My Hero Of The Week

Polish discus thrower, Piotr Malachowski, won a Silver Medal recently at the games in Rio. But it’s not what he did at the games that mattered, it’s what he did when he returned home.

Piotr heard about a three-year old boy suffering from a rare form of eye cancer called retinoblastoma. The little boy needed surgery that could possibly save his life, but it cost 126,000.  Piotr immediately put his Silver Medal up for auction in hopes it would raise 84,000 for the surgery. A third of the money had already been raised by the Polish Foundation, Siepomaga.

The price of the medal had reached 19,000 when Piotr removed it. It seems two Polish billionaires, Dominika and Sebastian Kulczyk agreed to purchase the medal for the remaining cost of the surgery.

I don’t know of a more important medal that was won at Rio and I don’t know of a more worthy participant.

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Let’s pray Piotr’s compassion and the generosity of everyone involved results in a happy and healthy life for this little boy.

God Bless them all.

 

No Complaining Here

“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
― Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

This has nothing to do with the point of this post but whenever I heard Maya Angelou speak, I always imagined that’s how God would sound. She had such a commanding voice, one that could admonish you while gently holding you in her arms at the same time. She deserved a mountaintop. It’s a rare gift.

Anyway, back to what I intended to write before I was distracted with the voice in my head.

I don’t like being around complainers. (Apparently Maya didn’t either). They wear on me. They bring me down. They make me lose my appetite for sweets and that’s a really hard thing to do.

We all know these people, right? They’re all around us, especially in the workplace. Those people who complain about everyone and everything. They hate the company, they don’t like their supervisor, they don’t get paid enough, they’re not appreciated, the company picnic sucked, why is there a dress code, their co-worker annoys them, management doesn’t know what they’re doing, no one knows what their doing.

It’s exhausting.

These are the same people who carry over their bubbly personalities to their private lives. You know who they are. They live in a world where cynicism reigns supreme, where every statement or conversation begins and ends with some form of negativity. There are no positive aspects of their lives which they choose to focus on, Instead they beat you over the head with the direness of their existence.

Now let me be clear, there is a difference between endlessly complaining and sharing your problems with loved ones/friends. There is a difference between deciding to live in the quicksand you’re stuck in and searching for a way out. My issue is with those people who get off on the negativity, who choose to remain in the job they have without even making an attempt to find another one, who keep telling us how difficult it is to do something, without ever really making an attempt to resolve the issue facing them.

In my mind, most people have two choices. You either change your situation or you stop complaining about it. Don’t remind me every time I see you how miserable you are and then do nothing to try to correct it.  Again, I realize that not everything is that simple and some people have extenuating circumstances that may prevent them from making that choice but that’s not what, or who, this is about.

I’m reminded of the story about a guy who sits down with his friend at lunch and as he takes out his food, complains that everyday he has the same boring bologna sandwich. His friend tells him that he should ask his wife to make him something else, to which the guy replies, “I make my own sandwiches.”

Maya would have liked the bologna story.

Loneliness

There was a sad, yet heartwarming story that came out of Rome yesterday. Police responded to a call after someone reported crying and shouting coming from an apartment. When police arrived they were met by a couple, Jole who is 84 and her husband Michele who is 94. They have been married for 70 years.
The couple was not upset because a crime had been committed, but because they were overcome by loneliness and the depressing news they had been watching on television. Apparently they had not been visited by anyone in a while since much of the city empties out during the summer months and neighbors were on holiday.
In an attempt to make them feel better, the police stayed with them, cooked them a simple spaghetti meal and spent the evening listening to stories of their lives.

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Loneliness affects millions of people, especially the elderly who are homebound and unable to participate in society the way they once did. A recent study claims that while only 18% of the elderly live alone, 43% felt lonely. That’s a difficult statistic to read.
Whether someone has lost a spouse or has grown old together, the way this Italian couple has, advanced age can take a toll on your life, even if you are relatively healthy. We all know people in the 80’s and 90’s who remain very active but the majority of those who have lived that long have lost most, if not all of their friends, and what remains is a time in their lives that most people don’t remember.

While age alone does not corner the market on loneliness, there is an isolation for many older people which doesn’t offer them an opportunity to alter their lives. Phone calls and visits certainly help but much of their day involves little or no human contact. The difficult truth or realization for many is that life has moved on without them. They are no longer part of a working society, have given up their cars, and rarely leave their homes except for medical visits. The independence of living alone that many elderly people prefer to have, comes with a cost that most of us can’t imagine or prefer not to think about. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. What they know and see is confined to the walls of the rooms that surround them and like this couple in Italy, those walls seem to get closer each day.

We celebrate age with parties and photos in the newspapers of people who have turned 90 or 100 and it is quite an accomplishment. The experts tell us that advances in the field of medicine will allow people to live longer. But there is a difference between living and being alive. All of these people were alive once. They lived active and full lives; had families, jobs, hobbies, and were most likely surrounded by people on a daily basis. I don’t think they ever thought about loneliness.

We all know people like Jole and Michele. Sometimes we see them out somewhere or sitting on a porch or at a window, watching life go by as we pass. Sometimes a wave turns into a smile, sometimes a smile into voice.

