To love, and to build

I had no idea. I thought there were important, proper adults who had this down. I thought we were doing ok. Things were getting better, for most people, and even though environmental news was alarming, and there were horrific conflicts ongoing, and heartbreaking conditions for refugees in many parts of the world, there also seemed to be steps taken to address those emergencies, and others. I figured I could just worry about my own little life, and the world would take care of itself. Many of us thought so.

Well… We were wrong. Apparently, we are not going in the direction we thought, and there is no reliable driver getting us home safely. So whether we like it or not, we have to get off the beaten track, the one were our lives were about us, and us alone. Sadly, getting off the familiar road, when there is no other visible way to go, sucks. It is scary, unscripted, and lonely. But still, we have to. We entered an era were we can’t afford to be on the sidelines anymore. We have to get out of our comfort zones, reach higher and further, and build whatever future we want to see.

To get over the abyss that seems to have opened underneath us, we will have to start by building bridges. They need to be long enough to reach the bridges and roads of all the other people out there trying to do the same, and it will take a lot of work. But there are millions and millions of builders, and I know that eventually we will have enough bridges to form a network; a beautiful, global web of hope and support. These bridges and roads will lead anyone who wants to work for a bright future upwards, and onwards, and through connecting us, they will provide a framework that can withstand whatever fear or divisive rhetoric tries to throw at us, and help us remember that we are all in this together.

So how do we create these amazing bridges? How do we soar? It’s so hard, and so easy. We just love.

We love fiercely, uncompromisingly, in big ways and small. We love those who agree with us, and we learn to love those who don’t. We love for the common humanity in us all, and we love our shared home. We love by always saying no to hate, to greed, to division and to fear, and we love by acting for what we believe in. We love, we connect, and we stand together.

So much of what we hear every day tells us to creep back into our shell, that there is no hope, no use even trying, that we are small and insignificant. We need to tell each other another story, the true story, which is that the future is not written yet, and that history has proven again and again that “small and insignificant” people can indeed change the destiny of millions by fighting for their beliefs. Some people know this truth on their own, but many of us need brave communities around us to support and inspire us, to counteract the constant narrative of fear, telling us that there is nothing we can do, when actually, there is nothing we can not do.

This is such a community, and we would love to have you be a part of us.

‘Dear Stranger’, a personal letter from a refugee to all of us

Today is World Refugee Day. It is the day that we stand in solidarity with those around the world who are displaced due to conflict or persecution. It is the day that we reflect on their journeys to safety, remember the many that didn’t make it, either because they couldn’t leave or because their treacherous journeys took their lives. It is also the day that we celebrate the resilience of the human spirit, our ability to come through dark times and shine. Today I share with you Nahid’s dream for her family and her daughter. Nahid is everywhere, in America and in Europe, in Asia and Oceania, in Africa and the Middle East. Please, wherever you are, help the ‘Nahids’ in the world to see that we live in a world where love and kindness persevere.
♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Dear stranger,

My name is Nahid and I left my country with my husband in June 2014. I am a survivor of torture and violence. In September 2016, our beautiful daughter N. Zahra was born. I encountered multiple challenges during my pregnancy and delivery. I was unable to afford regular pre-natal checks and as a result developed gestational diabetes requiring emergency admission. Thankfully our daughter was born healthy and after a few days of hospitalisation I was discharged.

We are very grateful to our country of asylum, even though we are considered illegal migrants, without the right to work or study. After our daughter was born we grow more concerned about her future here and struggle to wait for resettlement as we see no future for her here or back in our country of origin.

Growing up my life has been hard. I was not allowed to finish high school or pursue my dreams to become a doctor. I was continually treated badly by persons close to me resulting in me having a miscarriage. I accepted it as my fate and I was not strong until I met my husband. Now with my daughter, this strength and renewed hope only grows stronger.

My husband and I don’t want our child to feel like a refugee or that she cannot achieve her dreams for a better future. She is born a refugee but we want our daughter to have options. Living here provides us with limited to no options. Zahra will not be able to go to school, she will not be able to have an identity, she will not be able to pursue her ambition, and she will not be able to work legally. My husband too works hard but struggles to provide for us financially as he is not allowed to work here legally. We want our daughter to be protected, have stability and an identity. We want her to have an equal chance as any other person in life.

