Five (5) steps to get on well with neighbours

February 26, 2017


By Eddy Montilla.

People from different cultures usually have different ways to deal with problems in which neighbours are involved. A Japanese student told me once that she quarreled with her neighbor over their natural boundary fences. For almost 10 years, they did not speak each other. Perhaps unwittingly, they made some kind of mutual agreement that consisted in taking out the garbage at different hours to avoid seeing each other.

“How is your relationship with her now?” I asked my student, just for curiosity.

”Now?” She said. “Now it is fine; we can say: Hello!”

     In opposite direction, I remember having seen two neighbours in the Dominican Republic fighting for a “piece of banana peel” in the morning and drinking and singing together in the evening. Regardless of what the reasons (problems) may be and the possible solutions you may take, to deal with quarrels related to people who live near you is always delicate and problematic. Let’s see some steps that can help you not to be in that position.

Step 1: Make your greeting your best support

     The “everybody knows that” phrase is in fact one of the things we neglect more. Everybody knows how important to greet is and despite of that, we don’t do it as we should. Whenever the situation arises, greet your neighbours. Greet them with a slight smile. You don’t have to start a conversation if you don’t want to. You don’t have to establish an in-depth relationship with them if that’s not part of your plan, but the benefits of greeting them is undeniable. Even if you are a nerd, unsociable and grumpy person (I hope you are not!), a single greeting will make your neighbours perceive that you are a nice person who makes them to be lucky enough to have you living near them. When people do not greet, rumors swirl and problems approach.

Step 2: Do not reach the breaking point

     Arguments among neighbours do not difer too much from those people have with husbands and wives: It usually starts with a simple fact, one thing, but later, someone brings another thing up, everything gets complicated and you know the rest. In an atmosphere of great tension, mistakes tend to pile up. So, try to find a better moment to resolve your differences.

Step 3: Do not talk to “B neighbours” about problems you have with “A neighbours”

     Neighbours are like members of a family as we said before, and therefore, they share something in common: They have to struggle to keep secrets. If for a cruel twist of fate, your differences change direction (B instead A), what do you think he or she will do with all things you said about the other neighbours? If you need a piece of advice, ask for it to your friend instead.

Step 4: Think twice before taking actions that can jeopardize forever your relationships with your neighbours

     When things go wrong with a person who lives far from you, it is easy to take another street if you want to avoid him or her. That’s, however, impossible when this person lives some meters away from your property. You cannot sell your house. Neither can he (she). You don’t want to move, neither does he (she). To live near a person you dislike is like a true copy of Hell. Every move he takes, every sound he makes will be hurting you. So, when you have problems or are about to, think of the step 2, and don’t take actions you can regret later. Don’t put your foot on the accelerator; apply the brakes instead.

Step 5: Keep in mind how valuable a good neighbor can be

     You are sick and cannot take your children to school. Your neighbours can do it while taking theirs too. This is only one example, but like this one, there are dozens of situations when our neighbours get us off the hook. Neighbours are your closest relatives. They are the first ones to come to the aid of you when you are in trouble. Then, it is wise to be in good terms with them because if you throw your relationship with your neighbours overboard for a quarrel, you will have lost people who can rescue if you fall out of the boat.

Copyright 2017 All rights are reseved.

Jesus’s ideas (2): About forgiveness

February 20, 2017


By Eddy Montilla.

Whenever I think about this topic, I always conclude that the best way to understand Jesus’s ideas on forgiveness is to look at ourselves, that is, to reflect on how each of us understands this situation. If evil did not exist, there would be no need to forgive. This means that forgiveness is not an accident, but the result of our judgements on what is right and wrong. In theory, it is correct. In practice, it seems to take a different path since what we really use as parameters to judge if someone is worthy of forgiveness is how much people’s actions have affected us. If we have been hurt a lot or we have not been affected, but other people, we tend not to forgive.

    It is quite contradictory that we have made incredible progress in technology, but when it comes to human aspects, for instance, the matter of forgiveness, we are exactly as the same level as Jesus was more than 2000 years ago. A good example could be the episode when an angry mob wanted to stone to death an adulteress without even know details in the times of Jesus just because her act was against their rules and verdicts between wrong and right. And what happened? This is the moment when this person called Jesus comes with a new approach to the concept of forgiveness: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” His motto is so convincing that Jesus, himself, closed the debate on the topic. In plain words, Jesus meant that nobody is good here. All of us have an Achilles heel; all of us, sooner or later, play the part of the villain of the movie. Then, since we all make mistakes, to forgive should not be considered as something that depends on our free will, but something “cleverly mandatory” from us because someday someone will have to forgive our mistakes too.

