April 18th, 2014

#LW4WW

If you knew that you could contribute $12.50 a year to make a huge difference in the lives of over a million Americans, would you do it?  I started my morning off by watching a video posted on a friend’s Facebook page about the difference it would actually make in the cost of products at Walmart if every beginning level employee made a living wage.  The video http://youtu.be/vAcaeLmybCY explains how little it would actually cost the consumer if Walmart were to raise their wages to a living wage. 

As I did more research about this topic I discovered that Walmart employs 2 million people.  Wow.  That is a lot, and their standard answer for why they don’t raise their wages to a living wage is that they provide a lot of opportunities for advancement if you work there.  While that might be true, what do you do until that opportunity comes along?  Unlike many of the people I know, I don’t consider Walmart an evil empire, they actually do a lot of good things for the communities they are in.  What I do think is that they could do so much more for their communities by providing living wages for their employees. 

What I would love to see happen is not for people to just bash Walmart, but to make it known to them that passing along a portion of the $34,880 profit they make every minute, to their employees would be a truly good thing for them to do.  There are a lot of ways you can do this.  Think Creatively!  Maybe you could write a letter on a Walmart shopping bag telling them you shop at their store and you would like them to give their employees a living wage.  Mail the letter to:

Walmart Home Office

202 SW 8th Street

Bentonville, AR 72716-8611

or maybe call their customer service at 1-800-Walmart (1-800-925-6278) in a polite way, let them know you appreciate the service they offer and that you would appreciate it even more if they would offer a living wage for their employees.  Or you can e-mail them at https://corporate.walmart.com/contact-us/store-corporate-feedback

Or maybe you want to take a cue from students at several colleges that have held “camp outs” to bring awareness to the need for living wages for employees at their colleges, you can read about those examples at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_wage#Living_wage_movements I hear Bentonville Arkansaw is really pretty in the spring time.

Some of you are talented singers and videographers, surely one of you can come up with a song and dance number to promote paying a living wage. 

Peacefully changing things can be fun, in fact the more fun and laughter you put into it the more people are able to see that you are not against them, you just can see a better vision of who they are capable of becoming.  There are a lot more companies besides just Walmart that could raise their wages, but it is because I actually respect Walmart for all the good they have done in the past (including the incredible Crystal Bridges Art museum http://crystalbridges.org/) that I think they could be an incredible leader to help others see what would happen if they paid their employees a living wage.

#LW4WW, Living Wages for Walmart Workers, it’s a hashtag whose time has come. 

April 17th, 2014

A Vision Board for Peace

Tonight my husband and I spoke at the University of Memphis Lambuth Campus for a symposium about global citizenship.  I knew going into this that I wanted to talk about peace because when I look at any topic I am most likely to look at it through that lens.  What I didn’t know going into it was how beautifully the topics of the other speakers would blend in with what I had been thinking about.  One of the other speakers, Dr. Cheryl Bowers spoke about happiness and that across the world the same base things promote happiness and can be built on to bring about even higher levels of happiness. Personally I found that really exciting because it tells me that as we think about how to create a better world we have scientific research that can be our guide.  This is where our vision board can begin, this is what we would like to see everyone in the world be able to reach. “The secret to change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” -Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman

This is a link to a study on happiness from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, published in January 2013 in Yes! magazine about the science of happiness: http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/10-things-science-taught-us-about-happiness-in-2012image

April 16th, 2014

Brushing Up On Peace

Toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, deodorant, soap, etc. my store buggy was filled with hygiene products today.  All those goodies will soon be on the shelf of a local food pantry where they have a need not only for food, but also personal products for needy families.  I had never really thought of this as a need before a student in my class started a small drive to collect these personal items for the pantry.  It makes sense.  I just had never thought of it before.  There are so many opportunities to be peace in the world, sometimes we just need to be educated about how to get started.  I’m thankful for my students that are often also my teachers.

