Monday, May 20, 2019

Encouragement and How to Make This World a Better Place

We know that our attitude toward people can be self-fulfilling in that they often live up or down to our expectations. But if we truly want to make a difference in the lives of our fellowmen, we need to promote positives.

This week, the assignment to make this world a better place is to encourage someone, and I hope you do it more than once. In fact, I hope your journal of making this world a better place is beginning to have multiple entries in the same week.

If you've been reading my blog, you are already aware that one of my favorite Bible verses is Hebrews 10:24, "Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds." It really epitomizes what encouragement is all about.

Encouragement can be a simple pat on the back and saying, "Good job!" It can also be in the form of a compliment to encourage someone to do something or continue doing what they do: "Your artwork is outstanding." You are so smart!" "You should really sing in the choir." You can even pass along a compliment from another person to offer encouragement. (Research shows that hearing of a third party's compliment can sometimes mean more to someone than one that is direct.)

Encouragement might even come in the form of advice, but only advice that is wanted or absolutely warranted (such as preventing harm). Giving unsolicited advice can be unappreciated, unheeded, and may even cause damage to a relationship. So, if you do give advice, do it in a loving and encouraging way.

Whatever or however you choose, make this world a better place by focusing on encouragement this week, and try to do it in different ways as noted above.

My journal of making this world a better place last week included buying extra donuts and sharing them with a neighbor, delivering cards from a party to someone who couldn't attend, praising the authors of submissions to my next book, praising two service-related individuals to their supervisors, and participating in an "X-change" day in our townhome community where residents placed good, but unwanted, items on the curb for others to take.

Have a good week, and I know you can find many ways to encourage others!

Monday, May 13, 2019

The First Shall Be...

Matthew 20:16 states "So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (NIV) The same statement is made in Mark 10:31 and Luke 13:30. There are also myriad references to serving others, so this week, the assignment to make this world a better place is to put others before your own interests.

Some suggestions for you are:
  • Let someone go ahead of you in line (this can be at the grocery store in the checkout lane, theater queue, etc.)
  • When driving, leave the right lane open at stoplights so that someone turning right on red doesn't have to wait to turn because you are ahead of them in the lane waiting for the green light to go straight 
  • If only one item remains, let someone else have it (this could be an item at the grocery store that someone else also wants, the last helping of a dish at a family meal, etc.)
  • Let the person behind you have the best parking space
  • Allow someone else to decide where to go to dinner or what activity to do, for example  
Now that you have a good idea of what to do to serve others and put them before yourself, do it more than once this week. You can even begin a daily journal like I have. Just buy a simple lined journal, diary, or even a spiral notebook, and section it as in the example below.

1 ________________________________________________________________________

The benefit of a journal is to make certain you are consciously doing something daily to make this world a better place. You can even look over the past 4 weeks and repeat some of those assignments.

My personal journal entries for last week included: buying extra soaps from Bath & Body Works to give to three women for Mother's Day, praised a store clerk to her supervisors for her outstanding customer service, and I offered to help pack boxes for someone who is moving.

As always, I would love to hear what you are doing!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Week 4 of Making This World a Better Place

The Bible is full of directives to care for widowed mothers especially because there was no such thing as insurance. Women didn't have jobs like today and they depended upon their husbands to provide and protect them. But it isn't only financial support that single mothers of any age need today.

Since Sunday, May 12 is Mother's Day, it makes sense this week to direct our efforts toward mothers. We all know single women who are mothers − some may be young with children still at home, and others may reside in nursing facilities with family far away.  Or, we may know a woman whom we just really respect and admire.

We know to make this world a better place, it might begin with doing something positive or special for one person at a time, and that is okay. We might never realize how much our single kindness may actually impact countless others. So the assignment this week is to choose a mother (in addition to or other than your own), and a) send a card; b) buy an extra mother's day gift for this person; c) take time to visit with your chosen person; or d) write a letter of appreciation to that someone and mail it.

If your focus is on a struggling young mother, could she use a little extra time to herself or pampering? Perhaps that means inviting the children to your home to bake cookies, plant flowers, etc. You could also offer some little gift of pampering like special shower gel or lotion.

