Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Need hope? Look around.

Commitment to social justice knows no age limits. On Monday, I attended a leadership training coordinated by Youth2. There I saw teens discussing concerns for the environment, women’s rights, poverty, homelessness and hunger, and global issues of injustice. They didn’t only talk about these concerns, but brainstormed ways they could take an active role in addressing these problems… learning how to be “solutionaries”.
I don’t remember, when I was 16, spending a school holiday trying to strategize how I  could make a difference in a global problem. Even walking out of the training, looking at the tee shirt on the Y2 member ahead of me in line, their passion inspired me.
This morning I opened the paper and read that Mary Jane Smith, one of the founders of  Unity House, had passed  away. I started my career in human services more than three decades ago (gasp- wow I don't often do that math!) at Unity House's sister agency, Mohawk Opportunities. While we met briefly many decades ago, Mary Jane didn't know me... but over the years I've watched Unity House grow and seen firsthand the positive impact their programs have had on so many lives.
As we look at the human service organizations locally, we often forget their humble beginnings 3, 4,or 5 decades ago. Many of them, Wellspring included, began because a few concerned citizens gathered and started talking about a  local issue and just like those teens at the  Youthtraining began brainstorming a plan they could implement to address a local need. It didn't escape my notice that the article about Mary Jane had a picture of her taken last year, still volunteering serving lunch to those in need at the age of 87.
Like so many of our inspiring local leaders whom we've recently lost, e.g., Denny Brunelle, former executive director of the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council (and leader on many of our local initiatives to help those in need), or Anne Palamountain, philanthropist and founding member of many local nonprofit initiatives, including Wellspring's rape crisis services, they began working to help others early in adulthood and continued to do so throughout their lives, never tiring in their commitment to those in need and to our community. I'm humbled by their compassion, generosity and leadership and grateful for their impact.  I'm also inspired as I look at a new generation of youth just as committed to making this world a better  place.
Reading the news every day, it's easy to feel hopeless. The headlines make me wonder if our challenges are overwhelming and our leaders aren't able to address the needs of the people... but when I look up from my computer screen at what people are doing, I'm inspired and hopeful. Together we can make a difference. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What Can We Learn From Tragedy?

While 2017 started bright with promise for most of us, for five people the year ended tragically almost as soon as it began. When we're bombarded with news stories about mass violence, we can get caught in the details (e.g., how many people, how did it happen, what were the motives) and lose sight of  the human impact. The Washington Post presents a brief snapshot into the people who were gunned down in the shooting in Fort Lauderdale that took the lives of 5 people, among them:
a father of 2 daughters and 3 grandchildren who was a devoted husband of 40+ years
a great grandma with a lilting British accent who was active in her faith community
a business owner whose open heart extended to adopting a large active black lab  with a missing leg, and 
a mom of 3 and grandma to 6 who was just weeks away from her 51st anniversary.

These are such senseless tragedies and when they suddenly pop on our news screens, we're struck by the unpredictability of this type of violence.

Click here to view an interesting
animation of 9 key factors
While we may not be able to accurately predict when and where the next mass shooting will happen, there are some strong correlates... and a big one is domestic violence. Using FBI data and media reports, Everytown for Gun Safety did an analysis of mass shooting (click here to read the report or  here to view an interesting animation of 9 key factors).
Here are three correlates that may surprise you:

Domestic Violence- In 57% of mass shootings, the shooter killed a current/former partner  of family member, and in more than 15% of cases the shooter had a previous domestic violence charge.

Private Residence- 70% of mass shootings (defined as an incident in which 4 or more people, not including the shooter are killed with a gun) took place in private residences, not public spaces.

Percent and Frequency- Mass shootings represent less than 1% of gun  homicides and occur fairly regularly with no more than 3 months between tragedies.

And here's one correlate that's not as strong as many would expect:

Mental Illness- In only 11% of shootings had concerns been brought to a professional prior to the rampage... and in less than 1% was the shooter prohibited from owning guns due to severe mental illness.

What can we learn from this? While the large scale public massacres command media attention, gun violence isn't limited to these events-- in fact, many mass shootings take place in homes, against family members, and fairly regularly. The correlates between domestic violence and homicide are unmistakable. I've always viewed law enforcement's response  to domestic violence as homicide prevention. I'm not by any means implying that every instance of domestic violence may escalate to a homicide, but rather that taking domestic violence seriously, assessing the  pattern of power and control, and paying attention to key indicators (e.g., threats to kills the victim or instances of strangulation, i.e., "choking" the victim) that increase risk to lethality-- these are strategies that can reduce the  possibility that domestic violence will escalate to tragic, fatal consequences.

If you or someone you know
is experiencing domestic violence call Wellspring:
Office 518-583-0280
24/7 Hotline 518-584-8188

Know the tactics  of power and control that underlie domestic violence. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, talk to a domestic violence advocate to know your options. There's so much we can't predict ... here's one thing we can do to reduce the likelihood of mass violence.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Karma, Recycling, and Ending Abuse

Happy New Year. 

This could be the easiest New year's resolution ever!
Whether you are a resolution-maker or not, you're probably bombarded by articles about creating change: weight loss plans, fitness programs,  financial planning strategies, tips to get organized...  programs for every type of resolution. Yet by this weekend a quarter of folks will have lost the resolve in their resolutions. Why? Expectations too big? Not truly committed to the goal? Life provided a reality check? Seemingly overnight, big plans become no plans. Its good to think big, but maybe we get to the end goal quicker with small steps.  

Today a colleague shared a quote that made me stop and think about all those abandoned resolutions,

And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.”
Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing
 I do better making changes really stick when I pick something easily doable and make it an ingrained part of my daily routine. You all know I'm committed to ending relationship and sexual abuse. I'm also really concerned about our environment... but I'm not always 100% with the 'reduce, reuse and recycle' mantra. But every year I pick one practice I will commit to so I will be I kinder to Mother Earth. Several years ago taking the recyclables to the transfer station, I noted how many empty laundry detergent bottles we had and got to thinking about not only the toxic chemicals in those bottles, but the energy used to transport them, the processing to make the bottles, and the possibility that a portion of them wind up in landfills leaving a permanent legacy of disrespect for the environment. I started making my own laundry detergent and haven't bought prepackaged laundry soap in years. It takes only a couple of minutes and the only waste is a paper wrapper from the Fels Naptha soap bar and 2 cardboard boxes (one  Borax and one washing soda)-- these I use to start the fire in my woodstove that heats our house all winter. It's not much but over those years  I've reduced the number of plastic bottles passing through our house by hundreds...and I've kept at it because it was a simple commitment (bonus points because it's cheaper than bottled laundry detergent, has no perfumes or dyes and works just as well). 
Each year at Christmas I look at the pile of pretty wrapping paper that gets crumpled up and put in the trash (can't burn this because of all the glossy paper with colored dyes). So this year I 'wrapped' my gifts in reusable shopping bags. It cost less than fancy paper
and was a little extra 'gift' for the recipient. Perhaps they'll think of Christmas when they're grocery shopping. I had fun all last year picking up the perfect bag with decorations suited to each  person in my life... but on December 25th my supply was gone. Well Hannaford just came to the rescue.
Throughout January, at the Hannaford store located at:
95 Weibel Avenue, Saratoga Springs NY,
Hannaford Helps Reusable Bag Program has focused on supporting:
Hannaford is donating a portion of sales  of every good karma bag to Wellspring. So stock up- save the planet- and support our work toward community free of relationship and sexual abuse. "One gesture. One person. One moment at a time."
~ Every day counts ~