writer, lawyer, human
Human Inspiration Works, LLC
April 2018 Vol 3
Inspired by the words and actions of Robert F. Kennedy
Unified Under "Compassion"
readers have taken my Gray Area Thinking® training and participated in “The Identity Game” where audience members stand by signs representing various personal self-identities, such as “Race” “Education” “Gender” and “Not Good Enough/Failure.”
Until recently, I’ve used only sixteen signs and a standard set of prompts that I never varied. However, within the last month, I’ve added three new signs—“Family” “Veteran” and “Compassion”—along with several new prompts including, “The Identity that I want to be known for.”
With these additions, I’m finding that game participants are flocking to “Family” for several of my standard prompts, particularly “The Identity that I struggle with the most on a day to day basis.”
Most remarkable (and quite unexpected) has been reactions to “The Identity that I want to be known for”: incredibly, upwards of 95% of participants make a bee-line to stand under “Compassion.” Frankly, it’s been a sight to behold with most of the room signifying that of all the identities in the room (which include such pride points as “Race” “Vocation” “Education” and the like), it is
for which people want to be known.
Stop for a moment and think about this:
—an identity and value all wrapped up in one—is what’s unifying people in the room. Red and blue people. Young and senior-ish people. Men and women. You name it, nearly everyone in the room wants to stand under that one sign.
And isn’t that the answer for our divided America? If we can agree on wanting to be known as compassionate humans, isn’t that the pathway through all the “crap” that we presently face?
I certainly think so. I said as much to the 60+ people who participated in The Identity Game when I presented to the New Jersey Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators and where nearly everyone stood under “Compassion.” In return, I received a round of applause that caused my heart to swell.
get past all that divides us. I just know it. Along with recognizing our commonalities, we need to untether our empathetic hearts so that compassion shows up day after day, time after time, regardless of how we group and label humans.
You can do that! I can too.
Making Sense of Our Complicated World:
Hope or the Absence of
I have two compelling stories but only enough newsletter space for one, so I’m going to give short snippets of each under the banner of finding a critical commonality in our very complicated world.
The first story is about how things for transgender humans are changing for the better at light speed—even when some governmental and religious actors seek to do otherwise. A
by Jeanne Talbot about her now sixteen-year-old-daughter Nicole (who was assigned a male gender identity at birth) details how Massachusetts middle school administrators worked hard to make Nicole’s gender transitioning a positive experience. This included a principal who took pains to educate teachers, administrators and students on the importance of using female pronouns and Nicole’s female name. As Mom reports, the principal later said, “Nicole, you are my greatest teacher.” Recently, Nicole sang the national anthem at a Boston Bruins game as part of the NFL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative.
Still, in November, Massachusetts voters will consider a
on whether to repeal that state’s law that specifically protects transgender people in their right to use public facilities. (A similar measure in Anchorage, Alaska
in early April.)
I want to highlight is about Yeweinishet “Weini” Mesfin, a sixty-one-year-old night janitor at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, who had lived out of her Honda Civic for the last seven years of her life. Weini was born to a wealthy Eritrean family and grew up in Ethiopia; she came to the U.S. in 1982 to join a then-boyfriend. After losing her job at a bank and facing mounting medical bills and other debt, she took the job at Disney.
Weini’s homelessness became known to several coworkers, who offered Weini financial assistance which she refused. A homeless services agency also reached out to Weini but she said she didn’t need any help. Family members on the U.S. east coast had no idea about Weini’s plight.
When Weini didn’t show to work in November 2016, co-workers searched for her car and posted “missing person” flyers in the area. Weini was eventually found dead in her car of an apparent heart condition 20 days after she went missing. The car was parked at a health club where Weini showered each day.
As I think about these two stories, the common thread is
For young Nicole, she’s living in a world where others affirm her right to live authentically and where she and family members have great hope that her future will be very bright. This is proof of how hope can motivate and lift.
