The Importance of Life Stories

I have three main occupations (and many “sub-descriptive” occupations as well): First and foremost, I am a follower of Christ. God saved me from the pit of despair when I was just sixteen years old.  I am a sales associate. This is my day job that helps pay the bills and where I serve God the most.  Finally, I am a blogger and writer.  In writing, I have been made very aware of the power of stories—both fictional and real—in order to cultivate learning and more effective interactions with others.  Letting people share their stories and telling our own are both vital in cultivating more effective and fulfilling human interactions.  Here are some reasons why learning other people’s life stories are so important to effect better communication and interactions with others:

  1. It eliminates prejudicial attitudes.—A lot of people call racists and other prejudiced people “ignorant,” which I believe is a fitting term for them because they are often judging without knowing their targets’ stories. Although there are elements in some circles of feminism that I disagree with, one thing I like about almost all feminism, especially intersectional feminism, is that they take the time to learn about others’ stories, especially those that are often marginalized and shunned by society. If all of us (me included) would take more time to just get to know others better without prejudging them as “bad” in some way, we would probably discover that they are more like us than we realize. For instance, there were some people at work that at first irritated and angered me.  However, as time passed and I got to know them a little bit better, I realized not only did they have a lot of similarities to me, but there was a lot of pain and hurt in their life stories.  I know it is difficult (even for me), but as Rachel Scott said in one of her essays, “Code of Ethics” about not judging others and showing compassion, “ [D]id you ever ask them what their goal in life is, what kind of past they came from? Did they experience love; did they experience hurt; did you look into their soul and not just their appearance? Until you know them and not just their “type”, you have no right to shun them. You have not looked for their beauty, their good.”  (source: http://rachelschallenge.org/media/media_press_kit/Code_of_ethics.pdf)
  2. Knowing other people’s life stories cultivates a sense of understanding. –When we learn about other people’s goals, likes and dislikes, what kind of past they came from, and their experiences with love and hurt, we understand them better and are able to interact with them more effectively. For instance, before I knew one of my former pastors well, I did not trust him. In fact, because of his gregarious and upbeat personality, I assumed he “had it all together” and would not be able to relate to my problems and issues, or anyone else’s. However, when he told me part of his life story, I realized I had it all wrong.  I realized that he didn’t always have it all together.  I realized that because of what he had told me that he would indeed have great compassion of all that I had been through in life. I have realized that when I know a person’s life story better, I begin to understand what motivates their actions and why certain things bother them, or why certain things make them very happy.  If we took the time to get to know others better, it would not only eliminate wrong judgments, but we would be more understanding and compassionate of them because we know what they have been through.
  3. Getting to know other people’s stories adds value to them as a person.—When we listen as people tell us their stories or when we have a genuine interest in another’s life story, we show that we value them. We are, in essence, saying to them, “ I want to know more about you because you are that important to me. I want to understand you better because the stories you will tell are valuable to that purpose. Your story has value, and I can learn much from you.” We are also saying we respect them and what they have to offer when we have a genuine interest in learning about them.  For instance, if a good friend of yours confided in you about being abused in his or her past, when you listen to them without offering advice, but instead offer encouragement and just a listening ear, we are telling them, “I care about what happened to you, and you are not alone in this.”

This is why learning about others’ life stories is so important. It would eliminate much of the prejudice we see in this society; we would truly understand others’ motivations better and not just assume they are doing things just to be “mean” or “nasty” or out of selfish desires.  It also tells others that they are valuable and what they have to say is important. What are some important life stories you have learned that helped you understand someone or several people better? Please feel free to share in the comments, but please do NOT use people’s real names or specific details of a situation.

 

 

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Things That Inspire Me and Why

In a previous post, I wrote about the top ten people in my life that inspire me. Though I believe people are most important, these other creatures and things also play a pivotal role in making this world a better place.  Here are some things (in no particular order) that inspire me about life, or that I find beautiful and wonderful, and why they inspire me:

  1. Sunshine—I love sunshine because, to me, it represents hope and God’s light. When I see the sun in the sky, I feel much happier and alive, than when it is dark and dreary outside.  I love the sun because it lights up everything around it and envelops me in warmth.
  2. Flowers-–I love flowers of all shapes and sizes. They not only beautify the earth but also give off much-needed oxygen for us humans.
  3. Waterfalls-The strength and sheer power in the waterfalls that I have seen in my life are just amazing! Not only do they grace this earth with beauty and God’s power, but I believe that they are one of the most interesting phenomena in nature.
  4. The Internet—I love the Internet because it has the power to connect people who may otherwise never meet. Though there are evils on the internet, I believe that the Internet also can be used for very good purposes. For instance, families and friends who are separated by distance can stay in touch and encourage one another with such applications like Skype and Facebook Video.  Also, the Internet can be used to track and apprehend criminals and advocate for justice and love.
  5. Music that glorifies God and encourages others.—I love music that touches your emotions like no other medium can, in a positive way. For instance, I love the group Casting Crowns, because their music communicates depth to me and makes me think about the life I’m living more and the impact it has on others.
  6. Teddy Bears—I love Teddy Bears because they are used to comfort people, especially children and are so cute. They inspire me because of what they represent—love, encouragement, and being a comfort to others.
  7. Moominmamma, of Moomin fame.—(What are Moomins? See this link) Besides Moomintroll, I love Moominmama because she never worries about things, and she always tries to see the positive side of things. For instance, when her son, Moomintroll, had a lot of guests in her home and had to use a lot of resources, she wasn’t upset at all, but said, “ Thank goodness that you took care of the people, so I wasn’t put to shame.” (Jansson, 132-from Moominland Midwinter)
  8. Electricity—I love that I am privileged to be able to have electricity in my home. I love how electricity makes almost everything run, and how it never seems to run out.  It even makes the Internet work!
  9. Trees—Trees inspire me by how they can stand tall without falling over (unless they are dying) and how beautiful and unique each tree’s leaves are.  I like how they give off oxygen and how they are so stately and how big some of them are and/or will become.
  10. Dogs—Dogs inspire me because of their loyalty and friendliness to humans. I love how dogs greet their owners and stand by them when their owners need their presence. This is how people should be to each other as well—loyal and kind.
  11. Cats—Cats inspire me because of their agility and their adaptability to different situations. My brother has a cat, and this cat is very agile and has been both indoors and outdoors, and so far seems to be able to adapt to both.

These are some of the things that inspire me, either in or of themselves or what they represent to me. Many of these things have qualities that people can emulate in some way or admire. What are some things that inspire you? Why? Please feel free to discuss in comments.

Like a Child: Qualities That Adults Should Emulate

In many parts of the world, children are seen as dispensable and unimportant. You may have heard it said that children should be seen, not heard. However, in the Bible, in Matthew 18:2-4 (KJV), it says, “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever, therefore, shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” These verses are saying that children are so important to Jesus, that He has made being like one a requirement for people to go into heaven!  Although there are characteristics of children that we should absolutely not imitate (to be discussed in another post), there are several that absolutely should be a part of most, if not all, of an adult’s character as well. These following traits of most children are what can make our lives more joyful and fulfilling:

  1. The wonder/awe of a child.—As a sales associate, I get to see children on almost a daily basis. Although some of them do things that most adults may seem annoying, I love the awe and the curiosity that many children have. They love to learn and explore new and different things.  This attitude is essential for adults to have as well. For instance, I try to have the wonder and awe of a child when I am learning a new task at work.  When people lose their sense of awe and wonder at their job, their performance usually suffers because they no longer care about what and how they are doing. These people aren’t willing to try or learn new things.  When we have the wonder of a child, we are more open to be able to learn new things.
  2. The creativity of a child.—Most children are very creative because of their wonder and awe of everything around them. They love to create and learn new things. I know this was true of me as a child as well. When I was disciplined and had to do a quiet activity like reading or writing, instead of doing something more fun, I used to write little stories about the world around me and/or the world in my head. A lot of children when asked to draw their family, for example, have very creative ways of expressing their families and how they look like to them. Creativity is also essential for adults. Because we have more life experience, having the creativity of a child coupled with this experiential wisdom can help us grow as people because we can constantly do things more efficiently and/or look at things from different perspectives. Looking at things from different angles, as opposed to being closed-minded, can help adults be more unified with one another and with children in a positive way, and can help us understand others better.
  3. The trust of a child—that they see the best in others.—When I was very young, I was very trusting of others. Yes, this could have been a problem when people wanted to take advantage of me, but all in all, the faith of a child is beautiful because it sees the best in others. Unless severely abused, most children are not cynical or suspicious of others.  They see the best in others. This was true of me as well.  For instance, when I didn’t see or hear Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, I did not suspect that my parents were lying about him, but that he must have come in quietly or that he was just delayed.  However, as I got older and had more life experience, that trust of others quickly ebbed away. However, I would like to regain the trust of others that I had as a child, seeing the best in others, because being cynical and negative about others creates friction and is not a good way to live. When I don’t trust others, I cannot bond with and love them the way that I need to in order to sustain a lasting relationship with them. When someone wrongs me, but I still strive to see the good in them, I create an atmosphere of grace, instead of judgment and condemnation that is so often created when one is wronged by another. Having the trust of a child can help one spiritually as well. For instance, I believe in the goodness and the faithfulness of God. However, when I fail to trust God as I believe I should, my spiritual life and my mood suffer.
  4. The innocence of a child.—Very young children typically don’t curse others (unless it is a regular occurrence in their home) and they usually aren’t allowed to see some of the evil that adults often do. Some parents don’t allow their children to see certain movies or television shows because they want to preserve the innocence of that child.  When the innocence of a child is shattered, usually by abuse or being exposed to certain evils that are beyond their grasp, these children are scarred forever. These things not only take away their sense of innocence but also their trust in others and the world around them.  However, when a child’s innocence is allowed to remain for an appropriate period of time, I believe that they are more likely to be well-adjusted and have a positive view of the world around them.  Although most of us adults have seen enough evils of the world not to be able to have the absolute innocence of a child, I believe we can regain some of it back by choosing not to participate in some of the things we believe are evil in the world around us. For instance, I see rape culture as not only degenerating to people but also as evil. This is why I will not watch movies, listen to music, or read books that glorify rape or the treatment of people as objects.  When we regain some of our childlike innocence, we can begin to have a more positive impact on this world.

