So I was thinking about love. Valentine's Day is Thursday and it's a day where most of the world focuses on "love". During this season, most businesses are filled with reds and pinks and decorative hearts and cute lil cupids. The stores have seemingly endless suppiles of chocolate and the florists are inundated with orders for extravagant arrangements. Hallmark sells tons of cards, balloons, and the like. Restaurants are booked solid. Classrooms are abuzz with the excitement of giving and receiving Valentines and reading conversation hearts. There's even extra traffic around the water cooler at work with talk and speculation about who got what delivery from whom. The media is in on it. Department stores are in on it. Hollywood is in on it. But is true "love" REALLY the focus? Or is it the commercial appeal that most of us buy into? Now let me say this. I'm not the one for knocking people for celebrating this holiday. Although we should show love daily, I'm not against recognizing a specific day of celebration. However, do we even know what love is? This is my favorite definition/explanation of love:
Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogrant. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. Love never fails [it never fades nor ends]. -I Corinthians 13:4-8a, Amplified Bible Translation
Whew! I felt convicted even as I typed. Even if you are not a believer of The Bible, that it was divinely inspired by God and not just a poetic work akin to that of Shakespeare...and even ifyou aren't the follower of a specific religion or religious sect, or a believer in a power higher than yourself, you must admit that this breakdown is the purest form of what we call love. There's no way that, after reading that passage, you can deny the power that having or displaying a love like this contains. I'm sure you can imagine the impact a consistent, widespread love like this would have on not just your life, but the world! Would not the entire state of our planet be different?
We're human and we're not capable of navigating through this life perfectly. What we CAN do is be our best and strive to do everything with excellence, including love. I'm confident that if we made a conscious effort to actively and diligently love the way the scripture has laid it out, our relationships with our family, friends, and fellow man would drastically improve. I don't know about you, but I'm going to commit to love with more patience, kindness, selflessness, endurance, grace, and faith. And, while I'm at it, I'm going to be grateful for the many opportunities I have to love and be loved. So, as you're celebrating Valentine's Day, think about what the true meaning of love is to you and how you can go about cultivating and spreading that love 24/7/365!
So I was thinking about jealousy. Forget a hundred, I'm about to keep it 1000% with y'all. I be gettin jealous man! LOL! But seriously, I'm surrounded by such dope people doing such big things. My peeps are out here really living their best lives, taking care of business, and realizing dreams. And sometimes I get a lil jelly. Jealousy gets a bad rap. When people hear that term, they automatically equate it with things like being a hater, being bitter, or being unsupportive. But, I don't think it has to be a bad thing. As humans, we will naturally experience different emotions. When I think about this, the animated movie, Inside Out, comes to mind. It did an excellent job of illustrating the importance of feeling and expressing our emotions. Anger, sadness, jealousy are a few of the emotions that can become toxic if not handled properly, but I believe if you just feel what you feel and move on, you can experience each of these emotions in a healthy way.
When I find myself feeling envious of someone's bucket list get-away or dream home or new relationship or newsworthy accomplishment, I do the following things to make the jealous rollercoaster an enjoyable ride.
So I was thinking about the importance of good writing. People tend to downplay it, especially when it comes to text messages and social media. Folks seem to think that the quality of those things don't matter. I beg to differ. Writing is such a HUGE part of our everyday lives. Why not do it well? There is a popular saying that states, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression". Texting, social media, email; these avenues aren't only used for leisure, but many times they may be used as an initial encounter with a job connect, other professional opportunity, or even a potential love interest. In each of these cases, it's important that a good first impression is made. Then, after initial contact is made, it is very likely that frequent written correspondence will continue. I've conducted business in which 95% of it was handled via email, social media, and/or text message. It's also become a common practice for recruiters and HR reps to check an applicant's social media. I'm sure it's usually to check for any questionable content and how a person represents themselves, but I'd imagine that, depending on the job, it would also be important that whatever the person is trying to convey is well written.
I recently had someone text me, questioning the steps they should take to become a better writer and I'll share a few with you here.
So I was thinking about my younger brother. People who know me, know the story. Let me share it with those of you who don't.
February 2, 2007. It was a Friday evening, around 6pm. I was at work and excited for the weekend. I had about 30 minutes left in my shift and I was on the phone with a customer. As I was finishing up with my customer, my cell phone began to vibrate. I glanced down at my hip and noticed my mother's number flashing across the screen. I remember thinking to myself, "Now why is she calling me? She knows I'm at work and I get off soon!" I decided I'd call her when I got off work, which at this point, was in less than 30 minutes. Another customer call came in and as I was completing that call, my cell phone started to vibrate again. My initial reaction was annoyance, but then I felt a pang of worry and decided to go out in the hall and call my mother back. My mother answered the phone sounding pretty normal. I asked her what was up. She said my name and my heart began to race. Though she hadn't said it yet, I KNEW something was wrong. Then, she said, "He gone, he gone. Cheryce, he gone." I began to panic and ask her who, "Mama who's gone??!" She proceeded to tell me that my little brother, Donvielle, had been killed in a car accident. Even as I type, it's difficult because all the feelings from that day, that moment, are coming back...It's a day, a time, a period in my life that will be impossible to forget and it changed my life forever.
I'll spare you the the details of my reaction and my parents', especially my mother's, overwhelming despair. You can probably imagine the void my baby brother felt after having his hero suddenly snatched away. I won't talk about how it felt to have memories of changing my brother's diapers and rocking him to sleep while picking out his casket and writing his obituary. 19 years old, on the way to get a haircut before work, and then. Just. Gone.
That night, that week, that month, I reflected on different things that occurred leading up to that day, attempting to make sense of it all. I wondered why it happened and questioned how God could let it. I thought about how, maybe a week or so before, Don had driven me to a friend's house. When we got there, he came in behind me and stood in the doorway, looking around. I recall asking him what he was doing and telling him that my friend's brother, who he was friends with, wasn't there. I don't remember his response, but I know I thought how strange it was for him to come in with me and then stand there like that. Even after I told him his friend wasn't there, he kept standing and looking, like it was his first time seeing it or like he knew it was the last time he would. On January 31st, Don gave my mother and me Valentine's day gifts. It was the first time he had ever done that. My mother and I were so surprised and grateful. I asked him why he had given us the gift so early and he said that he might not have any money when V-Day came around. I said, "We get paid again before Valentine's Day". I knew this because we got paid the same week, Don on Wednesday, while my payday was Friday. He just kind of shrugged it off. That would be the last day I'd see my brother alive. Thinking of those two instances made me think about whether or not he knew he was going to die. I wondered if he had some sort of premonition letting him know that something was about to happen.
The same night that Don gave us those gifts, I had a dream. In the dream, we were at the funeral of one our church members, the mother of one of Don's really good friends. Don wasn't there. Somebody asked where he was and voiced their surprise at him not being there. About a month after his death, the woman whose funeral I dreamed of, passed away. In my dream, Don wasn't there because he left us first...
I still don't understand the why. I had a couple theories. Maybe he would have gotten involved with the wrong crowd or been in the wrong place at the wrong time, resulting in his life wasting away behind bars. It's possible that he could have died by the hands of a cowardly police officer. Perhaps he would have been an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire of rival gangs. Maybe God allowed Don to go the way he did to spare us the devastation of each of those scenarios. Or could it be that He just cared about my brother so much that He'd rather him be in heaven with Him, than endure any of those severely earth shattering events? I stopped trying to figure it out...well, maybe not completely. Sometimes I STILL wonder why... What I DO know is: