This Uber trip popped up in the FB memory machine today. I know I am a day late and a dollar short, as usual.
Speaking of dollars…
My passenger, David, demonstrated a powerful tool for purposeful kindness. Besides being a brave soul, working in open space on the top of a 325 foot oil derrick and rollercoasters all over the country, David is also a true Kindness Warrior.
Just dropped off David at the tattoo shop. David paints rollercoasters. Over the next three months he will be painting the oil derrick at Six Flags! It was too cold and windy today so he is getting a tattoo of a rollercoaster wrapped around his arm. Now every time I pass by over the next 3 months I will know who is up there working.
He was sitting in the back right seat. At a traffic stoplight, David slid over quickly to the seat behind me and began rolling down the window. The sudden move was a bit alarming but then I realized he was giving the homeless man standing on the median a few bucks.
I smiled at him and said that was a kind thing to do. David told me he always puts a few bills in his wallet specifically for that purpose and he ALWAYS manages to find someone in need. When I asked him what motivated his kindness, he simply said, “I have walked in his shoes.”
Good luck David. And, thanks for the reminder to be purposefully kind.
Happy Friday, Kindness Warriors.
Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.
Life is better with a soundtrack!
So here is today’s (yesterday’s) #TBT song. Actually, here are two songs.
1st, here is Bruce Hornsby’s The Way It Is from 1986.
“That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change. That’s just the way it is. Ah, but don’t you believe them.”
Things don’t have to stay the same. You can be the change.
This next song, and meeting David reminds me that we don’t “have to” do anything, we “get to.”
We GET TO work. We GET TO make a car payment. We GET TO do the hard things in life. There is always someone who has it harder.
“I got it bad You don’t know how bad I got it You got it easy You don’t know when you’ve got it good It’s getting harder Just keeping life and soul together I’m sick of fighting Even though I know I should The cold is biting Through each and every nerve and fiber My broken spirit is frozen to the core I don’t wanna be here no more Wouldn’t it be good to be in your shoes Even if it was for just one day? Wouldn’t it be good if we could wish ourselves away? Wouldn’t it be good to be on your side? The grass is always greener over there Wouldn’t it be good if we could live without a care?”
“Just a world that we all must share. It’s not enough just to stand and stare. Is it only a dream that there’ll be, No more turning away?”
It has been minute…
The Kindness Club is a small group, but growing! For those new to the group, I thought I would introduce myself and provide a little background. My name is Christopher Carlson and I created The Kindness Club group from my blog, StreetLights.
I first began writing and posting under the StreetLights banner in 2018. Prior to that, I shared stories on my personal Facebook page.
Several writing sources for this new Facebook page of mine converged in December of 2017. Coincidentally, I was suffering major depression and sick all the time. This was what could have easily been the end for me. I almost lost my family and my life.
My favorite subject is hope. And hope is what saved me in the coldest, darkest winter of my soul. That, and the kindness of strangers.
I started driving Uber to supplement our income after making a major career move that failed miserably. In August of 2017, I began driving full-time.
I immediately embraced the work and became truly inspired by some of the people I met. My last trip was March 18, 2020 as Covid had begun. After over 6,200 rides, throw in another 100, or so, Uber Eats trips, I can honestly say the number of really bad experiences was countable with my 2 hands and I had 1 finger to spare. Or maybe I should spare the thumb? OK, 9. It was 9 times. 9 trips out of 6300 really really sucked. Hey 1 trip out of every 700 trips is awesome! And they make for great stories of respect, safety, and the truthiness that some people, ain’t actually human.
I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression in that cold December of 2017. In fact, December 5 was my day of clarity, my miracle, (Also my rock bottom a bit earlier in the day.) I don’t want to drag on about my disease. Again, just providing a little background.
Driving became my therapy. Being an Uber/Lyft driver connected me to thousands of people and stories, short snap-shots into their lives.
I knew I had to begin writing and sharing these experiences. And because my interactions with so many people, with so many life perspectives were also a saving grace for my own life journey, I felt called to share my personal struggle with depression and recovery.
So let’s see… Oh yeah! Inspired by this new supercharged connection to my fellow humans, and as I surveyed the recently uncovered lifelong patterns of depression and destruction, life all of the sudden shifted at the tectonic level.
I started to figure out the purpose, the why am I like this, the wtf aspects of my life and finally realized what path I needed to be on.
There is joy in depression. We shine our lights back to help others get through. Someone shined a light for me. That’s just the way it works. Helping=joy. Kindness=joy.
All things through kindness! All things!
So it only made sense to create a place that is by design and by rule, about kindness. Let’s throw in love, respect, a safe place, a NON-judgy Mcjudgerson dominated, NON-opinion blasting, online equivalent to at least 1 ring of hell, place.
WHEW! You lost me after #TBT, bro.
So here is the message and the #TBT song for today, Thursday, February 2, 2023.
In order to succeed on your journey, our journey, our path, our purpose, and our hearts must be dedicated to love and kindness. If you ever wonder what your purpose is, look around you. Listen. You are connected to everything and everyone. You are the bloom.
PURPOSE is not a profession. Purpose is not static. Each and everyone of us has a purpose, a billion purposes!
Each other. Our purpose is each other and Mother Earth (and all life in the universe, if you want to get all existential).
Every living thing on this planet and beyond. That’s a pretty frickin’ awesome purpose.
We overcomplicate, well, EVERYTHING!
We worry and consider, which is good but not without a decision point.
We create way, way too many expectations.
We get caught up in arguments and divisions.
We totally screw up other people and our environment.
