My Christmas Post


Merry Christmas!

Now yes I know that in our 2017 politically correct, full multi-cultural societies where we have people from all manner of faiths and religions; where tolerance and growing sensitivity to the needs of all those around us would have us drop the Christmas from Merry Christmas and have it replaced with, “Happy Holidays”, I say nonetheless, “Merry Christmas” to you just the same.

I am not insensitive or blissfully unaware that not everyone celebrates Christmas. I am not ignorant that some who acknowledge Christmas and believe in the child of Christ are in a financial or emotional state to find it hard to be merry for that matter. Some find the Christmas season decidedly isolating; a poignant reminder of whatever state they find themselves in which may not be what they’d want or have imagined for themselves. I get that.

Yes some would have the world drop the word, ‘Merry’ from our greetings as well as the ‘Christmas’. While we’re at it there are those who don’t like Christmas lights – a blatant waste of both energy and money they say. I light up the dark nights of winter with my Christmas lights all the same.

You can understand I think why some find this time of year particularly challenging to deal with. They may be unemployed, underemployed, homeless or living just above the poverty line. For people who have been disinherited from families, perhaps cut out of family gatherings and estranged from those they once called brother, sister, mom or dad, yes it can be a constant source of pain to see everyone around them going about with a ‘Merry Christmas’ on their lips.

Me? I go about with a jolly ‘Merry Christmas’ just the same. In fact, I went for a walk at noon just yesterday and made a conscious decision to say just that – “Merry Christmas!” to several people on that walk. There was the guy walking towards me with his head down, hoodie on and hands in his pockets. There was the fellow who had a cigarette in one hand and just walked across the street on a full red light when the traffic gave him an opening. There was the woman who was rushing to go somewhere and had a furrowed brow and look of concentration as she navigated the clearest path to accelerate her walk. And the reaction I got?

Each and every person I said, “Merry Christmas” to said exactly the same thing; “Merry Christmas to you.” Each person also did something else; they made eye contact for about 2 seconds and smiled as they said it. 2 seconds….and a smile. Hmm…. Big deal you say?

Well, if everyone I met felt visible and smiled while saying, “Merry”, perhaps – just perhaps I say – wishing others a “Merry Christmas” isn’t so bad. Now yes, I could have been more thoughtful and stopped these people in their tracks and first asked them, “Excuse me, might I know your religious beliefs and if in particular you believe in the Christ child? You see, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas but I also don’t want to impose any kind of religious doctrine on you in doing so should you practice another religion, believe but not practice or perhaps be an atheist. And also good sir/madam, I do hope its not delaying you in any way or causing you to feel singled out and vulnerable to have a stranger talk to you in this public space and use the words, ‘Merry’ and ‘Christmas’ in the same sentence? You see you might not wish to feel merry – for that of course is your right, and it would be terribly presumptuous of me to wish you to be merry when that may not be what you’d wish for yourself.”

Yes, I suppose I could have said something like that in order not to cause any offence to anyone. However, the good people I wished a ‘Merry Christmas’ to on the streets of downtown Oshawa Ontario didn’t seem to mind. Now I don’t imagine these folks are very different from others who might wander the streets of your city or town. For I’ve no reason to believe Oshawa residents are somehow singularly patrons of Christmas or unifyingly merry for that matter.

How nice then I think to have a stranger wish them a merry Christmas. I wish someone had first said that to me on my walk. I’ve noticed though that people generally walk and avoid eye contact period, let alone say a word of greeting. Yes, it’s eyes averted, down on the ground, straight ahead – anywhere other than meeting the eyes of people they meet. But me? I’m different. I walk and make a point of looking at the faces I pass. I note that people generally see me coming (they aren’t blind after all), and then they purposely avert their eyes. Oh and it’s not that they reserve this behaviour for me alone. I see them do it with everyone they pass.

