What’s on Your Mind?

A penny for your thoughts. This phrase is used by curious individuals to encourage a person to share their thoughts, which are considered to be of some value to the inquirer. Notice the person who will serve as the audience must ask to hear the thoughts of the other.

I noticed, when on Facebook the other day, which I rarely visit anymore, that the prompt when opening the news feed is, “What’s on your mind?” So, apparently Facebook cares what is going through our minds, but does anyone else?

This brings to mind another little phrase, If you only knew what I was thinking. It used to be that people would keep their random thoughts as just that, thoughts. Whether these thoughts were flattering, insulting, inane, or clueless, they stayed in our heads as little secrets no one else knew. Now, we have a medium that allows us to voice all those secrets, but should we? Many people use social media platforms as an outlet to share their every thought at every moment of the day. They seem to think that their comments are funny or profound, or even that they are entitled by some authority to call out and/or correct another person’s thoughts or behavior, whether they know that person or not.

I, personally, think this is a dangerous precedent. I’ve heard people say in a positive tone that we have come a long way from the stiff rules and mannerisms of centuries past, but I think there is something to be said for behaving with decorum, manners, and restraint. We have replaced being helpful and courteous to one another with being critical spectators. We think we are being honest and open, when really we have become callous and hurtful. Insulting another person in a public forum, or posting an unflattering video or photo of some random person experiencing difficulty (or even someone you know) is just plain childish. Instead of posting a video of someone struggling, try helping him or her. Instead of ranting about someone else’s political views (because that will never get them to change their mind, and may encourage them to keep their own opinion), try understanding their viewpoint.

Not everything needs to be said, or written. Some thoughts should just stay in our heads. Uphold the Golden Rule, treat others as you would be treated. Or, how about this profound thought, If you don’t have anything nice to say (or post), don’t say anything at all!

 

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Test Your Theory About God

Last night, I lay in bed with the television off, eyes heavy and burning with exhaustion. The past few days have been draining and I felt like I had been defeated. I found myself uttering a weak prayer that was simply a vague request for God’s help. As I silently prayed, my thoughts became stronger and my words more precise. I prayed for exactly what I need and became very specific. As I felt a release of anxiety, I realized I was more awake and aware than I had been in a few days. I felt peace and hope enter my heart. I could feel the Lord Jesus envelop me in his love. The frustration and fear that had crept over me was replaced with the reassurance that God was taking care of me. He knows my circumstances, and He will provide. I awoke this morning with new determination and the knowledge that God will guide me and give me the strength I need.

For anyone who doesn’t believe in God, or who questions His existence, I ask you to pray. What can it hurt? Treat it like an experiment. You have a theory that God is not real. Now test that theory. Find a quiet place, remove the doubt from your mind, and ask God for His help in whatever you are facing.  Be sincere about it. Feel the peace that comes with knowing that the weight of your problems doesn’t have to lie completely on your shoulders. God will answer your prayer. It may be a feeling, a realization, or a response in a way you never expected.

God has a plan for each person. Although there are struggles, if you put your faith in Him, God will provide everything you need. It is the goal of the enemy (Satan) to tear you down and to make you believe that you are not good enough. Don’t fall for it. You are perfect as you are and you can make a positive impact on the world around you. Just put your faith in God and amazing things will happen.

Know the person, not the stereotype

Yesterday I read a post on social media that angered me. I tried to close the app and walk away, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the words written by a man I don’t even know. This man, in his effort to support a particular group of people, completely tore down another group of people, of which I am a part. It is possible, almost certain, that there are people who belong to both groups. I wish I knew why we feel the need to insult, make negative implications, and belittle one group in support of another. There is good and bad in every designation. Christians, blacks, whites, Muslims, Jews, police officers, lawyers, stepmoms, Italians, Irishmen, and just about every classification imaginable, have been assigned their stereotypes throughout time. I happen to fall into several of those categories. However, I would be devastated to be identified by the horrible, degrading, hurtful names that some people would use to describe me based on these designations.

When I was a young child, I went to my mother crying because another child had made fun of me. My mother told me that often people will make fun of others to make themselves feel better. He or she will find something to pick on about another person to deflect attention from his or her own shortcomings. This person, the bully, usually has very low self-esteem. My mother told me not to listen to the insults of someone who is so miserable that he needs to make other people feel bad, too. I wish it was that simple with grown-ups.

