Thursday, July 30, 2020

Isolation? Good or bad, It's Hard To Say.


Isolation can fill you up with awe and  appreciation.

I hope your month has been productive and rewarding. I hope you have found the spiritual strength to reach out to at least four strangers. Not someone like yourself, but different. Someone you normally would not talk to. Perhaps the person waiting for a bus or in the pharmacy, or the person enjoying the outdoors at your local park.  

 Did you make an effort to get to know them -- not their politics, not their religion – but deeper? 

Perhaps you told them something your mother always said to you about patience or being kind to one another, and then asked them what their mother always preached to them?  Who was their best friend in high school?  I hope you shared with them about what you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done yet, or what your perfect day would be like. The only rule: Don’t talk politics, religion, or about the mainstream news. Just like your mother told you.

This month during my travels, I have had many wonderfully pleasant conversations with strangers.  But two separated incidents stand out in my mind because they surprised me so much.  The two separate interchanges that happened, not with strangers, but while having lunch with two different friends.


 At each lunch, as much as I make an effort to avoid discussing trending controversial issues, the ugly issues came up.  In an instant, it was like rounding the corner and bumping into a vicious dog. Their pleasant moods vanished, their composures tensed, their mouths straight-lined and their brows furrowed when controversial subject came up.  It is of no matter which debatable subject instilled their reactions; they reacted the same.  Each friend became an entirely different person -- an angry, hateful person. If I had been the target of their hate, I would have been frightened and reacted with anger of my own.

I call these people my friends. They are good people.  And yet in a flash, they became someone scary and antagonistic. How can that happen?

For the first time in my life I did something I have never done before.

I asked why they felt so angry. And then I listened.

Some see clouds and worry about  rain. Some see mountains while others see only that the view is blocked.  Some see cold water, others see a day of sailing. Some see trees and others see weeds.

They spewed forth their reasons for their hatred. From their perspectives:  the   hated groups had misguided beliefs, selfish desires, and imposing agendas -- all which were different than my friends.’


I did not shut down.  I did not react with anger or become defensive because they did not grasp up my differing perspectives. I did not try to shove my views down my friends’ throats.

I continued to listen …  and understand.

I began to realize my friends’ anger was based on their personal perceptions, viewpoints which they believed to be true. We all form our beliefs, from personal experiences, or from information we’ve gleaned from the news, or  seen on TV, or the internet. And most often, it will be a cold day in hell before we are willing to admit that the conclusions, we’ve made may be wrong.

Years ago, at my business, I and two of my employees were robbed at gunpoint.  When questioned by the police, I was amazed how each employee described the robber’s race differently. One said he was black, one described him as Mexican and I believed he was of Iranian.  And of course, I believed my description was the only correct one. Surprise.  We were all wrong. He was Puerto Rican. And yet even with that knowledge, years after the robbery, even though I knew the man was Puerto Rican, I still became extremely fearful  of anyone with a mid-eastern background.


Tomorrow is your future. Imagine it!

Knowing that both of my luncheon friends lived a comfortable life, I asked   one of them, “How has your life changed for the worse that has made you so angry?”

My friend thought for a long while. She seemed surprised that she could think of nothing dramatically wrong with her life to justify her anger. And then she said, “I’m afraid of what might happen.”

Almost always, our fears are unfounded and yet we are afraid. We are focusing on what could happen, or what might happen.

I face fear every time I drive either my car or my motorhome.   I could be in an accident and die, I could be shot in a robbery and die, I could have a heart attack, or the flu, or cancer and die. None of those things would be a pleasant way to go.

 Three-quarters of a century have passed. Nearly 27,375 days. That’s 657,000 hours. I have survived three civil unrest movements, I survived the Polio epidemic, the Swine flu, the Asian Flu and the Hong Kong flu. I lived through a robbery at gunpoint and an abusive marriage, and I smoked.

I have embraced the art of living, which is just that … living.

Not waiting, not hiding, and not hating. Just living.

Be afraid!   

I read a post by a veteran today that inspired the subject of this blog. He was a a fulltime RVer and suffered from PTSD. He had come to the realization that he would never be the Joe Civilian that he once was before he went to war. Now, he would always be a veteran, always feeling locked and loaded and ready to fight for his country.  Such a simple realization, but for him, it had been a difficult concept to accept. So, he said, “I’ll just crawl back into my case. And you can break the glass in case of emergency.”

And the veteran’s attitude resonates with me. This world is never going to be what it was. I mourn at the loss and am full of grief. Everywhere I look people are suffering but not from the virus. They are wrought with fear and stress. Yet I want to believe it will be better -- gloriously better. But like all trauma we are going to have to trudge down a long road of recovery. And we have so much to learn and change before we reach the other side of this. We all do. But I don’t believe we can accomplish this in isolation. 

We need each other.

I hope we all get a chance to walk in a stranger’s shoes to understand and be compassionate.  Communication and experiential knowledge is the prescription for healing.

  Reach out. Talk to a stranger.

Dare to see what others do not.

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Safe travels!