“Travels With a Penguin Book 3: Australia” Available on Amazon Now!

I am very happy to announce that good friend and fellow Plotfish Press author Pen Quiller’s next book in her travel series, Travels With a Penguin Book 3: Australia, is now available on Amazon in Kindle format!

US: http://www.amazon.com/Travels-Penguin-Book-Australia-Company-ebook/dp/B00ZY5M1B2

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Travels-Penguin-Book-Australia-Company-ebook/dp/B00ZY5M1B2

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1st Novel in “Takers” Series Only 99 Cents – Bucks Books!

THE BUCKS BOOKS FANTASY EVENT IS LIVE!

15 Top Fantasy Fiction Books For 99 Cents and only 10-1/2 hours left!

I’m very happy that my first novel, Global Ebook Award-Winner Takers, is among these awesome books! I hear they’re pretty picky about what they’ll promote at Bucks Books so even if you have my novel already, check out some of these others! Why not, they’re only 99 cents each! 🙂

Click here to see the books for sale.

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“Travels With a Penguin” by My Friend Pen Quiller!

I am very pleased to let you all know that my publisher, Plotfish Press, has just released a brand-new non-fiction book by my good friend Pen Quiller! “Travels With a Penguin” is the name of the series, and it’s “Book 1: USA” that’s just gone live on Amazon! Here’s what the book is about:

“‘One day I’m going to …’

Who hasn’t started that sentence at one time or another in their lives? But how many of us take the risk to make those dreams a reality?

Pen Quiller might have stayed in her familiar groove, too – if it hadn’t been for the yoghurt pots.

Travels with a Penguin is a book series that just may persuade you to dust off your own bucket list, no matter who you are or what your stage of life might be. It’s the story of an ordinary woman in her fifties who was leading an unremarkable life in suburban England, until a series of events (including those troubling yoghurt pots!) made her question everything she thought she knew about herself.  She walked away from her comfortable life, gave up her job, sold her home, and set off to travel all the way around the world – her only companion a small stuffed penguin with a jaunty hat and scarf.

She had the time of her life!

After her amazing journey, Pen wrote Travels with a Penguin to persuade others to believe that they, too, could make their dreams come true. In her own words, ‘If I can do it, anyone can!’

Travels with a Penguin Book One covers Pen’s inspiration and preparation for her travels and the first leg of her trip, all the way across the United States of America. Books Two through Four will chronicle her experiences in the other countries she visited: New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Sri Lanka.

Pen Quiller’s grand adventure may just be the encouragement you need to escape your own familiar groove. What’s on your bucket list?”

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Go check out a sample and buy it today! Here’s where you can find it:

US: Click Here

UK: Click Here

Be sure to sign up for the Plotfish Press email list as well, so you can find out when the next books in this series are released!

Congratulations, Pen! You did it!!! 🙂

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Takers IV: Together is LIVE! Find Out How It All Ends!

That’s right, as promised, Takers IV: Together, the fourth and final novel in my “Takers” series, is now available at Amazon.com! Click the book cover below to grab your copy – only 99 cents fora  limited time! Find out what happens to Kel, Ray, Levi, Jess and the rest of their family members in this wild ride to end the series!

Fourth and final book in the Award winning ‘TAKERS’ series by Chris Davis. 

LAPD Detective Kel Langston, Half-Turned into a blood-and-soul sucking vampire-like creature less than a year ago, continues his fight against forces that have been toying with him and his Family from the very beginning. But Takers aren’t the only things he has to worry about, and when the full truth of what’s been going on in the US for years is revealed it’s him that the world looks to, to save it from the real threat to human beings…their own kind. 

Now, without a badge and without a home, Kel and his Family wander through a kaleidoscope of secrets, lies, truths, half-truths and frightening revelations, desperately trying to stay alive and keep one step ahead of those who pursue them. Slowly his Family grows, and when the time comes to face down their enemies, Kel discovers that strength isn’t about Takers and Half-Turns being more powerful than human beings. Strength is about standing together as a Family.

Click the book to grab your copy from Amazon!

Click the book to grab your copy from Amazon!

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Takers I through III Only 99 Cents!

