“If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.” ― Junot Díaz

Below is a link to a video of a young girl who receives a doll with a prosthetic leg. This is significant because the young lady has a prosthetic leg as well.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGhAcBwwpo0)
The young girl’s reaction is priceless. She opens the box and immediately begins crying because she has a doll that looks like her.
The crux of this statement emphasizes how important representation for all people is, specifically minorities.
We live in a society where the majority of people are white straight cisgender people and dominate pop culture. This is natural and makes sense that a majority is well represented in the society they live.
However, collectively we should always be working towards a more inclusive society. One way to do that is by representing all people in that society. This may mean through media, politics, educations, and other outlets.
It is imperative that children see people like them excelling in a happy and healthy way. This is one of the building blocks for developing positive self image and identity.
The little girl from the video doesn’t have many role models that represent her. I don’t know many celebrities or influential people in our society that have a prosthetic leg. So for her to receive a doll with one was a major deal for her. The same is true for People of Color, the LGBTQ community, women, and others.
By representing minorities in popular culture we are providing our youth an accurate depiction of all peoples that live in our society. Our media representing those communities should illustrate them as authentic three dimensional beings. We tend to think of people in only one way; usually the label we place on them. If our TV shows, books, and music provide depth to these minority characters it expands our youth’s ability to develop a positive self image.
The LGBTQ community, People of Color, women, immigrants, and other minorities don’t have much representation in government, academia, pop culture, and other aspects of life. By providing youth that is more inclusive and more like them we are cultivating a generation that feels more free to live genuine and more authentically than ever before.
If you this concept is new to you or you don’t understand it, count yourself lucky. You have had impactful person in your life that you could identify with. Not many of our youth get that opportunity. Working to be more inclusive of all others is a goal we should all work toward.
For the sake of the young lady in the video or others like her, we owe it to them. For the next generation.

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“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” –Mother Teresa

“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” –Mother Teresa

 

Empathy is something we hear a lot about in pop culture. People often share quizzes or quotes about being an empathy. As much as the word is thrown around in today’s society, I wish it was practiced more.

Empathy is often confused with sympathy but those two emotions are very different. Sympathy is understanding that a person is experiencing a particular emotion. Empathy is feeling that particular emotion alongside the person.

What I pull from Mother Teresa’s words are powerful. We may understand that a particular group of people have a plight and we may recognize they are vulnerable and marginalized but do we truly empathize with them?

Because a group of people are experiencing a shared plight do we somehow believe this diminishes their struggles? Often we view people we disagree with as a group of nameless and faceless people. We see immigrants, African Americans, LBGTQ people, and other marginalized people of society. Because we look at the “mass” we fail to recognize the dignity and inherent worth of the individual person that makes up the “masses”.

Each person has an experience that is different from your own. That experience is as valid as yours. We lose that when we see people as nameless and faceless enemy.

I think the best example of empathy was stated by Jesus Christ. He advised “love one another as yourself”. This means we recognize that the stranger in the mass has a personhood that is separate from my own. I think Jesus was also highlighting that in many ways we can be harder on other people than we are on ourselves.

We understand our intentions. We know where our heart was. Yet we always question the motives of others. We are quick to assume another’s wrong doings and not give the benefit of the doubt. If we loved others as we loved ourselves, we wouldn’t rush t judgment about other people’s motives but give them time to make them known.

By only seeing people as part of a “mass” we maintain that shroud around them, perpetuating a two dimensional understanding of them. We have to recognize that people of all walks want what we all want: our basic physical and psychological needs to be met. When we prevent that we are denying an individual’s personhood. In a fair and free society we validate everyone’s experience while not denying a person’s existence.

We should always keep in mind that behind every issue, political or other, is the “one” that makes up the “mass”. That one is a person who has thoughts, feelings, and perspective on the world.

Empathy is one of those buzz words that is often thrown around in pop culture and it seems very little understand the complexity of the emotion or what it truly means to empathize with another person. Its understanding that we can disagree while recognizing the complexity of the person we disagree with. It’s a way for us to maintain our humanity. It’s something to consider the next time you are faced with the “mass”; consider the “one”.

“If this planet is to be transformed for the better, then we as individuals must first transform ourselves.” ― Auliq Ice

Lately, I’ve been in my head a lot. Those that know me understand this is typical for but it’s been a good “inside your head”. Recently, I’ve noticed I have felt very grateful for life and my people, places, and things, especially my career. I have never been more fulfilled in what I do. I got to thinking why this is.

