On Meeting People

Every morning, before I even get out of bed, I know that something fantastic will happen on that given day, something that may or may not be on the radar screenan insight to a problem that I’m having, perhaps someone will say something that will have an impact on a decision that I’m about to make. Perhaps, I will look at a situation a little differently than I had been. But, I know that on any given day, something wonderful will happen and, almost always, I have been pleased with the results. It’s like I’m giving myself a Christmas present each and every day of the year. My grandmother (my dad’s mom) used to say that an angel will appear in whatever form that you need it. For the most part, my angels almost always take the form of strangers. Why is that? And how can they have such an impact on our lives?

It has been said that people come into your life for a reason, for a season or for life. You get to decide but it is always up to them to dictate the outcome. If they are there for a reason, then as soon as the situation is remedied, they’ll take off, which is fine. If they’re there for a season, then, as soon as that season is done, zoom, they’re gone. If you’re lucky enough to get that special someone to come into your life for life, then you will be blessed. Make of it what you will and over the long haul you will have more have more good days than bad. Look back on your own life and count the number of people who were there for only a little while and were able to help you in a given situation. Then, maybe circumstances dictated that it was time to move on and, much to our dismay, it was.

It is in our nature to try to stall Father-time, but that is a fight that we cannot win. We wonder why these people were not introduced to our lives earlier. If another person had an impact on our life say when we were 40, we like to think that our lives would have turned out completely different if we had only met them when we were in our 20s. But life doesn’t work like that. And it’s safe to assume that if you had met that person in your 20s, you might not have even noticed them. No, there is a reason why you met them when you did and, in time, that reason will become apparent to you.

We have all met people over the course of our lifetime that have had an impact on us like no other, at least, I hope you have. Today there are way too many people walking around in a daze who wouldn’t have the foggiest notion that another person was sent there to help them. Then there are those, sadly enough, who think that the rest of the human race is there to help them. These are the people who can’t seem to see past the nose on their face and if you can’t help them then what good are you.

Our lives are a series of hello’s and good-byes. And there will always be those to help you along in one way or another. Keep your eyes open. This journey that we are taking was never meant to be taken alone. Just remember, when one friend walks out of your life that usually means that one you have yet to meet is going to walk in. There is a great big world out there made up of friends that I haven’t met yet. Thankfully, my grandparents taught me that much.

At least, that’s the way I see it. MLProko (2010)   www.mikeproko.com

Published in: on December 26, 2010 at 8:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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It’s All About Attitude

We all heard it, ad nauseum, when we were kids: Is the glass half-empty or half-full? The way that I looked at the world and the sense of humor that I was crafting back then was a combined work in progress thanks to my two sets of grandparents. It’s all in the way that you look at things, Mikey they’d say. The way that you look at things will develop your attitude. They taught me that if you look for garbage then that’s what you’re going to find—garbage. If, on the other hand, you look for something nice, then that’s what you’re going to find. And it has served me well over the years.

Several years ago, I suffered a massive stroke, paralyzing ½ of my body. While in the hospital, I suffered a subsequent stroke although this one did not hit a motor. I looked like I had been hit by a bus, but it was drilled into my head as a young man that it’s all about how you look at things. The phrase that I adopted while in the hospital when someone asked me how I was doing is Yiddish but in English it translates to: Life is good. There is much to be thankful for. To be honest with you, more than one person looked at me like I was loopy because I was in such bad shape. But, my attitude was still in tact. After being in the hospital for almost a month, my Doctor came by my room to wish me well before I was discharged. I asked her for a prognosis. In 30 days, I had yet to get one. ‘We can’t give you an accurate prognosis, Mike. The stroke did a lot of damage and neutralized too many functions. I can’t say for sure that you’ll ever get out of that wheelchair. I can’t tell you if you’ll ever walk again. And I can’t say for certain that you’ll ever be able to use your left arm again. But the one thing that you have going for you is your attitude. I have no idea where you get it from but if I could bottle it and give it to my other stroke patients, it would make my work here a heckuva lot easier.’ Before my Doctor even made it to the door, I knew what I would have to do to get back to where I was and I did. In my mind, I didn’t do anything special that any other man or woman wouldn’t have done if they were in my shoes. I just liked living my life on my terms and I wasn’t going to let someone else have the last word about me.

There was one nurse who told me that I should start accepting the fact that I would not be able to do some of the things that I used to do. That comment only pushed me farther and faster. But here was a woman who saw the glass as half-empty and she wanted her patients to do the same. I wondered how many of the people in her care just gave up because she told them to.

I don’t mean to be carrying on about myself like this—there are those of you who could tell similar stories, there are those whose own stories are probably much worse. But for hook or for crook, we’re still standing. We have walked through the fire and have come through a little worse for wear. Maybe we walk a little slower or don’t move as quick as we once did, but we got through it all right. And I’m just guessing here but I’m going to bet that most of your success came from your attitude. There is a well that lies deep within all of us, a well that we can draw on time and time again but each of us must find his/her own well.

Oh, and that riddle about how many kids see the glass as half-empty or half-full? The room was pretty evenly divided except for the taller, skinny kid in back that saw both glasses were twice the size that they should have been. Y’see, even back then, I was working on my attitude.

