Sunday, November 13, 2016

World Kindness Day

I know - I felt it too when I woke up at 4 am on Wednesday morning asking Tom who won the election. Tom had to get up early to do an upgrade on a computer at Boston College where he works. I felt a grip of fear and felt as though someone had punched me in the stomach. What was going to happen to us? What was going to happen to us as a country?

This past week, as shock and grief wore off, I found a lot of comfort in my Facebook news feed that was filled with positivity, support and finding a lot of power among the people. One of my friend's posted about how what happens in our personal house is much more important than what happens in the White House.

As a survivor of child rape, I feel nauseated when I looked at Trump's photo. I'd get a solar plexus clutch when the news talked about his first 100 days in office. Then I'd relax when I saw President Obama talking with Trump. Then I'd get all worked up again in a frenzy of fear. Then I'd breathe a sigh of relief when I saw Make America Kind Again photos

and photos of safety pins along with videos of people standing up for people who were bullied:

I realized I needed to get off of the emotional roller coaster ride of what was happening out there and reacting to the news and go within myself to be able to reach out to others.

Shockabuku - "A swift spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever."

That's what happened to me and maybe to you.

Shockabuku - a wake up call!

You and I both know that the racism, the sexism, the mysogyny, hatred, homophobia has sadly all been here all along. Oh how I wish evil and hatred did not exist in the world but it does and the question becomes, how do we respond? We forgot that it is not up to the government to take care of social issues - it is up to us and it is up to us to care for ourselves and each other. As social activist Judy Bonds once said, "We are the ones we've been waiting for."

As the symbol for crisis in Chinese tells us, there is danger and opportunity in times of crisis.
This is a time of tragedy and opportunity.

As I mentioned in my blog the day after election day, I faced the most horrible evil as a child and adolescent. I/we have lived through 9/11 and 4/15 and mass shootings and police shootings, wars and the list goes on and on. While it would have been easy for me to turn against humanity and become filled with rage and hatred, I chose compassion, kindness and working for social justice.

And the great news is - I AM NOT ALONE and NEITHER ARE YOU!

I was blessed to know Boston University's Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs Norm Johnson...Rear Admiral Wendell Norman Johnson (Retired USN). He was a lifelong dear friend of Herb Simmons who was my volunteer at the VA. Herb introduced me to "Uncle Norman" to help him navigate the VA Healthcare System. We became close friends and comrades in arms when it came to social justice and veterans issues.

As it said in his obituary, Norm was a most Uncommon Man. He was given 6 months to live after the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer as a result of Agent Orange Exposure. He lived for 24 years after the diagnosis. What a life he lived! He rose through the ranks of the Navy being the first Black male to achieve the rank of Rear Admiral being the target of racism and bigotry every rank of the way.

When John Silber brought him on at BU, he was a proponent of educational policies that would help to level the playing field for students:
He was described as a man who demanded respect and who believed education to be of the highest priority. During his tenure, he created the Educational Resource Center, which provides tutoring for students. He watched the campus grow by more than 2,000 students, and he took on the task of creating programs and developing policies with the best interests of the students in mind.

The project closest to his heart was the Boston University Residential Charter School (BURCS). In 1991, Johnson came up with the idea, called the First in Peace project, of creating residential schools on decommissioned military bases for children in foster-care situations. With the support of the University, Johnson began a similar project at BU, and the BURCS opened in Granby, Mass., in 1998. After two years of operation, the school closed because of inadequate funding.

“Our approach was to develop a school that had a residential component for these young people,” said Johnson in 2000. “The distinction is not subtle; it’s based on the belief that children who have been deprived of a stable and nurturing environment could thrive and succeed in school if they were given the right opportunity.”

What I remember most about Norm as I was blessed to be able to call him was what he did in the wake of 9/11.

As Muslim students were being harassed and threatened on the T, on Campus and in and around Boston, Dean Johnson started a campaign called BUnited. He had buttons made up with BUnited on them so that there was a community of support and safety not only to ease the fear of the Muslim students but to ignite a sense of justice and looking beyond labels for the student community at large. He held forums for dialogue and understanding.

Here was a man who knew first hand what it meant to be singled out because of the color of his skin yet he rose to the ranks in military and civilian life being the change he wanted to see in the world.

Today was World Kindness Day.

In the wake of the election, we are called upon to make each day World Kindness Day showing kindness and compassion for ourselves first and foremost and to each other. We need to, as one of my Lebanese friends on Facebook said, "build bridges not walls." We need to be able to hold steady when what someone says makes our blood boil and our stomach lurch and join together with like minded and like hearted people who believe in fairness, equality, social justice and looking beyond labels.

We are now called upon to mobilize; to awaken out of complacency and take action when it is needed. Hateful racist graffiti? Let's get together and paint over it.

Someone is being bullied and harassed? Join together and know there is safety in numbers. There are videos about what to do if you see a hate crime and many articles about organizations to support to ensure that the rights and needs of all are being attended to.

We who believe in kindness, fairness, equality are the majority and we cannot afford to be the silent majority.

I am planning on reinstating my membership in the National Association of Social Workers and powering up with people who believe in the same values as I believe in.

I am not fighting anything following the wisdom of Mother Theresa. I am FOR peace, justice, kindness, compassion and caring for ourselves and each other.

I am for making each day World Kindness Day and knowing that by joining together we can turn this tragedy of divisiveness and rancor into one of opportunity to create real and lasting social change. Most importantly of all remember this:

To your health and wellness,

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