For Weini, I assume the absence of hope—the absolute loss of believing that things will ever get better—contributed to her situation and probably fed into a variety of mental health problems. In Weini’s case, losing hope was like a knife to the heart.
We must remember the power of hope, positive or negative. Let us dedicate ourselves to spreading hope throughout the world—the lives of so many people depend on it.
100+500=A Community Vigil for “Other”
An April 12
details how a community came together to support the eastern Tennessee families of nearly 100 meat packing company workers who were detained for being in the U.S. illegally in a government-led workplace raid. The day after the raid, more than 500 kids—5 percent of the school district’s students—failed to show up for school.
Some of the students who didn’t show directly lost parents in the incident; others didn’t come to school because, “families are afraid that if their kids go to school and they go to work that maybe they won’t see each other again,” said Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Refugee & Immigrant Rights Coalition.
On the Saturday after the raid, 100 local educators were trained on how to help students cope with the trauma of losing one or both parents. As part of that training, the educators were asked to write how they felt; among the responses was “I cried Thursday night, wondering which of my students were without parents."
That following Monday, a community vigil took place in a Morristown, TN elementary school gymnasium. As the accompanying photograph shows, the gym was overflowing—with mainly majority-race persons in attendance. A sign hanging from a basketball hoop was in part English, part Spanish, “Morristown is hogar” (“Morristown is home”).
Children of affected families addressed the audience. One child, who wrote about his uncle, said, “Thank you for hearing me.”
This story is about what I call “the Real America”—persons who value all humans regardless of grouping and labeling. I believe the Real America is so very, very large; way more Americans embrace inclusivity and don’t want to exclude (or throw out) people who are “other.” These Americans far exceed the number of folks who favor exclusion. Moreover, we can’t ignore that this massive showing of compassion for “other” occurred in rural Tennessee, a red state.
We need to continue to show up with compassion for people who lack voices of their own. It is that simple—if only we can pay attention. My heart is broken for the children and families of those detained.
Inclusivity Tip of the Month
Tattoos and Piercings: Artful Inclusivity
I recently consulted for a client (a hospital system) that proudly reported it had eliminated its “No Tattoos” rule as a way of promoting diversity and inclusivity. I subsequently investigated the numbers; by some estimates, 20 percent of adults are tattooed, and that number increases to 38 percent for Millennials. Another 23 percent of Millennials have body piercings. However, piercings aren’t simply restricted to young people; just last week I sat with a book club that had read my memoir and noticed that an older (late fifties) woman had a nose ring. Cool!
I know that many consider tattoos and piercings workplace landmines—there’s the fear of offending customers in face-to-face service settings or other team members, along with the fear of “where will it end?” Yep, we’re just so afraid of so many things, aren’t we?
I advocate embracing tattoos and piercings rather than running from them. From a practical standpoint, the workforce is dwindling, so an across-the-board rule against tattoos/piercings will ultimately backfire and qualified people with public personal art will simply go to a more accepting employer. Additionally, provided the ink or artwork isn’t marginalizing (e.g. Nazi or white supremacy symbolism, LGBTQ hate mongering), it really does represent a form of diversity. Recognizing the value of one’s need to be authentic through ink or piercings promotes inclusivity by “seeing” a human for who they “are,” something that’s incredibly important in every organization.
My thought is to fashion a tattoo/piercing policy with an open mind that’s totally inclusive. Yes, you need to set some guidelines against marginalization (see above) but keep the focus on welcoming folks who are inked or pierced. What’s more, it’s a great ice-breaker for office meetings: “Who in the room has a tattoo or piercing?” I guarantee people will be surprised by the sheer number and individuals who raise their hands! (For example, did you know that even moi has a tattoo?)
For some nice legal commentary about tattoos/piercings, see this
blog by DLA Piper
. Here’s also a very informative and reasoned
on the subject.
Odds and Ends
Even as we Minnesotans still face snow and below freezing temps, my out-of-state trainings/speaking remind me that yes, it’s spring in much of the U.S. Here is this month’s Odds & Ends with…
Okay, last month I showed puppies and now, this month, see this
of Albus the golden retriever welcoming his human, Arthur—the animal’s sounds of affection are near human.
Second Darn Wonderful:
Check out this
that “hears” the words you say to yourself (a process known as “subvocalization); the future is coming dear readers!
One More Wonderful (which probably should be a featured story but no space in
pic and story
of a single mom of 5 graduating from law school; Ieshia Champ’s story is one of grit and resiliency—in 2009 she didn’t even have her GED yet. It’s incredible what we humans can do with the right support and self-confidence.
Atoning for a Mistake:
Please take a moment to read this
Minneapolis Star Tribune story
about Jon Markle, who was ordered to tell his story in public 100 times following a drunken mistake to drive on weak ice with his family in the vehicle; a plunge through the ice resulted in drowning his eight-month-old daughter. My heart goes out to all involved.
Oprah and the new Memorial for Peace and Justice:
I’ve written several times about the soon-to-open (April 26) National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama that teaches about America’s history of lynching blacks to marginalize and foster Jim Crow. (4000+ lynchings occurred in 805 U.S. counties.) Here is Oprah’s recent
of the visionary for the memorial, Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. Powerful stuff.
Eyebrows as Evolutionary Empathy Tools:
It turns out that our eyebrows and foreheads may have evolved to provide us with a quick ability to express empathy—suggesting that those who were empathetic were the ones who survived to evolve. Read more
Have you seen
, which is about two teen boys falling in love, is special because everything is so
I highly recommend it! Bring tissues.
My 28-year-old daughter Kate, a writer like me, is a freelancer for
where she reviews books. She also has an entertainment-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
The Saint of Wolves and Butchers
by Alex Grecian:
Travis Roan makes his living hunting evil people in the world. Roan is sent to rural, small-town Kansas after a Holocaust survivor reports a sighting of a Nazi doctor living in her town. But unraveling the close-knit network around Rudy Goodman, specifically designed to protect him will be difficult. To do this, Roan must team up with local African American state trooper, Skottie Foster."
Relevant to Transgender Humans:
(taking place on April 16) will allow transgender woman to compete in the “female” category of racers. Yep, more progress. Thank you!
The number of humans that I presented to either live or via WebEx/webcasts in the month of March.
The number of bookings for Human Inspiration Works, LLC trainings or Ellie Krug talks between now and the end of June.
“Hidden Edges Radio” and “Ellie 2.0” Shows:
I highly recommend listening to the podcast of my
April 8 interview
with Don Samuels, a former three-term City of Minneapolis City Council Member and now Minneapolis School Board member—Don’s insights into how slavery shaped today’s black family is must-hearing. Also, the April 9 Ellie 2.0 show highlighted Christopher “Tripp” Zanetis, whom many believed had the remarkable combination of smarts, charisma, and drive to become America’s “first gay President.” Sadly, we lost Tripp at age 38 (in addition to being a firefighter and lawyer, Tripp was also an Air Force Reserve helicopter pilot) last month in a helicopter crash in Iraq that also took the lives of six other service members. You can access the Ellie 2.0 podcasts
is about how the color of our skin affects how our words are received. My journey as a trainer/speaker continues to reveal so many “truths” about how humans treat each other. I am so lucky.
April is Autism Awareness Month:
Please value all humans, regardless of their challenges. All too often we are way too quick to judge.
Continuing Shout-out for Interesting Guest Leads:
Hidden Edges Radio focuses on how we’re all trying to survive the Human Condition. I like to bring in guests who have shown personal grit and resiliency. If you know of people with stories along these lines, 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:
Next week, I’ll be in Monterrey, California (one of my favorite places in the world) to train at a law firm retreat. In early May, I’ll be in Denver for two full days with a keynote and then training Colorado court system team members. After that, I’ll be in Norfolk to do a plenary for a national conference of municipal clerks and officers. You can check out the calendar of my upcoming engagements
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