    Jesus’s perception on forgiveness makes a clear difference between Christianity and other religions. Religious fanatics or not, “in name of their god”, many people have killed innocents just because they cannot forgive others. In Japanese Buddhism, for example, people are taught not to do bad things or hurt people, which is an important step to build a fairer and better society. “Gomennasai” (sorry) is one of the words most frequently used in Japan, which implies that it is very important for them. The problem is that the number of times you hear “Yurusenai” (I cannot forgive it) is mathematically higher.

    Jesus said we had to forgive all the time. To forgive someone will not make us “pious and good people”, and this is not the point either. We are not making a favor to someone whenever we forgive him or her, but ourselves because by doing so, we can get rid of the growing grudge that kills us day by day and do not let us live in peace. The human nature that molds our personality always have the possibility of yielding to mistakes and temptation, and that’s why it is so difficult for us to forgive. However, we have no option: To forgive or to be unhappy the rest of our lives. What is your choice?

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion.

Copyright 2017 All rights are reserved.

Why emigrants have failed all around the world

February 19, 2017


By Eddy Montilla.

Especially during the last decade, the world has seen an unprecedented migratory flow. Like birds that migrate in the winter, people from Mexico and Central America go to the United States. People from China and India do the same or pack their case aiming their thoughts at England. Africans who did not die in their attempt to cross the sea by turning into exquisite delicacies for sharks are today in Spain or Italy. And those who escape from the consequences of the war in Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo and other countries, are living between frontiers waiting for the slightest opportunity that can take them to their beloved Germany.

    No matter what the reason was, the bait of wealth or safety, people are emigrating and failing too because they do not understand what their role as emigrants should be: To help others in their respective countries, so that they do not have to leave for money or war. When I was in Spain, this banner hanging in the Cibeles palace welcoming emigrants puzzled me. Why do so many of them want to go to Germany, Sweden or England despite Spain’s well known hospitality, excellent food and good weather? A ball will always be a ball no matter how many times you spin it or from what angle you see it. So, the main reason those countries are chosen as preferred destinations is higher salaries and better welfare systems.

    I do not deny that in many cases, people are just running to save their lives, but most of the time, the ultimate goal is money because once emigrants settle in one of those countries, what do they do? They bring their families, forget the terrible conditions they lived in their hometown and, by doing so, forget their country and compatriots’ poverty too. If their family cannot go with them, they will spend the rest of their lives sending money to them, going from time to time to the place they were born “to vacation as foreigners” and bragging about their real or fictitious economic position. If this situation cannot be called ironic, please stop reading this article because it is, in fact, the real story of emigrants all around the world and something different from this is as imaginary as the book of Harry Potter.

    How many Latin American emigrants who actually live in some slum in New York have used a single dollar to help people in the countryside from where they once left? How many Chinese people, scattered throughout the world, have helped to solve the problem of over-polluted rivers in China? Undoubtedly, some “good Samaritans” can be found (there are some of them everywhere), but in general, most of the emigrants have been bitten by the “snake of oblivion to forget their past, to be indifferent to their country’s present and only think about their own future.

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion.

Copyright 2017 All rights are reserved.

A good laugh: The regretful genius

February 18, 2017


By Eddy Montilla.

A father is watching his son’s grades…

“Hey, dad, why am I so intelligent?”

“Because you are a genius, like your father, son.”

“And that’s why you married mom?”

“No. Even geniuses make mistakes!”

Copyright 2017 All rights are reserved.

Professional sports will never see another Tim Duncan

February 18, 2017
Tim Duncan (derecha) conversa con Tony Parker.

Tim Duncan (right) talking to Tony Parker.

By Eddy Montilla.

If Cain killed Abel, according to the very famous Bible story, “Mr. Money” killed loyalty and sporting spirit. Today, when we cannot enjoy Tim Duncan’s presence on the basketball court, people remember his feat: five championships with San Antonio Spurs, which is very difficult to achieve, considering that Michael Jordan, for many the best basketball player ever, had only one ring more than Duncan. But an athlete’s greatness cannot be judged or valued by the number of rings only. Otherwise, Bill Russel in basketball and Yogi Berra in baseball should be called “The Lords of the rings with eleven and ten respectively. Then, what attributes did Tim Duncan have to be considered a unique player in modern age?

