Stories of Tragedy and Hope

Today has been a powerful day of hearing people tell their stories and being touched in deep and raw places in my heart.

I don't have energy to share much more than the facts around who I've had the great fortune to learn from today.

This morning I heard Eva Schloss speak at my school. Eva is a Holocaust survivor and the step-sister of Anne Frank. You can hear her on NPR here. A bit from her website:
I was born in Vienna, Austria in 1929. As our family was Jewish, we immigrated to Belgium and eventually to Holland in 1938, shortly after Hitler annexed Austria. After the Germans invaded Holland in 1942, our family went into hiding. In May 1944, we were betrayed, captured by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. The whole point of the process was the de-humanization of us. When we were liberated by the Russians and they shared their bread and water with us, I cried. That was a kind, human action.

Only my mother and I survived. My father and brother did not. My mother and I were liberated by the Russian army in January 1945 and evacuated eastward into Russia, as fighting was still going on to the west. In May 1945, we were repatriated to Amsterdam.
It was so powerful to hear her tell her story. Step by step, the places their family moved to and experiences they were faced with.

I was greatly influenced by hearing her story and I feel the same quality of learning that I had when I first heard a Holocaust survivor speak. Here is what I shared with the parents of students at my school:
I heard a Holocaust survivor speak when I was in first grade and it has had a lasting impression on me. It was very powerful for me to experience a live person who was telling a story about their life that was so far from anything I could imagine. I think it impacted deeply my ability to know that the stories I hear are not just stories, but real experiences (sometimes horrible) that happen to real human beings.
This evening I went and saw the documentary, “Prince among Slaves”. The true, little-known story of Abdul Rahman, an African prince who survived 40 years of enslavement in America before regaining his freedom and returning to his homeland. It was a powerful film that I recommend watching.
"Abdul Rahman survived the harsh ordeals of slavery through his love of family and his deep abiding faith," says co-executive producer Michael Wolfe." The film depicts a universal story of perseverance and hope. Abdul endured unimaginable indignities and faced immeasurable odds, yet managed to survive his long fall from royalty with character and integrity intact."

"I was immediately attracted to this story because of its powerful message," re-enactment director and supervisory producer Bill Duke says. "Too many people continue to be enslaved by poverty, drugs and bad decisions. But like Abdul Rahman, they can come out of it and regain their dignity and respect." Source
After the film there was a discussion with a 7th generation grandson of Prince Abdul Rahman, Mr. Artemus Gaye from Liberia. His message, like Eva's, was filled with the importance of sharing family stories and a reverence for life and hope.

There was time afterwards for discussion that was hosted by the Seeds of Compassion Youth Ambassadors. I was in a group with four others all of whom I'm guessing were under the age of 20. Three of them were first generation in America from Hong Kong, Iran and India. The forth person was 4th or 5th generation, her Japanese grandparents having been in internment camps.

I felt so honored to be in conversation with and learning from these youth as they shared their experiences with me, what it's like straddling multiple cultures... and so much more.

I'm so thankful for the many different humans on this planet and hope that in my lifetime I continue to learn the stories and experiences of what it's like to be you... whoever you are.

Labels: , ,

posted by ashley


Roots of Empathy on CBS

Another taste of Roots of Empathy (with a commercial at the beginning)

Labels: , , ,

posted by ashley


Feeling Belonging and Warmth

"Just outside of Nairobi there is an elephant orphanage where elephant calves found in the wild without a mother are brought to and raised till they are old and big enough to survive in the wild and then they are released back into the wild. NOTE the blankets tied around them. This is done with the smaller calves to give them a " Feeling of Belonging and warmth". When they are older this is removed. They have about a dozen calves in different age brackets. these are some of the smallest as you can see by the man feeding them." ~ Picture Taker 2

Those of you that know me in person know that I love hugs. I love to feel my body embraced with another human being, to feel the warmth and aliveness of life connecting with life, and to be an expression of appreciation and often love wrapped into form. As a preschool teacher my life was a daily waterfall of hugs. When I left that job I went through some real withdrawals as I realized/remembered that in my 'normal' life I don't get the easily 40 hugs a day to which I had become accustomed. I transitioned from that job in 2002. I've acclimated to that change and yet I still have days where I can physically feel the effects of not having had enough human contact, physical touch. My cells long for it. Closeness. Belonging. Warmth. Touch.

Am I looking for proof that I'm alive? Am I looking for assurance that I'm lovable? Am I looking for belonging and warmth to hold me? Am I looking for a safe place to rest? Do I need to open more fully, receive more wholly?

Who is it inside of me that needs the hugs and contact? How old is that part of me? Six perhaps? A bundle of joy, running around, sharing love and wanting to be loved? Wanting to know that I'm good enough in this form of being that I'm inhabiting and wanting to see and, more importantly, feel confirmation and reflection in embodied forms.

