writer, lawyer, human
Human Inspiration Works, LLC
May 2019 Vol 4 No. 5
Inspired by the words and actions of Robert F. Kennedy
I’ve been traveling the country this late-winter, early-spring (as in, “will spring ever come?”) speaking and training on human inclusivity and on how to bridge our differences. Almost everywhere I go, someone tells me they’re a regular
reader. Of course, when I hear this, it warms my heart!
As of this writing, more than 7200 people receive this newsletter. That’s up from barely 300 in July 2016, when
first launched. And while most readers sign up via clipboard at one of my trainings/talks, an increasing number are arriving organically, via word of mouth—always a good sign.
What function does this newsletter serve? Why do readers enjoy it so much?
popularity has something to do with the current state of social media/the national pulse. All that we hear about (or so it seems) are stories of division and discord between humans. In contrast,
, is about coming together with examples of how we’re good to each other and reminders that the human spirit is made of gritty resilience. (Hence, the stories below.)
I think another reason for this newsletter’s popularity is that it’s different. There’s a little of something for everyone and if you’ve got the time to go through all of the Odds & Ends, you can really survey the landscape as it relates to the American pulse—much of it good, some not, and sometimes there’s a video or two that will grab your heart.
Most of all, it seems that
touches readers. Many find an emotional connection with the stories shared herein. In a time when many of us are so numbed by the latest scandal, being touched in a positive way seems so incredibly important.
Thank you for reading this labor of love that I engage in every month! I am so very grateful! Have a great spring and wonderful Memorial Day weekend! Onward to summer!
And please remember: I care about you.
Reaching Out at a Barbecue Joint
Amazing things happen when we leave our comfort zones and reach out to strangers. An instance of this took place recently at Brad’s Bar-B-Que in Oxford, Alabama, just off Highway 78.
reported by CNN
, Jamario Howard and two of his friends had just ordered at Brad’s when Jamario noticed an older woman sitting at another table by herself. Thinking that he’d hate to eat alone, Jamario did something that many would otherwise not consider—he went over to the woman and asked if he could sit with her for a moment. She said “yes,” and Jamario soon learned that the woman, named Eleanor, had recently lost her husband and the following day would have been their 60
Hearing this, Jamario invited Eleanor to join him and two friends for dinner. Eleanor agreed. Over the meal, the four talked about “everyday life, sharing stuff about each other.” A Facebook post with a photo of Eleanor, Jamario and his friends at the restaurant went viral thereafter, with more than 44,000 shares.
As Jamario wrote, “The point in this is always be kind and nice to people. You never know what they are going through. This woman changed my outlook on life and how I look at other people.”
This is exactly what I attempt to teach—the power of human familiarity, of getting to know someone who is “different” from you and of then understanding that everyone is simply seeking to survive the Human Condition. Way to go Jamario! Thank you for paying attention to those around you and for being brave!
An Act of Compassion/An Act of Autocracy
One night last February, as she drove on a Texas highway, Teresa Todd came upon three desperate young Central American migrants who waved frantically for her to stop. Teresa, a single mom and a lawyer who works for a West Texas city and county, reported that her motherhood instincts kicked in and she stopped.
reported by Nicholas Kristof in the The New York Times
(Kristof is one of my favorite columnists), Teresa explained, “I’m a mom…And I see a young man who looked the same age and size as my younger son. And if my son was by the side of the road, I would want someone to help.”
In stopping, Teresa discovered three siblings: two brothers ages 20 and 22, and their sister, 18. They had fled violence in El Salvador and Guatemala; the last straw was when a Guatemalan gang leader wanted to make the 18-year-old, named Esmeralda, his “girlfriend.”
Teresa could also see that Esmeralda was very sick—she was suffering from starvation and dehydration and was at risk of kidney failure.
As the three siblings sat in Teresa’s car to get warm while parked on the shoulder, Teresa texted friends to figure out the logistics of getting medical care for Esmeralda. While doing that, a sheriff’s deputy and then a Border Patrol officer arrived. Although this eventually meant that Esmeralda would be hospitalized for much needed medical care, it also meant that Teresa would be arrested—she was detained for three hours and placed in a holding cell.
“It was totally surreal,” Teresa recounted. “Especially for doing what my parents taught me was right, and what I learned in church was right, which was helping people. So finding myself in a holding cell for that, it was hard to wrap my head around.”
For now, Teresa hasn’t been formally charged with a crime; still, there is the possibility of a federal indictment against her. As for the siblings, Esmeralda was hospitalized for four days, after which she joined her brothers in ICE detention.
