Month: December 2013

28. A CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE

Homeless person

I drive a lot these days and have since my early twenties. Some take the same familiar route daily while mine has always been all over the map. Years ago, in the early nineties, I drove from Port Angeles to Wenatchee, and from Olympia to Bellingham while living south of Seattle. From there I moved to Des Moines  and continued my travels in a larger  area that stretched from Kansas City to Lincoln to Cedar Rapids and sometimes beyond. Here in Denver I often commute up to one thousand miles in a week. While most of the country looks different wherever I go, some of the scenery sadly remains the same. It seems that no matter where I end up, there among the population is the face of our fellow man that suffers. Those in desperation eventually stand on the street corners of every city asking for a handout. They are more ignored than assisted, and they have lost the outlook that life is a gift, not a burden.

I must admit there was a time when I looked upon these “vagrants, bums, tramps, or beggars” with an attitude of indifference. I wished them no ill will, but I also felt that there were places other than the local intersection that could be of benefit to someone with the fortitude to brave the elements and take an obvious daily dose of  verbal abuse. My thoughts would always go in the same direction, “If these people could just focus the same energy on a slightly different life, then abundance would be forthcoming in ways they had only dreamed.” This opinion was coming from a man who was drinking constantly and had little to show for his efforts other than a messy apartment.

As time, and eventually sobriety strode on, my attitude toward this population softened, but for the most part it basically remained the same; that is until one day when I was listening to an audio program in my truck by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. He was narrating a time when he and some colleagues were walking through New Orléans and happened across a homeless girl. Dr. Dyer gave her a hundred dollars and offered further assistance which she declined. His friends had tried to talk him out of giving her anything to begin with, stating that he was enabling her by handing over something that would most likely be used for self-destructive purposes. Up to this point had I agreed with his opposition, and then he said something very significant; something that changed my life in an instant. What he said was basically this, “This act of giving, without judging who is asking for it, is not between me and them, it’s between me and God. What they do with this gift is none of my business.” This struck a chord with me and it made sense. All of the sudden I was turned completely around in my attitude.

That particular day I was stuck in traffic approaching a corner where a regular guy had stood for more than a year asking for handouts. He greeted his potential source of income with  a daily dose of positive energy; broadly smiling while waving  and flashing the peace sign at everyone as they passed by. I moved over to his side of the road and rolled down my window to hand him some money. This was the first time in my life I had actually felt like giving to a total stranger.

“What’s your name?” I said as I handed him a five.

“Brian!….Thanks!”

“You make me smile every time I see you. You may not believe this but a few years ago I was damn near in the same boat you’re in, so please don’t give up hope; I’m glad I didn’t.”

On my way home I stopped at a convenience store and bought some junk food along with a scratch ticket. I won a hundred dollars. I couldn’t stop laughing because the five I had given away was nothing to me, scrap paper in my pocket that, knowing me, would probably end up in the washing machine. Fast karma and a fast lesson. I carry ones with me now to spread the wealth, but the police are cracking down on panhandling more than they used to so my opportunities are much less than they were.

Over time I would talk to Brian and encourage without criticizing or preaching, but the day came when  he simply wasn’t there; and I waited. Six months went by and someone else eventually took over his spot. Finally I worked up the courage to ask the girl, whom I had gotten to know a little, if she knew what happened to him.

“Why yes! He’s off the streets now. Brian cleaned himself up and is working full-time.” As positive as I am, I was still stunned; flabbergasted actually. Wow! One in a thousand, maybe more. This news made my week. I was relieved he was ok. I’m sure he never knew but his resolve served to inspire me even further. If the opportunity to thank him in person ever arises I will do so with great enthusiasm.

When I look at these faces now all I see is a person of potential and someone who has misplaced a connection to the ability of re-creating and improving upon their best moment. Was it on some forgotten playground, as an innocent child lost in mindless play? Maybe it was their first kiss? Perhaps it was the time they first hugged their puppy knowing that this love would never go away? Maybe it was something as simple as watching a sunset. All of us have these types memories and most attempt to build on them, but some lose their way. If someone is standing on the street corner and asking for help, do they need help? The answer is ALWAYS yes. It’s never no. DO NOT ask yourself if you think they did it to themselves or not, it does not matter. As far as I’m concerned this observation is an inarguable point. Granted, the help they need may not be what they want, but they do need help. It’s sad that in a country like the United States, where there is more abundance in our gutters than there is in many other parts of the world, that there are people who are completely blind to what literally lies at their feet.

