You stole something from someone???

Hope everyone has had an excellent week! I cannot believe we are in August already. WHERE did the summer go? School is upon us, so I thought another “going to school” story would be in order…

I have twin sisters who are three years older than me (something I like to remind them of on occasion…). Being older meant they got to go to school before me. They would come home each afternoon telling me of all the activities, events, and fun times they were having. I just could NOT wait until I was old enough to go to school. I pictured myself sitting in a little desk, learning how to write, add and subtract, having such fun at recess, and making a lot of new friends. The day finally came around and my dream came true…I was going to school! For some reason, however, it just did not turn out as I had planned. I got THREE zeros (out of a possible score of 100), AND I got a spanking on the first day! You won’t be able to guess what it was for….OK, I’ll tell you…TALKING!!

We were in our little reading circle, and the teacher was called out of the room for a moment. Before she left, she told us to remain quiet (which I guess is the meaning of “not talking”). Of course, as soon as she vacated the room, I could not possibly have sat there and kept my mouth shut. (Those of you who know me personally, know this to be true…) I started talking, and as a result, all of us in the reading circle were talking when the teacher returned. She simply went over, got her little paddle, and “made the circle,” lightly tapping each of our legs. I was devastated! However, I learned a valuable lesson that day: you don’t talk when the teacher leaves the room and has told you NOT to talk. As an aside, I will tell you that throughout my school years, I had to write the sentence, “I will not talk in class.” about a zillion times…And by the way, I ended up having the teacher, Ms. Bertie, for first and second grade, and loved her so much that we kept in contact till her death (and she lived to be 90+). She taught me more than I can convey, but that is not really the story for this week. It is just the “lead in.”

My family was poor. We never lacked food or clothing, or any other item that was a “necessity,” however, there was never any money left for “frivolities.” We were rich in family and love! (And to be honest, I did not KNOW we were poor until I became an adult…) When I went to school that first year, I saw students who had EVERYTHING…the neatest erasers, the neatest notebooks, the neatest book sacks. As a young child, it was extremely hard not to notice those things. This one kid (and I will be honest, I cannot remember whether it was a boy or girl) had a way cool notebook. I would watch them open it, write in it, close it, and place it in the little “cubby hole” under their desk seat. I coveted that notebook. I dreamed about that notebook. I wanted that notebook. And I was going to get it….One day, the notebook was left out, unattended. No one was in the classroom, and certainly no one was watching me. I grabbed that notebook, placed it in my little cubby hole, and sat with my jacket covering the seat of my desk, so that no one could see the stolen item. The minute I took it, I felt horrible; however, I wrapped it up in my jacket and took it home with me. Once I got the notebook home, I hid it in my room from my sisters and parents. I could not even look any of them in the eye. I was so ashamed of what I had done, that I could not tell anyone about it…and I certainly could not USE the notebook. I was so filled with guilt and remorse, and I couldn’t return the stolen property, without confessing what I had done, so I just threw the notebook away where no one would find it. I never stole anything from anyone EVER again for the rest of my life. Lesson learned.

Now here is the kicker to that story…to this very day, I wish I could have confessed to that person, and asked their forgiveness. If I knew who the person was, I would track them down, right now, tell them the story, apologize, and ask them to forgive me. It has bothered me that much! There are very few incidents in my life that I regret, but this is one of them…I knew right from wrong, and I knew that you NEVER took something that did not belong to you. It was not, and is not, who I am. You see, I DO have a conscience. I think you should earn what you have, not just take it from someone else. Won’t you join me? Just for this week….

Dear Lord, save me from Facebook and politics!!

Friday was the first day of summer! If you are like us, we have had to wait quite a while for the warm weather. I don’t think I can ever remember wearing a jacket at the end of June.  There is something just not right with that picture…Anyway, I am so glad that the days are warmer and we can actually begin doing some of those wonderful summer activities. Hope you are enjoying this time of the year…

This past week, I had a friend post on Facebook, “I will no longer ever post any thing political…” Apparently, she had posted something very innocent on her page, and someone disagreed with her statement, and took her to task for it. Numerous supporters shared stories of how they had been “unfriended” by “friends” during the elections, because (very obviously) they were not voting for the “right” person. Still others told stories of being “viciously attacked” through words, simply because there was a difference of opinion. It is amazing to me that the ones who are so quick to pounce on someone for their views, will be the first to decry that their own rights are being violated if someone happens to disagree with them. Wow! The way I see it is that if you have the right (and feel compelled to do so) to voice your opinions in whatever way you want (interpret rant and rave) via Facebook, and I am forced to see it, look at it, think about it, be bothered by it, etc., etc., etc., then you should certainly give me the respect to hear my views and opinions. It should go both ways. 

