Tag Archives: perspective

Second Chances

I’m not very good at giving people a second chance. I have a tendency to pass judgment quickly, rely on first impressions, and hold grudges.

I don’t like this about myself, but I admit that it is a character flaw and probably a large part of why I’m not a particularly fun loving, devil may care, gregarious, everyone-wants-to-be-her-friend individual.

On the one hand, I can accept that about myself, on the other hand I don’t really want to accept it. Because we should give one another a second chance. It’s our responsibility, and a lesson we should learn sooner rather than later.

Reflecting on this, I was reminded of Jonah’s poor attitude and the chapter after he returns to Nineveh. For some reason, I always forget about this chapter. In my mind the story always ends with Jonah becoming Whale spit up, fulfilling God’s will and then learning his lesson…but even after spending time inside a fish, he doesn’t really learn anything. Not a blessed thing and that is terrifying.

I’m not going to lie, it worries me that one could experience so much and still have such a hard heart. In fact, he gets mad because his sermon to the Ninevites is effective. His ticked off that they turn from their evil ways and repent. He gets so mad that he goes out to the desert to pout.

Even so, God sends a vine to cover his head and provide him shade.

Then Jonah gets mad when the vine, which he did nothing to cultivate, dies.

Finally, God speaks up. He asks Jonah an important question: Do you have a right to be angry about this vine?

Great question. Jonah didn’t do anything to deserve the vine, to nurture the vine; he didn’t plant the vine—he didn’t even say thank you when it grew. Then, when it dies he does nothing to change his circumstances. He just sits and lets his head burn. Stubborn, isn’t he? Of course, this is coming from the runner—the one who tried to escape God and when that didn’t work had sailors throw him into the sea, I guess he thought that would be a way to seal his fate—but you can’t run from God no matter how far you go and if God wants to teach you a lesson no matter how stubborn you are he’ll teach on.

It is up to you to decide to learn.

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How many of us are the same way? We are blessed with health, family and sometimes even wealth that we did not earn and rarely deserve. We are living in a world of entitlement, but as Romans is so quick to remind us—all have sinned and fall short so we really don’t deserve anything but death, destruction and punishment. Some people, no matter what, some people are determined not to be happy. No matter what they are determined to be miserable. In fact I’m not even sure they would know what to do with happiness if it grew from a vine and slapped them in the face (I include myself as being guilty of this from time to time).

You see, it’s so easy to forget about Jonah 4 because no one wants to see Jonah as a whiner—no one wants to remember the man who survived a whale’s belly as a complaining, stubborn, unhappy man. Because it doesn’t make sense. Shouldn’t someone whose been given that SECOND CHANCE be able to empathize more with people who are seeking a second chance? Shouldn’t he rejoice with them, be joyful and grateful?

And yet, he’s angry! Angry that God would save them. He FORGOT too. He forgot his own transgressions and somehow I doubt he was as pure and sinless as he pouty face would suggest.

And then the bitter sting of hypocrisy sinks deep into my skin. Don’t we struggle with the same problem? We’ve all been given the same second chance, and we all think we deserve so much more than we actually do.

We think we deserve happiness.

We think we deserve contentment.

We think we deserve a life of leisure where we get what we want when we want it.

But we don’t.

We are all sinners.

We deserve misery.

We deserve sickness.

We deserve death.

Just as a murderer deserves to pay for his or her heinous crimes, each and every one of us deserves to pay for our sins. But OH how quick we are to forget our own sins when we look around and see someone else sinning. “Well,” we say to ourselves with our noses stuck up in the air, “at least I haven’t cheated on my wife like Bill. Bill deserves punishment. How could he show his face in church? He is such a sinner!”

What if Jonah had accepted their conversion? What if he’d stopped feeling that it was unfair, that they deserved less than he, that they were his equals? Now I don’t presume to rewrite the Bible, but I do want to look at another perspective, because after all, that’s what being a writer is all about. So Jonah 4 might have read a little like this:

1)And Jonah was pleased and joy filled his heart. 2) He prayed to the Lord, “Oh Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? How could I be so blind and flee to Tarshish? I know you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in Love. A God who relents from sending calamity. 3) Now, O Lord I see how it is better to live than to die. Praise your holy name.” 4) And the Lord blessed Jonah and the Ninevites…

Because the thing is we’re all sinners. Some of us don’t want to admit that we sin, and that’s worse in a lot of ways. We go to church, sing in the choir, attend Bible study, join every committee, but forget that we are more than just an organization. We are, and should be, designed to love everyone, not gossip about their shortcomings, or worse ignore and run away from their suffering.

We’re designed to be God’s image.

But we’re not in God’s image when we are unforgiving and self-righteous, sulking in the desert of our own iniquities and sin.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about what happiness is and why we pursue it. It’s not in our declaration of independence by accident. And we often take it for granted. I’ve come to the radical conclusion that happiness is not as illusive as we try to make it. Happiness doesn’t run from us, we often run from it.


