The Kindness Gene

November 27, 2017 – When Blanche Dubois uttered her famous line, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” in A Streetcar Named Desire, I bet she didn’t know that one day there would be a scientific theory to explain why. Or rather, to explain that we can spot kindness in people we don’t know, and maybe she was drawn to strangers she sensed were kind.

According to research data published in 2011, people with a certain gene trait are known to be more kind and caring than people without it. Who knew?

This isn’t earth-shattering news, but what’s interesting about the research is that they’ve proven that if we have the kindness gene, it can be easily and quickly picked up by people who don’t even know us.

The research was conducted on average people, and not folks who go through life pinching babies and kicking dogs, where it is more than obvious they’re missing the kindness gene. Researchers at Oregon State University devised an experiment in which 23 couples, whose genotypes were known to them but not to observers were studied. These observers were asked to watch them converse in groups of two, and with the sound turned off, identify which listener had the kindness gene and which did not. In most cases the observers chose correctly.

Finally, an explanation why I’m always selected for jury duty.

A Little Sap with My Cheese

November 20, 2017 – I’m a reasonably intelligent person. I’ve read some of the classics, enjoy films with subtitles and stay up-to-date on current events. I also engage in the occasional political debate and can hold my own. My math and science skills may not be Nobel Prize ready, but no one expects me to create the next Facebook or cure cancer, so I get by.

That being said, forgive me for what I’m about to reveal. I love Christmas movies. I can’t get enough of those sugary sweet, sentimental stories that bring tears to my eyes and a smile to my face.

Try not to roll your eyes too much. I realize these movies are as far removed from reality as they are from receiving an Oscar nomination. They’re predictable and cheesy because every Christmas movie follows the same formula: someone struggles with something big, then the Christmas magic happens and suddenly it’s a wonderful life.

That syrupy schmaltzy formula is exactly why I watch them. I enjoy when the town folk pitch in to help each other, or when that lonely single mom lands her dream man. I cheer when the orphaned children are adopted on Christmas Eve. And I get giddy when the small town is saved from the big bad corporation that wants to take over.

Watching these movies makes me hope for my own Christmas magic. Then by December 26, I come to my senses and realize I‘m happy to be back to normal again.

As someone who typically appreciates movies with artistic value – at least during the other 11 months of the year, I ask that you allow me this guilty pleasure. And know that if I’m not busy with holiday celebrations or with the chores of daily life, I’m sitting next to my tree with a box of tissues waiting for the magic to begin.

The Art of Storytelling

November 13, 2017 — Anyone who can stand in front of an audience and tell a personal story for five minutes is bold, daring and heroic. It’s almost as if you have no fear of standing naked in public, bearing your inner most secrets for all to hear. It’s not for everyone.

As a writer, I can relate. You want people to read what you’ve written, or what’s the point; but you never want to be in the same room when someone’s reading your work. At least I don’t. It’s too revealing. That’s my fear of standing naked in public.

I had the opportunity to attend a storytelling Grand Slam Saturday night, an event that brought together the season’s best StorySlam winners to go head-to-head for the title of “Best Storyteller in Philadelphia”. StorySlam is a live storytelling competition that allows storytellers (slammers) to tell a story in five minutes or less based on the a chosen theme. On a typical night, brave audience members sign up at the door to tell a true story based on a theme, and ten storytellers are randomly selected to share their most outrageous, heartfelt, and often hilarious tales. Judges, also selected from the audience, determine the StorySlam winner, and a chance to compete in the season finale Grand Slam.

Ten of the season’s best storytellers competed for the title Saturday night, and being the best of the best, they told compelling tales on a variety of subjects based on the theme “willing”. At times, I felt like I was attending a therapy session crossed with open mic night at a comedy club since the stories made me shed a few tears and belly laughs. The tales included living with depression and anxiety, family traditions and the Philadelphia Eagles, childhood memories of birthday cakes and dance classes, and the story of a 13-year-old genius who wrote a book, his teacher who secured a publishing contract for him, and the 33-year-old storyteller who admitted publicly for the first time that both the boy and teacher lived only in his imagination, a fact that didn’t go over well with the publishing house once he admitted the truth. The only flaw I noticed was that only one person could win. Life is like that sometimes.

I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the experience with other audience members,  so it won’t be my last visit to a StorySlam. Being a part of the storyteller’s world, even for five minutes, fed my creativity and my spirit. I look forward to the next season, which begins in January.

Seven Years and Counting

November 6, 2017 — Seven years ago this Friday (November 10, 2010) I started this blog.

Back then, I was a member of the 10 percent unemployed, and thought that starting a blog would keep my writing skills fresh and give me something to do between interviews. The next marketing/communications job was out there, and I’d blog until I found it.

After I started a new communications manager position in 2011, I kept on blogging. Now, 1,218 posts later and seven years in, I still dabble, though not nearly as often as when I posted daily.  I also mix in my photography with written posts, and my pattern has become one photo (for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge) on Fridays and one written post each week on Mondays. It’s a schedule I can live with, still maintain a career and enjoy a bit of free time with family and friends now and then.

My blog didn’t change the world, or gather as many readers as a New York Times article, but I have my faithful followers and it’s been a great ride. A lot of interesting people found me and reached out to me with compelling comments and for that I am truly thankful.