Category Archives: tolerance

what do we mean: ‘never again’?

It has been 20 years since the 1994 Rwanda genocide that killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a 100-day rampage.   Following our work with One Million Bones, Students Rebuild, and CARE over the past two years, on raising awareness about ongoing genocides, the thinkpeace community is deep in thought and conversation about what happened in Rwanda, is still happening in Sudan, Somalia, Burma, Syria and the DRC, and what lessons have really been learned that can help prevent future atrocities. Since World War II, the international community has said “never again,” a yet our failure to act has continued to cost lives.

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Memorials across Rwanda are constant reminders of the brutality that destroyed the nation. In the United States there seems to be little coverage regarding this anniversary– and even less discussion. Last night, on Facebook, I saw that a friend had changed his profile picture to the Rwandan flag, in honor of the victims and  survivors of the genocide. He has spent time there for his work, and loves the people and the land. No one knew what his picture was for– what it meant to him, personally, to celebrate a rebuilding Rwanda. And yet, to the children born during or after this time in Rwandan history, awareness about genocide is vital. “Never again” must stand for something. We must know what happened and why… and see that it’s not over and we must not stand by again.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has urged the international community to learn from its failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda, and to take stronger action to confront current crises, like the conflicts in Syria and the Central African Republic. “The international community,” he said, “cannot claim to care about atrocity crimes and then shrink from the commitment of resources and will required to actually prevent them.” The UN was not effective in preventing the Rwanda genocide, much less in stopping it.  The international community’s silence was wrong. Much more could and should have been done–  instead, peacekeeping troops were withdrawn when they were most needed.  “The world has yet to fully overcome its divisions, its indifference, its moral blind spots,” he said, citing the atrocities that occurred in Srebrenica in 1995, and the current conflicts in Syria and the Central African Republic. ”There is a truth to the human condition that is as alarming today as it was 20 years ago; the fragility of our civility. The bonds that hold us together can swiftly disappear.”

So here’s the question: when we say “never again” what do we really mean? What can we do to end genocide? How can we strengthen the “bonds that hold us together” in a world that seems full of anger, righteousness and extremism? What role can you play? When you see or hear about any human being (actually, any living creature) in need or distress, SPEAK UP!  Celebrate diversity in your every day life. Failure to act is not acceptable. When we say “never again” it means that each and every one of us takes a stand. As we laid bones on the National Mall last summer as a visual petition against genocide, we felt it– the connection to others who had been brutally killed because they were different. We asked ourselves: underneath it all, aren’t we the same? Looking out at the Mall covered in one million symbolic bones, we cried for the blood spilled, the lives lost, and the damage done to future generations. There is another way. And together we must find it. Never again, means that we must be accountable to each other and to promoting peace, love and understanding.

“We really do belong to each other.” -Naomi Natale

 

on feeling it deep in our bones

 

by Kelly Himsl Arthur and Remy Arthur

The One Million Bones challenge mobilized students worldwide to make bones as a symbol of solidarity with victims and survivors of ongoing conflict in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Somalia. Every handmade bone generated $1 from the Bezos Family Foundation for CARE’s work in these regions, up to $500,000! On June, 8,  2013, one million handmade bones – made by students, educators and artists – covered the National Mall in Washington, D.C. as part of a massive art installation and visual petition against humanitarian crises.

For nearly 2 years thinkpeace girls from California to New York and DC to Germany learned and talked about past and present genocides and other mass crimes against humanity. We made bones at club meetings, camps, weekend workshops, and at home, contributing nearly 5000 clay, plaster, and recycled paper bones to the One Million Bones Project. We embraced every chance we had to share this project and cause with others and encourage them to join us. We talked with people in parks, at churches, at the Museum of Tolerance, at schools and online… educating, creating dialogue, and providing space for reflection. We thought we had our heads kind of wrapped around the enormity of the deaths and atrocities as we laid our bones with others in a state installation last April. In reality… that was nothing compared to what lay ahead.

In June a few of us thinkpeace girls packed up our books to study for final exams on the road to Washington, DC, worried about getting swept away in Tropical Storm Andrea, yet determined to be a part of the installation the next day on the National Mall. Eager to represent the thinkpeace community, we donned our white clothes and headed over to the Mall. On the way we listened to the message Desmond Tutu sent to the participants. We were so moved by his words: “It is my hope that these bones will transform us to a place of greater understanding and compassion and inspire us to act.” They had certainly done that for us.

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One of our German thinkpeace sisters, Serah, was so deeply affected when she created a baby’s rib cage from clay. With each rib she sculpted she felt the heaviness deeper and deeper in her heart. She knew that she needed to do something, to take action. She returned from camp eager to get involved in her school’s Amnesty International Club. Genocide awareness became her passion to share. Another thinkpeace girl, Chantel, was inspired to take action at her school, too, bringing the issue of genocide to the Model United Nations program. Wherever we talk about genocide, we are met with such shock and disbelief. We find that most people we talk to have no idea that it is still going on! We are often met with comments like, “yes, we learned a lot from World War II– that’ll never happen again.” or “No, that kind of thing ended a long, long time ago.” or “That’s how those countries are… there’s nothing we can do about it.”

We can bear witness! We can demand action from our governments and theirs. We can use our voices and our hands, our words and our actions to create real change. We must. For if not we, then who? We believe in ‘Ubuntu’- That each individual’s humanity is inextricably linked to one another’s. As Desmond Tutu said, “Your joy is my joy; your sorrow is my sorrow. We must raise each other up lest we all sink down.”

Together with UPS workers (who volunteered their time for this!), teachers, artists, religious scholars, children, mothers and more, we laid thousands and thousands of bones that Saturday in June, feeling the weight deeper in our own bones. We had talked often about how underneath our differences (skin color, religious or political beliefs, gender, sexuality, etc.) we are all made up of the same stuff and what is left behind are bones. And they all look pretty much the same.  Seeing them in giant piles lining the National Mall was painful. The piles looked like mass graves. There were so many bones. So many.  One by one we placed a bone on the grass in front of the United States Capitol. The most beautiful, yet haunting music was being played by Amy Ziff, that sounded like soft cries. It rained, then it was hot and very humid. We weren’t making a dent in the piles. It just seemed endless. And it hit us… the realization that it isn’t ending. That more real bones are being thrown onto piles, encountered along dusty hot roads in far away places, with no real thought as to whose bones they are– is it a child’s? A mother’s? A son’s? A grandfather’s? A teacher’s? Who is being killed today and left behind to become nothing but bones? Every bone is not only “the evidence of a unique individual journey” but also “the evidence of a collective journey– a story shared of the human experience.” (Tutu) Our human experience should be full of possibility and hope, peace and understanding. Once we are bones it is too late. We must come together now.

