The Power of Information

Recently I received a notice from my state’s Department of Workforce Services. Apparently I had underreported my income when filing a claim for unemployment, which they take seriously. I don’t doubt that there are those who have gone to jail for this type of fraud. In my case, it wasn’t deliberate. I simply had underestimated my week’s earnings by $1.53.

I ‘fessed up to the mistake, confident they would see it for what it was and fully willing to write out a check to correct the error.  Turns out it’s not that simple. The amount isn’t what’s important. They were primarily concerned with my intent.

I eventually received a notice saying it was determined I hadn’t committed fraud and I was in the clear. Before this, however, I had to fill out a form claiming financial difficulty would prevent me from paying back the state. It actually wouldn’t; I’m broke but could shake $1.53 out of my penny jar if necessary. But not making an official statement about my finances would lead me down a dark road.

I took care to keep any sarcasm or snarkiness out of my answers in the multiple questionaires I completed through this entire process, but I can’t promise I was entirely successful.

I mean, really. You have to precisely report your weekly income, but not everyone (myself included) has access to the exact amount they’ve earned. Even if you have a down-to-the-minute accounting of your hours, it’s easy to make a mistake in calculating the week’s salary.

I’m sure our state lawmakers pounded their fists when voting on the unemployment fraud laws and said, “they must answer for any discrepancy!” leaving the DWS with a ridiculous amount of paperwork for honest human error. I’m betting most of those suits have never stood in the unemployment line or gone through the tedious and somewhat degrading process of collecting money when you’re out of work. Their decisions are academic.

Which leads me to wonder: how many other decisions do they make without valid background information? Don’t get me wrong. I have a great deal of respect for our elected officials as a whole. They are tasked with challenging decisions on a day-to-day basis.

But they don’t always know what their votes mean.

We have a responsibility to paint a picture with our words for our state and federal congresspeople. Fill in the blanks for those who sincerely want to do right (let’s work with that assumption). The controversial issues make the headlines, but there are  mundane decisions made every day.

Like where you draw the line in unemployment fraud. How much did it cost the state to process my error when a first glance would tell a reasonable person that, indeed, no fraud was intended?

Do we have the time? Do we believe it will matter? I’m confident that a well-written letter can make a difference.

You can make a difference.

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The Final Forgiveness

There are those who hurt us and infuriate us, people who forever remain oblivious to the harm they are doing. They are locked into their own understanding of what is good and right.

You want to honor all they’ve done for you, but seeing them comes with a price. It is a constant battle of wanting to rise above knowing you will only be dragged below by your good intentions.

At what point do you let go?

It is best, purest, if it can be done now and the issues are put behind you. But they are difficult to let go of. We are human; we are — on both sides — in many ways locked into who we are and what we believe. It protects us, guides us and provides us with clarity. So perhaps you forgive, only to be set up once again for a battle of wills and false understanding. It is a vicious cycle.

Then you hear: he is dying. He is hanging on, but soon will be gone.

It is time for a final forgiveness, an acknowledgement of our own failings and the knowledge that the temporal, in the end, is a wisp of smoke, dissipating into thin air.

It is time, but it is still hard. You haven’t been heard. There have been assumptions and presumptions that wound. Rumors and lies that become fact in the minds of others.

What does it matter? His death isn’t the final word because you go on living. What matters most?

Refine me, O Lord, open my blind eyes and lead me down the path of forgiveness.


Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

Discerning the Assumption

They tell you not to assume anything. But I disagree.

I’m job hunting now, and it is (as others have told me) a demoralizing experience. But I assume at the end of the my search I’ll have a job. If not, what would be the point of continuing?

Maybe that’s faith, not an assumption.

I have a friend who’s told me she doesn’t enjoy going to movie theaters. We’ve stopped inviting her, because we know what she’ll say. It’s not that she isn’t welcome, and we frequently let her know we’re going so she can include herself if she wants to go. But why ask the question when you’ve already been told the answer?

That’s common sense, not an assumption.

When I was in college, I took a course with no prerequisites. It was, I was told, a bottom-line, basic, true beginners class — no prior experience required. It also was a graduation requirement. Turns out everyone in that class — except me — already knew these basics, so the teacher taught at a higher level and left me behind. He believed I must know more than I thought I did. After all, I was bright enough.

Now that’s an assumption. Fortunately I took the course pass/fail and he graciously passed me. I didn’t learn a thing.

There are times when we assume things based on the facts we have, yet that information isn’t complete. It seems so obvious, so clear what the situation must be, until that puzzle piece that’s been missing appears. I’ve said it before. We don’t know what we don’t know.

How do we know when it’s faith, common sense or an unfair assumption? Look at who you’re depending on for the information. That will shed some light. The rest is life experience.

Which I’m assuming you have. Just kidding. If you don’t have it now, you will soon.


Assumption

Image Credit: © Bigstock.com

A Time to Plant

Can’t see the forest for the trees.

I think that’s human nature, getting so caught up in the details of an issue that we don’t see the bigger picture. And sometimes that bigger picture is beyond the scope of our understanding. It might take years before we fully comprehend all that there is to know about a particular situation.

When multiple parties are involved, each with their own stake in what’s going on, it can be hard to understand the bigger picture. You know there’s a forest out there — heck, you’re smack dab in the middle of it — but all you can see are the trees, the facts that don’t necessarily seem to tie together.

But somehow they do.  Not necessarily in an orderly fashion, and at times the meaning remains obscure long after we leave those trees behind. That doesn’t mean there isn’t good in that forest.

