Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Out of Touch

I hope print books never cease to exist. There's something about holding a book in your hands, feeling its weight, flipping each page and then noticing how far along you are in the story until the author writes, The End. You can't do that on a screen. You can't feel the paper with your fingertips or mark the pages with a bookmark or read in bed with a flashlight.

If you play a game online, it's not the same as it used to be when you played a board game with friends. I used to like lining up all the small, polished Scrabble letter tiles on the wooden tray. And then when your turn was over, you'd stick your hand inside a bag and draw more letters until you had seven again. Computers have robbed us of our sense of touch. Keys don't feel like wood tiles. There's a big difference between a full-sized game board and a tiny flat-screened one online. Dragging your tiles into position with a computer mouse isn't quite the same as picking them up and positioning them on a board.

What about Monopoly? Or Yahtzee? Or other games that have been computerized? Yes, you can play them on a screen, but you don't get to hold the game pieces in your hands, or shake the dice and roll them, or move your token around the board. And the biggest drawback of all? When you play games online, it's a solitary activity not a social one, Because even if you're playing against another person or persons, you're in your space and they're in theirs and you don't talk to each other. The closest thing we have to human interaction online is chat windows. At least you know the other person is "talking" at the same time you are.

We've lost something, people. If you want to see what, try this experiment. Play a game by yourself online. Now invite some friends or family over and play the same game, but at a table with cards or a game board. Which one was more fun to do?

I like games, so if playing online is my only option then I'll do it. I like to read. If I don't have a book, I'll go online and read a story. But given a choice, I will always opt for a real book and a real deck of cards or a board game. It's just more satisfying.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Me-ism

What would the world look like if we focused on others instead of ourselves? Simply this: It would be more peaceful, more fulfilling, more satisfying. We'd receive what we needed--love, attention, and confirmation of our worth--from others, and we wouldn't have to conform to the current mantra of modern society: "Me-ism." What's in it for me? What can I gain by investing time and energy into this endeavor or person or cause?

We ought to be shifting the focus off ourselves and onto others. If we did, life could change radically for us all.We'd notice when someone was down, and we'd encourage them to talk about their problem instead of monopolizing the conversation, turning it back to our own lives. We'd see a need in someone's life and we'd try to fill it instead of thinking about all the things we wanted for ourselves. We'd compliment people when we noticed them using their gifts for the betterment of society and not just for their own personal gain. We all have gifts--talents we were born with that were given to us by the Creator so we could make the world a place of kindness and acceptance.  

Human beings are born selfish, so it comes naturally to us to put our own agenda in front of everyone else's. to be self-focused instead of other-focused. It's said that money is the root of all evil, but I think selfishness is too. As long as we fail to have concern for others, to care about their welfare, then we will also fail to coexist in harmony and peace.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

One Person Can Make a Difference

What can I do, I'm only one person? You can change the world--by the way you interact with the people in your life. We have countless opportunities to make a difference every day, but many times we ignore these chances, shrug them off as inconsequential small stuff. But the small stuff matters. Because to someone, it may not be a small thing at all to:
     
Pay them a compliment. Say out loud the nice thing you notice about them instead of just thinking it to yourself. It's human nature to criticize, but try doing the opposite. Catch yourself thinking  how great somebody looks or how good they are at something, and then tell them.  
   
Offer to help somebody. They may decline, but it will mean a lot that you offered.
   
Just listen. Be the person who doesn't need to talk about yourself but instead encourages others to vent when something's troubling them.
   
Send them a card. Even if some time has passed. Send it anyway. Because knowing that you cared enough to think of them in a time of difficulty could mean the world to someone.
   
Show Empathy. Put yourself in their place. How would you feel in their situation? What would you want others to say or do? How would somebody's actions help you through a difficult time? After you answer the questions, follow through on the answers.

Words matter. Actions matter. What you say and do can affect other people more than you know. Pass out kindness and generosity whenever you can, and make a difference.




Thursday, August 14, 2014

Commitment

Before you agree to do something, make sure you plan to carry through with it, because an empty commitment is worse than no commitment at all. Your word won't mean much to other people if you don't keep it. You'll gain a reputation, the wrong kind. People will say things about you, such as, "Oh, her? Yeah, she volunteers, but you can't count on her.  

The best answer to "Can you help with this?" is, "Let me get back to you," or "let me check my calendar, and then think about it before you make a promise. When you agree to help, follow through, and don't come up with last minute excuses why you can't. Yes, there are times when stuff happens and you won't be able to keep your commitment, but these should be rare exceptions. 

By the way, the same applies to other life situations. Give it time before you decide, "I don't like this," or "This isn't working out." Anything important in your life will take work and time and effort, but it's our nature to quit whenever the task is difficult. This could include things like signing up for a sport, or a class, or learning to play an instrument, or taking a job. Hang tough even when it's hard, because if you do, the payoff will be great. It'll mean a lot to you to look back and realize: I didn't give up, and I made it!


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Money

We all need it. We all think that having more of it will solve all our problems and make us happy. I don't think so. Because too much of anything isn't good for us. Yes, it's nice to have enough, but there's a big difference between having enough and having more than you need. The same could be said about overeating or owning more stuff or working too many hours. Pretty soon these things that are supposed to improve your life or bring you more satisfaction, will turn against you.  

Celebrities usually find this out. At first, having notoriety and wealth is exciting, but I think they soon become bored, and lose their moral compasses. After they'd spent small fortunes on houses, cars, clothes, and entertainment, some of them, maybe most of them, still feel empty inside. And the earlier these people achieve their notoriety, the sooner their lives crash and burn. No, this doesn't happen to all of them, but it happens a lot.

