Why Do We Care?

I was recently in line at a grocery store with one person ahead of me. She was a woman in her late 30s who was toting around a 3-year-old (or so) little girl. She had a ton of groceries in her cart. When she went to pay she asked the cashier what would happen if there wasn’t enough in her account to cover it. She said she wanted to use another card for the rest of the transaction but couldn’t put it all on one card.

When I heard this I immediately turned my attention away so I didn’t appear to be eaves-dropping. There’s nothing like someone leering at you when you’re discussing your personal finances.

Then it happened. She got embarrassed and immediately started explaining why she didn’t have enough money in her account. That in turn made the cashier feel uncomfortable and then there was this awkward silence and pause. After the pause the woman decided to keep explaining why she had to use 2 cards, which made the cashier seem even more uncomfortable. The cashier smiled that kind of smile that means, “I’m trying to be nice here but I wish you would stop talking about it.”

After the transaction I got to wondering why we care so much what other people think. The cashier probably sees this type of thing everyday, multiple times a day. She didn’t care why this woman was paying with two different cards. The only thing that she cares about is the woman paying. At the same time, I didn’t care about how she was paying. In fact, it was a wonderful moment for me to stop and say “thank you”. I had enough in one account to cover my groceries.

Does that mean I wouldn’t have done the same thing in her position? Nope. I probably would have been explaining myself left and right trying to appear as though I wasn’t in need of money. God forbid anyone thinks we’re ‘struggling’.

Why do we care? On some level there is this little voice in our head telling us that we need to explain ourselves because we may be appearing ‘outside the norm’.

Can’t pay for groceries with 1 card? Better explain.

Can’t say ‘no’ with no regrets? Better explain.

Not looking up to par? Better explain.

I once heard a quote that sounded something like this, “If people cared half as much as you thought they did you would be amazed at how much people don’t really care.”

I wish I could stifle that little voice and say “I DON’T CARE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK.” Since I’m still a ways off from that happening, I guess I’ll have to blog about other people making the same mistakes I do.

I Just Want To Be Heard

Not long ago I was on the phone with someone who kept asking me questions and when I would start to answer they would interrupt me mid-sentence and say either, “Really?” or “That’s great.” At some point in the conversation I realized this person wasn’t listening to me or paying attention to what I was saying. I began to get insulted. They would proceed to ask me another question about my life and the same thing would happen – they would cut in when I wasn’t done talking.

Before I go any further let me give you a little bit of background about myself. I am not a long-winded person. I have never been told that I need to talk less and listen more. I was raised to be a rather shy kid, which led me to be an excellent listener, and an even better observer. As I got older the tables definitely started to turn and I began to come more into my own.

I give you this background about myself because after my phone conversation with this person I had an epiphany: In one way or another everyone just wants to be heard. Even me. Someone who can listen to a person talk for hours and not blink an eye. When someone asks me a question I don’t want it to be for conversational sake. I want them to be generally interested in what I have to say.

Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware of tuning people out or not being interested in what they are saying. But usually this entails a conversation between other people, a lecture, or someone who is talking for the sake of talking.

After I got off the phone I realized that the other person probably wanted the same thing – to be heard. Somewhere along the way they had learned it was polite to ask questions because you would get a response and then probably be asked a question in turn. In fact, during this particular conversation I asked this person a couple of questions and it sounded like they really wanted to talk about themselves. I remember thinking, “Geez, you could care less about what I say but you’re awfully interested in what you’re saying!”

This led me to start thinking about selfishness. Was I being selfish because the other person wasn’t listening? Why couldn’t I come to terms that it was more important for this person to talk rather than listen? I think if I would have realized that a little earlier in the conversation then maybe my defenses wouldn’t have gone up so readily and I would have been a little more prepared for being interrupted. But I guess I’m human. I want conversations with friends and loved ones to be two sided some of the time. If you’re not interested in what I have to say then state that up front by telling me you would really like to talk about some things. It’s the expectation of someone listening or wanting to listen that put a damper on that particular conversation.

I’ve either heard or read an article about the art of listening. And it really is an art. Have you ever been so excited about a topic that you stop listening to what the person in front of you is saying because all you can think about is what you’re going to say next? I have. Why don’t they teach listening along with speaking in the classroom?

The whole situation really got me curious about where I’m slacking in my own listening skills. There have been times when I’ve tuned this particular person out while they were talking. What a jerk!

All in all everyone just wants to be heard. They want to matter. To make a difference. Perhaps that is part of the reason I write on this blog.

