Do we really care about other people? It seems I get inundated with requests to donate money to help out people in need each year around this time. My wife and I decided a few years back that we would teach our kids about giving each Christmas and pick a charity to support. This year we each made shoebox gifts for children in need who live in the Appalachian Mountains. It has been a very rewarding experience and we are thrilled to have this opportunity, but I am sitting here and wondering if I really care.
Did you notice that I earlier used the word ‘inundated?’ I know that carries a negative connotation and I used it deliberately. I used it because it is a proper description of how I often feel. I know that I cannot financially help every charity. That isn’t what bothers me though. What really troubles me is how stagnant my reaction is to the suffering of others. It seems that with each image I see or paragraph I read I become more desensitized. I know that children are dying and understand that buying a goat and chickens can help feed a village in a third world country. I am very aware that the large cause of death in the world is lack of access to clean drinking water, but I seem to not feel it anymore. Those images and words that once tugged at my heartstrings seem to do very little these days.
I’m just being honest here, but I seem more concerned with how uncomfortable I feel in cold weather – even with my warm clothes and dry, heated buildings – than I am with the real suffering of others. I easily become obsessed with my distaste for winter and desire for the warmth of summer while there are people dying due to their exposure to the elements. I am no longer ‘distracted’ by people who beg for food because I have become very accustomed to ignoring them. I wonder if I would even send shoebox gifts to financially disadvantaged children if it didn’t make me feel good or serve as a ‘teachable moment’ to my children.
I am an average American. The citizens of this great country provide much to those in need but I wonder if we really care. Are we working in a soup kitchen because we care or because we feel it’s an obligation? Do we give to the Salvation Army because we understand the plight of those they serve or do we just feel guilty when we don’t? If those children we send shoe boxes to were our own, would it make a difference? I think we often have done the right thing but quite possibly not for the right reason. How often have you donated something knowing you could count it as a deduction on your taxes? How often have you gone Christmas shopping and were more concerned about what you were going to buy for yourself or your family than what you were going to provide to someone in need?
I think most Americans are guilty of this but we shouldn’t be. Just because the majority of people are desensitized does not make it a societal mandate. Let’s make a goal together this year. I propose we decide to search our hearts and rekindle the emotions inside our beings. Don’t be afraid to look at the images of the starving children, it’s okay to cry when you realize how desperately they need your help. It’s alright to have compassion; in fact I think it’s necessary. Don’t let this Christmas pass by without taking some time to find love in your heart. When you start to complain about how cold you feel in your winter coat or sitting in your heated leather seat, instead take some time to think about the homeless man or woman who lives in the cold and doesn’t even own a decent pair of shoes. Maybe she wouldn’t be complaining if she were sitting in your place.
Last week I talked about one of the fundamental rules of customer service – treat your customer how you would want to be treated. (If you did not get a chance to read the blog I encourage you to click on the link and give it a read.) Much of our industry has moved from a product to a service based economy. To explain, people often don’t buy a product due to how well it performs, but they instead buy it based upon the service they receive. Think about McDonald’s for example. They put out mediocre food but stay on top of the other fast food chains. The big reason is because the company understands its customers. They know people want their food fast and with a smile. They even build their restaurants based upon societal interests. Many McDonald’s look like the burger version of Starbucks with brown leather-like chairs, tables for netbooks or iPads and free wifi. Speaking of Starbucks, they are another example of an industry that has grown because they understand and meet the needs of their customers.
Think about all the industries that now cater to customers. I work in healthcare and I can tell you we have become very patient focused as an industry. Our patients are our customers and we strive to do everything we can to meet their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Social media – customer focused. In writing my blog I must think about my audience and do my best to meet their expectations.
One thing that still amazes me is how people often have no idea that customer service is extremely important. I think there needs to be a class in school that focuses on customer service because it seems that many people could stand to learn the importance of meeting their customers’ needs. Today I will give you a crash course on some laws of customer service. Consider this the Cliffs Notes version.
The 5 Simple Laws of Customer Service
- Live by the Golden Rule - treat you customer how you would want to be treated.
- Smile - Smiles are contagious and disarming. Smiling will brighten your attitude and often your customer’s as well.
- It’s not about you - The customer most likely does not care how you feel or what your day has been like. They are paying your company for your service, not your complaints.
