If You Want to See More Clearly, Try Covering Your Eyes

Good morning!  I hope your day is off to a great start.

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post. Some of you have commented, and I think a few have enjoyed the reprieve. I get a little wordy sometimes, which is to say I never shut up. If you knew me personally, that would come as no surprise.

I can’t say this break was intentional, but I’m learning not to force myself when the muse just isn’t there. We all need time to reflect, and sometimes to just step away. The past few weeks have brought a mix of emotion, so I let it flow the best way I can. I know a lot of you feel the same.

A month ago, a very close family member was diagnosed with Covid-19. Thankfully, the symptoms were mild, and it resolved without any treatment. We can be thankful that, for some people, it isn’t as severe. The rest of us were tested as a precaution, and we were all negative. Funny how, in the medical community, “negative” is good. I’ve never quite understood that.

Last week, we got news that our dog may be very sick. We’re taking him to a canine oncologist today to confirm what appears to be bladder cancer. He’s shown some symptoms for a few months, but veterinary appointments were not plentiful during Covid. It took more than two months to get him in, and the outlook wasn’t good. We’re praying for better news today.

And through the middle of all this came the election – a quadrennial event that used to bring out the best in us, regardless of our differences. It was a time of hope, a time for us to make our voices heard, and to pat others on the back in the knowledge that, whether our side won or lost, we could all at least hope for a positive outcome.

I was reminded the other day of my last Indian Ocean cruise in the Navy, way back in 1984. It was in the final days of the Cold War, and just in case we weren’t aware of the adversarial nature of our relationship with Russia, we received a daily reminder every morning as a Russian spy plane would fly past with an F-14 on each side. They saw us, we saw them. Cat and mouse.

One afternoon, the captain told us we were allowing a Russian cruiser to come along our port side. I grabbed my camera and joined a dozen other guys on a weather deck to view the enemy first-hand. There they were, casually bobbing along as if taunting us to make a move. As cameras clicked, we shielded the sun from our eyes to get a better look. The mood was somber.

At one point, a guy next to me handed me his camera with a high-powered zoom lens. As I focused in on the other ship, I saw my enemy’s face for the first time. There they were, dressed in dungarees, not unlike our own. Some were snapping pictures as the others shielded the sun from their eyes to get a better look. Their mood was somber. It was a moment I’ll never forget.

You see, in that moment I realized my “enemy” was a sailor, just like me. They missed their family, they missed good food, and wanted nothing more than a peaceful existence with prosperity and hope for a brighter future. The only difference between us was geography, and the leaders we would follow into battle if the time ever came. Thankfully, it didn’t.

It’s easy to see somebody else as the enemy when all we know about them is that they don’t look like us or think exactly like we do. It’s easy to take one aspect of somebody’s life, a simple difference of opinion, and assume the worst about their motives and character. After all, your intent is pure, so anybody who disagrees must be impure. It’s that easy, friends.

And it’s just as easy to look across a few hundred yards of separation and see somebody who, deep down, wants mostly the same things we do. They want peace. They want security. They want justice and a brighter future. We may define those things in different terms, and we may see a different path to achieving them. But that doesn’t make us enemies. It just means we need to look closer to find that common ground.

Our nation has been through a time of turmoil like most of us have never seen. In some respects, the worst is behind us, and in others, it’s just beginning. But make no mistake – we will never begin to heal until we put down the swords and work toward a common purpose. It’s there if we only reach out and embrace it. There is no other way.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Being Right Doesn’t Mean Everyone Else is Wrong

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

It occurred to me a few days ago that, while my posts have gotten more personal over the past couple of weeks, they’ve also gotten a little more somber. I enjoy sharing that personal side, and I think most of you enjoy the connection as well. But the whole purpose of these posts is to illustrate that, no matter what’s going on in life, there’s always something to give us hope of a brighter future.

That said, there are times when our best efforts to remain positive seem to be under constant assault from people we may not even know. All you have to do is turn on the news, and it’s an endless barrage of negativity. Whether it’s crime in the streets or political transgressions, the worst in human behavior is right there on full display.

Of course, when it comes to politics, we all have our own opinions and those opinions sometimes drive us to show a side of ourselves that we would normally keep in check. It’s hard to listen to opinions against a strongly held belief without responding in kind. Turn on social media and you’ll see everything from civil discussion to outright hostility. All from people who claim to love their country.

Well, let’s just get this out in the open. A country isn’t one political party or one side of an issue. It’s not one race or one religion. It’s not one occupation, one state, one county, or one neighborhood. And it’s not one set of values trampling everything else in its way. It’s millions of people, each with their own heritage and values, living and working together toward a common good. Period.

One of our most sacred rights in this nation is the right of free speech. But what we’re allowed to say in a strictly legal sense isn’t always what we should say in a more human sense. We learned that as children, the first time we shared a particularly objectionable opinion with our parents. That’s when we learned the meaning of respect. It’s not always what we say, but how we say it.

An opinion that doesn’t make any sense to us personally may make perfect sense to somebody else. If it’s a point of well-known fact, like the sun rises in the east and sets in the west (or that the world is indeed round), there’s little to dispute. Opinions, on the other hand, may be based on facts, but they are nothing more than our assessment of how those facts fit within our own set of values.