Great news for everyone who hasn’t read them yet!

Takers, Takers II: Family and Takers III: Bloodlines are only 99 cents each for a limited time! My publisher, Plotfish Press, wants to make sure everyone can get caught up before May 7th, when Takers IV: Together, the final book in the Takers series, hits Amazon’s virtual shelves!

For 99 cents how can you go wrong?

Click here for links to the books on Amazon, and keep an eye out for the FINAL BOOK coming Wednesday!

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“Takers” is #10 in Top 100 Free Books – Horror!

Thanks to the awesomeness of the May 2014 Book Blog Train, my award-winning novel Takers is currently #10 on Amazon’s Top 100 free books in the horror category! Hurry and grab your copy so you can start catching up on the series before the fourth and final book, Takers IV: Together, comes out May 7th!

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Click the book to grab your free copy!

 

My publisher Plotfish Press has also made another of their books, The Tale of Rinji, free today…click here to grab your copy!

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Takers IV Cover SNEAK PEEK!

Not only does Takers IV finally have a title, but it also has its brand-new cover!

It’s coming out on May 7th so you might want to catch up with I through III before IV, the final book in the Takers series, arrives to knock your socks off!

Click here to find out how you can get the first three books in the series!

And now…drum roll, please…the very first public look at the cover for Takers IV: Together!

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Update on Takers IV – the Final Book in the Takers Series!

I am ecstatic, relieved and overjoyed (hold on, I’ll think of some more good words to describe it) to announce that today I finally finished the first draft of “Takers IV,” the fourth and final book in my “Takers” series of novels! Books I through III are currently available for Kindle on Amazon.com, so get yourselves caught up because “Takers IV” is going to be out MAY 7TH! That’s right, we have a date and while we also have a tentative title for this last one, I’d better stay mum on that until my publisher gives me the go-ahead. 🙂

For those of you who’ve followed my Half-Turn hero, LAPD Detective Kel Langston, his Taker friend Ray, his Half-Turn partner Levi, and his teenager Half-Turn Jess, you will not want to miss “Takers IV” – where all your questions get answered and then some! And if you haven’t met this unusual Family, now’s your chance to be drawn into the world of “Takers”…where your blood is only the beginning.

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Misbehavior Is Not Okay

I was inspired after reading David Pogue’s February 6th blog post entitled “Why Are People Such Jerks Online?” to put forth my own thoughts on the matter of online misbehavior that, in most cases, we don’t encounter in what I like to call Real Life, or RL.

In Mr. Pogue’s article, he draws the conclusion that the reason people are jerks to each other on the internet, when they aren’t necessarily that way in RL, is because the internet affords something that a face-to-face meeting does not: anonymity.

While I don’t have the status of Mr. Pogue, in that I’m not a well-known columnist, far too often I have witnessed appalling behavior from one person (or a group of people) in the online arena to another.

I have had numerous conversations about this phenomenon with my publishing company owner, Jaimi Sorrell. She herself has been the target of internet attacks, as have several other online acquaintances of mine. Those against me have been few enough, and far enough between, that none of them really tweak a memory profound enough to share.

In addition to running her publishing company, Jaimi also works with me and a few others on a discussion board called Tracy Island Writers Forum. It is on that venue, and on the website fanfiction.net, that I have most often seen behavior that baffles both of us.

In a very small number of cases, we have discovered that the people who post nasty reviews on fan fiction stories, or send ‘poison pen’ emails to their authors, suffer from one or more mental disorders. While this doesn’t exactly excuse the behavior in question, it at least sheds some light on the cause of it. Sadly, we have come to the conclusion that there isn’t very much you can do where that is concerned. You simply have to not let their poisonous intent affect you, like water rolling off a duck’s back.

But in the case of what you might consider to be average, everyday netizens, the question does arise as to why they think it’s okay to do something online that they wouldn’t (in all likelihood) do if they were face-to-face with the person being subjected to their rudeness. (Although for all I know, some of these people are like that in RL too, which ::shivers:: yikes.)

As Mr. Pogue points out in his post, the internet is “a place for the anonymous and insecure to take potshots.” But what I want to understand is why. And for me, the most relevant parallel I can draw to what amounts to internet bullying, is bullying in RL.

