WordFood - how we feed or starve our realtionships

- Julia Hubbel

Julia’s ability to get this group of type-A executives to engage in true networking was incredible. She is truly skilled at motivating the group to engage and interact with each other, and her openness and honesty really come through.

— Shelley Stewart, Jr.,
Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence and Chief Procurement Officer, Tyco

November 30, 2012

WordFood of Respect

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 5:59 pm

The old man was struggling up the breezeway ahead of me, his boarding pass in his left hand, his bag in his right. Periodically he would reach out for balance and touch the walk, taking small, hestitant steps on his way to the regional jet that would take us from Milwaukee to Denver early this morning. His hair, a brilliant white against his dark blue baseball cap, belied his age. I walked slowly behind him.

As he started up the narrow plank to get on the plane he started to trip and I caught his arm, and the attendant inside took over for me. He greeted her enthusiastically and they spoke for a few minutes, and she got him settled into his seat.

After landing in Denver, I picked up my bags and was on my way out when I saw him again. This time, he was seated in a wheelchair, with an airport attendant at the ready. His family had picked up his bags and was busily directed traffic around him.

What bothered me was their language.

“Take him over here,” the daughter said, right over his head.

“No, he needs to go to the other exit,” said a man who appeared to be her husband. This conversation went on for several minutes over the man’s white head.

The attendant swiveled his head between the two, looking for leadership. The old man looked defeated and lonely.

“He” had a name. “He” wasn’t a piece of luggage or a bag of garbage to be moved around. And “he” could also hear himself being discussed as though he was deaf and dumb. He was being dismissed as a human being by all three people around him, and he knew it.

It was offensive to me that this apparent family member was being so casually discussed without the courtesy of using his name. However this is done in hospitals and rest homes and facilities everywhere. Caregivers do this without thinking. Family members talk over their so called loved ones as though they have no emotions. Clearly this man did, and he didn’t much like it.

Perhaps this man was a war veteran. Perhaps he was a beloved uncle or granddad. I have no idea. I don’t know the family dynamics. No one ever does. What I do know is that especially with our elders, and with anyone who is disabled or in a wheelchair, there is a real call for love and respect, and the acknowledgment of their humanity. To not be treated as a piece of beefsteak being carted from place to place.

Everyone has a name, a history, a place. When it is your turn in the wheelchair, your turn in bed with caretakers talking above you like a piece of stale fried chicken, remember. This especially is a time for love. We all simply want to be noticed and acknowledged.

November 24, 2012

Holiday WordFood

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 9:25 am

Thanksgiving is over and Christmas season is now in full swing. My Christmas decorations are piled in my laundry room ready to take upstairs today while the college football games play in the background. It’s always a fun day, changing out the last of the Turkey Day trimmings for the fancy Santas and lovely angels that will decorate my mantel and sit on the chairs and furniture all through the house.

One of the statistics that is disconcerting about the holiday season is that Americans tend to gain about ten to fifteen pounds over the holiday period, and many of us have a terrible time losing that weight, if we do at all. It’s certainly the time of year you and I look forward to with all the lovely food and Christmas cookies and certainly the best treats of the year. But all too often the best food of the year is mixed with the worst WordFood of the year when families get together and don’t treat each other with the kind of kindness and respect that they could.

I have a dear person in my life who now avoids his family at holiday time for that very reason and it pains him greatly. Arguments and disagreements cause so much strife at Christmas that he no longer visits. Family is important to him, and it hurts me to see this happen in his life. He is not alone. Many families experience this during this emotional time of year.

If this is a challenge for you and your family, I would offer this up. Consider putting aside the petty arguments and differences that tend to rise among you as family members. Remember instead what draws you together, what makes you family. Why you care about each other. Don’t rise to the bait when someone pushes a button that was installed years ago. This takes courage but you can do it. Respond instead with gentility and grace, and remember what these holidays are truly for. You will forever be glad you did. The next holiday that family member may not be present. We simply do not know what the year may bring.

The true food of the holidays is what we say to each other with courtesy, respect, regard and love. How we treat each other with kindness. These are the lasting memories. Not the gifts, not the food. It is the WordFood that leaves us warmed from the soul with love we bear each other.

November 11, 2012

WordFood of Tolerance

My best friend Lori sent me a piece by  Ben Stein this morning which addressed the need for God and religion in our society, our schools, and in our lives. His comments had been featured on CBS on Sunday morning and been sent around the Internet, and part of his comment was that because the email was about God, it was likely not to be forwarded as much as lewd jokes or cartoons. He has a point.

In my book WordFood I talk about how it’s easy to be consumed by popular culture, by tabloids, gossip, distractions. This is what I call Junk Food. Like potato chips and other snacks, it’s addictive, fun to consume, fattening, and extremely bad for you. Ultimately it takes up precious space in the mind where more positive, nutritious information could be building us: education, professional and personal development, motivational tapes that challenge you to a higher quality of thinking. And yes, religious study, whatever that may look like to you.

Every one of us is animated by something larger, some gift, that gives us life. And I believe powerfully that while we have life, we owe a good life to the power that gave us that life. Most of us were brought up within some kind of belief system. Some of us go find something that speaks to us more personally. Some create a system by which we establish a discipline, and this is the key word here, to live, worship, and respect others’ way of being in the world. But whatever that practice may be, it involves a discipline of mind, and a humbling of oneself to a greater power, and an effort to see that good that exists in all humankind.

To the extent that we are insistent upon filling our minds with Junk Food about celebrities who are less than stellar, about sports figures who take drugs, we miss out on the everyday heroes who people our neighborhood.  There is much to study about ourselves that is valuable. To fill our minds with how to be better citizens and life students and better friends.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a little Junk Food now and then. Even I know how Kim Kardashian is, if only because I stand too long in the 15 item line. It just seems to me that given the great variety and beauty of sacred texts in the world, and how they exhort us to treat each other with respect, perhaps this might be  balancing fare to the ugliness of “Survivor: The Phillipines.”

What we feed our minds informs our language. It informs how we treat each other every day. Road rage is the result of a daily diet of stress, a lack of graciousness and the need to be right no matter what. And people are dying because someone gets cut off a few inches in traffic.This isn’t us.

Whether we read a Bible, a Koran, a Torah or any other sacred text, it grounds is in what is truly important in life: respect for life, humility for our place in the vastness of all of Creation, and a hope that we can make a difference.

When it  comes to the intensely private and personal issue of what we all are guided by, this is an unknowable. But I can say this: that a change in  our WordFood Diet is a fine thing when we want to change the way we perceive, and are perceived, in the world.

November 6, 2012

Feed Others Your Attention

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 8:00 am

You know how it is when you’re talking to someone on the phone and they just “go away?” You hear a stealthy typing in the background and their conversation changes from full engagement to “uh huhs,” and “hmmms” and other distracted grunts? Annoying, isn’t it? It’s bad enough when you’re in someone’s presence and they take a phone call in the middle of your conversation. Or they plunk their iPhone on the table when you sit down at lunch, effectively indicating that anything that comes in on that device is more important than what you’re going to talk about. People’s full attention is hard to get. Something else always seems to be more important than what they have here and now. That little green light on the phone demands an answer: who wants me???

There is no remedy for bad manners. They best you can do is politely ask for someone to be present with you and come back to the conversation when they wander. And we always know the precise moment they do wander. You have a right to be heard, and you have a right to ask for someone’s full attention. The challenge comes when it’s a client that’s being rude or a boss who’s abusing your time. In cases like this it takes your greatest courtesy. You need to ask as nicely as possible for them to respect the effort you’ve put into the presentation. You might point out that you need their full attention because you respect their expertise so much and you need their input. You understand that they are busy people but it would be helpful if they could briefly set aside their distractions since their full attention is so important to the success of your project. Appeal to their egos.

Keep an eye on how you show up with your own use of devices as well. How do you wield your technology? Are you interrupting conversations or letting calls go to voice mail? Unless you have a bona fide emergency there is nothing so important as the person you are with. That respect will pay off in the long run.

We are all hungry for courtesy, attention, and for someone to truly listen to us. Devices are here to bring us together, not get in the way of our ability to talk to each other.

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