“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”.

Never Stop Wandering Into Wonder. – Suzy Kassem

So we are just a few hours from 2017 and I am preparing for the festivities of tonight but I wanted to hammer out a blog to wrap up my thoughts bout 2016.

So the internet has decided 2016 is the worst year we’ve had since the plague. They could be right but I’d say it all depends on who you ask.

I’ve seen many good things happen to family and friends populate in my news feed over the last twelve months. Don’t get me wrong, I know a few people who would disagree because they have had some terrible things happen to them this year. May they know they are in my thoughts and I’m here for them.

This year has been an interesting year:

I attended three weddings two of which I was in the wedding party and one where I was a guest. I wish each couple nothing but happiness and many years with their new partners. One of those weddings was my brothers so my family added a new family member! I really do have an awesome sister-in-law and then my family celebrated fifty years of marriage for my grandparents. My mom, aunt, and I planned a surprise party where guest came to celebrate with us. Some of the guests were lifelong friends of my grandparents. It was a great occasion.

For me personally, 2016 has been a good year. This last year is arguably my best year maybe ever. I was promoted to a supervisor position at work, I was accepted into graduate school and successfully completed my first semester with a 4.0, and I paid my car off, and started a journey of self love and acceptance. I struggle daily but look forward to reaching my destination.

I began a new thought process about the people in my life and am very thankful for them. I feel as though those relationships have been enriched and are much fuller and deeper. I look forward to carrying that into the New Year.

I don’t expect 2017 to be much different than 2016. Years tend to blend but I will continue to work towards my professional and personal goals. I want to keep working to complete grad school and furthering my passion of reducing mental health stigma.

I am really not the type to make a big deal about New Years. It’s just another day. The only thing significant about it is that I flip the calendar. I believe that people can start everyday as a “new year” so I don’t get caught up in the hysteria. If you want to change something don’t wait until it feels like a magical time. Create the magic and it will happen.

To you reading this,

I hope you make that change you are desperately agonizing over, go after your dream job, find the love of your life, develop your passion, apply for your dream school, travel and love more, respect yourself and others, get out of that bad relationship, leave the job you hate, and reduce the negativity in your life. The magic of New Years isn’t the fact the date changes it’s the possibilities and wonderment that comes with it. If you want 2017 to be different you have to become different. Remember that!

Happy New Year and good vibes!

“It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.” -Andy Rooney

TV Land is introducing a new dramadey called “Younger”. It is about a forty-ish recently divorced mother who is wanting to rebuild her life.

Not an original concept right? There is a twist. Their is always a twist.

In order to rebuild her life she obtains a new job and friends. In this new life everyone believes she is a twentysomething. I get it. Its a TV show. The producers needed a hook and a reason for the audience to watch.

What will be telling is how receptive TV watchers will be.

Society has a preoccupation with youth. Its no secret. I’ve just never gotten that mentality though. I suppose its easy for a twentysomething to make comments like that.

I don’t long for youth due to the fact I’m in my prime. I’m the definition of youth and twentysomething-tude. However, I have never understood being nostalgic for the past.  I have always said I never want to wake up in twenty years and desire the old days. I had a great high school experience, college experience, and now young adult experience. But I do not wish to go back to those days.

I understand the appeal. Why would anyone not want to go back to a time when he/she had limited responsibility.

I have always affirmed I wanted to live in a way that every faction of my life is good. I want to be happy everyday of my life. I want to be so happy with where I am in life that I do not long for “glory days”. Up to this point I have been able to do that.

I believe its normal for everyone to have a few days every once in awhile to pine for a simpler time. However, there are folks who think of those simpler times and stop living for the present and focus completely on how good they used to have it.

Here are a few characteristics that can help a person to stop living for the past and enjoy the present.

1) Stop acting like a victim. Understand that things happen. You weren’t singled out. Life isn’t fair.

2) Life and no one else owes you anything. Stop thinking you deserve something for nothing. Work for what you want.

