writer, lawyer, human
Human Inspiration Works, LLC
January 2018 Vol 3
Inspired by the words and actions of Robert F. Kennedy
Speaking and Listening in the South
In a couple weeks, I will begin a speaking and listening road trip to several Southern states—Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee—and one Midwestern state, Indiana.
This stems from me
thinking about how lucky I have it, how easy it is for me—a white, educated, relatively financially secure woman who happens to be transgender and living in the very LGBTQI-friendly Twin Cities—compared to LGBTQI people in other parts of Minnesota, the Midwest, and our country. I certainly don't feel as if I've done enough to support those who live in more conservative areas and with the expanding platform I enjoy, I haven’t publicly spoken out about inequity or offered words of support as much as I could.
So, I arrived at a novel idea: I would take a take a 1300+ mile road trip to a conservative part of the United States to speak on what it means to be transgender and "other." I also want to listen as I make my way—we group and label Southerners here in the upper Midwest—and I’m sure that much of what we believe about them is wrong.
My itinerary includes speaking at several LGBTQI-events in Florida and meeting with the diversity committee of the Birmingham, Alabama Bar Association. I’ll also present at Ole Miss Law School, Vanderbilt Law School, and McKinney Law School in Indianapolis.
We have painful divisions in our country around one’s LGBTQI status, and about race, religion and one’s country of origin, all with messages that some are unworthy of things (marriage, service in the military, public facility or employment access or simply just living among us) that others take for granted. These divisions extend to everyone who is “other” for whatever reason humans group and label humans.
As I do this work, I will humbly seek to offer something that’s desperately in short supply these days:
hope for a way to make things better.
I’ll be blogging as I take my trip, so if you want, follow along via my
. Wish me luck and new friends!
Remember, I care about you!
PS: In a weird coincidence, see this
piece about David Letterman and his new show
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.
At the end of his first show—featuring Barack Obama—Letterman says,
“Mr. President, this is what I am struggling with at this point in my life. I have been nothing but lucky.” I wrote about being “lucky” above before I ever read about Letterman’s very same struggle of conscience. Hmm. Perhaps even more proof that I need to take this trip.
An Incredible Story About Showing Up
Many will remember the pitch from my Gray Area Thinking
training that we’re all hard-wired for empathy and that “99 percent” of humans are good and want to do the right thing. I go on to say that most are also afraid—they either don’t know what the right thing is or fear doing it because of concern about unknown consequences. Thus, many don’t engage at all despite their good hearts.
The Dr. Billy Earl Dade Middle School, located in a low-income Dallas neighborhood and with most students on free meal assistance, made plans to host a “Breakfast with Dads” event to foster greater mentorship between boys and their fathers or father figures. When it became clear that some boys wouldn’t participate due to a lack of fathers or adult male family members, one of the event planners, Kristina Dove, put out a call on Facebook for 50 male volunteers to serve as stand-in father figures.
Within hours, Kristina received affirmative responses from nearly 150 men. “Wow,” she thought and figured that was that.
However, social media and a local newspaper picked up the appeal. Before Kristina knew it, she had a total of 240 men registering for the event.
That number then grew to more than 300. And then to more than 400.
When the day of the event arrived, nearly 600 men showed up at the school to be stand-in mentors for 150 boys.
As one observer, Stephanie Drenka, a Dallas photographer, wrote, “I will never forget witnessing the young students surrounded by supportive community members. There were so many volunteers, that at times I saw young men huddled in the center of 4-5 mentors. The look of awe—even disbelief—in students’ eyes as they made their way through the crowd of ‘Dads’ was astonishing.”
Imagine how special this made the boys feel!
The “Dads” were asked to bring a necktie to gift to the student; the group activity was to show the boys how to tie a Windsor knot. At the end of the event, some boys walked away with four or five neckties from their multiple mentors.
The takeaway: we all want to do the right thing and when shown what’s needed and how to do it, we often will show up with great delight. Our task as leaders is to light the pathway for others to follow. We can do that if we’re mindful, imaginative and persistent.
Way to go Dallas! You rock! Now, spread the word and light the path for others.
