“He’s Always Been Good to Me”

After Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, all these people came out of the woodwork to say how nice Brett Kavanaugh had always been to them. I’m glad to hear it. But what has that got to do with her testimony?

It’s the same after someone becomes a spree killer. “He was always so quiet. He paid his rent on time. He used to hold the door open for me.”

Humans are complex, folks. The fact that Kavanaugh volunteered at a soup kitchen does not absolve him from any crimes he may also have committed. And it certainly does not mean that he couldn’t possibly have committed crimes. Character references only get you so far. Charles Manson got more fan mail than any other prisoner in American history. That doesn’t make him a Boy Scout.

I’m really glad that Brett Kavanaugh isn’t the devil incarnate. I hope he has many opportunities to help little old ladies cross the street. We need that in this world.

But do I believe that at least once in his life, his did a horrible, unforgivable, unacceptable thing, and because of that a woman’s life was changed for the worse? Yes. Yes, I do.

Until we make it crystal clear that such behavior is unacceptable, that all the soup kitchens on earth won’t make up for it, there will be no reducing the amount of sexual assault in this society.

Boys must be taught that no means no. It’s that simple. Even my dog understands it.

And just so we’re clear, a yes that changes into a no is also a no. And an intoxicated yes is a no. It’s about respect. Respect for others and respect for yourself. If you can’t follow those simple rules, you should expect consequences, no matter how nice you are most of the time. Sorry to disappoint you.

I’m reminded of something my late boyfriend used to say. “You can pour all the syrup on it that you want, but that don’t make it a pancake.”

Pancake

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The Ingredients of Happiness

It always comes as quite a shock when someone famous commits suicide. Hearing on the radio that Anthony Bourdain chose to take his own life nearly caused me to swerve off the road. This is someone I’ve envied. He got to travel. He had crazy experiences and met fascinating people. He won countless awards. No doubt he also made a boatload of money.

This was someone who was successful, rich, and had an exciting life. Three things many of us strive for, and yet, now he’s gone. On the surface, you’d think that his was a life worth living. But to make this permanent choice, he must have been in a great deal of emotional pain. He must have been suffering. Surrounded by all of us, who admired him, he must have been all alone. Of course, this is pure speculation on my part. I doubt any of us will ever know the full story.

The only thing I can know for sure is that I am happier than Anthony Bourdain was. I would never have guessed this a week ago. But there’s incontrovertible evidence of this now. I’m still here.

So, what constitutes happiness? One thing is for sure: it isn’t money. I know that’s a cliché, but clichés become clichés for a reason.

I know someone who is a millionaire, but he’s also a divorced, estranged father and a raging alcoholic. He’s one of the most miserable people I have ever met. Money does nothing to solve your problems when all is said and done. Most of us know this, and yet so many of us still seem obsessed with filthy lucre. It’s such a waste of time.

As far as I can tell, the two things you need to be happy are connections and purpose. Humans are social animals. They need community. The more you surround yourself with people you love who love you back, the happier you will be. And having a purpose, such as a job you love, or a goal to strive for, or even a hobby, makes life worthwhile. If you have none of those things, I encourage you to become a volunteer. Helping others is the noblest of purposes.

Don’t get me wrong. None of us can be happy all the time. People who are happy all the time are mentally ill. It’s how we cope with the rough patches that truly defines us. But there’s a lot that you can do to make your life satisfying overall.

If you are contemplating suicide or know someone who is, I strongly encourage you to seek help. Here in the US, a great resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Their number is 1-800-273-8255. Please, just do that one last thing before taking any steps that, once done, can never be undone. Surely you owe yourself that much.

Anthony Bourdain, I hope you have found the peace you apparently could not find in this life. I wish you had made a different choice.

Anthony Bourdain

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Be My Eyes

I never thought I’d say this, but for the first time in my life, I really, really wish I had an iPhone. I’ve managed to avoid jumping on that bandwagon all this time, in spite of the fact that people often look at me funny when I tell them I can’t access the internet on my phone, and while it is capable of taking photos (I’m not that far out of the loop), it can’t send them to anyone.

The thing that has finally given me iPhone envy is this app that I heard about just today, called Be My Eyes. It connects sighted volunteers with blind and low vision people who need some momentary assistance. Given that there are about 14 volunteers currently signed up for the app for every blind person who has signed up for it, the gentleman whom I heard talking about it says he gets a call about once a month.

These calls can be something random, like, “Can you tell me if this milk has expired?” or “Is this tie green or red?” or “How many eggs does this recipe call for?”

I think this is a wonderful way to give a helping hand to someone in need. It would be great for homebound individuals, for example. They could feel as though they were contributing to the wider world. A great way to battle loneliness is to make a difference for someone else.

This app is one of those delightful inventions that makes you wonder why no one has thought of it before. If you have an iPhone and any time at all, I encourage you to volunteer. And if you do, I’d love it if you shared your experiences below.