Stereotyping is not only dangerous, it’s often inaccurate. People, who accuse an entire group of people of acting or thinking a certain way, obviously have not taken the time to get to know people outside their own circle. Yes, there is bad in every group. There are angry, hurtful people of all colors, creeds, vocations, and life situations. There are also people who are hard-working, nice, caring, generous, educated formally or by experience (or both), and who want to contribute to their community in positive ways.

I know there are people who will read this and immediately think of groups which have no redeeming qualities. They do exist, but that is not the point of my writing. My goal is to shine a light on the practice that so many of us, including me at times, do without even thinking. We judge people based on a characteristic. Some of us picked it up from family, friends, or media. Some people may have had a bad experience and now attribute the negative qualities of one to the entire demographic. However it has happened, we need to retrain ourselves to remain open-minded. This does not mean we should ignore red flags. This means we should look for the best in people regardless of their religion, race, political party, or other background information, because that’s what it is, background information. These things contribute to who we are, but it is not all that we are.

It is not necessary to attack one group in support of another. It is not necessary to label an entire group based on the actions of one individual. It is entirely possible that one individual, or a faction, does not hold the same values as those in the core of the group. My suggestion is to learn about other groups and do not rely on the information of others, no matter how educated they proclaim to be. Do the research, get the facts, and then make an informed decision, still understanding that most groups have a varying level of dedication from their members, who have their own degree of understanding and faithfulness to the cause. Just because someone says they are a member of a group does not mean they follow the philosophy completely. Think about your own experiences in religion, politics, and hobby groups.

Most importantly, be introspective. Take a look to your own experiences and faults before condemning someone else. No one is perfect.

Before You can Heal the World, You Have to Heal Yourself

When I started this blog, I swore to myself that it would never be a raging, angry rant about everything I see wrong in the world. I personally believe that the words we speak and the thoughts we have are a reflection of our heart. I want to provide a positive, uplifting perspective to the problems we all face. Angry rants never lead to solutions, but facts and good manners just might. People whose words are more often than not negative, demoralizing, destructive, and hurtful are people whose hearts are full of pain, negativity, cynicism, and fear. Many people in this world are holding on to things of their past, and the emotions tied to the negative events have changed who they are and how they treat others.

We all have events in our past that we wish we could have skipped. I was a terribly insecure young girl and I made a fool out of myself on numerous occasions. I embarrassed not only myself, but sometimes my family, too. When I am feeling particularly down on myself, I dredge up all the stupid things I did and said and I feel the same surge of embarrassment and self-loathing I did when the event happened. As I have gotten older, my faith in God has helped me to realize that making mistakes does not make me a mistake. I have learned to let go of the past. I am not the same person I was then, and I won’t let those events define who I am.

We often hear that bullies attack other people because of their own problems. Sometimes making others feel as bad as they feel gives them a sense of control or power. Sometimes misery simply loves company. For this reason, our country is facing serious divides. There is so much anger, hurt, and fear among us that we can’t see our way to peace. The only way to heal the world is to heal yourself. You must let go of the wrongs you have faced, the pain that you have felt, and the indignities that you have survived. That’s the key…you have survived. You no longer need to be bound by the past. You are not who you were at that time. You are strong. You are full of love. You are filled with purpose. When you embrace forgiveness on a personal level, you can heal not only yourself, but you can contribute to the healing of this country. Until then, you will continue to speak the negativity in your heart and our divisions will grow.

I wish everyone could embrace this fact. No matter what has happened, or who caused the pain or fear in your life, you are worth more and you can do more than what that event has done to you. Holding on to past wrongs keeps you from reaching your potential. You will continue to feel hopeless, useless, angry, and even antagonistic.  Your words and actions will become a reflection of the negative emotions you have allowed to bind you. Release yourself from these bonds and feel the freedom that comes with not carrying the weight of the past around.

It is my prayer that all the people in this world who have been hurt will find a way to forgive. Your life is worth much more and you should not allow yourself to be stifled by the past. Make an audible declaration to forgive and to move forward in positivity, love, and purpose. Then let the healing begin!

Social Media is Not Credible

I just finished reading a mystery book where the main character has been accused of something she has not done. All arrows point to her and no one believes she is innocent. Of course, she is vindicated in the end and all her friends kick themselves for not believing her in the first place. While reading this book, I couldn’t help feel a sense of outrage on the main character’s behalf. Her so-called friends and co-workers turn on her based on evidence and hearsay provided by other people. They completely disregard the fact that they have known her for years and that her personal character has always demonstrated that she would not have committed the act in question. The accusations were completely unjustified, which became clear in the end.

