The Kindness Commodity

This post first appeared on Medium.

The value of kindness on the open market

Growing up on the rolling hills of Iowa, I was constantly surrounded by kindness. It is a commodity that is in short supply in the concrete jungle that is New York City.

This past weekend I spent hours walking the paths of Central Park, a 778-acre oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle. Some areas were quiet and provided solitude, and others were crowded and loathsome. It is difficult to find peace and escaping from the city is not an option.

New York City

When you’re walking down 5th Avenue at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon, no one — and I mean no one — will pay you a passing glance, let alone help you in any way. People who live here pass it off as just the way things are. But go to the Bow Bridge area on a Saturday morning and you will find a different New York City. If you were there last Sunday, you would have seen a wedding proposal with 16 pugs.

Here you’ll walk up to a stranger and his girlfriend and ask them to take a picture of you and your boyfriend. They will happily oblige. You’ll say thanks and you’ll go your separate ways. Then five minutes later after sitting on a bench overlooking the lake, that same couple will return to ask the same favor of you. All four of you will share a laugh in the irony of the ask, but more in the kindness of strangers.

And it is that kindness that you miss from your childhood roots. That is what is missing from the day to day movements and the ping-pong interactions that come with New York City. People bounce from one thing to another, barely looking up from their latest iPhones that they slept on the street for two days to purchase at a cost higher than the majority of the world makes in a year.

Growing up where I did I obviously became spoiled with this thing called kindness. But it doesn’t have to be scarce. If corn and soybeans and cotton trade on the commodities market, surely kindness can trade on the streets freely and in public view. It can trade in back alleys and conference rooms. It can trade in the subways and in the local coffee shop.

My day in Central Park gave me hope that kindness has not become too expensive for us. I have been reminded that it is right there if we want it.

Focus on what you can control

Life Lesson Of The Week
You can not control others and their perceptions of you, so stop worrying about it.
-Shelly M’s Life Lesson from Des Moines, Iowa

Focus On It
The amount of time we spend on worry is killing us. And aside from the adverse health effects of worry, it is simply a waste of time.

Think about what you could do with your time if you weren’t worried about others.

So, instead of reading more of my words, use the time remaining to focus on you and no one else!

A Change is Needed

I’m gay. This is not news.

I have a dear friend who is in need of a second bone-marrow transplant.

I have long known that as a gay man, in this country I am unable to donate blood because I have had sex since 1977. Note: I was born in 1984. To my surprise, this ban still exists and the United States is one of the few countries still holding on to old outdated science. Additionally, I am not allowed to donate bone marrow either.

A change is needed.

A Change is Needed - Gay Blood Ban

Focus: On Love

Selected Life Lesson
Never go to bed angry. Always end with love you or good night.
-Kendra C’s Life Lesson from Des Moines, Iowa

Richard’s Thoughts…
After the past ten days, there aren’t many lessons that are worth sharing, so I wanted to keep it simple this week.

Kendra’s lesson, and mine is simple: love those around you. Always.

FOCUS – Be Present

Selected Life Lesson
Always be available; if only to listen.
-Lola S’ Life Lesson from Des Moines, Iowa

Richard’s Thoughts…
I hate being at dinner or coffee with a friend and they can’t seem to put there phone down. There are times when I am moments away from either screaming or just walking out completely.

It amazes me how many people, parents or otherwise, push strollers down the street while talking on their cell phones. Here is a promise to my future child: I will not do that. While I don’t yet have a child, I want to be present and in the moment and not on my phone. I want to be and feel human.

My friend Teal gave one of the speeches at my high school graduation and the title was,
“The Precious Present.” And that is how we need to live. In the moment.
With the ones we love. And with the ones that love us.
This week, focus on putting down your phones, tablets, and laptops and be present.

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Change is Inevitable

Change is one of those things that will forever and always be a constant in life. It will always be there. Sometimes in the form of a blessing. Sometimes in a curse.

But that change is inevitable means we can either embrace it, take it, or change the change.

Parents are special in that they get to see all the changes their children go through from infants, to little children, to young adults, and then adults. I have changed a lot in my 29 years. But in a lot of ways, I am who I always was. Except there have been some times in the past six years, where I wasn’t me.