If we all come from the same place and are destined to end eventually up where we started, why must we insist on separating ourselves between these two events? Is it our duty of the spirit to bridge this gap and repair the rift that breeds selfishness and greed? It is at least for me, and I plan to continue proving by example that our connection to each other is the secret to a life of fulfillment and peace. What good is a life of prosperity if I never share it or at the very least, show others how I got there?

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

27. COMING FULL CIRCLE

full-circle

Years ago I was working on a job north of here. I had little authority and was mostly in a position of response rather than initiation. My supervisor set me up on a task that required me to be on a ladder and work for some time in the ceiling. I was by myself and the day was going well until a man from another trade showed up.

“You’re in my way.”

I glanced at him and continued my duties.

“I have work to do here.”

This time I responded but didn’t look at him. “Yea, me too.”

He was starting to get irate and I was honestly becoming somewhat amused; though I didn’t let my antagonist on to how I was feeling about the whole situation.

This time he came at me with a heightened verbal attack. “I need you to move! Are you not listening to me, I have work to do!”

Now, I’m sure we could have figured out how to get around each other, but this time I thought a little defense was in order. I stepped down with my tools in hand and faced him looking straight into his eyes.

“You know, if your opinion meant something to me I might get pissed, but since it doesn’t, I just don’t care.”

He lost it and I had a hard time keeping a straight face. As he was throwing his tantrum I continued with a steady voice. “Look, I don’t hate you, I don’t love you, I don’t anything you at all. As far as I’m concerned you’re going to do one of two things and only one of two things. You’re either going to keep talking or start swinging.”

He stopped and looked at me a little slack-jawed. After a moment of contemplation he said, “I guess I’ll just keep talking.”

I laughed a little, “There you go, keep talking, doesn’t matter to me.”

He left and I never saw him again.

I’ve lived a long time not worrying about the so-called “bad things” others thought of or expressed about me. The simple fact that I can’t do anything about what others think is all I need to embrace this philosophy. When I acknowledge someone else’s opinion I give it power; when I reject it, it has no energy. Even if I had the ability to change the mind of someone who didn’t agree with me, I wouldn’t. To do so would be against everything I believe in. Persuasion of  those who don’t align with my agenda by initiating actions and examples is fine, but to try to leverage my way using fear and intimidation is out of the question. I’ve had this way of dealing with potential adversaries for some time, little did I know that the opposite was also true, and finding that out was one of my greatest epiphanies.

I’m a fan of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, among many other teachers. He quotes Abraham Maslow quite a bit, mostly in reference to becoming a self-actuated person. One of the qualities projected by these people is an ability to “be independent of the good opinions of others.” Honestly (without sounding like I’m throwing myself under the bus) I had a difficult time understanding this bit of information. What did it mean exactly? I found out quite by accident while working on another job.

Tony and I were in a crawl space installing drain lines and having a pleasant conversation while we working.

He was still an apprentice and I was showing him some techniques as we progressed. “You know Daniel, I’ve never heard anybody say anything bad about you.”

I shrugged, “Wouldn’t matter if they did. I chose whom I live to please, and that group is very small. Everyone else is on their own.”

He laughed and the conversation continued. “As a matter of fact, all I’ve heard is good things, you get a lot of praise.”

This is where it got weird for me. I had no idea how I was going to react until I said it. “That doesn’t matter to me either. I’m grateful for it, but I seek neither applause nor even endorsement.” That’s when it hit me, I was independent of the good opinions of others. The realization shook me tremendously and I felt a little light-headed. I had come full circle with this belief.

By no means am I saying that others opinions aren’t important to them, of course they are. My opinions are important to me as well, but if I were to accept that everyone’s opinions were as at least as important as mine, I’d lose sight of my path. I’m not talking about becoming self-centered or arrogant. What I’m really focusing on is not letting others sway me from reality by either letting negativity dissuade me, nor letting praise give me false sense of accomplishment. I seek no approval, I accept no hostility. I do however accept criticism from those I choose to admire, and allow appreciation from those I have a close connection with. It sounds like a fine line. It’s not. I simply keep a small, very tight circle of influence around me.

Ask yourself “How many people actually have opinions that matter to you?” and you’ll see what I mean. It seems to be five or less for most people I’ve talked to. Too many and you’ll end up living the life of everyone else; constantly striving to please and fulfill their agendas. I don’t think anyone has ever made the world a better place by attempting to silence their audience with the promise of pleasing all of them.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood