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Today in Church there was an interesting talk about the Dr. Seuss book, “The Sneetches.” I love Dr. Seuss, even though some think he should be banned, I do not think so, and actually think the opposite. His books have a way of teaching a lesson or principle in a fun way, that’s easy to understand, even to a child. I couldn’t remember this book, and I didn’t have it on my shelves, so I looked it up online, and there was a short movie made out of the book. Here is the book cover, and you can click on the book to watch the movie. It’s a little over 12 minutes long.

Having watched the movie I have had a number of different thoughts. I think this book could apply to so many different situations that are currently happening all over the world at this time. But my thoughts as I watched this movie centered around following the crowd, for the sake of following the crowd, of fitting in and being accepted. We all want to fit somewhere. There is nothing wrong with that, and there are so many different places and opportunities to do so. But how often do we see someone else doing one thing, that doesn’t fit with our groups paradigm, and we suddenly think poorly of that person. We judge, and sometimes ridicule or condemn someone for thinking or believing differently than we do.

It’s interesting to me, I worked in the school system for a while, and there is so much talk and teaching about how to stop bullying, how to be kind, how to include and not be a bully. Time invested on the part of the teachers, the support staff, the principal. But yet we grow up, and now there is no teacher standing over our shoulder, and we forget that we should be kind, that we should include people in our groups. Or if nothing else, we should at least not judge. Let people be who they are. But that isn’t what has or is happening, especially recently. Children should be able to look at the adults to see how to act properly, and yet, the good examples are diminishing.

It is super easy to get caught up in the excitement of a situation, or the negativity, especially when we want to be included in the group, or want to appear a certain way to the world around us. There is a thrill in the hype and excitement around any event, good or bad, that can be contagious. Good hype, around good organizations and situations is exhilarating and propels us forward to do more good. Good situations fill us, and we seek out ways to not only continue to be filled, but with good situations, we begin seeking out ways to help others feel full as well. Hype around a bad organization or situation can be just as exhilarating in the moment. But it never propels us to good, to wholesome, filling activities. It can never fill us, but usually leaves us feeling empty when it’s over, looking for that next situation that is exhilarating again, but looking for it in all the wrong places.

How do we tell if the situation we are getting into is a good one, one that will be inclusive and uplifting? We have to do the research. If you look up any organization on the internet you will find exactly what they want you to see, and it’s always going to have a positive spin on it. But to truly see what kind of situation it is, look at the fruits, the outcomes of other similar situations, especially concerning that organization. Look at the community building things done, or in some cases, the destruction left behind. Talk to real people who have seen either outcome. Go into any situation with your eyes wide open and your mind clear so that you can see things as they really are. Pay attention to your conscience, to what you know to be right, and stay true to who you are. And if you can’t find anyone, start by inviting and including others into your life. Do good and it will draw others to you. Be kind, and people will want to be around you, whether you have a star on your belly or not.

What did you learn from watching/reading this book by Dr. Seuss? How are you applying it to your life and your mind? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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My art gives me an opportunity to meet many people, sometimes those people come from different countries. I enjoy talking to these people, just to get a better idea of their lives, culture, and what they think and believe in. My goal is not to judge those people, but to learn about them and their countries. I had that chance a couple of years ago at a Christmas bazaar I was working at. The booth next to me was selling massage items, one for your eyes, and one fairly portable one, but not hand held, that worked for you shoulders and back. There were 2 men working in this booth, and as the day progressed we talked quite a bit as it was not a super busy bazaar. I found out one was from Israel and one from Ireland. I enjoyed working next to them, they were nice people.

As we talked, we started to talk about freedoms and what it meant for regular people like us. We talked about the bazaar that we were at that very day, and several like it that they had participated in, and that I had participated in. Their comments were very interesting to me, and I have thought a lot about them since. The one from Israel made most of the comments and had the most questions. He asked me what my thoughts were on the capitalist system, and I told him I thought it was the best system for the general population, as it gives everyone the right to earn in a way that they desire, if they are motivated enough to work hard, and to keep the majority of what they earned. When I asked them their thoughts, he share his experiences with me.

