Category Archives: Compassion
Kim and I
Having been married only a year and a half, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that marriage isn’t for me.
Now before you start making assumptions, keep reading.
I met my wife in high school when we were 15 years old. We were friends for ten years until…until we decided no longer wanted to be just friends. 🙂 I strongly recommend that best friends fall in love. Good times will be had by all.
Nevertheless, falling in love with my best friend did not prevent me from having certain fears and anxieties about getting married. The nearer Kim and I approached the decision to marry, the more I was filled with a paralyzing fear. Was I ready? Was I making the right choice? Was Kim the right person to marry? Would she make me happy?
Then, one fateful night, I shared these thoughts and concerns with my dad.
Perhaps each of us have moments in our lives when it feels like time slows down or the air becomes still and everything around us seems to draw in, marking that moment as one we will never forget.
My dad giving his response to my concerns was such a moment for me. With a knowing smile he said, “Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raisethem? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”
It was in that very moment that I knew that Kim was the right person to marry. I realized that I wanted to make her happy; to see her smile every day, to make her laugh every day. I wanted to be a part of her family, and my family wanted her to be a part of ours. And thinking back on all the times I had seen her play with my nieces, I knew that she was the one with whom I wanted to build our own family.
My father’s advice was both shocking and revelatory. It went against the grain of today’s “Walmart philosophy”, which is if it doesn’t make you happy, you can take it back and get a new one.
No, a true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love—their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, “What’s in it for me?”, while Love asks, “What can I give?”
Some time ago, my wife showed me what it means to love selflessly. For many months, my heart had been hardening with a mixture of fear and resentment. Then, after the pressure had built up to where neither of us could stand it, emotions erupted. I was callous. I was selfish.
But instead of matching my selfishness, Kim did something beyond wonderful—she showed an outpouring of love. Laying aside all of the pain and aguish I had caused her, she lovingly took me in her arms and soothed my soul.
Marriage is about family.
I realized that I had forgotten my dad’s advice. While Kim’s side of the marriage had been to love me, my side of the marriage had become all about me. This awful realization brought me to tears, and I promised my wife that I would try to be better.
To all who are reading this article—married, almost married, single, or even the sworn bachelor or bachelorette—I want you to know that marriage isn’t for you. No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love.
And, paradoxically, the more you truly love that person, the more love you receive. And not just from your significant other, but from their friends and their family and thousands of others you never would have met had your love remained self-centered.
Truly, love and marriage isn’t for you. It’s for others.
I recently went to see the movie “Gravity” starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It is a fast-paced, exciting thrill-ride from start to finish. After we left the movie, and I replayed the life-threatening events for the actors that unfolded on the screen, I could not help but begin drawing comparisons to the long-term care funding crisis currently unfolding in America today.
Start with the stars of the movie: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are both baby boomers and they find themselves unprepared to deal with a sudden crisis that puts them in immediate jeopardy. Most seniors and baby boomers are also unprepared for what is too often a sudden health crisis through which they must safely navigate. In space, an unexpected collision with a satellite or other object is disastrous. For a family, an unexpected fall or rapid decline in health can also be disastrous. The astronauts in “Gravity” had to contend with limited oxygen and how they could conserve this precious resource long enough to find sanctuary. For families confronting the costs of long term care, money is like oxygen. It is a precious resource in limited supply that must be conserved. The biggest fear of the young is not living long enough, and the biggest fear of people in long-term care is living too long and outliving their “oxygen” supply.
Once disaster strikes in the movie, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are literally tethered together and entirely dependent on each other for survival. Spouses and their family also experience a similar “tethering” effect where they become very reliant on one another to make it through a long-term care crisis. The feeling of being overwhelmed can be helped by sharing the burden, and focusing on the ultimate goal of making sure a loved one will be able to receive the best possible care.
In the movie, the astronauts are prepared for every contingency and have dedicated support systems in place to get them through each phase of their mission. Nonetheless, when disaster strikes things quickly spin out of control. In life, too few people have made plans for how to handle long-term care. A future long-term care patient may have close loved ones, but those family and friends may not be able to drop everything in devotion to a patient’s care. Families should put in time now to discuss the wishes of loved ones when it comes to long-term care, and understand the financial situation and available resources. Are there savings and investments that can be accessed; is there a long-term care and/or life-insurance policy in place that can be converted to pay for care– and where is it; is there a final will or living will, and should a power-of-attorney document be in place?
In the movies, our heroes often work their way through challenges with a combination of luck and skill (and, of course, some movie magic) to find their way to a happy ending.
For families confronting the hard decisions and costs surrounding long-term care, however, they will not be able to count on a hero swinging in at the last minute to rescue them. But, a happy ending is possible for families that take the time now to prepare, seek out information and know how to work together to make sure their loved one will be able to achieve a safe landing.
