Sunday, August 21, 2011

$78 Million Dollars Returned: A Cultural Affair?

Wallets and safes totaling $78 Million dollars were found in the post rubble in Japan, and turned in by residents, according to The Huffington Post (August 18, 2011).

Apparently this is a stark contrast to what usually happens after disasters. “While looting often becomes an issue post-disaster, it’s been the exact opposite case in Japan,” writes the Post.

Many would assume this as an incredible feat of honor, or so you would think… Upon viewing reader’s comments for this article, it was surprising to see so many mixed views.

Some people thought the story was one sided and/or manipulative (in an attempt to promote a positive view of the country), another felt it an example of why cultures shouldn’t be mixed together (an irrelevant point in my books), others said Japan has people that steal just like any other part of the world and found it undermining to the U.S., and many were touched by the honesty, and felt it was reflective of how much the culture valued acts of honor.

“Integrity” and “ethical awareness” were some of the descriptions used in reference to this culture in the Post article. But are these kinds of acts only unique to culture?

In this instance, cultural values may have been the motivation for returning the money. Asian cultures are known for their sense of collectivism and conformity. The Japanese are quoted as saying, “The nail that stands out gets pounded down” (David G. Meyers, Social Psychology, 1997, p. 248).

In contrast, western society is known for living according to individualistic values, often doing what feels right as a unique person. Unfortunately, it’s not always seen as favorably as collective cultures, even though motivation that stems from personal values - outside of the expectations of others - can be just as honorable.

North Americans have contributed millions of dollars to relief funds, in support of natural disasters – in and outside of their own countries - to places such as Japan, New Orleans and others desperately in need of help.

People do things for different reasons – peer pressure, to project an image, or because it’s characteristic of their personality (i.e. to care and genuinely want to help, regardless of what others think).

Honor comes in many forms. And thankfully, we can arrive at the same goals regardless of our motivation – there are many venues to achieve what we want as a society.

Regardless of why Japan residents returned the money, it’s still a positive gesture, warranting appreciation. It’s a great example of compassion, and a good reminder about where we want to stand in the world as groups or individuals.

The Huffington Post, link:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Prevalence of Bullying: Not Ok

“Nadin was beaten up, dragged through the streets, put in a tree and then hung from a fencepost by seven schoolmates, and no one came to his rescue,” described The View about a boy they had on the show Friday February the 4th to discuss his recent experience.

People actually walked by and saw this abuse and did nothing about it, until a woman finally stepped in to help him.

Chatari, a 12-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, had condoms thrown at her, along with being hit and pinched, and right in front of her bus driver day-after-day, and nothing was done to help her. Fortunately for her, her father, James Jones stepped in, and under no uncertain terms…

It’s not surprising when you see parents such as James get so fed up they take matters into their own hands, out of frustration (even at the cost of being charged).

We are a society educated about bullying, yet we walk by and do nothing while someone is being hurt… How is this ok? And in Chatari’s situation, continuously being abused right in front of a school bus driver…?

“It is the responsibility of the driver to maintain control over the students on his/her school bus at all times,” indicates the school bus transportation guidelines, in the registration kit I received upon enrolling my daughter in kindergarten recently.

Isn’t this a universal expectation—we entrust our children to the care of schools, and in return they have some kind of guidelines to ensure safety is in place? Yet bullying remains so prevalent…

I recently learned about my nephew being bullied in kindergarten, and not wanting to go to school. Upon volunteering in his class, his mother noticed the bullying occurring right in front of the teacher, who did nothing about it. So, she stepped in and let the kids know their behavior isn’t ok. And it’s not just unique to children.

Tyler Clementi, 18, was a university student when he committed suicide last fall, after learning that a roommate broadcast an encounter with another male online. What more does it take for us to step up and help?

Frankly, when I hear these kinds of stories, it makes me angry. It would take everything in me to hold back from wanting to do what James did (without the language and life threats), if it were my daughter. As much as anger doesn’t always solve problems, it’s hard to watch our children being hurt, let alone abused. And in this day-and-age it doesn’t even make sense.

We seem to be progressing at lightning speed in so many areas. Many minority groups and cultures are breaking moulds and boundaries all the time. Yet simultaneously, people are still suffering so much (there are thousands of stories we don’t hear about) at the hands of those that liken themselves as superior.

Like I said, it makes me angry, as I hope it does others—enough passion to propel us toward a society that has less tolerance for abuse, and greater compassion toward each other.

My hope is that we continue creating awareness and educating each other about these critical issues, which not only hurt our children and us in the moment, but also will continue to wreak havoc and plague us into the future if we do nothing.

Even in the midst of pain from the loss of their son, the Clementi family hopes for a better future. “‘Our hope is that our family’s personal tragedy will serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity’” (CNN, October 4, 2010).

We have to stop assuming things are fine and that someone else is going to handle the unsettling situations we see, and start caring enough to try and do something about it.

The following are resources for bullying:

The World Health Organization, “Prevention of Bullying-related Morbidity and Mortality: A Call for Public Health Policies.”

Stop Bullying Now, What adults and kids can do to stop bullying., Bullying Information Center. Reducing the problem of bullying.

Human Rights Campaign, information for schools and youth.

Canadian Mental Health Assoc (CMHA), A list of links/resources for everything about helping kids – dealing with bullying, depression, suicide prevention, kids help phone, youth at risk, and much more.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Homeless: Not Worthy of Catching a Break?

“Stupid ass sign,” and “bozo,” were just a couple of the many other demeaning comments in a recent video by comedian, Vivian Lawrence, to homeless man, Ted Williams, and Doral Chenoweth III, who helped him (along with Dr. Phil).

