Wisdom Wednesday

Do Something! But How?

Lately, Matthew West’s new song “Do Something” has been stuck in my head. Every time I hear it, I want to just put on my superhero cape and save every homeless person and orphan on the planet. On the ride to my school this morning, it came on the radio. The area where I did my teaching experience was a very nice area, but I was wondering if there was something I could do to reach out to the community. This morning, I realized that I hadn’t done anything to really help this area. I showed up to teach, and I went home.

Part of me felt guilty, but the other part of me realized that I help the world in other ways. The supervisor at the school where I taught told me that I was smart, prepared, and encouraging, and that I gave potential ESL teachers a good reputation. I am blessed by the amount of people who are encouraged by my writing. I even do simple things like help my mom around the house.

So…what does it mean to do something?

I don’t by any means want to take away the full meaning of the song by denying the value of doing something big. However, I think sometimes we get overwhelmed by the amount of darkness that there is in the world. We have passions to end sex slavery, cure AIDS, and save the trees…but to be honest, we can’t do that all on our own. We have such high expectations that we begin to lose our motivation. There are ways that we can practically change the world without becoming overwhelmed, or even complacent.

First of all, in order to really make change, question your motives. What are you looking to get out of providing families for orphan children? What do you want to give? What do you want to get in return?

We also have to dream big but start small. If you want to end world hunger, that’s a great dream to have. However, you’re not going to end it by going to a hungry country and simply handing out food. There are practical ways to help, but they require patience and wisdom. Use the resources that you have to find out ways that you can do something.

It is important to remember not to lose your passion. Try to gain support from people who have a similar vision. If no one around you sees eye to eye with you, write down your dream – or make a video or voice recording – so that you can look back and remember the passion you felt for that movement. If you really feel strongly about something, reach out and see what can be done about it.

Finally, use the gifts that God has given you. As an introvert, I have problems approaching people on the street, so I have difficulty doing random acts of kindness. However, I have no problem writing a blog or helping an organization hand out food. There are gifts that are more popular than others, but that does not mean that other gifts are less important. There will be times when you are called to leave your comfort zone, but if God has given you a gift, don’t continue wishing you had something else. Praise God for allowing you the opportunity even to hold the door open for someone. Jesus himself said that even those people who give a cup of water to a child will receive a blessing. Small acts as well as world-changing acts matter in the long run.

Who’s going to stand up with me and do something?

Wisdom Wednesday

Without a Name Tag

Here comes another metaphorical post.

I walked into work one day without a name tag. At the cash register,  it was easy to see that I was an employee because I had access to the equipment that only employees can use.  But when i leave the register,  it is more difficult for people to distinguish me from a customer. Surprisingly,  that whole day, people approached me as an employee. They asked me questions about the store and about where to find things. Some people didn’t even ask me if I work here.

Here’s how people knew I was an employee of the store:

1) They saw my confidence. Having worked there for several months, I learned a lot about where things go, how to handle customers, and what to do when we have a slow day. I walked around the store knowing where clothes went, how to organize clothes on the rack, and how to fold clothes on the table. Most customers do not know how to do those things.

2) They saw my actions. As I did everything that I am supposed to do at work, people noticed. They had seen me behind the cash register, so they knew they could ask me a question even though I was away from the cash register.

3) They saw how I interacted with other employees. When we see each other all the time, it is easy to become close. I talk to my co-workers in a very informal manner. We joke around and help each other with our tasks. Even new employees talk to their co-workers in a certain way. Customers recognize who is an employee when they see the way that employee interacts with other people.

That age-old expression tells us not to judge a book by its cover. There is so much more to language and appearance than the way we look. What message are you portraying?

Wisdom Wednesday

The Fine Print

One time I was at work and my co-worker was ringing up a customer. This customer had a wide variety of t-shirts. As my co-worker was ringing them up, the shirts were coming up as 12.99. Suddenly the the customer recognized that there was something wrong. “Excuse me,” she said, “the those are not 12.99. The sign says they were 9.99.” My co-worker replied: “I’ll be right back.” She ran over to the table where the shirts were. They were folded on a table with tank tops right next to them. The sign on the table read: “9.99” In small letters underneath the big bold price was an indication that the tank tops were 9.99, not the t-shirts. My co-worker ran back to the register and explained the situation. The woman huffed a sigh of defeat. She said that it was very deceiving to put a sign right next to a product when it was a price for a different product.  My co-worker replied: “Well, you should have read the fine print.”

I wish I knew why stores did that. Logically,  I’m guessing there isn’t enough space to put two different products on two different tables with two different prices.  However, when my co-worker said that, I paused for a minute. I thought about my own life. How many times do I put in big bold letters what I want others to know, but then I hide what I don’t want people to know? I shout: “Here I am, happy and perfect!” But I whisper: “If you want to get to know me, you have to accept the terms and conditions.”

