I just want you – Song of the week

This song has a powerful message and the delivery by @vedothesinger is amazing and inspiring. Vicki Yohe captures the human need to reach for a higher, divine power in our moments of need. I wish I had the skill to capture both the emotion and the raw power evoked by this song but we can’t have it all, right? So this time I will rely solely on Vicki Yohe’s prose and Vedo’s soulful interpretation.

What song has inspired you this week?


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You look lost

always help

You can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone ~ Ronald Reagan

I was in Moab last week with the young men in our local church group for a few days of fun in the sun. We had set up camp and the boys were organizing our living space for the next two and a half days so I took the opportunity to briefly scout out our camp ground. It’s a simple place on the outskirts of town with RV hook-up’s and tent spaces. It’s a steal if you want running water and a warm shower to wash off the red dirt at the end of a long, hot summer day of outdoor activities.

After a short, brisk walk around the entire perimeter of the camp, I was heading back to our designated camp ground when I noticed a woman walking towards me with that ‘deer in the headlights’ look that screamed ‘help me I’m lost.’

“Do you need help?” I asked as she drew near enough for me to ask the question without having to shout and alarm her. But my attempt to be helpful seemed to fall on deaf ears so I repeated my question. A little bit louder this time but again making sure to seem courteous.

This time the woman stopped, looked straight at me and said, “If I needed help I would have asked you.”

Stunned by her rude response, I stood rooted to the spot somewhere between annoyed and sad, the scales tipping more in the direction of anger. I just wanted to be helpful and my attempt at being neighborly was met with a coarseness that frankly I’m unaccustomed to.

It took every ounce of patience that I could muster to prevent me from making a bad situation worse – that is a bad habit of mine. My initial response was to give that woman a good ‘ol Samoan tongue lashing. But I persevered and found the strength to walk away and let the steam roll off my scalding, freshly shaven pate. Understand that it is against my nature to withdraw when someone is confrontational, especially when I have a strong opinion or conviction about something or someone. So to walk away without offering even a slight comical retort was a major, albeit a painful win for me.

And yet here is the agonizing truth about that haphazard encounter and what I suppose to be a fundamental flaw in my character – I will do it again. I will ask a random stranger if they need help if they look like they are struggling. I will ask my friends, my family, my co-workers, anyone I come upon whom I discern might need some assistance because that is what I believe in. I have no desire to spearhead a movement to change the world I just want to help people because that’s what I was taught to do.

It is not easy. I am uncomfortable asking people if they need help because that is what our society teaches us today – self-preservation. But I would rather be uncomfortable and rejected knowing that I tried to do something good, than wonder for the rest of my life if I could have done some good for someone but was too caught up in my own head to notice, acknowledge and take action. I will cry over spilt milk, literally and figuratively because missed opportunities are a waste.

I’m trying to be a better person in every aspect of my life. I don’t always succeed but it motivates me to try harder. I try to serve someone every single day, even if my offer to serve is rejected. I encourage you to find some time to do something good – a random or intended act of service. We’re all lost sometimes or know someone who is lost spiritually or physically and needs help. We just all need to ask better questions even when it is uncomfortable – ‘Are you lost?’ ‘What can I do to help?’

Every day is a good day to serve others.

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All we need is love

We are suffering.

Not just we as in me and my family and the people in my circle of family and friends but everyone in the world is suffering. Some of us suffer in silence. Others suffer and share their suffering privately. Others endure their afflictions in a very public way because of the nature of their professions or just because the media thinks they are a story worth clicks and views.

Our trials may be trifling to the casual observer but to us the issues we face in our lives are very real and unmistakable. So when someone deems them trivial we feel invalidated, mocked and inadequate. In extreme cases we might feel inept, despondent and worthless.

compassion dalai lamaHow often do we recognize people who are grasping for something but fall short and need a little help? Have you ever been in a situation where a little act of kindness could have made the difference in someone’s day or life but we stopped short of giving our encouragement for one reason or another?

Yesterday I had the chance to have a little fun with colleagues from work. We were in a happy place. No it was not Disneyland but it was one of those places where smiles and laughter are the norm and there’s very rarely a forlorn soul.

I was enjoying the afternoon in a go-cart when I noticed a young girl, probably fifteen or sixteen in the car next to me sitting quietly in the car next to me. I never would have noticed her from the rest of the teenagers in the park except for one obvious exception that stood out the moment she reached for the steering wheel and the sleeves of her shirt slid down from her wrists to rest at her elbows and I immediately felt compassion for her.

