I hope this post finds you and your family well, and in a good place.
The New Year opened with grim news and mass hysteria for immigrants and minorities in America. I can only imagine the panic resonating among the refugees still waiting for their chance to come to America. A distraction was very much welcomed. For the entire month of January, I challenged myself to promote only positive and uplifting messages on social media, especially Facebook. Now, before the wheels start churning, my posts are generally positive; however, when I see instances of social injustices, discrimination in any form, police brutality etc, I will get out my soap box. The posts typically garner a bit of attention and discussion. Anyway, I digress, back to the matter at hand! Today, I want to share with you one of my favorite messages from the challenge. I guess it resonated with me because I’ve dedicated the rest of my life, however long that is, to ensuring it is full, in every way possible.
Take a look again at Anne’s message above. Does it urge you pursue the type of life you want to live, with wild, passionate, and fearless abandon? God, I hope so! I’m fully aware how ridiculously easy it is to get caught up in “doing stuff”; dreams are hard to chase, when we are furiously paddling beneath the surface, to stay above water. The timing isn’t convenient. My friends, it never is. As I have said before, one day, we will wake up, and realize there isn’t enough time to do all the things we wanted to do. Whatever your circumstances, and however this message reaches you, please don’t let this happen to you. Take steps, regardless of how small. Please, try not to get overwhelmed by the obstacles which persists on every step towards the destination. The only way you can fail, is if you fail to try. Focus on the journey instead, and how magical and glorious it can be.
I’m fast approaching my 6th anniversary as a blogger. Chindeepinlife will become a Blook; some of the most well liked, popular, and searched-for posts, will appear in its pages. The Blook is currently in the editing process, and it’s so difficult to choose! Watch this space. I remain grateful for you, my audience, for allowing me this platform, on which I’ve grown, thrived, and hopefully provided you succor in your time of need!
Yesterday, in a city I called home for more than a decade, news outlets showed footage of a black man, lying on his back in the street, hands in the air. He was trying to explain to police, the situation unfolding around him. Police showed up, to investigate reports of a suicidal person with a “gun”, and saw a black Behavioral Therapist with his white autistic patient, who was holding a toy truck. He was out walking with his client. Despite the volatile situation, the therapist can be heard trying to calm his patient, to prevent the situation from becoming even more dangerous.
The autistic man is sitting on the ground, a few inches away from the black man. One cop discharged his firearm, and shot the black man in his leg, multiple times. Coincidentally, the one who “posed” a threat by holding the toy truck / which looked like a “gun” wasn’t harmed. The therapist was then handcuffed, and left bleeding on the sidewalk for more than 20 minutes, before being taken to the hospital. When the victim asked why he was shot, the cop allegedly responded “I don’t know”. Current mantra states; do as you’re told, keep your hands up, obey police orders, and you won’t get shot. The cop and his superior’s excuse? He was aiming for the “armed” autistic man, but missed. Mind you, the cop is a SWAT member. Laughable!
I cannot begin to write about the number of incidents of racial profiling in America. I’ve also watched reports of a few brave cops in NY, who have spoken out about the pressure to make arrests. All in the name of quotas. It’s not uncommon for them to go into the vulnerable communities, and literally hunt for people to arrest. Cops know they can easily pull over a minority for a license plate infarction etc. It wouldn’t be right for me to write this post, without mentioning that Hispanics are also facing this issue, although, to much lesser extent.
Here are the FACTS: African Americans are 30% more likely to be pulled over than whites. After being pulled over, African Americans and Hispanics are three time more likely to be searched. In 2015, African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rates of whites. They are also arrested at more than twice the rates of whites. They are 75% more likely to be charged with offenses, and sentences are 10% longer when arrested for the same crime. The list goes on.
In stark contrast, people have shared their experiences, and videos of what is considered white privilege. I’m equally astounded by the restraint showed by law enforcement when arresting a white person, in comparison to people of color. In one incident, a police pulled over a white motorist, and saw he had a shot-gun in his car. Nothing came of it. The police and the motorist, ended up having a long chat. He was sent on his way. No ticket, no arrest, no checking to see if he had a permit to carry his gun.
