Boy Scouts of America – They Finally Did It!

Boy Scouts of America – They finally did it!

I have been an avid supporter of Girl Scouts of America since I was a child. In 1969 my Girl Scout leader was a wonderful African-American woman who was my neighbor and a working mom. I admired her for being so devoted to our troop even though she was such a busy woman. Girl Scouts taught me leadership skills, developed my self-esteem, and taught me about community service. The message that Girl Scouts gave to me was that I could be anything I wanted to be. Over the years I saw Girl Scouts of America evolve into a magnificent organization that supported girls and most important was “inclusionary”. Girl Scouts of America was ahead of its time in initiating a dialogue on diversity and accepting members from all backgrounds regardless of their social identifiers*. In 2004 I became a Girl Scout leader for my daughter’s troop. I loved bringing the values of Girl Scouts to my little Daisies.

That's me as a Girl Scout Brownie in 1969.

That’s me as a Girl Scout Brownie in 1969.

Naturally, when my daughter joined Girl Scouts I looked into Boy Scouts for my son. I had heard rumblings of some negative feedback about Boy Scouts in my past and I decided to follow-up with additional research. Contrary to Girl Scouts of America, Boy Scouts of America had a reputation for being exclusionary, especially around the topic of homosexuality. In some regions of the country, Boy Scouts of America functions under the auspices of Catholic Charities and has to conform to their policies. In many ways, Boy Scouts has also mirrored the United States Military policy on homosexuality. The more I thought about it I could not have my son join an organization that was not inclusionary and whose values on diversity were so different to mine. My mind was made up; my son would not become a cub scout.

One evening at the end of July my son, now 17 years old, gave me his cell phone showing a news update and said to me with a smile, “I guess you’ll let me join the Boy Scouts now!” I was so pleased to read that on July 27, 2015 Boy Scouts of America lifted their ban on openly gay leaders and employees. I said to my son, it may be too late for you but maybe someday your sons can join.

Thank you Boy Scouts of America for becoming a kinder and more inclusionary organization.

*Diversity – The original “Big Eight” Social Identifiers

1. Ability- Mental and/or physical
2. Age
3. Ethnicity
4. Gender
5. Race
6. Religion
7. Sexual Orientation
8. Socio-Economic Status/Class

Additional Social Identifiers:

  • Body Image (“lookism”)
  • Educational Background
  • Academic/Social Achievement
  • Family of Origin, Family Make Up
  • Geographic/Regional Background
  • Language
  • Learning Style
  • Beliefs (political, social, religious)
  • Globalism/Internationalism
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Series on Multiculturalism, Diversity, and Cross-Cultural Relationships

This is the third of my three-part series on multiculturalism, diversity, and cross-cultural relationships. In my first article: https://thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/series-on-multiculturalism-cross-cultural-relationships-and-diversity/ I shared with my readers how and when I became impassioned with this topic. In my second article: https://thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/series-on-multiculturalism-diversity-and-cross-cultural-relationships/ I elaborated on the importance of exposure to multiculturalism and diversity. My definition of diversity includes people with all types of differences: race, religion, philosophy, age, gender, sexual orientation, physical health, mental health, socioeconomic, intelligence, genetic attributes, etc. In my third and last article I present some of the challenges that we face in dealing with diversity and share ideas on ways to increase our exposure to diversity and multiculturalism.

Part III

The Challenges and Taking Action

How do we engage people in the conversation of diversity? You see the moment we use the term “diversity” we isolate those who we most want to invite to the table, the non-minorities. Sadly, these non-minorities assume that any topic around diversity is just for the minorities and that it does not involve or affect them. But the truth is that it affects all of us. If for example we consider one aspect of diversity, race, the population of the world is becoming more and more intermingled. The United States estimates that by 2050, 62% of the nation’s children will be the minorities. The United Kingdom estimates that by 2050, ethnic minorities will make up one-third of Britain’s melting pot. We will see the majority becoming the minority and suddenly the conversation of diversity will become relevant to those that ignored it earlier. The dialogue needs to begin today because understanding and acknowledging the basic rights of all human beings regardless of who they are is relevant to all of us.

Trying Snake Wine for the first time in Vietnam

Forcing myself to try something that does not necessarily sound appealing. Trying Snake Wine for the first time in Vietnam. Aguardiente watch out!

It is in our human nature to protect ourselves and in many ways maintain the status quo if that ensures our survival. Therefore, initiating change or going through change can be a very arduous process if it challenges what we once thought of as the norm. One way to initiate change is to do it in small steps whether we are the person changing or the person effecting the change. Sometimes we have to be the one to take the first step, because if we wait around for someone else to do it, it may never get done. We also know that people’s value systems are different and what appears to be righteous to one group may completely contradict another’s beliefs. I do find it very difficult to reconcile in my heart and brain how people can use things like religion or politics as a legitimate excuse to discriminate or mistreat people. But that’s a whole other topic for another day.

