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Ernesto and the Holidays

 A thirty something latino man with dark wavy hair and a trimmed mustache sits alone at a table with a small, spiral note pad. He meticulously goes through some notes and scribbles down new revelations as they come to him.

He’s dressed in a nice pair of jeans, a crisp, blue button down shirt and wears practical dark, laced up shoes. He grabs his phone from his back pocket and dials. When someone on the other line answers, he speaks: 

Hello? Yes, mmm…mmm…yyy… nnn…nnn..name is Eeeeeer… eeer… nnnnnest…to. I’m cccc…cccc… calling abbbb…bout ttthhh… tttthhh..the  aaaa… aaa… ppp… part… mmm… ent.

 He’s boisterous and I try to avoid glancing over because I know other people in the Whole Foods dining area are already staring at him. Ernesto sits directly across from me, so it’s difficult not to listen in on his conversation as the volume of his voice increases when the person on the other end of the line is having a hard time understanding him.

III… mmm… ccc… ccc… ccc… calling aaa..about… th..th… the aaa…appp…part.. mmm…ment.”

Challenges

Anyone who has lived in Los Angeles knows how difficult it is to find an apartment in and around the city. It’s a monumental task for most of us; not only to find an apartment, but to find something affordable is challenging at best.

Los Angeles homelessness is surging with nearly 60,000 people in LA county alone where individuals can be found homeless on any given night. A whopping 47% of unsheltered homelessness can be found in the state of California, the highest in the country.*

  * courtesy of Los Angeles Almanac.

Tears well up in my eyes and I feel deeply for this man. I don’t know why I’m so emotional; maybe it’s because before me is someone struggling and there isn’t much I can do. So I do the only thing I can think of that may be of some help; I pray for him.  

I’m perplexed as to why I was so moved, but sometimes strangers can wake us up to the wider scope of our lives; showing us things about ourselves that are in need of attention or encouraging us in another area; venturing forth into new territory.

Giving

I take a moment and reflect upon this, the state of our country and the world. In a time of great division where many are suffering, this is when in our rawness and vulnerability we need each other the most. One way we can create unity is through giving.

Studies have shown when one gives, one receive even more in return.

 Here are some benefits in giving:

  • A feeling of happiness and release of depression.
  • Helps in alleviating stress.
  • Improves sense of self and self-worth.
  • Improves one’s energy.
  • Gives one a sense of purpose.

During the holiday season, it can be a challenging time for many so I decided to do something different.

This year instead of giving gifts to friends during the holidays, I’ve asked some if they’d be willing for us to contribute to a charity or non-profit we feel passionate about. The few that I’ve posed this offer to loved the idea. 

Charities/Non-Profits

Below are a couple of websites with a list of charities and non-profits to choose from throughout the United States.

https://www.charities.org

https://greatnonprofits.org/categories/view/homeless-and-housing

Here are a few non-profits and charities I’ve donated to and who are doing wonderful work around the world.

Save the Children

http://www.savethechildren.org

  • Save the Children helps children around the world with health, education and protection.

Oxfam

https://www.oxfamamerica.org

  • Oxfam has a wide ranges of services including: ending poverty and gender inequality, local disaster response and climate change.

Care

https://www.care.org

  • Care helps in the elimination of poverty and advocates social justice.

There are many charities and non-profits within the US and around the world and if you find one that resonates with what you’re passionate about; see if you can offer assistance and brightens someone’s holiday.

Volunteering

Another option is to volunteer at a local shelter, mission or soup kitchen. Most people who work in these facilities welcome any help or acts of kindness. Not only are you extending a hand to someone in need, but it can also help one feel more aligned and inclusive within their community.

Connecting

If you’re feeling isolated or alone, reach out to a friend and spend quality time with them.

More and more people are yearning for quality experiences versus material items during the holidays and in general. Spending time with a dear friend can uplift one’s spirit and also help gain perspective on areas that may appear overwhelming.

In speaking with a trusted friend or loved one, it can uplift a person’s wellbeing and also provide comfort and hope, which could possibly be the greatest gift of all.

Peace and Good Will to All

May our hearts be filled with kindness, love and contentment during this holiday season and as this decade draws to a close, let us share and have compassion for each other, uniting and allowing peace to envelop within and around the world.


Peace and blessings,
Napag Stacy

P. S. I wanted to take some time to say thank you to my family, my husband, friends and clients. You have all added to my life in glorious ways and I am grateful!


