I would first describe myself as an entirely unique human being not unlike the other 7 billion of us on this planet. Alike and unlike. Therein lies the brilliance and challenges of being human. It seems that our cultural, religious or gender identification many times overshadow our uniqueness and lays to waste our special gifts of individuality. I have always been mystified with how we get labeled and stereotyped into roles that may be completely foreign to one’s individuality. We all fall prey to stereotyping. We learn to form opinions unwittingly, simply by being born into a particular culture, influenced by media and/or circumstances that are beyond our control. We are all inundated with dehumanizing images, strong opinions, seemingly out-of-control social issues and changing demographics. There are many complex reasons that unkind and dehumanizing behaviors exist in our society. Yet prejudice is learned behavior with lethal consequences that are ripping into the fabric of justice. This makes a perfect set up for making oneself “right” and giving oneself, and/or one’s group, exclusionary privileges. We can find it very easy to just blame “them” or equally as damaging, let apathy reign and let it all be someone else’s problem. Nonetheless, do not “those people” have the same hopes and desires for themselves and those they love, as we do? We must individually and honestly examine our own biases and find our human connection to whomever we have labeled “Other.” The courage this requires comes easily when we realize that compassion and education are the keys to fairness and equality.
Diversity in our humanity is what makes us so beautiful, but it is a task, both individually and collectively, to get an accurate picture of people different from ourselves. There first has to be a willingness to explore different ideas, different perspectives and to encourage our youth to have a respectful curiosity of “difference.” I like to believe that HREC invites that willingness by providing services that are not only effective, but include elements of story-telling, music, art, movement and fun!
Human beings are social animals and we want to congregate and converse with one another. That is indeed the way we think together. I have always found magic in any conversation that is open-ended and respect is not only expected, but also understood. There is a great vast difference between debate and holding a space
within one’s mind and heart to really listen and give sway to learning. When fully present in a rich and fruitful conversation one listens carefully and gives regard to the offerings of information, ideas, understandings, insights and perspectives.
This is key as to why I choose to facilitate and teach in conversational styles. There is a magic that happens when people are gathered and they know their individual voice will be respected and welcomed. It is a time together that people are not afraid to ask important questions and speak to what matters most to them. There is always an invitation for us to risk, to listen, to venture out beyond our comfort zone and abandon our tightly held opinions. I am constantly surprised and humbled by the collective wisdom that comes forward. To solve any challenge or cooperative decision-making process we need the wisdom that is available when we talk together. In my work, I have been privileged to witness the transformative power of conversation with youth and adults. When we abandon our titles and labels at the door we gather with much in common. Then it becomes possible to commune-in-unity. Thrillingly, it seems our common humanity hangs out where all are welcomed. Very cool!
What I do as facilitator and educator:
- I am a facilitator of conversational processes to aid in community building and bridging across cultural and religious divides.
- I create curriculum for teaching and bringing awareness to the values of empathy, compassion, inclusion and kindness. (And I attempt to live those values).
- I am an educator on the topics of bullying prevention, and discriminatory historical events.
- I research art forms that focus on the causes, consequences and cure of inequitable social conditions in hopes of producing them in our community.
- I teach the importance of compassion, cultural competency and diversity education.
- I speak to audiences on a variety of topics related to the mission statement of HREC.
- I present at workshops and conferences on requested topics.
One teaches what one longs to understand, and that is certainly true of me. Compassion and education are the great needs of this world; they must be applied and accessible to every human being if we are to survive. Bryan Stevenson, an attorney who spends his life striving to bring more equality in our world has said, “The moral arc of the Universe bends towards justice.” I believe that to be true. I believe each of us have a responsibility to help one another be the best we can be, and that one-person can/does make a difference. Practicing compassion is no small matter but it is all that truly matters. Teaching compassion and empathy to youth is essential to this effort. The outcry for more compassion is critical to the peaceful merging of our humanity. Aristotle said it best; “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” HREC is all about both.
Thank you for your time and consideration,