Supporting Change Through Friendship and Compassion

Glyness Hernandez

Today I honor present and past teachers, visionaries, activists and leaders who have dedicated their brilliance and gifts to creating a world that works for all, opening opportunities in subtle and bold ways for freedom, equality, justice and healing.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

At last year's Martin Luther King, Jr. Rally I was walking with a first grader I worked with. Suddenly he looked up at me and said, “Oh, I know why you’re here today, Ashley.” “Why?” I asked, curious to discover the connection he had just made. “Because this is all about friendship… and you’re the friendship teacher.”

He taught me such a simple lesson in that moment - friendship is at the heart of the work we do and efforts we make towards creating a world where all people may flourish. Every child has the right to reach their full potential and feel loved. Friendship and friendliness are powerful forces that we use to support one another in living our full potentials. We can extend care and compassion, invite intimacy and connect with one another in nourishing ways that leave us feeling loved, respected, appreciated and capable of being the beautiful and potent forces we are.

Today I also want to thank the extraordinary people in my life who care for me, encourage me and have given me so much practical help in my pursuit to become a leader in transforming the United States' Education System. I applied to Harvard's new program in Education Leadership last week and have been astonishingly humbled by the generosity, encouragement, feedback, belief and care that has been bestowed upon me and this journey I am on. Thank you to each of you who gave of yourselves to support me. Words fail to carry the weight of my gratitude.

All the conversations I've had since stepping into the application process have fiercely enlivened my belief that we can do this. We can make a difference and organize ourselves into action, facilitating the change that is necessary so the dreams of Dr. King and so many other compassionately active forces may come to fruition. Through our friendships, our willingness to drop barriers and open vulnerably to genuine connections with one another, we can create transformative change. I am awed by the people that I know, the work that you are doing, the lives that you are living and the hearts that you continuously touch. I am awed by the human power, the power of love that swells forth upon this Earth and the impact it has in so many subtle and complex ways. And I am eager to meet, connect with and learn from those I have not yet met. I see this beautiful tapstery of connections. We are weaving together the social fabric that supports the well-being and actualization of children on this Earth.

Every child (every person) has the right to feel loved and respected and valued for their contributions. We can create opportunities for children to feel safe and stay connected to their intelligence, creativity and inspiration, as well as their neurological impulse to learn and love. We can affect the future of our world by investing in the livelihood and well-being of our children and the social systems that impact their lives.

"With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is the work I am called to do in service and in love. And I extend the deepest swells of gratitude to the dear friends who support me on this journey and to the many teachers and leaders who have paved the way for me and others who are on this path of living, learning and loving.

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posted by ashley


The Inner Landscape of Beauty

"Your identity is not equivalent to your biography. There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there's a seamlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and tranquility in you, and I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary."
~ John O'Donohue

"In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam ċara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and ċara is the word for friend. … In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam ċara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam ċara you could share your innermost self, your mind, and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. … In everyone's life there is great need for an anam ċara, a soul friend, in this love you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. Where you are understood, you are at home." ~ From John O'Donohue's book Anam Cara

~ John O'Donohue on Speaking of Faith
~ Commentary from Things That Go Bump in my Head
~ Photo by harold.lloyd

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posted by ashley


friend ship

friend ship

my friend paul has boarded his ship and sailed away and back to southafrica. he was part of my family for over a year and now leaves behind a vacuum, an empty space, which is stubbornly present in our lives.

friendship - what a funny word.

why is this bond connecting people called friendship? what on earth has a ship got to do with everything? we have a saying in german: „we’re sitting in the same boat“ when people share a similar (mostly negative) experience. maybe it’s the same in english, i don’t know.

it is preferable to sit in a ship with someone you like. or maybe you start to like someone just because you are in that same bloody ship together. dependence can do stranger things to you. the smaller the boat, the more crucial friends become..

whatever. paul’s back in capetown.
and i miss him.

Dear Jan,

I sit here with the all too familiar feeling of reverance that leaves me incapable of finding language. Jan, this post ellicits so much raw and genuine emotion within me. Recognition, understanding, celebration, appreciation, gratitude, and a welling sense of love. I find myself resting upon that still, parting water, feeling the color of the setting sun upon my body. I am filled with reverance.

. . . and I can't help but notice a pattern, the frequency of reading words of yours, often inquiries into ordinary matters of life, and then feeling engulfed in a deep and sweet sense of reverance. What a gift that is. Thank you.

And a tangential gift that I carry with me into the night is the invitation to make friends with those stubbornly present empty spaces in our lives. It feels to me like this writing of yours is a beautiful example of deepening intimacy with What Is -- inquiring into it while accepting it and letting it be.

Thank you.

