Listen for Hope

Yesterday was a mix of joyous and sad. I often battle these conflicting emotions, which I guess makes me human. I celebrate nature’s beauty while acknowledging the sorrow that permeates this nation’s soul. I sit with both.

We rise early on Saturday to head downtown. We first discover a little outdoor breakfast joint that serves heavenly eggs and flaky biscuits. The cream’s fresh. The coffee exquisite. 

We then head to the botanical gardens which are tucked away in a funky urban neighborhood. The weather is perfect. As we wander through carefully tended gardens and ponds, and giggle at the names given to some of these wondrous plants, I feel nature whispering, “You're going to be okay.” The beauty and simplicity of nature heals and soothes the heart.

I know what is enfolding in Virginia. Every time I open my newsfeed I’m repulsed by vile images of hate. Fire. Fists. Fury. My heart twinges with grief. How do I come to terms with this chaos while I gaze upon towering trees and dainty flowers?

I look around me and see God, but I also know the devil lurks. The devil isn’t some mythical creature clad in red. The devil exists when we turn on one another with violence and malice, for when we give into that, evil is winning. No president, no four star general, no religious zealot can lead us out of this mayhem. We are forced to look inward and decide who wins. We must fight the horrors that lie within ourselves. We battle and brawl until we have no more strength left, and then the next day we begin again.

If you are a student of history you know we humans have been heinous to one another since the first man stood upright. Millions have been slaughtered in the name of power or glory or whatever god they worshipped at that time. Bodies continue to litter the landscape while “leaders” claim triumph. Just uttering the names of Stalin, Hitler, Genghis Khan, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, or Henry VIII sends quakes of sorrow throughout the world’s graveyards. 

But we human are also remarkable. We love and nurture and protect with such fierceness. We hold each other up. We grab hands. We look evil in the face and yell, “No!” We are Ripley in the movie Aliens as we scream, “Get away from her, you bitch!” We are Oskar Schindler. We are Mother Teresa. We are Rosa Parks. We are John Lennon. We are Joan of Arc. We are Harry Potter. We are Hermoine Granger. We are Anne Frank.

The battle we face today is fear. The fear of what we imagine has been taken from us. The fear of who we see on the streets is different from what we see in the mirror. The fear in our own hearts of what we can’t explain or rationalize away. All of us are engaged in this battle every day. We win when we push back the fear and embrace the unknown, the scary, the doubt, the discrepant. We need to walk with it and feel it deep within our spirit.

My friend Nancy talks about the energy in the universe, and in order to combat the negative we must send out the positive. The other day the great Anne Lamott wrote:

Get outside, even just to the front porch, and look up into the sky and into the tree tops, and say the great praise-prayer: WOW! Listen for the sound of birds - or bird...Close your eyes and really listen. If birdsong was the ONLY proof we have that there is a bigger deeper reality than what transcends what we are seeing on the news, it would be enough for me. Eyes closed, breathe, listen - secret of life.

So this morning I turn off the AC and open the slider door off my kitchen. I hear birds sing their Sunday hymn. I will fight for love. I will battle for peace. I will sit with my discomfort. I will resist. I will be loud. I will be quiet within my soul. I will resist. Because even though my grief is deep, I will not let go of hope. As James Baldwin wrote, “Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”

Two Stories: Voting, Showing Up, and the Power of Women

Two stories for this historic Election Day:

Late summer of 1976 amid all the Bicentennial celebrations, I was hanging out at my friend Peg’s house when her mother Francie came whirling into the room. “Girls, we are going to see Rosaline! Get in the car.” We didn’t know what she was going on about, but she seemed excited, so we jumped in the car. A few minutes later we found ourselves in the midst of a throng of people out at the Holiday Inn where Rosaline Carter had just finished speaking. As she walked down the gauntlet of people, she reached for my hand and said in her gentle yet determined Southern accent, “Vote for my husband.” Since I turned 18 on November 21, 1976,  I missed voting for Jimmy Carter by two weeks.

