The answer to the question of faith is…why not?

My son lately has become more and more engaged in philosophical thought.  I encourage him to spread his mind at the same time that he spreads his wings and becomes more independent. Life is meant to be lived but it is also meant to be considered. He has been doing just that and one of the recent challenges has been thoughts of faith and God and heaven and hell.  Thoughts which have perplexed the human spirit, mind and soul for ages.

My son is a scientific thinker. He looks for evidence of what can and should exist. If there is a lack of evidence, his conclusion, based on science, is that it doesn’t exist.  Again, that is logic but even logic has its limitations.  So my challenge was simple, if you cannot prove that it exists, challenge yourself to prove that it doesn’t exist!

This was quite the concept.  How can you prove that something doesn’t exist?  Thinking back to the earliest minds of our time, they knew that it is impossible to prove that something does not exist.  The next time someone tells you that unicorns are not real, ask them to prove it! They cannot!

But that is logical thinking and sometimes we must live our lives with compassion. So again, let’s look through those windows.  Start by looking at the old woman who lives day by day with the pain of age.  She looks out her kitchen window and seeks comfort in memories and in faith.  She looks at the backyard that is now empty through the dirty curtains that sit over the kitchen sink.

She used to pull them back while she did the dishes and look out in the yard to the rickety and rusty metal swing set that their children played on lazily after dinner.  The red brick patio that her husband had put in, a little at a time, day after day when he came home from work. He dreamt of being able to sit out there and watch the girls swing as he read the evening paper each night.  Inside that window, she dreamed right alongside him, bringing him iced tea as he worked.  She dreamed of watching all of them as they shared their blessings together.

The bricks are dirty and his chair has been empty for six years now.  The swings simply sit, gathering rust with each rain storm as the girls have long since left to pursue their dreams and their families.  They call and she smiles through the phone but they cannot see her tears as she talks while looking out that dirty back window, remembering when she felt whole. playing in the yard

She still sets an extra place at dinner each night. She still asks him about his day. She still says goodnight and I love you to the empty space in bed where he once would lean over, gently kiss her cheek each night and squeeze her hand.  The only thing she has now is faith.

She has the belief that someday when she departs this earth she will spend her eternity back by his side.  No more aches and pains. No more tears, only love and pure joy at being united in everlasting love as God had meant it to be.  The smile that she smiles each night and again begins each morning with is because of that faith.  It gives her the drive to wake up and continue her journey, knowing what lies ahead.  Could I ever take that away from her and why would I?

I look over at my wife as she sleeps and those same thoughts race through my mind. What if we are parted someday?  How will I last counting the seconds before I can kiss her cheek again, to squeeze her small hand and tell her that I love her?  What will I do when I normally spend my evenings smiling at her as she plays with our children or watches television or plays a video game?  I will have faith that someday God will let us be together again.

The real joy of living is not just based upon the joy of living today but the dreams of joy tomorrow.  And rather than dwell upon the past and fear for the future, the greatest gift we can give someone is the faith to believe that their joy will continue after their time here is through.

Today look past those kitchen curtains and decide for yourself that you will have faith.  That whoever it is that you wish to spend your eternity with will be there waiting and expecting you.  Then smile because your window to the past becomes a shining window for the future.

Faith is not about the way we live, faith is all about the people we love…

Putting Real “Thanks” in thank you!

The two most important phrases in the English language are “I am sorry” and “Thank You.” But count how many times you use them without being told or being reminded or you simply say it without meaning it?  Today my thoughts as I look out the window are on those two incredible phrases which can literally change who we are and how we think of ourselves!

Saying I am sorry to end an argument is not truly saying you are sorry.  Saying you are sorry and immediately following it with the word “but” is not saying you are sorry.  Saying that you are sorry but not meaning you are sorry is NOT being sorry!

Yet being truly Sorry, telling the person that you hurt that you are sorry with compassion and meaning is the most incredible phrase. It is the beginning of healing whatever pain and divide was created.  What a powerful concept. Words that can actually begin to heal the soul!

Then there is Thank You.  We use it every day without really using the words. Like I am sorry, we say them almost as a simple acknowledgement with no emotion or true feeling of thankfulness.  When God called on us to give Thanks, was he really only talking about when someone passes you the vegetables at the dinner table?  Is that what thankfulness truly is?  Couldn’t it be something so much greater?