I am so thankful that not everyone sees things the way I do. How boring life would be, and how limited my growth as a person would be. I love it when individuals in my conference sessions will raise their hand, and say, “I’m sorry, Ms. Selman, but I disagree with what you just said.” I always smile and say,”Wonderful! Tell me why you disagree!” For some, they cannot tell me WHY they disagree, just that they disagree. I toss those comments in the “do not be concerned about” file. However, for those who can share with me their opinions, thoughts, and views in an articulate, heartfelt, passionate manner, I LISTEN!! And beyond that, I learn from it. Some times those remarks actually give me new insight and I will change my opinion or perspective. Speaking of perspective, I discovered something interesting in the bathroom the other day. (No, don’t be alarmed, we are not discussing any body parts here…) It just so happens that I have a free-standing toilet tissue holder in my bathroom. I am one of those people who turns my toilet tissue so that it rolls “over” the top. As I was looking at it, I realized that someone had turned the toilet tissue to roll “under” – not the way I like it. As I was pondering that, I saw that no one had actually turned the toilet tissue ANY way. The stand had simply gotten turned around. So, if someone were looking at the stand from the left, the toilet tissue would be going over the top. If someone were looking at the stand from the right, the toilet tissue would be going under the bottom. I thought to myself, if you asked someone to tell you which way the toilet tissue was turned, you would get two different answers (depending on where the respondents were standing), and both answers would be absolutely correct!!

I have friends from almost every realm of the human species. Some are so conservative, with narrow thinking, and view the world one way, and one way only. Then we go across the spectrum, all the way to the other side, and I have friends that are so liberal, free-spirited, and free-thinking that it can almost take your breath away. And you know what? I would not trade any of them for any amount of money in the world. I love all of them, especially for their uniqueness and individuality. Each person that I come in contact with, who becomes a part of my world, I learn from. They either reaffirm what I know to be true and right within my own beliefs, or they open my mind to consider other perspectives, and it broadens my knowledge and my “personhood.” But I would only discover that if I am open-minded, willing to listen and share.

So, to my friend, I would say this: Do not give the control of what you say, write, or think to someone else, simply because they disagree with you. After all, we DO live in America, where you are supposed to be able to say exactly what you think…In fact, it is actually written into the Bill of Rights, and guaranteed by our Constitution! I, as well as countless others, are extremely interested in what you have to say, think, and do. And even if we disagree on some issues, I will show you the respect of listening, as this is a way that I can also grow and learn as a person. We should listen with an open mind to others’ thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and YES, even politics. It is called dialogue; it is called respect; it is called friendship. Those friends who “unfriend” you because you do not share their views, are probably not the people you want as friends to begin with, and how sophomoric is that? I intend to be the kind of friend that people are comfortable and safe with sharing their innermost thoughts and beliefs. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

It’s Dangerous in There!!!

When my little niece (Elizabeth, who has now become a lovely lady with children of her own) was learning how to use the potty, it was a nightmare for her. She would get so upset when “the time” would come, and she did NOT want to go to the bathroom. My brother finally asked her why she got so upset when she needed to go potty. She looked up at him, with those big, beautiful, blue eyes, and said, “Dad, it’s DANGEROUS in there!” We all got a good laugh at that, and eventually, she got the hang of it and overcame her fear of the bathroom. So here is this week’s story…

I was on a business trip with a friend and we had quite a layover in one of the major airports. Not wanting to “just sit,” we had walked over the entire length of the airport two or three times (several miles it seemed…); had eaten as much food as we could possibly hold; and had “window-shopped” as much as we could. (Neither one of us are much on shopping to begin with….) It got a little closer to the time for us to board the plane, and I thought that maybe I should visit the restroom one more time before getting on the next flight. I asked my friend if she would mind watching my stuff, and off to the restroom I went.

Now, airport bathrooms have changed over the years, and the “improvements” that have been made are always a “challenge,” depending on which airport you are in. The first improvement involved providing different seat heights for the toilets….some sit tall, some are short, some are in-between. There’s nothing more comforting than to rush into a cubicle, thinking the seat is at a certain height, and realize (when you hit the seat a little harder than anticipated) that you picked a cubicle with a “short” toilet. Then came the plastic rotating seat covers…did you rotate the plastic before you sat down…after you sat down…where was the button to initiate said rotation…and HOW would I know if they were just not recycling the same piece of plastic over and over to save money…I came up with a solution for that problem: mark an “x” on the plastic seat, press the button to rotate the seat cover, and look to see if your “x” came around again. (Now before you think that I have lost my mind and have a germ phobia, let’s look at this rationally…have you SEEN the people who fly on planes nowadays???? I need not say more…) Then came the paper seat covers. Great idea, I thought! So, I got the seat cover in place, turned around, unzipped my pants, and just as I was about to make contact with the seat….SWOOOOSH!! The toilet had automatically flushed itself and I no longer had a paper armor against the germs of society (the flush took my paper seat cover with it…). I stood up and tried to figure out how to “outwit” the toilet…So, this is what I did: I unzipped my pants, assumed the position and got ready to make contact. At the last minute, I slipped the toilet seat cover into place, and hurriedly sat down before the toilet flushed. SUCCESS!!!

