writer, lawyer, human
Human Inspiration Works, LLC
Vol 4 No. 11 November 2019
Inspired by the words and actions of Robert F. Kennedy
It’s been a heck of a three months—I’ve crisscrossed America several times to train, give keynotes, and do a bit of consulting. Twice I’ve been at Los Angeles’s LAX airport so early that security had not yet opened. Several times I’ve gotten home close to midnight after a day of speaking.
Whew! Soon, though, things will slow down, which is good. I’ll be able to resume writing on Book 2.
Please let me share about last week, where I gave a “Transgender 101” talk in Hastings, MN, a city of 22,000 about 30 miles southwest of the Twin Cities. My talk there wasn’t random; in the late spring of 2018, the Hastings City Council and School Board issued a joint proclamation declaring that Hastings would be welcoming to all humans regardless of skin color, country of birth, LGBTQ status or any of the other things we use to make people “Other.” Very progressive, if you ask me!
However, several weeks later, six churches and one religious-based academy issued a letter stating that while they were in favor of the proclamation, they objected to transgender humans being included. The rationale: they feared that transgender humans would negatively affect children in the community. As soon as I saw that letter, I made a determined effort to speak in Hastings.
My talk last week was made possible by the local YMCA and Thrive in Hastings, a group dedicated to making the city more welcoming. On a cold Tuesday night, 140 people sat in a middle school theater to hear about what it means to be transgender, and most importantly, for me to share that just like everyone else in the room, I’m simply attempting to survive the Human Condition.
There were many folks from the religious organizations that issued the letter. Despite apprehensions on all sides, everyone was polite and respectful in listening and questioning—in fact, we went a half-hour beyond the scheduled end time. Later, I heard that my approach—not being angry or yelling—was disarming and allowed people to feel more comfortable. Of course, I wouldn’t yell or shame. It’s not my way; rather, my goal is to always remind that we’re all in this together, just with different challenges.
I share about this night to give you some
. I firmly believe that all of us care for each other—it’s just that we’re afraid to take risks and instead, we retreat to what’s familiar. However, with the right mix of humor, gentle prodding and compassion, most are willing to show up. And when we do, wonderful things can happen. As they did in Hastings!
Sorry for this long editorial but I thought that in this time of giving thanks, it would be important to share about an instance in which I was so very thankful and grateful for humans being kind to each other. Have a great Thanksgiving! Remember, I care about all of you.
Strangers Pitch In at an Alabama Waffle House
A scheduling mistake at a Birmingham, AL Waffle House left it with just one employee on hand to handle the evening bar rush. That’s when the Waffle House team member, “Ben”, learned that sometimes, people are willing to pitch in under the most unusual circumstances.
As recounted in this
story in AL.com
, as it became clear that Ben was overwhelmed with way too many customers, a man in a “blue shirt” stood up and asked Ben for an apron. He then went to work bussing tables and doing the dishes. As one customer put it, the man in the blue shirt “saw this other person (Ben) in a bad spot and just wanted to jump in.”
However, the help didn’t stop there. You’ll see in the
story photos of several other customers who helped out, including a woman in an obvious evening dress and heels delivering orders to customers. A customer who observed the whole thing said, “It was one of the most wild instances of really, really cool people just coming together.”
Once again, humans demonstrate that when they allow their empathetic hearts to act, we show up in multiple numbers helping someone else. Quite wonderful!
Eviction Epidemic in Linn Co. IA
Many readers know that I consider Cedar Rapids, Iowa (located in Linn County) home; for me, a white-color person with higher education and means, it was a wonderful place to grow up and then later, to raise my two daughters. “CR” will always hold a special place in my heart.
Thus, it was with great pain that I
an “eviction epidemic” occurring in the greater Cedar Rapids metropolitan area—so much so that on a per capita basis, Linn County eviction rates put the county among the top 100 eviction rates in the entire country. (!!) I would never have imagined that and the statistic underscores how struggling segments of any community’s population are often “invisible.”
study by Willis Dady Homeless Services and Linn County
(the “Dady Study”) makes clear, evictions impact those with the least resources in a variety of ways, especially when children are involved. Indeed, the Cedar Rapids Community School District has seen homelessness among its students increase by 35 percent from 2011 to 2018. The trauma from such chaos will stick with those children throughout their lives.
