Hope for the Homeless

A decade ago we would rarely hear about the homeless crisis, except in times of holiday charity. Times have changed though and we see more and more about the homeless crisis in news and social media. There is a vast amount of information that comes through our computer, tablet, television and cell phone screens. There are moments in which we will feel a flutter in our heart for a snippet that has caught our attention as we continue to scroll through happenings and events.

There are people who decide to act on those flutters, open their hearts enough to take action and make a difference in someones life. ABC news recently reported on a man in California, named Elvis Summers. He met Irene McGee and learned her story of a decade of homelessness. Elvis took it upon himself to perform an act of kindness and with just five hundred dollars built her a tiny home shelter. He has since started a foundation to continue helping the homeless.

Other times people are compelled to live in acts of kindness following a tragedy. In 1991, a man named Arnold Abbot started the Love Thy Neighbor Fund, Inc in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida following the death of his beloved wife. His mission was to feed and help the homeless. In 2014, Arnolds face became familiar in many households, after the city passed an ordinance that made it illegal to feed the homeless. Arnold showed his commitment to his cause after several arrests, as reported by CNN. The story of the actions of one kind man that touched many hearts, became a media storm and amidst the public outcry, charges were dropped against Arnold and his mission continued.

These two men and the many others like them, are no different than you and I. However, they chose to make a difference in the lives of another. People such as this are rewarded with the gratitude of humanity. If each of us could choose to make a positive impact on just one persons life each week, within a year humanity within society would be thriving in the way it was meant to- together.

India’s Red Brigade Has Some Men Seeing Red!

The Red Brigade of India, a valiant group of young Indian women who have been victims of rape (something unfortunately heavily prevalent, tolerated and accepted in countries like India) are using their voices and tenacity to take a stand against harassment and violence toward women in their country. They are fearless and proudly sport their uniforms of red (symbolizing danger) and black (representing protest), boldly making their presence known.

“Power Girls,” a short documentary by Jayisha Patel, examines the strides these women are taking toward equality in India by following the courageous group. They are truly an inspiration. Here’s an entire country where women have been pushed around by their peers, the authorities, their government, and their families. They are told to stay quiet and more often than not, the victims of these barbaric attacks are shamed and blamed. Sometimes for being out after dark. Other times for what they wear.

The notion that one could ever possibly have enough gall as to blame a victim after they’ve been attacked through no fault of their own, is beyond the realm of reason to most of us….. yet, here we still are.

But these girls are quickly changing that, which means, there is a very bright light at the end of the tunnel! Upon further investigation I learned that they take self defense courses, surveil the streets and protest in areas where their members were previously attacked, often confronting abusers. When they hear of new incidents, they do what they can to offer support to victims and their families as well as protest. It is reported that one girl even punched her attacker in the face, although it wasn’t clearly stated whether or not that was during or after she was attacked and joined forces with the group. Either way, I felt proud and slightly vindicated for her.

I do not condone violence and understand that momentarily harming someone physically can never undo the atrocity that was done. But the action itself is a harbinger that injustice will no longer be tolerated. It’s not unlike many instances of someone being systematically bullied, until they completely have had enough and show their antagonizer that they are no longer willing to stand for it as they pummel them to the ground. Sometimes it takes physically standing up for oneself to make one’s message clear. I applaud them. In spirit, I stand with and fight with them. All hail The Red Brigade!!

For more insight into this story, you can check out these excellent video’s on Youtube:
The Young Turks, Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur report on this:

To see the full 10 minute film by AJ+:

Crayons Get An Upgrade

We’ve all visited a restaurant where our kids have found a box of crayons on the table along with a page to try out their artistic skills. Have you ever wondered what happens to them when you leave? Well, that is the question that Bryan Ware had according to a recent article in Good News Network. He found out that 25 to 35 tons of crayons are left in a landfill each year and these items take quite a while to break down. As a result he came up with a great idea to collect these crayons before they hit the landfill and recycle them.

Mr. Ware started a nonprofit called “The Crayon Initiative” which not only gives the crayons a fresher look but also puts them into the hands of children who could really put them to good use in hospitals, art programs and special needs programs.

His journey began several years ago when he and his family went out to dinner and his children received crayons from the waitress. He discovered that the crayons would get thrown out and were not able to be donated anywhere because of the issue with germs. Mr. Ware invested his own money into the project, and teamed up with a physical therapist who helped to design the crayons into a triangular shape that would make it easier for special needs children.

