Do People Think Before They Act at Church Functions?

St. John Neumann Church Sanctuary, Lilburn, Georgia (Retrieved from Pinterest.com, July 2, 2016)

St. John Neumann Church Sanctuary, Lilburn, Georgia (Retrieved from Pinterest.com, July 2, 2016)

If one does not have continual time to volunteer in and/or be active in church functions, is he or she no longer needed at church?  And therefore, with regard to those within the church who make such decisions about others’ involvement, do they truly think before they act and/or put themselves in the others’ shoes?  These are the questions that I will seek to answer in the present post, based on certain experiences I have had at my church and within my faith, in general.

Throughout my life and within my faith, regardless of the church of which I have been a member, I have noticed that if one is not continually available to help, volunteer, assist, and/or otherwise minister within the church, he or she is not needed, or at least, does not appear to be as valued in the church as those who do.  Additionally, there appears to be a lack of consistency between people, philosophies, and perspectives in relation to value, importance, and need regarding members who volunteer and/or who are simply involved in various church activities.  All it takes is for one person to be unappreciative, disrespectful, and/or offensive, and it casts a poor reflection on the whole group.  This causes the church to potentially lose people and/or for some members to take their time and talents elsewhere.

Within the past five years, there have been four particular activities that I have been involved in at my church at St. John Neumann in Lilburn, Georgia, as well as two activities that my son has been involved in there, within which there has been this inconsistency of value, understanding, and/or appreciation toward us.  In describing several of those activities to follow, suffice it to say that this number of activities (6) is too many within which not to be valued or appreciated, to the point in two cases to be downright offended by others’ conduct.

While there are also many activities, volunteer efforts, and other church involvements in which we have been valued and appreciated, it was during those times that we also had much time and energy to invest in such activities.  They were also activities and efforts in which we were agreeable and accepting of the experience we had.  They were activities within which the leadership was good and the event was safe, proceeding well.  In instances, however, where leadership has been questionable and/or the event biased in some way, having identified those situations to church leadership and positive change was not observed, these have also been experiences in which feedback appears to have been used as a reason to alienate and/or exclude.

The mission of many Christian-based churches often includes being open to and accepting of all people.  This, however, appears to be true only if one continually has much time and/or money to invest in the church, and/or as long as there is no disagreement with anything that occurs within the church.  As an approved volunteer with a clean background check, I take offense when I am treated like a criminal in coming to pick up my child from youth group, find the church doors to be locked, and prevented from entering by the group’s volunteer leaders, as one example.  While this, in fact, may be a safety measure, it can also be viewed that the leadership has something to hide.  When I am unable to have access to my child, no less in a completely voluntary-type setting, and am treated as being guilty before being innocent, this is a major concern.  The church has itself to blame, in covering up countless abuses of children by religious, and must not treat concerned parents as criminals.

Some time ago, at a church potluck dinner, I was admonished by two senior citizens (a man and a woman) for filling an extra plate to take home to my family.  The woman stated that I should leave more food for others, and I explained to her my financial need.  The man stated to me that I basically was taking too much chicken.  In response to him, I was so offended that I said nothing.  Why is it that people are unable to put themselves in another’s shoes, even in one’s own church?!  Why is it that people see a Caucasian woman who reasonably takes care of herself and has a positive attitude, but they cannot perceive need?  Would they enjoy living at or below poverty level for many years due to various hardships?  Why is it that Caucasian single mothers are so often overlooked, blamed, disrespected, and offended by others?  This is something that has often been discouraging to experience.

Now that my schedule has changed and I have had good work opportunities, it appears that the time and efforts of both my son and I are no longer needed by the church.  This is another reason that I state that the church only appears to need those volunteers who continually have time available to minister and assist.  When the call went out for volunteers to assist with vacation Bible school, I offered a day when my son and I could help, and was turned down.  In the past, when we were both available to assist during an entire week, then it was fine.  Now that we have limited availability, we are not needed, to the point of our time and efforts being rejected.

In having lectored for a few years, I was scheduled to read once in a six month time period.  On that one day that I read, I took the day off to do so, reflecting the importance of the ministry to me…that I would sacrifice a day’s pay just to read at church!  Then, on the one other day that I was available to read, on a day off from work, in a period of three months, I was not scheduled to do so.  Others in the church, regardless of availability, often read two or three times in a three month period, yet being schedule once in six months truly shows me that I am not needed, my schedule cannot be accommodated, and people are unable to walk in my shoes.  Once I complained, efforts were made to attempt to accommodate me, however it did not appear to be something that would ultimately work out.  Thus, I do give the particular minister credit for his efforts as that is more than anyone else has done.

So, in answer to my questions originally posed, it seems that only a certain few people are able to think before they act in church and those certain few people are able to walk in others’ shoes, however it does appear that church members are no longer needed to assist, minister, and/or be involved in church activities and functions if they do not have continual time available to do so.  It is much easier for people to pass judgment on others rather than ask, “What can I do for you?,” or “What can I do to make this better for you?”

Perhaps there are some churches that have so many volunteers that they actually do not need everyone and can turn people away, however it is generally my experience that when people are not needed, valued, treated as important, and turned away, that they take their time and talents elsewhere.  That is why I left the previous church at which I was a member, and the one prior to that.  And, while I keep in mind the many positive aspects of my church, there are also a great many things that can be improved, these being a few examples.  Everyone needs to be treated with value, respect, and importance, and people must be able to walk in another’s shoes.  In absence of that, some sheep may seek a different place to graze.

Blogbymichele 2013 Stats in Review (Blog by Michele Babcock-Nice)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,000 times in 2013. If it was a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Personal Message from Michele:

A great big “thank you” to all of my readers throughout the past two years!  I am happy to see that I have written about issues of interest to you.  My greatest goal in writing is to bring the truth and fact of information to readers, whether in articles that have a focus on the issues that may be perceived as positive, neutral, or negative.  It is only by being open to accurate and factual information – even if it is perceived as negative or controversial – that we, as a people, may understand particular issues, and improve upon them rather than make them worse, as unfortunately, so often occurs.

This is exactly why freedom of speech is so important – particularly freedom of speech without retaliation – so that all types of perspectives related to all kinds of issues are able to be presented.  Only with complete, thorough, factual, and accurate information can we form thoroughly-thought decisions, rather than making potentially incorrect judgments or assumptions.  This is also why it is important that writers present as many perspectives as possible about issues, not just those that are only perceived as positive, or solely those that others want to hear.

As people, it is our nature to only want to hear the “positive,” however there may be aspects about issues or situations that may be “negative” that get silenced, ignored, or overlooked – whether purposely or not – that do not give an accurate picture of the reality of those issues or situations.  It is my view that by society being more open to those issues that it doesn’t want to hear, as well as by being open to improving aspects regarding the realities of those issues, that people will progress rather than regress.

Thank you, again, for reading my blog.  Please return often!

Michele Babcock-Nice (Blogbymichele) 🙂

“Part of the Problem, or Part of the Solution” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

It is very upsetting, discouraging, disappointing, and disturbing when one approaches another to seek improvement in and/or resolution to a particular matter, and the other person contributes to being part of the problem by not being understanding or supportive about it, rather than being part of the solution.  I experienced this several times, already, this week in relation to school situations.  The person for whom it is most upsetting and disturbing is the child who directly experiences it.  It is always discouraging to experience situations in which the words and behaviors of school employees are part of the problem.  It is encouraging when their words and actions contribute to solutions.

When a family is spending more money on a private school education for their child, they expect more in every area.  Expected is more support, more understanding, more sensitivity, and at least, fairness, particuarly in situations about which upper administration and administration are informed, regardless of by whom they are informed.  Expected is a positive experience for their child.  Expected is fairness, without bullying of the child by either peers or adults.  As one often finds, unfairness and a lack of sensitivity and understanding may be the norm.  Such a norm should not be tolerated or accepted by anyone, nor experienced by the child.

Therefore, people – particularly those in education who work with children every day – can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution.  I much prefer that they be part of the solution, and that it be a positive solution at that.  Situations in which a particular child is repeatedly blamed for standing up for himself or herself to peer bullies who belittle and degrade him – especially in a Christian environment that is supposed to promote Christian values – are particularly frustrating. 

Worse is the educator and/or administrator who can say nothing positive about the child who has stood up for himself or herself, and instead, always finds fault and harshly punishes the child.  Such educators and administrators should be ashamed of themselves for their repeated unfairness, for repeatedly supporting the bullies.  Never do those child bullies receive any consequences for their actions; their words and actions are repeatedly supported.  The victim of the bullying is repeatedly blamed.  Psychologically, this is the blaming of the victim routine.  Unnecessarily, it typically happens to the same child or children who stand up for themselves to the bullies.

It was the same for me when I was in school.  A bully provoked, and provoked, and provoked, and finally, when I stood up for myself, I was blamed and punished by school officials.  The bully who provoked the situation received no consequences, and behaved as though she was the victim to garner more support.  The same types of situations occurred toward my parents and other family members when they were in school.  School should not be a place in which people experience bullying, however it is and has been throughout generations.

I try to teach my child to be patient with others, that when others bully or provoke him, it is their problem.  However, it is difficult and challenging for any child to tolerate or accept being bullied.  In a Christian environment, with a Christian background and upbringing, I try to teach my child to turn the other cheek.  However, others typically perceive those as weak who are patient, kind, and who turn the other cheek. 