One million bones is just a number. It’s not anywhere close to the number of actual deaths by genocide in the last 70 years. Estimates range anywhere from 30 to 70 million people who have died in genocides around the world, from World War II to present day. Yes, present day. When we packed up the thinkpeace contribution for the One Million Bones installation (thank you UPS for picking them up and calling when they arrived!) we thought we had a lot of bones. When we started laying them on the National Mall, we thought, Wow! So many bones! A million! And then… when we took a step back to take it all in we were overwhelmed. Remy couldn’t breathe for a moment… the emotions hit hard. Imagining 30-70 times as many bones just wasn’t something she could wrap her head around. The tears fell softly and the hurt was felt deeply. To have created this symbolic mass grave, understanding that it represents a mere fraction of the victims of hatred and intolerance in this world has left us aching. And wanting to keep doing the work.  Using our voices and our hands, our own courage, compassion and wisdom. We stood for a long moment arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, absorbing the bones on the Mall. We are a global family. Together we stand. We feel it, deeply.

on being wholehearted 3: joyfulness

“Joy comes to us in moments– ordinary moments.  We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.” -Brene Brown

I was on a business call today when the person I was speaking with told me about a recent conversation she had with an old acquaintance.  She said, “It was one of the best hours of my life!”  I think I stopped breathing for a moment.  What was I feeling?  I was taken aback by this thought that one of the best moments of someone’s life was… a conversation!  I loved it.  She’s accomplished much in her life, is well-respected and has an important job. She’s a mom, a daughter, a wife, a humanitarian.  And one of her best hours was simply a connection shared with another.

What brings us joy or a true sense of peace isn’t in the big showcase moments of our lives. Those are fleeting moments.  Joy is that thing that washes over you when you least expect it that makes you feel warm, lit from within, and hopeful.  As my friend Jeanne says, “What matters is crying until your eyes are clear enough to see goodness… everywhere.” Practicing compassion, feeling worthy, and being connected are components of wholehearted living,  which gives you a sense of joyfulness, even in the darkest times.  I was having a really bad day recently, the kind that makes you just want to go back to bed, curled up in a ball or engaged in some numbing behavior… the kind that makes you oblivious to ordinary joys.  Yet somehow, in the midst of my sad moment, I looked out the window and saw the sun light up a golden-leaved tree and the wind give her movement that was truly a celebration dance.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was such a vision of life– of warmth and expression, grace and light.  An ordinary moment made extraordinary.  And I realized that I felt joy.  I felt a surge of self-compassion and an overwhelming connection with the Earth, and I saw the goodness.

Another kind of darkness was revealed this week following the re-election of President Obama.  I have found it hard to handle the negative energy swirling around this country.  It seems that people are either really happy or really angry.  Personally I cannot feel joyful when the very vocal bitterness I have witnessed seems so absolute and determined.  How can we move forward as a country committed to peace when we are at war with one another?  I don’t believe that the ‘war against women’ or marriage equality or affordable healthcare can be worked through without a true coming together, or wholeheartedness fully expressed.  The issues we face must be faced together, with respect and courage, vulnerability and compassion, and a real willingness to think not just of ourselves, but of each other as well.  Celebrating our commonalities and understanding our differences with acceptance is truly the only way through the darkness.  Is it possible?  What will it take?  It will take peace, love, and understanding.  It will take a commitment to listen and to speak and to value each other.  It will take seeing the goodness.  It will take connection.

Oh, I just got a good feeling!  It feels like… joyfulness.  It’s not about chasing the extraordinary.  It’s about slowing down for an ordinary conversation, with the whole heart; a conversation and connection that fills us up and gives us ‘the best hour’ of our lives. There is infinite power in the light within each of us that comes from joyfulness.  This is the real strength, real power, that will effect change.  The change the world needs to see.   It starts with you.  And me.

Imagine!

 

 

on being wholehearted

I sat down last weekend to write this post on being wholehearted.  As I started writing, more and more things came up for me that sent me an an emotional roller coaster.  Ups, downs, twists and turns, and those always fun corkscrews had a hold of me and I had to stop writing and just be.  As a result of spending time riding what I refer to as The Gut Crusher (aka The HeartBreaker or The Doom Bringer), I’ve decided to write about wholeheartedness in three sections:  Compassion, Imperfection, and Joyfulness. It’s all about peace…

“Be yourself.”  Teenage girls, in particular, seem to be given these words of advice daily.  There are probably temporary tattoos that say these words, as well as t-shirts and jewelry.  Teen magazines toss it out like it’s the sagest wisdom and the answer to all your problems.  There’s just one thing.  Do you know yourself?  How do you learn who you are when your days are filled with classes and homework, sports, theatre and dance and your image on facebook is about as much as most people really know about you.  If you’re like most teenage girls, you’re struggling sometimes with your mom, worried about your body, and thinking that today matters more than tomorrow.  No one has taught you how to know yourself.  Your family, and perhaps your religion, have taught you values.  But who YOU are is your own creation, based on your experiences, fears, hopes, actions, reactions and so much more.  Who you are and who you are trying to become is a journey, a road taken with no destination in sight, because as human beings, we are constantly changing.  And so, I think, that more important than being yourself is loving yourself.

Do you have insecurities and worries?  When you walk into a room full of people that you don’t know, does it feel like everyone is looking at you, judging you?  Do you have those moments when you just don’t feel good enough?  Guess what?  You are not alone.  You are gloriously imperfect.  So am I.  I worry about what people think of me.  I really need to lose 20 lbs.  I’m not sleeping well and it shows.  My house is drowning in clutter.  I’m frequently late.  I forget things all the time and can never find my glasses or my car keys.  I don’t work hard enough and I also work too hard.  I cry probably more than I laugh.  I worry about everything from the election and women’s rights to what the ER doctor would say if I were wheeled in with all the holes in my socks showing.  All these things make me imperfect.  What will people say if they see my imperfection?  Will I be unworthy of their love, their friendship, their respect?  What if… I Am Unworthy?

