The Christmas season is now upon us and in keeping with my Anglican traditions, the season will continue through 6 January when tradition has it that the Magi arrived at the stable in Bethlehem to present their gifts to the Christ child. Our thought has focused on the kindness and unconditional love shown by the Magi as they traveled far to reach that stable, with no thought of receiving anything in return for their gifts. In their hearts, they knew that the babe born in a stable was a special gift and that was enough for them.
What a great lesson from history for us to think about and to model. I see this modeled every time I see an act of kindness. People are kind because they believe that’s the right thing to do. Kind acts happen without the expectation of being repaid. But somehow, that kindness finds its way back to folks, especially when they least expect it. Our wish would be that the spirit of Christmas follow all of us throughout the coming year and we are moved to practice kindness with even greater frequency.
Merry Christmas, everyone, and Happy Holidays.
I read an Internet article yesterday about the death of a former K-pop singer, Sulli. My first thought was of her family and friends and the devastating sense of loss they must be feeling. I wondered how such a talented young woman would come to think that the only solution to her mental anguish was to apparently take her own life. How is it in today’s world, where we are supposedly so interconnected through social media, that a young person would come to feel so isolated and alone? It appears to me that far too many people, young and old alike, come to believe that the ultimate solution to their pain becomes their only option. We, as a society and global community, are diminished by that decision. How can we turn this around?
For one thing, we need to have meaningful conversations with one another. That means that the cell phones are put down and face to face conversations take place. We need to be engaged with one another in discussing the things that matter most in our lives. Old fashioned eye to eye conversation is needed in order to make that human connection that will mean so much to those involved.
Next, as a society and global community, we need to reassess our priorities. Today’s technological world has the advantage of social media, but that advantage also carries some significant consequences. Social media can and often does create an unrealistic standard of what we should look like, what to wear, what to eat, who we should follow, etc., etc. What’s missing in that approach? I think what’s missing is the realization that each of us is unique and individual. Because of the anonymity of the Internet, some folks believe that gives them license to point out other people’s imperfections, often in demeaning terms. Instead of insulting one another over real or perceived imperfections, why aren’t we celebrating the fact that despite our individual differences, we humans have the heart and mind to come together as a family, group of friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. That coming together to solve common problems is, in my assessment, the avenue we must use in order to stop the sense of isolation which can lead some to believe that the world is better off without them. Trust me, we aren’t.
With the new year, we have an opportunity for a fresh start on any number of things – improving things within our organization, starting a new fitness plan, taking up a new hobby or refining one (shooting my age in golf is a dream), learning a new skill, etc.
As leaders within our organizations, we have an opportunity to ensure that all of the tools needed by our staff are now available. We can also, as an organization, provide help and support to any number of worthwhile victim advocacy agencies within our communities.
As members of our community, we can renew our efforts to make a positive change in the lives of children who are or have been in abusive or difficult situations. One thing that we can focus on is learning about the needs of organizations which help families which provide foster care or adopt these children.
Many of these organizations are nonprofit groups which provide a number of services such as counseling to all victims as well families, and providing information about available resources. Some of these organizations exist to increase public awareness and to provide education and training for other support groups, as well as members of the community. Victim advocates provide an important service of insuring that the needs of any victim are appropriately addressed in a timely manner. Advocates provide vital support to victims if a criminal prosecution occurs. These advocates stand by the victims throughout the entire process.
It is important for these agencies to know that they have the support of the surrounding community as they provide these vital services. So what can we do?
We can learn about what agencies and groups are available within our own communities. We can volunteer services or talents that we may have to help these agencies achieve their mission. We can help broadcast their important information to other members within our community. If we can seize this opportunity in this new year, we can make a positive difference in the lives of victims, especially the children.
When kindness and respect become second nature, we can experience an inner peace that brings a remarkable degree of tranquility and serenity to us. I truly believe that when such tranquility and serenity are in full force, we can bring peace into our lives and into the lives of others. This can be one of the greatest gifts that we can ever give.
When peace dominates our lives, we can see in better focus the true meaning that others bring to us. This enhances the love that we feel for our family and friends. This love that we experience is so readily shared with others and quite honestly, is something that is very difficult to describe at times. We just know that things are so much better and our lives are so much richer because of the love that we share with others based upon kindness and respect.
The peace and love which we derive from being kind and respectful not only enhances the love we share with family and friends, but it also results in a sense of joy that, like the love we experience, is so very difficult to describe. It is not, however, difficult to share.
In this Christmas season, I truly wonder how great the peace would be, how rich the love would be, and how great the joy would be if kindness and respect were the foundation for all of our behavior. I can think of no greater joy than a life lived in peace, and enriched by the love of family and friends. I wish all of you the best of a joyous Christmas season, and a kind and respectful New Year.
Respect (noun) – having a high regard for someone or something or having an admiration for another based upon their achievements, abilities, or personal qualities.
I think we can all agree that it appears that the concept of respect has become lost in the sauce. Respect means that we hold someone in high regard. Like kindness, respect is given with no strings attached. We are simply expressing our admiration for an individual, group, organization, etc. This admiration is based most often upon positive qualities.
I respect Christina Kim of the LPGA. Her professional career is not the stellar career of other professionals on the tour, but I hold her in very high regard because of her courage in dealing with a mental health issue that significantly impacted her professional golfing skills. She hid her pain of severe depression through humor and comedic antics on the course. I especially admire her courage in going public with her issue. And with karma being what it is, shortly after opening up to others about her issue, Christina earned a much deserved LPGA tour win.
