Wednesday, November 24, 2010

#2: "In Everything Give Thanks!” - Lesson Learned /Heart-ache Lessened

I somehow remember my mother saying that the one thing she can’t stand is an ungrateful person.  Yes, she would mainly say this when me or my sister seemed to be ungrateful for something she did.  But that has sucks with me and has been a lesson that I have learned.  I wish I was better at it. I try to send thank you cards to people who have given me something or have done something meaningful for me, but too often I do forget to truly say thank you.

Thank you goes a long way! Another thing my mother says.  I think about the many doors that have opened simply because I was taught by my mother to treat all those in low and high places with dignity and respect. Yeah sometimes I fall short at that, but I try my best and well I know I need to try harder to express my gratitude. So to each of you I say Thank You!
God uses people, ordinary people to be extraordinary blessings. I am grateful that God placed many of those people in my life at some point. If I began to name names I would leave off quite a few. But if I had to list them I could not forget… my mother and my sisters, adopted grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. There were elementary school teachers, High school administrators, NAACP advisors, mentors,  College Presidents/administrators, scholarship program leaders, professors, church members, pastors, custodians, security officers,  lunch ladies, office assistants, supervisors, coworkers, classmates, seminary friends,  adopted aunts and uncles and big brothers! Within these broad scopes lie many who have been ordinary people, who have been extraordinary blessings in my life at one time or another. At this present time, I must name one person. Shout out to my friend and co-worker, Arrion, who has made living in Iowa a lot easier & fun, and well I glad she is here.  Yall don’t know until you tried living as a black man in a white town with a whole bunch of white folks.  I’ll leave it at that!
Yes, I have learned the lesson of gratitude. So I say thank you to all those who have in some way touched my life and made me the person I am today. I even say thanks to those who believed I would not succeed. I am grateful to you, not simply because I can say “look at me now”, but because at some point I was able to utilize your pessimism to propel me forward as I said, “I know I can, I know I can, I know I Can!”
Finally, I give thanks to God because I realize that the blessings of my life are way beyond my human ability.  The blessings of friends, whom I may not speak to in months but relationships carry on as if we just talked yesterday.  The blessing of my family (immediate and extended) who love me unconditionally.  The blessing of a job with great benefits. The blessing of a SUV that I drive and the ability to make the monthly payments and the insurance premium. I am blessed to have two sisters, MaSherra and MaShica, and a mom, Sherry, and I can’t forget about my nephew and brother-in-law, Jedidiah and Dontae, whom all I adore and give thanks to Almighty God for making me part of such a talented beautiful family.
As the song writer says:

"I could go, on and on and on, about Your works,
Because I'm grateful, grateful, so grateful just to praise You Lord, 
Flowing from my heart, Are the issues of my heart,  Is Gratefulness!”


Lesson Learned, Heart-ache Lessened,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

#1:“Watch What You Say in Emails” - Lesson Learned /Heart-ache Lessened

Yes this is a practical lesson learned. Where to begin?
One of my first awakening moments about how emails can damage your reputation, destroy friendships and cause division, was during my senior year of college.  All I can remember is that one of the SGA cabinet members, Hima, was not meeting my approval because of her lack of doing some things that I saw as important.  I am vague about this because I honestly can’t remember what she did that made me so mad.  I worked as the Lead Cultural Peer for my undergrad’s Cultural and Diversity Center and Interfaith Center.  She was something like the Director of Cultural and Diversity Initiatives for the Student Government Association (appointed by the then SGA President, Jordan).  All I can remember is that she dropped the ball on several projects that we were to be working on.   Which brings me to the email. I actually sent this special email to the SGA President, Jordan, but cced Hima, Patty (my then director of Student Life and mentor), and Darci (our graduate assistant and my co-supervisor).  I found the email and well here it goes…
“ Jordan, I am telling you now, if you chose another person like Hima to
be Director of diversity affairs I will come back and protest your
adminstration the entire year, better yet i'll do it from Atlanta!! No
more BS-ing. Hima you know why I said this and Jordan, you know as
well. I think the only one that may be out of the loop is Patty, and
knowing Patty this won't be for long.