With love,

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posted by Jan


things we can and cannot control

as an elementary school counselor, i get to engage with children in many enriching conversations. discussing life skills has always been a topic that i find incredibly valuable to dialogue with children. this month's guidance lesson with grades 2-4 was on changes that happen in our lives.
things in our life are constantly changing. some changes we can control and some changes we can't control. can you think of some things that happen in your life that you can or cannot control?
the class, sitting in a circle, passes around a container of dried lima beans, a can, and a bug cage. each child takes out a lima bean and, if they feel comfortable, shares with the group either one thing that they can control (putting a bean in the can) or one thing that they cannot control (putting a bean in the cage).


my behavior
my thoughts
my life
how much sleep i get
what i wear
my little brother
my dog


my mom and dad fighting
my grandfather dying
my parents getting a divorce
someone being mean to me
having to move
my little sister annoying me
my dog jumping on me
the weather

what has been most noteworthy to me in these revealing discussions is how much happens in children's lives that they have absolutely no control over. in most classrooms the can would have 3-5 beans and the cage would be full. as an adult, can you imagine swimming through your days from one place to another, having to strictly follow and succumb to events in your life in which you have no control? can you imagine that feeling of complete helplessness, the extreme lack of control of the course of your day, your life?

then i start to think about adults... and the events, emotions, places of being in which we feel like we have no control. i was listening to someone explain the tendency of a child to just giggle uncontrollably when they are uncomfortable, anxious, or nervous. the child would giggle, giggle, giggle, until no breath was left... take a deep breath.... and then return to giggling, giggling, giggling. listening to this description made me think of addictions. how we constantly return to our addictions (our old habits) because they sooth us. they are often all we know as a means of coping with that which we are experiencing inside. and as is the nature of addictions, we fall into the habit of replaying the looping scenario of needing something and indulging in the addiction that provides that which we feel like we need (comfort, familiarity, calmness, numbness, security, support, companionship, etc.). this process becomes a fixation and often it takes such a strong hold on us that it seems as though we have no control over it. it is simply happening to us.... and we put a bean in the cage, feeling trapped and helpless.

in the guidance class, the next round of discussion is coming up with ideas of ways to respond to situations we can't control. if many children mention that their parents argue a lot, the group shares suggestions of things you can do when you're parents are fighting
go into your room and draw a picture that makes you feel good, go to a friend's house, ask them to stop, go to your safe-secret space and relax there, make up a skit with your sister of what they look like when they're fighting "they really look just like kids!"
this part is my favorite as i am always in awe of the children's insight and their ability to help one another. we then pass the can around without the cage and re-emphasize things we have control of in our lives.

feel free to drop a bean in the can or cage if you're so inspired.


Ashley, you are such a hero. I'm sure you realize how important the work you're doing is, but I wish more people would. The lessons you're teaching (and learning yourself, it seems!) about community building and supporting others and interaction are so, so significant. Thank you so much for posting this: you've given me hope.

GravatarYup kids, and adults too...in my work this is the essence of colonization: how little control we feel we have over our lives. Decolonization is the process of opening the space of options for that which we can control, and getting busy with doing that to make more of it.

GravatarIn a related vein, it's true that kids seem to have so little control in their lives, but they have many more options that adults. For example, when I take my kids to Grandma's house and we visit the sitting room, I can see about two options for the kids: sitting there quietly or leaving My kids on the other hand, have a million options. Grandma's sitting room is a theme park waiting to be played in, but for me all of that is anxiety riddled. "Don't touch, don't jump, don't knock over..."

The trick in supporting opening relationships is to negotiate in a way that leaves the kid's options intact and both of our needs met. Kids will always win that negotiation, because in any negotiation, whoever has the most options wins. So as an adult, my kids are always challenging me to find more options, rather than limiting theirs.

GravatarDecolonization is the process of opening the space of options for that which we can control

YEAH! and so much of that work is an inner journey. internally we have to reframe, restructe a perspective that has been given many reasons, justifications, moments in history to believe that there is 'no control.' i see the role of those who already know this as one of acting as companions and role models for the a-ha that the open space already exists and there is room for us to have immense control. does this fit in with your mapping of decolonization?

Gravataras for the adults and the kids at grandma's, isn't that just a matter of perspective that the adults only two options? adults can go and ask questions about the trinkets and pictures and paintings and such. eh?

as for the anxiety... that's so not a part of parenting that i'm looking forward to! doesn't it make you just not want to visit places where there are so many child-instigated-disasters waiting to happen?

for me leaving the kids options in tack and meeting both adult and child's needs is wrapped up in setting limits and offering potent choices. like you say the one with the most choices wins, and the key seems to be offering joices that are a win-win for both adults and children.

your kids are so lucky that they've got you for a dad!

Gravatarhi guys! this is brilliant ashley. and congrats on the new address! i'm posting here because i can! love from kathmandu. m

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posted by ashley

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