We continually fail to act, work, live, and humbly serve each other with PURPOSEFUL kindness.
This is important! This next part is really important! Like breaking news important! Like history making important. Like Oprah Important!
We are all connected.
That is how it is. That was the plan. We are individuals but also part of humanity, and part of all living beings. So it’s really that simple. If you want the sense of purpose and the joy in knowing that purpose, don’t search within yourself. Your purposes are always all around you.
Fair warning: When you begin living your life in the now and with kindness as your oxygen, you will feel great joy, hope (Yay, hope! It’s my favorite!), and peace.
But with a strong connection comes emotion, fear, anger, sorrow. Some is yours. Some are the burdens of others that affect you too.
So when you are leading your actions, words, and decisions with kindness, or rather, through the kindness filter (Probably an app for that) you will find life more challenging, but so, so much more fulfilling.
We need you. The world needs you. Your presence, your kindness creates a ripple effect. The world needs the ripple that joins other ripples to make a wave, which can build to a tsunami of love and kindness. Heck, yes! Make kindness goals and action plans.
Share stories of kindness. Post the pic of the dog and cat hugging. Be supportive and uplifting. Everyone in this Kindness Club needs and deserves lots of those hug and care emojis, lots of hearts, all different colors! A kind word or two…
So, welcome new Kindness Warriors.
Get up! Get out! Go spread kindness and change the world!
Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.
Life is better with a soundtrack.
From their 1987 album, A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, this week’s #TBT song is On The Turning Away, by Pink Floyd.
The lyrics resonated with me. We all turn away. It is going to take an effort to rid ourselves of the familiarity and tolerance of unnecessary suffering. We can, one act of kindness at a time.
“On the turning away From the pale and downtrodden And the words they say Which we won’t understand
Don’t accept that what’s happening Is just a case of others’ suffering Or you’ll find that you’re joining in The turning away
It’s a sin that somehow Light is changing to shadow And casting its shroud Over all we have known
Unaware how the ranks have grown Driven on by a heart of stone We could find that we’re all alone In the dream of the proud
On the wings of the night As the daytime is stirring Where the speechless unite in a silent accord
Using words, you will find, are strange Mesmerised as they light the flame Feel the new wind of change On the wings of the night
No more turning away From the weak and the weary No more turning away From the coldness inside
Just a world that we all must share It’s not enough just to stand and stare Is it only a dream that there’ll be No more turning away?”
If this last year has taught me anything it’s that you must accept change and adapt.
This great ball of confusion never stops turning. If anything, it only spins faster. If you don’t learn to roll with the changes, you will fly right off into space like a kid flying off a merry-go-round spinning too fast.
As difficult as it may seem, each one of is is capable of adapting and moving forward. Life is beautiful.
On occasion, life serves up a big steaming pile of $H#!. At that point you have a choice. One, you can keep pushing on the ocean and drown. Or two, you roll with the changes and find the silver lining.
Please trust me on this. As many shit sandwhiches as I have had to eat in the last few years, I know this to be true:
There is always a silver lining!
So when you find yourself devastated or pissed off at the world, remember that we are all with you because we too know what it feels like to be smashed like a bug and expected to carry on.
With that said…
Be love. Be kind. We all need a little empathy, a little sympathy, a little help from time to time. We are all connected. And that is how we survive this ever changing, ever challenging life.
Life is better with a soundtrack!
Today’s #TBT song comes from REO Speedwagon’s 1978 album You Can Tune a Piano, but You Can’t Tuna Fish. Oh my, that’s deep!
Do your thing, Kindness Warriors. Be intentional with kindness today and know that one small act might just ripple into something grand like world peace. At the very least it can change one person’s trajectory. No augering in on your watch! Hold that door open, let that car into your lane and be proud!!
October is my favorite month of the year. I love the changes in colors and the cooler air. I feel more alive. But with that fresh picked joy comes some intense emotion and anxiety. It’s the same every year. I feel greater joy and greater anti-joy at the same time.
There is a powerful connection with the beauty of the world, of life, that is heightened in this transitional time of the year. Its truly a wonderful thing. And, it happens all throughout the day.
A cool breeze on a bright sunny day.
A colorful scattering of leaves below a giant oak tree.
A song on the radio that perfectly sets the tone for driving along a scenic 2 lane country road with more of those colorful leaves swirling under the tires of my car.
In these little moments throughout the day, I am continually injected with joy and wonder. It makes me want to reach out to people, to reconnect. It inspires me to live in the moment while simultaneously sparks a raging fire of dreams and ideas. Even a rainy day like today makes me feel alive. There’s just no better month than October, if you ask me.
That’s the upside.
The downside is, along with all of the wonder comes the darkness, the anxiety. I feel an avalanche of sadness, a rush of memories, and a full spectrum of emotions. Then comes the second guessing and wondering about all those decisions through life, if they were good or bad. Did I live my life as best as I could and am I living it now as good and purposeful as I can be?
This intense battle always ends the same way. I settle into a fog of confusion and exhaustion and I usually camp out there for a week or two.
One of the biggest obstacles of living with depression is the constant attacks on my own self-worth and the questioning, the constant questioning of my purpose in life.
This year is a little different. I have already been in the fog of darkness and confusion for months. I got hit head on and sideways with some pretty awful stuff. That is definitely what has been keeping me from writing, until now. This year, October appears to be the month of my salvation. The fog is clearing. The light is flickering, struggling to come on. I am still here. I’m still struggling, but alive and kicking.
I started this on a rainy Monday. I am finishing up on Tuesday after a stormy night. We lost power for several hours.
