Tuesday, November 29, 2011


There is a theme in my life.

I try hard to do something, but I don't do it like everybody else.  This is because I don't always think like everybody else.  I know this.  It has caused problems for years.  Three and a half decades later, those problems still have not been solved.  Therefore, I am resigned to the fact that it's not always apparent to others what I am trying to do.

This didn't usually bother me--until I went to live in Korea.  Suddenly, it wasn't just that I was different than everybody else, it was that this difference was wrong, as in deeply, morally, fundamentally wrong.  And I couldn't seem to get past the barriers to communicate that this wasn't the case.

Like my differing thought process, I started to become resigned to this problem as well.  But accepting this perception of myself also meant accepting anger, resentment, isolation, depression, and sorrow.  And it would have stayed that way if it weren't for NVC.

My husband says that NVC destroyed our marriage.

Truth be told, our marriage is probably stronger than ever, and NVC is the cause of it.  I just went through a very obnoxious period when I was learning to use it.  Alas, I am still learning to use it.

NVC stands for [N]on[V]iolent [C]ommunication, and it is Marshall Rosenberg's brainchild.  It is, in part, an attempt to bring psychology to the masses through a "simple" 4-step process.  I use "simple" loosely because, while the process is conceptually simple, it is emotionally very difficult.

In NVC, everything is boiled down to 4 things: observations, feelings, needs, and requests.

You observe a situation objectively and describe it in clear, objective words.  Then you express your emotional response (feelings) to that observation of the situation, noting that the situation in itself did not cause you to feel that way but that you are responding to it with an emotion, usually tied to a need that you are trying to fill.  Once you have identified these three aspects of your response, then you take it all one step further by formulating a concrete request that will help you move closer to filling that unmet need.

NVC actually entered my life over two years ago at a free meeting that a friend had organized.  I cannot thank either the friend or the trainer enough because I most surely wouldn't have gone if I had needed to pay.  Both time and money were restricted then, and if it had been an expenditure of both, I absolutely couldn't have made it.

I didn't want to answer the question when the trainer asked, "When is a time that made you felt less than wonderful?"  Several others had answered, and I thought that my strategy of keeping my head down and scribbling furiously had exempted me from this exercise.  But when the trainer called on me, I thought of an example from that very morning when I had tried to find something in a local store and had run into someone who had different ideas about what I should buy.  I tried to explain that I wanted what I wanted while the other person explained that what I wanted was inappropriate and generally no good.  Then, with a huff and swearing under his breath, he turned and stalked away.

And even though I was describing the situation at the store, it was actually a recurring situation that occurred at stores, in restaurants, on street corners, on playgrounds, and anywhere else you might imagine.  It usually involved strangers, but not always.  Sometimes it involved parents, students, colleagues, and friends.
And, unluckily for me, the trainer asked me how I felt in this situation.

"Angry," I answered.

"And?" she prompted.

"Disappointed," I continued.


"Ashamed.  Inadequate.  Completely inadequate...," and the floodgates just opened completely.  I had had no idea that I really felt so strongly about these interactions, that they completely felled my self confidence and left me reeling, wondering whether I had any business living in this country, any business being a wife and mother, any business even being human.

I had not expected to sob, not expected to need tissues, not expected to have any emotional response whatsoever.  After all, this was an experience that I usually shared with strangers!  What were they to me?  Apparently more than I had thought.

But what that session opened to me was the very real area of connecting needs to feelings.

Until I had (alas publicly) had such a strong reaction to a memory of an interaction with strangers, I had largely believed that my problems with Korea boiled down to problems with my family.

Now I knew this was not the case.  I needed connection, yes.  And, no, my immediate family could not necessarily fill that need.  But neither were they causing the problem nor trying to stop me from solving it.

I could seek fulfillment of the need elsewhere.  Oh, and I did.  I developed a number of Korean friends who radically altered my perception of the country.  I tried things more.  I turned my back on my German background, which asks me to blame others or swallow all negativity, and actually started to request things I needed.  My life got radically better.

