Epidemic

There’s a lot of commotion going on in the world right now. With opinions that differ in more ways than one and people butting heads over the desire to be right, I feel as if there’s been a dwindling of hope spreading across the nation – an epidemic of moral losses as everyone searches for a political gain. But the problem doesn’t lie outside of us – it’s not something we can put limitations on or negotiate – the problem lies within us.

I have a thing for encouraging shirts. No matter where I’m at, if I see a shirt with an encouraging or optimistic phrase on it, I have to buy it. It all started when I bought a shirt that says, “peace starts with empathy.” This shirt is my favorite, because it reminds me to be empathetic (understanding or compassionate towards experiences or people without having firsthand experience) no matter what the situation is. I think this world could use a lot of empathy right now. We seem to have collectively looked at the world, pinpointed a problem, and settled on the quickest and “easiest” solution possible, but the only reason this “solution” seems easy is because it doesn’t require any real change within us – it leaves all of us free of guilt while also leaving us free of change. But we can’t have both.

We need to change. Not laws or legislation, us. We need to be more responsible with our actions, more careful with our words, and more generous with our hearts. We need to make a point to reach our hand out every chance we get instead of stepping over all the people who have fallen and expect them to be okay. We need to get rid of this, “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” mindset and start helping others – the change may start within ourselves, but an individualistic mindset will lead to individualistic actions, and this world is in desperate need of collective actions.

Stop giving people reasons to feel alone. Stop giving people reasons to believe nobody cares. Stop giving this world reasons to lose hope. Let’s start a new epidemic – start filling yourself up with empathy and spreading light and love everywhere you go. The world is too dark of a place to keep it all inside.

Scattered

Have you ever seen a movie or t.v. show or even real life where a person is running through a hallway, rushing to get to a class or a meeting with stacks of paper, a cup of coffee, and other miscellaneous items in their hands, when all of a sudden something happens and they trip, sending the paper and everything they were holding flying, only to scatter everywhere? I feel like life can be like that sometimes… or a lot of times. Just when you think you’ve got things under control enough to get to where you need to be, something sends you flying. Maybe things weren’t exactly “under control,” but they were being handled.

Something about this semester has me feeling like that person who just tripped. Last week, I got caught with a terrible cold and had to cancel an important interview because I just couldn’t leave my dorm. Then, I drop my phone as I’m walking back from class, breaking it and leaving me phoneless until I go home next week. On top of that, I have two very important interviews on the same day, it’s midterms, I accidentally scheduled two presentations for the same day… the same Friday, and then a personal issue comes up that leaves me at a complete loss for how to respond to the situation. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like God looks down at me and thinks that I can handle more, when in reality, I’m still trying to pick up the papers from the last time I tripped.

But then I remember a conversation I had with a few of my friends a while back. We were talking about a similar topic – about whether or not God gives people more than they can handle. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot, because there have been plenty of times where I have been overwhelmed and wondered why or how I got into such a situation. But during the conversation with my friends, I was reminded that life never gives you more than you can handle. God never gives you more than you can handle. Sometimes you’re just given what feels like too much to help you realize just how strong you actually are – just how much you can actually handle. If you’ve ever worked out or trained for something, you know what it’s like to have a goal in mind that at the start feels impossible to reach. Runners start out with a mile a day, but strive to run a marathon. Weight lifters start with just the bar, but aim to lift hundreds of pounds. Musicians start with scales, but dream of playing sonatas. We start out small all the time and work our way to become something so much greater. The only difference between those examples and the everyday growing that happens in life, is in life we don’t always set such explicit goals – we just grow stronger.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of our lives that we don’t realize the strength that we’re gaining from lifting the weight of life. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking some time to wallow in self-pity and complain about all that life is throwing your way – sometimes we just need to get that negativity off our chest. But at some point, we need to look at the wreckage of our lives and realize that the best thing to do is build from it. When you’ve tripped and the papers you’re holding scatter every which way, take a deep breath, pick up the papers, and walk it off. You’ll be okay.

Trusting Through the Storm

When I was younger I used to love the movie The Little Princess. It was about a young girl who’s father got drafted into the war, and because she had no other relatives, she was forced to stay in a girl’s home in New York. This girl was intelligent and outspoken which got her into quite some trouble in the house. Eventually, this young girl’s father comes back but she is not allowed to leave the house for various difficult reasons. However, at the end of the movie, there is a scene where this young girl is trying to get away and get to her father. She is standing at the very top of this house and there is a long piece of plywood stretching from her window to another. The weather is dreadful and the rain is pouring, but the girl steps out onto the wood and attempts to make her way over. Despite the rain, the slips, and the sheer panic, she makes it into her fathers arms.

