Sunday

Why

Some people ask me why am I still working, full time, at 68 years of age.  Why?  Because I was raised with a work ethic that taught me to contribute to the greater good.  I saw my father work 3 jobs into his 60's, always thinking of his family and contributing to his community.  I saw my mom teach kindergarten for 37 years.  Always loving every child she had in class.  I was always taught to make a contribution to something and someone greater than me.  I was taught to try and create something of value that would last long past my life.  

I believe good caring leaders always think about generations after themselves.  I have never seen myself as a good business man.  I have always wanted to be a good man who wanted to leave a legacy.  I have always found my passion in education and human services.  I have been driven to make schools as human and caring as possible.  I have never thought of those that worked with me as employees.  I think of all those that work with me as family.  It has been a blessing to watch our family grow and see the beautiful service they all are giving to the world. 

My clear vision for the past 20 years has been to have every K-12 school be a fully integrated Social Emotional Learning and academic environment.  At 68 years of age and 47 years as a professional educator, I am aware I may not see my dream as a reality so I take solace in every day of progress I can contribute to building.  I am inspired every day I work with fellow educators.  Their passion, love, and commitment ignites my spirit to continue to serve.  I am aware that every good we do in schools benefits multiple generations.  Our work is personal and it must be personal.  Our personal work is authentic, transparent, vulnerable, and full of integrity.

We must create schools where everyone can do their best.  Whatever unique form of their best might be.

Creating success for all while being authentic, transparent and vulnerable demands integrity.  Integrity is built on trust.

"Trust is the stacking and layering of small moments and reciprocal vulnerability over time." - Brene Brown

"Trust and vulnerability grow together and to betray one, is to destroy both." - Brene Brown

I am aware that all of our work is dependent upon and built upon trusting relationships.  It is only with trusting relationships that we can do the heavy lifting of leaving a legacy of Social Emotional Learning for many generations.

Courage

"Our shared humanity is strong and vast enough to encompass our beautiful diversity. 
Think of yourself as a bridge extending forward so that others might walk across." 
- Jacqueline Novogratz

It takes courage to build bridges. When we build bridges, we encourage others to believe in themselves. To encourage someone is a great gift. It is the gift that says "I believe in you."

"Courage is not the absence of fear. 
Courage is the ability to look fear in the face and continue to walk forward."  
- Jacqueline Novogratz

We must find the courage to speak our truth. The courage to speak our truth is born in our core values, our authenticity, our transparency, and our integrity.

Change requires courage.

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror'. 
I can take the next thing that comes along. 

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
- Eleanor Roosevelt


Listen

"When we dare to meet another as a friend, willing to hear painful and uncomfortable truths, we can discover the parts of our identities that overlap. We can acknowledge the other person's- and our own- yearning to be seen. True listening is more than an act of hearing another's words. 
It is the unspoken recognition of our shared humanity." - Jacqueline Novogratz

Now is the time for listening. Leaders, true leaders, must listen. Listen to the generations of pain, hatred, prejudice, and racism. We need leaders who will listen with empathy and compassion. Those who claim to be leaders because they are loud, vulgar, abusive, and can post, tweet, and comment faster than I can write, are not leaders.

Leaders are women and men who have been challenged, they have suffered, they have worked hard, they have been betrayed, disenfranchised, and persecuted. Leaders know failure, loss, and broken trust, and they still show up. They show up open minded and open hearted. Their character shines with integrity, compassion, empathy, understanding, perspective, respect for all, and a deep sense of responsibility.

They will listen to the broken hearts and bodies of those they serve because they too, have been broken. They will listen until everyone has a chance to speak.

Listening, in and of itself, is healing. 

"Listen… to change yourself, spark your moral imagination, soften your hardened edges, 
and open yourself to the world. When we fail to listen to those the world excludes, we lose the possibility of solving problems that matter most to all of us. 
But when we succeed at listening with all our attention and empathy, we have a chance to set others and ourselves free." - Jacqueline Novogratz


How do I put empathy for you into action? How can I be compassionate today?