This story reflects what we have been seeing in social media today. Social media began as an easy way to keep in touch with friends and family we don’t see every day. Photos and reports of children playing sports, family vacations, outings with friends, and even what people are making for dinner, were the mainstay. These light-hearted diaries slowly morphed into rants about equal rights and political candidates, religious debates, and analyzations of public figure’s remarks.  It’s this last one that correlates to the book I was reading.

Anytime a public person writes or says anything, it is immediately spread to the masses through social media. Sometimes it is like playing a game of telephone (remember that one, where you sit in a circle and whisper a statement in someone’s ear around the circle to find out if the last person says the same thing the first person said? It usually isn’t even close). The reports on social media are usually only a fragment of what was said, if they are true at all, and you get no essence of tone, volume, environment, or extenuating circumstances. You are left with the bias of the person posting, who most-likely did not hear the words first-hand, but instead believes what he or she heard or read from someone else.

This is dangerous. There is no research being done into these claims. There is no evidence. There is no first-hand knowledge. The Poster usually doesn’t even know the person they are writing about, and may not even know the person from whom they received the information. They are simply re-posting, and maybe adding their own comments. This is not credible information.  But, many people will form an opinion based on this incredible information. I can’t tell you how many times, during the last election, we saw outright lies being posted, which were easily discredited with a little research. People’s reputations and livelihoods are at stake. It doesn’t always become clear in the end.

No one should take anything they see on social media seriously. Just think about your own Facebook page. How often do you post the complete truth? No filter, no leaving out the dirty details? Look at your friends’ pages. Would you think they are what you know them to be based solely on what they post? With this realization, why would you believe what some random person writes about a public figure? Not that the news media is so unbiased these days, but at least they usually have to have at least two sources for their reports. With social media, you can write and forward whatever you want regardless of its accuracy. Don’t be deceived. Don’t believe everything you read. Do the research and find out what really happened.

It is Not About the Volume

My father used to say of music from my generation, “If you can’t play well, play loud.” Paying attention to current events through television, radio, and Internet news, I see that many so-called civil rights activists, politicians, and commentators use a very similar mantra. If you can’t put together a factual, truthful argument, just argue louder. Too often we allow people to shout us down, criticize our beliefs, and dehumanize us just because they are louder, not because they are right. I have seen upstanding, moral people back down from their opponents, or retract their words because the other side is making so much noise, and they will keep doing it as long as we allow them. We are afraid of what will come from their angry words and violent actions, but what we really need to be afraid of is what they are doing to our world (both personal and global). It is time to hold firm to our beliefs and our sense of self. We cannot allow others to shout us down, make us feel inadequate, or intimidate us.

I learned this lesson the hard way, as most good lessons are learned. In my mid-twenties, I worked with a very difficult boss, who belittled most of her employees and created a generally crappy work environment. To make matters worse, she knew nothing of my field of work. Each day I struggled to make myself go to work and ignore her snide comments, threats, and criticisms. She obviously had never taken a leadership course in her pursuit of the Ph.D. she touted to everyone. You know, the course where they teach that employee productivity increases in a positive, encouraging environment. Instead, we all just consoled each other and went out of our way to avoid her.

I tolerated this toxic work relationship for almost a year. I was stressed and I hated my job. This all changed one day when I finally got up the courage to tell my boss that she was out of line in her criticism and her manner of speaking to me. I did this professionally and with a respectful tone. It was a tense few moments, but it was worth the effort it took not to dissolve into my chair as she glared at me. From then on, things were different. She spoke in a respectful manner. She asked my opinion and reasoning. She even smiled once in a while.

I believe that this woman only showed respect to people who showed respect for themselves. As long as I was willing to be belittled, she was willing to be the belittler. If I was going to let her shout at me and call my work inferior, then she was going to do it. I realized afterward, if she really didn’t like my work she would have fired me long ago. She just wanted to feel like she was on top, and she did that by making the rest of us feel like we belonged on the bottom. By standing up to her, and I emphasize that I did this professionally, I showed her that I had respect for myself and my work, and that she could no longer treat me poorly. I believe we can apply this scenario to conflicts in today’s society.

Unfortunately, there are people who feel better about themselves when they can make someone else feel bad. It’s a power trip. It usually doesn’t last long, so these people need to find more and more opportunities, both with the same target and new ones. They are intimidating and will use any method to get the result they want, which is fear. Fear on the part of the target that this person can somehow cause them harm. This, of course, is the usual threat, that the target will lose livelihood, reputation, assets, and even safety.

