Would your children trust a stranger with a puppy?

A video published recently illustrates how easy it is for a stranger (with a puppy) to lure children away from their parents at a playground. It’s been viewed nearly 4 million times and is a good warning to be alert to danger and to emphasize to your children what they need to do to stay safe.

Children depend on adults for everything, from what they eat and where they sleep to comfort and entertainment. Young children don’t know enough to tell the difference between an adult who is just being friendly and who would hurt them. Keep an eye on your children at all times, as it takes just a short distraction to give a predator opportunity. Child Find of America notes that “most abductions occur within a few blocks of the victim’s home – even their own front yard – when the child is left alone and unsupervised. See the website for prevention tips.

You can also find out information from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Don’t let “the win” control you

It’s not how many points you have but what you did to get them, whether you’re an athlete, a gamer, or someone trying to “win” at some other aspect in your life.

How you play the game reflects who you are choosing to be and your life priorities. When you walk off the field or turn off the machine or leave whatever field of competition you’ve decided to occupy, who you are stays with you. It permeates your relationships, your accomplishments in other areas, and ultimately your enjoyment of life. What you send out in life rebounds back to you.

You may mistakenly believe that the only way to get the prize or take home the victory is to embrace the philosophy that “winning is everything.” You may mistakenly think that people who aren’t willing to do whatever it takes to win – hurting others, cheating, being outrageously aggressive, breaking the law – aren’t giving it their all. The reality is that people can give a goal their all and emerge victors in ways beyond comparison with a “win” from the competition.

Who are you without “the win?” If you don’t win, does that make you a “loser?” Does that mean anyone who doesn’t “win” is a “loser?” What about people whose interests lie completely elsewhere, who are happy without even touching the ball or the controller? If someone beats you – and someone inevitably will because that’s how life works – the belief that the win is everything gives losing the power to devastate you. That makes you weaker than those who don’t measure their value in terms of points or dollars or some other arbitrary measure of success created by someone else. You’re not just taking on the disappointment that comes with a loss. Your belief system is setting you up for a much bigger loss.

Getting the most points or the most money or the most praise makes you only one kind of a winner. If winning at all costs is what you need to be satisfied, then you’re missing out on a larger victory. Some people play the game to win more than one victory: the game itself and the satisfaction that comes from having tried their best without sacrificing wins in other areas such as relationships, enjoyment of the process, and acting admirably. The ability to compete with honor, grace, and integrity is a victory in its own right, one that may often be more difficult to accomplish because the challengers are your own self and the intricacies of life. Wise people watch how you play the game because they know it reflects your values, and they may avoid you or seek to take away your power or position out of protection for themselves or society – not just acting out of jealousy, as some “winners” tell themselves.

If you need to win in order to be happy, then you’re not in charge of your life. “The win” is in charge of your life. You may have set the goal, but the goal owns you.

RELATED: The poetry behind “It’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game.”

Are you sabotaging your own self-improvement?

Is there SOMETHING you are trying to acquire or something you’re trying to do that you think will better your life? Maybe you’re trying to get your body to look a certain way, or you’re looking for the perfect job, or maybe there’s something you want to buy. Check out this article about why the way you’re thinking about this could actually be preventing you from living a better life and what you can do, instead. It’s written primarily for men, but the general wisdom is not restricted by gender.

Here’s a quote to draw you in:

By charging an external object with your future happiness, you’ve essentially set yourself up for future disappointment.

Here’s the link: No More Magic Feathers: The Secret To Finding Real Self-Improvement – Paging Dr. NerdLove

While you’re there, check out the rest of the site, especially if you feel nerdy, socially awkward, or if you’re interested in improving your experiences with dating and romantic relationships.

Do you give money to strangers, or would you take it?

An entertainer decided to find out what would happen if he posed as someone begging but tried to give money TO people instead of asking them for money. Here’s the video that has already gathered millions of views and tens of thousands of comments.

Comments question whether putting people in a situation where they suspect something is wrong shows their true character, and reactions to how the last encounter was handled are mixed.

Regardless, the video does raise some questions about the culture of giving and the culture of expectation. Would you accept money from a stranger in a situation like this? Why or why not? Do you give money to strangers? Why or why not?

