Compassion, Love and Survival

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Let me preface this by saying I am not familiar with  fantasy or sci-fi fiction, nor thrillers because they’re not my fiction of choice. Nor am I familiar the author who is featured in this piece.  However, I can say, that it was my pleasure to glean from this interview that I listened to featuring him and two of his biggest fans.  It really touched my heart.

Compassion, Love and Survival by K.D.

I was listening to a link that a friend posted yesterday on Facebook (thanks Chi-Chi) and the true story that was told of a 15-year-old boy who ran away to meet his idol. This teen was something of an outcast in school, the product of a divorced home, his mom was remarried and his step-dad was not the best person. So, he read fantasy/sci-fi/thriller type books to escape his reality.  One particular author (Piers Anthony) was his favorite. He read every drop of everything this man wrote. He identified with Piers and the works he created. He felt so disconnected from his own reality that, in his 15-year-old mind, he desired to create a new reality…one with Piers in it.

He proceeded to withdraw his savings from the bank, buy a plane ticket and flew to Florida, all in pursuit of his desired new life.  His mission was to find where Piers Anthony lived and hopefully be asked to live with him and his family. He sent a postcard to his mom telling her he had to leave for a while but not to worry, he’d be back in a year or so because he had to figure some things out.  Once in Florida he went through various steps to find Mr. Anthony’s house and he did find it.  Mr. Anthony, surprised at the intrusion,  invited him in, listened to this young man’s troubles, and allowed him to spend the night.  He advised the young man that he could not live with him, but, he could try to help him find either local help for runaways or help him return back home.  The young man chose the latter.  After returning home, things didn’t necessarily get any better. But, because he’d had this encounter with his favorite author and because he was listened to, it changed something inside of him. He endured and conquered his teen years and successfully entered adulthood.

From a mom’s perspective hearing this, I could totally empathize with the shock his mom must’ve felt, because I would absolutely, positively FREAK OUT (as any loving parent would) not knowing where my kid was. Once you become a parent, your life is not about you anymore. You care for  these new human beings selflessly, above your own needs and desires. You hope so much for them. You desire for them to be successful and happy and fulfilled. And you ALWAYS want them to be safe and to protect them from as much harm in the world as possible.  Thankfully, this child was unharmed in his journey and was able to find what he was looking for, at least in part.

During this interview, a call was arranged so that this now adult man could call Piers Anthony to thank him for the impact he’d made on him all of those years ago. Piers remembered the whole encounter and he said a few things that really stuck out to me.

1. Piers Anthony spoke of his own struggles as a teen in a posh private school (where there were “upper crust” and “lower crust” students). He was ‘lower crust’ by his own account. He, too, had troubles at home and didn’t fit in at school. He was made fun of and made to feel strange, not good enough, etc. As the interviewer said of the author, “He was just an angry kid who muddled through like everyone else.” Piers Anthony, too, turned to reading books to escape his reality.  He said, “People sneer at escapism. Well…there are those of us who need it [to survive]” (addition mine).  Specifically, to survive the TEEN YEARS, in my opinion.  Teen years are a very tumultuous time.  They are years where we’re trying to figure out who we are and what we should be. We’re trying to survive social pressures and attitudes. We’re trying to find where we fit in.  When you’re a ‘nerd’ or an ‘outcast’ or ‘invisible’ (i.e. not in the popular crowd), life in high school can be very, very difficult.  Add to that problems at home.  But, I submit to you that there are even those teens who are in the “popular crowd” who feel out-of-place due to insecurity and rejection and so forth.  They cover it up by the business of being ‘popular’ or ‘over the top’. If they put on an act of confidence, then people won’t see their insecurities or weaknesses.  The sad part is when they choose use their popularity to demean others who are less so.  Or when they soothe their own insecurities by making themselves look bigger or better, while making others look smaller or insignificant.

