Celebrating International Day of Peace Raises Our Collective Conscience

International_Peace_Day_logo

United Nations symbol for International Day of Peace

September 21 marks the International Day of Peace, a recognition that promotes  peace around the world in countries, cities, and communities. The 2017 theme  is Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All. An event map indicates where events are being held around the world, including meditation, music, marches, and other events.

Put into action in 1981 by a United Nations Resolution, and celebrated for the first time a year later, the International Day of Peace reminds us all to bring peace into our lives, whether here at home or abroad. The International Day of Peace uses education as a means to encourage peaceful co-existence and safe, open dialogue as a means of understanding.

Some of us are more removed from speaking out for peace because our lives seem rather “peaceful” as they are. Yet for millions of people of all cultures, genders, ages, and economic classes around the world, they have only known war; they have not experienced peace.

When we consider war, we may think that battles are only fought with destructive weapons and artillery force. Yet, some people experience a war of a different kind as they try to simply live their lives as best they can. A war of words can be a form of abuse. A war-torn body can show signs of a domestic dispute and physical abuse. Belittling another human being can leave scars of emotional abuse.

Within families, wars are fought too, with relatives often choosing sides, deciding whom they will defend. Within companies, wars among departments or staff can occur when judgment and ego get in the way of collaboration and cooperation.

How are you making peace within your world? Are you encouraging those around you to share their thoughts and opinions through open dialogue? Are you trying to look at challenges and disputes, then identifying potential solutions? To make the world a better place begins with one person: You.

The United Nations has created 17 Sustainable Development Goals to improve the lives of every person on the planet, which include:

1.   No poverty.

2.   Zero hunger.

3.   Good health and well-being.

4.   Quality education.

5.   Gender equality.

6.   Clean water and sanitation.

7.   Affordable and clean energy.

8.   Decent work and economic growth.

9.   Industry, innovation and infrastructure.

10. Reduced inequalities.

11. Sustainable cities and communities.

12. Responsible consumption and production.

13. Climate action.

14. Life below water.

15. Life on land.

16. Peace, justice and strong institutions.

17. Partnerships for the goals.

As you consider your contributions to your community and the world, what goals are you working on every day to create a better life for all? Peruse The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World, compiled by the United Nations, and you will find many simple tasks that you can complete easily. Share it with co-workers. Create a conversation. Take action.

Nature Reminds Us To Be Fully Present

eclipse-lunarOn Monday, August 21, 2017, millions of people travelled to the path of the total solar eclipse to view the entire cycle, and particularly that moment when the moon travels in front of the sun, leaving a spectacular ring. Millions more viewed the eclipse on television or a mobile device. The rest of us viewed a partial eclipse from our back yards or office parking lots. Even Alaska Airlines maneuvered a flight into the path of the total solar eclipse for invited astronomers and special guests.

The sheer beauty of nature is best revealed in these moments of awe-inspiring wonder. When you sit back, become fully aware, and let nature unfold, you realize that that moment will never again be repeated. Ever. Sure, there will be other sunrises, sunsets, eclipses, but not that same one. It’s a powerful thought.

When you are fully present in a moment, any moment, you derive the greatest pleasure from it, because your mind is nowhere else. It’s not cluttered with thoughts of your To Do List or what you could make for dinner. Your mind is completely focused on that moment.

The benefit of present moment awareness is that it allows you to take in what is happening in that moment. You can set aside other feelings or hidden agendas, anger or angst, and simply be.

We witnessed that on August 21, when we experienced the solar eclipse in person. It took our breath away. It left no room for anything else except our focus and attention. We were suspended in that moment of pure exhilaration.

We came from different cities, countries, socio-economic backgrounds, races, religions, genders, and education levels, and somehow it worked beautifully. We collectively shared that moment together.

Let’s take what we learned in that moment and apply it to our workplaces, our communities, and our country. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tweeted “Enjoyed watching #Eclipse2017. A great reminder that all darkness is temporary.” Let’s listen and learn from each other. From awareness comes change, true change. It begins with open dialogue. Let the conversation begin.

Be Inspired By Youth

MarelHidalgo080517

Photo credit: Mark Zust

When you think of who inspires you, do you often think of someone who is older than you who taught or mentored you? Perhaps it’s someone whom you have admired from afar? Or a world figure who remains with you in spirit?

Don’t overlook today’s youth for inspiration.

