Inner Struggles

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I was working out on a new piece of machinery at the gym when a man startled me by asking a question. “Are you watching the T.V. on this channel or do you mind if I change it to something else?” I assured him that I didn’t care because I was busy focusing on my workout and reviewing the notes in front of me. You see, I’ve realized that if I review notes for presentations while exercising, I internalize the information more effectively. I’m not sure why it happens, but my brain seems to work more efficiently during a workout.


As he started his exercise routine, he apologized again for changing the channel and he began to chat. It all started with asking what I was studying. I explained to him that I was reviewing a presentation and workshop that I was giving in the next few days. We began to discuss my business and he shared the trials and tribulations of his own career. One thing led to another and he began to tell me about his family. I asked him a few questions and I continued to listen.


As we kept talking, he began to get choked up with emotion. I was stunned to see that our conversation had taken that turn, but I continued to listen. I sensed that he was having difficulty accepting a recent turn of events in his personal life. I relayed my own similar situation and what I found to be the important piece that I could draw out of the experience. I recognized that he again began to get emotional and had tears in his eyes two more times during our talk.


Earlier in the conversation, I described my business teaching resilience and accepting change. He was fascinated and laughed that his company might be interested in the program. Since I was finished working out, I informed him that I was going to run out to the car and get my business card so he could connect with me. I hurried back in and handed him my card. We talked for a minute before he thanked me profusely with a smile on his face and awkwardly gave me a hug.


When I walked out, I thought about what had just transpired. Judging from his appearance, I would have never guessed in a million years that he would show such depths of emotion and feelings. Judging from his demeanor, I would have never considered that man to be someone carrying such a burden.


Many of you go to such great lengths to give the appearance that you’re not struggling and everything is great in your life. The rest of us help you in this charade by keeping our distance and not asking how you’re really feeling. Maybe we really don’t want to know. Maybe because it’s more work for us— it takes more energy and we have our own problems to handle. In this busy world, it’s easier to keep to yourself and just get through another stressful task on your to-do list. We have important stuff to do, or so it seems at the time.


However, if you’re really interested and sincere about giving back in your community, it’s possible that it’s easier than you think. It’s not always about joining another board or donating more money. Just open your eyes to what’s going on around you and get to know the person next to you. They just might need your help.


Giving Back


I was finishing up a meeting with some friends today when the talk turned to the holiday season.  They suggested that I write a blog about how to control the typical stressors of the holiday season. As I mulled this over, one of my favorite people, Morgan Lyn, shared what she had recently done to make the season a little bit brighter.


“I bought coffee for the next person in line when I put in my order at Starbucks.”  She explained how it felt to watch each person in line follow suit. “I stuck around just to watch it all happen.  What a great feeling to see what I had started and watch it just keep going and going”.


It wasn’t surprising to hear that she would do something like this. This action was perfectly aligned with her character and her priorities in life.  However, it gave me a thrill to watch her talk about it and see how much it had deeply affected her.


There is no denying that this time of year can be stressful.  The days are packed with more shopping, cooking, parties, and commitments than you can fathom.  However, in all the excitement, it’s easy to lose sight of what this time of year is truly all about— giving back.


In lieu of this, I have a couple suggestions as to how you can “give back” this year in ways that will really matter.


Let one or two people into your lane while you’re driving.

Everyone is in a hurry this time of year.  Roads are backed up with shopping traffic and people are very low on patience.  My suggestion to you is let one, two or if you’re feeling overly generous, three people in to your lane.  Give them a big smile and watch their reaction.


Take someone lonely out for coffee or tea.

This time of year is so hard on the elderly and the ill.  They feel isolated in their homes and they dread going out in the cold. Even if they drive, they won’t take the chance in this cold, rainy, snowy weather. Please note that I suggested taking them out somewhere instead of visiting them in their house.  I’m pretty positive that a change of scenery and a reason to get dressed up is the best medicine you can give them.  All they want is a little of your time.


Offer to walk someone’s dog.

I take my dog for a walk every single day. If you only knew how much I dread doing this on those bitter cold days!  I would be overjoyed if someone in my neighborhood knocked on my door and said they wanted to walk my dog. It’s a good deed for the owner and the dog appreciates it too!


Take someone’s newspaper or mail to the door and hand it to them with a smile.

Now you’ll find out the second thing I dread— going out in the morning to get my newspaper.  What a good deed to get someone’s mail or newspaper and take it directly to their door! It’s just a kind gesture that goes a long way.


Send someone a handwritten note and let him or her know that you’re thinking about them.

Sadly, I receive very few handwritten notes anymore.  When I do receive one, it really makes me take notice. Imagine, someone taking the time and energy to send a note in snail mail! I’m not talking about sending a Christmas card— I’m referring to a blank note with your own thoughts and feelings inside.


Offer to watch someone’s child so they can get some shopping done.

This only counts if it’s your idea. You can’t wait for them to ask YOU.  I guarantee, this one would be much appreciated.


Stop and ask a clerk working in a busy store how they’re doing.

I’m not referring to the typical niceties. I’m suggesting you stop, look into their eyes, and ask them how they’re truly doing. You’ll be surprised how much they will appreciate this gesture.


Giving back doesn’t always have to mean you need to open up your pocketbook— all you have to do is open up your heart. There are plenty of ways to give back to people in need.  You’ll end up gaining more than you ever thought possible.