So on November 4, 1980, I knew I had to cast my first vote in a presidential election. It was my senior year in college, and I was with my friend Nancy and a few friends. We were getting ready to head out to dinner before our sorority chapter meeting and Tuesday night parties, but I said, “I need to vote first.” Nancy looked at me sideways, and said, “Vote?” “Yes, vote. I have to vote before the polls close.” “Really? You couldn’t have done this earlier?” I stubbornly said, “I have to vote.” She then drove me to my little polling place that was in a neighbor’s garage. I walked in, voted, and when I got back in her car, Nancy said, “Shumate, I’ll never forget this. You had to vote before we went out.” “Yup. It was important.” She just shook her head, and for the next thirty plus years she has never let me forget about that one night in college when she drove me to vote.

These moments are pivotal for me on so many levels. Francie taught me the importance of showing up. Rosaline Carter displayed democracy in action. Most importantly, though, Peggy  and Nancy have shown me the importance of having strong, fabulous, spectacular women friends. They are my clan, my tribe, my touchstones. 

And yes, Nancy, you’ll be happy to know I voted early this year. #imwithher

Greeting from Charlotte, NC, or the Current Center of the Controversial Universe

Guest Post from Sue Wood Englert, educator & love warrior

Normally, the phrase, “Greetings from Charlotte, NC” would bring a yawn from the reader.  But not lately.  Lately, it probably brings visions of hellfire and huge groups of rioters breaking into buildings and beating people up and basically destroying the city.  Or maybe it brings images of police brutality and oppression of minorities.  We’ve been getting a lot of press lately, and not the kind most of us really want.

Needless to say, for those of us who live in the metropolitan Charlotte area, this has not been an easy time, but not for the reasons you might think.  As a resident of suburban Charlotte, I am not being as directly affected by the goings on as friends who live, work, and play “Uptown” are being affected. I didn’t get any days off work like the big bank employees did last week.  I didn’t have any trouble accessing my home for the night as one friend did last week. I wasn’t driving on the interstate and stopped by protestors as others were last week. I was not directly affected by the tear gas or the midnight curfew or the police lines or the National Guard. 

But I’ve still been affected by it. I’ve been deeply saddened by the news coverage; however, I am not at all afraid for my life and there have been some incredibly positive things happening that just aren’t newsworthy, I guess. I’ve also been embarrassed that this is the image many people now have of our great city, but please know that Charlotte is nothing like what you’re seeing on TV.  And I’ve been motivated to change myself, and to help others, rather than to hunker down in my suburban whiteness and curse “The Other,” even though lots of people seem to think that would be the appropriate response from folks like me.

First, I want to reassure you that Charlotte has NOT been destroyed off the face of the planet.  To twist a favorite Mark Twain quote, “The reports of Charlotte’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.”  In fact, there have been many examples of people standing for love that just aren’t being reported. For one, my daughter attended a beautiful wedding on the rooftop of one of the many hotels in Uptown Charlotte Friday night. Lots of people thought they should have cancelled the wedding. I’m glad they didn’t. There were helicopters flying overhead, but they just decided to write them off as wedding paparazzi. There was also a Carolina Panthers football game on Sunday.  People tailgated all over uptown, just like they always do, and even though there were urgent news reports that protestors were planning to block the entrances to the stadium, there were none. No blockades, at least according to my daughter who was at the game. She did report to me, however, that people outside the stadium and in the stands were shaking hands and hugging and making new friends.  People from different backgrounds and people of different skin colors were all standing for love.  Right here in Charlotte.

As far as those pictures of Charlotte you have in your head from the news coverage? To address those, let’s play a quick round of “Did You Know.” Ready? Did you know that Charlotte is a big city? It’s the 17th largest city in the US,  according to census numbers. Did you know that Charlotte rates second among the fastest growing cities in the US? Yep. Did you know that Charlotte proper is bigger than Denver, Detroit, Seattle, Washington D.C., Memphis, Boston, Nashville, Kansas City, St. Louis, and a LOT of other big cities? (

Did you know that we are a banking center?  Did you know that we have a world class art museum? Did you know that we have fantastic restaurants, theater, and a symphony orchestra? Did you know that we have professional football and basketball teams and a minor league baseball team with a beautiful brand new stadium right smack in the middle of the city right next to a brand new park that was built to honor a famous artist from Charlotte, Romare Bearden?  