While reading the Sunday newspaper, my husband noticed that a special free concert was being hosted that afternoon at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, featuring a nine-year-old rock and roll prodigy, Marel Hidalgo and his band, the Stonefeathers. It was a perfect Summer day and having no plans, we decided to go.

As the band assembled on stage, Marel positioned himself center stage, ready to play. The electric guitar was almost as big as he was! As we sat and enjoyed listening to the music, I also enjoyed watching the surprise and delight of passersby as they realized the young age of the talented guitarist. The playing was not accompanied by any theatrics or jumping around. Marel simply stood and played his guitar. Occasionally he shared a simple “Thank you” following the audience’s applause.

I was impressed with his composure and clarity of purpose. Playing the guitar since the age of four, Marel plays many of the great guitarists, including Santana, Prince, and Jeff Beck. His Purple Rain tribute to Prince is touching. Sometimes adults can be quick to judge or under-estimate “today’s youth.” For me, Marel Hidalgo inspired me, and it’s safe to say he inspired everyone in that audience.

The next time someone asks you, “Who inspires you?” think of a young person you may have met, seen, or heard who inspired you to live your dream or to just be yourself.

 

This Summer, Consider Hosting a Reunion

family-reunionSummer is the time of year when you can kick back and relax, go on vacation (or a stay-cation), cookout on the grill, enjoy daylight longer, and reunite with family and friends. Even if you’re in the midst of a demanding project this Summer, you can still take a break to enjoy nature or a short retreat.

A reunion is important. It reconnects you with people who you haven’t seen in a while, or family members you haven’t visited in a long time. If you were to make a short list of “must-see” individuals this Summer, who would make it onto your list? Pick up the phone and call or send a quick email or text.

Why reunite? To reconnect. To remember. To say “Thank you for being there.” To celebrate the good times. To simply be.

I recently co-chaired a reunion event for a women’s civic organization that I led as president more than 25 years ago. The organization sadly closed its doors about a decade ago. My reunion co-chair was the club’s executive director during my term as president. She remains a close, longtime friend. We decided to recognize the club’s founding in 1916 with a 101st anniversary celebration.

Sixty women attended the event, some of whom I hadn’t seen in 20-25 years. The energy level was palpable. Over cocktails, during dinner and dessert, there were lots of laughs and plenty of hugs and kisses to go around. We paid tribute to the years of history we shared together. Many served on the board as I did, chaired committees, or volunteered in the office. The women reminisced about their collaborative community work, fundraisers and programs they had chaired, and lasting friendships they had made through their club membership. Everyone felt valued and connected, celebrating being part of something larger through the club.

When asked to comment on what lessons they learned or a favorite memory, they shared: “Meeting diverse women who I would not have met otherwise.” “Great women.” “Lifetime friendships.” “Best leadership training ever.” We received rave reviews from the women who joined us that evening, some of whom insisted that we reunite every year. It is clear they want to remain connected, so we will make sure that happens.

What about you? What reunion will you be planning this Summer? Who will you be reaching out to for a get-together? Whether it’s a larger group or just a few people, take the time to celebrate who you have shared history with. Rekindle those relationships with people who have influenced or inspired you. The years pass by too quickly. The time to reunite is now!

At Penzeys Spices, Kindness Rules

KindPinI have never met Bill, yet, I look forward to receiving and reading his frequent emails. He is one person who is changing the world one email at a time.

You see, Bill is the CEO of Penzeys Spices, a purveyor of herbs, spices and all things gastronomic. Not only is he passionate about cooking; he is passionate about being kind to others.

Bill is not your average CEO. He is way above average, a CEO who understands what it means to pay it forward. I wish more company leaders provided an environment of love, support, and kindness. Imagine the level of true prosperity that we could experience as a society.

Being a fan of Penzeys Spices, I – like many smart gourmandes – signed up for the email list for free spices, offers, recipes, and other goodies. What I received in return was a newly-acquired taste for goodness. I’m not talking about just gourmet goodness…I’m talking about simple human goodness.

Bill is a good guy. The goodness he shares comes from his world view, his spirit, and his written word which appears in Penzeys Spices emails.

The one email that got my attention was Bill’s offer to send a free Kind pin (pictured within this article) to anyone who marched in The Women’s March on Saturday, January 21, 2017. As you recall, this national spirited March attracted unprecedented numbers of women, men, and children in Washington, D.C. who had a strong desire to share their voices with the world. And this March happened not just in cities across the United States; it happened globally, in cities around the world. The voices of the masses shared positive messages of hope, compassion, joy, love, understanding, peace, acceptance, and kindness.

