The starfish principle

Hello everyone,

You know blog success comes in rhythm. You’ll have a couple good posts and then no one reads the next few. Here’s hoping I’m still in time for another good post.

I seem to strike a nerve when I talk about relational issues, or connecting with people. I wonder why that is. Maybe because I’ve had a lot of trouble there, so what I’ve learned along the way rings true. That’s one paradox of life that gets over-looked in most self-help resources. And I’ve read and watched quite a few things about self-helping. I’ve come to believe it only works to a certain extent.

I love doing things on my own, I need privacy, I need solitude, I am an introvert. And there is no shame in that. Even as a seemingly self-reliant individual, I often feel I need a helping hand from other people. I’m the type of person who likes to choose their own path, but prefers it if someone else had left mile markers and warning signs along the way, I’d rather not make a blunder unless I have to in order to learn. A good name for it might be being like a Sherpa. I like to teach others, I like to help others, and in the words of Evan from Girl Meets World “I want to help people get to places they never thought they could go.” But I’m not a huge trailblazer.

That being said, I’d like to say more about helping people. In the course of my almost 18 years of life, I’ve run into a surprising amount of obstacles that much older people still have to grapple with. Here’s a little personal back story: When I was born I contracted a kind of pneumonia, I spent a week in an incubator, and it was a scary time for a lot of people. But I survived, with a lot of prayer I’m sure. From the beginning, I’ve been a tough little girl, as my mom put it. And at the age of 3 or 4, I accepted Christ. And my first remembered witnessing experience (That means telling other people about Jesus, in case anyone is unfamiliar with the term,) was at about the same age, to a few extended family members. That was the first time I encountered resistance to my faith. It has surprised my siblings when I later admitted to always feeling that my beliefs were not safe ones to have in the world. I don’t say this because I view it as a bad thing, on the contrary, I’m glad I never had any illusions that what I believe is popular or welcomed in our world. It makes for less of a shock nowadays. But repeatedly I’ve found myself dissuaded, or even put down, for having stronger principles, stronger opinions, and more dissatisfaction with the culture than most kids my age. ( And I bet some of my readers have heard similar stuff, people who blog or read blogs probably have a lot of opinions.) I have never liked mediocrity, and my dislike of it only gets stronger with time. And I get cautioned for this, honestly, it’s like people don’t know what to do with teens who have ideals that differ from the average.

But here’s the thing, when you accept being average, you accept being unimportant.

When you measure people by the average, you limit how important they are, and you limit your own capacity to feel compassion for them. You limit your ability to feel passionate about changing lives. in fact, you may even adopt the cynical attitude of “No one really changes.” (An attitude the hero Kim Possible expresses in one episode of the show. I’ve heard it before, but not usually from the hero.)

In “Girl meets Communism,” Cory Matthews addresses the problem with average success, pointing out that being average makes you common, and then there’s no incentive to be excellent. This applies to helping people too, when problems are average, so is our motivation. When we see people as just a group with identical troubles, we create stereotypes. The thing about  stereotypes, is that stereo means it’s all around you, and type means it has the same characteristics, and when you put them together, you’ll start seeing them everywhere. Entertainment often counts on you having preconceived notions of things or people for you to find it funny, or emotionally stimulating.

I could be just another voice on an internet that has billions of voices already on it, you could be just another browser, when there are millions of us just in this country, and I get a handful of them, what does that change?

I may have shared this story before, but it’s worth repeating:

Once there was a little boy on a beach, and he noticed that the tide was bringing in starfish, many of them.  When starfish are out of the water too long, they dry out and die. The little boy started picking up the starfish and throwing them out into the sea. A man walked by and noticed what he was doing, and he commented “You’ll never save all of those, son. It won’t make a real difference.” The little boy considers for a moment, then picks up another starfish and throws it into the water. “I’ll make a difference to that one.” He says.

I’ve heard this told a few different ways, so I’m paraphrasing as closely as I can to the main point. Not everyone can speak to a large amount of people. But anyone can speak a large amount of something to one other person. I think we tend to see our circle of influence as someting that reflects on us, and our worth, not as something God has given us so we can do just what He wants us to do and do it well, instead of trying to do someone else’s job, or perhaps a job we aren’t ready for yet. It’s a rule of theatre that there are no small roles, just small actors. Small actors may get cast in small roles rather then let them spoil the whole play, or a good actor may give a small role it’s full meaning. It’s really up to you.