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A Poem to My 110 Year Old Self

Studies have shown that writing down thoughts and inspirations of gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to make us feel happier and to create more meaningful and joyful experiences in our lives. By expression gratitude on a regular basis, the impact can last for months and deepen one’s own well being.

A few months ago, I was part of a wonderful class; a community of writers from around the world. We had weekly assignments where we would critique, inspire and empower each other. Our last assignment was to imagine ourselves living to the ripe age of 110. Knowing that we were nearing the end of our life, we were to write an encomium –
an expression of high praise for the life we had lived.

We were not only sharing our life, (as well as what we imagined our future life would look like and be) but we were also expressing gratitude for all the experiences; the many colors of joy, sorrow, elation and anguish because all of our experiences have their lessons to teach us. Give it a try and notice where you feel more joyful in your life and subsequently, more at peace.

 

I chose to write my encomium in the form of a poem. Enjoy!

 

Firefly they call you 

Lighting up the night

Your tender belly illuminating your flight

What a majestic tapestry you are weaving

Of a well lived life.

Shine on, sweet one. Shine bright.

As you grew more curious, the seeker that you are

You reach high through the treetops to the glittering stars

And when the turmoil within your family seemed too great to bear

I gently murmured to your aching wounds –

Take heart, dear one. Take care.

The chaos of the world grew louder 

At times, you were distraught

But you kept listening, hearing my voice

You, a Phoenix rising

Continued to soar.

Fly on, free spirit. Fly on.

Meeting your beloved mate 

Under a canopy of stars deep in the African night

A love so profound you knew to wait

This man now your husband, your Chief 

And you his Queen, his wife.

Love on, brave one. Love on.

Passionately working side by side with your beloved

Building bridges beyond borders

Your conviction and joy unbound

An ambassador of peace; your mission discovering and creating 

Compassion for common ground. 

Lead on, gentle one. Lead on.

As your tapestry of light flourishes

A splendor of colors and deep, sumptuous hues

Your weaving strands connecting others

Their light shining with you.

You raise your voice for others

Standing with them in unity; their time long overdue

Honoring them with your actions and words

You stand for their truth.

Stay strong, dear one. Stay strong and true.

And even when doubt would cloud your mind

You remembered the riches of being alive

Were the experiences that cannot be changed

With the passing of time.

 

The thoughtful conversations with your father, hours on end

Mom tending to her garden and your child’s first grin.

Gentle kisses from your lover under a shooting star 

And cool summer raindrops caressing your warm skin —

Yes, these are the moments you will remember by far.

Remember, kind one. Remember and rejoice on.

Your love ones now encircle you

With heartfelt messages and tearful farewells

Your eyes fixated towards the heavens

You know it’s your time

You know this all too well.

For your grand life is before you

Luminous and dazzling

A blazing fire in the evening night

It comforts and soothes, it radiates and glows

As you say your last goodbye


And as your tapestry continues to unfold,

Its fiery embers float towards the infinite sky

I stroke your silvery, long mane of hair

Whispering sweetly in your ear 

One last time.

 

Thank you dear love, for this glorious tapestry of your life.

Thank you dear love, for shining so bright.

Peace, love and blessings,
Stacy

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Field of Honor

“What?”  I ask in horror.

“I’m telling you this is what happened.” My husband says emphatically.

Chief Suale teaching a traditional African drumming workshop.

A while ago, Chief taught an African drumming class to some colleagues of mine; he loves sharing his culture with anyone who is willing to learn. He’s a natural, gifted teacher and on that day we communed together over stories, food, drumming and laughter.

Afterwards, Chief and I pack the drums in our car and strolled over to the Promenade in downtown Santa Monica. The 3rd Street Promenade is a popular, open-air street mall with shops, restaurants and live entertainment. I suggested Chief explore the area while I finished up work in the next couple of hours.

I met up with my husband around 4:30pm where he shares this news with me. 

3rd Street Promenade

Chief dancing and wearing the traditional Dagomba smock.

“I was sitting outside one of the stores on the Promenade, when a security guard came out, and stared at me. He just kept looking at me suspiciously like I had done something wrong.”

I’m still grabbling with what he’s saying.

 “What store was this security guard at? Why was he doing this?” I demand.

“I don’t know.” He replies. “He just kept staring at me, so I took off my hat, so he could see me and that I wasn’t trying to hide anything.”

