Posted in connections, gifts, gratitude, mindset, thoughtfulness

Giving, generosity, and the humanity of recipients

Thanksgiving. Natural disasters. Christmas. Man-made disasters.

Toys. Food. Clothes. Household items. Socks. Diapers. Toiletries.

There are always people in need. There are times when, as an outsider, it seems more dire. And so, we have stuff drives.

My request to you—and it’s definitely not an original to me—is to be mindful with your donations.

The climbing gym has a food drive every winter that includes a sign indicating that expired foods won’t be accepted. Because they had so many people “donating” expired food.

It’s not a cleaning-out-the-pantry exercise. You’re providing food for people who don’t have food or don’t have enough food. Give them something tasty, something decent-quality. Give them something you would serve to guests.

Can you imagine how hard your life would be if you were food insecure? How much pride you’d swallow to eat at a soup kitchen? In that moment, imagine the food you’ve been gifted is not just better than nothing but is actually a treat.

That meal is extra luxurious in the midst of hardship. Simply because a donor spent $15 instead of $6 on donated food.

Clean out the pantry and throw away expired food. (If you won’t eat it, don’t give it to “beggars can’t be choosers” to eat.)

In the wake of disasters, in donating household items, again, it’s not a time to purge things that are not in good condition. Do that another time. Books should have all their pages. Games and puzzles should have all their pieces. Clothes should be clean and without tears or excessive wear.

Again, put yourself in the shoes of the recipient. Your house filled with water. You and your family are safe (or maybe they’re not…) but all of your possessions are gone.

You’re grateful and humbled by donations to get you through until you can get yourself moving again. (Months? Years?) What do you want? Are you “just happy to have something” if the clothes you’re offered smell? Or are stained? Are you grateful to have toys for your kids if the toys are broken?

As hurricane season commences, donation centers will be popping up. The holidays fall in line behind that.

Be generous. Be thoughtful. Be humble. Be grateful.

Posted in connections, gifts, vulnerability

Advantages to living out loud

The Climbing Daddy needed a run. I wanted to take pictures of some of the fantastic thunderheads we had that day. We went to a local park with small mountains/big rocks where he ran, I photographed, and we were both happy.

(Thunderheads are big, puffy clouds that are common during monsoon season here.)

I got a few good shots—mostly of cactus and trees, though one or two of clouds—and posted them on Facebook. (I’ll share them here on Sunday in my weekly photos post.)

The next day, I got the text in the above image.

Dear Heat’s Camera,

Are you seeing the clouds right now?!

-[friend’s name] eyes

If I wasn’t an “oversharer” on Facebook, I wouldn’t have gotten the tip to head outside.

(I did go out, and the clouds were amazing—added bonus for heat lightning!—but there wasn’t anywhere good to shoot from at home. We need to build a crow’s nest for just such occasions!)

This lesson has been a long time comin’. I’ve always been socially anxious and also introverted. (You can be introverted without being socially anxious; I’m not.) I’ve spent decades working on being more comfortable talking to people, and while I’m still not good at cold-starting conversations, I can hold up my end most of the time. (If I’m comfortable with you, I can and often will talk quite a bit.)

I’ve learned that in being somewhat transparent about my experiences with depression, I’ve given others someone to whom they can say, “Me, too.” That point of connection, especially in darkness, is priceless. (Every post on this topic, whether here or on Facebook, elicits at least one person reaching out.)

I’ve learned that in being open about my experience with cancer, friends who know someone diagnosed will ask me for advice in how to help them navigate their new minefield. (Unfortunately, this happens at least once or twice a year.)

I’ve learned that in talking about health- and wellness-related topics, people are more often comfortable asking me questions… which helps them on their path.

And, as in the example above, I’ve learned that if I’m just open about things I’m trying, places I’m going, things I’m thinking, sometimes someone else will have a tip for me.

I know I’ve done that as well—saw something and thought, “Oh, This Friend is into That Thing. I wonder if they know about This Thing that I just saw!” And I’ll let them know about it.

Sure, sometimes there are duplicates, but rarely are there so many that I feel anything negative about it. How lovely that people see something that reminds them of me and they take time to tell me! And, fortunately, all of the “somethings” so far have been positive.

Every now and then, it even leads to a tangible gift: a kitchen tool or a yard tool or a book or some other small miscellaneous thing that is perfect for whatever random project I’ve dreamed up.

It works in reverse as well. I had a new friend who posted on Facebook that they were looking for a roof shingle or two at the same time that we were getting our roof replaced. Perfect! If she hadn’t said anything, I never would have known.

So hobbies and stories and struggles and dreams and new pursuits and ditched pursuits will all still be shared, because I know that some of it reaches people who need to be reached … and sometimes that someone is me.

Posted in connections, mental health, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness

Don’t be that uncle

I have a student who has been playing an instrument for a week.

He came to class completely disheartened and said, “My uncle said I’m never going to be able to play this.”

Don’t be that uncle.

Of course the kid is struggling and sounds terrible right now. He’s been playing for a week. Instruments are hard.

Build them up instead of putting them down.

(And deal with whatever baggage you’re carrying that makes putting down your automatic response.)

Posted in cancer, connections, ebb & flow, thoughtfulness

Thinking of you

When someone dies, those close to the deceased have an onslaught of well-wishers.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer or another critical health issue, they have a similar herd of well-wishers.

When someone has another unfortunate life event, they have immediate help and concern.

The thing is … the support dies off well before needed (and is often overwhelming in bulk).

If you know someone who is three or four or nine months or a year or two years into something that you would have sent flowers for at the onset, send flowers again. Or initiate a visit or phone call (depending on proximity). Or send a card. Or a care package.

You’re not going to “remind” them that they suffered a loss or are sludging through an unfortunate chapter in their life. They didn’t forget. It just seems that everyone else did.

Go. Reach out. Make someone’s day.

Posted in connections, mental health, thoughtfulness

Oh Captain, My Captain

Yesterday was the 5th anniversary of Robin Williams’ death.

I remember the date because I wrote something about it on Facebook. (I’m not great any more at remembering dates, and I’m not sure this one would have stuck that specifically regardless.)

I’m not much of a movies or TV person, but he was phenomenal. Dead Poets Society remains my favorite movie (though I haven’t seen it in a while…).

Below were my thoughts that day, slightly edited because a couple of spots needed it.

 

Depression and sadness aren’t the same thing. We often say we’re depressed when we’re just really sad, and that muddles the issue.

“I’m here if you need me” doesn’t help.
“Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” doesn’t help.

Setting aside your own discomfort, using your knowledge that you can’t “fix” it but can still be supportive, showing up and being a friend—those are things that might help. (It occurs to me that this is true in a cancer diagnosis as well, but that is a tangent I’m not going to take right now.)

The answers might be obvious to you. The path might seem clear to you. (If depression is not something you’ve experienced, their thought process might be maddening.) To the person mired in depression, the answers and the path are not clear or obvious—or perhaps they are and they’re just not the same vision—and you can’t change that, either.

What can you do? You can stick around until they figure it out. It’s like addictions in that way—only the person living it can fix it, but the people around them can help or hurt. It might not be obvious that you’re being helpful. Do it anyway.

O Captain, My Captain. My heart aches for the pain you’ve endured. I hope you’ve found the peace you sought.