Pay It Forward

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Pay It Forward

“The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” Aesop

Do you remember that emotionally manipulative movie Pay It Forward  based on networking good deeds? I have been trying to counteract a bit of the hate in the world by doing one small unexpected act of kindness for a stranger every day. Many times, situations present themselves and I do it without thinking,  but some days are harder.

I’m not an especially kind person so it does not come naturally. I grew up in New York so I don’t smile at strangers. I eat meat so I’m not kind to non-humans.  I speak without thinking and often start a sentence with no offense. The random act of kindness keeps me in the present moment and makes me hopeful about the possibility of paying it forward. 

If someone is helpful to me on a service phone call, I take five minutes (Apple or American Airlines etc) and I ask to speak to a manager and tell them how great the person was.  I write a recommendation on the site.

When I am especially messy in a hotel room, I leave a thank you note with a tip. (often)

 I take a walk on the beach and pick up some of the garbage.

I give all my foreign coins to UNICEF.

 Before credit card car regulated parking meters. I would leave extra money in the meter for the next person. Now many of the meters go to zero when the next car pulls in. 

Wherever I am in the world, if I am in a cemetery or site of a tragedy, I leave stones for the people who no one remembers.

Most of my deeds involve buying coffee or food for someone – a stranger, parking or gas station attendant, receptionist, manicurist, the person on line behind me etc. 

I write a positive YELP or Trip Advisor review often.

I buy trashy gossip magazines when I fly and when I’m finished reading,  I give them to the stewardesses who are always happy to have the latest gossip to read on their break.

Once in a while, I let someone in front of me at the grocery store with only a few items. I hate doing that from my childhood of old women always getting in front of me “on line”. You have no idea how many old women in Brooklyn jump in front of a twelve year old kid at the grocery store. “Age before beauty’, they would say. If one got through, more would follow.

It is the same with letting someone in front of me, in heavy traffic when I am driving and usually late  – so annoying.  I have perfected the hyper focus stare at the car in front of me.  There has to really be no other options for stranger kindness if I have let you in. 

I bring pencils and stickers, toothbrushes and small toys when I travel to third world countries to give out to the children or leave at a school or orphanage. I teach English for a day as well when I can. 

The internet helps. If I haven’t done anything, I go online and give money to some random Kickstarter or Go Fund Me student project that looks interesting to me.  I like the idea of a stranger believing in your dreams. You never know how that will turn out.

Kindness works a lot better than unkindness.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Countries Are Easier Than People

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Countries Are Easier Than People

“Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger than someone you know. Why is that?”“Probably because a stranger sees us the way we are, not as they wish us to be”Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Every day I miscommunicate something to someone.

The only time I realize there is a miscommunication is when something bad happens. Almost all conflicts are caused by poor communication.

Countries are easier. When you visit a country, seeing is believing. Here is the Eiffel Tower, Machu Picchu, Colosseum etc.  With people our realities are based on our perception. Depending on our experiences, moods and thoughts each person focuses on different things at the same event.

When I visit a foreign country, I am well aware that people speak a different language than I do. The miscommunications are cute and charming.  In America, if I assume that just because I am speaking English and the other person also speaks English that we are  both speaking the same language, I am usually wrong. The meaning you give to words come from your environment and your experience with that word.  We all have unique life experiences and just because we use the same words, your definition of those words may be very different from my definition. Speaking the same language often interferes with my communication.

I have always believed it’s the thought that counts. As long as my intention is good, that is all that matters. That philosophy works well in foreign countries. I teach English and bring pencils and stickers for poor children. I behave in a respectful way and ask questions about the country. People in foreign countries seem to understand my message. What I am learning  is that if friends and family  are not open to my ideas, it does not matter how good my intentions are. It matters how well and effectively that I can communicate them. I am a work in progress.

Certain countries fit our personalities better than others. You have to travel to find out where you belong. Some people fit better with me and so I make fewer mistakes with them.  I learn from being wrong  and sometimes you have to get lost in a place to find your way back.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Lonely Vs Alone

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“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”  Hunter S Thompson
 
  If you are reading this, chances are that you know what it is like to feel lonely. The stereotype of being single are generally categorized into one group: loneliness. Being lonely is that kind of aching that resonates in your chest. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or whom you’re with, it’s impossible to shake that feeling. Being lonely comes with so many side effects: memories, insomnia, and confusion. Loneliness encapsulates the best parts of your life and forces you to notice their profound absence. Loneliness makes you wonder why you? Why haven’t you had a simple stroke of luck? It is that prominent, gaping hole in your life that just can’t seem to be filled regardless of what you do. Loneliness comes with settling for less than you deserve. It’s incurable by company, it swells in the presence of friends. Loneliness is the isolation that comes with nursing a feeling unreturned — an expectation unmet.
  Being alone is different.  Being alone is a state of being. Loneliness is a state of mind. When you’re alone you are forced to realize all the things about yourself that you couldn’t when you spent your days about someone else. Being alone is taking the time to really think about what you want from someone the next time around. Being alone is reading a book, taking a long walk on the beach, having a delicious coffee and enjoying every single minute of it. It is buying a single ticket to a foreign film you know absolutely nothing about. it is taking a trip exactly the way you want to do it. Being alone is doing things by yourself, but also doing them for yourself.

