Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Melissa Clark, an amazing woman who organized an initiative called Project Love around the holidays. Driving through the valley in which she lives, Melissa spotted a campfire from a homeless enclave. Seeing folks struggling to stay warm on such a cold winter day moved Melissa in a very personal way. You see, not too long ago, Melissa herself was homeless and struggling with substance abuse.
I connected with Melissa through her current home, Acres of Diamonds , in Duvall, Washington, USA. AOD is a faith-based non-profit that provides housing, life coaching, and a variety of support services to homeless women and their children affected by domestic abuse, substance abuse, and mental health problems. AOD provides more than just temporary shelter. The residents at AOD join a program to break the cycles that keep them from self-sufficiency.
The goal for the residents is to achieve complete independence via graduating out of the residence and supporting themselves and their children on their own while making meaningful contributions to society.
At the time of our talk, Melissa had been at AOD and sober for 9 months. Her 7-year-old son was living with her, and she found employment at a local pizza shop. Melissa shared that she finally feels safe, secure, and loved. When she saw that homeless person’s campfire on her drive home, though, she remembered a different time in her life. The cold, the helplessness, and the spiritual battles all came to mind, and she felt God spoke to her heart in that moment to take action. But before she put plans in motion, she thought it best to honor the individuals she was trying to help by figuring out just what they needed. She and a friend visited some of the homeless folks in the community, invited them to lunch at McDonald’s, and asked them directly what they could use.
From there, the two friends put together a PowerPoint presentation for their church and pitched the idea to create care packages to deliver to the local homeless population. These efforts, titled Project Love, in partnership with an event at a local gym, resulted in huge numbers of clothing, toiletries, coats, sleeping bags, and other essentials getting directly into the hands of those forgotten members of the community.
Furthermore, Melissa, along with her son and an escort for safety, delivered packages to the homeless on Christmas Eve. Since then, she has also secured a standing gift card at the local bike shop for any homeless persons who come in needing repairs and provided a pair of insulated boots to a homeless veteran, who thanked her with tears in his eyes. She hopes to organize donation drives at least twice per year.
Melissa feels it is her ministry to show love and understanding without judgement to the homeless. Her goal is to let these people know that she sees their humanity by taking the time to listen to their stories and helping them get what they need to make it through the seasons. She views it as her duty to share the love and security she has received with others still struggling to break the cycle of homelessness. Whether she gets a person a warm meal or gifts them new gloves, she plans to keep taking steps to lift up those around her.
Talking with Melissa inspired me. I admire her ability to celebrate her own milestones while not placing value judgements on those still farther back on the path.
I admire the example she is setting for her son on overcoming obstacles to build a better future for oneself while still showing compassion for others. And I admire her willingness to look another human being in the eye and ask, “Are you ok? What can I do to help?” We live in such contentious times right now in America. People are struggling to find common ground, and they are lashing out at each other daily. Hearing Melissa’s story reminded me how simple gestures towards those around us make a huge impact and prompted me to consider what more I can be doing to help people in my community.
Melissa’s journey to sobriety and self-sufficiency is a testament to her strength, but her generosity shows her outstanding character. It’s not about how much you have, but how much you are willing to give to help those around you. And sometimes paying it forward doesn’t have to cost a thing. After all, love is free.
Who inspires you in your community?
This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Picture used with the permission of Melissa Clark.
I see you.
On the surface, you look like everyone else. You blend in. Your appearance and persona is nothing unusual. Not for you. No one would ever know your story because you keep it to yourself. It is none of their business, after all, and they wouldn’t understand anyway.
But there is pain underneath that appearance. Discomfort. Uncertainty. Just enough of the emotion seeps through that I can see it. I see it in your eyes. I see it in the way you hold your body. Something is not right.
I’ve been there.
I hear you.
You reach out privately because you know there will be an ear. You hope there will be understanding. A light in the sea of darkness. A glimmer of clarity where there seems to be a never-ending swirl of confusion.
Though it is hard, I listen. I listen because others did when I needed an ear. I recognize the pain, the denial, the uncertainty and fear.
I’ve been there.
I feel you.
Your words penetrate me. I feel them in every bone of my body. My chest hurts, and my eyes burn. I re-live my own past experiences. I feel angry and sad. I know. And I can’t do a thing about it but listen and absorb.
I share my experience and though our stories are different, we are the same at that very moment. We are one. I may be farther along, but don’t let that fool you. It is easy to fall back into that hole.
I’ve been there.
We’ve all been there. As mothers, as daughters, as wives, as women. The drive to make good and keep peace can be our downfall.
But keeping the peace isn’t always the answer. It can numb us when we really need to feel. If we wait too long our hurt hits us like a ton of bricks. We become angry. And that is when change needs to occur.
The problem is that change is hard and scary and there is no guarantee what the future will hold. So you must let go and trust that you are strong enough to make the change and heal the pain.
It’s a process. One that is unique to everyone who is brave enough to go through it. Like a roller coaster ride, it is fraught with emotion. There are dips and turns and periods of anxiety and fear of what is coming next. The exhilaration and satisfaction at the end, however, is worth the ride.
We owe it to ourselves, to our children, to make that change. Whatever it is.
I see you.
You are not alone.
Does this post resonate with you?
This is an original post written by Jennifer Iacovelli for World Moms Blog.
Photo: Courtesy of Mona Haydar
In the age of cellphones and social media, it’s very easy to disconnect from people without realizing you’re doing so. How many of us create walls subconsciously, especially if it concerns people of different nationalities we don’t usually associate with?
I was struck by a story of a woman who decided to set up a stand outside of a library in Cambridge, MA. Inspired by a story her husband saw on NPR titled “Ask an Iraqi”, Mona Haydar thought that it was important for her to establish a connection with those who may not know what’s it’s like to be a Muslim, especially a Muslim woman living in the United States.
For Haydar, setting up a stand titled “Talk To A Muslim” was a way for her to dispel any preconceived notions or stereotypes so many have of foreigners, especially of Muslim women.
With so many crises affecting different nationalities, in light of events happening in Syria, Haydar’s goal of creating a physical stand and waiting for people to approach her was a bold move since she had no clue how it would be received. What was surprising and hopeful was that people did stop by and spoke with Haydar, and that was a start. She was quite surprised to see how people did respond to her stand and while the reception was initially uncertain, it was enough for her to think about setting up the stand again.
In the current climate regarding people of cultures we aren’t familiar with, not willing to find out about them says more about us than them. There shouldn’t be a division of “them” and “us”, but unfortunately, there is.
How many times have we been guilty of giving in to fear of the unknown instead of taking a step back and dispelling the stereotypes we have learned about other cultures?
As someone who has had to answer questions about my nationality or religion over the years, the initial offense I felt has made me rethink of how people perceive me. Over the years, I have been mistakenly identified as either Korean or Japanese, rarely a Filipina. In addition, since I’m married to a Jewish man, I have been asked whether I’m a convert or adopted due to my Jewish maiden name, and to which I answer “no” to both. Answering these questions over the years, my frustration over being categorized primarily due to my physical appearance has made me realize that it’s not because of ignorance, but lack of communication. Asking questions and conversing about each other’s cultures would go a long way than being presumptuous about other people’s lives.
After reading about Haydar and seeing the NPR segment titled “Ask An Iraqi”, it made me wonder if we should put ourselves in Haydar’s shoes. Should we have to set up a stand in order to be understood or be compassionate towards others? Have we become so desensitized by our own prejudices that we have no room for being tolerant? I would hope not. Haydar’s stand may just be one form of starting conversations regarding one’s culture, but I think it’s an idea worth exploring. We might just realize that we may not look alike, but we all share the same intrinsic values of goodness towards humanity.
Read the original article regarding this post Here.
How do you think we can nurture better cross-cultural understanding?
This is an original post written by World Moms Blog Contributor Tes Silverman of The Pinay Perspective
Interesting conversations about world events happen behind the scenes at World Moms Blog. A few weeks ago, we grieved and expressed shock at the terrorist attacks that fanned out across Paris, France, taking the lives of 130 people. Nigeria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and Mali were also on our minds. So, with the permission of the World Moms, here is a glimpse into their thoughts just after the Paris attacks a few weeks ago…
Jackie Jenkins in Jordan:
Pema Chodron’s words.
“When I think about the tragedies in Paris and in Lebanon and in fact in many places in the world, It seems to me that’s it’s very clear that the cause is hatred. Therefore I feel for people that are committed to waking up and being of benefit to others, the key is for us is to not nurture hatred in our hearts. It may seem beyond many of us to feel compassion for the perpetrators, but probably the most important thing is for us to not add any more aggression to the planet, but to add as much open kindness and open heartedness as we can.”
Words for us all to internalise and meditate on.
Sophia from the USA:
“My heart is heavy. Too many lives…pointlessly lost. People who, just by the act of living, have been killed in the most horrific ways.
As of November 13th, 2015, I began seeing the French flag on many a face on Facebook. Surely, a sign of solidarity (I knew this from the Rainbow Flag, which supports LGBT rights).
However, on November 14th, I start seeing images and status updates of people wondering why the same media coverage that was given to Paris, wasn’t given to Beirut (Lebanon), when the same attackers had just killed and wounded a total of 243 people just the day before the attacks in Paris.
This stopped me in my tracks. Yes, why did I not see the same extent of coverage of this? There were no Lebanese flags on people’s Facebook profiles. What is World Moms Blog, if not a place for us to bring up these very hard topics? To give a voice to the voiceless.”
Michelle Pannell from the UK:
“What happened in France last Friday is devastating and the outcry from the public is of course understandable. As a Brit I painfully feel the tragedy as Paris is a city I have been to, I have fond memories of and I currently live with a few French people. Living in an international community makes my heart stretch and want to embrace the world and no, not just the white developed world.
I want to embrace and care for all parts of the world. Currently there are 23 nationalities represented within our community, that is people from the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and South America. Each one of those people adds something just a little different, special and unique to the lifeblood here and I do not value any one of them more or less because their skin is white or because they speak English as their first language.
Yes, we are all Christians, I live in a Christian community but I suspect every one of us has friends of other religions and none. I will not ostracise people because they are Muslim.” Read Michelle’s full post on her blog, Mummy from the Heart.
Nadege Nicoll in the USA:
“As a French citizen, I think that now more than ever, it is important to help Syrian refugees who have been victims for years. We shouldn’t turn our back, our arms must open even wider.”
Aisha Yesufu in Nigeria:
“God said in the Qur’an to kill one human is like killing humanity. We have to unite and let the goodness in us all outshine. A terrorist attack to anyone anywhere in the world is a terrorist attack to everyone everywhere in the world.
God rest the souls of the dead and console the families of the departed all over the world. It’s not easy.”
An excerpt taken from her post, “NIGERIA: A Muslim Mother Recounts News of Paris Attacks” to be published next week.
Cindy Levin in the USA:
I’d like to share the words of my pastor, Reverend Pamela Dolan in St Louis, Missouri.
Please let’s be gentle about how we monitor and correct other people’s prayers and grief.
If you think Americans are more upset about France than about Lebanon or Syria etc, you are probably right. As a society, we must look inward and ask why, and we must do better. But as individuals the reasons for our response are diverse and are not always a result of racism or a deep, unacknowledged Western bias. Some of us have spent time there, or dreamed of traveling there. Some of us have friends there, or family roots. Some of us are simply responding to a lifetime of seeing Paris as a symbol of liberty, equality, and brotherhood.
Rather than criticize how others are expressing sympathy, let’s use this moment of compassion to help expand the circle. Let’s not make suffering a zero-sum competition. There is love enough, and grief enough, to go around. It’s a teachable moment, yes, but not a time for judgment.
Here’s what I think. If you’re hurting right now, you’re probably doing it right. Remember that only a broken heart is big enough to encompass the wounds of the world. Healing has to start somewhere. Peace.”
Mama B. in Saudi Arabia:
“There is a huge imbalance in coverage and condemnation of terror attacks when they happen in my neck of the woods then when it does in Europe. There should be just as much outrage and condemnation. I pray for the day that these incidents are old news or not so constant that covering them would basically mean not covering any other story… its heartbreaking.
Also, what’s happening is a test of our humanity and tolerance. And our ability to see through our pain and be just. It’s the Syrians who have been effected the most. Tortured raped and killed in their own homes. The stories I hear from Syrians who have come into Saudi are horrifying.”
Jennifer Burden in the USA:
“The community behind our digital space weaves even stronger when we are gripped with the realization of a natural or human made disaster. Last Friday we put a call out in our private contributors’ Facebook group to locate Marie Kleber, our contributor in Paris. The next morning we were happy to hear that she was safe, as we mourned the deaths of 129 (now 130) people in Paris with her and offered support.
