“I knew you when!”

photo (34)

My grandmother was practically a walking proverb!  She could always say something that would perfectly punctuate a situation and would eventually ring in my ears for years to come. So now that she is deceased, she never truly feels gone.

When someone became too judgmental of others, she would curtly say, “Well, I knew you when!” This meant that she knew that person when they were struggling; she knew them when they were low; she knew them when they had the same behavior that they were now judging.

It is amazing and fantastic when we decided that we want to be better people and elevate our experience on this earth.  However, as we get comfortable with our new paths and proudly acknowledge how far we have come, it becomes easier and easier to start saying things like, “If I can do it, anyone can do it!”  That’s not the truth!  While, yes, anyone is capable of a metamorphosis, no one will make those changes in exactly the same way.  It’s easy to forget that there are many factors that affect why and how people implement a change.  Resources, history, and support systems strongly influence the rate at which people alter their lives. We want people to meet us where we are and live our enlighten, zen, kick-butt life, but the truth is if you love someone you may need to be quiet and let them figure out their own journey.

I encourage you (myself included) to remember when.  Remember when you didn’t have all the answers and you needed someone to be patient with you. Remember the pain of growth and how there were times that you wanted to give-up. Remember when all you could do was hang your head and cry, because you knew there was something great in you dying to get out, but you didn’t know how to let it shine.  And remember you may have to tuck and roll; it’s a long way down from your high horse!

I saw America get on the Bus

 

I know it’s been a while since I posted last and this post is also late as it was meant as my Fourth of July post, but here it is!

This is a poem I wrote after riding a bus in New York City several years ago.  I was intrigued and humbled by how the bus (or subway for that matter) levels the playing field.  Every kind of person from every kind of background gets on the bus to get where they are going.  People are not judging each other or trying to be better than the person next to them; they are simply trying to get to their destination in life, but they are doing it together.  Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we treated our personal journeys  that way?  Just a thought…

 

I saw America get on the Bus©

By Vernée Smith-Isbell

I saw America get on the bus today

Shoulder to shoulder, packed tight shades of

Carmel, mocha, vanilla,

Bittersweet, latté, honey

Cinnamon, sugar, chai

Coffee with and without cream

Buildings rush by

So many suits and ties

Folks on the corner stand in line

I saw America get on the bus today

And they all talk the same; they speak

Lingo, slang, jargon

Colloquial, vernacular, patois

Dialect, idiolect, and lingua franca

She’s twenty minutes late

He has a lunch date

And it’s all very quaint

I saw America get on the bus today

CD, MP3, radio and cell

Each echo their own soundtrack

Latin jazz, classic rap, doo wop swing

Reggae blues, soul country, techno punk

Rhythm & rock, hip opera, disco pop

A baby cries

People start to rise

And I just close my eyes

The Music

    The People

The Voices

They blend together like harmonies

Each completely different,

But each compliments the next in perfect composition

I saw America get on the bus today

And I smiled.

The Peace Talks

I am not Catholic, but one thing that I’ve always liked about Catholic services is when each person turns to the people around them, shakes their hands, and says, “Peace be with you.”  And that person responds, “And also with you.”  In my efforts to give up fear for Lent, I am seeing more and more that it is important for us all to speak peace with one another.

One any given day it can feel like the world is against us, that nothing is going right, and that we will never reach our dreams.  The cure to this feeling is not just to rally within yourself, but to rally within a community.  Gather together with people of your ilk.  And by “ilk” I mean people that are about what you are about.  People that are of a similar mindset and are striving to achieve something great.

If you are struggling in school join a study group, if you are stressed/angry join a meditation group, if your feeling behind take a class, if you are lost reach out to our friends.  Put it on your schedule and gather in a place where the atmosphere compliments your needs (like the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter); pick a space that promotes joy, peace, and harmony- a safe place where you are free to think and dream.  Tell your people what is amazing about them; challenge their thoughts, support their spirit, lift them up, and ask them to so the same for you. Can you imagine the power of people all over the world meeting with the intention to raise each other higher?!?!?!  I bet it would literally move a mountain!

So run- don’t walk!! Get your people together on the phone, on Skype, in the coffee shop, at the mall, in the conference room,  in the classroom,  in the theater, at the bar, in the streets, and let the peace talks begin!

Freedom is the new Lent

I’m not Catholic, so I do not always participate in Lent, but I have on occasion given up chocolate or the like with the hopes of being a better person.  This year, as I’ve seen friends preparing for Lent, something important occurred to me.

Lent is about transformation.  We are meant to make sacrifices in order to move us towards our best selves. However, I realized that (when I participate) I have been giving up the wrong things.  Giving up chocolate was inconvenient and made me more creative about finding other things to satisfy my sweet tooth, but I never felt enlightened or more aware after the fact. This year I am attempting to give up shackles! I see shackles as the following:

Fear    Doubt   Shame   Guilt   Self Loathing   Judgement    Lack    Worry

I personally will be focusing on Fear as I feel it will free up some of the others for me.  What can you give up that is holding you back?  Or what can you change that would build you up? Remember Lent doesn’t have to be about gritting your teeth through sacrifice.  Allow Lent, or anytime that you feel so inspired, be about the transformation into the person you always dreamed you would be.  So what do you say?  For the next 40 days we move towards freedom and away from shackles!

