Tag Archives: empathy

Intent of the Day: Practice Empathy

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Empathy is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”

The action of understanding is an interesting sentence. It reminds us that it is an act, it is a choice. It’s not a thing you should consider yourself exempt from. It’s not that some people are empathetic and some people aren’t. It means that, for the most part, empathy is a trait you can choose to develop. Today our intent is to practice empathy.

And why does it matter at all?  Continue reading

Eric Garner and the Goal of Meditation

This week I met with a number of teachers and administrators at a school in Los Angeles to talk about mindfulness for students. I had reached out to the school after seeing a presentation that said stress was the number one concern of students, parents and teachers. Sadly this didn’t surprise me as I know it to be the case for many students, at many schools, and in fact for many parents (myself included). Continue reading

Campaign Video Teaches Lessons in Empathy for War Torn Families

If you made a compilation video of one second of every day for a year, what would it look like? A campaign video to raise awareness of the political strife in Syria wanted to show you what it would look like for a child stuck in the middle of a war zone. It follows a little girl from blowing the candles out on her birthday cake to exactly one year later. She goes to school. She reads books. She hangs out with her parents. Then small things start to change and rapidly her one one second a day shows her being scared, being shuffled from place to place, her neighborhood being bombed, refugee camps and hospitals.

The tagline of the video is “Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening somewhere.” It’s an eerie message as the world watches the current situation unfolding between Ukraine and Russia. Will those children lead similar lives to the girl in this video? How many candles will they blow out on their next birthday cake? It is naive to think that any singular one of us can have an effect on those less fortunate than us or that we have the power to save all of those stuck in tumultuous political climates. We can’t save them, but what we can do – and are encouraged to do with videos like this – is look at ourselves and bring more empathy into our every day lives. When all of us start looking at our actions as having ripple effects then we create a more compassionate global community.

The world doesn’t change with one person but we can start making a small difference with one intent at a time. Thanks to this video I intend to live with more empathy. What can you do to make the world a more compassionate place?

“Giving is Communication”: This Incredible Video Will Change Your Life

The title doesn’t lie. This video offers a poignant a message on the power of service, compassion, and gratitude, told through the lens of one incredible and fleeting act of kindness.

This video was made by TrueMove-H, an arm of Thai mobile conglomerate True Corporation. The video serves as a commercial, but also doubles as a meditation on the importance of real human connection in changing people’s lives and spreading empathy to every corner of the world.

Take a look and let the video’s message go to work in your heart:

If you look at your life and how far you’ve come, there are undoubtedly faces sprinkled throughout who had an impact on you along the way. They may be teachers, parents, mentors, or friends. They may be strangers. Sometimes it’s those fleeting, half-developed conversations in passing – on the subway, in the supermarket, on an airplane – that struck you most potently and in some way influenced the course your life would take.

We invite you to reach out in gratitude to those important people who helped you become the person you are today. And for all those unnamed strangers, the briefly known, angels in disguise, send your thanks outward. Pass it on. Pay it forward. Love and service make the world go ’round. And you are part of that essential cycle.

Did this video inspire you? Who are you grateful to? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

An Open Love Letter to All the Judgmental, Racist, Sexist, Homophobes Out There

UntitledBy Chris Grosso

Hate, negativity, close-mindedness—none of this is new. Being heavily tattooed with big holes in my earlobes, a skateboarder and a fan of punk/hardcore music since my teenage years has left me all too familiar with judgmental people, especially growing up in a small town before these things started to become somewhat socially acceptable.

Disapproving looks, comments under the breath, or, in some cases, blatantly to my face, have been commonplace throughout my life, and it’s something that has led me time and again to seriously contemplate why people are the way they are. Particularly, why do people feel the need, or, that they have the right to cast judgments and write someone off based solely on outer appearances or personal lifestyle choices?

There’s really no simple answer. Each person is a unique individual with a unique set of circumstances that has led them to become the person they are today. One thing I’ve learned about myself, however, and my own judgments (because yes, I too am human and have no shortage of them), is that it’s rooted in fear.

For me, I’ve learned that being a counterculturist from a very early age, or, raging against the machine (though truth be told, I often wasn’t quite sure exactly what machine I was raging against) has often left me judgmental towards those in the mainstream media—from spiritual teachers to musicians, actors and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly grateful for my punk/hardcore roots as they dismantled a lot of the naivety in my otherwise culturally conditioned mind, but I am definitely seeing some of the after effects playing out years later in my adult life (though adult or not, I still listen to plenty of punk/hardcore).

