Empathy and Apathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another human being. It’s an excellent mark of character whenever an individual displays empathy. Caring and thoughtful people have this mark about them as they meet their fellow life travelers. Having the character trait of empathy makes life sweeter for the person who has it while also benefitting humanity as a whole. Apathy states that he doesn’t care, but empathy says she cares wholeheartedly.

Special moments for me happen when I share with someone else that I have bipolar disorder and I can see the empathy on their countenance and in their eyes. The person with empathy often proceeds to tell me about someone they love dearly who also has bipolar or they begin to reveal that they personally have bipolar. These moments, and these individuals who understand and care, have been some of the greatest moments in my life thus far. People with mental illness know how rough it can be. People who have loved ones with mental illness know how tough that can be. When the contestants in the human race stop racing, to help a man or woman who has fallen down, and help that woman or man to their feet again, by extending a helping hand, then something beautiful has happened and empathy has been preached and practiced simultaneously.

There are also the moments that aren’t special at all concerning my conversations about bipolar. These times occur whenever I share my story with someone and I can tell they don’t get it, don’t understand, and don’t ever care to put forth any effort at all to understand. People who don’t care to comprehend mental illness are taking the lazy man’s road down apathy lane. Empathy makes time for others in their pain, but apathy just cannot be bothered with another’s problems.

Make a choice to be one of the beautiful ones in the human race. Extend a helping hand to those who most need the help. Embrace empathy like the quality of others lives and the quality of your life depend on this embrace. Apathy won’t understand the embrace, but he doesn’t care either.

 

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Avoid Detours on the Road to Beauty

Life is a magnificently beautiful ride. I have so much to live for and to enjoy. I live for stories, my wonderful friends and family, a rich social life, a good job and so much more. The beauty of life is all around us each every new day.

But do we all see the beauty? Honestly, there are many detours in this world that can obstruct one’s eyes from seeing the beautiful stuff. The two deadliest diseases I’ve ever battled are sin and bipolar disorder. These are the worst detours I’ve experienced that stole beauty from my eyes and soul.

I was reading earlier today that it’s National Suicide Prevention Week. In the past I’ve read that thirty to forty percent of people with bipolar commit suicide. In a perfect world there would be no sin and no mental illness. Since I don’t live in a world like that I’ve had to persevere against great darkness and despair.

The way human beings treat their fellow man matters more than many realize. You could help save someone’s life simply by offering them kindness or a smile at a time whenever they desperately needed a small act of genuine care and friendship.

Don’t settle for the detours that’ll rob beauty from your life. Enjoy the beautiful ride of life! Sin and mental illness are no match for a life filled with faith, hope and love.

Time Travel Adventures

I enjoy time travel. Memories from fun times in the past live on whenever old friends and I reminisce about them. Photographs and travel journal entries also help me in my time travel adventures. Occasionally I’ll play an old Nintendo game on a new Retron game system that plays my video games from the 1980’s. Another way I time travel is through my recent collection of vinyl records. I’ve collected around fifty of them over the last few years. I travel to the past while I live in the present and dream of the future.

A secret to living a joyful and remarkable life is to live in the present as much as possible. If I’m out for coffee with a friend I’m one hundred percent there with interest in them and our conversation. Whenever I’m at work I put all of my best efforts into doing my jobs to the best of my ability. If I’m out at a concert or a movie I am all in for the festivities. I don’t look for tomorrow to be better than today because today is where I dwell.

But I look back on the past with all of its happiness and pain. The pain I’ve learned many lessons from. Some roads that were dead ends I don’t travel down anymore. The roads where I went the extra mile and found beautiful, happy moments I relive in my heart often. The good times in my lifetime have far outweighed the bad.

The future will be a whole lot of wonderful because today was wonderful. I always want the happiest day of my life to be today. If my eyes are full, bursting, with wonder then life will always be spectacular.

So I enjoy time travel to today, yesterdays, and all of my tomorrows. I’ll take some records for the journey. Then I’ll take my Polaroid camera. I won’t forget my backpack or my travel journal I’ve written in since 2008. I’ll keep telling stories, writing stories, reminiscing about stories with the greatest of friends and dreaming with eyes open.

And in my time travel adventures I might even ask for an old typewriter as a Christmas present this year.

All Hats Off to My Father

The celebrating of Father’s Day is a pretty big deal. My father has always been good at his job. For this I am grateful. There isn’t enough gratitude in the world today. There’s not enough shout outs, friendship cards, thank-you notes, words of compliment or even people who say “You’re welcome.” instead of “No problem.” Here’s the problem concerning those we love, admire and appreciate. Many of us don’t tell them we appreciate, admire and love them. I believe appreciation and admiration should be shown through word and deed daily. What a more wonderful world this world would become if this became common practice.

A funny story from when I was a little boy about my dad and I was when he advised me to take a nap before my kindergarten graduation. The time was early afternoon and graduation was to be held that evening. I was up and around the house and enjoying myself. Dad said to me, “Oh, buddy, you better lay down and take a nap. You know you’ve got a big night ahead of you tonight. You’ll want to be rested.” I contemplated the seriousness of my father’s wisdom about naps. Then I said, “Are you going to take a nap, Dad?” He replied, “I think I will. I think we should both take naps so we’ll be ready for the big night.” So I went to my bedroom to take a nap and ended up staring at the ceiling for hours and not sleeping at all. I suppose I was too excited about the big event of the evening and the graduation after party that would most definitely follow. Looking back on this story, as an adult, I realize Dad was the one who needed a nap. Yet I could not be trusted to roam the house without parent supervision. To this day, however, at age 34, I am still an enormous fan of a quality nap before or after any and all major or minor events. Dad taught me the beauty of the afternoon nap.