The practice of giving to people who ask for it on the street has prompted a lot of discussion. Some say that the financial support allows them to continue in an unhealthy lifestyle. Others say that giving is beneficial to both the giver and the receiver. Some people have rules about how and when they give. Others are more spontaneous, giving when they feel moved.

Here are some links to read more on the matter:

This piece in the Atlantic explains concerns about giving cash directly: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/03/should-you-give-money-to-homeless-people/72820/

This writer explains why he gives: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-i-give-money-to-homeless-people-2014-10

This blogger believes that your responsibility for what happens when you give money doesn’t end when it leaves your possession: http://thehomelessguy.blogspot.com/2013/08/should-people-give-money-to-panhandlers.html

Christianity Today tackled the issue from a Christian perspective: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/january/18.60.html

This site suggests ways to help people who are homeless: https://www.justgive.org/donations/help-homeless.jsp

How microbes define, shape — and might even heal us | ideas.ted.com

Check out this piece about the role of tiny organisms in general health, such as having allergies or staying well when others get sick, as well as possible connections to major concerns such as obesity and diabetes. Here’s a tantalizing quote:

We’re already starting to link our microbes to a wide spectrum of specific diseases, from the obvious — like infectious diseases and inflammatory bowel disease — to surprising ones such as multiple sclerosis, autism, and depression.

Follow the link: How microbes define, shape — and might even heal us | ideas.ted.com.

Is the zoo for you?

People have been holding and exhibiting wild animals privately for thousands of years, with royals and others keeping menageries of exotic animals. The modern public zoo got its start a little more than 200 years ago as scientific study about animals accompanied the Age of Enlightenment. What we think of as a modern zoo opened in 1793 in Paris.

Variations on zoos include wildlife parks and game reserves, which offer more open area for animals to roam and may allow members of the public to drive through on their own or with an escort. Some locations rehabilitate sick or injured animals for release back into the wild or a home if they are not able to be released.

Zoo websites allow people to “visit” a zoo virtually to learn about animals and see pictures and video. Click on the picture below to see a video of a jaguar cub at the San Diego Zoo, the largest in the United States.

Want to learn more? Visit the website for the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Its virtual zoo includes pictures and facts about animals, and a search function allows you to locate zoos and aquariums for an in-person visit.

Zoos are not without controversies, which range from concern about the physical and psychological stress of keeping animals in enclosures, issues of how they are cared for and fed, and what happens when more animals are in captivity than can fit available space. Zoo proponents argue that the locations provide a safe environment and enhance public knowledge and action while offering efforts to research animals and promote conservation of species and habitat that is or may become endangered.

A Biblical perspective: Should Christians refuse to bake cakes for gay weddings?

A blogger has used an argument based on the Bible to assert that Christians who refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple are not following the religion’s principles.

Public debate is raging about the role of the government in commerce and religious beliefs, with laws or proposed laws in Indiana and Arkansas in particular drawing attention because some say they cross the line to legalize discrimination by allowing people to refuse service to certain segments of society who are conducting themselves in a lawful manner.  An example taken from a court case is that a business that self-identified as Christian refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-gender couple. Same-gender marriage is legal in Indiana.

Some claim that people should have the right to refuse service to anyone they want, while others claim that laws should enforce the basic concept of equality and commerce rights should require that goods or services offered to the public in general should be available to everyone without regard to differences in belief. A main argument for Indiana’s now-modified law was that it infringes on religious freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

In a twist on the discussion, one person who attended seminary, served as a minister and lived in an intentional Christian community (seeking to live according to the faith on a daily basis) has used reasoning based on the Bible to assert that Christians who oppose same-gender marriage should not only not refuse to bake a wedding cake (and one would assume to provide other services) but should bake TWO wedding cakes. Here’s a quote from the blog:

Jesus said, not only should you follow the law of the land — the law which in America for the most part prohibits discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation — not only should you do the minimum you have to do, you should go the extra mile. (Yes, that’s where that expression comes from!) Do *twice* what the law requires.

Head over to the blog to check out the full piece.