These are some of the qualities of children that adults should emulate. If we had the wonder and awe, the creativity, the trust, and the innocence of a child, I believe that this world would be a better and more productive place in which to live.  What are some childlike qualities that you, as an adult, want to imitate today? If you have children, what qualities do you see in them, would you like to incorporate in your own character? Please feel free to discuss this in comments

People are Gifts: How to Value Others

This is a kind of part two to the post about how you are precious.  So,  not only we are precious, but others around us are as well. I have often observed in society a disturbing trend where some people are treating others as if they were disposable. Sometimes, I must admit, that I am tempted to do the same. I have heard disturbing stories about parents who have abused and/or killed their child or children in the name of convenience or revenge on their ex-partner or spouse.  In the workplace, I have heard of countless cases where the work being done is not ever appreciated or met with a “thank you,” but instead criticized or complained about because it isn’t met to perfect standards. Divorce and infidelity in marriage are very commonplace, especially here in the U.S, but other countries it is starting to become more common as well. How do we then take a stand against treating others as disposable and instead treating them like the gifts they are? Here are a few things I found effective in us leading the way in treating other people with value and dignity, instead of as commodities for our own selfish pleasures:

  1. View people as gifts to be treasured instead of commodities or annoyances.– What if we looked at each person we encountered today as a gift from God instead of as an inconvenience or as a commodity? I believe that every person we encounter is sent to teach us something about ourselves or about life. If we get to engage with a loved one or a friend, he or she is teaching us the value of joy, love, and friendship. If we have to engage with a difficult person, he or she is teaching us to be patient and challenging us how to love without expecting anything back.  Also, every person we encounter, I believe, is put in our paths for a reason. For instance, I believe I met my current manager *Chris (NOT his real name) not only so I could get a job but also teach me how to love better and so God could refine my character through him, and help me grow in my job there. The pastors at my church were put on my life’s path (I believe) to help me further grow in my faith and to help support me in my life’s journey. Also, the pastors have helped me think of others more and I was put on their path to help serve with them too.
  2. Be grateful for every person who does something good, either to you or for the benefit of others.— At my job, for instance, if a customer goes out of their way to help me pick up a display that I accidentally dropped, I would say something like, ” Thank you for going out of your way to help me pick the display items up. I really appreciate that.” The customer doesn’t have to do that for me, but if he or she does, it shows that he or she is a decent and caring person, and we should applaud people like that, not only because they deserve it but also to encourage them to continue their thoughtful actions.  If your child (if you are a parent) does something praiseworthy like cleaning up their room without being asked, or helping you cook a meal, you should teach them gratitude by expressing yours.  This will not only lift the child’s spirit but also model gratitude that they can and should imitate if they see someone else do good to them or to others they care about.
  3. Know that each person is unique and cannot be replaced by anyone.–In a society where people are often not valued, we often fall for the lie that someone can be replaced by someone else.  Yes, in a job situation, people are replaced all the time by others. Even so, we should be careful not to fall into this “replacement mentality” and let it influence how we treat other people.  For instance, I had often wanted people I didn’t like or didn’t get along with to be replaced by another “nicer” person. I did not care about learning from them (much to my disadvantage) or finding value in them. This is how most people I have encountered think.  However, if I had instead thought about how I could learn from them and how even they are unique and special, I would have been able to get out of that negative mindset sooner.  No one, not even identical twins, has exactly the same DNA as another.  Everyone is unique. Treat others as precious, because once someone is gone from this earth, you won’t see them on this side of the dirt again.

