The Power of Kindness

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The local YWCA in Titusville does a great job of spreading a positive message to all in our community.

I believe in the power of kindness. I believe that no matter what kind of evil or injustice we may face directly in front of us that the thing that’s gonna win out in the end is kindness. My statement may sound a bit naive, but after 36.5 years on this planet I haven’t found anything better than kindness. I’ve tried being angry, I’ve tried throwing punches, and I’ve tried to tapping into the dark side of things (you know, like Star Wars kind of stuff) and while those methods have produced results, those results did not last and actually cause more harm than good. With that acknowledged, I pledge allegiance to power of kindness.

With that said, I’d like to share a recent piece that I wrote for the LIANZA (Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) Library Life publication titled Libraries: A Global Necessity (click here for the PDF and scroll to page 21). It nicely sums up my approach to the current state of the USA and public libraries in general and how I believe that through kindness and great customer service we will provide for our citizens.

I highly suggest you take the time out of your day and read the rest of the current issue of Library Life as well. This is my favorite Library related publication out there. It does a great job of inspiring me to be both a better librarian and a human being with every issue that is published. This month’s issue has some great pieces by Cath Sheard and Fiona Kerr to name a few.

 

The Next Few Years #sharegoodstuff

Don’t worry: this is not a political post. I don’t care who you voted for, and I don’t care to discuss politics with anyone.

What I’m gonna talk about is the next few years and what I believe to be one of the biggest things all of us in this country (and the world to a greater extent) need to practice and learn more about: how to be kind to each other, how to listen to each other, and how to make real and positive changes in our world.

I believe that all of this starts in our heads and in our hearts. First, we must be willing to see the positive parts of our daily lives. When we see those, we see hope and love all around us. Our world changes and instead of being a place where the day-to-day slog happens, it becomes a place of opportunity.

Once this is established, we can have better interactions with other people from day to day. They can be kinder and more focused. We can have the patience to listen to each other and try to understand each other. When we try to understand each other we contribute to a bigger picture: a kinder and more understanding world.

Every action we take creates a ripple. If we act in a more positive and understanding way, I feel like the sum of all of these actions will add up to something great. It is a big thing to think about, but I believe in it. I believe in it because I’ve seen it daily in the public libraries where I have worked. The sharing and borrowing of information creates positive ripple in the world. When you say the world library, most people smile. They see it as a safe and welcoming place. It took years and years of these positive actions to build up those smiles. These positive ripples work.

I’m just one human being, but I promise to be kinder to everyone I met. I promise to listen more closely to everyone that I interact with. I promise to take more actions to make real and positive changes in our world. I promise to #sharegoodstuff.

 

Something To Think About

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Quote by Judd Apatow from this NYT article


I read this quote in a NYT article yesterday and felt like I had to share it. I think it nicely sums up something that I’ve been trying to articulate for awhile now. It is very easy to get caught up in the internet and all things digital. The internet connects all of us and provides us with a nearly infinite source of entertainment. It is a great place to be! I’ve seen myself and pretty much everyone around me get sucked into it from time to time. This is ok! It is perfectly normal and fine to be pulled to the internet.

At the same time, I believe in balance and the flipside is that we need to remember that our actions on the internet also need to be balanced with our actions in the physical world. I have begun asking myself how I can translate every tweet/share/post that I am a part of on the internet into something else in the physical world. These things don’t have to be big personal acts…they can be as simple as holding the door for another person, saying hello to a stranger, or just simply being kind in any moment.

2016 Year In Review

PAST YEARS: 2015, 2014, 2013

Let’s get it out of the way before we jump into everything: 2016 wasn’t a great year for most of us and there are way too many reasons out there to put here into this blog so I’m not gonna do that. Let’s try something else, something that we all remember from way back in 2014-2015: positivity.

