BREAKING NEWS: This Just Happened and the World May Never Be the Same

love

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(UnTangled News)—The global community was rocked yesterday by a divorce that may alter the course of humanity and the future of the planet. UnTangled News can confirm some basic facts:

For millennia, Love had been married to Power, clinging to Power and riding on his coattails, relying on Power to transform people and the world. Love was afraid to exist on her own in the world—afraid of what people would do to her and say about her.

But yesterday, something changed. In hearts and homes and villages and cities and nations, Love finally gave up on the relationship. Love just up and walked out on Power, ending their partnership for good.

One close friend of the couple, who goes by the name of Inertia, was quoted as saying, “They were always at odds with each other. They kept each other in check. While they were together, you got the sense nothing would ever change. And I kind of liked that. Now that Love is free of Power, I’m afraid she’s going to change everything.”

Reports from Around the Globe

Reports pouring in from around the globe suggest Inertia’s worst fears may be coming true—now that Love and Power are divorced, Love has been free to sacrifice and to lose and to be vulnerable and to invite and to release and to honor:

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It’s All the Rage: How Outrage Has Become a Virtue

This post is a bad idea—an invitation for indignation. Because I’m about to suggest we all act a little less controversial and, these days, suggesting less controversy has become the most controversial thing you can do…

anger

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Electronic communication is in its adolescence.

Blogging is about twenty years old (the word “blog” was first coined in 1999). For all intents and purposes, text messaging is about fifteen years old (texts could not be exchanged between phone networks until the turn of the century). And Facebook just reached the end of its first decade of public use (until 2006, Facebook was exclusively for college students).

Electronic communication is like a teenager.

And it’s doing what all teenagers do: it’s getting angry.

Online, we’re acting like right and wrong is obvious and what we believe is obviously right. Like uniformity is the only valid kind of community. Like someone else’s opinion is a direct threat to the validity of our own. Like it’s our job to be unwavering. Like talking back is the only way to talk. Like the only way to be yourself is to shout down all other selves.

To be enraged is all the rage.

To rant is to be righteous.

To be verbally violent is to be virtually virtuous.

We have become so comfortable with the everyday Facebook rant, we even expect it from our politicians and our pundits and our pulpits. In fact, we demand it.

I may not rant on Facebook, but I’ve been watching myself closely, and I have plenty of anger in me—dark stares and distraught sighs and dangerous sarcasm. Why? Because I’m ordinary. I’m human. We are, all of us, carrying within us an awful lot of anger, whether we realize it or not.

Anger isn’t new.

It’s been seething beneath the surface of our complicated humanity for millennia. Our anger wasn’t created by Facebook and Twitter and instant messaging and all our many forms of electronic communication. But they have given us just enough degrees of separation to feel comfortable unleashing it. And the problem is, once unleashed online, it gets hard to cage it again. Once typed out, it gets way easier to act it out. Then it becomes a habit. A way of life.

Fortunately, there is a way to grow out of our online adolescence.

It’s called uncertainty.

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The Kindness Challenge

Let’s admit it: we’re obsessed with winning. Just look around. Everything has become a competition. Our will-to-win is everywhere, and it’s not going anywhereBut what if we gave it something better to do? What if we all decided to compete at a game called kindness?

kindness

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We’re at the kitchen table—my wife, youngest son, daughter, and I—and we’re playing Go Fish. The game is quickly becoming too competitive: my son is hiding cards underneath the table, I’m pretty sure my daughter is sneaking cards from the pile, and heated words are starting to fly. Most of them are not from me. I’m tempted to end the game.

Instead, I announce we’re changing the goal of the game.

We’re going to keep a tally of kindness during the game and, regardless of who has the most cards at the end, the winner will be the one who has shown the most generosity and gentleness. At first, the kids look at me like I’m crazy.

Then it changes everything.

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Dear ISIS (A Letter Between Human Beings)

Paris attacks

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Dear ISIS,

I know I’m supposed to hate you. I know I’m supposed to be angry. I know I’m supposed to want revenge. I know I’m supposed to demand justice at any cost. I’m supposed to raise my middle finger, tell you I’m not afraid, hunt you down, and blow you up. I know I’m supposed to think you’re the bad guys and we’re the good guys. I know I’m supposed to think you’re evil.

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Reflections on Beauty (From Main Street U.S.A.)

Beauty. There’s an entire industry dedicated to it. But what if beauty isn’t something you can buy or paint on or put on? What if beauty isn’t even something you can create? What if beauty is a reality we cultivate and something in which we participate?

beauty

Dixon, IL (July 15, 2015)

I’m walking down main street in the small, rural town that was once my hometown and is, as of two weeks ago, my hometown once again. It’s my first official day as a writer in our new home. I’ve just dropped the kids off at camp, and there’s a conflict playing out within me.

I’m feeling pressure to race home and write something beautiful.

But up the block, there’s a coffee shop where people are gathered and laughing, and I haven’t had my morning dose yet. And one block further down the street is my wife’s new pediatric development center, Florissa, which I haven’t yet visited. And lining the sidewalks, from here to there, are hanging baskets, with thick cascades of pink and purple petunias.