Did you know that the Charlotte Metropolitan area includes seven counties in both North and South Carolina, and that almost 2.5 MILLION people live here? Did you know that sometimes there is civil unrest in big cities? Think about it. That’s how things often get accomplished in our country. It starts with unrest and leads to dialogue, then dialogue leads to progress. 

Charlotte is an amazing place to visit and to live, but it is far from perfect. Have there been police shootings in Charlotte? Yes. One was just last week. The man who was shot was black. He probably had a gun in his hand. He definitely refused to comply with police ordering him to drop the gun.  His name was Keith Lamont Scott. I’m sure you’ve seen the videos by now.  I hear the black officer who shot him is in hiding, in fear for his life. And two years ago, a young man named Jonathan Ferrell was shot and killed by a white police officer in Charlotte. He was also black, but he was unarmed. He had a car accident late at night and was banging on doors to try to get help. The officer who shot him was white. He said he feared for his life and that Jonathan Ferrell was “charging” at him, even though he was the one with the gun. (CNN)

Have police officers also died in the line of duty in Charlotte?  In just one tragic incident in April, 2007, two white police officers were shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call in a predominantly black neighborhood. Their names were Sean Robert Clark and Jeffrey Shelton.  That rocked our city to its core. And the shooter, who was black, was convicted and sentenced to life without parole (Officer Down Memorial But these are not the only examples of public servants giving their lives in the line of duty here in Charlotte.  We lose police officers, firefighters, and other protectors of the community just like other big cities. It happens everywhere. Everybody mourns.  

But why do I share this with you? And how are we all reacting to these situations? And what in God’s name has happened to our humanity? This past week, I’ve seen and heard and read LOTS of finger pointing and blaming and hatefulness. I’ve seen posts on Facebook that were over-the-top racist rants. I’ve seen people post about how they’re tired of Black Lives Matter, and insist that All Lives Matter, as if the Black Lives Matter movement somehow devalues the lives of people who aren’t black.  Apparently, these people don’t read. Do I wish the BLM movement had been named something like, Black Lives Also Matter, or Black Lives Matter, Too? Maybe.  But it seems that too many people are reaching down inside and pulling out that inner racist instead of reaching out or trying to understand.  And they are definitely not looking at themselves in the mirror and asking, “What can I do to make it better?” And this makes me incredibly sad.   

Confession:  I embarrass my family daily.  I smile at everyone. I speak to complete strangers. I make friends with children. I ask restaurant servers about their lives. I invite people into my home when they need a place to stay. I’m not kidding when I say sometimes my family is horrified. I teach students in a High School Equivalency program at a community college. My classroom is a rainbow. I have heard life stories that would bring you to your knees. I have students who deal with poverty, racism, abuse, rape, hunger, and more on a daily basis. And I love nothing more than to learn about them because it broadens MY knowledge. It helps me understand how “others” got to where they are and how it all relates to me. Because it does all relate to me and to all of us. The things my students share with me often make me cry. Sometimes the things they have to deal with make me angry. Sometimes they overwhelm me.  But I would not feel like a complete human being if I did not know them. As Oprah Winfrey says, “Once you know something, you can’t unknow it.” It’s there and all you can do is ask yourself, “What am I going to do about it?” 

So I am going to share one story with you--just one of many. One particular student told me of her childhood, growing up in a single parent home in an impoverished area of a big city. From the time she can remember, she was told that the police are bad and cannot be trusted.  She was taught to run and hide whenever she saw a police officer. She was taught that the police beat up people she loved, that they took people away never to be seen again, and that she should always be afraid when she saw police.  She remembers feeling this fear as a very small child, and it continued to be ingrained in her as she grew up by the adults around her. Just think about this for a moment. I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a community where police officers were admired and looked to for help. I was taught to respect them and appreciate what they do.  I was taught that if I was in trouble or scared, just find a police officer and they would help me. This is the complete opposite of how my student was raised.  If I had never heard her story, I would never be able to understand why someone would run from the police, or refuse to comply, or resist arrest. Does this make you think? Are there things that might be motivating people to protest, even to protest angrily and even violently, that maybe we don’t all understand?  Can you just consider that possibility? And remember, this is the story of just one person. How many other stories are out there that we don’t know because we never bother to ask?