"Moral imagination means to view other peoples problems as if they were your own, 
and to begin to discern how to tackle those problems." - Jacqueline Novogratz

"Moral imagination starts with empathy, but it does not content itself simply to feel another's pain. Empathy without action risks reinforcing the status quo." - Jacqueline Novogratz

I have made a lifetime of studying empathy and feeling that I am an empathetic person. I now move from empathy to compassion. My dear friend, Krista Leh, has taught me that compassion is empathy in action. The question that I work to answer each day is; "How do I put my empathy for you into action? How can I be compassionate today?" 

I can be compassionate by studying the truth from all perspectives, standing up for and speaking for justice and respect for everyone, making ethical and moral decisions, pointing out our common humanity, offering opportunities, and showing dignity and love for all.



Service to others

Our nation is dangerously divided. Inequality and prejudice poor from our streets and neighborhoods to our highest national offices. We are all part of "One nation under God".  For our nation to be "indivisible with liberty and justice for all", we must remember our shared humanity. We are each connected in the web of life. Ultimately, what we do to another, we do to ourselves. No one is free until everyone is free.

We must focus on individual and common dignity. We must make our lives a service to others. We are in need of caring, compassionate, courageous, and empathetic leaders. Leaders who believe they are here to serve. We need men and women of character. Character that was built over years of commitment to dreams that were bigger than themselves. Character that was built on ethics, morality, common decency and truth. Character and servant leadership are not some idealistic dream. 

We must be prepared to commit our lives to service. We will find the joy in helping others find their passion. Our joy will come in the good we have offered, the ideas that have created physical and emotional safety for all, in the lives which we have helped transform.

Our health and well-being will be present in the people we have loved, in the children we have helped grow, and in the communities we have improved.


We must be willing to listen to each other's story

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely 
rearranging their prejudices." 
- William James

We must be willing to listen to each other's story.  When we know each other's story, our prejudices dissipate.

Each of us has a unique story. Each of us has explored a different life journey.  There is great danger in only knowing and listening to a single story. 

Nature shows us that diversity always wins. Our strength is in community.  Our common unity is our only chance of survival.

It is time for a course correction.  We must find our North Star.

The North Star is our human values of love, compassion, empathy, and kindness.




All that we do now must be done in respect of nature and all life

There is a great evolutionary movement
This is such a powerful flow
There are those who are afraid
They will try to hold on to all that they have and all that they knew
They will be washed away
Nothing stops evolution

We must let go of our secure knowledge of what was
We must invest in the wisdom of inclusion and diversity
If we do not follow the wisdom of nature
We will come to an end

The time of greed is ending
The time of egotism is ending
The time of exclusion is ending

Build community
There is strength in diversity

All that we do now must be done in respect of nature and all life

- with thanks to the Hopi Elders



We can no longer resist change. Change is now enveloping all of us. We must flow with the change.

"The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking." – Albert Einstein

We need to reclaim our service mentality. We need to rebuild community. Greed and egotistical narcissism has created a sick environment and now a sick humanity.  We must reclaim our reasoning ability and listen to science. We need to embrace the behavior that saves lives. We need caring, compassion, kindness, empathy, and deep truthful connection. We need to rebuild trust.

We can no longer resist change. Change is now enveloping all of us. We must flow with the change. We must become "the bridge builders, the hand holders, the light bringers…" – L.R. Knost

We must build bridges of understanding. We must be willing to listen to different perspectives. In this pandemic, we cannot physically hold hands but we can hold each other's heart. When we hold each other's hearts, we know our fears and our joys. We can bring a light of hope. The smallest light dissipates darkness. We each need to bring our light and hope to a frightened world.

It is easy to resist with violence. The great peacemakers of all time have led the way out of darkness through love, acceptance, understanding, service, and healing.





Perseverance

Perseverance from the Latin per for very and severus for strict: "means to continue steadfastly", "one who sees through to the end", "one who doesn't yield." 

