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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Race Day

index

The 2013 Bratislava, Slovakia Marathon and Half-Marathon

The 2013 Bratislava, Slovakia Marathon and Half-Marathon

“It’s the Final Count Down”

It was 6 a.m. when my iPhone alarm went off on the morning of March 24, 2013 in Bratislava, Slovakia. It was our big day. In a couple of hours some of the women of our running group, “Women Running the World”, would be participating in our first half-marathon and longest run yet, 13.1 miles/21 kilometers. We had all been checking the weather apps the days before, hoping the forecast would miraculously change but when I opened the window curtain, it was as they had predicted, snow was falling and the temperature was 28° (-2.2°C) feeling like 15 °Fahrenheit (-9°C). We had trained in weather like this in London so I felt ready. The night before I had texted my husband to share that the Kenyan runners had arrived at the hotel. They were there to complete the whole marathon as a qualifying event for other competitions. That morning I texted my husband the weather conditions and he texted back, “Just think of the great advantage the weather gives you over the Kenyans! You have trained for this weather!” I decided what layers of clothing to wear and I placed my clothes and accessories neatly on my bed. At 7 a.m. I went to see our head coach so that she could tape my injured/recovering leg with kinesiology tape. I was excited but not anxious. I felt like an astronaut preparing for a mission, taking all the systematic steps before take off. At 7:15 a.m. I went down to have breakfast. We had been instructed to eat what we had normally been eating on previous long runs and not to try different things. So for me it was a fruit smoothie with white bread and peanut butter.

Picking Up Our Registration Packages the Day Before the Race

Picking Up Our Registration Packages the Day Before the Race

Then it was time to make the final preparations. I wore compression sleeves on both legs to help support my calf muscles. I pinned my running number, # 5082, to my shirt. I attached the electronic chip that would track my running time to my sneaker. I wore two layers of running pants, a long sleeve shirt, a fleece, gloves, a very light down jacket that would eventually end up around my waist, a running waist pack with gels and my iPhone. I strapped on my Garmin Forerunner 610 watch. I loaded all my pockets with tissues. And for good luck I wore the Third Eye bracelet that my Turkish girlfriend had given me last year and a necklace I had bought myself which showed a runner on one side and the number 13.1 on the other. I did my normal exercises and stretch routine along with some breathing exercises. It was show time.

Preparing for the Race

Preparing for the Race

“It’s the Eye of the Tiger”

At 9:00 a.m. we met for a group picture in the hotel lobby. We were quite the group, over 70 women with cute light pink Nike caps, all proud members of our running group “Women Running the World”.

Just part of the beginner runners of Women Running the World Running Group

Some of the beginner runners of Women Running the World Running Group
The Ladies in the Pink Caps

The energy level was palpable. Some of the women were nervous and others were excited. Some just wanted to get it over with, while others were taking it in stride. We hugged and gave each other support. A few of us went outside to start doing warm up routines. There were thousands of people. The race had an estimated attendance of about 3000 people. Then the moment of truth arrived when our leader headed out of our hotel to the front of the starting gate and we followed her like little ducks with pink caps. The excitement was swelling up inside of me. We took our positions in the coral. The more experienced runners of the group went closer to the starting point and the beginner runners stood further back. One of my friends dressed like Rocky Balboa provided light-hearted entertainment as she waved her fists in the air accompanied by our background Rocky music vocals. Another girlfriend was setting fashion trends with her layered garbage bag look (garbage bags for warmth).  Their plans were to shed these layers of extra clothes and plastic along the path. This clothing is later collected and donated.

Setting New Trends in Running Fashion Gear

Setting New Trends in Running Fashion Gear

We were in our pre-designated groups. I chose to stay with my usual group with the plan to fall back if my leg started acting up. Then we heard a count down in Slovak and the race started at 10:00 a.m. At first there was no perceptible movement in the crowd as the front racers took off, and then suddenly before I knew it I arrived at the gate. There I was crossing the blue carpets where the electronic chips in your sneakers are read and I found myself letting out a huge cheer of excitement. I later found out that one of my friends tripped on that same blue rug and fell flat on her face. We laughed about it later, but at that moment she could not believe this had happened. She thought that she had gotten up by herself but later learned that actually two men had whisked her off the ground and propped her back up. She went on to have a remarkable run. As she later said in her own words, “She hit the ground running!”

Some  of our Coaches

Some of our Coaches

I remember reviewing the map of the route thinking I would have a fair idea of where I was going. It really did not help because what looked to be so simple on paper was very different in reality. The route started out by the Danube River in front of our hotel next to a Eurovea shopping center.

