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Prayer for This Moment

My heart and body is shaky. This familiar place of tension. Work needs to get done. And yet the bigger questions call to be stronger. My heart is fluttering. Curiosity pounding my brain to “want to figure it out.” What seems clear to me is that there are many White people in this country who do not have any (??) close friends or family who they have meaningful conversations with about what it feels like to be a person of color in this country right now. That folks are not hearing the personal stories of how Muslim, Lantinx, Black, LGBTQ children are being effected right now… the fear they are feeling. The stress of the children because they feel they have a president that hates them and their people and now their classmates feel empowered to hate and discriminate against them as well. Fear that their families aren’t safe. The stress of parents trying to hide their own emotions as they assure their children that they will be safe.

I imagine that folks who think this time is just about politics don’t have relationships where they hear first hand stories about being victims of hate speech or hate violence. I believe in the good of human nature and I believe that if folks genuinely understood how real the threat that many Americans are feeling right now was… if people really got that, then they would be willing to stand up against the rhetoric that is promoting this hate.

I believe in the goodness of people and my body aches for us as a collective to transform like I used to watch the Incredible Hulk as a child… may the pressure of injustice, hate and violence be so strong that our actual cells and chemistry transform. May we be emboldened with such courage and bravery that the fierceness of our love and devotion to that which is sacred and life-giving has a collective power like we have never seen before. May we have access to the fullness of our spiritual powers, our emotional strength, our physical strength, our intellectual wisdom, and the power of our connected relationships. May we be as graceful as possible amongst the chaos and complexity. May the suffering, trauma and pain that we feel find moments of respite in our breath so that it does not interfere with our actions, so that we may act in ways that are driven by love and dedication to freedom, justice and the sacredness of life. May we experience healing and forgiveness. May we be clear about the journey we are on, even with the path is uncertain. May we be humble to the fact that clarity does not equal knowing… that it is not through our knowing that we will find the way, but through our reverent listening, centeredness and attunement to the moment and what is calling for our attention. May we have the humility to recognize when to step back, when to follow the leadership of others, when to act differently than we have in the past. May we be awake to when we are being called to step forward and to do so with humble grace and fierce courage. May we be committed in our relationships, using the power of our connections to walk with others, support one another, and grant us all access to the collective wisdom that is so much grater than our individual thinking and doing. May our hearts be filled with love, love, love. May we remember to smile and laugh… often. Inviting each other into moments of joy… even as we stay close to the real suffering that is present. May we be spiritual warriors, learning from indigenous relatives about what this actually looks like, how we move with the sacred, being humble as we step in ways that we’ve never stepped before, re-membering the wisdom that we all have access to.

May it be so… Ashe.

Thank you for reading, listening, praying with me. 

Excerpt: “At a time when specific groups of students are being targeted, we must ensure that those students specifically know that their schools welcome them and that they will be safe. We urge all education stakeholders, including district leaders, heads of schools, principals, teachers, parents and guardians, and other educators to take action immediately within their school communities to support all students, especially those who face bias incidents in their schools. These actions should specifically affirm the right of all students, regardless of race, color, national origin, immigration status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or religion to be educated in an environment free from fear, violence, and intimidation.”
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Parents of White Children – Educate Your Children

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Click to watch Zianna Oliphant make a tearful plea to the Charlotte City Council

This is not okay. I have watched youth speak out in Asheville and here it is in Charlotte. Young Black children pleading to folks with government power for their parents to not be killed, for their Black bodies to not be violated and hunted. This has to stop. Black lives matter. And if you are the parent of white children, please listen to Tamiko’s words below and recognize that you also have responsibilities as parents to educate your children about their privileges… let them see how unfair these systems are, so that perhaps your children will not only grow up loving and being connected to diverse people, but will also feel the fire in their hearts to end the institutional and systemic racism that has kept these policies and practices in place all throughout our lives so far and those of generations before us. Up until now, we have failed to make this country safe for the little girl in this video, for all the Black and Brown children (and their families) in this country. It is our responsibility to be part of the solution. Let me know if you need help understanding what to educate yourself or your children about.

From Tamiko Ambrose “Since Black parents and brown parents and Latinx parents and indigenous parents and parents of color all need to teach their children that the world is unsafe, white parents of white children need to teach them about racism. And not racism as in being nice to your friends, but the racism that privileges them and that creates A space for them to be safe and thrive while stripping opportunity, stealing and robbing, and hurting and killing communities of color. This burden must be shared. If you don’t know about it, you can learn. Tell the truth to the children. Please!”