These are some ways we can value each person as precious. We all have value, even the people we don’t like or see eye to eye with all the time.  Everyone is a gift to be treasured. Enjoy and value your gifts today!

Why YOU are precious

With approximately 6 billion people on this planet, it is easy to feel overlooked and unimportant to everyone, or anyone, for that matter. Feeling overlooked and unappreciated can lead one to take desperate measures to feel more loved and important, such as conforming to one’s peer group even if they don’t agree with what is being said or done, or doing something, positive or negative, to gain someone else’s love and appreciation. Some have already given up the search, and have delved into addiction and numbing, to ease their pain of feeling unloved and overlooked.  However, we don’t have to–if we know how precious we are, both in (I believe) God’s sight and others’ sight.

Here are some reasons why every human you encounter (yes, including yourself) is very precious:

  1. Every human being has a complex, intricate body. (source:  http://www.dandydesigns.org/id57.html)– For instance, think of the complexity of the brain itself, having (count them!) three trillion nerve cells being coordinated by it!  We have 131 million nerve receptors in our eyes! We have 35 million gland cells in our digestive tract so that it will digest food and not itself.  Think of all the muscles it takes to walk or to smell, to sleep, or even to eat! Wow! We have a complex body.  Think about it for yourself…
  2. Every human being has something to teach us.–Whether the person has boundless energy or is bedbound, we can learn some great things when we interact with another person.  I have learned so much from those around me, including, but not limited to, my family and friends, my co-workers, my managers, and even customers I only meet once. We not only learn the basics like their name, their interests, and maybe about their families but sometimes also their personalities and how to better relate to them. This is true even with the people we don’t get along with well. For instance, I have had some peers who made fun of me and tormented me during my years in school, but what I learned from them is how NOT to be, and to instead value others as people and not commodities.
  3. Every human being has something to contribute to society.-–Whether the person is always up and about and works 80 hours a week, or is bedbound because he or she is very sick, he or she can contribute to society. How can the bed bound person contribute to society, one may ask? They can contribute by. a.) Helping the able bodied people appreciate what they have more.  b.) Through prayer, if the bed bound person is spiritual. c.) Helping the able-bodied person be able to be a blessing and serve the bed bound person.  The person who is always up and about, of course, contributes by working hard and by serving others.  Whether bedbound, disabled, or able-bodied, no human being is worthless! We all have infinite value.
  4. Every human being has a story to tell.–Everybody I have met has a story to tell us. In their stories, we can not only learn more about them and life but how their stories weave into our own.  For instance, when I met my friend V, she just moved from another state, and I had been in my now former church for a couple of years. I welcomed her, and as time went on, learned more about her life story (her family, how she got to where she was, her future plans and goals, etc…) and it interwove with mine (She got to know who my family was, my future plans and goals, and how I got to where I was..). This can be repeated for every human being I have ever encountered, not just my family and friends. It can be even a brief encounter, but once we meet someone and learn their story, our lives intersect, in a way, forever.

So whether you are White, Black, or another race or ethnicity, tall or short, fat or thin, rich or poor, or any other human identifier, you are indeed a very precious human being.  Because we are so precious, let us treat each other that way, and not as commodities to be used, but as the treasures we all are.  Who can you love today?

PS: This is the 100th post! 🙂 I wanted to commemorate all the readers of this blog with this post!

How To Defeat Prejudice

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, White Nationalists and alt-right groups and those against them clashed violently in Charlottesville, Virginia. Then, a 20-year-old man plowed into a crowd with his car, killing one young woman in the crowd.  Because of what happened that day, I felt a responsibility to not only condemn what happened but also to conquer all hate with love.  I admit that I have had some prejudicial thoughts myself about certain people and have sometimes judged people unfairly. We all have. This isn’t just about defeating racism (though that is, of course, very important too) but also about defeating all forms of prejudice and hatred in this world.  Here are some things I have found effective in defeating prejudice.