Perseverance is the ability and courage to continue our task and our journey through difficulty.

The story of being human is the story of perseverance. Our original migrations, our coming together in tribes, and our finding fire are all examples of perseverance.

Today we persevere by being still. We persevere by staying home and staying solitary. We persevere by listening to science rather than ego. We persevere by listening to facts rather than fear.

We have all had role models of perseverance. Mine have been my wife Sandra, my daughter Ashley, and Martin Luther King Jr., St. Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa.  

Who have been your role models of perseverance?

What can you and I do today to persevere?



We all have the tools to move through today's pandemic.

We have been here before. Our current pandemic is not new. Humanity has struggled with fear and disease; the plague, the flu of 1918. We have been challenged by hatred and narcissistic aggression; the Holocaust, genocide, slavery, and the destruction of all indigenous people.

We must return to the answers of history. We must return to humanity. The answers to today's pandemic are the answers of humanity at its best. Courage, generosity, integrity, truth, empathy, compassion, and love.

We have always overcome adversity. We have always overcome dictators and despots.  We have always overcome malignant narcissism.

We must stand with the spirits of all those who have come before us. We must stand with Jesus, Buddha, Saint Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Saint Mother Theresa.

We all have the tools to move through today's pandemic.

My tools are Faith, love, connection, trust, and truth. What are your tools? 




Act now with love

"Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely." - Clarissa Pinkola Estes

A beautiful compassionate piece of writing for our time.  Whatever action each of us can take to curb the downward spiral of disease, suffering, lies and arrogance, we must find the courage to take loving action now.  Loving action can be prayer, meditation, donation, kindness, giving blood, taking care of the needs of elderly and disenfranchised.  

We simply need to find the courage to let our love speak.

This is how we make change.  This is always how humans have made change.  We can not wait for anyone to come to our rescue.

This is our time.  
It is our turn.  
Step, show up, speak up.
Act now with love.

This is my guiding light

"I can see that in the midst of death, life persists, in the midst of untruth, truth persists, in the midst of darkness, light persists… God is life, truth, light. He is love. He is the supreme good." 
- Mahatma Gandhi

I have experienced moments of significant struggle during the past six weeks. The coronavirus has presented challenges for each of us. My nature is to help, educate, and build community. I and my colleagues are working very hard to support children, families, and schools. Most days, it does not feel like enough.

Science and philosophy teaches me that chaos will be followed by order. In my heart, deep in my heart, I know we will have peace and health again. I need to focus on peace and health and keep my mind free of fear and anger.

"That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power – which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe - forms my idea of God." – Albert Einstein 

I would add that my spiritual comfort is in an unconditional loving God. This is my guiding light.



Our desired outcome is always unity

"There is a significant difference between 
'All are welcome here' and 'This was created with you in mind.'" – Dr. Crystal Jones

In our Social Emotional Learning professional development and masters degree courses, we do not offer cookie-cutter programs. We design unique courses and programs based on the needs of school districts, buildings, or individual educators. Our work recently continues to be in Social Emotional Learning, Diversity and Equity, and Trauma Informed Care. We strive to create safe conditions for emotional, social, and mental sharing that revitalizes and nourishes our participants.

To create safe circles of trust and inclusion, we must be transparent, authentic, and vulnerable as leaders and role models. Our desired outcome is always unity.

"If we are to verify our own experience, we must honor each other's." – Mark Nepo


Easter Sunday

I have always admired the historic Jesus and loved the spiritual Jesus.  Jesus served the poor, the disenfranchised, the outcasts, the homeless, and the disabled.  Jesus spoke, taught, and lived a life of mercy, forgiveness, and love.  He stood against greed, earthly power, and injustice.  He openly lived a life of healing, communal meals, homeless wandering, equality, and connection without discrimination.  He was conscious of a personal divine relationship.  He died for all that he lived and loved.