For an elderly person, a visit would definitely be a plus, but any acknowledgment with a card, letter, or small gift would also be appreciated. Just a note: the statistics for elderly suicide, of those 85 and older, was 20.1%, the second highest among all age groups (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). Isolation and loneliness account for a large part of the reason, so Mother's Day is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference for someone who may be at risk.

Now, for a few things in my journal to make this world a better place last week: I kept an eye on my neighbor's townhouse while she attended her grandfather's funeral out of state; I called to check on someone who had been hospitalized; and a friend needed a stamp and asked if I had one she could purchase. Of course, I just gave it to her.

And, to end this week's blog, a sincere Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms who are making this world a better place!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Week 3 to Make This World a Better Place (and more beautiful)

I've been thinking a lot about this week's assignment trying to narrow the options, and I recalled something from my book Simple Things to Make This World a Better Place. A section of the book is filled with many things that other people have done to fulfill that quest, and one was my uncle who was a rural postal carrier in mid-century California.

Uncle Hub (pronounced "Hoob,"short for Hubert) drove miles in the country to make sure that all of his rural patrons received their mail. During much of his route, he encountered land that was void of much beauty − muddy ditches, piled ruble, etc. so he decided to do something about it, not just for himself, but for others too.

My uncle purchased a number of hearty flower seed packets and distributed them from his vehicle, a handful here and a handful there. It wasn't long before he was rewarded with beautiful flowers to grace the long stretches of desolation. And, I'm sure many others appreciated the gesture, but wondered how the sudden growth of beautiful flowers occurred.

Now, I'd like you to think of some unattended areas where you might do something similar. It could be as simple as some bare spots in your own yard or your neighbor's. It could be an empty lot, a pathway or jogging trail, or maybe a stretch of roadway where nothing seems to be growing.

Of course, not all your labor will produce fruit; it certainly didn't for Jesus. But even so, it doesn't mean it's not worthwhile. A flood starts with a drop of rain, and we never know what little act we perform can make a big difference for someone else. So let's try to beautify this world and see what happens.

My past week included giving two packets of Marigold seed to my neighbor who loves to plant flowers. (I received them from one of the organizations to which I donate, and I wanted to pass them on to an individual who would use them.) I also wrote an email praising someone who went out of the way to research an unexplained charge on one of my credit cards.That's just two out of the seven entries in my journal. How did you do with the reuse instead of recycle challenge last week?

Monday, April 22, 2019

Week Two: Make This World a Better Place

Since Easter is fresh in our minds and the spirit of renewal is a welcome feeling with Spring upon us, it is only fitting that this week's assignment should follow Earth Day activities. After all, Genesis 1:28 states: " God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."' (NRSV)
We were given the opportunity and the responsibility to not only care for each other, but to care for all things living upon this earth. With that said, I challenge you to think how you might do something out of the ordinary this week in fulfilling that charge. Don't just recycle this week reuse.  That's not always so easy, is it?

Recycling is definitely preferable to discarding something, but recycling also takes energy to convert the object into something new. Add to that, we consumers lean more toward "throw-away" than "fix." But making this world a better place means changing our mindset, and not adding more to landfills and wastefulness. 

So, this week, there are some options: Find another use for something you might recycle or throw away (I.e. newspaper sleeves as pet pooper-scoopers, plastic bags as small trash can liners, fruit and veggie peelings for composting, etc.); make your own environmentally-friendly cleaning products from household items; or, if you are really having difficulty with this challenge, write a check to an animal preservation group or an organization whose mission is to save the earth.

Last Monday, I promised to weekly give you a sample of what I did the previous week to make this world a better place. My journal entries included sharing an extra package of fill-and-thrill eggs with a neighbor who has young children, making a special meal for a family who just lost a loved one, taking the time to praise s sales person to their manager. 

Now it's your turn. Tell me and others what you did to accomplish this week's assignment. You just might encourage others to do the same!

Monday, April 15, 2019

The First Week (of Making This World a Better Place)

I firmly believe we are on this earth to care for one another. After all, the Bible is full of commandments and directives to love our fellowman. My favorite verse is from Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (NIV) So now you know why I am writing this blog.