Window with heart

A few months ago I met a single father who had to come to school because his son, a difficult fourth grade kid, had made some poor choices.  This is not unusual and we try to work with parents to find ways to meet their kids where they are and get them moving in the right direction.  Our meeting lasted about a half an hour and to his credit we have not seen his son in trouble since.

Today as I waited for some coffee in line at the convenience store the man came up and tapped my shoulder. I thought that I recognized him but wasn’t quite sure. He smiled and could easily tell that I had no recollection of him so, as parents usually do, he reminded me that he was this child’s father. I recalled it and asked how his child was doing? He said doing great, they got him help and was doing well at home and school.  I smiled and said that it is great that things got better.  He looked at me and said “thank you” for your help.  I simply nodded and said “anytime” then made my way out of the store. I was halfway to my car to finish the trip into work when an arm caught my shoulder from behind.

I turned and it was this father.  He looked at me and said, “You don’t understand, I really want to Thank You for helping me with my son.”  I was taken back.  He was right, I didn’t understand the difference between thank you and Thank You.  Two different meanings and guess what? The second Thank You made all the difference in the start of my day.  He truly appreciated the help.  It was the Thank You that can change who we are.

So today as you look through your window. Think about who we need to truly say I Am Sorry to?  Think about who you need to say Thank You to and how that may change them as well as change you?

If you came upon my words today and they helped change the way you think and how you react to people, then Thank You for reading!

Sometimes pain comes with the rain

The windows again seem cold to the touch.  There are tons of trees outside but all I can see is the face of a little angel who sat in front of me this week to tell me about how the boy had touched her.  Her words are spoken in a soft and reserved voice but with the vocabulary and mannerisms of a nine year old, yet describing an act that some adults cannot describe.

These are the times you have to be supportive and keep the rage inside. You are here for this child, here to make sure she is okay and that she feels less victimized because someone is listening and going to help her.  While she talks, her eyes only occasionally look up.  Usually they are pasted to the tops of her white scuffed up tennis shoes as if there were some magical jewel adorning the top that she could stare at to avoid recalling what happened.

While I listen my eyes look past her as well and out the window into the cold and into the world and I wonder where the boy is and if he has ever thought about what he had done? Does he relive the experience as she does? Did he “move on” and forget about it? Since the police never knocked on his door, does he think that the storm passed and that he will never answer for the harm that he had done?  What was he thinking that day looking at this innocent angel and making her do things that the devil would be ashamed of?

Once again sorrow creeps into the room.  I sit down now to write, just to try to get it off my chest and to forget.  I know that no matter how many times I write about it, no matter how many times I shake and the tears come that I try to hide from my colleagues and my family, these things take a toll. Part of my soul crumbles like the leaves that stay on the branch in winter, just withering yet barely hanging on.

One of the reasons that I started to write about my thoughts as I look out these windows is the hope that I will remember there are days when the sun is bright and there is hope. There are days when someone does something good and helps another person, that I look out and restore my belief in the general goodness of humanity.

Not today, I look down yet again and see her staring hopelessly at her shoes.  Having seen it before in adults, I am not terribly surprised that even such a poor innocent child could begin to find ways to blame herself for the conduct of an indecent animal.  He belongs in jail, I calmly remind her, and you did nothing to ever deserve this. I try to smile reassuringly and hope that my eyes don’t betray my thoughts. As she hugs me and begins to walk away, I stare at her and again think about what will happen in her future. I don’t want to tell her about the years of self-doubt and emotional issues that she will experience. That she may never have a strong positive relationship with a man.  I don’t want to tell her because some part of me hopes that somehow there is some miracle that makes her forget that it happened.  That makes her feel safe and secure in who she is.  That takes away her pain, her fears and her memories.  Something that will cure the cracks before the whole girl just shatters emotionally.