The more that we believe that we are unworthy, the less capable we are of fully connecting with ourselves and others.  That makes loving ourselves pretty darn hard.  This is where I hit when my roller coaster ride went from that fabulous place of the sweet, slow uphill climb to the sudden plummet into the darkness.  I started reading a lot about the importance of self-compassion.  I even took an online quiz.  Omg, I have issues. (unworthy)  Before writing this post I believed in this definition of compassion:

Noun: Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others

Others…  what about the self?  What does it mean to practice (verb) self-compassion?  How do you care for yourself when you feel like running instead?  When you shut down or think about hurting yourself are you thinking about your suffering or about numbing it or wishing it away?  There are so many ways we continue to beat ourselves up:  overeating, undereating, drugs, alcohol, cutting, sex, shopping, overworking, zoning out online…  As we all know, none of these “fixes” make things really right.  We can’t ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. When we practice self-compassion, we have to acknowledge the darkness.  The Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron writes:  “Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.  Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”  In other words, all that stuff that’s telling you that you aren’t good enough is being experienced by others too.  We are ALL in this together and if we can connect and share our darkness, we will be able to also feel and celebrate the lightness.

When you feel compassion for someone else, it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of our shared human experience.  Self-compassion means being able to say to yourself, “I’m having a really hard time right now, how can I care for myself in this moment?” It means that you are kind and understanding to yourself.  You may try to change in ways that let you to be more healthy and happy, but this is done because you care about yourself, not because you are unworthy or unacceptable. Having compassion for yourself means that you accept yourself as is, a work in progress. Things won’t always go the way you want them to. You’ll screw up, say or do the “wrong” thing, and fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us.

Here’s a hard thing for me.  “Self-compassion also requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings aren’t suppressed or exaggerated.”  By observing our thoughts and emotions with openness and a non-judgmental perspective, we can see them as they really are.  Personally I have a tendency to go downhill hard and fast where I suddenly find myself convinced that my problems are the biggest, baddest ever!  That’s the roller coaster effect.  Life in the extreme.  But what if… I shared my story?  What if by telling someone else about my suffering, I gave them the opportunity to tell me I’m really not alone on the ride, with the biggest, baddest issues!

Here’s my suggestion to you (and to me) the next time you feel that stomach-churning drop from the tippy-top of your roller coaster:  find a safe place to land and tell your story.  Find someone who will truly embrace you for your strengths and your struggles.  Now, the hard part.  It has to be the right person.  Facebook and twitter just aren’t the places to seek compassion.  If we’re truly looking for connection, the kind that will go to that vulnerable place with us, with no need to fix it or judge it, we have to find that person who will make sure we feel seen, heard, and valued.  Trust me when I tell you:  YOU WILL NOT FIND THAT ONLINE.  Reach out.  Practice compassion, for yourself as well as others.  Give and receive with an open heart.  A whole heart.

Namaste.

on being a thinkpeace boy

After watching “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” last spring I found myself feeling a lot of bitterness towards men. Over and over again I was being bombarded by stories of men at war, men in power struggles, men inflicting violence against women, men denying basic human rights to girls, men unwilling to sit at the peace table.  I was beginning to wonder… what would it take for a feminine wave to crash over the world, turning centuries of patriarchal ways upside down… and out?  The answer came to me from a boy child.  A boy saying loud and clear: “I want to be a part of the solution too. See the future in me!”  And, with that, I was on a mission to find some role models for my son, dudes who were, as photographer and GirlUp activist Nigel Barker would say, truly “manning up” for girls and women.  “Girls, girls, girls… that’s all you ever talk about.”  “What about boys?”  We hear this kind of thing a lot at thinkpeace workshop for girls.  Some people blatantly roll their eyes.  Some say, “A girl in this country is lucky. She can do anything.”  Some say, “Boys have it harder.”  We say,  FACT:  worldwide, historically and currently, girls’ voices are not heard.  Girls are not given the same opportunities as boys.  Girls are too often the casualties and victims of male-created wars. We say, IT’S TIME:  for a new way of thinking, a new way of understanding, a new way of communicating, and new way of sharing. We say, JOIN US.

In late Spring my son decided that he wanted his 10th birthday party to be a benefit for GirlUp, a United Nations Foundation campaign which raises awareness and funds for programs that help some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls.  With the help of his sisters and their friends, he threw an amazing party where 30 kids traveled around the world, learning about the issues facing girls in developing countries. After the party one friend wrote a blog post about it.  His is a voice of hope for the future: 

“The party was a lot of fun and it felt good to learn new things and also be part of the solution. This party really made me think and thinking is the start.

I like the vision of Girl Up . . .

Girl Up envisions a world where all girls around the world, have the opportunity to become educated, healthy, safe, counted and positioned to be the next generation of leaders.

I am glad I “Boy’d Up” for Girl Up and I would love to see all children of this world have the same basic opportunities.  Thanks B for opening my eyes!”

Hm, I thought… boys care. But who, besides the obvious (Desmond Tutu, Bono, George Clooney) can show my son and his friends that caring about girls and women is not only important, but also kinda cool?  Enter Justin Reeves, Director of NGO Partnerships, 10x10act.org.

Justin’s experience working in development in Latin America has been refined working as a journalist and humanitarian throughout Ecuador, Argentina and Chile. Most recently, he has focused his humanitarian work on women and children living with HIV/AIDS and his production work on women marginalized by mental illness in Chile. Joining forces with 10×10 aligns with his vision that empowering and educating girls and women is the key to a more harmonious world. 

Justin and I met at a GirlUp event in NYC last year and I immediately knew that he was one of the good guys.  As he slipped a ring on my finger and asked me to say “I do… take a stand against child marriage” I smiled.  There really are incredible men out there standing up for women and girls.  Regular men.  Not just actors, activists, and politicians.  Justin is a really cool dude with compassion flowing through his veins.  I asked him for advice on educating boys and I can’t wait to go there with a posse of young hopefuls! Justin is an amazing role model for boys!

