The suffering of others 

Suffering.jpgThere is a great exhibition of photography from the Great Depression now showing at the Nelson Atkins here in Kanas City.

Note the body abandoned on the steps of this church.

Anyone who lived through the depression was emotionally shaped by the economic hardships most families faced. My mother told me she remembered eating cooked rotting potatoes and being left alone at a young age while her mother worked. In her old age she was something of a food hoarder.




Facing Fears

We all have some things we fear. Some times a little fear is good but what about when it keeps you from doing something you really want to do?

I recently took my three year old grandson, Joshua, to a gymnastics session for tots. When he first got there he would climb to the start of a long trampoline you can run and jump on. He would stand there and look at it for a few minutes and then turn around and play with something else. I tried to encourage him and even held his hand. He pulled away and went back to playing with other things.

Other children began to arrive and go up to the trampoline and run recklessly down it jumping and laughing. Some even ran at full speed jumping into a pit of foam blocks. Joshua would watch them and go back up to the head of the trampoline, stand there a while taking deep breaths. Then he would turn and go back to playing with something else.

Finally after we had been there for almost an hour Joshua went back up to the head of the trampoline. He stood and took several deep breaths and cautiously put a foot on the trampoline, then his other foot. I reached out and held his hand and he took a few cautious steps. Then he let go of my hand and began walking on the trampoline. Then all at once he began to run and bounce on it. He began laughing and smiling. He continued to play on the trampoline for several minutes. He would not get off of it and ran from me when it was time to go. I had to chase him to get him to get him off of it.

What fear are you trying to face in your life?

  • Are you in a bad relationship you know you should end, or just the opposite in a new relationship but afraid to take it to the next level.
  • Are you in a job where you are unhappy and need to do something about it?
  • Are you afraid to try something you have failed at in the past?
  • Something bad happening to you or loved ones?
  • Rejection?
  • Illnesses?
  • Diseases?
  • Abandonment?

The challenge is finding ways to face your fears and to take a calculated risk. To stand back and take a few deep breaths and maybe find someone you can reach out to for support/encouragement in taking that small step.

Run away!

I am a fan of Monty Python and their movies have many memorable lines. One that sticks with me is from ‘Monty Python’s Holy Grail’ when the knights are attacking a castle and suddenly the unexpected happens; a cow comes flying over the wall. The cry goes out “Run away!” Sometimes when we are attacking a problem the unexpected happens and we need to react.

As we go through life we need to learn what to do when the unexpected happens and problems arise. Sometimes things happen and we need to react in the blink of an eye but other times we encounter the same situation over and over.

Too often we keep attacking the problem the same way expecting something different to happen. This is one definition of insanity- to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Like when you see someone working on a computer and they keep pressing the same key and the computer still won’t work.

Other times we get angry and attack without thinking about alternatives and or consequences. We let emotion take over and respond blindly. We don’t think about the cost to ourselves and others.

In relationships someone does not respond the way we expect them to and our emotions come flying out. Many of us hold our feelings back most of the time but these unexpected emotions catch us off guard and we run away to avoid pain and conflict. We run away from our pain by finding ways to help us not feel like drugs and alcohol, working more, not talking with them, the list goes on an on, but we do not try to solve the problem.

Neither attacking obstacles thoughtlessly nor retreating is an effective way to handle the unexpected flying cows coming at us. Castles became obsolete with the invention of gunpowder. Someone thought of a new way to attack castles and overpowered them.

One of the most important skills we can learn is how to face situations in new and creative ways. Sometimes we need to take the time to talk with others to explore our options.

What would the world be like if more people could learn how to face problems effectively? To react quickly when necessary, other times to reflect on what is happening and try new, creative approaches to problems facing us instead of doing the same thing over and over or running away?

We need to learn to apply these principles to every day life. I see athletes who practice and learn about their sport. They go over game tapes and learn from their mistakes. Parents need to take a similar approach with their children. The most important thing we can teach them is how to think creatively for themselves, to teach them how to learn from their mistakes as well as their accomplishments. We can teach them to be ready for the flying cows that come their way.