Thursday, April 24, 2014

the serendipitous bagel

I have this friend named Suzie that I get together with every now and again for lunch. We both work downtown-ish and have had the pleasure of eating at many awesome restaurants. Yesterday we met up at this place called Kenny & Zuke's over on 10th and Stark. If you haven't been there and are visiting downtown Portland, I implore you to check it out. They are the Jewish deli that you've been searching for! Fresh, hand-made boiled bagels daily, pastrami, pickles, noodle kugel, latkes, any kind of sandwich you can think of and more!

We have eaten at Kenny & Zuke's before but not in a long time; this place is known for it's really good food, especially their house-made pastrami. I'm trying to eat less processed food (like bread) so I got a giant salad laced with their pastrami goodness. Mmmmm. It's not that I have anything against bread but I can easily eat a ton of it and am just trying to eat in moderation. My friend Suzie ordered a bagel with lox and capers--her dish looked just as great as mine!

While we were eating, we noticed a woman with a fancy camera in the restaurant. She got a bagel with some sort of schmear on it, and took it over to the table behind us and began to photograph it. I think judging by the size of her camera she wasn't instagramming this--these seemed like professional photos. Suzie and continued our conversation for a while when the photographer approached us with the bagel on a plate. She asked if either of us would like the bagel. "it's perfectly fine," she added, as if she might have secretly licked it. "uhhh no thanks, I have a ton of food here," I replied. Suzie explained that she is eating a bagel and doesn't want a second. (I thought I read somewhere that eating a bagel is equal to eating 5 slices of bread. Can you believe that? I can. and I can totally eat 5 slices of bread. Not that wonder bread embalming fluid shit, but like tasty Grand Central Como bread or maybe their olive rosemary. On a somewhat unrelated side note--I live just a few blocks from a Grand Central Bakery, which is both a blessing and a curse. If the wind blows in the right direction the scent of fresh baked bread wafts into my apartment).

Back to the bagel--my friend Suzie asked if the photographer could just give it to a homeless person, like the guy out in front of the deli. "Him?" the photographer sneered and replied with disdain. "He's been scamming people there all day for drug money, I'm not giving it to him." Okay. My social anxiety kicked in right about now so I explained I work in social services and offered to take the bagel to give it to someone in our lobby. I'm sure the people I know don't meet her definition of bagel worthiness but hey, I'm trying to be less judgmental and more barrier free. Our waitress got me a small bag for the bagel and after we finished eating, I left with half of my uneaten pastrami sandwich and the donated bagel.

It's been raining a lot lately, which isn't unusual for where we are living or the time of year. It's interesting in spring that heavy rain and hail showers move through our region. If you time it right, you can manage to move between showers and stay dry going to from appointment to appointment. Some people, especially the people I'm working with don't have the luxury of an indoor job (any job) or an apartment so they spend most of spring pretty wet and cold.

When I got back to the office, I asked our receptionist if she would hang onto the bagel and give it to someone that would want it. I disclaimed that it's a Nova Lox schmear (not everyone likes that flavor) and she enthusiastically agreed to give it to someone in need. I went back to my desk and forgot about the bagel for the next couple of hours.

When it was almost near time for me to leave, I went back through the lobby when the receptionist caught me. "You know who got that bagel? Johann* and he really enjoyed it. He said thank you!"

Johann is homeless and has been working with us to get into a safe, dry place. He has some health concerns and experiences food insecurity. I know Nova Lox and a bagel isn't the most nutritious thing to eat, but it's certainly not top ramen or 7-11 hot case crap. We also have coffee in our lobby so hopefully Johann was able to relax for a few minutes, dry off and enjoy the bagel with a hot cup of coffee.

*On the off chance that someone I know is actually reading these posts, the names and some of the details have been changed to protect confidentiality.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

from an alien's perspective

Sometimes we humans are too mired down in our own circumstances to see the awesomeness around us, or be thankful for the problems we do have. Comparatively, there are many people with much more significant issues, tremendous seriously fucked-up issues who have an incredibly sunny outlook on life. I try to be aware of the vicarious trauma I experience while on the job and feel that intense cardio helps me really sort out all of the different emotions I experience.

Humans and emotions are very complex. I started down a rabbit hole trying to find out "how many emotions to humans feel in a day?" but didn't find any real answers. I did find some amusing Yahoo Answers addressing this question--the posters said anywhere from 7 to 29 (with no sources cited or explanation as to why they picked those numbers). There's also this Wikipedia page that covers the range of emotions, but it doesn't address how many emotions one feels in the course of a day.

Last week in class, my professor welcomed us to the planet Earth. I thanked him. That got me to thinking about the aliens who are watching us. We must do things that make no sense whatsoever to them. I try to not get too caught up with what's wrong with the world--not so much the planet but the people on it, and what the people on it have done to it. I feel like I can expend a lot of energy being stressed about what others are doing but the energy is better spent working on how I can improve myself as a representative of the human race (unless of course it's revealed that I'm actually from Mars). I am not perfect but try to be present in each moment, and recognize the power and impact I have on my environment with each choice I make.

I have a work buddy named Tina who is pretty awesome. She has her MBA, and I love to talk about business stuff with her. We are both very passionate about workforce development and often come up with strategies or solutions that are totally effective! If feels good to connect with another human and accomplish a common goal. Tina's also super serious about bowling and drag racing.

