Fighting to Normalize Diversity for Our Children (and a Barefoot Books giveaway!)

11/21/16

In the past few weeks the word "normalizing" has kept itself on my radar, coming at me from various channels that I take seriously.  Normalizing is a social process through which ideas and action come to be seen as normal and taken-for-granted in everyday life.  Extreme examples of would be witch hunts, slavery, and the Holocaust.  Have you ever wondered how on earth the people who lived in those times could be so incredibly immoral?  The answer is normalization.  It's like the old analogy of the frog and the pot of water: if the frog jumps in to already boiling water it will jump right out, but if the water only gradually increases to boiling the frog won't notice. It will stay in there and die.

{I have no earthly idea if that's true or not, but it's a good analogy.}

Sure there are some people in the world whose hearts are hardened and have given themselves over to darkness.  But that's not most of us.  Most people who lived in the times of these historic tragedies  and did nothing were merely products of their time.  You might even say they were victims, in a sense, of normalization.  (It sounds weird to call a privileged group "victims", but if we're talking seared consciences and separation from the heart of God/human experience than yes, they were victims indeed.)

But how does that apply today?

Currently there are many in our country who are hoping and trying to change it's landscape, to the detriment of minorities.  This is not a finger-pointing post at those of you who voted for Donald Trump.  I know you're good people.  But whether or not Trump is a misogynist, racist, and/or xenophile (which we may disagree on), it cannot be denied that these dangerous ideals have been brought out where they were once kept underground.  Like it or not those who hold such ideals feel they have been given a voice in this election.  They are gathering.  They are hoping to expand their influence.  And they want to change the culture of this county.  The alt-right believes that races should not intermingle.  They believe families like mine should not exist.


If the water was already boiling, we would hop out and reject it.  But what if we don't even notice when the temperature rises and the liquid rolls?

I know, this is a real peach of a post.

So what do we do?

We fight.

We fight hate with love.  We fight injustice with action.  We fight segregation with integration.

No matter how we each voted, it is up to us to preserve the spirit of acceptance and diversity that makes America beautiful.  We step it up by diversifying our friendship circles.  We step it up by educating ourselves and then advocating in our communities.  We step it up by calling our local representatives and making our voices heard.  We step it up by being teachable, by listening to the marginalized, and by seeing a need and meeting it.

And for those of us who are raising the next generation, we fight the normalization of racism in our culture by normalizing diversity for our children.

We raise children who will be utterly baffled at the thought of separating human beings based on the color of their skin or the way they worship.  We raise children who see every person they meet as an image-bearer of God.  We raise children unafraid of those who are different than them, whether by physical appearance or by language or by religion.  Not just when they're 3, but when they're 13 and 23 and 73.

And this doesn't just happen because we hope it's going to.  It happens when we're intentional; when we widen our circles to include those who don't look, talk, or worship like us.  

Real-life relationships are far and away the most important factor.  But taking a look at what's inside your home is a small step too.  Moms and dads (and grandparents and other relatives!), be intentional about representing different skin tones and cultures in your kids' toys, games, tv shows, and books.  I wrote a post about some of my favorite book recommendations here, but since then I've discovered Barefoot Books and let me tell you, I'm a customer for life.

Blog reader Elizabeth Walton sent my kids the Book of Children and a Children of the World matching game a few weeks ago, just because she knew I gravitate to that kind of thing.  Both big boys liked both gifts, but for whatever reason Moses (almost 3) has latched on to the book while Alyosha (6) prefers the game.



Barefoot Books has an intentional focus on promoting diversity and inclusivity, while also putting out fabulous content that inspires creativity and curiosity.  Our family loves this company and I think yours will too. (and psssst I hear there might be some sweet Black Friday deals coming!)


And good news!  Elizabeth is generously giving away a free copy of the Barefoot Book of Children to one lucky winner!

I have never seen a book encompass the rich tapestry of humanity the way this one does.  It represents virtually every skin tone, dozens of world cultures, various disabilities, transracial families, military families, foster families, and gay and lesbian families.

(I know this last one is touchy for some, but I personally really appreciated the way it was done. These happy families are depicted in just a few pictures but with no text to boss you around about how to present it. You can address it with your kids in your own way and in your own voice.)

The book is all about our similarities even within our differences.  And I think that's a message we could all use more of these days. Enter the giveaway by simply commenting here or on the FB or Instagram post!  Oh and if you're doing a little Christmas shopping anyway, using the links in this post will send a slice of the pie my way. Thanks in advance!


*I was not financially compensated for this post.  I did receive a complimentary book and game in exchange for my honest review, and links are affiliates. 

Justice For All: Vote With Your Life

11/11/16

Let's all take a collective whew, shall we?  That was a doozy of an election with, as everyone is saying, two of the most disliked candidates in U.S. history.  We're now left with a nation terrifyingly divided, and I think we're all freaking out more than a little bit over that reality.  But no matter how you voted or how you feel about the results, the fact is that the vote you cast every single day of your life counts a heck of a lot more than what you write on a ballot every two or four years.