Change does happen over time, and in my life, I didn’t see it happening. But I was changing. And not in a good way. I lost who I was.

It took hitting rock bottom for me to see it. And once I did, I began to re-embrace me, the real Richard.

In Life As a House, George says:

“You know the great thing, though, is that change can be so constant you don’t even feel the difference until there is one. It can be so slow that you don’t even notice that your life is better or worse, until it is. Or it can just blow you away, make you something different in an instant. It happened to me.”

And it’s true. Change is hard to feel when it happens a little at a time until you get to your destination and you don’t even know who you are and how you got there.

What is my grand ‘ol lesson for you now? Listen.

Listen to yourself. Listen to those around you. And as you listen, reflect:

Is this change for good or worse?

FOCUS: You Are Loved!

Selected Life Lesson
One of the greatest sorrows in life, is turning your back on the potential of love.
-Heather G’s Life Lesson from Chanute, Kansas

Richard’s Thoughts…
Whether you are single, dating, engaged, married or divorced, you are loved.

Wherever you are in the path of life, of your life, never forget that you are loved by many people.

So, in honor of that, my message to you is simple:
love is precious and love it kind and you have earned it.

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London Inspired a Generation

I recently finished watching the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. (I know … I have been behind!) But I was at a wedding that evening, but wanted to desperately watch it. And now that I have, I can’t stop watching it.

Olympic planning committees have a way of being their own worst enemies sometimes. They develop stupid mascots and slogans that just don’t work. And when London came out with their logo, it was torn apart by the marketing community. I, however, really liked it. But then their slogan came out, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

Watching the opening ceremony … that question has been answered.

They “inspired a generation.” They inspired me. And I’m just talking the opening ceremony.

It began with the history of England and if you thought the performance itself was a little odd or un-entertaining, certainly the music is to be enjoyed. The story begins with a quiet and peaceful England that is torn apart by the industrial revolution and war. And in the end, the country comes together with the five, interlocking rings.

But that’s not the end. As the Olympic Flame traveled down the river towards the stadium with David Beckham in charge, the topic was all aflutter about who would like the flame. And when the man came into view, it was the elder statesman, the most decorated British Olympian, Steve Redgrave.

He made his way into the stadium and in a last twist, he entered to meet seven up-and-coming athletes, Olympians-all. Redgrave passed the torch to them and they took it the rest of the way. It truly was inspiring to see a figurative and a literal passing of the flame; inspiring a generation.

It’s a wonder an event like the Olympics can happen at all anymore in this day and age. I’m a sports-lover. But the idea that these 200+ nations can continue to come together in peace still amazes me.

I hope, that in 20 years, the athletes of those games will say that what they saw in London inspired them to be better. Inspired them to love more. And inspired them to dream big dreams and never surrender.

Why I Love My Dad

Mothers and daughters and fathers and sons. Those are two very special relationships. I’ve been lucky to experience the ups and down of both. But I know, that as a 28 year old man, I love my dad. It is a beautiful thing to say; especially since I didn’t say it growing up.

There are a lot of pieces of me that I’ve picked up along the way and had to navigate by myself, but who I am at my core, is from him. I got my sensitivity from my mother, but I got my love of sports from him. I got my love of construction from him. I got my drive to work hard and succeed from him.

I played little league growing up and I loved it. Spending summer nights playing America’s Game under the lights is a thrill I believe every American boy should experience. In the very least, they should be able to go with their dad and enjoy a night together. When I was 13, I quick playing. Looking back, I stand by my reason to quit, but I hate that I did. But my dad didn’t make me. He let me make my own decision. And in the end, that decision led me to pick up a tennis racquet. And you know what makes my dad a a great dad? He picked one up too and played with me.

When I was going through my rough patch last year at this time, he sat on the phone with me and talked me through a lot of things with his life and mine. He taught me how to put family first. He taught me about personal finance which is why I’ll be one of the few 30 year olds without any student loan debt.

He also gave me my faith. Sure, we’ve diverged a bit in that category, but he laid a solid foundation. And as the hymn goes, “On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

We too, have been through a lot, and I love you, dad.