I have this firm belief in people, goodness, and easing other folk’s burden. As a kid, I had a youth leader at church that impressed upon my cohorts and me the belief that we should “leave things better than we found them”. I have realized that this sentiment impacted me more than I knew. This thought has driven many of my decisions in life. I want to know I am leaving my people, places, and things better off that when they came to me.

Social Work is how I have fulfilled this. What we do matters. Who we work with matters and I love to do it. I work with all different types of people. I work to solve many different types of problems. We should be meeting people where they are at and not where we expect them to be.

When working with folks, it is important to remember not everyone is like you and that is okay. We should not expect everyone to fall in line with our beliefs, customs, and way of doing things. If you do, you’re in for a sad life.

Social Work seeks to improve the lives of others and the communities in which they live. Everyone truly is interconnected on a level that none of us can see. We share problems and should be empathetic to folks.

Social Work seeks to “leave things better than we found them”. Social Workers advocate for those who do not have the ability to advocate for themselves. This looks like different things. Sometimes we intervene with a landlord, teacher, doctor, or family member. Other times we intervene with folks who you wouldn’t expect. An example would be another person who is in the field that should be working for the same goal, bettering the client’s life. If you want to piss me of the fastest, its being a stumbling block for someone else when your job is to be a support for that person.

Unfortunately, I see it all too often. “Do No Harm” is something doctors live by but my coworkers and I have adopted that motto as well in response to seeing people not living up to what they should be.

That vow is a serious one. If you aren’t working to better your client’s life you aren’t doing your job.

It is very important to leave the world a better place. This is done in very complex ways and also very simple ways. You do not have to be the President to make the world a better place.

We can make the world a better place by simply being there for folks. Sometimes a strong silence will do more for a person than a bunch of hot air. We can volunteer and work for different social agencies.

It even can happen on a smaller scale, hold a door open for someone, make a phone call, smile at someone. Small gestures make a big impact.

Remember that you can make an impact on people and leave things better that when you found them. Look for a need and fulfill it, no matter how small.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to them their own.” —Benjamin Disraeli

March is Social Work Appreciation month and as we wind down the third month of the year, I wanted to write about my passion and chosen career. Many folks have a misconception of what Social Work is and what a Social Worker does. Many people see Social Workers only responsibility is to take children out of unfit homes, which they do but also so much more.

Social Workers work in many different settings. Some work in hospitals, some hold government positions, some are DCS case workers, others work for insurance companies, nonprofits, charitable organizations, and many other places.

I have known some social workers to be therapists, presidents of hospitals, and coordinator of Dolly Parton’s Imagination library. One of the executives at my company was a neonatal social worker. We come in all shapes and forms. Its astounding.

I am very lucky, for which I completely recognize, that I found a career that is also my passion. Not everyone is lucky enough to say that. I feel as if I have found my purpose and wish to spend the rest of my life pursuing it.

My current role is to work with children and adults who suffer from mental illness. I am to provide them with the tools and education that will allow them to function at their absolute best. This is the mission of every social worker. We also advocate for those who are unable to. We provide a voice for someone who is too afraid to speak. Some social workers advocate for an abused child, woman, or man. Some social workers seek to protect the elderly. There are social workers who seek to restore the rights of oppressed people. Advocacy is a large part in what we do. Unfortunately, there are people in this world who seek to use their power and privilege for their own evils.

I make it my mission to restore dignity to every person I work with. Sometimes other people have a way of taking people’s humanity away and social work seeks to reverse that. I believe that all people have basic rights. I believe that everyone is entitled to live their best life and should not be impeded on what other  think or believe. I believe people are good. I believe people have obstacles in life and they can be overcome. I believe folks should be given an opportunity and they shouldn’t be discounted who they are, where they live, who they love, or what physical/mental impairment they may have. Everyone deserves respect.

I  came to this profession for two reasons; 1) I wanted to help people and 2) I believe God led me to this career path. I always say that Jesus was the greatest social worker to ever live. I thank God for Christ and his powerful example of how to treat mankind.

