Tag Archives: Empathy

Different Walks

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Different Walks

By Rachelle Mawle

I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of public discourse, lately. So much of the conflict seems to center on long-held beliefs. And many of those who most adamantly cling to extreme views on politics, religion, and the social safety net, don’t seem to have experienced much beyond childhood parameters.

I know there are exceptions to the rule. Many young people emerge from their childhood bubbles with curiosity, bursting into the world with an open mind and a desire to learn about other faiths and cultures. But, more and more, that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. So, I’m going to speak in generalities here, because right now it’s the other young people I’m most curious about.

Why is it that a child raised in one religion, the faith of their family, clings most tightly not to the sacred texts, but to the belief that their viewpoint is the only right one? And reinforce that belief by assuring themselves that everyone else is wrong or naive? Why is it that a person who (by sheer luck) is born into wealth and privilege can look at those in need of financial assistance and automatically assume that human being is a waste of money? Is it simply a lack of life experience and education, or a merciless cocktail of nature and nurture?

A concerning skin growth recently sent me trekking into Atlanta to visit a dermatologist. Doctor visits are always stressful, but adding the possibility of skin cancer had made me a nervous wreck. I was grateful that my fiancé and son could go with me. The doctor recognized that I was worried about the biopsy. She was kind and reassuring, talking about where she was raised, sharing that she had attended Stanford Medical School.

“How do you like Georgia?” she asked.

“It’s a definite adjustment,” I answered. I told her about my futile attempts to get my son into a decent school, and how I’d never had to worry about my son’s education in Fort Collins.

“I attended some wonderful private schools, growing up,” she said. “There are some good ones nearby.”

I smiled politely. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the income for private schools. It’s looking like we might just have to home school.”

I was baffled by her response.

“What a wonderful opportunity!” she said. “It’s so beneficial to be home schooled! And how lucky your child is to be taught by his parents! Really, more people should do that, I often wonder if I had been home schooled how much more I would have learned.”

Right. Let them eat cake. Oh, how lucky, I thought, that so many children don’t have access to quality education. For parents who aren’t wealthy (like this doctor), there are only two options. Enroll your child in a crappy school, or home school them. Heaven forbid both parents have to work to make a living, or perhaps don’t have the mental or emotional resources to educate their children on their own.

I just smiled again, and said “You’re right, my boy’s lucky.”

The doctor was raised with privilege. She seemed to be a caring person, but really had no idea how people below her demographic lived or what issues they had to face.

I have to wonder if even a Stanford Medical degree is not as beneficial as walking a mile in another physician’s stilettos – or in my case (on this particular day), Target flip-flops.

If an infant was born and grew up inside a box, they would emerge believing the world was a cube. Empathy and compassion develop from a personal effort to continue growth and education beyond what our parents or schools taught us. The reality is we never graduate from the need to continue learning. And we have much to learn from each other, from our different walks.

No one, no matter race, education, or finances, is superior to another.

We are all human beings.

***

Rachelle and Cory 2Rachelle Mawle is a writer, blogger, homeschool teacher, and devoted mother to a ten year old boy and two fur babies who test her on a daily basis. She recently moved to Atlanta, GA, from Fort Collins, CO, to be with her fiancé, and is still in the process of adjusting…maybe forever. Check out her blog at www.anotherdailydisaster.com.

 

Copyright © 2018 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Poetry by Phil Johnson, Guest Contributor

Vietnam_War_Memorial_at_night

Vietnam War Memorial at night, Public Domain

A BRISK WALK

A brisk walk
Takes me to a wall
My hand searches the names
For a ribbon of my sanity
The cold marble
Folds into itself with sorrow
The wall aches of innocence
It is the texture of God
Evening shadows pool
Black blood at my feet
These are the victims of deceit

A sense
Not so much of guilt
As unworthiness
Ripples down my spine
What is the purpose here
Absolution, humility
For I have tasted war
Only through the tormented words
Of countless poets