In the past few weeks, the televised brutal and horrific murder of Alton Sterling and Philande Castile, brought about huge demonstrations, and clashes with police. There have also been instances of multiple police officers getting shot and killed, by men who reportedly got tired of police killing black men. Using violence to fight violence never solves any problems. I also know not every police officer is crooked. There are good men with integrity risking their lives each day, for our safety.
I’m beyond horrified at the state the country is in. Men, women, children have fallen at the hands of police. I started sharing my feelings on Facebook, showing my support to end racism in the police force. I tend to stay away from political posts on social media. I don’t waste time arguing about religion and politics. There is no need. I’m not sure if it was the culture shock of being absent from the country for more than six years, or being exposed to the graphic images of men dying, but I made my feelings known.
For the most part, some folks have been supportive. Others have stayed silent. Very silent. The same silent types have voiced their opinions on the killings of the police officers. Is one life more important or precious than the other? I can’t tell you how much this worries me. Maybe it shouldn’t. I mentally filed this observation away. If I dwell on it too much, it can develop into unwanted feelings. One uninformed and uneducated person, in another country, with no links or experience to the situation in America, decided she was offended by my status, and took to airing her views. A few have also stated that it isn’t happening in their country, so why protest. I need to take a closer look at my friends list! Obviously, they’re suffering from the #notinmybackyardsyndrome#
Race relations in America is a very emotive issue. Tensions have never been higher. Police have always killed black men. The only difference now, is that cameras are rolling. Anyone who denies that racism exists in America, and especially in the police force, is part of the problem, not the solution. Closet racists perhaps. It’s easy to recognize them, and their thinly disguised racist remarks, “Well, he should comply with orders”, “He had lengthy criminal record”. “Let’s wait for all the facts to come out”..
I’m in NY at this time. I’m not keen on driving (besides public transport isn’t too bad). I simply don’t want to give the police any opportunity to meet their quotas, or become another “driving while black” statistic. Multiple black women have died in police custody. I’m not saying this will happen to me, but the people who died didn’t think it would happen to them either. I’ve never really felt at home/settled in America, if I am honest. The current situation just adds to my growing unease. However, I find myself here now, and I will make the best of it.
I simply want to state here, as I’ve done on social media, that the world is watching. Racism has no place in the police force. It’s time for law enforcement to be held to a higher standard, and stop killing black and other minorities. We need a more thorough vetting and training process for policemen, including rigorous psychological assessments. The most powerful nation in the world, and this is the example we set.
I’ve been encouraged by people peacefully exercising their right to demonstrate against the obvious injustices facing minorities in America. Back in my beloved city of Bristol, crowds marched to show their support. I say thank you. For taking a stand and showing the rest of the world that you won’t stay silent. For doing more than lip service, as minorities are being slaughtered on America’s streets. I too, will find a march in my local area, and take part. If we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything.
I’m not saying everyone should be out marching, or doing what they can to end racism in any form. I would never ask that of anyone. I often wonder though, if black cops were out systematically killing Caucasians, how would society handle this? Would we just stand by shake our heads, and helplessly mutter:” This isn’t right…Something needs to be done..Blah blah..”. I don’t think so.
MLK’s words ring through now, more than ever: “No man is free, until all men are free everywhere”.
With the exception of a few places, I’ve always been commended for a job well done. Sometimes we go from job to job, until we find one that accepts our perfect mix of talents. I find that Welfare to Work is where I have found my niche. Perfect place to go out. Before self employment. I wish to share a recent experience, which has added to a year, shaping up to be one of the best I’ve ever had. A year, where I’ve finally figured out, what I was sent on earth to do.
First, when I lived in the USA, I worked as a Medical Assistant for more than 5 years. I left to study in the UK. I enjoyed that role immensely. Helping people live optimal healthy lives is a rewarding. Patients often expressed gratitude for the smallest allowances. The Christmas gifts were amazing too. Today, more than 5 years later, I stay in regular contact, with people who accompanied me on the incredible journey.