April 15th, 2014

Global Citizenship and Peace

In a few days I’m going to be speaking at a local college on the topic of Global Citizenship and Peace.  To start thinking through my ideas I “googled” the topic. I was very pleased to find information about Haverford, a small liberal arts college outside Philadelphia. They actually have a center for Peace and Global Citizenship where you can do undergraduate or graduate work in the field.  Tonight I read through their 2012-2013 annual report of all that was happening to promote their center.  One of the things that always fascinates me about studying peace is that you have so many options and so many ways you can get involved and make a difference.  From studying the impact and availability of healthy food on a community, to the economics of micro-loans there are so many ways you can turn a passion for peace into a career.   It was encouraging to read about all the different kinds of programs the students had the opportunity to start or be involved with. 

I think the key with global citizenship is that due to communication being so much easier now, friendship and awareness occurs with people you could have never had the opportunity to meet a few years ago.  Learning about each other and learning about new cultures are beginning steps to walking a path of making the world a better place for everyone.  I love this quote by Mr. Rogers and what it says to be about how cool our world could be if we stopped trying to just “beat” each other and instead worked together so that everyone could be sustainable and have an opportunity to reach their fullest potential.

“There was a story going around about the Special Olympics. For the hundred-yard dash, there were nine contestants, all of them so-called physically or mentally disabled. All nine of them assembled at the starting line and, at the sound of the gun, they took off. But one little boy didn’t get very far. He stumbled and fell and hurt his knee and began to cry. The other eight children heard the boy crying. They slowed down, turned around, and ran back to him—every one of them ran back to him. The little boy got up, and he and the rest of the runners linked their arms together and joyfully walked to the finish line.
They all finished the race at the same time. And when they did, everyone in the stadium stood up and clapped and whistled and cheered for a long, long time. And you know why? Because deep down we know that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.”
Fred Rogers

April 14th, 2014

The Sunny Side of Life

Tonight I saw a job fair advertisement for a new solar energy company coming soon to a county near me in Tennessee.  Having lived in a totally solar electric house for several years this made me curious about the current state of solar electric activity happening in Tennessee.  It is exciting to see how many things are happening to promote solar energy in the state.  It is generating not only clean electricity but also over 6, 400 jobs.  In Tennessee there are over 300 rebates, incentives, or tax credits available for  residents that choose green energy.  More information about those can be found at: http://www.solar-estimate.org/?page=solar-incentives&state=TN

Higher education is getting into the act with colleges like Libscomb in Nashville offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees that focus on sustainable practices: http://www.lipscomb.edu/sustainability/about

If you are interested in learning more about solar energy in Tennessee I recommend you check out http://www.tnsolarenergy.org/

For general information about solar energy check out http://solarenergy.com/ for information about leasing solar panels go to http://www.solarpowermagazine.com/

April 13th, 2014

Musical Cures

Music heals.  It just does.  So I was excited today to meet a young doctor from Memphis that uses music as a way to connect with his patients.  Then tonight I learned about another organization that is also using music to make a difference in the lives of kids struggling with medical issues.  You can read about Dr. Chris Peoples here: http://www.cru.org/city/memphis-doctor-prescribing-worship.htm and about the Songs of Love organization here: http://www.songsoflove.org/about/

April 12th, 2014

Answers for James

So the other day a friend sent a request to me to answer a few questions about basically life, the universe, and everything.  I like this person and when they asked this of me I didn’t think too much about it, until I got the list.  Thirty two deep questions with a request to give back up proof of everything I believed.  Wow. 

So today I spent a couple of hours doing some deep soul searching to answer his questions.  It was an exercise in love, because even though I write a daily blog where I try to be very honest and real about my experiences, this was truly opening myself and being vulnerable by answering questions on a much deeper level than anyone ever bothers to ask.  I felt honored that he truly wanted to know my thoughts about these topics, and nervous because I realized my words would hold a lot of weight with him because he values my opinion.  All in all it was a good experience though, a good reminder of what I hold as my core values, and I’m hopeful that what leaked through in my answers also leaks through in my life…love.  The answer to all the important questions, James, always comes back to love.

April 11th, 2014

A Positive Focus

Do you ever have conversations that make you feel really excited about the potential of the future?  Are they with middle school students? Today I was able to facilitate an incredible conversation with my students that seemed really heavy, it started out discussing violence occurring in schools today, but what amazed me was that they had some truly brilliant ideas about what needs to occur to make a difference. 

