Tag Archives: humans

Open Letter to the Kind of Heart

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Dear Kind People,

 

It’s good to know there are more of you in this world than I am sometimes inclined to think. Some days I read the headlines and wonder if you exist at all.

It’s not that there are necessarily hoards of unkind people out there. I mean, everyone is unkind at some point in their lives. We marvel at those who never say an unkind word. I know I tend more towards unkindness than kindness, which may be part of why I’m so surprised that people can really be nice to each other.

No, unkindness is not so much the problem as indifference. We grow indifferent to the struggles of others. After all, everybody fights something. Everybody faces difficulty. Some people face difficulty that isn’t nearly as extreme as our own, and there are still more who struggle with nightmarish circumstances we could never imagine living with. So we succumb to indifference; powerless to relieve the pain of others, we instead choose to do nothing at all.

Except, of course,you kind people. Or should I say those of you who choose to be kind. For kindness, like love, is a choice. Kindness is the fruit of love, so those who choose to love their neighbors choose to be kind as well.

Thank you, kind people, for making that choice. May I choose to love as you do.

 

Much appreciation,

Risabella Rambler

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Sweet Silence

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We live on an awfully loud planet. It only grows louder with the population—louder still as people blast their stereos, talk on cell phones, play their podcasts, and rev their engines. Our world is not filled with communication so much as it is filled with (often pointless) noise.

It seems that most people despise silence. I’ve had friends tell me they hate to study in the library because it’s too quiet. Students are so used to studying with the TV on, or music playing, or studying over the clamor of a large and vocal family. We’re attached to gadgetry by virtual umbilical cords, unable to last a second without a video, a newscast, or a song. People have even started putting their cell phones on speaker mode so that passers-by are blessed with both halves of the conversation. People can’t stand solitude because there’s no one around to fill the air with noise.

Even when all gadgetry is out of commission, people still feel the need to fill their lives with noise. I’m not saying conversation is a bad thing—not in the slightest. There are few things more enriching than a productive, wholesome conversation. But that’s the thing: real conversations are nearly extinct. People speak in generalities, in complaints, in whines, or tune out the other speaker so they can dwell on the next triviality that will come pouring out of his or her mouth. I know because I so often am guilty of this very thing.

Real communication—people connecting in deep and meaningful ways with other people—is vanishing.

A friend and I once toyed with the idea of going to a campus meal and spending the whole dinner communicating with only nonverbals: gestures, eyebrow raisings and lowerings, smiles and frowns. The experiment would show just how effectively and concisely we could communicate without using noise or superfluous language. We have yet to try this, but I still think it’s a good idea. We had discovered that we had known each other long enough that nonverbals were often all we used anyway, so we figured using them deliberately was a fair goal.

My best friend and I only resort to talking when we absolutely have to. Usually this happens in the event of a funny story involving some mutual acquaintance or catching each other up on the particulars of our lives. But after a certain point in the conversation, words become unnecessary. We have enough mutual respect and love for each other that we don’t feel the need to speak and impress each other with a fountain of words. We find security in silence.

Pondering on this point reminds me of an interesting truth about God. He loves silence. Yes, He made the chattering birds and the roaring sea waves, and of course He is responsible for the wonderful gift of human speech. But how often in scripture does He beg us to “be still”? The Psalms are full of references to King David praying in the stillness of night, when he was sure not to be interrupted. In the book of I Kings, the prophet Elijah did not hear the voice of God in the earthquake’s roar or the thunder’s rumbling. Rather, he heard it in God’s own still, small voice.

This world hates God. Its people hate Him more and more with every passing year. No wonder, then, that the world grows noisier and noisier. They want to tune Him out. With all the noise in their hearts and heads, it is impossible to hear Him.

But He will be heard. And He asks us to be still; to listen with all our hearts and souls and minds as well as with our ears. There is sweetness in the silence that is filled with the presence of God.

The Rainbow Connection

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In the history of the English language, a set of three specific words opens the door for deeper human interaction more than any other combination. If you supposed those words were “I love you,” you are only 2/3 wrong, so don’t feel too badly. No, I’m thinking of the question “How are you?”

“How are you?” This question can be asked genuinely, feelingly, softly, loudly, ironically, or even threateningly. Sadly, these poor little words are most often uttered flippantly, with an air or disinterest or worse, dismissal. The potentially monumental question of how a person is faring on their rocky journey through life has become as reactionary as sneezing upon entering a dusty room.

This is not always the case, of course. Many people still ask this question with real interest and concern for their fellow human beings. These are the caring people whose existence makes the world a much more endurable place than it might be otherwise. They ask the question and you just know that they mean it. Such people are rare, however, and few really know how to put meaning behind these three little words.

In context, the phrase and its response most often occur in the following sequence:

Person 1: “How are you?”

Person 2: “Good.”

Person 1: “Good.”

And that’s it. Whether or not Person 2 actually feels “good” is irrelevant. This is perhaps one of the small number of “socially acceptable” lies we use every day. How often, really, are we doing “good” compared to all the times we’re feeling stressed, anxious, nonplussed, sad, angry, excited, blissful, tired, sleepy, or on top of the world? And yet “good” is not only the most common response, but the most expected—even though it’s most likely not the exact truth.