In return for the free Kind pin, Bill requested that marchers share their personal stories of why they marched, and any kindness that they experienced or witnessed that day. In an email, Bill said, “I believe history will show just how important The Women’s March was, and just how great of a debt we owe those who Marched. Their humanity, kindness, and strength were just the reminder we needed of what really makes America great, at the very moment we so desperately needed to be reminded.” In total, Penzeys Spices shipped 174,139 free Kind pins to people who participated in The Women’s March.

What Bill – and Penzeys Spices – did through his generosity and act of kindness was to remind us that true change begins with one simple idea that is put into action. Thank you, Bill, for being a positive role model and inspiring others.

What type of change do you want to initiate? Get started today!

Photo credit: Christine Zust

Women’s Voices Are Significant to the World

iwd-logomain2Today marks International Women’s Day, one day each year that celebrates the “social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.” This year’s theme is Be Bold For Change. Take a moment to honor and recognize the women who have served as positive role models in your life, who have inspired and motivated you, and who have bravely charted new territory as pathfinders.

Now imagine your life without them. Oh, wait a minute. You wouldn’t be here if not for a woman! This message is being reinforced by leaders of the January 21, 2017 Women’s March. They are encouraging women to participate in A Day Without A Woman on this International Women’s Day by not spending any money (or alternatively supporting women- and minority-owned businesses)  and by not engaging in any work.

Think about all of the women who have encouraged and inspired you. Mothers. Grandmothers. Aunts. Sisters. Daughters. Granddaughters. Great-granddaughters. Sisters-in-law. Mothers-in-law. Teachers. Bosses. Co-workers. Neighbors. Religious leaders. Shop owners. Community leaders. Political leaders. Friends.

I for one would not be the person I am today were it not for the courageous, intelligent, fearless women who came before me.

On this day, I honor my maternal grandmother who emigrated from Poland to begin a new life in America. She spoke no English when she arrived at Ellis Island. As a wife and mother, she ran a large household (with seven children) on a small stipend. Her values of hard work, discipline, and sacrifice were passed on to her children.

My 96-year-old mother continues to inspire me every day. I have enjoyed many lengthy conversations with her over the years, listening to her life story, and understanding her remarkable life as a first generation American. It took her ten years to work her way through college to receive her first degree – at the age of 47. At the age of 80, she received her second college degree. Although she could have audited classes for free as a senior citizen, she preferred to pay for every class so she could earn a degree.

Many women have inspired me from afar. The list is too long to include all of them here, yet, a few stand out…women of all ages and backgrounds:

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” Gloria Steinem

 

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Maya Angelou

 

“Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.”

Tina Fey

 

“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” Malala Yousafzai

 

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa

 

“Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.” Amelia Earhart

 

“One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.” Barbara Walters

Now more than ever, women’s voices must be heard. We are economic decision makers, leaders in education, innovators in science and technology, entrepreneurs, and nurturers of the human family. Our inclusive and collaborative style leads to positive change. A quick review of Forbes Magazine’s “The World’s 100 Most Influential Women” will remind you of the capabilities and accomplishments of women.

At some point today, pause for a moment, and silently thank the women who have encouraged, supported, and inspired you. Or better yet, pick up the phone and call them!

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#InternationalWomensDay

#BeBoldForChange

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What the Obamas Taught Me About Leadership

Credit: The White House

Credit: The White House

There are many lessons that President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have taught me during the past eight years. The greatest lesson is that of leadership. Since President and Mrs. Obama will be returning to private life soon, I want to share the impact that their leadership as President and First Lady has had on me and on millions of Americans, young and old alike.

Charting New Territory. As the first African-American President and First Lady, the Obamas handled the challenge with style and grace. They set the tone on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, by walking the limousine route, embracing the American people every step of the way. Leaders are risk takers and confident, even when they are entering uncharted territory. 

Fresh Perspective. While it is customary for presidential couples to bring children and/or pets with them to The White House, for the first time, a mother-in-law joined The First Family. This act represented the importance of family to the Obamas. Inclusive leaders bring along others with them.

Positive Role Models. On national and global platforms, the President and First Lady represented our country with diplomacy and respect, whether a happy or sad occasion, or a tense moment. Effective leaders walk the talk and hold their behavior to the highest standard.

A Sense of Humor. Whether the President sipped a beer in the Rose Garden or the First Lady danced with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, the Obamas proved that they have a sense of humor, and that they are real people. Authentic leaders capture my attention and hold my heart.

