How to Make the Right Decisions

A wise man (also known as a friend of mine) says he faces at least 20 forks in the road each day. How do you decide which direction to take at each crossroads?

 

In his words:

Pick the path that means more for someone else and less of yourself.*

 

This is not to say that you allow yourself to be stomped on, crushed, ignored and forgotten. Rather, if there is a benefit to someone else, it is very likely that should be the choice you make, even if you walk away with no apparent reward.

 

Completely counterintuitive. What about getting ahead, stepping atop others to attain success? I looked at him a bit skeptically across the table.

 

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My mother came and sat down on my bed right after I pulled the covers up to my chin. “I have something I want to talk to you about.”

I sat up.

“I’ve been thinking this for awhile. You are too nice.”

“Huh?!” my high school self exclaimed.

“You are too nice,” said my mother. “You will be taken advantage of, if you haven’t already. You need to be more selfish. Your dad and I have discussed this. Stop being so nice.”

I fell back onto the bed in disbelief.

 

As my friend and I unpacked this concept, I realized that my parents and I were both wrong.

 

As painful as it is to admit, there have been too many ulterior motives in my kindnesses. Was I really offering to cook a meal for a family because I genuinely felt the burden of a newborn child? Well, yes and no, because I have never raised an infant. However, there is a tiny corner of Innae realizing there is some social perk to performing this public deed. I will be viewed as altruistic! I will not be wasting my time! I will be considered a great cook! (highly unlikely) And I will feel good about myself!

 

Select service, Ted* urges. Give my time, energy, wisdom, all of it away.

 

He isn’t the only one to say such nonsensical words. Who can forget this?

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

[Mark 12:30-31]

 

‘Tis the season for giving. Time will tell if I’m ready to make it year-round.

 

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*This is paraphrased. Sorry, Ted.

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One More Airport

I haven’t been in New York City long, but I will admit the Big Apple has become quite satisfying. Sure, I’m still the person who takes candy from strangers on the subway and then spins like a ballerina to orient herself once on the surface. At the same time, there is a coffee shop I can call mine and I have successfully completed multiple loads of laundry at my local laundromat in my six weeks here.

 

 

In the middle of all this comfort, though… there’s another airport waiting to greet me.

Hint: It is one of the two that feels like home to me. Who remembers? Prizes if you know! And by prizes, I mean a shout-out and an enthusiastic high-five if you’re anywhere near San Francisco or NYC.

 

Oops, there it is.

 

It’s an unconventional decision, but I am going to take my next very large step over to the other side of the country as an intern with the non-profit Kiva.org. If you don’t know what they do, well, that’s why there’s a hyperlink for you to learn! So click and get to it!

 

All kidding aside, I have been intrigued and inspired by what this organization and what many other microfinance groups are doing to encourage entrepreneurism, and more importantly, empowerment. My interest in small business development grew throughout my reporting career as I witnessed and contributed to the growth of the downtown areas of Salisbury, Md. and Troy, N.Y.

We dressed like this every Friday night.

We dressed like this every Friday night. [Main St, Salisbury]

I am pretty sure all – and yes, all - my hard-earned dollars went to wine and cheese at the Confectionery.

I am pretty sure all – and yes, all – my hard-earned dollars went to wine and cheese at the Confectionery. [Troy]

 

 

As someone who often lacks courage, I admire the bold spirit of these visionaries and I only hope that I can help foster that among men and women in countries where aid can’t be found in the form of loans.

That’s where you and I come in.*

 

 

I am leaving for California in January for five months. That’s the charted territory for now. You’ll be learning more of the life that’s unmapped alongside me as we go. Well wishes are welcome. So are food, hugs and prayer.

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*Check Kiva.org again, please, if you don’t understand.

#whatinnaeworld?! New York Edition

I’d like to think after six weeks, I’m a bona fide New Yorker.

This weekend, however, I realized I am far from it.

 

It’s not just because I ended up in a different part of Queens because I forgot the hyphen in the street address (yes, 40-17 Broadway is quite different from 4017. Is that not obvious to you?). It’s not because I still manage to come out of the wrong exit at the 34th Street stop which is always, always, always closed on weekends.

 

Well, maybe it is. However, the realization came when a man offered me candy on the L train.

 

It was a wrapped Starburst. Red. Still in the original row, though the outer packaging was torn open.

... And possibly laced with coke?

so inviting

 

My companion stared at me once he realized it was already in my mouth. “Did you really eat that?” he asked.

“Yup,” I mustered with teeth half-clamped together.

“I would’ve never eaten that.”

 

Still a newb, my friends. Still green. And apparently still in need of reviewing my stranger danger kindergarten education. Oops.

 

P.S. It wasn’t laced with coke.

Being Silenced: Where Change Can Begin

I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read, statements posted, comment threads and tweets resonating with anger and injustice. This has been a charged, painful, frantic few weeks, and while one would hope it is to come to an end, this is the beginning.

Eric Garner March

Funny. There is hope in that statement, isn’t there? We are entering another civil rights era, a time where men and women march to ensure equality. This time, people of all races and backgrounds will stand shoulder-to-shoulder, repeating the cry. Black Lives Matter.

 

I have wrestled with blogging about these current events because I did not want to simply fume on the internet until I had all the facts. Yet it wasn’t until I realized how uncurrent these events were that I began to type.

#CrimingWhileWhite has been a shameful testimony of how many times one’s appearance has provided a second chance. Granted, these are anecdotes. Here, however, are the numbers. In this ProPublica article, there is proof of the racial disparity when it comes to bullets fired and lives stolen in an instance. Just a few years ago, the federal data revealed that “blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.” Essentially, the authors of the article estimate that young black men face a 21 times greater risk of being shot by an officer than a white male of the same age.

Image courtesy of ProPublica

And this is data that isn’t even fully complete.

 

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All this being said, this post isn’t just a rant about what is wrong.

 

We must recognize we have created an enemy too. Who is “the other side?” Do we condemn all uniformed men and women? I know many who have taken the oath who grasp the dignity of life and the delicacy of justice. There is no doubt that a medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, and the man last seen with his arms around the black man’s neck is not facing any repercussion. The days to come though, may be punishment enough. What we need to seek is a solution, not revenge.

 

A former mentor of mine urges us all to “lean in and listen” in his editorial in the Huffington Post. Call me old-fashioned, but respect garners further respect. I have no right to command that you silence your voices now. I just ask you to be aware of the potential prejudices spilling out of our hearts as we speak. At times, a listening ear will heal more powerfully than a spoken word, and a conversation more effective than a lecture.

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Chaz Howard also wrote about the incongruity of Philadelphia’s protestors against the backdrop of the Christmas tree lighting at City Hall Wednesday night.

“A huge tree stood over all of us. Today shiny ornaments and lights hang on it. Not very long ago a black man would have hung on it.”

 

 

About 2000 years ago, a Middle Eastern man hung on it too. And He did have the right to say this:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

All lives should matter. Let us strive to make them so.