At the end of the day, we all need to believe that our lives have a voice.

 

Why?

My wife and I were having a late lunch outdoors at a casual restaurant the other day. Small groups of women sat at two of the tables, one table had two men and two tables were occupied by professional looking, well dressed couples. One couple looked to be in their 30’s the other in their mid 40’s. I’m not sure if they were married but since they were both directly in front of me, I could tell by their conversation that they were much more than friends. They seemed to have a pleasant lunch, laughed several times, conversed easily and when the bill was presented, the guy paid. A short time later the 30’s couple left and about five minutes after that, the 40’s couple did the same.

But it was how they left that really bothered me and almost caused me to leave my seat.

In both cases, the guy stood up and began walking to the parking lot before the woman was even out of her seat. In both cases, the guy opened his car door and got in while the woman was still navigating her way out of the patio dining area. In both cases the guy started the car as the woman was walking through the parking lot. The woman who was in her 40’s looked over at me as she passed by and gave me an embarrassed smile before looking away.

There aren’t many things that really get under my skin but disrespect is at the very top of my list. The problem is, I don’t know who I was more upset with, the guys for being disrespectful or the women for tolerating it. Because I would bet the ranch this isn’t the first time this happened. This is their relationship. This is how these men treat these women and this is what these women accept. The question is why?

I’ve always believed that you can’t force someone to respect you but you sure as hell can refuse to be disrespected. If someone allows it to happen, it is guaranteed to continue. I realize this works both ways; that both men and women are responsible for this type of behavior toward the other but I believe women share the brunt of this type of boorish behavior.

If you don’t respect the person you’re in a relationship with, then why are you there? If you’re not respected by the person you are in a relationship with, then why do you stay?

I don’t understand.

Stones Upon Stones

“Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them.
They move on. They move away.
The moments that used to define them are covered by
moments of their own accomplishments.

It is not until much later, that
children understand;
their stories and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories
of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones,
beneath the water of their lives.”
― Paulo Coelho

There have been many things written about the relationship between parents and their children but these few lines encompass so much of that journey, simply because it moves across decades of change.

Parenting is a lifetime voyage and I don’t think we fully realize that when we’re young parents. We’re too busy being in the moment of day-to-day craziness to think about having twenty or thirty or forty-year old children.

Then, a couple of breaths later, we’re there.

How we handle that transition is encapsulated in the first line of Paulo’s words. More times than not, we have difficulty letting go. As young parents we don’t believe that will be an issue. Idealistically, we plan on giving our children roots and wings and encourage them to live their lives as they see fit. But twenty plus years of habits are sometimes hard to break. We have spent, until it’s time to allow them to move on, the better part of our adult lives guiding them, instructing them, encouraging them and caring for their well-being. Our emotional investment in our children cannot be overstated, simplified or pushed to the curb because a certain age or time in their life has arrived.

So what do we do?

We try to adjust. We sit on the side and watch instead of instructing. We attempt to bite our tongues instead of questioning or suggesting. We try to not offer unless we’re asked and even then we temper our comments. Because of our life experiences, we sometimes see the mistakes well before they do and while our innate reaction based on years of protection come to our lips, we understand the lessons of learning to ride a bike without training wheels apply to adult life as well as childhood.

But it’s difficult to watch sometimes and even more difficult to remain silent because, as with most relationships, you just never know how a positive suggestion or comment might be interpreted. With children, those feelings or concerns are magnified to the highest possible levels for all the obvious reasons.

When you become a parent, it’s a lifetime commitment. It never leaves you, it just changes direction, places you on the sidelines instead of on the playing field. Your concerns/worries are always with you but your voice during those times are sometimes held in, and I suppose that’s how it should be. Still, it’s hard to not give in to your natural instincts, of protecting and defending, regardless of age..

There is an old Yiddish saying, “LIttle children disturb your sleep, big ones, your life.”

 All children who become parents understand at some point. It never goes away.

Free Grandparent Advice

 

My five-year old granddaughter, Sophia, called me tonight and said, “Grandpa, you’re the best person in our whole family.”

I sat up and raised my eyebrows a bit because Sophia doesn’t usually dish compliments easily. So I figured she either wanted something or she had a high fever and was a bit delirious. I cautiously thanked her, told her I loved her, and she asked if I wanted to speak to her Mom. I said okay.
When my daughter got on the phone I asked her where that came from. She said they were in the kitchen and Sophia just said it. When my daughter asked her why she felt that way she said, “because grandpa always gives me chocolate chip cookies.”

BAM!!!!!

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Its like I always say, if you’re going to show up, you have to show out.

Sometimes it’s fun being the man. Even if it only lasts five minutes and requires a chocolate chip cookie payoff.

 

Perhaps Love

Thirty-five years ago John Denver wrote a song dedicated to his wife Annie. They were separated at the time and headed for divorce.
As he prepared to record the song, someone decided it would be a good idea to pair a country singer with a Spanish tenor. So John Denver and Placido Domingo got together in a studio and recorded what I believe is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written.
Though it only had modest commercial success, rising to 59 on the billboard 100 and 22 on the on adult chart, it has sold over four million copies.

On this Sunday morning, following another difficult week in our world, I think we can all find time for a moment of love. What better way than through music.