Musical “Come From Away” Radiates Joy and Human Kindness

The musical “Come From Away” is playing in Denver and elsewhere.

Go.

It’s the story of 9,000 townspeople in Gander, Newfoundland who welcomed 6,700 unexpected guests on September 11, 2001.

When terrorism struck the airways, all U.S. air traffic stopped.

Planes en route  to the states had to go somewhere, and 38 of them landed in Gander, a town with 550 hotel rooms.

The play celebrates human decency in the face of calamity.

Retiring Gander mayor, Claude Elliott. (USA Today photo)

Last year retiring Gander mayor, Claude Elliott, spoke with USA Today reporter, Katherine Lackey:

“What we consider the most simple thing in life is to help people.

“You’re not supposed to look at people’s color, their religion, their sexual orientation — you look at them as people.

“One thing this world is lacking today is common sense.

“You’re not supposed to look at people’s color, their religion, their sexual orientation — you look at them as people.”

“We have to set more of an example and show the world we can all live in harmony regardless of what we are,” the mayor said.

The Graciousness of Gander

“Come From Away” amplifies what Gander showed the world.

And in recent years churches in Gander raised enough money to bring five Syrian families to Gander.

“One thing this world is lacking today is common sense,”

They saw a need and responded.

Yet those not from the island will always be considered “come from aways.”

And, in truth, aren’t we all?

The story’s creators, Irene Sankoff and David Hein, said they “found hope in a story about human kindness.”

It’s clear throughout, and by the end joy pulsates.

A final scene depicts the reunion in Gander 10 years after the planes landed.

A Newfoundlander says, “On the northeast tip of North America, on an island called Newfoundland, there’s an airport – and next to it, is a town called Gander.

“Tonight, we honor what was lost. But we also commemorate what we found!”

Make Kindness the Norm: World Kindness Day November 13

Last year I was at a table sitting next to a well-known newspaper opinion editor.

I thought I was adding to the conversation when I said I subscribe to the optimist news from the Washington Post.

He and a writer on my other side exchanged smirks.

They spoke over me as one asked, “Does your paper have optimistic news?”

“We have news,” was the reply.

Shut down.

“Recently I’ve been on a mission to both find and create more kindness in my world. . .” S. Petrow

Tuesday, November 13, is World Kindness Day.

It’s sponsored by Random Acts of Kindness.

“Make kindness the norm” is campaign slogan that’s really an invitation.

Last month the Washington Post published, “How a ‘kindness contagion’ improves lives, especially now.”

I love this article.

The author, Steven Petrow, won me with his earnest opening.

“Recently I’ve been on a mission to both find and create more kindness in my world. . .” he wrote.

Thinking back on the dinner I attended, I remember the lively people at the far end of the table nodding and urging my quiet daughter’s conversation contribution forward.

They shared time skillfully and playfully, and what I witnessed happening down there was kindness.

I, on the other hand, was flanked by sarcasm and my own discomfort.

Yet optimism always seems to win out.

Like Mr. Petrow, I’m off to “find and create more kindness in my world.”

And who couldn’t use a bigger dose of both of those?

Take Action!

•  See oodles of resources at Random Acts of Kindness.

•  Read the Washington Post’s, How a ‘kindness contagion’ improves life, especially nowby Steven Petrow.

• Treat yourself  to learning about Ben’s Bells where the motto is “Be Kind” and their mission is to teach “the importance of intentional kindness.”

•  Link to past posts related to kindness:
Alan Turgeon, thank you for your decency
Mr. Rogers, it’s time to bring back what you taught us
Gillette against hate
Pain should not be wasted

•  Watch this 1.5 minute kindness video:

.   .   .

Ellen is a native of northern Maine. Her interest in getting to know Wyoming focuses on ways people and organizations help and protect individuals, wildlife, beauty, and rights. She is a HeartMath® trainer and coach, a Connection Practice trainer and coach, and a biodynamic craniosacral therapist. Her website is:  EllenSynakowski.com and her email is EllenSynakowski@icloud.com.

. . . justice is what love looks like in public.” Cornel West

Refugees Resettled in Maine Give Me Hope in Humanity

Deo, Uber driver in Portland, Maine by way of Tanzania and Burundi.

While visiting my home state of Maine I used Uber to get around Portland

During one trip the driver, Deo, and I started talking.