In Israel at the time, he would never have been allowed to sell anything that wasn’t government sanctioned. There would be no vendors like me, selling art or products that I made, without me jumping through a bunch of regulatory hoops. He said, even if I made it through those hoops, then the government would take the profits and give me back what they felt like I needed or had earned. He said it wasn’t much. These men worked for a larger company, but they were well paid, they enjoyed meeting people, and they enjoyed the freedom to move around and do as they wished. I am grateful to have met these men, to see from their eyes what it was like for them, where they came from, and for the appreciation it gave me for the freedoms that I enjoy.

So, what does the word “Stand” have to do with any of that? We need to stand up for our freedoms. Whether it be in our blogs, or in our social media, or wherever, stand up and be counted. I think there is a huge amount of people out there, working hard, and “keeping their heads down” so to speak, hoping everything will level out sooner or later. But I don’t see that happening. So, today I will tell you, and I hope you can pass my experience along to other that you know, and that you will share your experiences with me, and with the world.

I stand for the Constitution of the United States. I know it’s not perfect, but it’s more perfect than any other government document that has been written in history. I have studied it. The founding father’s weren’t perfect men, but they knew that. The Constitution is written as a living document. But the basics, the bones of the Constitution should not be messed with. I stand for the Bill of Rights. I have read and studied them. I believe that if we all had read and studied them, we wouldn’t have nearly so many disagreements in our country. I do not believe that the rights set forth in the Bill of Rights should be infringed upon.

I stand for the Human family, and believe that every human being should be treated with the same respect as any other. That’s not to say there aren’t bad people in this world, but I think that most people are good. Most people are just trying to make it through this life, just like I am. Most people, when given an opportunity, will help rather than hinder a fellow human being. There are so many examples of this if you’re willing to look, and your skin color, your ethnicity, your yearly income, doesn’t matter. It’s what’s in your heart, and most people have a good heart. That doesn’t make any of us perfect, but I think there’s a lot of people trying.

I stand for God. I believe in God, I believe that He is our Heavenly Father, and that He truly loves us. I believe He has given us guidance and instruction to assist us in becoming better than we could be by ourselves, and that if we strive to follow that guidance and instruction, we can improve every day. I also believe that we need to allow each other to improve. Sometimes people make huge improvements, and the people around them won’t let go of the person they were, and it makes it hard to stay the new, better person. Allow people opportunity to change and become better.

I stand for the family unit. There are some saying that it’s not important to have a family unit anymore. That the government, or agencies could raise our children better. There are others who think parents aren’t important, one or both. I believe that every child has the right to a family, with parents who are working hard to help that child succeed in life. It’s a commitment of time and energy, a lot of both, but it’s a commitment that no one else can do as well as that parent, for that child. No parent is perfect. We are learning as we go, just as the kids are learning as they go. But working together as a family changes lives in ways no agency or government could ever accomplish. The love and concern that a parent has can never be duplicated.

I stand for personal responsibility. I don’t think it’s the government’s job to tell us what to do, when to do it, or what to think about it. We need to do our own research. We need to examine both sides. We have a responsibility to be well informed in anything we stand for. But, as stated earlier, I stand for the human family. No matter my opinion, or your opinion, we need to be respectful to one another and find ways to work together for the greater good of our society as a whole. Something to remember when working together for the common good though, is that just because you or I believe something, doesn’t mean that our way is the best way, or the only way. It’s when we can see each other, when we can open our minds to new possibilities and solutions, different than either side has previously thought of, that we will come to the best solutions to the problems facing the human family. I know there are solutions out there for every problem that will benefit both sides of any situation, but when we get entrenched in our side and aren’t willing to look at anything else, that’s when solution aren’t forth coming.

Whether you agree or disagree with me on any point, is not really the point here. We each need to determine where we stand, because if we don’t, we will fall for anything that comes along. We need to be firm in what we believe so that the shifting tides of every new idea don’t keep shifting us around. And we need to be willing to look for those alternative ideas that benefit everyone. There is a lot happening in the world today that wants us to be constantly stirred up about every little thing going on. We can choose to be stirred, or we can choose to stand. I would love to hear your ideas on any of these subjects, or hear what you stand for as well.