There has been an increased focused on bullying over the past several years (you can see bullying statistics for yourself right here). We have all heard the stories of teens being bullied by other teens, which sometimes results in the victim taking their own life or getting their hands on a gun and shooting up their school. We see bullying on elementary school playgrounds all the time. Children, up to a certain age, haven’t really digested the “what’s right and what’s wrong” portion of their moral values (for the most part). I’ve seen children be downright cruel to one another on the playground; in fact, my own son was once bullied because he was “different” from the rest of the children. In his case, “different” simply meant that he was able to complete activities and homework much more quickly than his peers, to the point where he would have absolutely nothing to do for a good half of the school day. He also didn’t want to participate in the cliques they formed, was more interested in reading than being macho, and in general didn’t think the same things were important that they did.

Children always pick on anyone who’s different from them. They often sling insults (many of which they have heard at home) toward others, be they racial epithets or otherwise, and there’s only one reason they do this. Acting out is a way of getting attention, and if you have a group of friends who also are desperate for attention, and desperate to fit in, you get together with them and pick on someone different from all of you. This makes you and your crew feel better about yourselves.

Why do they do this? Because they have one or more problems with self-image, self-love and quite possibly with their home lives. Whether they feel ignored at home, inadequate compared to siblings or are just completely lost trying to figure out their own identity, this behavior is exacerbated in teenagers, whose hormones make every situation life and death. As Vivienne Parry points out, “Teenagers get a rush from intensity, excitement and arousal.” The difference among teens is what the thing is that gives them that rush. All too often it’s behavior that I still haven’t figured out how they get away with.

The same behaviors, however, exist among adults on the internet, both individually and in whatever groups they choose to become part of. Yet adults, unless they suffer from a debilitation that affects this part of their brain, don’t have the benefit of being able to claim their sense of right and wrong hasn’t yet developed. And they don’t have the benefit of being able to blame raging hormones or whatever other factors spur teenagers to act the way many do. So why does one person gather their sheep around them, declare war on another group of people who’ve never said a bad word about any of them, and attack that group so viciously that sometimes it curls your hair?

I agree with Mr. Pogue that a large part of the ‘why’ is that even if people on the internet know your real name, it’s still a largely anonymous environment. Rather than looking a person in the eye and bringing out your verbal weaponry (or putting up your dukes), you are simply sitting there in your living room or office or bedroom looking at a computer screen. Nothing bad will happen to you, at least not physically, for unleashing your putrid internal sludge in blog comments, emails, story/book reviews or discussion boards. Certainly the online community in question may give you warnings or ban you from posting to that place altogether, if that is possible for them. And in retribution you may receive responses from those group members or the friends of the person you attacked, trying to defend their friends/community from your attack.

But by and large, you can do and say whatever you want to on the internet without having to suffer any consequences at all because it is anonymous. And that’s what I think is the true reason people misbehave online: there are no consequences for their actions.

When I was a child, if I misbehaved – whether it was getting into a fight on the playground at school, staying out past my curfew, going to a place I was told not to go or not doing my chores – I was punished in some way. It might’ve been that I had to go to bed an hour earlier. It might have been that I had to stand in a corner for a period of time. Not being able to watch my favorite TV show was a frequent one. It might even have been a spanking or lashing with the belt. Whatever the punishment was, it was designed to teach me right from wrong. To make me take responsibility for my actions. To show me that just because I could do something, doesn’t mean I should.

I’m not going to debate the merits of different types of punishment for children and adults; that’s not what this post is about. What it is about, is the disturbing trend in the United States of children not being held accountable for anything from their actions to themselves. With No Child Left Behind, if a kid is failing their grade it doesn’t matter…they’re pushed along to the next grade anyway. What does that teach our children? That it’s okay if they can’t, won’t or don’t achieve a certain level of education or knowledge, because they’ll get to stay with all their friends and move on to the next class. Which, I should point out, they are ill-prepared for since they didn’t adequately learn the foundational information from previous classes. I shan’t delve too deeply into this, for it is a much broader topic deserving of its own post.