Attempting to Learn the Route

Attempting to Learn the Route

Soon after we found ourselves running along Communist era construction apartment buildings which were not very pretty. The view improved as we ran into the old town.  Although the view improved, the cobblestone streets were dreadful especially going up hill. The snow thankfully was not sticking and eventually tapered off. As in all races there were water stations. The cups were kind of big and drinking water while running proved to be more difficult than I anticipated. I probably splashed more water on my face than I actually swallowed. But that was good enough. We then flung our cups off to side like the professionals. Yeah!

I started out running with my assigned group and was doing really well with the injured/recovering leg. Suddenly at about the 45-minute mark I felt my calf muscle strain and I thought to myself, “Oh, no, this cannot be happening. I will complete this race”. At that point, I decided to slow my pace down, send energy to my leg and see if the muscle would recover. It seemed to feel better and I stayed at this pace for a while. But I had to emotionally let go of my group of friends as they slowly disappeared ahead of me and moved on. I would be running this race alone and I had prepared for this. Over the course of the race we were able to recognize each other because of the pink caps. There was a switchback in the initial part of the route, so we would cheer our faster runners that were on the other side and they would cheer us back. Once I restored my confidence with my leg I found myself in a comfortable place. I was happy as a clam to be running my first half-marathon. Furthermore, we had seen a bunch of guys quit after 30 minutes making us feel like the real trained professionals that we were. No messing with these ladies in pink hats! We would hear cheers in the crowd, “Go Pinky”. We also heard a lot of Slovak cheers and applause to which I would applaud back and say thank you. Perhaps not a customary thing to do but I was so grateful to have these people standing in below freezing weather to cheer us on. Caught up in the excitement, one of our fellow runners thought she would try her Slovak language skills. Enthusiastically she cheered back at the crowds, although not really sure of what she was saying, but hoping it was proper, especially since she had  cheered back at a nice group of nuns.

“It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight

Risin’ up to the challenge of our rival

And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night

And he’s watchin’ us all with the eye of the tiger”

“It’s My Life”

At the 18 km point (about 11 miles) of the run we reached the Danube River. There was another switchback. First we would run on the street in front of the river and then make a U-turn to run along the pedestrian walkway by the Danube. I suddenly heard Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” being played and I got super pumped. I was on cloud nine. It seemed like the end was so close. In my head I was singing “It’s my life, It’s now or never”, and then as if though the record player needle skipped on the L.P., the song came to a screeching halt as I realized that the turnaround was quite a distance away. NO WAY!! I had to rationalize in my head that the end was near although emotionally it seemed light years away. At this point, my injured leg was feeling fine, and I thought I would try to go faster but it was so hard to muster more speed. Consistency would be the name of the game.

We finished the river segment, turned left back into the city, and finally saw signs that read, “2nd lap go left” for the full marathoners, and “Finish go right” for the half-marathoners. From somewhere or from nowhere I squeezed that last bit of energy to pull it off. I could see the final gate. As I approached I saw a bunch of our pink hat ladies in the cheering crowd yelling, “Go Ariadne”. As I looked ahead at the clock I was determined to make it to the finish line within the next 30 seconds. I took those last strides that pulled me into victory. Once I ran through the finish line it was almost difficult to stop. My legs felt like ocean waves as I slowed down. The elation and excitement overtook me. I had finished my first half-marathon. So this is why people do this, for this remarkable moment of euphoria and accomplishment. In front of me was a young lady handing me a medal. WOW I got a medal, my very own medal. I was not expecting that. And then I saw one of my lovely friends who had already finished, running towards me to give me the biggest hug in the world. A camera guy captured this moment on film. It was surreal, it was dream-like, and it was amazing to have finished the race. We hugged and yelled in celebration.

At the Finish Line1st Half Marathon

At the Finish Line
1st Half Marathon
and Wearing My Medal

Suddenly the freezing temperature set in. At that point a group of us made our way out of that finish line area  and went to join the rest of our group in the cheering section. In order to exit we had to climb the most ridiculous makeshift steps in the world to cross a bridge and then come back down. This was absolute torture at this point in time. We returned the chips that were attached to our shoes. We were shivering so much we could barely untie the laces to take the chips off. We made a quick stop into the hotel to warm up before joining the others in the stands.

Champions

Champions

Not only was it amazing to have finished the race but it was equally as thrilling to cheer on the rest of our friends. Like proud parents we swelled up with pride and joy as we cheered the rest of the ladies coming in. There were several friends who miraculously finished even with their severe injuries. Tears of joy filled our eyes as they came through high-fiving us. And then we saw the last of our group. It was our head coach holding one of our friends by her hand and leading her to the very end. And as the two of them went through the finish line, we celebrated the successful completion of the Bratislava half-marathon by our group “Women Running the World”. Our group of beginner runners had graduated to “Runners”. We had done it!

Relishing in the Moment

Relishing in the Moment

That's How It's Done!

That’s How It’s Done!