While I was flying high from connecting with Justin, another hero came along.  Meet Gavin Weston, author of the book, Harmattan.  Gavin and I quickly became “twitter friends” with like-minded goals, especially for ending the practice of child marriage.  I asked him to share his journey with me and my son:

“As a former aid worker (with Africare) I have had a strong interest in humanitarian issues for as long as I can remember, particularly in relation to Niger. When my children were very young it struck me that ‘sponsoring’ a child through an NGO would be an effective way of both doing something constructive and ensuring that my children gained some understanding of the huge disparities that life can throw up.

Over the next few years we communicated regularly with my ‘sponsored daughter’ (as six year-old Ramatou referred to herself) and, perhaps naively, I assumed that we would maintain contact. It was, then, a great shock – especially to my daughter – when we discovered that Ramatou had been married off by her family, just before her twelfth birthday. We never heard from her again. My daughter had just turned thirteen and was particularly upset by the development. I suggested that she write about it for a school project, little realising quite how much it was niggling away inside me too.

One evening (at a meeting of my Writer’s Club) an American writer made the sweeping statement, ‘men can’t write as women’. I disagreed with her strongly and soon afterwards sat down to attempt to write something from a solely female perspective, initially perhaps just to prove her wrong. When I read out what became the prologue to ‘Harmattan’, and listened to people’s responses, I soon realised that I had started something that had to be completed. I realised that writing a novel from a first person perspective might be an opportunity to ‘give voice’ to the millions of underage girls who are married off every year, a problem that many people find just too difficult to read about in fact sheets or newspapers. I was well aware that this might be perceived as arrogance, on several levels, (not least in terms of culture, race and gender). How could a middle-aged European man express the feelings and experiences of a twelve year-old West African girl? To achieve any kind of success I knew that I had to really try to ‘inhabit’ my character, Haoua. Hardly surprising, then, that over the next five years I frequently dreamt about both her and her family as if they were real people whom I actually knew.

When I began my research in earnest there was not a lot of information readily available on child marriage. However, thankfully there are now quite a few organisations and individuals working diligently to bring about an end to this disturbing practice. I am bolstered to hear Archbishop Desmond Tutu declaring that ‘We can end child marriage now!’ and that addressing the issue is as important to him as apartheid was. However, I think that there is a long way to go before we can convince not just governments, but village elders and even women (in some areas) that education for girls is much more beneficial than early marriage and servitude.

So far, I have been surprised at how positively my book has been received, although by its nature there is still resistance to it. (It is not a ‘sexy’ topic and ‘Harmattan’ is clearly neither easy reading or a coffee table book.) I am discovering that most men simply don’t wish to acknowledge the subject. Many of my male friends have been supportive in terms of buying the book and slapping me on the back for my achievement, but few are willing to actually engage in an in depth conversation about how we can bring about real change on a global and societal scale. This saddens me, because although I can write and articulate certain aspects of these horrors, I am lacking in other skills (political, business skills etc.) that are, I feel, essential in terms of mustering a global ‘movement’ that dovetails with what other organisations are doing. I intend to continue campaigning to end child marriage in whatever way I can.”

I encourage you all to read this book and join us on our mission to end the practice of child marriage. 

So now my son had a couple of heros to look up to who were ‘manning up’ for women and girls.  He was feeling empowered.  He realized that there was a community of males out there wanting to be a part of the solution too.  Go ahead, ask him to tell you about a young man named Andrew.  Pull up a chair…

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“Andrew is proof that guys know why Girl Up matters.  At a health clinic in Blantyre, Malawi, 21-year-old Andrew is a volunteer youth health counselor. He’s got a busy schedule because he’s the only youth counselor at the clinic. The clinic helps hundreds of girls get the information they need for all of their general health needs.

It’s his passion for helping others that brings Andrew to the clinic in his spare time. Andrew feels a responsibility to his community and an interest in promoting good health, especially for young people. As the only youth counselor — and a young man — it took some time for Andrew to gain the trust of the girls coming to the clinic. But as he has guided the girls over time, they have in turn spread the word that Andrew is trustworthy and that he can help them live healthier lives. Now he has many clients — both girls and boys — and there are more that need help.

Andrew thinks his respect for girls is due to having a strong mother who raised him and his sister by herself. He sees that he can support girls by speaking honestly with them about their health, showing them that they have great potential, and talking to his friends about how they deal with their girl peers. Andrew is inspirational — he demonstrates how boys are girl champions, too. His mother must be very proud!”

Glimmers of hope abound!  This summer my son and I watched some of the Democratic National Convention together.  There was someone I wanted him to hear. Thinkpeace co-director Liz had met him this summer at the marriage of her close friends Corey and Jason.  Corey Smith, by the way, just happens to be a great role model for boys and men as well!  Afterall, he chose a WOMAN (Liz) to stand up with him as his Best Person! He’s also Senior Manager of Diversity and Inclusion at Best Buy and a Board Member of the Human Rights Campaign.  When I asked Corey what makes him do what he does, he responded with:

“Personally, my driving force is knowing one day everyone will be considered equal, not the same, but equal. In my work at Best Buy and with the Human Rights Campaign, my constant goal is to create relevant ways for people to learn how to move toward acceptance of others.”

He also consciously connects with people, creating a circle of friends who propel him on his journey.  Among them, Zach Wahls.  Zach spoke at the DNC and left me and my son feeling like standing up for equality is a pretty cool thing.

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I can’t wait to collaborate with Mark Bertrand, founder of The Giving Circle, Inc. His organization “celebrates community and the concept of one person, one community reaching out to another in a cycle of giving. Through interconnectedness, interdependence, and the expanded power and possibility created by love, support, compassion, and cooperation, they make a difference in the quality of people’s lives.”  The Giving Circle was initially founded in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and has since expanded its efforts working locally with the underserved in New York.  The rehabilitation efforts in the Gulf Coast continue and internationally (in partnership with a team of Ugandans) The Giving Circle Africa ( NGO) has built an orphanage  and school in Wairaka, Uganda.  It’s an all volunteer non-profit organization with a mission to connect communities in need with those with the resources to help.  Mark actively encourages youth involvement.  He’s a total dude with a supersensitive heart. “It’s not about giving a hand out; it’s about providing a hand up.”   To him that means rolling up the sleeves and placing your hand in the dirt right alongside someone in need.  Awesome! What a role model for boys!

