A Plea for Peace and Common Sense

vote, peace, election, America, Democracy, patrioticI have a few requests for you all…

1. Please, PLEASE VOTE. Don’t think that your vote doesn’t matter, because if it was going to matter in any election, it does now. I am not going to tell you who to vote for, but please just do it. Need a ride? Find a friend to give you one, search your area for one of the free services giving voters rides to the polls. Whatever you need to do, just vote.
2. Regardless of the outcome of the election, PLEASE HONOR THE RESULTS. This is a democracy. Whatever you think about how this election process works, it’s how it has evolved over the life of our country. It’s messed up, I know, but it’s ours. Honor the results. Your fellow Americans will have voiced their opinions and we all live in this country together.
3. If you’re not happy with the results of the election, PEACEFULLY PROTEST – if you must. Put the political wheels in motion to change things going forward. DO NOT RESORT TO VIOLENCE.. No riots. No torches and pitchforks. Grit your teeth, move forward, and figure out what YOU can do to change things going forward. 
4. BE KIND. Please don’t let the hate, misogyny, racism, and overall ugliness that has pervaded this election to become the new norm for America. While it would be really awesome if we all loved one another, I’d settle for some tolerance and kindness.
5.  SPREAD THE WORD. Encourage your friends, families, coworkers, or neighbors to honor the election process, to honor the rights of their fellow citizens, and to react with common sense, peace and civility to the results of this election. Do not let our country go down in flames over two people. You can help make America positive again.

40 Days of Good News: Epilogue

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Photo by Tricia Griffith

I spent the last few weeks trying to adjust my focus a bit. The constant barrage of violence, suffering, and hateful politics had kind of reached a point for me where my already elevated stress levels were reaching overload. I needed some good news, and maybe a lot of it.

The arrival of the Christian season of Lent was my inspiration for 40 Days of Good News. Instead of giving up chocolate (inconceivable!!) or something like that for 40 days, I just wanted to dial back how much I looked at the news and went on an angry tirade or felt horror or despair. I wanted to know – despite the media barrage of bad news – good things were still happening in the world.

Good things are still happening in the world, though it might be kind of hard to tell. While it wasn’t impossible, I found it depressingly difficult to find the kind of good news I was looking for. I wanted to go beyond the light, cheery news of dogs getting reunited with their humans and cats having cool jobs. Yes, I did find one cat with a cool job. I also shared a fair amount of news about animals and nature because those are things that make me happy.

What was I looking for in terms of good news? I was looking for stories of people making a positive differences to each other and our planet. I was looking for signs that Earth isn’t hurtling towards mass destruction. I was searching for people who care about something. I wanted to get past racism, hatred, violence and pain. In addition, I added in a few things that maybe help readers find a little bit of hope and peace of their own, whether it’s good news around chocolate, meditation, or massage.

The ugly didn’t stop during these 40 days, of course. I didn’t stop watching the news or reading things that made me angry. Trying to live a positive life doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be wine and roses. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there living hateful, angry lives that are bound to bump into yours on a regular basis. All we can do is look for the positive in a situation or look somewhere else, and do what we can to spread hope, peace, change, and maybe a little education along the way.

May you continue to find even just a little good news each day …

Love & Light ~ Tricia


Good News Day 39: Some US Companies Now Offer Pet Bereavement Days To Employees

Several national companies are now coming up with a solution to help its employees cope up with the pain of losing a pet.

Source: Some US Companies Now Offer Pet Bereavement Days To Employees

Good News Day 14: How One Middle School Cut Discipline Referrals By 98 Percent in Just One Year

Redland revitalized the overall school climate by responding to the unique needs of middle schoolers.