I can’t wrap my head around this so I ask Chief some more questions to gain clarity.

“Wait, let me get this straight. You were sitting in a public space, minding your own business when this security guard came out of the store, saw you, and stares at you in a disapproving way?”

“Yes.” He replies.

“I was never in the store he was working at. Chief replies. He just stares at me as if I had taken something or planning to steal something.”

“That’s horrible!”

The 3rd Street Promenade.

I’m shouting now and a few people at a nearby bus stop glance over at us.

Chief goes on:

“Then, he went back into the store and came back out with another security guard. Now both are staring at me; sizing me up.” 

My mouth’s agape and my face goes flush while my body shakes. I’m seething, and my first thought is to march over to this store wearing a pair of steel toed Doc Martin boots, find that security guard and kick him hard in the nuts. 

Not the most enlightened reaction I admit, but it did cross my mind.  

AND YET…

This is my hudband; someone I love deeply who is being harassed and judged by the color of his skin and quite possibly by what he is wearing – a traditional Ghanaian Dagomba smock and hat.

Travel Ban

My husband and I waited nearly 4 years to be together on one continent — to physically be together for longer than three to four weeks time and even then, we were unsure if his visa would be approved because:

  1. He is from Africa.
  2. He is a practicing Muslim. 

The White House has put forth a travel ban that specifically targets certain African nations that are predominantly Muslim. Ghana was not included in this ban; however, with this current, erratic administration; who knows when that could change and turn our lives (and many others) completely upside down? This travel ban and the fact that hate crimes have grown over the past year here in the United States is deeply unsettling.

Back in Santa Monica, I turned my anger into a pep talk.

“Don’t let this person’s fear ruin your day and what just took place here at the drumming workshop. Because that is what this security guard and his sidekick were exhibiting: fear.”

“I’m not.” He says to me reassuringly.

There is still some anguish in his eyes and it sears my heart.

Chief continues.

“I didn’t want any trouble, but I also wanted them to know that if they had anything to say to me they should say it to my face, so I got up, looked both of them in the eye, and walked between them. I didn’t say anything, but I looked both of them in face to let them know if they have something to say, they should say it to me right now.”

“I’m really glad you did that.” I said. 

My husband is the sweetest, kindness, most good-natured person I know. He’s taught me so much about love and compassion and I’m certainly a better person for knowing him. That’s why this is so incredibly hurtful and hard to comprehend.  

A Realization

I realize what happened to my husband is a very small drop in the bucket in our country when it comes to racism, but it’s still racism nonetheless and since my husband is from Ghana and has rarely experienced this type of discrimination, it’s an ugly reception to his first time being in America and his new home. 

Even when we first got married, there were some friends who voiced their “concerns” about Chief and our marriage. I couldn’t believe my friends were emboldened to have conversations with me not even realizing or taking into consideration how hurtful they were being.

They masked their veil of concern as an act of “love” when let’s be real – it was racism seeping through in the most subtle ways. I truly wonder if they would’ve been as concerned for me if I had met a white male who lived in Denmark and worked in pharmaceuticals or even something less conventional, like working in the circus. No, my guess is they most likely wouldn’t be.   

A Retreat in Santa Cruz

Recently, I went on a writing retreat where a well-known author shared a story that went something along the lines of this.

A happily married couple who had been together for many years were suddenly faced with a terrible diagnosis: the wife had cancer and the chances of her surviving were slim.  

She asks her husband: “What will you do if I die?” 

After a moment, he replies:

I want to become a monk. My heart is in transcendental meditation and I feel called that this is my true purpose.”

She nods and says: “Whether I survive this cancer or not, I want you to promise me you will follow this calling.”

With the help of her husband, the wife survived the cancer. Soon after, they divorced, and he went to pursue his calling and she followed hers.

An Epic Love Story or a Horrible Outcome?

One could view this as a horrible ending or one could view it as an epic love story — where the wife knows in her heart that her husband’s passion needs to be fulfilled and instead of being tethered to their marriage, she sets him free to follow his calling.

I thought deeply about this story while I was at this retreat as the event on the Promenade involving my husband was still festering in my mind.

That evening I rang my husband.

“Hi babe, how’s it going?” I said.

“I’m fine sweetheart. How are you? It’s good it hear your voice.”  He replies.

Tears are now streaming down my cheek and even though I don’t want to say what I’m about to say – I have to.

My voice cracks:

“Sweetheart, I cannot get out of my mind what that man did to you on the Promenade in Santa Monica. Again, I’m sorry that happened and you should never feel uncomfortable sitting in a public place and being who you are.” 

I pause and gather my bearings.

“My dear, I want you to know that if you aren’t happy here or if you don’t feel comfortable and you want to go back to Ghana, I will understand.”

I take a deep breath and continue.

“You have given up so much to be here; your family, your friends and I know at times it’s been difficult. So if you feel that this isn’t working and you don’t feel comfortable or safe being here, I’ll understand if you want to leave and go back to Ghana. We will find another way.”

Silence fills the airwaves and it seems like years. I try to hold back the tears but they steadily flow while I wait for a response. Chief and I have talked about spending time in both countries; however, was I naive in thinking it would work?

Or is it simply not an option as I once thought. I can move seamlessly from my world to his and back again, but it may not be as easy for him due to America’s history with his country. I don’t want him to go, but this is purely for my own selfish reasons. I love him and I want him to be happy; his happiness is what matters now.

Finally my husband speaks.

“Sweetheart, I really appreciate you saying this to me. But I don’t want you to worry any more about that security guard so please put him out of your mind, because I’ve already have.”

He goes on.

“What’s important is our love for each other and I’m so happy we now get to be together and we can spend the rest of our lives together. So please my dear, let’s focus on our love because this is what’s important. I love you pam pam with all my heart.”

Pam pam means “very” in Chief’s native language. I love you pam pam means: I love you very much.

I’m sobbing on the other end of the phone. This man, who happens to be a Chief in his country; who takes care of many people and is the most loving, kind, generous and compassionate man is willing to put up with the hideousness of racism in our country because he LOVES me.

I want to wave a magic wand or nod my pony tail, genie head and erase racism from this earth. And while I’m at it, let’s throw in sexism, ageism, homophobia and bigotry in this vanishing act as well.

But alas, that isn’t going to happen in an instant… HOWEVER, I can do my part.

I can be that one drop in the bucket and continually add my drop until it becomes a powerful and enduring ocean.

Field of Honor

Field of Honor is a term I learned from the well known author at that retreat and I loved it so much I decided to incorporate it into my work. Field of Honor is standing up for something that you believe with your heart and soul; a declaration and the willingness to take positive action to honor it. 

  • I am standing up for Kindness. Often times we are quick to judge or criticize. When someone lashes out in anger, more often than not that person is hurting and in pain. Kindness is the tool of Compassion. Be kind. And if it’s not possible to be kind (i.e. if the relationship is abusive) than wish that person well and be on your way. Kindness also applies to yourself.
  • I am standing up for Unity. Unity at its core is connection and common purpose. From the depths of my Soul I believe we are all connected. If we realized that we’re all in this together, I believe we’d work harder to find common ground versus letting fear take over and divisiveness becoming a prevalent factor in our country at this time.

  • I stand for Equality. We as human beings all deserve kindness, happiness, dignity and respect. No one is less than or better than. We all have the same emotions, we all have dreams, we all long to be happy. Most of all, we deserve equal rights and equal opportunities.

I recently became a member of the ACLU; a civil rights organization who is one of the leading voices of fairness, justice and equality. The organization continuously works to defend and preserve the people’s rights and liberties as well as empowers communities throughout the United States.

Through conscious dialogue and positive action it is my hope I can achieve these Fields of Honor; both in my every day interactions as well as incorporating my Fields of Honor into my long term goals.

What is your Field of Honor?

Let’s begin creating a more thoughtful dialogue and look deeper into ourselves; to not only see but also make a concerted effort to do better now. Now is the time. 

Because as the great Maya Angelou said:

Now that I know better, I do better.

 This is not to shame anyone— far from it. It’s a rally cry for us; the collective whole to continually develop more thoughtful dialogue, actions and awareness towards each other.

Let love, compassion and understanding be the force that drives us versus fear, anger and hate. Because for me, this is the only path and I’m committed to it; the path of leading with an open and courageous heart filled with love, understanding and compassion.

I have decided to stick with Love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.  — Martin Luther King Jr.  

Love. Let’s find our way back to love. Or as my husband says: 

Tiyumtaba – which means: Let Us Love One Another.

Because in the end, this is what we are all made of — Love. Magical, wondrous, expansive LOVE.

Peace, love and blessings,

Napag Stacy