Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Pamela Positive: “UnConference Room” Your Meeting with a Peaceful Banyan Tree

Benefits-of-Banyan-tree.jpg

There are many images that come to mind when we think of Asia, from dragons to beautiful beaches, spanning varied cultures. One of my favorite views is that of the banyan tree, for it must be strongly grounded in the earth, which also allows its larger branches and leaves to provide overreaching shade.

It was under a banyan tree where the Buddha felt his calling to a new level of enlightenment.  Under these same trees, Gujarati businessmen hold their meetings.  It is even used as a place for political meetings: recently in Malaysia, the state assembly met underneath the welcome atmosphere of the banyan tree.  So, for much of Asia, spirituality, entrepreneurship, politics are taking place in the outdoors.

The banyan tree represents solidity, rootedness, and strength.  At the same time, it also represents comfort, shade and welcome.  It is a source of power, balanced with peace.  It represents firmness, as well as welcome.

Is America’s Banyan Tree the Conference Room?

It is interesting how in America, and in many places across the world, most of our meetings take place in walled, sterile conference rooms.  Chairs are uniformly around the table.  The walls are usually plastered with notices about the company’s achievements.  Pens and pads are available so we can write and record and get our business done. Gosh darn it, I can hear the executives say, in this room we’re going to get to the solution, get down to business and ‘make it happen.’

Yet what if we looked at doing all of our business, or even holding all of our meetings, under a banyan tree?  This return to nature might help conversations flow more easily.

Perhaps this atmosphere would allow us to be more authentic. If we are surrounded by nature’s occasional stirring winds, visionary clouds floating across the sky, and brilliant beckoning sun, would we not also settle into a more authentic course of conversation? Could it lead to more natural, comfortable (and no less impactful, but rather moreso) solutions?   Within this reframing context of nature, we can discuss our goals and hopes and plans and perhaps achieve even greater goals.

Here’s a thought… We can replace the pen, paper and busy scribbling of notes, with more eye contact.  We supplant the flurried white board scrawls with more thoughtful listening. What a profound impact this has to have on any business relationship, business decision, and especially, with any personal matter.

Until we can “Unconference Room” your meeting space, perhaps we can imagine all of our conversations thoughtfully taking place under a Banyan tree.  A place where comfort, understanding, and right relationships result under its strong, rooted and peaceful presence.

******************

The banyan tree originally received its name from the merchants who gathered beneath it to do business; in the Gujarati language, “banya” means “merchant/grocer.” Western visitors to India observed the merchants meeting beneath the tree, and the name evolved to refer to the tree itself.  The banyan trees are given great symbolism in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Banyan trees can grow to cover hundreds of feet, and live for over a thousand years.

The Importance of Relationships

The Power of a Relationship. 

Today, I’d like to talk about the importance of a full relationship. Often, we think about someone being in our life for one, single reason.  But that’s not actually true.

In fact, every conversation, every relationship affects dozens, even thousands, of other people.  That’s right, thousands.  

unnamed.jpg

When we talk to someone, we affect them. We might ask them to do something.  That affects someone else, or even a group of people.   Even our tone can affect them: If you’re down, they might feel it. If you’re positive, you might lead them to a more peaceful state of mind.   How you affect them will affect how they treat the next person.  Every conversation is part of a chain for good, or stress, of joy or negativity.

You can make every relationship,  lead to something greater.  I want to give an example of that today.

I’ve known Chris Towle for more than 10 years. He is a significant funder of ours. But he didn’t start out as a funder.

bag-and-hands.jpg

I like creating relationships that relate to the whole person.  This is because I want to have a long-term relationship with them, which is based on them and not just money. After years of watching us, Chris donated from his family foundation, and then in subsequent years, donated stock.  So I don’t usually start fundraising from people after two or three years; then they know I value them for who they are.  Sometimes, I don’t even have to ask; they just give.

The relationship now extends into positive marketing for UniversalGiving. Chris and his wife are involved in Principia, where they invited us to speak at a conference. So you can see we’re building a long-term relationship, attaining funding, getting his company involved to give funding, and also helping with marketing. This isn’t just about a funding request.

I encourage you to think about this. How can your build positive relationships that go further than one person?

Let’s take a look at companies.  If you’re trying to attain a new client, is it just about closing a new deal?  Absolutely not.

First, it’s great to have a positive client.  That’s wonderful.  You can add to that.  We have such a positive relationship with Cisco, that former Cisco employees join UniversalGiving as a Returnee . How wonderful to get team members from Cisco!