An atmospheric image of a mystery woman staring out at the gathering storm clouds through a Georgian window.
Praying that she will someday see the sun again

Then I turn back toward the window and my mind returns to the horrible things that I wish I could watch happen to this boy. How I wish I could simply take him to her father’s house and hand him over as they used to do in the “old country.” He will have his day in court but that is a clean and sterile place that simply applies the law and issues punishment. There are no miracles in court; there is no machine that the judge could order that the entire event simply never took place.  None of that can happen. It is not revenge nor is it vengeance.  It would even be a horrible disservice to say that you could even attempt to offer some type of restitution because there is no amount of money that can make up for what has occurred.

I am alone now looking out the window and waiting for the darkness to fall over the world. I want to take a shower but experience tells me that it doesn’t help and I will still feel the filth clinging to my skin as if it were permanent.   I need a drink and peace and quiet so that I can try to fall asleep.  I want another day to come just so that today can be over.

I need to see the sunrise and believe again. I need another day to remember that there is hope and light and goodness. Mostly right now, I just need to sleep and to try to forget one more time.  Some day when this career is over and I don’t have to feel like this I will move somewhere that is full of beautiful and bright windows, never darkened by the evil of man.  For today, I am closing the blinds and saying goodnight to the world. Please let it feel differently in the morning.

When innocence is lost, hope will soon follow.

learning-together2
If they could only stay this way….

When did they grow up?  When did we lose control of the way that they grow up?  When did we first lose them? My thoughts today focus on hope and where we must go to find it again.

I have read thousands of articles about the human condition and the process of growing from an infant into a strong adult, how we can develop character in all kids. In education we all sit in workshop after workshop and we learn just a few tricks that will help us in our struggles to make sure the kids turn out as perfect new members of society. While we sit in the nive well lit meeting rooms we forget for a moment that some of our students don’t have heat or electricity or food.  We want to give them character but they want us to give them so much more.

So now, where I work and with the kids that I work with, I feel as frustrated as ever because the one thing that I want to give them, I cannot give them. The one thing that they need more than an education and knowledge; I cannot give it to them. The thing that they are thirsting and desperate to experience is hope.  Yes, I can hear my friends saying that education equals hope and if the kid believes in it, if they have enough self-confidence and inner strength then they will be able to make the leap and allow their education to be the bridge to hope.

If they live in a city where their friends are shot and killed almost daily. If they live in a city where the sirens wail day and night as a constant reminder that somewhere there is another family who has lost a son or daughter or mother or father, how can they tune it out to listen for the sounds of hope?  Some of them I have loved as if they were my own and watched as they grew from kids who could smile and had a yearning to experience more than what they were seeing.  Now many can only stare blankly because they can’t hear or feel the hope any longer.

One of my favorite movies is the Polar Express because the symbolism is meant to remind us of the importance of faith and believing.  The adults who do not believe in Santa cannot hear the bell ring. If they would only believe, we are told then the bell could ring forever. I watch year after year as these kids can no longer hear the message of hope and opportunity. They simply can no longer believe.

I want to find those who have stolen their innocence and shake them and ask them what they were thinking?  How could we let those innocent little kids who thought the world could be theirs and they could be or do anything that they set their mind too turn into adults who feel like they cannot do or be anything?

There is a break in the chain somewhere and as a society we need to find it.  We cannot be innocent and naïve forever, but the human spirit can only survive so much before it stops believing.  Live in a dark room for long enough and eventually you will forget there is a sun.

#Hope for the Hopeless

Windows and mirrors..Moments and memories

Does anyone drive a car backwards?  Can you really focus on where you are going by looking in the rear view mirror?  I think the answer is no, but there are surely some people out there whose sole life experience is based on that rear view mirror.  Seeing where they came from and regretting the things that they have not seen or that they drove past.  Regret is a terrible emotion, but it is worse if you look for it and wallow in it and base your existence on it.

In discussing time with my class, some of the fun things that students say is that you cannot get back those wasted seconds.  Once time passes, you cannot get it back.  It is lost forever.  Live in the moment cause you never get that moment again.  Seems like decent logic, but it also seems a bit focused on that rear view mirror doesn’t it?

Not one of the students said, look forward to the next moment or the next minute or the next hour or the countless hours you have coming up.  They focused on what is lost and not what you have yet to experience.  Semantics, maybe, but still it is a bit of a downer view.

