writer, lawyer, human
Human Inspiration Works, LLC
Vol 5 No. 1 January 2020
Inspired by the words and actions of Robert F. Kennedy
Happy 2020! I hope that the year has started off well for you, notwithstanding some of the bumpiness on the larger political/world events stages.
As for me, I am good because I’m back to doing what I love (and maybe what I was born to do)—speaking and training on human inclusivity and compassion. After a five week (!!) hiatus, I’ve now done more than a half dozen events in January. Hooray!
One of those events was during a Sunday service at a Twin Cities church where I spoke about bridging what divides us. As I waited to speak, I heard that the liturgy was about how Jesus was considered “beloved”; in turn, the pastor—a very cool guy named Reverend Rick—did an exercise with children using a large mirror. As he held the mirror up to several children, he asked, “Mirror, mirror, who’s the most beloved of all?” It took a few tries before a young boy, maybe four years old, exclaimed, “Me!”
Seeing this touched my heart! So many of our young people feel as if they are anything but beloved—the messaging on so many platforms is that they’re unworthy and don’t matter. Reverend Rick’s exercise reminded everyone that we need to do better in telling younger humans how they are loved.
Just by coincidence, later that week, I spoke to nearly 100 educators re: how to welcome and support transgender and nonbinary kids and youth. Afterward, one of the teachers gave me a plastic bracelet with the words,
You are Enough, You are Loved, You are Not Alone.
She has been giving those bracelets to her students. Brilliant!!
Please, for every young person in your life, let them know how much they’re loved and how they do matter. And further, please write your words in ink and on paper—that way, the young human can keep going back to those words, time and time again. Forever.
“Beloved” is such a powerful word. So too is, “cherish.” Please use them in referring to other humans, especially younger ones. Our time here is so very short!
I care about you.
p.s.: I’ve enjoyed speaking at churches; if you’re in or within 50 miles of the Twin Cities, please consider inviting me to speak at your church. Thanks!
Kindness From the Backseat of an Uber
Some time ago, an Uber driver named Latonya Young picked up a passenger outside Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. When the passenger, Kevin Esch, asked Latonya about her day job, she reported that she was a hair stylist. She added that while she had started college to get a criminal justice degree with the hope of someday becoming a lawyer, school wasn’t possible at that moment because of an unpaid $700 school debt.
reported by CNN
, Latonya remembered telling Kevin, “Every time I got ready to pay the money (for the school debt), my kids needed something…OK, I’ll just wait.” In the course of the same conversation, Latonya, then 43 and a single mother, told Kevin she had to drop out of high school at 16 to raise her first child.
Unbeknownst to Latonya, her story touched Kevin. “There was something about Latonya that just…she resonate(d) with me,” he said.
Kevin decided he could do something to help Latonya—he secretly contacted Georgia State University where Latonya had been a student and arranged to pay off her student debt. That allowed her to go forward with registering for the new semester; eventually, she completed her courses with As and Bs and she recently graduated with an associate degree in criminal justice.
About Kevin’s kindness, Latonya reported,” Literally, I was blown away. A stranger has never done that—or anything like that—for me.”
Kevin and Latonya stayed in touch and became friends. Latonya said that her good grades were her way of showing Kevin that his kindness was worthwhile.
As for Kevin: “I could’ve bought new clothes or I could’ve helped someone out,” he said. “And what has come back to me has come back a hundredfold and I would do it 1,000 times over.”
This story is all about paying attention to another human and understanding that not everyone gets the same breaks in life. Sometimes, we need to intervene and create breaks for someone else. Way to go Kevin!
Inspiration and Persistence:
Coach Rob Mendez
Have you heard about Rob Mendez, a thirty-one-year-old football coach who is missing arms and legs?
I hadn’t known about Coach Mendez until recently, but as soon as I read even a little of his story, I knew that he would be highlighted in this newsletter.
Rob Mendez was born with Tetra-Amelia Syndrome, which is marked by the absence of limbs. Many babies with this condition die soon after birth, but despite his disability, Rob was an otherwise healthy baby. The impact on his parents was significant, however. His mother Josie refused to see Rob for two weeks after his birth; his father, Robert, Sr. resorted to alcohol until an incident caused him to sober up.
, you will see a happy young Rob learning to navigate the world by rolling on the floor and by using his mouth to hold objects to draw with. Eventually, adaptive technology would allow Rob to swim and ski. His positive spirit obviously pulled him along through life.
With parents and siblings who encouraged Rob to pursue life without inhibitions, he went forward trying new things. One day his sister tucked a PlayStation video controller under his chin; Rob learned how to manipulate the buttons by pressing his chin a certain way. This led to
Rob becoming fascinated with Madden, a popular football game, so much so that he finished second in a Madden tournament at Gilroy High School in San Jose.