3) Appreciate the people in your life. Accept that everything in your life can change at anytime. Loved one’s aren’t with us forever.

4) Thinking on positive things will help you have a positive outlook. Your outlook dictates your ability to handle your situation.

5) The present is the only time we have. We shouldn’t waste it on the past. Good or bad.

Often what we think about a situation will determine how we react to that situation. The present time can be as good as the “glory days” one so desperately clings to if one attempts to change his attitude about it.

At times its normal for one to think about past good times. However, it becomes unhealthy for one to dwell on the past so much he/she cannot live for the present.

We must love our life in all aspects. We must want to be so in love with life that we do not dwell on better days. If you find you could use better days, you should work towards them. You have the power to change your life and make improvements as needed. Isn’t that a lovely thought?

That in itself is humbling.

“Marines—you beat them down and they come back for more.” -Chris Kyle

I have not yet seen American Sniper. I plan to watch it. I look forward to watching an American hero’s story told.

Chris Kyle’s story has been made into a movie by director Clint Eastwood. It has been met with praise by many. The movie has six Oscar nominations. It was nominated for, Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role (Bradley Cooper), Adapted Screen Play, Film Editing, and Sound Mixing.

The movie broke records on its opening weekend. It has grossed $105,000,000 so far. However, not everyone loves this movie.

On Sunday Seth Rogan tweeted a couple of statements appearing to compare American Sniper to Nazi Propaganda.

American Sniper kind of reminds me of the movie that’s showing in the third act of Inglorious Basterds.

I just said something “kinda reminded” me of something else. I actually liked American Sniper. It just reminded me of the Tarantino scene.   — Seth Rogen

What gets me about Seth Rogen’s indignation is the hypocrisy of his tweets.  Seth Rogen was associated with the most buzzed about movie of 2014.

I’ll beit the movie was a comedy and certainly doesn’t reach the cinematic standards of American Sniper. However, the premise of his movie involved two American journalist assassinating a nonfictional evil dictator and enemy of the United State of America.

How is the subject matter different? Both movies depict good forces, the United State of America overcoming evil in the world, regardless of whether the stories being toward are fake or real.

Seth isn’t the only Hollywood elite who is up in arms. Hollywood fundamentally doesn’t understand mainstream America’s acceptance and appeal of American Sniper. There is no exaggeration when I say Hollywood doesn’t get it. Hollywood has long been out of touch with main street Americans.

Believe me Jane Fonda or Sean Penn don’t get you. Then again Hollywood is no stranger to hypocrisy. See any Hollywood elite who calls for gun control yet stars in a shoot’em up blockbuster movie.

Here is what makes American Sniper great and why main street folks appreciate American Sniper.

American Sniper tells the story of an American Navy Seal. Chris Kyle served in the Navy from 1999 until 2009. Chris Kyle’s job wasn’t easy. He served his country and did things others wouldn’t do so our freedoms would be protected.

Kyle, had 160 confirmed kills which was included in 255 claimed kills. He is the most successful sniper in the United States military. The lives he took were of people who wanted to see harm to America. He and his brothers and sisters in the Armed Services did what had to be done in order to preserve the very fabric of America. For this I will not apologize for counting Chris Kyle among America’s heroes. Just like every other service person.

Without these people we wouldn’t be able to quibble about topics of these sorts.

Kyle was awarded some of the US military’s highest honors. He became so good that terrorist called him “Devil of Ramadi”. There was even a bounty placed on his head. May all our service men and women place that much fear in the nonexistent hearts of terrorist every where. I want terrorist to become sick at the very thought of a United States service member coming after them.

I won’t apologize for that.

Kyle’s life after the military continued to be brave and valiant. He worked with service people suffering from post war effects. Even after giving everything he could while in the military he came home and continued to serve other American heroes.

Tragically, his life was taken on February 2, 2013 by a fellow veteran Kyle was trying to help.

Kyle was quoted as saying “MY REGRETS ARE ABOUT THE PEOPLE I COULDN’T SAVE.”