I had a teacher in high school who told us the first day of class, "Moderation is the key to success." She was a wise woman. I think this could apply to what we own and what we want as well. Keep it simple. Try to be thankful for what you have, not discontented with what you don't have.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Technology and the Lost Art of Communication

When you go camping, you notice things you might otherwise overlook. Like when the first star is visible in the night sky. You can even pick out some constellations when you're away from the lights of the city. Right before dark, you might see bats swooping through the air, or hear tree frogs hum a bass chorus.

Not only will you notice more, but you'll do different things than you'd do at home. Instead of texting, playing games or "talking" to people on Facebook, you'll talk to them in person, maybe while you sit around a campfire staring at tall flames. If you camp like we do, you won't have a t.v. to watch, so you'll have to ride a bike, go for a walk, or play an outdoor game, all of which usually involve interacting with other people.

We've forgotten how to communicate with each other, face to face. We're more and more isolated from our friends, neighbors, and family. Just because we sit in the same room, doesn't mean we're spending time together if we're staring at a screen.

Technology is great, but it shouldn't dominate your life. You can't really have a conversation with someone if you can't look into their eyes or read their body language. The written word has limits--it's hard to tell the true emotion behind the words. So do yourself and the people around you a favor: Put down the device that's practically attached to you like an extra appendage, and communicate with your friends and family. You'll be better off, and so will they.  




Friday, July 4, 2014

The Have To's and the Want To's

When you're young, you pretty much do what you want to with your time every day, but then something happens. You grow up. You acquire obligations. To Do Lists. You have to work. Or maybe you have school work to complete. And so the things you most want to do get pushed to the back of the shelf, behind everything else that's more important, and when you structure your time, there's no room for the "want to's." In fact, they won't even be visible anymore. This is a mistake, in my opinion, because you never forget what used to make you happy, and you'll resent the new responsibilities that have crowded these things out of your life.    

Guilt. You know this voice, right?"You can't __________(fill in the blank) today because you have to go to work, buy groceries, clean the house, do the laundry, do your assignment, mow the yard. . ." The list is endless. You've heard the saying: "Work first, play later." But what if you work all the time, and there's no free time? What if by the time you finish "the have to's" you're too exhausted for the "want to's"? There has to be a balance. Otherwise, you won't be very happy.

I'm not saying you should ditch the demands of life and act irresponsibly. What I'm saying is, don't let daily demands take over every minute of your day and night. How many of us never squander our time? I don't think too many. And the culprit behind this "wasting time" is often because we don't want to do something, so we do nothing.

What if you scheduled time every day to do what you wanted? Maybe then the "Have to's" wouldn't seem so bad. Even a small amount of time could make a difference. Twenty minutes. A half hour. Even an hour. And when the voice of guilt tries to convince you it's wrong to take that time, ignore it. Listen to your inner voice. It's usually right.  


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Encourage, don't Discourage

People should build each other up, not tear each other down. You will meet discouragers and encouragers in your life. Stick with the encouragers, not the people who tell you what you're dreaming of isn't possible, that the odds are way against you, that you're na├»ve for even attempting such a thing. These people are dream killers, and if you listen to them long enough, you'll start to believe them, and then you'll give up.

Surround yourself with friends who tell you, "You can do it. Go for it!." Because even if you don't accomplish what you set out to do, at least you gave yourself the opportunity to make it happen. One thing is certain: If you never try, you'll never achieve your goal. If you do try and fail, so what? Try a different approach. You won't have to wonder for the rest of your life, was that possible? Could I have done that?

Did your mom ever tell you, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all?" It's true. Negative words can stop action in its tracks. Positive words can inspire action. Of course there are exceptions. If someone's plans will harm them or cause harm to others, then you have to speak the truth to them, but as much as you can, be an encourager. Strengthen someone's dreams, don't destroy them with discouraging, "It'll never work" words.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Music Brings Us Together

What do you get when you combine a free concert in the park and people of four different generations? Unity. Community. Common ground.  If everybody knows the lyrics to a song, suddenly they're all speaking the same language, and enjoying the moment together. There can be a huge difference in their ages, and it doesn't matter, because they're all having fun listening to familiar tunes. For some, they remember the songs from their youth. For younger people, they've heard the songs in a movie, or maybe they've listened to their parents' music and (gasp!) liked it. Classic rock and groups like the Beatles never go out of style.
    
Anything that brings people together rather than emphasizing how different we are, is a good thing. There's enough conflicting opinions today, enough of the "what's in it for me?" mentality, enough trouble in general in our overbooked lives.

So if you get a chance to step off the treadmill of your never ending schedule, go out on a warm summer night and listen to a concert. And don't feel silly about singing along, because if you look around you, lots of others will be singing too. And you'll feel it: a common bond with people you don't know. All because of music.   
    

Friday, May 30, 2014

Writing Versus Speaking

Some of us are great conversationalists. Some of us aren't. If you're like me, you can communicate much better through the written word. There's no pressure. You can let your thoughts flow out onto the page and share what you believe in. When you write, people don't judge the way you look, how you dress, or how you sound when you talk. They only judge your words. It's like a blind audition.

If you've never tried writing down your feelings, try it. It's a great way to vent and figure things out. You'll learn a lot about yourself. It's why people keep journals and diaries. You can look back at the entries you've made and see how much you've grown.

We all have the need to share and be heard. Some people are just a little quieter than others.
That's okay. The world needs more listeners anyway.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Life After High School

Welcome to the real world. Forget the social rules you learned to obey in school. You don't belong in any category now. You're free to choose your own path, free to follow your dreams. Dreams need regular care though: thought, and time, and nurturing; if you neglect them, they will die. Yes, they're important. They're who you really are. Never give up on what matters to you. Keep trying. Keep dreaming. Now is the best time to pursue what you really want in life, but it's never too late, unless you settle for something less. And even if you do settle, make sure it's only a temporary condition.