Now, take a step back and consider the amount of harm this bully (and that is what these power trip-driven people are) can possibly cause. Make a rational decision about whether or not living in fear, anxiety and lack of dignity is worth whatever they may or may not be able to take from you.

In my case, I could have easily lost my job, which could have had a domino effect in my life. However, continuing to allow myself and my work to be criticized and my reputation to be ruined, was not a healthy option and made it worth the risk. If I can’t stand up for myself and my convictions, no one else will, and I leave myself open to these bullies, who can shape my life and society in a very bad way.

It is not easy, but by demonstrating respect for ourselves and our own beliefs, by not backing down and tolerating ill-treatment, we can gain respect from others. Calling out disrespect, untruthfulness, and fear tactics can send the opposition running. We must remember, it’s not about the volume, it’s about the message.

 

Give Kids Family Not Gangs

I read a news report a few days ago that has stuck with me and I feel compelled to write about both the report and what I feel is the most important take-away from the interviewees in the report. First, I would encourage you to read the story and watch the accompanying video. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/02/17/chicago-gang-members-say-more-police-wont-stop-murders.html

The words of the young men interviewed by journalist Michael Tobin have stuck in my thoughts. One of the gang members stated that “Half of these guys don’t got no mom…They moms or fathers was lost to the same gang that we getting ourselves into now.” Kevin Gentry, another young man interviewed said, “We are more like a family than a gang…brothers.”

It’s not a new piece of information that gang members usually don’t have strong family units. It’s a fact that has been talked about by former gang members and depicted in after-school-special-type television shows. Most of the time, gang members are looking for a family experience, where they feel loved, appreciated, and cared for. If we, as a society, can refocus our attention on the importance of the family unit, we could possibly change and save lives. There is so much attention paid to the aftermath of the actions of a wayward child instead of on the child’s beginning. The only way to stop the gang violence is to stop the reasons for it, such as the lack of a loving, safe home for each child.

The violence in Chicago is staggering. There were 762 homicides in Chicago in 2016, most of them gang-related, according to a report by CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/01/us/chicago-murders-2016/). These young men and the girls who become associated with them are looking to fulfill the basic needs that we all have: shelter, safety, love. They are not getting this from a mother and father.  This is where it all starts.

It is not easy to be a parent. It is especially not easy to be a single parent. Children need role models. They need to see a mother and father working together to set a good example. It can be done with one parent, but I know single parents who would gladly have a partner to help. Each parent provides a vital role for the child. Parents together give a child a sense of continuity, protection, love, and emotional balance. A child needs good examples of both male and female roles in the home and the community. The children who don’t have this type of example in the home are going to look for it elsewhere. Hopefully that will be with another strong example, such as an uncle, grandmother, coach, church leader, etc. But, if the child can’t fill their basic needs this way, they may turn in the wrong direction, like to a gang. One of the men Tobin interviewed described how touched he was that one of his fellow gang members gave him a gun because it made him feel loved that this person wanted to protect him. That is a feeling that should come from a parent and I am saddened that he does not have that.

A strong family unit, with upstanding parents eliminates the need for violent gangs. It is the parent’s responsibility to teach these young men right from wrong and to ensure that their child knows the consequences for doing wrong.

A Need for Good Fathers

While a mother is so important to shaping a child’s character, a good father is equally important. A father sets the standard of what a young boy should strive to achieve. If he sees a hard-working, honest man, then that is what he will want for himself. A young man needs a father to teach him to be strong and loving at the same time. A good father sets rules and follows through with fair disciplinary action. He teaches his son good work ethics, responsibility, and to hold strong to his beliefs. A good father also teaches his son through example how to treat women with dignity. He does not allow his son to degrade a woman for any reason.  A good father takes an interest in his son. He talks to him, plays with him, and listens to him. He is there as a guide showing love and affection.

If the father is in jail or otherwise absent, he leaves a void in his son’s life. A void that must be filled in some way.

A father is vitally important to a young girl, too.  He provides an example to his daughter of what a good man is and how she should expect to be treated. As a young girl, my father made sure to spend one-on-one time with me, taking me camping and to the ballet. He took interest in my activities, and listened when I told him how some boy was the cutest thing ever. When I started listening to music he didn’t like, he talked with me about it and explained the reasons why he didn’t feel it was a good example for me. He always opened doors for me, encouraged me in school and in activities, and he still buys me Valentines cards. He taught me to expect respect from the men I dated and to set standards for myself in every area of my life.

