A Child Named Hope

I  take up “the pen” today because it’s the only way I know to wrestle with disquieting feelings I’ve had recently.

aidAs a marketing person, I post to many social media sites – both my own and to those for which I work. One Thursday, about two weeks ago, I had a most unsettling experience.

Through one of the non-profit facebook sites I run, I received a message where the writer asked whether the organization I posted for is truly community-oriented, or “a liberal propaganda house.” He pointed out that there are conservatives and libertarians in the community.

We had a relatively positive message exchange, where I indicated the organization welcomes everyone, and that, as a public access television station, we broadcast everything submitted, except media that advocates violence.

The individual pointed out that recent posts were “Left of Center.”

I thanked him for pointing this out, and stated that our purpose was not to alienate anyone.

Now I will say that the leanings of most of the people who work at this organization ARE, in fact, “left of center.”  As one of the more diverse organizations in the city of Rochester, attracting people of all ages, socioeconomic levels, ethnicities, political leanings and religions, that is the mindset of those who tend to apply for jobs and work there. It also tends to be the mindset of many of the independent producers whose work is shown on the channel. So, the individual writing is probably accurate in his assessment that the posts I have made have a tendency to be somewhat liberal. Following his comment, I actually thought about the fact that we should, perhaps, reevaluate our social media strategy to make it “more balanced.”

Then, in thinking about this exchange, I was curious what had prompted his note.  I clicked on the story I’d posted. That is when I became unsettled.

togetherIt was a story and photo, originally posted by Malia Obama, about Anja Ringgren Loven, a Danish woman doing social working in Nigeria. The first photo showed her feeding an abandoned and severely malnourished two-year-old Nigerian child. In the second photo, it shows the same young woman holding the child at some later point in time. She has now adopted the child, who she named Hope. He is the picture of health and clearly shines with the love he feels.

When I originally shared this post, I considered it a purely inspirational story…the story of one human coming to the aid of another.

As someone who has adopted children internationally, I know that there are some who would say this child has been robbed of his heritage. To those critics, I would say, “Better robbed of his heritage than robbed of his life,” which is likely what would have happened. Every child should have the chance for love, no matter what.

But to discover that this post could, in any way, be construed as a political message totally flabbergasted me.

I am distressed and disgusted that this election cycle has catalyzed a toxic environment that has become so divisive and so polarizing that politics trump humanity and a story such as this can be construed as anything other than inspirational.

What have we, as a nation, come to when we cannot simply rejoice in the rescue of A Child Named Hope?

Disclaimer: This is the opinion of Carol White Llewellyn and should not be construed as representing the opinions of anyone within any of the organizations with which she works.

 

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When the Tail Wags the Dog

photo(55)Many years ago, I saw a performance in which one of my favorite dance companies Pilobolus choreographed and performed the entire first half of the program around the theme of baseball. In truth, it was not one of my favorite performances, but I couldn’t help think what an innovative approach it was to choreography… to let the topic determine the music and choreography, rather than the reverse.

When I’ve done stained glass, I usually design the piece, then purchase the glass to be used in its construction. On one occasion, I’d purchased a packet of glass and several of the pieces were so remarkable in their color mix, I wanted to create a piece that would  highlight the glass. The resulting piece was the image below, of a water lily.

You’ve no doubt had this experience when you’ve seen an item in a store and thought it would make a perfect gift, then determined later what recipient would most enjoy it.

It can be interesting when the tail wags the dog…when you take a different perspective and approach a challenge from an answer rather than from the question.

It may not work all the time, but when it does, it can be a mind-stretching experience and the results may surprise you.

What has been your experience when you’ve allow the tail to wag the dog?

Waterlily adj

 

Ubuntu: #BringBackOurGirls, #SaveOurWorld

michelle-obama-bringbackourgirls-20140508-132008-574Yesterday, I attended an inspiring luncheon hosted by Teen Empowerment, an organization that works to teach teens to be leaders and to then go out into the community and teach other young people how to lead. It has made extraordinary changes in the lives of many of our youths.

At the luncheon, I learned a new word from Jackie Campbell, Assistant Commissioner for the Department of Recreation and Youth Services for the City of Rochester. Ms. Campbell received Teen Empowerment’s Youth Leadership Award for her amazing and mentoring work among youth in the City of Rochester.  The word is Ubuntu (pronounced /ˈbʊnt/ oo-BUUN-too). She translated it as “I am because we are; We are because I am.” It was a perfect word for the gathering. The word refers to a human universal bond.

I have been upset since I first heard about the kidnapping of over 200 young school girls in Nigeria (and WHY don’t we even know the exact number?!) by the radical group Boko Haram. Recent news coverage indicates the government knew of the threatened attack four hours prior to its occurrence and failed to act. Then, two days ago, eleven more girls were abducted.  If you visit the Amnesty International website, you discover that these abductions are only the most recent in a long list of treacheries committed by Boko Haram that includes murders, church and school burnings, as well as these recent kidnappings.

photo(47)I have been shocked by the lack of immediate response from the Nigerian government and appalled by Nigerian authorities’ response to those leading protests to get those girls back. I am thrilled that the world has finally become aware of these atrocities and that outrage has risen to a global scale where the world community is harnessing forces to take action.

