Monday, July 29, 2013

Bully

I watched the documentary 'Bully' last night on Netflix (www.thebullyproject.com if you want to check it out).  I'd been wanting to watch it for quite awhile, but finally did.  It is a powerful movie, and it rocked me to the core.  I was at or near tears throughout much of the movie.  Watching how cruel kids can be to one another, and the emotional and physical anguish of the kids being bullied.  It just breaks my heart.  One of the kids being bullied in the movie is Alex Libby.  You could just tell all he wanted was to make friends, but instead he was picked on, called names, hit, slapped, punched, stabbed with pencils, threatened - all on the school bus he rode on every day.  He looked emotionless, almost numb to it all.  He was afraid speaking up would bring more trouble for him.  Another girl was shunned, and her family made outcasts even among former friends of theirs, simply because she came out as a lesbian.  Yet another, only 11 years old, committed suicide because he just couldn't take it anymore.  Another older child hung himself in a closet because he had simply had enough.  A girl named Ja'Meya took her mother's gun onto the school bus she rode on and used it to threaten those that were bullying her.  How does this happen?  How do these children get pushed to the point of breaking?  And why isn't something being done about it?  It's a very complex issue, true enough.  But I hope and pray that each of us can make a difference in the future to put a stop to this type of thing.  

Anyone who says bullying is not a real problem in our society is kidding themselves.  The pain that these kids go through is unparalleled.  I know that when I was in school, bullying existed.  I confess to you today that in some cases, I was the bully.  If you're reading this and I bullied you at all, I sincerely, wholeheartedly apologize.  Maybe it's too little too late, but I was also on the other end of it, being bullied, so I do know how it feels.  I don't think it was as extreme back then as it is today.  Maybe that's naive.  But it just seems with the internet, social networking websites, etc, it's just much easier for kids to put things out there and click send/post without having any consequences to deal with.  

I am by nature a worrier.  When the day came to take Will to preschool, I was probably more anxious than anyone.  Up to that point he had been, and still is for the most part, at the age where kids all get along and play nicely together.  The age of innocence comes and goes so quickly.  I didn't ride a school bus when I was in school, I walked.  Even before I watched this documentary, I cringed at the thought of having to put Will on a school bus.  What kinds of things will he hear and see?  Will he be bullied?  Will he be a bully?  I know I can't shelter him for the rest of his life, but man it's going to be tough to let him go little by little.  He's only three now, and he almost always wants Leigh and I around.  He showers us with hugs and kisses and tells us he loves us.  I know that may not last forever.  I want to protect him, but I have to let him live his life when that time comes.  Obviously, it will be awhile before I really have to think about it.  But this movie provoked many thoughts in my mind.  How can children be so cruel to one another?  And how do adults either remain completely unaware of it, or see it happening and do nothing about it?  

If you are a student and see someone being bullied at your school, do not remain silent.  Stand up.  If you are employed somewhere and see bullying going on at your workplace, stand up.  In your neighborhood, walking down any street at any time, on any social networking site you frequent (facebook, twitter, google+, etc, etc), no matter where you are or what you are doing - if you see someone being bullied, please do not be silent.  Tell someone.  Help someone.  It could be the difference, literally, between life and death.  

And if you are being bullied, please talk to a parent, a teacher or guidance counselor, a friend - just talk to someone.  It is unacceptable that you are being treated this way and it needs to be put to an end in an appropriate manner.  If you are reading this, and you are being bullied, talk to me.  I'm listening.  You matter.  It can end.  It starts by speaking up.  You CAN do it.  

Have you experienced bullying?  Have you witnessed bullying?  Tell me about it.  This is a real issue.     




Thursday, July 25, 2013

Worn

Tenth Avenue North - Worn


Lately, I've been feeling worn.  Beat up.  Tired.  Old.  I've had more appointments in 2013 than I probably had in the previous five years total.  Fortunately, nothing too serious, and it could be way worse than it is.  I have no serious illness or injury, and consider myself blessed for sure.    Generally I have the right perspective and realize that my issues are nothing compared to those of others with much more serious ones.  But I have to tell you, today, for whatever reason, my perspective has shifted.  I feel every bit of my 41 years and nearly 10 months on this earth.  

Have you been there?  

I struggle with depression, anxiety, and have a sometimes quick temper.  When you're going through these types of struggles, you often feel alone.  Like you're the only one in the world dealing with these kinds of issues.  Well, I'm here to tell you that you are not alone.  Since I started talking to people about my struggles, I've discovered that they are actually fairly common.  But our struggles don't define us.  They help shape us into who we become.  