Credit: The White House

Credit: The White House

Passion. Both the President and Mrs. Obama share a passion for America. More importantly, they opened up dialogue and initiated change, addressing tough issues like race, education, poverty, healthcare, nutrition, and American values, to name a few. Passionate leaders inspire, motivate, and empower others to initiate change.

Persistence and Grace. Throughout two presidential terms, the President and First Lady were met with obstacles and challenges. Sometimes it came from House or Senate leadership. Sometimes it came from political pundits. Sometimes it came from citizens. Through it all, the Obamas took the high road. They never buckled under pressure and remained calm and level-headed. They handled adversity with perseverance and grace. Leaders never give up, even when they know it might be a tough road ahead.

Partnership. Seeing them in the public eye for the past eight years, it is clear that the Obamas have more than a good marriage going for them…their commitment to a lifelong partnership, anchored in common values of trust, respect, and equality, is evident. You can see it and feel it when they are together or when they speak of each other. Exceptional leaders treat you like a valued partner, regardless of your position or status.

Eloquence. Both the President and the First Lady are eloquent speakers. Their words are spoken from the heart, and thoughtfully executed. President Obama’s speech on race and his farewell speech on democracy were two of his finest. You could hear a pin drop during First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2016 Democratic National Convention speech. Leaders who share a powerful message command attention.

Intelligence. Intelligence is more than just a high IQ. It’s being sensitive to the needs of others around you. The Obamas showed us intelligence and thoughtfulness through every new program or initiative that was introduced. Intelligent leaders are critical thinkers and encourage others to carefully think things through.

Class act. Singularly and collectively, the Obamas are a class act. They embody the very essence of professionalism in every aspect of their life. With the Obamas, though, it is no act. Genuine goodness and decency resides at the core of who they are. Leaders with class are admired for their fairness and decorum.

Thank you, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, for your exceptional public service. Your legacy of hope, collaboration, and leadership lives on. You will continue to inspire and motivate me and millions of Americans to initiate positive change in our lives, our communities, our country, and the world.

What Makes Your Day Great?

ethanthankyouOne statement that can make your day a great one is a sincere “Thank you.” It’s a simple statement, one of the most common that you hear.

When you are on the receiving end of “Thank you,” something wonderful happens. You feel recognized, valued, and appreciated. You feel like the other person took the time to speak from the heart.

One such thank you arrived in our mailbox recently. It was sent to my husband and me by our “adopted” godson, Ethan. I say adopted because we are not his official godparents, rather, we are godparents to his older brother, Andrew. Truth be told, we’re also adopted godparents to their older sister, Alexis.

From the outside, it looked like a normal thank you card from American Greetings. The sentiment inside is what truly made my day. On the inside left panel was a huge THANK YOU, perfectly handwritten in all caps. The note began with an appropriate salutation: “Uncle Christine and Aunt Mark.” Years ago when the kids were still living at home, their mom, one of my best and longtime friends, made the mistake of mixing up our names. When all three kids heard it, they burst into laughter. Somehow, it magically stuck, and it has been that way ever since. That happy accident became a new moniker for us. I am Uncle Christine and Mark is Aunt Mark.

Ethan just began his freshman year of college. He was thanking us for his graduation gift and something more. He was thanking us for being who we are, and for being in his life. I love his first sentence: “You two are some of my favorite people on the planet.” The note continues with “I look up to you two more than anyone in my life and I’m not just saying that.” He went on to tell Mark and me how he feels about us. His note was very touching, and yes, it made me teary-eyed.

The moment I finished reading the thank you note, I told Mark, “Let’s keep this out as a reminder. Any time we’re having a bad day, we can simply pick it up and read it again to lift our spirits.”

Poetry and songs relate to this solo journey called life. We can sometimes feel alone, undervalued or under appreciated, like we don’t matter, or like people don’t care. Then we realize – through some small recognition by other people – that we are not alone, that we do matter, that they do care, that we have influenced their lives in some way…just like Ethan’s note stated.

Let me ask you this: Who was the last person you said “thank you” to? Was it a clerk at a store? A server at a restaurant? A co-worker? A team member? Your spouse? Your partner? Never underestimate the power of thank you. You just might make someone else’s day.

Empathy Is Needed in a Post-9/11 America

Artist Faith Rinngold and New York children, ages 8-10, created the 9/11 Peace Story Quilt, 2006

Artist Faith Rinngold and New York children, ages 8-10, created the 9/11 Peace Story Quilt in 2006

Where were you on September 11, 2001? What were you feeling as the events of that day unfolded?