- The Customer is NOT Always Right - Unlearn the misinformation about the customer always being right. This just is not true. You may work at a store that only sells shoes and you have a customer who brings in a t-shirt and says he bought it at your store and wants a refund. The customer is not right and it is not your responsibility to refund him for a product he obviously did not buy from you. What we should be taught is to always RESPECT the customer and find a way to serve them. You may be tempted to say, “You idiot, we don’t sell shirts!!” but that would be a mistake. It would be better to say, “I am sorry sir, but we don’t sell shirts at our store. There is a shirt store with a similar name on the other side of the mall. Is it possible that you purchased your shirt there?” In this way you are respecting the customer and working with him to try to help him resolve his dilemma.
- Don’t be Fake - I once heard a customer service training company teach a mantra that simply stated, “Fake it till you make it.” I hated that slogan because it seemed to be in great error. To fake something is an act of deception. It’s similar to lying. It is a word that carries negative connotations and just should not be paired with customer service. If you cannot muster up enough fortitude to treat your customer with respect, you probably should not work in a position that requires customer service. Don’t be Fake, but do your best. I think most of us can authentically treat our customers well when we focus on their needs.
This is just a snapshot and not an overall training of good customer service. I think that if everyone who works in the service industry would learn these 5 simple laws, however, they would perform well at their jobs.
Since the Scientific Revolution entering on the heels of the Renaissance and the subsequent Enlightenment movement of 17th and 18th centuries, the Western mentality has taken on a unique way of thinking. You can read pieces of pop literature and other works from each time frame and see a shift happening in the very words you read. It is in light of this, that I would like to issue a brief challenge for your mind. Has the "Age of Enlightenment helped or harmed our understanding of Reality, Morality, Spirituality, Philosophy, etc.? In many ways, there is not doubt we are much better off than our ancestors due to scientific advancements and medical progress. In other ways, it seems we have lost our sense of being and a knowledge of our place in the universe. Since we are the product of the Age of Reason, many of the advantages from that development shape the way we think today. In fully acknowledging that, I will explicate a thesis that articulates the disadvantages that our modern and post-modern mentalities would tend to find disagreeable.
"One cannot prove by scientific means, that a supernatural being can exists." The very basis of this statement is true. There has never been an empirical study that can prove the existence of a supernatural being. However, there is a major fault in this line of thinking. That fault is this, the typical Western mind has been conditioned to think the highest disciplines are the sciences. Here it is often presumed that fact and truth are synonymous, therefore all truth must be found by verifiable facts (empirical evidence). The modern mind has set up the scientific pursuits as the highest of all disciplines. It is the basis for thinking in terms of medicine, space, physics, etc. It is also the foundational stone to atheist and agnostic epistemology. There is one undeniable truth to this basis--One can never answer the question "Why" with science alone. It can only answer "How." With the overarching assumption that only that which is empirical can be considered true is very minimalist and limited with regard to the spectrum of knowledge. People follow that way of thinking to form a logical strand to Theism and Intelligent Design--see below:
All Truth/Reality must be the result of Empirical evidence.
The absence of Empirical evidence=Not true/Not real
One cannot prove Empirically that Divine Beings exist, therefore they do not exist.
But there are other disciplines that play into a fullness of knowledge, which Scientism is vastly inadequate in its contributions.
The basis for scientific study is the ability to recreate results repeatedly to verify them. The scientist would quickly find himself ill-equipped to prove or explain the meaning of life. Why some people fall in love and marry other people...Why societies take on the forms they do...Why language develops the way it does (Note: to this day, linguists are still at a loss in explaining the meaning and origins of language).
Science cannot prove I was depressed last week over spilling my favorite coffee after I left the coffee shop. They can make inferences, but they can only trace the chemical reactions in my body without definitively proving the immediate event precipitated that chemical reaction. Science is also ill-equipped to prove that Napoleon marched 600,000 men into Russia and returned with about 6,000. They also cannot prove any other event in history--because those events cannot be repeated and recreated through thorough testing. Science is still ill-equipped in explaining what some philosophers have called the "Ghost in the Machine." (that which makes us as humans operate)--let alone the development of morality and ethics-the innate sense of right and wrong.
One of the disadvantages of our "Age of Reason" is that we have hailed empiricism as the ultimate in knowledge and keep it unaccountable to the other disciplines, like history, philosophy, music, religion, etc. There are many ways of knowing and empiricism is only one in a spectrum of others. So one major deficit of our Modern Man is that his ability to gain fuller knowledge is hamstrung by the almost worshipful reverence for scientific facts to which all other forms of knowledge are mere schoolyard games that have little bearing on the pursuits of reality.