P.S. Since I posted this this morning, several readers have pointed out that the app also works on Android. So those of you with fancier phones than mine really have no excuse!

 

be-my-eyes-app

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Dedicated Drawbridge Openings

As a bridgetender, I have the privilege of operating one of the world’s biggest pieces of heavy equipment every single day. It never gets old. A friend of mine likes to say that with my index finger, I move hundreds of thousands of pounds of concrete and steel. I try not to let this power go to my head.

When I do an opening, I often see people come to a dead stop and gaze in awe. I wonder how many photos I’ve been responsible for during the course of my 17-year career. Thousands, no doubt. Every bridge opening is an event for someone.

The fact that every opening is special gave me an idea. I could dedicate a bridge opening to you, dear reader! We’d both be on the honor system here, but all you have to do is donate US$20 to your favorite charity (or if funds are tight for you, volunteer, or donate a pint of blood or your hair for wigs or something like that) and then write in the comments section below (or on the View from a Drawbridge Facebook Page) who you donated to and who you’d like me to dedicate the bridge opening to. I will reply in the comments when I did the opening and give any unique details about it. DO NOT SEND ME ANY MONEY. That’s not what this is about.

Important note: I cannot just open the bridge willy-nilly. There actually has to be a boat that requires an opening. Otherwise traffic would back up for miles, and it would also break several Coast Guard regulations. I’d kind of like to keep my job, so I can’t promise an opening on a specific day or time. But I promise I will do it.

Here’s your chance to make a big move! So get out there and make your donation, and let me know. I look forward to hearing from you!

UniversityBridge

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What Makes You So Special?

One night at the end of December, I went with a neighbor and her son to a tent city to feed the homeless. It is within walking distance of my house, but it’s hidden so well that I never noticed it before. And it’s an amazing place.

First of all, it’s not some conglomeration of drug addicts and the mentally ill. This is a family place. Children were running everywhere. It’s a community with a security tent, a communal storage area and kitchen, and even a place to gather to watch movies and have meetings. It’s not the ideal place to live, by any means, but if you’re down on your luck and have limited options, it’s much better than many of the available alternatives.

Aside from my neighbor, I didn’t know any of the other volunteers who had gathered to bring food on this bitterly cold night. And that made the experience all the more interesting, because in most cases, I could not distinguish the residents from the volunteers. What a concept.

These were good people, just like you or me. Most of them have jobs. They have the love of family. They are doing the best they can with whatever unfortunate cards they have been dealt. Having spent part of my childhood living in a tent, I know what that’s like. And I know how frustrating it is to have people make assumptions about you based on that tent.

And yet, through it all, they remain grateful. One charming gentleman said to me, “You know, they say that if you do good things at the beginning of the year, it sets the tone for the rest of the year. So if you are being this kind at the very end of the year, I would have loved to be around at the beginning of the year to see what you were doing then.”

That brought tears to my eyes.

At the end of the evening I went back to my warm house with my fully stocked refrigerator and my empty guest room, and I felt really, really guilty. What makes me so special that I get to spend this cold night with a solid roof over my head? What sets me apart from those people, shivering in their tents?

The answer is: nothing. Not a thing.

And that’s something we should all think about.

tent

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Give Yourself a Raise

Recently I got a raise at work, and I was thrilled. You have to understand. For 14 years I worked in a non-union job, and we got a one dollar raise every 6 years, which, needless to say, did not keep pace with the cost of living. And we’d have to fight to get that. We also got 3000 dollars’ worth of health coverage a year, which barely covered prescriptions for most of us. Now I’m working the same job on the other side of the country and we have a union and I’m earning three times as much, with a benefit package that moves me to tears whenever I contemplate it.

Let’s face it, if employers actually cared about their workers, there’d be no need for unions. Assuming The Man is going to behave honorably without union oversight is pure fantasy. Without unions there would still be sweat shops, child labor, and 80 hour work weeks.

I realize I’m one of the lucky ones. I just kind of fell into this good fortune. I did nothing special to deserve it. I was just in the right place at the right time. I am no more worthy than you are. I wish I could sign up every single person on the planet, but that’s not within my power.

If you can unionize, do so. But as much as it breaks my heart to say this, most people reading this are probably going to be screwed at work. The only thing I can tell you is that there is more than one way to get a raise. If you wait for your employer to do it you may wait forever. Here are a few other ways to raise yourselves up:

  • Find something that you love doing outside of work and do it just for the pure joy of it. You might also consider thinking of ways to make money by doing it, but that’s definitely not required.

  • Volunteer. This will give you a great deal of satisfaction. Call it a karma raise. And though your efforts you may meet people and make contacts that will translate into a future job, or make like-minded friends. You can never have too many of those.

  • Be ever mindful that the best things in life don’t cost a penny. Love. Friendship. Learning. Beauty. Reach out for those things. Embrace them.