It was a little hard for my husband because at first I didn't know how to request things kindly or to state my feelings without blame.  I had a way of asking him about his feelings that sounded like an accusation.  He said it was like saying, "Well, I'm all calm about it, now what the h*** is wrong with you?"  And he was probably right.

I have learned to internalize a little more and process inside before speaking now--and I get better results.  I have also turned elsewhere for additional help.

But the biggest thing that I learned and experienced is that hiding the negativity doesn't make it go away; it buries the joy.  As I started to face these feelings, find underlying causes, and move toward resolution, I started to recognize the joy I found in other things.  I felt great love for my in-laws, affection for my husband, fierce pride in my children.  These emotions had been completely deadened in the general novacaine of accepting that "it is what it is."

So let me say thank you to those who introduced me to NVC, those who encouraged me to practice it, and my family who suffered through my initial transformation.

And then let me say to everyone else: Yes, it is what it is, but it doesn't need to stay that way.  You, too, can walk out of the darkness, but only if you're willing to fumble a little for the light switch.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


In 1997, in the middle of a HORRIBLE period, I decided to take Oprah up on her gratitude journal challenge. As I strained to write something in my very first entry, I pondered my recent break up, the need to move IMMEDIATELY from our apartment so that the management could recover "real property" from a delinquent (in payment, not intellect) roommate, my honors thesis that was not going well (and in fact, it never did turn out the way I wanted it to), and what on earth I was going to do with an English degree.

In the end, I wrote "Merry has been such a good dog for the last fifteen years."

Thirty minutes later, my sister called me to come home because Merry was dying.  I saw her last coherent look before she fell into a coma and died.

I didn't really keep the gratitude journal after that.

The next time I recall a real "gratitude" moment, was an evening that my husband and I were talking as we watched our sleeping boys.

"You know," my husband said, "We may not have everything.  Things may not be easy.  But our boys are healthy.  What's more important than that?  I'm really thankful to your God for that."

The next day, the little one had a seizure.

I am careful when I give thanks now.  I am reminded all the time that there are no guarantees.  Life doesn't go as planned. 

In the end, in God's book, I don't deserve anything.  That is hard.  Everything is a gift.  I should be thankful for it all.  And yet I still hold back.  I feel like my hand has been slapped.  And I forget that the Giver is bigger than the gift.

And I am so grateful for my husband--a husband who kicks me in the rear when I need it.  I always think that I could not love my boys more than I do, and then the sun rises, and I love them even more.  And I am thankful for every moment that we have had, both with them and with all of our family on this and the other side of the ocean.  And I am terrified every time I say it.

But for however long it lasts, I plan to enjoy it.  And when the sun rises tomorrow, even if life changes, I will try to remember that I love the Giver too and that each new day brings bigger love.

My Years in Happy Valley

This post will not be as poetic, nostalgic, romantic, or well-worded as many of the other posts I have read on the whole PSU issue.  But perhaps this less lyrical lesson I learned (the hard way) is just as important.

I was at PSU between 1994 and 1997.  The early years of the scandal, no?  Unfortunately, I was also involved with the police, not once but twice.  It was never for anything I had done but because I had been "duped."  Not once.  Twice.  Well, not exactly, but more on that later.

You see, the Penn State problem isn't just the Penn State problem, and for every JoePa who didn't say as much as he should have, there are hundreds, if not thousands of us who said nothing.

Four days into my college career, I was in a car accident.  I lost my memory and had short-term memory problems for the entire first semester.  And somewhere, during that time, I picked up a stalker.  He said I led him on. I think.  At this point, I'm going on secondhand accounts and journal entries I wrote and then hid from people (who could have convinced me of anything since I couldn't remember) but ultimately hid them from myself (I still stumble on a rogue entry from time to time in an old book or envelope of photos).  I don't think I did.  He was told to leave more than once.  Others would come and flush him out.  I once slept somewhere else completely to escape him.  He was using his access as a computer lab administrator to follow me when I logged in.  I quit using campus computers.  Toward the end of the semester, I remember returning roses to him only to have him chase me, thrashing those same roses at my face.

