Sunday, September 28, 2014

The "Otherness" in the People

The day I was to have my blog topic picked I texted some of my closest friends one question.
"If you could pick the subject for my blog, what are a couple of things that you would reading about from my perspective?"
The responses I got back were so descriptive of me, and I loved being able to see just how well people knew me. Some people wanted to hear about traveling and the outdoors. Others wanted to hear about service and humanitarian work. I had friends who simply wanted to hear about my job, or what life was like outside of the United States. There were two responses that really stuck out to me though.
"You are good at understanding "otherness" in people. You see people as they are and, whether or not you share a lot in common, you always try to understand them. It doesn't mean you have to embrace contrary ideas; it just means you seek to gain greater understanding. A blog about oneself is sort of interesting. A blog that generously observes others might be even better." 
"You soak in people's individuality and when you write about them those characters come to life and the audience connects with them. I think your blog could be just day to day life and ironic interactions with people that display the diversity and uniqueness of people in a way that makes others appreciate differences." 
The responses these two men gave were both exactly what I wanted to write about and incredible compliments. I remember loving the idea from the very beginning, but somehow in the mix of everything I'd forgotten. The story aspect was still there, but the "otherness" and diversity factors were replaced with good deeds instead. Now, I don't know if I am allowed to do this part way through the semester, but I am going to do it anyways. I'm going to change my blog to the idea I fell in love with originally. I'm going to make this a blog about differences and my everyday interactions with people.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Man at the Door

Am I the only one that feels like some people are just blessed with the natural ability to go out of their way for other people? It's like they don't even have to think about helping others, yet they are constantly doing it. That is the kind of person I want to be. Now, I don't know this next man that I am going to tell you about; not in the slightest. I have only ever observed him in passing and it was only one time, but as I caught a glimpse of what it was he was doing I was convinced that he fell into this exact category of selflessness.

It was a Friday, which meant I had a nice two-hour break in between classes. More often than not a break from class meant homework in the library, which was true for this particular day too. My next class was going to start in 15 minutes, so I packed up my things, logged off one of the many university computers and began to walk to my next class. It wasn't long before I had neared the outdoor stairs I would have to take to get to the building I needed to be in. That's when I noticed someone standing at an open door by right next to the staircase. 

People were leaving the building one after another, and at the door was a man holding it open for every single one of them. I myself probably watched 20 people exit through the door he had in his hand before the rush of people disappeared. At that point, I just thought he would let the door slip from his hands so that he could get to where he needed to be. I was wrong. Even with no one coming through the door, he stood there and waiting, with the door still in his hands, for the next group of people that he couldn't even see yet. 

I don't know how long he held the door like that, or how many people went through. It was something so simple and even though I didn't actually go through the door I want to thank him for the example he was to me.  Like I said, I don't know who this man is but surely someone in this world of Facebook knows him. The picture doesn't give much to work with and I know that chances of finding him are slim, but how neat would it be if we could find him, even if it is just to say "thank you."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Disconnect in the Mountains

Do you know what I love about the mountains? Being able to actually get away. There is no cell phone service, no Wi-Fi, no homework.  Sometimes you know the trail, and other times you have no idea what to expect. Sometimes there are other people along the way, and sometimes you are in complete solitude. It's adventurous. It's peaceful. It's a time to reflect and to learn all at the same time. 

This past weekend I went backpacking up in Idaho on a trail I'd heard about for the first time just two weeks ago. We all knew what the plan was; it was to get to the lower lake where we could set up camp. We were able to do just that, but it required something of us to get there. This backpacking trip got me thinking a lot about the journey. It had me thinking about the goals we set, the focus we keep along the way there, and how we have to push ourselves to do more when we've accomplished what we set out to do. 

Anyone who has hiked before knows that hiking on a trail is typically a lot more work than walking down the sidewalk. There is something about the journey along a trail and accomplishing something in the end that makes you push yourself a little harder than you would otherwise. Hiking a trail can mean mud. It can mean carrying a lot of weight. It can mean steep elevation gain. But it also doesn't matter. When you allow yourself to forget those things and take in everything around you then you will find ways around the mud, and you will make it up the steep trails. And guess what? It won't even seem that difficult. 

Lower Palisades Lake was situated right in between two mountains. It had a creek running into it on one side and one running out on the other. It was surrounded by trees, home to a few moose, and contained the perfect spot to set up camp in an area overlooking the whole thing. We spent that night enjoying everything about that place. We explored as we gathered firewood and water. We made a fire and shared stories until the stars freckled the sky. We accomplished what we had set out to do and nobody was going to object to making that home for the next couple days. 


