Humans are social beings. We have the need to belong. We spend most of our lives looking for a place in society to fit in. This is broken down into smaller environmental groups. Its where we interact with each other. Not just a place of common and of the ordinary, but a place of importance. We have the need to feel value to ourselves and to others. Especially to those who are part of our social group. We even use groups as a place of security and safety. We are always evolving from group to group. A lot of times we may be a part of multiple groups. Groups can consist of churches, job, families, neighbors, hang out buddies, or in any combination. You may feel that you are a leader in one of you groups. You will find that others will come and go. As life goes on, we evolve and change. Along with goals and desires it is common for our groups to change as we change.
Life is a spiritual journey. It’s a journey that we learn as we go. We call it life’s experiences. No matter if it’s a positive experience or a negative one. There is always the opportunity to make it a learning encounter out of each situation. It takes an open mindset in order to take total advantage of these opportunities.
You have heard the phrase “No man is an island”. Well its true, we have the need to be a part of life and to interact with each other. We interact by sharing who we are as a person. We share our experiences, our knowledge, skills, along with our character and personality.
Its like a smörgåsbord, a place where you can go and try different types of food, or you can eat the foods that you like. All the food is laid out for you buffet style. Just get a plate walk around and you can choose whatever you see that looks good to you.
I usually pick the things I like, and some of the things don’t have a lot of the opportunity to eat often. I also take this opportunity to try maybe one thing that’s different, something I never tried before, something that’s new to me. Sometimes I discover a delicious item that I like. Sometimes I run across an item that tastes horrible. That’s what’s so great about a smörgåsbord, you have the opportunity to try something different.
Well, our social groups work similar to that of the smörgåsbord. Except what’s on the menu is not food, but parts of who we are. There is a couple of ways we lay out who we are on the buffet table. One is that we are conscious of, what we put on the table. This could be false, and a part of our defensive mechanisms. This could be because we are not ready to show who we really are. We could put up, what I call a “front”, trying to be all that, wanting to impress those around us. When you are comfortable with yourself, you can just lay it on the table (who you are), and be okay with that. The second way we put things on the table is subconsciously. This happens whether you are aware of it or not. It’s who you are when your guards is down. People read this all the time, it’s what you say in comparison to what you do. Humans gather more information from what we visualize, than any other method. We tend to believe what we see a lot faster than what we hear.
Understanding this principal of the smörgåsbord and the ability to take advantage of it took me pretty much the first forty years of my life. Through the process of trial and error. I remember that at the beginning of that realized all the missed opportunities I had let get by. There were times when I was so stubborn in myself; I felt my philosophy in life was the only way, and everyone should think similar to the way I did.
I rejected any other way. I was so insecure in my thinking I would not even allow other to present another view. I was ready to argue to defend my way of thinking. Have you ever met a person who would cut anyone off, from presenting another view point, and go as far as raising their voice or keep talking on and on, so no else could have a turn to speak? Their personality would come on like gangbusters and overwhelm the situation so as not to give room for any other view.
Well that was me. I felt I knew it all, as far as the way I compared life to myself. Now that I look back, there was a fear inside of me. A fear that all that I believe in would not be as true as I hoped. So I built an imaginary wall around my beliefs, and nothing was going to penetrate this wall. I even took pride in my ability to debate and argue my point of view.
What I understand now is everyone that has something of value to offer me and would not take the time to try to share what they know to someone like me who was not willing to try to be better. So if anyone would come around suggesting anything other than what I thought or believe I would not take a bite of that dish. What I’m trying to convey is, Life brings us a banquet of resources laid out smörgåsbord style. We draw from these resources through our interacting, in our environment or groups. It’s like going through a smörgåsbord buffet with an empty plate in our hand. Take this opportunity to pick out those delicious items that you can add to yourself to make you a better person.
Caution! You have to be very selective in your choices. There are going to be some items that will be inappropriate to take and to digest.
Let me give you an example; there was this young man who entered into one of my groups. Let’s call him Don for the purpose of tell this story. He was so courteous polite, with a very gentle spirit about himself. Because of his attitude, and respect for a man of my years, it drew out of me some pleasure to be around him. In our conversation, I found out that he was raised without a father, and he spent most of his young years in prison. He was looking for employment, with the desire to turn his life around. As we talked I felt that he was presenting a need for a role model in his life, in which I was more than willing to step up to the plate and be a provider for him. Especially because I could relate to being raised without a father image or male role model. I have to say I was touched with compassion because I remembered the pain of being fatherless. My hopes were to speak into Don’s life from my life’s experiences. I knew I had a lot to offer. I also figured this kid hadn’t had much of a chance to be successful in life. Maybe it’s not too late if he’s willing too take the difficult road to finding his place in our society. It would not be easy, but it is possible. I was willing walk with him through the process. As our relationship began to grow, Don shared with me his difficulty in obtaining employment. He was going to have to get out and hustle to make ends meet. At the time I thought this was an admirable gesture.
Little did I know we had two different interpretations of what hustle meant. To me hustling was like going around looking for side jobs. So when Don asked one afternoon to borrow my truck for a couple of hours, to do a job, I felt obliged to give him a hand by loaning him my truck.
After giving Don Instructions on using my truck, and his promise to follow them, I gave him the keys. He did keep his word. He returned the truck on time just as we agreed. He replaced the gas that he used. He even gave me a couple of dollars, for the favor of using the truck. This impressed me very much.
Lets talk about what just happened. When we first met, this young man put out his personality, which was full of respect, courteous and polite. In return it opened me up to allow him into my group circle. In the process of bonding, Don put on the table his need for a male role model in his life. In return I put out my need to give of myself, which was the ability to provide the role model experience. This was a perfect and fair trade. We both were getting our needs met through each other. We became a resource for each other to tap into. Needs that make us feel better as a person, and some sense of fulfillment in our inner being.