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This week I have been thinking about Unity. Actually I started thinking about division, and how our country, and the world, seem to be divided more and more. It doesn’t seem to matter the issue, but there is always one, and it doesn’t seem to matter the opinion, there’s always someone willing to fight about it and contradict it. But none of that fighting and anger leads anywhere except to division. So today I thought I would talk instead, about Unity.

We are all unique individuals. We have our own thoughts, formed from our own experiences, with our own perspectives on things. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t be united on things, even if it is on a basic level. I think most people can agree that they feel like they are important enough to be treated with respect. If we all can agree on that, we should all then be able to agree on the fact that each other person we come in contact with should also be treated with respect. We are all human beings, no one person is better than the other in the whole grand scheme of things.

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This week I was looking at, and discussing with several people, how things like masks, vaccinations, religion, natural disaster, politics, race, and wages have divided our country. We can all have differing opinions on each one of these subjects, that’s ok. What’s not ok is when we start judging, belittling, or humiliating people based upon these disagreements. It is my opinion, that most of these things are superficial, at best, anyway. When we start to look at those around us as real people, we start to see needs, places we can help, ways we can strengthen, then we start to see people. And when we start to understand and really listen to someone else, and why they think the way they do, we can really see what they see and who they really are. That doesn’t mean that we will agree with everything they think, we don’t have to change our opinions just because we see why someone thinks the way they do, but we can respect people when we know where they’re coming from.

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I am grateful for the many people I get to meet through my Church, my business, and my community. There is diversity in all places. That diversity is beautiful. Each person comes from a different background, each person has had wonderful, hard, heartbreaking, exciting, unique experiences that have influenced the way they view the world. So if everyone is so different, how do we become united? We have a purpose, a shared reason to be united. Again, a basic reason is that every person is a human being. That is a point of unity. We see people unite in the face of adversity. A natural disaster, a catastrophic event in an area, or simply in an individual’s life all bring people together. Happy things can bring people together, a common goal or interest will bring many diverse people together united in a common purpose. Freedom has, in the past unified our nation. Love of country and it’s potential can unite us if we all look to the same goal. We don’t have to be the same to desire the same thing, and often, the answer to how to achieve the goal will not come from one side or the other, often the best solutions come when both sides work together, and when that happens, usually the answer is neither sides opinion, but rather a third option that works better than either, but would never have been possible without a willingness to set aside our differences and work together toward that common goal.

So this week, I would encourage you to get to know someone else. Talk to them about their life and really try to understand. Look for an opportunity to help or serve someone in some way. It doesn’t have to be big, but it can be if need arises. Share what you have with someone else, let a car out in front of you when they are trying to get into traffic, instead of instantly getting defensive, ask questions to understand, without judgement. I will be striving to do this as well this week. I would love to hear what you learn!

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I have been reading the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it. Some of the things I have always felt like should be common sense, but lately I feel like there isn’t much common sense left in the world, so maybe not. Each of the habits builds on the next, so it’s important to start at the beginning. But, because of this book I have been more aware of how I speak and more importantly, how I listen.

One of the things he talks about in the book is how our own story affects how we view the world. I started to look at how I projected my story on other people’s stories, or how I interject with my story sometimes without even thinking. My kids and I get talking about family experiences and the differences in perspective are sometimes quite stark. This can cause some major disagreements in our home as everyone remembers “the way it really was” just a little bit differently. It’s the same idea when we view an accident or incident. Every person is coming from the perspective of not only a different point of view because we each weren’t standing in the exact same spot, so we each saw the accident from a different angle. But we are also coming at our vantage point from our own experiences. Someone who has been in an accident will view it differently than someone who never has. Someone who knows a lot about cars will view it differently than others. People who have medical training will see different things, and pick up on differences that others may not. But each person saw the exact same thing, at the exact same time, and came away with something different. And none of the perspectives are wrong, there is value in each one.

