A Panhandler’s Contribution

I recenly had a dream that I was a panhandler.

Okay – it was more like a nightmare – but it ended up still inspiring.

It was such a vivid and interesting dream,
when I woke up I had to write it down.
I didn’t know how I was going to use it, but I knew there must be a purpose.
*

winter flower

Winter Possibility

The other day on a trip into the city core (in Toronto, Canada); I came across the usual people that is often seen day in and day out.  It is rather sad because they put so much effort to be at their corner every day (like a job), they could easily see solutions to their challenges and make a difference in their life.

Then I remembered my dream.  And I’m going to share it with you here.  I hope there is hope and possibility that maybe someone will pass this on to others who can use this idea.

***

I was sitting on the downtown corner of Bay and King Sts – the financial district to Canada’s financial power and major economic decisions.  So anyway, I wasn’t doing so good in getting money from people passing by.  Actually – NONE!

I was so saddened and disappointed in people that they could not spare a quarter; when they often pay $3.00 for the small cup of orange juice they were drinking. I thought to myself, “Don’t people realize there is poverty, despair, struggle, and other challenges that people face every day among all this wealth and privilege?”

Now, remember this is a dream.  Yet, while I was thinking that, I really couldn’t blame them – I suppose.  What do I mean to them other than just another faceless tragedy lost in the game of life.  As the warloads would say, “There’s bound to be collateral damage when progress is made.”

I was a cold morning; and the winds were pushing their way around the concrete structures without any shelter other than what I provided for myself.  Not the best way to invest a life – any life.  Even a dog would be taken in.  I would look up into people’s faces as they walked by and noticed their frustration as well.  Not one smile, or a glance, or even an acknowledgement that a human body was living on the corner for the day.

Sometimes I can be a little dense in my thinking ( – even in my dreams I’m not any smarter, lol); so it took a lot of time to work through how I was going to survive a winter on the desolate wasteland of financial power and oppression.  Of course, it took a lot of time (frustration and humility mostly) for me to work it through.

It took a lot of introspection about myself – about my past, present, future; about my skills and abilities; about my life lived as an “unfulfilled expression to the world” in my own little way. In dreams, as we know, there are no real time barriers or set patterns; so I managed to get in all the learning I got from life from my waking past to cram it all in, lol.

I learned something in Sales (in real life) many years ago and it came back to me in the dream.  It was about human motivation – their wants and needs – and the role it plays in getting people to do things.  It is actually based on psychology and is used in our lives by the media the most.  I remembered the very most single important thing that affects every single human (and sub-species, too).  It is this:

WII-FM:

What’s In It For Me

We are all in life for ourselves.  The individual is most important to themselves; otherwise, there would be no effort to live.  No point in eating if we don’t care whether we want to live or not.  So with that in mind, I came to the realization I had nothing to offer the people as they passed by.  There was absolutely no reason whatsoever to even look at me because I was not more than street furniture.

In the dream, I decided to give something in return for their donation.  So then the idea hit me!  This is the inspiring idea:

  1. I contacted a small business printer who prints business cards.
  2. I sought out the printers that give free cards in exchange for free advertising on the back of the card (WII-FM).  There are a couple in Toronto.
  3. With the cards I had printed 250-500 cards with inspirational and motivational quotes and anecdotes (with the ad on the other side).
  4. When I am on the street, I hand them out to the people as they walk by.
  5. The person will read the quote and (hopefully) get inspired from the “Thought for the Day” (or another title). In the fine print, you request a small donation.
  6. The next day, the person will take another card (with a different quote) and remember to give a donation the next day. The person remembers the feelings the card left her/him over the course of the day. They wanted to get the WII-FM – and they do!
  7. That day next, the person will have some change already taken out (from their cofee shop stop); and when they take a new card, they begin the habit of leaving change every day.

So, as you can see – everyone benefits as I can make a contribution in their daily lives – hopefully it’s a smiling and fulfilled day for the collateral damage of having someone inspired and happy around you every day at the office.  In this process, the WII-FM is fulfilled for everyone (printer, panhandler, donor) involved and everyone benefits greatly.

All it takes is a very little creative thinking and some work in the research.  ANYBODY can do this – no matter who they are!

***

So, that’s my dream from a little while back that I wanted to share with you about the possibilities in even the most worst conditions in life.  I also wanted you to consider sharing with others with whom you may cross paths.

Namaste

k

The Cockroach

Again, it’s the usual Saturday night;

another cold body, another lost fight.

His face is dented from hitting the curb;

blood pools from his brain – left undisturbed.