I applaud those in Linn County seeking to tackle this issue and want to reinforce the idea that everything is interconnected—housing instability begets or exacerbates other issues: domestic violence, childhood trauma, addictive behaviors, and acts of violence. As the Dady Study shows in bold terms, the community needs to think differently about how to help humans who live at the edge, often due to a variety of factors (skin color, country of birth, institutional/societal hurdles) over which they have little or no control.
For those in other communities, are you aware of the eviction rates in your town or city? Have you even considered how housing instability affects everyone in a family at risk of eviction?
If you’re interested, here’s an example of how Minneapolis volunteer lawyers are working to assist those at risk of eviction:
. The city recently pledged $650K to work to lessen the eviction rate:
It’s not that Minneapolis has the total solution but these stories reflect using imagination and rallying multiple resources to fight a problem that affects so many. In fact, the Dady Study cites the role that the legal sector can play in tackling the eviction crisis and urges action.
Positive change isn’t easy and often takes marshalling many on many fronts; most of all, it first requires us seeing each other as humans simply trying to survive the Human Condition. Not everyone gets an equal start; that's a reality of our America.
Inclusivity Tip of the Month
Native American Sensitivities re: "Tribes" and
My New Acronym, "GIP"
Those who have gone though my Gray Area Thinking® training know that I have referred to “tribes” and “tribalism” to describe how humans naturally desire to be affiliated with groups and how groups of humans behave toward other grouped humans. In using these phrases, I never really considered if the words would be troubling to anyone. Specifically, for me, a Caucasian woman growing up and functioning in a white-color world, I have some blind spots as it relates to what it means to be Native American, particularly as to how some words may have special meaning for those identifying as Native American. (Note: I have learned that some prefer “American Indian” and others, “Indigenous People.”)
Twice now, I have had Native American-identifying humans react very emotionally to my use of “tribes” and “tribalism.” As a trainer on human inclusivity, this has given me reason to reevaluate; no way do I want to harm someone if I can avoid it.
When the second Native American-identifying human asked me about this, my reply was, “I don’t know if there’s a better phrase to describe group behavior.” Her response: “Make up a word for it, Ellie.” I thought,
Hmmm. I can do that.
And I did.
I’ve decided that GIP—Group Identifying Persons—is the acronym that I will use from here on out. Yes, GIP is a bit clunky and for sure, I’ve got to get used to using it. However, if this is what it takes to avoid emotionally harming a group of humans who have been harmed greatly for hundreds of years, well, I’m going to do it. It's the least I can do.
On another note, of late I have been to multiple convenings where the organization involved has recognized that the gathering was occurring on lands that Indigenous people (as collectively defined) previously lived generations ago. This too, is important. As America begins to acknowledge how white-color people have colonized and impacted this land, it’s critical that we recognize how profoundly we have affected those who were here originally.
Finally, please note that November is Native American Heritage Month. I recommend thinking of how we can better recognize this community and the contributions they have made to our country. (For example, did you know that on a per capita basis, more Native Americans serve in the military than any other group?) Thank you!
Odds & Ends
For this month, I couldn’t resist many videos, including that of a dancing priest and someone playing fetch with a whale. Yep, different-but-cool stuff for sure!
of Father Ricardo Rivera cutting a rug at a Catholic high school in Florida. Now that took some real practice!
Transgender Day of Remembrance:
November 20th of every year is "Transgender Day of Remembrance" where we honor transgender humans who have been the victims of violence because of their gender status. I also always make a point to speak of the horrific degree to which transgender humans engage in self-violence (suicide) due to society and loved ones telling them they are unworthy. See this
for more--so far in 2019, 22 transgender persons have been murdered in the U.S., the vast majority of whom are trans women of color.
Once More I Learn from
My piece about the “The Hug Seen Around the World” in the October
(about how the brother of murder victim Brandt Jean hugged the police officer, Amber Guyger, convicted in Jean’s death at the time of her sentencing) generated a comment from a newsletter reader, “D,” who reminded me that all too often, African Americans have been called upon to forgive white-color humans for their transgressions. The story I cited had the brother clearly offering the hug on his own without prompting; yet, I agree with "D" that I should have mentioned how some segments of the black-color community were upset about the hug. By no means do I have the market cornered in this work and I so appreciate it when readers offer me other perspectives!
“God Bless You Darling”:
Doorbell cameras are increasingly picking up how humans treat each other; here’s a
of a sanitation worker helping a senior woman with her garbage bin. Human goodness in action!
Another Doorbell Act of Kindness
: Watch this
young trick or treater
share his candy. Selflessness in real time.