Ashley M. Carmichael is the author of Valerie’s Vow published by Indigo Sea Press. She has a Bachelor’s in English from UNC-Wilmington and currently teaches 9th, 11th and 12th grade Language Arts. Ashley lives with her dog, Emma, near Columbia, South Carolina.

 

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Perspective

Most of you know that during the day, I work in a school for children with special needs. I’ve always felt that being around these kids has given me a good perspective on things. There is something very humbling about working around a group of children who’s lives are filled with struggle. For some of them, even taking a step or enunciating a word is a huge accomplishment.

Given the fact that I see these children struggle every day, I am less inclined to complain when something doesn’t go my way. How can I complain about a parking spot on the far side of the lot when I walk into my office and see a child with no legs? How can I be so insensitive as to complain about the price of gasoline when the children I see every day will never be able to drive on their own? Instead, they will be driven around in the back of a minivan while securely strapped into their wheelchair. How can I be the slightest bit impatient with my own children when they demand more of my time to tell me yet another story when there are children I see every day who will never be able to tell their mother how much they love her. How can I even, for a moment, think of the endless tasks I need to attend to when my child simply wants to talk to me?

Perspective.

We can only truly appreciate what we have when we see others who have less.

This past weekend, I was given, perhaps, the greatest dose of perspective anyone could ever receive: I went to see the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. Visiting this museum has been on my bucket list since I first saw Schindler’s list many years ago. Since that time, I have read pretty much everything I could find regarding the holocaust. I have seen the movies, the documentaries, and I have been to Temple to hear survivors speak about their experiences.

Despite having done all this research and thinking I knew all there was to know about this horrific time in history, I was immobilized when I stood on the top floor of the museum and stared at a uniform worn by one of the prisoners.

It. Blew. Me. Away.

The artifacts were overwhelming, the pictures were horrifying, and the video footage was unbelievable. There is actually one part of the museum where you sit and watch a large television screen. On it, is a continuous feed of survivors telling their stories.

I’m not ashamed to tell you I shed more than a few tears.

One survivor told of being on one of the “death marches.” When Nazi Germany realized they were losing the war, concentration camp prisoners were marched for weeks and months in the snow, with very little rest and scarcely any food. This particular survivor marched for four months in the freezing cold. If you fell behind or couldn’t keep up, you were shot and left for dead on the side of the road. She actually saw women breaking off their toes due to frostbite.

Yet another survivor told of hiding from a Nazi officer with two women and their infants. He was fourteen at the time. One mother, desperate to quiet her child, held him so close to her chest that she suffocated him. Forty years later, this man on the screen in front of me broke down.

I think that’s what gets me the most. When these tapes were recorded, the holocaust had been forty or fifty years prior. Even with that amount of time passing, these people still broke down and wept openly as though the wound had never been allowed to heal.

And perhaps it hadn’t.

I can’t think of a single thing in my life that makes me cry after a year, let alone fifty.

Perspective.

The stuff I saw at that museum? It stayed with me. Even as I drove home, I found myself thinking about all that I had seen and heard. And now? It makes any discomfort, inconvenience, or minor suffering I experience seem trivial compared to the horrors those people had to ensure.

Will I go back to complaining about the price of gasoline? How much weight I’ve gained? Or how mad I am that someone cut me off in traffic? Sure. Will I return to sighing when my daughter tells me the same story she’s told me a hundred times before? You bet. Will I swear under my breath when I don’t make the yellow light on my way to work in the morning, because now I’m going to be all of three minutes late? Absolutely.

But not today. Today I will be thankful for every single thing I have.

Donna Small is the author of Just Between Friends, A Ripple in the Water, and Through Rose Colored Glasses. She lives in Clemmons, North Carolina where she is currently working on her next novel.

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Sleepless Nights

Have you ever had one of those nights when you could not sleep, no matter what, your eyes popped open and your brain ran a million miles per hour?  I have, I believe we all have them once and a while.  Sometimes I lay in bed, hoping that sleep will come, other times I get up and go watch the idiot box, otherwise known as the television. 

There may be a good film on Turner Classic Movies, but usually they have something really odd airing in the wee hours of the morning.  The other stations are loaded with what they call “infomercials” those half hour or hour long spots that take advantage of their time to hammer the viewer with all the reasons their product is the one to buy. 

My question is: If this product is so good, why do we not see a regular ad on during normal hours when we are bombarded with a plethora of thirty second to one minute spots selling us more rubbish that we don’t need.