The fear of seeing myself as a “conformist” for nothing more than liking a popular band, or reading one of Oprah’s official book selections, or maybe, just maybe even admitting that someone like Justin Timberlake actually has some talent stems from fear. I mean really, why else do I feel the need to completely write these people off simply because they don’t look, talk or act like me? Isn’t that on a comparable level to what the close-minded individuals I’m writing about in this article are doing? Sure, they may be coming from a more hateful place, but at the end of the day, a close-minded judgment is a close-minded judgment.

I’m not here to make excuses for anyone, because hateful rhetoric of any kind turns my stomach. Every time I see the Westboro Church protestors and their “God Hates Fag” signs I feel my entire body begin to tense up, however, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t also make me feel a deep sadness and compassion for them.

I’ve been to some very dark places in my life. I lived for many years as a hardcore addict, and there were countless nights I would lay in a dark room wishing for death to take me. I was filled with fear, self-hatred and disdain for God, or whatever “it” was out there that created this whole insane goddamn world (how I felt then, not now). I lost so many years of my life to those experiences that now, years later having come out of the other side of them, I can’t help but contemplate what it’s like for others as they go to bed each night, or in this particular case, hate-filled people.

I put myself in their shoes and imagine what it must be like to lay their head down each night, filled with so much anger, hatred and fear. I’m sure the majority of it for these people is on a subconscious level, but still, it’s there. So whether they realize it or not, it’s making their lives what I could only imagine to be a complete living hell.

When I sincerely put myself in their shoes, it becomes virtually impossible for me to muster any judgments to cast back on them, no matter how much I disagree because honestly, all I’m left with is the desire to hug every single one of them. To really hold them in my arms and let them know that it’s going to be okay. To let them know they are loved and that whatever pain they are holding inside can be healed. To look them in the eyes with the compassionate understanding and again, tell them it’s going to be okay— that we’ve all suffered, and in varying degrees we all still hurt and suffer. I want them to know it’s all part of the human experience, and that since they are a fellow brother or sister in this journey, that I honor and love what they are beneath the thoughts and beliefs that are temporarily lodged in their minds.

Maybe some of you believe I’m naïve for thinking like this, and who knows, maybe I am, but this is what’s in my heart. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my travels, it’s that when I lay myself aside and allow my heart to do the driving, it never, ever, steers me in the wrong direction. I just don’t want to add to any more hatred to this world, and in this very moment, that’s the ultimate truth of what’s in my heart.

* * *

-1Chris Grosso is an independent culturist, freelance writer, spiritual aspirant, recovering addict, and musician. He serves as spiritual director of the interfaith center The Sanctuary at Shepardfields and is a correspondent for the Where Is My Guru radio show. He created the popular hub for all things alternative, independent, and spiritual with TheIndieSpiritualist.com and continues the exploration with his debut book titled Indie Spiritualist (Beyond Words/Atria Books, February 2014). A self-taught musician, Chris has been writing, recording, and touring since the mid-1990s. 
 
Connect with Chris online at The Indie Spiritualist, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

8 Tools to Free Yourself from Bullies and Attract People Who Respect You

Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 1.19.20 PMHave you ever been bullied? Were you able to respond to the bully in a way that valued YOU?

I grew up with a mother who was a bully. My response was to shut down into a kind of frozen numbness. When I was 12 I started smoking cigarettes and at 16 I started drinking – all to continue the numbing process so as not to feel the pain.

Now, many years of therapy and meditation later, I’ve un-numbed myself, let go of cigarettes and alcohol, and found my true self. Life is filled with love, joy, and inner peace. Along the way, I had to learn how to stand up for myself and speak my truth. It took courage and perseverance, but  I arrived at a place where I can respond to people in-the-moment if they are disrespectful.

I continued to attract bullies until I learned to step into my power, be vulnerable, and state my truth.

Here are my 8 Keys to addressing a bully and giving them an opportunity to apologize. They might apologize, or they might not – I’ve experienced both. Either way, the success is yours, because you have spoken your truth. Your self-confidence builds and eventually, if a bully starts up, you can dismiss them quickly, and easily, without getting upset.

1. Be Emotionally Honest With Yourself.
Are you emotionally honest? Ask yourself: How do I feel when a person is abusive to me? Angry? Hurt? Paralyzed with fear? Numb? The important thing here is to be HONEST WITH YOURSELF about how you feel. This is the primary key to freeing yourself from the prison of victimization.