When we open the door to other forms of knowledge, we may find a higher sense of existence and a fuller life. We may even be able to create categories in our head for the supernatural. And who knows, that may lead us into another "Age of Enlightenment" where all spectra of knowledge are harmonized, not monarch-ized under one dictatorial form, leading us to a better knowledge of ourselves and of the meaning of life.
Just a few thoughts for the evening.
May the Peace of Christ be with you.
I’m a dreamer. I like to call myself a visionary but it’s just a fancy way of saying I’m a dreamer. I’m one of those people who often have great ideas but rarely put feet to them. This is not to say that I never follow through because I am very reliable when I do make a commitment, I just flutter around quite often prior to obligating myself to any endeavor. I am always thinking up some grandiose plan like becoming a missionary in Central or South America, moving to Texas, California or Florida, running a profitable business, or starting a movement. Every time I read about someone who has been successful at starting a movement like TOMS, Invisible Children, Samaritan’s Purse, Marion Medical Mission, or World Vision I get a little jealous. Don’t get me wrong I am extremely happy that these organizations exist and that people had the foresight to not only dream but create these organizations, I just really want to be a part of such a movement.
I don’t really know if I just want to become a part of an ongoing movement or begin my own but I am very aware that it gels with me. To be honest I have never had an epiphany of starting a company that sells shoes for the purpose of giving shoes or one that educates society on the evils of the LRA in Africa but I really am inspired by those who have. I love the fact that these organizations exist because they represent the good in humanity. You may disagree with my religious or political views but I believe that the majority of people who read by blogs will agree that it is a good thing to help those less fortunate than ourselves. I think most of you desire to see those who are beaten, raped, tortured or starved given a second chance.
I know I entitled this ‘Let’s Start a Movement,’ but let me rephrase it: Let’s Become Part of a Movement. We may not all be visionaries or CEO’s but we can all find an organization to give to or find people who has dedicated their lives to working for such a cause and support them. Be a part of something bigger than yourself and become a part of a movement.
I think I can be too honest sometimes. I’m not saying honesty is bad or that we shouldn’t be truthful. I just seem to tell people things when they don’t ask. Here is a hypothetical example of what I mean. Assume a lady is wearing a hideous dress and she asks your opinion. Normal honesty may be telling her that the dress doesn’t suit her. Taking it one step further is suggesting she shop at a new store without her first soliciting your assessment. I’m not exactly that guy because I am not typically rude, but I do often share things on my blog and later wonder why. It’s a difficult rope to balance. I can write in such a way that I appear to be superhuman or I can be real. I choose reality and sometimes share more than I should. I have a feeling this will be one of those times.
Here’s the thing, I love to watch the numbers. Each morning, before I upload my blog, I check out the previous day’s stats. I really want to see how many people visited my website that day and why. The reality is that I want to see how popular I am. (Here is where the honesty comes in.) Truth be known, the most people who have ever accessed my blog in one day is just under 400. My readership typically ranges between 100 and 200 readers. To some that may seem like a huge crowd, but in the world of blogging it is an embarrassing number. I’ve only been blogging for a few months and I often have unrealistic expectations but I was certain I would have reached at least 1,000 people by now. I know that if I have reached 400 in one day, I have most likely reached 1,000 over the course of the blog, but that isn’t my point. I really hoped my one day readership would have reached 1,000 by now. In addition, only a handful of people actually subscribe to my blog and I think that I am somewhere around 75% of that handful. Sometimes it can be disheartening, but that is because I am looking at numbers and not people.
I tend to get wrapped up in numbers at times and forget the real reason why I blog in the first place… Okay, you’re right, I did start blogging as a way to increase readership and market my book which has taken much longer to publish than I ever anticipated. (Is that a run-on sentence?) Second to my selfish marketing rationale, however, was the desire to write about things in my life and hopefully have a positive effect on others. If my goal is to positively affect others, can I quantify that merely by numbers? (I guess if zero were the number I could, but that is null in this posting because I have reached out to more than zero people.) I have positively affected others because I have connected with old friends, shared things with people that showed them that they have been influences in my life, inspired people to see Christianity from a different angle, and encouraged others to give of themselves. If I have only reached 400, 200 or even 10 people with that message I have fulfilled my goal.