I complained.  I talked to people.  I was told that I had no proof.  I was told that I was violating his rights.  No one in power helped me at all, although my friends around helped a lot.

Three years later, I again talked to someone in law enforcement.  There had been at least two girls after me, and they went through a whole lot more than I did.  At that time though, I was done.  I wanted nothing to do with it anymore.  There was nothing that I could say that would be admissible anyway.  Who was going to believe the word of an amnesiac?  Particularly when I didn't have such a bad experience, comparatively.

In the interim, you see, I had had another brush with law enforcement, this time through a roommate who was alleged to have stolen thousands of dollars of goods and other things.  When my other roommates and I were initially told what was going on, we were advised to keep quiet while the police were investigating.  If there is one thing I wish I hadn't done, it is keep quiet.

I learned, as I had before, that predators pick their prey for a reason.  With my roommate, it was that Christians were big on forgiving and forgetting.  So she could keep stealing and lying--things large and small--for a very long time before it ever caught up with her.  My stalker picked prey no one else would like or believe.  How was I to know if I led him on or not?  Thankfully, I'm not that stupid, and he underestimated my friends (yes, my dear, even wee freshmen can find friends).

But the point is, I wasn't the only one to see either of these two.  In fact, many of us saw them.  In some cases, we spoke, and nothing happened (stalker episode).  In others, we trusted those in authority and said nothing, to our detriment (roommate episode).

Either way, in neither case was there only one person to see.  Nor was there only one person to turn their head.  Predators survive for a reason.  They are good at camouflaging, and they pick prey nobody misses.

Maybe JoePa was wrong.  Maybe others were also.  But I am sure that many others saw and said nothing.  It happens every day.  It happens every where.  My acquaintance Stephanie White, whose son Mike died in South Korea, will attest to that.

But let's not push the blame off on someone else.  Let's shoulder some of it ourselves.  And the next time we see someone being bullied--even if it's the kid who routinely spits on our car or the guy who insists on coming home drunk (and loud) at 3 AM--let's hope that we stop it because it's right.  And hopefully when it's us, someone will see--and say something.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Magical Morning

So Grandpa gave us the DVD from his Blu-Ray Harry Potter Combo pack, and the boys have seen it about six times already.  These viewings have been supplemented with other films from the series as they are airing (some would say ad nauseum) on the ABC Family Channel.

And so it was that, wakened out of a sound sleep by a series of loud bangs and a shout from the downstairs, I catapulted down the steps to find my eldest gripping a wooden chopstick.  "I pranked you pretty good with my loud spell, didn't I?" he giggled.

Half an hour later, we were joined by the little one, who also picked up his wooden chopstick and shoved a third at me.

"He's Harry.  I'm Ron.  You're the Mione."

It's nice to know my children are starting to pick up English noun markers, even if they get them confused from time to time.

We ate our breakfast, the little one relishing the pumpkin soup since he knows Harry drinks pumpkin juice (close enough, right?).  The big one, who believes you-are-what-you-eat, is willing to try a Harry diet, but only if it doesn't include too many vegetables.

As I washed the breakfast dishes, though, I noticed that two little ghosts in a snowman and Steelers blanket were stealing the Kit Kats from Daddy's care package (and dropping the wrappers on the floor). 

"Hey!  Pick up those wrappers and get out of that box!"

"Shhhh!" hissed the snowman blanket.  "We're not ghosts.  These are invisibility cloaks!  You can't see us." 

"C'mon, Ron," said the Steeler with a very bad British accent.  "Time to leave Honeydukes."

A few minutes later I heard the little one's voice from the living room.  "The Mione is a lot nicer in the movie."

