Why Your “Do Something” Matters

Just days after images of death and horror from the mass shooting at a high school in Florida filled our  TV and digital screens, we are now being jarred by coverage of the funerals for 15 young people and the two adults who perished with them.

As Martin Luther III declared yesterday during a visit to Richmond, Virginia, the fact that such secondary trauma is now routine has resulted in a nation living with post traumatic stress, in perpetual fight-or-flight mode, with a desensitization to the taking of human life.

“Until we change the culture, we’re not going to address the issue,” Mr. King told a roomful of attentive listeners of all ages and ethnicities during a talk at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Yet, he went on to assert that it all starts with individual decisions to do what’s right, to listen to one’s conscious, to follow through with integrity.

As he shared his thoughts on human rights and reminisced about the special times he could remember spending with his father before losing Dr. King when he was 10, I couldn’t help but wonder how, 50 years after Dr. King’s murder, Mr. King maintains hope for a better  future.  He answered for me (and likely others) before the question was verbally uttered.

“I had to learn to hate the evil act and not the person. I’m thankful for the Spirit that teaches you to forgive.”

Even so, he called on each person within earshot to do something, whether locally, nationally or globally, to change their communities and the world for the better.

I too, issue that challenge, in my own way, through the words that follow:

We all can do something to make a difference. 

Speak up.

Stand down.

Listen. Be present.

Empathize. 

Go out of your way.

Give others a chance. 

Be your sister’s keeper, 

your brother’s armor bearer.

Call a local official.

Start a petition.

Volunteer. Give. 

Lead. Teach.

Push through.

Laugh together, cry together.

Hug it out. Press on. 

Use your words for good.

Use your innate gifts for best.

Care more.

Love harder. 

Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

All these things?? This is what a change for the better requires. Daily. 

Will you (we) embrace the call? 

Our world sure needs you (us). 

© Stacy Hawkins Adams

CCO Creative Commons Use.
SHA – Martin Luther King III, speaking at VCU.

Channeling Joy

Today I’m channeling the former queen of daytime TV…
You get some joy, she gets some joy, he gets some joy, we ALL get some joy!
There’s enough to go around and it’s not one-size-fits-all or first come, first served.
Look within and listen. Start living your soul’s dream. You’ll see – your joy will flow.                 

                  ~ Stacy Hawkins Adams

For Little Girls and Boys Everywhere…

Happy Monday. I missed Oprah Winfrey’s speech when she delivered it live last night on the Golden Globe Awards, but it is just as moving on video.
Take a few minutes to click here and watch her inspire little girls with big dreams who are somewhere in the world watching her shine, and be assured…
there are little girls and little boys watching you and me, too. Let’s not let them down.

Hope for My Drunk Driver

A journey from anger to grace

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Last weekend I had a headache that wouldn’t abate, and it led my thoughts back to Melissa – a woman I’ve never met whose choices on a summer evening long ago forever changed mine.

Melissa, you see, is the drunk driver who slammed into the car in which I was a passenger 25 years ago.

That night in Albuquerque, N.M. left me with an injury that to this day prevents me from sleeping with pillows. Which brings to me to reason I was thinking of her this past weekend.

I did a simple thing: dozed off on a few fluffy pillows as I propped myself up in bed to watch TV. When I awoke the next morning, my consequence was a throbbing pain above my left temple and behind my left eye.

I don’t get migraines often, but I recognize them when they arrive, and I could tell immediately that this one was connected to the pain radiating down the left side of my neck and to the knot of muscles that had formed just below.

Ah, the pillow. How could I forget?

Ah, Melissa. How could you drink and drive?

The summer that Melissa’s car rammed into the one in which I was a passenger, I was a rising college senior in the middle of a newspaper internship in Albuquerque, simultaneously honing my journalism and independence skills.

I had two awesome roommates, including one who was (and is) a professional singer. When an opportunity arose to serve as one of her backup “artists” in a karaoke performance (the only way I’d be asked to do this, mind you), how could I say no?

A group of us had just pulled into the Air Force base where our dining spot debut would take place. As our driver paused to check in at the security gate, Melissa’s vehicle plowed into the back of us.

Thankfully, I and my fellow passengers survived the crash, which, in Albuquerque at that time was no small feat.

According to prevalent news reports that year (1992), more alcohol-related traffic deaths per capita occurred in New Mexico than in any other state. Thank you, God.

Melissa’s actions knocked the car in which we were riding several hundred feet from its resting position and left it totaled.

I was the most severely injured – receiving a fractured nose from having the driver’s seat break loose on impact and slam into my face and being tossed around like a ragamuffin. I left the hospital with two black eyes and a severely sprained neck that I would protect with a brace off and on for years to come.

I was angry at Melissa, long before I knew her name. All I knew then was what her actions had cost me: My journalism internship ended abruptly. I spent the rest of my summer alternating between pain-filled periods of rest and physical therapy for the cervical sprain. I returned to my senior year of college still in physical therapy, which continued well into the fall, with lingering pain and forced rest cutting short outings with friends and opportunities to celebrate life before full-fledged adulthood.

I was still angry at Melissa a few years later, when a minor fender bender caused the neck sprain to flare at just the wrong time – days before a friend’s wedding. Ensconced in a new neck brace with my name on it, I spent her special day in bed with muscle relaxers instead of enjoying celebratory fun.

The anger lessened to frustration over the years as I participated in exercise classes and repeatedly sat out on sit-up routines that put too much strain on my neck, because my core wasn’t quite strong enough to lift me.

And as I matured and considered some of my own missteps and mistakes along the way, I thought about Melissa with fewer and fewer waves of judgment.

I was 21 when the accident occurred and so was she.

