One of Many

(What I will introduce to you is not an original thought or truth. It is a reality that persists to make itself aware in our minds on a regular basis. And so, it has chosen me to once again make its case.)

Who are you? The first general response expected is your name. Of course, we are more than our designations. We are our personalities, unique characteristics, strengths, weaknesses, and influences. When I ask who you are, I am asking what is your place? In what order of being do you exist among others?

I am a Star Trek fan. One of the more prominent and epic species of the Star Trek franchise is the Borg Collective. They are a humanoid cyborg race with one specific purpose, to find perfection. They seek perfection and do so by assimilating other species into their own. They take the biological and technological strengths of other species and add them to their own. The weaknesses are discarded. They absorb all of the experiences of all of the people they assimilate and grow from those experiences. However, their assimilation process is forced upon others. Assimilation isn't an option. They find you; they assimilate you; they come closer to perfection; and you lose your individuality. Nevertheless, they come closer to perfection. To them, that is all that matters. Everything else is irrelevant. The reason I mention the Borg Collective is because of their designations. In the Borg, you do not have a distinguished first or surname. When you are a part of a collective, performing particular tasks, you are issued a designation like "Two of Eight", "Three of Four", or "Seven of Nine" (Seven of Nine is a character from Star Trek: Voyager). You are not an individual. You are a moving part among other moving parts in the quest for perfection.

Now, while I appreciate and certainly commend the logic of assimilating the experiences and strengths of others and adding them to your own, that is not what this blog is about. At least, not just yet. This blog is mainly about your designation. And I am here to say, your designation is not "One".


THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE YOU

Each of us is connected to different networks of individuals like families, friends, co-workers, religious communities, miscellaneous organizations, sports groups, clubs, neighborhoods, and communities. Each of us has a direct and indirect influence on each of those networks. That influence can be negative or positive depending on our choices and intentions. Now, there is a contending way of thought that insists we are all individuals who need to look out for ourselves (Look out for number one), learn things for ourselves (This is my life. I'm going to make my own mistakes.), and be as independent as possible. I tell you this: almost every choice you make has an impact on others, because you as an individual have an impact on others. The mistakes others make are prime lessons to learn so you don't make the same mistakes. Your mistakes are a cost to others. Independence is important, but we are all dependent on each other as a society. The dysfunction of one of us causes dysfunction among the rest of us.

The people who love you, family members or friends, are impacted by your dietary habits, heavy/overly-regular consumption of alcohol, reckless spending habits, promiscuous behavior, and more. They are also impacted when you get a higher paying job, pursue higher education, learn a fun new hobby (for instance, if you learn kung fu or to play a musical instrument) that you share with them, get good news from the doctor after a physical (Guess what everybody, I'm going to live longer. Sorry!), exercise and get involved in 5k, 8k, or 10k walks/runs, and many other pleasant and productive things. Every positive and productive choice you make that increases your happiness and health should and usually does have a positive and productive consequence to those who love you. This is my first argument. Improve yourself and take preventative measures for your health, and you help others.

What are you doing that is unhealthy? Do you know that your particular admiration for sweet and fattening, greasy and oily, or super salty foods will have an adverse affect on your health? Do you exercise to compensate for those foods? When you have a heart attack, guess who's going to suffer for it? Do you smoke? Isn't smoking a leading cause of lung cancer? When you have lung cancer, and are in the hospital, guess who's going to be there suffering emotionally for it? Who is going to carry the financial burden with you that comes with such a harsh illness? What if you have multiple sexual partners without a commitment, and one of them has a serious sexually-transmitted disease? Or you get pregnant? Who has to deal with the emotional backlash or financial consequences? When you make drinking a habit and it damages your liver or leads to you getting a DUI or car crash, who's going to suffer for it? Who is going to be in the hospital considering if they have to donate a piece of their liver to save yours? Who's going to drive you around because of your DUI? Who is going to be crying over your broken body from that car crash you could have completely avoided? The answer to many of these questions is your friends, family, and possibly co-workers. There is another dimension I will add to this first argument. The friends or family members of your family members and friends may also be affected by their grief. There is a ripple effect. So, while you tell yourself, "This is my body, I will do with it as I please" or "I'm an adult. I can do whatever I want to." Take a note that the people who love you are going to be affected. The people who love those people may be effected.

What I'm suggesting here, is that you consider the consequences of the choices you've easily or uneasily brushed off due to enjoyment or habit. We all do things we know aren't necessarily the healthiest things. However, we think just about everything out there is going to kill us. We can die tomorrow. Why bother? Well, if you have ever been personally inconvenienced by someone else's bad choices, an event that could have been completely avoided if the person thought of someone other than him or her self--in fact, my saying that probably brought an event or person to mind--then you will understand my thoughts. With all of the unknown, uncontrollable events that can occur in life, if we all take it upon ourselves to at least actively prevent preventable catastrophes, we could significantly improve our lives and those of the people we love.

