Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Hope Factor

Our best decisions are driven not by fear, but by hope. When our decisions are made from a place of hope, we automatically win, no matter what the outcome.

Two weeks ago my brother Scott called me wanting to knowing if I supported his decision about entering an inpatient recovery program for people with addictions and mental illness. I asked him why he wanted to go.

Are you running away from something that you are afraid of or are you seeking out something that is life-giving?

Ultimately his decision to go was driven by his hope for recovery and improved mental health. His decision to go was a win because he allowed his hopes to speak louder to him than his fears.

Listening to the soft whisper of hope is not an act of bravery, it is an act of vulnerability. If we are open to what is possible (hope), then we become better listeners to that still small voice.

For surely as fear’s constant roar claims our collective attention, there is at the same time an unassuming hope humming along waiting to be heard.

When it comes time to decide what to do next, go to a silent place and wait.

Be still.

Listen.

Breathe.

Soon you will find that in the quiet, hope grows in her confidence that you are listening. Before long she will begin singing. Follow her song.

The White Lie

Growing up in 1980s mid-Missouri, not too far from Ferguson, I learned how to be white.

There was one black boy in my elementary classroom. He was funny, smart, and spoke with a severe slur because of his cerebral palsy that you had to focus on his every word to understand him. He also walked down the hallway and ran on the playground with a limp.

I got to know him because the teacher asked me to spend one-on-one time with him going over our spelling words. We sat in little desks in the hallway, me saying each word aloud and then patiently waiting for him as he slowly, but carefully wrote each letter onto the lined paper.

Then in seventh grade a different black boy, one who I’d been friends with, asked me during science class if I would be his date to the school dance. To me it was as if he asked me if I could go with him on wild horses into outer space. To me, in 1989, mid-Missouri, it seemed utterly impossible for a white girl to go to a school dance with a black boy.

Fast forward a decade and I am now a young white woman dating a young black man. We are thinking about marriage. I invite him to meet my Missouri relatives.

At first my family was concerned and cautious about our interracial relationship. Even people I barely knew were concerned about our interracial relationship. More times than I care to remember I was advised to rethink this because “what if we had children.”

On this trip to Missouri we stopped for lunch at a small town diner on our drive back after spending the weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks: my white grandparents, my white mother, my black boyfriend and me.

As soon as we walked into the diner there were squinted eyes staring at us from the kitchen. I can still feel the hatred in the white cook’s eyes.

When our food arrived, I was disappointed because in rural Missouri you can’t order cooked vegetables without some sort of pork products dripping on them. As a vegetarian I was annoyed.

But when I looked over at my black boyfriend’s plate, he lifted his hamburger bun to add ketchup and there was a fist-sized mound of straight brown hair sitting like a nest on his hamburger patty.

All I remember is that he ordered a new hamburger, but nothing was said to anyone about the reason why.

He and I never spoke of it. I’ve never told a soul until now, until Ferguson.

We didn’t get married. But while we dated my eyes were opened and I realized how much I had learned to be white. And when I crossed the color-line as a young white woman in love with a black man, people were eager to correct me, over and over again.

In many parts of this country white girls are taught to be cautious of black boys. There is an evilness to this fear and it is learned and then passed on from generation to generation.

Now as a parent to a white child, I’ve realized that we must teach our children that non-white lives matter. To my horror he has already learned, at age five, that white is better. Who has taught him this white lie?

My son was born in Sanford, Florida, where in 2013, an innocent, unarmed black boy named Trayvon Martin was shot dead for looking “suspicious.” The shooter walked away without any charges. This is the culture that has shaped him since birth.

Could it be that white children in America are learning everyday that black lives don’t matter? How will white parents, teachers, and community leaders stop this white lie from spreading?

The work of unlearning racism is perhaps one of the greatest social challenges of the 21st century.

How and when will whites begin teaching their white children that non-white lives matter?

5 Tips for Mentally Healthy Holidays

We can easily lose touch with the joy of the holiday season when negative feelings creep into our minds. Be proactive about your mental health. Minimize the hectic and stressful aspects of the season so that your mind and heart can be touched by moments of delight, awe, and hope. Here are five tips to help you have mentally-healthy holidays.

1. Give yourself a mental health break. As we enter the holiday season there is way too much pressure to go all out with decorations, recipes, extra activities and shopping. You don’t have to buy into this idea of perfection. Trying to meet unrealistic expectations contributes to stress and anxiety. Give yourself permission to refrain from the frenzy of holiday “muchness.” Give yourself a mental health break by choosing to keep it simple this year.

2. Give someone a mental health hug. In the spirit of the holidays, surprise someone with a generous gesture of kindness. You may be surprised how many of us struggle day-to-day with mental illness or have loved ones who do. You can be a sparkle of hope in a person’s day by reaching out and being a true friend. Spend time with someone you know who’s had a rough time or is facing a difficult anniversary during this holiday season. Your compassionate listening, hopeful companionship, and supportive presence can help lift the fog of despair and loneliness. Give someone a mental health hug by reminding them that they are not alone.

3. Part ways with people pleasing. Okay, admit it. There is someone in the family (it just might be you) who runs ragged trying to people please, making sure that everyone else is happy. (This, by the way, is crazy making.) No matter how good your pie, somebody is going to complain about the crust. No matter how hard you try to ensure a good time, somebody is going to be cranky (it just might be you). And no matter how hard you try, somebody is not going to appreciate how hard you’ve worked or all the sacrifices you have made. We cannot force people to be grateful for us or to change their attitudes and behaviors. Create good boundaries that protect you from internalizing other’s negativity. Part ways with people pleasing and discover how freeing it feels to not be enmeshed in other people’s mess.

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