Superman Wasn’t the Only One Affected by Kryptonite

For Superman, Kryptonite was that one thing that rendered him ineffective and sapped all his strength and power.  For me, it’s shots, blood draws, and other minor medical procedures.

I don’t know what it is, but these things cause me to freak out.  And by “freak out”… I mean pass out!  No joke!  I’ve passed out after a tetanus shot, from having blood drawn for lab tests, and the worst of all, having my finger pricked for a health screening at work.  That just happened this Tuesday.  Fortunately for me the medical professionals I’ve been around during these occurrences have been very kind and understanding.  I hope they get a good laugh out of the experience as well!

My latest “adventure” Tuesday got me thinking:  I’ll bet everyone has their own form of Kryptonite they deal with.  It may not be shots or medical procedures.  Perhaps its public speaking, snakes, or even clowns (I’m surprised how many times people have told me they are really freaked out by clowns!).  Whatever it is, we’re not at our best when our Kryptonite is present.

I’m trying to respond better when my Kryptonite is present (translation:  trying not to pass out when I go to the doctor), but it’s proving challenging, as evidenced by last Tuesday.  For me, I’ve found that the best thing I can do when I’m around Kryptonite is to tell the safe people around me about it.  I have found that when folks know, they are compassionate and helpful.

I’ve also learned to be understanding of others when they experience their own form of Kryptonite.  No matter how silly or unreasonable their Kryptonite may seem to me; it’s very real to them.

I’ll admit, passing out over shots and having your finger pricked is kind of silly.  After the fact though, it makes for a funny story to share with others and always generates some laughs.  Sharing our Kryptonite experiences with someone else is also a great way to be vulnerable and build connection with others, especially when they’re sharing their Kryptonite stories with us.

You Can Tell A Lot From A Little

Consider the following sentence:

“After work, he bought his wife some roses.”

By reading these 8 simple words, we very quickly learn quite a bit of information about this person.  For example, we know this person:

  • Is a male
  • Is married
  • Has some disposable income to buy flowers
  • Is thinking of his wife
  • Has a job

In addition to these details, our sentence also generates a number of questions for us, such as:

  • Why is he buying flowers for his wife?
  • How long have he and his wife been married?
  • Where does he work?
  • What does he do at his job?
  • How old are these 2 people?
  • Does he buy his wife flowers often?
  • Will his wife appreciate the flowers?

In just 8 simple words we now know a decent amount about this person and have several questions to ask that would help us learn even more about him and his wife.

So what, right?  I mean, that’s nice and all, but what does that have to do with anything, and who really cares?  Consider this…

Every day we exchange numerous sentences with other people through digital forms like text, email, social media, as well as through old-fashioned verbal communication.  Therefore, every day we receive a great deal of information about the people we interact with.  If you want to become better at connecting with people, or become a better listener, this information provides a great starting point to do so.

Begin paying attention to what people are saying.  Listen for the facts, but also keep your radar up for the questions you can ask that will help take the conversation deeper.  And when you have a question, ask it.  These are the initial steps in connecting with others.

I’m not saying you have to do this with every conversation you have, but if you’re looking to make a connection or build a relationship with someone, this is a great way to start.

A Grieving Friend

I have a friend that lost his wife to cancer this summer.  It was very quick from the diagnosis until it was over.  The loss left my friend stunned, scared, and hurting.  He is still struggling with the grief.

As we were texting earlier this week, he was sharing with me how some people were telling him he should be better by now and others are telling him he should be back to normal.  My heart ached for my friend when I read his text that said, “I don’t know.  It just hurts.”

I’m sure these people meant well, but I couldn’t help wonder how many of them have ever experienced the loss of a spouse, and how many of them would be going home to their spouse or loved one after talking with my friend.

It’s so easy to give advice about an experience we’ve never had based on how we think we’d handle the situation if it happened to us.  The truth is we have no idea what someone is dealing with, unless we’ve gone through it ourselves.  Even then, how each person handles a situation can be quite different.