I invite you to be the catalyst and to help initiate change. Below is a list of suggestions of how we can increase our exposure to multiculturalism and diversity.

Types of Exposure and what you can do:

  • Read, listen to, and watch both domestic and international sources of information and news media on relevant topics
  • Further your education: take courses, attend workshops, do research
  • Travel: within your own country and abroad
  • Visit museums, learn history
  • Try ethnic restaurants, try new foods (even if they don’t look good)
  • Try your hand at international cooking and share with family and friends
  • Listen to international music
  • Try new things
  • Join an international organization or one that supports specific causes.
  • Volunteer in organizations that support specific causes
  • Reach out, make new friends
  • Put yourself in uncomfortable situations, become the minority
  • Challenge your existing value system. Just because you were taught certain things at home does not necessarily make them right.
  • Allow yourself to improve your value system
  • Learn to recognize prejudices. Prejudices come in all shapes and sizes.
  • Reexamine your friendships and associations
  • Seek out minority role models for yourself and your children
  • Write articles, share your views
  • Organize international cultural events
  • Organize awareness building events
  • Practice Mindfulness.  For further reading:  https://thelabyrinthguide.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/mindfulness-and-living-a-mindful-life/
  • Refrain from judging
  • Listen to others
  • Remain open-minded
  • Be patient
  • Be tolerant
  • Be compassionate and kind
  • Become a mentor
  • Lead by example
  • Seek out the opportunities where you can engineer change.

One of my role models growing up was my Girl Scout leader, Mrs. Marshall, an African-American neighbor who lived in my building. Among other things, she inspired me to become a Girl Scout leader. I have always been a huge supporter of Girl Scouts of America because they are an “inclusionary” organization. As a Girl Scout leader I took the opportunity to share my passion for multiculturalism with my Daisies and Brownies. For one project I found a great website that offered international paper doll cutouts which the girls placed on individual poster boards that read, “ There are Girl Scouts all around the world. We may look and sound different but we are all sisters. We respect ourselves for who we are. We respect others for who they are”.

My daughter (right) and a fellow Daisy Girl Scout proudly displaying their International Girl Scout posters.

My daughter (right) and a fellow Daisy Girl Scout proudly displaying their International Girl Scout posters.

 

We also participated annually in World Thinking Day, a day honoring Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from other countries. World Thinking Day was a very well-organized town event with every troop representing a different country and creating a display, activities, and projects for the other girls to participate in.

Our Brownie Troop's display representing England in World Thinking Day. We made a poster showing the differences between American and British English.

Our Brownie Troop’s display representing England in World Thinking Day. We made a poster showing the differences between American and British English.

When my children attended The American School in London, ASL, I became involved with the International Community Committee, ICC, which was part of the parent’s association. Although the school is American there were students from approximately 42 different countries attending. The ICC hosts a Global Festival every two years. The festival celebrates all of the countries represented by the student body. The festival has cultural and educational components. Guests attending the festival get to enjoy music, dances, costumes, games, crafts and food from around the world. In the 2012 Global Festival I helped organize the food segment of the festival with a friend. We worked with 42 country representatives and helped coordinate their food displays culminating in a delicious gourmet extravaganza. The Global Festival is always a very well attended school community event drawing between 1200 – 1500 guests all in one day.

The ASL Global Festival: the organizers and country reps, with the food tables around the perimeter of the gym. Note by red, white, and blue outfit for the USA and my yellow, blue, and red scarf for Colombia.

The ASL Global Festival: the organizers and country reps for 42 nations, with the food tables around the perimeter of the gym. That’s me on the far left. Note by red, white, and blue outfit for the USA and my yellow, blue, and red scarf for Colombia.

These are two examples of activities that I have been part of. My quest continues, to make the great divide between us a little smaller, one relationship at a time. About a year ago I received an email, which had at the end a very powerful quote by Maya Angelou.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

Maya Angelou

For further interesting exploration:

Patricia Gurin Ph.D.: Her research is focused on social identity, the role of social identity in political attitudes and behavior, motivation and cognition in achievement settings, and the role of social structure in intergroup relations. Her latest book is Dialogue Across Difference, highlighting the importance of engaging diversity now more than ever.

http://patriciagurin.com/portfolio/

http://patriciagurin.com/portfolio-view/dialogue-across-difference-practice-theory-and-research-on-intergroup-dialogue/

A must watch:

Ted Talk with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story. She emphasizes the need to fully understand a situation or a person before passing judgment.