At least, that’s the way I remember seeing it. MLProko (2010)   www.mikeproko.com

Published in: on December 26, 2010 at 8:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On The Human Condition

A paradox. A puzzle. An enigma. How can you sum up, or better yet, explain the human condition? I’ll have to yield to one of my grandfathers on this one; his was an all-encompassing explanation that most people could find comfort in: When you hurt, you want the pain to stop right away. It doesn’t. When you feel good, you want it to last forever. It never does. That’s pretty concise, isn’t it? Better than any psycho-babble that you could pay $200 an hour for, in most cases. What is it in us that abhors pain and always seems to take the good times for granted? Surely, all things should even themselves out eventually. Scripture tells us that for all things, there is a season: a time for life, a time for dying; a time for sowing and a time to pluck up, a time to be alone and a time to gather around together… All things will have their counter-part: where there is an ‘up’ there must be a ‘down’; where there is a ‘plus’ there must be a ‘minus’; where there are ‘good times’, the flip side of that are ‘bad times’. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. To only expect good things to happen is delusional. You’re missing out on at least one-half of your life; some might say the good half.

A person’s character never gets tested when things are hunky-dory. It’s when you hit the curves, the roadblocks and all the bumps along the way—this is where your character will be forged in the furnace that only life can provide; these hard knocks that we call ‘life’ is where we will earn our stripes. Consequently, this is where we will acquire our gray hairs and the character lines (wrinkles)—from this same blast furnace. Some people will wear this mantle like a badge of success; they will stumble and fall time and time again, but each time they fall down, they will rise up again. These are the survivors. These are the victors. They have taken all that life and the fates have thrown at them and, yet, they’re still standing. They have that look in their eyes—seasoned, tough, street smart—these are the ones who knew early on how to roll with the punches, how to make the most of themselves AND their circumstances.

But, the other side of that coin is just as telling and, just like the survivors, these people who pass through life’s furnace will wear their scars like a hair-shirt for the whole world to see. These will be the victims. Same situation. Same circumstances. But an entirely different outcome. These are the people who constantly complained about the bumps in the road, the roadblocks, all of the twists and turns; these are the ones who never realized that everyone must pass through the same blast furnace. It’s been one excuse after another, one disappointment after another. Finally, unable to draw on any internal strength, they commit the ultimate sin—they give up on life. That is the bell-weather of any victim—to give up. They wanted everything to go their way and, in the end, nothing went their way. Surrender. Draw the drapes and just hide from the world. Carl Sandburg once said that there is nothing to do but bury a man who has given up on life and his dreams.

When life comes at you, it’s going to hit you like a Mack truck. Get your bearings, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back up. Get up and keep getting up. Not even life can beat a man who refuses to stay down. Besides, quitting has never been a sustainable option.

At least, that’s the way I see it. M.L. Proko (2010)   www.mikeproko.com

Published in: on December 26, 2010 at 3:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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On The Acceleration of Isolation

I’m guessing that I had a look into life’s crystal ball about maybe 30 yrs. ago. I would drive by the parks in our neighborhood just outside Chicago (Oak Park, actually) and see no one in the parks. No one. Basketball. Tennis. Baseball. Football. Even if the village flooded the park during the winter for ice-skating, still, no one. Geez, we used to live for those days.

Baseball in the fall and summer. Football in the fall. Hockey in the winter. And basketball games that went on ‘til they turned out the lights in the parks.

About the same time that I noticed the empty parks, I noticed that the kids around some of the schools walking with their heads down, like they were studying something in their hands. Whether it was a battery operated hand-held game or a pager or one of the original cell-phones, this ushered in one way of life and kicked another out into the street. Gone would be the days of carrying on a face-to-face conversation or playing just for the sake of playing. Oh, and physical exercise? Yah, that got kicked to the curb as well.

That was 30 years ago. Let’s fast forward and see how we have faired in that time?

You can drive by the same parks today and you’ll see a number of young ones sitting in a small circle on the ground with blank looks on their faces as they are tweeting, instant messaging, sending texts or posting messages on any number of social networks. Talking? No, there is no talking anymore. They would just as soon send a text message to the other moron who’s sitting in a lotus position only six feet away from them than to utter a single word. Groups of kids walking down the streets of our country, heads bowed, fingers and thumbs moving at lightning speed, sending messages(?) to who knows where about who knows what. No conversation. No eye contact. A whole lot of nothing. The sad part is to think that in a couple of years these same people will be out in the business world and/or running our country.

The entire world has shrunk to something about the size of an electronic business card. Are we any better off? Hardly. People are more interested in carrying on a faceless conversation with a BFF in India on Facebook and yet walk right by their neighbor without even as much as a hello. Some can justify that line of action, without a doubt. They might even go so far as to say that they have more in common with someone 10,000 miles away thanthey do with someone who lives next door. That’s foolish. No, a better word would be pathetic.

We have become a society of cocoon dwellers. Our isolation has accelerated at warp-speed over the years. We saw the future coming at us some 30 years ago, did nothing about it and it just swallowed us up. And there is an increasing number in the medical community that equates mental illness (depression) to this isolation. Is there some recourse? Yah, I think there is. Go to one of the parks before you go home tonight and get in a nice walk, maybe even shoot some hoops. Then, sit on a bench and look around at all you’ve been missing over the years. The best part? It’s all free so you won’t get a statement at the end of the month for billable minutes. And if you do get back on FB, hopefully you can tell your BFF in India about your neighbor’s new puppy and another’s baseball program collection from all around the country.

Lord, I hope so. At least, that’s the way that I see this. MLProko (2010)   www.mikeproko.com

Published in: on December 16, 2010 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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