  1. Counter hate with love. Always.–To effectively defeat both prejudices in our own hearts, and melt others’ hard hearts, we must first aim to love.  There is a severe lack of love in this world, and not only because certain people are in power. I suspect this has been going on since near the beginning of time!  We don’t have to always agree with how people live or what they do, but we do have to love. I believe Jesus loved so much that even when He was being crucified and mocked by religious leaders, the Roman soldiers, and others, He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 b and c, KJV) .  This is why He is now one of the most respected religious leaders that ever lived!  Never hate someone just because they are different than you.  One way you can do this is to find the good in everyone you meet, even those who rub you the wrong way. 99.5% (if not all) people have at least one admirable quality about them; no person is all bad.
  2. Forgive, forgive, forgive.– One of the ways to defeat prejudice is to have a forgiving heart because, most, if not all prejudice, stems from a grudge-filled heart against a person or group of people. Create a policy in your heart that says that you will not hold a grudge against anyone after a certain period of time (HINT: It needs to be sooner than “after many years” or “never”).  This may be harder for some, but we must persevere in forgiveness.  Yes, we may have a right to hold a grudge, especially if what someone did to you was grievous or vile, but what good will it do you? You are not really “punishing” the offender because they probably don’t give a care about what you think of them or what they did wrong. You are only hurting yourself and preventing other people who did nothing to hurt you from helping you to heal from your wounds and forget about the person that hurt you. I have also heard many stories about people forgiving their offenders for particularly horrific crimes ranging from rape to murder, and everything in between, and how they related that they felt freer once they let the offender off their hook and let God take care of the justice in their case.
  3. Stand up against prejudice in all forms.–Another way to defeat prejudice is to stand up against it in all its forms. For instance, if you see someone post a mean tweet about someone or a group of people, gently but very firmly rebuke that person.  I would personally say something like, “That is not true. Saying [name mean thing that they are saying in general terms], will not change anything.  Please stop it! ” OR if you feel too upset to say anything civil, report that post to the proper authorities.  If you see or hear someone ridiculing, for example, someone who is disabled or otherwise different in some way, stand up to the offender and/or tell them to “Stop it.” very firmly in an authoritative kind of voice. If they don’t or they escalate or make excuses for their behavior, report them to the proper authorities.  If a person or persons voicing prejudicial or hate-filled views is coming to your workplace or school, protest against them, but do so peacefully, otherwise, your message won’t be taken seriously by anyone and you will be cast as similar to the hate-filled people.

These are just some things you can do to defeat prejudice in all its forms. We must conquer hate-filled hearts with a message of love and hope for all people, not just ones that are similar to us in some way.  We also must be vigilant to conquer against any hate lurking in our own hearts and lives and eradicate it immediately.  What other things do YOU think can be done to combat prejudice? Who can YOU love today?

source: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/13/us/charlottesville-white-nationalist-rally-car-crash/index.html

On Upsetting the Applecart

Upsetting the applecart, according to Dictionary.com, is to spoil carefully laid out plans.  (Source: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/upset–the–applecart) However, how I define upsetting the applecart, is doing anything that will upset the status quo. For instance, if everyone is supposed to wear red, and you are wearing blue, you may be upsetting the applecart.

Sometimes it is important not to upset the applecart. Examples and explanations of situations where it would not be so wise to upset the applecart would be as follows:

  1. In order to rebel against authority–Ninety percent of the time, it is not a good idea to upset the applecart by rebelling against authority figures in your life, whether it be the police, teachers, or bosses. Not only will you get in trouble, but you will also not likely to induce the changes you want to be made either by the authority themselves, or the peers around you.
  2. By doing something that is illegal and/or immoral.–If you are upsetting the applecart by doing something that is grossly immoral or illegal because you don’t like something or because you want to do what you want to without any regard to the consequences of your actions, that is being reckless. It is not really changing anything or really “upsetting the applecart” in any positive or significant way.