__________  .  __________

Lifting his head, he senses a trace;

of someone nearby, invading his space.

Under cover of shadows, he spies the ground;

there lies a body – making no sound.

*

As is his instinct, he knows what to do;

‘left for the taking’, that’s all he knew.

He readies to move free from mistakes;

his raw heart races – his body shakes.

*

Inching forward, he smells the death;

he sees no movement; he sees no breath.

 A gaping mouth wide as if to swear;

and blue glassy eyes – they only stare.

*

His plan now complete, he made it in slow;

then inspects the body from head to toe.

His work is done, he reaches in a pocket;

steals the man’s wallet – and runs like a rocket!

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© 2012 – Kevin Collins

Values & Beliefs: The “ELM Test” of Integrity

Our integrity is all we’ve got.  It’s “our word”, a handshake”, a promise”, “showing up”, and many other acts we perform in our daily lives.

Because of this, our personal integrity is what we are measured against – and the most revealing of who we are being in that relationship.

We see it in the stories ordrama of our lives.  The Grey in our black and white world.

***

IntegrityWhenever I consider the actions of myself/others, I have this tendency to measure (judge) the motivations behind those decisions/actions.

Of course, I’m not talking about decisions to do everyday sort of things; rather, I’m talking about decisions/actions that make a relative difference in my life – especially when it comes to business with others.  I’ll explain further as we go along.

So, what is this “ELM Test” and how is it used, you ask?

ELM is an acronym for:

  • Ethical

  • Legal

  • Moral

Ethical:  working in accordance with fulfilling the principles of right or wrong (especially within a profession).

Legal:  a statutory obligation to exercising the principles of right or wrong.

Moral:  an individual conscious decision as a human being to live the principles of right or wrong.

***

The process when I use this is not only for my own behaviours, but also that of others in my ‘official’ or business relationships.

Personal relationships do not usually need the Test because they don’t involve legal or ethical questions, only the question of morality.  Of course, I wouldn’t want to chill with a Ponzi schemer or a wife-beater – that crosses the line for me.

The way in which I use this test is by questioning the motivation or logic behind my (our) decisions before I decide to take action.  By doing so, it keeps my integrity in check and lets me gauge my sincerity behind my actions.  (I am always learning about myself, too!  Ackkkkkkkk!)

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If I profess to love people,
I better be ‘walking the walk
instead of just ‘talking the talk, right?

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Now let me digress just a little (my little humanistic caveat).  I am by no means implying that I am this walking edifice of righteous indignation – not like I was 15 years ago when I was the top of my capitalist game.  Heck NO!  I am human too.

Like you, my dear reader, I make mistakes – and some of them intentionally.  That’s what we do sometimes.  Sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of ignorance, and sometimes out of spite.

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Yup, we are always stretching the boundaries
of our moral compass – right?

And stuff will happen.  But …

***

When I enter a relationship, I feel I have an obligation to follow the ELM Test in order to ensure the best outcomes can be reached.  In other words – to get what I want.  There are many benefits:

  • it maintains a measure of respect and dignity for each other,

  • it allows us to know the boundaries of acceptable decisions/actions, and

  • it fertilizes the trust that is required for each other to be effective in the decisions/actions.

***

Here’s an example of how I recently employed the ELM Test:

I was recently looking for a job, and I wanted to work in a community organization doing outreach and providing support services like resume writing.  I found several opportunities (at least for summer work) that piqued my interest, so I applied.  Most replied and I went on a few interviews.

Keeping in mind that interviews are a good place and time to find out more about the agency as well.  I always want to ensure the agency is a good fit for me as well.  I always come prepared with questions for the interviewer as well as have word prompts to help me remember to make and note specific observations within the agency as it operates day-to-day.

I didn’t get a job.

I guess I could have been a little easier on my judgment of the agencies; yet, I wanted to work somewhere that was actually making some kind of difference.

After employing the ELM Test when deciding on these job opportunities, this is what I saw and determined from one of most obvious failures:

This agency’s main focus is to offer daily meals and snacks to feed the hungry, have a space to drop-in, and have access to free computers and telephone. The typical user is homeless, poor, hungry, speaks another language, men, recently landed, and between 30 and 50 years old.  The programs they offer are creative writing, painting, resume writing, how to find work, and how to write a cover letter to name a few.

FAIL ELM TEST
_______________

They failed their Ethical obligation to know the needs of the services users and offer them the programs and services they need.