The mean old Mione smiled, picked up candy wrappers, and was grateful for the magical morning while childhood still lasts.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Go to war in shoes of peace

This week, our pastor skipped the benediction and sent us out with an exhortation instead: "Go to war in shoes of peace."

There are just so many thoughts about this.  The first of which is that I received this message in a place that I completely didn't expect to receive it.  You see, when Daddy was working six days a week, we were going to church on Saturday night to maximize the boys' time with Daddy.  That's no longer the case.  So we were left looking for a Sunday church.  At first, I went back to my old home church.  It was good, but, in a way I'm not good at explaining, I heard explicitly that this was not the place for us.

I contemplated returning to the Korean church.  Lots of issues there.  Two of the biggest are distance/driving (I am NOT a good driver, and the church is far away) and the class I usually belong to and get the most out of has been moved to a different building than the children's worship.  Because of my little one's separation and health issues, I NEVER leave him somewhere either I or a family member can't IMMEDIATELY get to him.

I discussed all of this (and more) with the children.  Together (well, the little one needed a bit of arm-twisting) we decided to go to the Korean church, and I decided to go to the Korean service, which happens to be more of a traditional-presbyterean rather than the contemporary-charsimatic or fundamentalist service that I'm used to.  That, combined with the language and cultural differences, and I just didn't expect to get anything out of the service.  This was a good choice from my children's spiritual and cultural development, not mine so much.

But I should never underestimate God's ability to feed us.

And so we went to the Korean church, and I sat in the Korean language service.  And God does amazing things because I understood (well!), and I felt like I had come back home.  And more importantly, I understood how important it is that I sat there.  More on that later.

Go to war in shoes of peace.

"Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12

Yes, I have quoted the Bible here, but it isn't here alone--it's just very succinctly put here.  It is elsewhere as well.

Read Tolkien's Ring Trilogy.  That is the point, which the movie kindly cut.  The last section of the last book is devoted to understanding how evil came to be rooted in the Shire and how it had to be rooted out.

Arun Gandhi summarizes the lessons he had learned from his grandfather, M.K. Gandhi, lessons which underscore the point that the problem is within, in this way:  "One of the many things I learned from grandfather is to understand the depth and breadth of nonviolence, and to acknowledge that we are all violent and that we need to bring about a qualitative change in our attitudes."

Hannah Arendt wrote of the difference between attitudes in places that the Final Solution worked and in those that it didn't, asserting, "[U]nder conditions of terror most people will comply but some people will not, just as the lesson of the countries to which the Final Solution was proposed is that 'it could happen' in most places but it did not happen everywhere. Humanly speaking, no more is required, and no more can reasonably be asked, for this planet to remain a place fit for human habitation" (italics in the original).  Her point was one of attitude, not military prowess.

And I so deeply believe this. Our struggle begins at home. In our houses. In our hearts.

I try very hard to be the change I want to see in the world, to love my neighbors as myself, to not assume that I am right, to actively seek information that would disprove my theories of life.

But it is hard.  Very hard.

Take for example this weekend, the very afternoon following the exhortation of the pastor.

You see, we have a neighbor who is on the autism spectrum.  So what?  So many people are on the spectrum these days.  My own children have had provisional and rule-out diagnoses on the spectrum.  My nephew is on the spectrum.  My heart goes out to this child, and I try very, very hard to be fair, to include him, and to protect him.

However, he is not perfect.  He doesn't understand most social things, as is common among like children.  He can't, of himself, help it.  He routinely takes the other kids' toys, hits the other kids, spits on them, and accuses them of stealing his things which he simply hasn't put away.

On the other hand, this isn't the whole story either.  He isn't the only child who hits.  Other children take toys without asking permission.  Other children have been known to spit.  And accusing others of malice (stealing, in this case) when the problem has been your own ineptitude (not putting your toys away) seems to be a biproduct of elementary school (I can't begin to tell you how many of these arguments I break up every single day!).

But, like most children on the spectrum, the difference is in the severity/frequency/quality with which he behaves in this manner.

