Don't Fool Yourself: Sometimes You're (Not) Right

There was something about her I liked—something that said, “This woman is real. She is who she claims to be, nothing more or less. This woman could be a good friend some day.” Of course, I wasn’t interviewing her for an opening as friend-of-Leslie, but for a position as an editor at the newspaper where I worked.

As standoffish as I can be, not intentionally mind you (not usually), I sometimes leap to “friendship” level too soon in a relationship. While not always wise, I have developed a few life-long friendships.

This woman, however, wanted none of me. She avoided me at every turn, and then I became her supervisor. It didn’t begin well not only because she loathed me from jump, but also because I am a—insufferable and now recovering—perfectionist.

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”
Henry David Thoreau

In the most thoughtful and humorously honest way anyone has ever spoken to me, she confessed her extreme distaste for me I looked overwhelmingly sad, she explained. (She was right. My grandmother had just died and I was embalming myself in the kind of grief that proves it’s possible to yank someone inside out, to cause the scraping of her organs against every tactile and sentient entity within millimeters of her person. My gallbladder slapped mercilessly against my blazer when I walked.) At the same time, she perceived me as emotionally icy because I wore my hair a horrific bun-like style that revealed my prominent, Sade-like (sans sex appeal) forehead.

Eventually, her loathing of me abated and a profound friendship blossomed. Years later, she’s even claimed to have learned things from me, like diplomacy takes time we don’t have. (I can’t say I’m proud to have taught her that; but in my defense, clocks tick like sonic booms in the news business.)

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
Edgar Allan Poe

Perceptions and first impressions fascinate me. Oftentimes they are spot on; sometimes they are nowhere near reality.

I’ve been described as the cheerleader type (I wanted to play football), as pious (I could teach you a few words), as heartless (it pains me they even think that way) and as highly intelligent (remind me, is it the earth or the sun that rotates?).

“We’re finding that everything is evaluated as good or bad within a quarter of a second,” according to psychologist John Bargh, PhD, in David Myer’s “The Powers and Perils of Intuition.” Myer goes on to say our “micro thin slices” of encounters can tell us something.

The question is this: Is that something accurate? Perceptions were off a bit when it came to these contestants on Britain’s Got Talent:

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
Richard P. Feynman

I immediately dismissed “Reynaldo” upon meeting him. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was I didn’t like about him—his thin smile and the way he said just the right thing or the way he stood supporting-beam straight. Yet we lived in the same building and I couldn’t help but run into him day after day. Eventually though, I let my guard down when I should have thrown a right hook. He turned out to be the red line at the nuclear plant, dangerous.

A friend of mine, a beautiful mother of six children with a high-powered, kick-butt-no-time-to-take-names job, gives nearly everyone a second, third, fourth… chance and she succeeds at life. Watching her makes you want to love the loud, the lunkheaded, and the lonely just the same. I don’t always succeed, or even have the courage to do so; but when I look to her overwhelming openness, I recall Acts 10:34 (ESV), “So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality.’”

There’s a saying, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” But shouldn’t we give people a chance to make a second impression?

Should I have given Reynaldo a second chance? Why not? Validation can be good for the spirit. It was the third and fourth chances that gave me problems.

The key is to live… smartly and with God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:3 KJV).

More to consider:

The Powers and Perils of Intuition:

5 Early Warning Signs You’re with a Narcissist:

Safe people:

Homeless Girl Becomes Human — Life's Sudden Inspirations

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

The way she appeared photo 1suddenly just outside the gallery door alarmed me.

I can’t say she looked at us as much as she looked through us, her expression blank and dry despite the humid Charleston heat.

My first outing of this recent day was a lovely morning walk with my brother as we photographed hundreds-year-old churches and through a fence examined the stockades that held slaves awaiting their eventual sale. On the way back to the quaint hotel in which we had been staying comfortably, with its free bottles of water and sodas and its afternoon wine and cheese pairings, we traveled past the site of a former Freemason headquarters and, incongruously, a modern motel. As I sat in my air-conditioned room, I thought of the peace of the boardwalk that had seemed so enchanting and wished it were cool enough for me to spend the day there alternately watching the passersby, reading my novel and getting lost in Charleston boardwalkthought — a perk of paid time off.

During my second outing, my family spent the late afternoon wandering in and out of galleries, antique stores, and trendy shops. It was outside a gallery dedicated to the preservation of birds that we encountered the girl.

“Can you help me get some food,” she asked blankly.

Generally, I am quick with a few dollars or even twenty if I’m feeling particularly generous, but this day I shook my head “no.”