So as I go back to square one, here is my Monday message to all…
Be angry. But be compassionate.
Be opinionated. But be educated.
Dream. Don’t ever stop dreaming. But be present.
Be spontaneous. But don’t be reckless.
Be the light, the bright star, the flame. But don’t burn out.
Find your balance.
Most of all,
Be love. Be kind.
We are all connected, ya know.
Life is better with a soundtrack!
So here are a couple of songs to start the week out. Stormy Monday seemed appropriate. The second one is from the musical, La La Land. I have to admit, I really loved that movie. Emma Stone’s “Audition” really spoke to me this week. What did it say, you ask? 🙂🎶 You tell me. These are the lyrics that stirred in me. What does it say to you? Have you done any dreaming lately? Have you done any living?
“Leapt, without looking And tumbled into the Seine The water was freezing She spent a month sneezing But said she would do it again
Here’s to the ones who dream Foolish as they may seem Here’s to the hearts that ache Here’s to the mess we make”
Hard. Difficult. Painful. Isolating. Lonely. Beautiful. Full of light. Loving. Precious. Inspiring.
If you have ever felt any of those emotions, one thing is certain. You are alive. We tend to build walls to protect ourselves from the painful parts of life. Constantly we build those barriers, brick by brick as life wears us down.
Those barriers can also keep out the light, hide the beauty and awe of your life. If walls you must build, be sure to leave some space between the stones, maybe even a window or a door. And remember this:
We are all connected.
So don’t create your own prison. Reaching out to others in kindness is still the most powerful medicine to heal your broken heart and hurting soul.
We can’t do this alone. Reach out to someone. Connect. For you. For them.
Don’t let these walls keep you from love and joy.
Get up. Get out. Go spread kindness and beak down the walls.
“I’ve been here many times before Don’t know which road I must go My mind is full of so many thoughts My heart beats on and on All my love, all my love, oh
Have you been here many times before? Do you cut your wings so that you’ll fall? Can you break on through to the other side? Do you tell yourself things that ain’t so kind? Can you feel the worms wiggle in my mind?
And these walls, they won’t crumble And they won’t let me get out of here And these walls stand so tall The flowers they’ll all disappear And the voices surround me Again and again, creep behind me Bringing me down Bringing me down
And these walls, they won’t crumble And they won’t let me get out of here And these walls twist and turn The devil inside me returns As he smiles towards me Again and again, holds me, chokes me Burning me down Burning me down
Burning me down Down”
Be love. Be kind. We are all comnected. Life is better with a soundtrack.
What an awesome pilot whose actions saved the lives of everyone on US Airways flight 1549 when they struck multiple geese and had to land in the Hudson river. It has since been called the Miracle on the Hudson.
Miracle? Maybe. Or just incredibly well trained and experienced pilots. A pilot is trained to know the systems of his/her aircraft. A pilot uses checklists and procedures for every operation and action.
Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger used those procedures and the checklist, along with all that training and experience to save the lives of all 155 souls, passenger and crew, onboard.
Checklists are incredibly important. Early in their training, pilots learn the acronym RTFM, or RTFC, which stands for Read The F#&!’n Manual or Checklist. Those who choose not to use the checklist(s) eventually auger in.
Recently, I have drifted away from my checklists and forgotten many of the tools in my mental toolbox. I have been spiraling out of control. But a recent reminder has given me a clear path back. I had given myself a reminder through an app on my phone. I set an alarm. When it went off, I realized I needed to start regaining control again through the use of a tried and true method.
So, I firmly believe a good checklist is an invaluable tool to navigate the challenges of life. In particular, using a checklist is a powerful way to deal with the effects of depression.
Here is a simple checklist I use to help myself avoid the pitfalls of depression. Try making your own. Keep it where you can find it; the fridge, nightstand, or right here on your phone.
1. Get up and get outside. 2. How do you feel? 3. If you are tired or down, did you actually get enough sleep? Depression will attack your energy level and your ability to simply get out of bed. 4. Eat healthy. 5. Pray 6. What are you thankful for? 7. Communicate with someone positive in your life. Anyone! Reaching out the first time is the toughest, but it gets the day going in the right direction. 8. Be kind. Giving hope, peace, love, and joy to others will bring the same to your heart. 9. Read. Use a positive source. No fiction. 10. On second thought, maybe fiction is better. 11. Open your heart and soul to God. 12. Breathe. Just breathe. Slow, calm, cleansing breath. In that breath remind yourself, you are loved, you have purpose, and you are not alone.
What does your checklist look like?
I love using aviation analogies. With all the demons that have chased me in my lifelong struggle with clinical depression, flying was the one time and place I could escape it all, find peace without looking over my shoulder.
Nothing compares to floating above the clouds or watching the the incredible horizon slowly changing colors as the sun begins to rise. Ask any pilot where they want to be the most. If you can’t become a pilot or prefer to keep your feet on the ground, that’s ok. But using a checklist still works for anyone trying to keep their demons at bay and their life in order.
GET UP, GET OUT, & GO SPREAD KINDNESS!
We are all connected.
Life is better with a soundtrack.
Here are a couple of songs I love that always remind me of flying and to use my checklist!
Now some say life Will beat you down Yeah, break your heart Steal your crown
So I started out For God knows where I guess I’ll know When I get there
I’m learning to fly Around the clouds But what goes up Must come down
I’m learning to fly (I’m learning to fly) But I ain’t got wings Coming down Is the hardest thing
I’m learning to fly (I’m learning to fly) Around the clouds But what goes up (I’m learning to fly) Must come down
“Into the distance, a ribbon of black Stretched to the point of no turning back A flight of fancy on a wind swept field Standing alone my senses reeled A fatal attraction is holding me fast How can I escape this irresistible grasp?