The Platinum Rule

gold-platinum-parity

Years ago I was discussing with someone personal life philosophies and our modi operandi. I said that I was a golden rule kind of person- do unto others as you would have others do unto you. The person I was speaking with said that he was a platinum rule type of person. Never hearing this term before, I asked him what he meant. He said that the platinum rule is to do unto others as they would do unto themselves.

The Golden Rule vs the Platinum Rule looks like this:

You love chocolate chip cookies; they always make you feel better when you are upset. So when you notice  that your co-worked has been down in the dumps lately, you bake him some chocolate chip cookies. Your co-worker finds this to be a lovely gesture and takes them home to his family. That is the golden rule.

But what if you notice that every time your co-worker buys a sweet treat at lunch, he purchases a sugar cookie. So you bake this co- worker sugar cookies, instead, to cheer him up. He is so over joyed that his eyes get wet and he shares how his grandmother always made him sugar cookies and she has recently passed away. Your attention to detail made him recall a positive memory about her and  lifted his spirits. You made his day! This is the platinum rule!

The golden rule is great, but the platinum rule is just that extra level of consideration and care. The platinum rule requires us to stop looking within and start looking “without.”  If we take the time to observe and listen, we will learn to be attentive partners and parents, better co-workers,  and more involved friends.

Perception is 9/10 of Everything

I wrote this piece for my company’s blog.  It received a great response so I thought I would share it hear as well.  I tweaked it a, but the message is the same. Enjoy!

I once heard someone say that “there is no such thing as reality, only perception.” Meaning that how we perceive the world is the truth for each of us even if it contradicts with how others view the world. For example a villain in a movie doesn’t believe himself to be a villain or to be doing evil, he simply has a different morality code than the hero.  We all bring certain perceptions into our lives and interactions, however our perceptions of the world may not be appropriate for every situation- especially when working  with clients, fellow employees or even loved ones.

Consider the following scenario:
A father and his teenage son are driving home after the son’s basketball game, when their car goes over some black ice. The father loses control and their car hits the guard rail. Their vehicle is now in a ditch on its side. Both the father and son are taken to the hospital in an ambulance. The father dies on the way to the hospital and the son is rushed into the operating room. The surgeon is about ask for the scalpel, but instead says ” I cannot operate on this patient! He is my son!”

How is this possible?

This riddle first appeared on All in the Family (and later on The Cosby Show) and most people were stumped. Where you able to guess the right answer?  Originally, the answer was that the surgeon was the boy’s mother.  The riddle was meant to demonstrate how we categorize men and women into traditional roles based on our perceptions and illustrated a need for more diversity and inclusion.  (Even today when many people think of a doctor they think of a man first.)  However, how creative can you be with this situation?  The boy could have had two fathers or could have had a step-father. .

In this scenario you can see how our preconceptions can be inappropriate. Our history and our given circumstances help to form certain prejudices that we may not be aware of.  Clinging to our preconceived views of the world can interfere with our empathy; it can remove our ability to stand in some else’s shoes and to see events through their eyes. Ultimately, we could come across as uncaring and harsh. The next time  you have a difficult time with someone, ask yourself if you are bringing anything unnecessary to the table.

Appointments and Lollipops

A few years ago, I was working in a retail store of a cell phone provider and I was having a bad day. And I mean B-A-D! What I was feeling was clearly visible; you could see it in my posture and it was certainly all over my face. Seeing my distress, a customer asked if she could give me a hug. As she embraced me, she said something in my ear that I will never forget. She said, “Don’t let anyone steal your joy!”

I was dumbstruck by this statement! I had never heard anything so powerful. She was right; I was letting a temporary situation rob me of an otherwise good day. This stranger not only gave me good advice and an amazing mantra to live by, but she gave a new behavior. I started showing up for my “appointments”.

When I say appointments, I really mean opportunities. This woman caused me to remember times when teachers, friends, and family had shown up for appointments in my life to help me on my journey and/or inspired me to be a better person. I realized that I could do the same and so can you!

If we pay close enough attention, we can see when we have an appointment, an opportunity to be a positive influence and presence in someone’s life. Seize those opportunities in every arena.  At work be specific in your praise of a co-worker, “You taking ownership of this project was a huge help to the team. We’re lucky to have you.”  Thank your friends for stepping out of their comfort zone to be by your side, “You are the best for coming to Zumba with me! I couldn’t have walk in the door by myself!”  Show a little extra kindness like letting someone stand under your umbrella on a rainy day while you both wait for the bus.  You may think to say something difficult like, “You were really out of line today.  That’s not like you- what’s going on?”  Sometimes your appointment may be to not say anything at all and just listen.  These little moments matter immensely and they change lives.   Now shouldn’t you be going? I think you have an appointment!

To better illustrate my point please watch this TED Talks video.

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.