As a result, he is treated like a fringe member of the group, and like all fringe members of groups, he is held to a higher level of compliance to group norms (which he is naturally incapable of meeting).  And, like other members of the fringe, he is sometimes attacked by other members on the fringe because they are able to attack him without reprisal from the ingroup, because attacking him reinforces their own connection with the ingroup, and because they have learned this behavior from being bullied by others and it therefore seems natural.

This makes the behavior understandable but not excusable.

Anyway, on this particular afternoon, all of the kids were a bit out of sorts and acting up.  Said child was especially having trouble hurting smaller children.  I don't think any malice was necessarily intended, but no care or consideration was being shown either.  I generally simply tried to redirect (my step toward peace).  But the older (and therefore bigger) kids were getting frustrated with the whole situation and were really wanting to pound the child--although none of them were quite willing to cross me to do it.  And since I was literally standing between them and this child, he was saved said pounding.  This is my version of shoes of peace--prevent harm, do not provoke, redirect toward peace and understanding.

BUT then my son's teacher arrived, and we had to go in.  I was concerned about the child's safety if he was left out in that group without supervision.  I was also a bit concerned for the safety of the smaller ones because, while no malice was involved, they were still being physically injured without someone (again) to redirect and physically just stand between the two parties, making it more difficult to tackle them.

So I went to the child's parents and tried to warn them that the situation was not the best, and adult supervision was necessary.

This is what I would want myself.

It was not, apparently, what his parents wanted.

Repeated attempts after the fact to try and clarify that I was warning them about their son's behavior to protect their son from reprisals and not to accuse him were only met with direct threats toward another neighborhood child and veiled threats toward my own.

Go to war in shoes of peace.

What do you do in that situation?  What do I make of these threats?  Are my neighbors serious or just running their mouths (which I know that they do from time to time)?

Go to war in shoes of peace.

I haven't figured out what to do yet, but I don't want to up the stakes.  And I want to act with love.

Living peace is hard. 

Back to the church.  It is hard for immigrants (living anywhere in the world, not just here) to face cultural difference and premature judgment everyday and still choose to think the best about their neighbors.  It is harder when you never see those neighbors accepting anything about you.  It goes beyond just simple apathy. It might be okay if they never learn your language, accept your mores, or learn anything about your culture at all.  No, oftentimes they disparage your attempts to speak their language, call your mores amoral, and openly scorn any aspects of your culture which don't match their own.

And therefore, seeing someone from the outside accept you, seek you out, try to assimilate into your culture instead of demanding it of you--that, my friends, brings hope.

As an old woman made her way out of the church and blessed me, I could tell I gave her hope.  But even moreso, she gave me hope as well.  There was no feeling of trespassing, no hesitancy to accept me, no anger--things that I have often faced in such situations.  These are small steps toward breaking down the violence in our own hearts.

To paraphrase Arendt, my friends, hate can happen anywhere, but it doesn't need to happen everywhere.  It is a choice that we can choose not to make.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

At the feet of masters

Socks went in the top drawer, which was quite far from the floor where I was sitting, so I tossed them onto the bed next to my prattling sister.

"I finally got this room under control while you were gone, so don't you just come back here thinking that you can just stick your clothes anywhere.  There is an order, Sis, do you understand?  An order."

As she continued on with further regulations--"short sleeved shirts, here, by color, dark in the back, light in the front; long sleeved shirts go here, unless they wrinkle, in which case..."--I was not really listening, intent on unpacking my now bigger dreams as I unpacked my bags after a summer of studying at Harvard.  The phone rang somewhere in the midst of this mess, and my sister's recitation of clothing placement restrictions was cut off as my mother yelled, "Beth! Phone!"

Leaving my protesting sister on my bed with the socks, I hustled out.


"Elizabeth? I'm calling from ... School of Business and we'd like to tell you about our secretarial program..."

"I'm not interested."

"Our records indicate that you would be a great addition to our program..."