Can’t keep my eyes from the circling sky Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I
Ice is forming on the tips of my wings Unheeded warnings, I thought I thought of everything No navigator to find my way home Unladened, empty and turned to stone
A soul in tension that’s learning to fly Condition grounded but determined to try Can’t keep my eyes from the circling skies Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I
Friction lock, set Mixtures, rich Propellers, fully forward Flaps, set – 10 degrees Engine gauges and suction, check
Above the planet on a wing and a prayer My grubby halo, a vapor trail in the empty air Across the clouds I see my shadow fly Out of the corner of my watering eye A dream unthreatened by the morning light Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night
There’s no sensation to compare with this Suspended animation, a state of bliss Can’t keep my mind from the circling sky Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I”
We are all connected. We are all human. We are all imperfect. We all need love. We all need purpose. And, regardless what one might think, we all need each other. That is who we are. That is what God intended when he/she made us.
Here we are in 2022. Doesn’t it seem like we are more disconnected than ever? We are certainly more divided, angry, and sad.
It is time the pendulum began swinging back toward togetherness. It is time we begin to push back against the hate, the diminishing of our civil rights, and the false narratives that echoe across our country. It is time for love and kindness to be the headline.
But that means action. So, Kindness Warriors, it is time for us to fight even harder against the forces of hate and division.
Get up! Get out! Go spread kindness everywhere. Go change lives and change minds. Be there for each other!
This song turns 50 this year and hit #1 on the Billboard hot 100 on this day in 1972. What a great song to start a revolution of love and kindness! Plus, Bill Withers is awesome! Btw, he was born on July 4th. So I would say this is definitely his month.
Be love. Be Kind. We are all connected.
Life is better with a soundtrack!
“Sometimes in our lives We all have pain We all have sorrow
But if we are wise We know that there’s always tomorrow
Lean on me When you’re not strong And I’ll be your friend I’ll help you carry on…
For it won’t be long Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on”
“Please swallow your pride If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill Those of your needs that you won’t let show
You just call on me brother when you need a hand We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand We all need somebody to lean on
Lean on me When you’re not strong And I’ll be your friend I’ll help you carry on…
For it won’t be long Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on
You just call on me brother When you need a hand We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand We all need somebody to lean on
If there is a load you have to bear That you can’t carry
I’m right up the road I’ll share your load If you just call me”
“We like to think we are rational beings who occasionally have an emotion and flick it away,” and carry on being rational. But rather, she says: “We are emotional, feeling beings; who, on rare occasions, think.” Brené Brown
Let me start with a small introduction on Sisyphus.
“Sisyphus was a cruel Greek king who was punished to push a large rock up on a steep hill, only to find it rolling back on nearing the top. Ever since, he has been known for pushing the rock tirelessly till eternity. Honestly, when I read about his story, I didn’t quite understand what was so special about it that it is referred by so many people until I read some excerpts from Albert Camus’ book on the ‘Myth of Sisyphus’
Camus imagined Sisyphus smiling while pushing the rock and embracing his situation without thinking of the past or the future. His take on Sisyphus’ situation was unique and somehow the whole view of Sisyphus pushing the rock uphill changed for me.
Sisyphus was unstoppable, he pushed the rock unabated every time it rolled down. He refused to surrender to gravity.
Pushing the rock was Sisyphus’ purpose, and no matter how evil he was, he is still remembered for his labor towards his purpose. Without the rock, or the effort, he wouldn’t ’t have been a topic of anyone’s discussion.”
As Mindy drove me home from another neck procedure the other day, I realized a powerful truth. The universe is out of balance and can only be corrected with a cheeseburger and fries…
Those who know me well won’t be surprised by what I tell you next. When I feel lost and can’t find the answers any other way, I often turn to film for inspiration or clues to help me find a path forward. I don’t always strike gold with this process. But who can deny that a great movie can stir our emotions, give us hope, make us angry, or make us laugh. Sometimes moving to couch potato mode and turning on one of my favorite movies simply serves as a distraction from all the battles raging in my head, or the ones causing so much physical pain. Getting out of my head for 2 hours can occasionally be just what I needed to find the light switch.
While attempting to regain universal balance with my burger and fries, I began rewatching the HBO miniseries, Chernobyl. It is scary how close we came to virtually destroying the whole planet.
This time around, I zeroed in on a couple of quotes from Valery Lagasov that became a partial theme to where I believe our universe has begun to unravel. Testifying in court during the final episode, Legasov says,
“Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid.”
“What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all.”
It occurs to me, that cost is being paid by all of us. That quote has been proundly banging around in my head all week.
When my brother and I were kids we fought all the time. One day, we were both in our room with Lego spread all over the green playroom carpet. Usually, playing with Lego was an activity that brought peace and collaboration for Kelly and I. He liked to build the Lego City and Town sets, including a gas station, “Main Street,” police station, hospital, and my brother’s personal favorite, the fire station. I preferred all the Lego Space sets.
So, we spent time together, helped each other find pieces from our giant tubs of mixed sets, and got along quite well. We had enough base plates to cover the whole floor in our bedroom. I usually even had enough to make a deep space outpost on our top bunk bed. At the end of the build day, we would take a few leftover road base plates and officially connect his earthly community with my galactic expanse. Too bad you can’t just hop on I-20 to get to the moon, or Tatooine!