My father has also helped teach me through word and deed how to be a Christian, how to be kind, how to give a sincere compliment, how to love authentically, how to laugh, how to keep smiling, how to persevere, how to put my whole heart into my work, how to make the best out of the worst of situations and how to celebrate every new day. I’m flooded with gratitude to have a father who does his job in excellent fashion.

I tip all of my hats to Jay Brooks to say Thanks, Dad with all sincerity. Now I am off to take an afternoon nap.

 

Love’s Light

The word “hate” is a strong word. It saddens me to think of how often it’s tossed around like a football in a sports game. To live life fully is more like a battle than a game. When I first began a sincere study of my New Testament Bible as a teenage boy I was haunted by Jesus’ use of the word “hate” in the gospel of John chapter 3. Christ said in this passage, “This is the verdict. Light has come into the world. But men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. Whoever practices evil hates the light and refuses to come into the light out of fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes to the light that it may be seen clearly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Light overcomes darkness. Love overcomes hate. Courage overcomes fear. Love is a stronger word than hate. Love is also a brave choice. As a boy it came easier to me to hate Jesus than to love him. Love takes hard work and discipline. Christ had and has disciples. A fickle fan club will never really follow Christ. When I think of love overcoming hate it always comes back to the practicing of the Christian faith for me. It is this authentic love that makes me the man I’ve become.

I encourage you to practice the boldness of love rather than the self-centered cowardice of hatred. The battle is worthy of the good fight. Don’t settle for eyes for eyes and evil for evil. A verse in the book of Romans states, “Be not overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”

Life isn’t a game that’s all about winners and losers or prideful comparisons and puffing ourselves up to feel superior to others. The only man I want to be better than is the man I was yesterday. As C. S. Lewis once wrote, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” Practice humility, work hard in love, don’t give in to fear, light a large or small candle and keep smiling with joy. Hate the darkness and dance like angels in love’s light.

Life Dreams

Yesterday a friend of mine asked me about my life goals. I feel like my life is complete and I’m content with the way things are. So when she asked me the question I didn’t have much of an answer. However, now I think I’ll write about ten things that I’d like to experience in my lifetime. These could be called life dreams. Perhaps I’ll chase some of them and perhaps some of them will chase me. Here I go.

10. I’d like to be paid for my writing. A five dollar check for a short story sold would be like solid gold to me. I’ve been published before but I’ve yet to be paid for my work. It would be highly cool to go from an amateur writer to professional.

9. I’d like to read 2,000 books. I’m currently at 556 read. After one book is finished I immediately start another. This life dream is absolutely attainable.

8. I’d like to visit Australia because it’s always seemed like such a cool place.

7. I’d like to live many years after retirement. Retirement of course is also a long way away. I want to keep the celebrations of life going long after the responsibility of a daily seven and a half hour job is finished.

6. I’d like to know I’ve made this world a better place by being myself.

5. I’d like to be the best Christian I can possibly be.

4. I’d like to be a hero in many small ways. If the calling arises I’d like to be a hero in a major way. Although to be heroic in small ways I believe is equivalent to being recognized as a major hero.

3. I’d like to tell the world about Christ Jesus. For those who don’t want to hear that story I want to wholeheartedly respect their views while valuing their worldview.

2. I’d like to attain an old age while growing in wisdom and freedom the entire journey through.

1. I’d like to marry the most beautiful woman on the most wonderful of days. I’m complete in my singleness but it would be a gift from God to find a virtuous woman to be my best friend and spend the rest of my life with side by side.

Thank you for reading about my life dreams. I hope you find yours and yours find you.

A Blessing in Disguise

The idea of blessings in disguise fascinates me. It’s interesting whenever a horrible thing or experience helps lead to something wonderful. Our human family overcomes remarkable odds on a regular basis. Many of us must journey through serious darkness before we become flooded with light. I imagine a lot of people who believe in heaven had to travel through hellish circumstances before they looked up and believed.

I was born with bipolar disorder. This disease of the mind, according to statistics I’ve read, kills thirty to forty percent of those of us who have it. The cause of death is suicide. Life might’ve been a whole lot easier if I’d been born with a mind without a disease. Easier, however, doesn’t equal better. I’ve fought hard throughout my life story. I’ve fought hard to become a good man. I’ve fought hard in my Christian faith and prayer life and Bible studying. I’ve fought hard to comprehend and attain joy. I’ve fought hard to keep smiling sincere smiles. Bipolar has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to overcome.

The beautiful part about overcoming a life threatening disease of the mind is the freedom that follows. I feel blessed in my life. Freedom, for me, is about thinking with my heart instead of my mind. My heart doesn’t have the disease my mind has. More people should think with their hearts if their hearts are in the right place toward themselves and their fellow life travelers. Without bipolar I never would’ve been forced to rely so much on my heart instead of my head. This is why I believe bipolar has been the truly great blessing in disguise in my life story.