I want to teach my daughter tolerance and to respect other people’s different views. I want to create a safe space for her where she can be who she wants to be even though she is a girl. I want to teach our daughter kindness and that she has the right to be respected and treated fairly. I want to teach our daughter to help other people and give back to society when she grows up. I cannot do this here, where we are, as here we are only surviving and feel like outsiders or that we don’t belong. My husband and I struggle to protect ourselves here, how can we be expected to create a safe space for our child? In my country and here at times I made to feel like a lesser human being; like I am not worthy. It is disheartening and I don’t want my daughter to grow up feeling the same.

My husband wants to further his education and despite having no opportunities to do so formally here, he has participated in as many courses as he could, organised by NGOs. It is still my dream to become a doctor and with the right opportunities, and despite my age I will pursue this dream in the health related field.

Both my husband and I are hard working people and strive to be contributing members to society. We want to teach our daughter these same values. When I first arrived I had repeated thoughts to end my life and although I am working on these thoughts, they do come back sometimes. But my daughter has given me renewed hope and makes us try to be better people and create a better life.

As we struggle to give her options and a safe place here, we ask that you help us give her these options and a safer place to grow up. We ask that you create the first opportunity for her to have a better life and to be treated fairly. We ask that you provide our daughter the platform to feel like a human being and that she is worthy to have an identity, basic human rights and the chance to pursue her dreams.

Yours sincerely,

Nahid

Some love for the press

Today is World Freedom of the Press Day, and that is not just another day. The freedom of the press, and the right to free speech with which it goes hand in hand, is a fundamental part of a functioning democracy, and an essential part of a free life.

The value of freedom of speech is impossible to truly understand for those of us who were born into it. If you have never lived in terror of speaking your mind, knowing that you would risk your life, and the lives of those close to you, if you would purposely or unintentionally utter something that could be interpreted as opposition, you might enjoy your freedom, but the true wonder of it is most likely lost on you. But we need to wake that wonder somehow, because otherwise we might forget to fight for these rights, thinking that they are somehow eternal by nature, and we might then also fail to safeguard those whose duty it is to exercise these right to the fullest.

Freedom never comes without a prize, and in many nations around the world, people are still bleeding for the right to speak. Native writers, and journalists from around the world, daily risk their lives in dictatorships, war zones, and undercover in dangerous groups in society, to bring us the truth. And while most Western countries do have formal legal protection for free speech, threats and violence against journalists and other truth-tellers from extremists is the sad and dangerous reality. Female news reporters and writers have also been particularly targeted in hate campaigns online, where threats of rape and violence have become part of their everyday lives.

Except for a few, journalists do not make a lot of money. Their job does not enjoy a particularly high status, instead we most often hear that “The media is biased”, “Nothing you read in the paper is true anymore!” etc. While the quality of the press in general might have suffered in the digital age (ask your parents how much they paid for news outlets every month a couple of decades ago, and compare that to what you are paying today – that gap has taken a toll), there are amazing reporters and journalists out there working exhausting hours, fighting to get time to work the long, complex stories and not the fast headlines, wanting the truth – not the quick break. They are immensely talented and intelligent, and could have taken up any line of work – jobs with less competition, and immensely greater rewards, but instead they toil, put their lives on the line, and get very little for it. I believe that they, at the very least, deserve our support.

If you believe that every man and woman is entitled to know the truth about their government, about how corporations around the world operate, about the legal system, about emerging diseases and treatments, about conflicts around the world, if you believe that democracy demands transparency and accountability, then you need to support the press. The truth has many enemies, and far too few defenders.

So how do we show our support? Freedom does indeed always come at a prize, and today I want you to do your part. Find a digital, printed or televised news outlet that you believe to be doing good investigative journalism, and PAY FOR THEIR WORK. Buy a subscription. Do you already have one? Buy one for a friend. Buy two. Buy four. Pay now, and be rewarded for years to come. And as rewards go, freedom is a pretty great one.

In closing, we want to send our love to the men and women in the media, and to thank them.

Thank you for questioning everything.

Thank you for protecting us, educating us, and entertaining us.

Thank you for diligently sorting through the immense universe of information, to present to us the things we need to know.

Thank you for keeping us safe, and our societies open, by holding those in power accountable.

Thank you for being so brave.

Thank you for the words that keep us free.

For love of home

Today I got to spend a couple of hours with thousands of wonderful people who had gathered to celebrate our home – the tiny blue speck on which we float through space, the tiny blue speck which is all we’ve got. Yes – it’s literally all we’ve got. There is no planet B, there is no escape route (yet), there will be no second chance. We have one shot. And we’re about to blow it.