And I wonder
How many more poems
Will be ripped
From the brutal guts and horror
Of the depravity of war

COLD MOMENTS

There are times
Cold moments
In the heat of the day
When I can see
Through the myth
Deep into the naked eyes
Of war

Is it memory
Steeped in violence
Stilled by death
That carries me
On the cold wings
Of a wicked wind
Or is it in the hands
Of a callous god
That delivers me
To the wretched trench

What difference
If I am English
Or German, or French
All occupy
By unholy chance
The fetid trench
And wait
In the moldy mist
With empty eyes
The cruel call
To advance
Another chance
To die

THE INNOCENCE OF HIS YOUTHFUL DEATH

While everyone accepted the innocence
Of his youthful death
No one understood the instant death
Of my innocence
And, no one was aware
Of his winter’s moving in and about
The crevices and shadows
Within the shiplap walls
Of the decrepit barn
Perhaps he spent those winter evenings
Wondering why
I was milking cows
And why
He was dead

Phil JohnsonAbout Guest Contributor Phil Johnson
Say “Phil” in Port Townsend, Jefferson County, Washington and everyone knows who you mean. Port Townsend raised, soldier, peace activist, Berkeley grad, fisher, builder, businessperson, patron of the arts, cultural and environmental preservationist, county commissioner, husband and father, Phil Johnson epitomizes “citizenship.”

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Breaking! Donation Match Offer!

An anonymous donor has generously offered to match all donations up to $2500 during the month of December. This, coupled with our holiday Fundraising Special (below), means your contribution will go further and supplement more libraries than ever before!

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Holiday Fundraising Special!
During the month of December, we will donate a complete five-volume set of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts to the public school library of your choice for every tax-deductible donation of $75 or more!

Our administration is board operated, and all members, board and advisers, work on a volunteer basis. 100% of contributions go to support our mission. Writing for Peace is a 501c3 nonprofit corporation, Federal Tax ID Number, 45-2968027.

Ours is a simple mission with profound affect on the lives of our young writers:

Through education and creative writing, Writing for Peace seeks to cultivate the empathy that allows minds to open to new cultural views, to value the differences as well as the hopes and dreams that unite all of humanity, to develop a spirit of leadership and peaceful activism.

Donate now to take advantage of our special library offer and see your contribution doubled!

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

On Empathy, by Andrea W. Doray

 

Empathy unites the hopes and dreams of humanity

by Andrea W. Doray

From left to right: Picture Me Here mentor Meredith Turk, program fellow Gulsum Katmir, and Writing for Peace president Andrea Doray. Gulsum is also director of the Mosaic Foundation, an interfaith alliance in Denver, CO.

From left to right: Picture Me Here mentor Meredith Turk, program fellow Gulsum Katmir, and Writing for Peace president Andrea Doray. Gulsum is also director of the Mosaic Foundation, an interfaith alliance in Denver, CO.

One Friday night recently, I was in Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Ukraine. I smelled the jasmine and heard the mourning doves of Syria. I savored lunch in Afghanistan. I felt buildings collapse in Mexico, and witnessed the capture of a terrorist in Iraq. I visited a hospital, an airport, and a high school hallway. I met siblings and parents and grandparents, and felt the loss of those who are gone.

Why was I so fortunate? Because I am mentoring writers in a fellowship from Picture Me Here, a storytelling program in Denver, Colorado, USA, for refugees, immigrants and others who have been displaced. The Picture Me Here program uses writing, audio, and video to help people explore their cultural and artistic identities through their stories of migration, memory, and place. That Friday evening, these fellows debuted the audio versions of their first stories.

I was partnered with two young women to mentor them through writing these stories: Sunday, of Burmese descent, and Gulsum, from Turkey. Gulsum, 30, and her husband came to the United States 10 years ago to get their master’s degrees (hers in economics from Penn State), never intending to stay here. In her recorded story on Friday, she recalled receiving a phone call from her husband with news of the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey. In that moment, she knew she could never go home.