Mark Jones invites us all into a HSL (hizzle) experiment where in every interaction, one Hears, Sees and Loves everyone – including yourself.

Some questions I'm holding (and I'd love to hear from anyone interested in sharing): How do you hizzle with your body? How do you reach out and touch someone? How do you reach out and embrace yourself? How free do you feel to allow touch and contact to move fluidly as a form of expression? Are you inhibited by cultural norms, gender roles or personal insecurities?

And the next layer of my personal inquiry, In what ways do you feel belonging and warmth that transcends touch? How do you recognize existential belonging and spritual warmth?

Labels: , , , , ,

posted by ashley


Climate Change Protection in Austin City

I'm excited to share with you some news about the city of Austin's progressive steps towards addressing climate change and how my friend, Jake Stewart, continues to live his passion and compassion into action. Here is the latest word from Jake:
I have accepted a position with Austin Energy/City of Austin to run the newly proposed Climate Change Protection Program. Austin wishes to be the nation’s leader in Climate Change action while becoming an innovative hub for green technology; it has set the very progressive goal of being effectively carbon neutral by 2020. It will be my job, along with a great team, to make that happen using all the pieces on the proverbial ‘chess board’.

Like many, I believe there is no greater issue that defines our dedication to future generations than ensuring the stability and health of the climate and the planet we inhabit. I’m looking forward to focusing my energy and intention on having some small and positive impact on this critical front.

Though this means a slight course adjustment career-wise, I am very excited about the opportunity to work in this important and largely uncharted territory. I also realize I am accepting an enormous challenge in this program but I’m confident that it is the right move at the right time.

I will still maintain some involvement in the biofuels industry, particularly in policy and sustainability efforts but I thought it worth a quick note to let everyone know where I am heading.
Thank you, Jake, for being such a leader in both following your heart and mind's calling and dedicating such energy and passion to the things you are involved in... and for continuing to open new doors and pathways for increasing care and responsibility for and with our planet.

P.s. Here are some older posts related to Jake's work with Biodiesel (more).

Labels: , ,

posted by ashley


David Whyte offers an image of soul:
“that small, bright and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart.”

Thank you Mike for the quote
And Thomas for the heart


posted by ashley



Empathy by Mikala
Age 6
Pen and Ink. Unsolicited gift to mom. Has been hanging on the fridge...

Speaking of empathy and compassion, look at this recent entry to the What Does Compassion Look Like? Campaign. Wow.

Labels: , ,

posted by ashley


Roots of Empathy

Here are some articles and a video about Roots of Empathy, another program I am involved in that Seeds of Compassion has brought to the Seattle area. I'll also take this moment to express my gratitude for being connected with these amazing initiatives. A deep source of hope and inspiration for our future.

Labels: , , ,

posted by ashley


What Does Compassion Look Like?

Dear Easily Amazed friends and visitors,

You are absolutely the perfect people to share your art, wisdom and participation with this exciting Seeds of Compassion initiative: What Does Compassion Look Like? The campaign is geared towards children and you adults are welcome to participate as well. Invite some of your children's friends over (any ages), tell their teachers, volunteer to work with an after-school group at a nearby school or at your community center, call your nieces, nephews, grandchildren and friends together, share this information with anyone and everyone across the globe that interacts with children. Let's help the children's expressions shine and be seen so that our communities may learn from the wisdom that youth have to teach us about compassion.

Bird by Anna, Age 13, Lake Washington Girls Middle School

I was inspired by the warmth and compassion that a phoenix represents. To me, warm colors always evoke hope, kindness, and all that this campaign encourages

Compassion comes in all shapes and sizes, but it means the same thing wherever you go. Compassion is the ability to believe in something with your whole body, mind, and soul. It is the ability to devote your time, and even your life to a cause. Everyone thrives with compassion, it is the light that makes all things grow.

~ Indigo M., Grade 7, Seattle Girls School

This is your opportunity to explore what compassion is to you - how it shows up in your life, how you think it affects the world, what happens when we live without compassion. This is an invitation for you to create and express. Please share your experiences and views of compassion through drawings, photography, poetry, videos, spoken word – whatever medium resonates for you.

This project is part of the amazing initiative, Seeds of Compassion, whose intention is to bring compassion to the lives of children and adults throughout Washington State and beyond. Together we can create a more compassionate today and tomorrow.

I picture a world full of the sound of peace,
and empty of the racket of violence.
~ Gamada, Age 11, ArtsCorps

The Loving Owls by Javon
Age 7, Giddens School.
Compassion means showing others that you care for them
and that you will stick up for them when they need help.

P.S. If you do participate (which I hope you will) please make sure to let me know so that I can see and share your artwork with our community here. And if you're an adult and want to participate, don't let the focus towards children stop you. Let your creative expression flow!!

Labels: ,

posted by ashley

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?