Most days of the year this fact makes me terrified and miserable. The mindboggling resistance to facts that keep some lawmakers from taking necessary action, and the sad truth that others DO know where this car is heading but keep driving towards the brick wall anyway, makes my heart sink like a stone. But today, on Earth day, I chose to look to the helpers. I joined the inspiring crowds of young and old, men and women, who took to the streets of San Francisco (and other cities around the world) to make the case for earth, and for science – the structured study of our planet, everything on it, and the space around us. And I couldn’t help but feel that maybe we do stand a chance.

There are so many good people, there are such good forces at work, and these are forces to be reckoned with.

Can I ask you to join these forces, please? Can you start today? Decide that you will make one change in your way of life that will help our home, and stick to it. If you want to do more, please do, but make sure to do at least ONE thing. One is a thousand times better than nothing.

And also, most importantly, when you vote, remember that when it comes to environmental policies, you are not only voting for you. Do you really feel like you have the mandate to spend resources that your children and grandchildren might depend upon?

Are you not sure which environmental policies might be crucial to implement to save us, and future generations? Might I then suggest you just support them anyway? The expression “Better safe than sorry” has never been more fitting, because the “sorry” in this case would be a major one.

So why all this talk about earth on a blog about love? Because we have to love our little blue speck. It’s the home of all known life, so there can be no love without it.

And also, it’s the best speck ever.

Meet the heroes – Dian Alyan, GiveLight

Meet the heroes Just Love blog post pic

One of our aims at Just Love is to find the everyday heroes. They are among our neighbours, family, friends, and the people you walk past on your way to work every morning. They might be doing something huge, or something small – the main thing is they are doing something to make their community and our world a better place. We all have the power to make a difference and we don’t all have to do the big world-changing things (although those are awesome too!). Sometimes all it takes is noticing someone who feels unseen and giving them a smile, or taking the time to really listen to someone who needs to be heard. Taking the time to heal someone else, when you might be tired or hurting yourself, is heroic in a small, yet magnificent, way and it might stir rings on the water that carries your effort way beyond the minutes spent.

The news often makes us focus only on the negative, sometimes very scary, aspects of the world. In the face of these stories of struggle, of atrocities, of greed and selfishness, it’s all too easy to lose hope, but losing hope is not an option. Losing hope doesn’t move us forward. Let’s focus on the helpers and acknowledge them as heroes, and then – let’s become them.

We heard about today’s hero, Dian Alyan, through the wonderful Life in the Bay blog, which provides advice and assistance to newcomers to the San Francisco Bay Area. The incredible team at Life in the Bay are working to help everyone, including refugees, feel at home in the Bay. Check them out here http://www.lifeinthebay.org Thank you Life in the Bay and Gita Arimanda, the author, for letting us share your inspirational piece.

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Originally posted on lifeinthebay.org on April 13th 2017.

‘See you tomorrow’ the text from Dian read. Dian Alyan is a founder of GiveLight Foundation, a global non-profit organization that takes care of orphans who are displaced by natural disasters, extreme poverty, and conflict conditions around the globe.

The next day, Michelle and I knocked on the door of GiveLight’s office and were welcomed by Safaa, one of two GiveLight staff. I asked whether it was okay to bring my 3 month-old baby in with me for the interview and she said, “Sure! Taking care of orphans is our passion. Of course children are welcome here.” We stepped into a 250-sqft, Moroccan-style room with a red carpet and pillows on the floor. “Please make yourself at home. Our office is quite small because we want to save the money for the children instead.” Not long after, Dian came to greet us. She fixed us some black tea and a platter of oranges and grapes. Moments later she was sharing her touching stories.

How GiveLight Started

Dian studied engineering in college and was working for Procter&Gamble Indonesia. She worked on some successful marketing campaigns even though she was only in a junior role. She was promoted to a global assignment and moved to Cincinnati, where she would later met her husband. ‘All out or nothing’ has always been her motto. Yet after having achieved so much in her career and financial stability, she grew restless. “I was done chasing the worldly affairs. They didn’t fulfill me. So I quit.” When she went on pilgrimage to Mecca, she prayed to God for two things: to be a mother and to have a sense of purpose. “God answered both of my prayers.”

