them.

I called their parents, I talked to their coach, I talked with the Principal trying to get support to back me up. I got support, but the boys were convinced that they were gods, and nothing could touch them. They continued to treat that student badly. Of course, they treated everyone else with distain as well. One day I’d had enough. I took them outside the classroom individually, and told them that in my classroom everyone gets treated with respect. If they weren’t willing to do that, then I would have them removed, which would mean they’d have to make up the English class. I left the choice up to them. If I saw improvement in their behavior, we’d say no more about it. Otherwise they were out. They straightened up. Part of what made that work was their eligibility to play football during their senior year.

They stopped harassing the student they thought was gay during class time. I don’t know what happened outside of class.

Something happened to me during that incident. I had to accept that the two football players were probably not going to change their minds about gay people just because I said they should. The only thing I could do was to protect the other student, and show as much respect for everyone in the class as possible. Maybe it made a difference, maybe it didn’t. I’ll never know. However, by the end of the school year, the relationships among the students seemed to be much more amicable.

My dad was right. We can’t change someone else. We can only change ourselves. That’s been a big lesson in all my relationships, but particularly in my marriage. Like most of us, I thought once Barry and I got married, life would be perfect. But, of course, it soon wasn’t perfect. Over the years, I’ve learned that if I want Barry to love and accept me, I’ve got to stop expecting him to be someone other than who he is, and I’ve got to love him the way I want to be loved. I’ve realized that I can’t make him responsible for making me happy. Being happy is my job, not his.

Having written all that, I have to admit, that staying silent about issues as big as the way we treat others from different races, creeds and genders, isn’t good. We have to speak up. We have to engage in discussion. We have to look at our own attitudes, and admit when we’re wrong. We also have to treat the people who are racist, and full of hate with the kind of respect we wish they’d show to others, even though we’d like to punch them out.

Not long ago there was a great example of that. The Pastor of the Kansas church that makes a practice of demonstrating at funerals, showing signs full of hate, died. I’m sorry I don’t remember his name or the name of his church. This group was particularly hateful toward gays. A large group of people got together for a different kind of demonstration at his funeral. They stood outside the church, with signs of love. They could have returned hate with hate. But they didn’t. They turned the other cheek and returned hate with love. I don’t know if that act of kindness will make a difference in the lives of the people of that congregation or not. I do know that being kind to someone has a better chance of affecting change than treating them with hate. Treating someone who’s mean and hateful with love is a lot harder to do than lashing out in anger, but it’s the only way I know to bring about positive change.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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You Get More With Honey

“It’s not what enters men’s mouths that’s evil. It’s what comes out of their mouths that is.” –Paulo Coelho The Alchemist

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people.” –Virginia Woolf

Cochise Flowers
Cochise Flowers

 

Recent events, and subsequent comments about them in the media have got my ire up. A white man, Donald Sterling, shows his true colors, and the brouhaha is on. In an” Open Letter to White People: Why I’m Donald Sterling and So Are You,” The gist was that all white people are racist, and we’d better admit it. What made me so irritated wasn’t what the author wrote, but the tone of the article. If you want to influence people, you get more with honey than you do with vinegar.

I’m not saying that this article is completely wrong. What I’m saying is that if you want us to take a good hard look at ourselves,accusing all whites of being racist is the wrong approach. In fact, EVERY SINGLE PERSON on this planet, except for those who are enlightened, like Jesus, Buddha and others have been, carry some kind of prejudice around with them. And we ALL need to check ourselves for prejudices of all kinds.

I know I’m not perfect, but I am continually working on becoming more open and loving. I’m always double checking my attitudes. I’m working on myself, so that I can be an influence for good in the world, and help humanity evolve to a deeper level of being. And I don’t believe in the “when one person messes up, everyone in the class gets punished,” mentality. So, I get angry when someone tells me I’m prejudiced just because I’m white.

