If We Really Want to Change the World …

Earth from the Moon

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” ~ Albert Einstein.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here we go again! Another controversy. Only it’s not about some dirty dealings by a politician or scandal about a celebrity. Nope! Ellen DeGeneres was NICE to George W. Bush at the Dallas Cowboy’s game! And she got a lot of online flack for that. Really!? One online news commentator said her behavior was disgusting. It was disgusting because George W. Bush, in her opinion, was a war criminal. I’ve never heard anyone say that being kind to someone was disgusting behavior.

Here’s what Ellen had to say about it, “When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same way you do. I mean be kind to everyone. It doesn’t matter.”

That’s an idea and practice I can get behind. Now that doesn’t mean I’m perfect at it. I catch myself saying unkind things, even if it’s only to the TV, or the driver who cut me off. But I am getting better at recognizing when it happens, that when I send out nasty energy, it’s going to come back and stick to me at some point. So, I ask for those nasty thoughts and words to be taken back or transformed. One way I do that is to imagine what it’s like to be that other person. That makes it easier for me to be kind.

I want to only send out love and kindness because that’s how we change the world.

After hearing about the attacks on Ellen, I continued to think about why some people want to tear others down instead of build them up. My dad used to say, “Wounded people, need to wound other people. They think it will make them feel better.” I agree with dad, but I think there is something else going on. We come into this world with what Caroline Myss calls our “Sacred Contract”. And I think there are three basic categories of contracts or points of view when it comes to human interactions. There are the adherents to the Old Testament, eye for an eye, vengeful God, we carry out God’s judgment, kind of people. There are the New Testament, God is love, love thy neighbor as thyself, those who are without sin cast the first stone, kind of people. And there are those that mash up some Old Testament teachings with the new teachings of Jesus.

To be fair to people who are not of the Christian persuasion, maybe I should categorize these groups as those who think they have the mandate of the Divine Being to carry out His judgment, those who follow the path of pure love, and those who mix love with judgment.

I first became aware of these three points of view while I was getting my Religious Studies degree, though I couldn’t articulate the differences then. As I’ve done my own personal work, I’ve had time to think more deeply about what attitudes and beliefs make us who we are.

For millennia we’ve lived in a world that is clearly not in the love thy neighbor category. But that might be changing. To help good triumph over evil, maybe we should follow Ellen DeGeneres example and try to love one another, because I think we can all agree the world is a pretty messed up place right now. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not go on as we have been.

The thing that impresses me about Ellen is that she must have done a great deal of personal work to be able to show love to people who criticize her. I say this because she gives love so freely, and seems to let all the flack that comes her way roll off her back. She doesn’t let it shake her resolve to continue to show kindness to everyone she meets. That takes a strong person. It’s so easy to slide into condemnation. It’s harder, or maybe it takes more discipline, to show compassion, kindness, and love no matter what.

Here’s what I’ve learned doing my own personal work. When I get upset with someone, I’m not really angry at them. I’m angry at the ugly part of myself I see in their actions or attitudes. What others do, holds up a mirror in front of my face and shows me something I don’t want to acknowledge about my own foibles.

So, if we really want to change the world, we have to take a good long look at ourselves and accept that we’ve made some pretty big mistakes. We have to realize that no one who has ever lived, except maybe one or two, have lived a spotless life. We have to acknowledge our mistakes and love ourselves anyway, because only then can we love everybody else. And this may be difficult to wrap your head around, but God doesn’t judge us. She/He loves us no matter what. We all go to heaven.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. Have a fun weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2019

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a little bit like Outlander in that it’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel. Except that Jenna’s life is shattered and she must find a way to put it back together. When she finds old journals, she joins consciousness with her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan, rather than traveling physically. She is able to come back at intervals and apply what she’s learned to her own life situations.

The Space Between Time is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords and for Kindle at Amazon, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news when the audiobook version is published. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Inspiration Comes in Small Doses

Caring Hands

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” ~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Sometimes I just need a positive story or two to lighten my spirits or help me get a new perspective. This week there were three that inspired me.

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks online news network posted a personal video essay on YouTube this week that reminded me of something similar in my own life. The title of the post was “Sexism is Worse Than I Realized.” He relates a couple of personal encounters with men who stated that they voted for men in recent elections because they didn’t want to vote for a woman. In one case, the person was kicking himself now.