There are other times, however, when it would be very wise to upset the applecart. Examples of these may be as follows:

  1. When the people around you are doing something wrong or unproductive (i.e..when things that “have always been done this way” will not accomplish the desired result or results in the long run). –For instance,  if you work in an environment where people are regularly nasty to each other and are always fighting, you can upset the applecart, so to speak, by refusing to engage in that environment or instead be speaking encouraging things to those you meet there.
  2. When you want to accomplish sustained, positive change in the world around you.–For example, many countries in the past engaged in enslaving people that they thought were “inferior” to themselves.  Now we know that that is wrong. In the past, many thought it was just the way things were, but abolitionists like William Wilberforce and Fredrick Douglas, worked together to eventually put an end to slavery here in the U.S.   They upset the slave owners’ applecart, so to speak, to win the freedom of millions of mistreated African slaves in the U.S.
  3. When you want to be true to your values and convictions, even if everyone else around you is not in agreement.–For instance, my faith hero, Rachel Scott, made a dent in this world and upset the applecart, by being not only vocal about her Christian faith but also applying her faith to her daily life, even though it meant her losing all of her good friends at school.  Another situation where upsetting the applecart may be wise is when you see someone being unfairly treated or bullied, and you stand up for the bully’s victim even when no one else will. This is not primarily about making you a hero, but more about doing the right thing and instigating a positive change in your world.

Whether or not you choose to upset the applecart, the most important thing to remember is how to do it correctly.  Remember that upsetting the applecart may be difficult because you are going against the status quo, the grain, so to speak. Some people may not respect your convictions or what you’re doing, but if it is the right thing to do, do it anyway.  You may even lose some support along the way, but if you know that this is the right thing to do, don’t give up.

Here’s how to upset the applecart most effectively:

  1. Think about how you will upset the applecart.–For instance, if your work or school environment is a place where there are a lot of cliques and infighting, determine a way you will change that by not subscribing to the same things your colleagues or classmates are. In this example, I would want to upset the applecart by not participating in the gossip and infighting myself, and by hanging out with many different types of people, not just ones with whom I feel comfortable.
  2. Determine you will be different in some way than the status quo.–Stand out in some way. –Don’t be afraid to be different, or be yourself, in situations where upsetting the applecart would benefit others.   For instance, in multiple sources, Rachel Scott, my faith hero, is quoted as saying, “I won’t be labeled as average.” Rachel Scott was known for upsetting the applecart in a positive way.  Her faith and compassion for others stood out. She hung out and encouraged those who no one considered or wanted to be around.  She held firm to moral boundaries but rejected shallowness and fakeness.
  3. Hold firm to your convictions and beliefs always.–Never let what other people think of you and/or your beliefs hinder you in any way. Never surrender your beliefs and convictions if you know that you are right. Yes, be open to others’ wisdom and advice if you are wrong about something or to understand people better. However, never let someone change your beliefs and convictions based only on their benefit or just to please them.  Change only because you (or God) want(s) you to.

Upsetting the applecart allows us not only to stand out and be different but also to initiate effective change to our world and those around us. Change, and upsetting the applecart can be upsetting to some people, but they are necessary ingredients to improve oneself and the world around you.

 

Patriotic edition: 5 Things I’m Thankful For and 5 things we could improve

DISCLAIMER: Please no disparaging or disrespectful comments about me (the writer), different political views, or others in this blog. Also, please no arguing about political stuff here. This is not the place to do it! If you break any of these rules, your comment or comments will be deleted. Thank you and happy reading. : )

In honor of the 4th of July, the Independence Day of the United States of America, I will discuss five things I am immensely thankful for that this country provides, and five things we as a nation could improve on. I am honored and thankful to be born in this country and to be able to enjoy many of the freedoms this country provides for me today.  However, I know this country is not perfect and that it has a lot of problems and issues, which I will delve into later.  Regardless, I am thankful God put me here not only to be successful for myself and my loved ones but also to help others.