For a long time, I would hide my problems and insecurities from other people. I did not accept help from anyone. On the sign that I displayed on my table, I put up a front. I put in bold letters: “I’m worth knowing, independent,  and successful. Look how great I am!” However, in small print I would write, “Please help me. I need love and attention.” In a way, I was deceiving people. I had a smile on my face, while I was breaking on the inside. After several years, I’ve learned the value of practicing the discipline of honesty. God has set me free by giving me a new identity. I am no longer a worthless sinner; I am an important child of God.  In addition, my friends have supported me and I have found a safe place in sharing how I feel. I do not need to hide who I really am or how I feel, because I know that I am loved and cared for anyway. The messages I put in small letters do not affect my worth.

As my co-worker blamed the customer’s confusion on her inability to read the fine print, I began to realize how wrong it is to put up a front. Is it really OK to have a fine print, or is it deceiving? Are we really going to make exceptions to the rules? Or are we going to tell people honestly, “This is what’s going on”? Now of course there are limitations to this. I wouldn’t go around sharing my life story to every person I meet. However,  at the same time,  I want to be honest with people. I want to encourage people by sharing how God has rescued me from the bad in my kife. By sharing my weaknesses, I am changing the big bold letters to say “Glory to God.”

Wisdom Wednesday

Stop Light

The following blog post is 99% metaphorical.

As I left the school today, I groaned at the time. 3:40.  By the time I hit the road, it would be rush hour, and there would be no chance of me getting home before 5.  The commute to the school is never that bad.  Sure, sometimes there will be an accident or construction on the road, but usually I make it to the school in less than an hour.  But for some reason, no matter what time I leave the school (especially during rush hour), I do not make it home at a decent hour.

I turned up the radio and drove to the main road.  I managed to get to the highway entrance without hitting any lights.  As I raced my car down the highway, I thought I actually had hope in getting home early.  Then, all of a sudden, there is a sea of red lights in my path.  Every car was completely stopped.  My car jolted as I slammed on the brakes, barely missing an accident with the car in front of me.  Well, there goes my opportunity for fun.  Did I mention I was thirsty, in desperate need of some watermelon?

If there was any chance of movement in the next lane, I would quickly change lanes to get at least a foot farther than where I was before.  I kept moving, I kept going, not being satisfied where I was.  But no matter where I moved, there was traffic in my way.  I couldn’t go far.  I had to simply stay put and wait for the traffic to end.

I rolled my eyes as each exit sign slowly passed by my view.  One exit closer, ten minutes later.  My mind replayed all of the people who have complained to me about rush hour in the past.  Honestly, it wasn’t as bad as some people have made it out to seem, but it still wasn’t a pleasant experience.  Thirsty, hungry, and tired, I could not even sing along to the music on the radio.

As I listened to the radio, the song “One Thing Remains” came on.  I decided to sing it out loud, because it talks about dealing with trials.  I sang each word, enunciating each consonant.  The traffic didn’t go away, but suddenly, I began to laugh at my predicament.  Here I am, sitting in a car, after having a great class with my students, having had the opportunity to practice what I have learned in my TEFL certification class, and I am complaining!  How long would I really be in the car, two hours at most?  Why would I let two hours ruin my whole day?

To cope with the rest of the ride, I did a few things to lighten the situation.  First of all, I continued playing music from a CD.  I used my steering wheel as a drum.  I found harmonies to the songs on the radio.  In the end, although I was by myself, I laughed at the ludicrousness of the whole situation.  I didn’t care if other people were watching me dance. As a matter of fact, I was hoping that my laughter and joy would catch on so that they had no reason to complain.

Secondly, I looked to the other side, to the people who were going in the other direction.  They really were at a dead stop, while we were at least crawling.  I know it’s bad to laugh at the misfortune of others, but I at least had to enjoy the fact that I wasn’t as unfortunate as the drivers on the other side of the road.

Finally, I thanked God when the road actually began to clear.  It would have been easy for me to say, “Well, it’s about time!”  However, I knew that, at that time in the day, the roads should have been jammed until my exit.  After all of my complaining and expecting, I made it home in a little over an hour.  I was home before 5.  God showed me mercy on this hot, thirst-inducing day.  All I could do was thank him that my experience wasn’t much worse.

Before I finally got home, there was a stop light that almost brought me over the edge.  There were at least ten cars waiting for the stop light.  Seriously?  I had one more little obstacle blocking me from making it back to my house.  Just as I was about to find a detour, I stopped myself.  I made it this far; why wouldn’t I stick it out until the end?  I waited a few seconds for the light to turn green.  I shifted into the turning lane and made it safely back to my house.

If you are dealing with a frustrating situation, how are you going to respond?  Are you going to complain and try to avoid it, or are you going to make the most out of it?  Wait it out, and see what you can learn from it.  Sometimes, we can’t avoid the traffic in our lives, but we can still dance in the midst of it and appreciate what we have.

