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Month: July 2016

Bold Kindness and Gentle Words

It all started with my mother. It is her habit to speak kindly and gently to everyone, even though she is excruciatingly shy. Talking to strangers used to send her into panics though now she manages it better. But that terror, despite it being a powerful force, has never stopped her from being compassionate.

girl writing a letter with ink penThe other thing it has not stopped her from doing is sharing encouragement with people. Sometimes it is with handwritten notes. Other times, it is just the spoken word. And always the truth. She has the ability to see beauty in practically everything and to find even the smallest germs of goodness and praise them. Most don’t realize what strength it takes for her to do this. Some call her naive or a Pollyanna. But she is always sincere. There is life in her words, and it seeps into the soul.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone receives her kindly. While this has happened on more than one occasion, I remember one incident quite vividly.

There was a church event of some sort around Easter. Perhaps the Mother Daughter Banquet. After the event, I saw my daisies-1373075mother step up to the speaker. She thanked the woman for sharing and told her what a beautiful job she had done and precisely how it had affected her and what a gift it was. The woman’s eyes welled up with tears, and she thanked my mother.

As I stood there watching, it seemed to me that all my mother had done was notice little things that the speaker had woven into her speech and shared how it had affected her. It wasn’t much, yet it made such a difference. And then my mother gave the speaker’s hands a quick squeeze.

Other women stood nearby. As soon as my mother and the speaker were out of earshot, they just shook their heads. Some of them laughed into their hands. And then they started making fun of my mother. Because of what she had said. Because of how she said it. Because obviously she had only said it to get attention. Because she was such a silly foolish woman. On and on they went.

What they didn’t know was that I had heard every word they said as I stood around the corner of the painted concrete wall. And just as my mother’s words strengthened the speaker’s spirit, these women’s words poisoned mine. To see how they mocked my mother who had done nothing but speak tenderly to another human being and encourage her on her path was devastating.

I didn’t tell her what they said. That would have only furthered their cruelty. But some small part of me hated those women.

vintage-1029413Yet it turned out that these women had not responded atypically. Again and again, I have heard people speak words of kindness and then others stab them for it, almost always suggesting that there is another agenda or that the person is false or foolishly naïve or silly in some way. As if the mere fact that one is kind is proof of weakness.

These people dragged her down in their discussion, nitpicking her words and the way that she said them along with her accent and her mannerisms. It was beyond despicable.

I even lost a friend over it when I was in college. This friend was an artist who came from a very tragic home. She poured her emotions into her art in vivid watercolors and oil paintings as well as charcoal sketches.

When my mother visited, she looked at this friend’s artwork and said, “you are such a preciously gifted woman. Don’t ever forget that.” She continued on, pointing out the things that my friend had done well. When my friend mentioned something from her past and some of the horrible things people had said to her, my mother said, “Don’t believe them. You are a lovely woman, and I mean that sincerely. Please don’t ever doubt your value.”

blue-925209When my mother left, my friend then looked at me, rolled her eyes, and said, “Your mom is so fake. Can you believe she’d say something like that? What a c***” She then proceeded to mimic my mother in an even more offensive manner.

(It should not be surprising that this friend and I parted ways permanently within minutes of that conversation.)

As before, I did not mention this to my mother, not wanting to burden her with these odd displays of cruelty and mockery. Of course, as it turned out, she was aware of far more than I knew. Apparently the bullying was something she had endured all her life with many believing her to be false, stupid, naïve, or just too much of a Pollyanna. She knew that speaking kindly and offering generosity often led to people assuming the worst in some form or another. Yet she never let that stop her because she knew that what she did made a difference to those who received it, and she could not control how it was perceived. It was hard, she admitted when I asked her about it. But she wasn’t going to let cruel or misguided people change her. So she carried on in her own shy and gentle way, serving the Lord and ministering to all He put in her path.

Apparently there is a certain measure of kindness which the rabbit-913550world expects from people (and for the record, it’s precious small). Display that and nothing more, and you will pass by without much scrutiny. Indeed, you may even be rewarded with assertions that you are, in fact, a good person. But show too much, and the world may grow suspicious. Do it consistently, and you make yourself a target with some.

It may not even be the majority. As I think back on it, those who did respond harshly or cruelly were far fewer than those who were genuinely touched. It just felt so much larger at the time. And there will always be those who just live to put others down for their own enjoyment and self-validation.

But it has taken me so long to extract that poison splinter. And there have been far too many times when I am ashamed to say that I have stowed away my words and locked them up for fear of being thought insincere or naïve or some other silly thing.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized something very

What we say is a reflection of ourselves.

important and actually knew it in my heart. When those people spoke, they were not reflecting what my mother had done nor any true reality of what was within her soul. Instead, they shone light on what was inside themselves and reflected it out for all to see.