The next day was the day we were going to leave camp at the lower lake and hike three more miles to Upper Palisades Lake. That portion of the hike seemed to be more strenuous than the portion from the day before, but the upper lake was beyond worth it. The lake was almost a Caribbean blue in parts, and it had a trail that ran all along its northeastern side. It had beaches, in some parts and rocks to climb around on in others. It had fish and crystal clear water. It was incredible. 

Why do I tell you all of this? Because there is a lot to be learned from every day if we just take time to think about it. The journey to the destination, the time spent at the destination and pushing ourselves to go further into something we never would have pushed ourselves to do before is something that has helped me a lot this year. That's probably why it keeps popping up in my life so much. So set a goal, enjoy the journey, and don't stop once you've accomplished what you set out to do. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Idahoan in Tacloban


I want you to meet someone that I absolutely adore. This woman right here, her name is Beth Moore and she is one of the most hardworking, passionate people I have ever met.

I will tell you more about her and her story in just a second, but before I can do that I need to introduce one other person.

The guy in the foreground talking to Beth, that is Arturo. He is the Executive Director of an organization called HELP International, but he is more than that. He is an incredible person and a mentor that has taught me so much about life and other people in both word and example. 


Last April Arturo and I flew out to Tacloban, Philippines to prepare the country for HELP International's Crisis Team that would be arriving about a month later. Arturo had never been to the Philippines before, and although I had been to the Philippines before, Tacloban was never one of the places I'd ventured to. We knew what we needed to accomplish and that we could do it, but what we didn't know was a single soul or what to expect when we did arrive. And then we met Beth. She was heaven sent, and this is her story.

Last December Beth had spent some time on a cruise in Asia. When that was done her plan was to go to Cambodia, but she had one rather large problem. She was having trouble getting her visa. After a few failed attempts to get it sorted out, she decided that maybe that wasn't where she was supposed to go.

Just a month before Cambodia fell through Super Typhoon Yolanda had devastated the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines. The devastation was unlike anything else, and people and organizations from all over the world went out to help. Beth decided that Tacloban was where she wanted to be. She wanted to help.

Why do I tell you this? Because what Beth did for the people of Tacloban in the six months she was there helped to restore hope in so many people. She built houses for people who no longer had them, gave loans to businessmen and women who had lost their only source of income. She helped people move, hauled supplies, and treated so many people as her closest friends. When Arturo and I landed in Tacloban she picked up two complete strangers from the airport and gave them a place to stay. She introduced us to people that became some of my closest friends there. She showed us around, set us up with partners, and let us borrow her little red truck to get things set up the way we needed to. She had the two of us in a constant state of laughter. She was a giant part in making my experience in Tacloban what it was. Talking to her always made me smile when things were rough, and what I love the most is that if she could find a way to do something for someone she would, always. Never ever did she did Beth ask for anything in return.

After Beth left she still continued to help the people in Tacloban. She let our team borrow her truck so that projects would be easier to get to and from with all of our supplies. When we left she gave it to another family to use so that they could help the people around them. She continued to give loans to people so that they could get back on their feet and has kept in close contact with the people who adore her as a friend that had helped them in a time of desperate need. Back home she runs a machine rental business, is a mother of four boys, and constantly has her home filled with people who want to spend time with her.  She is an absolute joy to be around, and I look forward to anytime I get to spend time with her. 

One lesson I learned from Beth:
If one person really wants to, they can make a huge difference in the world around them. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Purpose in the Blog

LIFE: It's the people we interact with, the situations we find ourselves in, and the lessons we learn. It's deciding to see the little things, seeking to understand others, and giving the benefit of the doubt. It's how we spend our time, the attitude we have, and the meaning we give to all of these things. 
I can't say which specific experience lead me to this topic for my blog, because truth be told there isn't just one story. I'll open up about a lot of these stories over time, but for now just know that it wasn't a single event. I want this to be a place where I can write about people. A place where I can write about experiences. A place where I can write about the everyday things that make my life enjoyable. I want this to be a place I can write about what inspires me, and hopefully inspire others along the way. 
THE GOAL: To write about life. To find people trying to do good regardless of their situation. 
Life is  not always easy. Life is not always pleasant, but there are people all around us trying to do good. There are things to remind us of the good things to come. There are things that inspire us to be a little better today than we were yesterday, and things that push us to do more than we think possible. Those are the things I want to find.