So I’m asking myself and others around me, and you, to turn off the news for a while. Turn off the political ads. Get still and listen to each other. And by “each other,” I don’t mean that friend who agrees wholeheartedly with your political views, or your religious beliefs, or your family members who grew up with your same cultural background. I really mean “others.” People with whom you think you have nothing in common. People from whom you think you can’t possibly learn anything. I mean walk up to people you don’t know, who don’t look like you, and smile. Say hello. Start a conversation.  Ask them how they’re doing. You might be surprised what you find. And I’m going to be practicing my new mantra so that I can continue to stand with love. I’m going to be telling myself every day to shut up and listen because I just might learn something.  I just might be able to help someone.

And if you ever decide to come visit the great city of Charlotte, NC, there are plenty of others like me who will graciously show you around, take you to dinner, and share our beautiful, multicultural city with you. Come on out.

Sue Wood Englert is a sorority sister of mine. We found each other on Facebook a few years ago, and now that we have reconnected we have discovered we truly are “soul sisters.” We both are teachers, readers, mothers, and fellow love warriors. I love this girl!

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

A Love-Hate Relationship You’ll Love-Hate

A Guest Post by Glenda Etnier, a fierce mother, daughter, & love warrior

Of all the relationships we experience in a lifetime the one with the most possible significance is the one we have with our mom.  Allow me to define the word mom here “loosely” as birth-mom, adopted-mom, step-mom, mom-in-law, grand-mom, auntie-mom, dad-mom, sister-mom, and one last one for a laugh (or not), bad-mom.  Feel free to apply your own characterization. We are all in this one together. Hereinafter, for practicality “mom” will be applied.

For clarity this is my personal, condensed definition of a mom. It summarizes my experience.  MOM – the woman who carried me in her body for 9 months, brought me into this world, cared for me night and day since that time, loves me more than anything else in this world, will always have my back and is the best friend I’ll ever have.

I love that my mom carried me in her body. It was my first dwelling place and helps me resonate when someone or something just “feels” right to me!  I hate that my mom carried me in her body. It was never the same. Shapes change, no pun intended!

I love that my mom delivered me straight thru her V-canal (or belly) into this world. I hate that this was an indicator for my mom that she would encounter many painful experiences in this relationship.

I love that my mom has never stopped caring about me, day and night. I hate that my mom caring like this can be her biggest high or her lowest low.

I love that my mom loves me more than anything in this world. I hate that my mom sometimes has a love affair with me even when I am unlovable.

I love that my mom will always have my back. I hate that sometimes in this position my mom takes the knife.

I love that my mom is my best friend. I hate that my mom had to wait so long for me to realize this.

So much gratitude for my “bless-ed mother!” Divinely inspiring, timeless and filled with grace. My mom has taught me how to love; by word and action. My mom has taught me how to hate; by word and action. My mom has taught me that both are a choice. My mom has clarified for me that one of these two actions is the motive in making my decisions. My mom has helped me understand that these two sit on opposite sides of the fence as opponents. My mom has shown me that the one I choose the most is the one I’ll be most like.  My mom has simplified that it is okay to change my mind. These are a few reasons I describe this as a love-hate relationship you’ll love-hate.

Gleny and her mom

Gleny and her mom

Glenda Etnier dares to live greatly. She embraces the world with incredible energy and deep love. She is wise and wonderful, and I am proud to call her my friend.

The 5 Principles

By Ryan Marucco, political activist & love warrior

There are 5 principles that are the pillars of humanity. Each pillar is different, yet linked together. All of these principles are essential when it comes to the progression and stability of our society.

These 5 principles were laid out in a speech by Hon. Glenn Poshard. As you may know, Glenn Poshard served in the Illinois State Legislature, United States House of Representatives, and was the Democratic nominee for Illinois Governor in 1998. 

Glenn listed and articulated these principles in a speech this past week.  He labeled them as the 5 principles of the Democratic Party. While listening to his speech, I was fired up and secretly fist pumping my approval. I then thought to myself, "these are principles of humanity in general; not just the Democratic Party." 