Two men I know are bringing their visions into schools and teaching boys (and girls) that the bottom line is respect and tolerance.  Coach Rich Johns started a program in New York called, Act With Respect Always.

The purpose of Act With Respect Always! is to spread the importance of respect in athletics, academics, and daily life. Through “ambassadors” of respect, person to person, team to team, school to school, and to the community at large–students and athletes will be empowered to be good citizens in all walks of life.  Act With Respect Always gives everyone the opportunity to make the most important statement in today’s society.”

Coach Johns is out there every day, talking to kids from elementary school through college about living life practicing respect towards all.  Important stuff!  And then there is Hiroshi Imase,  co-founder of Feelosopher’s Path, an afterschool enrichment program for kids.  Sensei Hiroshi describes himself with this word:  虚心坦懐(Kyoshintankai).  Kyoshin: Open mind, empty mind, no prejudgement, ready to accept as is.  Tankai: Calmness.  I feel better about humanity just thinking about Kyoshintankai!  Hiroshi believes that the world will live in peace when we use our emotional intelligence for the good of all.  Recently he left his position as Dean of Students and teacher at a middle school for gifted children to start Feelosopher’s Path.  It’s an amazing concept. 

What is a Feelosopher?  A Feelosopher is someone who knows him or herself well enough to connect positively with others. Feelosophers enjoy everyone’s similarities and celebrate everyone’s differences. A Feelosopher focuses on “feeling successful” instead of just “being a success.” Feelosophers are excited for the future, find their passions and explore the unknown with friends.

Hiroshi’s feelosophers value relationships, communicate with others, enjoy diversity, feel compassion, and practice kindness.  They think globally and act positively.  They feel and they think… and they act.  I want to be a feelosopher, and so does my son.  It’s all coming together, do you see it?

It’s taken me all summer to swim around in a pool of positive, forward-thinking, concerned, respectful men and boys to see that we’re on this journey together, not separately.  Yes, girls need lots of encouragement and training to use their voices for change.  They need to be convinced that they will be heard, valued and safe.  Boys and men need to step up to the plate and hit a home run for the girls and women in their lives.  As they round the bases, they need to embrace their abilities to listen, empathize and stand in solidarity with their sisters, mothers and wives. I want to believe we can truly win the World Series, with boys and girls on the same team, humanity’s team.  And men and women in the stands, supporting, nurturing and cheering them on to greatness!   At thinkpeace we often say, “we are all in this together.” It really is “wonderful to walk with arms wide open to catch the wonderful” as Sarah Kay says.  Happily what my son and I have caught is a bunch of involved, passionate, nurturing, dynamic, warrior boys and men who want to join with us on this journey to heal the world and make it a better place for girls, women, boys and men. Thank you to all the boys and men out there helping us hold up our half of the sky.  Through peace, love and understanding, we will get there together.  As together we will think it, create it, and share it. 

 

 

what life is showing you

There’s this sappy song that’s been playing in my head all week that goes like this, “Do you know where you’re going to… do you like the things that life is showing you?”  Most of the time I feel fortunate to have an idea where I’m going to and I feel pretty privileged when I see what life is showing me.  ”Do you get what you’re hoping for, when you look behind you there’s no open doors… what are you hoping for, do you know?”  I hope for a world where all girls have a right to an education, choice, safety, health, and opportunity.   I envision a world where women come together as peacemakers and create cohesive communities where all people are valued, counted, and heard.  I hope that fear and ignorance will be replaced by tolerance and acceptance.

Sometimes, though, when I look out into the world, I don’t like what it’s showing me after all.  When I read about the ongoing atrocities around the world, especially against women and children, it’s hard for me to hold onto where I thought I was going to… this work with girls, raising awareness and global sensitivity feels like a mere drop in the bucket at times.  Girls are still being forced into child marriages, poisoned, mutilated, or raped when they try to go to school or stand up for themselves.  Women are still not being valued in many parts of the world.  It’s easy to wonder:  am I making a difference?   When I do not get what I’m hoping for, I look to the kids around me for strength.  I am never disappointed.

A girl refocused me today.  Her name is Hadia.  She’s a 14 year old from Afghanistan.  A year ago she knew where she was going:  to New York to study, learn and become.  The arrangements were made; her bags were packed.  Her visa was denied.  Her dreams were shaken.  And when she looked around her all she saw were closed doors.  Unwilling to stop hoping and stop pursuing her future, Hadia determined to study harder, learn deeper, and become more.  We chatted online today and I found myself completely uplifted and inspired by this young woman and her true grit.

Grit is defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”  Hadia has this in spades!  Despite living every day with the uncertainty of the future of her country, she carries on.  She walks to school wondering whether or not today might be the last day she will freely do so.  She worries about girls in her country who are being poisoned at their schools by those who believe that girls have no right to an education.  She thinks about the possible return of the Taliban and what that means for girls and women in Afghanistan.  Life is showing her that each day is a golden opportunity that must be seized.  Life is showing her that she must remain strong, focused, and passionate about her goals.

Hadia showed me where I am going.  I am going back to work.  I hear her voice, value her goals, and support her commitment.  She is studying today,  learning about the world, and becoming a global girl.   Thinkpeace Workshop advocates for girls around the world so that all girls have the right to be counted, safe, educated, valued, and healthy.  I’m watching my daughter study for exams, thinking about Hadia, and realizing once again that we are all connected, all in this together, and oh so capable of being the change we wish to see.  Do I know where I’m going to, do I like the things that life is showing me, do I get what I’m hoping for…?  Only if I stay as full of grit as my dear Hadia.

What is life showing you?

bearing witness

we care

On this last day of Genocide Awareness month, we are reflecting.  It’s been a busy month for thinkpeace girls as they worked hard to raise awareness and funds with StudentsRebuild and One Million Bones for CARE.  We made bones at our club meetings, at school, at a mother/daughter event, in our neighborhoods and at a community event.  With every bone a dollar was raised to go towards the efforts of CARE to help victims and survivors of displacement in the Sudan, Burma, Somalia and the DRC.  Through the efforts of thinkpeace girls we’ve contributed about $1000.  More importantly, we’ve learned about the ongoing atrocities in these countries and have raised awareness among our families, friends, and in our communities.  Most importantly, we have felt the responsibility to bear witness and take a stand for peace.  One girl, one voice, one bone… matters.