Because we project our story into someone else’s story, we don’t listen very well. Most often we listen to reply, to share our own story, or our side of the story, or some memory that their story brought to the surface. But how often do we just listen and then just leave it there? How often do we let others have their moment. This got me thinking and wondering how often I personally listened to reply. So, at the most recent Farmer’s Market I decided to try and pay attention to my own words and behaviors.

At first it started off rough. I realized, usually as the conversation ended, that I hadn’t really listened at all to what the other person was saying. I would interject a comment here or there, try to tell my story as they were finishing up theirs, etc. Sometimes I was so focused on what was going on around me that I had a hard time concentrating on just one person talking. Once they walked away, I realized that I couldn’t even remember their whole story or why they shared it. But as I went along, I started asking questions, but then listening to the answers. Trying hard not to jump in, but to just listen. I met some wonderful people from all over the west coast as I was listening and paying attention. I learned a lot about the differences in our weather as compared to theirs, and that some people really enjoyed the heat of the day while others felt like they would melt.

Do you ever have big news, or a cool experience you want to share with someone, anyone who might listen? Maybe something you just really need to get off your chest? You’re not looking for advice, you just want to be heard. I think we all have those times, and when others start telling us their story, sometimes it can be deflating to us, we feel like maybe it wasn’t as cool or as hard or as exciting as we thought it was, even if for us, it really was cool or exciting, or new. But have you ever had that one person who just listened? That one person who asked relevant questions, who helped you feel important in that moment? How good does that feel? We can each be that person. When we listen to hear and to understand we can share in that person’s excitement, fear, joy, whatever it may be. We can be reminded of experiences we had and just relive those in our own minds and allow that person the time to be excited, to be share, to smile and laugh, or to cry when needed. When that happens we no longer walk our path alone, we have a friend to walk with.

I have discovered this to be difficult. I have tried many days since Friday, and I am at least getting the hang of noticing afterward that maybe I should have just listened. But I am grateful for the reminder, and the goal. I’m not saying that you can’t have a conversation, but when we really listen, we can clarify, we can ask applicable questions, we can be interested, we can learn from someone else. It’s not that it’s a one-sided conversation, but that each person has the ability to be heard. I will continue to work on this in my life, I hope you take time to really listen today.

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I have been given the opportunity to be the Camp Director for my ward at Church. Camping isn’t always my favorite thing in the world, but working with the young women in my Church, there is almost nothing better (Seminary is right up there with it)! I have had the opportunity many times over the years to work with the youth (12 to 18 years old) in my Church, and there has always been a consistent theme when organizing and running the youth programs. The Youth are in charge. Now, they aren’t just out there doing whatever they want, there are guidelines that they need to follow. But they are, in theory, supposed to come up with the ideas, and execute them on their own. However, there’s a reason we as adults are called to help them. They don’t exactly know how to make an activity happen without some direction and help. I have found over the many years of working with the youth, and I think it applies to adults as well, there are some people who are natural leaders and some who prefer to follow.

Each year we rotate between a ward camp, and a stake camp, which encompasses between 6 and 13 wards. Our stake has 7 wards. Our youth leaders are 16 to 18 years old and they meet together on a semi regular basis to discuss things they want to do, how they want it to run, and who they want to be in charge of the various activities. At camp they are in charge of groups of younger girls. We as adults are simply to shadow, and help out when they have questions, or in case of emergency. Sometimes we run one of the activities depending on our skills and knowledge. These planning meetings are a great place to learn how to make an activity run. But, as I sat back this time and watched these girls plan camp, I could see several areas that I realized made a great leader. Some of the youth leaders could really see these things clearly, and some really struggled with it.

The first area I noticed was how well they saw the big picture. How often do we take on a project and don’t have a vision for the whole, we have ideas for here or there, but we aren’t looking at how things fit together. A great leader needs to look at the whole picture, needs to see everything from a higher perspective and see how everything fits in. I have worked on projects with people who had specific assignments, who had great ideas, but they struggled seeing how their decisions affected the entire project. I have watched as young women planned things and they overlapped, and they didn’t mesh. That’s where an adult had to step in and ask how they would work out the problems between the two. That’s one of the reasons we are there, to guide and instruct. I was so impressed to see most of the girls, once the problems were discussed, come up with great ideas as solutions