Calling for Interview Candidates
: I’m working with a Twin Cities marketing firm that has an ongoing contract with a state agency to message around the perils of opioid addiction. I am looking for several candidates who are (1) in recovery from opioid addiction and (2) identify as LGBTQ; the goal is to interview them about their recovery. If you know of anyone who you think would be interested in this, please forward them this newsletter and ask that they contact me at
Winning Design for the National Memorial and Museum to Honor Pulse Victims:
Last month I wrote about the competition to design a memorial and museum to honor the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting victims (49 deaths, 53 persons wounded) and to educate about efforts to foster equality in Florida and elsewhere. Well,
the winning design!
Israel Honors a Greek Woman Who Saved Jews:
about how Melpomeni Dina and her family protected Jews in Greece during the Nazi occupation. As the story relates, soon there will be no more living heroes like Melpomeni.
New Resource for Gender Variant Teens and Adolescents in the Twin Cities:
When I was in Hastings, an audience member told me about the
TIGERRS, a new support group
for younger gender variant humans. Much needed!
Wonderful NYT Piece re: Impact of a Parent’s Gender Transition:
story by Danielle Marian Smith
about her father’s gender transition pulled at my heart, with me always worrying about how I impacted my two daughters. Danielle provides wonderful writing and perspective!
Reinforcing That Those with Less Give More:
2010 NPR piece
and a very recent
story about how those on the lower end of the economic ladder give a greater percentage of their resources to charity than those at the top. I make this point with my Gray Area Thinking® training to reinforce how empathetic hearts are triggered by seeing other humans suffer.
Check Out this Great TV Ad:
British new car ad
about a lesbian love story—with the story underscoring that human authenticity won’t leave you alone until you listen.
Reader Ellie Vilendrer Shared about Her Daughters' United Nations Film Festival Submission:
reader with a cool name (Ellie) shared
this wonderful video
created by her younger daughters which won a slot in a United Nations film festival—the video is about respecting life and living things.
Kansas City Removes Dr. King’s Name from a Street
made me sad.
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
Please check it out! Unfortunately, Kate's been jammed with her day job and so, look here next month for her book pick! (Although, if you go to Kate's website, you'll see some reviews dated Nov. 4th.)
“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 recommend my November 4
show where my producer, Brett Johnson, interviews me about my idealism. I also recommend my November 18
interview of idealist Michael Rexford about his nonprofit aimed at suicide prevention. You can access the show’s 90+ podcasts
Writings About Me:
My story—and that of those who my gender transition affected—is detailed in part in a new book,
One Day: The Extraordinary Story of An Ordinary 24 Hours in America
by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Gene Weingarten. Note for the record: I was misquoted in using the word, “transsexual,” in the book. That’s not a phrase I would have used since it’s considered demeaning (the correct phrase is “transgender”).
Something Very Cool:
When I spoke before 3000 at a social services conference in Duluth in early October, in the audience was a “graphic recorder” Nelle Ricard. Here’s a
wonderful compilation of images
and words that she drew from my talk; so very cool!
Stuff Worth Reading (assuming you think like ellie…):
Here’s a great piece in the November 2019 issue of
by Rachel Monroe about some of the untold downsides of crowdfunding. (Although, I continue to believe in the power of creating a pathway for us to exercise our empathetic hearts.)
Please Follow Me on Twitter—The Goal is 1000 Followers:
This year I have a goal of doubling (to 1000) the number of people following me on Twitter (my follower number was 502 on Jan. 1; currently it’s at 857). Would you please follow me on Twitter @elliekrug—with your help, I just might make my goal? Thanks!
And Now I’m On Instagram:
I’ve finally joined the 21
century and added Instagram to my social media repertoire. 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!
Shout Out to Do Pro Bono Trainings in the TC and Beyond:
I’m about to enter a big lull and while that will help me work on Book 2,
, from a training perspective, it’s not good—I need to regularly stand in front of audiences in order to stay sharp. Thus, I’m willing to do pro bono (and also low bono—very low fee) trainings between now and the end of January for nonprofits and churches within 100 miles of downtown Minneapolis. Reach out if you’d like to discuss this. Otherwise, see my Upcoming Engagements
Want to Support My Work Toward Fostering Greater Compassion and Human Inclusivity?
The October 17 Open House to support Human Ripple Works, Inc. (which helps support my work in greater MN) attracted 25 people and raised nearly $1000. My thanks to those who attended and particularly to those who donated! 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 locales.) 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