Can I say that again?  You never stop voting.

You vote with your life, as do I.  Every day we wake up and breathe and eat and interact and buy and listen and talk and are moved to action... every day we cast a vote for the society we want to live in.  That hasn't changed and it never will.

If you are concerned about the implications that this election will have on minorities and the marginalized, you're not alone here.  I'm burdened too.  But as I told my black son (who knew I was troubled over the outcome but didn't know details of why): there are still a LOT of good people in this country.  So I think we're going to be okay.

Below I've compiled a list of ways to keep casting your vote to make this a nation of justice for all.



Abortion

Becoming a foster care provider - the need is so great that in some states children spend several nights in the CPS office before they can be placed in a home. Every state is in need of more families to stand in the gap until reunification is possible.

Adopt - there are over 100,000 children waiting to be adopted in our nation. There are 5 million Christians.  Let that sink in. Visit adoptuskids.org for information on both adoption and foster care.

Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center - ask the staff what they need most and take it upon yourself to make it happen. (The part about asking about the need is key.)

Relationships - intentionally build a friendship with a single mom in your neighborhood or church, offer to give them a break now and then, offer your resources to help with the needs they may have.


Immigrants and Refugees

Learn a new language - I'm still embarrassed that I can't speak Spanish and I'm determined to remedy that in my lifetime. Try to learn the most used second language of your area: Spanish, Arabic, etc. Even if you never get fluent, the effort is a powerful statement.

Spend time at a refugee center - many cities have one; listen to someone's story, eat a meal with them, seek to understand and offer solidarity to them.  My friend Erica does this in South Texas and I'm always moved to love when she writes about it.

Start a parent welcome center at your kids' school - extend a gesture of open arms, teach a weekly ESL class, offer community resources they may not know about.  D.L. Mayfield put feet to this idea.

Give financially - We Welcome Refugees is a wonderful way to do it, as is International Justice Mission who investigates and protects the treatment of migrant workers.


Muslim-American Advocacy

Build relationships - strike up a conversation with the mom in the head covering.  Talk to Muslim students on your college campus.  Attend any Muslim/Christian dialogue event in your area - universities are popular places to find them.  My son's school has an annual Multicultural night, and the Muslim families in particular pull out ALL the stops to share the beauty of their heritage.  If your school doesn't have something like that, why not organize it?

muslimadvocates.org - end profiling, strengthen charities, counter hate.


LGBTQ Safety

Listen - you know someone who is gay. Your aunt? A guy you went to high school with?  Initiate a conversation with them ONLY to hear them out, not to convince them that they're wrong (if you think they are).  Listen to their experience and to their feelings.  Ask them if they've ever been harassed or bullied; ask them if they feel safe.

Make your church a safe space - because all people should be safe and welcome in a church. Heaven knows us straight folks don't agree on everything, but we generally manage to still be warm and welcoming to each other despite our differences. My parish, like many, has brochures for parents called "Always Our Children" on display, containing a pastoral message for parents of LGBTQ children that reinforces the importance of their parental love and commitment.  The presence of a gay-straight parishioner alliance can send a positive message of welcome and inclusion.  And for mercy's sakes, if you know someone who is LGBTQ in your church, make it your personal mission to make them feel included and loved.

Volunteer - with or donate to Trevor Project, which works toward suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth.

Speak up - this should go without saying, but just in case: don't let anyone speak condescendingly or homophobically about LGBTQs in your presence.  Interrupt them, correct them, tell them you don't find that funny, accurate, whatever.  It will be awkward, but it will also combat a slow fall into a culture of hate.  I'm not saying defend the homosexual act if its against your conscience; I'm saying defend the dignity of your fellow human beings.


Capital Punishment and Mass Incarceration

Read - Executing Grace (on capital punishment), The New Jim Crow, and Just Mercy (mass incarceration)

Watch - the documentary 13th (on Netflix now), Women and Mass Incarceration (on YouTube)

Donate - through the Equal Justice Initiative you can give financial donations to help the wrongly accused have access to attorneys that they can't afford


Black/White Relations

Find (or start!) a local group to be involved in - chapters of Black Lives Matter can be found in many states, as can chapters of Showing Up For Racial Justice, where whites are mobilizing against white supremacy.  Join the NAACP (yes, whites can join).

Host a roundtable discussion - invite black and white friends to your home, discuss the concerns of the black community, address questions of the white community, and have a time of safe and respectful dialogue and learning

Follow black bloggers and influencers - like Austin Channing Brown, My Brown Baby, and Pass the Mic podcast

Read anything by Dr. John M. Perkins - here's one to start, Dream with Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win

Speak Up - Racist jokes aren't funny.  Trivializing the expressed Black experience isn't funny.  Don't let anyone get the impression that you allow those sentiments in your presence.  Don't stay silent or avert your eyes.  You care too much about people made in the image of God to not speak up.


