Tag Archives: Empathy

Stop and Smell The Roses

28 Jun

older blogI would say one of my favourite things in life is connecting with others.  Meeting new people, engaging in great conversation, learning things about them, having a laugh and sharing common bits. I grew up in the country where one of our main time passers was visiting our neighbours and family members – on those visits conversation always flowed.  My father always hammered into my head – ask questions, ask questions, ask questions.  So as a girl who had a natural draw to others I got to practice my conversation and question asking skills all the time!  Those skills have brought me some of my best memories in life.

On my way to work today I was trotting along with the dogs when I heard someone running up behind me saying “Excuse me, excuse me!” I turned around thinking she was going to tell me that my dress was stuck in my underwear and that my butt was hanging out or that I had dropped something from my bag.  She said “My friend is across the street – the guy in the wheelchair.  He was in a serious accident and has been in the hospital for a month and he really misses his dog.  Would you mind letting him pet your dogs?”  “Would I mind, it would be my pleasure!”  So we made our way across the street.  It ends up that he fell asleep on his way to work and he is now paralyzed.  I always feel like the dogs know when someone is feeling vulnerable, so they add extra bits of affection.  Millie got right up on his lap and started licking his face and Jillie laid her head on his legs looking up at him with her sweet eyes.  He just kept saying over and over again ‘You’re such good dogs.  Jillie, you look so much like my dog.  I miss her so much.’  After a solid twenty minutes of this love fest and great conversation,  he said to me ‘Wow, I just realized that was the first time I had totally forgotten about being paralyzed since it happened.  Thank you so much for taking the time to stop.”  Oh boy.  I thanked him right back – his attitude towards his new norm was completely inspiring.

We all live in a busy world.  Lots to do.  Places to go.  Distracted by phones ringing.  Distracted by podcasts.  Distracted by music.  Distracted by texts.  Distracted by social media.  Distracted by finances.  Distracted by schedules.  Distracted by stress.  Distracted by life.  Divorce.  Urban life.  We need to slow down.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development spanned over 80 years; it is one of the longest studies in the world.  The study hoped to find clues into what predictors cause some people to lead healthy and long lives.  Guess what they found?  The quality of ones relationships with loved ones, friends and their community was singlehandedly the biggest predictor of health and happiness.  When you have strong relationships you are more likely to exercise, maintain a healthy weight, feel less depressed, enjoy your work, and use alcohol in moderation.  Close relationships, more than money or fame, bring you joy.  It is true folks – empathy, compassion, communication, connection, and a sense of community matter the most.

I have this bizarre notion that I am never going to die.  I just can’t imagine it.  I think I will be on the cover of The National Inquirer with the headline ‘The Canadian Woman Who Never Died’.  In case my notion is true – I am going to keep connecting, conversing and offering compassion whenever I can so that I can add as many days as possible to my life.  Meeting that guy today inspired me to stop and smell the roses for even longer than I usually do.

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Think before you speak (and post)

16 Dec

hiding-computerI’ve always been a positive person.  I wake up feeling happy and look forward to seeing what the day is going to bring me (and what I will bring to it).  If someone ever gave me a set of pajamas that say ‘Don’t Talk To Me Until I Have My Coffee’ they wouldn’t know me well at all.  I like to think I am ‘realistically positive’.  Not the type of positive that you want to kick in the teeth.   There are things I find hard to be positive about –  winter for one. There is a whole lot of ugly commentary that goes on in my head surrounding winter. But then I am able to move on from it as my it is my choice to live in a part of the world where winter happens.   I remember going to my confirmation classes with our priest and one of the boys asked facetiously ‘Father, do I have to confess EVERY dirty thought I have?’ to which Father MacDonald replied ‘If you confessed you that you had 13 dirty thoughts today I would beat you and say I had 19’.  Kind of like dirty thoughts – everyone has negative thoughts.

I’ve noticed something lately though and it is eating at my positive self. Media and social media has caused our society to become this cesspool of negativity.   Trump consumed people for months and the media/people posted every awful thing he said or did. It was as if the world was ending. Post after post of hysteria.   Police officers, drivers, developers, healthcare – no one is safe from this online judgement.  Where I live there is the threat of a teachers strike right now.  There is work to rule action in place – meaning that teachers are only doing what their contract binds them to do.  It seems every other person is posting some awful accusation or critical viewpoint of teachers or the government.  It is as if social media has given all of those ugly inner thoughts we have a place to be displayed and confessed.  In the past it meant going over to someone’s house to talk or writing a letter to the paper or going to a public political meeting.  It takes balls to get up in front of a group to speak publically about a criticism you may have and it takes skill to write a well crafted letter which the paper will print.  It doesn’t take much courage or skill to post negative/critical comments online.  In fact, any donkey or educated person (who statistically are actually the most critical) with an internet connection can do it.  Just like the earlier mentioned dirty thoughts – not every thought you have needs to be confessed.

It is the holiday season.  A time when we are historically especially stressed. And we all know what stress does: it brings those ugly-inner-critical-of-others-thoughts closer to the surface.   We are rushing around searching for presents, getting groceries, travelling.  Here are a few facts: it is going to be busy.  The parking lot is going to be full.  There are going to be lines.   And if you’re travelling the airlines might lose your luggage.  But what we must remember is that we are choosing to do whatever it is that we are doing. Set yourself up for success.  Have a drink before you go.  Go for a run.  Get laid.  Whatever it takes to get you into a good frame of mind.  Don’t go to Costco at 2 pm on a Saturday.

Before you go take a minute (or rather 4:23) to watch this video  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wl2_knlv_xw.

I hope reading this has encouraged you to think before you speak, post or share.  The fact is: teachers are people who also have children, politicians are people we voted into power, you’ve been the person who didn’t see the light turn green and should remember how jarring it is to have someone blare their horn at you, you’ve been helped by a police officer before and our healthcare system has saved the life of someone you love.  I know you’re better than that.  Come on team let’s look on the bright side of things.  You’re alive.  Use your input in a more powerful way.

Think:

T: is it true?

H: is it helpful?

I: is it inspiring

N: is it necessary?

K: it is kind?