He has lived in Maine for 10 years.

And he is an immigrant from Burundi, one of the poorest countries in Africa.

In 1993 the first democratically-elected President came to power there.

Voter turnout was 97%.

Later that year the President was assassinated, and civil war erupted.

After two of Deo’s children died the same year, he walked 600 miles to Tanzania.

For the next decade he called two Tanzanian refugee camps home while assistance from the United Nations helped secure his asylum in the United States.

In 2008 he relocated to Maine after a short stay in Iowa.

Maine Used to Champion Refugees

For close to a decade Maine championed refugees, and whether that is because its population is rapidly aging and attracting younger workers was strategically smart or if it was a humanitarian gesture, I can’t say.

Either way, it was a powerfully good thing.

And unlike Wyoming, Maine had a plan to assist people in need.

But as of January 2018, an amended Act curtained Maine’s participation in what remains of the federally-funded refugee resettlement program.

In truth, since the U.S. presidential election of 2016, refugee resettlement in Maine and elsewhere has all but ended.

Between October 1, 2017 and March 15, 2018, 91% fewer refugees came to Maine.

That’s 21 arrivals versus 229 in the same period the previous year.

Yet for Deo, life here is good.

He works in Portland and belongs to a supportive community that both sees and believes in his worth.

I’m encouraged

After all he has witnessed and experienced, he reports being treated fairly and with respect in the whitest state in the country.

And his reflection on Maine matters to me; I want to live where human life is valued and compassionate acts are not only tolerated but are sanctioned.

•  •

Deo’s Uber profile shows he has a 4.86 overall rating with almost all evaluations being perfect 5-stars.

He says on the Uber app, “I am honest and take care of people.

“I love gospel music.

“I am filling [feeling] nice when I give people rides.”

Take Action!

•  Read about the Wyoming student who wrote a refugee resettlement plan for the only state without one.

•  Listen to Maine Public Radio, The Year the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Unraveled, by Deborah Amos, Jan 1, 2018.

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Her website is EllenSynakowski.com. She is a Registered Craniosacral Therapist (RCST), is on the Board of Directors of the Biodynamic Craniosacral Association of North America (BCTA/NA), and is a practitioner of both HeartMath and The Connection Practice.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West

 

“Pain should not be wasted”— Deep Gratitude to Three Parents Who Have Not Wasted Their Pain

Dennis and Judy Shepard, parents of Matthew Shepard.

Holocaust survivor, Gerda Weissmann Klein said, “Pain should not be wasted.”

And I am deeply grateful to three parents who live that wisdom.

Karen Ball began the Sturge-Weber Foundation when her daughter, Kaelin, was born with Sturge-Weber Syndrome accompanied by a significant facial port wine stain.

Because this Foundation was there when my son, Byron, was born with the same syndrome, we were not alone.

Karen continues to blaze trail after medical trail in service to others.

The Shepards of Casper, Wyoming

And then there are the Shepards.

Their son, Matthew, was murdered 20 years ago this month.

It was a hate crime for being gay.

Judy channeled her anger and pain and created good:  The Matthew Shepard Foundation.

And for two decades, she and her gentle husband, Dennis, have traveled the country and the world erasing hate, promoting tolerance, and heralding human rights for all.

“This is not about courage or some higher calling; This is what happens when you piss off a mother.” – Judy Shepard

We spent this week-end in their presence.

On October 26, 2018 at 10 a.m., a public celebration of Matthew’s life will precede his interment at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

His remains are still not safe in Wyoming.

And that is unimaginable.

The Shepards model both public anguish and resilience as they counter the injustice of Matthew’s death.

And though their service to humanity cannot be measured, award after award attempts to quantify the shift their work is creating.

As Judy said during the Shepard Symposium for Social Justice in Laramie last spring, “This is not about courage or some higher calling; This is what happens when you piss off a mother.”

And for me, a mother still fighting for me children — sometimes out of fear, occasionally from anger, and mostly out of love — I spill tears every time I’m close to the energy that swirls like tornados around Judy and Dennis.

Because beyond the LGBTQ community, the work they do emphasizes justice for all human life on the planet.

“Pain should not be wasted.”

And for Judy and Dennis and Karen it hasn’t been.

