Friday, September 25, 2009

What did you just call me?

I know a lot people are growing weary of being politically correct all the time, but I still feel like I need to say something on this issue. Most of us are aware, though some not always compliant, that it is in poor taste to call someone or something retarded or gay. These words, when used out of context are rude to people for whom these words actually apply. There are also more appropriate ways to describe said people. Hopefully everyone is at least making an effort to not offend others and have stopped using these words.

Along the same lines though are a few other words that are bandied about in casual conversation, used inappropriately and can be offensive. Words like, bi-polar, shitzo, manic or mental. There are people who live daily with diagnosed mental illness. These people have feelings, rights and opinions just like everyone else. When these words are used to describe someone who is acting out of the norm or is perceived as being bizarre - it is not okay. It is rude and offensive.

This is what I tell my kids about the words they use to describe people: When you are describing some maladaptive behavior in someone and are tempted to use one of the words I have listed above, substitute your own name for that adjective. Does it still sound okay to say "Oh my goodness she is acting so Kim"? I don't think so. I think anyone would be offended if their own name where used to put someone else down. It doesn't seem so insignificant when you are the one who is being personified as some sort of freak of nature.

We should all try to be more aware of those around us and how our words can offend. Whoever said words can never hurt was so dead wrong. Words can wound like nothing else in my opinion. We are all different, unique and individual people. We should build one another up with our words instead of being disrespectful by our casual use of words that we really know nothing about. There are plenty of other adjectives out there that can be used instead of bi-polar, shitzo, manic or mental. We should expand our vocabulary instead of inadvertently offending others because we don't know what the heck we're saying. We should educate ourselves.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why I Volunteer

I do a lot of volunteer work. I do about 30 hours a week of volunteer work as a matter of fact. I don't say that to toot my own horn. I have an ulterior motive for my altruistic ways. It just makes me feel good. I feel almost guilty that it make me feel so good. It is almost like I don't even care what the cause is, I just love to volunteer for it. Well, that is not exactly true, because I do pick my volunteer opportunities carefully and I love all the places and organizations I volunteer for. For the past 10 years I have concentrated most of my volunteer activities at the public schools my children attend. This year they are in three different schools so it gives me a great opportunity to make a difference to a wider variety of students and staff. I love everyone at all three school, but my heart will always belong to the elementary school where my youngest attends fifth grade. All four of my kids have attended from kindergarten through fifth grade at the school and I have loved every minute of ever hour I've spent volunteering there.

This morning was a typical volunteer day for me. My daughter arranged a ride for herself to get to high school, which is a couple of miles away and starts an hour and a half later than the elementary school. This would allow me to drop my two middle school kids off a bit early and be at the elementary school with my youngest before the bell rang so that I could help out with Picture Day. As luck would have it, it was raining this morning and a two minute drive to the middle school took more like 15. I was in a rush when I arrived at the elementary school. The carpool line was really long, so I decided to circumvent the line and proceed to the parking lot. I signalled well in advance so that people would know that I was turning. As I made my turn, I heard a horn honking at me. I didn't think much of it because I just figured someone wasn't aware that I wasn't cutting in line, but only going around them to park. No big deal. I parked and got out of the car. As I was closing my car door an angry dad yelled at me, as he was getting his daughter out of the car "Hey, you cut me off back there!" I said "No, I didn't I had my signal on". He claimed I didn't and proceeded to tell me that if I did it again he would call the police on me. I just said "You know what, I'm not going to get into it" and walked into the building.

Later on I saw the parent telling the Principal about the incendent. Oh, well, what can you do, right? After all these years I just hoped that the Principal would understand that I am not a rude driver who cuts people off in the school parking lot. I mean, I do yell at people when I drive, but I don't make jestures or cut people off, especially in the SCHOOL PARKING LOT - that is another journal altogether. I have to show my face around that school, I love it there, I wouldn't do something stupid in the parking lot. I just hoped the Principal knew that. Luckily she did.

Fast forward a couple (four) hours into the ordeal that is picture day at an elementary school to the reason I love volunteering so much. I was still funneling the children onto the cafeteria stage when one of the grades came in to eat their lunches. I look over to my right and a cute little girl (the daughter of the man who had reamed me out) motioned for me to come over to her. I went over, figuring she needed help opening her milk - a frequent need for children her age. The kids are used to seeing me there and most think I work there, so they think nothing of asking me to do a task for them. So, I said "What do you need, sweetie?". She said to me "I just wanted to say I am sorry my daddy yelled at you this morning." I was flabbergasted. I said "Oh, sweetie, it's okay, no big deal, see I'm fine now." And then this little girl with big brown eyes looked at me and said "I just wanted to apologize because I knew my daddy wouldn't." O.My.Goodness. That broke my heart into a million pieces.

