When Jennifer from Dancing in the Rain approached me to write a guest post for her series, “The View From Here” I thought, “Sure! This’ll be easy!”
Then, I asked her what topic she wanted me to tackle. Then, she said, “Dunno. It’s up to you. Entirely.” (Yes, I’m paraphrasing…but you get the point.)
So, I thought, what can I talk about that anyone’s going to want to read? My blog covers things about my sons, the lessons I learn as I became a dad…with the odd contest, giveaway or product review thrown in for good measure. I don’t tend to talk about my views, because they cause drama. Not that I have extreme views, mind you, it just seems that any topic you want to talk about it, has the potential to stir up the old poop-pot.
And, I’ve noticed it seems to be worse now than ever before. I’ve seen two rational people turn into foul-mouthed insult-o-trons over the topic of immunizations, circumcision, co-sleeping, crying it out…etc. Frankly, I have neither the time nor patience to get into it with every person who disagrees with me. Long story short, I’m not going to talk about being a parent. Well, not directly, at least.
I’m going to talk about my faith! You know, because no one has any strong feelings or convictions on either side of that coin. 😀
Seriously, though, I’m not what one would consider a religious man. Yes, my family goes to church every week, and I’m very active in our children’s ministry. BUT, I’ve spent a large portion of my life running from it. And, when I hear some religious people open their mouths, I cringe. No, I’m a pretty quiet Christian. A quiet, deeply flawed, and highly imperfect Christian who thinks that the world isn’t nearly as bad as we see it to be.
If you’re an atheist, agnostic, pagan, Hindu, Jew, Shinto, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Shaman, or just identify yourself as a run-of-the-mill average person, I don’t care. Are you gay? So, what! Are you a different race? Hell, I don’t care what species you hail from. No, today, when I talk about my faith, it’s related to my New Year’s Resolutions.
You see, 2013 sucked. It just seemed like one thing after another happened and the year just kept barfing everywhere. So, I decided to do TWO things this year. And both of them have made a huge impact on my life so far.
The first thing is my mantra “More Dancing in 2014!” I dance when I’m cooking dinner. I dance when I’m shopping. I dance in the car. I don’t even care…if I’m having an ‘off’ day or one of my family is…I dance! They are short and silly, but always heartfelt. And, even if you dance for thirty seconds, it boosts your heart rate and gives you a little shot of endorphin. Most bad moods can’t withstand endorphin and smiles.
The second one is tougher. It makes me sound a little crazy when I say it out loud. But, I promised to ‘listen to that little voice’ more. You know that voice. No, not the one that tells you to take a dump on the salad bar. Never listen to that one. I don’t care how bad the service is. It will only end in pain and misery. For everyone involved.
No, this is the little niggling voice that either tells you to do something or not do something and is really good at saying ‘I TOLD YOU SO!” when you don’t listen to it. If you’ve walked the earth for any significant amount of time, you can look back and find an experience where you can say, “Something told me I shouldn’t do that, but I did it anyway…” or “Something told me to do <insert action> and I wish I had.”
I know what you’re thinking: “But, what does this have to do with your faith?”
I’m getting there. I was in church one day when the pastor said something about God speaking to us in those still quiet moments. And I thought about it. Then, about two days later, I was at the grocery store when the line I was in was going slower than it should have been. The guy in front of me was sighing and tapping his hands on the belt and tapping his feet, rolling his eyes, and I was –> <– that close to getting my groceries and going to a different line. But that little voice told me not to.
It wasn’t an actual voice, but rather, a feeling. So, I went with it. The guy in front of me finally paid for his few items and stormed out of the store shaking his head. That’s when I saw the problem. There was a lady in front of him who couldn’t find her money. She was frantically digging through her purse saying, “I had a twenty in here. I just KNOW I did.”
The cashier scanned my items and then I quietly asked him how much her ticket was. It was like eleven bucks. I told them to just add it to my total. He looked at me, “Are you sure?” I nodded. Groceries paid for, I walked over to the lady who was still digging in her purse. I said, “Don’t worry about it. I got it.”
She protested about having had the cash at some point. I grabbed her bag, it was a package of ground beef, two boxes of noodles, and tomato sauce. I handed her the bag. “Go make dinner for those kids. And, when you find your money, you can repay the favor by helping someone else.”
