Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Slammed doors

Since my family's favorite holiday traditions of nagging and guilt have already started, I wanted to share my thoughts on gratitude now - while I still feel somewhat friendly and sentimental.

If I've learned anything in the last few years, it's that blessings are everywhere, even if they aren't always obvious. Sometimes what seems like missed opportunity is actually redirection towards something so much better. Sometimes, God slams a door shut because we are not smart enough to close it on our own.

There was a time when I thought my life would never be good, because it could never be what I wanted. I tried feeling sorry for myself - turns out, that doesn't really work. So I set out to make the best of what I could with what I had left. It didn't work right away, and at times I got discouraged. What I came to realize was that time wasn't being wasted - it just takes a long time and a lot of patience to build an amazing life full of joy and hope.

When I think about where I was even a year ago, I realize that if I had gotten everything I thought I wanted, I would have missed out on something so much better.

Sometimes, the most painful lessons are the biggest blessings. We have to hurt to understand what we really need. We have to go through loss to find what really matters. We have to be forced to change to figure out what we were doing wrong. But once you accept those lessons and open your heart to the possibility that you don't know everything... wonderful, amazing things happen.

This year, when asked why I am thankful, my answer will be:

I am thankful that God helped me see what I was doing wrong. I am thankful that He gave me friends who could help me navigate the loss, and make the changes I needed. But most of all, I am so very thankful that He slammed that door shut.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Red, blue, and white

In the last few days, my Facebook timeline has become quite confusing. One by one, my friends have filtered their profile photos to "stand with Paris." Hey, I get it - it's sad and tragic to see lives lost in such a senseless way.

Then a few friends took issue with those who had chosen to stand with Paris. What good does that do? Support = money, so send cash, not a temporary profile photo. Others said why Paris, but not other countries? Why do you value some lives more than others?

Well, I think the easy answer to the last one is that no profile photo filter was created for the other countries. But why Paris and not them? Paris is a US ally, and a peaceful country. As Americans I think we relate to their tragedy more than tragedy in other countries. Is that right? I have no idea, but there it is.

It's true that a red, blue, and white filter won't help those affected immediately. They need resources, too. Not everyone has resources to share -  but a kind thought or a little support is free, and easy to give. Who's to say it doesn't make the people in Paris feel just a little better knowing someone cares? It certainly can't hurt.

Besides, the filters aren't just about the victims. Something like this affects people in a lot of different ways. I think it just helps some people to feel part of something larger. That they said something, or shared something. It helps to know they did what they could.

I happen to believe that there is power in a whole group coming together with prayers and well-wishes. It helps us all heal, and feel more at peace. It brings light to help drive out the darkness.

We shouldn't assume that someone with a filter-less profile picture doesn't care, nor should we assume that a filtered photo means a person hasn't lent other support, or cares about one life over another.

Grief and loss are difficult enough, without tossing assumptions or accusations into the mix. How about we take some of that goodwill and apply it in real life, too?

I also have a couple of thoughts on refugees... but that'll have to be another time. Maybe.

Friday, September 11, 2015

I don't know much

I don't know much about much, but one thing I have learned in the last few years is that mistakes and challenges are often lessons in disguise.  People are doomed to repeat the same mistake until they finally learn the lesson it was meant to teach.

September 11 is a pretty awful day. No one has good memories anymore. Everyone talks about where they were when the towers fell. It's a sad reminder of a tragic day filled with nothing but grief and loss.

I wasn't personally affected. I wasn't in New York or Washington DC or in a field in PA. I wasn't on a plane. I didn't personally know anyone who was. But I felt the day. It triggered some terrible anxiety and worry for me - that something would happen and take someone away from me. Loss is my greatest fear, and it doesn't take much for me to feel scared.

In the days and weeks that followed, everyone everywhere saw a change in Americans. We were kinder towards each other - more accepting, understanding, and accomodating. Differences didn't really matter - if you were an American, you'd been attacked. We were all neighbors. We weren't the arrogant Americans they thought, and they couldn't weaken our spirit. The US was stronger because of the attack.

In the years since, there's been a huge shift. We're tougher on each other. We're divided over issues like same-sex marriage, guns, welfare, Healthcare, religion - you name it, we've probably used it as a reason to argue. We attack each other over political view points and personal opinions. We poke fun at one another for meaningless reasons.

Of course we are all entitled to an opinion, whether we agree or not. Embracing that right means we still have not conceded victory to the terrorists. We continue to embrace the very freedom they sought to attack. We are still strong in our belief that freedom includes the right to disagree.

I think every time we argue with each other, we weaken that freedom. Taking a side is fine; judging others for the side they choose is not. The minute we allow our opinions to become bigger than our humanity - the terrorists win, just a little.

If we really don't want them to win - and if we really don't want any of the lives lost to be in vain - we have to do better. We have to stop behaving like the pompous, self-righteous Americans they meant to attack.

Like I said, I don't know much. But from where I sit, we need to get back to respecting each other, working together, and making our whole country a better place.

We can post all the pictures and poems and memories we want one day a year. But if we really want to win, we need to bring a whole lot more light into our world every day.

Until we learn that lesson, they will have won.