This story reminds us of how America has partially lost its way, but it also reinforces that yes, Americans are generally compassionate people. As Teresa summarized, “I’m simply a mom who saw a child in need and pulled over to try to help. The whole time I was by the side of the road, I was thinking: What country am I in? This is not the United States.”
Who of us has the bravery of Teresa? Do we even see those in need?
Inclusivity Tip of the Month
Understanding the Randomness of Marginalization
The thing about any “ism” (whether it be racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, or any other form of marginalization) is that often, you just don’t know when it will show up in your life. This randomness can create huge chaos since one usually isn’t emotionally prepared for the marginalizing event.
A case in point (and apologies for story length): Last week, I sat at a bar in the Philadelphia airport doing work but also being cordial—I had just finished speaking at the NJ State Bar Association annual conference to an engaged group and my extrovert switch was still “on.” My first acquaintance was “Aaron” from Raleigh, who shared about his new golden retriever pup and the livability of that part of NC; it was truly a pleasant conversation with a handshake at the end.
A woman took Aaron’s seat; I guessed she was in her early-to-mid sixties. She was from Philly and traveling to Florida on a “rescue mission” for her brother. She was a stylist and at one time owned four salons, but now was down to one. I remarked at how important stylists were to women and the conversation seemed to flow.
That is, until she asked, “What did your parents think of your lifestyle choice?” Now mind you, I hadn’t said a single word about being transgender or a part of the LGBTQ community; we hadn’t even touched on anything LGBTQ in the fifteen minutes or so we interacted.
Her question threw me for a loop—it immediately reminded me that I don’t fully pass as female due to my voice. Most of all, the question reinforced that I am “Other” and that I’ll always be “Other.”
I don’t recall my exact response, but I’m sure it was deflecting. It certainly wasn’t the kind of answer I train others to give in my Allyship 101 class. I then went silent and returned to my laptop; within a few minutes, I decided to get away from this woman and head to my gate.
As I waited for the tab, I also decided I’d try to explain why the woman’s question was hurtful and said, “With great respect, your question about my parents and ‘lifestyle choice’ really hurt. Transgender people are constantly reminded that we don’t fit in and the question just added to that.”
Somewhat unbelievably, the woman denied even asking the question. She then said, “Did you just tell me that for you or for me? Do you feel better now for having said that?” Her tone had shifted to anger. I explained that I had thought her intent was good but that the “effect” of the question was to make me feel as “Other.” However, all of that was lost and the woman simply resisted the idea she’d crossed a line. Thankfully at that point, I was done paying the bill and I left without saying another word to the woman.
I felt like crap for the rest of my wait at the airport and on the plane flight home. It was a beautiful spring early evening in Minneapolis when I arrived, which let me take a twilight bike ride to get back to base in my heart and my head.
I don’t share this for your sympathy but rather to remind that it’s really up to every individual whether they want to share their story, especially about gender or sexuality; please do not ask about things that have not been offered. Given that we’re coming up on Pride Month, this might be especially important to remember.
One last item: I shared about this on Twitter before boarding the plane in Philly; when I arrived at MSP, I was astounded to see that 15 people had Tweeted supportive responses. Seeing that made me feel so much better; thank you for the kindness, my Twitter friends!
Odds & Ends
I’m all over the place with this month’s
, although we start out with gorillas and how, in so many ways, they are like humans.
these series of selfies
a Congolese anti-poaching park warden took with the gorillas in his charge. In the last several years,179 park wardens have died through violence or accidents in their efforts to protect the gorillas.
Second Darn Wonderful:
of gorillas attempting to avoid the rain at a South Carolina zoo—very human-like behavior.
The Ultimate Gift:
of how the family of a 21-year-old heart donor (following a tragic accident) accidentally ran into the man whose life was saved by their son’s/brother’s ultimate gift. Tissues will be needed.
A Cop Plays the Drums:
of an Oklahoma City police officer responding to a public noise complaint by showing off his drum skillset. It’s always wonderful when law enforcement folks show their humanity!
Are you familiar with the phrase, “deepfake video”? It refers to videos that have been doctored to make it appear that the subject has said something when in fact the subject never actually uttered the words you’re hearing. Become familiar this phrase—it represents a great risk to free speech and general human interaction. Watch
for an example with soccer great David Beckham.
Transgender Man Shaving:
Harry’s, the razor company, has produced
about diversity and shaving, which includes a quick shot of a shirtless transgender man as he shaves. (Hint: look for the thin scars below the nipples/areolas.)