Last week we listened as Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace prize winner Elie Wiesel introduced President Obama (at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum) with this hard question:  ”Given the possibilities of power and the suffering of children… what is it about the human psyche that can allow humans to become inhuman?”  To which the President responded with “We all love, hope and dream.  How can this have happened? We must teach our children that awareness without action changes nothing.”  He went on to discuss the need to mobilize peoples’ consciences.  This past month, thinkpeace workshops have focused our efforts on trying to do just that.  We’ve talked a lot about how humans become inhuman, enough to murder people they once thought of as friends or worse, who were their brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers.  We know that when the flames of fear are fanned, people react.  We know that when babies are hungry and there is no hope of a cup of grain in sight, people react.  We know that when dynamic leaders make promises of a better future, people react.  We are wired to protect ourselves and our children, but at what cost?  What is the solution?

If we believe in the fundamental right to live in peace then we must not turn our backs to the suffering that continues today around the world.  Together we can raise our voices and say, “Never again!”  And then, the hard work begins.  We have to know what’s happening in the world and connect our voices with those of the people in Sudan, Burma, Somalia, the DRC, Afghanistan, Cambodia and elsewhere who are saying, “Hear us!”  Together we can calm fears through education and safety measures within communities.  Together we can create sustainable living so that no one is hungry.  Together we can learn to listen and share, creating dialogue between all people.  What connects us all is our humanity.  No matter where we live or how well we live, we are all connected.  President Obama said, “Preventing genocide and atrocities are at the core of our National security and are in the moral interest of the United States.”  We have to do everything we can to prevent genocide and to help those who have suffered.

We must bear witness.  Which means that we will take a stand.  thinkpeace girls have been making bones as a part of a national art statement illustrating the deaths and destruction of genocide.  At our state installation in New York, we laced the pathway of bones with sprigs of baby’s breath, signifying a breath of hope– that a new generation will not know this kind of suffering firsthand.  Elie Wiesel said, “Memory is our sacred duty.”  Let’s hope that generations to come will only know the memories.  Let’s work together to ensure that.  Let’s bear witness.  Let’s use our voices, our hands, our brains, and our hearts to heal the world.

We want to share with you a poem that a friend and peacebuilder wrote specifically for thinkpeace girls to recite on the National Day of Action.  From New York to California, these words were spoken and felt, deep in our bones and in our hearts:

Prayers for Peace                                                                                                                  by Ann Keeler Evans, M.Div. ©2012

I.  When I said that I would work for Peace                                                                             It seemed as if it were                                                                                                          The natural place                                                                                                                   To go to work.                                                                                                                           I believe in Peace… it’s the right thing to do.

There was so much I learned                                                                                                As I started this journey —                                                                                                  That although the precepts behind Peace                                                                           Are so very simple                                                                                                               The work of Peace can be quite complicated.

And was I naïve to believe                                                                                                  That everyone wanted Peace?                                                                                       Maybe I was…                                                                                                                   There certainly seem to be many                                                                                   Grown-ups                                                                                                                   Working against it…

Okay…                                                                                                                                      I may not know                                                                                                                   How Peace will work everywhere                                                                                        But I can be part of how it starts.                                                                                          It’s not a lot, but it’s a step                                                                                                        I can take for Peace.

I will accept Peace as my goal                                                                                            And I will bear witness                                                                                                           Both when it works                                                                                                             And when it doesn’t.

I will bear witness…

II.  When I said that I would work for Peace                                                                      What I didn’t understand                                                                                                   Was that all the world didn’t value                                                                                    Each and every girl.                                                                                                                  I believe in Peace… it’s the right thing to do.

It makes me mad when I think                                                                                            That some people don’t think                                                                                            Girls should go to school                                                                                                       Or grow up and get a job                                                                                                      Or become an astronaut                                                                                                       Or a President                                                                                                                       Or a Peacemaker.

It frightens me when I hear                                                                                                       That girls                                                                                                                                   Just like me                                                                                                                           Are being hurt                                                                                                                      And bought and sold.                                                                                                         Why don’t people know                                                                                                     How precious they are?                                                                                                     Why don’t they care?

I will not stand in silence.                                                                                                          I will help to make them visible                                                                                                 I will learn at least one girl’s name                                                                                      And what is important to her.                                                                                                It’s not a lot, but it’s a step                                                                                                        I can take for Peace.

I will accept Peace as my goal                                                                                            And I will bear witness                                                                                                       Both when it works                                                                                                             And when it doesn’t.

I will bear witness…                                                                                                                1. I will bear witness…

III.  When I said I would work for Peace                                                                                    I believed that the world                                                                                               Wanted to live without war.                                                                                                      I believe in Peace… It’s the right thing to do.

And then I read about lives                                                                                              Being destroyed                                                                                                                  And houses and villages and countries                                                                           Being leveled                                                                                                               Because someone                                                                                                             Must win!

People are killing one another.                                                                                          They are torturing one another.                                                                                         They are hardening their hearts                                                                                     Against their neighbors.

It breaks my heart.                                                                                                                   It scares me.                                                                                                                             I don’t know what to do.                                                                                                      But I won’t sit around and do nothing.

I will speak out.                                                                                                                         I will put out petitions.                                                                                                               I will send supplies as I am able.                                                                                          It’s not a lot, but it’s a step                                                                                                        I can take for Peace.

I will accept Peace as my goal                                                                                            And I will bear witness                                                                                                       Both when it works                                                                                                             And when it doesn’t.

I will bear witness…                                                                                                                1.  I will bear witness.                                                                                                             2.  I will bear witness.

IV.  When I said that I would work for Peace                                                                            I didn’t realize that                                                                                                              Entire countries were invested                                                                                               In the failure of other countries                                                                                              To live in peace.                                                                                                                        I believe in Peace… It’s the right thing to do.

That war was as much or more                                                                                       About money                                                                                                                     Than it was about                                                                                                           Tribes.

That people depended upon                                                                                              Our not knowing that                                                                                                             So that they could                                                                                                       Continue to pursue their own needs.