"I'm sorry.  I'm not interested.  I'm second in my class.  I just came back from Harvard. I don't want to be a secretary."

"But just think of all of the exciting papers you could type!"

"Listen, lady, if anybody is going to be writing papers, it's going to be me."

I hung up the phone.

I was hitherto unacquainted with Matthew 12:36, "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment." 

Later in life, I was a secretary for six years.  I firmly believe it was the Lord's revenge. 

And yet, with that job came a host of truly invaluable lessons that I never would have learned otherwise (not that I would have minded TRYING to learn them more easily, you know, like from a book and not life...).

So, I want to talk about the lessons that you learn only by sitting at the masters' feet--two different kinds of masters. Two sets of those lessons seem pertinent to me right now, lessons from my bosses--three deans of varying levels--and from some of my secretarial coworkers (not that my other coworkers haven't taught me anything--in fact, I still learn a great deal from one all the time!). 

The Deans

1.  They use rules to include, not exclude.

"Elizabeth," the first of these bosses advised me, "Make sure we get that to her in writing and keep a copy as well.  That will be useful for her promotion."

My first boss ran a committee on appointment, promotion, and tenure, and many feared that she was a gatekeeper barring the path to advancement.  In truth, she was a nitpicker dedicated to making certain the faculty cleared every conceivable hurdle thrust up by higher administration.  Her numbers were phenomenal.  I'm not sure anyone's packet was sent back.

People complained that the process was slow going, but she painstakingly reviewed every piece of correspondence and wrote out magnificent letters on behalf of every candidate that crossed her desk. 

2.  When they're on the team, everyone's statistics rise.

Each of my three bosses were phenomenal at pulling in others to succeed with them.

"This department needs more of a web presence," my first boss said.  "And we need to be more collegial and show our students that statisticians in public health are team players."  Some might have found this last statement at odds with her personality.  In her own words, "It gets a bit boring without a little trouble." But she, who could easily have stayed set in her ways, started a web-based course that was team taught.  It wasn't easy.  Coordinating the professors could be as or more difficult than coordinating the students.  But she was dedicated to it and poured love over those students, the professors, and her own lectures.  She clearly cared deeply for what she did and considered it a true privilege to train up others who would carry on and produce work she truly felt made a difference.

My second boss and third bosses were less into pulling in teachers but they were incredible at pulling up junior faculty and students.  Whatever research they were doing, they looked for a way to include someone coming up.  If the junior faculty weren't co-authoring the paper, my second boss made certain that he cited them. 

"Didn't she write something on that?" he would ask me.  "Pull all her papers, and make certain we find the right one and stick it in there."

My third boss had a nose for those who were gifted but discouraged, and he constantly pulled them into his office to encourage them, suggest various paths to continue, offer to speak again.

3. They love to teach.

My second boss was the dean of the school himself, and yet he considered it a great privilege to teach a course in his department every year.  And he always wanted to grab a TA.  Not to pass off the work.  Far from it!  He wanted to teach these up and coming students what was expected of them, how it was done.  He wanted to mentor them so that the rules were a stepping stone and not a stumbling block.

"Elizabeth," he'd call, "I've got to write this test.  Make sure to get our TA up here.  I want to make sure he can do this."

And he didn't mean he wanted to dictate to the TA.  He would painstakingly delineate his goals for the assessment and the types of questions that they needed to test the various aspects of the materials.  Then he would solicit questions from the TA.  Here was a man who had been in the field for more than 40 years.  He was internationally renowned and could have written that test in his sleep.  But he made certain to include the student.  If the TA didn't come up with a good question at first, my boss would model the behavior, develop the question aloud, and then ask the TA for the next question.  He never gave up.

My third boss also bent over backward to include students.  At every turn, there were more students in his office.  He was utterly invested in developing their writing.  "They need to get it out there, and it needs to be understood," he would say.  "It needs to be simple."  He should know.  He was included in the Web of Science--a position received for frequent citation in your field.

