writer, lawyer, human
Human Inspiration Works, LLC
March 2019 Vol 4 No. 3
Inspired by the words and actions of Robert F. Kennedy
Being Bravely Uncomfortable
Last week I gave a keynote to 900 folks at a large transportation industry conference in the Twin Cities. My topic, “Bridging Divides,” was about facing head-on the internal and external divides that keep us from valuing ourselves and others.
In a ballroom filled with mainly white-color men, I started the keynote by saying that I was going to make some people “uncomfortable.” After all, my talk was about thinking and acting differently and understanding that because we collectively make so many humans “Other,” there really is only “Us.” (Room doesn’t allow for me to further explain here; you’ll just have to go with it...)
The point is that often my work
make people feel uncomfortable; heck, sometimes (like with this keynote) even I’m uncomfortable because I risk some listeners checking out—particularly when I’m speaking to a large crowd.
Inherent in “uncomfortable” is an element of bravery—I think it takes a degree of personal courage to expose one’s self to new ideas and conclude that maybe, yes, I have not been as educated, open or compassionate as I should be.
I saw this same dynamic play out several months ago where an organizational leader bravely asked a team member if they’d ever felt uncomfortable in the workplace because of the team member’s LGBTQ status; in response, the LGBTQ-identifying team member bravely responded, “Yes.” That was followed by another team member fearlessly talking about why they sometimes felt marginalized as a human of black color. Throughout all of this, rather than make excuses, the organizational leader, a white-color human, courageously listened and took in this important new information.
Lastly, I also try to walk the walk of being bravely uncomfortable.
I was in an east coast city recently where, as I was checking out of the hotel, another guest (a woman in her mid-40s) was talking with a different front desk clerk. I noticed that the guest was crying. This made me uncomfortable because I didn’t know if I should do something in response. A couple minutes later, I saw the woman sitting by herself; I then went to her and asked, “Would you like someone to talk to?” When she answered, “No,” I said, “There are people in this world who love you.” That was all I said before leaving the hotel.
As I often state, none of this stuff is easy. Still, changing how we think or act won’t happen—or stick—unless we’re all bravely uncomfortable.
PS: Considering the horror in New Zealand, please reach out to your Muslim friends and work colleagues and let them know you care. Love indeed trumps hate.
Our Empathetic Hearts Show Up Yet Again
I often speak about how almost all humans (“99 percent”) have good empathetic hearts—it’s just that we’re often too busy or too afraid to exercise those hearts. Yet, when given a pathway to use our empathetic hearts, we show up in droves.
Which brings me to Michelle Crider, a thirty-three-year-old restaurant server in Fort Wayne, Indiana, who experienced bigotry by two customers. Michelle, who wears her hair short and sports various tattoos, identifies as lesbian; she’s also the parent to a seven-year-old-son.
On a recent day working at the Dash-In restaurant, Michelle served two men. She noticed that they were standoffish, but she provided her usual good service. After the men had left, she saw they did not leave a tip; instead, one had written, “I don’t tip f**gs”—a throwback phrase to a time when LGBTQ people were vilified for simply being themselves.
Following this, Michelle made a Facebook video where she shared that while the note hurt, the incident wouldn’t affect how she viewed humans in general. She noted how in 2019, people feel so free to marginalize others, believing they have a right to do so.
Still, Michelle isn’t bitter. “People have asked whether I could forgive the customer and my answer is ‘yes,’” Michelle reported to Yahoo Lifestyle. “No one is perfect. He did a crappy thing, but we still have humanity in common.”
Humans with empathic hearts have showed up for Michelle—her coworkers sent flowers and an affirming note. Moreover, a GoFundMe page was started with a goal of raising $1000 to give Michelle a “proper tip.” As of March 17, 474 people had donated $8870—now that’s a great tip!
I highly recommend watching Michelle’s
; she says more about human inclusivity in three minutes than I can teach in two hours. Keep watching until the end for a wonderful kicker too!
A Neighborhood Learns Sign Language
A story out of Newton, Massachusetts reminds that humans are willing to go to great lengths to be inclusive, even to the point of learning sign language to be able to communicate with someone who is deaf.
Two-year-old Samantha “Sam” Savitz is deaf; still, that doesn’t stop her from wanting to engage with others she meets. For a long time, neighbors could see that Sam became frustrated and sad when they couldn’t communicate with her.
As Steve Hartman with
CBS News noted
, “Unfortunately, this isn’t something that you can solve with a casserole.” Thus, Sam’s neighbors decided to do something highly unusual and incredibly inclusive: they hired an instructor to teach them sign language so that they can communicate with Sam.