About Chris Orestis: Chris Orestis, nationally known senior health-care advocate and expert is CEO of Life Care Funding (www.lifecarefunding.com), which created the model for converting life insurance policies into protected Long-Term Care Benefit funds. His company has been providing care benefits to policy holders since 2007. A former life insurance industry lobbyist with a background in long-term care issues, he created the model to provide an option for middle-class people who are not wealthy enough to pay for long-term care, and not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.
For 67 years the US has pursued its own interests at the expense of global justice – no wonder people are sceptical now
You could almost pity these people. For 67 years successive US governments have resisted calls to reform the UN security council. They’ve defended a system which grants five nations a veto over world affairs, reducing all others to impotent spectators. They have abused the powers and trust with which they have been vested. They have collaborated with the other four permanent members (the UK, Russia, China and France) in a colonial carve-up, through which these nations can pursue their own corrupt interests at the expense of peace and global justice.
Eighty-three times the US has exercised its veto. On 42 of these occasions it has done so to prevent Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians being censured. On the last occasion, 130 nations supported the resolution but Barack Obama spiked it. Though veto powers have been used less often since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the US has exercised them 14 times in the interim (in 13 cases to shield Israel), while Russia has used them nine times. Increasingly the permanent members have used the threat of a veto to prevent a resolution being discussed. They have bullied the rest of the world into silence.
Through this tyrannical dispensation – created at a time when other nations were either broken or voiceless – the great warmongers of the past 60 years remain responsible for global peace. The biggest weapons traders are tasked with global disarmament. Those who trample international law control the administration of justice.
But now, as the veto powers of two permanent members (Russia and China) obstruct its attempt to pour petrol on another Middle Eastern fire, the US suddenly decides that the system is illegitimate. Obama says: “If we end up using the UN security council not as a means of enforcing international norms and international law, but rather as a barrier … then I think people rightly are going to be pretty skeptical about the system.” Well, yes.
Never have Obama or his predecessors attempted a serious reform of this system. Never have they sought to replace a corrupt global oligarchy with a democratic body. Never do they lament this injustice – until they object to the outcome. The same goes for every aspect of global governance.
Obama warned last week that Syria’s use of poisoned gas “threatens to unravel the international norm against chemical weapons embraced by 189 nations“. Unravelling the international norm is the US president’s job.
In 1997 the US agreed to decommission the 31,000 tonnes of sarin, VX,mustard gas and other agents it possessed within 10 years. In 2007 it requested the maximum extension of the deadline permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention – five years. Again it failed to keep its promise, and in 2012 it claimed they would be gone by 2021. Russia yesterday urged Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control. Perhaps it should press the US to do the same.
In 1998 the Clinton administration pushed a law through Congress which forbade international weapons inspectors from taking samples of chemicals in the US and allowed the president to refuse unannounced inspections. In 2002 the Bush government forced the sacking of José Maurício Bustani, the director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. He had committed two unforgiveable crimes: seeking a rigorous inspection of US facilities; and pressing Saddam Hussein to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, to help prevent the war George Bush was itching to wage.
The US used millions of gallons of chemical weapons in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It also used them during its destruction of Falluja in 2004,then lied about it. The Reagan government helped Saddam Hussein to wage war with Iran in the 1980s while aware that he was using nerve and mustard gas. (The Bush administration then cited this deployment as an excuse to attack Iraq, 15 years later).
Smallpox has been eliminated from the human population, but two nations – the US and Russia – insist on keeping the pathogen in cold storage. They claim their purpose is to develop defences against possible biological weapons attack, but most experts in the field consider this to be nonsense. While raising concerns about each other’s possession of the disease, they have worked together to bludgeon the other members of the World Health Organisation, which have pressed them to destroy their stocks.
In 2001 the New York Times reported that, without either Congressional oversight or a declaration to the Biological Weapons Convention, “the Pentagon has built a germ factory that could make enough lethal microbes to wipe out entire cities“. The Pentagon claimed the purpose was defensive but, developed in contravention of international law, it didn’t look good. The Bush government also sought to destroy the Biological Weapons Convention as an effective instrument by scuttling negotiations over the verification protocol required to make it work.
Looming over all this is the great unmentionable: the cover the US provides for Israel’s weapons of mass destruction. It’s not just that Israel – which refuses to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention – has used white phosphorus as a weapon in Gaza (when deployed against people, phosphorus meets the convention’s definition of “any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm”).
It’s also that, as the Washington Post points out: “Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile results from a never-acknowledged gentleman’s agreement in the Middle East that as long as Israel had nuclear weapons, Syria’s pursuit of chemical weapons would not attract much public acknowledgement or criticism.” Israel has developed its nuclear arsenal in defiance of the non-proliferation treaty, and the US supports it in defiance of its own law, which forbids the disbursement of aid to a country with unauthorised weapons of mass destruction.