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Ideas That Move Youth Challenge

Working with real people in real communities making real efforts to take action that will support the maximum benefit for everyone is what inspires me, lights me up, brings me to life. How do we really take action that brings about well-being and positive movement for 100% of humanity?

What I know is that there is no single answer. There is no direct path there. And there is no shortage of amazing, intelligent, compassionate humans on this planet to invest themselves in truly making a difference. How do we continue to find one another, find the small things we can do that contribute to the larger story? Find the unique piece that we each have to offer and give our whole hearts towards making that contribution to the world? And how do we enjoy life, honor love and connectivity, and celebrate beauty as much as possible while on the journey?

One initiative that I’m working on now that is deeply inspiring me is the Ideas That Move Youth Challenge. Public schools and private schools collaborating together to create a platform where young voices can be heard and their efforts to be leaders are supported.

Check out some of the ideas they have to make Asheville healthier and more sustainable:

  • Aquaponics as Food Insecurity Solution
    Problem: One out of every six people in Western North Carolina suffers food insecurity, not having an adequate healthy food resource.Solution: An urban solution we propose is to create aquaponic farms in Asheville or other urban areas in Buncombe County, particularly areas with low socio-economic demographics. This will produce fish (i.e Tilapia) as well as vegetables (i.e. lettuce, other greens, tomatoes, peppers, etc.). It can even be completely off the grid and therefore provide a stable food source during conditions of extreme weather.
  • Swim For Life
    Problem: Every year hundreds of stories about people drowning are reported in our area. We see this as a preventable tragedy. Youth need to acquire the ability to swim as a survival skill. Due to income and opportunity limitations many young people would benefit from free swimming lessons.Solution: We would like to create a community service project that would work with local public schools to provide free swimming lessons to students who may not have the opportunity to take them otherwise. This would benefit students in many ways, such as increasing their self-confidence, keeping them safe and providing an exercise outlet for the future.
  • Youth Diversity in the Classroom and School Community
    Problem: Many students who attend SILSA do not realize the issues that arise regarding an equal learning environment for all, due to the segregation of social groups and diversity problems on campus. All students need to feel as if they have the same opportunity as others in order to be successful in high school and beyond.Solution: Our idea is to start a Diversity group on the AHS/SILSA campus. We will meet twice a week to discuss current adolescent issues with people from different backgrounds. It will also be a great opportunity to build new friendships with people of various cultures and build more community on our campus. We will also discuss possible ways to address issues that face teens on our campus.
  • Switching Asheville City Schools buses from diesel to biodiesel
    Problem: Asheville City School buses run on diesel fuel which is a nonrenewable resource and creates air pollution. If we continue using diesel fuel in our buses, our air quality will continue to worsen and we will continue using harmful nonrenewable resources. Western North Carolina is known for clean, healthy air. Diesel exhaust is a known carcinogen, which is dangerous for students to be breathing.Solution: Asheville City School buses run on diesel fuel which emits harmful pollutants into our clean air. Diesel exhaust harms our environment and everyone exposed to it, including the 25 million children that are transported by diesel fueled school buses. Particulate matter in diesel exhaust has links to causing asthma, bronchitis, and even lung cancer. Biodiesel is a clean, renewable alternative that reduces diesel air pollution. Biodiesel contains virtually no sulfur. This reduces the amount of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter released.
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Gifted and Creative Individuals

I would love to hear your thoughts on this perspective of gifted and creative individuals.

The article is The Application of Dabrowski’s Theory to the Gifted by Kevin J. O’Connor and was published in the book Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children: What Do We Know?.

Here are a few quotes from the article to give you a taste of its content:

Dabrowski observed that gifted and creative individuals are often in conflict with the demands and expectations of their environment…

Many in the gifted community believe Dabrowski’s overexcitabilites, as they contribute to developmental potential, are a measure and indicator of giftedness.

Overexcitabilities are enhanced modes of being in the world. The word ‘over’ used in connection with ‘excitability’ connotes responses to stimuli that are beyond normal and often different in quality. Dabrowski identified “psychic overexcitability” in five forms: psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational and emotional.

While the concept of developmental potential emphasizes the positive aspects of experiencing life with greater intensity and sensitivity, these same characteristics may also be experienced in negative ways. Individuals with elevated overexcitabilities are more susceptible to being misunderstood and alienated by those who don’t share or understand their unique personality traits.