And I’m open to a Happy Chinese New year, Happy Chanukah, etc. too. Feel free to give one to me when the time is right. I’d like that. So I will continue to go about on my daily walks, look for people who could use a little, ‘Merry Christmas’ and give it to them. Oh, and you out there? A very merry Christmas to you!

 

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Do You Believe?


As I’ve made my way into many shops this holiday season and browsed the merchandise for sale, there is an abundance of signs for sale, many with the word, “Believe” on them. It isn’t a question but rather a statement.

Now with Christmas in the air, Hanukkah well underway and everyone out shopping for presents, the person reading the sign is open to applying that belief into St. Nicholas, Christ, Jesus, Santa Claus etc. However, I wonder if anyone reads that word, “Believe” and applies it to themselves.

Now there are a lot of people who do believe in themselves to be sure. I’m just curious to know if they interpret a sign in a retail store which they’d likely only display around the holidays to mean believe in yourself. I somehow doubt that.

What does it mean to ‘believe’ however? When it comes to St. Nicholas, historians say a benevolent man with the name did actually exist and yes, he became sainted (hence the St. Nick). People ever since have honoured that same tradition of giving, and so the story goes. Then there are those who believe in the jolly old elf who lives at the north pole in a land of snow and ice who makes toys with his elves and delivers presents once a year to children all around the world. I don’t know about you, but as I write this on December 18th, maybe it’s not such a good idea to scoff at this lest you or I find our stockings bare on Christmas morn.

As you make your way around the merchandise in the stores you’ll often see the nativity scene with the 3 wise men, Mary, Joseph, some shepherds, animals, and of course the baby Jesus. In the Christian theology, this is the main event, the real reason for Christmas in the first place. So for many reading a painted wooden sign the word, ‘Believe’ could have them thinking of that evening under the star of the East in a manger.

Oh and I suppose it’s not improbable that one might believe in both events – they aren’t mutually exclusive and you could well make the case that both Jesus and Nicholas walked this earth, and both did all that is said of them. One might therefore ‘believe’ without blasphemy of the other.

But believe in yourself, or rather as you read the sign, believe in me (meaning you or me, or whomever is reading it at that moment), I wonder if that’s what first comes to mind. Could it be that someone out there reads ‘believe’ and their first thought is, “Yes, I do. I’m confident, self-assured and in full control of my destiny.” Or there may be another way for someone to interpret that single word and still be referring to themselves. I’m open to that possibility.

Not to make a pun of the sign, but yes, I wager that at some point someone has hoped for something with great earnest and taking the sign – as a sign – that the hoped for item will materialize if they only believe. “Will I get that job offer? The one I interviewed for this past week? I really need that job and know I’d do it well too. Oh I hope I get it. What’s this? “Believe…” Oh that’s the sign I’ve been waiting for! I know I’m going to get that job now!” Like I said, at some point, it’s conceivable that someone looking for a sign has found solace and comfort in that simple word.

There are those however for whom believing seems impossible. Be it Jesus, Santa Claus, Christmas, themselves even… believing? Uh, no. They may have stopped believing a long time ago.

Believing is about choosing to think a certain thing; sometimes when there is no proof one way or the other, and some call it faith too. You know, having faith or a belief that something exists, that something will come about, that time will eventually show that thing to be true and present. The funny thing about faith and belief is that the more one believes and shares their belief, the more some rally to that belief or go out of their way to prove the holder of that belief wrong. Why is that?

It’s true though. When someone says, “I believe things will be better in 2018”, someone is bound to say, “Yeah sure, good luck with that.” If someone says, “I believe I’m getting closer to getting a job”, there will always be some person who tells them not to get their hopes up, that the market is tough. Christmas and Santa Claus? Yep, the same. Someone young or old says they believe in Santa and instead of just acknowledging that belief, someone will surely say, “You believe in Santa? You’re kidding right. Prove it! You can’t can you? It’s all make-believe!”

Sad really. You believe what you believe and I’ll believe what I believe. Isn’t that tolerance? Isn’t that showing respect for each other? Be it faith, religion, politics, favourite movies, books, etc., you have your beliefs and let me and others have ours.