I hope we can see the connection from Jesus' time to our times.  I hope we have the courage and love to live as Jesus did, in our time.





Share your fears to heal

"What we hold dear can heal the world." - Mark Nepo

I have learned that what we fear to share, our deepest feelings, connects us to everyone. 
When we share our feelings and especially our fears, 
we give others the permission to be vulnerable, transparent, and courageous. 
When we release our fears and witness others releasing their fears, we create a healing bond. 




Forgiveness

"For me, forgiveness and compassion are linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrong doing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed." - Bell Hooks

We are all human.  We are all imperfect.  In my better moments, I am aware that those who have hurt me were doing the best they could with what they know at the time.  There are infinite unknown pressures, concerns and stressors on all of us.  I can never know someone else's motivations.  They may not even know their own motivations.  We are all, often, living with a lack of awareness.

When we forgive, we let go of the expectations and dreams we had for the other person.  Often when I feel hurt, it is because someone did not live up to being the person I thought they could be.  Forgiveness requires that I allow them to be the person they are.

When asked how he was able to forgive those that unjustly imprisoned him, Nelson Mandela said, "When I walked out of the gate, I knew that if I continued to hate those people, I was still in prison."

"Forgiveness is the only way to heal ourselves and to be free of the past.  Without forgiveness, we remain tethered to the person who harmed us.  We are bound to the chains of bitterness, tied together, trapped. Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness, that person will be our jailor.  When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings.  We become our own liberator." - Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mphu


"We teach who we are" - Parker Palmer

"We teach who we are" - Parker Palmer

I have been in the profession of education and human services for the past 47 years.  The best teachers I have ever witnessed teach from their soul.  Whether through lecture, dialogue or activity, they are teachers who share their heart.  Good teaching is the integration of knowing myself, knowing my students, and knowing my subject.  In that order.  If I do not have self awareness, I cannot help my students find their true passion when I do not know myself.  I will be unable to integrate my content with the personal or the real world.

"Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique, 
good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher." - Parker Palmer

In every class, it is essential to build community.  

"We are hardwired for connection." - Breńe Brown

We need to build relationship, trust, compassion, courage and empathy.  All content must connect to the human.  If we lose our connection to the human, we lose our connection to our hearts, to our integrity, to our lives.


Focus on Gratitude

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, 
while loving someone deeply gives you courage." - Lao Tzu

"Your talent is God's gift to you.  
What you do with it is your gift back to God." - Leo Buscaglia

"Even in a life full of challenges, like living with chronic pain, 
there is always something to be grateful for." - Lauren Zalewski

"The more you express gratitude for what you have, 
the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for." - Zig Ziglar

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was 'thank you', 
that would suffice." - Meister Eckhart

"Gratitude turns what we have into enough." - Aesop




Awaken

I open myself to authenticity and vulnerability and something spiritual (Divine) emanates from my core. This opening is "voice".

We are all spiritual beings.  The greatest gift we can give is ourselves. We are all uplifted when we share our kindness and love.  Our loving thoughts, words, and actions ripple out to touch all humankind. Each act of forgiveness and gratitude benefits everyone.

I all feel as if this past year and a half, I have been working through my obstacles to my spiritual growth. I need to be kind and gentle with myself as I seek to stop habitual responses.

All of our work is spiritual work. The joy is in the work itself.  Step forward, one day at a time. I strive to replace disappointment with acceptance, compassion, and understanding.


What can we do to melt the hearts of those who build walls?

These past few months, I have had the privilege to lead and participate in our high school Unity Day program. In this program, 100 students of influence and diversity gather with their teachers and my team in a gym. We discuss issues around racism, sexism and conflict.  I continue to be impressed with the young adults willingness and desire To have deep levels of conversation. We all want to be known and excepted.

Empathy is part of our biology. Mirror neurons in our brains confirm our biological capacity for empathy and compassion.  If I hurt my finger, the same part of my brain that lights up showing pain will also light up in others who are watching me. As I ask students questions about times in their lives when they have been excluded, alone, unwelcome, or afraid, I see empathy and compassion on the faces of those who witness the experience.