If you are a parent, guardian, grandparent of, or you have any beloved child in your life, you can’t help but put yourself in the place of those parents  who see devastation, loss and despair where a child used to be.  You can imagine their sense of helplessness. As I look at my two beautiful daughters, I know that I would be beyond pain and would go to any lengths to get them back if my daughters were among these girls.

If you subscribe to the philosophy of Ubuntu, you realize that what happens in Nigeria, and how we as a global community handle it, has a ripple effect throughout the world.

I have been struggling with what I, as one individual, can do to help.  That is the reason I am writing this post…to discover and share ways to support the international efforts to #BringBackOurGirls.

Below are some of the things that you can do to support these efforts:

1. Write and call your world leaders. Presidents, Senators, Congressmen, Prime Ministers etc. Demand that they offer their help to rescue the girls. Petitions are good but your individual letter and call is better.

2. Tell all of your friends about this atrocity and ask them to join in writing and calling. Invite them to join you here on FB and march on social media by changing their profile pic to raise awareness with their friends and families.

3. Plan a rally/march in your city for within the next 7 days. PRIVATE MESSAGE us with date, time and location and we will help you organize and promote. You can post on wall but to be sure that we schedule the event – PM us.

4. REPEAT

While you may wonder what good a signature, a petition, a photo or a video does, it is one of social media’s strongest and most powerful uses. It creates allies. It shouts “We, the world, do not condone this activity. It is an affront to human rights, and we want action taken.”

 UBUNTU.

 

 

P.S. If you have suggestions of other ways to help, or you know of a legitimate organization accepting donations to support these efforts, please share them in the comments section.

 

Alas…Gone are the Maytag Years

496914_watching_tvRecently, my husband has been complaining that his socks wear out in no time.

“They don’t even last a year anymore!” he exclaims, pointing out that, most of his life, he got several years’ use or more out of them.

He’s right, of course.  Gone are the “Maytag years” when companies bragged about how long their products lasted and how few repairs were needed.

Now, many companies, especially those in the technology sector, build their business model around obsolescence.  It is no longer a by-product of producing a consumer good, it is part of the business model that fuels growth.  It’s a way of attracting new customers and getting past customers to return for an upgrade or a new purchase sooner than they might have expected.

Consider the turnover in cell phones, computers, cameras, tablet devices, and even autos, where leasing is encouraged.

A number of years ago, we visited my sister and brother-in-law.  Bob had just purchased a 72 inch TV and entertainment center. Several weeks after we returned, my husband announced that he had just bought a new TV.  It was quite a bit larger than the one we had at the time.  Then, because none of our old equipment would work with it, he had to purchase a new video unit to watch DVDs. As we were dragging the monstrously heavy television up the stairs and into the house, I testily accused my husband of electronic p-nis envy.

“But our old TV is too small for the room!”  he exclaimed.

Within three years, the d-mn thing gave out and we were back to our smaller stand-by that, in truth, was small for the huge living room we had at the time. Ironically, it still worked just fine.

For Christmas, we finally got a 51 inch TV “from Santa,” since our old one was about to give up the ghost.  It looks and works great, but I wonder how long it will last.

This morning, my husband announced,” The next time we go for a television, my may not be able to get a decent model under 100 inches.  I read online that’s what they’re showing at all the electronics shows now. How would you ship one? I bet you can’t get them through a lot of doors.”

Next thing you know, some manufacturer will create a television that will be designed to act as an actual wall to a building, solving the second issue.

My problem with all this? In an environment of climate change, global warming and reduced carbon footprints, I’d like to know that companies are taking an environmentally responsible position on growth.  I’d also like to know that we’re not teaching our children that the only way to be happy is by having the biggest, newest, shiniest toy just as it comes out.

At lunch the other day, two friends and I were discussing economic growth and the measurement of GDP.

“It’s ridiculous that our country’s economic growth is measured by consumerism,” one of my friends declared.

Indeed.

I’m not saying development and enhancements should stop, but isn’t it time for companies and governments to come up with a more forward-thinking model of success and economic growth  not based on obsolescence?

Photo by Romexico, used under creative commons license.

The Future is Passing at Light Speed

Captain_Picard_ChairWhile I was at the car dealership for service earlier this week, I picked up the latest issue of Newsweek and was surprised – okay, really, I was shocked – to see the announcement that the issue in my hand would be the last print edition.  (Where have I been?!!)

I admit each time I’ve seen the publication lately, it’s rivaled the latest cell phones for thinness, but during most of my adult life, Newsweek has been one of the iconic news magazines. Suddenly, it’s merged with The Daily Beast and is going digital..the end of an era, the beginning of another.