If a girl does not get the love and affection she needs from her father, she will turn elsewhere to find it. The girls who associate with gang members are looking for affection and are willing to do whatever it takes to get the attention of these young men. It makes them feel loved and wanted, even if it is fleeting. These men also provide for the basic needs of shelter, security, and means for food and clothing, for as long as the men are around. Then the girls may be left with an unwanted child and the cycle starts all over.

It is often said that women marry (or date) men who are like their fathers. Apply that to the situation of these girls who get involved with gang members.  They either have no father or a father who is a bad example so they gravitate toward a man who is unstable, disrespectful, and surrounded by violence.

So how do we fix this? It is not an easy answer. The first step is always education. Education not only in terms of school, but in terms of life. We have to stop the cycle of broken homes and focus on the importance of the family unit. Girls need to know that men in gangs will not provide a stable life for them and are not a substitute for a father figure. Boys need to know that gangs may seem like the only way to get the help they need, but gang life will only give them prison sentences, fear, guilt, and even death. Both the young men and women need to understand that raising a mentally – and emotionally-healthy child while still being a child, and without a proper home and steady income, is nearly impossible and will just result in another generation of children looking to gangs for the answers to their problems.

The young people in areas where gangs are prevalent, and that’s not just Chicago, will struggle with poverty and violence for the rest of their lives if they give into the notion that gangs provide what they need. The only way out of that life is to get an education and, once you are educated, help the community in any way you can. While this can take time to progress, there are steps that we, who are privileged enough to have grown up in healthy environments, can take to improve the conditions for these young people who have the capacity to do great things.

Mentor children who are struggling because they lack role models. This can be accomplished through community centers, churches, and non-profit organizations. Be the example these children need so that they understand there is another way of life of which they can be a part.

Provide resources to community organizations that help children stay out of that lifestyle. Making a donation is always appreciated, but there are other ways to help. If you work for a company that can provide materials for community centers, approach the executives with a proposal (include any recognition they might receive. Even though that’s not the point, they always like that). Put together a community drive to provide donations of sports equipment, art supplies, and books that can be given to the organizations who offer youth programs.

Were you good at math or science in school? Tutor children having difficulty in these or other subjects. Just letting a child now there are people who care and who are rooting for their success could give him or her motivation needed to continue their education. We all know education is vitally important to success.

You could also fund before and after-school programs and transportation programs so kids don’t have to walk through dangerous areas. Whatever you choose, you will be making an impact for the kids in that area, and for all of us. Less gang violence means a safer world, less children feeling abandoned and unloved means a healthier, happier world. Stop the cycle of violence!

We All Make Mistakes

No one goes through life without making mistakes. Hitting the mailbox while backing down the driveway, forgetting lunch on the counter, missing a deadline, putting the proverbial foot in the mouth, a temporary lapse of judgement; there are so many mistakes to be made. There are days when I feel like I have made nothing but mistakes. This is why I am so grateful that I have not been penalized for every blunder in my life. I am also glad that most of my mistakes go unnoticed by anyone else. When they are noticed, and when I have made life difficult for someone else, I am even more grateful for forgiveness.

We are not perfect beings and to treat someone as though they should be perfect is unfair. Many times, when we personally make a mistake, we say it’s unintentional or out of our control, but when someone else makes a mistake, we say it was intentional or the result of their inadequacies (there’s an actual theory all about this called Attribution Theory). We give ourselves leeway, but refuse that for others. It’s a bit hypocritical.

There are examples of this all over the headlines. We have seen an increase in the amount of attention paid to mistakes made by prominent people, some that were made years ago. These individuals are being skewered publicly while their lives and careers are destroyed. The media and the accusers are out for blood. The irony in all of this is that the people casting stones are far from perfect themselves. I often wonder if they are just trying to deflect from their own indiscretions.

It may be difficult to admit when you have made a mistake, but acknowledging the mistake and making amends to the best of your ability shows that you have learned something. On the other side, when someone makes a mistake that affects you, accept their apology and move on. Don’t drag their name through the mud, don’t hold a grudge, and don’t seek revenge. If it truly was a mistake, there is no need to make the person feel worse than they already feel. You will want the same consideration when the situation is reversed.

In situations where the person does not realize the extent of their mistake or does not acknowledge your feelings, still move on. The person doesn’t need to apologize; you can forgive without them being a part of it. Holding on to grudges and rehashing the events makes you feel as bad as, or worse than, the other person. Forgiveness leads to healing which leads to joy.