I remember exactly where I was. I was working on the computer in my home office, getting ready for a morning meeting in downtown Cleveland. The phone rang. It was one of my clients. She quickly said, “Turn on your TV!” When I asked her why, she repeated, “Just go and turn on your TV!!” I ran downstairs, and found national news anchor Peter Jennings reporting live on ABC-TV. He was showing video footage of a jet hitting the World Trade Center in New York City.

My mind was trying to process what was happening. I stood there shocked and dazed. I realized my client was still on the office line upstairs. When I returned to the call, she provided a few more details. I didn’t know until much later that one of the “hostage” airplanes had flown over Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. I live several miles from the airport.

While the day was filled with disturbing images and reports, for me, the evening was surrealistic. Living so close to the airport, I didn’t hear the usual airplanes overhead that night. It was completely silent.

This year, the citizens of our country and the world remembered that tragic event that happened 15 years ago and the thousands of lives that were lost and thousands more who lost a spouse, partner, parent, child, sibling, relative, friend, neighbor, or co-worker.

9/11 changed the way we travel, how we perceive or judge others, how we communicate, how we measure security, and how we mourned as a nation.

The greatest lesson 9/11 taught us is the power – and the necessity – of empathy.

From my perspective, empathy is sorely lacking in society today. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines empathy as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.” Simply put, it’s trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Sympathy, on the other hand, is defined as “a feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else’s trouble, grief, misfortune, etc.; a sympathetic feeling is a feeling of support for something.” Both require some level of compassion. To me, empathy requires a deeper level of compassion than sympathy. It requires stretching your capacity to genuinely “feel” for another person. Empathy also requires setting aside your ego and your own wants, desires, and needs and focusing on another person’s wants, desires, and needs. It also demands that you listen from your heart rather than your head.

The world today is a far different place than it was 15 years ago. Your skill set has expanded to include a greater consideration for cultural differences, diversity, and inclusion. Workplace environments and laws governing the country, states and cities have broadened our perspectives.

9/11 is a time of remembrance. It is also a time to reflect and ask yourself how you’re doing. How do you demonstrate empathy in your workplace? In your personal life? In your community? How open-minded are you when you travel to other countries or when you welcome new citizens to ours? Where can you incorporate peace, love, and unity in your life?

What We Can Learn From the Olympic Spirit

Team USA Swimmer Ryan Murphy Wins Gold. Image: Reuters.com

Team USA Swimmer Ryan Murphy proudly displays his gold medal. Image: Reuters.com

With the 2016 Summer Olympics underway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I am watching my favorite events, and learning a lot in the process. I particularly enjoy NBC-TV‘s coverage of the events, especially sharing the athletes’ personal life stories about their journey to the Olympics.

On August 8, one story was so inspirational, I had to share it. It began with an eight-year-old boy’s interest in swimming, which became a dream and a goal.

That young boy, now 21-year-old Ryan Murphy from Team USA, claimed a gold medal in the men’s 100 meter backstroke swimming competition on Monday, with his parents witnessing his completion of that goal stated more than a decade ago.

RyanMurphy

Image: NBC.com

When he was a child, Ryan wrote a letter to his parents  expressing his love of swimming. The letter contained drawings showing him swimming in blue water, with his mom standing next to the pool. The end of the letter simply stated his desire to continue swimming and his intentions to compete in the Olympics, break world records and be “the best swimmer in the world.”

On Monday, Ryan’s goals were fulfilled.

Ryan Murphy’s Olympic win demonstrates what it takes to achieve a goal:

State a powerful intention, a dream, a vision, a goal.

Learn from the best. Work with a coach or a mentor who can help you achieve your goal.

Show physical, mental, and emotional strength. There will be times when you think you can’t make it. Keep strong.

Be persistent. Keep at it. Keep your focus on that end goal.

Practice! To improve in anything, you need to practice every day. I learned that lesson from my piano teacher.

Post a visual reminder of your goal. Even at eight years old, Ryan Murphy put his intentions on paper. At that young age, he knew what he wanted. A visual image helps you see what accomplishing your goal will look and feel like.

Enhance your talent or skill. You have to be good at it. To make it to the Olympic medal platform, of course, you have to be exceptionally good.

Give it your all. Push yourself beyond where you “think” you can go.

If you find yourself struggling to achieve goals, let Ryan Murphy’s example inspire you. Reflect on what it takes to get there…all of the above!