Source: How One Middle School Cut Discipline Referrals By 98 Percent in Just One Year

Good News Day 7: Pazamanos – Using Creative Arts Installations to Help Us See Each Other’s Humanness

Art as a means of social awareness instead of angry words and shouting … priceless. ~Tricia

We would like to kick off our mission to shine a light on what’s positive in Colombia with Pazamanos, a 4-year-old organization working primarily in the poorer neighborhoods of Medellin. Pazamanos, meaning peace through hands, aims – through creative arts

Source: ‘Changing the world is tough but it’s worth it’ Interview with Pazamanos

40 Days of Good News

Dandelion fluffI have been so distressed about all the ugliness and hate in the news lately. The political stupidity, the hateful people, the ignorance, the cruelty. With my particularly level of empathy, I find all of this negatively affects me heavily.
I am not traditionally a “religious” person, but I am supremely spiritual, so I’m going to take advantage of this Christian season of Lent to try to shine a little “Good News” in the world. For the next 40 days, I will try to write or share one positive post a day. I hope that it helps those of you who, like me, are feeling discouraged and distressed by the state of the world.
I don’t intend this to draw attention away from the bad things happening. I believe that all of these things need to be made public and need to be addressed. I just also believe that maybe some of us need to be reminded of the good things that happen around us, too.
I hope this series helps spread a little love and light in the world, and perhaps heals you as it heals me.
Peace & Love,

It’s the Little Things

forest smallOkay yes, it has been a while since I wrote anything. To be fair, it’s been a kind of hellacious summer, and to be honest, I’ve kind of let it get to me. However, recently I’ve decided that even if I don’t give myself time for much else, I need to at least take some time out for what I’ve been calling Nature Therapy. I’ve been making a point to get out and appreciate nature and the truly beautiful state that I live in, Maine.

Getting outside for a hike or a paddle changes my mindset, even if it’s only for a little while. I take my camera with me, and I go with the intent of finding and appreciating the wonder that is nature. I walk along, thinking about the flowers and critters and smelling the balsam fir and the fallen leaves. I listen to the songs of birds, the buzz of bees and frequent scolding from red squirrels. I revel in that non-silent silence that you find when you’re deep out on a trail with no modern distractions.

When I was preparing to finally get back to writing on this blog, I kind of first planned a bit of a rant about being judgmental, but I could not quite get it to flow the way I hoped. Two things changed my mind. red squirrelOne was this Sunday’s message from my minister, who spoke about “Something is Wrong”, and with it she spoke about the judgment and treatment of our fellow humans, and it gave me a different spin on the thought that I want to write about. So, watch for that coming up next. (You can listen to this message here. This particular message starts at 11:30)

The other thing was that afternoon’s walk in the forest, where I had an entertaining encounter with a red squirrel and another one with a damselfly, and I realized that what the world needs now is good news. It made me think that sometimes what we need are the little things to help us change our mindset, turn down a different path, or look at the world in a slightly different light.

I decided that one of the things I would start doing on this blog is also writing up some of the entertaining things that end up happening to me on my walks in nature. A reminder to everyone to take the time out, find your nature therapy or book therapy or whatever little thing makes your world even just a little bit better.

spiderwebA reminder that sometimes when you’re trying to see the forest for the trees or staying on the path, because that’s how you get to the end, you miss the journey. You miss the cheeky red squirrel, the ambling porcupine or the spider web glistening with rain drops.

So, yes, I will write about personal and social responsibility and growth, but I’ll also take the time to share some of my nature therapy with you, in the hopes that it will help inspire you to go experience some of your own.

Peace & Hope


What Do You Do With Your Anger?

MP900385327Anger, while generally labeled a “negative” emotion, does have its place in our repertoire of emotional responses. But, how productive is it to use your anger against others, even if it is for a just cause?

Without delving into a mound of research on emotions and psychology, the basic purpose of anger seems to be to drive us to respond to situations that we perceive as unjust, cruel or harmful; perhaps also feeding our sense of self preservation.

It’s good to have this emotion give us a sense of moral outrage, drive us to react, press us to defend ourselves. On the flip side, it can cause us to lash out at people, say things without thinking, even lead to violence. Perhaps it is a good idea to think about the difference between acting because of anger and reacting in anger.

As a child, if you misbehaved and were shouted at in anger, you might have cried and even felt fear. You probably learned not to do the misbehavior again, but perhaps only because you were frightened and not necessarily because the interaction was positive and educational.

Angry shouting in the workplace creates tension and anxiety. Employees work hard out of fear of eliciting an angry reaction rather than because they love their work or because they simply want to do the best work they can.