Not one of them could point to anything my mother had done to make them believe she was false or that she didn’t mean what she had said. Their words were merely said in a moment, perhaps because her kindness made them feel guilty. Perhaps because tearing down someone made them feel good. Perhaps because they just wanted to laugh at someone’s expense.

So often the charge to act without care to what others think is used in reference to bold or frightening tasks or even things that just seem rather impractical or out of the ordinary like wearing dragon wings out at the park while you sketch your imaginings. In church, it often includes sharing the Gospel or letting it be known that you believe in Jesus in a public setting. In high school, it generally involves not taking drugs and standing against those who offer them. This charge takes many shapes and forms, but it is often something portrayed as being quite large and rather frightening.
water-830374But this charge does extend to encouraging people, including strangers and acquaintances. It takes courage to be kind and believe the best. To reach out and brush the hand of another and say, “It’s all right. You’ve got this. Now keep going. You did that so well.”

Over the years, I have become bolder with my words and more confident in the sharing even when I have received my own share of mocking responses in return. My mother’s example is a fine one, and her consistency and tenderness is something I admire. She epitomizes that lifestyle of grace and compassion that I so often struggle to live out.

This world is cruel. Whether one is a tall poppy or a low lying moss, it seems that something or someone always wants to cut you down and grind you up. If you can speak kindness and life into another, then you should because I can guarantee that many others, sometimes even their own minds, will be telling Depositphotos_48612307_originalthem the opposite.

So speak, share, and love. Encourage and build people up. Don’t let the fear of mockery or derision keep you from sharing words of kindness and encouragement.

Indeed this world could use a lot more bold kindness and many more sincere but gentle words.


Tips for Staying Safe and Being a Good Citizen While Pokemon Going

Pokemon Go LogoYou’ve probably at least heard about Pokemon Go if not seen folks out and about playing it. It’s been massively popular even though it’s only been out for a relatively short time. Business Insider reports that it has surpassed Tindr’s participants and may soon exceed Twitter’s participants.

It’s popular for a reason, and it’s getting people out of the house and connected. As with all things, it’s important to remember to exercise common sense and courtesy. (Most of the issues I’ve seen related to over excitement with the game and a lack of awareness, but those can be corrected.) With that said, here are some of the common issues I have noted and that, if you or a loved one is playing, you may want to bring to their attention.

Trespassing is Still Illegal

This has been the question I’ve received most from local teens and even a few off the Internet. Many hope that there might be a rare Pokemon exception. But trespassing is still trespassing even if there’s an uber rare Pokemon on the other side of the fence.

If you cannot get to one of the Pokemon, and it is on a piece of private property, you can’t go in without permission. Same thing goes for crossing private property to get to another location. This means that you can get the cops called on you if you break in, and, in some locations and under certain circumstances, it could even become a felony, particularly if you are opening up sheds or entering garages in search of Pokemon.Keep Out Private Property


Be Respectful of the Locations You Enter

Pokemon appear at random in various locations. However, you have to remember that they are not always going to appear in appropriate places for Pokemon hunting. The game itself uses landmarks, historical points, and so forth as Pokestops and battle zones. This unfortunately includes locations like the Holocaust Museum in D.C. The Holocaust Museum has formally requested that they be removed from Pokemon Go because people keep showing up to hunt Pokemon, which is disrespectful to the victims of the Holocaust and the purpose of the museum.

Many Pokestops and Pokemon can be found in churches, mosques, gyms, libraries, public service buildings, landmarks that may include tours, and businesses. It’s not entirely clear how these are chosen, but if you do go to one, be respectful of the location. Don’t interrupt a meeting. Don’t climb the statues. Think before you do. Chasing Pokemon is not a legal defense in any location.

Most of the time, you can access the points from outside the building and move on. Battles take longer. Hunting may take you inside. But rest assured that the Pokemon will return again and in other locations, so even in that case, you should avoid bursting into a children’s reading, interrupting a funeral, and so on.

Your Awareness of Your Surroundings Will Be Diminished

Yeah, yeah, I know a lot of people think they can multitask without any problem, and sometimes it’s true in limited circumstances. I’m usually a pretty good multitasker myself. I read and walk all the time. But Pokemon Go is much more absorbing. I did a couple tests with some teens and my own playing of the game, and I have to tell you…the results weren’t good.

Stay AwareNot only was I unable to see anything until it was pretty much on me but even my awareness of sounds was significantly diminished. Focusing in on the game is quite absorbing, which is how most games are. If you are playing, you must make a conscious effort to pay attention to your surroundings. Pokemon Go even encourages this every time you load it up (otherwise you’re going to get eaten by a blue dragon).