Bountiful.

Beautiful.

It’s a July day that has dawned like the best kind of September day. Baby blue sky, mashed potato clouds, sunlight that kisses your face instead of slapping it. It’s the kind of day on which you don’t really need a breeze, but it feels just right anyway. I’d been planning to rush home to capture some beauty in words, but here, ambushed by beauty, I’m reminded:

You don’t capture beauty. It’s too big to be caught and too wild to be grasped. You don’t even discover beauty; you slow down, take a breath, and you let it find you. You make yourself available to it. You bear witness to it.

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The Power of Friendship (When Friendship is a Verb)

The word “friend” is a derivative of the verb “freon,” which means, “To love.” A friend is a person. And a friend is a verb

friendship

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Two years ago, as my daughter was sprouting up through her fourth year of life, I was helping her put on a pair of jeans, and the waistband strained mightily. I asked her if she would like me to loosen it. She looked at me with puzzlement and asked, “Why?” So I found the stretchy strap inside the waistband and loosened it several notches.  I looked at her and asked, “Better?” This time, she looked at me with awe and she sighed,

“Oh my, that’s a lot of better.”

My daughter didn’t know how uncomfortable her pants were, because she didn’t know how comfortable they could feel. When dis-ease sets in like a slowly dripping faucet, we don’t notice it. We unconsciously adapt to it. This can happen to our pants. But it can also happen to our hearts.

We steadily, quietly get flooded by the almost imperceptible drip-drip of disinterest.

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Why Kindness Multiplies, Joy Rebounds, and Generosity Goes Viral

Last week, I wrote about a pub in Colorado, where you don’t have to pay your tab when you eat. If you don’t have cash, they send you home with a Karma Envelope, and they trust you’ll send your payment in when you can. Because they believe kindness multiplies, joy rebounds, community is contagious, and generosity goes viral.

They claim a 97% collection rate via Karma Envelopes.

Joy rebounds, indeed.

charity

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Readers around the world wrote in, saying the post made their day and restored some of their hope for humanity. The Channel 9 News in Denver called to ask for details about the story, and I did an interview with a radio station in Montreal. But my favorite part of the week, by far, was hearing about other businesses around the world who operate on the assumption there is something good at the center of people.

Here are just a few:

There’s a sandwich bar in Basel, Switzerland that works on the honor system—you eat as much as you want and declare at the register how much you ate. About a decade ago, the owner ran an ad in the local paper, granting “amnesty” to everyone who “forgot” to pay for sandwiches when they were young and broke. And he offered this: if you now wanted to settle your tab, you could contribute anonymously to a fund, and the money was then donated to a local association for the blind.

The sandwich bar donated a lot of money.

Because kindness multiplies.

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Karma Envelopes

karma

Last week, I got ambushed by hope in a pub in Boulder, Colorado.

My wife and I had just gotten into town for a conference. Our flight out of O’Hare had been delayed for hours by thunderstorms, so by the time we landed, traveled to the hotel, checked in, and set out with friends to look for our first food since breakfast, it was 6pm. We walked through the doors of the Mountain Sun Pub with empty stomachs and frayed nerves. We were seated quickly, given our menus, and were just about to open them when my friend noticed, in small type at the bottom of the menu, these words:

Cash only.

Our empty stomachs dropped, and we got up to go. A waitress stopped us and asked why we were leaving. We explained we were from Chicago and were only carrying credit cards. She smiled wide and told us not to worry.

Then she told us about Karma Envelopes.

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Home Is Where the Grace Is

grace

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It’s a Saturday evening and my oldest son and I are working the dinner shift at a homeless shelter. We’re staffing the beverage table with friends, enjoying the challenge of keeping up with the demand for drinks, working hard, and laughing even harder. And then I see him.

Or, rather, I see the back of him.

I see the back of a young boy—about my son’s age—already walking away from the table. While we were trading jokes and jabs, he had quietly approached us, picked up a soda, and is now returning to his seat in the crowd. I watch him rejoin his family—two parents and two younger siblings. I’d been at the shelter for ninety minutes, and I hadn’t even noticed them. While serving them, I hadn’t seen them.

There’s more than one way to be homeless, isn’t there?

Being houseless is one thing; being unseen and lonely is another thing altogether.

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I’ve Got Bad News and I’ve Got Good News (Which Will You Choose?)

hope

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“Daddy, I’ve got bad news!”

I’m getting into the car after making the mistake of sending my youngest two children out to the garage on their own. I finish getting in and I look in the rearview mirror. My son’s face is contorted by righteous fury. “She called me stupid two times!”

On this particular morning, I simply don’t have the energy to sort out discrepant eyewitness testimonies, request the appropriate apologies, and mediate forgiveness. So, instead, I say, “Do you have any good news for me?”

His face turns thoughtful and then a smile breaks out upon it. “I found my fleece under the seat!” He holds up a ball of something blue that looks vaguely like the fleece he lost last autumn. I smile, too.

The world is full of bad news.

And the world is full of good news.

Which will you choose?

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