It’s Easier Than it Sounds

Lifting people up

David is the main character in my Shepherd’s Chronicles Trilogy. For those of you that have not yet had the chance to read The Promise or The Rules, the first two books of the series, David strikes out to keep a promise and in doing so, travels the country and interacts with others, helping them find their way back to their path in life. His actions support one of the major themes of the books, that the true measure of a man in not in his worldly possessions but in the number of lives he touches in a positive way, the number of people he lifts up.

When I get the chance to talk about my writing, I always urge the listeners to take on lifting others up as a practice in their own lives. It may sound like a big deal but in reality, it’s easier than it sounds. Let me give you one example.

As many of you who follow me on Facebook know, I do a lot of my writing at Panera’s on Niagara Falls Blvd, pretty much at the same table each visit. There is a regular crew of customers that I have gotten to know and enjoy. There is one guy who comes in often that I rarely get to interact with. Sometimes he comes in alone and every once in a while he comes in with a young man who is both physically and mentally challenged.

A few mornings back, he came in alone and sat near my table. I went over to him and introduced myself. After telling me his name was Ron, I asked, “Do you mind if I ask about the your occasional breakfast companion. I apologize if you think I am being too nosey but I am just curious.”

Ron beamed as he told me about his son Anthony, how he is 26 years old and is working hard to make his own way in the world. His pride in his son was clear. I asked Ron if he would mind introducing Anthony to me next time we were all here. He assured me he would.

A few days later, Ron and Anthony came into Panera’s and they came right over to my table. Ron introduced his son to me and then left us alone while he ordered their breakfast. Anthony and I shook hands and we got to know each other. We talked about what he likes for breakfast and how much he enjoys coming out with his dad. His love for his father was obvious. I told him how nice it was to meet him. Our conversation was brief. I watched him turn and walk to his father’s table, struggling as he does to move with a regular gait, kind of dragging his one leg behind him as he crosses the room.

After finishing their meal, Ron and Anthony cleared their dishes and headed for the door. Ron got there first and held the door for his son. As Anthony approached the threshold, he turned, smiled, waved and said “bye-bye” and limped away. It occurred to me that in all his visits, it was the first time I had seen Anthony smile.

I didn’t do much. I didn’t change the world. My total investment in time was less than five minutes. My physical investment was walking six feet to introduce my self to Ron. In the big picture, not much changed for me or anyone else in that restaurant, but for one young man, he felt a part of a world he was always struggling to keep up with, appreciated for who he is, proud to be a part of his father’s world and accepted as one of the crowd. The smile he shared was as genuine a smile as I had ever seen and he made my day as much as I had made his.

Yes, it’s easier than it sounds. Try it for yourself. Make a difference, reach out, be an agent of change, care. You will discover that the joy you give others will come back to you in ways you never imagined. Who among us couldn’t stand a little extra joy in our lives?

The Art of Compromise

I debated over calling this blog as stated versus The Lost Art of Compromise. Either way, it ain’t what it used to be. The dictionary definition of compromise is – “an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.” Families, relationships, businesses and countries have been saved by its use. Wars have ended as a direct result. We watch as it’s use diminishes over time.

It appears as if compromise has been associated with weakness, that anything less than a total victory is a failure, that in our winner take all society, anything less than winning is an attack at our self esteem. In my younger days, we used to call adults like this stubborn, children spoiled brats. Congressmen used to be praised for being able to work both sides of the aisle. Now isolationism is a badge of honor. My way or the highway is the new battle cry.

Where did it all go wrong? At some point over that last ten years, that ability to negotiate has become obsolete. Let’s see how this attitude affects relationships today. When a subject comes up that forces husband and wife to opposite sides, without compromise, one walks away the victor, arms raised Rocky style over their head while the other hangs their head in defeat. This not only defines the current battle but also sets the stage for the next confrontation where both parties dig in, refusing to give up their firm stance. Future disagreements are less about the current state of affairs and more about the total picture, the battle vs. the war.

It all boils down to one word or a lack of it’s existence, EMPATHY! It is the ability to see the world through anybody’s lenses other than your own. Lacking empathy prevents you from feeling somebody else’s pain, to make you wonder why they feel the way they do, to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes, to recognize that, there but for the grace of God, go I. It seems that the ability to empathize correlates directly with the year of birth, where people in their 40’s carry more empathy than people in their 30’s. For most in their 20’s, most not all, but for them, empathy is a relic in the same bin as black and white TV. It’s the “me” generation run amok.

How does it change? As my books, “The Promise” and “The Rules” demonstrate, it happens through action, through recognizing that the true measure of a person isn’t the number of arguments you win, but by lifting others up, giving them value. You lift others up by listening to their point of view and not to listen while you formulate a response that will crush them. but listening to hear their words, understand their perspective, feel the heart behind their opinion with a willingness not to change your entire view, but with a willingness to compromise, to find a common ground. It’s that willingness that will, in the end, define who you are as a person. Isn’t it better when you both walk off the field a victor?

© Copyright 2017 Gary Friedman Books