The news of the world is immediately applicable to our network behind the blog and to our readers. These times motivate us stronger to make peace in the world possible. Peace IS Possible. Peace is Possible in every corner of our earth. We can all learn to love. We can, no matter what our thoughts and views on issues, find a common tie. Here, on World Moms Blog, it is motherhood. We must move forward in kindness and olive branches and put down the weapons and get out the telephones, the tea cups and listen to each other. We must make room for acceptance. Could you imagine the amazing things humanity could achieve once this is possible?”
What’s on your mind?
This is an original collaborative post to World Moms Blog by our contributors.
Image credit to World Moms Blog.
As a trainer in intercultural communication and mom to multilingual children, I am always taught to accept other cultures, various ways of thinking and perspectives of looking at the world.
I may of course have a lot to learn about tolerance but I like to think that I’m doing a decent job at understanding all the different viewpoints. But there is a place where my tolerance stops.
One thing I have no understanding for is woo and quackery. The argument, “but indigenous tribes in enter-remote-location-here have been using this plant for ages and it cured all diseases” is useless when scientific research shows that said plant doesn’t work at all or can even be poisonous.
Unfortunately many people believe this stuff and it can have dangerous consequences. And then it gets worse.
Advocates of female circumcision claim that it’s a part of their cultural heritage and without it women feel they are not “real” women. But any cultural tradition that is based on suffering and disfigurement of the human body should be gotten rid of very quickly and no amount of cultural appreciation will suffice for me to accept such a tradition.
Let’s also remember that culture, while it brings people together and helps them get along better and makes sense out of their environment, can also smash our individualism and make us unhappy.
But as dangerous and untrue these claims are, it gets worse. Women get killed, raped, disfigured and humiliated every day. They are afraid to go out on the streets in the evenings; they take great care in picking their clothes out of fear of being proclaimed “indecent”.
In many parts of the world, people kill each other over cultural, religious or political differences which are often minor. In some parts of the world, certain people are considered worse than other people.
Should we just accept it as it is, saying, “It’s another culture, we shouldn’t do anything about it, we should just appreciate our differences”? I agree that cultural diversity is great- and I myself benefit tremendously from it. But shouldn’t we be drawing a line somewhere? And if so, where should we draw it?
In her book, “Medaliony”, Polish writer Zofia Nałkowska tries to make sense of what happened during WWII in Poland. She could have put blame on the Germans, the way many Polish people did and still continue to do today. But she didn’t. Instead, she wrote, “People prepared this fate for people”, or in a better translation, “humans prepared this fate for humans.”
I guess that line should be drawn when it’s not about cultural differences anymore. When the action in question can’t be explained by traditions, cultural heritage or tolerance. In short when it’s about humans hurting or killing other humans.
A common criticism of the understanding cultures approach is that deep inside, we are all the same. Of course there are some things that are universal: we are all humans, we have hearts and brains and skins. We’re so afraid that if we start mentioning our differences, we will start comparing ourselves to others and consider some of us better.
I beg to differ. Of course we are all humans and some of the things we do are universal. But the truth is that we are an extremely varied species, on a wide spectrum of sizes, skin colours, temperaments and cultural and social backgrounds.
Saying we are all the same eradicates the wonderful differences in us and I think that’s a shame. We are all humans and all different, and if one human kills another human it’s a tragedy.
Sadly, such tragedies happen all the time. Recently, the three boys: Eyal Yifrcah, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel disapeared and were later found dead. The #BringBackOurBoys campaign, while beautiful, did nothing to revive them. Then, the flight MH17 crushed in Ukraine. Expatica Manager Antoine van Veldhuizen was on that plane. He and other victims of the plane crash will be hugely missed and the Netherlands are in mourning.
We like to say that humans are great with making sense out of tragedies. They need to feel that they suffered for a reason. Again, I beg to differ. Suffering and pain don’t make sense. We can certainly make sense out of them but to do so means to accept that and this is something I’ll never ever do.
Humans killing humans doesn’t make sense. And no amount of cultural appreciation classes or tolerance will convince me otherwise. Before you see someone as a part of a certain culture or religion, you’d better see the individual human first.
Our differences shouldn’t divide us. They should bring us together.
But above all, being different is no excuse to kill other people.Because nothing ever is an excuse to kill, nor should it be.
Instead, killing other people should be considered the shocking and saddening tragedy that it is and nothing should ever change that.
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Olga Mecking, The European Mama, from the Netherlands.
Photo credit: DIBP images. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.