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By SharonAnn Hamilton

May 31, 2015 (San Diego's East County) -- Dear SharonAnn,

My eighth decade is creeping up and I find that I am deeply disturbed by how people act today. It bugs the heck out of me when I see people do not pick up after their dog, when kids sit talking in their cars along the park and throw trash out the window to the ground and when people leave shopping carts where it could damage a car because they are too lazy to return them. When I couldn’t find my gold hoop earrings that I hadn’t worn in a year, I chalked it up to losing them on a trip. Then I couldn’t find my leaf rake or my extra package of toilet paper in the garage. Someone is stealing from me. I am getting increasingly angry because people just are not doing the right thing. I just feel so helpless. What am I supposed to do? Signed: Old but not Crazy!

Dear Not Crazy: You might be feeling helpless but there are some actions you can take when you see something. By saying nothing, you give up your personal power but there is a new skill you can learn to help you cope. The first action is to make a plan for each botheration. For example there is a lady with shoulder length, dark hair that walks her two large dogs. I have been noticing their poops [quite large and distinctive] and I finally saw who it was from a distance. Now I know the large, black, longhair and the large, white, Labrador-type dogs and my plan is to engage this lady in conversation the next opportunity and point out that people see her when she does not pick up after her dogs like a responsible pet owner and here are a couple of bags for you.

The kids’ behavior is more challenging because you need to catch them in action or convince them to properly toss the trash. Perhaps if trash is usually dumped in the same place, you can get a trashcan placed near there. You might talk to the city maintenance department and see what else can be done.

The shopping cart issue is one of my peeves also. I call it ‘parking lot sin’! If you leave your cart where it can damage someone’s car, it is wrong! If you open your car door carelessly and ding your neighbor’s car, it is wrong! If you throw your sunflower seed pile on the parking lot, it is wrong! If you empty your ashtray on the parking lot, it is wrong! What can you do when you see these things happening? Mentally prepare by making a plan. You might say to the person, “People are watching you and they know what kind of person you are when you –leave your cart, ding someone’s car, toss your trash on the ground, etc. There is always a price to be paid for such behavior.” Could you be that brave to speak up?

As far as the missing things from your home, you cannot accuse someone without proof. If you are like me, you have so many items that a missing one often is not evident right away. If there are a hundred pairs of earrings then a few missing pairs do not stand out unless you want that particular set. But if you use housekeeping or landscaping service, request different staff for a couple of months and monitor.

It is really a good idea to inventory your most valuable items. You can do this with pen and paper or snap photos with your phone and upload to your computer. There are companies that video your possessions or professional photographers. In any case, if you cannot prove who took your things you might have to make a plan and set a trap. Reach out to your homeowners insurance agents as they may have good ideas.

People think they can do tiny wrongs and no one will bring them to task. I laugh because they forget about divine justice or as some say karma. What goes around comes around. It reminds me of a funny thing that happened to me ten years ago. I owned a 160 acre campground/rv park and nature reserve in the mountains. My workampers [rv travelers who work in exchange for rent] complained because one of the bathrooms was always out of toilet paper, even a few hours after re-stocking. After kicking around several impractical ideas, such as putting in a $200 surveillance camera to catch the thief, I decided to write a letter and post it on the back of the door. It read, “You may think that no one sees you stealing toilet paper but there is One who sees everything you do and one day you will be called to account for your thievery. If you are really desperate for toilet paper, see the office staff and they will help you out.” The thefts stopped immediately.

You can take back your personal power no matter what your age by making a plan, finding your courage and speaking up. Even if the recipient does not connect back with you in some way, you will feel better about yourself. Over time you may develop a skill for saying just the right words to get people to see their behavior in the mirror, and change.

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