My Friend, Siri

I’ve had an iPhone for years and never managed to use Siri. I was driving home from work one day and decided to use ‘her’ to look up some directions to a restaurant near my home. I can’t remember the exact place I mentioned but I do remember her getting the name of the place wrong. I would pronounce the name, slowly, quickly, even by syllable. At one point I think I tried spelling it to no avail.

I finally pressed her button and said, “You’re not helping me.” Here is how the rest of the conversation went:

Siri: That’s a matter of opinion.

Me: Yeah, my opinion.

Siri: I figured as much.

Me (laughing out loud in my car): That was funny!

Siri: Glad you’re enjoying yourself.

Then I realized I was talking with my phone and enjoying it! Technology is a trip.

The Homeless Teaching Us?

When I was in my 20s I went on a date to a fancy schmancy restaurant on 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. I ordered a pizza and didn’t eat much of it because of appetizers and general date nerves. If you’ve ever been to Santa Monica before you know there are a lot of homeless people on the streets. As we took the elevator down I asked my date if I should give the pizza to one of the homeless people along the sidewalk. My date then proceeded to lecture me on how giving food or money to homeless people only makes them more dependent on the system, and doesn’t help them in the long run. He said it actually helps contribute to the homeless population and enables them to rely on ‘us’ for what they need.

As I look back on this situation I wonder about a couple of things. First being, why didn’t I just hand my pizza to someone who looked hungry? Second, why didn’t I speak up and tell him all I wanted to do was feed someone who might be hungry – system issues aside?

To this day I think about that incident and how it made me look at my date. Was he a mean person? No. In his own way he thought he was helping to ‘fix’ the ‘problem’. But what if it’s not a problem? What if it is as simple as feeding a human being who is hungry? Or having a homeless human being teach us about compassion?

Fast forward to today and I still give money and food to people I think need it. Are there people out there who take advantage of the system? Absolutely. I once gave a box of crackers to a homeless man who then proceeded to throw them over a wall once we drove away. But lumping everyone in that category really hinders the entire homeless population. I honestly believe there are people who need our help. Whether it’s a smile, a sense of compassion, a couple of dollars for a meal, or some leftover pizza.

It brightened my heart to read a story on Facebook about a similar incident and the impact it left on my friend, Marci. I LOVED seeing the amount of ‘likes’ she got by writing the story. I asked her if I could share her story and she let me! Here it is:

“I headed to the gas station today with $6, my allocated budget for cigarettes for the day. A homeless man sitting next to the door asks me to buy him food. Not wanting money, but food. I smiled and said sorry, I didn’t have any extra money. When I get to the counter this voice in my head asked me how I could be so selfish that I would buy cigarettes over feeding a starving human being. I redirected, picked up a ham and cheese sandwich, chips, and milk. He was shocked when I gave it to him after I had brushed him off as I’m sure many others had done. He took it and I walked away. I watched as he said a blessing over his food, and proceeded to open the little mayo packet and put it on his sandwich. Point being I’m cigarette less tonight, but a man is fed and I’m happy.”

The reason I like this story is because on some level she knew she didn’t ‘need’ the cigarettes, yet this man most likely needed a meal. She was able to be kind, compassionate, and step outside of herself to see what a fellow human being needed.

Let’s take away race, classes, systems, and injustices. Sometimes all someone needs is a helping hand.

Energy and Kindness

ImageI was reading a fictional book last night about a mother grieving the loss of her child to another family. The mother is still holding on to a lot of anger and bitterness once the child is back in her arms. During a breakdown with a trusted friend she asks the friend what she should do. The friend replies that harboring the anger isn’t doing anyone any good, including herself.

Right after I got done with the book, I turned on the television where someone was being interviewed. The interviewer looked at the man and asked him why he was so nice all the time. The man replied that his mother taught him that it was a lot easier to be nice to someone than mean. He explained that he took her advice and lived with the ease of being nice.

After these two things crossed my path it got me to thinking about the energy around kindness or being nice. It really is a nice, easy-flowing energy, uplifting perhaps. Then I thought about the energy around holding on to anger, or anger itself. I immediately felt a restriction in my chest just thinking about the actual feeling. Anger seems to carry with it a heaviness that pushes us down.

If everything is energy then anger gets into our cells, and holding on to anger literally lives in us. Wow. What a powerful concept.

