Change starts from within

Throughout history we’ve had periods of progress and periods of regress and times of triumph and of tragedy.

Today’s world is no different. We’ve come a long way since the days when women were to be seen and not heard and minorities had no rights. However, there are still people who judge others by the color of their skin, their religion, their gender, gender identity or their sexual preference.

It’s important to celebrate the victories but not give up the fight to achieve mutual respect no matter our differences.

For many of us, discrimination and unfair treatment cut us to our core. We hurt when others hurt. We can’t turn a blind eye.

So, what can we do?

We can donate to worthy causes, volunteer and be advocates. We can work hard to educate others and commit to learning about things we don’t understand.

If we work together, we can avoid repeating the tragedies in history that are within our control.

The horrible senseless tragedy in Orlando prompted me to give more thought to what can be done. As I thought about this tragedy, I experienced the same emotions many of you did — anger, fear, sadness, disbelief, confusion. But as I looked at all the victims’ photos, my thoughts changed to responsibility.

What can we do — what can I do — to make a difference. Change begins within each one of us. I firmly believe in “being the difference.”

But what does that mean?

For me, the answer actually appeared to be quite simple. It seems obvious and so logical that it is amazing how difficult it becomes.

So my challenge to myself, and to you, is to vow to make a difference in our community by starting within ourselves. Here’s how we start to “be the difference.”

I’m reminded of the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum.

1. Turn away from hate. Don’t hate, don’t encourage it, don’t tolerate it.

2. Respect others: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

3. Embrace differences and don’t let them divide us. We have the right to think, believe and say what we want. But with that right comes great responsibility. Don’t discriminate based on differences. Don’t condemn others for their views. Differences can make us stronger.

4. Stop violence: Watch out for each other, don’t react to violence with violence. Be vigilant about your safety and the safety of others. Don’t let fear paralyze you, let it drive your actions for change.

5. Be bold. Be brave. Be yourself.

Remember what you learned in kindergarten and how that has evolved and applied to adulthood. If we can just be nice, play well with others, treat people fairly, show love not hate and all just try to get along, the world will be a better place.

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