A First for Beauty Pageants:
For the first time in the history of beauty pageants, each of the winners of the Miss America, Miss Teen USA. and Miss USA contests are black-color women. When you consider that the pageants were restricted to white-color women as late as 1968, you truly do get an idea of how far our country has come. See story
Podcasts Around Race and Justice:
I’ve come across two wonderful podcasts that help us to understand racial divide history/the eternal search for justice. Check out NPR’s
(about the 1965 murder of a white Unitarian minister in Selma who had sided with civil rights activists) and
Jim Crow of the North
from Twin Cities PBS (regarding how the Twin Cities became racially divided in the early 20
century via restrictive covenants, redlining and other means).
LGBTQ Families and International Adoptions—Barriers to Citizenship:
Here is a
really troubling article
about how immigration officials are pushing back against allowing citizenship for foreign-born children whom LGBTQ families adopt. As the parent of two foreign-born daughters (Korea), I am appalled to learn this. Where will the marginalization end?
My 28-year-old daughter Kate, a writer like me, is a freelancer for
where she reviews books. She also has an entertainment-book review website that’s fun and smart,
Snarky Yet Satisfying.
She regularly reviews books on her blog; check it out! Her book pick for this month is
Darius the Great Is Not Okay
by Adib Khorram. Kate’s Take: “
Darius Kellner is a biracial teen (Persian mother, Caucasian father) who doesn't feel like he quite belongs in either world. He's not athletic enough to relate to his Alpha Male father and doesn't speak Farsi (like his younger sister) to relate to his mother. When his maternal grandfather's health begins to decline, his family makes the trip to Iran to visit before he passes. It's there that he meets Sohrab, his grandparents' teenage neighbor. This book tackles a plethora of difficult issues: sexual identity, mental illness, racism, body positivity...and it's all done beautifully
“Ellie 2.0 Radio” Podcasts/Shows:
My podcast/show, “Ellie 2.0 Radio,” airs on Twin Cities-based AM950 every Monday from 7 to 8 a.m. CST and can be live-streamed by clicking
. Ellie 2.0 Radio highlights various historical and contemporary idealists and my work as a “practical idealist” trying to change the world for the better. My
May 13 podcast/show
highlighted the White Rose—a group of university student idealists and their professor who resisted the Nazi regime at the height of WWII and who paid the ultimate price for their idealism. The Big Interview from that show features Chris Farrell, a business correspondent for Minnesota Public Radio, who talked about his new book,
Purpose and a Paycheck: Finding Meaning, Money, and Happiness in the Second Half of
Life—a tome that demonstrates the myths about older, more experienced works (who happen to be opening businesses at a faster rate than Millennials…). You can access the show’s 70+ podcasts
Someone Else’s Podcast with Me:
Here is an
of my interview on Mental Health News Radio re: my idealism and efforts to change the world for the better.
Stuff Worth Reading (assuming you think like ellie…):
Here is a
piece by Tony Horowitz
, ”Can Bar-Stool Democracy Save America?” in
The New York Times
, about the power of human familiarity erasing stereotypes. Here is also
another NYT piece
, a touching essay by Kyleigh Leddy about her sister who went missing, “Years Ago My Sister Vanished. I See Her Whenever I Want.”
My most recent “Skirting the Issues”
column in Lavender Magazine
titled, “Committed,” is about my six-and-a-half year mentoring relationship with “Jasmine,” who’s taught me as much about surviving the Human Condition as I’ve taught her about life. (Now 13, Jasmine will be staying with me for almost two weeks later this month…)
Please Follow Me on Twitter—The Goal is 1000 Followers:
This year I have a goal of doubling (to 1000) the number of people following me on Twitter (it was 502 on Jan. 1; currently 608). Would you please follow me @elliekrug? Thanks!
Past and Upcoming Talks/Trainings and General Stuff:
In June, I’ll be on the road to Carlsbad CA where I’ll present to US Probation Officers; then it will be to a law firm in DC. Other work in June includes visiting Jenner & Block in Chicago to be part of a panel on legal employer diversity and inclusion. See my Upcoming Engagements
Want to Support My Work Fostering Greater Compassion and Human Inclusivity?
My goal is to do more work in greater MN and other parts of the country where access to compassion/human inclusivity training is limited or nonexistent. If you’d like to support this work, please consider donating to
Human Ripple Works, Inc
., a nonprofit that others have set up to fund my expenses (but not my fees) to do work in places/for organizations that can’t afford to pay for training. (I work with nonprofits or under-funded agencies for free or at a greatly reduced fee in these locals.) Thanks for considering this!
is a work in progress, so please, I welcome your suggestions and comments! Please share this newsletter with others, too!
Thank you for helping to make the world a better place! I'm at your side, cheering you on, I promise! Please have compassion for yourself and for others.
Encouraging Open Hearts and Thriving Human Spirits
Human Inspiration Works, LLC: We make "inclusion" an action word