At the time of this writing, I have successfully arisen from my slumber on 337 out of the 366 days in 2016. I’ve spent most of the time I have been awake during those 337 days doing two things: spending it with my family or working for my community. I don’t have a fancy photo or some numbers to show you to back this up. I can just promise you that my family, our home, and the Benson Memorial Library continue to exist, thrive, and go about doing things that have a positive impact on the world. It’s the only thing that we know how to do.

I have enjoyed listening to all kinds of music. I’ve played so much Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I’ve got to watch some great films. I can’t recall what their titles were but they were enjoyable in the moment.

I did eat way too much food and I didn’t go on enough walks. I am going to do my best to fix that in 2017.

I really enjoyed meeting lots of new people this year as I did some traveling. I think traveling is the best…you get a chance to connect with people you have never met before, and in doing so your world grows and you grow as a person. I never want to stop growing and being a better Justin. I think that’s where my recent obsession with cyborgs comes from. Cyborgs can upgrade and change. I’ve been trying to figure out a way that I can do that myself as a human being. I think I’ve got it!

Goodbye to you 2016. I can’t think of a better way to say au revoir than Bowie’s Lazarus.

This way or no way
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me

Food Stamps, the Feeling of Failure, Student Loans, and Life as a Library

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Last week, Haley and I applied for food stamps. Our family, which has been going on strong for 11 years and now includes 2 awesome kids, Haley’s mom, our dog Sonic, 3 chickens, and 2 rabbits, have hit a period in our journey where we couldn’t do it without help anymore.

I know that there’s a reason I pay taxes. They are there to help….my family and I, others in need, and more. This is one of those situations where we needed help. I understand this very well. I am all for taxes that help out others in my community. We are all in this together and together we can do amazing things. At the same time there’s a stigma that comes from applying for and using food stamps: that somehow you’ve failed, you’re lazy, or you’re just downright an average human being. I try to have a healthy mind and outlook on everything, but I’ve gotta admit that I’ve fallen into this pit recently. I’m a 36 year old human being, I’ve got a wonderful job which I’m pretty good at, an amazing and happy family, and I’ve done some other things that I’m also really proud of. But here I am at this point where I feel like a failure just because I need some help. It shouldn’t be this way.

We’ve used the support of food stamps before. When Haley and I first got married, we were finishing up college. We both had part time jobs in addition to our full time school workload. The food stamps helped out a lot. Back then, the feeling of being a complete failure because you’re on food stamps wasn’t as big as it is now. Having a family and needing food stamps feels like you’ve hit the bottom. I think about this feeling that I’m having and then I think about all of the others out there who are on food stamps, especially those with families just like mine. What happens when you have all of those people out there in the same situation? You have millions of people out there feeling that they’ve lost all hope, that they’re somehow pathetic, and that they’ve failed. You have millions of people who feel like shit just for wanting to make sure their family doesn’t go hungry. When you have that many people feeling bad in the country, those bad vibes add up. It can’t be proved, but I really think the general malaise surrounding things in our country is somehow related to feelings like this.

On our end, I know that student loan debt is crippling. We’re both on programs that give us flexibility with our payments (income based repayment). While these do help, it’s still tough to have around $100K of debt total hanging over your head just because you went to college, got an education, and pursued a career in something you felt could make a difference in the world. I also understand the argument “well, you went into college knowing full well what would happen.” I’ve heard this many times before. I can see it from two sides: of course I knew (something) about how I’d be in debt once I left college. When I went, they told us about it. Did they tell us the specifics? Sort of kind of maybe not. I started college in 1998 and at that time it was just “oh yeah, you’ll have some debt but it’ll be OK because you’ll be a college graduate.” Most of us became the first great generation of student loan debt holders. And we’re still here! * Can America Afford This Approach to Solving Student Loan Debt? (it’s behind a paywall, but it is a great read) by Haley Sweetland Edwards is a great read that sums up the collective “wow, so much student loan debt”weight of a generation.