Well, I’m going to learn about money.                                                                                  I’m going to learn about politics.                                                                                           I’m not going to be                                                                                                      Someone you catch in your swirl                                                                                           Of Lies.                                                                                                                                  It’s not a lot, but it’s a step                                                                                                        I can take for Peace.

I will accept Peace as my goal                                                                                            And I will bear witness                                                                                                       Both when it works                                                                                                             And when it doesn’t.

I will bear witness…                                                                                                                1.  I will bear witness                                                                                                              2.  I will bear witness                                                                                                              3.  I will bear witness

V.  When I said that I would work for Peace                                                                             I had no idea how unprepared I was.                                                                                   But now I’m learning what it is                                                                                                  I need to know.                                                                                                                   This much I do know:                                                                                                                I believe in Peace… it’s the right thing to do.

So I’m setting myself some goals.                                                                                    There is some part of peace about which                                                                                I will care passionately.                                                                                                         I’m going to learn all I can about it.                                                                                       I’m going to learn how I can impact it.                                                                                  I’m going to apply what I learn.                                                                                             I’m going to share what I learn.                                                                                             I’m going to find as many girls as I can                                                                      Wherever they are in the world                                                                                          Who also care about Peace.

There are skills that I have that not everyone has.                                                              The world needs my skills, so I’m going to develop them.                                                   I’m going to practice them.                                                                                                   I’m going to teach them to other people who need them.                                                  And then I’m going to put them to work in the service of Peace.

And in the meantime, I’ll keep growing up                                                                      Strong and Lovely                                                                                                                Full of art and play and laughter and friendships.                                                                 I’ll reach out to whoever wants to work for peace.                                                          These are the steps, I can take for Peace.                                                                         And they’re worth a lot to someone!

I will accept Peace as my goal                                                                                            And I will bear witness                                                                                                       Both when it works                                                                                                             And when it doesn’t.

I will bear witness…                                                                                                                1.  I will bear witness                                                                                                              2.  I will bear witness                                                                                                              3.  I will bear witness                                                                                                              4.  I will bear witness

VI:  When we said we wanted to work for Peace                                                                We didn’t realize how complicated it was.                                                                        Now that we know, we believe even more strongly                                                        Peace is the right thing to do.

We’re going to learn.                                                                                                       We’re going to make friends.                                                                                          We’re going to help.                                                                                                        We’re going to make a difference.                                                                                  We’re going to make a global village                                                                                     Of people who care again.

When things don’t work, we’ll try again.                                                                          When things are hard, we’ll encourage each other.                                                        When things are ugly, we won’t look away.                                                                     When things are wounding, we’ll care for one another.                                                  When things are needed, we’ll find a way to help.                                                             And when things are beautiful,                                                                                            We will dance and celebrate and share food                                                                    And Dreams                                                                                                                        And Wonder                                                                                                                        And Laughter.

And then we’ll get back to work.                                                                                     There will always be more work to do.                                                                            There will always be more connections to make.                                                            There will always be more truths to tell.                                                                           There will always be those who need us                                                                               To stand with them

                                                                                                                                             But you know what?

Peace…                                                                                                                                It’s our goal.                                                                                                                           It’s what we believe in.                                                                                                          It’s what we do.                                                                                                                     It’s how we live.

creating change

displacement

From Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize speech (1986)–

[A boy] asked his father: “Can this be true? This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent?”

And now the boy is turning to me. “Tell me,” he asks, “what have you done with my future, what have you done with your life?” And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.”

 

Lately I’ve found myself explaining to people the latest thinkpeace focus:  the One Million Bones project.  The first reaction is one of total confusion.  “Bones?  Why are you making bones?”  When I talk about genocide, the expressions become ones of concern but also of only of distant recognition.  The fact is, most people I talk to have no idea that genocide has occurred in their lifetime.  Most believe that such atrocities have not happened since World War II.  If you ask most teenagers, they truly have no idea.   Yes, we know that wars have happened and still are… and we know that there is suffering in the world.  But genocide and displacement?  These concepts seem to go undiscussed at school and at the family dinner table.  The fact is, as a whole, we seem to have tuned out this news:  genocide and displacement are CURRENT events.

At our thinkGIRLUP monthly meetings, we’ve been discussing why these atrocities are still occurring, why world governments are not taking a stronger stand, why these issues are not talked about in social studies classes and more.  We talk about intolerance and acceptance.  From the school bus to the mall to our neighborhoods and communities and on into the world, intolerance is what creates conflict.  We talk about raising awareness and using the power of our voices and the creativity of our hands to enact change.  And we make bones.  Why bones?  The bones  are symbols of a couple of things.  First, we know this:  when you take away the things that make people different, the color of their skin, hair, eyes, their religious and cultural differences, etc., you see that we are all the same.  We are bones.  We all have the same ones, with the same shape, tone and texture.  We are one and the same.  Second, the bones signify the bodies of all those who have fallen victim to genocides around the world.  We have joined the One Million Bones campaign, in partnership with StudentsRebuild and CARE, to raise awareness and funds (for survivors and victims of ongoing displacement in Sudan, Burma, and the Democratic Republic of Congo) through art activism.  This is our way to spread our voices, combined with others, to create change, to insist on tolerance and to take a stand against genocide.

“It’s often too easy to feel that the problems of others who live far away in circumstances we cannot imagine are not ‘ours,’” said Leslie Thomas, curator and co-director of “Congo/Women” and the founding executive director of Art Works Projects. “But if we do our job right, the arts can help us come together and take that next step to support those with whom we share this earth.”  We are all connected on this planet, but so often we seem to forget our global brothers and sisters, making us accomplices to the crimes against humanity.  As a photographer, Marcus Bleasdale believes art is an empowering medium for activism. His photos  highlight the most extreme human rights abuses around the world.  He believes that “artists partnering with NGOs, advocacy groups, and individuals that lobby organizations and governments can learn about abuses, including sexualized violence used in conflict.”  The visual image goes a long way in illustrating the issues facing humanity.

Naomi Natale, founder of the One Million Bones project said, “is important to recognize that these atrocities are occurring today, and that intolerance is at the root of these conflicts. Equally important, however, is the message that there is hope for a better future, and through working together to learn about the mistake of intolerance and actively contributing to a collective movement, students can deal with genocide in a manner which allows them to be empowered.”  Students CAN learn.  Youth CAN be heard.  And collective action can make a real difference.