One principle is education equality, quite possibly the most important thing that faces us today.  It is vitally important that we look at all students as equal students. Education is the foundation of everything that we are as people. It doesn't matter if they are from a family that is worth millions, or in debt up to their eyeballs. It doesn't matter if a student is black, white, or Hispanic, Muslim, Christian or Jewish. Every child should have an equal shot. It is a moral responsibility for all of us to make sure that this happens.

A second principle is potentially a precursor for the ability to provide this type of educational equality: balancing a budget. I think this goes for all of us at home and all of us in government.  We need to prioritize our spending. We cannot spend billions of dollars on wars that destroy families and countries and still fund our education system adequately. It does not work. The math doesn't add up. It's not there. 

This leads to the 3rd principle of humanity: don't discriminate. It's really sad that we are still having to teach this principle to people, but it seems that it has become a larger issue lately.  Why not seek out people who are different? Why not go to them and ask them questions. If you are skeptical about a black guy's views on the world, go ask the black guy. If you truly wonder if a Muslim woman is being oppressed, go ask her.  It's not that difficult.  I've done it.  Anyone else can do it. Always remember that we all walk on the same soil, despite the fact that it may be separated by an ocean, a desert, a language, or a belief system. Dialogue and diplomacy solve problems, whether it be a dispute with another country or a dispute with your next-door neighbor.

The fourth principle is supporting unions. You don't have to be a union member to support a living wage, solid benefits, and fair treatment in the workplace. Unions have traditionally fought for these things and are the standard bearers when it comes to workplace fairness. You don't have to be in a union to support these ideals. You don't have to be in a union to benefit from the work that has been done by unions. You can still fight for them. Mother Jones from Mt. Olive, Illinois, went to work fighting for the men in the Illinois coal mines and as a result, unions were born and we all benefitted from them. The 40 hour work week was born. Child labor was ended. Fair wages were created. America is better because of unions and they are the continuing foundation for our future growth.

By following the first four principles, you'll uphold the final principle: protect those who are most vulnerable. Life is a lottery. I personally hit the jackpot.  I'm a white male who lives in the most powerful nation in the world. I'm in what could be a very dominant position as a white American male. However, there are vulnerable people who need protected. They may be a minority when it comes to race and religion. Perhaps they are vulnerable due to being poor or disabled. As someone who is fortunate, it is my responsibility to do what I can to help people who need a little boost. If you are in the life boat and someone is floating in the water nearby, it is your job as a human being to grab their arms and pull them onboard. 

I've given a short summary of each of these principles and could go on for days about them,  but there is a point to what I am saying. We have to work together. We have to be friends.  Going back to the beginning of this, you will remember that I credited Glenn Poshard with these 5 principles. I don't agree with Glenn Poshard on many key issues. I'm much more liberal than Glenn Poshard. He is pro-life. I am pro-choice.  His views on gun control are not the same as mine. However, Glenn Poshard is a pragmatic human being who wants to solve problems and keep us progressing as a society. I challenge everyone to be a pragmatic human being. While I disagree with him on a few issues, I see Poshard as a hard worker who is a wonderful person, a family man, and a humanitarian. Most importantly, he is a guy who can look at those differences and set them aside for the better good. Rationality is the most important trait that any of us can possess.

It shouldn't be about what we can't get done. It should be about finding common ground about what we can get done to continue making our planet a better place to live. You can disagree with someone on issues but still find common ground and make things work. Push for reform. Work hard for what is best even if you may ruffle a few feathers along the way. At the end of the day, the great majority of us are pretty close together when it comes to what we want in life and what we feel is right and wrong. Unite and use your ideas for good. 

These 5 principles are pillars that support our world. Each day when you wake up, please think of those and ask yourself what you can do to make things better and keep pushing things forward. Making someone else's life better will also make your life better.

After Poshard gave his speech, he and his wife Jo left to go to another event and talk to people. They were several feet ahead of me walking down a rock driveway, and I thought to myself, "This is a 70 year old man who has been fighting for people for many decades and he is still out here fighting. He isn't on the ballot. He's not running for office or trying to get a job.  He's driven all the way up here from Southern Illinois to make sure that we are still doing the right things as humans." I think we all need to find our inner Glenn and continue to spread goodness no matter what the stakes may be.