But on the flip side, isn’t anger a natural human emotion? I personally haven’t mastered it – not even close. So I guess the question is around whether or not being angry versus holding on to anger is much different? I think they’re pretty different myself. If you can feel anger in you, notice it, and release it, then you’re way ahead of the game.

So where does kindness fit in? Well a friendly smile or kind word sure brings about a lovely energy. Passing this from person to person around the world could be a wonderful way to open us up to a different energy all together.

Rattlesnakes

This weekend my husband went for a hike with our 9 month old son and two dogs. It was early and he had forgotten doggie poop bags. Of course one of the dogs went to the bathroom right away - right in front of two other hikers. One of them immediately asked my husband, “ARE THOSE YOUR DOGS?” My husband couldn’t tell if the attitude was coming from the fact that the dogs were running off leash like two wild coyotes through the bushes, or because they had just gone to the bathroom off the side of the trail. At this point I should note that 95% of the time we have bags, pick up after our dogs, and pick up after other people who think it’s okay to leave it because they’re in the wilderness.

So my husband walks the short distance to the car and grabs a poop bag. He picks the poop up (with a child strapped to his front!), tries to wrangle the dogs within earshot, and continues on his way. Right when he thinks everything is finally okay he hears the distinct sound of a rattlesnake coming from the bushes. Without question he jumps, looks around his feet, and tries to get the dogs closer so no one gets bit.

He is freaking out at this point because he has the baby, too. He keeps checking around the immediate area and doesn’t see any danger so he decides to move on. A minute or two later he hears the rattle again and his heart rate is through the roof. He is freaking out, looking around, knows the snake is within a close distance because he can hear it so distinctly.

He’s looking around, calling the dogs, when it happens again and my son’s head turns such a way that my husband realizes the rattlesnake is strapped to his chest. Dad – 0, Kid – 1.

IMG_1237

Genuine Kindness Versus Selling?

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write this post because I didn’t want to come across as a total hypocrite. I’m always writing about the importance of kindness and how much I believe kindness can change the world, and now I’m about to complain about it. But not really, I guess. Judge for yourself.

There are a couple of establishments that go out of their way to be ‘nice’ to their customers. One of those establishments is my local bank that I have avoided for months due to their inquisitive customer service reps. Whenever I walk in I’m greeted by someone yelling, “Welcome to XYZ bank!” I’m usually not sure what to do so I end of smiling at the person who said it. In some cases I want to yell back, “THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YELLING ACROSS THE BANK TO WELCOME ME BUT IT’S NOT NECESSARY. IN FACT, IT MAKES ME A LITTLE UNCOMFORTABLE.”

I digress. Not only does the first incident happen, it usually gets better when I walk up to the teller. Customary standards say to swipe my card first so I usually have my card in hand when they tell me to go ahead and swipe. Then comes the fun part. It goes a little something like this:

Teller: How is your day going so far?

Me: Good so far. No complaints.

Teller (not going fast enough for my impatient self): Oh that’s good. What have you done so far today?

Me (thinking): WHAAAAT?

Me (really): Um, not much. I’m taking a break from work right now.

Teller: Oh, how nice. What do you do for work?

Me (thinking): I don’t want to tell you because you’re starting to creep me out.

Me (really): I work from home.

Teller: Got any plans for the weekend?

Me (thinking): Gosh, the next time I’m in here I need to place a secret note in the ‘management box’ telling them to cut the 24 questions.

Me (really): Not really. Thanks so much for your help.

To some degree this happens every time I’m in this particular bank. I think my favorite incident was after Christmas one year when I got a check from a relative. I decided to cash it and walked in the bank instead of going directly to the ATM. Big mistake. The teller pretty much went through the conversation above and then after cashing the check asked, “Was this a Christmas present?”

Okay, now is it just me or is this crossing some sort of line? What if the check was from an alimony payment or some other really personal matter?

I realize that to some degree this is my own stuff coming up. I am private in a lot of ways. I’ve talked about good service in the past and I think A LOT of people would classify this as ‘good’ service. The teller is engaged, social, connected. But to me it comes across as a selling technique rather than genuine interest. Especially when after they ask me a question they look at their monitor and try to figure out a way to ask me if I’d like to open a credit card.

I realize you can’t have it all when it comes to customer service. And I guess I should be thankful that ALL the tellers at this particular bank smile when I walk up to do my transaction. Now whether that smile is genuine is another subject, but at least their Sales Training Manager has taught them how to respect customers. I’ll give them that.

