Week 26 Recap

With this week at a close, I’m going to attempt to give race issues a break for a while to cover some other stuff that I’ve been working on since before February. It is not that I have run out of topics on the issue, but because there is a lot more to my interests as a writer. I want to share, ask, and explore the blogging community as a writer too; and not just use it for bringing attention to what is the most obvious and overlooked problem in America. For example, I have seen more support and awareness driven towards the NCAA March Madness tournament than I saw for Black History during the month of February. I say that without any bias as I am a sports fan and black man. This also speaks to the profit-driven culture of our country. I am not complaining though; it is what it is, and all we can do is play our part in changing things for the better.

Last week though, I shared my experience in marching at the 50th Anniversary of the March at Selma. As pro-black as I am, I do not rush to every single event just because it bears the image of Black American rights or justice. I have to be thoroughly informed on the purpose of the event, organizers of the event, and whether or not I personally feel that it is for a just cause. Well, this march was to commemorate the pain and hardships that went into granting voting rights for Black Americans; a feat that changed the course of justice for our people from that point on. I had to be a part of it. I described as much as I could of it in #Selma50: To The Bridge. One part that I left out though was the exchange of money from black hands to other black hands. It was so refreshing to see our people spending money amongst ourselves via the hundreds of vendors there. I feel as though that is a major downfall within our communities — we spend the more money than any other people, but over 90% of that money goes outside of our own business. Seeing the unity among the people that day though gave me hope that things will get better. You can never lose hope; and if in fact you do lose it, you will have find it again if the cause is great enough.

Wednesday, March 12th, I wrote added another encounter to the Thirty Seconds Ago… series. I honestly thought I was done with that and considered removing it from the blog altogether. However, as long as I am me, weird stuff is bound to happen. I mean, weird stuff happens to everyone, but I seem take a large percentage of everyone else’s occurrences (keep in mind, to maintain a reasonable level of dignity, I do not share everything). Well, in Speechless, I described how I was saluted with the black power fist… by an Asian man. It was definitely a first; I had not even been greeted by another brother in that fashion. Interestingly enough, I heard that he was married to a black woman. I feel that I have a right to ask and confirm if you take into consideration the awkward place he put me in… I just haven’t figure out how to do it yet.

Me: Good afternoon.

He: ‘Sup.

Me: So… Married to black lady, huh?

He: …

That is all for now. I hope everyone had a great Monday, and hope that you have a great week going forward. Thank you for reading and being open to my perspectives as I try to make sense of the some of the unnecessary issues surrounding us all. Until next Sunday (or Monday), try to share perspectives, show compassion and spread the love.

Week 23 Recap

There was a skip in February (as you might have noticed). Anytime I attempt to put together a schedule, it gets shaken apart. So unfortunately, I missed the end of the first week and all of the second.

However, I did  manage to squeeze out a couple on Saturday the 14th…

…to be completely honest, I didn’t have to squeeze them out.

I wrote Mediaheads in an attempt to explain how much we are constantly bombarded by media events that rarely do anything to benefit us — financially, mentally, or spiritually. There is virtually no benefit to what we spend so much of our time doing. While we admire other people’s success, we forget that they spend all of their time practicing to keep us entertained. In short, I realized that entertainment is a luxury. It doesn’t matter if it’s inexpensive or even free; it should still count as a luxury if I spend time on something that doesn’t add to my needed improvement.

I had been waiting to share the interview of Danny & Annie Perasa that I found while browsing NPR. I actually wanted to share as soon as I found it, but since it was so close to Valentine’s, I decided to wait. Their two-part interview covers their not-so-glamourous but love-filled 27-year marriage. It’s really a great story the was done by StoryCorps and was a perfect fit for a February 14th post.

I will be continuing the black history month schedule going forward. I hope that you all have a wonderful week showing compassion and and sharing perspectives.

“I Understand”

Attempting to empathize with someone’s expressed discomforts can be extremely awkward. Naturally, you want to make people feel better about whatever they may be going through. So you sit, talk and listen — most times that is the only thing needed. However, in your panic mind to not seem useless, you will utter the most convenient but inconsiderate words to respond to the situation; “I understand.”

