Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Megaphoning Part 2

Kind of a funny thing just happened. I was at a meeting for church Michael's mom (Michael went on the Mississippi trip) told me one of the greatest things. Michael said:

"Tom's so great. He really makes people feel good about themselves."

Or something like that.

That got me thinking that I should really talk a little bit more about megaphoning (see my other post on Megaphoning). For all I know I just won't be able to explain it well enough in a blog. I know there will be some people who just have a hard time with it. But if I can get just one other person to start megaphoning for others it'd make my year.

The most important aspect of this is to be positive all the time when looking at others. This is also probably the hardest to actually do.

Look at each individual and recognize them for who they are. Be completely honest with yourself on that person. It makes no sense to tell the shyest person in class that they have more friends than anyone you know. Just look at what that person does and see the positive ways it impacts others.

For example, I know one person who is pretty strong and really gets along great with other guys. You know what I mean, loves to talk about cars and build things. At the same time he is completely unaware of people and objects around him. In one case during the trip he threw some stuff on a pile right next to someone else. Ended up putting a pretty big scratch right under the eye of the person standing across from him.

First off is making sure the hurt person is ok and building him back up. We gave him the nickname of "scarface" which still seems to be sticking. After that I still talked up the guy, mentioning that he can lift all kinds of big, unwieldy objects. Or just joking and saying that he's a man's man, doesn't need help from anyone. Maybe telling him one on one that you know he didn’t mean to do it, and that I do love him as the person he is.

If it's said with a great smile on your face people will realize the truth in there and learn from it. But they'll also smile with everyone else and feel kind of good about themselves because they were recognized for making an effort.

Another thing to do is to really stop looking inside and take notice of the world around you. Look around you and see the beauty that is God's earth and his people.

One thing I noticed in Dave and Amber during our first day working was their commitment to getting the job done. While some people took breaks and just hung out they just kept working. At one point we had to move a bunch of the owner's valuables from one slide of her slab to another. Everyone helped for a while but it seemed to become uninteresting. Soon it was just about 5 or 6 people moving things and others wandering off to find other jobs.

Or Michael that same time. The owner asked us to move some of the things which weren't hers to the neighbor's slab. There was a lot of stuff and it took him a while since no one else volunteered to help. But he just kept at it until everyone was moved (I think it took over an hour).

It's so easy to think that the work was meaningless, that anyone could have done it. Some people would have grumbled about doing it initially. We need to look past those negative things. They have a place, but should not be voiced publicly (if it's worth mentioning, criticism should initially be given in private).

What was worth focusing on was the commitment they had to the task. We'd pass each-other and just smile. Or talk about some of the belongings we were moving (mentioning that I had or wanted something just like that). Or simply telling Michael that while it may be taking forever, I really appreciate that he did it and followed it through when so many others wouldn't.

With all that destruction around us, it felt so good to find the positive things going on as well. To see Rob and his dad using chainsaws to cut trees. Seeing 15 of us pushing together to right a shed. Seeing 5 others cleaning up the insulation and pine needles from the yard (truly not the most glamorous job). Or even Abby and her group that stuck around for 3 hours at a house where they didn't feel needed when she picked up a broom and cleared out insulation without being asked.

The last bit is initially the hardest to do. But it's also the most fun. It's all about being vocal. You don't have to shout out to everyone how great that one person is (though I sure do shout a lot). It's sometimes enough to just say to Amber "What, you're only carrying ONE board this time". It's also fun to loudly shout to anyone around that Dave, Amber and I didn't need help lifting a fence with concrete because I had the two strongest people there with me.

It's also something as simple as making a fool of yourself with someone. When Amber had a blue mouth from a lollipop (no, not a blue tongue. I mean a blue tongue, lips and teeth). Dave said it looked like she was turning into a Smurf from the inside out. Then I grabbed one and got to look like weird as well (but then I always look like a bit of a weirdo).

So, how about it? I'd love to hear how you've been someone's megaphone. How have you amplified someone's good feelings and made them even better? How have you built someone up?



The last day of our Mississippi trip we had to do one of the hardest things ever. Say goodbye to the friends I'd made.

That last day Dave, Amber, Missy and Abby were all saying that continuing to work on Saturday would be really boring since our group wasn't going to be with them to make it fun.

What's interesting about that was that I’d thought it was them making things fun and keeping it interesting. At most I may have just taken their craziness and funness (is that even a word) and made it louder. Whenever someone said something funny I was thrilled to pass on what they said. Whenever someone did something great (lifting tons of heavy boards, releasing a roof from a tree, or carrying off whole sections of a roof-top), I loved just shouting out how great that person was.

Things would be different after our group left, but those remaining behind are still the same people. They still have the same thoughts, the same personalities and the same attitude toward the work they are doing.

So, what was my individual contribution? I know I did something to make a difference (just as each of them made a huge difference for me), but what was it? Looking at my life I really think that I'm a big megaphone. I love to share the triumphs of others. I also like to let people know that I’ve seen the good work they are doing, so that they know they are recognized.