Remember that the game does not require that you always look at it. Your phone will vibrate or buzz when a Pokemon is within your radius. So while you are walking, regularly look away from the screen and take in your surroundings. Pay particular attention to the streets.

Under No Circumstances Should You Drive Anything While Playing

This is closely connected to the above point, but it is such a huge issue that it deserves its own section: do not, under any circumstances, play Pokemon Go while driving!

People often have misguided beliefs in their abilities to multitask, and this becomes especially problematic with driving. Most people understand the dangers of drunk driving or buzzed driving. However, driving while on your phone is actually worse than driving drunk or buzzed, and it can increase the risk of crashing by 23 percent. More importantly, this focused on texting or talking on the phone in incidents that involve you taking your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. Pokemon Go will easily absorb more of your attention.

So just don’t do it. Understand that this extends to golf carts as well as bicycles and motorcycles.

If you can’t get a friend to drive you around and can’t walk, you can look for eager entrepreneurs who are willing to chauffeur you. But do not, do not, do not drive.

If You Are An Adult, Act Like One

There have been lots of stories put out about all the adults behaving badly with this game. This isn’t Pokemon Go’s fault, nor does it seem to be the majority of the users. As with most things, it’s a few annoying folk who are making the rest looking bad.

One thing that you should do though if you are an adult playing around kids is that you are, in fact, an adult. While at an amusement park, I watched a grown man leap into the middle of the playground to get to an ultra rare and shoving past a bunch of tweens who were also trying to get it. As hard as it may be, consider stepping back and letting the little ones have the ultra rares. Or at least don’t knock them out of the way if you decide to try and snag it.

Keep the Noise Down

It’s common knowledge that some Pokemon are only available when it’s dark out, but remember that some people are sleeping. This goes back to exercising common courtesy. I know it’s easy to forget, particularly when you’re coordinating. Some noise is expected during day, but many towns and communities have expected quiet hours between 10 am and 7 am. Even if yours doesn’t, it’s a courtesy you should extend.

Always Check Pokemon Go Stories

This should go without saying for everything we share. But most people don’t verify the articles they read online. Over the weekend, a number of awful stories about Pokemon Go broke out, ranging from tales of kids killing one another over it to gang attacks to even the discovery of dead bodies. As it turns out, the majority of these stories came from places like Story Cartel, which is a satirical site. In other words, they never happened.

Sometimes the stories are based on facts that subsequently become distorted. For instance, the game allows you to log in using your Google account information. A bug appeared on the iOS version that allowed for greater access though Niantic claimed that they did not take advantage of that. That report, however, was greatly exaggerated as articles started breaking out, claiming that Niantic was able to mine every bit of data about you from your Google account, failing to account for the fact that this was a limited bug that is in process of being corrected.

With that said…

Understand that You Are Sharing Data

When you play Pokemon Go, you are releasing a lot of information about yourself to the game and in some respects to the world at large.

Now as far as the “access to all Google data,” Niantic has confirmed with Google and reported that that glitch will be fixed and no extra information beyond basic profile information has been accessed even on the iOS where the glitch occurred. This was confirmed on Macbook, and the update is currently available.

With that said, understand that you are still sharing basic information, probably more than you know. This is true for most apps. Always read the fine print (I know it’s a pain) and look at the specific permissions you are granting.

In this case, the app will be accessing your basic information as well as your camera and your GPS, which means your location is being tracked. Again. This isn’t uncommon, but before you give up your privacy, you should understand what that means.

Avoid Going Out Alone or Into Dangerous Locations

Some of the stories circulating revolve around predators using incense and other in-game tools to lure in rare monsters that in turn lure in players, allowing them to mug or kidnap them. These stories have been particularly popular because they are well within the realm of possibility, and some, Pokemon Go Pedo Bearsuch as the case in Missouri where robbers used the game to target victims, are true.

Again, you must remain aware of your surroundings. Before walking into a part of town you don’t know, check it out. Take a friend with you. Don’t go anywhere alone at night. And if it looks sketchy, then don’t risk it. Do not get into a stranger’s car or enter a stranger’s house, even if the stranger says it’s fine.

So there you have it. Some of the things that you should keep in mind if you or a loved one are playing. All in all, while the game is working out its early issues, I think it has a lot of great potential to it. I love seeing people out and about. I haven’t seen this many teens in the park in all my time here, and even in this heat, they are out having a great time. The game does require that the players be careful and use commonsense, but, in fairness, even old classics like hide-and-seek and tag require the same thing.


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