We can’t know what is in the deepest heart of another person. To lump an entire group together, and accuse them of having exactly the same feelings, is unrealistic. Not all Germans are bad, because Hitler was the leader of Germany during WWII. Not all people from Arab nations are bad because those who were behind the 911 tragedy were from Arab countries. Not all Mexicans are in this country illegally. Not all Black people are gang members, and commit crimes. Not all Asians are smart, and make cheap products that fall apart the first time you use them. Not all white people feel entitled because they’re white. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

We have a lot of problems in this world. As I see it, the only way to solve them is for every single person to take a close look at themselves, as the article suggests. If we take care of the mess in our own backyard, and every single person does that, it makes solving the world wide problems so much easier.

In my opinion, we need to thank the Donald Sterlings in our world. They point out areas in our society where we still have work to do. He’s not the only one who has made comments that we need to be scrutinizing. There are lots of intolerant people mouthing off in the media. We need to be examining what they’re saying as well, and checking our attitudes about their points of view. They are showing us areas in our society where we need to work on becoming more tolerant of the plight of others.

I know this much about myself, when I’m judgmental of other people’s actions, I’m doing that because they’re showing me an area of my life that I don’t want to look at. I’m trying to blame them for the mess in my own backyard. If I resist hiding my head in the sand, and look at my faults, my heart opens up. I understand myself, and the faults of others.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone needs to accept responsibility for what they do. But, if we’ve done our own work, it’s easier to have compassion for someone when they mess up. We are after all, imperfect human beings.

I read another article last week that helped me feel better about what’s going on in the world. The title is “7 Things Self-Actualized People Do Differently” It’s an article that gives us all something to shoot for in our self-improvement journey. If we can achieve the seven states of being described in this article, we’ll be contributing to the growth of the human race.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014
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Women and Men

Act I The Skin of Our Teeth
Act I The Skin of Our Teeth

“We’re not what books and plays say we are. We’re not what advertisements say we are. We’re not in the movies and we’re not on the radio. We’re not what you’re all told and what you think we are: We’re ourselves. And if any man can find one of us he’ll learn why the whole universe was set in motion. And if any man harm any of us, his soul–the only should he’s got–had better be at the bottom of that ocean–and that’s the only way to put it.” Mrs. Antrobus from The Skin Of Our Teeth, by Thornton Wilder

Does this happen to you? I start to read a book, and the stars align or something, and the ideas in the book that grasp me the most start to pop up everywhere. At present I’m reading a long essay, which is based on a series of lectures delivered by Virginia Woolf. The compiled essay is titled “A Room of One’s Own”. It’s our book club selection for this month. The thing that appalled me, but shouldn’t have, were some of the things Ms. Woolf discovered about women’s rights while preparing to deliver the lectures on “Women and Fiction”.

In 1928 women had little access to education. They were considered property by their fathers, and husbands. Only a few years before the lectures, women had won the right to vote in England, and to keep the wages they earned. What appalled me was how little things have changed in eighty-six years. I began comparing what’s happening now, with all the fracas about equal pay for women, women’s health issues, the way women are portrayed in the media, and I felt really sad. We haven’t gained much ground. This was confirmed when I talked with my sister a few days ago.

She was telling me about the Palm Sunday service at her church. They had a guest speaker, who happened to be a woman. In her talk, the guest speaker told of the difficulties she faces from time to time, because she’s a woman, and she’s a minister. I thought surely things would have changed, since I was harassed for declaring myself a religious studies major in 1976, but not so. She often gets the same kind of reaction that I got thirty-eight years ago, which makes me sad. Things haven’t changed much for women.

Thirty-eight years ago, I was attending a small Christian college, and the only woman in the small group of religious studies students. Women were just beginning to be ordained as ministers at the time. When word got around that I’d changed my major to religion, I was the target of harassment by a conservative group at the college. Each day, at meal times, a group of three or four young men would quote scripture at me, and challenged me to see the error of my ways, and change my major to something more appropriate for a woman. Needless to say, it was a very difficult time for me. They assumed that my plan was to become a minister in our church, which wasn’t even a possibility at that time.