The first thing they brought up was that anti-bullying programs don’t work and may actually cause more harm.  We found this to actually be true when we were mandated to have one at our school.  The reason they don’t work is the same reason Montessori teachers say, “Please walk” instead of “Don’t run”.  Your brain focuses on the last thing said, so “Don’t Bully” is interpreted as “Bully”.  They felt the best way to address the issue would be to instead have programs that simply focus on kindness and promoting friendships, that instead of focusing on the bullies, there should be more focus on strengthening diversity and that we all have something to give to the world.  Programs to build up self esteem should be equally matched with programs that build up self compassion and compassion for others.

The other thing they discussed was their concern about the way the media focuses on negative reporting.  Every day we have community meeting and part of that is a time to share current events, and we ask them to try to focus on positive news.  Their complaint is that it is very difficult for them to find positive stories to share.  They felt that if the news media would make more of an effort to promote positive stories that more good things would happen because instead of getting attention for negative things people would be seeking to get attention for positive actions. 

The last thing they discussed was the most interesting to me.  They said they wished they could change the cartoons and programs targeted for kids.  Since I don’t watch very much TV, I was interested that they felt it was too violent and negative…remember these are thirteen and fourteen year old’s talking!  They started waxing nostalgic for old t.v. shows that seemed happier to them. 

Our conversation really sparked a lot of emotion and I tried to explain to them that if they felt that strongly about it they could do something.  They  don’t have to be passive, they can write advertisers to encourage positive programs, they can promote the positive programs they do see on their social media sites, and they can start conversations to encourage better writing and programming on TV. 

Personally, I’m excited to see their discontent, because these are the kinds of changes that do need to happen, and hopefully their discontent is the start towards making different choices. This summer the Hub TV network is going to start showing a new show based on the Kid President videos.  Since I know the quality and character of the KP videos, I am really thrilled that they will get a wider audience and maybe open the way for people to see how much more fun and encouraging it is to watch positive programming.  It is our world.  We don’t have to keep going downhill.  We can pull ourselves up.  The time to change things is now.  Here’s to being awesome and giving the world a reason to dance!

April 10th, 2014

Inhabitat!

Feeling like a kid in a candy shop! I just discovered a new website for sustainable and stylish design, Inhabitat.  I found them via an article about the wonderful new design work that is being done by the French Architecture Studio, Moatti-Rivie’re on the Eiffel Tower.  The new improvements will include sustainable features like solar and wind power, and equality features for easy access for disabled visitors to be able to visit the first floor of the tower.  You can check out the website and the article about the improvements to the tower here: http://inhabitat.com/ambitious-eiffel-tower-renovation-turns-the-aging-icons-1st-floor-into-a-green-energy-powerhouse/

April 9th, 2014

Implications for Peace

"One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child." -Maria Montessori

How do you think the world would be different if at an early age students were being taught how to peacefully solve internal and external conflicts, the importance of peace, and how to create peace in the world? I have a new book available.  The title is Implications of Peace: Montessori Elementary Education.  The book is actually the thesis I wrote for my master’s degree. The reason I felt it was important to publish it was because I have a strong belief that the change that most needs to be made in education right now has more to do with helping kids to feel at peace, and know how to respond to each other in peace than it does with just what kind of tests they can pass.  If students are not at peace they aren’t going to have room in their brains to learn new information.  The book can be used by both Montessori teachers and traditional teachers to rethink and restructure their classrooms in a way that promotes peace. 

Peace isn’t impossible.  It is a skill, it just needs to be taught, and practiced.

A Link to the book: http://www.amazon.com/Implications-Peace-Montessori-Elementary-Education/dp/0982650434/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1397092915&sr=8-1&keywords=peggy+e+pate+smith

Lessons I learned about peace from cat urine.

I know there are people in this world that can make it through an entire day without feeling the need to put pen to paper.  They exist.  I’m just not one of them.  At some point in my life I learned that if I put pen to paper at least once a day, I feel better about the world.  It is my coping mechanism, and it has to be real paper and a real pen.  Typing things out just doesn’t have the same emotional impact. 