But that day, not even Lego could keep the peace. After listening to us yelling at each other and hearing things being thrown across the room our mom burst into the room and instructed us to immediately get dressed and get in the car. She was unusually much more fierce and direct. Kelly and I both felt like we had finally pushed mom over the edge. She didn’t speak in the car. She wouldn’t even tell us where we were going. We began to wonder if we were ever going home again or if she was gonna just drop us off at an orphanage.
As we both looked out the car windows, wondering our fate. We didn’t speak either. But we did both realize we might be stuck together, come what may. So we had already called a truce by the time we arrived at our demise.
Our mother calmly got us out of the car, walked us into the theater, and sat us down to watch E.T.
Kelly and I didn’t fight the rest of the weekend. More importantly, we were shown an alternative to the endless arguing. We were all inspired by that movie. Kelly and I spent a considerable amount of time riding our bikes together trying to fly after that. We also managed to keep the peace on Lego build days after that. One more thing, even though Kelly and I had plenty more fights, I believe that day gave us one more lesson and gift. We began to respect each other just a little bit more. We started seeing each other as brothers and not just two kids stuck with each other. It gave us a small but important brick in the foundation of our relationship, in our moral development, and in how to treat other people, even brothers.
On another day, many years after that, I was unknowingly suffering from one of the darkest depressions of my life. I turned to a movie for an escape. I sat in the apartment I shared with my best friend, Rusty, and watched An Officer And A Gentleman. I joined the Navy the next morning.
That is another story altogether. And, it was not a well thought out decision that was highly influenced by my undiagnosed depression, not so much the movie. But my point is I have continually found solace and hope in film, and music.
These days, as I turn inward for answers, I am immediately hit with pain, chronic and debilitating pain. I believed there would be an end to it. But the slow and steady revealing of the truth tells me it is going to be there for the rest of my life. All I can do is manage it, medicate it, and pray it doesn’t blind me to everything good in my life. But, it’s my pain. It’s my giant ball to keep pushing up that mountain every day. I own it. As strange as it sounds, I take comfort in knowing that.
“In my dream I was drowning sorrows When my sorrows, they learned to swim” -U2
So I turn outward, looking for hope. Lately, it seems easier to deal with my personal struggle with pain than it is to deal with the pain of a broken and divided society. We are all connected. That is how God created us. Yet, many of us seem hell bent on denying that. Too many who claim themselves as believers of a loving and just God have chosen to oppose or even deny their brothers and sisters the very thing that, at least in my core beliefs, proves God exists, love. There are wolves among us.
That brings me to a question, or maybe more of a paradox. So riddle me this…
If God is love, then are christians who villainize a christian for providing another christian christ-like love and support, actually christian?
My dark place and the demons who dwell there…
I have witnessed so called christians, leaders of our former church, completely betray and abandon my own family because one of us chose to extend love and support to a youth member who desperately needed love and support. People who I thought of as friends, even family at that church lied, made horrible accusations and ultimately forced us out because they didn’t like the optics. Why? Because the mother of the youth involved made a completely false allegation. And why did she do that? Because she found out her daughter was seeking help elsewhere for her depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies.
Lives shattered without anyone asking about the truth or looking for some context to the allegation that clearly refutes it. Moreover it proves that a member of my family was helping, providing love and support, being a trusted and dependable friend to a troubled teenager in need. That youth was absolutely not getting any support from her own family, especially her mother.
Apparently, if you extend and express love, as God would have us do, it must be done with very specific language and be accompanied by several disclaimers in the event anyone who should happen to read those words, does so with ZERO context or understanding. And then they decide to make horrible and disgusting assumptions that the select few words they read were just the opposite of their meaning and intent. Where do these fucking people get off?
What gives anyone the right to decide the intent of someone else’s love and kindness is inappropriate and not geniune? Why is it so easy for a faithful servant of God to be crushed for trying to do the right thing? I have never been more heartbroken, betrayed, or angered by anyone in my life.
We have received love and support from those true friends who know all the details, including the ones church leadership has chosen to ignore because they would have to then acknowledge they were wrong, so very wrong. What a bunch of hypocrites who speak of togetherness, honesty, love, and justice, but don’t practice it. Again, why? Because those people care more about optics than the truth.
When we joined Broadway Baptist Church in 2016, my wife and I thought we had finally found a place to call home. And for six years, that is exactly what we did. We raised our children there. We built our lives around our church.
We are no longer members there. We fought this horrible accusation and resulting church action as best we could. But we couldn’t control the narrative. People will believe the sky is red if that makes them more comfortable. I guess it is easier to keep calling it red, even when everyone knows its blue. That way you can never be wrong.
Having our dearest friends and allies within the church support us just wasn’t enough. So, now we are gone, like we were never even there.
Nothing changed and everyone went back to business as usual. Proving that no matter how much you might believe in God, no matter how righteous your actions, YOUR WORDS, and your sacrifices to do “God’s work,” every church is ultimately only as truly committed to the tenets of Christianity as the people in it, especially the leadership. And how could the mother of this desperate girl behave so selfishly and cruelly? Yet, no one has asked for any accountability from her or the folks who lied and judged. I reached out to so many people for help at that place, including the deacons.
By the way, if ANYONE has a problem with what I am saying, then reach out to me. Defend the actions and assumptions of the Sr. Pastor, Family and Youth Minister, Church Business Administrator, and the mother if you think they deserve it. Explain to me why I am wrong if you think so. Tell me! What am I missing here? I really want to know how anyone can justify what they did because so far, not a single person has even tried. Cowards.