Wisdom Wednesday

Be All in…Until It’s All Over

The summer is halfway over, and I am moving on to different seasons in my life. I have been waiting to finish my TEFL certification class. My seasonal retail job is almost over. My English conversation class is having its last meeting this Wednesday. I’m going to be tutoring a woman for a few hours a week. Great things are happening!

Lately I’ve become more demotivated at my job because I know that I am leaving soon. You can only fold clothes so many times before you realize that you’re really not making a huge difference working there. Yesterday, as I was cleaning a clothes rack for the tenth time, I realized that, at the beginning of the summer, I was so joyful and excited. Because of my job, I’ve paid off a chunk of my school loans already, and I’ve still managed to see my friends for the most part. My job was a gift from God to financially support me and to spiritually grow me. In the beginning of the summer, I had prayed before work, skipped into the mall with a huge smile on my face, and helped customers like it was my favorite hobby. As a result, my co-workers would be encouraged, and they would comment on my positive attitude.

As my job became more and more of a chore, I began to lose sight of the fact that my job was a blessing. I would count down the hours until I could finally clock out and do what I wanted to do. However, as a result, I wasn’t as encouraging to my co-workers. I did not want to help customers. I became more irritable about this temporary season, that I knew would not last forever.

Moving from clothes rack to clothes rack, I meditated on the fact that I was not as motivated as I was when my manager first gave me the job. I realized that I had forgotten that God was the one who had truly blessed me with a job. I saw my job more as a trial and distraction than as a task that God had given me to accomplish. During the hot summer days, God had told me to work as hard as I could. I felt him leading me to push myself to help the store reach its full potential. I knew that I could not change the whole store or compromise my boundaries, but I also knew that my positive attitude and hard work was making a difference in at least one person’s life. Each day, a different person would come up to me and thank me for helping with something. Each day, God confirmed that I was at that store to do more than simply make money.

In these last few weeks that I have working there, I want to remember the joy and energy that I felt when they first gave me a badge and locker key. I want to go above and beyond what is comfortable for me and make a difference in someone else’s life. God has not released me from this job yet, so I will continue to do what he asks me to do until I clock out for the last time. I’m going to be all in, until it’s all over.

Wisdom Wednesday

first world problems

I’ll be honest with you: there’s a lot in my life that I can complain about. My job has made it almost impossible to see my friends. My homework has made it almost impossible to find time to breathe. My teaching practicum–which is required for my class–is located about 40 minutes away from my home…without traffic. I’m not in control,  and it makes me want to complain.

There’s a popular hash tag on twitter: #firstworldproblems. This usually implies that there is a problem someone has that normally would not be a problem, but because we have become so spoiled and dependent on stuff,  the situation is a serious crisis. A first world problem could be that my phone died while at my friend’s house, or that we ran out of chocolate pudding so now I have to eat jello for dessert. Hey, at least you HAVE a phone. Hey, at least you HAVE dessert. Even more,  at least you have food!

It seems that we have begun to take these gifts, these blessings, for grsnted. We expect our cell phones to work at all times. We expect dessert after every meal. We expect our jobs to perfectly fit into our schedules. We expect homework to take ten minutes. We expect control, and we expect instant results.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way the world works. There just aren’t enough resources to support everyone’s desire. That’s why we have to sacrifice. That’s why we can’t always get what we want. That is…we  can’t always get what we expect.

But you know something? God will always give us what we NEED. One thing God always offers us is joy. Even if we don’t see the positive side of a situation at all, God can provide the joy that we need to propel through it. Even those without food or money can feel the hope, joy, and love of the Lord. I have every reason to be happy.

I have a job; in the crazy economy, at least I have a way to pay off my loans. I’m preparing to teach overseas; the fact that my homework us challenging and time-consuming gives me hope that it will prepare me well for the future. I LOVE what I am doing for my teaching practicum. I have the ability to see God’s faithfulness as he provides a parking spot for me, and he practically clears the way so that there is no traffic when I drive during rush hour. Life is nothing like I expected, but it’s everything that I could ever want…and more.

So instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I’m going to be thankful for what I do have. If I’d focus on the negative, I’d miss the blessings of the positive.

Wisdom Wednesday

Introduction: Why to Avoid the Pity Party

After reading the devotional that I discussed in my previous post, I realized that the world has a lot of negativity and stress.  It seems almost overwhelming.  It’s like there’s a huge pity party, and everyone is invited.

There’s negativity in the news, in the work place, and even in the home.  It’s socially acceptable to complain about everything and anything that makes us mad.  But then again, why would you want to spread negativity?  Isn’t it better to be positive?  Yes, but it most definitely takes work.

For the next few days, I will be discussing the positive effects of, well, being positive.  I will use examples from my life to talk about why it is better to look on the bright side of things.  I will also talk about how being negative can hurt yourself as well as hurt others.

Thanks again for your support and encouragement on this blog.  As always, feedback is greatly appreciated.