She hugged me and said, “God bless you.”
Then, we parted ways. I’m sure she was happy being able to go and make dinner. But, I believe I came away from the encounter the better for it. I literally felt ten pounds lighter as I walked to my car. There was a bounce in my step. So much so, that my wife asked me why I was in such a good mood. I told her that something told me to do it, and I did and felt better for it.
I sort of forgot about listening to ‘the voice’. Then, I was insanely lucky enough to score a few tickets to Disney. We spent a couple of days doing the Disney thing in Orlando. Our last night there, we were traipsing around Downtown Disney and it was getting late. We needed to go, so we decided to grab some dogs from Wetzel’s Pretzels. My wife took our youngest to go potty, and I ran through my head how much food I planned on ordering. I tallied it up, and thought, “Holy crap, that’s a lot of food. We don’t need that much.”
My turn came and I ordered the food. ALL THE FOOD. Yes, I went with my original order and not my revised (and more sane) order. We got the food and walked to the car. My wife looked at me wide-eyed, and asked me, “Hungry, babe? That’s an awful lot of food.”
“I don’t know, something just came over me.”
We got to the car, got everyone buckled in and I exited the parking lot. We pulled up into the left turn lane. The light turned red. Then, the car in front of me, just ran the VERY red light. I looked at my wife. “What the hell would make someone run a light like that?”
Then, I found out why they ran it. There was a homeless guy standing in the dark with a tattered cardboard sign. Now, let me just say, if you’re begging for food at 11:30 at night…you’re hungry. I rolled the window down and asked if he’d like a bit to eat. My wife pulled one of the giant dogs from the bag and I handed it to him with some mustard. He took the hot dog and shook my hand and said, “God bless you.”
He tucked his sign under his arm and disappeared into the night. I cannot describe the electricity in the air, when my wife said, “At least we know why you ordered so much food, now.”
Yeah. So, I listened to that little voice twice and both times felt like something magical…or mythical was happening. Why? Because, my first reaction would have been just to look the other way and go about my day and rest easy knowing that SURELY someone would have helped them. Instead, I stepped out of my comfort zone and became that someone. It’s empowering as hell.
So, New Year’s came around and I didn’t know what to resolve. What would I give up for the year? What could I stop doing to become a better person this year? Lose some weight? Exercise more? Nope. I decided to do things that didn’t have any negative baggage attached to them. I dance. I help people when I can, however I can. I can quote the bible with: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
But, to think only Christianity can claim that being nice is imperative would be insane. You see, deep down, the vast majority of people (no matter what their belief structure is) really want others to be happy on some level. I think we get caught up in the moment of feeling like our lives are problematic enough or that we are struggling enough ourselves that anything we do, won’t amount to enough to make a change in the world. No, not a one of us can change the world. But if we all did a little bit, and listened to that little voice…we could make things better, even if it’s only for a moment or two.
Now, let’s tie this back to me being a parent. You see, my oldest son (4.5 yrs) has been with me when we bought a family a holiday meal. He was there as I raised money for Family Promise by sleeping in a cardboard box. And when Feed the Bay came around this year, he demanded we go to the store and get food for people who can’t afford any. And, he wanted to donate most of his toys (even his favorite ones) to the families at Family Promise. When I asked him why, he told me it was because some kids can’t go to the store and get toys or good food and he wanted to help them.
And as a point of honesty, I’m writing this through tears right now. Why? Because my son has decided to be a helper. He is the one who reminds me to listen to that little voice. He’s the one who reminds me that people with cardboard signs might need something. Even though he can’t read, he knows that they’re not as blessed as we are. If you don’t help people, does that make you a bad person?
Hells to the no. I’m just saying, that in my personal trek through this life, I have decided to start helping people instead of hoping other people will do it. And, I have gained so much more in the process than I’ve given. So, my challenge for you, now that you’ve sat through this epic wordsplosoin is this:
Tomorrow, go out and help someone. You don’t have to give money. Do what you can. You’d be surprised at the mileage you can get from a smile or helping a struggling parent get a grocery cart back to the cart coral. Do something small. And if it doesn’t make you feel better, then you haven’t lost anything. But, I guarantee the person you shared a smile with will feel better. And they may just share that smile with someone else. And somewhere down the line, someone at the end of their rope just might get the smile they desperately need.
Now, go out and be awesome!