It also doesn’t mean there isn’t bad. Sometimes the hard cold truth is people did things they simply shouldn’t have done, and their actions have an unfortunate impact in your life, or the life of someone you love. Sorting through that remains a challenge.

Those are the times you have to bring the good to the forest. Plant your own trees, and watch them grow. Take charge of the world around you. It doesn’t mean everything will suddenly be good and the pain will disappear, but it’s good to take control.

I know some of you are facing situations where you have little control — illness or injury, for example, that may or may not be treatable — and these words may sound trite. For that I apologize.

But few of us are 100 percent victims of our circumstances. There is a time for mourning, and a time for giving thanks. And a time for planting trees.


Image Credit: ©sara_winter – stock.adobe.com

 

Forest

Surviving a Rip Tide

God forbid I’m ever caught in a rip tide, but if I am, may God remind me how to survive it.

Sometime ago I was watching one of the news magazine programs and they talked about just that: what to do if you’re playing in the ocean and get carried away by a rip tide, or rip current. This is what I learned (and I looked it up again before writing this, so I’m confident with this information).

  • First, stay calm. Easier said than done, right? But panic is not your friend, especially when you’re being swept away.
  • Second, swim (or float on your back) parallel to shore until you escape the current. It doesn’t take as long as you might think or fear. People get themselves in trouble when they try to escape the current by swimming to the shore rather than parallel to it before the current breaks.
  • When you’re past the current. then swim to shore or float on your back until you’re rescued.

It seems to me there should be a parallel (pun intended) to difficult times in life. I tried to write one, but it came out sounding so phony — and wrong — that I gave up. Don’t panic, roll with it, move in a counterintuitive way. That’s a solution to something other than rip tides, no doubt, but I don’t know what.

So instead I’m leaving it with this, what to do if you’re pulled into a rip current. I pray you never need this information, but if you do, I pray you remember it.


Tide

Photo © Bigstockphoto.com

 

Astonish Me

I’m looking to be astonished.

Praying for it, actually. I want God to break open the heavens and say, “here it is!!” My faith tells me it can happen, but my faith is weak right now. So I’m praying for more faith.

How often are we blessed with astonishing news? Do we remember those blessings as well as we should? I know not all my followers share my faith, so I’m putting this in the context of life, not necessarily a belief in God. Do we tend to remember the bad news and accept the good news as our right?

Or perhaps that is an American way of thinking, even a white American way of thinking. I was born into more privilege than many people on this earth. Despite my struggles at this moment (I need a job!), I still enjoy a better life than others in war-torn, destitute countries and regions of this world.

I also have had my share of troubles and setbacks, and I’m struggling with some of those now.  It is impossible to define a balance of good and bad in our lives, and compare it to others.

Last week I was part of a discussion about happiness. The core of this conversation was the concept that money buys happiness. We all agreed, it takes a certain income, an element of security to be content with your lot in your life. That amount differs from person to person, of course, and much of it depends on where you live and what your needs are at any given time.

One man asked, “if money doesn’t buy you happiness, then why don’t the people with money give it away?”

Wow, what a question, and so many answers. I remember some thirty years seeing Donald Trump in an interview on Oprah. He was still married to Ivana — that’s how long ago it was (he’s had two wives since then and, as we know, a few other relationships). Anyway, he stated that after awhile, it isn’t about what you can buy, it’s a scorecard.

The man with the biggest bank account wins.

That’s a mentality I can’t buy into, and not to worry, it’s not likely to become an issue in this lifetime. But my point with this is, it isn’t simply the money that matters. Paying your bills and buying what you need isn’t the issue for those with great wealth. To whom much is given, much is required — but many seem to lose track of that requirement.

So I’m not asking to be astonished with great wealth. Rather, surprise me with the means to live a relatively simple life, that abililty to replace my worn shoes and keep my electricity from being shut off.

I’m praying, astonish me with that. I’m scared.


Image Credit: © GraphicStock.com

Astonish

 

Hey Ship!! Here’s Your Harbor!!

Recently I ready brief biography of music composer Dorothy Fields on a fellow bloggers site. One quote from her stood out to me:

When your ship doesn’t come in, go out and find it.

How often does our ship actually come in? Certainly there are times we are lucky enough to have good fortune fall our way. But more often than not, we need to create our own possibilities.

I’ve written before about being prepared for opportunity, and I think that’s part of it. Training and experience obviously help in the job hunt, and having an updated resume at the ready is wise. But there’s another part of it. Sometimes we need to take action and actually get out there and look for our own good luck.

We need to be brave.

Going back to the ship analogy, it isn’t always easy to set out in choppy seas to find a wayward vessel. But what are your options? Sit at the harbor and get rained on while your ship is sailing further away?

We need to make sacrifices.

Sometimes it’s small things we need to give up, and those can be the hardest to let go of. Consider your monthly expenses and pare those down. You may end up with greater discretionary income to cover the costs of seeking your ship.

We need to be patient.

It’s easy to give up and say “I tried, but it didn’t work.” Maybe you need to give up on reigning in one wayward ship and believe another is on the horizon. Don’t stop looking because your last opportunity is now out of reach.

Believe in yourself.

If you struggle with this, I have no quips or easy answers. However, I do know taking risks builds confidence, especially if you keep those risks in perspective.

I’ve had ships come and go, and some remain a steady part of my fleet. Now I’ve exhausted the metaphor.

But if your ship hasn’t come in, go out and find it.


Image Credit: ©juanjo – stock.adobe.com