I’ve found that in this work people want to be recognized for their good works. Even the shy ones who try to stay out of the limelight still love to know that what they did made a difference to someone. That they aren’t completely alone in their work, but that someone else is watching and sharing with them.

God is great at that. He’s always there supporting us and cheering us on. One of the ways God does that is through each of us. When another person comes up to me and says, “I am going to miss you so much; it’s just not going to be the same.” Or as Amber said last night “You have got to come up here and visit. Life is so different without you around.” Seriously, that got me really emotional (maybe I’m too much of a girl). Or when someone said they wanted to write a school paper on me. Me? How crazy is that? I was moved almost to tears.

The only thing I can think is that it’s all about amplifying the good things you see around you. It’s about being a big megaphone.

I kept thinking about this on the drive home. I wasn’t the one that made our work group on the Mississippi trip fun or successful. I didn’t even make a huge dent in the work that was done. The people who made that group so memorable were those around me. The individuals who took the same amount of pride in moving entire walls as they did in moving single boards. Those who sifted through dirt on the ground to find anything memorable and those who worked together to flip and move an upturned shed. The team which worked together to pull down some tree limbs before the wind did real damage.

So, to add yet another word to the English language (remember funness earlier? I know it was forever ago), I was megaphoning. I just took whatever I saw and let everyone know how great the people around me are. How every board we moved and wall we tore down made a difference in someone’s life. It was even better when I saw other people talking each-other up (er, wait, I mean megaphoning). Talking to each-other about the great things they saw and did that day.

So, I guess I’m just wondering. When’s the last time you saw someone do great work and just that with others around you (even strangers)? Being good and modest people we don’t generally talk up our work and strengths. So, when’s the last time you talked up someone for them? When were you a megaphone for someone else’s deeds?

With Christmas coming one of the greatest gifts I think I can give is to megaphone for those around me. Let the world know what gifted and amazing people it has living on it. To tell God that we truly are thankful for these people he has placed in our lives.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

How quickly we become friends

Right now twelve adults and nine youth from our church (myself included) are currently on our way home from Mississippi. We all spent our Thanksgiving going down to help out with the relief effort. What we saw down there is a story (and maybe some pictures) for another time. Actually, there are so many stories going on in my mind I may have quite a few posts coming up in the next few days and weeks. What’s on my mind now are the incredible friendships I made in such a short time.

We drove down Tuesday and went out to our first work site Wednesday morning. We spent the day sifting through a home and retrieving any items of importance which we could find. What was nice for me was that I went out with a couple adults and a group of college students.

I could just relax and really dive into the effort without having to be responsible for anything besides myself. It really felt great. I was able to relate to everyone as equals and it felt great.

You might be surprised to hear this, but while we were working I got into the habit of talking with the people I was working with. We had about 20 people at our work site all grouped by different tasks. So as I walked back and forth with bit pieces of wood I began talking to a couple of the college students from Lockhaven University in Pennsylvania. The two I connected with the best that morning was Dave and Amber. I had some great conversations with others at the site but Amber, Dave and I just had the best chemistry. All working pretty hard, relaxing together, splitting off and talking to others and coming back together whenever the tides brought us.

It began innocently enough, a quick offer of help with the obvious response, “What, you think I’m weak or something because I’m so old and fat?” This continued into more and more jibes as well as supportive words as we worked together to loosen and move bigger and heavier objects. Soon it became well known that Amber and Dave could lift pretty much anything (though I never did see Amber lift the tree limb out of the ground). We’d carry big pieces of roofing, kid each-other about letters of the alphabet certain boards spelled and just chat while moving personal belongings back and forth.

As the day went on I got to know more and more people within the group. I had some great times with Abby, Missy/Amanda, Galina and Malik. Over the week I met even more people and most seemed to feel free to pick on me. It was great! I’ve made at least a few friendships which I hope will continue on for quite some time.

That night I’d share my time between people at St. Matthew’s, Dave and Amber. It was just great to let the conversations and friendships flow around. Everything just felt natural.

Wednesday night Rob and I were walking around the building talking about the community at the work camp. I’d smiled and returned a greeting from a stranger as we walked outside the building. Rob remarked that this was how the World should be. People showing and returning kindness to one another. Feeling safe enough to leave your laptop on a cot for hours on end and know it will not disappear. I couldn’t help but agree. Just walking around made me feel so upbeat and happy, but I couldn’t explain it.

The explanation is this. When people gather together to put God’s work first he brings rewards to those receiving help as well as those lending that helping hand. I was gifted with lots of new friendships through my work this week.

I was reminded about what friendship can be. Not a relationship between two people where one focuses of caring for the other. Not one where you cling to that friendship so closely that no one is allowed in. It’s a relationship where people may kid with you, but spend most of their time building you up. People who encourage you to be more than you are right now. People who make you see the world differently. People who let you be your normal self while also letting you show off every now and then.

In short friendship is God’s love and his grace to bring friends into our lives who we can bond with instantly. Friendship is obvious when you simply look at Amber and Dave.


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