“At the end of the day, the job of all of us working in human rights is to let the story of individuals shine through our chosen mediums as storytellers,” said Leslie Thomas.  At thinkpeace workshop for girls, we believe the impact of one million bones being displayed on the National Mall in Washington, DC will open minds and hearts and get people talking… and ACTING.  thinkpeace girls are taking action.  They are talking to friends, neighbors, and family members, raising awareness and asking for action.  They are telling the stories of the victims and survivors with every bone they make, so that no one is forgotten.

“When we make something with our hands it changes the way we think; which changes the way we feel; which changes the way we act.” —Carl Wilkens


on girls, gloria, and a global equal rights amendment

When my daughter was in 3rd grade she did her biography report on Gloria Steinem.  She stood up on a soap box in front of her class with her long, blonde hair and 70s style aviator glasses demanding equal rights for all.  As she practiced her speech in front of me, I remember wondering: who is the Gloria Steinem of this generation and where is the feminist cry for equality that was such a big part of my childhood?

In 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John, “In the new code of laws, remember the ladies and do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.”  Ah, a feminist voice from the beginning of our country’s development.  Still, nearly 75 years later, women were still not being heard, valued, or counted by the U.S. Constitution.  In general they could not vote, own property, keep their own wages, or even have custody of their children. Public demand for equality first became known in 1848, at the first Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott  held a meeting of 300 women and men to call for justice for women in a society where they were across the board barred from the rights and privileges of citizens. A “Declaration of Sentiments” and eleven other resolutions were adopted, but the right to vote was still too hot of an issue for most Americans.

To Susan B. Anthony, this was unacceptable. In 1872, she went to the polls in Rochester, NY, and cast a ballot in the presidential election, citing her citizenship under the 14th Amendment. She was arrested, tried, convicted, and fined $100, which she refused to pay. In 1875, the Supreme Court in Minor v. Happersett said that while women may be citizens, all citizens were not necessarily voters, and states were not required to allow women to vote.  Until the end of their lives, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony campaigned for a constitutional amendment affirming that women had the right to vote.  Feminists of their generation who fought a good fight but left so much work to be done.

The 1900s saw more women take on the issue of equal rights as women joined the workforce and led the movement for progressive social reform.  Finally there was enough support nationally to win the vote. Carrie Chapman Catt and the National American Woman Suffrage Association were the new voices being heard throughout the country. Together with progressive voters, they finally won the first specific written guarantee of women’s equal rights in the Constitution, the 19th Amendment, which declared, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” It had been 150 years from Abigail Adams’ advice to President Adams to this victory for American women.

In the 1960s, over a century after the fight to end slavery fostered the first wave of the women’s rights movement, the civil rights battles of the time provided an impetus for the second wave. Women organized to demand their birthright as citizens with the call for an Equal Rights Amendment.  The Equal Rights Amendment passed the U.S. Senate and then the House of Representatives, and on March 22, 1972, the proposed 27th Amendment to the Constitution was sent to the states for ratification.  Arguments by ERA opponents played on the same fears that had generated opposition to woman suffrage. Anti-ERA organizers claimed that the ERA would deny a woman’s right to be supported by her husband, the overturning of privacy rights would be overturned, women would be sent into combat, and abortion rights and homosexual marriages would be upheld.

Although we’ve made strides and have won several battles, women still face many challenges.  Our work isn’t done.  When I was in 3rd grade I marched with my mom and the National Organization for Women.  When my daughter was in 3rd grade she seemed poised to be the next Gloria Steinem!  5 years later she’s just really coming into her own voice and realizing that it needs to be heard.  Louder.  Louder,  Louder.  And her voice needs to join with mine and yours and hers and theirs.  The voices of the women before us, from Abigail Adams to the National American Woman  Suffrage Association to Susan B. Anthony to Gloria Steinem to Hillary Clinton are calling us to use OUR voices to continue to demand change.

A recent New York Times article reflecting on Gloria Steinem’s pivotal role in the women’s rights movement, quoted the author Susan Faludi, “We’ve not seen another Gloria Steinem because there is only one Gloria, and someone with her combination of conviction, wit, smarts and grace under fire doesn’t come along every day.”  I beg to differ.  I see it every day.  I see it in girls.  They’ve got grit.  They have great voices.  I agree with Sarah Hepola, “Ms. Steinem’s DNA has been scattered into a million cells — in the blogs, as well as in the work of women whose labors do not land them on cable shows: Ai-jen Poo, the organizer of Domestic Workers United, or Navi Pillay, head of the Commission on Human Rights at the United Nations.”  They’re in Leymah Gbowee, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Tawakkol Karman.  They’re in Lady Gaga, Emily-Anne Rigal and thinkpeace girls!   It’s not about one specific thing anymore, one specific issue, and one specific leader.  It’s about teaching girls to collectively use their voices for humanity and join ours as women.  “We often have a cultural fantasy about individuals,” said Emily Nussbaum, the television critic for The New Yorker and a longtime feminist reporter. “But collaboration is just as frequently the source of great things, and it’s less rarely recognized. Change doesn’t always happen because of one person.” Together we are the fourth wave of feminism.  Feminisms.  Plural.  Our isms embrace humanity:  tolerance, justice, equality.   It’s time for a Global Equal Rights Amendment.  As Hillary Rodham Clinton said, “Human rights are women’s rights… And women’s rights are human rights.” Let’s get these great girl voices going!  The next Gloria Steinem is in us all.

 

 

 

on tolerance

Oh… I started to write a long post about anger management and tolerance but then I realized something:  I have to stop!  I’ve been holding on to some pretty negative feelings for a couple of days and it’s time to just stop!  That doesn’t mean that I’m not still upset or that I’m not going to do something about it!  It just means that, POOF! like that, I am sending the negative energy away!

What a relief.  Now I can deal with what made me angry in the first place.  I feel so much more in control and can now be productive.  Ah, I’m breathing!

This morning I had a note from the Universe:

“Guidance, attention, help, maybe.  Love, always.  Criticism, never.                                           What to give others.”

#positivereinforcement