You want to believe a job is just around the corner, that 2018 will be better than 2017, why not? Good for you! Do your part to make it better, both for yourself and others.

In closing, Santa if you’re elves have put you onto this blog, yes I still believe!

Who Doesn’t Like Being Appreciated?


“I really enjoy working with you. Thanks for that.”

“You’re doing a great job; well done.”

“Thanks for your help. I appreciate your support.”

If you’re not saying these things, or comments similar to them to those around you, may I suggest you consider doing so. After all, who doesn’t like hearing a few words of appreciation for the things they do? Personally, I can’t think of a single person.

Showing gratitude for others; the work they do or just their presence is something you probably don’t want to take for granted. You know those sayings about not appreciating something until it’s taken away from you? Well, there’s a good reason people say those things, because eventually, you might find you miss that person more than you’d have guessed.

I’ll let you in on something I’ve come to realize. Words of thanks and appreciation are welcomed at any time, but when they have the most impact is when they come when least expected. Sure a person is likely to hear words of thanks and appreciation when they’ve won some award or reached some big milestone, but at those times, it seems everyone is in congratulatory mode. So, add your voice at these times, but all I’m saying is your words come at a time when many join them.

Ah, but it’s in those everyday moments when a person is busy doing the regular stuff that comes with no fanfare and no particular achievement that a sincere expression of appreciation for someone may catch them off guard and have a bigger impact. And while your words of appreciation should be intended to make someone else feel good about themselves, noting the good works of others and expressing thanks can put some goodwill in their minds about you too. Getting a reputation for being appreciative of others first and secondly for the work they do is a good thing.

Often your appreciation can be for small things that make your own day better, easier or more enjoyable. So you might thank a your clerical support for anticipating supply shortages and always taking steps to reorder things so you never run out. You see while you take for granted that they’ll always be staples and paperclips to be had, they don’t just magically appear. That person who stays on top of these things so you and your teammates always have them when you need them might appreciate the fact that you actually took a moment to recognize their diligence.

There’s a lot of these little things too; it just requires us to look around for such things and then ask ourselves who the people are that do all these little things that improve our working conditions. Maybe your workplace is a little brighter because of the person who heads your social committee, or the person who regularly fills the photocopiers and ink cartridges on the colour printers.

Maybe you can express appreciation to the Receptionist who does his or her best to diffuse the anger or frustration of clients on a regular basis before they meet you. After all, they are the first point-of-contact and take the brunt often for things they have little or no control over. If they weren’t there or didn’t diffuse things well, your job might be a little less enjoyable.

Could be too that you’re in a position of authority and power. While yearly appraisals are one way to let someone know how much they are appreciated for the work they do, it can be powerfully effective to stop by unexpected, sit down for a 4 or 5 minute personal chat and just let someone know how much you appreciate their overall work ethic, their reliability, how they encouraged a co-worker going through something recently, or just the positivity they bring daily.

Books, movies and songs are full of instances where someone regrets not having said words of appreciation and thanks. Then what happens is someone dies, moves away, dates or marries somebody else – well, you get the picture; opportunities missed. Be it, “I love you”, “Thanks for everything you do”, or a thank you for something specific, you don’t want to be the person lamenting, “I never got to tell him/her how much I appreciated them.” Well sure you did, you just didn’t.

Now it might not come naturally to you to say words of appreciation. While some of us can’t understand why it’s so difficult, believe me, for some it just is. I tell you though, if you’re in a place where you should be regularly appreciating the work of subordinates and you don’t, I sure hope you aren’t surprised if over time those same people lose some of their momentum. Good people do good works generally because it’s ingrained in them to act in such ways. However, everybody without exception likes to hear that their good work is noted and appreciated.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you my readers. While I write to inform and help support people looking for employment, finding the right career etc., I can tell you the comments I get from time-to-time and the ‘likes’ I get are greatly appreciated. Sure we might not always agree, but like anyone else, I am grateful for those who write a few words of thanks, for they are treasured.