Now that I had conquered the challenges within the cubicle, I was ready to face the remaining few…the automatic soap dispenser, the automatic water dispenser, and the automatic hand-drying options…Now, you need to know up front that there is something really goofy with my body (no snide remarks from those who know me really well…). Apparently, I do not have within my chromosomes the exact chemistry that will respond to, or activate, any type of “automatic” dispenser. It is indeed an effort to get anything to work for me, and I usually end up having to make numerous attempts at different sinks. I went to the first soap dispenser….no matter what I did, what motion I performed with my hands….no  soap. So I went to the next sink…same thing…a lot of motion and activity on my part, but still no soap. (Please understand that I have to complete this same exercise in EVERY airport bathroom that I visit…) I moved on to the next sink with even MORE enthusiastic motion and play of my hands…STILL no soap. I moved to the final sink. That was when disaster struck…the soap dispenser not only worked, but it was a super sonic dispenser! The flow of soap squirted out, shot completely OVER the sink, and landed directly on the front of my pants! I looked down and all I saw was a great big wad of white soap beginning to ooze slowly down the front of my pants. Of course, I panicked and thought, “get some paper towels, and DO IT NOW!” (I did mention that the paper towel dispenser was “automatic” also; didn’t I?) I waved my hands across the sensor. It did nothing! I tried two hands, wildly motioning in the senseless attempt to just activate it. STILL…nothing!!! I went to another dispenser…nothing. I was wild by this time because the soap had spread on my pants down to the crotch area. I began dancing and moving my body all different ways in front of the sensor to JUST GET SOME PAPER TOWELS!! By this time, I had drawn a crowd, who could not figure out if I was having a seizure of some sort, or that I was just a really weird air traveler. In a way of explanation to my “audience,” I was uttering under my breath as I was dancing…”soap”…”flew out of dispenser”…”on my pants”…”got to get it off”…”doesn’t work for me.” I finally realized that I was not ever going to get a paper towel, so I ran back into a cubicle to get some toilet paper. Wiping rapidly, I attempted to remove the gummy soap from my pants. The toilet tissue, being dry, began rolling into little balls and STICKING to the soap that was STICKING to my pants. It was time to wet the paper towel and see if that would help.  Guess what? The water dispenser was “automatic” also….On the fourth attempt, at the fourth sink, the water began to flow. Others began to help me. THEY were able to get some paper towels, and we made a valiant effort to remove all of the particles that had become a permanent part of my pants. Everyone, including me, eventually accepted defeat and gave up! As I was leaving, I noticed a woman having a little difficulty of her own in getting the paper towel dispenser to work. I leaned over and confidentially whispered, “you have to dance!”

I finally came out of the bathroom and headed in the direction of my friend. She took one good look at me, and those soap-gummed pants, and asked “What happened to you???” I just looked at her and said, “The bathroom has become a very dangerous place….”

There are people in our lives who have fears, whether actual or perceived. At times, we may dismiss those fears as being “silly” or unfounded simply because they are not our fears. As a result, we are not compassionate, patient, or understanding. I am going to be more understanding and tolerant of those who express concern or fear over events, tasks or actions that they face. I am going to provide the necessary support to assist them in facing their fear, and let them know that they are not alone…that I am there with them. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…

You don’t even KNOW me!!

Hope all of you have had a good week! I just returned from a conference in Texas, and it was so gratifying to hear people speak of this blog, and to hear their stories. So, we may definitely affect our world in a positive way, week by week..

As we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. tomorrow, I thought this particular story and challenge would be most appropriate.

I have lived most of my life in Mississippi – a beautiful state, filled with wonderful people. I am quite aware of the horrible reputation that our state has across the nation. For example, there is not one, educated person in the state that a newscaster could ask to comment on a recent tornado. Nope, it has to be someone with three teeth, spitting tobacco, stating, “Yep, I heared it come over the roof of the trailer…(spit) sounded like a freight train…(spit) we all got in the tub….”  Or, most people think that every single person in the state is prejudiced. So, I would like to correct a few misconceptions. 

Like most states we have the good, the bad, and the ugly…however, I, like numerous others, was not raised to be prejudiced. I was taught that we were all God’s creations, and that none of us were better (or worse) than anyone else. It offends me to be given a negative label, especially when it is simply based on where I lived. I’ve actually been “flipped off” by someone in another car, passing by on the interstate, just because I had a Mississippi state license plate. I wanted to roll down my window and scream: “You don’t even know me!” Course, if I had done that, I could have gotten shot, or worse…so some things best left unsaid…The point I am trying to make is this: why do we make those needless judgements based on color of skin, or an accent, or a geographic location, or anything?

Recently, I went to a local play, “Ragtime.” The plot covered a number of issues during a certain time period of our country – unions/strikes/unfair treatment of women and certain ethnic groups. During the play, part of the dialogue included calling one of the African American characters “nigger.” It had been so long since I had heard that awful name, that I flinched as if I had been slapped. I noticed that almost everyone around me did the same…a flinch and audible gasp. And I thought to myself, how WONDERFUL!! They were as offended and appalled as I was. So… just for this week, I will make an extra effort to reflect the feelings of my heart when I encounter anyone of a different race, ethnic group, or culture than “mine.” I will try to convey that all I see is another human being…period!! I was not raised with prejudice and I want others to know that truth in my actions each day. Won’t you join me? Just for this week…