MP900399201 Social injustices around the world, from slavery to women’s rights, to Apartheid and more, were positively affected by people who were angry about the cruelty and injustice. Were these problems solved because these angry people shouted in the streets, took shovels to the heads of the offenders, or otherwise reacted in anger to the situation? Some of this no doubt happened, but it is likely what eventually solved the problem.

It was the intelligent, thoughtful, angry person – who was spurred into positive action by their anger, that likely made the biggest difference. These people educated the masses, debated the laws and got involved on the grassroots level, rather than in defensive, reactive ways.

Shouting, bullying and berating, and certainly violence, do not win people over to your cause. It prevents them from interacting with you about it at all. They don’t hear what you are saying over your shouting. Perhaps they even avoid a cause they might have otherwise supported, simply because of a bad interaction with someone reacting in anger.

Whatever your political, religious, or social beliefs, whatever makes you angry; stop. Think first. Is this angry response really going to have the effect that you are hoping for? Or is just going to alienate your cause and drive away potential supporters? Or, worse, hurt someone?

MP900430643 Find positive ways to approach what makes you angry. Accept that there might be people that you simply cannot change, let them go and move on to the people you can. Publically flogging transgressors went out with the dark ages. Private (or calm public) discussions and negotiations are likely to be much more meaningful and effective. Treat them with respect and they will respect you, and your cause.

While it is by no means easy to always remember to stop and think before reacting in anger, it can help to keep the simple Serenity Prayer in mind (insert favorite deity as desired):

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Interpreting The Meaning of Christmas

Christmas lightsThere are many interpretations of the “true” meaning of Christmas. Whether you are Christian or Pagan, Catholic or Atheist; if you believe that Jesus was born and died so that you may be saved; if you think that He was not a savior but simply a great teacher and spiritual leader; or even if you believe that He and His life are merely an allegory, there is something to be learned from a story that has persisted for centuries, inspired faith, hope and beliefs around the world.

Whatever your belief, take away from today a message of peace, and of change for the better. It’s a message that never gets old; a message that we revisit after every act of violence. Take with you today a hope, a belief that we have the power to make positive change in the world. Peace is a process that radiates out from the smallest act, like a pebble creating a ripple on the surface of a pond. It’s a process that begins at home and within your heart.

Laws and guns and jails and punishment do not make peace. Revenge and retribution do not make peace. People make peace. You do. I do. Your children do.

We may fool ourselves into believing that by living our lives insulated from those around us, we are absolved of the responsibility for the violence around us. But ignoring it is really not much better than committing it. From bullies on the playground, to gangs, to hate, prejudice and cruelty, violence comes in many forms. Recognizing it, and making our own small efforts to spread peace, goes a lot further towards the end of violence than rolling over and pulling the blankets over our head.

Picture 240Start small, you don’t personally have to change the world today, but you can drop your own pebble into the pond. Think before you react in anger; we are far more likely to flip off and curse at an obnoxious driver than we are to appreciate the kid who bags our groceries, or hands us our cup of coffee at our favorite coffee place. We’ll complain about poor service at the drop of a hat, but when is the last time you took the time to contact a manager to commend a hard working employee?

Talk to your kids about bullying and make sure they understand that it’s not only their responsibility NOT to bully, but to discourage it. Don’t just shake your head sadly and turn up the TV when you hear your neighbors fighting violently night after night. MP900432988Don’t look the other way when you see regular bruises on a friend or acquaintance. When you’re ready step it up a notch, volunteer for organizations that promote peace and well-being.

Peace is the meaning of Christmas, whatever version of the story you believe. This does not just mean reaping the benefit of living a peaceful life, but making whatever small contribution you can to a society, a world, where children don’t die needlessly, where no one has to suffer the violence of prejudice, hatred, war and persecution. Be a candle in the darkness. Be the pebble of peace that ripples out and touches the lives around you.

Resources for violence prevention and assistance:

The Tribes of Man

I recall once having a discussion with someone about how hard it would be to bring Democracy to the Middle East because of the region’s tribal nature.

