Different Sperm, Different Story…John Page Burton

There is a great deal of controversy surrounding a group of homeless people who have chosen to take up residency in a park located in the heart of a downtown “sun belt” city. February is one of this cities busiest tourism months and the root concern (Chamber of Commerce) appears to be how this “public display of homelessness” will be “perceived” by “winter visitors”. During a recent television interview, a homeless man offered that “he would prefer to be in a shelter where he and others could sleep on a bed, take a shower and have access to reasonable nutrition”. An advocate for the homeless shared her dilemma of having more homeless people than available shelter space. It is clear that everyone has a different opinion on this situation. Downtown business owners fear that potential customers will be driven away, homeless advocates are expressing a dire need for more shelter space and many of the local politicians appear to be playing to the opinion poll of the day.

I was recently asked my thoughts on the “plight” of the homeless vs the “plight” of the city. I gave it some thought and arrived at this conclusion.

I have never been homeless. I am however, very aware that but for the grace of God, I too could be living on the streets. I live a blessed life where my basic needs are met and I have more than enough to share, which I gladly do. I understand rules and ordinances and I understand the economic impact of tourism. I understand mental illness and what it means to fall on tough times. I am acutely aware that I was born into a stable home and provided a solid educational foundation which I often attribute to the above average opportunities I have enjoyed throughout my lifetime. A different sperm could have produced a much different story. I believe that before we casually and often callously pass judgement on others, we are well served to place ourselves in that person’s shoes. It is not up to me to determine the criteria for what another person’s ideal life circumstances should look like. If someone visiting this city is uncomfortable being around homeless people, it might be wise for them to take a closer look at what they are afraid of. They may be afraid of finding themselves homeless. It is human nature to avoid what we fear. If a homeless “park dweller” causes problems or commits a crime then they should be held to the same standard as anyone else. To conveniently move them to a “back alley” until “the coast is clear” doesn’t seem like a reasonable solution to a bigger problem. As Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote in his book of the same title, “there is a spiritual solution to every problem”. Now might be the time to test this theory.

Three things I am taking away from this “controversial” discussion…

Gratitude. I will continue to be thankful for everything I have been blessed with. I will not take anything for granted. “But for the grace of God there go I” is my mantra and it serves to keep me humble and grounded.

Compassion. “What you do for the least of my brothers, you are doing for me” is a reminder to show compassion and concern for those who are less fortunate than I am. We are NOT called to look the other way when we are confronted with the “uncomfortable” we are called to become part of the solution.

Non-judgement. It is easy to pass judgement on others. The challenge is to accept people for who and where they are and to send them prayerful energy. We ALL have a back story, we were ALL born into a family with various forms of dysfunction. None of us chose the sperm cell we rode in on! Different sperm, different story!

Enjoy a compassionate day! As always. I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

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Living The Christmas Spirit…John Page Burton

As I share with you this morning, I am sitting at my desk gazing out a large window that faces the national forest. I feel privileged to be able to watch the snow as it gently falls from the sky. I appreciate the intoxicating beauty of the trees that are now wearing a new coat of fresh powder and I’m reminded that it has been several years since I have experienced a white Christmas. I am extremely grateful for this moment.

I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on the word Christmas and also share some thoughts on ways each of us can continue to celebrate the true spirit of Christmas throughout the year.

CHRISTMAS….

Compassion. All of us were born into a different set of circumstances. No one is better than anyone else. Whenever we are presented with an opportunity to lend a helping hand it is up to us to reach out. We must refrain from judging other people or their current situation. Remember…”but for the grace of God there go I.”

Humility. Remaining humble. God has blessed each of us in different ways. God graciously provides all of us with the appropriate lessons needed for our growth. In our success, be grateful and when we fail, be grateful. When we express gratitude we leave little room for a “better than” attitude.

Respect. It is up to us to treat everyone we meet with dignity and respect. We are all children of God. In an instant our lives can dramatically change for better or worse. How we treat those who are less fortunate than we are will define our true character more than anything we can ever say.

Inspiration. We should strive to be an inspiration to the people in our lives. It is just as easy to speak words of encouragement as it is to deliver cut downs or criticism. We must seek to find the good in every situation, choose our words carefully, refrain from anger and always come from a place of genuine kindness.  Our children, family, friends, co-workers, service providers and numerous others are watching our behavior and it is our responsibility to set an inspiring example.

Service. Every day we have an opportunity to be of service to someone who needs our help. We must be willing to offer our time, treasure and talent. There are numerous people and organizations in every community that need assistance and they will welcome us with open arms. Remember… givers gain!

Tolerance. We live in a extremely judgmental society where far too many people believe that their candidate, religion, race, sexual preference, education, employment or zip code is superior to that of someone else. Tolerance in today’s diverse world is critical for the advancement and enrichment of our society. We must be willing to judge people at face value rather than relying on misguided perceptions.

Miracles. Life is a miracle. Everywhere we look we see miracles. The sun consistently rises in the east, our child is born, a family member beats Cancer, we meet our soul mate or we are able to land the perfect job. We must learn to appreciate the miracles in our lives and never take anything for granted.  Christmas is a celebration of the greatest miracle of all. When we find ourselves in a challenging situation we must pray for and believe that a miracle awaits us.

Authenticity. Each of us is unique. We are called to bless the world by being authentic. Many of us invest a tremendous amount of time and energy into being someone other than ourselves. We say what we think people want to hear, buy material things to impress people who really don’t care and eventually many of us find ourselves emotionally bankrupt. We must re-connect with our authentic self and embrace our own unique journey.

Sacrifice. We live in a world that features an abundance of material options. For many, the words instant gratification, have replaced the words hard work and sacrifice. Everywhere we look it seems that people are going deeper and deeper in debt to quench their insatiable need to “look good”. Many of us have lost the appreciation and sense of self that is a bi-product of sacrifice and hard work. We must share the concept of delayed gratification with the next generation or It may be lost forever.

In closing I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas and a very insightful NEW YEAR!!!