Helping Someone Else

This afternoon I was searching Google images for a graphic of a brown paper bag. This was the first one in the image search and perfect for what I was looking for. What I wasn’t expecting was also finding a really thoughtful blog post about a way to deal with stress:

Brown Bag by John Ryan

Several years ago my younger sister attended a seminar.

Would you trade this bag for another?

One of the exercises had to do with “our problems”, you know, the things we all complain about or stress over. All of the attendees were given a brown lunch bag and several small pieces of paper. They were asked to write down all of their problems on the pieces of paper provided, fold the papers and place them in the bag.

Once everyone was done, they were instructed to get up and exchange their bag with someone else in the room that they didn’t know!

Though you were able to get rid of “your problems” you were going to receive someone else’s. How would you feel? Would you do it?

What if the bag you received was worse than yours?
What if one of the problems you received was fatal?

After the exercise there was a discussion. It turned out that very few people were willing to give away their problems and take on someone else’s. The bottom line, we have figured out how to deal with our own problems even if we do complain on occasion. No life is without problems.

If you want to feel better, may I offer a suggestion? Reach out and help someone. As you put yourself out for some else your problems take a back seat. Some may say the motivation is selfish? If it makes the person you help feel better and you feel better – does the motivation matter?

Your thoughts?

Read more of John Ryan’s blog here:  Pay It Forward

Risk, Fear and Worry

From Seth Godin’s Blog – this made me think:

Risk, Fear and Worry

They’re not the same.

Risk is all around us. When we encounter potential points of failure, we’re face to face with risk. And nothing courts risk more than art, the desire to do something for the first time–to make a difference.

Fear is a natural reaction to risk. While risk is real and external, fear exists only in our imagination. Fear is the workout we give ourselves imagining what will happen if things don’t work out.

And worry? Worry is the hard work of actively (and mentally) working against the fear. Worry is our effort to imagine every possible way to avoid the outcome that is causing us fear, and failing that, to survive the thing that we fear if it comes to fruition.

If you’ve persuaded yourself that risk is sufficient cause for fear, and that fear is sufficient cause for worry, you’re in for some long nights and soon you’ll abandon your art out of exhaustion. On the other hand, you can choose to see the three as completely separate phenomena, and realize that it’s possible to have risk (a good thing) without debilitating fear or its best friend, obsessive worry.

Separate first, eliminate false causation, then go ahead and do your best work.


Late Night Wanderings

I live, with my dog, in an old house in an urban area of a fairly large city. Each morning and each evening, pooch and I patrol the neighborhood, going for long rambling walks. Since the Fourth of July, an unfortunate thing has happened – my dog has become petrified of city buses. You might not think that Independence Day and public transportation have much in common, at least from a dog’s point of view – but they do.

Noise. Both are extremely loud.

Many animals are sensitive to loud noises, (and my Hermes is certainly one of them,) but up until the 4th, he never had a problem with buses – or any other type of motor vehicle. Starting the early part of this month, however, my neighbors began setting off fireworks at all hours of the night, sometimes as late as 1 AM on week nights. Hermes hates fireworks above all things, and over the course of two weeks, my sweet happy-go-lucky hound went from fearless traveler to fearful hermit. One unfortunate morning we were walking near a bus stop when big city bus pulled up – engine roaring and air brakes popping. For the first time, Hermes tried to bolt off the leash. Fortunately, I had a good hold of it, but ever since then, Hermes tries to take off whenever he spies a bus.

Since then any loud vehicle makes him nervous – from garbage trucks to motorcycles. For awhile, there were certain areas of my neighborhood where I just couldn’t walk him. They had been favorite walks, but they had far too many bus stops to be practical. After all, walks are supposed to be fun for both of us. Fortunately, as the 4th of July passed, the fireworks began to slow down and some of his courage returned.

So, I’ve been slowly trying to acclimate him again. We walk too much to let bus routes to dictate us where we can go. One of my ways of doing this is starting the walk off in a quieter area and slowly moving to a busier one; another way is walking in the evening when there is less traffic. The other night, quite late, I decided to take him out for a brisk walk around the block. The weather had been so hot that our regular walks had gotten a lot shorter, but when I stepped outside that night, there was actually a breeze – it was really lovely. So, I put Hermes on the leash and out we went.

Everything went well until our last leg of the journey. As we rounded the corner, I saw not one, but two buses heading our way from two different directions. We were passing a small park, so I quickly ducked into it. It was late and dark. The park is not very large, however, and looking around, I didn’t see anyone. I had two choices – I could simply wait until the buses passed and resume the walk keeping an eye our for more bus traffic, or I could cut through the park to the other side which would put us very near my home. I noticed that our neighborhood association office was lit up, (someone working late no doubt,) and that there was a police car in parking lot, with an officer sitting inside doing some kind of paperwork. I felt safe, so I decided to cut through.

I was about halfway through when I saw it – someone sleeping on the grass. I sighed. My neighborhood is a pretty mixed area and my first thought that it was someone who needed a place to sleep for the night. My second thought was that I did not want to be panhandled in a dark park late at night – officer in the parking lot, or no. I had to make a choice on what to do – keep going or turn back. Hermes was pulling me forward and I didn’t like the idea of turning my back on the unknown, so squared my shoulders and I forged on.

As I got closer, I realized the truth. It wasn’t a person laying on the grass – it was two. A couple were laying on on their backs on a blanket, side by side, holding hands, looking up at the sky and talking quietly. It was supposed to rain that evening, we’d been having temperatures in the 90 – 100s all week and the nights weren’t much cooler. The thought of them laying there as the rain came down was almost more romantic than I could stand.

I didn’t say anything to them. In fact, I pulled Hermes to the far side of the path to give them as much privacy as possible, but as I left the park, I kept thinking what a wonderful little moment I was privy to there. It was almost magical… and I almost missed it.

Common sense and being safe have their place, but sometimes it is stepping beyond it that makes real memories.