In 2004, a massive earthquake happened off west Sumatra. It sent deadly tsunami waves from the Indian Ocean that decimated the shores of several countries. Aceh was the hardest hit province in Indonesia with the waves killing roughly a quarter million people. “I lost 40 relatives because of that disaster. I saw children losing their families,” Dian’s eyes grew a little misty. However, she did not dwell on her personal loss. “It was heartwarming to see the outpouring condolences. But tears and words are not enough. We had to do more.”

Dian started building a solid business plan for the orphanage and with the help of local volunteers in Indonesia, it was completed in a mere 7 months. Project Noordeen, as it was called, was named after Dian’s great-grandfather who has inspired her in many ways. He freed the people from the Dutch colonization in the 1930s and cared for many orphans in his village in Takengon, Aceh. The 3,000 sqft of land where the orphanage was built was generously donated by Dian’s family. Clearly, altruism runs in the family.

GiveLight Going Global

Dian said in a previous interview with Mercury News,

“I’m going to do for orphanages what Conrad Hilton did for hotels. I’m going to build the best orphanages in the world, and my clients are going to be the poorest of the poor.’’

In December 2005, 50 children moved into the first home, Noordeen, and GiveLight has expanded globally ever since. Their second home was built in Pakistan and followed by Bangladesh and then eight other countries. Currently, they are building their latest home in Morocco, named ‘Maison de Lumieres’ which means the House of Lights. This orphanage was adopted by the USF architecture department as one of their community service projects.

To Dian, a saying of the Prophet has always resonated with her throughout the GiveLight journey.

“I and one who takes care of an orphan will be like this in paradise” and the Prophet points to his two fingers joined together.

She believed in the goodness of others, which has been proven in the sheer abundance of help that people have poured into GiveLight. None of the lands in those eleven countries was bought. Everything was donated. “When it comes to GiveLight, I don’t ask people to give their money. I tell them the story and they come to help unasked.” Dian organizes a wide array of events to fundraise for her orphanage, ranging from ladies nights, global bistro showstoppers, and poster competitions for children. The funds collected almost always surpass expectation. The children in Granada School held a “Help Club” by selling T-shirts and movie tickets. They managed to pool roughly $11,000 when the expectation was that there would be a few thousand dollars. All the winners of the poster competitions even donated their award money back to GiveLight, and then some more.

Making an impact around the world…and at home

Dian’s creative ideas in marketing and event branding, combined with the generosity of the community, have changed the lives of more than 800 orphans in eleven countries. GiveLight not only provides food and shelter for these young orphans but also nurtures their young minds. GiveLight aims to provide world class education to the orphans, and at a minimum, to get them to finish high school. Five children from its earliest residents in the Aceh home have now gone to college. Donors are welcome to donate to an existing scholarship fund, but they are also encouraged to establish their own and designate it to the country of their choosing.

Apart from the global impact that GiveLight has made, the Bay Area is after all where we are focused. GiveLight is currently providing scholarship and a mentoring program to 13 orphans who have fled the conflict in Syria and are currently settled here.

GiveLight is also supported by big corporations in Silicon Valley that will match their employee donation. Some of them include Google, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Microsoft, Paypal and many more. If you are interested in the events being held by GiveLight, you can check our their Facebook page or be a donor and join their cause in making the lives of orphans around the world a better one.

For further information, or to get involved, you’re welcome to contact GiveLight directly at info@givelight.org

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If you know of anyone doing something to make a difference in your community and would like to write about them – or would like us to know about them – please get in touch by clicking on the Contact tab.

About Gita A

I have spent one third of my life away from home. I was born and grew up in Solo, Indonesia. After high school, I took my business degree in Nanyang Technological University in Singapore where I met my husband. Eight years later, we moved to the Bay Area when my husband was offered a position at Google. Moving to the other side of the world was not an easy task. Struggle was of course a part of it, and I have my ups and downs. Slowly but sure I find new friends along the way and life is getting more colourful each day. I know that my story is not unique. I’m glad to join the LITB team and I hope that our stories can help those who find themselves a thousand miles away from home feel not alone. We are in this together; and we, as a community, can grow stronger.