Sometimes  being alone crosses paths with being lonely. You see a couple across the street and their happiness radiates, or a young family out for a stroll and you remember the days when that used to be you. For a brief moment that dull feeling aches in your chest, but it doesn’t stay.

Being alone can be the most empowering experience of your life. If you let the loneliness consume you, you’re going to lose the chance to figure yourself out. We can’t allow ourselves to be defined by the people we surround ourselves with, our relationship status, weekend plans or the  silence of our mobile phone. Loneliness isn’t about being in a relationship or being single. We are always trying to find the balance between being alone and being lonely.

Things That I Have Learned About Myself After Being In A Relationship For A Year

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Things That I Have Learned About Myself After Being In A Relationship For A Year.

“I no longer believed in the idea of soul mates, or love at first sight. But I was beginning to believe that a very few times in your life, if you were lucky, you might meet someone who was exactly right for you. Not because he was perfect, or because you were, but because your combined flaws were arranged in a way that allowed two separate beings to hinge together.” Lisa Kleypas

The year has been exciting, emotional, amazing, challenging, frustrating, enchanting, surprising, and about fifty other adjectives that range from great to terrible. But it has all been worth it. And it has been one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. Here are some of the things that I have learned. 

I eat so much more than he does.

I boyfriend proofed my house. I hid everything that I did not want him to see. Don’t hide things that you use every day because you will need them and have to look for them in the middle of the night.

Character is important – loyalty,  discipline,  values, integrity, kindness  and  humility.

Intelligence is also important.

I still take my make up off after he goes to sleep.

One of you is going to be the sloppy one. Yes, my purse looks like an episode of hoarders. The other one will cook.

It is true that I have way too many pillows on my bed. They are all my favorite pillows. I like to have my  pillows arranged in a particular way because I am a terrible sleeper and I feel it helps. He can sleep with any pillow. It works.

Laughing is great. We can both laugh at ourselves.  Sometimes I laugh  when I am by myself and I think of something funny that he said earlier.  It’s a little weird.

We have the same taste in music. Not the regular stuff that everyone likes but also Tom Waits and Bach.

We have similar taste in clothes but he puts them together better now. I like having a blank canvas to work with. 

There are people who  leave things open – toothpaste, vitamins, cabinets and people who do not.

An argument is an annoying learning opportunity. We don’t have them often.

There is a difference between a red flag and a human flaw. Being in a relationship doesn’t fix anyone’s flaws.

Beautiful flowers always work when you make a mistake.

We are going to continue to get to know each other –  the good and the bad. It’s a process. Relationships get real. I’m learning that.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Kicking the Shit Out Of Plan B,C,D, etc

Kicking the Shit Out Of Plan B,C,D etc

“Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of option B.” Sheryl Sandberg

I have always been a planner.  I‘ve always tried to figure out what I needed to do next or what needed to happen next in order for life to go on as it should. it turns out that life is unpredictable and even the best Plan A doesn’t turn out the way you thought.

Accepting change no matter how hard is a process that cannot be avoided. Some changes are easier to accept than others, but the decisions about how to cope with those changes are personal ones.

When Plan A fell apart I went through all the usual thought processes –  drugs, drinking, suicide, bank robbery, revenge killing, monastery/convent, prison etc. I screamed, yelled, cried, cursed beat the crap out of my pillow, hid, walked or hiked for hours and listened to a lot of loud angry or sad crying music.

Ancient cultures believe that the dark times are a time of transformation. It is a time when our strength is tested and we must draw on the things we have learned. Modern culture calls it a mid-life crisis. Instead of working out our problems we run from each other and are left alone isolated by shame. We get facelifts, sports cars, new houses and young new partners. People we believed to be our friends or family back away. We aren’t left with much in the way of support. 

After too much time wallowing and feeling sorry for myself, Plan B began to take shape. I thought it was a good plan. I pictured my future living in another country or maybe a few different ones.   

When completely unexpected health problems made Plan B fall apart, I went through all the usual thought processes  – drugs, drinking, suicide, bank robbery, revenge killing,  monastery/convent, prison etc. I screamed, yelled, cried, cursed beat the crap out of my pillow, hid, walked or hiked for hours and listened to a lot of loud angry or sad crying music.  But it did not go on for as long this time.  I started unwillingly working on Plan C.

I learned C wasn’t the answer either and faced challenging family problems. Change is the rule, not the exception. Whether you like change or not, (and most of us hate it), you at least know to expect something, and that makes the unpredictable more predictable.  I’ve learned that not knowing is part of the process. It is the scariest and greatest potential that we have.