In addition to a broken educational system, there is the strange practice, now, of awarding trophies (be they statuettes, ribbons or gold stars) to every single student who does something, even if the student doesn’t “win.” When I was on the track team in my younger years, I didn’t bring home a ribbon if I lost the race or didn’t throw discus the farthest. When I participated in state and national singing competitions, I didn’t win an award if other singers performed better than I did. I had to work, and work hard, to achieve recognition and success. Actors don’t get Oscars for B-level performances. Olympic hopefuls don’t get a gold medal if they place second in their sport.

Yet nowadays, in many schools, all the children on a school sports team receive all sorts of ‘gifts’ just for being on the team. Even if they never take the field, or even if the team never wins a game, they are treated as though they have poured their heart and soul into playing and as though they have won every single game…when they have done neither. How does this encourage children, then, to strive for excellence? If you know you’re going to be recognized for just being there, where’s the incentive to work harder, do better, surpass your personal best? Answer: there is none.

There are more reasons than just these why we are now being faced with teens and twenty-somethings who carry with them a sense of entitlement that they have not earned and don’t in any way deserve. This issue was recently expounded upon by BabyZone in their article here, in which they talk about how parents allowing their children to do whatever they want with no consequences ruined a play date the author had. As well, Babble.com spoke of Parenting in the Age of Entitlement in their article found here, showing this truly is a modern epidemic. What it boils down to is that children and therefore young adults don’t understand that you can’t have what a fifty-year old has (wealth, family, house, car) just because you want it. You have to earn it just like that fifty-year old earned it.

An example more germaine to my existence online: someone joins a long-standing internet community, and immediately begins telling the owners and long-term members of that community what they’re doing wrong, and that they need to change everything to be the way the newbie wants it to be. If you don’t agree with the newbie, or if you tell them no, sorry, we created this place and it’s run according to our rules, then guess what happens? That person basically throws the internet version of a tantrum, and then sends emails to everyone they know maligning the community members, as well as making blog posts stating as much. They also attack community members individually via emails and by leaving nasty reviews on their fan fiction stories…reviews that have nothing to do with the stories and everything to do with their burning hatred of the author (or the group the author is with).

Why do people do that? Because they believe that they’re always right, that everyone else is wrong, and that you should change everything you do because they told you to. They feel that they are entitled to have things their way because nobody ever taught them the concepts of negotiation or compromise. Nor has anyone taught them compassion, or to think before they speak. In a great number of cases, nobody has taught them that you don’t get to the top by magic. You get there by working for it.

Parents today are faced with an unbelievable challenge. More and more of their time is being hogged by their jobs, their financial worries and the five thousand non-home and non-work activities that for some reason they feel the need to participate in. This has the direct result of their children being sat down in front of the television or video game console, just to keep them out of their parents’ hair so the parents can try to get one-tenth of their unmanageable load of daily tasks completed. And in many cases, children aren’t even being allowed to be children. What I mean by that, is that kids not allowed to just be; to play in the yard alone or with their friends, developing a sense of self, an imagination and social skills. To help their parents around the house, thereby learning responsibility and the consequences of not meeting obligations. They’re largely ignored in favor of the parents’ agenda which, at some point along the way, their own children – the future of this country – stopped appearing on anymore. Or the kids are carted around to dozens of after-school activities because, I can only assume, we’re trying to stress out America’s children before they even become adults, and teach them that taking time to stop and smell the roses isn’t important.

While the behavior problems associated with teenagers and twenty-somethings might be able to be explained by all of the above, what’s the deal, then, with those who truly are old enough to know better? Those from my generation, many of whom had stay-at-home moms, or who were spanked when they did wrong, who were held accountable for their words, their deeds and how they carried themselves? For the misbehavior I have seen online has in no way been limited to the generation after mine, and for me that is the most perplexing part of this entire topic.

How does someone in their 30s…their 40s…their 50s…someone who is definitely old enough to know better, and who grew up in a generation that taught you to know better, attack other people online? I can come up with four individuals off the top of my head who each act as though they have lost any sense of morality and decency, that they had to have grown up with simply because of the time period in question. In one case, I believe it’s because the woman is a very bored housewife who for some reason missed out on a typical youth, and is also a control freak. This person has gathered a following of teenagers around her that praise her every word and deed. And that has given her a sense of “Look how much they love me, that means I’m better than everyone else.” So when she finds another group of people who say, “No, sorry, you’re not our queen, but thank you anyway,” she then goes on the offensive and tries everything she can to rip them to shreds.