Five Things I am thankful for in the U.S.A

  1. religious freedom–I can be any religion I want to be and be able to worship freely without fear of being sent to jail or tortured for my faith. I happen to be a Christian, but I see others of different faiths, having similar freedoms to me.  This is not true in many other countries. I hear and know of people being jailed, tortured, or even killed just for practicing their faith. For example, in North Korea, in general,  if you practice publically any religion other than the state religion, you are put in prison and tortured until you submit to their faith.  This is a freedom we Americans should all be thankful for and keep preserving for the next generations.
  2. freedom of speech–Here in the States, in general, I can openly criticize my local government, state government, and even federal government, including the President and Vice President,  without fear of losing my job, going to prison, or being tortured or killed for that.  I can even stage a protest against the government’s policies, if I wanted to, without getting arrested or jailed just for doing so.  I am very grateful I can do that openly or even publically, without fear of being arrested or losing my livelihood for doing so.  In many other countries, if you openly criticize governmental policies or the leader of the country, you will be arrested and jailed for doing so. A few nations even kill their own people for protesting against their government or their policies!
  3. Adequate water supply- We, as a nation, are extremely blessed by our many bodies of water!  In general, 90% of the country, can turn on the faucet and water comes out. This is not true at all in many parts of the world! Some parts of the world don’t even have faucets or clean, running water! In many parts of the world, people must carry buckets of water from miles away from their home, just to get enough water to live! In many cases, the water isn’t even completely clean or as pure, as it is in the States!  I see some people here in the States just running the faucet without using the water that comes out of it. What a waste! Think of the people that don’t have any water near their homes.  Try to appreciate that you are able to have clean, running water, and don’t take this for granted.
  4. A strong and courageous military force — We, as a nation, are blessed to have men and women who are willing to risk their lives to defend our country and its freedoms. I know several veterans personally and am thankful to know them.  I am grateful for them and all military personnel because many of the people who are or were in the military have to go through not only grueling training to help them prepare for the battlefield, not to mention the horrors and the heartaches of war and losing your comrades, but when they come back to civilian life, they are often underappreciated and/or forgotten.  You may not agree with the principles of war, and that’s fine, but the fact that these men and women are standing up for our freedoms and protecting us from terrorists and other evil people, is something for which we should be immensely thankful.
  5. The right to defend ourselves against invaders or intruders.–We, as a nation, are blessed to have the Second Amendment, in case someone tries to kill or attack us, and the police can’t or won’t do anything about it for whatever reasons.  Now, I would personally never own a gun, but for those that do, I respect them, especially if they live in high-crime areas or are in situations where they feel legitimately physically threatened or unsafe.  In 90% of the countries that I’ve ever visited or heard about, it is illegal for private citizens to own a gun or any form of defense, even if they do feel their lives are at risk. I do think there should be gun control laws, but I think the basic right for United States’ citizens who are law-abiding and will use a gun responsibly should never be abolished.

5 things the U.S could do better

  1. Respecting people with different political persuasions.—There has been so much strife in this country just because Trump was elected. Sure, he has his issues, and you don’t have to like him, but hating him or people that agree with his policies, will not solve any of our nation’s problems!  I was very saddened by a man who shot several people who were playing baseball for charity just because some of them didn’t agree with this man’s political ideas!  I see many people on Facebook and Twitter just taking jabs at people because of their political views. If we want to be united as a nation, we cannot keep doing this! Yes, there are many people who hold views that I don’t personally agree with, both politically and religiously.  That does not give me the right to personally attack them, either with my words or my actions. This, in my opinion, is no longer “freedom of speech,” it’s being a jerk!
  2. Taking care of the poor.–I know many people here in the States, both online and offline, who are struggling just to get by.  Some of you may be thinking that these people should “just get a job.” First of all, it’s not that easy! It takes an average of five or six months to get a decent job for most people, and some it can take years, and yes, they are actively looking too!  I’ve been there.  Also, some people are disabled and can’t work! Either they have severe mental problems, or they are physically unable to work.  Finally, even if the poor do get a job, how many jobs do they have to get to have a living wage, and be able to spend time with the ones that matter to them most.  Two? Three? Five? It’s so difficult these days to even find one job. let alone several! And where would even an average, able-bodied person find the time and energy to work, let’s say,  four jobs to support themselves and family, and still have time to spend adequate time and energy to spend with their loved ones outside of work? I’m not saying that an abled bodied person should just mooch off the government and not to do anything with their lives at all. I’m saying that we should do our part to take care of the poor and hurting, because it’s the right thing to do, and you never know what struggles and hurts another human being is going through. So, unless you are God or know everything about someone, try not to judge them! In fact, in several places, Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “If you judge someone, you have no time to love them.”
  3. Loving immigrants .—Unless you are a Native American, you have no right to judge who should or shouldn’t be in this country.  Yes, it is upsetting to some people when people come here illegally and don’t pay taxes.  However, hating them and/or treating them like commodities instead of human beings with felt needs isn’t going to solve anything. I understand that a few people who have come into this country have done criminal activities or committed hateful acts of terrorism, but a.) This isn’t the majority of immigrants. Most are families coming here to better their lives because of all the freedoms and opportunities we have here. b.) There are criminals that are American-born citizens too!  So singling out immigrants as perpetrators of criminal acts is not only unfair, it is often untrue as well!
  4. Loving people who are different than us.–In the past two years, there has been much strife because some people aren’t willing to accept or love people who are different than them. For example, a few years ago, a white supremacist murdered several black Christians worshipping God, during a Bible study, in Charleston, South Carolina, just because they were black! I mean these Christians didn’t even do anything to hurt this guy, and he still shot at them!  How sad! Of course, the majority of Americans are not as mean and racist as he was, but we all would do well to look in the mirror sometimes and make sure we don’t even have a trace of hatred for people different than us! This doesn’t only include being free from racism (and not being prejudiced against other ethnicities) but also loving people regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, social class, disability, religious beliefs, or any other human identifier.  Loving them doesn’t mean agreeing with everything they may do or stand for, but it does mean being willing to be there for them and comfort them if another person hurts them, and it means actively trying to help them find joy and meaning in their lives.
  5. Thinking of others before ourselves.–This is especially true if you are in a position of leadership in the U.S  government.  I saw a government official on T.V enjoying the beach he closed to the public because of a lack of funds. I have several issues with this. First of all, if the beach is closed to the public, you and your family should not be enjoying it either! It’s only fair. Second of all, if you want to enjoy the beach with your family, and there are not enough funds to keep it open, a public servant should take it upon him or herself to finance it so that everyone could enjoy the beach, and not just you and your loved ones.  If you are in any position of leadership, be it in the government, or in a school or in a workplace, you should always think of others before yourself. For instance, if you are a manager, you shouldn’t just cut hours or lay off people just so you can save money for yourself or people like you.  Think of others first!