The effect on both Sam and her neighbors has been profound.
“You should see her (Sam) when she comes in at the end of the class (where the neighbors learn sign language),” said a neighbor.
“The first thing she says to us is ‘friend,” another neighbor shared.
"I think your heart would melt just as mine did,” a third neighbor added.
This is a wonderful example of what happens when people pay attention, take risks, and act with compassion toward someone who is at a disadvantage. Wouldn’t it be something if we could simply replicate this model of learning and caring on a much wider scale?
Many thanks to
reader and Ellie Krug supporter Renee Grassi for forwarding this story!
Inclusivity Tip of the Month
How We Say Things: Skin Color and
In my trainings now, and beginning with this issue of
, I am using the phrases, “white-color man” or “black-color female” or “brown-color human” to describe folks of various skin colors when doing so is necessary for context.
This change in approach is informed by things Robin DiAngelo relates in her book,
. In particular, I intend to make clear that “white” is a color like every other color and that it’s not “base” or “normal” by which other colors –and humans—are measured. (Remember—white-color people used to call black-color folks “colored.”)
My thinking here, as reinforced by DiAngelo’s book, is that white-color humans are socialized to believe that they are in many ways superior to persons of other colors—and that socialization takes place without “us” (I'm white-color) even understanding it.
Thus, when a white-color person says, “I’m white” in relation to “persons of color,” they’re implicitly creating a “they’re different from me” paradigm. My goal is to avoid that as much as possible, to make a point about how white-color persons think, and to show that everyone is simply “human.” (Albeit, some colors of humans have far greater challenges than other colors.)
I’m sure that my doing this will generate some criticism. Still, I’m convinced that how we say things helps to shape how we think about things. And, of course, I view myself as a thought leader in the area of inclusivity, so there you have it.
Separately, as many know, I train on what it means to be transgender or gender nonconforming and how pronoun usage is critical to being welcoming to these folks. However, last year I was confronted over saying, “My
pronoun is…” versus simply stating “My pronoun is…” The rationale given to me was that using “preferred” implicitly asks the non-trans/non-gender nonconforming listener for permission to use one’s pronoun or it implies that the listener still has the right to use a pronoun they see as appropriate for the other person. (See a nice concise explanation about this
Thus, when asking about pronouns, simply say, “My pronoun is X. What is your pronoun?” Doing so avoids any risk of offending the other person.
I continue to learn as a trainer. I will readily admit to not having all the answers, but I’m always willing to learn. I hope that will be the case all the way until my last breath (hopefully, that’s not for a while still…)
Odds & Ends
Read through to the end of
to see that
has received an award from Constant Contact because this newsletter is so engaging. Nice!
Watch this wonderful
of a Virgin Galactic flight to the dividing line between Earth’s atmosphere and space. Incredible.
Second Darn Wonderful:
Here’s an orangutan who
to a visitor’s magic trick. I firmly believe that humans aren’t the only living things with consciousness and all that goes with it. (See this recent
The Atlantic magazine piece
on that very subject.)
Walmart LGBTQ-Positive Ad:
Yes, you read that right. See this
that Walmart has aired in some locations--and not without criticism.
Paying it Forward:
A half dozen EMTs dining at a Tom’s River, N.J. IHOP
got a surprise
when they learned that another customer had secretly paid their bill. That customer left a note saying in part, “Thank you for all you do!” It was signed, “Recovering addict.”
Compassion in the Face of Aviation Tragedy:
Following a recent cargo jet crash that killed, among others, a Mesa Airlines pilot who was catching a ride, United Airlines (Mesa Airlines is a subsidiary) went out of its way to treat the pilot’s widow with dignity and compassion. Read the touching story
A Waitress Exercises Gray Area Thinking
Jordan Cooper, a waitress at a Paducah, KY Olive Garden, paid attention to how a young child acted with the man and woman she was with at the restaurant; she also noticed that the 20-month-old child appeared to have been “beaten in the face.” Using imagination, she obtained a photograph of the man after he appeared to be force-feeding bread sticks to the child; she also obtained a photo of the couple’s license plate after they left the restaurant in a hurry, having realized that Jordan was paying attention to the child. Later, both adults would be arrested for aggravated child abuse as a result of Jordan’s actions. Sometimes, this is what it takes to protect humans who lack voices of their own. See the story
Queueing for a Stranger:
about what happened when a man struggling with his sexuality called a LGBTQ bookstore and spoke of wanting to engage in self-harm. Overhearing the store manager doing his best to keep the man safe, store customers formed a line to take turns talking to the man until he felt better. Remember what I say about 99% of us having good empathetic hearts…
A Disability Rights Champion Passes:
Michele Cohen, Cub reporter for
alerted me to the passing of Carrie Ann Lucas, an advocate for persons with disabilities, who herself suffered from a rare form of muscular dystrophy. (See NYT obituary
.) Carrie, who used a power wheelchair and a ventilator, had low vision and impaired hearing, and relied on a feeding tube, helped change Colorado law to make it possible for persons with disabilities to adopt; in turn, she and her partner adopted four children, all with disabilities. She was also the lead plaintiff in a successful 1999 lawsuit to force Kmart to change store layouts to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Later, she attended and graduated (at age 35) from the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver. So much in a short life, despite such challenges.