Rob’s interest in football wasn’t just a hobby. In high school, he became the football team’s manager. After learning about winning game plans, he moved to coaching players; by his senior high school year, he was the varsity quarterback coach. Eventually, Coach Rob would work as an assistant coach at five different area high schools.
As you’ll see in the video (and please take the time to view), Coach Rob reflects that it was his high school’s football coach who took a chance to make him the team manager. Coach Rob said, “To include me, made me feel normal.”
Coach Rob is now the junior varsity coach at Prospect High in San Jose. He’s also a motivational speaker and artist—sometimes he does commissioned art work. A year ago, Coach Rob was conferred the Jimmy V Award at the ESPYS sports awards. Here’s a story about Coach Rob in
When you, or others around you, feel as if something is impossible to accomplish, please remember Coach Rob. It’s been a long time since I’ve come across someone so inspiring! And remember, it took humans getting past their fear of “Otherness” to allow Coach Rob’s specialness to shine. We all have it within us to show such openness and compassion!
Inclusivity Tip of the Month
Understanding the Difference between
Empathy and Compassion
As many of you know, I ground my work in compassion—that for others and for one’s self. However, at the most basic level, what is “compassion”? And how does it compare to “empathy.”
Let’s start with empathy, which is about experiencing the
feelings of another
. For example, if someone is mourning the loss of a spouse or a sibling, empathy puts the other person in the shoes of the person who has experienced the loss. It’s the ability to genuinely identify with the other person’s feelings of grief, loss, and despair.
Compassion, on the other hand, is empathy one (or several) step farther—compassion is about
. Thus, in the context of the above example, compassion would be exemplified by sending flowers to the person in mourning, or even better, going to that person’s house and offering a shoulder and an ear.
My signature training, Gray Area Thinking®, is centered on the idea of offering compassion to humans who are considered “Other” or “different” in our society. This also requires getting past our fear of “Other” and taking the risk of reaching out to another human (a form of action), which in turn will remind that all of us are attempting to survive the Human Condition—and then going forward to find common ground/familiarity with this human.
In contrast, my good friend, Stephanie Glaros, trains on “Mindful Empathy”, which is geared toward intuitively recognizing that others are different from “us” and understanding the need to put yourself in their shoes relative to what the other person may be experiencing. Mindful Empathy requires resisting judgment about the other person and listening to what they are saying (as opposed to feeling the need to say something in response). I highly recommend checking out Steph’s work at
(Note: Steph and I reciprocate as board members for separate nonprofits we’ve each created.)
I recommend that organizations internally talk about empathy and compassion and ask team members to share about instances where they’ve engaged in both. In a perfect world, folks are finding empathy and then bravely moving to compassion. That certainly is the goal!
Odds & Ends
We’re kicking off the new year with puppies—Golden Retriever pups to be precise. I also have a video of a chimp being reunited with its human foster parents. Just because. Finally, make sure you catch the bus driver who stops her bus to save a toddler…
for the Golden pups. And click
for Goldens jumping in the ocean. Just delightful!
Second Darn Wonderful:
Here’s the chimp
. The connection between humans and animals is barely understood, but this will give you some idea.
One More Wonderful:
of a Denver bus driver who rescued a baby in the middle of a busy city street. Yes, the driver’s a hero for sure; what I want to know is what happened to the drivers who “swerved” to miss the child—did they not stop too? (!!)
Bulk Orders of
Getting to Ellen
Amazon dropped the ball on 50 copies of my book—while the text is just fine, the page title margins aren’t as consistent as I want. Thus, these very slightly imperfect books will be discounted to $10 (plus tax, shipping) per copy, nearly half the regular price for an inscribed book. I’d like to do this on a bulk basis, so if you order five or more copies, I will give you the discount. Let me know at
Rosalie Fish, an Idealist Who Doesn’t Ask for Permission:
I recently came across Rosalie Fish, a teenage Native American track star who runs with a red handprint across her mouth to highlight the plight of murdered and missing Indigenous women. I highly suggest viewing
—yes, it’s 7 minutes but well worth it—to be reminded of what courage looks like. In a teenager!
First Korean-American Astronaut:
As many know, my daughters are Korean-born adoptees. As soon as I saw
, I forwarded it to my daughter Kate.
Florida Man Pays Off the Past Due Utility Bills of 36 Families:
This is a
wonderful Christmas-time story
; how different would the world be if each of us paid off the past due bill of just one family at some other time of year?
Paying Forward a McDonald’s Bill is Especially Poignant:
We never know when our kindness will have an especially significant impact. Read
Have You Seen This Video of Strangers Meeting in a Sidewalk Ball Pit?