Cisco_logo.svg.png

In addition, we can sell in our gift certificates to them: For the holidays or performance reviews, they provide gift certificates to their employees. Then, we both promote each other on social media; that’s marketing. So if you look at that, there’s a corporate contract, returnees, gift certificates, and increasing donations on our site.  Pretty spectacular!  That’s certainly beyond one conversation, one relationship.

photo-1468426925765-90c3a7b9e7c8.jpg

So as you move forward today, know that one conversation can lead to another.  This kind of mindset can build so much good for the future.   Are you stressed? It won’t draw more people to your cause.  Are you positive?  Then you can be grateful for the great partnership you have, and expand it.

Sincerely,

Pamela

 

The Classic Pamela Positive: Winning Over Obstacles

bertie_charles_forbes

“History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.”  – Bertie C. Forbes

Bertie C. Forbes (1880-1954) was the founder of Forbes magazine.  He was born in Scotland, spent time in South Africa, and emigrated to New York in 1904.  He worked at several journals and founded Forbes in 1917.  He was the Editor-in-Chief for almost 40 years, up until his death.

How do you stop a dictator?

How do you stop a dictator? That’s a good question.

Well, Africa’s been plagued with dictators in the past. But now, West Africa is starting to take a stand. Are you curious? Read on.

Because we can learn and then apply these principles in our daily lives.

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 2.17.57 PM.png

Three West African nations (Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana) have a Free status, four states have Partly Free status (Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau), and one state is in the Not Free status (Gambia), in 2017.

20160820_MAM944.png

This is according to FreedomHouse, an organization that works with local groups to promote voter participation by youth, and also monitors elections.   

Let’s take a look at Gambia. Recently, there was a “free” democratic election. During that time, Yahya  Jammeh, who was the Gambian President, didn’t win. But, he decided “he won”: he staged a coup. Similar to many other African country leaders, he just took over and he proclaimed himself ruler.

The president is elected by popular vote. Interestingly, he or she is eligible for an unlimited number of five-year terms. Elections are violent and rigged. Yahya Jammeh secured his fourth presidential term with 72 percent of the vote; the opposition parties rejected the results as fraudulent.

Yet the people and neighboring governments took a stand. ECOWAS, which is a combination of western states from Africa including (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Côte D’Ivoire) banded together.  They sent official public messages denouncing Jammeh’s take over.  When these messages didn’t work, they tried to set up diplomatic meetings with Jammeh.

Well, that didn’t work either!

African leaders, and especially dictators, can be stubborn.   They usurp power so they don’t see why should step down. If they didn’t step down for a country –  they most likely aren’t going to step down for you. But the Western African states took a further step. They began to mobilize militarily.  They planned to overturn his power and establish the rightful democratic leader.

At that point, Yahya Jammeh stepped down.

What a stunning result!

A democratic election was maintained.  

As much as the people inside the country wanted democracy, and wanted their vote to count, they didn’t quite have the strength to do it on their own. So their neighbors jumped in to support them.

*************************************************************************************************************

What does that say about our world and where it’s headed?

It says that people are caring much beyond their borders. They know that caring for one’s neighbor is the right thing to do.  If your neighbor is strong and ethical, it provides a greater support to your entire neighborhood. That extends to your city, county, nation and the world.  With just one ethical, helpful person, our entire world becomes more stable.

Let’s think about this in our own lives!

Is there a neighbor who needs some help? Could you provide some support? Maybe that neighbor is grumpy, maybe that neighbor lost someone special to them recently or even not so recently. They are still in pain.   Perhaps you can look beyond that grumpiness to provide them a coffeecake, offer to come over for tea, or walk their dog. I wonder how that would change your neighbor? How would your relationship with your neighbor change?  How would the safety and peacefulness of your home be improved? How would the safety of your entire neighborhood be uplifted?

Geopolitical events don’t just affect us in our concern and care for the world. They also hold lessons that we can translate into our day-to-day lives.

If we want world peace, it starts in our backyard.

Who needs your support today?

You’ll be strengthening your neighborhood.  Neighborhood by neighborhood we’ll be strengthening the world.

Love, Pamela

 

Background on ECOWAS

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

is a regional group of fifteen West African countries. Founded on 28 May 1975, with the signing of the Treaty of Lagos, its mission is to promote economic integration across the region.   ECOWAS is the creation of a borderless region where the population has access to its abundant resources.

What ECOWAS has created is an integrated region where the population enjoys free movement, has access to efficient education and health systems and engages in economic and commercial activities. The goal is living with dignity in an atmosphere of peace and security.  ECOWAS is governed in accordance with the principles of democracy, rule of law and good governance.

