Monthly Archives: March 2014

Fear

fear

In 1999, I was in Zambia at a meeting and people were asking me what I thought about Y2K. I jokingly replied, “You won’t have to worry about it, if you’re Amish, or live in a village.”

People in the computer industry believed that the computer internal system clock was going to misread the date 1/1/2000 as 1/1/1900, causing catastrophic malfunctions and miscalculations. The so called experts had warned that this one single event could be catastrophic for businesses around the world and would take years for companies to muddle through the mess and build their technologies back up again. With much of the world dependent on the computer technology, it was nerve racking to imagine the aftermath of an event deemed apocalyptic. Anything that ran on a microchip could be affected and fear was mounting. Our society was believed to be so fragile that this on single Y2K computer glitch would bring us to our knees. People had stocked up on water and groceries; preparing for the technological nightmare. Books were written to warn people of what not to do as we move into the new millennium. CNN, MSNBC, and FOX had their experts lined up to speculate on how this might go down, and how we could survive if indeed something happened to the computer systems. Thousands of Y2K computer experts emerged and were bringing in big profits from companies that hired them.

A lot of developing nations were not as worried about the supposedly impending disaster because they lacked advanced computer technologies, but the rest of the world was in a mad dash to stop Armageddon.

And then, there were those who made fun of the whole idea of Y2K and did nothing to upgrade their systems. They were the crazy bunch; the unprepared fools. I was among the crazy ones who did nothing to upgrade my operating system to Windows ME (Millennium Edition) which was supposedly a Y2K compatible version.

The countdown started after Christmas of 1999. Even though I knew somehow that the whole Y2K thing was a fluke, I still had little voices in the back of mind that said, “what if the Y2K is in fact true? How would we survive if the computer systems would crash? What if after spending billions of dollars to fix the Y2K issue, the catastrophic event still happened?” The clocks kept on ticking, the fear kept growing.

And then, nothing happened.

No power outages. No major system failure around the globe for both compliant and non compliant systems. No food shortages. No flight delays. Nothing. One good thing that came out of Y2K debacle is the business boom in the tech and food industry. Out of fear, a lot of people had spent thousands of dollars buying products to prepare for an event that never happened. Sure, a few companies like GE Medical Systems had reported about 14 issues out of their 400 Y2K compliant and non-compliant systems. Ontario Hydro Power Company discovered a few bugs in their systems and had them fixed within a few hours and had no power interruptions for their customers.

Y2K, one of the biggest flukes of recent times caused by experts, carried on by us. What did this all come down to? Fear.

Fear drives the stock market and politics. Fear drives hatred. People are fearful when they do not know or understand each other, thus resulting in hatred against those who are different from them. People have committed heinous crimes against humanity, all because of fear.

In recent years, fear has become a major money making machine. Politicians use fear to raise money for their campaigns and to win votes. I was watching some TV attack ads before the last elections and was just appalled by how nasty political campaigns have become. Each side was out to convince us that the other guy would ruin our way of life. We see corporations do the same in their ads as well. Some prominent TV and radio hosts have used fear to drive their agenda. They have used it to sell books and market other products even if what they say for the most part is based on speculation and not facts.

Not all fear is bad. As a matter of fact, positive fear is a good thing to have. Positive fear is founded on fact and not speculation. For instance, I know not to drive my car 160 miles per hour on the highway even though my car can go that fast. The fear of losing control and crashing at high speeds helps me to be cautious when I am driving.  This kind of fear will not paralyze me; it will in fact make me aware of how my reckless driving will not only affect me, but others as well. Positive fear allows us to make wise decisions and is needed for us to function properly on a day to day basis.

The fear that comes because of speculation and negativity is the deadly kind. Some radio and TV hosts have become experts in spreading speculation to boost their ratings. They are more concerned about their bottom line rather than having healthy conversations that make a difference in people’s lives. They have figured out that fear is a great money making business and are bringing in millions from diligent listeners and corporations. Unfortunately, their fear mongering has resulted in hatred and harm for certain groups of people. This fear derives from propaganda; it is unfounded, based on misinformation or just plain lies. It usually comes out of mistrust and self-absorption.

And we perpetuate it. We buy into this fear and we share it on Facebook, Twitter, at the local salon, barbershop, hardware store, bar, religious gatherings, etc. When we allow this type of fear to rule our thoughts and our actions, we distant ourselves from each other and discord grows. We can get so caught up in our speculation and fear mongering, that we forget to live. We forget about the important things in life. We forget to love.