Recently Tina started saying,"make good choices today!" whenever one of our clients leaves a training or an appointment. She's half-joking and making fun of another work colleague who seriously says that all the time in a sing-song voice, but also serious because there's a message there. Life is comprised of billions and billions of choices in all sizes. There's huge choices, like should I drink and drive home? or should I decide to go back to school and get my degree? But there's also small choices--usually seemingly unconscious choices, like should I be an uptight passive asshole because my neighbor parks in front of my house? or do I let my dog shit on this guy's lawn and not pick it up? These small choices really come down to consciously knowing what's right and doing what's right. Small choices seem to also involve instances where you'd weigh out an opportunity cost between choices.

I wonder if the aliens have a concept of workforce development? Surely there's some sort of training mechanism in place to ensure other aliens can fly the ships, operate the controls, and continue to study us. Not to be a species elitist or anything--I'm sure the aliens are also observing beings on other planets that are way more interesting (and maybe more civilized) then we are.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

What would I change?

I'm taking an "Intro to Civic Engagement" course this term and had to write a reflective essay about picking one thing to change in our lives, and how we would go about implementing the change. I don't know the teacher yet so I don't know if she'll really enjoy my essay, or feel that I completely missed the mark. In any event, I've posted it below because I enjoyed writing it and thinking about this. 

This picture has nothing to do with my essay. I just thought it was funny!
What a gigantic challenge it is to think of only one thing in my life that I would want to change. Especially when there are no parameters around how big or far reaching of a change. It’s hard to narrow it down; off the top of my head I can think of like 50 things I’d like to change. I’d like for people to not be hungry or obese—balance out the food inequities that are everywhere! I’d also like to make sure that everyone has a safe place to live, or that people who want to go to school have the opportunity to go regardless of ability to afford it. I’d like to change that there are child soldiers in other nations and genocide in Africa. I’d like to eradicate Monsanto and maybe even toss out the whole processed-food thing that’s slowly mutating the human race over time. When given the power to change one thing, my mind is instantly a Technicolor explosion of fragmented and some slightly selfish desires.

One thing that has been bothering me lately is the amount of people I see in traffic who go through red lights. I don’t mean yellow-just-turned-red red, I mean the light has been red for at least a full moment and the other side has a solid green. I’ve also witnessed accidents and have had loved ones victims of accidents where someone sped through a red light. It’s scary and awful, and usually the person who caused the accident is genuinely sorry.

Having said that, I think it’d be great to make a change so people could never run red lights again. I know that sounds like a really trivial thing to change, but the amount of people who blow through red lights is incredibly alarming. If drivers were forced to stop for lights, this action would probably save a lot of lives and reduce a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering. But I have no idea how I’d go about initiating this change and now that I’m really reflecting on this, I don’t think it’s even the best one to pick. The problem with people going through red lights is it is actually a symptom of a much deeper issue; it’s a lack of self-awareness. The people who speed and drive through the red lights are doing so because they don’t want to wait at the intersection for 2 minutes while the traffic signal cycles through. This impatience isn’t just evident when we are commuting, it’s also found all over: in stores while grocery shopping, on phone calls with services trying to fulfill customer service needs, at the airport gate boarding or deboarding, and in many other aspects of our lives.

Circling back to the initial essay topic of “changing one thing,” I think after all of my preceding reflection I would like to change the world, and in a profound, fundamental way. The change I would like to make is to give every human the capacity for self-awareness. I’d like to start with our nation, the USA. The people that I’ve encountered in my life so far certainly could benefit from a little self-awareness. I feel that I have self-awareness but also am aware I exist in my own bubble sometimes. I know I also can benefit from an increase of self-awareness; I am all for self-improvement and lessons on how to be a better human. I don’t have much experience with people from other places in the world, however if they could benefit from this change I’d like to extend it their way too. I think some of the people responsible for war, senseless abuse and slaughter of people should really be candidates for the self-awareness change. The people who perpetuate and contribute to corporate greed should also be at the front of the line for the self-awareness change.

A change of this magnitude will take time, and change would have to be initiated on an individual level. If people in positions of power and authority demonstrated and modeled self-awareness, they would teach those skills to people who look up to them, especially the people next in line for power and authority. A person is faced with numerous choices every moment of every day; practicing self-awareness helps a person determine which choice s/he wants to make and the impacts it will have. The impacts of choice and interaction—both good and bad—have an effect as if one threw a stone into a calm pond. The ripples would radiate outward, increasing in intensity and spreading out to touch the land surrounding it. I think the real challenge is how to get self-awareness buy-in from people in positions of power. Like everything in life, if you have the right person in the right role, the results will be phenomenal.

I think if more people were self-aware, they would think twice before doing something dangerous, selfish, hurtful, or negatively impactful. People who are self-aware also think about the good and positive things they do, and how making a good choice in a moment can have a positive cascade on their environment. Self-awareness reveals how to support others in more productive ways, and can have a tremendous impact on our collective well-being. Happiness, love, safety, security and positivity are really great things to experience in life.  By exercising self-awareness, one is taking a developmental step towards self-actualization and a more satisfying, peaceful life.