Why? Because in her mind she, and those members of her personal “cult” who have allowed her to be their leader, are the end-all and be-all to what is correct. Their opinions are the only right opinions, even if those opinions are highly illogical to the matter at hand. The older community which has stood the test of time, withstanding many attempts to tear it down, won’t bow to her perceived superiority. It’s rather like a king who is trying to conquer another territory. When the indigenous people refuse to convert to his beliefs or give up their land and their freedom, what does the king do? He attacks them with the intent of either forcing them to join him or killing them if they continue to refuse to submit to his rule. News flash for those of you out there who missed out on this: we don’t do that kind of thing anymore. We’re a little more sophisticated now than we were in medieval times. There is no single ruler of anything (let’s face it, these days even British royalty is little more than an homage to days past – the queen doesn’t rule anything), and when you’re talking about things in the public domain, you don’t get to set the standards for everyone else.

This article could easily become five times longer than it already is, but instead of beating a dead horse I’ll circle back around to my own opinion of why people misbehave online. There are no consequences for them doing so. There are no “internet police” to react immediately to their actions, like there would be if you got into a public altercation. Yes, you can be arrested for cyberbullying, cyberstalking and cyberharassment. But since so many online personalities go by pseudonyms, unless you have a lot of money or good hacking skills, prosecuting them for these things is nearly impossible.

We all become angry if we see story about a man who abuses his wife, or a woman who abuses her children. We are upset when one woman kills another woman because she was “trying to steal her man.” We are outraged when a man concocts a scheme to murder his wife because he wants out of the marriage.

But we have a double standard when it comes to online behavior. Because each and every one of the motivations behind the acts I just described, are the same motivations that misbehaving online people have. The only difference is that on the internet you can’t punch, stab, poke, shoot or kick your opponent. The only warfare you can wage there is psychological. And that, as we know from people killing themselves due to maltreatment online, can be just as deadly as a bullet to the brain.

Regardless of the psychological reasons, the rationalizations people try to make or the arguments that misbehaving people use as excuses, the point here is, as Mr. Pogue discussed in the post that inspired this article from me, that you wouldn’t walk up to someone in RL, stand nose to nose with them and begin hurling insults and curses, questioning their ancestry or spewing hateful and spiteful and vicious words at them. Not if you had to look them in the eye (and were sober at the time), you wouldn’t. If you would, then you need to seek professional help, because that is not acceptable behavior on the internet any more than it is in RL.

Stop to consider the one thing that I know all of you who misbehave on the internet haven’t considered: Just because nobody questions or goes after you for your bad behavior online, doesn’t mean you’re getting away with it. It is NOT okay to hurt other people, whether with your words or your actions. I don’t care if it’s online, in person, over the telephone or by making a hate-filled movie to unleash your questionable sensibilities upon a larger audience. It is NOT. NOT okay. It is NOT OKAY to hurt other people.

If they disagree with you? That is their right. If you ask for their opinions and they give them to you, but you hate their opinions? Grow up and deal with it. They have a right to theirs, as you have a right to yours. Doing unto others what you would have done unto you isn’t just an old quote. It’s reality.

Nobody in your house may see what you’re doing…maybe even your online friends aren’t aware of it, or because they are also sick and twisted, they’re encouraging you. But let me point something out: YOU are aware of it. YOU know what you’re doing. And not only your victims, but YOU are being harmed by your misbehavior. There being external consequences for your actions, words and deeds is irrelevant. Because whether it’s online or in person, and no matter how old you are or aren’t, and whether you suffer from a mental illness or are just having a really bad day, misbehavior is not okay.

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What Giving Really Gives You

Recently I have been going through a period of what I would define as spiritual growth. Not to be confused with anything having to do with organized religion, but more along the lines of a spiritual awakening. I have realized that throughout my life, while I have always been at heart what I would call a “good” person, I have not actually been treating my fellow humans with the love and compassion that – if we all treated each other in that way – would lead to true world peace.