(Photo by Stephanie Drenka)
An African Immigrant Dies Rescuing Others
, “Mr. Trump, Meet a Hero You Maligned,” Nicholas Kristof writes in the
The New York Times
how 28-year-old Emmanuel Mensah, an immigrant from Ghana, entered a burning apartment building in Bronx, New York in late December to rescue several persons trapped by the fire.
Emmanuel, who was staying in the building and easily escaped the fire himself, returned to the building
to rescue people—all told, he brought four persons out of the flames. He then entered a fourth time and reached the fourth floor seeking to rescue yet another person. Unfortunately, neither that person or Emmanuel made it out of the building.
At the time of the fire, Emmanuel was just back from basic training as a soldier in the New York National Guard. He had been naturalized as a U.S. citizen in September 2017.
As reported by Kristof, the Army posthumously awarded Emmanuel the Soldier’s Medal, an award for non-combat heroism. New York State awarded him a Medal of Valor with the inscription, “His courageous and selfless act in the face of unimaginable conditions are consistent with the highest tradition of uniformed service.”
Please, share the story about Emmanuel, the African immigrant-turned-American soldier who gave his life for others, and in doing so, reflected the best possible values that any American could be expected to exemplify. Sharing about Emmanuel will help to counter some of the incredibly hateful grouping and labeling we’ve seen of late.
That’s the thing about grouping and labeling of whole peoples from a particular country or an entire continent: you miss the fact that almost all of “those” people are just like “us,” wanting simply a chance to work hard and succeed, American values we cherish.
Sometimes “those” people are real heroes too. Heroes who die for others. For Americans.
You can read more about this remarkable story
. (Photo credit National Guard Bureau)
Inclusivity Tip of the Month
Remembering the "Invisible" People in the Room
Last week, I traveled to Baltimore to present to the Maryland Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators. I was at the room early where I saw several facilities staff/servers setting up the meeting space. We were then joined by Ruth Fry, the Chapter president, who had arranged for my visit and Gray Area Thinking
As I placed pens and other items on tables for expected attendees, I watched Ruth unload several brand-new handsome jet-black backpacks (complete with the Md. ALA Chapter logo) from her carry box. She gave me one of those backpacks (nice!) and then Ruth handed out the remaining backpacks to several of the staff/servers. These were folks whom Ruth knew from prior Chapter meetings at the same location. I have to say the degree to which Ruth was welcoming impressed the heck out of me—she was friendly, knew the names of the staff/servers, and joked with them.
In other words, Ruth “saw” these folks, who often are the “invisible” people in any room. She treated them with respect and dignity and certainly made them feel as if they mattered—all inclusivity values that I try to teach wherever I go. It’s just that Ruth exemplified this before I even opened my mouth to train!
Seeing this reminded me of a regular breakfast meeting for my Minneapolis Rotary Club (yes, I’m a Rotarian) last year where leadership asked for everyone who has a role in the breakfasts—the servers, the bussers, and even the cooks—to assemble. All told, there were more than a dozen people at the front of the room.
A Club representative then handed each of these folks a certificate of appreciation and expressed the Club’s collective thanks for helping to make every breakfast go smoothly and professionally. It was a sight to behold, followed by the sincere applause of fifty or so Rotarians.
Thus, this month’s Inclusivity Tip is about acknowledging those who are often “invisible” at functions, meetings and luncheons or dinners. Many of us are so accustomed to being waited on that we take for granted those who are serving us. And too, it goes without saying that many of those serving us are often from marginalized communities.
The next time you have a meeting, please make a point of engaging the staff and thanking them for their service. If you meet at the same place every time with the same servers/staff assisting you, please go out of your way to make these folks know that they matter. The rippling from that could be quite significant—both for them and for you!
Odds and Ends
We start off 2018 with a video of someone who doesn’t pay attention to signs or red lights…
Not Darn Wonderful But:
I’m not one to take delight in the misery of others, but I dare you not to laugh at this
of a rental truck being crunched by a low-clearance bridge. Note also that the truck ran a red light, which might account for why the driver totally disregarded low-clearance warning signs. Obviously, the fact that cameras were installed to view the bridge demonstrates this wasn’t the first truck driver to make such a mistake.
This is Darn Wonderful:
a life-saving device to swimmers in trouble off the coast of Australia. Cool!
This month loyal
reader, Angela Bailey, reminds about a quote from Brene Brown: “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” So simple yet so profound. And sometimes so difficult to actually do.
Relevant to Transgender Humans:
about a transgender Wisconsin high school student’s $800K settlement with the Kenosha Unified School District over its requirement that the student wear a special identifying wristband and who had his bathroom breaks monitored by school personnel. In
, four Williamston, MI school board members who voted for a policy affirming the rights of transgender students are now the subject of a recall effort. Perhaps the folks in Williamston should drop a dime and call the folks in Kenosha.
In the category of “Can You Believe This is Today’s America?”
about Jorge Garcia being deported after living in the U.S. for 30 years (he was brought to this country at age 9 by his parents). Too old to qualify for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Jorge left a wife and two teenage children as he boarded a January 15th flight to Mexico City at the order of our government. For the record, Jorge had never been arrested and paid his taxes just like everyone else.
I. Am. Appalled.
Good Writing on Racism in Iowa—From an Iowan:
I filled in as a guest host on AM950 a couple weeks ago and had the chance to interview Art Cullen of the tiny
The Storm Lake Times
(with a circulation of 3,000) about his
titled, “Shocked,” and which called out racism in rural Iowa. Art is quite the character as well as quite the writer; indeed, his editorial writing garnered him and his team (the newspaper is for the most part a family business) a Pulitzer Prize last year. If we don’t at least talk about and label racism for what it actually is, how in the world will we ever be able to change things?
The number of “blessing bags” (plastic bags with toiletries, socks, water and energy bars) that 10-year-old Jahkil Jackson handed out to the homeless in 2017 via
Project I Am
, a nonprofit he founded (you read that correctly). Talk about idealism!
My 27-year-old daughter Kate, a writer like me, is a freelancer for
where she reviews books. (One of her reviews recently showed up on the front cover of a bestseller in the UK—sorry, I just had to brag!) She also has an entertainment-review website that’s fun and smart,
Snarky Yet Satisfying.
Her book pick for this month is
A List of Cages
by Robin Roe.
When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen
in five years
." This book was really heart-wrenching and this quote from the book sums it up perfectly, "Hate ricochets, but kindness does too.”
A Great Piece About Self-Funding for Catastrophic Medical Expenses:
See this incredibly informative
by Stephen Marche titled “Go Fund Yourself.” One of the big takeaways: there’s inequity even in the self-funding world—people who are better educated, able to write well, and tied to larger networks do better in crowdfunding than those who aren’t all of those things. Some of this falls along race/socioeconomic class lines.
One More Story about Racial Inequity in Cancer Deaths:
Here is another
about how Black Americans are more likely to die from cancer than whites.
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to blog more, so here is my first
of 2018 on “practical idealism” as a human value. (Another resolution is to gain more followers on my blog, so I would ask you to consider clicking on the “follow” button on the website—thanks!)
“Hidden Edges Radio” and now, “Ellie 2.0” Shows:
In addition to “Hidden Edges Radio” every Sunday, I’ve now launched another radio show on AM950 in the Twin Cities: “Ellie 2.0”—a weekly half hour a.m. drive time show about idealism—mine and that of others. Yep, we don’t use or say “idealist” or “idealism” nearly enough these days. I intend to change that! After all, if you don’t dream for a better country and society, how in the world can we make them happen? You can access the Ellie 2.0 podcasts
Continuing 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. 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:
I‘m starting of the year with three times the bookings compared to this time in 2017. This week has me training a Silicon Valley law firm; next week I’ll be leading a day-long retreat for a Boulder-based hands-on education company. After that is my trip to the South. On the horizon is speaking in New York City, San Francisco and Ottawa, Canada. I’m very lucky and intend to push my presence to places where a voice like mine isn’t often heard. (No pun intended given how much my masculine voice doesn’t match my feminine appearance or spirit…). You can check out my updated calendar of 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