Sunday, August 30, 2015

Workplace injustice - steps to right a wrong.

Is it possible for someone that has been oppressed, used and abused and treated sub-human to actually advocate for themselves? This week I was ready to set up a protest at one of the local Waffle Houses. One of my older teens had just been fired for something that appeared to be strictly a subjective decision not based upon evidence but suspicion.  My special friend was in tears when she was accused of giving away food. I was going to take her to work at midnight only to receive a text saying she had been fired.

I quickly messaged her back to get the real story. As I listened to what had transpired it was clear that she hadn’t followed protocol exactly in an unusual situation. The district manager’s decision was to have her and the cook fired. They have been working at one of the under performing stores that had issues with theft. The DM was ‘fed up’ with ongoing problems at the store. The DM’s choice was to make an example out of my friend and the cook.

The next morning I take my friend back to the store to get her check and turn in her apron and shirt. The manager at the store wasn’t very responsive to her plea for keeping her job. She had shown proof that there was a ticket for the food and no money was missing from the cash register. What happened next totally shocked me!

My friend proceeds to call the DM, which I didn’t realize and starts talking to him on speakerphone. I was impressed with my friend’s ability to speak up on her on behalf with evidence that showed she was fired not for an actual infraction but suspicion of theft. The conversation became very emotional because my friend needed to work to pay her rent and phone bill. She asked the DM if he would give her a good reference and it was clear he was going to say she was fired for suspicion of theft.

I eventually ask permission to speak with the DM. He’s very willing to listen and I ask whether or not he can show some grace and give her a second chance understanding she had broken some service protocol but hadn’t actually stolen anything.  He seemed like he genuinely cared for my friend but was frustrated with the underperformance of this store. It took a few minutes of discussing the impact this would have on the teen and his realization that this was a judgment call he could change and give an opportunity for redemption.

The end result with my friend’s plea and my two cents saw the DM give her the job back and reassigned her to a better store in a different location. My initial thought was that maybe this was work place discrimination that was based on racism until my friend explained that the DM was bi-racial. I could see in the look of my teen’s face that she had hope now instead of this fear of total failure.

This is an unusual situation because most likely the DM never expected this teen to self-advocate with a well thought out explanation. The end result was my teen got back her job and a sense of self-worth and dignity! I was so proud of her and the opportunity for me to encourage her. Yet, the sad reality is that most in a similar circumstance wouldn’t have had the courage or ability to stand up to their supervisor or DM.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Smile! Why let someone else's bad attitude ruin your day?

It always amazes me to see who purposely opens a door for you, especially early in the morning on your way to Starbucks? This morning a detective went out of his way to open the door for me. I couldn’t tell whether he viewed me as an old man that needed help or was genuinely showing kindness? So I smiled at him and waited for him to get in line ahead of me. He chose to first sit down and get his laptop running. So I intentionally persuaded him to let me buy him a cup of coffee.  I saw a surprised look on his face but wanted him to realize that he had made my day by smiling and opening the door for me!

I’m around a lot of people that too often have this ‘crappy’ face on them and seem to want to throw a pity party. I’m always puzzled as to why anyone would choose to look this way? I can remember my mom always telling me that if I keep frowning my face might stay that way. Clearly it takes more energy to frown instead of smiling.

So what has to happen to help someone go from crappy to happy or at least having a smile on his or her face? It’s true that most of us have been raised in the instant gratification mindset. If I can’t get what I want immediately than I’m going to have that ‘crappy’ face. What would happen if instead of always thinking about ME, we would choose to look around and see what we could do for others? Isn’t feeling better about your life circumstances often more a by-product of choosing to get up, don’t stay on the couch or in bed and do something that matters for someone else?

This last Saturday I had spent the day with a group at the lake boating. It was a lot of fun but for me a long day as I rose at 5:30am and arrived home around 3:30 pm. I had received a few texts asking for some help. Initially I thought I’m tired, sun and wind ravished, so they can wait till tomorrow I need my rest. As I considered this crappy attitude response it struck me how fortunate I was and how unfair it was for a few of my friends to be in difficult circumstances. So I wiped off that crappy face and quickly showered and then helped a family with some food and another with some funds so their lights would come back on.

It’s important to realize that feelings in life aren’t solely a by-product of your possessions but your choice to make a difference in someone else’s life! Yes, bad stuff will happen that might attempt to put a crappy face on you but resist and smile as you do something as simple as open the door for someone else.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The key to life is making the best of what you have!

One of the great fallacies of today’s culture is that the path to being happy is solely based upon your possessions. The challenge is that I’m seldom ever content with what I have regardless of my income bracket or status in life? Should my life crisis be after September 9th when I have to decide whether I keep my iPhone 6 or trade it in for the latest iPhone 6s? Clearly this is not a life changer unless I truly believe that having the newest Apple device is the sum of life!

I just finished listening to a radio program that interviewed the President of Arizona State University, Michael Crow. I was so impressed with Dr. Crow’s response to the numerous questions about the purpose behind pursuing a college degree. He didn’t focus solely on the income bracket of an engineer, lawyer or PhD getting ready to teach. His amazing point was what are you going to CONTRIBUTE to the world? Discover your passion while in college and then do something! So his end point was how are you going to make a difference and count in the lives of others? If you weren’t going to college with this mindset then his point was don’t attend then.

I also just finished a text discussion with one of my older teens that has landed a great post high school job at a hospital as a room cleaner. He too shares my passion for Apple products. His latest pursuit of happiness was through getting his first car. We talked a little bit about the advantage of buying a typical starter car that would last forever and not cost a lot, i.e. a Civic, Corolla, Sentra, etc… Instead he set his sites on what I call a baby boomer type of car that would fit in the BMW, Lexus, or Infiniti camp.

The downside to what happened was that he had to buy from a car dealer that caters to those without credit or those that have bad credit.  So he found his dream car and you could clearly see in his mind that his status in life had grown immensely! He then figured out that his employer could actually finance the car. The difficulty was that the dealer would then be cut out of his high interest rate loan and loses big bucks. The mishap that transpired was that my friend took his car to be serviced and they did a bunch of tricks on him to get even and wouldn’t give his car back unless he paid them something to get out of the loan.

So how do I learn to make the best of what I have and not be a in perpetual lust mode for the better things in life which aren’t necessarily evil? How do I distinguish between possessions that are wants versus needs? It’s true that the disparity between those with resources and those that live on the edge make it difficult for anyone to be content with less! The struggling person so much wants a car that runs and why can’t it be a nicer car. So also the person with means has to get the newer car because nothing less would ever do!

So don’t fool yourself into thinking that happiness can be bought but rather discover the blessing of using to your best potential what you already have! It’s not the ultimate sin to by another car, iPhone or laptop? Conversely are you a saint if you are still using the original iPhone and have a twenty-year-old car?  Hopefully your life will be defined more by your character and commitment to contribute to others then your possessions!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Why snooze and miss out on being an early bird that makes life happen?

 I know that for some strange reason most millennials have this genetic disposition for sleeping till noon? I was raised to truly believe that getting up early meant that you got more work done in a day, had more personal time and actually didn’t experience the always behind syndrome. I always chuckle when I see someone that just can’t get their act together until lunchtime and usually look like they are still sleep walking.

I had coffee with a close friend this week at 6am. We were just catching up on life circumstances when I finally asked my friend what time do you usually get to work? His quick response was; ‘I always go to the office at 6am because there is only one other person there. I can get three hours worth of work done in an hour with peace and quiet!’ I admit that we are both aging baby boomers who were programed from birth to see the obvious advantages of being an early riser.

So is it possible to see any of my adult kids or their friends actually purposely get up before dawn? As a parent it was somewhat humorous watching our two daughters grow up with their different internal clocks. One daughter, as a little kid, was up before dawn automatically. Our other daughter was barely awake at noon or 1pm. What’s hilarious is our night owl daughter now has a job that changes shifts all of the time and is more than able to be out the door before 5:30am to be at work by 6am.