So many of the ads, no matter when they air, tell us how our lives are incomplete without their product.  They tell us that we are not enough on our own, or we are not good enough just as we are.  But we need not worry because their product, and their product alone will improve our sex life, make us look more successful or get us into the right circle of friends and business associates.  With their product our lives will be complete.  Many of these ads try to sell us the miracle pill or cookery product that will help us to lose those unwanted extra pounds that are making us miserable and our lives a failure. 

These ads reiterate over and over again the Be-Do-Have scenario.

That translated into ~~ what we should aspire to BE, before we can DO certain things in order to HAVE the life we want, and suddenly, miraculously, with their product clasped tightly in out hot little hands, our lives will be perfect. 

To that I say: Rubbish. 

This belief system is like standing at the train station waiting for the train that will take us to the next stop along the way, and when we get there everything will be wonderful, stress free and perfect.

Life, no matter what, is thick, deep and messy. 

Life is not an easy stroll through the garden.  Life is a struggle, and we are always trying to do better in our lives for ourselves and for those we love.  We are each unique and wonderful people.  We should celebrate and embrace our unique qualities and do the same for others, accept them for the unique treasure that they are. 

So what happens to the BE – DO – HAVE scenario?   

We should aspire to BE is ourselves, just our genuine self with the gifts, loves, joys and shortcomings that make us uniquely who we are.  There is nothing that we need to DO or buy or become before we can HAVE the life we want.  When we embrace ourselves, as we are, there we begin to have the life that is not always seeking something else, something we are fooled into believing will be better.  We need not wait for the train that will never come, because there is no place that will magically Poof us into perfection.  There is no product that can transform us as they would lead us to believe. 

Is the grass greener on the other side?  It may look that way from where your are standing, however, whoever may be on that other side may see that your grass is greener than theirs.  Perspective.

Don’t waste your life waiting for the train, hoping the thing you buy will make the difference, for those are not the things that will bring long lasting joy or peace.  Being at peace with who you are, oh yes, do work to improve, but first love who you are in the moment, flaws and all.  Make the most of the moment.  

All you need to BE is yourself, all you need to DO is love who you are and accept yourself as a wonderful, unique treasure, and HAVE the life you want, because it is right there within your grasp as long as you do not grasp for things that are dangled before you like a brass ring that corrodes once you have it in hand. 

S. M. Senden author Clara’s Wish and Lethal Boundaries and A Death of Convenience and Other Short StoriesWWW.SMSENDEN.wordpress.com

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A Matter of Perspective

Gabriel Iglesias 3A mentor once told me, “Everything is funny. Just depends on how you look at it.”

Okay, this might not apply to tragedies like war and natural disaster destruction, but for the most part she was right. What reduces one person to hysterics might bore another. Comics utilize their own unique perspective in their work. But in order to sell it to the audience, it must be believable. Perspective lies in the moment. What you see or feel comes with a mix of your personal circumstances, life experiences, upbringing, belief system, and attitude.

I recently watched Gabriel Iglesias’ comedy show Aloha Fluffy. He usually makes me laugh until I cry. This guy gained recognition from a comedy talent show where the audience determined the winner by voting someone off each week. Gabriel did not win his season, but he won me over. I always voted for him. I may not have much in common with a Mexican man, but I identified with his perspective on life.

Gabriel found fun in everything. Especially things others might find hurtful. Mister I’m-Not-Fat-I’m-Fluffy made good money regaling audiences with his own life experiences. He made no bones about his love of junk food – tacos, doughnuts, and chocolate cake.

“People ask me all the time, Gabriel, why are you always making fun of yourself? Well, I don’t make fun of myself. I just tell you about other people making fun of me. That’s from my real life.”

Another guy that size might hide himself away and take every fat comment directed at him to heart. He might have lost a girlfriend or job because of it, so his perspective could swing the way of great misery. But Gabriel viewed his weight through his own lens, harnessed it like lightning and turned it into a cash cow.

Some comics highlight the positive in the experience, while others seek to tear down and ridicule. I think their perspective reveals their true character. I’ve heard comics claim, “I’ll say anything for a laugh.” and “It’s only an act.” But I think they are kidding themselves. Comics create their persona around their material, similar to musicians. Gabriel is Mr. Fluffy Guy – a fun loving character. Imagine if Frank Sinatra hadn’t liked love songs. Could he have performed them with the depth of emotion required for his audience to find him believable, and immortalize his persona?

When my story isn’t working, I have to ask if I’m seeing it through the right eyes. I shift gears or I change who is telling the story to regain momentum. Perspective is the cornerstone of identity, and the difference between being a good sport and getting arrested. Some see the light through the dark, moving forward instead of grinding to a halt. Others wallow in the mud of self-pity, then refuse to shower afterward.

If you character said to the box of doughnuts next to him, “Oh, when we get home, you’re gonna get it!” would you believe him? You’d believe Gabriel.

Sheila Englehart is the author of Warning Signs, published by Second Wind Publishing

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