Parents of gifted children and gifted individuals themselves may find that Dabrowski’s ideas provide a useful “framework for understanding and explaining the developmental patterns and challenges that occur for those of high ability.”

Photo source

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Kids Have REALLY Good Ideas

This word art was created by the feedback that organizers and presenters gave regarding their experience participating in TEDxNextGenerationAsheville. It will be clear to you why I dedicated a huge part of 2010 to launching this initiative when you read their thoughts. The following are all responses from youth under 18 years-old except for the last one, which is from an adult.

What do you want people to know about TEDxNextGenerationAsheville?

  • I want people to know that sometimes, kids have really good ideas. Ideas that everyone can learn from, ideas MEANT for adults to listen to. And I want for the adults to listen. To be proactive, and help our generation (the next generation, that is) feel like we can make a difference in the world. I feel like that was the whole reason behind TEDxNGA in the first place, and I feel like it’s slowly becoming more and more noticed, respected, and listened to throughout the country. ~Xandy, Production Team
  • It’s a great thing for young people and something adults should encourage their kids to get involved with. I had a very transformative experience and I think other people could benefit just as much. ~Nate, Presenter
  • TEDxNGA is an expierience that is not so common in today’s busy world. We become so involved and focused with our own thoughts that is can be difficult to hear the voices of those who are below us- kids. Minors do not necessarily have a chance to always express their views in the world, but at the same time, they are not bound by the confines of the the larger world. They are able to think ‘outside the box’ and communicate the importance of many issues. TEDxNGA is an oppurtunity for that communication to take place, and is a forum for adults to hear youthful voices. It is truly an incredible expierience- one that I feel honored to have been a part of. Not solely because of TED’s name recognition, but because of the design. The guiding principle which has incredible value in our system of Government is exhibited on a local scale. The “Sharing of Ideas” is what makes TEDxNGA unique and an awesome expierience for all involved. ~Wyatt, Production Team

What part of your TEDxNextGenerationAsheville experience means the most to you?

  • The fact that kids controlled or at least had a great deal of input in what went on. ~Ceante, Production Team
  • The most important part to me for the experience was helping other peers my age get heard, and working with adults side-by-side. It was really awesome making the connections also. Oh, and brainstorming powers are like +1Billion for me now! ~Julien, Technical Director
  • For me the best part of the experience was the process of working with the NGA design team and the youth that were involved. The positive and fun supportive environment you created to offer all of us to imagine with our minds, heart and spirit wide open was one of the best processes for group collaboration I have participiated in for many years. Working with the young people in our community and watching them soar was very rewarding. EVERYONE on the team was included and felt part of the process. ~Eileen, Core Organizer

So I welcome 2011 with open arms and with a twinkle in my eye, ever more curious about how the precious seeds that we each harbor filled with passion, compassion, talent and inspiration will sprout in our communities and the gardens we can grow together when we are genuinely connecting with one another and working together towards our shared future.

My intro at TEDxNextGenerationAsheville 2010.

To learn more about TEDxNextGenerationAsheville, visit the website and read our recent newsletter.

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Risk-taking and Creativity

“Fostering risk-taking and creativity in children can ensure that they learn the basics of economics and independence—and develop a mentality of innovation.”

How do you foster risk-taking and creativity in your own life and/or in the lives of children or other adults? Please share.

A couple of organizations focusing on entrepreneurship with youth referenced in this article:

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A Baby’s Unconditional Trust and Love

photo by Alyssa L. Miller (no relation to people in the story)

A Baby’s Unconditional Trust and Love — A Kindness Story
–written by rettak at HelpOthers.org

We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, ‘Hi.’ He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.

I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled.

His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. ‘Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster,’ the man said to Erik. My husband and I exchanged looks, ‘What do we do?’ Erik continued to laugh and answer, ‘Hi.’

Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, ‘Do ya patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek- a-boo.’ Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk.

My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.

We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. ‘Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,’ I prayed.

As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby’s ‘pick-me-up’ position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man.

Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder. The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby’s bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time.

I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, ‘You take care of this baby.’ Somehow I managed, ‘I will,’ from a throat that contained a stone.

He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, ‘God bless you, ma’am, you’ve given me my Christmas gift.’ I said nothing more than a muttered thanks.

With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, ‘My God, my God, forgive me.’

I had just witnessed real love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was blind, holding a child who was not.

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