In her story, Gulsum said: “Unfortunately, the [government’s] scapegoat was the social movement called Hizmet – [whose members] believe in peace all around the world and promote interfaith dialogue – declared as the enemy of the Turkish state … My worries were because we were planning to go back to Turkey and I am [part] of the Hizmet movement [and President] Erdogan now could do anything to [us].” Gulsum knows she will be jailed upon her return, even if just to visit her parents.

Sunday – who was born to Burmese parents in a refugee camp in Thailand and who came to the U.S. at 13 – wrote: “I lived my whole life in the camp, only leaving when my family came to the United States. Because my mother could not afford to go to a hospital, I was born at home in the refugee camp and not granted Thai citizenship. But I did not have citizenship in Burma, because I was born in Thailand. I didn’t know which country I belonged to.”

Sunday, now 18, says she looks forward to finally gaining citizenship – in the U.S. – and: “I hope to make a living serving others. I am so happy to achieve for what I want.”

Like the rest of us at Writing for Peace, I am deeply committed to our mission to cultivate – through education and creative writing – the empathy that allows us to value our diversities and differences as well as the hopes and dreams that unite all of humanity.

Through Sunday’s and Gulsum’s intensely personal stories – and the stories of the young Ethiopian man who had to wait 10 years to bring his mother here, the Iraqi man who had worked with the U.S. military there, the siblings from Afghanistan who cried when they remembered their grandfather, and the young woman from Syria who contrasted her life from before and during the war – I felt the empathy swell in me and the others in the room, uniting us in common hopes and dreams. In moments like these, I truly believe peace is achievable.

And that’s how I see it … from my little corner of the world.

# # #

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning journalist, author, poet, and essayist in Denver, CO, and is occasionally a columnist for The Denver Post through their Colorado Voices panel. Her weekly opinion column, Alchemy, which appears in Colorado Community Media newspapers, has received a first-place award from the Colorado Press Association. Learn more about Andrea and her work here.

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Writing for Peace News

The Writing for Peace Board of Directors extends our deepest condolences to those affected by the recent shootings, and asks…

What Can I Do?

by Jody Rein, Writing for Peace Board Member

More senseless tragedies in America; more assault weapons used to kill and maim the most innocent among us. We feel increasingly impotent, searching for something we can do that will make an impact.

Of course, we can never eradicate violent behavior; humans are imperfect. But we are NOT helpless to change the multiplier—the gun.

Gun safety laws fail to pass at the Federal level because a relatively few people, primarily through the NRA, give a lot of money to fund political campaigns. But your vote can weigh more than their money. When thousands of constituents vow to withhold votes, NRA-funded legislators’ loyalty waivers. We have the numbers: the vast majority of Americans, including many NRA members, support reasonable gun safety laws.

When it comes to influencing lawmakers in the United States, know this:

  1. Your call matters. Your email matters. Most people keep silent.
  2. Most gun legislation today is done at the state and local level. This is where you can have the most influence.

Actions that Make a Difference

  1. Use the Gun Law Navigatorto learn generally about your state’s gun laws.
  2. Find out what laws are on the books in your state, and call or write your local representative to express your opinion. How do you find out? Google local chapters of MomsDemandAction OR the Brady Campaign OR simply “gun safety advocate [your state].”  In Colorado, for example, we have www.coloradoceasefire.org, as well as branches of the national advocacy groups listed above. Colorado Ceasefire is a one-stop-shop for information. It lists upcoming legislation, legislator voting records and NRA ratings, and actions you can take.

Most of these groups also have email alerts; sign up. Act when asked.

  1. Volunteer, either for a gun safety advocacy group, or for the political campaign of someone who supports gun safety. We need you in 2018, desperately. We can’t change the Federal laws until we change the people who refuse to enact reasonable gun-safety legislation.

We can do this.

 

Copyright © 2017 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.