I’d like to end this post by telling you that today I had to go inside the bank for a transaction. I really don’t think I’ve been since last Christmas when things got a little too personal and awkward for my taste. I walked up to the teller dreading what questions I was going to be asked: “Where have you been?” “What are you doing after this?” “Who is your husband’s best friend?”

I was taken aback when she smiled, said hello, asked what she could help me with, ran through my transaction and told me to have a nice day. Ah, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Michael Jackson

 

Have you ever seen someone rocking out in their car or on the street? I was recently getting a coffee and heading home when I saw a young man that could have easily been mistaken for Michael Jackson in his golden era. He had on a leather jacket, a nice hat, and looked like he could have been going to an audition. Although there aren’t many auditions held in my small town.

At first glance I thought, “Uh oh, someone has lost it.” I was making a left to get to my house and he was on the corner with headphones in. He was clearly in his own world. I would describe his movement nothing short of spectacularly eye-catching. He was clearly singing out loud and had the Michael Jackson moves: spinning in circles, doing the moon walk, slapping the ground. But the ironic thing is – he was good – really good. The more I watched the more I couldn’t look away. Then without realizing it a smile started to form around the corners of my mouth and soon I was grinning from ear to ear. I caught myself smiling and thought, “Wow, I sure was quick to judge him. Now look at me, I can’t look away at his raw talent.”

The sad thing is that maybe the light would have been green and I would have missed the opportunity to really watch him in action. Perhaps I would have kept driving and shaken my head as I passed the man who was singing and dancing on the street.

Geez, when did it become a crime to dance and sing like no one was watching? Some of us do it in the privacy of our homes but this guy was displaying it for all to see. BUT (and a big but), he did not seem to be doing it for anyone other than himself. How wonderful and liberating that must have felt.

Before my left hand turn lane changed to green, his crosswalk turned. I expected him to stop what he was doing and walk across the crosswalk. Nope. This guy turned around and did the moonwalk for about a quarter of the jaunt and then proceeded to dance/walk the rest. I noticed one of the cars that was trying to turn onto the street he was crossing. The driver appeared to be annoyed and I wanted to yell, “NO, LOOK AT HIM! HE’S AWESOME!”

Sadly, my light turned green and the show was over. I still had a smile on my face as I turned.

Oh how I want to dance in an intersection like no one is watching. I’m not sure I could pull off his fantastic moves but does it really matter? Time to add one to the bucket list.

Lead By Example

I’ve been MIA the past few months because I had a beautiful son in October 2012. A friend recently showed me her blog and I got inspired to start mine up again. Writing is a great creative outlet for me.

After having my son I think kindness is more important than ever. If I’m not leading by example in my thoughts, words, and actions in this regard, then what kind of example am I setting?

One of the great things about having a baby is the smiles you see on the people who pass you by. There is brightness to children that most people can’t ignore. Once they reach toddler age, it might be a different story all together.

Having a child really got me thinking about how babies are born into this world and bring such light with them. Worldly experiences can diminish or brighten the light as they get older. Usually defenses are built around all of us to survive so we really have to relish the young ones.

What if we lived in a world of happy, smiling babies? If everything was experienced with such wonder and awe.

We can learn a lot by baby’s reactions to the world around them. Most babies can smile when smiled at. Likewise, if someone has an angry look on their face, then often times a baby face will squish into confusion.

What if we treated everyone around us like a happy, smiling baby? Sounds silly but imagine what a nicer world we would live in. Yes, there would be a lot of baby talk but think of the tone, softness, fun, and laughter most people exhibit when trying to get a positive reaction out of baby. Why don’t we continue this behavior as children get older? I guess things start to get ‘serious’.

Perhaps we can take a cue from the new ones entering this world and act a little kinder toward each other. Smile, laugh, play, and most importantly, see everything as the most interesting thing we have ever seen. Image

L.O.V.E.

I was watching Ellen this afternoon and she had two adorable little boys covering the national convention. These boys know more about American presidents than most adults. They are 4 and 6.

The boys were speaking with Olympic figure skater, Scott Hamilton, when Scott asked the older one who his favorite president was. The little boy said Kennedy. When Scott Hamilton asked why the little boy said, “Because he gave people hope.”

Then Scott said, “And there is nothing more powerful than hope, right?”

Without skipping a beat the little boy replied, “love”. Melt my heart.

It is amazing what can come out of children’s mouths. If only we could hear more of them. There are filters that haven’t been downloaded from society quite yet and they are all here to teach us and bring us messages of both love and hope.

« Older entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.