I wonder, then, if it’s possible to start a trend of giving unexpected answers to this overused and typical question? Could an atypical answer restore meaning to this diluted but potentially meaningful phrase?

Why not answer with a color?

Person 1: “How are you?”

Person 2: “Feeling purple, thanks for asking.”

or

Person 2: “Orange, absolutely orange.”

or

Person 2: “A bit cerulean, actually. You?”

Person 1 would then do a mental double-take. “Did he really say what I think he said?” he would think to himself.

Person 1: “Did you just say you were feeling purple?”

Person 2: “Yes, I did.”

Person 1: “Well, what does that mean?”

Ah, yes. What does it mean? By replacing the noncommittal word “good” with a color, the asker is suddenly forced to think about how their friend really feels. “How are you” takes on a whole new meaning, and two people have connected in a way they wouldn’t have otherwise had they been allowed to breeze by each other with the typical exchange.

Not only that, but running into people in the highways and byways of life could be a lot more fun. And colorful.

Globe Theory

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Whoever it was who invented the snow globe had way too much time on his hands. I mean really, who sits around trying to figure out a way to create a miniature winter scene complete with recyclable falling snow? And why a globe? Why not a cube or a tetrahedron? Or even a dodecahedron? How did they evolve from being Christmas ornaments to becoming kitschy souvenirs sold at raggedy stands in places like Athens and Sydney—neither of which are places known for their annual snowfalls?  And what about those random Wizard of Oz or Harry Potter collectables that merely have figurines of the stories’ characters standing in a dome of glitter-filled fluid?

Why?

As a child, I was obsessed with miniature worlds. I am less obsessed now, although I still take delight in little porcelain Christmas villages, train sets, and doll’s houses. I suppose there’s part of me that always wanted to be a Borrower. When I was small, I would pick up one of our family’s small collection of Christmas snow globes, give it a gentle shake, and wonder what it would be like to live inside the little watery world—having been granted the magical ability to breath underwater, of course. Would there be little people living in the tiny houses? What would be in those presents under the miniature tree? Could I hear those two comical cartoon snowmen talking to each other as they stood in their little blizzard?

Of course, my first five minutes in this tiny space would be to look for something to hold on to in case someone came around to shake my universe.

But really, how often do we force ourselves to live in snow globes of our own creation? Of course, I am not talking about literal snow globes. I am referring to the way people seal themselves into claustrophobic glass bubbles of their own creation, limiting their personal growth.

“I’m an accounting major. Why should I read Shakespeare?”

“I’m going into full-time church work. Studying the arts is irrelevant.”

“I’m fifty years old. I can’t pick up a new hobby.”

“I’ve been at this job for twenty years and they laid me off. What else can I do?”

“But we’ve always done it this way.”

“I’ve been messing up for so long, I can’t possibly get any better.”

“My last relationship turned out horribly. I don’t want to meet anyone.”

“I’ve stopped trying with him. He won’t listen, and he’ll never change.”

“Why go back to school? I know everything I need to know.”

We limit ourselves. Whether through pride, arrogance, or fear, human beings convince themselves that change is impossible, and all that is worth knowing is what exists in the narrow confines of their crystalline snow-globe world. But we were not intended to live narrowly. There is a great, wide, unfathomable world out there that is worth exploring. And while adventures may make us late for dinner, adventures never fail to teach us something about our fellow men, our magnificent God, or ourselves.

While it would be interesting to wander around inside a snow globe, I know I would be suffocated before long. The world is too vast and wide and wonderful to spend it trapped in such a limited world.

 

Peter Pan-ing

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As children, we learn to appreciate the value of a good story. Children know what it means to suspend disbelief long enough to really believe that genies live in lamps and fairy godmothers can get us out of tight places. They need to imagine. The child who never learns to imagine grows into a dull and inflexible adult.

Part of our childhoods lingers with us until the day we die. Picasso once said that “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” While it is necessary to grow up and to grow up completely, there is a portion of us that must always remember what it is to be a child.

For me, that portion always manifests itself in the compulsion to watch old Disney movies.

There’s undeniable and unrepeatable artistry about those old movies. Nothing or very little relied on digital assistance. Everything was hand-drawn and hand-painted, giving the viewer the feeling of watching a movie picture-book illustration. The stories were unbeatable. As a girl, I watched them and understood them for their plot alone. Now I understand their art, their details, their humor, and the soul that runs deep at each story’s core.

Yes. Yes, I, as a twenty-year-old college student, sat down and watched Beauty and the Beast tonight. Since performing the story for my storytelling class, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for the Disney version. I’ve been desperate to watch it ever since, and finally I’m home with a few moments of this rare thing called “spare time,” so I watched it. By gum. You’re never too old for a Disney movie. You’re never too old for a fairy tale. No matter how cynical or crustily “adult” we imagine ourselves to be, we all need to remember what it’s like to believe in the impossible.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to read a little Beatrix Potter and call it a night.