Torture

Sign petitions and take action - with Amnesty International


More Justice for Marginalized

Get involved in soup kitchens and homeless shelters - providing meals is great but more importantly, get to know people. Spend time there, sit down and eat dinner together, let your kids run amok and bring people joy.  All too often our efforts in this area are restricted to meeting the physical need of hunger, when dignity and human connection are equally as (if not arguably more) important.

Advocate for fair housing in your community - start by reading the book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.  This piece by D.L. Mayfield in Portland is a helpful read too.

My friend Lindsy is rallying around this cause in Miami and is doing an inspiring job speaking up for her community.  If the cycle of eviction and/or gentrification is hurting the marginalized in your community, I know she'd love to be a resource for you.  Follow her journey on Instagram.

Call your local representatives - we've lost a sense of impact here, not because it's not powerful but because we stopped believing it to be. Let your voice be heard. Find out how here. (Calling is apparently much more effective than writing, I'm told.)


Other Resources

Be intentional about the voices you surround yourself with.  There is so much noise online, so much input from every source under the sun.  The sites below are ones I have found helpful, inspiring, and give me a sense of hope in the fight for justice.

wagingnonviolence.org

sojourners.com

Keep voting, every day.  Our country is already great because of you.

Tips for Supporting a Friend's Adoption

11/7/16

So you have friends who are adopting a child soon! You want to celebrate with them and help out in any way you can, but what exactly doe they need? What might be similar to a traditional baby scenario and what might be different? In honor of National Adoption Month, let’s take a little crash course in supporting your friend’s adoption.


1. Organize a fundraiser

Depending on the route taken, adoption can be very expensive.  Ask your friends if they would like you to organize a fundraiser to help alleviate the cost.  You can go the old fashioned route with a multi family garage sale or utilize modern technology by gathering donations from artisans and hosting an Instagram auction.  The internet is full of other fundraising ideas as well, from GoFundMe accounts to t-shirt sales.  Find an avenue that you have vision for and run with it!

2. Throw a baby shower

She won’t show up with a large belly for everyone to oooh and aaah over, but chances are your friend will enjoy receiving a baby shower every bit as much as a pregnant woman does.  A communal gathering is a meaningful way for an adoptive mother-to-be to feel validated and celebrated by the people in her life.  Certain tweaks might need to be made (gender neutral themes if they don’t know the sex of the baby or a nontraditional registry for a toddler or older child), but a new life in the family is always something to celebrate!

3. Read an adoption book

Going the extra mile to invest time and energy into understanding your friends' new family dynamics will speak volumes to them about your love and commitment to the friendship.  There is no lack of excellent adoption literature available, but be sure that the book you select is tailored to their circumstances: a book about infant adoption after infertility will obviously speak to a different experience than a book about adopting a teenager from foster care.  If you don’t know where to start, find out what book their adoption agency recommended (a good agency will likely have some required reading).

4. Offer a listening ear

The adoption process is an emotional and often overwhelming one.  Some couples find that the grief of infertility they thought they had resolved unexpectedly returns during this time.  Others may experience depression as they are forced to live their daily lives while their child is stuck in an orphanage.  One of the greatest gifts you can give a waiting parent is to simply listen (without judgment) for as long as they need to talk.





1. Remember the new mom basics

Many of the gestures people offer towards women who have just given birth are equally as appropriate for a mother who has welcomed a child through adoption.  Organize a way for friends to sign up to bring hot meals throughout the first few weeks. Stop by and confiscate their laundry, returning it clean and folded in a few hours.  Drop off a latte or a bottle of wine.  Although your friend isn’t physically recovering, her life has just been turned upside down.  New motherhood is new motherhood, no matter how you slice it.

2.  Understand attachment and help spread the word

This is where your friends' experience differs from the typical course.  If they have just adopted a newborn straight from the hospital, mom, dad, and baby have still missed 9 months of bonding.  The baby is still learning her parents' voices and her mother's rhythms, which are new and different than what she experienced in the womb.  This is a sacred time for the three of them, so respect that.  If your friend has just adopted a child beyond the newborn stage, this point is every bit as important.  Human attachment is a tender thing, and children who have been through the trauma of biological separation often need help learning what it means to belong to and trust their parents before anyone else.

Ask your friends what they have learned about the topic and what their preferences are.  Many adoptive parents will ask that you refrain from holding the child for some months while he is learning exactly who he belongs to.  Be a good sport, even if you feel disappointed, and know that your cheerful compliance proves your committed friendship.  Your friends will no doubt be facing criticism from some friends and family members about being stingy with the baby, so be sure to support their wishes and help educate those who complain.  If you are active in the same faith community or other group, give the other members a heads-up on your friends' wishes (and the reasons behind them) so that the couple doesn’t have to personally explain it to everyone they encounter.

3. Offer a listening ear

From bemoaning her sleep deprivation to musing about how best to navigate birth parent relationships, your friend has a lot to get off her chest.  Once again being a reliable, non-judgmental, safe place to confide in will be the greatest gift you can give.  You don’t have to be educated on the issues she’s discussing; simply open yourself up to learning without necessarily offering advice. And don’t forget to bring chocolate.






-->

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)

DESIGNED BY ECLAIR DESIGNS