•  •  •

An excerpt from Dennis Shepard’s trial statement:

“You left him out there by himself, but he wasn’t alone . . . First, he had the beautiful night sky with the same stars and moon that we used to look at through a telescope. Then, he had the daylight and the sun to shine on him one more time — one more cool, wonderful autumn day in Wyoming . . . And through it all he was breathing in for the last time the smell of Wyoming sagebrush and the scent of pine trees from the snowy range. He heard the wind — the ever-present Wyoming wind — for the last time. He had one more friend with him. He had God.

“I feel better knowing he wasn’t alone.”

Take Action!

•  Learn more at the Sturge-Weber Foundation

•  Help Erase Hate at the Matthew Shepard Foundation

•  Read about growing up in a moderately-tolerant town

•  •  •

Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. Her website is EllenSynakowski.com. She is a Registered Craniosacral Therapist (RCST), is on the Board of Directors of the Biodynamic Craniosacral Association of North America (BCTA/NA), and has been practicing Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy since 2013.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West

 

Peace as Learned and Teachable Skills: UN International Day of Peace September 21, 2018

 

HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein Jordan reading Article 1 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (click photo to be taken to her reading)

Every year the United Nations presents the International Day of Peace.

And this year is especially notable because it marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But the how to of peace can be elusive.

Over time, though, I’ve found three portals to equanimity.

And for me they overlap.

All three, it seems, know that as sentient beings we yearn for and move toward emotional and physical health.

And I choose to think peace fits in there, too.

Master of the Heart and HeartMath

Through personal, social and global coherence of HeartMath® I’ve learned to regulate my emotions.

All the while I am changing my heart rate variablility (HRV).

And HRV is a predictor of longevity, health and one’s emotional state.

Surprising to many,  coherence can be attained in the midst and moments of life’s challenges.

When I achieve coherence I am deeply content with my life.

The good news is that HeartMath tools can be taught to just about anyone at any age.

And with practice these skills lead to consistent, internal peace, regardless of external conditions.

I took my first HeartMath® class in 2009 from a master of the heart, David McArther.

And over time I learned to intentionally shift my physiology.

At will I can bring into balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of my nervous system.

That is peace.

The Connection Practice

“Before directing the lightening in the sky, we must first harness the storms in our own hearts.”

From The Connection Practice I know that world peace, family peace — any peace — is futile without internal peace.

It is in the motto.

“Before directing the lightening in the sky, we must first harness the storms in our own hearts.”

The Connection Practice uses elements of HeartMath and Nonviolent Communication.

And these gentle starting places inform the Practice’s life-affirming skills.

From Nonviolent Communication we offer respectful empathy to ourselves and others.

Through HeartMath we access insight.

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy

The third part of my profession and personal practice is biodynamic craniosacral therapy.

It is described as a “. . . a gentle, sensitive form of a hands-on approach to health.”

And it is truly magical.

After completing a session I am rested and deeply peaceful.

And that is true if I am receiving or facilitating.

As a practitioner I sense the rhythms within another’s nervous system — the breathe of life.

I set out to do nothing more.

In this way the practitioner is a mirror rather than a mechanic.

.  .  .

The United Nations International Day of Peace is an idea; it’s a chance to pause.

And perhaps in that pause you’ll ask if now is the right time to experience more peace in your life.

Take Action!

•  Books I recommend:  David McArthur – Your Spiritual Heart; HeartMath – The HeartMath Solution; Nonviolent Communication – Nonviolent Communication; The Connection Practice – Completely Connected, by Rita Marie Johnson; Cherionna Menzam-Sills – The Breath of Life.

•   Learn about HeartMath research and professional training.

•  Find a HeartMath professional in your area.

•  Read about The Connection Practice.

•  Find a Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist in your area.

Previous Posts Related to Peace

•  Connecting:  When Needs are Met in a Simple Thank You

•  Connection Amid Political Chaos:  Impossible You Say?

•  Creating a Dignified Transition: A Daughter’s Gift to Her Mother

•  •  •


Ellen Synakowski (she/her/hers) lives in Laramie, Wyoming. She is a HeartMath Certified Trainer and Coach, and certified through HeartMath to administer the Stress and Well-being Assessment tool; A Connection Practice Trainer, a Trainer’s Trainer, and Coach; and a Registered Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist (RCST®). Her website is EllenSynakowski.com.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.  — C. West