Baltimore’s Real Marathon

In one week our city has changed and it will continue to change. It’s sad that it took such unrest for people to be heard and the beginning of justice to be served. Over the past week hundreds and thousands of people have jumped in to clean up after the riots and begin our rebuilding process. It has been incredible to see everyone contribute in the simplest ways from sweeping the debris, loading/unloading trucks of supplies for families in need to peacefully walking the streets in solidarity. The curfew has been lifted and for most parts of the city the regular routines have been restored.

Now we must keep a very important question in mind. Do we really want to “restore” Baltimore to the way it was pre-riots? This is our opportunity for change and putting the necessary checks and balance in place to protect each other and the police. Everyone could have acted differently…..everyone!!!! And what I wish is that true accountability comes out of the journey Baltimore is about to embark on via the legal and political system.

Soon the brooms, shovels and supply trucks will leave Baltimore and as long as it’s quiet, the media and the rest of the world will assume that everything has calmed down. Let’s hope the national media leave us all alone. I applaud our local media reporters who did a magnificent job with “real” coverage while displaying such vulnerability, courage and sensitivity. Get lost Geraldo Rivera…..you don’t need to come back to our City!!!

Until we achieve fairness, Baltimore will continue to hurt as well as every other city across the country faced with systematic discrimination and oppression. This will take a long time to heal and repair a much broken system. The marathon has truly begun!! As they say “slow and steady wins the race” and this will be our time to proudly declare to the country that Baltimore leads the way for change! We WILL have justice and I am certain that Marilyn Mosbey will do everything in her power to make sure that the correct facts are presented.

Outside the courthouse is where our real marathon will be run. We need to come together as a collective community to mentor the youth in Baltimore City, give them places to play/create/dream and show them that what they dream can accomplish. We must surround the small business community who lost businesses and guide them back to business. Let’s not allow them to board up the store and give up. This is when we will stand together with resolve and come back stronger. We must give, we must teach and we must NEVER GIVE UP!!!

PEACE BY PEACE - BALTIMORE

I was driving home from an appointment to find myself in the midst of traffic backups near Mondawmin Mall, the initial site of this week’s riots. As soon as I saw the police officers in their riot gear while traffic was being redirected, I knew this was serious. When I arrived home, I ran inside, turned on the news and saw my city being besieged with looting, fires and extreme violence. My heart broke and is deeply heavy today. I don’t want to be sitting here writing a blog, I want to be on the streets cleaning up the destruction left behind. I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with my peers and cry together as we try to make sense of these events. I want to join them to help restore their peace and security!

I want…I want……………

I really want for the Mayor to severely punish the police officers who caused the death of Freddie Gray. When I see social media postings say that “isn't this the type of person we want off the streets?” I shake my head with disgust and wonder how could any human being be okay that this man was treated like an animal!? He is someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s loved one.

We treated Bernie Maddoff with far more respect and dignity. That gluttonous predator destroyed so many hard working families. Some well-intentioned people trusted their meager savings with Maddof, while he pranced around the globe playing rich with all of our money. And that creep gets to live in a low security prison?? Maddoff is a murderer. He killed the dreams of people, and his hands are stained with the blood of his own son, who committed suicide because of humiliation and financial ruin. Freddie Gray was not a murderer yet he was treated as a low life piece of garbage.

I am …I am……………

I am angry and pissed off completely that Baltimore has become a city of extreme poverty and wealth where people are constantly being left behind. It has been a pressure cooker where people are screaming for help. Good hard working people scrape by on the disgusting and impalpable minimum wage while politicians turn a deaf ear to all of this. Someday you will be judged for your inflated egos, your greed and your narcissist need for power. You have taken away from our kids who need places to learn, to find mentors and to discover their dreams.

I say…I say……………I say, NO MORE!!

To channel my sadness and anger, I will give back, I will join together for prayer and clean-up and whatever else can be created to bring hope back to our city. PEACE BY PEACE we will rise above the ashes and resurrect stronger.

Digital Depression

Digital Depression

I am reading Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard. The author devotes a great deal of time towards our society’s fixation with being connected. His words are a gentle reminder to disconnect. Think about how we are behaving in the world now when it comes to everything digital:

We have our cell phones on 24/7
We are notified every time someone blows their nose on social media (at least that’s what it is almost reduced to)
We and our children are holding a Smartphone, tablet or have earphones connected to our heads where we can’t even hear when a loved one is speaking
We respond to emails at all hours and at all places
Are we crazy to think that the constant tap tap tap or “swiping/clicking” as Burchard writes does not cause a negative mental state? Many times when I look on Facebook I see very negative commentary or inappropriate rants. I have started to “un-friend” the folks who continuously post stuff that is toxic or pretentious. I don’t need to see it! I have logged out of Facebook on all of my devices because I don’t need one more nudge of something being posted. I’ll check it when I choose or if I choose.

The whole texting concept still has me baffled. I can see getting to someone quickly or it’s a short communication once in a while but when texting replaces full blown conversations, I can’t get my head around the wisdom of the interaction. I was guilty of that but I have since stopped or told the other person to call me if they want to talk further. When I have opted to call the other person and get a voicemail when I know they just had the phone in their hand ½ a second ago, it confirms the craziness of texting or perhaps the “cowardness” of texting. The device started to get more attention than my wife and it keeps my head down. I want to keep my head up to enjoy life. People don’t talk anymore and I just don’t get it. Since I have changed my own relationship with my cell phone I am feeling much more energized and relaxed. Our eyes never get a rest from manufactured light and again it is such a waste of precious life.