As for the norms of international law, let’s remind ourselves where the US stands. It remains outside the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, after declaring its citizens immune from prosecution. The crime of aggression it committed in Iraq – defined by the Nuremberg tribunal as “the supreme international crime” – goes not just unpunished but also unmentioned by anyone in government. The same applies to most of the subsidiary war crimes US troops committed during the invasion and occupation. Guantánamo Bay raises a finger to any notions of justice between nations.
None of this is to exonerate Bashar al-Assad’s government – or its opponents – of a long series of hideous crimes, including the use of chemical weapons. Nor is it to suggest that there is an easy answer to the horrors in Syria.
But Obama’s failure to be honest about his nation’s record of destroying international norms and undermining international law, his myth-making about the role of the US in world affairs, and his one-sided interventions in the Middle East, all render the crisis in Syria even harder to resolve. Until there is some candour about past crimes and current injustices, until there is an effort to address the inequalities over which the US presides, everything it attempts – even if it doesn’t involve guns and bombs – will stoke the cynicism and anger the president says he wants to quench.
During his first inauguration speech Barack Obama promised to “set aside childish things”. We all knew what he meant. He hasn’t done it.
Both my parents were dead by the time I was 29 years old. My father had Alzheimer’s, and by the time I graduated from college to come out and help my mother take care of him, it was essentially to put him in a rest home. He died there one week later.
My mother, due to the stress of taking care of him, contracted lymphoma and died four years later. Her sister was in a rest home with MS, and we had been visiting her there for years. With my parents gone it was left up to me. She had a daughter who lived back east, but she had stopped visiting 5 years earlier. It was just too painful. I must admit that the visits came to be less and less frequent. She was in a new full blown rest home, and she was actually one of the lucky ones. The place reeked of urine and feces, people were literally moaning and screaming and wandering the halls, mostly in their wheelchairs. It was a difficult place to visit, and I used to have a few pops before I went up every time. I think when she passed it had been nine months since I had seen her the last time.
This is how we take care of our old and disabled.
My grandfather was in the VA, and when grandma was alive we visited him almost every afternoon. We did see hundreds of people in the halls, but most never had any visitors. We use to walk around award from bed to bed and make sure everybody in there had a little bit of attention and some human contact. I think I was six years old then, and I still remember how bad it was.
This was all over 30 years ago. I can’t imagine what it is going to be like when we baby boomers all start dropping like flies. The lucky ones of us will just die, the unlucky ones will have to live through it.
We go our entire lives assuming that we deserved Health Care, and then somehow it will be provided for us. Regardless of Obama Care and all of the best intentions, without a major revolution there simply is not going to be any way to pay for our Health Care.
It will literally take a village. Without it we will be lucky to be given enough morphine to ease the pain as we are left in a corner in her wheelchair to quietly wait for death.
Aside from local governments, I have only encountered one group that is trying to do something about it: The National Compassion Holiday Petition group http://nationalcompassionholiday.com/ led by Michael Villalpando is that group.
If you have parents, know of anyone disabled, or plan to ever come incapacitated yourself, you might want to pay it forward and at least sign this guy’s petition. It’s free, unless you feel called to contribute, and only takes a second. Your old age Karma might just depend on it.
BY: MIRIAM GOODMAN
Mother’s Day has just passed, Father’s Day is coming up soon, and the same words are heard around the country…it is nice to have a special day for honoring our parents, but where are you the rest of the year?
San Mateo resident Michael Villalpando is acutely aware of the lack of human contact for so many older mothers and fathers. As the founder of the C.H.I foundation –Communities Health and Wellness Involvement— and a Tai Chi instructor at dozens of assisted living facilities, nursing homes and retirement communities all over California, he sees seniors and disabled adults who have basically been forgotten by friends and family. And he wants to do something about it.
Villalpando’s goal is to establish an awareness of the elderly, ill, and disabled people and encourage young and old alike to visit and spend time with those who live isolated lives in institutions and assisted living communities. He wants to establish a National CompassionHoliday on every March 15…a legal holiday where people will volunteer services at senior centers and care facilities, promote respect and awareness of these citizens and unite all in a spirit of compassion and public service. He is circulating a petition and says when he gets enough signatures, he will submit the petitions to Congress for establishing a day for those in need of compassion.
Interested readers can access petitions at www.nationalcompassionholiday.com. There is no charge and names will not be used for any other purpose. You can contact Michael with questions or support there as well.
As Villalpando says: “I see these people every day and know how just one person smiling at them or taking a few minutes to talk and value them as a person can make a difference.” He believes future generations will thank you for your support and reminds us, “this is not just about ‘them,’ it is about us. We will all be there some day.”