The most common inconvenience in all of the previously mentioned is financial inconvenience. Almost every preventable error has financial consequences. One of the reasons healthcare is so expensive is because there is such a large demand for medication, treatment, and time. While there are many environmental factors that precipitate disorders and symptoms, there are also a great multitude of health issues that could have been prevented by our own choices. So, poor eating habits and lack of exercise affects your health, which requires the person who loves you to take you to the hospital, which costs you and potentially that person money, and then the doctor provides you with a diagnosis and medication. That medication costs money, depending on your insurance (that is assuming you have insurance). The recommendation from the doctor is typically a change of diet or habits for preventable illnesses. This happens to enough people, and the cost of healthcare goes up to accommodate for the increased demand and cost to insurance companies. The waiting line for an appointment is longer. People who don't have preventable illnesses, and seriously need the care, have to wait longer. That affects their health. Those people get sicker. The sicker they become, the more costly their care becomes. Again, ripple effect.

So you're seeing it, right? You can remember the smiles on the faces of others when they see the glow of happiness coming from you after a good run or walk? You feel revitalized! They feel inspired to exercise, too. You can remember the disappointment on others' faces when they see you sick? They don't want to get infected. They're worried about you. Our emotions, choices, and actions are not just isolated to us. Everything we do affects others. It is the nature of life. We are each one of many.


WHAT WE DO TO OTHERS

Having talked about the things we do to ourselves that have an impact on others, it is now time to shift to what we do to others and how our actions towards others have an impact on the ones who love or interact with them. It's easy to have a one-dimensional perspective and think only of one's self. It's also easy to have a two-dimensional perspective and think that whatever you do to that person affects just that person. You're really not thinking about anyone else but that person when you're doing something to that person, good or bad. Of course, as you know, it goes beyond that.

When you reach out and help someone, you set something into motion. I've had it happen to me. I was having a hard time. I was tired. People were wearing at my nerves. Circumstances were grinding me to a breaking point. And it was the words of one kind gentleman who said, "It is darkest before dawn," that changed my mood. He was right. I knew that. He said, "The silver lining is coming." I believed him. It was a wonderful thing, not just because it was the truth (Lord knows; it's the truth), but because he extended a positive to me. He extended a kindness that uplifted my spirit. And with my spirit uplifted, I was in a better mood and extended that happiness to others. I greeted the people after him with a smile and enthusiasm. He lifted me up, and I lifted up others. I said many pleasant and inspiring things to others that were down in the dumps that day. That kind gentleman dropped a stone of love in the ocean, and the ripple effect was love from me to others and those others to other others. It is an exponential thing, the ripple effect. I thanked the Lord for bringing that man into my day, for working through him to bring contentment to me, and better works and words of kindness out of me.

We don't always know how the little things we say or do will affect others. (Then again, sometimes we do, and our actions hold great consequence when they're intentional) However, intentional, pure kindness will usually have a positive effect, even if it's not immediate. I've greeted a lot of people with enthusiasm. They were in a sour mood, but I kept the positivity and charm at full throttle. They left still in a tiff, but came back later apologizing for their mood and thanking me for being a smiling face. That person was in a better mood, as opposed to a worst mood if our interaction was different, and extended that positive mood to others. I've heard about some people paying for the gas of others, complete strangers. Can you imagine how great that would make your day if someone did something so kind? You couldn't just keep that to yourself. You'd share it with others. You might even perform your own act of generosity. People have bought coffee or food for the person behind them in the drive through lane at a fast food restaurant or Starbucks. Little intentional acts of kindness spread kindness. There is an inborn desire and natural reaction to pay it forward. Pay-It-Forward is the idea that if a person graces you with an act of kindness, you then grace another person with an act. It's a chain of love. Okay, now I'm rambling.

The obvious point is that a kindness to one is a kindness to those who interact with that one person. The greater an act to one person, the more beneficial it is to that person and those who love that person or interact with that person. Sometimes it's as simple as giving a waitress a larger tip, not realizing she's a single mom who needs all the help she can get to support her son. Our motive should always be to improve, uplift, and bring happiness to others. Our motive should be love. When we falter from that, we have dysfunction.

And dysfunction is exactly what we get with a negative energy ripple effect. When you have people with time on their hands and sick senses of humor, that is what you get. Tell me something. How often do you make fun of other people? How often do you insult, undermine, disrespect, and go out of your way to make people uncomfortable? How often do you dig into people with sarcastic comments? How often do you make jokes about people behind their backs? How often do you gossip about people? How often do you lie about people you don't like? How often do you twist the truth just a little bit to fit your narrative about a person and then tell it to others? How often do you try to isolate people? How often is your mouth moving and harmful things coming out? I want you to truly think about and digest your track record. Of course, you'll quickly dismiss or justify what you've done. Disliking someone is not a justifiable reason.