The amount of money we spend on student loan debt per month could help us in a lot of ways (FYI: it is around $337/month). First up: it could help with the grocery bills, thus giving us enough money to not go down the food stamp route. Second: it could help with the startup of Fidelia Hall. Have you ever tried starting up a business or a non-profit? Maybe I’m really stupid, but it’s really difficult and confusing…and it costs a lot. Just this week, our Fictitious Name Registration cost us $70 to file an application, $41 to advertise the application in our local newspaper, and $75 to advertise the application in a legal journey. That’s $186, and we’d still have $151 to spend this month on something else (groceries! Fidelia Hall repairs and infrastructure!) What am I trying to get towards? The debt we’re saddling people with for school, health care, and more are crippling us. They’re crippling us mentally. They make us not want to get out of bed. They make us want to sit around and do nothing when what we really want to do is something, because I believe that all human beings (no matter which political side they are on) just want to get things done for their communities. They’re also crippling our ability to move forward and do better things for our communities. You can’t start up a business/non-profit when you don’t have time or money.**

I better wrap this up. We just hit 1,000 words.

I’m not asking for a raise. I’m not asking for donations. I’m not even asking for an “oh man I feel you.” I just wanted to get this out there so that if you’re in a situation similar to this that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We’re here. We’re successful. We’re pretty happy. We’re in debt and we’re also on food stamps.

*On a side note, I remember credit card companies and banks lining up at the dining halls doing everything they can (“here! have a free beach ball for taking our credit card!”) to get students signed up for their first horrible credit card. They succeeded with me and so many other of my friends.

**Go ahead and leave a comment telling me to suck it up and “pull myself up by the bootstraps just like an American would. I’ve been trying to do this for years. This is just what my Dad said and continues to say. But there’s more to it than “sucking it up” or “taking it like a man” or “pulling up your bootstraps”. There has to be some give and take.

 

My Life

2016 hasn’t been a great year for a lot so far for a lot of reasons and it has really affected me. The negativity and unkindness that is out in the world seems to have risen to the top, casting a shadow over all of the positivity and kindness out there. I never realized how much everything that’s out there can have an effect on a person’s life until 2016.

Your point of view has a huge effect on how you go about your daily life. I am going to do my best to alter my day to day point of view. A lot of this will rely on me largely ignoring the news, social media, and almost everything else happening in the outside world. I’m not going to be horribly ignorant of what’s happening, but at the same time I am just not going to let what is happening consume me. This is my life and my chance to make an impact. I will not let others destroy it.

Recently my days have been filled with the feeling of “I don’t know where to go or what to do”. I love the home that we have built in Pennsylvania. It feels great and the future potential for both Fidelia Hall and Fidelia Home are bursting through the seams. I am part of a greater community: the world. Yet at the same time I have smaller communities that are in my life. One of these is my family and our home. I have a lot of happiness when it comes to these things. I will continue to surround myself with them and let the positivity that exudes from them fill up my soul. Every moment that I can spend with my family is precious and I will not get those moments back. This is our time.

I got kinda lost there for a moment and let the anger and negativity in the world get a hold of me. I will do my best to not let this happen again!

I guess you know me well, I don’t like winter

Of course I didn’t know Prince personally but his music was powerful and it really touched my soul. In 2008-2009 I spent a good part of my time getting into the whole Prince’s Vault thing and from that I fell in love with the unreleased Dream Factory and CamilleSince then I’ve collected bits and pieces of unreleased Prince material and I’ve gotta say that it all reveals an amazing talent who we lost too soon.

I don’t have much else to say, but I do have something to share. Here’s an unreleased version of one of my fave Prince songs. You may remember this tune from Prince’s best (IMHO) album Sign O’ The Times . This version is from the Dream Factory sessions that I mentioned above. What’s the difference? Not all that much, but if you listen closely you’ll hear some added instrumentation from Wendy and Lisa of The Revolution. Enjoy….and thank U Prince 4 the music and the love.

Strange Relationship (Dream Factory Version)