The small scars were about an inch in length and extended the length of her forearms like the notches a shipwreck survivor would place on a tree to tell them how many days they had survived. Before she caught me staring I looked away, my mind drifting away despite the roar of two dozen go-carts revving up for a few fun-filled laps around the track.

I found myself asking, ‘What would cause a beautiful young woman to do that to herself?’

I sensed someone staring at me and realized that the girl was looking directly at me. Had she noticed that I had been staring at her? Did she know that I had seen the damage she had done to herself?

I was surprised when she asked, “Are you okay?”

I recovered quickly and shot back, “I’ll be better once I beat you in this race.” I smiled, wondering if it looked as awkward as it felt.

“Yeah, good luck with that,” she beamed as she sped off and left me inhaling exhaust.

Round and round I went. My colleagues and I coaxing each other to get kicked out of the small amusement park as the teenager running the joint blew his whistle furiously to keep us in check. The elation of the moment helped me forget life if only for a moment. But as we rounded the corner I felt a nudge from my right and nearly spun out as a car pushed me into the metal running boards that helped keep the cars on the track as the teenage girl sped past and coasted back into the pit.

“Good luck next time,” she said as we all exited the go-cart raceway.

“Yeah, you got lucky,” was the only retort I could muster but this time my smile was indisputable and her smile made my day because for that moment she was not sad. I wondered how long the happiness would last. I wondered how long it would be before the survivor in her would put another notch in her skin.

“You know that girl?” someone asked.

“Nah, just a kid who likes to put an old guy in his place.”

“You’re one friendly guy.”

“I wish that were true,” I said as we walked back indoors.

The truth is, I do need to be friendlier. I need to be more approachable, kinder and more thoughtful. I may not have made a difference in that young girl’s life but I truly believe that if we as a society showed more compassion towards others and were more genuine in our expressions of love towards all people this world would be a better place.

And if those of us who are recipients of love were more accepting and showed more gratitude for the service rendered by others it might make it easier for others to be more accommodating.

The Beatles once taught us:

No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy
All you need is love
Love is all you need

And one of the greatest teachers taught us this:

“No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12)

So here’s a challenge for you that I’ve tried to take upon myself – in every moment, in every day there is occasion to show love for someone you may not normally give. Don’t let that moment escape you. Cease it and do your absolute best to be a blessing to someone who needs it.

Love is all you need.

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Being a (pet) parent isn’t easy

I grew up with pets.

My wife did not.

She grew up at Sea World and dreamed of working with orcas.

To be fair we Samoans don’t really have pets that we dote over and dress up in frilly outfits or in a Batman cape at Halloween. No, the pets we have are merely for practical purposes like guarding the few belongings we own from burglars or for protecting the people we love from predators. We own cats simply to eradicate our homes from mice and other pests.

In America we buy dog food.

In Samoa the dog eats leftovers.

In America dogs are on a leash.

In Samoa dogs roam the earth like dinosaurs.

In our married life we have owned a few birds, lots of gold fish, a hamster, a turtle and a couple of dogs. All of our pets have escaped our home and sprinted off to freedom the moment they were able. If the gold fish could walk or somehow find their way to the ocean from our home ala Finding Nemo they would have gladly opted out like all the rest.

We are not good with pets.

But we are stubborn. We hate failure in our house so we persist in thinking that animals will eventually love us even though we are absolutely horrible at being pet owners. We haven’t the slightest clue at what it takes to be good at raising animals.

So about two months ago we bought a puppy. A husky-Australian Shepard mix that the boys and I were ecstatic about. Their mother on the other hand was less than enthusiastic and her interest in the puppy waned even more when he started leaving steaming piles of “forget me not’s” and little puddles of “I heart u’s” up and down the hard wood floors.

“This dog is driving me nuts!”

“It’s a puppy, give it time,” I lamented.

“Well you guys are taking care of it,” she stammered while trying to avoid yet another batch of puppy cakes from the little hairballs rear end cooker.

And of course when she says, ‘You Guys’ what she really means is ‘Me’ – The dad who brought the puppy home against her will.

We thought having a puppy would be easy. They’re cute, the snuggle up to you and make little whimpering noises and they cling to you. That’s pretty cool right?

Unfortunately that phase wears off pretty fast when the real task of raising a dog starts in earnest. My wife is rarely wrong and in this instance she was spot on. She had some very valid points that have become more compelling with time:

  1. We travel a lot so what do you do with a puppy when you’re on the road – There are no easy or cost effective solutions to this question
  2. The puppy eats – a fact that we overlooked in our eagerness to bring him home and something that she reminds us of daily
  3. The puppy has a lot of energy which means the owners should have at least a fraction of the same energy in order to keep up with his shenanigans
  4. A puppy likes to chew on things – everything! Door jambs, chairs, shoes, sofa cushions, ankles, books, stereo speakers, remote controls, fingers and visitors (sometimes that’s a plus)
  5. A dog stinks – a lot! So every week, sometimes every day baths are required but getting any of my sons to do this regularly is about as hard as getting them to take their own showers – almost impossible.

The cleaning up, the replacing, the training, the time, the energy, the feeding, the cleaning up again is all enough to drive a family full of clueless dog owners crazy. If raising a child was tough, this might be ten times harder.

Our puppy Suka the day we brought him home

Our puppy Suka the day we brought him home

There is a silver lining somewhere. One day, (if he doesn’t run away) we will look back on this moment when he’s full grown, chasing away intruders, obediently sitting at my old feet near my rocker on the porch retrieving cans of Diet Coke from the cooler for me or steering grandchildren away from swift rivers and rescuing neighborhood kids from wildfires – we will say, ‘Thanks for being a part of our lives Suka.’

Until then, there’s a lot more cleaning, repairing, feeding and training to do and I’m not sure I have enough energy to do it.

On the bright side – I’m learning a lot of patience. I think?

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Killing the root to enjoy the fruits

Systemic oppression by a government who lauds its own efforts to indoctrinate and strip an indigenous people of its lands, culture and identity is a massive injustice. It happens all over the world. It happens because we are greedy and egotistical. It happens because we are human, because we are inclined to human nature.

Regretfully, there are some people who have given in to the incursion of colonization and westernized forms of government and living. Thankfully, there are still those like the original people of Australia who continue to oppose the attack on their way of life despite the governments efforts to extirpate and extricate them from their tribal lands. [continued]

My attachment to Samoa goes beyond the fact that I was born outside of the country of my forefathers. It is a belief in my cultural provenance. It is a notion ingrained within me that my totality as a Samoan is achieved by merging the intangibles with the tangible. The pure aspects of my culture and language can only be expressed properly and completely through my connection to fanua (land) to the moana (ocean) and to all meaola (living things), all of which are my inheritance from God.

I don’t assume to understand the plight of the Aboriginal tribes of Australia, nor do I ever wish to know that pain. The Australian governments assertion that they know better than it’s original people is shocking and utterly atrocious.

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I’m not my father…

Darth_Vader_Reaching_Out…but I sure can learn from him

I was reminded last night that I’m not so old fashion as I thought and definitely not as well-mannered as my father’s generation was before me. Some things that I realized we have lost in a matter of a generation:

1)      We don’t open doors for women any more. This was one of the first things that my mother insisted the males in our home did no matter what the circumstances. ‘Why do I need to open a door for a woman?’ I would ask. They have arms and hands too. The response was simple even if it didn’t answer my question – because it’s what gentlemen do. The fact that I rarely see this happening anymore is sad. The fact that many women don’t want us to open doors for them or that they are surprised when we actually do it says a lot about how much we men have lost our desire to be courteous. Whether it’s the car door or a door to the department store, any door you open will open her heart.

2)      We don’t stand up when a woman excuses herself from the dinner table. This one is really old school because the only time I ever stood up from the dinner table is when I was done and needed to clear my plate before hurrying off to play/read/sleep/use the restroom. Did we just get too lazy to observe this formality? I mean, it is a pain in the gluteus maximus and a workout on the thighs when you’re forced to stand up every time a woman needs to visit the powder room but there is an enormous show of respect in the act and I think it’s something that we need to revive in our culture if only to show that we acknowledge the fact that most of the elegance just left the room when the ladies depart.

3)      We don’t admire beauty anymore – at least not in the genteel way our fathers did. We don’t compliment a woman unless it is in hushed, secretive tones and in words that would embarrass a truck driver. We don’t tell her that she is stunning seven days a week but reserve our praise for the days when it is obvious that she’s upset because we haven’t noticed. Every woman deserves to be treated like royalty, not like an object. Today’s form of admiration looks a bit more like ogling and sounds a lot more like lewdness. My mother’s generation would have flushed and died of embarrassment at our way of appreciating beauty. It’s time we taught our sons (if we haven’t already) that this form of flattery is unacceptable and offensive.

4)      There are no more knights in shining armor – only nights with shiny apparel. When a woman is in need we call a specialist. Leaky faucet? Call a plumber. Flat tire? Call road-side assistance. She’s stuck somewhere and needs a ride? I’ll call a cab. Some guys call this, ‘being resourceful’. I like to call this ‘eternal bachelorhood’. If your lady friend (or any woman in your life) can’t depend on you for help, comfort and support there’s a phrase for that too – Break Up! Too many times I have seen guys act like they are the prima donna in the relationship and the women in their life need them not the other way around. The truth as I have learned over the lonely years of being a jerk is that women are much more resourceful and independent than we think and you only need to underappreciate her once before she goes off in search of a man who does appreciate her. So protect her heart, her trust and feelings like a real man should.

5)      We think the word ‘Escort’ only refers to paid companionship. Its prom season at your local high school but if you sit back and watch these young couples head off to their night of fun you’ll notice that the only way you can tell that couples are enjoying the evening together is by their matching outfits and their color of choice. You rarely see a young man offer his arm, assist her with her chair, offer her his coat when there is a chill in the air or at the very least, listen to and respond to her questions. I have uncles who have done those things for my aunties every single day that they have been married and probably ever since they were dating. There are senior couples in my neighborhood who do these types of things all the time out of habit and respect for each other and that is what it means when you escort your companion in public – it is a sign that you cherish, love and respect another person enough to let the world know.

6)      Be courteous to others is a way of being courteous to each other. My wife gets absolutely embarrassed, sometimes downright mortified when I am aggravated with the wait staff at a restaurant or even with the poor high school girl dishing our popcorn at the movie theater. I’m still working on that unfortunately but I’ve at least come to the realization that when I do fly off the handle I am not only disrespecting someone else, I’m also showing little to no regard and esteem for my wife’s feelings. If I can’t treat a stranger with regard and dignity, what am I communicating to others about my own relationships with the people that I supposedly love?

There are dozens of examples of things that we no longer do as a society because it is considered old-fashioned, its blasé and we can’t be bothered. There was a feeling of refinement that we decided at some point in our history is dated, confining even chauvinistic. The truth is by losing our gentility we have become jaded to courtesy and opposed to civility and elegance. I for one believe that there is a need more than ever for class and gallantry in our society where complacency, annoyance and insolence are the norm.

We need men with panache. We need men with class.

Agree? Disagree? Tell me what’s on your mind.

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Will we ever know the answer?

chores_galoreForget about questions like, ‘what is the meaning of life’ and ‘what happened to Al Capone’ or ‘do all dogs go to heaven’? Can anyone answer the ancient and still troubling question that has baffled parents for centuries – Why don’t kids do their chores?

As a former kid myself you would think that I have this one figured out but sadly there appears to be a mental block that occurs around the time you turn twenty-five, have a wife, a house and a kid or two (or more). This mental block prevents us from understanding why kids ignore doing chores.

Is there also a mental block with logic that is ‘pre-installed’ in a child that tells them that keeping their room clean is pointless because the room will get trashed again anyway? Why would I sweep the floor if everyone is going to drop stuff on it? Isn’t the idea of taking out the trash antiquated in a ‘green’ world?

When I say things like, “You need to get your chore done,” I wonder if what they’re really hearing, ‘It’s a beautiful thing when our house looks and smells like it’s inhabited by a pod of hippos.’

How exactly does the simplest of instructions get lost in translation?

Some examples….

Can you clean your room please = Can you pile more laundry in the corners please it’s more appealing than your real rugs.

Do the dishes please = Lick your plate and your fork and stick it back in the cupboard.

Mow the lawn please = Take a nap; you look really tired from your long day of skipping classes.

Vacuum the carpets please = I haven’t seen you playing video games lately. Are you okay?

Wash the windows = Go hang out with your friends they need you more than that pet you haven’t fed in three weeks.

Scrub the toilets please = Let me give you five dollars. You deserve it for breathing.

Somehow kids have this peculiar and abnormal belief that parents have magical powers. Our magical powers include magical brooms, dustpans, dusters, sponges and vacuums under our spells that clean the house when we are out earning a living, running them to sports camps and practices, attending all of their school activities and cooking food to make them plump and content.

The only miracles and special powers that I have access to are the ones are restraint, long-suffering. These powers have kept me out of the headlines and off the evening news because there are times when I’m on the threshold of self-medicating myself and smoking a tailpipe until I’m out of the “Keep Calm – They Didn’t Do Their Chores Done Again” zone.

At what point do we as parents say, ‘I’m sick of being your live in maid. I’m sick of doing what I’ve asked you a million times to do. I’m sick of trying to teach you to be tidy. I’m sick of worrying sick that you don’t understand how this will benefit you.’

There are no easy solutions that I am aware of. We have been fighting the good fight for so long it no longer feels like a fight anymore it just feels like a joke and we are always the punchline. So until I find an answer to this tired old question I will be cleaning and tidying up after these blasted kids, just like every other underappreciated and tired parent who has ever lived on this earth.

Another disgruntled parent

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