Incidents like that cement my belief that one person can make a difference in a child's life. Over the years I have had similar incidences, although not quite so dramatic happen with various students. I have felt their need and have taken the extra time to seek them out and say hi to them, ask about their day, look them in the eye and tell them they rock. There are kids out there, even in wealthy suburbs who are starving for this kind of attention. It is a tragedy that is happening at every school in every city across the nation. I have committed to standing in the gap for these children. Maybe, just maybe when they are needing a little pick me up, they will recall that I high fived them in the hall, remembered their name and said something positive to them about themselves. It may not seem like much, but it is the least I can do.

Everyone should know the joy that volunteering brings to your life. There really is nothing like it in the world. I don't want any kudos for the work that I do without getting paid. The benefits are so great and it makes me so happy that it really wouldn't be fair to get paid for it anyway. I never plan to stop.

Friday, September 4, 2009

How I deal with rejection

I have written here before about my love for words and my passion for writing. Not very many days have gone by in the past 40 years of my life that I have not written something. Some days it will only be a quick note dashed off to a child’s teacher; time constraints and life often get in the way of any real writing that I may have on my mind. That doesn’t usually stop my mind from writing, though. My mind is almost constantly in a state of thought, as I compose little snippets of this and that inside my head. It really wasn’t until adulthood that I realized that not everyone had these compositions swirling around in their heads all the time. I had no idea.
I certainly never thought of it as a gift. I thought of them as daydreaming; nothing more. Other people in my family were the gifted ones. My artist sister, my brother the musician, my father who builds beautiful furniture and my creative mother; those were the talented people. Everyone could actually see and hear their offerings - their art. I was just the kid who made up stories, read and lived inside her own head; nothing special there. Or so I was led to believe. I guess if you have no tangible offering at the end of the day it is not really worth much by the world‘s standards. Certainly, no one ever encouraged me to pursue my writing.
Funny thing happened a few years ago. I discovered the internet. I admit that I was forced - kicking and resisting into the World Wide Web. I had to learn how to send and receive e-mails or I was going to be left out of the loop in some of my circles. Anyone who knows me knows that being left out of the loop is a fate worse than death in my book, so I reluctantly learned how to use the internet. Once I opened the Pandora’s Box that is the internet, I discovered a whole new world. A world where I could write down those bits of composition from my head and with the touch of a button other people could read it. At lasts a tangible result of my ponderous, daydreaming mind. It was a beautiful thing. I began, slowly, to put myself (my work) out there and I was encouraged by the positive feedback I began to encounter. Bolstered by that positivism I began to venture out a little more. It is one thing for nameless, faceless people on the internet to read my work, but it is another thing all together for those who are close to me to read and analyze the things I write. I was finally able to bring myself to ask my family to read what I wrote, but it took some courage.
Here is something that some of you may not understand about writing. When a writer writes and puts her words out for the public to read, it is the same as a painter hanging her art on the wall of an art gallery. It is a piece of the artist. Her heart, her offering to the world, a sliver of her soul is on display. So it is with my writing. Every word is a brushstroke, every sentence a piece of a painting written on a blank canvas that when completed is an offering, a piece of my heart laid out for the world to judge. That is a scary proposition let me tell you. It leaves you vulnerable to the tempestuous judgment of others.
I have learned to accept that as I put my work, and thus myself, on display it is open season for criticism. I understand that some of the things I write about are not interesting to all who read it. That is to be expected. I also know that no one is going to agree with my position on every issue. I can live with that. The public, they are a fickle lot. I endeavor not to allow them too much power in my life. What is still difficult for me is apathy from those who claim to love me. It is rejection at its deepest level - right in the pit of my soul. I mourn the fact that some will simply never be able to give me what I need from them. For whatever reason, it is impossible for them. I accept that even as I grieve.
It is when I feel the sting of disinterest from those around me that I look toward scripture to encourage me. I know that my God alone will always be in my corner. He is the one bottomless source of encouragement that I have. It gives me immeasurable comfort to know that he is there. In those quiet hours of the night when I question my very existence he whispers in my ear - I created you and my works are wonderful. How wonderful to know that there was no mistake. He had a clear plan in mind when I he created me. No rejection, no apathy, no detachment felt by any human can touch the promise that God has spoken to me. Unconditional love and acceptance. It is a beautiful thing. How can I live in anything less than success and victory with my creator’s blessing and authority written on my heart? I can't. I owe God too much. And so, I press on.