My reason for studying religion, was because I’ve always been interested in the relationship between humans, and the Divine. Over time I became deeply angry at these young men. No matter what I said, or did, they were undeterred from challenging my life choice. In my mind, it was MY choice, not theirs. I didn’t think they had any right to tell me how to live my life. They needed to take care of their own life choices. Eventually they gave up, assuring me that I was going to hell for breaking God’s laws. I became an angry feminist.

In 1979, I graduated with my degree in Religious Studies. It has set me on a path of lifelong learning about all things spiritual, for which I’m eternally grateful, because through my studies I’ve realized that men are just as stuck in their gender roles as are we women. It’s difficult to break out of social patterns, and long held beliefs.

Looking back, I realize I was able to stand up for myself, because I had supportive parents. Both parents. My mom worked outside the home, and I had a great dad who encouraged me to find my own path, and live up to my full potential. We need more dads like that. I think my dad was so supportive, because he’d been misunderstood by his teachers. He was told he was lazy, stupid, he was a trouble maker, and he’d never amount to anything, all because he had dyslexia. I’m not sure doctors were even aware what dyslexia was in the 1940s. Thankfully, my dad was strong and wise. He dropped out of school, learned to be a machinist, taught himself how to read, and became a lay minister in our church. Reading was one of his favorite things to do. He didn’t read light stuff either. He loved to read biographies, and non-fiction scholarly books, like Carl Jung.

My dad could be a good dad, because he had a good dad, and because he studied human nature. He was vulnerable, kind, and open to new ideas. He wasn’t like some of the male writers that Virginia Woolf found who stated in their books that women were inferior to men, mentally, physically, and morally. My dad didn’t think he was superior to anybody else. He thought that EVERYONE has a purpose, and should look for, and pursue that purpose.

You may not have had a dad like mine, but I say to all women, don’t give up. We’re rising. We’ve got to continue exploring who we are, and what we can offer humanity. Don’t blame men for what’s gone before. That’s not helpful. Men have been trapped by their gender roles, and ways of thinking too. What we need to do is educate them about who we are. We possess much depth of understanding about what it means to be human. We are peacemakers, healers, thinkers, creators, and teachers. We’re good at all the same things men are good at. The best thing is, we have genius even we haven’t tapped into yet.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

A Season of Compassion

“Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation.” –Henry Ward Beecher

“Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.” –Stevie Wonder

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Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, Happy Holy Days.

Last night I watched a wonderful Frank Capra movie which embodies the idea of compassion. It’s Meet John Doe (1941). Hah! Fooled you. You thought I was going to write about his most famous of movies, It’s a Wonderful Life. Actually most of his movies that I’ve seen have similar themes. The little guy perseveres and changes the world, or at least his or her little part of it, through sharing compassion and love.

In Meet John Doe, times are bad. It’s during the Great Depression. At the beginning of the movie Barbara Stanwyck’s character Ann Mitchell, loses her job as a newspaper columnist. She’s supported her mother and two younger sisters, since her father’s death and needs the job desperately. So, she writes her last column including a fake letter from a man fed up with the politics of the day and with the incivility of regular people toward each other. Her fake John Doe vows to jump off the City Hall building on Christmas Eve in protest. This of course, she hopes will increase circulation of the paper and save her job. You might think from that description that Barbara Stanwyck’s character is mercenary. Well, yes she is, but for a very good reason which you find out as the movie goes along. Of course, eventually the paper has to hire a “John Doe”, played by Gary Cooper, because of accusations from another paper that the John Doe letter is fake, and it’s all been a publicity stunt.

At the heart of the movie is the groundswell of ordinary everyday people forming John Doe Clubs promoting compassion for their neighbors and making sure everyone in the community is taken care of.

What actually started me thinking about compassion, was Karen Armstrong’s interview with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday a few weeks ago. Karen, who was at one time a nun, has studied the religions of the world and her new book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, points out that every single religion has compassion as a core tenet. Then a few days after watching the show, I saw Meet John Doe, and the two fit together perfectly.

Compassion is slightly different than love. To me, compassion is an ability to feel another’s pain and suffering; to understand that we all fall down and we all have a dark side. Just having a compassionate person’s presence, is a balm to both the sufferer and the one giving compassion. Therefore, compassion is one component of love. In her interview, Karen Armstrong pointed out that we all have a dark side and once we acknowledge our own ability to harm others, we can show compassion to others even though they may be showing only their dark side in the present moment.

That brings me back to the movie. John Doe is exposed as a fake, by someone who wants to use the clubs as a way to gain the White House. The crowds of people at the John Doe convention turn on him and revert back to their angry, wounded, pessimistic view of the world. That is, until John decides to fulfill the deed set out in the fake letter. One of the groups that we see earlier in the picture, come to the City Hall to stop him. Ann, played by Stanwyck is also there trying to keep him from jumping. It’s the climactic scene and we see that compassion lives on because of John’s message even though the powerful politicians try to crush it.

I know from experience, that compassion is a powerful force. Kind words at a crucial time in my life helped me find new purpose. Showing compassion for others is a way for the recipient to feel seen, heard and understood. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but for 2014, I’m going to work on being more compassionate.

Another Golden Opportunity

“Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.” – J.K. Rowling

“It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.” – Chuck Palahniuk

It’s happened again. Another school shooting. As I wrote two or three weeks ago, I refuse to be pessimistic about these violent acts. I choose to believe they’re part of our growing up as a species. We think we’re so advanced, and in a way we are, but in other ways we’re still children who don’t understand ourselves. We haven’t yet matured.

As I was thinking about this latest act of violence, I remembered an incident that happened when I was nineteen years old. I was working as a teacher’s aide at a Montessori school in Spokane, Washington. I worked in the three year old room. In the room were large windows and on one of the window sills was a pencil sharpener. It was low enough for the students to use. And it was a fascinating piece of equipment. One day, I was sent to find a couple of students who were supposed to be on the playground or at another activity. When I came into our room, the missing boys were playing with the pencil sharpener. One was sticking his finger into the hole where the pencil goes. The other was turning the handle. Before I could stop them, the first boy’s finger was lacerated by the blades inside the sharpener. I’ll never forget the look on the second boys face. He was shocked. He had no idea of the effect that turning the handle of the sharpener would have on the boy who’s finger was inside the device.

The thing is, we’re all a little bit like those little boys. We don’t always understand that our actions affect others. Though we should, because when bad things happen we’re shocked and disturbed. We don’t understand what’s happened or why. The thing is we’re being presented with an opportunity to wake up and see a bigger picture. We get a chance to learn more about ourselves and why we’re here bumping up against each other. There must be a reason why we’re all here experiencing the things that happen to us.

Unfortunately, what happens most of the time when bad things happen is we push the opportunity away. I don’t know why we do that. Maybe we think it will be too much work, or maybe we think we’re the only one who’s got a dark side and so we try to hide it. The thing is we all have a dark side. We all have violent feelings from time to time. The question is, how do we deal with them?

I used to think I could avoid more pain if I ignored it. I found that didn’t work. What happened was that another devastating incident would happen, only this time carrying much more angst. Eventually, after my life feel apart, I got it that if I deal with the challenges of life the first time around, my life is much easier. I’m still faced with challenges, but they aren’t as desperate, or seemingly insurmountable as they once appeared.

I guess my point is this, there will be more violence with guns and other weapons, until enough of us examine all the issues that are a part of why we continue to lash out at each other. As I’ve written many times in these posts, that’s an inside job. Each person must examine their own tendencies toward violence. We have to do as my sister says,  and “throw out our trash”. It’s a matter of getting down to the root causes of why we lash out, and heal them.

I have faith that the human race is growing up and waking up to how interconnected we are. What affects me, affects you too. That goes for the good experiences as well as the bad.

© Lucinda Sage-Midgorden