What direction does the helmsman of a ship look toward on the ship?  The front!  The charts are based on where you are going, not where you have been. Yes, we have to look back just to see where we have been and to correct the course if we have to, but we don’t focus on it! We focus on the future, what lies over the horizon.

rear view mirror

Great explorers did not spend all of their time fretting over the lost time as they explored places that were not the goal of their journey. They stumbled upon amazing things and relished those added bonus adventures but went back to work trying to find that which they set out to find. They focused on the journey wherever it took them but always with a vision toward the horizon.

Can we be so focused on living in the moment that we forget to dream of the future?  That we minimize the importance of those goals and the steps needed to achieve them?  We can and sometimes we do.  Time is a tricky thing. If we spend too much time focused on time then we are simply wasting our…well…time.

If we spend all of our life and effort looking out the rear view mirror with regret and living in nostalgia and longing for what was or what might have been, we lose the grandeur of the front window and what will be and what lies ahead.  You are right, you cannot get back the past. Those decisions were made and can never be taken back.  But the road ahead holds countless untraveled miles and memories waiting to be discovered. It holds infinite opportunities for adventure and passion and discovery.

The real joy of life can be seen from the window and not from the rear view mirror!  I look forward to seeing you look forward!  Cover up the mirrors of regret and take great joy in looking out your new window to the future.  Enjoy the view!

Sunrise and renewal

Today’s thought revolves around our connection and reflection outside and inside of that window. Today I saw the sunrise on an amazing morning.  I saw a little mist that clung lazily to the fields next to me as I drove thinking about yesterday’s sadness. But does the sunrise mean the same thing to everyone? To me the sunrise represents opportunity. In reality we get a new chance to start over every single day. Today it was new. The sun still rose. There was still sunshine. When I looked out that window I also noticed my own reflection. I’m still here.

sunrise out the window     How many people do we know that look at life as a long-term struggle? They tell you about their bad week or their bad month or worse yet, their bad year?  So when they wake up every single day they just look out at the world and give up before the day even starts? I don’t understand the mentality that they have to wait for some magic sign that the suffering is over. When do they know that the bad day/month/year is over?

When a child is learning to walk, we celebrate each clumsy little step. They are afraid at first, but with each step you can watch them become more confident, more self-assured.  Then they fall. They are scared at first, almost afraid to try again.  But keep watching them and do you know what you may begin to see? They begin laughing when they fall. As parents we may make jokes about “falling down and going boom” and they learn from us to laugh it off and get back up again.  We never ever tell them to stop.

Yet as adults we tell ourselves to stop and give up all the time. We tell ourselves that we have no hope.  We stop celebrating the little steps and laughing when we fall.  We will all fall and we will all have bad days, weeks or even years. We can sit back and cry or we can get back up and celebrate the next good anything.  Having a bad month? Celebrate when you have one good day.  Having a bad day? Celebrate when you have a good hour or even a good minute!  Take joy in the quick little victory.  Break the chain of defeat and celebrate renewal. That’s the glory of time, it keeps going and with each second comes a new opportunity to change and to start over.

That sunrise was tough because yes, the poor teen I knew did not wake up this morning and will never see another sunrise.  His parents woke up for the first of many days to ignore the sunrise and feel sorrow and emptiness.  I woke up to believe that today was another chance to make a difference. To help someone. To support my kids and my family and my world.

I woke up believing that my reflection in the window meant that I am here to live another day and to live it well.  I hope you have a great sunrise!

 

Stormy thoughts from the window..

So the view today is pretty gloomy if not completely surreal.  Today’s thought revolves around the survival of the human spirit and why some can while others fall away in despair.  It is a tale of an eighteen year old boy with the world at his fingertips who let his spirit fall away to the ravages of mental illness and a woman so driven to fight cultural and social norms to survive that she clung desperately to the sense of hope and never lost her drive to survive.

Like most writers (and aspiring writers) I take some time to teach writing on the college level.  In my case it is at a community college and the students are often a great mix of different types of people with enormrainy windowously different life experiences and goals.  Like many composition classes, we begin with an essay that allows me to get a grip on who the student is.  It’s an essay about change and what happened in the pupil’s life that made them different than they originally were.