While the girl faded from view, my guilt did not. “I should have given her something, but I don’t like pulling out my wallet on the street. I usually try to keep a few dollars in my pocket just in case,” I told my 15-year-old nephew. Though it was true, it felt like a cheap excuse. My nephew nodded, and we walked on.

“You don’t need a plan; you just need to be present.”
Bob Goff

At some point, my nephew went off with his sisters; my brother escaped the prospect of having to spend more time shopping with me and wife; and my sister-in-law and I continued to look for deals where we could spend the money that was burning holes in our pockets. After a half-dozen or so stores, I purchased a top I was too lazy to try on. I texted the kids: “Where are you?”

Their response: “Leaving the pizza place and heading to the drug store.”

We remarked at their ability to eat so often and continued our leisurely stroll from one store to another until the shopping strip turned into a park. Again, I texted the kids.

Their response: “We are still at the drug store.” So, that’s where we headed.Charleston slave stockades - homeless girl

We found the kids, looking rather serious, gathered near the cash register.

“Aunt Leslie, Mom,” said my younger niece, “This is Beverly.”

I looked around trying to understand to whom she was referring. She pulled  the homeless girl forward.

The homeless woman.

The woman who was homeless.

The woman whose last living relative died just before she and her husband lost their jobs.

The woman who came with her husband to Charleston for a better life but found hardship sleeping in the park and being turned down for work because they hadn’t been homeless long enough get into a shelter and didn’t have a phone number to give potential employers.

The woman who so badly wanted to take a shower, wash her hair, and put ointment on her many, inflamed mosquito bites.

Beverly: Who said, “It’s embarrassing to have to live like this.”

The six of us walked from the store, my nephew carrying the bags of toiletries and undergarments my eldest niece had purchased for Beverly while my youngest niece held the pizza she had purchased for Beverly.

I couldn’t help but wonder what we were going to do next. Were we to head back to our cozy hotel rooms and order overpriced room service while Beverly looked for a soft spot in the grass or an open space on a bench? Were we to settle in under the covers of our queen-size beds while she swatted mosquitoes?

I pulled out my phone — part of me was screaming who does this? — and requested the number for the motel I’d seen on my morning walk. I asked to book a room for a few nights for another person. As they took down my credit card information and informed me I would need to present that card at the front desk, Beverly asked my nieces, “What’s going on? What is she doing?”

No one answered Beverly’s questions. As we walked to Beverly’s motel room with her bags and her food, I handed her the keys and told her she would have three nights in a room with a phone and a shower. Her eyes grew wide and a single tear fell to her cheek. Then we stood in a circle and prayed for Beverly’s future.

Is there anyone so wise as to learn by the experience of others?


— Voltaire

The walk back to our hotel began quietly, until my nephew praised my younger niece for being so helpful.

“What?” she asked. “I didn’t buy all the toiletries.”

“Well, I only bought the toiletries,” said my oldest niece, “because you bought the pizza.”

“I only bought theHistorical church in Charleston pizza,” said my younger niece, praising her little brother, “because he gave her money.”

“I only had money in my pocket,” said my nephew, “because Aunt Leslie told me to keep some there just in case.”

My eyes welled up with tears as we let out a collective, whispered “wow.”

I don’t know if those few nights in the motel, the food and the sundries helped change Beverly’s life for the better, but they certainly changed mine.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

 Jeremiah 29:11

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Embarrassing Choices, a Premature Freakout

There are some stories you’re just too embarrassed to tell… and then you do it anyway.

I was 7 years old and playing outside and my big brother and his friends let me play with them. Mom hadn’t cajoled them; I hadn’t whined. We ran bases with the ball zipping dangerously close to my head. We tossed around the football.

Everything was going exceptionally well, until I had to go to the bathroom. What if I returned to find the boys wouldn’t play with me anymore. Life surely would be over. Unfortunately, the potty dance wasn’t helping my playtime cred either. I had to make a decision, wet myself in front of the big boys (a group of highly discriminating 10 year olds, one of whom likely my future husband) or take a break. Never missing a beat, I ran into the house and into the first room I found (OK, it was a closet) and did my business before running back outside. It was a day of acceptance (tinged with miscreant behavior). There was no other choice…

So, why does that haunt me decades later? Perhaps for the same reason I was embarrassed by another potential error, taking wrong job. OK, this wasn’t peeing in the front-hall closet (sorry, Mom), but it was disturbing just the same.

by xeniaFor years, I struggled to find a job that would offer me new challenges. Soon after giving notice at my last job, where I directly supervised a number of people while juggling a bevy of meetings and editing an incredible amount of copy, my colleagues royally feted me with lunches, dinners, gifts and more compliments than my growing head could hold. Among the gifts was an iPad mini to help with my new job.