Kyle was brave, tough, and the essence of what an American hero is.  It is okay if you disagree. You can even believe he was none of what I’ve described but it is important to remember you couldn’t have your stupid opinion without this man’s sacrifice. Something Hollywood will never understand….

This in itself is humbling.

“The human capacity for burden is like bamboo- far more flexible than you’d ever believe at first glance.” ― Jodi Picoult

There is pain in life. No one escapes this fact. We all get hurt. It doesn’t matter if it’s physically or emotionally. It happens.This common thread weaves humanity tighter together.

I’m reminded of an incident that happened to me as a child. I stepped on a toothpick. It broke in half while leaving a part of it lodged in the bottom of my foot. My parents didn’t want to attempt to remove it and I was shivering uncontrollably, no doubt due to fear. So I was whisked off to the emergency room. After a very long wait I finally got to see the doctor.

The doctor injected at shot into the punctured wound as to numb the area. He then cut my foot open and removed the toothpick. It was blue.

From that entire experience one thing stood out and I remember his words to this day. The doctor told me that I would have a little bit more pain in order to feel much better. It would help provide relief. At the time he was referencing the huge needle he was about to stick into an open wound in my foot.

However as I mature, I find that needle was a metaphor I would use throughout my life. It’s not as poetic as “Its darkest before dawn” but it works.

Life throws things our way. Some things that seem as if they are insurmountable. They make us feel powerless. Maybe even like giving up.

Whether you are going through a divorce, a death of a love one, an illness, legal woes, or any other awful situation it does get better. The struggle may feel as if it won’t end. It may be an ongoing issue for years and in some cases life but it will end.

Thus far your track record for getting through bad days is 100%. You couldn’t ask for a better statistic.

The path to a solution or better days may be treacherous and long but oh so worth it. Those horrible days that strung together that made months and even years will be a blur.

That is one of the amazing things about healing. One day you raise your head and that issue you thought you couldn’t overcome is a thousand miles away and you’re a thousand miles closer to recovery. We just can’t see that in the thick of it all. We are burdened by problem. Our rational thoughts are clouded by the issue.

That needle may be long and thick and look like it could take out a rhino but once its over you can start healing. The issue will get worse before it gets better but then it heals.

Our past has a way of creeping up on us. Old scars pulse from time to time but they are scars. They aren’t present day problems any longer.  You overcame.

The resiliency of the human spirit is amazing. The will to live is one of our greatest assets. We have countless stories of people overcoming the odds and making it. We should all work toward adding our names to that list. We can work together and help one another achieve that goal. We can push the bounds of human resiliency.

This in itself is humbling.

 

“Don’t live up to your stereotypes.” -Sherman Alexie

Cultural stereotypes are everywhere. Normally they are used for entertainment purposes. I mean really, who hasn’t felt entertained by characters such as Madea, Jack McFarland, Nanny Fine, and Blanch Devereaux. Each of these characters represent a stereotype from their respective minority: A southern black matriarch, a gay man, a working class Jewish woman, and a white southern woman.

Stereotyping is a way for our brain to quickly categorize people we first meet. Our brains are always examining information so they can quickly make conclusions about its environment. A stereotype is a collection of perceived ideas about a group of people.

Stereotyping does have some validity. We as a society only create stereotypes for groups of people because that said group of people share general qualities. This isn’t to say all members of the same race, country, region, or any other group is exactly the same. However, the fact that a group of people share similarities lends to the fact that certain characteristics within a group of people may occur more often, therefore creating a stereotype.

Stereotyping is actually a defense mechanism our brain uses to protects itself. Again, it constantly interprets the new data it collects by using and comparing it with old data. Stereotyping is natural.

As an example, examine the southern stereotype. Most people associate southerners with slow accents, sweet tea, and unhealthy fatty diets. We understand that not all southerners are unhealthy-sweet-tea-drinkin’-slow-speakin’ idiots. However, enough people in the American South engage in this behavior that you can deduce a pattern. An average person in the South may actually be involved in more than one of these activities. I fit in a few of those categories.