Ryan Marucco is a former student of mine. He is politically savvy, well-read, and passionate about social issues. If you run into him, ask about the time he and his friend Marty stole my car. 

Sharing Our Love at the Table

by Ruth Siburt, guest blogger & love warrior

He drew a circle that shut me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win
We drew a circle that took him in
— “Outwitted" by Edwin Markham

“He Taked It All!”  According to family lore, my toddler self wailed this lament whenever one of my brothers emptied a serving dish on its second pass around our dinner table. They say my complaint came with pitiful tears. Tears I shed in spite of the food still piled high on my plate.  

I don’t remember wailing specifically, (obviously a case of selective memory). I do, however, remember watching the food pass from hand to hand with a sense of anxiety. Being the seventh, I was the last child in the lineup. What if my mother miscalculated the number of potatoes she needed to fry?  What if one day my youngest brother handed me an empty dish the first time around? What if I didn’t get my fair share—or even a share at all? 

Thankfully, that never happened. My fears were unfounded, but I see now, how it must have been for me—before I learned about trust. Before I learned about love.

 “Big” people surrounded me at home. Everyone knew more than I. Everyone had more power—more freedom. The brother closest to me was six years my senior and already in school when I made my rather tardy appearance in the family. He knew the mysteries of reading and math and making friends. He knew his place in the scheme of things. At least he knew these things in my version of the world. I felt always one step behind him; always one clue shy of solving the riddles of the “grownup” world. This perceived ignorance on my part made me something of an old soul and a worrier.

While my baby-of-the- family position held the lack-of-savvy disadvantage it also granted me some nifty perks. My parents, for example, having raised six other children had mastered this parenting gig. And perhaps best of all (after I figured out the food thing) having three older brothers still living at home was definite advantage. Once I started school and got a taste of the larger world (bullies for example), I learned how to draw my big brothers like a knife. Generally I only had to do that once per enemy. Bit by bit, I learned more things about love and trust.

Then when I was eight, one of my brothers rocked my world. He fell in love with a dark haired girl and asked her to marry him. She said “Yes.” Of course she did. Who could deny this hazel-eyed, handsome eighteen-year- old boy? This brother who balanced me on his hands and gave me rides to music lessons and teased me unmercifully was an irresistible force. Up popped my worrier self. If my brother loved this girl so much would he have love leftover for me? 

Fortunately, Mom recognized my dilemma. (Don’t ask me how she knew. It’s a mom thing, I guess.) We were not a family for candlelit dinners. But one evening when there was, by some miracle, only Mom and me at home she brought out three tapered candles and set them up on the table. She turned out the dining room light and lit the candle in the middle. It flickered prettily casting yellow circles against the wall.

“See how this tiny flame pushes back the darkness?” Mom said. 

Yes, I could see it.

“Love is like that.” Mom picked up the lit candle and touched its wick to another.

“What happened when this candle shared some of its flame?” she asked.

Well, that was obvious; even to me the step-behind girl. “There’s more light,” I said.

“Very good! But what about the first candle? Did it lose any of its light?”

“No.” I admitted

“And if we light another candle?” She handed me the third candle. “What will happen then?”

I touched my candle’s wick to the flame. “There is even more light!” 

“That’s how love works, too.” She said. “Sharing love with someone new doesn’t lessen love.” 

 I set my candle down beside the first. “It multiplies it.” 

How fortunate I am to have had such gentle people to teach me about love and trust.  When I see the anger manifested in the world, I can’t help thinking that in some ways these angry people are a much more frightened and worried version of my young self. Are we really, as a people, so afraid that there will be nothing left in the bowl for us or no flame left on our candles if we share our love? What if we entertained the possibility of caring for those outside our sphere, even for the angry and fearful ones, even for the bullies, even for our enemies? What would happen then? Would the bowl hold more than enough food? Would the light shine brighter and warmer?

Oh, how I hope it might be so.

Oh, how I dare to hope.

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My friend Ruth is a gentle and beautiful soul who writes about how the flame of love grows as it pushes back the darkness. She is talented, gracious, and definitely not a “step behind girl.” I love her giant heart. Thank you, Ruth, for sharing your story.

Hello, Universe.