    Duncan jumped over the high fences that his five championships built in terms of greatness and went beyond because other players perceive themselves as wage-earners for a professional sport while he was a professional person for the sport of basketball. To be a professional player in basketball means money and fame for many; for Duncan, however, it meant loyalty, commitment and sacrifice.

    The ongoing identity crisis in sports is the result of the wrong idea today’s athletes have about their job: “I have to earn as many millions of dollars as possible with a team or I will sell myself to the highest bidder”, one of the reason why we do not know the players of a team at the beginning of the season since they are jumping from team to team like a spring. Lebron James can sacrifice anything except for his exorbitant salary. His millions of dollars are like that famous movie: “The untouchables”. Tim Duncan went in exactly the opposite direction by accepting big cuts in his salary as long as San Antonio Spurs could be competitive for years as they have been. When other players want to jump to professionalism as soon as possible because of Mr. Money, Duncan showed commitment and loyalty to his college team, Wake Forest, a team that opened the door to a boy (Duncan) coming from Virgin Islands who was a swimmer rather than a basketball player. He did the same with Spurs during his successful career for 19 years. And, in the twilight of his sporting career, he was unselfish enough to pass the torch to others, like David Robinson once did.

    For today’s professional players only two things matter: Fame and money. They can go without the first one, but never without the second one. If, for a moment, you think about how Tim Duncan put all these things aside to focus his attention on his team and championships, you will conclude in similar terms as we did in this article: Tim Duncan was some kind of a little corner filled with fresh air inside a polluted city.

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion.

Copyright 2017 All rights are reserved.

Two reasons why the next world’s financial crisis could be devastating for those who belong to middle class

February 18, 2017


By Eddy Montilla.

When a financial crisis hits the world, the rich do not become poor: They just see their huge profits reduced. And for the poor? If we approach this problem objectively, they do not become poorer since they cannot go beyond the bottom they are already. Can the collapse of the stock market have significant impact on these millions of people who are dying every four or five seconds in Africa? NO. The unfair global economic order has.

     But things are different when it comes to the middle class. During the financial crisis of 2007-2008, in Greece, for example, many middle-class professionals turned into practically beggars. People who belong to this social and economic class usually cringe in fear since they know that their chances to become rich melt as quick as an ice cream in summer and, what is even worse, the change from wealth to poverty stopped being a mere idea to become something real, like a virus in a latent state. But what are those two reasons that can wreak havoc on this group?

     First: Lack of time to absorb the hit of the prior crisis. Observe what could be called the most devastating financial crises of modern times: The Great Depression of 1929-1939, The OPEC Oil Price Shock of 1973 and The Financial Crisis of 2007-2008. Between one crisis and another, there are several decades and, therefore, the world had time to absorb its hits. Today, we have a lot people who still are paying debts and loans as a result of the crisis of 2007-2008 and others, who emerged from the crisis at last, are making part payments on loans they received to invest based on the “economic stability” we live in these days. If the next world’s economic crisis breaks out in the next three or four years as many people have predicted, the middle class will not be economically prepared to face it.

     Second: The lack of household savings and financial resources. During a decade, for instance, a lot of families in Spain could sail through the global economic crisis of 2007-2008 thanks to the beloved grandparents’ retirement pension or their parents’ savings. Ten years later, not only in Spain, but in many countries around the world the economic scene is completely different: those grandparents have probably died, parents do not have money in the bank and young people have not developed the saving habit and instead, they prefer to use their money to get every six months or something the newest iPhone model. We can already foresee what the future holds for them without looking into a crystal ball.

     Crises, like problems, come to make us stronger and wiser. That is true, but only if we are well prepared to face them. The next world’s economic crisis could be the worst people have witnessed in the modern age. When? That is something difficult to predict, so the best you can do now is to try to be as prepared as possible in order to shield yourself against the coming crisis and avoid wrong economic decisions. It seems that many people are playing with fire because they are not thinking about the coming crisis seriously and in some years ahead, they might be in the same position as Fantine (Anne Hathaway) was in Les Misérable (2012) when in her song I Dreamed a Dream, she said: “…But the tigers come at night.”

This article was originally published in the digital newspaper World And Opinion.

Copyright 2017 All rights are reserved.

Tell me the answer: What is the only place where your mind and heart always return from time to time?

February 18, 2017


By Eddy Montilla.

The place where the memories of your first love are.

Copyright 2017 All rights are reserved.