Usually about every six months I purchase a huge five ring binder and fill it completely with every thought I need to purge on that open white page.  About a month ago I realized it was time for a new journal.  I bought one in an especially happy shade of blue and covered it in positive quotes and affirmations about life.  It was so happy I couldn’t bring myself to write anything negative in it.  So all those frustrating, negative thoughts that normally make their way to the page…and then sometimes to the paper shredder… have been left to linger inside my head.  I just couldn’t bear the idea of putting any of that junk into my happy notebook. 

If you have been reading my blog you already know because I have been whining for the past few days, that I got really sick.  Super high temperature, sleeping constantly, body aches…blah, blah, blah.  So in this state of abnormality I left my happy journal on the floor by my bedside.  Apparently the universe decided this would be the perfect way to teach me a valuable lesson.  I went to pick up my journal only to discover that it was wet.  At first I thought I had knocked my water onto it, but upon a closer sniff I realized the cat had decided to add his own mark to my journal.  That’s right.  My happy journal was now soaked in cat urine.  The truth is while this should have made me furious, it was actually a bit of a relief.  I needed that sign to remind me that it is perfectly normal and healthy to have a safe place to be “pissed off”.  Perhaps even the reason I became so sick was because I have been holding on to all those negative germs of thought. 

I’m going to be getting a new journal, and while I still hope to focus on good things, I feel a little more at ease realizing the negative emotions are just as important.  Having a safe place to get those feelings out helps keep me healthy and sane.  I would never expect someone else to always be positive, and I need to be gentle and honest with myself and trust that my negative feelings are just as valid and play a role in my life to promote change.  If I don’t allow myself the freedom to experience and  see them in some way they can’t be harnessed and used for the good they are eventually meant to bring about.

April 7th, 2014

Veggie Soup and Peace

One of the gifts that being ill over the past few days has brought me has been a fresh appreciation for my husband.  He has been really patient and really sweet with me, when I know full well that if he were the one sick I would be sleeping in the other bedroom and getting him take out instead of making yummy veggie soup.  I’m lucky to have someone so caring in my life, and more than I’d like to admit I forget to be thankful.  I feel like I notice the negatives and the irritations faster than the kind gestures and many beautiful things he does for me every day.  Choosing what to notice and what to not notice is a gift of peace.  A gift we can use for every person in our life.  Everyone has something beautiful if we take the time to slow down and look for it.

April 6th, 2014

Getting Hot!

Today as my temperature spiked 102 degrees, I was curled up in bed listening to an NPR quiz show that mentioned one of the suggestions to help reduce global warming was to dress more informally in the summer so air conditioners could be set at a higher temp in businesses where it is usually lowered to keep men in suits at a comfortable temperature. Seems like a reasonable idea.  Another idea if you are interested in learning more about climate change is to go to http://www.globalchange.gov/resources/educators/toolkit/materials and read up on a plethora of ways we can help the environment and learn more in order to make a difference. 

April 5th, 2014

"Needful Inertia"

I’ve been reading Amy Hollingsworth’s book, Holy Curiosity: Cultivating the Creative Spirit in Everyday Life.  So today while I was trying my best to be quiet and self-nurturing in order to heal from bronchitis, I ran across her idea of “needful inertia”.  She mentioned Thomas Moore, who compared these times of quiet, forced stillness to the Biblical story of Jonah.  In the story of Jonah, Jonah is swallowed by a great fish.  For three days he was in a  dark place that he couldn’t leave.  The cool thing is, even in what must have felt like a desperate place, that he didn’t have any control over, he was still being moved.  He was making progress even if he didn’t feel like it.  There are so many times in my life when I have felt that way.  Completely stuck.  Thinking about those times in a different light was very encouraging to me, and made me feel a little more at peace about those times when “needful inertia” is just what the doctor ordered. 

April 4th, 2014

The Color of Peace

I woke up with a fever and a terrible cough.  Wanting to make sure I didn’t make things worse I spent the day resting, and as a part of that rest I was calm enough to really notice the beautiful colors of spring.  Out my window a purple tree stretched up to an azure sky.  I couldn’t help wondering how long that tree has been in full bloom but I hadn’t noticed it until today. Opportunities to see and experience joy are all around us, slowing down enough to be aware and appreciate them are a part of choosing peace.