I am at the crossroads. My core belief system has been turned upside-down by the betrayal of people I thought were honest, loving, and kind. I would rather be focusing on the larger societal issues we have right now, but I am still trying to get past the failures of those I once called friends.
As I said, we have been given love and support from many people. But besides expressing their own frustrations to the leadership with how this was handled, nothing else came of it.
Yes, I am still very angry and yes this hurts. Not because I care about what people might think of my attitude or my increasing usage of profanity. 🤬 It hurts every day because of the pain it caused and continues to cause my wife and kids.
Healing is a slow process and I doubt any of us will ever want to join another church again. We don’t need to show up on Sundays and listen to a disingenuous man tell us to come together and be love, always be love, with his fingers crossed under his robe or an asterisk and footnote in the worship guide. I just wish I knew how empty his words were when compared to his actions before we put so much faith and trust in him as well as the other leaders who have betrayed God in this way. Ugh, I feel the bitterness oozing out of my pores. Yet, I can’t seem to be done with it. Everyone else is though.
Organized Religion Anonymous. Hi, my name is Christopher and I am a recovering Baptist.
I struggle now with every relationship I have. I love the dear friends we made from Broadway who remain close. But I struggle with accepting that anyone who would continue to go there, tolerate what has been done with absolutely no accountability. They go there and listen to those hypocrites lead Sunday worship, knowing full well what they have done to my family.
I struggle with my conscience because I know it isn’t that simple. I hurt and become consumed with guilt for even thinking like that. I love them, all of them. This happened to us, not them. They have their own lives, their own very important reasons for not pushing harder to force the leadership into accountability, or show them the door. How can that be fair of me? How can I possibly be frustrated with anyone except those few who did this to us? Because it hurts.
In moments of clarity, I blame and feel angry toward the appropriate people. I am forever thankful for our loving friends who continue to help us get through this. But my mind is anything but clear these days. This boulder keeps rolling me down. I simply cannot accept and live with this. I cannot let this go.
Lord, I am trying. Lord, perhaps I am failing you? Oh Lord, I need your guidance. It is too dark and I am too tired. Let the wind carry us. Let the wind carry this pain away. Let the wind prevail.
I am not sure if anyone has noticed, but our society, our country, our world is falling apart and receiving injections of hate everyday. I suppose I have succumbed to it as well. I have been unable to maintain focus on kindness. I feel like God has tested me and I have failed.
I look to myself to fight the demons of my depression and the physical health issues that have gone on for years now, but only gotten worse, not better. I have been unable to work since February and finally was forced to file for Social Security Disability a few weeks ago. I am praying that is approved and the process doesn’t take years to complete. Still, I am alive. I hurt all the time and feel like puking mutiple times a day but I am still here.
I look outward for inspiration and find myself angry with the world, especially the folks who hurt my family. The heartbreak of living among humans is still by far more difficult than my health issues. I can’t even be happy among my friends anymore. I love them. I appreciate them, especially with all the love and support we have received in the last year. But the pain is just so overwhelming. I am losing the ability to keep it all separated and I hate myself for that.
Every post, every story I write is an opportunity to express a simple truth.
We are all connected.
Yet, I have never been so conflicted with this mantra as I am right now. The meaning is lost at the moment. Have I been wrong all this time? Maybe the sky truly is red. Maybe blue is my own lifelong delusion.
There is a silver lining. There always is, but only when the light is trapped behind the dark clouds. I suppose that is also the grace God gives us each and every day. Not alot. Not too little. Just enough to see us make it til’ dawn.
Throughout this exhausting and horrible experience, we, our family, have remained together and our love has only been strengthened. So that is where I put my faith these days.
Back to it now. Back to pushing that giant boulder up the mountain. I know it will come crashing down again if and when I get close to the peak.
The little hope that is left in me would say this:
None of us can push that thing all the way to the top on our own. We all seem to be pushing our own boulders. Until we finally realize that we ARE all connected and that is how God made us, we are all doomed to the same fate as Sisyphus.
So I will say it, even if I don’t fully believe it right now…
Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.
I have been watching movies and listening to all kinds of music lately, looking for that hope and redemption. I am still looking for answers to heal my broken heart and ripped soul. Plus, I’m all out of duct tape.
I haven’t been able to write in months but last weekend I found some of that inspiration in, well, a movie about music. I finally found just enough light to see a path forward, like driving under streetlights on a Saturday night to find clarity and peace. I should have known Elvis could get the job done. TCB. We went to see the film as a family and what do ya know… I am finally writing again.
Now I must find a way to believe what I write. It used to be automatic. Maybe that has been the reason for not writing in these last few months. How can I write about love and kindness when I can’t believe my own words? Oh wait. Is that fiction? Am I now a fiction writer?
Love and kindness rocks! But, they are also both very big and heavy rocks!
“We must learn to embrace our purpose(the rock) in life. And once we accept it as the objective of our being, we should give it everything it takes to achieve it. Sisyphus teaches us to never give in to circumstantial disappointments or try to escape from the failures, rather accept failures the same way we accept our achievements.
And most importantly, no matter how much we lose in our quest, we must never back down till we fulfill our potential.”
I promise to keep trying. I promise to keep looking for the grace. But friends, I just don’t know it to be true anymore. Regardless, I am not gonna shutup because what I have to say might make some of you uncomfortable. That isn’t who I am. If you made it this far in the story, you already know that.
We need to try harder. We need to come together. We need to take our hands off the 3rd rail and reach out to each other instead. I think Elvis might agree. I know God does.
Be love. Be kind. We are all connected. Aren’t we?