I think of it in terms of a skit that's been done at my church.  As best as I can remember it, the characters in the skit are God and Brian (I'll use my name since I'm talking about me, but insert your name or anyone you know who has struggles).  Brian is standing and talking to God, and saying that he's doing pretty good.  God points out that he has some issues that he needs to work on, and God can help him with that.  So God takes a hammer and a chisel and starts 'chiselling' away at some of these issues, and begins to mold Brian into the man that God knows he can be.  It's painful and messy at times, but the end result is beautiful, exactly as God designed.   As long as we are on this earth, the 'design' is not finished, but a work in progress.  

The things I have been dealing with are really pretty minor. 
 
Some are physical.  I'm supposed to run a marathon in October, but running has become difficult because of a couple of balky knees.  I went in to the orthodontist thinking I could get invisalign braces and wear them for six months or a year and be done, but came out needing a deep cleaning at a periodontist, four teeth pulled, and braces I will likely have to wear for three years - not to mention possibly jaw surgery and a much lighter wallet.  I went to get tested for allergies, and it turns out I am allergic to everything - grass, trees of most kinds, weeds, dog and cat dander, tobacco (thankfully I don't smoke), mold, and a few others I am forgetting.  I started allergy shots and am on a 'sinus cocktail' that involves more medications than I am accustomed to taking.  Oh, and after a sleep study, sinus and allergy treatment, I still snore. 

Some are emotional.  I have been dealing with depression for a couple of years now.  I have a temper that gets the best of me sometimes.  I need to work on taming my tongue so that my words do not hurt others.  Sometimes my stubborn pride gets in the way of my reaching out to people, especially those closest to me. 

But you know what the really great thing about all of this is?  I have a God who loves me no matter what.  His love is forever and his promises are true.  If I keep my eyes on Him, none of this stuff can weigh me down.  If I listen to His voice, these are all minor blips on my radar screen.  God is just chiselling away at me, making me more like Him.  Sometimes it's hard.  But if I keep His perspective in mind, it's really very easy.  The bottom line is this - I am blessed beyond words.  I have an amazing wife who has stood by my side through everything, an awesome son who makes me laugh every day, a wonderful family, great friends, a good job, nice house, and I could go on and on.  And a God who sent His Son for me, with an amazing grace and love that nothing can compare to.  The blessings far outweigh the trials.  It really isn't even close.  At the beginning of each day, I have been trying to thank God for all of the blessings in my life.  It's really difficult to remember them all, there are so many.  I want to challenge all of you to do the same.  Just spend some time focusing on the amazing blessings in your life, no matter how big or small they seem.  I'd love to hear some of them.  

Have a great day!


Monday, July 15, 2013

What Would You Do?

I'm feeling some serious, hard core rambling coming on, so you have been warned.  I'm not even sure I can articulate what is in my head so that it makes sense.  But here goes.....

Have you ever seen the television show called 'What Would You Do?'  It is a television news magazine and hidden camera show. In the series, actors act out scenes of conflict or illegal activity in public settings while hidden cameras videotape the scene, and the focus is on whether or not bystanders intervene, and how. Variations are also usually included, such as changing the genders, the races or the clothing of the actors performing the scene, to see if bystanders react differently. The host appears at the end to interview the bystanders about their reactions. As the experiment goes on, psychology professors, teachers, or club members watch and discuss the video with the host, explaining and making inferences on the bystanders' reactions.  Often times, people stand by and do nothing.  Society seems to be more and more afraid to speak up, stand up and do what's right.  

Why is that? Are we so afraid to get involved of the risk of putting ourselves out there?   So afraid that we will watch wrongs being done all around us without saying a word about it for fear of getting involved?  Or is it that we feel that we are too insignificant to make a difference?  What is it that we are afraid of?  Why do we shy away, no, run away from the opportunity to do what is right, or to speak out against what is wrong?  

Walking down your street, at your place of employment, at a baseball game, or literally anywhere you go - do you shy away from the chance to help someone that might need it?  Do you choose silence over speaking out against the wrongs that you see and hear every day? Because maybe it's 'easier' to not get involved?  

I confess, I have.  There have been many times when someone has approached me and asked for money because they say they have none, and I've turned them down flat.  Maybe they are going to use it to buy booze or drugs.  Or maybe they are just scheming to get money the easy way.  But what if?  What if this person has a legitimate need for this money, and asking strangers for it is how desperate they've become to get whatever they can?  What if they have children they are simply trying to feed?  Wouldn't it be better to give them a few dollars on the chance that they really do need the money, than to say no and risk snuffing out the one little glimmer of hope in humanity that they have left?  Or at the very least, offer to take them somewhere and buy them lunch?  I am telling you here and now that I am usually the one who says no and walks away.  But are they seeing God's light shine when I do that?

What is frustrating to me (and to many others I'm sure) is when there is blatant and obvious wrongdoing going on, and the person(s) committing the acts are left alone.  Further, when the people around them know what they are doing, yet continue to interact with them as though no wrong was committed.  On the one hand, we're not supposed to judge.  That's up to God.  But the Bible  says that when you see a wrong being done to not just let it go.  It does say to forgive them, but also to talk with them about it.  Matthew 18:15 says "If your brother sins go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed."

