What You Can Do – Week 1

So…that election happened. For the first few days after the results were announced, I think I went through all the stages of grief about 10 separate times. And honestly, everyone handles these things differently, so I think whatever you need to do to deal is just fine. However, after spending the last three and a half years of my life learning how NOT to wallow in anger, fear and resentment (which for me, leads to really bad and unhealthy choices) I knew that wasn’t an option. I can be angry, but I can’t sit in that anger, or it will eat me alive.

One thing I have heard over and over since Election Day is, “What can I do now?” I was asking myself the same question, so I decided to sit down and make a list of all the things I could do that could affect change in the world. Some of the items were big actions, while some were simple and small. But if there is anything I’ve learned in the past few years, it’s that I can’t control anyone else, only myself, and when I choose to take positive action toward others, it causes a ripple effect in everyone around me.

When I was in my first days of recovery, I remember feeling completely alone. I didn’t know how I could do anything, let alone change anything about my life. But a wise person told me to get up, get out of bed and do something…it didn’t matter what it was. Make the bed. Put on clean clothes. Go outside. And little by little, those small actions got me moving. Before I knew it, my entire life had turned around, and it all started with those tiny acts.

So I’ve decided to apply the same logic to the new world around me. Every day I plan to do something positive…and hopefully those little things will add up to make this world a little bit better. I am sharing them daily on my social media because there are so many people who seem to want to do something, but don’t know where to start. My hope is that by sharing, we will all be inspired to do something, big or small. I’ll gather the week’s actions in a short list here every Friday, so it’s easier to find them and get ideas moving forward. I’m also tagging on social media under the hashtag #smallthingsforbiglove. Just remember, I’m not giving up, and neither should you.

Here’s this week’s list!

1. Go to a public meeting or rally! Reach out to others and ask if they have any info on events going on in your community. I went to a HUGE private gathering of women and men of action to plan for what we do next, and how we can support causes near and dear to us that are in peril of being defunded in the future.

2. Do something spiritual. For me this week, that meant going to church. This was the sermon. I was in tears. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

3. Donate blood! When you donate blood, you save three lives. It’s easy and it only takes about 30 minutes. Click here for more info.

4. Continue working for causes you care about. I met with my friends on the KS-03 ONE Congressional District Team about advocating and talking with our representatives in congress about the Education for All Act! Want to help? Send me a note at megan@crazybananas.com. Read more about ONE here.

5. I called my two senators and two representatives to ask them to come out against the appointment of Steve Bannon to the White House Staff. It was incredibly empowering to make my voice heard! If you want to call, click here for more info!

6. I listened to the This American Life podcast, which did in-depth storytelling during and following the election. The most recent show is an absolute must if you’re wanting to really listen and learn.

7. I called a charity I’m interested in, but haven’t ever worked with, to learn how to get involved!

What Dreams May Come…

Today’s the day, and I should be frantically running around, trying to do all the things and check items off my list. But instead I’m sitting in bed with my laptop and the sleeping kitten. I feel oddly calm, which is so unlike me when I’m preparing for travel. Maybe it’s just because this trip is so different from any I’ve ever taken? Maybe it’s because I’m in denial this is actually happening? Maybe I just need more coffee?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always told stories. I tell them through my writing and my photography, and most of the time they are meaningless to anyone else. But that’s okay, because they mean a lot to me. I am made of that stuff that just inherently NEEDS to share, or else my head and my heart might explode.

We talk a lot in our home about using our talents to help others. I may not be perfect or famous or have a million dollars, but I can share my gifts in a way that lifts others up. I’m a storyteller, and my life’s goal is to tell stories for good. To tell the stories that need to be heard. Sometimes those stories are mundane and sometimes they are magnificent.

I met my best friend and chosen sister, Theresa, when I was 8-years-old. In the past few years she has grown so much, and these days I’m the one who looks up to her. She has risen in the academic ranks at her job and in the past year she has begun a very intense research project, which is focused on education rights for Syrian refugee children who have been displaced due to the civil war there.

This summer she reached out and asked if I’d be interested in traveling with her to Greece to photograph the refugees and refugee camps there in conjunction with the United Nations. I couldn’t believe it. This is a dream opportunity for me! Our goal is to learn more about the current state of primary education for refugees in Greece. We want to heighten awareness for support needed for further development of access to education, and the bigger picture for the Syrians, Afghans and other nationalities of refugee children residing there.

I fly to New York today. Tomorrow we leave for Greece.

I am in awe of this opportunity. I know I can’t even fathom yet how this will change me. I think that’s why I’m still laying in my bed, instead of frantically running around. I am preparing, in the only way I know how.

Be still. Be still. Be still.