I wish you courage

One of the hardest things about my job is explaining to people why the world is turning their back on them. Why is it that people dislike them so much without having even met them? “It is not personal” I say “ I am sorry that you have been caught in the politics”. Not surprisingly, nothing I say makes them feel better. All they know is that one day a member of their family was murdered before their very eyes, or their house got bombed, or their neighbours were killed, or they were sold for marriage and subject to violence and abuse, or they were beaten up and incarcerated for having different beliefs, or they could just not continue living in the fear of a coming death and a diminishing future. Yes, these are the kinds of things that force them to leave their home, and try to seek protection in other places. But instead of feeling welcomed and comforted by those of us in better circumstances, they are being punished. Punished for having hope, for wanting a better future, an education for their children, for not being able to continue living in fear.

Caught between war and the politics of fear, they feel without value. The logic of deterrence is simple: we will make your life so much more miserable that you will wish you never left. Some logic, huh? And it works. They are not treated as people, but as burdens on society, thanks to misinformation and toxic political narratives that objectify human beings whose humanity has been reduced to an adjective: refugee or asylum-seeker. The adjective, that politicians want us to associate with hate and mistrust, creeps into their identity until they stop seeing themselves. Thousands, millions are trapped in a futureless vacuum, unable to dream or escape. Youth commit suicide, elderly live out their last days removed from their families and loved ones in a foreign land that rejects them, disease takes hold of their minds and bodies.

For those of us witnesses to the dehumanisation of millions of people, it is also painful. We like to think that we are making a difference, and we probably are, but the sense of impotence and feeling of frustration begin to make their way to our hearts. Sometimes it is difficult to get up in the mornings. Most nights it is difficult to sleep. These people have names and faces, Murtaza, Nahid, Qasem, Nazanin, Shafie, Abdi Fatah, Marwan, Rodan, Maryam, Nada, Zahra, Sharifah, Shomaila. If only some of them got angry at me for this gross injustice, it would help to see some anger, I would understand their anger. Instead I hear their hearts break a little more, I watch the pain in their eyes, “It’s ok” they tell me when I say they will probably never be resettled and the miserable life they are leading has no end “I understand. It’s not your fault”.

No. It is not my fault. Neither is it theirs. And still, we are caught up in this senseless cycle of pain and darkness, of injustice and unjustified hate for a socially constructed and politically charged ‘problem’ that remains largely unknown, foreign and distant only because we let it so. “It is not my problem” I hear you say “why should I worry about others when I have my own problems to worry about?”

Because when you fail to realise that your indifference contributes to the spreading of darkness, that your inaction validates injustice and hatred, you are setting the conditions for the future your children and my children will inherit. A future devoid of love and kindness, and filled instead with ignorance and hatred. You become a threat to all of our futures.

Because whether you like it or not, our lives are linked, and our futures are connected. We live in a globalised world in which your decisions today can have an immense impact on people you may never meet, but who are not different from you or me. Because even if you want to think about it selfishly, you want to contribute to a world where your own future generations can live in safety and dignity. Your apathy is not isolated from the development of societal values.

I invite you to see what I see, to share my joy and my frustration. And I wish you courage, for you will need it.

Look Beyond Borders

The DNA Journey

What happens when we stop putting people in boxes?

I Hear You

Through Refugee Eyes

Picture credit: 3dman_eu /Pixabay

The Lost Food Project

Finding Food A Home. This was the objective of a dream that turned into a movement improving the lives of many in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A dream that started with a few trolley loads of food destined for the rubbish.

In September, 2015, the then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon highlighted that “More than a third of all the food produced worldwide – over one billion tonnes of edible food each year – goes to waste. That is shameful when so many people suffer from hunger”. This is particularly true in Malaysia, where roughly around 3,000 tonnes of edible food is wasted every day. This is enough food to feed half a million people, in a country where many go hungry.

If that wasn’t bad enough, food waste also happens to be the largest contributor to solid waste in Malaysia and the greatest source of harmful greenhouse gases in the country.

My friend, Suzanne, a determined British expat living in the same condominium as me in Kuala Lumpur, is the person behind the dream, the movement, and today, the reason why many vulnerable people are able to receive food regularly. By bringing together a team of passionate volunteers, Suzanne’s Lost Food Project is collecting enough food for thousands of meals every week.

Her amazing drive to make a difference meant that the children and youth I was working with at a local NGO were able to eat healthily, thanks to The Lost Food Project’s weekly deliveries. In turn, we were able to allocate our scarce financial resources to other priorities such as health and education. Every week, carloads of food would be brought by volunteers, and every week our school children could have fresh fruit and vegetables otherwise not available to them. The food was also allowing these children to be able to focus and perform better at school than they could on empty stomachs.