And the cycle of fear continues, growing worse until something bad happens, or until we stop it. So let’s think twice about the messages we are spreading. Research it. Is it fact? Or opinion? Or pure speculation? Is it necessary? Let’s not forget that there are humans on the other side of the screen, reading what we are saying on social media. That human could be your employer, mom, dad, ex-girlfriend/boyfriend, ex-spouse, your spouse, your kids, kid’s teachers, (or you are the kid’s teacher venting about the difficult students) extended family, your coworkers, your neighbor (who you’ve been trying to reach for Christ) or a future employer (who might scan your Facebook timeline). Are we building bridges or burning them? We want others to understand us, to accept us, and to not push their beliefs on to us. So, why shouldn’t we do the same?

One Bad Apple

bad-apple

I check mail at the post office about twice a week, and I don’t think too much about opening the door and waiting for someone to come through, but it is something I do very often; sometimes unconsciously.  I notice people begin to hurry up when I have the door open for a while as if they didn’t expect this act of kindness.  Each time I have the door open for someone, I get all kinds of complements from people. They will say things like, “you are such a gentleman” or just a simple “thank you”.  I don’t expect people to show their appreciation, but it is always nice to hear people appreciate a simple gesture such as opening a door for a stranger.

I have also had moments when someone I opened the door for came zooming in without saying a word of thanks. Some even have had an attitude of “you better open that door for me because I am better than you”. When that happens, it makes me want to stop opening doors for people. And then these thoughts go through my mind: Maybe I should have let go of the door right in their face instead. Who do they think they are? Why should I be the servant of all? Maybe I should not be nice to people anymore since everyone else seems to be so self-centered and unappreciative. A single incident like this could possibly ruin the evening and affect not only me but my action towards others.

I am sure all of us have felt like we are the only ones who are making an effort to be nice or help others. We sometimes go out of our way to do an act of kindness to strangers only to be disappointed by the response we get back. We have heard many stories of good Samaritans getting hurt even killed because they helped someone who appeared to be in need.

I am reminded of an incident that had happened late December of last year. A South Carolinian young lady gave a ride to a stranger who seemed harmless enough. Little did she know that this harmless looking man was a dangerous criminal who would change her life forever. She was attacked and assaulted. Her vehicle was totaled. Her medical bills have piled up to over $250,000, and she is facing paralysis. With no medical insurance, she has been moved from one hospital to another.

I can’t imagine what she must be going through in her mind as she spends time in rehab, having to re-learn how to do everything; going through the terrors of the attack. She is probably blaming herself for being naïve and for being kind enough to help a total stranger. She will never open that door again. She will never trust a stranger again. Her innocence was taken. All it takes is one bad apple to spoil the rest.

We live in a world where people feel entitled to things; they feel there is no need to be thankful for things they have, even if someone went out of their way to help. I know of family members who have been burned time and time again for their kindness, taken advantage of, and even had property stolen by the very same family members they have helped. Sometimes it could be ungrateful kids who seem to complain about everything we do to provide for them. We buy them clothes, and they turn around and complain because they are not brand names.

My wife and I had an old car we wanted to get rid of. We were looking at selling it for $2500 and using the money for the school in Zambia. A family we knew was going through some tough times financially. The husband had expressed to me they needed money quickly or they would have their utilities shut down. I wrestled with the idea of giving them the car verses selling it to help the school. I told them the car needed a new battery and a few minor fixes that wouldn’t cost a lot. They could sell it as is, or fix it and then sell it and use the money to pay bills. A week later when I signed the car title over and handed the keys to the couple, the first thing that came out of the husband’s mouth was, “I was hoping it was drivable so we could sell it right away.” I was dumbfounded by his comment. I was tempted to tell him to give me back the title and keys, but I restrained myself. They went on to sell the car and never said a word of thanks; not even a thank you card in the mail. We felt used, manipulated, and unappreciated, and that the school in Zambia could have used the money more than the couple, but we never regretted our act of kindness towards them.

We never know how people will respond; whether they will appreciate our generosity or brush it off as nothing. People can be self-centered and can totally disregard the feelings of others to get what they want.  Should we stoop so low to their level and stop helping others? One of the most difficult things in life is to forget when our act of kindness has been violated or worse yet, having to suffer because we opened our door to help others. How long can we keep being kind or keep giving when people we help seem to step on our toes?

As a Christian, I am called to do good to all people, even those who would hurt me. The world tells us, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The problem with this kind of mentality is that there is no end to the cycle of revenge. If you burn my house, I burn yours. If you treat me badly, then I will do the same in return. There are bad apples out there, but there is also good ones. Do not let the bad apples spoil the good ones.

Have you had an incident happen to you that made you think twice about showing kindness to others? How did you handle it?