IMG_6733According to Carl Salzman, professor of anthropology at McGill University and author of the book Culture and Conflict in the Middle East, tribes are the descendants of a common ancestor on the male line which combine their resources with other closely related relatives against more distant ones, and the whole tribe will then stand together against outsiders. This tribal framework renders it nearly impossible to have a constitution or a regime of law and order, thereby “generating a society where all groups are on an equal basis.” (excerpt from Wikipedia).

In his report, The Middle East’s Tribal DNA, Salzman also states that “These groups are vested with responsibility for the defense of each member and responsible for harm any member does to outsiders. If there is a confrontation, families face families, lineage faces lineage, clan faces clan, tribe faces tribe, confederacy faces confederacy, sect faces sect, and the Islamic community faces the infidels.” (I do recommend reading this report, it’s a great overview of how the tribal system works, if you’re curious.) While the Middle East does have established states and governance, it’s not hard to imagine what kind of impact centuries and centuries of tribal rule and culture have on their modern society.

While it may seem like a lot of useless technical cultural information, it made IMG_7994me think; are we really all so different that we’re the same? Is the Middle East just one magnified view of the tribal nature of the world in general? While a country is not necessarily the product of a single male line, you could take into consideration the US’s reverence of the Founding Fathers. Each country of the globe is a bit like its own tribe. Some tribes prefer to live in quiet isolation and avoid conflict and turmoil with the tribes around them. Others would be the ruling tribes, establishing laws, policing the rest of the tribes, acting as the Big Brother, be it benevolent or otherwise.

Some tribes are just fine with the way things are. They don’t want to lose themselves, their culture or their identity in what they see as getting all merged and run together with the rest of the world’s tribes. (AKA Globalization). Meanwhile the Big Brother tribes feel pretty certain that they know what is best, try to police the world, resolve disputes and instill order.

Beyond a sense of tribal place, there are centuries of built up assumptions, prejudices and mistrust. Some of these global ‘tribes’ have a reputation for being aggressive and warlike, others not sophisticated enough, or strong enough. One tribe finds it difficult to trust another tribe so different from their own. Old conflicts and grievances are revisited over and over again.

IMG_7741Cultural beliefs can be one of the strongest forces against unification or globalization in this tribal world. Fears of losing a cultural identity, or of having other belief systems forced upon them. Religious differences are certainly paramount. If my tribe accepts your religious beliefs, does that lessen the power of my own beliefs?

Whether you are part of the “tribe” of the United States or Canada,  the tribe of France or Germany, the tribe of Iraq, England, Mexico or China, there is a fear that keeps us from achieving peace. How does each country retain its identity, it’s culture and embrace the idea of united global tribe? How do I accept what you believe while holding on to my own, how do we not lose our culture, what makes us the country we are, some of whom have had nearly as many centuries to develop as those in the Middle East?

Another thing that got me thinking about this was a talk given at the Hudson Institute called Identity, Democracy and the Nation-State which discussed the debate within the academic community about whether a strong national core identity is necessary to democracy, or whether it is ultimately subversive. They discuss the role that immigrants play in defining a culture and the role of globalism and multiculturalism versus religious virtues and traditional Western values in the survival of democracy.

IMG_7785Like the basic steps of self-awareness and personal growth, communities and countries as a whole need to realize (or decide) that it is possible to accept, even embrace, the ideals of others and still keep a sense of identity. Instead of conflicting over who’s ideals are better, focus on healing and true balance.

In The Middle East’s Tribal DNA, Salzman comments that “The tribal notion of balanced opposition has profound implications on modern conflict. The Arab-Israeli debate is polarized and almost every “fact” contested by the other side.” Okay, not only a global tribal mindset, but something you can see happen in our very own government. Fact and counter fact, pro and con, plan and better plan.

IMG_7700Perhaps this is an exceptionally “thinky” post for my typically feel-good blog. But, it was something that I felt warranted consideration. From a neighborhood to a community, from a tribe to a country and extending on outward to a global scale, there is a need to realize that while our cultures, religious ideals and national heritage may differ, we are all driven by the same basic fears. And more often than not it’s fear and misunderstanding that lead to the destruction of peace.