Making this world a better place is not only an opportunity, but really something we all should try to do – not just once in a while, but every day of our lives. If you are reading this blog, then I know this is something you understand, and I now challenge you to encourage at least one other person to do likewise. The more of us who commit to making this world a better place, the more impact we will have.

Now, just a few more comments before I tell you this week’s assignment. Some of the “deeds” are simple and may be something you’ve done previously. That’s okay, do them again. Making a difference isn’t something most of us can do with one act. We need to do positive, make-a-difference acts every day, and that is what this blog will help you to eventually do. With each assignment, I am also going to share a few of the things I did during the week so as to set an example. Doing something good isn’t difficult, but purposely doing something every day is…or at least until it becomes part of your life.

The assignment for the first week: This is holy week and many of you will be buying something for Easter. Maybe it’s candy, fill and thrill Easter eggs, a lily, etc. Even if you aren’t buying something for Easter, I’m sure you will buy something else. That may be a coffee at the drive-thru, some groceries, or even toilet paper. Your task is to buy a duplicate of something and give it to someone unexpected.

You can choose your recipient: a stranger, a shut-in, the person behind you in line at the drive-thru, or any neighbor. The idea is to surprise someone else with a kind gesture.

One year, I bought the fill and thrill Easter eggs and put $5 in each one. I then drove through the Walmart parking lot looking for the most beat-up cars and placed an egg under the wiper blade. My son and daughter-in-law also took a few eggs to place on cars along a street filled with low income housing.

This is simple isn’t it? Imagine someone’s surprise when they drive up to get their order from the fast food restaurant and are given a cookie. Or imagine your neighbor who is surprised when you bring over an extra ($4) Easter lily, or the shut-in who receives extra toilet paper or stamps. Just do something to fulfill the assignment once this week.

As promised, here are a few things from my journal this past week: I prepared taxes for my two sons (yes, good deeds count for family members too); wished two friends happy birthday on Facebook; gave extra Easter goodies to a neighbor; and arranged a party for my single, senior, church friends where we dyed Easter eggs and then hunted others filled with candy. And, of course, there were prizes, all to delight our inner-child!

Please share what you do this week either on the blog site or on Facebook. When I wrote Simple Things to Make This World a Better Place, it was sometimes difficult to get others to share about their good deeds – they did not want to sound boastful. But, it’s only boastful if you are sharing to receive praise and accolades for what you did. Sharing to give others ideas is NOT boastful and it’s a good idea to do so.

So, how are you going to make this world a better place this week? And who will you invite to share this journey?

Thursday, January 31, 2019

If It Hadn't Happened to Me

I admit to being a skeptic about some things, not about God or the afterlife. I feel strongly and have faith in the existence of both. But, there are things that people say which give me pause, and I attribute their experiences to being fabricated, the person being confused, or the mind playing tricks.

Now with that being said, I know there are phenomena that can't be explained. I've even had a few such experiences myself, ones which I am careful not to divulge to the general public because I don't want others to think I've "lost my marbles." I find I'm not alone in that thinking when it comes to sharing the unexplainable.

At a recent meeting of a writers group to which I belong, this topic arose. One of our members wrote about seeing herself out of body, and existing in two planes. She wrote this at the urging of another member, and her relayed account brought "knowing" comments from many in attendance. 

Such weird experiences become more shareable when individuals realize they are not alone in being a recipient of a similar occurrence. Most of us willingly admit to being skeptics about mediums, prognosticators, etc. but still, there are those strange little happenings that make us wonder about our connection to this world. For instance, have you ever known what the next song would be on the radio? Or maybe you thought about someone who then calls you a few minutes later.

The Bible makes it clear that we are all God's children. He expects us to have a connection so that we care for one another. How that occurs, I don't even want to guess there is so much we don't know.

So can you tell what I will write about next? I want to hear stories from those who are skeptical about such matters, but have had experiences which they know others would be skeptical of if they hadn't experienced it themselves. I suspect this is a very interesting subject about which there is much to learn.