I do get discouraged sometimes and I do get my priorities all out of whack. This blog, however, has also helped me personally. It has equipped me to become a better writer, given me an opportunity to conduct a self evaluation, helped me grow, and connected me with others. Blogging has been a great journey and it has only just begun. Thank you for your continued readership and for giving me an opportunity to be honest. - Tim
It was my fault. We were late and it was my fault. My son, Caleb, is a Cub Scout and yesterday was Scout Sunday, which was actually being held at our church. The scouts were serving breakfast to members of our congregation as a service project because our church sponsors Caleb’s scout pack. I was asked if Caleb would be able to help with the breakfast, which started at 0745 and I said he would be there. We did get there… at about 0825. We were late. I am typically someone who arrives at my commitments early, often 20 to 30 minutes ahead of schedule. I don’t usually show up late, but we did yesterday.
That morning I knew we were going to be late and began to convince myself that it was everyone else’s fault. Although I never said it aloud, I initially reasoned that it was my wife’s fault because she is always my first go-to person when I need a scapegoat and want to feel better about myself. I quickly deduced, however, she wasn’t to blame and doing so would only cause irreparable harm. Next I concluded that it had to be the kids’ fault. Often they do play a big part in the amount of time it takes to leave the house but yesterday they were on the ball. I finally had to face the truth, it was my fault.
The real reason we were running late was because I had never really prioritized that commitment. If it was a work commitment or one that affected me personally, we would not have been late. I realized that I had flippantly made the commitment on Caleb’s behalf. I didn’t listen to what time the breakfast started and never asked how early I needed to get my son to the church. I just said, “Sure, he’ll be here,” and figured it didn’t really matter when I got him there. My priorities were out of whack. My son, who happens to be a Cub Scout, got the wrong message from his father. I didn’t intend to say it, but I inadvertently informed him that Cub Scout events are not that important and serving others is not a priority over my sleep. I was selfish.
It may seem that I am being too hard on myself, but the truth is I am writing this because I don’t think I am. I really didn’t care that I had gotten my son there late nor apologized to doing so. I pretty much convinced myself that it didn’t matter when he got there as long as he was there. I deceived myself into believing a lie so I would feel better. It worked. I didn’t really feel bad for being late and was able to go the rest of the day without giving it a thought. I didn’t really care until I did some self reflecting prior to writing this blog entry.
Here’s the thing, I should care and I should care greatly. I need my son to know that his commitments are always important and he needs to be a person others can trust. I need to be there for him more than I am for myself. My son, daughter and wife need to take priority in my life. I want to raise children who respect others and that includes respecting other people’s time. My children are going to learn to uphold their commitments and value others more than themselves. I’m going to be a better example to my children and I am going to start by writing an apology to Caleb’s Scout leader. What happened wasn’t my wife’s or children’s fault, it was mine but I’m going to change. What about you? - Tim
2012 – The Year the World Ends
Well it’s here everyone, Earth’s last year. If there ever was a year that you needed to make some huge New Year’s resolutions and keep them, it’s this year. You’ve got 12 months to make things right. I guess there’s no good reason to make a resolution to lose weight because it won’t matter when the earth is obliterated by the sun this December. I guess it also won’t make much sense to make a resolution to become popular since there won’t be anyone left to remember you next year. Yep, the year of the oncoming apocalypse can be somewhat disheartening, but you still can make the best of it. You can help people who are hungry and thirsty. You can still provide clothing to those who are lacking. You can make a difference.
I will come clean and formally announce that I don’t believe the world is going to end in 2012. If it does you can tell me how wrong I was when we get to Heaven. You can still live your life like you are not going to see 2013. I don’t mean that you need to sell all you have and blow all your money on toys and trips, but you can start investing in others. We really don’t know how long we have on this planet. It could be a few decades or you might not make it to the end of this blog. The point is you are going to die sooner or later. It’s a grim fact but it’s going to happen and there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it. Maybe that’s why death’s called the ‘grim reaper,’ now I get it. Anyway, you will choose how you are going to live your life. Don’t waste it by investing in yourself. I have never seen someone on their deathbed saying, “I really wish I would have spent more time pleasing myself.” The regrets that people have are what they did to hurt others and what they didn’t do to help. Don’t be the man or woman who regrets the decisions you have made in your life. Today is the day that you can decide to live a life that makes a difference. Stop serving yourself and start serving others. Learn to really live life because you have one shot at it. The world may not end in 2012, but I encourage you to live life like it will. - Tim
This year I will be focusing on more specific topics. I want to be transparent in my blog and really share what is on my mind. I will continue to write my Funny Friday blogs, but I will also be delving into deeper topics this year. Some topics I will cover include the supernatural, living love, being transparent with others and why I don’t like tofu. Keep reading because 2012 will rock.
A twelve pack of beer and a pack of cigarettes. These are not my vices. I do have my vices but beer and cigarettes are not some of them. One of my vices is Diet Coke. I realize that Diet Coke differs greatly from beer for many reasons, but it is still a drink that fulfills the need for a chemical dependency but provides no health value.
I had a great time this weekend and really enjoyed the freedom from my typical schedule. I was able to stay up late and sleep in. It has been a very long time since I have been able to enjoy those subtle yet pleasant freedoms. This morning was my enemy because it presented the antagonist to freedom, order. You see I am somewhat of a beatnik in that I enjoy just throwing the schedule out the window and seeing what the day has to offer. Because I really don’t like to keep things in order, I become somewhat pessimistic when I am forced to realign myself with the confines of my schedule and that is how today began.
After fulfilling the very unpleasant ritual of rising from bed, showering and attempting to prepare myself for work, I embarked upon my thirty minute commute. Due to the dark, cold surroundings and my morning ataxia I determined I must stop at a local gas station for a Diet Coke. It was really the only way I would be able to sustain myself and arrive at work unscathed, or so I had convinced myself. I muddled my way through the soda machine and walked up to the counter to make my purchase. That was the moment Twix called out my name and said, “I know I am way overpriced at $1.19, but you really need me. You won’t be able to make it through the day without me in your life.” Like a bedazzled lunatic, I fell for its ruse and handed over my $2.25 for a soda and candy.
The next thing that happened unearthed a vile flaw in my character. There was a lady behind me in line. I could see her in my peripheral vision. Trying to be a gentleman, I scooted to the other side of the counter while I fumbled with my change, Diet Coke and Twix. She stepped up and I heard a clank on the counter. I thought, “Surely she isn’t buying beer at 6:10 a.m.” I turned and looked and there on the counter sat a twelve pack of Keystone Light. The lady stepped forward, wearing her blue denim coat, ragged clothes and unwashed hair pulled back into a ponytail. In a raspy voice she asked the cashier for pack of Chesterfield. This is when that vile flaw in my character made its appearance. That vile flaw is judgment. Here was my thought process, “Really, she is buying beer and cigarettes at 6:10? If all she has to do is drink and smoke, you would think she would at least sleep in instead of waking up at the crack of dawn… Is her dependency so great that she feels the need to get up this early to drink all day? I bet she will be drinking and smoking all day while I work. I bet she is on welfare and I am paying for her alcohol and smoking addictions. What a waste.”
Do you see what happened? Some of these thoughts took place while I walked to the car. I didn’t just stand there and stare at her, but I quickly sized her up and determined who she was. Furthermore, I concluded that since I was well dressed, wearing designer glasses and walking to a nice car, I was better than her. Did you hear me? I compared her to myself and essentially decided that she was below me simply by how she looked at what she purchased. I didn’t stop to think about things from her perspective. There could be a litany of reasons why she looked the way she did and made that purchase at that time in the morning. Maybe she recently lost her husband and didn’t care how she looked and alcohol is her coping mechanism… Maybe she was making a purchase for her abusive husband to keep him from hitting her some more… Maybe, maybe, maybe, just maybe I was right. Does that make me a better person than she? Does that give me the right to judge her and put myself on a platform? No, it doesn’t. As I mentioned earlier, I have my vices. Sure they are more socially acceptable, but that doesn’t make me more valuable than she… Some would say that value is based upon contribution to society and others would say it’s based upon how we give back to the earth. I don’t view it that way. I see it simply as it is stated in a very popular Bible passage; John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. “ Did you read that, God loves everyone the same. He doesn’t see me as greater than the Keystone Light lady; he puts me on the same level. You know what, I am glad about that. I have made plenty of bad decisions in my life and if God’s love was based on how we perform I would fail. His love is based on his love and that is just awesome. God cares about that lady and so should I. I really need to stop judging people and putting myself higher. I need to see others as people that God created and loves. I need to care for people, not crush them. Do you care? - Tim