Last month, at the end of our usual monthly office meeting, I was pleased to be recognized as the Gold Medal Performance Quarterly Winner for the programme/department. We have two ongoing Welfare to Work programmes at work. The award recognize that I met and exceeded my targets. I help people overcome barriers to employment; get them back into work, and off benefits. There is great joy in hearing the words:” I found work”.
I have only been at my new role since late July, so to receive the award in September was amazing! To see your name in a company wide email which covers more than 70 offices, was one of the highlights of a year that has gone from bad, to absolutely phenomenal. The next month I received another email inviting me to London to take part in a Gold Performers Highlight meeting. I wasn’t able to attend, but the invitation alone was more than enough.
For years, I moved from job to job, for a myriad of reasons; boredom, lack of opportunity for growth, office politics, you name it. I moved on. I never once regretted my decision. On rare occasions, I would wonder why I was so restless, why I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt for moving on, before giving things a real effort. I left jobs after only a few months. I now know, it was because it felt like work.
I genuinely rejoice in my clients’ success and victories’, regardless of how small. When a client tells me they haven’t had a drink in three weeks, or after 30 years of drinking all day long, they have finally entered rehab, it’s a victory. For some, it could be finally having a CV for the first time in their lives, or learning how to turn on a PC, get off drugs, find any job, even with a criminal record..The list goes on.
I work with people who have incredible struggles. I hear it all day, every day. However, it never gets me down, not one bit. If anything, each day I’m reminded my life isn’t so bad, and more than ever, I want to do all that I can to help them. It’s a rather incredible place to be. After years of thinking I wouldn’t find a place/sector that would catch and hold my interest. I’ve finally arrived. Not a moment too soon.
Readers, I hope you are well. Have you ever had a month so wonderful, you’re not likely to forget it, for as long as you live? I hope so! For me, June was it. At first I thought it was a fluke, but when the incredible things just kept coming, I started to believe. The best month, I’ve had in a long time. Truth be told, my long-term memory is pretty good!
I didn’t forget to count my blessings and express gratitude. Just couldn’t. For, in recent times, I’ve been taken out to the watershed and back. I thrive on optimism, and would like to believe, the tide is finally starting to turn for me. I can only hope, June was the beginning of the exciting things I’ve waited for. Weeks later, I was still buzzing from all the wonderful gifts the universe brought my way.
So, what about June, that makes it so fantastic? Well, for starters, as the universe would have it, I made a significant change to an area of my life. From there on out, things just seem to come together. The fixed contract I was working on ended this month, which meant back into job hunting. During my first interview process, I interviewed for two jobs at the same company. I obviously made an impression, because I was given a choice as to which role, I should take! Nothing like this has ever happened to me before.
Professional accolades continued, as I helped to make history. Right before the contract ended, I attended the company’s AGM. My colleague and I were publicly recognized, for the work we’re doing in Bristol. Furthermore, we worked very hard, and no stone unturned, as we wanted to go out on a high.The result? When the numbers were tallied up, our manager found, that in comparison to the same quarter last year, and with more than twice the number of staff, sales increased by more than 50%.
Continuing with the good stuff, thanks to a government programme, I was finally able to sort out my student loans. This has always been a source of worry, one that would prevent me from accomplishing other goals. Imagine my relief! Onto the other dreams then! On the path to financial freedom, I enrolled on a course, that would help me set up and manage my own business. The fee I paid was a small fraction of the regular price. I also found a mobile phone plan for £13 pcm, in comparison to the £50-60 per month, I paid for the past two years. Increase credit offers also came my way.
I received free upgrades on my broadband and TV plan for six months. Discovered, that for me, metered electricity is the way to go. One day, I got a call from the NHS, offering to move my hospital appointment forward by months. A true godsend, as it takes ages to get one. Following on the heels of this, the appointment letter for the scan I needed, came in about two months later. All good things, when you depend on public health services.
I could go on and on! I must say, that I’m so chuffed with my decision to follow through with lookforthegood. I honestly can’t wait for January 2016, God’s willing of course. I’m so very grateful and humbled. The rest of the year could go awry, but I will I will never forget June.