I wish to make an impact on the world. I never wanted to do that in a grandeur way. I work with people within my community and attempt to meet their needs Often people believe social problems are one dimensional and easy to fix. That notion is false. Social problems are complex. People who suffer from the disease of addiction cannot just stop using. There are serious biological and psychological factors involved. Furthermore, people who are an addict never stop being an addict. That is something that is maintained as a life long goal. Family dynamics are crucial to social problems as well. Many times social issues are generational and cycle through families. Without intervention those cycles cannot be changed.

I firmly believe that family is the bedrock of society. I do believe you can look at any social issues, whether its imprisonment, poverty, addiction, abuse, and so forth, and link it back to the family unit. Its my believe the breakdown of the American family perpetuates many of these issues. I am lucky to work in a career field where I am helping people break the cycle. All I can do is provide people with the tools and education. They must put in the work. Frankly, its a miss more times than not but when you do see people making progress it reinforces why you do what you do. That light bulb moment is priceless.

Finally, I have to philosophies in life.

Fredrick Douglass once said: I is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.

And

Napoleon Hill said: If you can’t do great things, do small things in a great way.

As a social worker I work with families to provide a foundation that will foster healthy, strong and productive adults. Lastly, not everyone can be the leader of a movement or become president and enact major social change. However, every person has the ability to do something insignificant to themselves that may be significant for someone else. I am very lucky to be living my passion.

 

This In Itself Is Humbling.

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ― Ernest Hemingway

There is no shortage of blogs and articles about the new year and how to “be a new you” this year. Considering the theme of my blog is about mental wellness, I wanted to type out a few tips for a good year. Like most, I want this “new year new me” feeling to last all year. Side note: I hate “new year new me” announcements. It wasn’t until just yesterday I realized why. I find announcing to the world “new year new me” attention seeking. Seeking attention is a huge turn off for me. But I love when people decide to better themselves and work who they are as a person. I always encourage folks to do that year round.

So I have about six habits one should do in the new year (or at any time in the year) to add to their over all wellness.

 

  1. Say “Yes” more often.

A couple of years ago I told myself I would not deny myself from activities or experience because I was fearful or thought I would not like something. Saying “Yes” to events, people, or experiences that you have not done before is a great way to get you out of your comfort zone. Life is about growing and expanding your comforts. Take a trip, try a new employment opportunity, start school; examples such as these will assist you in expanding your comfort zone. Its a cliché but life cannot be lived on the side lines.

2. Tell people “No” and do not feel guilty about it.

At this point you might be asking yourself isn’t this contradictory to the first point. Its truly not. Too often people pleasers only go along with something because they are afraid of disappointing someone. You have to recognize not everyone is looking out for your best interest and only want what they can get out of you. Be selective with those who you say yes too. If a person wants something from you and its not something you are comfortable with, or its not feasible for you, or anything else do not be afraid to tell them no. Remember “no” is a complete answer in itself.

3. Learn to do activities alone.

For many the thought of being alone is scary. (Note; there is a difference between being alone and lonely) Being alone is healthy and normal. Being alone isn’t good for a person and isn’t healthy. Reach out for help if you are lonely. However, being alone is normal. We need that time to recharge and to regroup. Going to a movie, reading a book, or going on a run is a good way for a person to recharge. Learn to like yourself alone or other will not be able to tolerate you n a group.

4. Be more specific about your intentions and desires.

Too often we do not properly communicate what we want from others. We must be direct with people. We have to remember people cannot read minds. You cannot read other people’s minds so why do you think other people can read your mind. Be specific. If you are upset with a person share your feelings. Be honest. Its not a sign of weakness. It saves heart ache and grief. If someone is bothering you its best for find a way to communicate this without escalating the situation and do not keep it bottled up so that you eventually blow up.

5.  Learn a new skill or hobby.

Broadening your horizons is important. Personal growth is important. One way to do this is by learning a new skill. Take a class, learn a new language, join a club or gym, anything that will help you step out of your comfort zone. It is a good idea to do something that would translate into an employment opportunity. Bettering yourself in this fashion could also pay off with better opportunities.

6. Be more aware of how you come across to folks.

Being self aware is very important. If you are more aware of your mannerism it can help you connect with others. If you come across as aloof, angry, bored, or happy it affects how others will respond to you. Monitor your body language and other nonverbal queues. Remember to smile more. Stand straighter. Look people in the eyes. All of these non verbal actions can dictate how people respond to you.