The difference between the negative and positive, is that the negative consequences are not as predictable. There are consequences, though. Some people lash out at others. Some people vent with friends and family (and those friends and family members have to deal with it). A few others let it blow right over their heads and it just finds a way of coming right back at you. Then, there are those who don't necessarily have a place to vent, aren't the kind of person to lash back, and may be too tall for things to just blow over. Instead, they store it all up like a negative energy battery until they're overcharged. What happens when you overcharge a battery ladies and gentlemen? It will bubble up, leak, die, and/or explode. And here's the funny part about it, people act like there's something wrong with that person and not the people involved in the dysfunctional behavior.

So, assuming the person vents, you're creating an unnecessary burden to their family and friends. The negativity wave continues. If the person lashes out at others, that's innocent people who suffer their wrath. Those people will get frustrated. The negativity wave continues. If it manages to blow right over the person's head, that negative energy wave meets a dead end. And, if that person stores it up instead of letting that wave continue, well, that negative energy will eventually go somewhere. Energy persists. Positive energy builds. Negative energy destroys.

However, it doesn't just stop with slandering. People out there are being selfish, greedy, cruel, violent, and lustful. You have rich men making large profits off of the work of their staff and not compensating them with livable wages, which creates added and unnecessary burden for their friends, family, and the community. You have cruel people manipulating others to fight each other over simple things while taking advantage of everyone. You have people selfishly seducing involved or married people in vulnerable moments and exploding families. I could go on, but I don't need to. You've seen the news. Good grief... you've seen the news... dysfunction...

Now, I'm going to tell you the story of a friend of mine named Jim...

(I'm getting into story-telling mode)

Jim was a really nice guy. He opened doors for people. He was kind, funny, a little weird, but in a good way. If you walked in and saw him sleeping in the same bed as your wife, you'd honestly believe it if she said they hadn't done anything, because he's just not the kind of guy that sleeps with your wife. He was a big-hearted, walking ray of jolly good freaking sunshine. Now, Jim wasn't perfect. He didn't have it all together. No one's perfect but the Lord. The rest of us are a box of screws, an instruction manual, and a bunch of mislabeled parts we're still trying to match up with the black and white pictures. Anyway, no matter how much of a stand-up guy he was, people wanted to dig into him.

If they saw Jim talking to someone, and having a real good conversation, they went out of their way to talk to that person. You see them try to win that person over so that person would like them more than Jim. (Because hey, you can take the people out of high school, but not the high school out of the people) Then, they'd start to slowly install negative information and lies like a guy slipping a virus on to your computer while he's "checking his email". They'd say just enough to make people a little skeptical. Not enough to make it clear you're ragging on the person. Just enough to make them start to question the person. And it wasn't as though they were being subtle about it. They would talk to anyone Jim befriended, especially the women, and afterward, give Jim the big ole shit-eater grin. The kind of grin a person has when he or she just took a big steaming dump in your bathroom and didn't flush the toilet. But hey, it's all good pal. The goal is only to isolate you. These were the same people that went through his things when he wasn't looking and made jokes about what was in there.

Now, despite all of this, Jim kept his cool for quite some time. He understood what was going on. It was very annoying, frustrating, but it was their problem, not his. After all, anyone that goes out of their way to make fun of someone, gossip, eavesdrop, spy, interfere in their relations with others, and try to wiggle their way into his personal life and violate his privacy, well, that is a sign of serious dysfunction. So, he kept his cool, prayed, and separated himself from them. However, as I mentioned before, negative energy has only so many routes. No matter how much you try to let things just bounce off of you or go over your head, some of it is going to stick. You can either lash out, vent, or store it. Jim stored it until he eventually reached a point to where he had to vent it. To whom did Jim vent to?

Friends, family, and the Lord our God.

(Coming out of story telling mode)

MANY OF ONE

I'm sure you're wondering why the story was so short and ended so abruptly. It is because I reached the final point of this monster of a scatter-brained blog post. The point is that everything we do greatly impacts others. We are not one. We are many. When we do good to ourselves, we do good to others. When we do bad to ourselves, we do bad to others. When we do good to others, we do good to many others. When we do bad to others, we do bad to many others. But you see, it doesn't just end there.

I am one of many. You are one of many. We are many of one. That one is God. We are His. We answer to Him. And when we do good to ourselves and others, we do good for God. When we do bad to ourselves and others, we do bad to God. And for all these things, we answer to God. So be mindful that you are one of many, and one of His. Everything you do not only affects those around you, but in the end, it goes to God.

May the Lord our God be with you, and grow you in His grace.

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