Friday. Summer. Until you have enough money. For someone to fall in love with you. For things to happen.The perfect time……..Happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for it, and make the most of the moment you are in now.
Decorated hall at the shelter (pic could be a year old)
Last Christmas, I was fortunate enough to be in a role, where I had the entire Christmas break off. I decided to do something different. I volunteered at Caring at Christmas; a local organization, which houses about 80 homeless people from December 24th – Jan 1st, on a 24/7 basis. They have access to free food all day, manicures, haircuts, board games, pool, clothing, television, massage, dentists, doctor visits, chiropodist, the works. During the year, a smaller numbers are offered a bed, and food for the night. Rules stipulate, they must leave the next morning. Caring at Christmas is also open to others during the day. Anyone is welcomed to stop in, and help themselves to anything on offer.
During induction, we were made aware, that anyone at anytime can be homeless. Some of the people who frequent the shelter, once served in the armed services, held good jobs. You might be talking to a former engineer, teacher, civil servant etc. Chances are, we might be the only ones who bothered to sit, and have a chat with them all year. The Christmas season is the only time the majority of guests had a warm place to sleep, and food all day.
As much as I wanted to, a recent back injury prevented me from being at the shelter every day. I went as often as I could though. What an AMAZING experience! I didn’t know what to expect, but realized very shortly, how grateful I was to be able to do this. Naturally, I wanted to commit the experience, and the people whose paths crossed mine, to memory. Permit me to introduce you to a few of the people I met (names have been changed).
On my first shift, I met John. A fellow islander, he eagerly entertained me with card tricks. He told me how he had spent time in prison. His mom was suffering from terminal cancer. In a matter of fact way, he recounted the struggles he faced. I was impressed with his commitment to just keep going. I also spent time with John and Richard, who invited me to play several rounds of table tennis. John was very matter of fact in giving me hints, and tips on ball movement, paddle handling. The fact that I hadn’t played since I was a teenager? None issue.
Terry moved to Bristol a few years ago from London. He was well dressed, and well spoken. By all accounts, life was good in London. What led to the move, I didn’t know, and didn’t ask. He wasn’t interested in participating in the games, or activities. Terry was content to sit, and observe. He complained about not getting enough sleep at night. Apparently, some of the other guests stayed up all night! He had no choice though, he needed to eat.
Sandra had just moved to Britain from Spain. She was staying in a rundown hotel. One of my duties was to keep the clothes table tidy, and assists the guests with any items they needed. She had one request; a towel. Apparently, the ones at the hotel were flimsy, and not always clean. I gave her two. Wished that I could give more. The look on her face when she received the one item she asked, for will always stay with me.
Graham, he lived in a small town outside Bristol. He was nursing a broken ankle. His monthly benefit money wouldn’t come in until January. Every single day, he walked 5 hours to the shelter, because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t eat. He didn’t have money for bus fare. I struck up a quick rapport with him. Graham is tenacious. Carrying on, doing what needs to be done.
Sam was only interested in putting puzzle pieces together. We spent hours chatting over a 1000 piece. He didn’t share much about himself. So we kept to neutral, everyday topics. Time, naturally flew by. His thing was puzzles. No games, no television. Nothing. Just puzzles. And the company, of anyone who wanted to help him put them together.
Keith was a total character. A man with more than 5 City & Guilds qualifications to his name. We shared a mutual interest in pottery. Keith was the resident scrabble champion. He continually boasted about this to anyone within ear shot. One day, I put the word out, that I would challenge him. The next day, another player joined us. Come to find out, Keith had a habit of making up his own words. I came in second. I won’t forget this fellow. Keith, you’ve made an impression. May God bless you!
I could go on and on. Sometimes, I think my life is hard. The struggles, too great. I want to give up. Just like you. Then I volunteered last Christmas. I will not forget this experience, for as long as I walk the earth. I realised, I have more than I can possibly need. Before hand, I had asked some of my friends to donate unwanted clothing, and other donations. The second I place them on the table, hands came out of nowhere and swiped them away. One man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure. Thank you to Leanne B and Sylvia K. for coming through in time, and those who promised to do so later.