To walk into the agency – and even to the untrained eye, it is obvious the service users are not in a position of using the above-mentioned services offered.  Besides language barriers, literacy is an issue.  Many are homeless and less-skilled.  Most were older men.

They failed their Legal obligation to use public funding to provide services according to the requirements from official needs assessments.

To hire staff to fill an agency need for funding does not give us value for the money we invest in human potential.  I witnessed a lot of casual conversations between staff (not with service users – they watch TV – in Spanish).

When the time came to offer the services, an announcement is made, a sheet of paper is checked, and the facilitator then goes back to the conversation at the front desk.

They failed their Moral obligation to reach into the lives of their service users and find out what they need and want to develop themselves as “productive citizens”.

Again, even to the untrained eye, it is obvious they are employed by the agency just to have a job.

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Granted, government funding makes it impossible to find qualified staff because of funding restrictions; but at least those that do work at the agency must have some sense of compassion, integrity, or desire to help others genuinely in need The staff were just floating around looking busy, but really – they were not accomplishing much more than feeding the neighbourhood.

Given this is their main intention, they would be a better agency that address the main issues that confront the services so they indeed do make a difference – as intended!

Needless to say, I ran away from that agency.

***

I couldn’t honestly work for someone who is just playing the game of life.  I don’t want to just fill a hole – I want to make a difference in my little corner of the world.  From the results of their decisions and the actions the staff were taking, my observations compelled me to make a critical decision from this question:

Do I take the job and try to make changes from the inside,
or do I walk away and pick an issue where
I can invest my time and resources into something
that will actually achieve a difference?

I had to keep my personal goals in the social struggle in perspective – and I had to invest in my emotional balance, so I chose to walk away.

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Updated from 2009

The ‘Hood

Her big sad blue eyes

          begging,

          calling,

          crying out.

 

Nothing is said.

Nothing has to.

As our eyes meet,

          she knows …

I can’t walk away

          from a soul in pain.

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Values & Beliefs: How Do We Make Decisions? – pt 1

Have you ever noticed that the longer we travel along this journey called life, there are moments from our past we can now distinguish as significant turning points in the direction our path leads.

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     In hindsight, I get the sense that we can see crystal clear how such seemingly meaningless events and its ensuing decisions can significantly alter not only our focus, but also the created thoughts and meanings otherwise leading to different possible life-altering actions and results.

***

Except for the time I heard the Backstreet Boys’ angelic voices when I was rushed to ICU for my heart surgery, no trumpets or violins are heard to tempt the moment, no kind of aural sign to put the instant in perspective – just a somewhat nondescript decision to do ‘this’ instead of ‘that’. Those quiet moments, without fanfare or forewarning. Yet, as we become aware of those defining moments; we etch them in our mind for future references. (This is where my “Meaning-Making Machine” takes over.)

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We generally tend not to give much thought to our many decisions we make, don’t you think? And here’s where I think we get ourselves into trouble – not always a bad trouble, but a trouble none the less.

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So, now I am faced with a lot of questions that may challenge my current value/belief system I hold so dearly and strongly to my heart. Some things I now pose is:

1.   What does this say about fate or destiny? Does it negate these?
2.   Is there anything we can do about it?
3.   Can we benefit from knowing about this?
4.   So what?

In this post, I first want to look at the “so what” because it may help me/us understand the answers to the others.

***

We make thousands of decisions a day – from deciding to turn left or right at a corner to deciding whether to pee now or hold it for later. For the most part, these are small decisions that make little or no difference in our everyday efforts.

Still, these decisions are based on our priority goal of that moment.

So, sometimes subconsciously through habit of pre-defined thought and action, or trust, or because you are fulfilling your goal, we decide which way to turn on the street because you have to buy something before you can get home to pee.

Therefore, we decide to hold our bladder. You see, quite trivial and seemingly meaningless (sounds funny, huh?); yet they are based on what and how we make all of our decisions. Yes – the small ones and the BIG ONES!

If we consider that we don’t pay attention (having awareness) to own decision-making process, we can lose the power to make better and healthier decisions, and then miss out on making those decisions that further our life in a positive way.

To be continued …

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Awareness: Youth & Poverty in Toronto

Twenty years ago, Child Poverty was declared as a goal to be eliminated.  While much has been said, not much has been done.  Child poverty is more prevalent today than it ever has been.

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In Canada, 50% of children still live in poverty; and food banks – a temporary measure – still thrives to help keep families fed.