Unfortunately, I wound up using that nifty device to surf social media, check personal email, and so on. And I checked these things often, because, well, I had little else to do. I was bored. Worst, I was insignificant, a lightweight cog the gears bypassed. By the time I met with my significant other for dinner at night, I had nothing of significance to share about my day.

Depression set in, overwhelming me with hand-wringing obsessive, circular thinking. Was I going to have to call my former manager and beg for my old job? Could I? Losing me likely helped the company keep from laying off someone else. How could I have been so stupid to think I could change industries? And, what made me think God had a future for me other than the one at the newspaper?

To get answers, I increased my prayer time and decreased time with those things — Twitter, Facebook, Words with Friends, texts, television, and sometimes friends and family — that add noise to our lives, those things that make it hard to differentiate our own voices from the voice of the masses, from news feeds, from our fears, our desperation, our hopes and from most importantly our God.

Soon I realized my mistakes. Not about leaving the newspaper because it was time. It was time for me to learn new things and meet new people. It was time for me to take the skills I acquired and honed helping to grind out a daily newspaper and put them to the use in growing field. It was time for major change. The biggest change necessary? My attitude. To overstate things: I was walking through the Grand Canyon with my eyes closed. Rather than being grateful for having a job in this stagnate climate or allowing myself to get acclimated to new surroundings with fancy espresso machines, bubble hockey, flat-screen TVs and lots of free snacks, I whined.

“We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”
― Henry Cloud

You know the problem with my new job?  It was new. I was new. The work was old and already set in motion by some very capable people. It just wasn’t my turn to Double Dutch yet. Rather, it was my turn to renew my mind after the stresses of newspaper work. Finally, I gave myself over to change, opening myself up to meet new people and hear new ideas. Before long, I was having a good time.

No longer am I wondering about my decision-making abilities but I’m wondering: Did I write that down? Is this my responsibility, his or ours? How do you do that and that and that? And, wow, that’s really cool. I’ve always wanted to be a part of that. Man, my arms are tired from waving all this smoke around and holding up these mirrors. I hope they can’t see that I’m not as great as I thought I was. And. I think. Maybe. I might be, well, happy.

Kensington Park Path by Leslie GreenWhy have I had such a change of heart? It’s not because the workload increased, though it did. Neither is it because I’m doing new things, though I am. It’s because, through the grace of God, I realized this on-demand world made me impatient for a bug fix for my life. One of those quick patch jobs that, when you think about it, always winds up requiring another update and then another to fix the patch that fixed the patch. Essentially, the problem wasn’t the job. The problem was a mental security flaw that only gratitude could repair. I’m almost embarrassed I didn’t realize that sooner.


© Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC [2014]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is to Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Roadside Assistance


My job has been in a persistent state of  hyper-drive since about 2008. Having a day off work means working longer hours in advance and never really unwinding when you’re gone. (At least, that was my excuse)

Shortly after arriving to work one day, my friend “Bill” came to my desk in need of help. After discovering he had a flat tire, he wondered if I would follow the tow truck from the office lot to the service station a couple of miles away and give him a ride back.

Proverbs 3:27, 28 (ASV) came to mind:

“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, When it is in the power of thy hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbor, Go, and come again, And tomorrow I will give; When thou hast it by thee.”

Still, I said “No,” explaining I was overwhelmed by the many tasks before me. He looked stunned but he moved on and found someone else to assist. That was Monday morning.

Exhausted, I went to bed early that night, awakening around one a.m. with an overwhelming need to pray. I did and kept praying off and on all night until I finally drifted off shortly before my alarm clock rang at six.

When I awoke I was fixated on the workday—on what stories I needed to edit and assign, projects I needed to plan, meetings I needed to hold. As is my habit, I ate breakfast while I read a bit of the Word. That day’s lesson came from James 3.

“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” James 3:13-18

But I read swiftly, interspersing verse readings with periodic checks of my work email, rationalizing that I had little time for an in-depth study or meditation because I had slept little and needed to be at the office by 9:30. Already it was 9. Yet rather than encountering post rush-hour traffic, I found myself in the thick of things. Construction was underway on a small strip of road on the express lanes of I-96.