I have also learned that I don’t have to respond to an email in the same second it was sent unless it’s an urgent need. It is normal to take time to prepare a response or even pick up the phone to engage in live conversation depending on the nature of the email. It is absolutely crazy when people continuously hide behind email rather than picking up the phone. When I hear that people break up over email or text, I shake my head in the craziness of it all.

We have to rethink our relationship with the digital world because it IS very valuable AND it has caused a lot of hardship when not used responsibly. Sometimes words in an email or text are taken out of context thus causing undesirable outcomes. Maybe a phone call would have produced an easier resolution. For whatever reason we have disconnected from humanity and connected to digital demons as a way of life. STOP IT!!!

I hear and read about more negative feelings about digital interactions which lead to sadness or anger and typically ends in a form of depression. I encourage the younger generation not to compare yourself with what you see over Social Media. You are far more beautiful than that both inside and out!! So what will it take for us to communicate in a simpler manner? Put the digital devices down for a while and set some boundaries for yourself. You may find that there is much more time freed up to enjoy life, to love, to play and just to be. Sounds blissful to me!!!

A Small Question Can Go a Long Way

When we spend most of our waking hours in a workplace, one would think that we would pay attention to every aspect around us. More often than not, if someone is quiet, introverted or keeps to themselves, they are not given much attention. We tend to pay attention to the extroverts, the ones who are the life of the party or even the bullies. We ignore or make assumptions that the quiet ones are different, weird or odd. Who are we to make those negative assumptions? Yet it happens all the time.

What about the funny folks who start to change behaviors, maybe start coming in late or don’t seem themselves? Do we engage or do we keep distant thinking that this will pass. Again, we assume something is wrong or that they are “screwed up”. Maybe if we took a few minutes to simply ask “how are you?” and be willing to stop long enough to really listen to what they have to say, it may be an opportunity for that person to reveal something that is heavy on their heart.

I know sometimes we don’t want to engage too deeply because “we don’t want to get involved”. Considering that this simple question might save someone’s life, wouldn't you ask it? I recall a story of a college graduate who was giving his valedictorian speech and acknowledged a friend for helping him on a particular Friday with a towering stack of books. The boy was planning to commit suicide over the weekend and didn't want his mom to experience the sadness of cleaning out his locker. On the way home, a classmate took the time to talk with him and carry his books home. That simple act of kindness had the depressed boy see his life differently in that moment. A life was saved, the friendship blossomed and an amazing young boy grew into a successful man.

When Robin Williams committed suicide, the world was shocked. I was shocked. How could this amazing comedian who appeared to have it all, take his own life? We grasped for answers, we mourned with his family and the issue of depression was getting closer to home. Last month a Germanwings pilot deliberately crashed his plane taking his and 150 innocent people’s lives because of his mental illness. Though doctors diagnosed him with forms of mental illness, the pilot was able to keep it from his employer. How can no one he worked with not see that he might have been struggling with something? Do we have to run through the halls screaming or have such over the top attention getting behaviors for others to know something may be wrong?

As an employer, I have had incidents over 25 years where changes in an employee’s behavior were cause for concern. I learned in the first year of opening the company to take nothing for granted and address any concern. At that time I was 28 and quickly learned how to probe in a professional manner where trust was built and I could either help the employee or refer them to a professional.

I don’t have an answer here, I just know that we have a human responsibility to help each other and if we are sharing a workplace, reach out and engage with co-workers. We can still keep healthy boundaries while being compassionate. A simple interaction can help to put someone back on the right track. Isn't another person’s happiness worth it, aren't we worth it to take care of each other and wouldn't we want others to care of us in times of pain? We are in this world together and whether or not you believe it, we are all connected. That connection could be someone’s life line.

Mental Illness in the Workplace

We tend to give mental illness an image from movies as One Flew over the Cuckoos Next or Girl, Interrupted. While the movie represents a form of severe mental illness, it is the subtle and quiet forms that often go undetected as well as ignored.

The workplace is a breeding ground for mental illness. Environments over the years have changed where we are all pushed to go over the top beyond to deliver at all costs. The system across the board is constantly downsizing and people are tasked to do more work in less time and with fewer resources. We are constantly connected to technology where there is no break from the pace or the demand for answers, even when on vacation. We have little room to catch our breath and the “press” weighs heavily on our souls.

The sad part is that we all have played a part in the creation of the toxic environments. We are conditioned to do what the boss says or use the “water cooler” as a place to vent rather than going to the source of one’s discomfort to solve the problem. That in itself fosters a vicious cycle of negative behaviors. I have seen jealousy at the root of many interoffice problems whether that looks like a leader’s ego running amuck, an employee bringing a personal wound to the workplace that continues to play itself out rather than seeking professional help as well as co-workers trying to sabotage another’s work to save face.

One’s internal psyche can repeatedly get battered if there is not a balance of joys in the workplace versus negative competition. It is not just the workplace’s fault because we all have a choice on how we will respond to a situation. If challenges in our personal lives are taking over who we are in the workplace, it is our responsibility to take the steps to constructively reduce the outside stress or approach a manager or HR for support. There are so many Employee Assistance Programs available that often go unused. There are many employers eager to offer guidance to a struggling employee. We are often afraid to reveal ourselves or not comfortable talking to anyone. Again, there are choices.

It is the responsibility of managers and co-workers to pay attention to changes in their co-workers behaviors. Many times if it’s not talked about, maybe it will go away. That is so far from the truth in any situation. The unspoken is often the ticking time bomb.

This is a conversation deserves more than one entry so it will be continued throughout the month.