I will be off the grid while I’m away, but I hope to keep updating social media when I have internet access. I would assume the best bet for photos is to follow my Instagram and for video content to follow me on Snapchat under the name “crazeebananaz” (I love Instagram stories, but it’s still a bit glitchy for me, so I’m going to plan on snapping most things and then uploading to Instagram stories if I can). If you’re able, send some good vibes or prayers or juju or whatever into the universe for us, as we embark on this journey. We can use all the encouragement we can get…

Malala and Chat 2.0 with Hallmark

Chat 2.0 : Malala Yousafzai

This past Tuesday evening I was incredibly honored and grateful to be invited to hear the incredible Malala Yousafzai and her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, speak about continuing the world-wide fight for education for all children. I’ve long been an admirer of Malala, since her horrific story hit the news in 2012. Two summers ago her book, I am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban, was one of my favorite reads. When I saw she was coming to Kansas City to speak, I knew I wanted to take my daughter. Malala was only 11 (a year older than Lucy) when she began writing her BBC blog, documenting life under the Taliban regime, and I really wanted my daughter to experience getting to hear someone speak who stood up against oppression at such a young age.

Malala Chat 2.0 with Hallmark

Having the opportunity to take Lucy to this event was a huge gift to both of us. Malala’s message is one of empowerment, and she talked in detail about how education can enable girls to be change-makers in their communities. Before the event started, the host asked all the people in the audience under 20-years-old to stand up and be recognized…and I won’t lie. When Lucy stood up, and the people around us started cheering for her, I totally started crying. I’m so proud of the young lady she is becoming, and I know she’s going to change the world in big ways!

First we heard from Malala’s father, Ziauddin, who was so inspiring to me as a parent. He spoke about coming from a place where women were not valued in the same way as men, and how he had five sisters, but no one ever thought to send them to school. Ziauddin is an educator himself, and when he was blessed with a daughter, he knew he needed to create his own school to ensure she could attend. He said, “My biggest achievement in my life is being the father to a daughter.” He encouraged us to stand up against oppression and inequality, and reminded us that the biggest capitol we have in our communities is US!

“Your own voice is the most powerful voice…raise it!” – Ziauddin Yousafzai

Malala Chat 2.0 with Hallmark

Then Malala came on stage and told her story. When she was 11-years-old, the Taliban came to her community and banned all the girls from attending school. She continued to attend, at much risk to herself and her family, and her father continued to teach girls, even though many schools were being bombed. She then began blogging for the BBC, sharing with the western world what it was like to be growing up female in Pakistan with the Taliban in control. In 2012, when she was 15-years-old, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban as she rode home on the bus after school. She was deliberately attacked because she had spoken out regarding education for girls. Amazingly, she survived and continues to speak worldwide about the issue of education for all people.

“I was shot to be silenced, but the opposite happened and my voice is louder than before.” – Malala Yousafzai

The question and answer section of the event was my favorite part, because hearing the candid and strong answers from Malala and her father was incredibly inspiring. Much of the conversation revolved around lack of funding for education around the world and the effect of poverty on education. Both Malala and her father stressed that the problem isn’t “lack of funds,” but instead the allocation of funds. Malala said the most surprising thing she’s seen in her travels is the lack of investment in education. She said if military entities worldwide stopped their spending for only eight days, we would be able to educate all of the children across the earth that are currently NOT attending school.

“More guns and bombs will never protect you. Educated children do not need to pick up guns.” – Malala Yousafzai

When I asked Lucy her favorite part of the event, she said it was when a child in the audience asked Malala what still scares her….her answer? Balloons! I loved that, because it helped show Lucy that even though Malala is an extraordinary person, she is still just a regular girl. Albeit, a girl who has won the Nobel Peace Prize!

Malala Chat 2.0 with Hallmark

Malala also told the crowd that the reason she always felt she could speak up, was because her father ALWAYS listened to her and her siblings. Even if they just wanted to talk about something silly, she said he would stop what he was doing and really listen to them. This was a huge wake up call for me as a parent. There are definitely times when I dismiss what my kids are saying, or shush them because I’m too “busy” with my own stuff, and that is something I plan on working on. I want my daughter to know her voice matters, and that begins at home.

I have to give HUGE thanks to Hallmark, who along with sponsoring Chat 2.0, gave Lucy and I the opportunity to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event. Hallmark Cards has a mission to help create communities where all children have the chance to grow up as healthy, productive and caring persons and vibrant arts and cultural experiences enrich the lives of all citizens. I so admire Hallmark’s dedication to gender diversity, especially in the STEM fields. Lucy really enjoyed seeing the Hallmark engineers before the event, and learning how they use math, science, engineering and technology to create so many incredible products. Lucy loves art AND science, and she loved seeing how the two can work together to make beautiful things!