It all hearkens back to childhood, when we learn from our parents, our peers, our organized religions, our grandparents and extended family. From television, from friends, from those in the town, village or city where we grew up. I believe that we come into this world as newborn infants not with a clean slate, but with karmic debts to repay, with lessons we have decided we need to learn and with agreements in place with other souls to fulfill one or both of those duties. We also come into our life under the trappings of when we are born, astrologically speaking. And all of these things – the karma, the lessons, the agreements and the astrological influences – were chosen by our Higher Selves prior to inhabiting the body of the newborn we became, in our attempt to fulfill these things.

So our personalities, our genetics and our environment growing up truly define the foundation we lay for this life we enter into. In my case, I was born “with horseshoes up my butt” as I have so eloquently described it to close friends. I have always been lucky…not in winning the lottery or having a perfect life, but in always inexplicably landing on my feet when disaster befalls me. I was also born with a deep well of emotion to the point where even I want to slap myself sometimes for how sappy I am. It’s something I learned to keep hidden to avoid the negative repercussions it brought me as a child.

Why am I baring this to you, my friends, readers, fans and the entirety of the internet world? Because even though I came in with promise, the environment in which I grew up formed me into someone who wasn’t emotionally or psychologically capable of living up to that promise. That I chose this life for myself, wasn’t anywhere in my sphere of awareness growing up. Most of us, if we come to that realization, don’t do it until we’ve already laid waste to people and places, and caused emotional pain and confusion to others.

Rather than go into a complete psychological analysis of myself to better draw a picture of why a recent experience was so profound for me, suffice it to say that I woke up to the fact that I had been unkind in my words throughout my adult life. I was closed off to other people, to protect the inner me, because that was how I survived my childhood. I couldn’t see past my own inner pain and my resultant behavior to realize several important things:

  • that everyone else on this planet also came into the lives they’re in for multiple reasons;
  • that those whom I blamed for hurting me when I was young, I had actually made agreements with to interact with me in that precise way;
  • and that there was a very good reason for it all 

What reason? So that I could learn a very important thing that my Higher Self was really and truly trying to understand: compassion.

Less than a month ago, through a series of occurrences too involved to go into here, I had an epiphany. I finally truly understood, and felt, what I have come to label as Love with a capital L. Some call it Divine Love, some call it Universal Love…there are many names amongst us humans for what it is. But there it was…something I suddenly comprehended so completely that it took my breath away and reduced me to a blubbering heap on the floor. Well, not literally…I was sitting on a chair. But the fact is that it hit me like a speeding freight train, and when it did, Life and Truth became so clear to me that I was instantly ashamed for things I have said and done to (or about) other people.

Not that I did or said these things on purpose out of true malice, but simply that my words and actions were the result of my ignorance of the concept of compassion for others. As if to put an exclamation point at the end of my epiphany, I had an experience two weeks ago, and that is what I want to share with you all.

I drive my roommate to work, and then go from there on to my own day job. One ordinary morning I was talking with her, thanks to my newfound understanding of compassion for my fellow man, about giving money to the people who are on the street corners needing help. The ones who stand there with signs saying they are war veterans (we should be ashamed of ourselves for how we treat them), or that they’re down on their luck, or simply signs that say NEED HELP. I told her, there is always someone standing to the left of the stoplight for the freeway exit I take en route to work. Many times it’s the same man, but sometimes there are others. I told her I’d always wished I could give them something but since I don’t carry cash, I never have anything but the loose change I’ve accumulated, usually totaling only 35 or 40 cents.

She said well, at the end of the day, added up with whatever else he gets, that might make it possible for him to get a room to sleep in that night, or a meal. I thought about that a lot the rest of that day.

The next day, I woke up with a ridiculous Happy – that’s the best way I can describe it. I had been basking in my experience of understanding Love with a capital L, and all the way to work was just so giddy that I think a unicorn would’ve thrown up at the sight of me. I got to that exit and saw a man there, the one who is usually there, and suddenly in my head there was this urgent voice that said hurry, get all that rattling change out of your wallet and give it to him.