 

These tips can help you live a better life all year round. Everyone wants to be their best self. These tips are a good start. Add any tips you may have in the comment section.

“Choices made, whether bad or good, follow you forever and affect everyone in their path one way or another.” ― J.E.B. Spredemann

We walk a tight rope when it comes to the first amendment. One must balance the ability to say anything with the responsibility of saying anything. I am thankful we live in a country where our government cannot penalize its citizens for its speech. However, society may do with the speech giver as it wishes. I always remind folks you have the freedom of speech but not the freedom of consequences.

Every one of us has a responsibility for what we say. Some of us have bigger platforms but we all have a voice and people listen to it. As an average twenty something male I recognize I have a responsibility with my speech.

I have two younger sisters that are affected by the things I say. I have a reputation that I wish to hold intact. I have friends and family members I have a responsibility to. I also have my employer and coworkers to consider when I make my thoughts public. Lastly, my speech, on a small scale, affects society.  At this point some of you are rolling your eyes.  But think about it. The above people mentioned are my world. I socialize with these folks on an everyday basis. For better or worse, they affect me and I affect them. In turn those folks go home to their family, coworkers, and friends and they affect them. People change people. This is why society is an ever evolving collection of ideas and norms. It’s quite astounding if you think about it. You where ever you are in some small way are affecting someone you don’t know half way around the world. Our interconnectedness is often astonishing. And we are lucky enough to live in a time when all of it is recorded and put on the internet. While I hate internet fad videos, it’s a perfect example.

I believe this illustrates my point about the responsibility we have with our words and speech. I love social commentary. I see myself as a social observer. I then write how I see the world. Some of today’s TV shows are a great source of social thought provocation. Criminal Minds had an episode from 2012 where a politician was speaking hateful rhetoric. He was campaigning on the notion that crime is committed only by nonwhite folks. This fueled a deranged man’s murderous plot to stage the murders of upper middle class white families preformed at the hand of minorities. I get it. It’s a TV show.

However, put it into perspective.  Two and a half weeks ago a white man opened fire on nine innocent black folks who were worshiping God. One of the most people acts a person can commit and they were hunted like animals. Its alleged that the murder was involved in several white supremacy groups or at least believed their ugly beliefs. As I watched this episode this was all I could think of. Those poor folks are victims of a sick twisted individual that was indoctrinated by evil vicious thoughts. I soon thought about the responsibility we all have for our words and to each other. Whether you like it or not you are an example to someone. You change someone and they change you. People change people.

Once we realize this we can work together to become more cautious with our words and thoughts. In no way am I affirming we do not have a right to say what we want but only reminding ourselves that we have a responsibility for what we say as well. May we use our words to build up rather than tear down.

This In Itself Is Humbling.

“All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.” ― Tahereh Mafi

Loneliness and aloneness sound similar. In fact, they share the root word “Lone”. Which is defined as “having no companions; solitary or single”.

However, these two concept are very different.

For one, being alone is a physical state. While being lonely is an emotional state.

Being alone is healthy. Don’t confuse voluntary aloneness to isolation. Isolation isn’t healthy and should be avoided. However, having alone time is rewarding, gratifying, and normal. When you are alone you can work on project, hobbies, or do some of your best thinking. Generally, people crave come level of aloneness.

Some need more or less aloneness than other people. Largely, your desired level of aloneness depends if you tend to be more introverted or extroverted. Introverts require less human interaction and therefore flourish when they have alone time. Its their time to recharge.

People use there alone time to make important decisions, unwind, and become more of the person they want to be. Overall, aloneness is something that everyone can relate to. We all need time to our self.

However, loneliness is an emotional state. It can create emotional pain, crippling emotional pain. From time to time everyone feels lonely. Chronic loneliness creates many problems. Some loneliness is so destructive a person may be in a crowded place but feel as if they are the only person on the plant.

People that feel that way are experiencing emotional pain. Some emotional pain can hurt much worse that physical pain. Even more so, emotional pain can translate into physical pain.

We never know the battles that people having going on in their soul. A dangerous place to be, in someone’s soul. And yet its what we all say we want, intimacy on that level.

A simple expression of out reach could lessen that burden for someone. We should be striving to make people feel loved, accepted, and wanted.

We can achieve this one person at a time. Lets make the world a better place.

This in itself is humbling.