  • Vote! Make your opinion count! Be heard!

  • Whenever possible, do as much as you can to lift up the people around you. Acknowledge their efforts. Give compliments. Be generous. That abundance will come back to you. On the other hand, turf-guarding, selfishness and subjugation will drag you down as well.

  • No one can treat you as well as you can treat yourself. But are you doing that? Being kind to yourself, pampering yourself? Our culture may frown upon it, but it’s the greatest gift you can give yourself. Make it a habit.

  • Speak your truth. Embrace your uniqueness. Maintain your integrity. Do what feels right to you. All these things will make you a more authentic, happy individual, and when you live that happiness, good things will come your way. No one can take that away from you.

  • Explore your spirituality to it’s natural (for you) conclusion. Therein lies peace.

  • Exercise. Do yoga. Walk in the world. Actively play.

Do something to give yourself a raise every day. It’s every bit as important to you as food. Think of it as feeding your spirit. The Man isn’t in charge of your well-being. You are.

Alicia
This is my friend Alicia. Beautiful in mind, body and spirit. And also the best yoga instructor on the face of the earth! (Photo used with permission.)

Donating Yourself

Times are tough and there’s so much need out there that it can be overwhelming. But it’s understandable when people can’t make financial donations. I for one am struggling to make ends meet. But there are so many other ways to help.

Here are some ways you can give of yourself, show the world how wonderful you are, and improve the lives of others without spending a dime, and if you need added incentive, in many cases you can write these donations off on your taxes.

  • Become a marrow donor. If you’re between the ages of 18 and 44, a simple cheek swab will get you registered, and if you become a match it could save someone’s life. Go here to order a registration kit.
  • Become a cord blood donor. Are you pregnant? Donating your baby’s cord blood after birth does not put you or your child at risk and could save someone’s life. Talk to your doctor and find out if your hospital participates in this program before your child is born. For more information, go here.
  • Donate your used clothing and furniture. It breaks my heart to see useable items on the curb on trash day when there are so many organizations who would be happy to take them off your hands. Many will even come and pick it up from you.
  • Donate your used car. There are a lot of organizations that will take your used car. Here’s a site that can connect you to various charitable organizations, but personally, I plan to donate my car to National Public Radio when the time comes.
  • Volunteer. Many organizations in your community could use your help. Here’s a website that can help you find those opportunities.
  • Give someone a micro-loan. I can’t say enough about Kiva.org. In a nutshell, loan 25 dollars, change someone’s life, get paid back, and hopefully do it again. What have you got to lose? Not one single penny, that’s what.
  • Help a neighbor. If you have a neighbor who is sick or elderly or disabled or a single parent, they could no doubt use your help. Whether it’s shoveling snow, running an errand, doing home repair or mowing the lawn, there are any number of things you could do to make their lives easier.
  • Donate blood. Another free opportunity to save a life! Imagine that. Go here to find the blood bank nearest you.
  • Freecycle. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Rather than filling the landfill with your perfectly usable but no longer wanted items, advertise them here on your local freecycle network. This is a great way to pick up things that other people are giving away as well!
  • Spread the word. Do you know of a way for people to save money or live healthier or safer lives? Don’t keep this information to yourself. Share it. Facebook it. Tweet it. Whatever it takes to share this with others. Knowledge is power.
  • Donate your hair. Planning to cut more than 10 inches of your hair off? Don’t let it go to waste! There are organizations that will make wigs for people who have cancer or alopecia. I don’t want to give any one organization special treatment, so simply google “hair donation” and choose the one you like best.
  • Listen. Sometimes all someone needs to turn their day around is someone willing to listen to them. Really hear them. That’s a skill. Please practice it.
  • Participate in Neighborhood Watch. Help keep your neighborhood safe the RIGHT way, with an organization that does not advocate vigilante behavior. Google Neighborhood Watch to learn more.
  • Be a mentor. Share your knowledge and expertise with someone who would benefit from it. Learn more about this here.
  • Recycle. Think of this as volunteering for the planet.
  • Report abuse and other crimes when you see them. If you witness domestic violence or any other crime, speak up. That’s the only way you’ll prevent its recurrence. This is a way of doing a good turn for a future victim. Simply dial 911, or if you are outside of the United States, find out your emergency number and keep it handy.
  • Be an organ donor. Sign up to become an organ donor in your state’s organ donor registry and you will not have died in vain. For more information, go here. Also, be sure to share your wishes with your loved ones so that there’s no conflict or confusion when the time comes.

There are so many ways to make a difference in this world, and you don’t have to spend any money doing so. If you can think of any other ways that I may have overlooked, please add them to the comments section. I do 13 of the things mentioned above, but doing even one will make the world a better place. Join me, won’t you?

volunteer

Remember when you were young and willing? It’s never too late.

[Image Credit: astdtn.org]