After I stopped at the red light, I managed to get the handful of mostly pennies out of my wallet. I rolled down my window and called out to him just as he passed my car. He came over and I said, “I’m sorry, it’s not very much but it’s all I have in my wallet.” And he said, “Oh, that’s okay, thank you so much.”

He was wearing gloves – it was soooo cold out that morning – and after I dumped the change into his two cupped hands I put my hand on one of his and looked into his eyes, and he looked right into mine. In that moment of connection with another human being – a fellow soul – I said, “Bless you.” He said, “Thank you,” and I said, “Thank you.” Because although I had just given him a pittance of change, he had just given me the gift of being able to help someone in need, even though it was barely a few cents’ worth of help.

I was so overwhelmed and moved by that moment, by the rush of beauty, kindness and Love that washed over me like a tsunami, that I had to struggle to keep from crying the rest of the drive to work. And in those last few minutes of my drive I realized, that is what it feels like to actually help people…not all this mailing of checks to nameless, faceless organizations while we sit at home on our couches all warm and comfy, but actually one-on-one giving someone a hand. Looking into that person’s eyes, speaking to them, coming to “know” – even in a brief moment – the one you are giving to, brings on a rush better than any drug, better than any other experience I’ve ever had in my life.

No, I didn’t give that man a whole lot. And no, I have no idea what he does with the money he collects standing there day in and day out, asking for the help of passers-by. But what we must understand is that it’s not up to us what the money we give to someone is used for. That’s up to them, and it’s their karma that will be affected depending on the choice they make about how to spend that money. What we must internalize…what I finally get after nearly forty-two years in this life…is that our responsibility is only to give, not to try to direct what happens with that gift. We should only be concerned with what we are doing…not with how other people react to it or what other people do with what we give.

I didn’t give that guy those few cents to try to earn cosmic brownie points. I did it because I was compelled to help a fellow human being. Did I earn cosmic brownie points? Yes. But better than that, for me, was how good it made me feel. That I had done something for someone I didn’t know simply because I was moved to do so, just allowed Love with a capital L to consume me in such a way that I immediately wished I could afford to keep on doing it. That I had a whole bunch of money and could go to all the people in Memphis who are in need, and either give them the money directly or buy them whatever it is they lack. Food, clothing, medical help.

But alas, I am not yet a wealthy woman. So all I can do right now is help in tiny ways. I don’t know how my small helps will impact those I offer them to. They may mean everything to them or nothing. But with each little thing I do for another person, my understanding of compassion, and my acting on what I have now learned and internalized, simply increases my Love for all others, and improves me as a person.

Which is why I wanted so badly to share this experience with the world. Giving, even when you have little to give, isn’t less important (karmically or otherwise) than giving when you have much to give. No, I don’t have the wherewithal to feed all the starving people in the United States. But I can connect with someone in need, I can give them what little I have, even if it’s an old coat that will keep them warm during a cold snap, or just a few cents of spare change I manage to scrounge up. It might be that projecting outwardly that I care about them as a fellow human is more kindness than they have ever been shown. The fact that I took a moment to connect with them might mean everything to them. I have no way of knowing.

But it’s not my business to judge how they handle a kindness I try to bestow upon them. It is my business to be kind. Compassionate. To look at each and every person I pass or come into contact with on a daily basis and realize that whatever color their skin, whatever their size, shape or general appearance, whatever their disability – emotional, psychological or physical – might be, they are in those lives for a multitude of reasons. They are no better or worse than I and vice-versa. They are not to be mocked or looked down upon, but to be Loved.

Perhaps one of the reasons that man has been standing on the corner by the exit I take to go to work, for more than two and a half years now, is to show me what it feels like to give from the heart. I don’t know his name and I have no idea what his background is, but I am truly grateful for the gift he gave me that cold, early morning.

What giving really gives you isn’t bragging rights to your friends, or awards from organizations for giving the largest donation to their cause. What giving really gives you is the opportunity to show someone else a kindness. And the greatest gift given during that exchange isn’t whatever you give that person. It’s the gift they’ve given you in the opportunity to act on your compassion for a fellow soul.

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