It’s the thought that counts. Really?

I recently watched Bono’s speech he gave to Georgetown University. You can watch it here. It is a bit long, so grab a cuppa before you settle in and hit play.

I have great respect for Bono and the work that he and the amazing people at One do. The poverty issue is close to my heart, as it links with other big issues that I feel strongly about ie the sex slave industry.

Much of what he said resonated with me. One of the things he said that impacted me was that while it’s great to have heart for an issue, to feel compassion and empathy, it isn’t worth much without some action.

And I realised how true that is, all over again.

It’s easy to sit in our comfortable armchairs as the ads for World Vision flick past. It’s easy, even, to shed a tear at the sight of all those AIDS orphans with their swollen stomachs and flies buzzing around their eyes.

We may even think to ourselves that we should support a child in poverty. It tugs at our compassion and then we forget about it in the rush of our busy lives, only to maybe be prompted again the next time the ads on TV, where we have the whole thought process again – with the same ending.

We all know the saying it’s the thought that counts. Really? Really?? Think about it.

When did a good intention ever do anyone any actual good?

We need to be intentional about carrying through on our intentions.

Good intentions never fed a hungry child in Africa or rescued a child in Thailand.

Action did.

Picking up the phone and calling an aid organisation and sponsoring a child  is action.

Going to the One site, reading and becoming a member is action.

Committing to donating a portion of your yearly income to aids organisations is action.

Stop thinking about it and do it. Simply act.

Another thing Bono said was that until we really, truly, understand that that child starving in Africa, that mother dying of AIDS, has the exact same value as we do, we will do nothing.

Let me say that again – until we grasp that others have the same intrinsic value that we do, we will do nothing.

What will you do?

If money weren’t an issue…

I get so tired of the advice to ‘do whatever you would do if money weren’t an issue’. Because, for most of us, it is.

Like it or not, money is an integral part of our lives and society.

If you are a faithful reader of this blog, you will know that I am all about following your dreams, finding fulfilment and endeavouring to suck the very marrow out of life. So I am not at all suggesting that we must ‘resign’ ourselves to less than we are capable of or ‘settle’ just because that’s the easy way. Not at all.

But we have to sustain our physical lives. We all have a mortgage or rent to pay, we all need to eat, be clothed and pay for electricity and other amenities. Some of us have school fees, dance lessons, music lessons, and sport that we choose to pay in order that our children have a broad range of opportunities.

I am not a very money focused person – my long suffering husband will attest to that – so it’s definitely not that I think we should chase money. It’s just that it’s so unrealistic!

Most people, if money were not an issue, would do things that would not bring in much money, or no money at all, or not bring in enough until years down the track. Like writing, painting, gardening, volunteer work, travelling. Because, one of the things we would enjoy about money not being an issue is money not being an issue. So, we would pursue paths that had little to no income for precisely that reason.

Let’s say we do choose a life path based on nothing but our desire to do what we wanted –  what do we live on in the meantime? The government? Charity from friends and family? And what if those friends and family decided they should only pursue their desires? They wouldn’t have the means to support us while we were writing poetry, learning macrame or cross breeding roses.

So how do we find a happy medium? How do we follow and pursue our dreams and still make a living that can support our responsibilities?

I know of one person who I think has found a pretty good balance. They have a day job they really don’t like, but that day job has allowed them to learn a musical instrument, learn other crafts, travel, drink very good wine and put children through private school, given them dance and sport lessons and helped them with their first cars. All in all, they have followed their desires, their passions, yet have done the hard yards doing something that is less than satisfying work-wise.

So maybe your day job only just pays your way, with no money left over to take piano lessons, or travel, or drink $50 bottles of wine but you can still pursue your passions. It doesn’t cost much to write, or paint, or get into the garden.

Living purely and solely for our passions is not only impractical, it is inherently selfish. It is selfish to sacrifice other’s best interests for the sake of our passions.

Just for a minute, imagine a world in which every single one of us did that. There would be no-one to put our groceries through the check out, or fix that blocked drain, or help us get the most from our tax return. We would all be off busily writing odes to the objects of our affection, sitting on a beach contemplating our navels in the Bahamas or strumming away on our badly tuned guitar in the garage.

No, there must be a balance. And I say a balance, for too much meaningless work without some effort put into our passions is no good at all.

For me, contentment in life is the pursuit of well-roundedness. We must do things in life that we don’t like or we will most certainly become spoilt, immature, soft spined creatures indeed. A mixture of both, pursuit of passion, and mundane work life is surely what will engender in us a true sense of appreciation for all aspects of life – not just the pursuit of our own happiness.

 

The way you make me feel.

Last week, I rang a business I had never called before, looking to enlist their services. The lady on the phone was a little abrupt and then, straight after she had asked a relevant question and I had begun to answer, it became clear to me that she wasn’t listening. And then it became abundantly clear when she started talking to someone else and I could hear him answering her, you know, like a proper conversation. A bit like the one she should have been having with me.

I stopped talking and waited for her to finish this other conversation that was obviously far more important than procuring my new business. I ended the conversation fairly shortly after that.

Funnily enough, I don’t think I’ll use this particular company.

Now, of course, we could talk about customer service (or lack thereof) but what it made me start to wonder is why? Why did it put me off so quickly? Why does that mean I’ll not be calling this company again for their services?

It’s because of how it made me feel.

It made me feel like I didn’t matter. Like I wasn’t important. Not only as a potential customer but as a person. You ask a question, you listen to the answer. Simple, I would have thought.

I have a fairly healthy self esteem, so my strongest reaction was to decide there and then that I would not give that business my time or money. But it also made me feel small and insignificant. Which isn’t nice.

We all like to feel we matter. I would even go so far as to say that for some that feeling is the difference between life and death. As long as we matter to someone we feel that life is worth it. That we are worth it.

Seemingly little things like being shunned on the phone by a stranger, being ignored in the tea-break room at work, feeling invisible at school or in the school carpark, can all add up to make us feel that we don’t matter.

We need to take care with each other. That one smile that shows you have seen someone, a simple ‘hello’ when passing a stranger in a corridor, really listening to the answer when you ask a question at a party – all these things are small but have enormous ramifications for those around us.

I guess the Bible verse about treating others as you want to be treated has not grown tired with age. If we try to live with an awareness of others, with an awareness of ourselves and what makes us tick, we will start positively feeding into those around us.

And it might just make more difference than you will ever know.

Dear 15 year old me.

Dear me,

Firstly, stop worrying about how you look, act and what people think of you. Don’t worry about your braces, you will be thankful for having had them later on. And although your hair is neither curly nor straight, don’t worry, in about 25 years wavy will be all the rage, just you wait and see.

Don’t worry that you are too skinny, too pale, too loud, too silly…simply be you. In just a few years, you will meet someone who loves the quirky, crazy, can’t-calm-down parts of you and he will help you come to love that side of you too, and you will wonder why you ever questioned who you were.

You have a mix of independence and longing to fit in – that’s okay, the two can work together. Use your longing to fit in to figure out who you really are, to help you make good decisions and then stand by them afterwards. Use it to give you compassion for those whose desire to belong overcomes their good sense and causes them to treat you, and others, badly. And use your independence to become strong and brave, and with a heart set on justice, ready to forge your own path.

And all those dreams you have right now? Don’t ever stop dreaming. Some of them have come true and some are still waiting to happen. It doesn’t matter…sometimes it’s the dreaming that is important, not just the realisation of them.

Don’t be bothered by the fact that you don’t have many friends. When you are older, you will have friendships that are rich and amazing and go far beyond what you could even imagine right now. And you mother is right…other 15 year old girls are threatened by sassy, funny, honest girls like you, and will treat you badly because of their own insecurities, so listen to her advice. You will need it later on, too, as you will be dealing with the same issues except the insecure girls will now just be insecure women. And you will learn, somewhere in your 30’s, how to really determine which women are worth the while. And you will be able to relax and let friendships grow and allow people to really see the you inside. So don’t worry that you don’t have that now; it’s coming, and it’s worth the wait.

Work harder at school. Your parents are right – you DO have a good brain in your head. Yes, you are good dancer, and yes, you will get into that performing arts school, but life has a funny way of changing things on us and it’s good to have a back up plan just like your parent’s told you to have. Listen to them!

Remember these days. You will one day have daughters and you will need to remember what it was like to be 15, to be able to truthfully look into their tear filled eyes and say you understand. Because you will understand. Because you have lived and have felt things that are universal and unique, all at once.

And love? It will come and it will be better than in any of those books you are reading, better than on the TV shows you are watching, like 90210, and more satisfying than anyone will ever be able to tell you. It will be rocky, really rocky, and you will wonder at the beginning if it will be worth it. I can tell you, it is. So push through, don’t despair and don’t give up.

And the biggest thing I would say to you?