There is some dessert being served here also. The dessert is favor. Because of his exhibition of positive mannerisms, and character, he made the encounter so pleasurable, that I wanted to give him more. The more was favors; I wanted to go out my way to lend him a helping hand, this is what led to me allowing him the use of my truck.
Let’s get back to the rest of the story with Don, and how it relates to the smorgasbord principle. It was one afternoon when the young man came to me to ask a quick favor of using my truck for a couple of hours. This particular time I was unable to loan my truck out, because of business I needed to take care of. So he asked if I could spare thirty to forty minutes, to take him to do a quick job and drop him back off, “It won’t take long” Don said.
Out of my desire to want to help this young man, I agreed to do this for him.We did not have to go far, about a mile away. I was curious to the task he needed to perform. When I asked about what he had to do, he just gave me a vague answer. “Oh I won’t be long”, he would say. About now I began to feel a little suspicious, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. At this point I chose to think positive. I wanted to show him some trust, the one thing he’s found so little of in his efforts to turn his life around. Maybe he did not trust me? I could understand if he is afraid of the fact that someone might move in on his hustle. I have witnessed that quiet a few times in my experiences. You know when you come up with a good idea, like saving cans at the work place. Then you tell an associate of your newly found gold mine. Then you look up the next week you see the associate that you trusted with idea of saving cans around the office also. Now he’s doing it, he’s moved in on your hustle.
Maybe this is how Don felt. Things are so tight him right now that he can’t take the chance on me moving in on his hustle. This I could understand. When we got to the place where he gave directions for me to park, I pulled over. Noticing the area where we parked, it was a nice clean area with business offices, and a few residential homes. Before I could turn the ignition off, Don was out and on the move. As he walked down the street, I could hear him say “this won’t take long”. I just scooted down in my seat and leaned back to relax, kind a looking in lackadaisical way, at people going to and fro about their business.
About twenty minutes later, through the rear view mirror I could see Don scurrying his way back to the truck. He was carrying something. I couldn’t tell what it was, it did not look to be cans. This really aroused my curiosity. I scooted up in my seat, and prepared to start the truck. As Don opened the door to get in, I notice what he was carrying.
It defiantly was not cans. He had two or three back packs on his shoulders, with some gadget in his pockets with a bunch of wires hanging out. We spoke at the same time. “Man, what did you do”? Don responded “Man lets go”. I could feel my adrenalin starting to flow, and my heart rate increasing with hard pounding in my chest. When my mind caught up with my body functions, I realized somethings not right with this scenario.
As I began to drive away, I asked again, but in a more authoritative way, “What did you do”?
This time in a calmer tone Don answered. “Man this is what I do. This is the only thing I know how to do to bring in money” he said. “I steal. I break in cars, and take whatever I see that can bring in funds.”
Immediately, my mind began to tune out Don’s voice, almost to a whisper. I began to think about the consequences of our actions. I’m just as guilty as he was, and if we got pulled over by the police, With stolen goods in my truck I would be going to jail. Even if Don for some reason got off. I would be going because of the stolen goods in my truck. I had very little grounds to stand on because all the evidence pointed to me. This could really cost me and I had a lot to loose.
After going through this mental process, I can now hear Don’s voice in the background. Still defending himself and even offering me the opportunity to join up with him. He was telling me that he could double his productivity with me waiting behind the wheel. I would not have to worry about parking or getting out of the truck, all I had to do is get the truck started and taking off. “He could see that this was not going over good with me. I replied to him saying I’m not interested in participating in any of this type of activity.
Don went on to say; how much he needed my help and that he had a plain. He had figured the whole thing out, I would be at no risk. All I had to do is just drive. He had studied how to do this crime and he had a fool proof system. No way would we get caught. . He made this offer as though he was going to doing me a favor by cutting me in on his deal Again, I reaffirmed my refusal to get more involved. As far as I was concerned the prisons are full of people who are just like Don felt they had a fool proof plan, and could not get caught.
This last encounter with Don was the beginning of the deterioration of our relationship. I later learned, of Don getting busted in the process of committing this very same crime. It also his third strike. My heart does go out to him, but he choose the path that took him back to prison.
As you can see what was put on the buffet table by Don was respect, courtesy and politeness, which I did take a portion of. He also had on the table some dessert to offer, which I call favor. In this case with Don, what he offered as a favor or dessert, which was disguised as something sweet. But it turned out to be very bitter to my taste. It was like going to the dessert table and a delicious pie catches your eye. You’ve never tasted this particular type of pie before, but it looks very delicious. When offered a taste by the provider, you jump at the opportunity to sample this tasty looking pie. The provider hands you a small bite sized portion to sample. Because of what you visualized, your mind is already ahead of your taste buds. As you the bring portion of pie close to your mouth in anticipation of the exploding flavor, your mouth begins to water. “Umm” you say to yourself, as the small piece lands on your tongue. After the landing, immediately your tastes bud sends a message to your brain. “Hold on, hold it”. There’s a conflict going on. What the eyes saw is not what the mouth is tasting.
What has happened is instead of a sweet flavorful taste of pastry, you have bitten into a meat pie. This will not quench the longing for something sweet and fruity. This is far from the anticipation of dessert. You then turn down a larger portion of this dish.
This is how I felt when Don offered me the opportunity to join in with him in his criminal behavior. I did have a taste through deceit, but once my senses reviled what was really being offered. I spit it out, and moved back from the table.
So be very choosy in your selections of what’s being offered to you at the smörgåsbord.
Remember you trying to choose those items of quality that will make you a better person.
Things that you can add to yourself, on your life’s journey.