However, one should never let stereotypes make your final decision on whether or not you would like to get to know someone better. One conversation cannot adequately convey everything you need to know about that person. Get to know a person before you make a final judgement about them.

Cultural stereotypes can also be reversed. There are some folks out there that become upset when a person does not act in a way that fits their preconceived notion of  what  that person’s race, religion or group is like.

I started to think about stereotyping and how society relies on it in many different ways. Often we find ourselves pleasantly surprised when someone doesn’t act the way we expect them to.

However, our society also has a problem with people not living their cultural stereotype either. Many times one will hear that a person isn’t “acting” their race/ethnicity. When one argues that a person is “acting” outside of a perceived stereotype they are affirming that the individual is under false pretenses.

Often this could not be farther from the truth.

An example that comes to mind is when a person of a certain race does not behave in a stereotypical fashion.

I watch a Youtuber who is a black male. However, he loves K-Pop and things of the Korean culture. Often he is told by his black friends he is forsaking his culture and he needs to start  “acting” black. Obviously this is offensive to him and it should be.

When one says you need to “act” more black or to “act” a certain way, he/she is essentialy imply that the other person’s behavior is a sham. It isn’t really who they are or what their true interests align with.

So what if a non-Asian person enjoys anime?  Just because he/she enjoys it doesn’t mean they are actively denying their own culture. Their interest is simply in something outside of their culture.

Cultures and stereotypes should not be exclusive to just one set of people. If one enjoys different cultures and decides to take advantage of it, that is their business. It’s great that they are expanding their horizons.

If you believe that a person should only “act” or behave in his/her own stereotype, you are part of the problem.

No one group has a lock on certain characteristics. Everyone is different.

You should never let your preconceived notions of a group of people be the final judgement you make on an individual person. One should always attempt to better understand a person on an individual level.

If we let our constructed stereotypes keep being the factor that determines how we interact with different types of people we may never truly be comfortable around people who aren’t like us.

In fact, the more people you meet that combat your preconceived thoughts about certain types of people the more you are widening your understanding of that person’s stereotype. Essentially, you are recreating that stereotype from the new information your brain has collected and possibly have made a new friend.

This in itself is humbling.

 

“Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good.” -Mr. Feeny

Millennials heaved a collective sigh of relief tonight. The long awaited spin-off of Boy Meets World premiered on the Disney channel tonight (June 27, 2014). Girl Meets World will chronicle the life of Riley Matthews (Rowan Blanchard) the daughter of Corey Matthews (Ben Savage) and Topanga Matthews (Danielle Fishel). 

This show will most likely breed nostalgia for anyone who grew up in the 1990s. It is beloved by an entire generation. When Disney announced that it was picked up for their network many people were nervous about this. No one knew what to expect. Some people didn’t have any expectations. I fell into the latter category. I was excited for the show but I did not have any expectations. I did not want to get my hopes up. My line of thinking was this could be really good or go oh so very badly. 

I think the pilot episode went very well. If this is a reflection of what the rest of season one is like I feel confident Disney made a wise decision. 

Here is my review of the pilot episode and the four aspects I liked most: (SPOILERS!)

The episode starts off with Riley (Rowan Blanchard) and Maya (Sabrina Carpenter) at the Matthews’ New York apartment in Riley’s bedroom. They are discussing sneaking out of the house to ride the subway. Riley is not allowed to ride the subways by herself. After all is she is only 12. However, Maya pressures her to do it anyway. They attempt to sneak out of her bedroom window and Corey foils their plot. He then gives her advise about the world and how she needs to make it her own. He has experienced the world and now it is her turn. 

This intro shapes the discussion for the first two points I observed while watching the pilot. 

1) The parents are not complete idiots. 

2) It is clear the show is about Riley meeting the world.