So far, over 100,000 boxes of crayons have been donated to The Crayon Initiative from around the country and 800,000 have been reshaped. Amazingly, Bryan Ware is producing these crayons in his kitchen, stirring large heated pots of crayons by hand or family members’ hands. With thousands of crayons stored in his garage, he is looking for funding to transfer from his garage to an appropriate facility. Not only is Bryan Ware doing something great for children everywhere, but he is also helping the environment by recycling. He believes that this is just the start of bigger things to come. In the meantime, anyone who wishes to donate crayons or has an interest in starting up a collection program in their community or schools can find more information at The Crayon Initiative website.

Twin Panda’s Birth Show US/China Diplomacy At Its Best

How exciting! The National Zoo proudly announces two new residents. Mei Xiang, a giant panda, gave birth to twin cubs on Saturday, August 21, 2015. After only confirming on Friday, August 20, 2015 that she was pregnant, zoo keepers were thrilled when her water broke Saturday afternoon. The first cub was born at 5:35pm and the second was born at 10:07 pm. Zoo officials say both cubs are doing well.

I am so proud of the breeding program at our National Zoo. Relations with China are usually quite strained. We have such differences of opinions on a variety of issues. It is wonderful to see our nations set aside their differences to work and achieve something so remarkable. Giant pandas are beautiful animals that are endangered. With only approximately 1600 pandas alive in the wild and 300 in zoos and breeding centers, any help these animals can get for survival is crucial.

The United States’ work with China in saving the giant pandas began in 1972 with Richard Nixon and his visit to China. China loaned 2 pandas to our National Zoo, Ling Ling, a female, and Hsing Hsing, a male. More recently in 2011 China and Zoo Director, Dennis Kelly signed a new Giant Panda Cooperative Research and Breeding Agreement which extends our cooperation and commitment to conserve the species for several more years.

The program is proving to be very successful. Mei Xaing has had two cubs survive (Tai Shan male born in July 2009 and Bao Bao born in August 2013). Her births are the result of artificial insemination from pandas in China.

Americans learn a bit of customs and traditions with the birth of these cubs. The cubs are not named for 100 days, a Chinese custom. The National Zoo had a party and ceremony for the naming of Bao Bao on the panda’s 100th day.

It is great to see our nation work with China to keep these amazing animals with us. Hopefully by working together to learn how to save the pandas our relationship with China will continue to grow and prosper. Perhaps this relationship is just the beginning. Perhaps someday we can work together on other issues.

National Zoo’s twin pandas are only the 3rd set to be born at a U.S. zoo

Humility In An Age Of Arrogance

From Nipun Mehta for the Daily Good
In our present day world we all rush to be the center of attention. We want to be seen, heard, and applauded for who we are. There is a different way though. One that will bring far more success and peacefulness than a new set of selfies, or a pat on the back that many cannot live without.

That is, being humble. We do not need to be seen and heard to be important. Rather, it is a far better means of understanding ourselves and the world we live in to be humble. This is not the popular route, but it will save a lot of grey hair, stress and anxiety problems.

Slowly our communities, and society have moved to power grabs and attention seekers over being meek and thinking of others before self. What a sorry state when me has taken over, and no one really ever considers we anymore.

This shows not only in our actions and behaviors, but mostly in our words and the text that we use to talk of ourselves and others. People now respect individuals who have huge bank accounts and can fund something or pay their way through life.

Quality of human existence has been replaced with personal worth in the workplace, equities, and what the title before or after your name is. It should be based on the caliber of the character and the willingness to help others and community.

This would not be such a problem, or an issue if it did not cause the wrong characters to come forward. Where is the empathy that we used to have as a society for others? Homelessness is up, violence is increasing and we do not seem to even blink an eye at it. Arrogance is a strange bedfellow and can only serve to aid one if they remain in a place of power and affluence.

When the chips are down one will have to learn humility in order to live and survive. We need it as a people in order to be able to make the changes that will keep this world going. We cannot look at others as if they are servants to do our bidding. Others have feelings to and being able to relate to others is what makes us uniquely human.

Humility does not mean one has to lose self either. In our own humbleness we find our self. We find what makes us strong, courageous and beautiful. Being humble is a way that we connect with others and the world around us.

Focus on the Small Goals and Find Happiness

From James Clear for the Daily Good
Every year we all set goals that we want to reach. Have you ever considered that this simple act of setting a goal could be the one thing that is preventing you from reaching that goal? A lesser achievement could be the key to getting where you want to be without the stress and without the pressure.

Removing stress from the attainment of personal goals can help to make the journey to fulfilling those goals easier. If the individual would simply do a small shift in goal attainment, they would be far more likely to reach the end of their journey.

Consider this, if the individual wants to run a marathon, they do not go out and start running marathons. What that person does is start running smaller distances to work up their endurance and ability so that they may run a marathon. The same is true for our goals.