She also implied that Ted would be a good candidate for denture and depends ads—supposedly something he’d be perfect for...

Apparently she was angry because of having a hard time getting work, having had such a long career (around 40 years), only to watch people such as this homeless man (in addition to other’s she’s angry about), rise to fame without having worked hard for it.

Ok, this is a valid point—working hard and not getting the work you feel you deserve for your efforts. But why demean others for getting breaks? Did she never catch a break in her some 40 years of show biz…? That’s highly doubtful.

It’s not uncommon to resent those that get everything for nothing. But Ted has nothing other the opportunity to work for what he wants.

It’s the chance Ted’s being given...the rest is up to him. He has to do the work—he’s going to have to stay sober, face his demons, and learn how to cope with challenges in healthier ways… No small feat!

And trying to overcome your adversities in front of the world may create a celebrity-like image and provide some opportunities, but it creates a ton of stress too, that he may or may not be able to handle. He’s going to have to work for it, and harder than many of us do.

Not everyone can cope with stress. Some people haven’t developed the skills to deal with even day-to-day challenges. They can’t handle some of the basic demands that most of us face.

So, Ted’s not out of the woods—not by a long shot. He still has to learn how to manage life, which is something he’s never learned to handle successfully.

He wasn’t able to handle his challenges in the past. But he’s been given an opportunity to learn the tools to cope with stressors he’ll be facing in his attempt at a normal life.

Being in the spotlight doesn’t make you a success. He can fall on his face just as fast as he got noticed, which may happen. But he deserves the chance, just like someone probably gave Vicki, along the way, when she started out doing what she wanted with her life.

This arrogant top-dog-bottom-dog attitude (I deserve this more than you), is what contributes to the anti-system behavior that people on the streets turn to… Who wants to be exposed to a society that demeans you and mocks the idea of you having a chance in life?

An interesting twist to this story is that Ted wasn’t holding a sign up for money (which we commonly see), he was asking for a job—he wants to work. And he got lucky when his interview with a reporter was posted online—he got jobs.

There’s a problem if we’re getting angry because someone who desperately needed a chance was given it. How is it bad to take a chance on someone who desperately needs it?

It’s a different story if it’s someone with a sense of entitlement, who expects everything to happen for them, without making any effort to acquire it.

But Ted has an incredible uphill battle to climb before he gets anything—he’s going to have to fight hard for his life—and he’s willing to try.

Regardless of the media bandwagon and show ratings, an opportunity was given to someone who needed it, and is appreciative of it.

He’s grateful for it, referring to it as a “blessing.” Maybe Vivian needs to learn a little more about appreciating, rather than criticizing the bits of roles she’s getting. Maybe it’s her attitude that’s sabotaging her opportunities, rather than others getting them.

So, what’s the greater issue here? Do we get angry because the media propels someone from dire circumstances toward a chance at a better life? Or do we root for Ted, and hope that he makes it? I know who I’m rooting for…!

Ted wants the help, and wants to do what he can to get better, so he can have a better life. He may make it, or not… But the issue is that someone who wanted, desperately needed, and is working for a chance was given it.

For more about Ted's story:

The Dr. Phil Show, “From Homeless to Hollywood”

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Natural Disasters: Compassion in Spite of the Numbers

Hurricanes, mudslides, tsunamis and extreme floods, and snowstorms are creating so much ruin in too many parts of our world. Haiti, Brazil, India, Canada and Australia, are only a few places devastated recently by the whirlwind of natural disasters that don’t seem to be letting up.

The conditions worldwide have become excessive and disastrous. The damage is phenomenal - cities have to start over and rebuild places and communities they once knew as home, not to mention the effects on people’s lives and spirits… It’s not something we can fully comprehend unless we’ve gone through it.

And our challenge seems to not become desensitized to these catastrophes. Yet, it feels like everywhere we look these days, another country is being hit.

So much effort has gone to helping places like Haiti rebuild (although sadly they are still very far from any kind of stability), that for some people the thought of helping can become overwhelming – but hopefully we can overcome this (especially in lieu of what the survivors have to cope with).

I don’t think feeling overwhelmed means we should throw our hands up and forget about it, but rather to take a moment to think, regroup, and consider where we can help.

For some of us, it’s hard to contribute large sums of money. But there are a few simple ways we can help.

First, it’s just a matter of picking an area or situation that we feel impacted by. Personally, I’m still very touched by the situation in Haiti. I recently saw a show on W5, called, “Haiti in Agony: A year later,” and was very moved by the struggles they’re still up against.

So, my way of helping is to try and maintain awareness through writing about it in this blog, or by posting logos/links of organizations here and on my website, so that people can learn more and help where they can - even if it’s to volunteer a little time.

There are also items you can buy, such as a lovely silver necklace for hope, with little trinkets on it symbolizing – love, hope and healing - in support of Haiti, available by the Give Love Foundation. It would make a pretty gift, and the money goes to a credible foundation that’s working to improve the conditions in Haiti and other countries that need it.

There are many ways we can help. The point is that in lieu of the number of catastrophes that are happening, we have to stick together as a society - to be one large community of support for each other, and help out where we can.

The following are some links to credible organizations that are helping some of the countries that have been hit by natural disasters, in hope that you may feel passionate about learning more and helping too.

Free the Children in Haiti (“Empowers children in North America to take action to improve the lives of fellow children overseas,” with projects that include education and water.)

Give Love Foundation (Helps countries in need, such as Haiti, with water systems, housing and other support where needed)

Canadian Red Cross (A nonprofit humanitarian organization, providing international support in areas such as disaster relief, healthcare and violence prevention)

World Health Organization (“Authority for health within the United Nations system” – research, standards and implementation of global health matters)