Then  the SUV in front of me swerved, avoiding a large metal cylinder that was rolling across the highway. I swerved too. Boom! The back of my car lifted from the road and then fell with a thud. I held my breath, pulled the vehicle to the side, and turned on my blinkers. When a semi whooshed by inches from my vehicle, I realized I wasn’t in the breakdown lane. In fact, on this stretch of road where there was construction there was no breakdown lane. With every passing vehicle, my SUV vehicle rocked. My hands shook.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut I didn’t pray. I didn’t thank God for keeping me alive. I didn’t ask for wisdom. Instead, I called my friend for advice, and he talked me to the breakdown lane a few hundred yards away. There’s a reliable tow company I usually call in rare times of need but it never came to mind. Instead, I called my insurance company for roadside assistance. The woman on the other end said a tow truck would be there within 30 minutes. Again I talked to my friend, then my brother, and then my job.

Nearly two hours later, after I managed a way to relieve myself on the side of the road without being arrested for indecent exposure, a truck pulled in front of me. The young man—he kept calling me “sweetheart”—said I just needed my tire changed. He did so swiftly, had me sign papers, and got in his vehicle. I sighed in relief as his truck inched away from mine and I put my car in gear. But when my car ground against the road like a pestle against glass, I choked back sobs.

Still, I didn’t pray.

I honked my horn in a desperate attempt to get the tow driver’s attention. And he heard me, despite the whiz of traffic and the nearby construction. He pulled over and loaded my car as I loaded my belongings into the well-worn (half the seat was missing) cab of truck. And then the rain started… Except it wasn’t raining on the road to the left or the median to the right. This dark cloud only soaked his truck.

“I have to call my boss. My hydraulics are leaking!” he announced as he jumped in. “I have to unhook your car. You need to get out of the truck.” He gestured wildly not waiting or wanting my response. Someone, he said, would come get me in about ten minutes.

An hour later, I listened and I licked tears from my lips as Roadside “Assistance” said they would do everything in their power to get a tow truck to me. They, however, were encountering problems. The tow drivers, the woman said, didn’t seem interested in helping out.

Let me mention here, there was no war in Detroit, no zombie apocalypse, no truck driver strike or mass towing of illegally parked vehicles; and the tow truck industry, to my knowledge, had not collapsed.

But neither was I incapacitated. I’m a Word-taught Christian, meaning I know what the Bible says about the power of prayer, loving your neighbor, and God’s infinite mercy. Throughout the ordeal, my editor texted she was praying for me, my brother told me to trust God.

Another thirty minutes passed before I thought to ask God for help.

Shortly afterward, I watched through my rear-view mirror as a tow driver changed the tire of a car about a quarter mile behind me. I waved and honked furiously as he drove past. The truck stopped. The driver asked what I needed. I told him, trying to hide the quiver from my voice.

“I can’t help you,” he said. “We go by our phones, what the boss sends us is where we go. If I stop, I’ll get in trouble.”

I didn’t want to get him in trouble and told him so.

He pulled off.

I cried.

And then he pulled over. He backed up the 100 yards or so to my vehicle and got out.

“Get in my truck,” he said said. “I can’t leave you here. That’s wrong.”

Sitting in the cab of his truck, I asked God what to do. He told me not in an audible, earth-shaking way but in that quiet voice a friend uses when whispering a secret. I felt his warmth speaking to my heart.

And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, roadside3walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21

 Surreptitiously, I took some money from my wallet and slid it in my pocket as the young man drove. He told me about moving from Philadelphia to Detroit for a woman, about racism in Philly, about how Detroit isn’t as bad as the rest of the country thinks it is, and about how he wasn’t going to come back for me. I thanked him again. He shook his head.

“I came back for you, but I usually don’t. I usually keep going,” he said. He looked at me and shook his head again. “Today, I don’t know, I had to come back. I couldn’t leave you there.”

Then we heard a loud pop.

He pulled over to check my car. All was stable and we were back on the highway. Still, something seemed amiss. The overhead light flickered. After a beat, I realized a door was open. I checked mine. I glanced at his. It was open, I told him. He laughed and closed it. It popped open again. He laughed again.

“You have to laugh,” he said. “If you can’t laugh, you have nothing.”

Silently, I praised God.

Four hours after leaving home that morning, I arrived at the dealership leaving my driver with gift that did not match his kindness. Nothing could.

After some time at the dealership, the service rep said, “There was a hole in the tire and in the wheel and neither could be repaired. The flap that covers the gas tank was somehow ripped off, too.  You were lucky the car didn’t flip over or worse.”

I knew it wasn’t luck, so I praised God.

I’m still praising God, for He is good and His mercy endures forever.

© Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC [2016]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is to Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.