These are the five things I am immensely thankful for in this country, and five things we can improve.  What are five things you are thankful for if you live in the U.S (or if you live in another country–what are you most thankful for there?)? What things can be improved in your country? Please feel free to comment respectfully on this.

Benefits of Diversity

I will admit straight out…I don’t understand racists and other people who are prejudiced against people’s differences, especially that which the target people cannot control, such as the color of their skin. And wouldn’t the world be so boring if everyone were exactly the same? I think so, and that’s one of the reasons I love interacting with others so much (though I do need some alone time sometimes), because I enjoy learning about diverse opinions, beliefs, cultures and lifestyles.

There are many benefits to diversity in the human race. Here are just some of them:

  1. Diversity makes the world a more interesting place to live.–Face it. If everyone were the same as you (or me), it would not only be scary, but incredibly boring and pointless as well. For instance, many of my friends love olives. I hate olives! If everyone liked olives, then there would be no olives left! Conversely, if like me, everyone hated olives, all the olives would eventually rot and be useless to everyone! Also, if everyone were like you and thought like you, how would anyone learn anything new? You wouldn’t really be able to learn much.  Diversity allows for a more interesting and growing world.
  2. With that, diversity allows us to increase our knowledge. —I think God made different kinds of people and nations, with different tastes and opinions, so we could learn more about the world He created and give Him the glory. He also wanted us to have deep, meaningful relationships and learn from one another. Think about how much we have learned from all of the people we have ever met! It would be more than the bandwidth that this blog website could ever hold! Even if I shared with readers how much I have learned from diverse people in my life with differing opinions would probably not be able to be all encompassing!
  3. Diversity helps us to appreciate what we have been given ourselves.-–If we were all the same, we would not be able to really see how much has been given to us because we would not really have another frame of reference, for which to compare ourselves. Talking with and learning about people from differing backgrounds and who went through difficult (often more difficult) life experiences helps us to treasure our lives more. We not only appreciate what we’ve been given but we are also able to understand and appreciate other people and their experiences more.
  4. Diversity helps us serve others better.--When we are able to empathize and/or understand other people who are different than us, we will be more able to be equipped to help others who need it. For instance, if you understand a certain culture or sector of society better, you will know where they are coming from, why they do things a certain way, and are able to basically relate to them more effectively and on a deeper level, than if you don’t know or understand them at all. For another example, if you understand the challenges of being poor or disabled, you are more likely to be met with openness and grace, than if you just judged against them or couldn’t relate to them at all.

As one can see, there are many benefits to diversity. This is why when people are prejudiced against or don’t value diversity at all, we need to call them out on it. Prejudice is harmful not only because it hampers our relationship with others, but it also closes the door to true knowledge and wisdom, and makes the world seem pointless and boring. Yes, you can and should embrace similarities in the midst of these differences, but we should also value and appreciate differences by loving people and the diversity they bring with them.