Try a few words of thanks today for the good works of others.

 

 

Community Involvement And Networking


One piece of advice almost always given to people who are looking for work is to get out there and network. While I entirely agree with this, quite often those that are being given this advice haven’t got much of an idea on how or where to actually do it.

While there are formal gatherings you can look into and attend in your community such as Chamber of Commerce sponsored meetings, they can be intimidating to be one of the few people who isn’t a business leader in attendance, and your opportunity to mix and mingle is restricted to time set aside for doing so. Many a person has attended these meetings with the intent of talking to others but in the end, walked out having said almost nothing; too much pressure apparently to force a conversation.

I have a suggestion for you which you might find much more appealing and a lot less intimidating. Consider getting involved in some group of people where you feel a sense of connection in the purpose for the gathering. Allow me to use myself as an example.

Over the years I’ve acted in community theatre productions primarily where I live in Lindsay Ontario and in the neighbouring city of Peterborough. As I write this blog today, I do so in the early hours of opening night for a production of, ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’. This production has brought together children, teenagers and adults from the Peterborough and surrounding area, some 50 people when you add up the actors on stage and the full production crew. Throw in the parents of the children, brothers and sisters of the cast, and you’re almost around 100 people!

So here are a large gathering of people who come together with a unified love of performing and / or being involved in a theatrical performance. Over the 2 or 3 months we’ve met and rehearsed, there’s been a lot of time for conversations, many of which involved inquiries about what occupation a person has. I’ve found people who teach, three restaurant owners, a farming family that raise and train horses, a Home Inspector, aspiring actors of course and College Instructors to name a few.

The conversations are natural, not forced, and yes there are a few people in the cast who are out of work and looking for jobs. As for the teens, while they are in school, for every one that has an idea of what they want to do for a living, there are many more that are unsure and still trying to figure things out. Just yesterday at our last rehearsal, one of them asked me backstage what I did in my job, and when I said I was an Employment Counsellor, they replied, “What’s that?” This is how they get exposed to new career possibilities, by bumping unexpectedly into people who do something they’ve not heard of and asking questions.

Now joining a community theatre group isn’t what I’d necessarily suggest you do. But do you get the point I’m making about joining a group of people in your own community that share a collective interest? Be it knitting, playing music, improving parks and playgrounds, joining a Board of Directors in a local organization, helping out a local sports team, or signing yourself up to curl for the winter months, get out and meet people.

The positive thing about doing any of the above is that you meet people naturally, and you get to know them, socialize with them, and you don’t have the pressure of feeling you have to pin them down in a single 10 minute meeting and plead for a job or ask them to introduce you to someone who does. No, in the case of my community theatre experience, I’ve had a few months to mingle and speak with any and all I wished to whether in a group or one to one. What I’ve found is that good people get involved in community activities. They are intrinsically good by nature, they are helpful, and because we are unified (in this case) by our love of entertaining those who come to see a show, we’re generally in good moods and having fun. Now wouldn’t you like to talk to people who are good by nature, helpful and enjoy being around you if you were looking for a new job?

Who knows where you’re next job lead might come from? You might find that the guy who you act beside has an opening in his business and in getting to know you, he takes a liking to you. Or maybe the backstage crew goes home and casually mentions to their family that you’re out of work and looking for a job and it’s someone who overhears that comment that says, “Really? What’s she looking for?”

Networking is really just connecting with people, having conversations beyond the initially reason for meeting. So yes, in this case we are brought together by our love of staging a production, but when we talk of things outside the theatre, we’re networking with each other.

Consider therefore looking into community groups, calls for volunteers, connecting with people who share whatever it is you find of interest. You’ll meet others who will take an interest in you and opportunity may come when you least expect it, while at the same time you have fun yourself, and that’s good for your mental health!

 

‘Why’ Not ‘What’ The Key To What To Be?