“You young people…you need to speak out. I didn’t wait for someone older to come speak for me. Believe in your voice. Believe in yourself.” – Malala Yousafzai

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Hallmark, However, the written remarks and opinions are entirely my own.

Look for the Helpers

Like many of us, I watched the events in Paris this weekend with a heavy heart. I am so saddened by the anger and hate in the world, and the fear that would lead people to murder each other. Fear is what feeds the darkness…anger, hatred, injustice and prejudice are all secondary to one basic human emotion. Fear. When we give in to fear, when we begin to hate each other and retaliate without mercy, the darkness grows. All of the stories I have read from people who were directly involved in the Paris attacks reiterates this idea, in the same way the stories of 9/11 did. In their last breaths, people didn’t cry out in anger, but in love. They thought of their loved ones and whispered their names. They called their families and friends with messages of love. In order to properly honor those that were lost, I believe the only course of action is to move forward with love.

If you’re sitting on Facebook or Twitter, posting angry messages about refugees (who are fleeing the same people who committed the atrocities in Paris…so why we wouldn’t take them in is totally beyond me), maybe take a breath and try to turn your anger into something positive. Do something. Anything. Just stop complaining. If you’re feeling helpless, sad and not sure what to do next, I put together a list of ways you can do something RIGHT NOW to help the world be a better place. Imagine our world if everyone stopped using their platforms to spread vitriol. Imagine the good we could do. It’s a beautiful thing.

Donate to the Momastary Love Flash Mob, which benefits midwives working with refugee families in Berlin. Pregnant women and their children are living in tents in the cold, with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Donate to Doctors Without Borders.

Donate to UNICEF, which is providing vaccines, clothing, shelter and more to refugee children.

Donate blood at your local community blood center. (Click here for Kansas City)

Give someone a hug.

Donate to the French Red Cross.

There was a suicide bombing in a suburb of Beirut this weekend as well, which killed 42 people. Donate to the Lebanese Red Cross here.

Volunteer at Big Brothers Big Sisters, and help a child who needs a stable adult in their life. This one is near and dear to me. (Click here for Kansas City)

Choose a charity and donate something. Your time, your money, whatever. Everything helps.

CB Reads : David and Goliath + I Am Malala

Pretty good haul for mama at the library too! #johnsoncountylibrary #librariesrule #malala #malcomgladwell #read

During the past few months I’ve turned into a bit of a bookworm. Our open summer schedule meant many, MANY trips to our local library to beat the heat and gather up some new reading material. Lucy is a speed-reader who goes through several chapter books at a time, so we ended up spending A LOT of our summer hours curled up with our stories. Not only does my local library have an amazing selection, it also offers ebooks, which I can download on my iPad. I’m such a nerd-face, you should’ve seen me when I realized I could get books for FREE! It’s like I forgot how libraries work in this land of Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I ended up mirroring my daughter, going through a ton of books, and staying up all night reading. It was pretty awesome.

One of my favorites was David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. I had heard about this book from a few people, and had even attended a seminar where the speaker based his argument on stories included in this collection. The book is a series of essays by Gladwell, a New Yorker columnist and author of a ton of other incredible reads (more here), focusing on the underdogs of society and how they overcame adversity. More specifically, it hones in on how underdogs, in reality, are sometimes nothing of the sort. In the titular essay, Gladwell writes about David, the young shepherd boy who slayed the giant Goliath in the famous Bible story. But was David really an underdog? Or was he smarter, faster and more prepared than Goliath? Did his size work for him, instead of against him? Gladwell is a wonderful writer, and this book was no exception. The section on the Civil Rights Era and the Irish-Catholic resistance against the British are both very intriguing and relate very much to what’s happening in the news right now. I highly recommend it for underdogs (and giants) everywhere.

I also recently finished the autobiography, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot By the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai. It tells the story of Malala, who was 15 when her school bus was pulled over by Taliban fighters, who climbed aboard and shot her. Malala was the writer of an online journal for the BBC, which told of her struggles in trying to continue attending school after the Taliban took over her home in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Her story is definitely worth reading. This book reminded me a bit of Anne Frank, the journals and memories of a young girl living thru a war, with stories about fights with friends and being angry at her brothers mixed in with tales of Taliban fighters roaming her town and threats against any girls attending school. It is heartbreaking and uplifting, as Malala continues to fight for education for girls, even after surviving such a terrifying ordeal.

The world is a scary place today. I watch the news and see the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri and Mosul, Iraq. I don’t know what to make of a world where an unarmed boy is shot by police or children are murdered for their religious beliefs. I don’t know how I can help or what I can do. But books like these make me think a better world is possible, and there are people that are working to get us there. When I read, I am growing, and with growth, I believe I can be inspired to find a way to help. Let’s keep learning, friends. Let’s keep growing.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...