2. Accept – Don’t Judge Yourself
Keep the focus on yourself, not on the bully. Accept your present moment, whatever it contains. Beware the ego coming in and dismissing your feelings, saying things like: ”It’s no big deal”, “I’m fine” etc. The Ego doesn’t like us being put down so it might try and distract you by focusing on the bully or rationalize you out of your feelings. Stay with your present-moment reality, no matter how uncomfortable (uncomfortable is good because it means you are moving away from  an old habit that doesn’t serve you) – simply allowing things to be as they are, without judging yourself. And have compassion for yourself – you’re doing the best you can with the best conscious awareness you have in the moment.

3. Listen To Your Body
If you don’t know how you feel, your body will tell you. Are you contracted in fear or rage? Is your heart heavy with pain? Or do you just feel numb all over? Whatever is happening, allow it to be so. Your body is your friend. It acts like a shock absorber in stressful situations to help you deal with things. Pay attention because the body gives us warning signals when we are not in harmony and at ease with a person/situation. The more in tune you are with your body, the easier it is to address things early on, before they escalate into something worse.

4. Get Support
Find a friend or a family member you are close to, someone who loves you very much. Tell them what happened. This will bring you some instant relief and the powerful loving support you need to speak up to the bully. Allow yourself to RECEIVE the love of your friend to fill yourself up and build your confidence.

5. Be Willing To Let Go of the Person/Situation
Before you address the bully, spend some time in self-reflection and realize that you might have to walk away from this person, or from this situation. Friends can be helpful here to help you see things clearly. You might not have to let go, but you might. A lot depends on the response of the bully. Do they apologize? Do they “get it”? If not, they are highly likely to bully you again.

6. Speak Your Truth
Speaking your truth means respecting yourself enough to let people know that you deserve respect. Bullies will transform, or leave. Either way, you win!

Best case scenario is to speak to the bully in person, in a calm, courteous, respectful manner, simply stating how you feel about what happened. Bring a friend as a witness and for support. If that is not possible, talk on the phone, your friend standing by. Third best option – send an email or letter. Know this truth: bullies, underneath their aggressiveness, are cowards. In many instances, they are embarrassed you’ve called them out and apologize, which allows the possibility of taking the relationship to a whole new level. If they don’t apologize, see #5!

7. Be Courageous and Allow Yourself To Be Vulnerable
Courage means going into the unknown in spite of all the fears. Courage does not mean fearlessness. Fearlessness happens over time when you go on being more and more courageous. In the beginning, the only difference between a coward and a courageous person is that the coward listens to their fears and follows them; the courageous person puts them aside and goes ahead. The courageous person can say, for example: “What you said hurt me”, in spite of  inner trembling and a constricted throat.

Be willing to be vulnerable, befriend your fears, and remember that this situation is happening for you, not to you. It’s helping you step out of victim into mastery of yourself. It’s helping you expand even more into who you are.

8. Practice Expressive Meditation
Expressive Meditation techniques can help you become more aware of your feelings and be honest with yourself. The Gibberish expressive meditation is great for releasing the charge of  anger, rage, frustration and resentment, and helps you come back to a calm, neutral place of clarity.

You can learn to express your emotions without being emotional.

Expressive techniques for healing grief, sadness, and emotional pain, help with the emotional wounding that can keep you in a victim state. You will experience pain transforming into peace and love.

From personal experience these 8 keys work! By speaking your truth you attract people who treat you with courtesy and respect…. because you are treating YOURSELF with courtesy and respect!

I look forward to your comments.

You’re Great and You’re Awesome Just As You Are (Part 2)

Click here to read part 1 of Trent’s story!

Born with blonde hair in a brunette-only town, Trent decides finally to show everyone his true hair color and true self. The townspeople attack him for his “otherness,” and Trent runs and hides in a nearby forest until sunset. Approached by an old man who listens to the tale of his woe, Trent receives the most powerful advice of his life.

* * *

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 10.28.10 AMThe wise man was brilliant and very aware.

He took in a breath, then started to share:

“We are truly born great, just as we are!

Our lives are important. You’re amazing, my young star.

But with others, they think, it’s for them to say

Who is fine, who is good, who is right, who’s okay.”

“For greatness is not in brown hair or blond.

Greatness is not in how our words sound.

Greatness is not on our outside – our skin.

Greatness, true greatness, always happens within.”