No matter how many times I admonish my class that they cannot use teenage drama as the inspiration for change, I normally see at least three or four about the trauma of being dumped by a longtime boyfriend or the cheating best friend who revealed their treachery on prom night much to the lasting despair of the heroine of the story.  Then there are occasionally others.  After reading several pieces of this childish and sometimes painfully boring first effort, I picked up a paper from a student who had recently emigrated from the Sudan. That in and of itself is an interesting journey.

This student shared her history as a child in the under developed nation and being made to feel subservient and inferior in every possible way. She was physically and mentally abused by the males in her family and village because that is what they knew of women’s rights.  That they had none.  With little access to the outside world, this young lady believed that a better world had to exist.  She fixated upon finding a way to escape.  She became pregnant at a young age and that only served to feed her desire to leave for the sake of her child.

Cut to the story of the ways she had to work and cheat and steal her way across the continent, the ocean and in the end find her way with nothing in her pocket but hope.  Her story read like a Hollywood script. Survival, desire and determination of a young woman hell bent on protecting her child and finding a life for them.    It was truly inspiring (and a shame for the others because she set the bar far too high for most of her classmates to even come close!)

Then I look down the street for Ben.  This morning he took a lethal dose of a medication that he ordered online in an effort to end his tragic existence.  He was successful and his parents found him lying peacefully in his bed, resting eternally and finally at peace. Look at his life and you see the polar opposite of my student from Sudan.  He was born into a successful and professional middle class family who acted upon his every wish and desire.  No one could figure out why he suffered so much from anxiety and depression but his attitude in school, fear of being in public and sullen behavior caused his parents to seek therapy. He was often medicated and counselled. He switched schools routinely to find a school that would fit his needs and not require an hour long battle daily for him to be cajoled and coaxed into attempting to go into the school itself.

It seemed that he had overcome that fear, he had been attending the school and even discussing life after graduation. Thoughts he had never shared before.  Yet there they were, seeing what his parents could only call hope.  Inside, however, he had plotted another course to solve the troubles in his head.  One that would cause his family eternal pain and end his own.  Most kids who kill themselves believe that they are a burden to their family, whether that is a real or imagined concern, to them it is a simple reality. How can someone love me when I despise myself?  The storm rages so strongly inside that the outside just appears to be the center of the hurricane.  Calm yet ominous. Never knowing when the calm will fade away and be replaced by the rage and horror of the storm.

This morning the eye passed and he was swept away, another victim of the disease of depression.  It leaves the question of how we teach this young person to have the will and desire to survive and want for something better. How do we transfer her strength into his feeble body?  Can we take a lesson from Dr. Frankenstein and try to capture the lighting in a bottle that would relieve his pain and replace it with her hope and desire? I don’t think so either but one can always believe right?

So today my thought involves looking into those dark windows. Some filled with fear and trepidation but the occupant in the room keeps the shades open and keeps staring at what could be.  The other keeps them closed and peeks out, afraid of what is there and not wanting to see it or be seen.  Both experience fear but one is driven to hope and the other to despair.  Two different windows in the same world.  What do you see?

 

Welcome to my room!

the_mill_view

So if you happened to have stumbled upon my humble blog, you may be asking yourself, “So what are my thoughts from the window?” Which is a great question, thanks for asking it!  First these are just my thoughts and views. Not really any guest views although feel free to throw yours out there anytime you would like.  Now for the view. (My view not The View television show which has just gone downhill in the past few years.)

So I wanted a place to write about the things that I see when I look around our world.  There are two kinds of folks in the world, those who live life in their own little room with the curtains drawn and just focused on their own experience day to day.  Others open the windows and actually look to see what life wants to show. How do people live, work even how do they play?

Being a writer is sometimes like being a closet voyeur. You look at people differently and try to figure out what their life experience is like.  I have fun sometimes sitting in restaurants with my family and looking at couples at other tables to begin making up stories about what those people do and what they are experiencing right now.  My kids laugh because I create some pretty outlandish tales but that is the fun of it.

So what about me? Well I am a professional by day and a writer by night (and several times a day when the bosses are not looking!)  I hope you enjoy the trip through my head.  I hope the journey is entertaining and fun and challenges you to throw open the curtains and really look around at life.  It is meant to be lived and enjoyed so take in every part of everyday!

Again, welcome to the blog and I hope you have fun.Not just here but everywhere that your life brings you!