Don’t lose your passion. Don’t lose yourself. For you were made you for a reason. It’s cliched but there really is no-one like you.

Don’t waste it. Embrace it, enjoy it, share it. For you will learn that giving of yourself to the world is one of the best ways to change it and is the greatest gift you can give.

Love (finally) from me.

What are you thinking?

When my husband and I were mere boyfriend/girlfriend, I used to drive him nuts by asking quite frequently “What are you thinking – RIGHT NOW!” I know now that this scenario is typical of the male/female psyche and I’m pleased to say, I have outgrown asking the poor man what he is thinking (or, some might say, I got tired of the boring answers 😉 ).

Anyway, we all know that our thoughts say much about where we are at, and can, in fact, have a great bearing on our whole lives.

Sitting in church on Sunday, the pastor posed an interesting question – which may not have been wise, as it set me off on a whole train of thought and it is just possible I missed a large portion of what he said afterward. He asked us what was the first thing we said that morning and cited an American radio station who posed the same question to their listeners and the segment became a big hit.

I tried to think back and realised that, seeing as I get up most mornings before everyone else, the first words I uttered were probably “Good morning!” to whoever woke up next an hour or so later. So then, I started wondering what my first thought had been (you can see why I didn’t hear much of the sermon after that, can’t you!) and that was a bit harder to pin down.

Given the way I am feeling of late, it was probably a thought that had some stress attached to it, either about one of the kids, the business or the mould on my zucchini plants.

And in the days since, I have tried to be conscious of my first thoughts. By doing this, I can tell you, my thought life needs a bit of an overhaul.

What I think in the morning sets up my day.

I have been an optimist for most of my adult life but lately I have been tending towards the ‘dark side’. And I don’t like it. I liked being the ridiculously optimistic one who perpetually saw the bright side of life even in the face of evidence to the contrary. I want to go back there.

I know we all go through seasons, ups and downs in life, that sometimes we can’t explain but I do wonder if I might start with changing my morning thoughts. It’s somewhere to start, at least.

How about you? What’s the first thing you said or thought this morning? How did it effect the rest of your day?

Oh and PS…the sermon was great…I’m sure of it…well, at least, when I asked my husband what he was thinking on the way home in the car, he said the sermon, so it must have been 😉

Why are we giving?

I had an interesting chat with a friend the other day sparked by my insistence that the only real computers/tablets/phones were the ones with the little ‘i’ as their first letter.

He disagreed, as is his prerogative, I suppose, even though he is, like, totally wrong.

His reasons for not liking Mac products, and not being willing to buy them, were mainly due to Mac’s well publicised and discussed reticence in giving to charity.

I pointed out that with the new CEO Tim Cook at the helm, there had been some changes in that area.

My friend maintained that the company was shamed into giving and that, in his opinion, it did not count for much if the intent behind it wasn’t really to help others but to just increase their kudos in the consumer sector.

And, you guessed it, that got me thinking 🙂

Does the motive for giving negate the good of the gift?

On a corporate level, I don’t think it does. Those millions of dollars are still worth millions of dollars to the charity they are given to, regardless of how Tim Cook felt about metaphorically signing the cheque. And I think it would be naive to think that any corporation really gave out of the goodness of their hearts – they are all doing it because they know that we feel better about buying their products if we think they are nice people. I am generalising, of course…I’m sure there are a few good souls out there in their suits and mercedes…but overall, big corporations are out to make money for themselves and their shareholders, not so they can give it all away.

So, anytime Apple wants to hand me a big fat cheque to help rescue people from human trafficking in Thailand or educate women in India or feed starving children in Africa, I will happily accept it thank-you-very-much.

But, do the same rules apply to personal giving? Maybe not.

When we give with an open hand, whether it’s our time, our money or another resource, the recipient will receive far more than just that one donation; they receive the blessing that goes right along with it when our hearts are in the right place. And, of course, how great do we feel when we give? We get a warm fuzzy feeling and, while that’s not the reason to give, it certainly is a lovely by-product.

When we give with a hard heart and a begrudging fist – and make it clear that we do so – we fail to give joy along with our gift but instead give a sense of indebtedness. And that’s no fun for anybody. And we deprive ourselves of far more than the physical money or time we have given. We deprive ourselves of the pleasure of knowing we have done some good and made a difference to someone’s life. We deprive ourselves of the pure joy that giving inextricably brings.

So. Does the motive behind giving really matter?

I think the person it matters most to is…you.