I am not one for making New Year’s resolutions. For a host of reasons. I figured, if there are improvements to be made; I can work on them, at any given time, throughout the year. While strolling through the park on New Year’s Day, I decided that 2015, will be the year, I start looking for the good. In people, and more so, in my own life. As often as I can. Every day. There are several projects, which, true to my nature, I am juggling at once. So, I hope I can keep at this, and turn it into a lifelong habit.
I have to remind myself to look for the good in everyone, often. I recognize this will be the most challenging bit of the exercise. Generally, (except for family, friends, and work) I dont look for anything. I mean, how often do we need to? We go about our daily lives, not a thought for the other person. We interact, and move on. Let me hasten to add, my friends and family, would tell you, I don’t automatically look for the bad. However, I know; I need to do a much better job, of seeking out the positive attributes in everyone, especially, when it would be so much easier to see otherwise.
As for the things in my own life; at the end of every day, I write short notes, about the things I experienced, the people who helped, etc, and place them in a jar. The photo above is the actual one I use. I started with white for January. Eventually, I will need to get a much larger, nicer model.
With so many grim images and stories, of terrible things happening in the world, I want to find another way to escape its brutality. One that is often very difficult to accept. The past few years have been rough. I am sure it is for the next person. This exercise, will offer peace and comfort, when I look around, and find dimness.
If I am blessed to be alive next year, I will open it on Jan 1st, and be reminded of all the wonderful things, and people, which made up 2015. It’s been a wonderful exercise, thus far. I find myself looking forward to writing the notes every day. WHY didn’t I do this sooner? I had to resist the temptation, to reread the slips of paper. Even though I just added them. I am sure, at some point I will, as the lure will be too great. It’s a good problem to have, isn’t it? 🙂
I will update you on this project throughout the year. Wish me well.
More than a decade ago, I came across the poem below. I can’t tell you how often, I turned to these precious words. They provided hope and comfort in times when the storms came. The wind blew. And raged all around me. I had completely forgotten about it, until a friend recently posted it on their Facebook page. I have only recently realized the importance of collecting memories. Not things.
HEAVEN’S GROCERY STORE
I was walking down life’s highway a long time ago.
One day I saw a sign that read, “Heaven’s Grocery Store”.
As I got a little closer the door came open wide.
When I came to myself, I was standing inside.
I saw a host of Angels, they were standing everywhere.
One handed me a blanket and said, “My Child shop with care”.
Everything a Christian needs is in that grocery store.
And all you can’t carry, you came back the next day for more.
First, I got some Patience, love was in the same row.
Further down was Understanding, needed everywhere you go.
I got a box or two of Wisdom, a bag or two of Faith.
I just couldn’t miss the Holy Ghost, it was all over the place.
I stopped to get some Strength and Courage to help me run this race.
My basket was getting full, but I remembered I needed Grace.
I didn’t forget Salvation, which like the others was free.
So I tried to get enough of that to save both you and me.
Then I started to the counter to pay my grocery bill.
I thought I had everything to do my master’s will.
As I went up the aisle, I saw Prayer, and had to put it in.
For I knew when I stepped outside, I would run right into sin.
Peace and Joy were plentiful; they were on the last shelf.
Song and Praises were hanging near, so I just helped myself.
Then I said to the Angel, “How much do I owe”?
The Angel smiled and said, “Just take them everywhere you go.”
Again, I politely asked “How much do I really owe?”
The Angel smiled again and said, “My Child, Jesus Paid Your Bill A Long Time Ago.”
I LOVE this piece. I find it beautiful. Cathartic. Comforting. Hopeful. I hope you will either take a copy, or come back to this post again. As often as needed. So often in my life, words are the only things that provide hope and succor.
Until the next post,
I found the pin below on Pinterest today. I thought I would share an answer per day on Facebook, but then, life inevitably gets in the way. It will be tackled in the near future. But fir now, I will use it for my journal entries. I hope to revisit this page in a few years. See how my outlook, and perspective have changed. The topics can also be used for journal entries. Enjoy. Some ideas are too good not to share. Until the next post,