I’ve now finished Robin DiAngelo’s book,
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
; I cannot recommend it enough—it taught me several things and reinforced other things I already knew. On top of that, I recommend this
about “whitesplaining”—about how white-color humans react when black or brown-color humans talk about what it’s like to be marginalized. All of this demonstrates that there’s just so much work to do.
Transgender-affirming Books for Young Humans:
Julian is a Mermaid,
about a transgender girl, is a winner of the 2019 Stonewall Book Award;
, a fairy tale with a transgender lead character, has raised $22,000 of a $27K crowdfunding goal. Both look like wonderful books for young humans.
Not Good for Transgender Humans Who Want to Serve:
As you may have seen, the
ban on transgender persons serving
in the U.S. military is now in effect. I can’t even think about this without my heart hurting terribly.
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
Small Country: A Novel
by Gaȅl Faye. "Originally published in French, this book is on the smaller side but definitely packs an emotional punch. Ten-year-old Gaby lives in Burundi with his French father and Rwandan mother. This coming-of-age story chronicles Gaby's life during a period of political upheaval and violence. This one sticks with you. Trust me."
“Ellie 2.0 Radio” Shows:
My 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 show just this Monday, March 18, features Dr. Kurt Nelson, an industrial behavioral psychologist, who talked about what makes for someone to become an idealist. Check out the list of the show’s 60+ podcasts
Stuff Worth Reading (assuming you think like ellie…):
Emma Green has penned a fascinating summary of a new study of how Americans interact with each other. Her piece,
“These Are the Americans Who Live in a Bubble,”
, highlights study results showing that just under a quarter (25%) of Americans say they seldom or never interact with someone of a different political party. Moreover, “(r)oughly one out of five survey respondents reported that they seldom or never encountered people who don’t share their religion, and a similar proportion said the same for race.” Please consider the survey’s not-so-great implications for our pluralistic democracy.
Additionally, here’s a March 16 NYT piece prompted by New Zealand,
“Our Brother, Our Executioner,”
by Omer Aziz. He writes that “Racism begins with ideas; it ends with violence.”
I’m thrilled to share that
Minnesota Women’s Press
has asked me to be a regular contributor! My first piece,
appeared in MWP’s March issue. Also, my “Skirting the Issues” column in the February issue of
and is about how the LGBTQ landscape has changed compared to the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Someone Else’s Writing:
Here is an
from the Iowa City-based
titled, “’The Iowa Lawyer’: Five Female Attorneys from Iowa Who Made History.” I’m incredibly humbled to be included on a list with such other esteemed women. Maybe it’s proof that my work to change the world is possibly hitting the mark.
Please Follow Me on Twitter—The Goal is 1000 Followers:
This year I have a goal of doubling my Twitter followers (from 502 on Jan. 1 to currently 558). Would you please follow me @elliekrug? Thanks!
Past and Upcoming Talks/Trainings and General Stuff:
So far this year, I’ve been in LA, Raleigh, Richmond, and Dodgeville WI to speak, train and consult. In early April, I’ll spend a day speaking at Harvard Law School (with an extra day built in to see old friends). Other work on the horizon has me speaking at a conference on at-risk children, youth and families in Dillon CO in early May. See my Upcoming Engagements
Public Gray Area Thinking
On this past Saturday, I conducted my second public Gray Area Thinking
at Open Book in Minneapolis—it was a wonderful audience of 31 who genuinely seemed engaged. Thank you for attending!
Constant Contact Award—My Thanks to You:
The platform for this newsletter, Constant Contact, recently notified me that we’ve become an “All Star” for how engaged readership is with
Only 10% of CC platform users get this “award.” I thought you’d like to know; really, I can only provide content—it’s up to you, dear gentle readers, to open and click. So, thank you!
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