MOGO Tip: Write Right Now for a Better World

letterwriting1I have a friend who has written to legislators, corporations, and other leaders and officials since she was in high school, and she has kept a big binder of all the letters she’s written – and any responses she has received. That’s not the only citizen activism in which she has engaged, but she has certainly made sure that her voice and her views have been heard by hundreds, if not thousands, of people in power.

I’ve discovered through some of my own letter-writing to officials that issues (and better solutions to problems) I assumed they would already know about are frequently unknown to them. I’ve learned not to make assumptions about what people at any level of authority know and to do what I can to help educate, inspire and empower them…and to offer positive suggestions and praise as often as I express my concerns and complaints.

Whenever we take the time and courage to speak our piece about a MOGO world to others – including those in major decision-making roles – we help create that just, compassionate, sustainable world we seek.

Try to make it a habit to regularly write letters and emails to legislators, officials, editors and others who can help enact decisions that can bring about positive systemic change.

If the thought of writing a letter or email makes your palms all sweaty, here are a few sites with some good tips:

Let your voice be heard: Write right now! It only takes a few minutes!

~ Marsha

MOGO Mini-Habit: Speak the Good in Others

whisperingMy 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Leddy, had us students do something that I have never forgotten. She called it a “car wash.” Every week one of us would be the “car,” and the other students would form two lines in front of the car. One by one, zigzagging from one side to the other, the car would go to each person in the “wash” line, and that person would whisper into the “car’s”  ear something good about them — something that the speaker liked, respected, appreciated or admired about them. I don’t remember many of the things my fellow students said to me. I remember one guy said that I was his third girlfriend (whatever that meant).  I remember that the boy I had a crush on told me that he liked playing sports with me (I was a major “tom-boy”…and still am.) Someone else liked my smile. Someone else said that she noticed that I tried to be nice to everyone. The details of those individual encounters is fuzzy, but the memory of how I felt after having been washed in all that good will and kindness is still precious to me.

I introduced this activity to my cohort of fellow humane educators when we had our Residency one year, and the faculty liked it so much that they used it as the closing activity for Residency. (They’ve modified it now so that students write down something about their fellow students during the week, so that everyone has something positive to take home from everyone else — a more meaningful way to do it.)

For my 25th birthday, my husband wrote down 25 things he loved about me and put them in a simple handmade book — one item per page, one page per hour of the day. It was one of the best gifts he ever gave me; I still have it these 17 years later.

One New Year’s Day, just after midnight, I sat around with a small group of friends in my co-housing community, and we each took turns sharing an intention that we had for each of the others. When we finished, everyone in that circle felt loved, appreciated, respected, more confident, more hopeful about the future — and more powerful about helping shape that future. I’ve never forgotten that night.

These are just a few examples of the times that sincere, authentic, kind words have helped shape my view of myself and have affected the next steps on my life’s journey. Yes, it’s important to look within for all those important qualities of joy, confidence, meaning, respect, love, and so on. We can’t rely on others for our self-perception, and it can be incredibly detrimental to pay too much attention to what others say about us. But I also think that it’s important that we help serve as a reflection for others so that they can more easily break through the static of culture and personal history that get in the way of their being able to see their own good and value.

Look for the good in the people around you and speak it. You will both be empowered by it.

~ Marsha

One Tube of Toothpaste…

toothpasteLast week I was at the dentist, and it reminded me of an argument that my husband and I once had…about toothpaste. To get a better picture, it might help to know that John and I have (as of this post) been married for almost 23 years, and that we’re one of those couples who almost never argues, whom people point to and say “Soulmates.” or “Gosh, you’d think they’re newlyweds.” We have always traveled the humane path together. Our values are near mirror-perfect. People call us JohnandMarsha because we are, often, as one. (In a touching, inspiring way, not a sad, co-dependent way.)

So one day John came home from the dentist with his baggie of floss…and a little tube of toothpaste. From a multinational corporation. Who still uses animal ingredients. Who still uses toxic ingredients. Who’s responsible for creating a Superfund site. Being the loving, compassionate communicator that I am, I calmly asked why he hadn’t left the toothpaste at the dentists’ office (like I always do). He replied that he hadn’t thought much about it, and besides, it would be handy for travel, anyway.

I’d like to say that I handled the rest of that conversation with love and compassion. After all, this is my soulmate. My beloved. The guy who walks the same walk with me. I didn’t. Although I was trying to be calm and non-judgmental, I questioned him in a way that made him feel defensive. And I felt betrayed. How could someone who has made a long-lived habit of making humane choices make such an unconscious choice? Suddenly, this little tube of toothpaste had blown up into a GIANT BIG DEAL. He was upset. I was upset. It took us a good hour of talking it out (or not) to discover that our shared humane perspective wasn’t quite as in synch as we had thought.

My take: Our (his and my) humane choices are a journey. In different areas (food, clothes, transportation, recreation, etc.) we’re at different levels. Once we achieve a certain level of MOGOness in a certain area – once a new choice has become an old habit, that’s the default choice (until we’re ready to continue up the humane/MOGO path).

His take: Our (his and my) humane choices are a journey. In different areas (food, clothes, transportation, recreation, etc.) we’re at different levels. Although we continue to strive to make more MOGO choices, we’re nowhere close to perfect in all areas, so what’s the big deal about an occasional backslide, if it’s not actively causing harm?

I’m not sure I agree with his take, but I certainly understand the reasoning behind some of his choices much better. And we both agree that:

  1. It’s waaay too easy to demonize people for their choices – even (especially?) those we dearly love.
  2. While we might be on the same (or a similar) level with someone, we might each interpret the choices for individual circumstances differently.
  3. Forward progress is ideal. A little backsliding may not be ideal, but it’s not the end of the world. And, a little wiggle room is necessary.
  4. Clear, calm, compassionate communication: GOOD. Talking things out until everyone feels understood: GOOD.
  5. In the grand scheme…it was one tube of toothpaste.

~ Marsha

How to Tell People They Sound Racist

Jay Smooth over at Illdoctrine.com (a hip-hop video blog) recently did an awesome three minute video on “How to Tell People They Sound Racist.”

He starts:

“It seems like everybody everywhere is talking about race right now. And when everybody everywhere is talking about race, that means sooner or later you’re gonna have to tell somebody that they said something that sounded racist. So you need to be ready and have a plan in place….”

“The most important thing that you’ve got to do is remember the difference between the what they did conversation and the what they are conversation. ”

Jay Smooth goes on to explain the difference between the two types of conversations and the importance of focusing on the former (what they did and said) versus the latter (making assumptions about their motivations and who they are because of what they did and said), as well as not allowing the perpetrators to derail your argument by focusing on who they are, rather than holding them accountable for what they said or did.

At the end, he says “….focus on the part that matters: holding each person accountable for the impact of their words and actions. I don’t care what you are; I care about what you did.”

It’s an amazing and effective video in only 3 minutes. Be sure to check it out, and share it with friends, family, co-workers, and everyone.

~ Marsha