writer, lawyer, human
Human Inspiration Works, LLC
Compassion, Gratitude and Humility
Those who’ve participated in my Gray Area Thinking® training will recall the three elements of
wareness of human vulnerability or suffering;
isk-taking to lesson that vulnerability; and acting with
ompassion/kindness) that form the Gray Area Thinking® toolset.
In that training I show a video of a city bus driver who stops his bus to prevent a woman from taking her life. I then point out that the mere act of stopping the bus was an act of compassion.
It’s true: sometimes the most compassionate thing we can do for someone else is to
stop what we’re doing in order to pay attention to them.
All of us are so very busy that we develop tunnel vision and can’t fathom stopping for someone or something outside of the essential routine.
Yet, incredible things can happen when we do stop for someone else. As the story of Earl Melchert below shows, stopping in rare instances might mean rescuing someone from incredible harm. In the more usual instance, stopping may mean we become a sounding board for someone who is hurting emotionally. While we might not know exactly what to say, listening is something that most people can do.
Please remember: stopping for another human is an act of compassion.
In the last thirty days, I’ve presented in one way or another (trainings, speaking on panels) on 21 occasions across the country and in Canada. Often, audience members come to me afterward to say “thank-you.” Sometimes during a training—as when the mother of a thirteen-year-old transgender boy stood up and told an eloquent story about how she educated her boss on what it means to be transgender—people share things from the heart that simply grab the audience and me. Other times, people linger and ask to talk when no one else is around. It is then that I hear stories of personal struggle and fear—we are all trying to survive the Human Condition and many of us are hurting. Yet, I also hear stories of some who are thriving and leading inclusive lives.
I am both grateful and humbled that people trust me enough to share from their hearts. I’m no therapist or expert of any kind, but what I am for sure is a human who cares and who shows up with her heart on her sleeve. And if it helps someone for me to sit with them and listen, then for sure I will do that. It is my way of being compassionate.
Be well! I care about each of you.
A Remarkable Story About Paying Attention
I often speak about the need to pay attention to what’s happening around us. It’s amazing how we can become connected when we just take that extra moment to be aware or mindful of someone who is vulnerable—sometimes it can save a life.
A stunning example of this played out in Barrett, Minnesota the day after Labor Day when Earl Melchert, 65, sat in his pick-up near his home following a lunchtime trip from work to retrieve an item he had forgotten. As he was about to turn the key to start back to a fertilizer plant he managed, Earl looked across a field behind his house to see a dark object 300 yards away. As a hunter, Earl thought the object might be a deer; however, he soon realized it was a girl, who turned out to be 15-year-old Jasmine Block making her way toward him.
Horrifically, 29 days earlier, Jasmine had been kidnapped by three men and then held in a home nearby. In a stroke of luck, Jasmine escaped her captors; that escape included swimming across a lake and ending up in the field near Earl’s property.
Because Earl had seen missing person posters with Jasmine’s picture (another act of paying attention), he instantly knew who she was. He got Jasmine in his truck and after dialing 911, waited for deputies to arrive. As they waited, one of Jasmine’s adductors drove by looking for her. Fortunately, the man kept driving on.
Later, at a ceremony to give Earl a $7,000 reward for his role in rescuing Jasmine, Earl immediately turned over the reward check to Jasmine. “I was not interested in the $7,000 reward, it wasn’t a big deal,” Earl told the
Minneapolis Star Tribune
. “I wanted to give it to the family. They need it more. It went to a good place. I hope Jasmine is OK.”
Instead of the reward, Earl accepted an invitation to have dinner with Jasmine and her family.
One can only imagine the trauma that Jasmine suffered and of course our hearts go out to her. What this story shows is that the human heart is capable of opening with great breadth—which starts with paying attention—at a time when another human may need it most.
Remember, there’s no such thing as a Human Owner’s Manual to tell us what to do in times of uncertainty. All we have is each other.
Boy Scouts Become Gender Inclusive--Wow!
On October 11, the Boy Scouts of America announced that it will soon begin to broadly accept girls into its ranks, representing a dramatic shift toward inclusivity for an organization that has been boy/male oriented since its founding in 1910.
The shift comes as Boy Scouts has faced challenges in recruiting members—it currently has 2.3 million members ages 7 to 21, down from a peak of five million members in the 1970s.
Beginning next year, girls will be allowed to become Cub Scouts; girl membership will be expanded to the regular Scout program in 2019, allowing them to eventually reach the rank of Eagle Scout.
The announcement rankled some proponents of the Girl Scouts, with concerns about supporting girls and providing a girl-only safe space.
The decision to admit girls represents a continuing shift toward inclusivity for the Boy Scouts; in 2013, the group began to allow openly gay members and in 2015, it stopped barring gay Scout leaders. Earlier this year, it began to admit transgender members (yeah!).
With all of the recent media reports of sexual harassment of women by “powerful men” (sorry to group and label), maybe this change for a bedrock American institution will instill in some at-risk males the need for greater respect of females. Perhaps in three or four decades, we’ll see the payoff from the Boy Scouts’ bold decision.
Inclusivity Tip of the Month
This month’s Inclusivity Tip has both business and personal angles. Even more, it can help kids.
One of the great levelers in our society is education—a ticket out of poverty and a way to cope with marginalization can be a high school diploma and then a college or professional degree. All of that requires the ability to read.
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?
Yet, the statistics on reading readiness are quite alarming. The benchmark is third-grade—to what extent is a child able to read proficiently by the end of third-grade; if they aren’t proficient, statistics show they likely will not attain their highest education potential and are four times more likely to drop out of high school.
There are also real race and poverty aspects to reading readiness. A 2011 national education assessment found that the scoring-gap on reading tests between children from higher and lower-income families was 29 points. Nationally, for children of color, the gap was 25 points. Only 18 percent of black students and 20 percent of Latino students read proficiently.
In the Twin Cities, only 1 of 4 third-graders who are of color are reading proficient versus 3 of 4 white students. Further, with a high school graduation rate of 67% in Minneapolis, only 32% of
students graduated being reading proficient for twelfth-graders.
The business implications are clear; if we don’t have a workforce that can read (I haven’t even talked about the ability to write), we don’t have much of a workforce at all. From a societal standpoint, the inability to read proficiently keeps people in poverty and impacts their ability to effectively deal with institutional marginalization.
What can you do to help fix this immense problem our society faces?
Volunteer to tutor an elementary school child with their reading. There are several programs that can assist—
(serving various cities across the country),
(Helping Early Literacy with Practice Strategies). Local schools may have other tutor programs.
Tutor programs work, too—a whopping 79 percent of children in the Twin Cities Reading Partners program met their literacy goals.
Here’s the idea:
Promote reading partner/buddy programs at work and give team member volunteers paid time off to participate in the programs. Then, publicize that volunteering as a way that your company gives back to the community. The company will get wonderful PR while team members get immense personal satisfaction knowing they’re having a direct impact on the lives of kids who might not otherwise succeed. It’s a win-win all around!
Even if your company doesn’t have a formal reading assistance program, you can simply take the initiative and volunteer to tutor on your own. Programs can be flexible on how they match tutors with kids.
We simply need to do more than what we’ve been doing. Past strategies clearly are not working. (For what it is worth, I have been a Big Sister [through Big Brothers/Sisters] for the past five years. My “Little” is now 12; reading and writing have been a part of our “fun” together.)
Rocky the Orangutan
appears to show empathy for a burn victim covered in bandages. I firmly believe empathy is biologically hard-wired.
Second Darn Wonderful
Here’s a short video “
” produced by Logic and with vocals by Alessia Cara and Khalid that tells one’s young man’s love story for another young man. The title of the song is the number of a
national suicide prevention hotline
; after the song/video was released in August, calls to the hotline jumped 27%.
is about how transgender folks need allies more than ever given the gross marginalization that some in society seek to engage in. (Sorry to be political here but it’s really all about human rights.) I also blogged
“Hearing from the Universe”
re: several particularly challenging days and events and how one positive email from an attendee to one of my trainings changed everything for me.
My 27-year-old daughter, Kate, a writer like me, is a freelancer for
Her pick for this month is
Little Fires Everywhere
, by Celeste Ng. Set in sleepy Shaker Heights, Ohio, this modern-day story is about the pull of motherhood, personal identity, and the parental rights of an adopted child.
Writings and Books—by others:
See this great
, “The First White President” by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the October issue of
Coates makes the case that more than anything, the 2016 presidential election was about race. “The fact of a black president seemed to insult Donald Trump personally. He has made the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own.” Coates cites pre-election polling data that showed if only the votes of white Americans were counted, Trump would have defeated Hillary Clinton 389 to 81 in electoral votes, with another 68 electoral votes a toss-up. (As some have heard me say, in order to address the race issues in this country, that is, in order to make America more inclusive, we must first admit that we have a race problem.)
I also recommend a short
about Abby Stein, a transgender woman and former Rabbi in the Chasidic Jewish faith, who came to terms with her gender identity and transitioned genders in her early twenties. In doing so, she lost her wife and birth family. “Everyone has their own story and their own pain,” Abby said. (My thanks to regular reader Michelle Cohen for the tip about this piece.)
“Hidden Edges Radio” Shows:
We’ve been live-streaming the radio show on
which is picking up viewers/listeners from across the country. (I was in Boulder a couple weeks ago and an audience member advised that she liked to watch the show on Facebook. Wow.) Recent shows have included talking with Jamie Nabozny, who in the 1990s became the first high school student to successfully sue his school district for failing to protect him from bullying and harassment because he was openly gay. (Be prepared to be inspired if you listen to that show!) I also interviewed Dr. Kurt Nelson, an industrial psychologist, who talked about the process by which humans accept (or not) change. You can access the podcasts
Another Shout-out for Interesting Guest Leads:
Hidden Edges Radio focuses on how all of us are collectively trying to survive the Human Condition. I like to bring in guests who have shown personal grit and resiliency, like Jamie Nabozny. If you know of people with stories of grit and resiliency, please tell me about them (they can be anywhere in the U.S.—we can air telephone interviews) at
Past and Upcoming Talks/Trainings and General Stuff:
This week, I’ll be in Palo Alto speaking at the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators. Before the month’s end, I’ll be speaking to county employees in Duluth, Minnesota and in Minneapolis. Next month will include a trip to Los Angeles and back to Palo Alto to train a law firm on Gray Area Thinking®. I’ll also be speaking to a group of women family and marriage therapists in St. Paul and at St. Paul College.
By the Numbers:
I’m on track to do about 100 talks and trainings this year. That’s good but I had wanted to get closer to 120. We’ll see what year end actually brings. Also, the number of email recipients for this newsletter now stands at 2730 with an open rate of 43% (compared to an industry average 13.1% open rate). Thank you for reading
and for supporting my work and me! Most of all, thank your for approaching the world with greater compassion and empathy for others!
More Blatant Marketing for Holiday Season 2017:
The holidays are now two months away; why not give a unique gift like a specially inscribed copy of my book,
Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change
? I will inscribe to a friend or loved one and add my own personal words of inspiration and anything else that you want. $24.50 covers purchase, postage, tax and shipping. (Sorry for this plug; I’m told that I don’t do enough to market what many tell me is a wonderful read.) For a book description, see the
Getting to Ellen
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