“I understand” carries the implications that if there was absolutely anything I could do to help or change your situation, I would. I’m pretty sure that is how it is interpreted most times, but I had one occasion when that wasn’t the case. While listening to a friend about somethings that she had been going through, I reached into my underdeveloped arsenal of sympathetic responses and pulled out that false empathic patch of an answer and said, “I understand.” She simply replied, “No you don’t.”

Up until that point, I had never realized how generic I had made those words. “I understand” is a form of empathy; a statement that says, “I have experienced what you are talking about and can relate.” Even though I have sympathy for the situation, saying “I understand” can be a grand overstatement if you have not gone through a similar situation.

That instant realization that I had only used “I understand” to smooth over real frustrations was a wake up call for me regarding that phrase. As I am constantly encouraging perspective and compassion, I actually do attempt to make it common practice. I learned that your genuine intentions can be easily be confused for patronizing if you do not consider your words and their meaning. These days when I say, “I understand,” I make sure that I can thoroughly explain my personal experience to the other person’s experience with accurate relevancy.

“So what if you do not understand?” you may ask.

If I cannot genuinely empathize, I still sympathize; and sometimes to do so, all you need to do is shut your mouth and listen. Saying something that is not genuine can ruin the genuine intentions of the conversation altogether; so just shut your mouth and listen. If anything, you could extend an offer to assist going forward (that only be done if you really mean it).

Sometimes stating understanding is done better with actions than with words. I had to learn it the hard and embarrassing way. Hopefully, this could divert some of you guys from making the same mistake; and if you do, I’ll understand.

Price of Peace

People always talk about peace and attaining peace and spreading peace; but none of this can be done if you are not a peaceful individual. If you are not a peaceful person, you are not fit to lead any campaign for the progression of peace. If you are not a peaceful nation, you cannot lead the world in a campaign for the progression of peace. If you are, in fact, a peaceful person, and you want to make a change that will bring forth peace in any environment, you have to be peaceful yourself first. Then you have to surround yourself with other like-minded peaceful people who can be led towards that one common goal.

Scenario:
There is an island of lawless rebels where only the strong survive. If you are not one of the strong, you have to align yourself with a strong group to ensure survival in exchange for all of your rights as an individual. Just imagine a prison environment on an island.

What would happen if we drop five peaceful people in the middle of that? How long would it take for them to conform to the dog-eat-dog nature? Or how long would it take for them to be… exterminated?

Now if we flip the demographics of this theoretical island and the peaceful are the majority with five violent people… What happens next? Will the peaceful people “get rid of” the violent ones to preserve their ways of life? If they do, are they still peaceful? Or will the violent people have to cause a considerable amount of damage before anything is done at all? The only thing that I’m sure of, is that those five will definitely cause some damage.

Peaceful people will do whatever they have to do to avoid confrontation. That’s what make them peaceful. Often these acts of consideration are mistaken for weaknesses and fearfulness, when in fact, they are direct opposite. It takes a special type of strength to avoid retaliation to direct wrongdoings.

The term dog-eat-dog world has at no time been something that I agree with simply because not everyone is a dog. I’m not a dog and I never intend to be one. I don’t want to kill, simply to not be killed. So what do I do? Do peaceful people adapt to the degree of ferocity around them to survive? To excel? To be noticed?

These are not rhetorical questions. I would honestly like to see what other peoples’ opinions are when it comes to this.

Dr. King led an entire nation to change with nonviolent protesting. Now while this may look like a weak approach to solving such a violent and hateful era that our country was in, I believe it is the only thing that would have worked. It took years of persistence though. It took sleepless nights. It took a vision of a better future for his people and this country. Unfortunately, in the end his life was still the price that had to be paid before change was made. It goes back to my idea that it takes a love that is bigger than the scope of your own life. Many people see the problems, but not many have the compassion and love that it takes to give their all to bring about the necessary change.

Jesus Christ gave his life for the sins of all mankind knowing that not everyone would accept his message; nevertheless he suffered the crucifixion for those who would accept him, even if it was just one. Never did he teach hate. Never did he condone it from anyone else. But yet and still he was executed in the worst and most shameful way, never laying a finger on anyone for their harm.

Hate and violence seems to always overcome those who are against it. The individual becomes a martyr for that belief, but to those who will witness the price that is paid, they are only examples of what not to do. The love of the cause, or humanity, or simply your neighbor has to be greater than the fear of death to begin a peaceful and selfless world.