There is no reality that divides us. It is our perception of reality that divides us.

Truth shared openly connects us. Truth kept secret separates us. We must take time to listen to the underlying truth that connects us all.

I continually ask myself and others, what can we do to melt the hearts of those who build walls?


Mr. Rudy Bell

"It is not our differences that divide us. 
It is our inability to recognize, adapt, and celebrate those differences." - Audre Lorde

I grew up in rural South Jersey where we grew silver queen corn, tomatoes, and asparagus. Growing up in an extended family environment, I only knew blood relatives until I went to school. In Kindergarten my Mom was the teacher. She taught love and respect to and for everyone.

I first met people from other cultures when I played Little League baseball. We had baseball, play, and fun in common. My primary concern was being the best I could be and helping my teammates be the best they could be. I found a common goal can bring people together.

When I was a little older I moved to Babe Ruth Baseball. I was on a very good team that was coached by Mr. Bell. Mr. Rudy Bell was a beloved early role model in my life. Mr. Bell was a black man. He was kind, caring, and a great teacher of baseball. One day while sliding into home plate, I opened a significant deep gash on my right leg. The scar is still prominent at the age of 68. Mr. Bell took me or should I say carried me, to the neighborhood doctors office. In those days small town doctors did everything. I was a frightened kid who loved that Mr. Bell stood by my side until my parents arrived. Later, as I healed, I remember saying to my dad "If you weren't my father, I would want Mr. Bell to be my father." The innocence and truth of youth.

Remember this is the early 1960s. The civil rights movement is in full bloom. People are dying for their freedom, as they still are today. My Dad wrote an article in our local newspaper. He wrote about Mr. Bell, how much he admired him, appreciated what he had done for me, and what a role model he was for our community. My father ended the article by writing, "If I was not my son's father, I would choose Mr. Bell to be my son's father." That was the beginning of my passion for diversity and equity. I know that acceptance, understanding, and celebration of diversity will heal our troubled nation.

We are all part of Gods loving creation. We are all an essential part of our exquisite diverse humanity.



We must rebuild community

I am deeply concerned by the divisiveness, anger and hatred I see in the nation that I love.  My Father was a patriot, serving in both the Coast Guard and as a Navy Pilot during World War II.  He was also my first role model for equity and diversity as he wrote articles in support of the Civil Rights movement.  I feel that what my Dad courageously stood and spoke for was being challenged by voices of fear and hatred. 

There is so much fear.  Fear of those we "perceive" to be different than us.  I have come to learn that we don't know someone until we know them.  We need the courage to build connection, build relationship, and build community.  We must stop the dehumanizing narratives that tell us that women, the poor, those with darker or lighter skin, the disabled, the old, the young and the non gender conforming are all less than. 

When we speak of "they" in derogatory terms, we undermine our collective humanity.  We must focus on "we."  We must rebuild community.  Community contains Unity.  Community needs to be diverse to be healthy.  A single perspective leads to destruction and death.

"No one thing or place has a privileged point of voice, that is, no one point of view holds the entire truth.  The primacy of any one point of view is not only invalid, but damaging and disrespectful to the inherent unity of life." - Einstein, Zajonc, Nepo

Community only exists when we know each other's story.


Honoring Black History Month

Black History Month honors generations of men, women and children who were brutally taken from their homes.  We honor all those who were treated inhumanly.  We seek forgiveness for our ancestors who tore families apart in slavery.  We pray in honor of those who gave their lives in post slavery hatred, violence, cruelty, and atrocity. 

We acknowledge that the wounds still linger.  We honor the lives of African American men and women who shine as beacons of nonviolence, courage, compassion, and human greatness.  We all must continue to honor diversity and work for equality and equity. 

We must continue to facilitate deep dialogue about racism, and justice for all.  The work is heartbreaking and inspiring.  The power to overcome is deep within each of us.  Courage and commitment is required every day.