So is it easy to transition from being a night owl that loves to see the sun rise but then sleep the majority of the real day to someone who sees the advantage of going to bed at a decent time so they can get up early? Clearly this is possible but not probable for most until your life circumstances force you to make the change. I’m so proud of one of our interns who recently graduated from college and just got her first full time job. Today was her first day of real work after training for the last three weeks. The challenge for our special friend is that getting up early in the past was around 10am.

Today we witnessed not a miracle but the discipline of someone who has joined the work force and had to be work at 6:45am. Our dogs give us no choice but to be up around 5:30am each day. So it was a proud morning as we watched our friend make the jump from being a night owl to someone that wants to change the world before the sun is out! This doesn’t mean that you can’t sleep in on occasion or take a nap!

So my mom would always tell me that the early bird would catch the worm and that usually when you snooze you lose. So what will it be; watch the sunrise with a great night’s sleep or have that hangover feeling all day because you just had a few hours of slumber?

Yes it helps to have a loud obnoxious ring tone on your iPhone's alarm to assist in rising before dawn!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Find a common cause! (Better than coexisting!)

So how do we rise above our pluralistic societal differences finding ways that go beyond coexisting and putting up with each other? Is it possible to find common causes that unite us and empower us to work together for the betterment of some if not all people? Why is it the case that too often my personal views on life tend to divide me from others? I always end up asking the questions that separate me from the person next to me instead of finding common ground? Why is it possible to ignite people’s passion and furry over horses on an open range or the puppy mill and not another human being who looks just like me but has divergent views on issues I believe to be of the upmost importance?

The Bible talks about the fact that God wants us to do more than just coexist or put up with each other. I find it rather fascinating that Jesus bemoans his disciples’ unwillingness to love those that would have been perceived as their enemies. So his point, that is so important to hear, is what good is it to love and help those that are like you for even the ‘pagans’ do this! It’s time to step up and purposely choose to not only be nice but also actually do something good to that person that you view as being lesser than you!

Today I met with a couple of younger guys who I hadn’t met before that are desirous of learning more about doing nonprofit work in tough neighborhoods with kids, teens and adults living on the edge. I arrive a little early at a Starbucks and choose to sit outside. Just as I’m seated and start to check e-mails a homeless gentleman approaches and wants a handout. I had gotten a blueberry muffin so I decided to give it to him. I attempt to engage him in a conversation only to discover that he isn’t all there but still needs some food and something to drink.  He has clearly been living on the street and hasn’t bathed or changed clothes in months. Yet, I don’t react to his appearance and he says a muffled thank you and sits a table over as my new friends sit to discuss at risk work.

I know that it’s easy to say that everyone should value all life whether that is of a homeless man, who might be a veteran that serviced in the military or the senior who is no longer as capable to help him or herself and would never ask for help. So how do we change the culture of our society? Doesn’t it happen one step at a time where each of us take baby steps to do something intentional today that makes tomorrow different and better? Over the last year I have intentionally chosen to visit and befriend a group of grandmas that are mostly widowers. My goal is to connect my kids and teens in our program so they can see that seniors are worthy of their time and attention.

I can remember during one of my first painting projects, we paint houses of low-income seniors for free; I had a contractor volunteer to help. I know that he must have initially laughed at our setup. So instead of screaming at me or making fun he made some great suggestions that I followed. The end result was a better-run organization and the added benefit of my new friend donating his left over paint that has amount to over $30K worth of assistance. So it is amazing what can happen when you choose to step outside of your comfort zone and take a risk!

My mom was the friend maker genius who impacted my life as I grew up moving every few years because of my dad’s military career. I will always remember the routine every time we would be transferred to a new Air Force Base. She would knock on the doors of our neighbors and introduce us. I made friends, regardless of whether I wanted and looking back my life was truly enriched from her choice to reach back. She was always someone that helped the younger moms whose husbands were gone regardless of whether their husbands were officers or airmen.

So it’s time to purposely go out of your way to make a different type of friend, volunteer doing something you love and pay it forward by shocking someone that doesn’t expect you to care. I know I want to do more than coexist in my life and want to genuinely be part of common cause situations that draw a diverse group of people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds together.

Find a common cause in your neighborhood where you can both feed into another person’s life and also receive a blessing from a new friend! Yes, it’s dangerous but ultimately the only way to live!