Just like the young girl balancing out in the rain, there are a lot of times where we’re left with the choice to stay or to trust and cross. Isn’t it funny how it wasn’t sunny and seventy when she had to make that journey? No, it was cold and raining and nighttime – not exactly ideal circumstances for a difficult situation. But this seems to be how things are in life, too. When it rains, it pours, and we’re left dripping wet and cold. But, the thing about trusting and crossing through the storm is that in the movie, the girl trusted both herself and her father, and we should do the same. Because at the end of the day, He will always be there to catch us in His arms.

It’s no secret that life gets hard and things don’t always work out the way we hope. It’s just one of the things we sign up for when we come into this world. But even the worst things are bearable and even the largest risks are worth it when you know that, no matter what, God will be there to catch you if and when you fall. A friend once told me that he doesn’t believe God will only give you as much as you can handle – sometimes He’ll give you more. And maybe that’s true. Maybe God will give you more than you can handle because He can handle the rest. I guess sometimes you just have to trust – trust through the storm.

 

Mourning Life

We were fit into a mold the second we were born. This mold is one that grows – think of it like the spray on shoes in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. It stretches to keep fitting us as we grow, but it is a mold nonetheless. This mold is made up of rules and expectations that are attached to our beings, and the threat of what will happen when we break them is greater than our desire to actually do the breaking. We are pawns in a game that can only be won by queens and kings. But it seems to me that the threat of breaking these norms is only great because the system (the game, if you will) has been the same for so long that people can’t bear the thought of something different. But rules were made to be broken, and I like to think my generation is pretty good at doing just that.

I have the utmost respect for my parents and other adult role-models in my life. However, if I hear the phrase “because that’s just the way it is” one more time, I will lose my mind. The “way it is” is the way it was set a long time ago, and we live in such progressive times that I, and anybody else for that matter, can’t honestly be expected to follow in the same footsteps as my parents or my parents’ parents or any generations before. We are expected to get a decent paying job, have a decent family, and live in a decent house. But I don’t want to live a decent life. I want to live an extraordinary life.

This game we are forced to play isn’t one that I want to be a part of. I have never cared about being rich or living an overall stable lifestyle because I know that with my goals that’s not something that I’m likely to have. I expect instability and a few bumpy roads along the way. But as long as I’m taking part in something that brings me joy and benefits not only me, but the people around me, that’s what really matters. I know quite a few people my age with this mindset – one where the price of the game isn’t worth it. I hope someday this can become a more widely accepted perception of life. I know there are people out there who are working jobs they hate and walking through life just to get through the day, and I know they are doing that because they feel like they have to. But it’s about time we realize this is not the way life has to be lived.

We need to stop mourning a life we don’t have because we feel our dreams died before they even had a chance to live.

Supportive through the Gray

I like to think of myself as a very supportive person. I’m a hype-man with my friends –  cheering them on and supporting them – and I’m a cushion for my family – someone they can fall back on if they ever lose their balance or stumble. But one of the things I have a hard time doing is being supportive when I don’t want to be. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to encourage the people I love just because I don’t feel like it (although encouragement can be hard when you don’t always feel it yourself), but rather, supporting people through decisions I don’t necessarily approve of or agree with can be challenging.

Every day I’m forced to remind myself that people don’t think the way I do. Not everyone has the same dreams. Not everyone has the same plans. Not everyone has the same tolerance or the same mindset. You would think this is common sense, and it kind of is, but that doesn’t mean it’s something I always remember. I could be in a conversation or an argument and it won’t even occur to me that this person is different – it’s not until I actively remind myself that they are not the same that I’ll then try to change my perspective to one that matches theirs in order to understand. But sometimes I reallyyy don’t want to. I just want them to think like me. I just want them to see why what they’re doing/saying is ridiculous. (I can practically hear the gasps and whispers about how I’m being selfish.) But this is something everyone thinks, just not everyone admits to thinking it.

Lately I’ve been watching as someone I love hasn’t been supported in the way he needs because people (myself included) don’t agree with his ways. But what I’ve realized is that this lack of support isn’t pushing him to do the right thing, instead, it’s just pushing him away. Right and wrong aren’t concepts that are set in stone. There are clearly things that should be right to everyone and there are things that should be wrong to everyone, but there is also a very large gray area that nobody can agree on. Maybe it’s not our place to tell someone what shade of gray they’re standing on – whether it’s right or wrong. I think the better option would be to step back and tell the person that if they succeed, you’ll be proud, and if they fall, you’ll catch them.

The reason supporting people through decisions you don’t deem “right” is difficult is because you see failure on the other end. But if we could acknowledge that we see failure, while trying to understand how the other person sees success, well, maybe that’s what true support is.