Happy Friends

Happy Friends After the Run

Celebrating Our Victories

Celebrating Our Victories

Champions All The Way

Champions All The Way

Celebrating Our Race

Celebrating Our Race

After a wonderful celebratory dinner on Sunday night we returned to London on Monday. We sadly parted ways. But we do plan to continue running together!

When I arrived at home I found a wonderful surprise. My husband had baked a double layer chocolate cake and my children had written a special congratulations letter. I was overtaken by emotion and started crying.

My Welcome Home Congratulations Chocolate Layer Cake and Letter

My Welcome Home Congratulations Chocolate Layer Cake and Letter

To my dear fellow runners who shared this journey with me I send you a big thank you and lots of love. I am so proud of what we accomplished together. To my readers and friends, I hope you can someday experience something as special as this and above all to be able to have the opportunity to share the experience with a group of remarkable people just as I did.

“It’s my life

It’s now or never

I ain’t gonna live forever

I just want to live while I’m alive

It’s my life

My heart is like an open highway

Like Frankie said

I did it my way

I just wanna live while I’m alive

It’s my life”

Lyrics: Bon Jovi “It’s My Life”

The Journey

Back in September I snuck into one of my posts that I had just joined a women’s beginner running group and that we were in training to do a half-marathon in Bratislava, Slovakia in March of 2013.

Part of the Beginner's Running Group in our favorite meeting place

Part of the Beginner’s Running Group in our favorite meeting place

We are now 3 days away from the big day. I leave to Bratislava today and the run is on Sunday March 24th. Our group of 33 women, ranging in ages from 30 to 50’s started out with routines of walking 2 minutes, running 2 minutes and so forth and so on, to eventually running 11-mile runs. Back in September, when I printed out the training program I was amazed with what we would accomplish. We slowly increased our running times. We used to wince at running 15 minutes straight, then 30 minutes seemed outrageous, and an hour run was the “unthinkable”. Then the runs started getting longer and longer. By December we were running 3 times a week. The short run was 35 minutes long, the medium run was initially a 45-minute run which eventually became an hour run, and the long run, well we made it to 2+hours. Last week was our last “long run” before the race. We are ready for the half-marathon. Our main coach is a woman who has dedicated the last 11 years of her life to introducing women to running. She does not charge for this, for her it is a labor of love. Through her dedication to us she shares her passion for running while at same time building our confidence and serving as an inspiration. She recruits other runners to be assistant coaches to help her with the rookies. Every year she takes an average group of about 70 women, both beginner runners and graduates, to half marathons. She also trains some of the women to do marathons.

Our First Run to Big Ben

Our First Run to Big Ben

What we achieved as individuals and as a group was remarkable. I get a little misty eyed thinking of this group of amazing women, my pillars throughout the training. When the weather was dreary and dark, with temperatures below freezing accompanied by that quaint London spitty rain, all I wanted to do was go back to bed after the kids went to school. Instead, I donned my running gear and knew the group was waiting for me at the St. John’s Wood High Street Starbucks. Although over time the group divided into 3 sub-groups depending on our running speeds, we all remained cohesive and supportive of each other. We “left no woman behind”. There were falls, injuries, and disappointments along the way but we endured. There were also triumphant achievements, laughs, and celebrations. I was also very fortunate to have a fan club at home. My husband and children were so supportive throughout the training. They have been very proud of me and that is such a special feeling.

Last week proved to be a fateful week with regard to my running. On the day of our “last long run”, last Thursday, during the first 10 minutes of an 11-mile run I felt as if though a dog bit my right lower calf muscle.  I continued running thinking it was a cramp and that it would go away. I slowed down, and waved my friends on. I felt a pulling in the leg, not really a harsh pain, but things were not right. And as always, our head coach was suddenly there, massaging my leg, asking me questions, and assessing what to do. She asked me to slow down my pace and see how I felt. Part of me was afraid of further injury, but part of me was determined to accomplish the long run. Since there was no harsh pain, just a dull discomfort, I slowed down, and was able to complete the 11-mile run. I was fine once I was running. By 1:30 that afternoon I was at the physical therapist’s office. And yes sadly, I had a small tear of my right leg calf muscle. The good news was that based on the strength I showed in the leg that afternoon he felt confident that he would have me ready for the race, only of course if I followed his strict instructions. So this past week I was very busy icing, exercising, stretching, and going to the physical therapist. I did 3 short runs successfully and that helped increase my confidence. I will do the run on Sunday but I will need to start at a slower pace than usual and depending on how the leg feels, then I will increase my speed for the second half of the race. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

This journey I have taken with this amazing group of women has made us all richer in spirit, stronger in body, and courageous and confident in mind. It has reminded us of how important it is set goals. And I have had the opportunity to make wonderful new friends. This journey reminded me of how important it is to reach beyond our comfort zone and to aim to do things we thought we might not have been able to achieve. We set our mind to it and we achieved it.