I do the best I can on this blog, because I hope to make a difference for even the one person who might read a post. Here’s a closing thought, if you have a big heart, and a small circle of influence, what’s inside you will force what’s outside to expand, or else it will pour into what vessels are available far more than if your attention was divided between a large group of people.

Here’s some closing lines, from  a song called “Give a little love.”

“Well I know my death will not come, till I breathe all the air from my lungs. Till my final tune is sung, for all is fleeting, oh but all is good. And my love is my whole being, and I shared what I could.”

I hope this helped someone. Until next post–Natasha

Everybody’s talking about…Love?

Hello readers,

S0, here’s my question for today: What is Love?

Love is a thing everyone hears about on a regular basis. But not everyone feels it, and a lot of us are confused about what we’re feeling and what part of it is love.

I remember as a kid I wondered why I didn’t feel the kind of love I saw in movies or read about in books, why I didn’t feel like they felt. I wondered if I loved my family at all, and what was wrong with me, how could I not know the answer to that?

My love tended to express itself through fear, I would only feel it when I thought about how horrible it would be to lose a member of my family, but that didn’t make me feel any more kind or sensitive to them. It just made me worry more.

Now when I say movies and books, I don’t just mean romantic love, people like to illustrate the ideal family, the ideal siblings, the ideal parent-child relationship. And they usually make it seem like every problem can be solved if people just listen to each other, and compromise a little. But that is easier said than done, as I’ve discovered. These sources don’t tell you  about how people can listen to you and not hear a word you’re saying, in their hearts. Or how you compromise and still feel unhappy and unsatisfied. What about when someone just doesn’t want to talk to you period? Or when they have so many issues of their own, they can’t really sympathize with yours. What about when they make excuses to avoid resolving the problem?

Who really has the ideal family? I’m sure my family might look like it on the outside, but we’ve had some bumpy areas over the past few years, I’ve been scared that we wouldn’t make it. And who has the ideal marriage? Or friendship? Or whatever it is we wish we had, but it seems unattainable.

So what is love? And why is it either absent? Or it’s not working like we thought.

Well, I’m nowhere near wise enough to really answer those questions. All I have is the few things I’ve learned. Or perhaps I should say I’m learning them.

That’s the first thing we need to know about our earthly relationships. They are a growing process. Mine have not stayed the same. They didn’t stay the same before I was a Christian, but after I became one, they changed drastically. But the change really was just the growing of the good things and the disappearance of the bad ones (almost, we’re never going to be perfect.) If you have a clue about love now, then you can grow that into something real, and very rare. I’ve been fortunate to live in a circle of  people that all know something about love, but I know that is not most people’s situation.

Another thing about love, is that it is hard. Loving people is about treating them the right way, and then doing a little more. And doing what’s right all the time is something none of us can maintain. We’d be lucky to even start out well.

Is love a feeling? Or is it an action?

I think picking just one of those choices is a mistake. Love is both. But at its purest, love is acting upon what you know you feel, even when you don’t feel it. That is, feelings tell us what’s in our heart, sometimes. Some feelings are deeper than others, and when we feel them it does more than make us cry, it creates a resolve in our heart to do, be, or see things differently than before. your feelings (they used to be called passions) may tell you at one time that you deeply love someone, or that they deeply love you. But it will take actions to prove either is correct. You’ll find out how loving you are when you find out how much you are willing to do, sacrifice, and go through, for someone else; and how little of it you did without feeling like doing it. And what someone else is willing to do for you will speak volumes about how genuine their affection is.

Love is not attraction, attraction is simply one of the things that may make love fun, or may snare people into thinking it is love.

Love is not selfish. Love is not greedy. Love is not too proud to admit a wrong doing, or to be the first to make peace. Love is not insecure and needy.

Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not stuck up. It does not anger easily. It is not rude. It does not look to benefit only itself. It doesn’t think evil of the beloved.

Love believes the best, hopes for the best, endures till the end, and bears the cost.

Love is not broken or fractured. It is not disengaged. It listens to us closely, holding every word as important. Love keeps its word. It honors what deserves honor. Love is not passive. Love isn’t anxious about things. Love  is not restless. Love is pure.

Love is not God, but God is love.

I just paraphrased 1 Corinthians 13, and a song called “Pieces.” (Amanda Cook, Stephany Gretzinger.) None of us can live up to this standard.

And the wonderful thing is, we don’t have to. Love covers us.

That’s all for this post–Natasha.