The Secretaries

1.  Love your enemies.

So often, secretaries are overlooked as pieces of office furniture.  It's not only their bosses, although some bosses certainly do see those who work for them as less than human; many times, however, it's other people who simply need something or who are angry with the secretaries' bosses but can't get in touch with them.  The best, happiest secretaries did not escape this behavior.  They managed to transform it. 

One secretary I knew never yelled at anyone, even though she was frequently berated.  She managed to provide for almost everybody--and they nearly all came to love her. 

The funny thing about it was that she did this mainly by appealing to their most basic needs--needs that the average university skips over since they are educating the mind.  She had an uncanny way of knowing when someone was hungry or thirsty, when they needed to simply feel that they were part of a community, or when they simply needed a quiet place to sit.

One of my other coworkers, too, taught me that the fastest way to disarm someone was to save them something (usually food).  She simultaneously met their need for nourishment and their need for community--or, perhaps more importantly, their need to know that someone CARED about their base human needs and did not see them as any less because of it.

2.  Pray for those who persecute you.

Without revealing anything, the secretaries I most admired were the ones who knew all there was to know about their bosses and who took flak for (and from) them on a daily basis and yet came to work every day trying to make the next day better.  They were always rewarded (not necessarily--and in fact hardly ever--from their bosses).  In the great karma of life, whether it be fairness in the universe or love covering a multitude of sins, I have never seen this fail.

3.  Love not your life unto death.

The harder you defend yourself, the less effective it is.  When you are truly powerless, when most people don't listen to what you say or believe it, then you need to rely on the wisdom of your boss to understand what has happened and to make appropriate judgments.  I have been on both ends of this--of bosses making both the right and wrong assumptions and of making the right and wrong assumptions as a teacher/coworker myself.  But this world is not our home.  Life exists outside of the little system we currently navigate, and I truly believe--and have seen with my own eyes on the lower levels--that if we are pushed out, so what? God, karma, synchronicity, whatever you want to call it, SOMETHING BIGGER catches us.  Do what is right.  Make the loving choice.  Hand over your extra cloak and turn the other cheek.  Not only is this not the end of the world, it just might be the start of a better one.

And I have been pondering these examples for a while now because we see them on the bigger stages.  Sure there are some in power who are greedy, but that is not everyone in power.  Certainly there are some underneath who are jealous, malicious, power-hungry, and lazy, but that is not everyone underneath either.  In each group are masters of skills that are required to make the community as a whole function, masters whose lessons are worth learning and whose footsteps are worth following.  In this time of upheaval, I suggest we sit at (or better yet, follow after) the feet of the masters.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Not Nice

"I don't like her.  She is so mean."  I had settled into one of my favorite fifth-grade subjects during recess.  My then best friend and I were busy climbing up and over, flipping and spinning on the playground equipment.

My friend took her time answering.  Finally, she said, "She's always nice to me."  She paused, not really meeting my eyes and continued, "Sometimes, Beth, you're not always nice."

It was the first time anyone had ever told me that, and I thought really long and hard about it.  In the end, I began making a bunch of changes.  It might be that "Tim and I were on the swings" and not "Tim and me," but I wasn't in English class, nor was I the English teacher, and Cheri didn't appreciate my insight into grammar during recess.  You might not get a symmetrical object if you don't cut along the folded line, but it might be okay to let the other girls find that out themselves or to show them gently instead of leaning over them and saying, "You're still doing it wrong!" I might be right and other people might be wrong, but I didn't necessarily need to tell everybody that.  I started to let people do things their way, even if it didn't make any sense to me. 

I started to smile more and talk less.

I had dealt with bullies for years, but until someone explained what I was doing wrong, I still had problems.

I learned a lot about life, myself, and parenting from that situation.  Yes, it is wrong to bully, but something's going on both ways in bullying.  If there's one bully, then deal with him.  But if there's one kid being bullied over and over, then maybe you want to approach the kid.  Trust me.  As that kid, the kid will thank you.