My friend Kathy and I were discussing the publishing environment. We’ve noticed  the breadth of digital books being published runs the gamut from 0 to 10 in quality, now that writers can side-step the traditional publishing house’s vetting process.  I don’t think I’ve seen a book I’d give a ‘0’ rating yet, but there have been a few ‘3’s and ‘5’s. The fact that media has become a powerful tool in the hands of anyone is a mixed blessing. Some works that might never have seen the light of day (because they’re too unconventional) have become available. Yay! Other works that should probably never have been unleashed on the public can now rear their ugly heads. But who am I to judge? Now there’s something for every taste.  Let’s hope there remains a place for both the classical as well as for works of pop culture.

One thing this phenomenon has done is marginalize the craft of writing well. In the advent of sites like elance, fiverr, and others, writers (and other artists) can pick up quick, but generally very low-paying freelance work.

When commerce becomes increasingly based on the free or low-cost marketplace model, are we moving closer and closer to the world of Jean Luc Picard and Star Trek where the monetary system as we know it disappears?  Ironic that the system seems firmly entrenched when taxes come due, but seems on much less solid ground in the publishing marketplace.

Another friend recently commented, “It’s interesting to see where the future of publishing is going.”

News Flash! Move over, Jean Luc…The future is now and it’s passing at light speed.

Photo of Jean Luc Picard by Paramount Pictures used for identification and commentary only under minimal fair use understanding.

How the internet has trained retailers and consumers: serving the bell curve

As a woman who stands 5’11” in my long, narrow stocking feet, I am at the end of the retail bell curve.  When I was younger, I had an easier time shopping for clothing and shoes than I do now.  In spite of how uncommon her same height and shoe size was in my mother’s day, she had an easier time shopping than now.

The reason?  The internet is training retailers to serve only the center of the bell curve.  Those customers who seek the outer limit in terms of size, taste or experience are being trained to shop online.

Once, retail stores had to carry a breadth of products catering to a diversity of clientele.  Now, they are able to cut costs by serving only the masses.

Despite understanding this, I admit I am still annoyed when I walk into shoe or clothing stores and ask for tall pants or my size shoe and they say “well, we can order them for you.”  Normally, I simply thank them and leave, without voicing, “I can do that for myself and have them delivered to my door rather than your store.”

I return home and order from Amazon, Zappos, Lands End or other e-tailers without having to return, stand in  line, wait until my order is found, try the item on in a closet-size fitting room lit for mole rats, and feel awkward if, for some reason, I decide not to purchase it.

The one thing I do miss, however, is the experience of shopping…that sensuous feeling of adventure that comes from touching textures, basking in colors and moving through spaces designed for indulgence of the senses.  That cannot be replaced in today’s e-tailing experience.

How Social Media Is Creating Ghosts

In December 2008, I lost a dear friend of 26 years.  Social Media is bringing us back together again in an eerie way.

Mike was someone I worked for at a law firm in New York City and then worked with as I moved on to a trade association for which he was legal counsel and where part of my responsibility included negotiating contracts. 

Mike became my friend, my mentor, my swordsman.  He always had my back.  It’s a wondrous thing to have a friend you trust that completely.

Ours was an odd relationship.  We were polar opposites in many ways, most notably,  politics.  There is no common ground between the ultra-conservative and the liberal, so we just didn’t go there.

After I left the trade association, he handled a number of legal matters for me, but more importantly, we stayed in touch as friends.  Because he had moved from New York City to Scottsdale, AZ and I, to Rochester, NY, our contact was almost exclusively by phone and email.  We kept each other updated with news of our personal and professional lives. In the six to eight months before he died, he began exploring social media, somewhat cautiously because of the legal questions it raised for him.  As an attorney, he considered the internet “The Wild West.”

For 26 years, Mike was there for me, the older brother I never had. Then one day, he was gone with no warning.

I’ve experienced this type of loss before, but what has made this more poignant, more painful than with other friends I’ve lost is the extent to which we communicated by email and social media.

Even now, 10 months later, his comments still live on my blog and his emails still rest in  email folders.  How often I’ve wished I could send an email he’d be there to read or that he’d receive wherever he is now.

Just this evening on LinkedIn, I got a notice that someone I might want to connect with recently joined.  You guessed it.  There was Mike’s name.  Sadly, he has – and will always have – only one connection, so recent was his foray into use of this social media tool before his death.

In the past, when friends died we mourned them. We carefully put away their letters and notes, the books they wrote or items they created, to be taken out of safe storage for communion with the memory of them on our terms.

Such is not the case in this new electronic landscape of ours.  Friends may pass on, but their ghosts continue to surreptitiously haunt us in this virtual world we’ve created, appearing out of cyberspace when we least expect it.  Social media has added a new feature to the face of loss.