In less than a year of operations, The Lost Food Project keeps growing and Suzanne keeps coming up with innovative ways to raise awareness and advocate for policy change (watch this space!). Today the Lost Food Project comprises a huge team made up of conscientious supermarket owners, policy makers willing to think of alternative ways to deal with society’s problems, and an incredible pool of talented and skilled volunteers from all corners of the world who help make Suzanne’s dream happen in Kuala Lumpur. Everybody working together, every week making a difference. As always, I am humbled by the impact of our efforts when we come together, our determination to share and improve the conditions of those less fortunate than us, and the different ways that we can help preserve our beautiful planet.

If this is something that resonates with you and you would like to learn more about the work that The Lost Food Project is doing in Malaysia, head to their website www.thelostfoodproject.org or find them on Facebook (@thelostfoodproject). They have opportunities for people to volunteer and ways that you can help them continue growing! Donations can be made via Simply Giving – www.simplygiving.com/Social/thelostfoodproject

Don’t fight fire with fire

“Treat people how you want to be treated”, is drilled into us when we are young. This is easier said than done when things get a little heated or when someone rubs you the wrong way. It is our default nature as human beings to be kind and compassionate, but what happens when we come up against that rude person who cuts in front of us in a line, or that colleague who talks about us behind our backs or worse still, someone who perceives to threatens our very own safety?

During these testing times, it is far easier to slip into combative mode. To return the hostility, rather than to take a deep breath and come at the situation with warmth and a desire to understand where the other person is coming from, or what they may be going through. Coming at a hostile situation with empathy and warmth, has the power to stop a person in their tracks. This unexpected, and perhaps unnatural reaction has been scientifically proven to diffuse hostility and hate in the most precarious of situations.

This way of behaving, where instead of mirroring a person’s behaviour you attempt to do the opposite, has been termed non-complementary behaviour. The instinctual way of responding to someone who is kind, is to show kindness in return, and when someone is hostile or rude, generally we mirror this behaviour back as well.

The podcast Invisibilia highlighted three scenarios where non-complementary behaviour was used to ‘flip the script.’ One of the most remarkable stories came from a young boy who had been accused of being a terrorist from a young age in Denmark, and had reached a point where he thought “they called me a terrorist. I would give them a terrorist.” This is the most dangerous form of complementary behaviour, when we are labelling, or projecting our fears onto, others and they then become what we fear. It was through the actions of a thoughtful policeman who realised that if something was not done, many more young boys would be lost to fanaticism and started, although unknowingly, using non-complementary behaviour to bring the boys back from fanaticism. This action, which was at odds with the rest of Europe’s response, managed to save hundreds of boys and girls from being recruited to join the fight in Syria.

Just recently I travelled in Central and South America as an independent traveller. As a woman there are certain dangers we face more than men, especially when travelling, and in some of the countries I visited, the risks are heightened. I was warned by many people to reconsider visiting some places or to be weary of every person I made contact with. Admittedly, I was often concerned, but every time I was in a taxi by myself or feeling insecure, I would talk to the person that I was projecting my fears onto and every time, over and over again, I was shown a beautiful soul who was just going about their daily life. They were simply going about their routine, trying to earn a living, providing for their family and within that routine, were willing to show me kindness and respect when I showed it to them. Obviously, I took precautions and would never walk alone at night, or in areas that I had been warned against going to by locals, and I mostly travelled by day, but the overwhelmingly positive experiences I had were not down to luck. I treated people with compassion and empathy. I didn’t behave like they were trying to rip me off, attack me or were someone to be fearful of.

Before I made my mind up about what type of person I thought they were, I let them show themselves to me. I was curious and open. I made sure my behaviour and response was based on facts, rather than speculation. I am by no means suggesting that there are not people to be weary of or avoid, or that there are not times that you should stand up for yourself. What I am suggesting, however, is that when your mind is racing about what might be, take a breath and see what your gut is telling you. Is this person really someone to be weary of, or hostile to? Or, can you go against the grain, and muster up some empathy to come at the situation with a different response than the one you are instinctually programmed to have, and see what may happen as a result?

Always being in a state of empathy and compassion is difficult. But when we are able to come at an aggressive or hostile person with anything but what they are showing, we have the power to change the script.