Life is better with a soundtrack.
The following playlist includes the music that helped inspire the words of this post.
Yesterday, I had the honor of providing a ride to an incredible woman named Mary. Mary is 92 years old and by her own words “feels great!” She only has a flip phone so she utilizes a service called Go Go Grandparent to order her Lyft rides. I have attached a link in the comments. The service provides her all the info about her ride including the name of the driver, type and color of the vehicle, plate number, how far away, and the cost. The service will also send a text to Mary’s daughter to let her know Mary is on a Lyft ride. Pretty cool service. I didn’t know it existed until yesterday.
Mary and I only had about 15 minutes together but I can tell you that was the best 15 minutes of my day! Mary told me she moved here from South Carolina not long after her husband passed away to be closer to her family. She has 5 children, grandkids, and I believe at least 1 great grandchild. She lives with family in Fort Worth. Now, I must apologize because as I tell the next part of the story, I was unable to get some basic info. Mary actually told me her husband’s name but because we were limited in time and I didn’t want her to be late for her dentist appointment, I didn’t confirm his name and failed to write it down. I can tell you if Mary ever reads this, I hope she will reach out to me. I would love the opportunity to speak with her again. I believe her life story is one worth sharing.
Mary’s husband graduated from Harvard. He then moved on to the Naval Academy and became a Naval Aviator. This man flew jets off carriers! He flew combat missions in Korea and even took flak, forcing his plane down. Meanwhile, Mary would look to the skies, wondering if her husband was alright. She didn’t want to see Naval Officers dressed in formal whites approach her door. As she spoke of her husband, it was easy to see how much she loved him, and that they must have had an extraordinary bond. She would wrench her hands in anxiety every time she got any news. While her husband was streaking the sky, Mary was doing the hard work of raising their 5 children, basically on her own. She wasn’t complaining about this. She was proud of her husband and I believe she was happy with the job she did raising her family too.
Mary had such a delightful positive disposition. When we first greeted one another, her response was, “Christopher, I am above ground and breathing air, so I am happy to be here.” Mary seemed so appreciative for her family and just for being alive. I asked her if she was religious because I believe God brought us together. She laughed and said, “Well, I suppose you could call me a failed Episcopalian.” But Mary had a deep spiritual connection to God, clearly. She told me once, when she felt extremely depressed and desperate, she went into the church and prayed to God for help. And, He did. Just praying for help gave her enough peace and strength to carry on. When she was talking about feeling pretty good for her age, she told me how medicine and health is all about the acronyms now. She had a friend who was diagnosed with IBD. When her friend told this to Mary, Mary responded saying, “I also have an acronym health issue, AGE. It causes all kinds of issues including a loss of hearing, sight, and stability. And, my teeth no longer fit right either.”
When Mary’s husband retired from the Navy, He went back to school and became a therapist. He treated patients for several years in South Carolina. It must have been a nice time for him and Mary, and for their family. He was no longer away. One day he came home and told Mary that he couldn’t remember previous sessions with his patients. Even when he checked his notes, he was having a hard time remembering. That was the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
From diagnosis to death was 12 years. Mary told me she took care of him as his disease slowly took more and more of him. As he became less self-sufficient, Mary fed him, dressed him, and bathed him. She didn’t complain. Mary told me she was so happy she was able to do that for him. Her speech trembled a bit when she spoke about him so lovingly. Mary and I talked a little about depression. She has battled it, still does. But she is a warrior. Her husband served this nation heroically and then went on to help many more lives through therapy. If you ask me, Mary is also a hero that should be celebrated. She raised 5 children virtually alone. Her dedication and love for her husband is truly heroic as well. Now, here she is in Texas, near her family, and “feeling great!”
Mary, it was a true pleasure and honor to meet you. By the way, you should write a book too. Your story is amazing and I thank you for sharing a little bit of it with me yesterday.
As I thought about Mary and her husband, about how tough it must have been for both of them, while he was away flying dangerous missions and she at home raising their kids, this song came to mind.
The sun came up today, as it did yesterday and will again tomorrow. We have faith in that. It is a reliable constant that has never failed us. It’s Sunday in DFW. It is getting hot. As I sit here in my car, I notice the life around me. Lots of cars on the road. A nearly full city bus just drove by. There are several cars in the drive thru at Jack in the Box and Panda Express. Bees are circling the trash can in the parking lot where I am waiting. I am enjoying the bright sun, the blue sky and the scattered clouds, always a beautiful palette. There is something captivating about the sky and clouds. I bet I have taken a thousand pictures or more of the sky. The sky is both a constant and ever changing at the same time.
With the exception of a select few talented and dare I say lucky space travelers, we can always count on the sky over us, along with the sun and moon and the stars.
As I sit here appreciating the clouds and the bees and all these other little details around me that seem normal, peaceful, and ordinary, I see a man on the bridge that crosses the highway. He seems ancient, just skin and bone. His skin is darkened by all the sun his face has seen. His back is bowed and he moves ever so slowly but seemingly so deliberate, as if he had a mission that has taken his whole life and he was nearing the end. This man, the man on the bridge, the bridge man is wearing a paper surgical mask and holding a sign that says Peace and God Bless You on a torn piece of cardboard.
I wonder what Bridge Man sees when he looks around. I wonder if he appreciates the sky and the bees and the seemingly normal things around both of us. I wonder how different his perspective is from my own about the same surroundings. I wonder what he thinks about the troubled times we live in. He obviously knows about the pandemic. Does he know about the civil unrest? Does he care? He appears homeless and destitute. I think if I was in his shoes the world wouldn’t matter so much as what I would do for my next meal and where I might sleep tonight.