I’ve never lost a spouse, and I’m not a grief counselor, so I don’t know the perfect way to respond to someone who’s grieving like my friend is.  For me, I’m trying to show compassion by doing the following:

  1. Check in regularly via text, email, phone, or whatever the grieving person’s preferred method of communication is. Be sure to do continue doing this after it has become “old news” to everyone else.  Chances are it still hurts for the grieving person.
  2. Acknowledge that the situation sucks, because it does. I’m not saying to wallow there and make it worse.  Just let the grieving person know you’re aware of that fact.
  3. Just be quiet and listen.  Let the conversation go where the other person takes it.  Don’t worry about needing to say something to fill the silent pauses.  Just be there with your ears and heart engaged.

Ultimately, I want to be a blessing to my grieving friend, because I know that’s what I’d want from my friends if I were the one grieving.

Missed the Mark

Pets in stores.  Does it seem like more people are bringing their pets into stores and restaurants lately, or is it just me that has noticed an increase in this type of behavior?

Every time I see someone in a grocery store or restaurant with a pet, I find myself wondering, “Can’t they leave their pet in the car or at home for 30 minutes?!  What’s wrong with them that they think they’ re entitled to bring their pet anywhere they want, regardless of health laws or common societal courtesies?!”  I guess it’s just a pet peeve of mind.  (Please excuse the pun.)

During the recent Labor Day weekend, my wife and I were at Wallowa Lake in Joseph Oregon, where we rode the tram to the top of Mt. Howard and did some hiking.  The views were breathtaking!

WallowaLakeTram

As we were standing in line to ride the tram back down, I saw a lady ahead of us in line that had her small dog in her coat.  There was clear signage stating that pets were not allowed on the tram.  As I noticed her I could hear myself thinking, “C’mon lady!  Do you really have to bring your dog up here?  You couldn’t be apart from Fido for a couple of hours?  Really?!”

Every time I saw her and her dog I had similar thoughts.  The primary thought being, “What’s wrong with people these days?”  Unbeknownst to me, I was about to find out.

Each tram car hold 4 people, and since there were a lot of folks in line, the tram staff was doing their best to make sure each car was as full as possible.  Since it was just my wife and I in our group, I was sure we’d get paired up with another group for the ride down, which is great with me, because I like talking to people.

Upon approaching the front of the line, the tram attendant said to us, “You’ll be riding down with this person” as he motioned to… (you already know who)… the lady and her dog!  “OH GREAT!!”  I can’t say I was thrilled, but what do you do, fake a dog allergy?  So the 4 of us got in and began the 10 minute ride down the mountain.

Once in the tram, the lady opens her coat and lets the dog out.  I immediately notice the dog is wearing a doggie jacket that says, “Emotional Support Animal.”  Huh.  So this wasn’t just some regular pet.

A few second into the ride, I strike up a conversation with the lady and find out she grew up in the area and was back visiting her father.  As the 4 of us were riding along, we talked about where she currently worked, the area we were visiting, and what it was like growing up there.  It was a great conversation and I was actually glad we were sharing the ride together.

About half way down the mountain, the lady shared with us that on September 5th, 2014 (1 year and 1 day prior to our collective tram ride) that the state police had showed up at her work to inform her that her husband had been killed in a traffic accident.  She had come home for the Labor Day weekend to visit her dad during the 1 year anniversary of her husband’s death.

Holy crap!!  I wasn’t expecting that.  In a split second I realized that this wasn’t a person who felt entitled to take her dog anywhere she pleased, but rather a grieving, hurting human being.

I felt like a jerk for the previous judgements I had made about her without even knowing her story.

As the ride progressed, I asked how she was doing and how the previous year had been for her, but mostly, I just listened to her story.

After we got to the end of the ride and said our farewells, I thought about how quickly I had sized up this lady with her dog and come to a snap judgement based on the little information I had.  I was amazed, and ashamed, at how far off my judgement had been.

I still don’t think that people should bring their non-service-animal pets into grocery stores and restaurants.  However, my recent interaction on the tram caused me to think about how quick I am to judge others when I don’t even know their story.  Moving forward, I’m working to adjust my thinking toward others to be less judgmental and more inquisitive.  Instead of simply making snap judgements, I’m trying to also ask myself, “What might they be dealing with?  Is there a grief or burden they might be carrying?  Could they use a kind word or some encouragement from me instead of judgement?”

I believe that there are occasions for snap judgements, but I’m also reminded that there are far more occasions where compassion and understanding is the better approach.  If the situation with the lady and her dog had been reversed, and it was me that had lost a spouse, I know I would have appreciated compassion and understanding far more than judgement.