***

Homelessness has become a major issue with youth.  Toronto proposed an action plan to deal with this proble;, but again, priorities shift (government to cut investing in youth and business not giving youth a fair deal).  The statistics from several social service agencies still bear it’s urgency:

  • girls are younger than boys when homeless,

  • there is an increase of drug abuse with over ½ of both boys and girls addicted (to deal with their problems).

  • Prostitution is a way for girls to survive, and

  • Theft is the major crime for boys.

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Aside from this, at-risk youth in general is a major concern.  With an unemployment rate of 20% among youth, it is not surprising anger has risen as a venting opportunity leading to more than double the number of youth gangs in the past 10 years.  The government is trying desperately to catch up and save these individuals by implement a few different programs.

What are some of the recurring problems that still make it an issue?

  • Are young people blocked from achieving goals?

  • Are they are deprived of opportunities employment and education needs?

  • Do they tend to be profiled in the media and other institutions in a negative light?

  • This conditioning can lower opportunities.

There are some possible factors that influence these issues:

  • Youth are struggling with their own personal identity on who they want to become to fully express themselves,

  • Young people are caught between two worlds (child and adulthood) as they start accepting responsibility,

  • they are often at odds as to how and who they should be in society as it is often portrayed in media in many misleading and confusing ways, and

  • Youth are often poor.

***

Poverty is the major contributor to these issues.

Yet, as we see the politically conservative mindset flood us with a wave of slash and burn opportunities working against young people, (after all, we are in a recession), the poverty reduction strategy by various levels of governments appear to forget about their moral and ethical commitments (for which they were elected) and put this on the back burner.

Sadly, this doesn’t bring us one step closer to resolving the terrible situations youth have to face today.

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Can we realistically expect any substantial change to really take place?

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Gloria’s Albatross

Image

She cried uncontrollably.

From all her facial orifices leaked the pain of grief, sorrow, and guilt of a broken young woman who messed up big time … again.

It was staring at her right in her face for her to see as plain as day.  She had fallen again, and this time her whole world was aware of just how messy an addiction to crack cocaine can be.

The worst part of it all is that this problem stems from a problem that stems from a problem that is caused by original heinous acts.

Gloria is a beautiful woman.  Not in the sense of outer beauty (although there was a time when she was a looker without having to try!), but her beauty is in her inner qualities of compassion, empathy, and outspokenness.

In her mid to late 20’s, she’s not one of those phonies (at least when she’s not using) who is nice to your face but talks about you to others when you’re not around.   No, Gloria is a straight shooter who “calls ‘em as she sees ‘em” and always takes the moral high road every time.

* * *

When life goes well for Gloria, she is a bright light in any circle.  For the most part, she is an inherent leader and exercises the role efficiently.   That’s probably because she actually likes people.

Intuitively, she knows how to get help for herself; and when motivated during a profound moment, she tends to act on it.  Bless her heart, because she is a take-charge person; and if I ever needed someone in an emergency, Gloria would be the person I would want to have around.

Unfortunately, for far too long, there has been this problem with crack.

Actually, the crack problem has her.

Based on her wretched past experiences of life, Gloria is a prime candidate to be sucked into the vacuum of the worst drug ever invented.

She is a wounded soul living under the weight from unspoken and unresolved grief because, regardless of where she looks around in her world, she is reminded daily of the knowledge of the past transgressions against her.  Worst of all, the profound powerlessness she feels prevents her from seriously considering even beginning the journey towards personal resolution and inner peace.

There is a relentless and enduring amount of pain she has not yet learned to tolerate every day that begs for her to be heard, acknowledged, and believed.

* * *

Gloria is not always sure what makes her feel the greatest.  The anticipation moments before that feeling of euphoria and safety, or the out-of-body calm afterwards that drives her to the next hit … and the next hit … and so on.

What makes this whole world of crack worse is that new benchmarks have been set for the social misery it brings with it.   It is cheap and made affordable to even those living in poverty.   It is easily available if you are looking for it; and easier to ‘come on, just try it out once’ (it only take 1 to 2 hits to get hooked); and the worst of all – it sets new lows for ‘bottoming out’.

For crack, the victims will do ‘almost a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g – more risk-taking than all other drugs, for their next big hit.

Sadly, this is where Gloria always ends up.  Yet, when the time comes to pick herself up and start putting the pieces back together once again, the realizations in her sobriety from crack literally wrenches … and tears … and presses … and tightens her chest and heart until it overwhelms her belief in herself.

Her experiences remind her that it is not the crack that is the problem – that is just the effect; rather, it is in the original cause of everything in the first place that have since cause innumerable effects like the ripples of a stone thrown in still water.

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