Does Bridge Man have any family or friends? How did he get here? Does he have a mental health issue? Is he struggling with alcohol or drug abuse? I watched as bridge man slowly disappeared beyond the apex of the bridge.
The man I was waiting for finally made it out to the car. His name is John. I met John recently at a new job and got to know him a bit. It turns out, John is a two-time felon who has only been out of his 2nd prison term for a few months. He lives in a sort of halfway house for men. I have been there and it is really quite nice. It is a two-story house with lots of shade and a pool in the back. So, John has a place to stay as he tries to get his life together. But he doesn’t have a car and he has a limited education. John is taking courses to become a HVAC technician. A few weeks after I met him, the new company I work for let him go because he didn’t clear the background check. He is now working at Jack in the Box. John is a little rough around the edges. He has had a hard life. He has even been shot twice in the face so he has a few mangled teeth. I give John a ride to class on Mondays and occasionally a ride home from work. It seemed like the least I could do. Once you are down, it’s very hard to get back up. John is trying.
With all the protests, I was reminded of an interaction with one of my riders last fall. I think it was shortly after Atatiana Jefferson was killed. It was raining, late on a Saturday night and I was picking up someone named Henry. All of the sudden the back door of my car opened and in flew someone from the rain with his hoody tightly pulled around his head. The second he got the door closed he ripped the hoody back, threw his hands up, and with a big disarming smile said “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” There was nothing remarkable enough about the trip for me to write about Henry at the time. At least I didn’t think so then. But I remembered him because of the way he made his entrance to the car and we did have a short conversation about race, white privilege, and both wondered if it would ever get better. I remember asking him that question. His answer was, “Only if we keep the conversation going and not the bullets.”
I miss those little interactions with my passengers. No matter how terrible the world seemed on the news, I could always get in my car, flip on the Uber/Lyft apps and meet new people who never failed to restore my faith in humanity.
What do these stories say about our society? How many homeless before we change the way we provide for our citizenry? How can someone truly get a second chance in a society that is already almost impossible for poor people who haven’t committed any crimes? How many black lives must be lost before we truly address police brutality and systemic racism? Could we finally be ALL in to address the racial injustices of our beloved America
I certainly don’t have the answers. In my life journey, I have learned this much:
There is Grace in everything.
Each of those men reminded me about what matters in life and how I wish to live it. We are all connected in this world. Many of us fall through the cracks of society, become invisible. But those lost to the shadows have needs, feel love and sorrow.
We turn away from them daily, often without even thinking about it. Those of us who make mistakes and pay for those mistakes according to our justice system never stop paying for them in our society.
Maybe now, with this perfect storm of a pandemic, a racist and corrupt president exacerbating societal fault lines, and finally knowing just how many black lives needed to end through police brutality, maybe now we can truly change. Maybe now is the time we have all been waiting for. I am not foolish enough to think we will achieve world peace and equality tomorrow but maybe we can finally move our country toward a more perfect union.
As dark and frightening as the world may seem, it is easy to lose sight of God’s loving hands. We see less clearly with so much darkness in the world. I see way too many fellow Christians supporting and defending, vehemently defending rhetoric and actions that are anything but Christlike. When in truth, we should be setting a higher example and lighting the path to peace and justice and belonging; like Streetlights on a Saturday night guiding us home. This battle for what many are calling the soul of our nation often pushes my anger in the direction of hate. Thinking of those 3 stories of men, how could I be so vain and self-righteous?
And that is what reminded me once again, that there is grace in everything, everywhere. And through God’s grace we shall prevail.
Grace is all around us. It becomes harder to see and feel, to witness, when we carry hate and anger and fear in our hearts. But, nevertheless, it is there, Grace. When you open your heart and your eyes to see it, to feel it, to witness it you will know God’s love.
This is a daily gift from God. Imagine a set of rose colored eye glasses that have a unique power to see beautiful surroundings that are otherwise invisible. The surroundings are always there but without those glasses you cannot see how incredibly beautiful your surroundings truly are. Faith, love, and kindness are the filters through which we can truly see, feel, and witness the beauty of God’s Grace.
I see it all the time now. Although, it took me more than forty years to find my rose-colored glasses and I still misplace them from time to time. Lately, I seem to forget them more often. We are in challenging times that can leave us all in a state of anger, hopelessness, fear, and despair. Lately I seem to get sidetracked and off message.
There are definitely things to be angry about. There is nothing wrong with anger. There are many wrongs that need to be righted. With all that this nation and the world is dealing with, it is easy to become the very thing we are fighting against, hate.
I have been listening to songs from the sixties and early seventies. I have been listening to the lyrics of songs like Blowin’ In The Wind, For What It’s Worth, and Change Is Gonna Come; songs written 50 and 60 years ago but seem like they could have been written yesterday. One of my favorite songwriters is Neil Young. I have always loved his song Heart Of Gold. I read the lyrics again, like one might read the Bible, searching for a deeper meaning, a lesson. I found one. It is this,
On this often difficult and sometimes painful journey of life, we all find ourselves searching for a heart of gold. I think what those lyrics mean for me is an internal quest. Perhaps that is what Young meant. Of my attempts and my own failings, I am constantly looking for that heart of gold within me. Life continues to challenge that quest. Life can make me cynical and angry, sad and hopeless. But If I keep searching for goodness and purpose within my own heart, God will take care of the rest.
I wonder if Bridge Man, John, and Henry are looking for their heart of gold. How about you?