In these times, more than ever, there are difficult conversations being had around the dinner table or at the water cooler. People we hold dear may have completely different views from us on how the world should be responding to changes in the environment, the refugees crisis, challenges to women’s rights, the economy… the list goes on. Do we want to have hostility beget hostility, or do we want to give people the benefit of a doubt? Can we choose to respond differently, give the other person a chance to calm down and see how they respond to non-complementary behaviour?

Being kind in the face of rudeness, loving in the face of hatred, isn’t easy. But who said anything worthwhile comes easy? A more loving, accepting and compassionate world is one I want to live in. So even if I have to go against my instincts to ensure this and be kind, when I would normally see red, I’m willing. Are you?

By Sherona Parkinson ♥

 

Teach Love. Teach Kindness.

 

I teach, which in essence means I am amongst those who will one day inherit all we say and do today. I feel the immense power of my words and actions every single day and I am constantly reminded how simple acts of kindness can truly change lives.

With Valentines Day around the corner, I thought about how I could uniquely impact on the teaching staff at my school this year. Teachers give so much and I wanted to thank them for the roles they play, but also allow them to witness how easily love and kindness spreads when you take a moment to really feel the love around you. Sometimes we forget in our busy days how very beautiful an environment we work in.

The 14 days of love and kindness campaign was born. An anonymous campaign using simple tools: a chalkboard and chalk in the corner of our staffroom. Each day a new message on the chalkboard would greet the staff as they gathered for the morning meeting. Each day the message was accompanied by something special on a small table (marshmallows for a ‘mallow weekend’, recycled jars with flowers to take home and filter coffee) and each day I felt my heart grow in love as I saw the impact such simple actions were having on the morale of our staff.

One of the best moments was when another teacher approached me asking how she could get on board the campaign! She teamed up with two other teachers to make notes and attach sweets for each teachers’ pigeonhole.

The love began spreading!

This is what some teachers had to say when asked how the campaign had impacted them:

Grade 1 teacher: ‘I felt inspired to be more thoughtful of others.’

Grade 4 teacher: ‘It created a greater awareness of each other and promoted acts of kindness towards each other. The corner added warmth to the staff room and one was curious to know what the next day’s display/saying/call to action would be.’

Grade 12 teacher: ‘It meant a great deal to me to see a little message of encouragement every day-filled up my love tank!’

Grade 8 teacher: ‘THAT corner … made me think twice about why I felt mad about certain situations and individuals and made me realise it’s so easy to feel anger and hold grudges… however, it’s such a gift to move past that and offer kindness instead.’

At the end of the 14 days I felt hopeful. I felt the weight of the current political climate lift off my shoulders. It is possible that a heart full of love is stronger than all the hate. It is not impossible that we are able to change lives by simply being kind.

If this is the impact one simple campaign had on a room full of teachers, imagine what we can do to make this world a better place!

We are the future and it looks bright because we Just Love!

By Chay B.

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The flowers and the candles will protect us.

You have probably seen this before, but watch it again, through the eyes of today, and then we’ll talk about it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkM-SDNoI_8

Do you know why he’s right? Why this father is in no way lying to his child to protect him?

Because the flowers and the candles are love and community materialized, and if he wants his son to be safe, if we want all of our children to be safe, love and community are the only things that can ever do that. Fear and hate will try to convince you that they are the ones for the job, but in addition to making you feel awful, they’re also not useful.

Granted, fear might be handy in getting you to jump out of the way of a speeding car or such, but hate is just utterly useless, and neither will do you any good at all in analyzing the more complex parts of the world around you, which is what is needed to truly protect you. Your intellect will always do a much better job at that.

Importantly, choosing love and understanding over fear and hate does not mean to abstain from opposing threats to your existence, it means to oppose those threats without fear and hate, and thereby having a much greater chance of succeeding, as you are fighting more level headed. And also, if you fight in hate, you leave a trail of hate behind, this time directed at you, and then you never won at all, you were only buying time.

February 14th is a day of love in many parts of the world, and while it might feel mediocre to buy flowers, send cards, and have candle light dinners when the world seems to be on fire, it’s not. Love is not mediocre, and hence acts of love, whatever shape or form they might take, are not either. Actually, we need to love and take care of each other now more than ever, because to choose love, and fight for love, in the times we are facing, takes brave and strong souls, and it’s exhausting.

Fill up. Refuel. Love and be loved, and then keep on not hating, not fearing, and thereby keeping us safe.

We have the flowers and the candles, and we have each other.