Not Me but We

Image by Jackie Ramirez from Pixabay

I stood at the checkout stand as the cashier quickly scanned the items I placed on the steadily moving conveyer belt. The next customer in line slowly rolled his shopping cart forward into what was apparently too close for the cashier’s comfort. She looked at him, moved his cart away, and snapped, “Can you move your cart back and stay there until I’m ready for you?” Then she looked at me and with disgust said, “Chinese people are so pushy.”

Whoa! Did she just say that? Not only did she say those words but she was now casually asking me to collude with her in this act of racial bias. The following exchange took place:

“Well, I’m part Asian and we’re not all pushy,” I calmly responded though my internal voice shouted at her. I purposefully didn’t want to shut down any possibilities of awareness to take place.

“What?” She was clearly flustered and caught off-guard.

“I am also Asian and we are not all pushy,” I repeated. Again, remember my internal voice is still elevated in shock and disbelief.

“Oh, that’s what my doctor told me.”

Confused, I replied, “Unfortunately, not all doctors know what they’re talking about.”

That was it. I saw nothing in her eyes, felt nothing in the energy coming from this cashier that indicated she registered (no pun intended) any learning from our exchange. In fact, her illogical response that somehow her doctor carried a certification in Chinese pushiness led me to believe she only felt embarrassed that I spoke to her comment.

Upon sharing this experience, I was later asked, “Were you offended? I mean, you’re not Chinese; you’re Japanese. So why did you feel like you had to say something?” Initially, I felt confused by the questions since addressing the ugliness of the cashier’s comment seemed the right thing to do. However, I realized there was a time when I wouldn’t have spoken up. I certainly would have spoken about it but not to it. If it didn’t offend me, someone in my family or social circle, or a passionate cause directly, I believed it wasn’t my fight. So I reflected more about my motivation to respond differently this time.

In truth, I didn’t feel offended at all. If I felt offended then I would have been making the situation all about me. It wasn’t about me at all. It wasn’t even about feeling offended on behalf of the man she referred to in the line. He never even heard the words she uttered to me. It was more about the cashier and her impact on the collective. Her comment was solely a reflection of her ignorance and disregard for the consequences of her words and beliefs on all who would interact with her. I struggled with her ease and assumption that her thoughts belonged in the public space of this store.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. “– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Though I have read this quote from Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” many times, I believe it finally reached a place of internalized understanding in this moment. If I had remained silent, the injustice at that moment in time would have remained unchecked; therefore, it would have remained a threat for a different moment. No, I’m not Chinese yet I reached for how that man and I are similar. By connecting with what he and I had in common, we became a unified front, “an inescapable network of mutuality.” The message in Dr. King’s words is unmistakably clear; however, I self-righteously understood it pnly with my mind and not my heart.

I’m fully aware that my learning remains incomplete regarding the depth of this quote. The deepest part of me knows there is so much more. After all, could I have mentioned to a manager what had just taken place? Should I have? Was an opportunity for meaningful dialogue lost? Did I, in fact, still make it about me?

I extend an invitation to you to join me in reflecting about what this quote from “Letter from Birmingham Jail” means to you. How does it manifest in your day to day interactions? We live in a time that requires us to strengthen our connections that are “tied in a single garment of destiny.”

A Spiritual Hot Spot

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

“What art does is to coax us away from the mechanical and toward the miraculous. The so-called uselessness of art is a clue to its transforming power. Art is not part of the machine. Art asks us to think differently, see differently, hear differently, and ultimately to act differently, which is why art has more force…Art makes us better people because it asks for our full humanity, and humanity is, or should be, the polar opposite of the merely mechanical. We are not part of the machine either, but we have forgotten that. Art is memory…” –Jeanette Winterson

If you live in the Los Angeles area, you likely know all too well the tourist hot spot called Venice Beach. The popularity of Venice Beach can more specifically be attributed to the 2.5 mile Ocean Front Walk that takes on a carnival like atmosphere with endless sightings of the outlandish, the amazing, and the breath-taking.  According to the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, every year an average of over 10 million visitors come to soak up the sun, some fun, and the spirit of Southern California.