With that being said, I also understand why some people say, “How can I change anything? I’, just one person.” I get it. It seems to be a task way too large to even make a dent. The way I see it though, is that the only reason the world is still turning is because there is always a man or woman willing to voluntarily pay the ultimate price for the greater good. If it were not for that handful of martyrs, where would we be today? That gives me hope. If we can just get more people to give a little more and want a little less, the price will be less expensive for an individual.

Is it unattainable? Hopefully, at my life’s end I’ll be able to answer more positively than I feel within my heart right now. I can hope though. We are all capable of sharing perspectives, giving in compassion and changing through love. That’s what gives me hope for the world.

The Perspective Park Creed

Sometimes when I look at humanity on a global scale, the problems that we face seem to be insurmountable.

I stand by that opinion with the notion that the reason I may feel this way is simply because I am American. This is the only land that I know, and I am proud to call this my home. However, I cannot help but notice the societal issues that should have been resolved long ago; especially by a country that is widely considered to be the most affluent on the planet.There are millions of people living below the poverty line here, but at the same time we have millionaires by the thousands. We enjoy the luxuries of buffets and running water while people starve, and children go to school everyday just to eat lunch. People drive huge SUVs and live in five and six bedroom (and more) houses, while orphanages are packed to capacity. Now I’m not saying that it is the sole responsibility of the wealthy to fix these issues, but I believe that there should be a personal sense of accountability to do so by every individual. I believe the insurmountable task is actually solving global-scale issues before solving the ones in the nation, and the individuals in that nation.

In the America we live in, everything is about securing as much as possible for yourself. We work hard and save every dime to retire to the beaches of the Key West. That’s basically the summarized version of what we call success. It rarely includes anyone besides those who are directly related to us. I know that this does not apply to every single person, but I am not afraid to say that it can easily be the mindset of 70% of the population.

Government officials do the best they can do by attempting to regulate taxes fairly among the rich and the poor, but then they turn around to steal the very same money. Large corporations do the best they can to create more jobs, but then they turn around and outsource those jobs overseas to maximize profit. The banking industry does the best it can to assist hardworking citizens in securing financial stability for their future, but then it turns around and lose the money in Ponzi schemes. So after all of this, the working man finally gets his hands on a few hard-earned dollars. It is hard to share after all you have witnessed is lying and stealing. The culture breeds attitudes that express statements like, “dog-eat-dog world” or “get yours like I got mine”.

Some people are homeless because they made bad decisions; I get that. However, there are countless homeless people that bad situations just happened to fall on. How often have you tried to differentiate between the two? Or do you treat them all the same? If homelessness is not your soft spot, then maybe you can tell me how many children deserve to be orphaned. It’s a really unfortunate dilemma and the solution that I have for it is so cliché that I don’t think people even consider it anymore. I think that’s because the word is rarely defined in the context where you have to place yourself in the position to do it.

We all need to love more.

Vague, right? Well, I can explain.

I have always looked for opportunities to help those in need and look forward to doing it more and on larger scales in the future. Whether it be adopting a child or simply feeding a man tomorrow at lunch, it will take love to do it the right way. Since becoming more involved in catering to these needs, I have developed a formula which makes it easy for me to love just about anyone. I’m not perfect and I’m no genius, so this formula may not work for everyone in every situation like it does for me, but it may help you understand my point a bit better.

In order to love, one must first have perspective. Perspective is defined as the ability to view things in their true relations or relative importance. If we could all look at a person and his or her life situations, considering the outcome of that life without positive intervention, maybe we would then realize the things we strive for everyday may not be as significant as we think they are. As a person of Christian faith, what is really important is a person’s life and soul. So if you have those two bases covered, you should be able to share – at least a little of – everything else.

The second thing that you need is compassion, which is defined as a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Once we get past the views of “Me, my four and no more”, we can develop a sense of urgency towards those outside of our circles. You will feel a need to help those just like you help those within your circles. At this point, compassion has grasped you, and you will do whatever you can to help whoever needs it. Now once you actually act on compassion and make a conscious decision to help someone in need, you have just committed an act of love.

The world cannot and will not fix itself. America cannot and will not fix itself. We as individuals must take it upon ourselves to change our views towards humanity and change it all one perspective at a time. Everyone can’t give a million dollars to charity, and some of us can’t bear the Christmas season at an orphanage or a children’s hospital, but all of us can do something.

Perspective + Compassion = Love

-Reginald.