Getting personal isn’t rude.

oldtimer convo

“My mother married 4 times, so I had 4 fathers,” she said.

I told her it must have been tough having her mother get married multiple times.

“What was it like?” I asked.

Then my other friend interjected. “That’s personal.” His tone was incredulous. “You don’t ask about that.”

I hesitated and didn’t ask further, but I’ve thought about it, and I realize that asking about our friend’s problems is not rude. In fact, I think as a friend, it is a requirement.

I believe that if someone isn’t comfortable talking about something, then this is an indication that it’s quite appropriate to ask about it. Friendship is about helping other people, not just with money, or lending a hand, but with your actual interest, asking questions, communicating your thoughts through your words, and encouraging them towards a better place.

Communicating gets thoughts out where you can shine a light on them and ask yourself what you think. Do I want to keep doing this thing that makes me feel this way? And that’s what friends are for. To get you that perspective on a situation that is truly impossible for you to get from the inside. To help you talk about things that you want to change or need to face. The things you don’t want to talk about are precisely the things that need talked about.

Relationships are what make us feel valued. The only way to feel valued by another is when you do something valuable for them, and what’s more valuable than helping them change into a better person? And letting them help you do the same?

Get personal. It’s what friends are for.

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July 4th: Is it for pride, or inspiration?

uncle-sam

July 4th reminds me of rich white men who worked hard for their property and money and decided they would risk death for the right to keep what they earn, and have their interests represented by leaders who they could elect. It reminds me of men who wrote, “All men are created equal,” and left out the women, and in their hypocritical support of slavery, did not even consider males of other races to be men. These men did great things, in a culture that had abhorrent aspects.

The question to ask today, many years after July 4th, 1776, is do we have the courage of our convictions, as our Founding Fathers did, to risk our lives for something more than ourselves? To put into motion a form of government that would evolve to correct our own hypocrisies? To outlaw slavery, to force the private sector to if not correct, but mitigate, its racism? A system that would give women the right to vote? A system that came to outlaw the exploitation of child labor?

I think July 4th is the time to realize that we cannot be perfect, so it’s time to stop judging America and its politicians, and start judging ourselves. Why do we buy most of our products from China, where the people don’t have the the freedom to vote? How can we give our money to large monopolies, “too big to fail” banks who are subsidized by the government and no longer driven to protect their customers? How can we expect programs to help our neighbors, instead of helping them ourselves?

I believe it’s time to ask ourselves how we can improve our own lives and the lives of others. How can we change our current society for the better? We must take the imperfections of our Founding Fathers and our government, and use them to drive us to be better citizens.

July 4th may be a time for pride in the United States, but even more so, I believe it is a time for inspiration. The best change, the truest change, it comes from inside, not from far away places, not from a document, but from our values and our beliefs. It comes from us.