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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Who are YOU?

While having a conversation with my dear friend today, I realized that I use the word ‘neighbor’ a lot.  In fact, “neighbor” is a dominant word used in my vocabulary.  If there was a “word of a lifetime” competition, “neighbor” might be the winner, or at least runner up. 
But I never use it for gossiping; I hate that.  I even have special la-la-la songs in my head when people gossip about others. 

However, this realization really confused me.  When did “neighbor” became my it word?  I began going through my poems and short stories, trying to answer this question.  I found one poem that was honorably mentioned in a writer's contest. Can you guess the title of it? “Neighbors”!! 

Then I remembered that while I was a teacher, I asked my students one day in class to answer to a simple question.  They had to write the answer down on a piece of paper, so that no one copied the answer from anyone else. 
The question was, “Who are you?”.
The majority of the kids wrote down their name.  Some wrote their gender and others wrote what they wanted to be in life.  
And one of them wrote “a neighbor”. I was so curious why he wrote this, so I asked him what it meant. He said, “A name doesn't define you, only the things that you do.  And you will always be someone's neighbor.”
 And so, like that, the it word was born in me.  

A few years ago, a vegan friend of mine worked at McDonalds.  It was the only job that had flexible enough shifts with her college classes.  
People used to ask her all the time how she could work there while being a vegan.  Her answer was simple: people are meat eaters because they don’t know the things that she knows.  That even though she knew that eating meat and animal products was wrong, she never blamed people for things they don't know about.
And even though she understood them, that didn’t stop her from accepting it.  On the contrary! When her manager wasn't there, she gave her Big Macs out with a sentence or two, like, “Don't eat anything that had eyes on.” or “Don't eat anything that had feelings.”  Of course the result of this was having very confused customers on the other side of the counter.
The important thing she taught me is that that people experience life on such an individual level, and yet, so differently than everyone else that it’s important to accept them for who they are instead of “defining” them by something superficial. 

So, who are YOU?  Even if we live alone on a thousand acre property, we are all still neighbors to someone.  And though we may not realize it, we affect those around us.  They will never tell us how, but small and simple things we do integrate into their minds and thoughts.  So think about your actions, the things that you say and do on the internet, to your friends and family, to people you see in the grocery store, and to your neighbors.  And be a good one :)

 Tanya von Ness, todays guest blogger, is a teacher who loved designing so much that she decided to do it for a living.  Her dedication to creating quality book covers is reflected in her work.  She is also very passionate about writing and travelling with her family.  She is a proud mom of two beautiful little girls and wife of an amazing husband.  You can find her beautiful book covers on her website.

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