This is the heart of the matter. This is how I make it through each day. I call out to the universe. “Hello, Universe! I send my love.” Some may call this prayer. For me, it’s a devotion of tiny hearts forwarded through space to all who carry a part of me. At times, my own heart cries and aches, but I continue to propel love, like thousands of arrows soaring across the sky. My love is a whoosh of grace, destined to find its intended targets. All those who I wish safe. All those who I wish fortune. All those who I wish peace. The arrows keep flying. The love is still sent. Imagine a dark sky filled with wee red hearts. Look up and know, really know, my love. Take a breath and feel it, deep down within the soul. It is there, always there, like the steady beat of a drum, calling out to the universe. “Hello, Universe! I send my love.”

Love is not consolation. It is light.
— Friedrich Nietzsche
I write letters to you that you’ll never see.
— Jennifer Elisabeth
The resting place of my soul is a beautiful grove where my knowledge of you lives.
— Kahlil Gibran

The Science of Kindness vs. Anger

Grocery shopping is not my favorite activity, especially on a crowded Saturday afternoon. People get in my way. Kids are running wild. It is often a battleground. Last week while maneuvering my cart through the dairy section, and attempting to ward off my frustration, I smiled at a woman across the aisle. As I went to reach for the butter, she said, “It is so nice to see a smile these days. We don’t seem to get much of that lately.” I laughed and replied, “Keep fighting the good fight.” It was a short, yet important encounter. Just a simple smile made this woman’s day, and it also reminded me of the power of  kindness.

What is the science behind kindness? According to David Hamilton, PhD, there are positive side effects of kindness. It can trigger chemicals in our body such as serotonin and oxytocin which release feelings of happiness. The presence of these chemicals can lower blood pressure, relieve anxiety, and boost self-esteem and optimism. Kindness can also trigger the vagus nerve which controls inflammation in the body and helps slow the aging process.

When we are kind, we feel a connection to others. It can create a ripple effect, causing others to spread kindness. James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego, found that just one act of kindness often inspires more acts of generosity. He calls this “chain of altruism” an “upstream reciprocity.” Research psychologists from Emory University who study generosity call it a “helper’s high,” because endorphins are released when kindness is given to others.

Kindness is so simple, but why does it seem in such short supply lately? If the sheer act of kindness makes us feel better, why do many of us quickly resort to anger, blame, and hostility? Perhaps they are just as contagious as kindness. The more we are surrounded by negativity, does it seep into our consciousness and become normal behavior?

Steven Parton, a contributor for, writes, “synapses that fire together wire together.” He believes our thoughts are reshaping our brain, and thus, our reality. What we think about most frequently represents our “default personality.” So, if we are constantly complaining about the ills of the world, taking our aggression out on others, and placing the blame of our failures outside of ourselves, those thoughts “win.” 

When our brains ignite the synapses of anger, we are weakening our immune systems. According to Psychology Today, when cortisol, our stress hormone is elevated it often leads to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and even diabetes. It is simple: stress, fear, and rage can kill us. 

So how do we reverse this? Is it possible to have empathy for others’ troubles while maintaining our own positive thoughts? Can we rewire our brains toward kindness, love, and understanding? How do we step away from the darkness swirling around us and within our own psyches?

It is all about choices. We can choose to be kind instead of angry. We can choose to be understanding instead of judgmental. We can choose to spend time with a tribe of uplifting spirits instead of habitual complainers. But like anything, it takes practice. Acknowledge the chaos of the universe, but reach for gratitude. Take a breath when you feel fury rising. Smile when a dark thought enters your brain. Eventually your brain will be rewired toward peace and acceptance and gentleness.

I hope the woman at the grocery store smiled at another person that day and continued the chain of love.

Be a warrior of love. #WeStandWithLove

Voltaire -'

Voltaire -'

Sources consulted:

Cassity, Jessica. “The Science of Giving: Why One Act of Kindness is Followed by Another.” 2016.

Hamilton, David R. PhD, “The 5 Side Effects of Kindness.” 30 May 2011.

Nielsen, Micah. “The Science of Kindness.” 7 October 2015.

Parton, Steven. “The Science of Happiness: Why complaining is literally killing you.” 10 December 2015.