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tissues and feathers

Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in ourselves, our problems, our challenges, or our own heads. It happens to all of us and with all the things we need to do to have our world work in a way that makes sense, it’s understandable.


Every once in a while, it helps us to get out of the quagmire that can be how we think and how we feel about things and plug into paying attention in each moment. From this place, we can be more helpful to ourselves, as well as helpful to others, our world, and the world.


When I was much younger, in my late teens, fresh out of a drug and alcohol treatment program, I was shown how useful it can be to get out of my own head and pay attention to what might be useful to others. In this case, that meant my mom.


There were times when my mom would reach into the pocket of her robe and pull out a tissue, whilst one or two other tissues would end up on the floor, unbeknownst to mom.


My response to almost anything that didn’t involve me and what I was looking to do at that time was … shrug … not my problem, not my tissue.


Around that time, I was being asked to be a better person, a more thoughtful person, a more caring and less selfish person. I was a newly minted sober dude and was beginning to understand, just barely beginning to understand …


that life is not all about me and what I want.


Sometimes I have to put on different glasses and see the world and my place in it, differently. I have to start to think and act from a different place …


A place that’s not about my world, my agenda, my wants.


So, the tissue.


I am heading down the hallway in my parents’ house, and I spy one of the familiar tissues, just lying there, minding its own business, waiting for someone to pick it up. It doesn’t belong there. That is not its place.


On this occasion, a brief battle with myself ensued.


“Not my problem”


“Yes, it is”




“Pick it up. Quit being a lazy a**hole.”


Done. Picked up.


Why does such a simple story matter so much? Much less, why does it stick in my mind almost 40 years later? And why do I feel the need to impart this story?


Because that was my first exposure, however meager, to moving from a selfish, me-oriented, if it doesn’t help me, I’m not doin’ it person, to someone who started to become capable of thinking, feeling, and acting in a way that included others.


For a life of value and contentment, it’s a crucial step.


As I’ve continued to traverse my own path over subsequent years, it has become important for me to include an expanded view of how I respond and relate to others, and to life itself.


It is no longer a “burden” to lend a hand. In fact, it’s a privilege. It is now sewn into the fabric of me.


I believe it’s important to ask ourselves if we’re contributing to this world and to others. Especially in simple ways. Am I forgetting about myself and my life and what I think I need long enough to pick up the tissue? Or perhaps give away a smile to a stranger? Or some other helpful deed that has nothing to do with what I want?



Today, those pesky tissues have morphed into the feathers that pop out of our couch cushions and couch pillows and can end up in various locales around our Great Room.


Instead of the battle, I now laugh at myself when I’ve inadvertently passed one up, catching it out of the corner of my eye.


“Back up, you bum.”

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