I respect the thousands of victim advocates who work tirelessly on behalf of individuals who have become victims of criminal behavior. The professionalism and passion that these individuals show on a daily basis cannot be imagined until you see these individuals come together in a national symposium to recharge their batteries (so to speak), learn from one another, and constantly seek new and better ways to assist victims. It is through their dedication that victims understand and appreciate that they are valued as individuals.
I often wonder how much better our society would be if we all lowered the decibel level and showed more respect. In any disagreement, there is never an invitation to be disrespectful, hateful, or mean-spirited. There is nothing about the concept of respect that requires us to give it blindly. Simply stated, respect must be earned and once given to an individual, that individual must continue to uphold the same standards that earned our respect in the first place.
Kindness (noun): Having the quality of being considerate, generous, and/or friendly.
Acting with kindness requires very little effort on the part of the giver. At one point in time, it was a gift that was given abundantly, with no strings attached. When shared, it is the gift that keeps on giving. Being on the receiving end of an act of kindness can make a person’s life so much better. In turn, that person may want to share the kindness with others. That’s what used to happen and no one thought anything wrong with sharing kindnesses. However, in today’s world and social media, not so much.
The anonymity of the Internet allows folks to broadcast hurtful, unkind, malicious, and false statements with no fear of being caught and held accountable. Regardless of intent or agenda, there is really no place in our lives for hatred and unkind behavior. Choosing to be kind can make such a positive difference to our workplaces and in the lives of our family and friends.
Contrary to what some might have us believe, being kind to someone is not a weakness. In fact, we need to realize and appreciate the strength of character it takes to be kind, especially when confronting hatred or unrelenting division. In the name of all that is decent, we must hold ourselves and one another accountable so that in our time, hatred and unkind behavior can once and for all be eliminated, replaced by the uncompromising generosity of kindness.
Over the long weekend, I had occasion to tune in to different memorial services for two rather prominent people in our country. And I have a couple of observations.
Because we may hold a position of authority or status, doesn’t mean we should violate that position and demean another individual. Just because we can treat another person badly…. doesn’t mean we should. As leaders within our communities and organizations we have an ethical obligation to be the best we can be, to be positive role models for young people, old people, and people in between. We have an obligation to treat every single individual with respect and dignity. Nothing in our position or former position entitles us to degrade or demean anyone. Our employees deserve to know that they will always be treated with respect and dignity. Crime victims deserve to know that they will always be treated with respect and dignity. Our society needs to know that those who have access to public forums will follow a philosophy that showcases respect and dignity for everyone. As our parents used to tell my generation – you don’t have to like that person. But you do have to be treat them with respect and civility. In that instance, because we can, we really should.
I should stop getting updates from a variety of news sources. This week has seen a flood of reports about abuse of children and others. The one that stood out was the sentence of probation passed out to a woman defendant in Minnesota who attempted to hang a 16-month old in her home based child care center. The sentence handed down by the judge? A ten year term of probation, including special conditions for mental health treatment, and no unsupervised visits with minors, among others. The defendant was credited with the 20 months in jail that she has served since her arrest in November 2016.
Here’s the problem – a sentence imposed in a criminal matter has a number of functions to fulfill, not the least of which is specific and general deterrence. According to defense counsel, the defendant already served a sentence of imprisonment because of her pretrial detention and she’s now lost her career in child care. Seriously? How does the sentence imposed address the important consideration of general deterrence? So long as our criminal justice system continues to be inconsistent is punishing offenders who inflict harm on others, especially children, we all will continue to read horrific stories of people inflicting unspeakable harm on victims, especially those who are too vulnerable to fight back. Those of us in positions of leadership, whatever the organization, can be of help by working toward a more consistent approach to effectively punish anyone who inflicts harm on another. Our criminal justice system is good, but by exercising our moral and ethical leadership, we can make it better, especially for victims of abuse.
This past weekend I had occasion to shop at my local office supply store and was a bit shocked to see “Back to School” displays and goods already available. It took me a couple of seconds to remember that here in the desert southwest, school starts a number of weeks before schools in other areas of the country, so it’s only going to be a bit more than a month before school starts back in earnest.
It’s sort of comforting to know that despite all that‘s going on in our lives these days, there are still some things that never change – schools open for about 180 days and close for the summer. We know that Labor Day will mark the traditional end to summer and we’ll enter into a busy time of the year with various holidays upcoming. And we know that with the New Year, we’ll continue that comfortable cycle.
What we can’t continue is turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the needs of hundreds of thousands of children in foster care in this country, nor can we continue to stay in our rut when it comes to child abuse, molestation, and murder. I know I keep beating this drum about protecting our children, but as leaders in our communities and organizations, if we don’t stand up and do so, who will? Data is available which shows that hundreds of children die each year from neglect or abuse. I know that so little attention to paid to this horrific situation, probably because it doesn’t garner a whole lot of media or public attention. That, in itself, speaks volumes about those people who would seek to continue to ignore this issue. I can’t ignore this any longer. I know that today’s children represent the future employees and leaders of our companies and organizations and we need to protect their futures now. I hope you will join with me in breaking out of this rut and finally make a positive, significant difference in the lives of our children.