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Karma and Balance

“Fairness is a human concept. Balance is a universal one.” – David James Lees

I grew up in a home with a mother who is deeply committed to Buddhism. She continues to chant regularly in the morning and then again in the evening as she has done since her late teens. I don’t know of day that she has ever missed this daily practice. My own practice wavered as I developed my own beliefs about religion, spirituality, and the deep meanings of life. However, the philosophy of Buddhism remains a foundational influence in my Becoming. One primary concept is karma.

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Legacy of Courage

As we were finishing a late breakfast, a notification goes off on his phone. “Mom, it’s bad news. It’s really bad news.” I struggled to process the words that came out of my son’s mouth as he proceeded to inform me about the tragic death of Kobe Bryant. Fragmented details were beginning to be uncovered and released while we sat in silence. Only my unrestrained sobs and tears would disrupt the quiet at our table.

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Proud to be a Military Brat

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Are you familiar with the term “military brat?” This term generally refers to someone who grew up in a family where the parents served in the armed forces.  My father served in the Air Force which makes me a military brat and I say that with pride. Though the word “brat” usually carries a negative connotation in the civilian world, those of us who grew up “on base” know that we belong to a resilient and diverse subculture of individuals bonded by common experience and mutual understanding of what it all means.

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Matters of the Heart

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

HEART (noun)

  1. a hollow muscular organ that pumps the blood through the circulatory system by rhythmic contraction and dilation
  2. the emotional or moral nature as distinguished from the intellectual nature
  3. one’s most innermost character, feeling, or inclinations
  4. the essential or most vital part of something

When you look up the word “heart” these are a few of the definitions provided by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I bring your attention to these specific definitions because they lie at the heart (pun intended) of what I’d like to share in the following post.

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We Are Family

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

When we conjure up examples of a strong family, images of a father who provides, a mother who nurtures, and children who obey may emerge because we have been led to believe that this is the standard. However, in our ever-changing world, the limiting definitions of a “traditional” family no longer suffice to fully encapsulate the complexities of familial strength. In fact, it is arguable that we fall short of considering the cultural influences on family structures and dynamics that offer variants on the way family strength manifests in different communities today.

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Feast of Dignity

likesilkto from Pixabay

“We all belong here equally…Just by being born onto the earth we are accepted and the earth supports us. We don’t have to be especially good. We don’t have to accomplish anything. We don’t even have to be healthy.” – Polly Horvath, My One Hundred Adventures

Remember the anticipation of your first day of school? Parents and teachers offered encouragement and reassurance by cheerfully talking about all the opportunities to make new friends. Did you ever move to a different neighborhood or change jobs? I imagine that questions of finding welcoming neighbors or fitting in with your new colleagues crossed your mind during your transition. These thoughts are likely due to the fact that human beings have a psychological need for love and belonging. In humanistic psychology, the human need for belonging aligns with our inclinations as social creatures. Our emotional relationships are driven by our connections among our family, as well as social and community groups. And sometimes, we have the fortune of being a bystander to the fulfillment of this need of belonging and the nurturing of the soul…

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I Can So I Must

Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

“Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.” –Dr. Wayne Dyer

The fall season has arrived and in our house that means football and wrestling. Over the years, countless evenings have been spent watching our sons practice in their individual sport then cheering them on when it’s time to take the field or hit the mat. Our support for them continues despite the fact that one coaches a high school team that’s a 5-hour drive east from here and the other wrestles at a college that’s a 6-hour drive north. For some it may seem excessive but I humbly learned that everything happens for a reason.

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A Pedagogy for Life

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In my profile, I mention the synergy I often experience between my career life and my personal life. The past few weeks proved to be no exception. As an instructional coach in elementary education, my role allows me to engage with teachers about maintaining a growth mindset while working together to ensure our practices maximize student learning. Recently, many of my discussions with my colleagues focused on a process called the CRA Model when teaching mathematics. It’s a practice that takes students from Concrete, to Representational, and then to Abstract ways of thinking in order to develop mathematical reasoning and conceptual understanding. I’ve witnessed the powerful effectiveness of this instructional practice with students and wondered…Can this CRA process help us to reason and conceptually understand life lessons as well?

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