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Journey to Africa – Make Your World Bigger

Blog by Associate Rosie Blackburn

With great excitement and some fear I left the comfort of my world and embarked on an eighteen day journey to Kenya and Tanzania January 9th-27th.  Marybeth Irvine, OPA, my wonderful travel companion and I joined 18 other travelers led by Fr. Joe Mitchell and Donna Manuel from the Earth & Spirit Center of Louisville, KY.

I think I will be processing this trip for the rest of my life!  Kenya is our homeland, where we as humans began and I felt that as we drove thru the country and walked on the land.  The energy of the land is palatable.  It is truly God’s paradise.  The landscape is breath taking; I kept hearing the song “This is Holy Ground” in my head as I walked on the land and viewed it from the bus.  And the people – I struggle to find the words to describe the beautiful faces of these wonderful people.  They opened their hearts to us and welcomed us, celebrated life with us, fed us and shared their land with us.  The faces of God – loving us just because.

We visited Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, and played with these beautiful children that were so grateful we had come to visit.  They were joyful, very proud of their school and very interested in our physical appearance!  The poverty was overwhelming and yet these children found joy in what they had that day, a meal and visitors to play with!

Now that I am back home I find myself much more mindful and appreciative of my many blessings.  I am ever so thankful for water and hot showers.  My first trip to the grocery when I returned found me in tears at the abundance of choices and all the excess we take for granted.  I am forever grateful for these beautiful people showing me the face of God and the beauty of our wonderful world.

Posted in Associate Blog, News


Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Did you hear about the police officer who got caught on video playing with dolls?

If you didn’t, you missed a heartwarming story.

It goes something like this: Corporal C.B. Fleming — a 15-year veteran of the South Hill, Virginia Police Department — responded to a report of a gas leak at an apartment complex. Once first responders determined that the area was safe, Fleming took the opportunity to play with some of the neighborhood children.

Video footage shows Fleming laying on his stomach on the ground, playing dolls and talking with two young girls.

The woman who captured the video (identified as the mother and aunt of the two girls) lauded Fleming as a community “superhero” who took the time to help the children feel safe by interacting with them in a positive way (Fleming could also be seen in the video coloring with sidewalk chalk and talking with two young boys).

Fleming, of course, said he was just doing what he should.

“When I got into this job, I knew there was something different, other than just writing tickets and being the bad person all the time … I figured if I could be that bright spot in someone’s day, then that’s all that mattered.”

Fleming said he hopes his actions, and those of his fellow police officers, will lead to real change in police and community relations. In fact, according to his police chief, Fleming was doing what comes naturally for him – building authentic relationship with people in the community where he serves.

Can you imagine what would happen in our world, if each of us strived to be “that bright spot in someone’s day” and worked to build authentic relationship with the people we encounter each day?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Watch Your Language!

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

It has been a week since I watched a video of the “doll test” and I still can’t stop thinking about it.

In working to determine why I couldn’t get the video off my mind, I discovered that it was because I was trying to figure out a solution to what I saw as a problem: black children identifying black dolls as “ugly” and “bad” while identifying white dolls as “pretty” and “good”.

Before moving on, let me provide a little background:  “the doll” test is a psychological experiment designed in the 1940s in the United States to test the degree of marginalization felt by African-American children because of prejudice, discrimination, and racial segregation. The test — based on the research of Mamie Phipps Clark, a black female psychologist — was conducted by Phipps Clark and her husband, psychologist Kenneth Bancroft Clark.

During the test, the Clarks used diaper-clad dolls, identical except for color. They showed the dolls to black children between the ages of three and seven. When asked which they preferred and which was “nice” and “pretty,” versus “ugly” and “bad,” the majority of the children attributed positive characteristics to the white doll.

The test was utilized as social science evidence in lower-court cases that were rolled into the 1954 landmark United States Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. The high court cited the test in support of its conclusion that segregation harmed the psyches of black children.

While some have argued that the test is not good science, I subscribe to the notion that it says something about internalized racism and how that internalization begins at a young age.

What disturbs me is that when the doll test was duplicated 70 years later (as shown in the video that I viewed a week ago), the results were the same: black children identified the black doll as “ugly” and “bad” (while acknowledging  that the black doll looked like them) but identified the white doll as “pretty” and “good”.

So, how do we help each other embrace a belief that diversity is beautiful?

One way is to “examine” and “modify” our language. Can we really expect anything to change when we continue to define the word black as dirty, angry, evil, depressing, and hopeless and the word white as pure, clean, hopeful, happy, and optimistic? (a white lie is better than a black lie; the most disgraceful person in the family is the black sheep; black ice is deadly ice; etc.)

More than 50 years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about self-determination and how language is used to further oppress and stigmatize Black Americans. He said:

“Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything Black ugly and evil. Look in your dictionaries and see the synonyms of the word Black. It’s always something degrading and low and sinister. Look at the word White, it’s always something pure, high, and clean. Well I want to get the language right tonight.

I want to get the language so right that everyone here will cry out: Yes, I’m Black, I’m proud of it. I’m Black and I’m beautiful!”

Isn’t it time for us to evaluate our language to determine if it communicates the importance of respect and dignity to all?

Listen to Rev King here (

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Don’t Waste a Day of Your Life

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I saw a comic strip of Charlie Brown and Snoopy a few days ago that got my thinking.

Charlie Brown: “You only live once.”

Snoopy: “False. You live every day. You only die once.”

Ain’t that the truth, Snoopy!

YOLO – You Only Live Once – is typically a call to live life to its fullest extent, even embracing behavior which carries inherent risk. I know some people find that to be encouraging and perhaps exhilarating; but I find Snoopy’s take to be more inspiring because it urges us to make the most of the time we are given.

Snoopy seems to understand that we should not take life for granted; that we should do good in the world while we are here; that we should make a positive difference while we can; that we should show people that we love them every chance that we get.

Snoopy seems to be calling us to embrace our “right now”, to lead by example, to appreciate what we have, to show love to those who are in need of it, to make every moment count so that when that one day comes, we will have lived a fulfilled life.

If you knew that you wouldn’t wake up tomorrow, how would you live your life differently today?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Compassionate People Make the World a Better Place

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Amid last week’s polar vortex that froze most of the country, were heartwarming stories of people helping people.

There were police officers who made wellness checks at the homes of senior citizens and gave rides to people walking on the streets.

There was a pharmacist on a snowmobile who delivered needed prescriptions to snowed-in customers.

There were neighbors who helped neighbors, like the 82-year-old grandmother who not only ran the snow-blower in her driveway but cleared the snow for her neighbors.

There was a woman who paid for hotel rooms for 70 people living in tents in a makeshift camp near an expressway.

There were the people who placed gloves, hats, and warm clothes on a fence for people who needed them.

There were the people who provided meals and hotel accommodations for a family of nine whose apartment had neither heat nor hot water.

And I’m sure the inspirational list goes on and on.

I am a firm believer that we are here on this planet to help one another, so it warms my heart to know that there are compassionate people in the world who understand that life is hard and we need each other to overcome obstacles and meet challenges. I understand compassion to be more than kindness.

Like the Dalai Lama, I view compassion as sensitivity to the suffering of others with a commitment to do something about it. Each of us has the potential to be charitable or to be merciless. Much of what we decide to do is motivated by our own sense of “duty to others.”

As I considered this whole idea of compassion, I was drawn to the address given to a crowd of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. the night before his assassination in 1968.

During that address (known as the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech), King recast the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. In evaluating why the two religious men did not stop to help the seriously injured man on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, but the Good Samaritan did, King proposed:  “… the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me’? But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him’?”

I’m pretty sure that I know which question those “Good Samaritans” asked themselves, during the polar vortex. Which question do you ask yourself when you see someone in need?

Posted in Associate Blog, News