All they have is money

This week a friend and I went to dinner at a downtown restaurant. The week has been especially cold with the nighttime temperatures approaching -30C.

As we neared the restaurant a very thin young man dressed only in jeans, a sweatshirt and a knit hat asked us if we had a bus ticket we could give him.

Without hesitating I reached into my wallet for one. As I was doing this, the young man explained that he hated to ask for money but wanted to get to the overnight homeless shelter. I gave him the ticket and a $5 bill. He whooped with happiness and gave me a hug thanking me over and over and over. He exclaimed, “Now I can go inside and have a coffee first and get warm!” I wished him a good night and he rushed off up the street to a coffee shop.

My friend turned to me with a curious expression and before he could say anything I told him “That’s why I always carry cash.”

He replied, “You’re more generous than I am. You won’t get rich giving it away.”

I answered, “I am already rich because I know I have enough to share. Those other people you call “rich”? All they have is money.”

How to be powerful

It seems as if our society is fascinated by, even celebrates, destruction.

We have that awful term “shock and awe” from the second Gulf war. We have ____mageddon (here close to Toronto that would be snowmageddon for example) and ____apocalypse (What isn’t an apolcalypse these days? Zombies, turkeys, weather, shopping).

Popular news favors the unsavory and we’re deluged with images of war, violence, crime and other horrors. Insults, sarcasm, explosions, war games, gladiator sports and brawls pass as entertainment. We’re endlessly wowed with our own ability to destroy and be horrible.

Are we drawn to the power inherent in these destructive images; the power to turn our world upside down, to rip each other or a country apart, or freeze it in its tracks?

Is destruction powerful? No. Creation is the ultimate power.  

Which is more powerful? Hurting a person or animal or using love and patience to restore health and trust? Is it more meaningful to tear down a society or to build one? Which are more enduring? Works of beauty and skill or acts of vandalism and destruction?


Victory Hand

If I can choose my response to any situation – and I can, and so can you – then choosing optimism, hope and kindness is the constructive, powerful choice.

Being morally brave, standing up for what is right, taking the high road, building, growing, creating and being generous are the hallmarks of a powerful person.

If you don’t like it, don’t look.

I only ever met my paternal grandmother once when I was four-years old. I remember her as dour and commanding – a woman who had lived in Berlin during both World Wars and had experienced starvation, economic depression and war crimes.

She was also a diehard (pun intended) smoker. I was a pint-sized but vocal anti-smoking campaigner.

She would light up a cigarette and I would tell her that it was killing her, that it was killing me to see her smoking, that it was a bad thing to do and on and on and on.

Not a woman to be dictated to by anyone, least of all a preachy child, her response was a stern and nonnegotiable “If you don’t like it, don’t look.” Please keep in mind that in 1969, no one knew about the dangers of second hand smoke.

“If you don’t like it, don’t look.” It’s not an invitation to avoid seeing what’s unpleasant in the world. Those things need to be seen and known about.

No, what my grandmother was saying was “I’ll do what is right for me without regard to the opinions or criticisms of others. If it bothers them, then they can go away.”

I know so many people who want to try things but won’t because they may look silly or won’t be “good enough.”

fatladyWho hasn’t heard a woman say “I’d never go to the beach looking like this. I’m too fat/pale/lumpy.”?

Thanks to my grandmother, when I hear something of that ilk, I reply “Gee, if I’m ever too ugly to look at, everyone else can put a bag over their heads.”

And I mean it. Go out and do whatever you want and remember, if “they” don’t like it, “they” don’t have to look.

Give time time

carnationWhen I was a very young child, I used to go to my mother’s carnation garden and try to open up all the budding flowers. At first I thought I could speed things along – get the buds fully open and beautiful so my mother could enjoy them sooner.

Even after my mother patiently and, what I can see now was the exercising of loving-mother restraint, repeatedly explained to me that I was not helping but was in fact destroying the flowers and they would never bloom, I persisted in trying to open the buds.

I knew my mother said it was wrong to do. I knew she said it wouldn’t work and that it upset her, but I was pretty sure that the laws of nature didn’t apply to me. Don’t we all think that sometimes?

You just have to give some things the time they need: to grow, to heal, to open, to close, to develop, to rise or recede. You can’t help every process along. What you can do is get out of the way and give time time.