Wouldn't this crazy mixed up world be a much better place if we let our conscience be our guide?  If, when we see wrongdoing, we do something about it?  Not vigilante type justice, but a calm and thoughtful response to a situation that might help stop it in its tracks.  Or, at the very least, slow it down by letting people know that you are not the type to just stand idly by and watch.  Are those of us who have stood by and watched perhaps more guilty than those doing the wrongs, simply by our inaction?  I don't know.  I'm not trying to make anyone feel guilty or even bad.  The point of this post is actually to challenge myself to stop being silent.  To speak up, not in a judging way, but in a loving and thoughtful way.  To not stand by and watch injustice take place without so much as a blink of any eye.  I'm not sure if I'm up to the challenge, but I'm going to try.  Who's with me?   

Friday, July 5, 2013

Home



All of my life, I've felt a struggle to feel 'at home'.  I've never felt like I really fit in.  It started in the  neighborhood I grew up in, and flowed into my school years.  I would always see certain people together - cliques, friends, groups - whatever you prefer to call them.  But I never felt like I belonged.  In some ways, I never really wanted to fit in.  But I think we all have the desire to be liked and included.  It's basic human nature.  

HOME.

At this point in my life, there is one place where I feel more at home than anywhere else.  Where is that, you ask?  Well, my two faithful readers, I will tell you.  It is the place where I am both most comfortable, yet uncomfortable at the same time.  Comfortable because of the love I feel, yet uncomfortable because I'm so afraid I'm going to screw it all up.  The place I am talking about is fatherhood.  

HOME

Have I mentioned that I love being a Daddy?  It's everything I thought it would be, but also so many things I never thought it would be.  This little person that came into the world has been relying on Leigh and I for everything.  Everything.  I remember the first moment I was alone with Will at night, when Leigh went to bed.  I was so worried I was going to break him - he was so tiny and innocent and beautiful.  I didn't want to mess up.  It was terrifying and exhilerating all at the same time, and the love I felt in my heart for this little boy that God had given us was overwhelming me.  It brought tears to my eyes - tears of joy.  And it still does to this day.  When I try to imagine all of the love that God has in His heart for His Son, and for me, and then I compare how much I love Will to that, it seems so massive, yet so very microscopic compared to God's love for me.  But I would do anything for Will. So whenever I doubt God's love, which does happen - not going to lie - I try to think of it in terms similar to those.  It's about the only way I can get my small mind around it sometimes.  

HOME.

So when I talk about this feeling of being 'home' when it comes to fatherhood, it's the feeling that this is what all of the years of waiting were leading up to and preparing me for.  The first three years have flown by.  Will is learning and growing every day and it's so true what they say about it going by in the blink of an eye.  I had a hard time when he first went to preschool.  I'm sure kindergarten and first grade will be much more difficult.  But he will be fine.  Man it's hard to let them fly, but you so badly want to help them spread those wings and do it.  It's sort of a big contradiction, this parenting thing.  You spend every day trying to teach them, prepare them, but most of all love them - and let them know what is waiting out there for them in the world we live in.  But suddenly the day comes when they begin to spread their wings, and it's like a tug of war inside of you.  One side is jumping for joy and rooting them on.  And the other is sad because he's not your baby anymore, and you aren't sure if you really want to let go.  

HOME.

My goal as a father is to let Will know that he is loved.  That he is important.  That he matters. That he can do anything he wants and go anywhere he wants in life.  He is still at that age of innocence that I love, where everything is a new discovery greeted with enthusiasm and curiosity.  He does not know a stranger, and we make friends everywhere we go because of his joyful enthusiasm for people.  I know someday he will lose some of that, because of the 'don't talk to strangers' mentality of today's society.  But I hope he never loses his desire to connect and relate to other people.  I want him to treat others with respect, because that's what my parents instilled in me as I was growing up and I hopefully haven't done too poorly with that. 

HOME. 

I love being a daddy, because it is here that I feel home.  I am not perfect.  I make MORE than my fair share of mistakes.  Every day is a learning experience and Leigh and I walk through it together with Will.  He is such a sweet boy and my prayer is that the best of me rubs off on him and the worst of me stays behind.  He's already picked up on some of my bad habits, and I feel bad that I've let that happen.  But in this moment - this forty-first year, tenth month, fifth day of my life - I have found a place I can honestly say I feel comfortable in.  God has called me to be a daddy, and I am trying to live it out as He would have me do.  Will is such a precious gift.  Every day he makes us laugh for one reason or the other.  He is full of life and has made me feel full of life once again.  I thank God every day for Will, and for being able to finally share in this journey called parenthood with Leigh.  This is right where I want to be.  

HOME.