Another sign of a great leader is being able to articulate what you are trying to say. So often I have seen committees discuss ideas, discuss solutions, get in arguments about the solutions, only to finally see that they were actually coming at the problem from the same angle and meant the same thing, but neither could articulate it as well as they thought. Often we listen to people, not to hear them, but to answer and defend ourselves. That’s where problems arise. But good leaders are good listeners. This camp planning has been interesting to watch as some of the youth leaders really listened to understand, and some of them had to discuss the same issues over and over again before they could understand why decisions were made like they were, and why it was important that the decision was final, and some of them still aren’t in agreement, but are willing to move forward.

A good leader sees others and has compassion. We can’t tailor every activity to every single person in the group, but we can try to see needs and figure out ways to accommodate those needs. This area again created quite a discussion at our meetings as some girls weren’t happy with the sleeping arrangements, but they disregarded the younger girls needs who had never been camping and were leaving home for a 4 day campout without family for the first time in their lives. This one also goes back to seeing the big picture. A good leader takes everything into account rather than just their own perspective, even if they don’t understand or agree with the other persons perspective, they can take it into consideration and be respectful.

A good leader can sift through the “noise” of everything going on around them and do what’s right. I remember sitting in a PTA meeting where there had been an assignment to bring breakfast for the teachers. The menu had been decided, some of the food had already been purchase, and at the last meeting before the breakfast someone suggested a drastic change in menu. A large discussion ensued until the PTA president stopped the discussion and asked the person who suggested the change if they were going to take on the breakfast. The answer was, “Of course not! I just thought this would be better.” We continued on with the original plan. That leader knew what was noise, and what was legitimate and moved forward even though it made someone else mad. Not because she wanted to hurt the other persons feelings, but because it wasn’t a solution to a problem, it was generating problems that didn’t really exist.

My 2nd daughter graduated from High School recently. I generally don’t like graduations, but the speakers at this one were extremely good. One of the speakers said something that really struck me. I didn’t get a direct quote, but this is what I learned from it. Do what’s right and remember the rest is just noise. It made me think about leadership. Leaders often have to make the hard decisions, but one of the qualities of a great leader is the ability to make hard decisions and then live with those decision. Leaders who have listened and are well informed make better decisions. But in the end, a great leader does what’s right, not what’s right for them, but what’s right for everyone, even if not everyone agrees. I watched that at that PTA meeting, I watch it as these camp meetings unfold and these girls are seeing with new eyes the responsibility that is being placed on them.

A good leader shows up for the climb. As I watched these girls learning to lead, there were a few who came to the first couple meetings and haven’t been back. Sometimes I think we don’t go back because we feel like we were not heard, sometimes we don’t agree with the person in charge. But giving up is never the best way to lead. The speaker from the graduation discussed this as well. She said, “Always show up for the climb. Don’t make the choice from the comfort of your bed.” When we choose not to show up, we have no room to complain when things don’t go the way we want. A good leader is there, whether in the front or back, they always show up. These girls who are showing up to every meeting they can make it to, doing their part in between times by finishing their assignments, they are the ones who can feel good about the camp, who can enjoy their time there, and who can really see what it is to put on a very large activity like this. They are also better prepared in their future lives to take on big projects with confidence.

This world is full of followers and sadly, there are many bad leaders. I guess not bad leaders, but their objectives are not the best. We are in desperate need of good leaders, of instilling in our youth great leadership skills, because they are the ones that will be leading in just a very few short years. They are the ones who will be deciding the outcome for all of us older people. Will they look on us with compassion borne from learning to listen to all sides, learning to discuss and then do what’s right, or will they be leaders who are simply invested in their own self interests. They won’t be able to become good leaders without good mentors. Not everyone has the chance to formally mentor the youth, but we can each be a good example of what a good leader is. Our youth need people who they can look up to, who have good values, good morals, and who have the ability to see more than just themselves.

I hope that we are earnestly trying to teach our youth. Passively going through life is not the way to a bright future. Intentional living, intentional choosing, intentionally thinking about what we are doing each and every day. That is what leads to a better life, for each of us personally, and for future generations.