http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story#t-19362

An article by Liz Ryan about how business approaches diversity the wrong way in the Harvard Business Review

http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/10/we-approach-diversity-the-wron/

An article by Nina Terrero speaking of the lack of children’s books celebrating diversity

http://shelf-life.ew.com/2014/04/15/kid-lits-primary-color-white-report/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoying the Christmas Holiday Preparations

My Winter Wonderland Village

My Winter Wonderland Village

The most exciting part of the Christmas holiday for me is the preparation leading up to it. So I really try to enjoy and make the most of all the aspects of the preparation: decorating, sending out cards, the gift shopping and wrapping, making Christmas cookies, the food shopping and cooking, watching Christmas movies, sharing time with friends and family, and my absolute favorite, listening to Christmas music 24/7 beginning the day after Thanksgiving. However, the preparations actually begin somewhere around the middle of November when I set up two catering tables and the groundwork for my Winter Wonderland Village. This officially begins my Christmas Holiday preparations. I always feel like I’m so on top of things when I start the process. However, here we are with 4 days before Christmas Eve and I’m still running around busily finishing up items on my to-do list.

Setting up my winter village

Setting up my winter village

I will admit there are moments in the overall process in which I may become a little overwhelmed. But I remind myself of my mantra, “It will all get done”. And when people ask me how far along I am in my preparations, I always respond with an upbeat comment like “I’m almost there!” This response seems to surprise the person and then they enthusiastically offer a positive and congratulatory comment, which in turn inspires me to continue on.

Finishing Touches

Finishing Touches

I started collecting these Department 56 houses in the early 90’s. One Christmas, my husband gave me the train set as a gift. The backdrop is an oil painting that my father commissioned from a Colombian artist named Deisy Varela. She used a photo I had taken in the Rocky Mountains of Crested Butte, Colorado.

A View From the East

A View From the East

I love to turn off the room lights, turn on the village lights, and sit near the village. I can feel the magic of the season as I transport myself to my miniature winter wonderland. I can almost feel the winter chill in the air and the shimmering snowflakes falling. I can sense the tranquility of the snow-covered mountains with deer and moose roaming. I envision the people in the village’s main square caroling and shopping. The skaters and skiers provide entertainment. The train makes its rounds sounding its bell and whistle. The lights on the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree twinkle. Then I look to the warm hue of the lit houses. I can almost hear the crackling fires roaring in the stone fireplaces and feel the coziness of a home in the winter. Oh, and if you look real closely you’ll see Santa making toys in his North Pole workshop.

A View from the West

A View from the West

So happy holiday preparations to all! Take time to enjoy the season. Take a break, eat a Christmas cookie, do an act of kindness, sit in front of your Christmas tree or village (I recommend squinting your eyes – it makes the lights shimmer), and turn up the volume of the holiday music! And remember if you are feeling a little overwhelmed repeat “It will all get done.” Besides you still have 4 more days to enjoy. Remember, this is the fun part!

Lessons Learned from a Cookie Thief

DSCN7978 - Version 2_new

I recently attended a wellness conference. Among the speakers presenting was the world-renowned inspirational author and speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer. He read a wonderful poem to us written by someone else. I researched the poem trying to identify the original author. This proved challenging because there have been many versions published and many with unknown authors. Eventually I identified a version written by Valerie Cox for the book Chicken Soup for the Soul. The poem is very funny and inspirational. I will let you read it first and then I’ll share my thoughts.

The Cookie Thief
by Valerie Cox

A woman was waiting at an airport one night,
With several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shops.
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.

She was engrossed in her book but happened to see,
That the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be.
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between,
Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.

So she munched the cookies and watched the clock,
As the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock.
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
Thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”

With each cookie she took, he took one too,
When only one was left, she wondered what he would do.
With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh,
He took the last cookie and broke it in half.

He offered her half, as he ate the other,
She snatched it from him and thought… oooh, brother.
This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude,
Why he didn’t even show any gratitude!

She had never known when she had been so galled,
And sighed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate,
Refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate.

She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat,
Then she sought her book, which was almost complete.

As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise,
There was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.

If mine are here, she moaned in despair,
The others were his, and he tried to share.
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.

After hearing the poem, I could totally relate to the many times in which I have hastily and mistakenly passed judgment of a situation or of a person. I think many of us are guilty of this. We make assumptions and judgments without having all the facts. Another speaker at the conference, Michael Chase, who spoke on the subject of kindness, went on to quote Mother Teresa, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them”.  

I walked away hoping that I can be more patient in situations, restrain from judgment, and be kinder overall. Even if it’s when I’m driving and some bozo driver cuts me off on the road! I’ll remind myself instead to take a deep breath, remember the cookie thief, and smile to myself!