That’s why two people can read the same transcript or watch the same news report and come away with a completely different perspective on what was said. It’s not that we saw or heard anything inherently different – it’s what we went into that situation hoping to hear. We all have our beliefs, and nobody likes to be wrong. So, we focus on any shred of evidence that supports those beliefs.

Years ago, a first-grade teacher took a class full of energetic, loving children, and turned them into two warring factions in a single day by suggesting one “fact” – that blue-eyed people are better and smarter than brown-eyed people. Within minutes, best friends were at odds with one another simply because of the color of their eyes. Smiles turned to tears, and before long the shoving began.

Thankfully, she monitored the situation and corrected her erroneous “fact” in time to prevent bloody noses. But it taught those kids a lesson I hope they never forgot. It made me wish we’d all had somebody like that teacher. Because maybe we’d have grown up realizing that differences make us stronger, and just because somebody doesn’t think like us, that doesn’t make them inherently stupid.

I avoid political discussions in my writing for obvious reasons. I have my values, and you have yours. Some of us will agree wholeheartedly, and some will just as strongly disagree. And that’s okay. There are nations where the people are only exposed to one side of a religious or political doctrine. And we describe those nations with words like “iron curtain”, “dictatorship”, and “brain-washed.”

We strengthen our mind, not by closing it to contrary opinions, but by opening it to other points of view. When we consider facts and opinions that challenge our beliefs instead of blindly supporting them, we begin to evolve. We may still come out on the other end fully believing whatever we did at the start, but at least we’ll be able to better explain why we feel the way we do.

And that explanation of our beliefs is much more valuable in the form of silent reflection rather than open debate. You may draw somebody else to your point of view, but odds are you’ll only drive the wedge in deeper. Cooperation turns to animosity, and the battle begins. All because somebody else dared to have eyes of a different color.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Opportunity Flows Easiest Into an Open Mind

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

Mine began with a moment of frustration. After weeks of considering what to do with two old gas grills that have been rusting on the back porch since the days of Moses, I finally dragged them out to the street. It’s garbage day, and we always have people cruising the streets looking for scrap metal or anything else they can use. Well, as it turns out, almost always. Guess what’s still sitting on the curb?

Now I have to go out there before I leave for work and drag them back up to the house. Isn’t that the way it works? People will come along and collect any kind of junk on the planet, but my junk doesn’t rise to their standards. Broken down lawnmowers, old furniture, TVs and even fried-out microwave ovens, all get picked up by somebody. But my old grills, full of recyclable steel, get left behind.

You can never predict what will appeal to another person. Corporations spend millions of dollars trying to figure it out, and millions more convincing us that what they sell is exactly what we want, whether we already knew that or not. I guess I could find a way to make those old grills more appealing, but then I’d be tempted to put them back on the patio for another ten years.

Have you ever seen somebody driving a car that you think is the ugliest thing on the planet? And not only are they sitting in the driver’s seat where everybody can see their smiling face as they drive past, they adorn the car with equally ugly after-market accessories that probably cost as much as a week’s groceries. You’d never be seen dead in it, but they think it’s the most awesome car around.

One man’s junk is truly another man’s treasure. It works that way with a lot of things. Every day, we encounter people in professions we’d never consider. Sometimes they’re quick to let you know it beats unemployment, but other times they seem to love their work. You just never can tell. And if they knew what any of us do for a living, they’d probably shake their head and say, “Not on your life.”

I guess it’s why my mom always insisted that we take at least one bite of everything on our plate. Sushi isn’t the most attractive food I’ve seen, and the thought of it was a little revolting. But I tried some one time and liked it. Over the years I’ve developed a taste for all kinds of things. Except broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. I’m convinced God created them as a punishment for eating apples.

The point is, we never know what may appeal to another person, and things we never considered before sometimes become a little more intriguing. Even our values change over time. I often find myself debating topics with people who feel exactly as I once did, and as fervently as they now do. Yet, over the years, my viewpoints have grown. That’s not to say I’m any more right – I’m just more “me.”

It’s easy to look at another person, even a member of our own family, and think, “They’d never be interested in that.” Believe me, I almost fell over when my wife and I took a weekend vacation to the mountains and she suggested hiking. And I’m sure she was equally shocked at how much I enjoyed our day in a restored Shaker village, learning about their tools, furnishings, and unique way of life.

All through your life, people will suggest things you never would have thought of on your own. It may be as simple as a different food or drink, or as complex as a side business or new career. It’s easy to shrug it off and say, “That’s just never been my thing.” Yet, the very fact that you can go into a grocery store and come home with a variety of foods is proof that you haven’t always been so closed-minded.

We find new things by opening our mind to new things. We may or may not come to truly enjoy any of them, but we never know unless we at least give them some consideration. It’s just possible all those people out there running marathons know something I don’t. “But I tried running once and didn’t like it.” Seems I’ve heard those words before.

Just because we didn’t like something before doesn’t mean we won’t like it now. And things we didn’t consider before somehow begin to make sense. But only if we open our mind enough to change the question from “why” to “why not?” It’s a simple change. One extra word. But it’s a change that can lead us to new opportunities, greater accomplishments, and a more fulfilling life. And isn’t that what we wanted all along?

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved