Being Hospitable

Using our words is one way in which we communicate.

We think in pictures; if you do not get the picture, you do not get the concept. Words paint pictures. Words develop meaning based on their use.

What image do you conceive when you hear the word hospitality. Does it conjure up a welcoming atmosphere amid friendly faces with caring service? What about the word travel? Do you see adventure and excitement?

Words are alive and grow and change and become obsolete. Hospitality is derived from two Latin words: “hostis”, which originally meant ‘stranger’, and took on the meaning of enemy or “hostile stranger”, and “polis” meaning “equalizing power”. Travel comes from the word “travail” meaning pain, anguish and torture.

In olden days travel was difficult, going by foot, camel, or caravan. The communities were wide spread and outsiders were seen as hostile – marauding, pillaging, raiding and looting. Prosperous community members would go out to meet the approaching foreigners offering food and respite. This show of kindness had an equalizing power. Only after the stranger was made to feel comfortable would he be asked his name and mission.

Hospitality also has the idea of protection and guidance. Hospitality is about compensating/equalizing a stranger (host) with a stranger (hostis-guest) by making him feel protected and taken care of and guiding him to his next destination. Hospitality is based on an individual’s felt sense of duty to family and community.

Each time you feel negative, stop, acknowledge that thought and deliberately dismiss it. Or at least reframe it. Look deeply to find the root of your emotion and consciously replace it with the greater truth of your potential. This practice is profoundly spiritual and life changing. Use it. Embrace it.

Incidentally, How could our travels become more pleasant as we extend hospitality to other road-travelers - even to the guy in the right hand land that does not turn right.

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Game Changers

We look around us to determine what is “normal”. Think of moving to another country with a different culture. Because of our genetic need to fit in, our programmed ego adjustment kicks in to bring us up to the status quo. To be able to adjust definitely has its good points.

This scenario is equally relevant in the automatic pilot ordering of our every day routine. We assess standards of conduct and search for evidence to confirm our perception. An unconscious involuntary mechanical regulator can be to our detriment. We internalize what we believe and carry it with us through life, even when it no longer serves us.

Most of us know ourselves only by hearsay. What we overhear about us may be right on – or not. We come up with notions about what is and is not true about ourselves. Others perception of us may be actual or eschewed, genuine or flawed, assumed or myopic.

We also come up with notions about what is and is not true about others in particular and about the world in general.

Walter Cronkite, then the most trusted man in America, famously ended his nightly newscast with “And that’s the way it is.” His affirmation of absoluteness was based on unbiased facts.

What if we made a deliberate-on-purpose-game-changing choice to test, weigh and measure our perceptions. “Is this really true?” “How can I know it is true?” “When I think it is true, how do I behave?”

What if we chose to give grace to our assumptions, as in “Maybe I really do not know what he is thinking”? How would the interaction with that individual change when we extended a little bit of honest doubt?

What if we became aware of inflections, nuances, tiny shifts in thinking that makes huge differences? As in going from the all-inclusive statement of “I am stupid” to a more accurate assessment of “I made a stupid statement” (or choice; whatever the situation dictates). How would one’s self-esteem blossom when we see ourselves as individuals in legitimate transition of growing and learning?

What if we made a conscious decision to change from automatic pilot to intentional choice? What if we chose to explore options and accept the mysteries of unique viewpoints?

I’m game. How about you?


School Days, School Days, Good Ole Golden Rule Days

The year was 1960 and my life was interrupted. We sold our cattle and chickens. We found loving homes for our pets. We locked the doors of the house for the first time ever. We kissed family and friends good-bye. We left the lush rolling hills of West Virginia.

Without fanfare, my parents and I – looking somewhat like the Beverly Hillbillies – packed up Daddy’s white 1954 Chevrolet truck and moved 1200 miles to Waco, Texas.

Perhaps the greatest culture shock was going from a small one-room school house - where one teacher taught grades one through eight (and we had all been classmates since birth) – to a huge two-story-multiple-classroom-multiple- teacher Junior High School of 500 kids. All strangers.

The natives were not so friendly. They made fun of my back-woodsy vernacular. They laughed at my long hair slicked back into a bun. They sneered at my best flour-sack dresses. Although most of us were of English origin, we did not speak the same language. They had never heard of soup beans or pop. I was offered soda water and my stomach was not even hurting.

Back home I had been in the elite group at Lick Creek School, Lick Creek, WV. Actually, all 23 of us were in the elite group. That extended family atmosphere bound us together like few things can.

We studied together and played together and rode the bus together and adventured together and occasionally argued together. All ages were on the same team whether playing tag or marbles or softball. Oh sure, we would divide up, and sometimes that was scary to be the last one chosen. But even though I was told that I ran like a cow, they still let me play.

We jumped rope and played hopscotch while rhyming in cadence: First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes Jane with a baby carriage.

The creek that bordered Lick Creek School was a constant source of fun. In the spring and summer we waded, caught minnows and turned over rocks to unearth crayfish. In the winter we skated. No, no one had ice skates. Any kid with a little determination can scuff-off the tread of snow boots until they are slick as ice. Thankfully, as the youngest in the family, my yearly hand-me-downs were already a little worn.

If the creek was not frozen solid enough to hold us, the sidewalk was. Two minutes before the bell rang, we lined up at the one-armed pump for a dipper full of ice water. Oh sure, we need a drink after so much skating, but more importantly, we needed to maintain the skating rink. (Take a sip, pour remainder on walk, refreeze before next recess.)

We took field trips. Where did we go? We went out into the fields.

We learned birds; their colors, their song, their names and their nesting, eating and migrating habits. We learned trees and shrubs and weeds; how they benefited or harmed mankind and animals. We observed wildflowers, berries and animals. We watched the sky and knew cloud formations and the meaning behind their colors and signs of when to plant or harvest.

We did book learning too. We learned our numbers and letters and how to use them effectively (without verb conjunction or misplacing modifiers). We would read history and then go out to recess and recreate what we had been taught.

From our wall map we knew world geography better than many today with all the modern technology.

Civics? We lived it. Barn-building or hog-killing people showed up with tools and food in hand because we were family. Election day the schoolhouse – all decked out in red-white-and-blue bunting – became a hub of community activity. The school bus and a few private vehicles scoured to the ends of the county providing travel so everyone would be able to perform their civic duty. Decoration day produced a flurry of activity cleaning cemeteries and paying homage to our local world-citizens heroes. Our soldiers kept us safe at home while putting themselves in harms way to protect our unknown neighbors ‘over there’.

Not only were we taught, we were also allowed to learn on our own. Our small library contained renowned classics still favored today. We taught each other. Beginning in third grade – while the teacher taught the older kids inside - I was allowed to take the first and second graders outside under the big tree (a super special place) and help them learn their phonics and practice reading. This student teaching continued all through grade school. Little did I know that was career building?

Those were days of structured study and discipline. They were coupled with wild and wonderful days of unstructured play and imaginative minds let loose to dream and create.

Oh, such wonderful, wonderful memories. Not only are memories forever, they are foundations to build upon. The simplicity of those days continues to haunt me, overshadow me, protect me and compels me to replicate the love of relationship and the fun of learning into everything I do.

There is a special place in my heart for all my former classmates, grades 1-8; and for my two teachers, Mr. Frank Brown and Miss Gladys Neely. Thanks for the memories.

Don’t Cope. Overcome. Although that rhythmic cadence of love-marriage-baby-carriage may seem removed from the standard of today, I suggest the principle remains as founding truth. Whether formal or casual, planned or impulsive, loving or unloving, the union has holiness to it. The office is untarnished.

The child, regardless of the circumstances surrounding conception, is innocent and came from the original source of divine love. Whether the home produces benevolent leaders or malevolent dictators, all of us share in the propagation of light and darkness. The human condition is a complicated mix of good and evil. Correcting the slippery slope or climbing to a higher plane is all ‘Thanks Be To God’.


Reading and Comprehension

What is smarter? The ear? Or the eye?

As babies we learned to speak by hearing the spoken word; and in as many languages or dialects to which we were exposed. Are we not equally capable of reading by being exposed to the written word?

Whether aware of it or not, you “read” everything you see. You walk into a room of fifteen people and unwittingly scan the room – from left to right. Suppose that you are only in the room for a few seconds and leave. You meet someone going into the room that asks, “Who is here?”

How many can you name? When you scanned the faces they automatically registered as familiar or unfamiliar. Current faces were mind-matched with familiar pictures and given a conclusion. New input needed was alerted and left for more learning. Although you did not start from left to right and say each person’s name aloud (or even mentally), in reality you “read the room”.

You already are a speed-reader more than you give yourself credit for. What about billboards that you understand even as you speed by without deliberately paying attention. You instantly grasp the meaning without sounding out every word. Reading faster and for more comprehension is obtainable through recognizing the phenomenon of the eye being smart. Embrace it and expand upon your eye knowledge.

Information enters the brain through one of the five senses - see, hear, smell, taste and touch – and is stored in the mind. The more senses involved, the greater the comprehension; seeing, hearing and doing holds onto more information – and thus stores into long-term memory - than hearing alone.

Everything has a learning curve. Familiarity with the alphabet necessitated the mechanics of observing the shapes, drawing the letters, hearing how the symbol sounds and the placement of letters to form words. We meticulously read aloud and were graded on our ability to do so. We decoded the symbols.

As we moved from grade to grade and quit reading aloud, although our lips were stilled, did we continue to read word-for-word in our mind? What about comprehension? If one’s mental reading speed is in the 200 word-per-minute range, more than likely you are silently reading word for word to yourself.

Eye-movement accounts for only 5% of reading time. The remaining 95% involves the mental association of one’s past knowledge with present information. Speed reading/learning is about thinking meaning, seeing pictures (for comprehension) and recognizing symbols as familiar friends.
  •  See it as a fun challenge and a new adventure in learning.
  • Predetermine why you are reading the material. Information? Entertainment? Obtain skills? Testing? This will set you up for the depth of attention needed to obtain desired comprehension results.
  • Learn as much as you can before delving into the text.
  • Set yourself up for greater comprehension by looking at pictures and reading the info under then, notice what has been marked for emphasis, scan for new words and define them, go to a map and determine the world-location in which the event takes place, take the end-of-chapter comprehension test first.
  • Become a reading detective. From news articles to fairy tales, look for who, what, when, where, why and how. Is the information clearly given or inferred?
  • Focus on bunching words together, rather than word-for-word mental recitation. Remember the billboard?

Speed-reading is a lot like learning a second language. Not to worry, the eye is just as smart as the ear. A mark of intelligence does not only know the answers but also where to go to obtain what is still needed.