I’m not going to lie  – Plan D needs some work. The twists, turns and barriers are clearly visible. I’m waiting to figure out what the best course of action will be. I don’t want to give up on it. So since plans A through C are no longer available, I’m going to kick the shit out of Plan D. If that doesn’t work,  I’m going to have to kick the shit out of Plan E (when I have it)  because that is life.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Peace In The House, Peace In The World

Peace in The House, Peace in The World

“Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character. When there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world” A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

In the Jewish tradition, there is a high idealized standard of family life characterized by wholeness, fulfillment, nurturing, respect and kindness. It is believed that God dwells in a pure and loving home. It is called shalom bayit -peace in the house.

Peace starts with us. We must create peace in the home to carry it outside and share it with our communities, our cities, our states, our country and then the world. It is more than saying I want World Peace. It is making a conscious choice do something differently in our lives. It is choosing to deal differently with our own conflicts and frustrations. It is learning communication skills and taking responsibility for our  actions. It is taking these commitments we have made to ourselves and bringing them out into the world.

As Gandhi says, become the change you want to see. We can’t depend on our leaders anymore. I do not believe that I will see World Peace in my lifetime. But if we do not change how we behave to other people, it will not be in any lifetime.

Be good to those around you. Selfless acts of service to those in need will change your life and theirs. Teach your children about the world around them. Learning about other cultures, religions and customs enables children to understand different perspectives and develop a feeling of connection with all people.

There are more people in this world who want love and peace than there are who want hate and war. The media focuses on the bad. We need to focus on the good.  I have met good  people from all over the world which makes me still believe that peace is possible. There are more people who want to live in harmony then chaos.

I try to do something nice for a stranger every day. It started after seeing the movie Pay It Forward. Sometimes it is small like leaving money in a parking meter for the next person, buying a coffee or a drive through meal for the person in line behind me, giving food to a homeless person, picking up garbage that I see on the beach, listening to the person standing in front of a store who is raising money for something or talking to an old person sitting on a bench alone in a park. My hope is that they will do something for someone else. Maybe it will make one person a little less angry, or more peaceful and connected during their day. 

Become an expert at living your life with wholeness, fulfillment , nurturing, respect and kindness and maybe those around us will follow. If we are lucky, it will trickle up.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Sometimes A Kid Is Just A Kid

Sometimes A Kid Is Just A Kid

“By endurance we conquer.” Edward Shackleton

In life you will meet a lot of people and most of them you will end up forgetting. I will never forget an eight year old boy who rolled into the first day of 826LA summer writing program  where I volunteer.

It wasn’t just a wheel chair. He was strapped in with a plastic plate across his chest and a large clear plastic tube attached to a hole in his throat. I have lung problems and hate to see breathing tubes.  Since I was a child, I have always had a strange fear of deformities and people who look sick. The pediatrician told my mother that it was because I had watched my grandmother who lived with us, shrivel away and die when I was three years old.  I don’t know if that is true.

“Please don’t sit at my table” I thought when he entered. I’ve often heard that when you phrase something negatively and put it out into the universe, the universe doesn’t hear the negative word.  It hears “Please sit at my table” and that is what happened. I won’t be able to help him. But I smiled and introduced myself. After all, I am grown up now. He says his name is Tony.  His eyes lit up and gave me the most beautiful smile. He participated shyly as all the kids did on the first day. I wasn’t sitting next to him and he couldn’t reach a paper in his binder. I froze for a second because I did not know if I was supposed to get up and help him or let him struggle and do it himself. Alejandra, the girl sitting next him quietly gets it for him. Neither of them say a word to each other. He is sitting next to a boy named Omar and he says that there is someone in his class named Omar. Omar smiles in delight at him and says ‘You know someone with my name?” It will be all right at this table.

I am late the next day and a volunteer is already sitting there when I arrive. The program leader tells me that  the kids at my table  were asking for me. I seem to be doing ok. Do we talk about the wheel chair and all the stuff he has with it? No one that I have asked seems to know. I watch nine-year old Alejandra who is sitting next to him this week. She does not interact much with any of the kids at the table – only adults. She is on it. If Tony can’t reach something or drops something, she gets it and hands it to him in total silence. I learn from her that helping someone is just something you do. You don’t need a big discussion about it.

At the end of the week, we do a group project and everyone has added something important to save the sea turtles. We have become a team.. Tony tells me that he hates doctors but likes the dentist. I have to go to the dentist for a filling and a crown and I tell him that I HATE dentists. He laughs hysterically as if I have just said the funniest thing. He is a warrior and clearly I am not. He looks like he has gone through so much at such a young age. Most of us cannot even imagine doing that but the smile never faded from his face. He told me he didn’t smile a lot when he was in the hospital  but he smiles all the time now.  Sick definitely does not mean weak.

The following week the kids have changed tables.  I arrive early. “Tony is sitting at the second table”, says the program leader.  He is very happy to see me there when he arrives. I am happy to see him as well.

The summer program is ending and I do not know if I will ever see Tony again. I have dealt with worsening health problems that seemed big to me but are small in relationship to his. I learned from him to be grateful  for the health I have and always make the most of my situation. While I was busy wallowing in self-pity, Tony was smiling through adversity and putting a smile on my face as well. But more importantly, he taught me that at any moment, even when you least expect it, someone or something can change your life.

Fly safe,
JAZ