Too often when Disney decides to do a show the parent/parents are usually cast as completely helpless buffoons who couldn’t possibly managed without the help of their children. The dribble that is littered on the network now is only evidence to my point and this was a concern for many Millennials. However, tonight we saw that Corey and Topanga were caring and thoughtful to their daughters wants and needs. Riley expressed her concerns about becoming her own person in her world and they provided her with carefully considered advise based off of life experience. 

The second point I noticed while watching the pilot episode was that it is abundantly clear this show is about Riley Matthews. Corey even goes as far to say he has experienced the world and now it is Riley’s turn. Personally, I do not have a problem with this. I think many Millennial would have preferred we immediately found out what happened to all of our beloved characters but we were quickly reminded this show is about Riley and her world. Of course we will learn the fate of our favorite characters in due time. However, this show is about Riley Matthews and her friends. The over all theme of the episode was Riley learning to break away from everyone’s expectations and for her to forge her own path. 

The last two observations are probably my personal favorites. They are what ultimately gave me confidence in this episode and I hope the future of the series. Again, it is still too early to give full judgement on a series that is only one episode in. So I reserve a full opinion until I have seen more but I like what I see so far. 

3) Disney would ruin it. 

4) The show was heartwarming and funny.

I don’t think Millennials can reiterate the overwhelming concern they have/had for this show. Many times Disney misses the mark when it comes to the shows they push on their network. Personally I believe it started in the middle to late 2000s when their TV shows were about children trying to become famous. You didn’t see that with Lizzie McGuire, Even Stevens, That’s So Raven, or other shows in the early 2000s. However, the cast seem to hit the mark. Ben and Danielle’s chemistry has not seemed to have faded at all. Their relationship wasn’t a huge focus in the episode but it was still authentic and believable. Riley is the perfect combination of Topanga and Corey. She is studios and has a drive to be good. Corey’s heart is what separated him from others. He always had a strong sense of what right and wrong was. After all he is as dangerous as lime jello. Riley is a very believable daughter for the Matthews. 

Lastly, the show is heartfelt. There is a moment when Corey is disciplining Maya (Sabrina Carpenter) for setting off the fire sprinklers. She starts a rebellion against homework and in Corey’s words “takes things too far”. Corey and her discuss her home life and we find out that she starts the rebellion because she doesn’t have anyone at home to help her with homework. Later we find that Corey and Riley discuss being friends with Maya. He thinks Riley is the kind of person Maya needs in her life. They both balance each other out. Like Riley says “Maya will get me into trouble and I’ll always be there to get us out”. The friendship that is displayed is authentic. It is easily reminiscent of Corey and Shawn. Cory is quite the kidder. He provides much of the comedic relief. I found myself laughing at some of the jokes. They were not corny or over the top. They were good. 

While watching the pilot episode I did so with an open mind. I realized that this isn’t the same show as Boy Meets World. Its also unfair to expect to fall in love with it from episode one. We did not do that with Boy Meets World. Personally I fell in love with Boy Meets World with the episode where Corey learns about antisemitism. This is the episode where Corey bets his bike with Mr. Feeny. Corey has to have more students than on average pass the test at the end of the week. Its Mr. Feeny’s trick to get him to study. Eric dates a girl with a foreign decent and someone calls her an ugly name. This hits home for  Corey. He takes drastic measures in lecture and calls Shawn’s mother a name based off of her decent. Shawn does well on the test. I’m not sure why I liked this episode so much. Perhaps its because of my desire to treat every single person with equality no matter what but this was my “ah-ha” moment. I cannot wait until new viewers can have that with Girl Meets World. When that happens an entire new generation can grow with the same life lessons the generation before them did. 

There are tons of research on Millennials. Social scientists are attempting to dissect our beliefs and world views. Most likely they wish to know how to better market different things to us. However for many their ideologies were taught or reinforced by Boy Meets World.  If done right, Girl Meets World can do the same for the next generation. Life lessons can be taught. Conversations can be started and wholesome entertainment can be provided.

This in itself is humbling.