You’ll need to get past the ad and
is a bit long, but the message about taking risk
with strangers is right up my alley. My thanks to Kari Jaeger for sending this along!
Finally, Something about Helping Out New Moms:
Who are often forgotten after the baby comes home. See
about showing up. Love it!
A MN-based Children’s Book:
My friend, Dana Sanders of Virginia MN, has written a wonderful children’s book,
The Hidden Treasure of the Sax-Zim Bog
, which is set along the St. Louis River in MN. Here’s a synopsis: “
In this children’s tale, a grandmother, her dog, and her two grandchildren set out on a hike one day and stumble into an adventure in search of a secret treasure.”
Check out the book
NPR Piece About How Raising the Minimum Wage Would Reduce the Suicide Rate:
The topic sentence says it all—see the
. How did we allow income inequality to become so hazardous to the health of humans and our country? BTW, January 31 will mark 30 years since my father ended his life.
Irish Teens Save Nigerian-born Classmate from Deportation:
show, if each of us really tried hard enough, we could change the life of another human. It’s all about ripples and rippling (hence the name of this newsletter…).
Not Good for Young Transgender Humans:
about how legislators in South Dakota want to criminalize (!!) giving hormone therapy to anyone younger than 18. Because it’s really good for transgender women to sound like dudes, with me as the case in point. Now it also looks like I need to go to South Dakota…
On the Other Hand, Here’s a Positive Piece About the Bible and Trans Humans:
warmed my heart.
A YouTube Makeup Star Comes Out as Trans Under Coercion:
about Nikkie de Jager.
The University of Wisconsin Just Screws Up:
reflects, in a homecoming video purporting to show the Univ. of Wisconsin’s spirit, there’s no person of color. Duh.
Some Good News About the World’s Progress:
As Nicholas Kristof
, we lose sight of the fact that there has been much progress in the world toward helping all humans combat disease, unemployment, and the other things that affect life expectancy. Stuff to remember.
The Twin Cities’ First African American Transgender Pastor:
meet Rev. Lawrence Richardson,
who has made history in his own way, on his own terms.
My 29-year-old daughter Kate, a writer like me, is a freelancer for
where she reviews books. She recently launched a brand-new book review website,
It’s All Booked
he regularly reviews books on her blog; check it out! Her book pick and summary for this month is
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
. Kate’s review: “
OK, so hold onto to your hats. Spy thriller written by a woman of color. I KNOW, right? Our heroine is Marie Mitchell, an intelligence officer in the FBI during the Cold war. As expected, even though she is young and brilliant and brave, she is consistently overlooked for missions and given menial desk jobs and paperwork. But when she is offered the opportunity to join a task force aiming to undermine Communist leader Thomas Sankara, she jumps at the chance. Over the next year, Marie must get close to Thomas and ultimately bring about his demise. Even though, secretly, Marie admires the risks and work that Thomas does for his country. I should just shut up now while you go buy this book. SO. GOOD.
“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. I highly recommend my January 13th show where I talk about Rosalie Fish (see above) and where I interview idealist Jessica Greb about her Racine, WI nonprofit, Orchestrating Good—which shares about the good deeds of others. Click
to listen to that show.
Writings by Me:
Here is my January 16th
about my recent Coe College reunion gone wrong…
Writings about Me:
I returned to Hastings MN to do Gray Area Thinking®;
here’s a story
about the training in the local on-line newspaper.
Stuff that I’m Reading:
another great piece
by Nicholas Kristof of the NYT re: his new book (along with his wife Sheryl WuDuun),
and the idea that we Americans are too quick to judge that others less fortunate either didn’t work hard enough or have character flaws. I agree with Kristof that the idea of giving others “grace,” is a much better and more nuanced approach.
Please Follow Me on Twitter—The Goal is 1300 Followers:
Last year, I shot for 1000 Twitter followers but fell short—I made it to 901. This year, my goal is 1300 followers. Why? The larger my footprint, the better I can get out a message about compassion for others and for self. Currently, I have 916 followers, so would you please follow me? The Twitter handle is @elliekrug. Thanks!
Please Follow me On Instagram:
Would you please follow me on that as well? (I know, I sure ask a lot from you…) The Instagram handle is @elliejkrug. Make sure to include the “j”; otherwise you’ll start to follow a 23-year-old blonde Victoria Secret model—sadly, that would not be me!
Past and Upcoming Talks/Trainings and General Stuff:
February will have me traveling to Chicago to speak at Neal, Geber & Eisenberg; I’ll also spend a day and a half training Hiway Federal Credit Union in St. Paul. On the horizon is traveling to Carlsbad CA to speak on an American Bar Association panel re: LGBTQ humans. See my Upcoming Engagements
Want to Support My Work toward 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