Graduating yet Pissed Off Student Leader”

Wow. I shocked myself!  Darci, emails me “Breath Michael, Breath” and Patty emails us all wanting to  know what was going on and she needed to be brought into the loop. Yeah you got it, I did not even give her any back story, I just included her in my rant. Let’s say, as I read back over this email today, I am stunned by my rudeness, disrespect, and tacklessness. But of course back then, I was justified, I was right, and my response was warranted.
 After sending the email, of course, I had to and wanted to meet with Patty.  I remember sitting in her office and she reminding me that if I am to be a great leader, then I must learn how to mind my temper and frustrations. She reminded me the ways to get done what you would like by expressing oneself in a positive and effective manner.  She held me to a higher standard because I was a leader, I was a Christian, and most importantly she knew me as an advocate for change. Patty knew that many trials would come my way, battles would be won and lost, but if I was not able to keep my cool in the midst of it all, then I would be an ineffective leader. Well, maybe she did not know all of that, but that’s what I garnered from her talk and that is what she taught me.
With all the new technology (cut and paste, and the ability to save webpage’s etc.), I have been more cautious about what I type in emails and say online.  This is still remains a constant battle because when I am upset or don’t agree with something or someone, I want them and other to hear and feel my anger within my emails. I want to be sure my viewpoint is clearly stated and understood. But I am learning that more direct communication (face to face) is always the best. And I have learned the importance of writing the email and leaving it overnight until I have a cool head, then coming back editing it or even sending it to a friend to read over before I actually send it. Folks may forget what you say when you speak, but when it is written, it is never forgotten (well, may be deleted, but it surely can come back to haunt you). Even today, because I was able to find this email, shows how immortal emails are.
I'm constantly reminded as I have worked full-time in professional setting of watching emails I send out. Reminded to reread emails before sending them. If I am upset, write the email and step away and then come back later.  I have even learned to say simply nothing or to say let’s talk more in person so that our words are not construed on either end.
Just as Patty had the talk with me, I found myself having a similar talk with one of my student employees whose email tone to me was not professional and seeming condescending. Just as I had someone to teach me that lesson, I too give the same to my students, and let’s be honest, I still work on this because when I get mad, oh how my fingers seek action through email writing!
 Hima and Jordan, if you ever read this, know that I am sorry. In no way should I have expressed myself in such a manner.  I shut down any hopes of dialogue and open communication that could have made for a productive end of the year and a stronger transition for those new leaders who were joining our community.  How hurtful and disrespectful was this and for that I do sincerely apologize. 

Lesson Learned, Heart-ache Lessened, 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Intro To “Lessons Learned Today, Will Lessen the Heart-Aches of Tomorrow.”

After returning from a 7am breakfast that I foolishly setup with some of my NAACP student leaders, I began to think deeply about my life and how grateful I am. Yes it is Thanksgiving season and Gratefulness is in the air! I started to think about all the lessons I have learned over the years, and what God has taught me through others and through challenging situations. I learned lessons that have set me up for a future of fewer issues. 

So in the midst of my contemplation, this thought came to me… “Lessons learned today will lessen the heart-aches of tomorrow.” Ohh yes indeed!!! I have learned quite of few things over the years and I try my best to incorporate what I learned into my life so that I don’t be one who learned the lesson but did not grow in the midst.

Well I thought that as we move through this season of thanksgiving and preparation for the birth of Christ, why not share those lessons I have learned over the past years. So I decided to go back to blogging for ten days, to give ten of my “lessons learned today [that] will lessen the heart-aches of tomorrow.” I will start officially blogging about them tomorrow in no particular order. But let me say this first…

These lessons I have learned have been taught to me by many people and many situations. Some will be able to name the exact person and circumstances and others have formed through life challenges and decisions. I decided to say “lessen the heart-aches” because, the truth of the matter is, life will always bring heartaches. Things will never go completely as planned. One has to learn how to roll with the punches and keep it moving, while learning from the past and seeking for the future to be a little brighter.

One of my colleagues has been encouraging students to manage stress by seeking to be resilient. She understands that stress will always exist, but the question that must be answered is how are you going to handle it, will you let it get the best of you, or will you look deep inside of yourself, and find the strength within to overcome and work through your situation.

Finally, before I say goodnight… I am reminded that these lessons I will share are ones that I am continuing to learn from and that the problem comes when I think I have learned it all and that I know it all. (Yes this will be one of the lessons learned – “I Don’t Know It All”). I must challenge myself and I ask you my friends, to challenge me, to continue to learn, about others and myself.

Once I looked deep inside of me, it took a lot for me to determine that my life’s current situation would not dictate my future! And oh how freeing that was and is! 

Peace, Love, and Prosperity,