We must remember the Divinity in everyone.  We must listen with our hearts to the stories of each others truth.


"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all." - Aristotle

One of the principle concepts that motivates me to still be working full-time as a teacher at 68 years of age is the truth.  I love to share, reflect and search for the truth.  I find that in my authenticity and vulnerability, I find my truth and can better listen to your truth.

In my teaching, I love to create a safe emotional environment where we can create community.  In an emotionally safe community, the truth can be revealed, spoken and experienced. When we share our truth with each other our perspective, understanding, compassion and empathy grows.  As we share the depth of our truth we open ourselves and each other to the spiritual.

"I am a ripple in the ocean of God, and I want to be able to see my reflection in the face of everyone I meet, to understand that even people I will never know are reflections of my undisguised self." 
- Mark Nepo




Share our stories

The exploration of our shared humanity is a privilege that I have been deeply committed to for my past 68 years.

Each day I begin my exploration with meditation, self reflection, and assessment. I deliberately focus on the good I can give and the good I will receive. I have a genuine interest in people I meet and interact with throughout my day. I do my best to smile and have a positive attitude. I strive to be a good listener and focus on remembering peoples names. I think calling someone by name is a sign of respect.

I love to listen to people stories. We all have a life story. I believe our stories are our wealth. I feel that our stories reveal we are more similar than different. In the sharing of our stories, I find perspective, understanding, compassion, and empathy.

I encourage all of us to embrace our story. Speak our truth. In speaking our truth and sharing our story we are all able to listen to other truths, embrace other stories and feel the unity in diversity.  We are hardwired for connection.

"Authentic social connection has a profound effect on your mental health - it even exceeds the value of exercise and an ideal body weight, on your physical health." Dr. James Doty

Kindness, respect, understanding, compassion and empathy is good for everyone.


What Schools Need

Schools do not need more standardized tests
Schools do not need more technology
Schools need servant leaders

Schools need servant leaders who put service above ego,
who can persevere through challenge and crisis,
who will stay present even when it is uncomfortable.

Schools need servant leaders who care about children, parents, staff, 
and the diverse community we all live and work in.

Schools need servant leaders who will not be lead down a false path of faster is better, 
force wins, and degrees make you smarter than someone else.

Schools need servant leaders who will receive and celebrate the human spirit.

Schools need servant leaders who will recognize that time and attention are more important than expediency and the next new cell phone app.

Schools need servant leaders who have the courage to share leadership 
and empower staff, students, and parents.

Schools need servant leaders because we have lost our way as a nation. 
Children should not be put in cages and parents should not be punished for sacrificing everything for their child's well-being. We need servant leaders who will remember the courage it takes to intervene with hatred, violence, poverty, addiction, and mental illness.

We have not lost our way because of lack of ideas or technology. We have lost our way because of a lack of courage. The solutions are already here. Servant leaders have the courage to be caring, compassionate, empathetic, understanding, patient, firm, clear, forgiving, and grateful.

Servant leaders live in integrity.

Schools need servant leaders.



A new year...it is quite simple

Something eternal has been born in me. I have no choice but to nurture it until it reaches its full growth and maturity.

I have been studying, experiencing, practicing, and teaching to become my best self for the past 68 years. I am aware that we all have been blessed with the sacred spark of Divinity within each of us.  I know that spark grows and blossoms as we serve others.

I continue to feel deeply called to a life of service. I am gravely concerned for our nation, our families, our communities, and our children, all our children. I have no interest in a political debate. Either I am serving the greater good or I am not. It is that simple. The greater good is quite simple to me.

Am I kind?
Am I respectful?
Am I compassionate?
Am I responsible?
Am I conscious and aware?
Do I seek to be a better person today than I was yesterday?
Will I make a greater contribution to our world today than I did yesterday?

"Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field. I will meet you there." - Rumi

We must move beyond judgment that lacks understanding. We must meet in the open field of compassion and love.