 

What’s it like to be a CASA: You Don’t Give Up and You Keep Trying (Part 2 of 2)

In this two-post series I describe my experience working with foster youth as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). Read my first post for an introduction to CASA.

I have a high-paced job, what if I can’t fulfill the requirements of being a CASA?

I have never found this to be a challenge. My supervisors are very understanding. I would make sure that you are focusing on the substance of the relationship that you are creating, and not about the amount of time you are spending. While it is important to put in about one hour a week, I find myself putting in much more because it is natural. You don’t limit your relationships to one hour.

Some weeks it can be up to six or seven hours, and other weeks thirty minutes.Your foster youth also has different needs which will necessitate different types of communication such as in-person meeting, phone, text, etc.

I do encourage you to submit your log every month. This is important for CASA to show and demonstrate the important work that you are doing and also, for your court reports. When you look back at your log, it is much easier to read them. Finally, it is most important to keep your supervisor informed of what is going on.

Have I ever felt uncomfortable with any type of inappropriate sexual situations?

Never. I don’t think, at least in my case. My youth is not thinking about that. He is thinking about how to survive.

What was one of my high points with your youth?

I have to say one of my high points (my youth is 20, so on the older end) was taking a risk. He and I have set up a weekly dinner, and it came to me for our next dinner that I should give him a teddy bear.

I thought to myself “Is this crazy? Giving a 20-year-old a teddy bear?”

It turned out to be the most heartfelt and fruitful dinner. It brought back childhood memories of his teddy bear and what it meant to him. And also how it got destroyed by him and his older brother. The teddy bear ended up becoming headless and eyeless…! (And we didn’t really get more into this).

But I encourage you to follow your gut instinct. Even if it feels strange to give a 20-year-old a teddy bear, you may be helping them reconnect with their childhood, reconnect with positive thoughts or open up unresolved issues that need to be discussed. It was a moment where I felt I was able to give him back a part of his childhood, something that we should all have. A place where we are cared for, safe and are given things that make us feel comforted and loved.

What surprised me about being a CASA?

I was surprised by how many life skills these youths need to learn and how much it relates to mental health. My entire view of mental health has been completely changed. Before I thought about mental health in very drastic terms such as depression or suicide — major things.

Now I view mental health as the ability to take responsibility in life. Not having models; not being able to take action and show up to a job training; not being able to communicate clearly; not being able to return phone calls; getting overwhelmed by setting up an appointment; fear of attaining an ID because it means responsibility… all of these things wrap up to me of mental health and primarily stem back to not having a beneficial role model. This has led to an incredible level of insecurity and lack of feeling safe in the world which prevents them, often, from being responsible citizens. That’s why you’re there, to help them navigate life, in essence.

Is there anything else I would like to share?

Sometimes, I think you have to realize that it doesn’t always feel like your efforts have made a difference — but you don’t know that.  

For example, my youth started off on the streets. We have gotten him into housing but he is not fulfilling the requirements and it looks like he is on the pathway to being kicked out. It took us ten times for us to get his ID, but now he has it. He is starting to set up appointments for job training, but then he doesn’t show up to them. He is starting to get assistance from the state, but then he trades his food cards for marijuana. So you see, a lot of back and forth. Don’t let that get you down.

The important thing is that you show up and you provide love and consistency for them that they may have never had in their lives. Even if their external circumstances don’t seem to change, you can know that somewhere deep in their soul they have felt your love. It is not just about being an American “doer” and seeing the results within a six month period because often that won’t happen.

What do I do if my youth does not show up when I contact them?

You just put in your log

Didn’t show up

Didn’t show up

Didn’t show up

You’re just honest about it. In my case, it was six months before my youth really engaged with me, but you just don’t give up. That is one of the most important things, otherwise, they think you’re “yet another person who gave up on them”. If you’re a CASA you need to stick with what you’re doing and be super committed to it.

What really helped me?

I think for me, my mindset is: this person is not my family member, but I want to work with them and advocate for them as I would for one my nephews. I am very close with my nephews and I want the best for them. They really are great people and great friends of mine, so with my youth, I thought the same thing: “I really want to help them achieve the best in life”.

When you come out with this kind of standard, that sets the tone for all your other interactions.

You don’t give up and you keep trying.

Would you want someone to give up on you?

Read my first post in this two-part series here.

Support CASA

If you want to give to CASA, please donate here.

If you would like to train to become a CASA, please contact the National Association here.

If you want to train in San Francisco, click here.