2. Piers Anthony gave the then 15-year-old kid this advice, “Keep your head down. Endure it and in a few years you can get out”, speaking of his stressful home life with his step-father.  This advice could very well have applied to his school experience as well.  It made me think of my children, who have their own challenges in relation to their academic experiences, the social aspects of school, etc.  But, also, my children have experienced the divorce of their parents. Not easy for any child. I, too, was the product of a divorced home.  I want to find a way to tell my children…things will get better…just keep pressing through.

3. This next statement meant the most to me. I could relate to it myself, for it validated some of my own feelings, and it gave me insight into what my teens (and teens in general) may be going through. It also gave me pause to think of the several adults I know who fit these descriptions – and gives me a bit more understanding and I daresay compassion for folks who may be somewhat abrasive.  Here is what Piers Anthony said in the author’s notes of his book Fractal Mode, “One thing you who had a secure or happy childhood should understand about those of us who did not…We who control our feelings , who avoid conflicts at all costs or seem to seek them, who are hypersensitive, compulsive, self-critical, workaholic, and above all survivors…We’re not that way from perversity and we cannot just ‘relax’ and ‘let it go’. We’ve learned to cope in ways you never had to.”

I have come to no solid conclusions after listening to this interview.  But, maybe that’s not necessary. I have, however, come away with compassion, insight and understanding.  Maybe you will also.  If you’d like to listen to the interview, see the link below.

Once this link opens to the webpage, click “launch player” to hear the interview:

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/470/show-me-the-way

You are loved ♥

© 2013 Compassion, Love and Survival – KD Corner/K.D.

photo credit: tenchinodojo.be

Listening…A Lost Art

 

How many times has a friend or loved one come to you with a problem, issue or life situation wanting to just vent, and the Dr. Phil in you rises up to “fix” them or their problem and give unwanted advice? Guilty.

I think by nature we want to fix things and put in our “2 cents” so that we can feel like we contributed or brought some relief to our friend in some way. In short, we want to help, but sometimes over-talking or interjecting advice where it’s not necessarily wanted can do more harm than good.  Sometimes a friend really just wants you to LISTEN. Not easy, especially if you have more of a “fixer” personality. But it’s possible to do.

Practice listening. Many times our friends or family members really just want a sounding board. And if they DO want advice or your opinion, they’ll usually come right out and ask you. But, even if they do, tread carefully…unless they tell you to “bring it”, at which point you can let loose and go into your unprofessional diagnosis of their problem.  Still…be careful. Think how you’d want someone to “bring it” to you.  Make sure it’s seasoned with “love”. 🙂

I’ve become fairly good listener. But, I’m continuously working at it. Sometimes people just need your compassion or your presence.  You know how when someone’s talking to you, you’re having a second conversation in your head simultaneously?  All of your unfiltered opinions and reactions are unbridled in this “head” conversation.  RESIST the urge to blab out your opinion. Instead, really listen to the person who’s talking. Try to empathize. When judgemental thoughts arise, push them back down, and just listen. If you’re hearing something that you know is particularly bad or harmful for that person, still just listen. Let them get it all out. Remember to engage the person while they’re talking to you.  Look into their eyes, or give the occasional heart-felt “yeah” or “uh huh” or “really?”  Give a nod of the head and let your facial expression show that you care.  Be genuinely interested.  If talking on the phone, they cannot see your face, but give verbal affirmations that you’re listening to let them know you’re there and engaged in what they’re saying. Nine times out of ten, once the person has vented, they’ll want some kind of input. Begin gently with your input and try to gauge how much feedback the person wants, needs or can handle. Sometimes you’ll know instantaneously how much feedback is desired. Sometimes the person may shut down or block you out if you’re saying something they’re not ready to hear. If that happens, back off. Maybe at a later time the environment will be more conducive for more in-depth conversation.