 

“We just can’t know how great you can become

By looking at hair color. That’s crazy, that’s dumb.

Down deep we’re amazing and awesome and bold.

Down deep is our value, our treasure, our gold.”

 

“No one has eyes to see what you see.

No one can tell you who or what you should be.

That’s your job. Yes it is. It’s all up to you.

It’s your work and your life. You’ve got to be true.”

 

“Life isn’t easy, it’s tough and it’s trying.

It gives you hard tests to make sure you’re applying

What you know of TrueYou, what gifts you receive,

How great you can be and what you believe.”

 

“You were born awesome – awesome indeed.

But to live each day awesome you must become freed

From the judgments of others, from perspectives so narrow

To let your light soar like a brilliant gold arrow.”

“The world needs TrueYou – the “you” as you are.

Blond or brunette, gay, straight or bizarre.

You are you, and amazing! The “you” born just right.

You were born to shine brightly, to share your great light.”

 

But you can’t shine in life, when you let yourself hide.

And you can’t change the world, if you’re ashamed inside.

You didn’t choose how you’re born, where you’re from.

But you can surely choose the “you” you become.

 

Young Trent felt alive and committed to greatness.

He thanked the wise man but feared for the lateness.

His family’d be worried, scared and unbound,

That young Trent was not home, not safe and not sound.

 

He hurried right home in the dark of the night.

But this time for him, a walk without fright.

More aware, more informed and so much more wise.

He got to his door at a quarter to five.

 

Once home and together, the lost son lamented

With details and stories. The sobbing relented.

Trent shared a sound lesson of power and strength.

They stood right by him; they’d go to great lengths

To handle what happens, to just rise above.

To help Trent show up to a life he can love.

 

The next day with power and confidence glowing,

Trent moved through the town without any fear showing.

He let loose his blond hair and wore it with pride.

He stood up to names and to insults so snide.

 

His courage to be true had others inspired,

The insults soon stopped, mean comments subsided.

Trent showed that hair color makes no difference at all

Be true to yourself and you’ll never feel small.

We didn’t choose how we’re born, where we’re from.

But we can surely choose the “who” we become.

 

And soon many others with all hair colors flowing,

Appeared in the town, the numbers were growing.

People in fear with hair once dyed brown,

Were actually there hiding, still living in town.

 

Pretending is bad, it loads on the strife.

Hiding restricts us, it limits our life.

We are each given gifts to discover and use,

And we shortchange the world if we don’t know or refuse

To be open and honest and accept the real “me”.

Trent learned that it takes this to really be free.

 

In just that one moment, things started to change.

People are people, not weirdos or strange,

Just people, all different, all great, all divine,

Allowed to be true, to be honest, and fine.

 

And changed they all were from perspectives so narrow.

They cheered and applauded and hailed Trent like pharaoh.

But Trent just continued to live life each day,

Honest and great, in his unique way.

 

From that day on, in towns far and near

That kept people out because of some fear.

Now invited them in – all are welcome you know.

We all belong. Yes we do! It is right. It is so.

 

Come out from your hiding. Join life. Be alive!

When you hide you stay small and afraid – you can’t thrive.

You’re an original, not a copy or fake.

You’re the real deal, just perfect; you are no mistake.

 

So find your right place, as soon as you can.

Be an accountant, a salesman, a singer or stunt man.

It’s all up to you, the directions you choose.

It’s all up to you, don’t wait, don’t you snooze.

Each day that goes by, you never get back.

Each moment, each day, each minute, each track

Is gone. Yes it is, but the next one is here.

Use it wisely. Don’t waste it! Let your best self appear.

 

You were born awesome, no matter what you’ve been taught.

You were born amazing, born cool – you got what you got.

It’s your gift. It’s yours. It’s all just for you.

It’s divine in its nature; be true to your “who.”

 

Be yourself, be your best. Live life your own way.

Be proud, find your place, make the most of each day.

You’re great and your awesome, just as you are.

Be your true self, be a bright shining star.

Related Articles:

3 Ways to See the Gift in Each Moment

Why You Should Start Each Day With “Aloha!”

5 Ways to Wake Up Happy Each Day

 

You’re Great and You’re Awesome Just As You Are (Part 1)

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 10.09.20 AMIn a town far away on top of a hill,

Lived people so narrow, judgmental, and shrill.

They decided on high that all hair should be brown.

They decided for everyone who lived in their town.

 

“To live here,” they cried, “brown hair is a must.

Brown hair is just right, all others are bust.

If other than brown is just who you are,

Then you must leave. Depart! Go very far!

For we won’t have people who don’t look like us.

Brown is what’s right. Our rules. It is thus!”

 

In one of the families, young Trent was born third.

In a family so big and so famous was heard,

A cry of great grief like someone had died,

The aunts and uncles and parents all cried.

Young Trent, their treasure, though brown hair expected,

Was born blond, a towhead, a child rejected.

 

Though cute and adorable, smart with eyes wide,

His parents knew that his hair had to hide.

If the neighbors and townspeople had any doubt,

That Trent was not brown-haired, the family was out.

 

From the day he could crawl, Trent’s hair was dyed brown.

This gave them permission to live in this town.

His parents feared someday that blond hair would show,

Because hair on a kid never ceases to grow.

 

Each Saturday night as the bath waters ran,

A small dab of brown came out of the can,

To cover those roots of the hair that kept growing,

Like a lawn after rain that needed some mowing.

 

And so it was thus, each day spent in “hair-hiding,”

In plain sight, with a hat, and some dye so complying.

And all seemed as okay, no foul and no harm,

Until one day, that day, there came cause for alarm.

That day, at the mirror, young Trent stood there staring,

At brown hair AND blond hair – so great, and so glaring.

He’d been told his whole life about hair not so brown,

These people were gross, not fit for their town.

He realized that day he was different than most.

He was blond, not brown-haired. He’s handsome, not gross.

 

He called to his parents to share his great joy

He was different – unique – not an average boy.

He loved this about him. It gave him great pride.

He was different indeed. He had nothing to hide.

 

We are each born great, we’re remarkable art.

We are perfect, unique, not a kind of half-start.

We can’t change who we are. That’s a great thing.

We are who we are; it’s our hard-wiring.

 

His parents warned, they cautioned and cried.

“Being different isn’t easy, so please Trent just hide.

Let’s dye your hair brown so you fit and blend in.

Let’s get the brown back so life’s safe as it’s been.”

 

But Trent just said, “No!” on that major day.

“Born different, born right,” is just what he’d say.

“Born blond, not brown-haired, is how I exist.

Being true to myself is what I insist.”

 

“For someone much greater thought I should be,

A towhead, a blond, not a fake brown-haired me.

Who are these others, with comments to make?

I am who I am. God made no mistake.”

 

The hair dying stopped on that fateful day.

Pretending was done on the 18th of May.

Proud to be done with the hair-dying story,

Trent wanted his real life, a life of grand glory.

A life that was honest and open and clear,

A life to be lived without hiding or fear.

 

Trent marched to school with hair like the sun.

The gold in it shone, like threads that been spun,

But support did not happen, not a moment or second.

It didn’t work out as he thought or had reckoned.

They taunted and teased, chased, hit and called nay!

It changed all his friends in only one day.

 

Chased into the woods, with mean words attacking.

Trent stayed hiding there ‘til daylight went packing.

He hid in the dark and was sobbing with fear,

That someone who hated his hair could be near.

 

“How could this all matter?” He wondered. He cried.

“How could being different make others despise?

I have no control of the color of my hair,

Born with it dark or born with it fair.

Like our gender, or height, preference or skin tone

We get what we get, it’s really our own.

For down deep I’m still me, the same me I have been.

Down deep, I’m still Trent, their classmate and friend.”

 

“How can I live in a me that’s not real?

Who can pretend and not really feel?

Who cares if my hair is dark or it’s light.

I say for me, what’s wrong and what’s right.”

 

And in that tough moment, a moment of fear,

Young Trent saw a stranger, approaching, quite near.

A man with a beard, long, thick and so white;

A smile so warm, so kind and so bright.

“What brings you to woods, so dark and so deep?

The old man continued, “And can cause you to weep?”

 

Trent shared his sad story in every detail.

The old man just listened and grew very pale.

He waited ‘til young Trent was all about finished,

Did not interrupt, critique, or diminish

The sadness, the pain, the hurt so disarming

That someone so young could find life so alarming.

Once Trent had recounted his unhappy story,

The old man responded with strength and with glory.

His words were bold, his lessons were wise.

Trent listened intently for ways to devise,

A way to be happy when others all yack.

To be strong and courageous when others attack.

 

Stay tuned for the rest of Trent’s story!

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Paula Deen’s Public Apology – Will Her Public Shaming Transform a Larger Racist Society?

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 5.04.48 PMIn a recent deposition for a lawsuit on charges of racial discrimination, celebrity chef Paula Deen shocked the public by admitting to using racist slurs. The ongoing controversy surrounding this revelation has starkly countered the welcoming, motherly persona she embodies on her show. Is it all a lie, one might ask? Can she really be so unconscious and insensitive as to believe her comments might be remotely acceptable?

First it’s important to understand exactly how this story unfolded, as many sensational headlines about the events might be misleading. According to CNN, Deen and her brother have been involved in a civil lawsuit in which a former employee of one of their restaurants has charged the pair with racial discrimination. In the deposition, recorded in May, Deen admits to using the “n-word,” as well as to planning for a “very southern-style plantation wedding” for her brother. You can see more of her statement in the video below:

A cascade of scandals have followed the distribution of the deposition last week, including Deen’s “no-show” on the ‘Today’ Show and the cancellation of her own Food Network show. Many of Deen’s other sponsors have also cancelled their contracts with her, and many others are bound to follow. With her life as she knows it falling apart, Deen released a public apology to account for her actions. Watch the video her and see what you think.

It’s remarkable to see one woman so publicly shamed and condemned – particularly interesting that racism is the cause of this uproar. It seems in some ways like a big step forward for so many to band together against discrimination. In another light, though, our collective anger toward Paula Deen might misdirect progressive energy that should be focused on the larger, systemic channels of racism present in our society. By joining forces to condemn Deen, we’re able to feel satisfied and confident in our own freedom from racist beliefs and in our own “goodness.” But is Deen the anomaly or rather a symptom of a larger racist system in place in our society? Deen’s lack of awareness might encourage us to examine our own beliefs and actions, and the ways we can promote thoughtfulness, love, and equality that don’t involve shame and destruction.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, though! Keep the conversation going in the comments section below.

The One Superpower You Can Activate Anytime, Anywhere

Some superheroes wear capes and masks, crested unitards, and holsters filled with magical tools. But there’s another kind of superhero. The kind that wears smocked dresses with patent leather Mary Janes, grass stained jeans, and Red Sox caps.

My kids are the latter kind. At least I’ve always told them so. When they were tiny I’d tell them that they were born with a superpower: the power to make people feel good by showing kindness and forgiveness, the power to end sadness by sharing their toys and offering a helping hand. If they ever doubted the strength of their powers, I’d say, “Go on and test it out. See that little boy crying by the monkey bars? Ask him if he’s okay. Use your superpowers to see if you can make him feel better.” And they would. And they’d be convinced. “See? That’s the power of compassion!”

One day ages ago I was at a splash park with my daughter and her friend. The girls were whispering and pointing at a woman across the water wearing a beige burqa, black gloves, and purple Merrells. Her face was veiled, just her eyes were visible. Those eyes were focused intently on her baby girl splashing playfully and wildly in the same pool as my crew.

“I’m afraid of her. She’s a stranger,” said my daughter’s wide-eyed friend, laying eyes on a fully covered Muslim woman for the first time.

“No, no, she’s not scary. Let’s go say hi to her and she won’t be a stranger anymore.” The girls looked at me like I was totally insane. They resisted and skidded as I grabbed their rigid slippery hands and sloshed across the puddles. As we approached, the Muslim woman was chatting on her cell phone.

I waved at her and wrinkled my eyebrows apologetically, “Would you mind if I interrupted your phone call to ask a question?”

She looked a little surprised but smiled at me with her eyes and hung up her phone, “Oh yes, is everything okay?”

“My daughter and her friend were feeling a little afraid of you because of your burqa, and I wanted them to meet you.”

“Come! Come!” she beckoned with one gloved hand. She pulled the veil away from her nose and leaned into the girls. They peeked down her dress (as did I) and admired her gorgeous face. “I only wear this when I’m outside. But when I’m at home I wear anything I want. I wear my hair long, I wear make up. My favorite color is pink. What’s yours?”

“Purple and turquoise and orange and yellow. And pink,” said one girl.

“Rainbow and pink,” said the other.

“Come and talk to me anytime. Don’t be afraid. I’m a mom just like your mom.”

The girls asked a few intrusive questions, as kids do, and I thanked her as we splashed away, figuring out which superpowers we’d just activated.

“The power of friendliness!” my daughter shouted, bounding over a shooting stream of cold water.

“The power of fearlessness!” I cheered.

“The power of pink!” laughed her friend.

Then we extended our list of superhero garb to include bathing suits, aqua socks, and burqas.

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