Give people a second chance. If I were still being judged by mistakes I made twenty years ago, I would be a mess. The same goes for mistakes I made yesterday. Everyone changes throughout their life. No one is the same person they were in their teens and twenties. I’m not the same person I was last year.

I don’t want to dwell on my mistakes, and I certainly wouldn’t want to see them debated in the evening news ad nauseam. So, unless you are perfect, and no one is, always remember, “To err is human, to forgive divine” (Alexander Pope).

 

Women, Choose Your Battles

I understand that women are angry about President Trump’s “locker room” talk. But I don’t understand why women aren’t angry about the plethora of media that objectifies females. Not only do women seem blind to it, but they participate in it.

Media is saturated with women played out as objects to look at instead of people with skills and talents worthy of admiration. Women pose nude, or nearly so, on the cover of magazines, fight crime in skin tight clothing in movies, walk the red carpet in strategically placed sheer cloth, and gyrate to their own music in nothing more than sparkly bathing suits. In interviews, women are asked tough questions about skin care, diets, and broken relationships.

If this is how we women allow ourselves to be portrayed, then how do we expect men to treat us with respect and dignity? Turn on any radio station playing top hits and you can hear all about how popular male musicians view the women around them. One singer considers himself a ferocious animal who “preys” on women like they are pieces of meat to be devoured. Many singers seem to think the word bitch is just another word for woman. Others sing about one-night-stands and the endless string of women they can conquer.

This isn’t the only area of issue. Just look at how women are portrayed in comic books and video games. Their boobs look like bowling balls suspended off their chests. I don’t know how they can stand up, let alone fight crime or mystical beasts. If women think that Barbie dolls are bad for a girl’s self-image, what do they think about how this portrayal of women will shape boys’ expectations?

So, why is there a huge outrage against what President Donald Trump said more than a decade ago, but nothing about these atrocities? Why aren’t there marches outside record studios or protests against video game makers?

Feminism is not just about a pro-choice argument. It is also about the right to dignity for women. We should be outraged by what has become an ordinary part of our culture. This isn’t just about one man’s words, but an entire industry that profits off of reducing women to nothing more than mindless bodies.  We can’t put all the blame on the media, though. We have to respect ourselves in order to be respected.

The first step is to demand more from ourselves and each other. Do not listen to music that is demeaning. Do not buy magazines or watch movies that portray women as objects. Do not allow your sons and daughters to play video games that proffer unrealistic expectations of women’s bodies. Do not purchase clothing for your daughter that encourages her to dress inappropriately, and explain to her why you won’t. Unfortunately, it may come down to a loss of revenue, but hopefully these companies will get the message, too. Once we set the boundaries, and stand up for our own dignity, we will succeed in making a positive change to our culture. Our daughters will be proud.

There is More Good Than Evil

When I was a child, around middle school age, I had a hard time making friends. I was shy, had low confidence, and spent a lot of time playing on my own. It was very difficult for me to put myself out there in hopes of making a connection. This is why I was so excited when, in seventh grade, through very little effort on my part, I made a new friend. We were instantly attached at the hip. We saw each other at school and she came to my house on several occasions. One afternoon, my new friend and I were talking in my room. She casually asked me about my background, saying her father was curious. I answered, thinking nothing of it. After that day, she would no longer speak to me in school and we never got together outside of school again. I knew why, but I was still confused and hurt.

I have rarely thought about this girl and her family since graduation. I haven’t harbored any anger or ill-will toward her. In fact, I forgive her and her father. I know that there are people in this world who believe that we are divided into a hierarchy based on race, ethnicity, religion, and other distinguishing characteristics. These people have hardened hearts and blinders on their eyes, but the worst thing we can do is to match their attitudes. Instead, we must soften our hearts and open our eyes to the truth. I truly believe there is more Good in this world than evil and that evil works very hard to make us think otherwise. If we fail to see this, to really focus on the good in our lives and around us, fear, anger and unforgiveness will take hold of us and destroy our lives.

In our current culture, there is so much focus on negativity. People agonize over all the wrongs we have faced, all the mistakes that have been made, all the hurt, confusion, anger, fear, and sadness. We are weighed –down by emotion and it is stifling.

It’s time to let it all go. Forgive. Forget. Reconcile. Be free. Be happy. Live without fear. Let the anger go. Feel the freedom. Let love into your heart. Improve.

Don’t let someone else make you something you are not. Be part of the Good in this world.