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.


Image credit: © stock.adobe.com

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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

 

If You Are Burdened…

I loved my Kate Spade handbag.

It was practical and stylish, two words common to describing her designs. I was lucky — I got it half-off, something the snide sales person had no problem disdainfully pointing out when I paid for it (a story for another day). Never mind him. I had my Kate Spade handbag.

I carried it for years, until the wear and tear made it too embarassing to use any more. That’s my sole connection to Kate Spade. But when I heard about her death today, I was moved to tears. The story is coming out that she committed suicide, and that breaks my heart.

A friend who was at one time suicidal described to me what she felt in this way:

“It was like there was weight on my body, an outside pressure that made it hard to breathe. All the sorrow and pain I’d felt in my life was trapped inside of me. The only thing I wanted to do was break away from it, and death seemed like the only option.”

She made a phone call and followed the advice of a professional. Later she had to work her way through the physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Today she tells me she no longer struggles with those feelings and their burden, but it took her some time to deal with the issues that caused them, including physiological factors.

I am not a professional, nor in any way am I trained to advise someone who is feeling suicidal. If you are suffering with those feelings, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


Image Credit: ©eyetronic – stock.adobe.com

 

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