Set smaller achievements to be reached that will eventually lead to the ability to attain the larger goal. This may not seem like the plan that one wants, but it is definitely the way that a larger, loftier goal can be reached. These smaller steps will constitute the path through which lessons can be learned and abilities honed.

Goals also have a weird way of reducing the overall happiness of the person. When the stress to make good on the goals begins to add up, it is no longer about the goal, it is about the pressure to perform. When the individual falls short on the goals that have been set, they will experience increased stress and a depletion of happiness. Without the goals as a pressure point, success can be acquired.

Long term vision is a good thing. To say to self that such and such is what the eventual end goal is, is a good thing. It helps to keep focus and direction. Although, it should not be the end goal that is the primary focus, rather it should be in the process or way that these goals are reached.

One needs to understand that life will present many situations that they have absolutely no control over. Then what of the goals? The key is to constantly reinvent how the goal will be reached. Lose the pressure and adjust to circumstances and success will be realized. One will be surprised at how much more the journey is enjoyed when the end destination is not dictating the map of how it is reached.

Medical Professionals Also Need To Care For Themselves

In the Mindful article, “Why Doctors and Nurses Should Meditate” important issues are brought up. As a strong believer in the power of mindfulness, it is important to raise awareness. Hospital acquired infections could be lowered with mindfulness. Every year, we are exposed to infections that we get when we go to the hospital. It is ironic, because we go to get cured from a pre-existing illness or condition. We do not imagine the dangers that can happen by stepping inside a hospital. Infections picked up in a hospital are always because of human error. The medical director of Osher Center for Integrative Medicine reports these infections are expensive for our health-care system. 

Mindfulness meditation can help prevent infections in hospitals. Doctors and nurse through mindfulness would be able to make better decisions and provide quality of care for us. They are the ones that can protect us from further infections. Studies have been conducted to research the positive effects of mindfulness. It has been confirmed that we as a society can benefit positively from mindfulness. Those who participated in the study reported they experience less burn-out, had an enhanced personal well-being, and most importantly had an improved attitude in regards to patient-centered care. 

Doctors and nurses who experience burn out have been linked to committing medical errors. When doctors and nurses are stressed out, they project those feelings in their work. Exhaustion and stress can make a person mentally weak. Since, this is a huge concern in our society, it is being tested out with medical students. Medical students should be taught mindfulness while at medical school. This will help them learn about mindfulness prior to beginning to practice. Medical students are not burning-out while in school. Students in Montreal at McGill University must now participate in a Mindful Medical Practice program. Burn-out occurs while practicing, because of the high levels of stress. 

We need doctors and nurses who are well taken care of. If they are, well, then, we are well. Coping skills should be a requirement for everyone in order to get through the stress. McGill University is setting the example for other medical schools. Not only can medical students and medical faculty benefit from mindfulness, but as a society we can learn from it too. Burn-out, distress, and stress can cause us to commit human errors in our daily activities. The bottom line is that hospital infections can be prevented.

New Study to Track Teen Minds and How Meditation Helps them

Mindful says a new study will seek to understand how teens are able to learn and how meditation can be useful to them.

The study is a joint project between Oxford University and University College London and will seek to understand the role that meditation has on teens and how they learn. Over a 7 year period, the study will view 7,000 different teenagers and track the impact that meditation has on them. The results will be tracked by neuroscientists at the universities and will be centered on teens aged from eleven to sixteen.

Teens brain develop significantly during this time period and stress is thought to be one of the major obstacles that can harm a child. Meditation may be able to counter these pressures and performing a study on this time period may illustrate the many benefits that teens have during this unique period in one’s life.

While many people believe that the teenage years are a period of time in which children are maturing and becoming more adult like, the study’s founders are clear that they see this part of a child’s life as one in which the brain is indicative of growth and expanding feelings and functionality, rather than just a sense of emotional maturity.

One of the major study leaders, Willem Kuyken, indicated that the role of this study in understanding teenage minds can be as significant as the role that the introduction of fluoride had on improving the quality of the population’s teeth. Understanding this unique period of time can help the study learn about how the British subject’s think and react to certain stimuli.

A child psychologist, Dan Siegel, who has extensive experience working with teens during this period echoed these comments and indicated that although there is a lot of turbulence during this time period, “emotional intensity, social engagement, and creativity” are the major benefits to this age group and meditation can play a major role into harnessing these positive factors to benefit teens and help to control their behavior.

Either way, this major study by the Oxford University and University College London schools will likely shed some insight into this turbulent time period and the role that meditation plays during this period.