I had been in a car with new friends that evening, heading to a fun outing. When emergency medical personnel pulled her from her vehicle, they reportedly discovered that countless beer cans had been her companions.

With the expansion of heart that accompanied my becoming a first-time mother at age 27, the judgment ceased. Unconditional love for another will do that to you.

And as my work as a journalist gave me opportunity after opportunity to meet all kinds of people from all walks of life and tell their stories of tragedy, challenge, triumph and resilience, I embraced the reality that life doesn’t always happen for us – sometimes it happens to us.

That truth ushered in sympathy. I began to wonder what had become of Melissa.

At the time of our accident, drunk driving laws in New Mexico were fairly lax, and I don’t recall her serving any jail time. While she was forced to cover my and my friends’ medical and related expenses, she likely didn’t suffer other consequences.

I wondered, however, did her conscience bother her? Did she treat that serious accident as a wake-up call?  Did she give herself a second chance?

I began to hope that just as I had changed and grown and sought to embrace my best self over the years, that she, too, had managed some measure of metamorphosis.

Today, as I lay here writing this reflection, with a heating pad on my neck and shoulder and pain meds nearby, I hope and pray so.

Like me, I hope she has gone on to have a full and meaningful life – one in which she shares the story of that night as a lesson learned, as a place from which she transformed.

I hope that the recurring pain I still experience every so often isn’t for naught, and that she is still alive and well somewhere, advising others to never drive while under the influence, because it can lead to real suffering for real people, other than oneself.

pexels-photo-593172

If I had the chance to encounter Melissa again and officially meet her, I’d tell her that while I hate the flare ups and radiating pain I sometimes experience and I hate her long-ago choices, I don’t hate her. Doing so would require too much energy and too much heart space.

Instead, I’m thankful to have been one of the ones who survived when so many victims of drunk drivers didn’t. My hope is that wherever Melissa is and whoever she has become, she feels that same humble gratitude – for my life and for her own.

Remembering 9/11: Beauty for Ashes

By Stacy Hawkins Adams
Today I’m remembering 9/11/01 and honoring the lives lost and the heroes who stepped forward in the aftermath of that tragic day. Where were you on that day 16 years ago?
It was my first day back in the Richmond Times-Dispatch newsroom after giving birth to my son. He was 12 weeks old and in the care of his loving sitter, “Nana.” I had scheduled an interview with the leader of a local Muslim worship center for an inspirational column I wrote at that time. (Talk about “coincidence.”)
After the planes hit the towers that morning, we reporters leapt into action. The Muslim worship center (mosque), which was filled with children attending classes, went on lockdown as fearful parents showed up to claim their students; but the Imam trusted me and still allowed me to come and enter. He shared how heartbroken he and many others were over this tragedy.
As we remember the devastation of that day, let’s also remember the humanity that was birthed from the ashes. May we continue to seek and serve the humanity in others, trusting that love really is the antidote to all hate.

Officer to My Son: “Let’s Both Get Home Safe.”

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

I took my teen son to an empty school parking lot on Sunday afternoon to practice driving and a police officer pulled him over.

I was in the passenger seat, and the officer asked my permission to chat with Mini-Me #2.

Sgt. Hugate (who gave me permission to use his name) had watched my son practice signaling and turning and parking for about half an hour before motioning for him to stop, with a smile and a welcoming gesture.

With my consent, he spent about 10 minutes sharing his perspective as a member of law enforcement about how Mini-Me #2, as a teen driver, could stay safe if/when pulled over.

Before he launched into the advice, he led with his heart, telling Mini-Me #2:

– He spent the day before driving around a similar school parking lot teaching his own son how to drive, so he knew how meaningful and memorable the task at hand was.

– Everyday when he goes to work, he wants to be sure to make it home to his family; so the advice he was prepared to share was designed to keep both my son and him safe.

Then he walked through how an officer typically approaches a vehicle and explained that an alert officer is always on guard because he never knows who or what he may encounter when making a routine traffic stop – regardless of race, gender, age, etc.

Next, he told Mini-me #2 a few things that most parents of color often share already with their adolescent sons and daughters, during what we call “The Talk:”

– Keep your hands visible at all times. (He demonstrated where to position them on the steering wheel and suggested that placing them on driver’s side windowsill would be another option.)

– Over-communicate about every single move you make, from shifting to reach for your license to reaching to open your door.

– Stay calm and respectful and respond to all questions when asked. (Most people actually talk themselves INTO getting tickets, he said, because they can’t manage to stay calm.)

– If the situation permits, before placing your hands on the steering wheel or outside the window, call a parent and put him/her on speakerphone, so that there is a “third party witness to keep both of us safe.”

My son appreciated the feedback, which reinforced messages he has already heard from me and his dad and others in our “village.”

Sgt. Hugate, who is Caucasian, looked Mini-Me squarely in the eyes while informing him that yes – there are indeed some cops who shouldn’t be wearing badges or in the law enforcement field, because they don’t do what is right or good; but he is not one of them.

We didn’t discuss Charlottesville, Trayvon Martin, or any of the senseless violence that has occurred in many instances in between. In those few minutes in that high school parking lot, the olive branch he extended was an aha moment that even some officers are willing to be real and honest about the realities of what it takes to stay safe in this day and time.

Everyone wants to make it home alive.

Note: This post first appeared on Stacy’s Facebook page, on August 13, 2017. Due to the tremendous response it has received, she is posting it here and also on her Huffington Post blog.

Make Your Own Sunshine

TGIF! Make this a “just because” kinda day.
Do a random act of kindness “just because.”
Hold your tongue “just because.”
Smile “just because.”
Give thanks “just because.”
Forgive “just because.”
Have fun “just because.”
Be happy “just because.”
All because life is a gift worth cherishing – your own as well as others.
#LifeUntapped