One last thing.  If you have a friend who can talk to you for hours and hours on end and wear you down to a puddle of mush by the time they’re done talking, protect yourself. Lol.  You want to be there for that friend, but, you also know that if you let them, bless their hearts, they would keep you in the conversation (on the phone or in person) for hours and hours rehashing the same details over and over.  Yet, you care for them and desire to “be there” for them.  Set a time parameter.  Tell them you have “x” number of minutes to talk, up front.  When that time comes around, interject with kindness in your voice and let them know you have to go, but would be available later or perhaps you can talk to them via Instant Messenger or text or on a particular day that YOU specify.  Sometimes “listening” via IM is an option.  It gives the person a chance to write out the problem (which can sometimes help on both ends – the talker’s and the listener’s).  And with writing you have to take a bit more care and be more thoughtful as typed words don’t share the emotion behind them.  Stick to the point.  If your friend’s main gripe is that they have an issue with a coworker, but, they keep wandering into other topics, as you’re listening, keep that main topic in mind.  If/when they ask for your input, OR when your time limit has come and you have to end the conversation, focus on the main issue.  Be warm, yet succinct.  Get right to the root of the issue with your input (with compassion).  Hopefully this will prevent further wandering from the main topic at hand.  And if you’re chatty friend wants to discuss ‘war and peace’, gently yet firmly remind them that you have to go, but suggest that perhaps you’d could further your conversation on the next topic of choice on another occasion.  Hope these hints are helpful.

Have a great day!
Toodles ♥

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

There’s a song called “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by a group called Casting Crowns. I really love this song because it calls the “Church” to the carpet. We, in our organized religion have sometimes – not always – but often enough to notice, gone about sharing our faith and beliefs in Christ in a way that does more harm than good. We’ve been judgemental, critical, mean, snobbish and self-righteous. Yet, would you believe that many people are really well-intentioned? Yes, it’s true. They just go about sharing their passion for their Christian faith in not-the-best way. I’ve been there, too. I’ve acted those ways. I’m not proud of it. But, when the “light bulb” went on, I was so happy.

You see, God, He’s really amazing. He doesn’t leave us like we are. If we are in relationship with him, He brings certain things to light in our lives that need changed, tweaked, adjusted or even added-to or cut-out of our lives, and He helps us with those things. He’s awesome.

All of this doesn’t mean that if you’re a Christian, you can’t be passionate about what you believe. On the contrary. Your heart can be full of vim and verve for sharing the message/gospel of Christ. Most definitely. But, when we share with others, I think we must always remember how Christ found us…what state we were in. And if we were resistant to the message of the gospel…what was it that reached through our shields and walls and connected with us?

I personally wasn’t resistant to the message of Christ. However, I was struggling with some things personally. And what touched me the most, was a couple of friends who consistently reached out to me. They were my friends and stuck by me through thick and thin. They listened to me without judging me and they shared the message of the Bible with me in a gentle and loving way, over a period of months and years. They never watered down God’s truth, but, always shared it with me in a loving manner and through a friendship. That was how they exemplified Christ’s love to me. It was through their example that I was able to see that even if I was struggling with some things that I knew were wrong or unhealthy, Christ loved/loves me and sticks with me through it all, and helps me eventually overcome whatever it is, if I let him.

If we look at Christ’s dealings with people who were ‘unbelievers’ (this does not include the religious leaders of the day, nor folks that were already following Christ), we see that He was kind, compassionate, caring, gentle, loving, patient. He still shared truth without compromising, but the WAY he did it was key. He did it with love and compassion.

I think that we, as Christians, on the whole, are learning to share Christ’s truth & love in a more loving way. We can choose to love people and befriend people and dialogue with people whose beliefs are different from ours without judging or condemning them. We can share the gospel message of Christ with people, just like my friends shared it with me so many years ago…through friendship and in a loving manner. And if/when we disagree with people or vice versa, it’s okay. One of my former pastors always used to say “Agree to disagree agreeably”. But, at least talk. At least share. It’s not our responsibility as Christians to MAKE people believe. But Jesus said “Go! And tell the world…” So it’s our duty to share the news/message of Christ and let GOD through his Holy Spirit, do the work of working in people’s hearts and minds. What will be, will be. Sometimes you’ll share the news once. Sometimes you’ll share the news over a period of days, months or years. But just share in love. God can surely handle the rest.