Cenk acknowledges that sexism is worse than he realized. He stated that he grew up in rather sheltered and privileged surroundings and that’s why he just assumed women were getting their due. But he uses poll numbers to support his case that they are not, to which he said, “Really, in 2019 we’re still wondering if a woman can run a country? Look at the guys we’ve had running the country. Especially the Republicans. You should be wondering if a guy can run a country.” He went on to encourage people, mostly women, to be deliberate and educated and vote for the candidates they think are best irregardless of their gender.

As I was listening to Cenk’s video, I remembered something about a time I was confronted with my own prejudices. I had just begun my Master’s in theatre at Portland State University and had met some openly gay guys there. I felt weird and didn’t know how to relate to them. I mentioned this to a young man Barry and I knew at church. He tilted his head at me as if to say Really? You feel that way? What he said to me was, “You talk to them like any other person you know. They aren’t that much different.” Well, of course, I felt dumb. That young man was right. Each person is much more than their sexual orientation, gender, background, behaviors, and prejudices. There is, after all, something inherent in each of us that comes from the same source.

That was a great lesson for me. I needed that little wake up call.

Just last night a couple of other stories reenforced my point of view. I was awake during the night with insomnia and was flipping through my news app. A story popped up that made me cry. Ellen DeGeneres’ show today, as I write this, features three boys who learned a great lesson. One of the boys, Micheal, was being bullied at school because he wore the same clothes day after day. Two other boys, Kristopher and Antwain befriended him. Kristopher admitted that he had also been laughing at Micheal, but after reflecting about the incident at home, he wanted to apologize and give him something. So, he and his friend gave Micheal some clothes. Meanwhile, someone caught the surprise on video and when it was posted it went viral. That was when Ellen invited them to the show.

But the boys were surprised when Will Smith showed up to praise them. “What you did felt small to you, but I promise you that is exactly how human beings are supposed to interact with one another. It’s not more complicated than that. Somebody is having a hard time and you help them. It’s that simple.” Then he proceeded to honor their kindness with gifts.

The final story that made me cry as I was attempting to get tired enough to go back to sleep was from CNN. It’s about a nurse and a biker club she helped and how they paid her back.

A year ago, Daryn Sturch was driving with her daughter when they came across a terrible accident involving several motorcyclists who were part of the Milwaukee Iron Biker Group. Some were severely injured and in need of immediate medical attention. Sturch attended to them until the paramedics arrived.

Over the year, she got connected with the group on social media in hopes of finding out how the injured were doing. The bikers thanked her for helping them on that terrible day and they formed friendships.

A year later, Sturch’s young daughter wanted to make some money by opening a lemonade stand, but unfortunately it got rained out. When the bikers found out about the child’s endeavor and what had happened, they encouraged her to open her stand again. On September 15, 30 bikers showed up to buy lemonade from Sturch’s daughter. Among them were some of those she helped the day of the accident. Sturch said, “I think it’s a perfect example of how just because you don’t look the same way or dress the same way or have the same hobbies or interests doesn’t mean we don’t have the same values inside us. We shouldn’t make assumptions about people we should just love each other.”

This last story reminded me of the time I was teaching drama at the local high school. The members of the International Thespian Society wanted to attend the convention held every year during the summer. We needed to do fund raising for such an undertaking. One of the students got the idea to approach the local Biker group. The students prepared a presentation and we were invited to pitch our idea. The group pledged a large amount of money to our trip if we would help them with one of their events. The students and I agreed. It was a wonderful day. We met so many people who looked different than we did, but who supported our love of theatre and the arts in general. It was a great lesson for all of us. Underneath all of the outer differences, we can find common ground.

This post turned out to be longer than I intended. I tried to find links for the Ellen show, and CNN posts, but they may be too new. In any case, I am encouraged by positive stories like the ones above. They are a testament to me that love is stronger than hate and that we can find common ground with anyone we meet if we only take the time to do so.

Have a fantastic weekend. Blessings.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2019

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a little bit like Outlander in that it’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel. Except that Jenna’s life is shattered. When she finds old journals, she joins consciousness with her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan, rather than traveling physically. She is able to come back at intervals and apply what she’s learned to her own life situations.

The Space Between Time is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords and for Kindle at Amazon, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news when the audiobook version is published. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Things I Learned from My Father part 2 – Kindness

Dad and me on Easter Sunday
Dad and me on Easter Sunday

“No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted.” ~ Aesop

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” ~ Dalai Lama

“Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me those are traditional values.” ~ Ellen DeGeneres

The other day I was trolling Facebook and saw a video that fits perfectly something I learned from my father: it’s important to always be kind and give people the benefit of the doubt. My dad was almost always kind to others. He rarely lost his temper even at home, even when people were in his face challenging, or yelling at him.

But back to the video. In it a man with a “Trump Supporter” T-shirt and a sign that asked for hugs was standing outside a Bernie Sanders rally. He had a camera crew with him, so I don’t know if he was a real Trump supporter, or someone doing a social experiment. In any case as the rally ended and people poured out, he held up his sign asking for a hug. Only one person said, “F**k you.” Many people walked by without saying a word, but once the first person gave him a hug, many others followed. One woman even said, “Oh, you poor guy.” There was one man who wasn’t sure he wanted to give this Trump supporter a hug, he kind of hemmed and hawed, but finally he approached and gave the best hug. At the end of the video the young man said something like, “See we can overlook our differences and find common ground.”

In this season of so much controversy, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what my dad taught me about being kind.

The summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school, we moved from Wilbur, Washington to a five acre lot, twelve miles south of Spokane. There I was starting at a new country school that just happened to be rivals with the school I had been attending. The students at the new school were much nicer to me than the ones at the old had been when I started school there. That was wonderful, but church wasn’t so wonderful. My father was a progressive thinker in every aspect of his life. The members of the three congregations in Spokane were mostly conservative which as they got to know my father caused some real problems for our family.

At various times my father was, the district wide youth leader, and later pastor of our congregation. As youth leader, he wanted to broaden our experiences, so he did things like start a “Coffee House” in the basement of our congregation every Friday or Saturday night. We drank soda or tea, ate cookies or popcorn and had an open mic where people could sing, or recite or read what they’d written. We were encouraged to invite our friends. The atmosphere was dark with candles on the tables which made it feel very intimate. We kids loved it. The parents did not. We were, of course, chaperoned, but that didn’t matter. There was an uproar that inappropriate things were happening at the coffee house and the experiment was shut down.

Then dad started a program with the local mental hospital. Those of us who attended their monthly socials, would just talk to the inmates of the hospital, play games or read to them, or maybe dance with them. But again, people objected. Why should we be subjected to those unsavory people in the mental hospital? Maybe the parents were jealous. My father was very popular with the younger generation. Whatever the case, our trips to the hospital stopped.

When my father became pastor of our congregation, he started a relationship with the minister of the Baptist church a few blocks away. The congregation was made up of mostly black people and the two ministers cooked up a scheme where the two congregations would get to know each other so we could do some community outreach together. Unfortunately, that too fell flat.

Each of these attempts by my father to help get us out of our insular activities and worship, caused great anger toward him and our entire family. My parents received hate mail and terrible phone calls from congregation and district members. Though my parents tried to shield us from the controversy, I was old enough to catch snippets of conversations that gave me a pretty clear picture of what was going on. My father was considered a rabble rouser and many people didn’t like him. There were times when I witnessed people confronting him at church. No matter what they said or how they treated him, he was always kind.

Witnessing the way my father interacted with people left a deep impression on me. I asked myself how he was able to stay so calm and return hatred with kindness? One thing I noticed was that after such confrontations, he’d go to his bedroom, or some other quiet place to be alone for awhile. When I took up this same practice, I found that it helped me in my attempts to be kind to others.

I’m not perfect. There are times when I feel overwhelmed by emotions I don’t understand and I want to make nasty comments either in person, or on social media. But that would only escalate an already volatile situation. When I feel strong negative emotions, I follow what I learned from my father, I go to a quiet place, write down my feelings and meditate to calm myself. I wish we taught those skills in our schools because if we did, we might have a more peaceful world. I’m grateful I learned them from my father.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment, or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016