There are all kinds of jobs in this world from the mundane to the adventurous, from the physically straining to the mentally stimulating. Some require stamina to do the same task day after day and some require imagination and innovation to create new possibilities through trial and error. The tools to perform jobs can range from swinging handheld items to operating massive machinery; from a simple pencil to a robotic arm. There are a myriad of jobs out there, be they in cities of stone and glass, forests of green or pastures of gold.

And for every job, there are people best suited to do them. Some of us are physically strong, others the thinkers, the visionaries, recorders of history, we’ve leaders and followers, labourers and intellectuals. When it comes to work, we as a species engage in all kinds of activities, in all kinds of working conditions, be it water, on or under the land, the air or even space.

Often what we do for work is largely determined or influenced by where in the world we are born and then raised, the status of our family, the inclination of those who care for and influence us to expose us to a few or many different kinds of experiences. When we are born, where we are born, to whom we are born; all factor in to the opportunities we have.

There are those of course who will tout that you can be anything you put your mind to, and they may be right – if of course you are born into a society where you have the freedom to choose and the opportunities are there to seize. This freedom to be anything, aspire to be everything we want – limited only by our imagination and our own determination is empowering! Yet, this seemingly limitless potential can also have an unexpected and adverse affect.

With so many choices of what we might do with the time we have, it can be debilitating and paralyzing. After all, what if we get it wrong? What if we choose one career and work towards it only to discover that it doesn’t bring us the fulfillment that we’d hoped. While it makes others happy we know, it doesn’t bring us the satisfaction they promised it would. We believed them when they said we’d find it gratifying and rewarding, but it hasn’t turned out that way. At least we tried it! Or what if we simply arrived at a crossroads having to choose between 2, 3 or 4 possible careers that seemed mutually exclusive – very different indeed – and being unable to commit to one ‘dream’ occupation for fear of turning our back on the others, we’ve simply found ourselves immobilized – and in a flash, years have rolled by and we’re still standing still undecided?

There’s this immense fear we’ll get it wrong. Of course, some would say, “Ah, but what if we get it right?!” We might be amazing in what we do and more importantly even if we’re just an average worker in what we’ve chosen, we could still be extremely happy and satisfied. But would we possibly wonder, “What if I’d chosen that other path in life? What might I have done?”

Of course we aren’t limited to one career.  Think on that… Up until we’re in our late teens, we don’t have to be anything largely but a student – well, again – depending on where we are born in the world. In our early 20’s we begin to ‘be’ something. We who are older know this isn’t a life-long obligation; we’ll change jobs and careers during our life and some of these new choices will be in the same field and at times into a new one. After maybe 40 years of work, we might plan on ceasing to ‘work’ for pay and then work for play. Well, that’s some people’s plan.

Talk with enough people and you’ll find competent, skilled people performing their jobs without the least bit of enthusiasm for the job. Good enough to keep doing what they do, benefitting the companies and the people they work on behalf of, but no longer stimulated and in love with the job. They’ve become comfortable, their income and lives stable, and so they live out their lives.

There are those too who take chances; who quit jobs for fear they’ll become stale in them, who seek fresh challenges, new opportunities, gamble on trends and being out front as frontiers. They need not explore new lands, but they reinvent themselves, never-ceasing to learn and place themselves in the process to seize upon possibilities.

We’re all so different, so uniquely, ‘us’.  What one finds pleasurable, rewarding, stimulating and satisfying might do for another or not. The key is perhaps to find out not what job we want to do, but why it is we want to do it. Toddlers may have it right when they ask incessantly, “Why?”

When we discover the, ‘why’ in why we want to do something, we are closer to discovering the ‘what’. How peculiar it might be if instead of, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” which locks us into a single profession, we asked, “What motivates you? What inspires or stimulates you?” These are the what’s that get to the why’s.  Then we might discover there are many jobs that would equally stimulate us by fulfilling our ‘why’s’. That perhaps, is very wise indeed.