Unfortunately, and from what I have found throughout my own life experiences, the most productive way to cause a bully to stop bullying you is to give the bully back some of their own medicine.  For people who are kind, nice, caring, and compassionate, it completely goes against one’s personality to do so.  However, in doing so, the bully typically leaves you alone after that.  They discover that their perception of you was incorrect.  They discover that you have surprised them by standing up to their bullying, to their provocations, to their harsh words and actions. 

I want the best for my child.  I want my child to enjoy going to school.  My child receives and excellent education, however I repeatedly encourage the practice of increased sensitivity, patience, positive reinforcement, support, and understanding.  I do this every year.  Some are more supportive and understanding than others; some will never change. 

There are few who hold the high standards that I do of being caring, compassionate, patient, supportive, sensitive toward, and understanding of children.  To those few, I deeply appreciate you; you are part of the solution.  However, it is those who refuse to see and practice a different and better way who are part of the problem, who contribute to the regression and/or detriment of the child. 

Those who are part of the problem, rather than part of the solution, should not be in education.  They are not positive role models for children.  In this day and age, we desperately need more and more positive role models for children.  So, when are things going to change for the better rather than for the worse?  Positive change and a reassessment toward needed support for children who are repeated targets of bullies is imperative – it is imperative!  Fairness and support are imperative, rather than unfairness and a lack of support!  It is exactly this type of unfairness and lack of support that leads to bullicide – the suicide of students who are bullied, by peers or by adults.  By then, it is too late, and another life has been tragically lost.

Therefore, I encourage each of you to be positive role models for children, and to always be part of the solution – whether in education or any other area – rather than part of the problem!  Be a positive role model for children.  Be open to thinking of saying or doing things in a different and better way.  Be sensitive toward, and considerate, understanding, and supportive of children, for the sake of their mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and physical well-being!

“Schools’ Inconsistently-Enforced Policies on Bullying Continue it, Supporting Offenders” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

School bullying has become more of a major issue these days due to the extent of some of it that has led to serious injuries and/or suicides of student victims.  My own LinkedIn group, ‘People Against Retaliation and Bullying’ focuses on bullying and retaliation, the many ways in which children and adults bully each other, and the many unnecessary, tragic suicides – called ‘bullicides’ – of many young people.  😦

All one has to do is to search for “student suicides” and/or “bullicides” online, and the names, photos, and stories of many young people are provided of those who have killed themselves due to bullying.  Students such as Phoebe Prince, Rachel Ehmke, Jessica Laney, Felicia Garcia, Joshua Pacheco, Kristina Calco, and Jared High took their own lives due to bullying.  A website by Christopher Burgess includes an article titled, “Bullying: The 34 we Lost in 2010 to Bullycide,” found at http://www.burgessct.com/2011/02/bullying-rip/ .  😦

And, there are so many more who are bullied, repeatedly in school, including my own child.  My brother and I were bullied when we were in school, my parents were bullied when they were in school, and my own child has been bullied in school.  Because my child is very good and kind, and is considerate of others’ feelings, I find that he tends to be bullied even more, not only by his peers, but by adults, as well.

Fairly recently, in a meeting with several school employees at a particular school regarding a young student, one teacher informed me that everyone experiences a certain amount of bullying, that we all have experienced it.  My question is why is she so accepting of it?  Why is she so tolerant of it?  What if one of her students committed suicide due to bullying?  Why does she – and others – allow it to continue?  To me, these attitudes about bullying are unacceptable, and I can, therefore, provide an explanation for why bullying occurs and why it continues.

Bullying is nothing less than psychological violence by one or more people toward one or more others.  It appears to me that children – and adults – who are insecure about themselves and/or others have a need to bully, harass, degrade, and/or otherwise put others down.  Why?  Because it raises them up!  Putting others down makes them feel good!  They have absolutely no regard or consideration for the manner in which their words and/or actions hurt their targets and victims.  They have not been taught to have regard or consideration for others’ feelings, values, perspectives, needs.  They are selfish and insecure, and seek to demean and devalue others out of their own flawed egos.

When my own child is bullied by others – including peers and adults – I have repeatedly told him that others act in such a manner because they have a problem.  This is truly what I believe – that they do, in fact, have the problem.  And, sadly, often when kids bully other kids – or when adults bully other adults – it becomes like a gang mentality in which the bully enlists other bullies to bully the victim.  It has happened to me, it has happened to my child.

Even so, the bullies have no idea of the damage and pain they have caused their targets and victims.  They have absolutely no clue, and they truly believe that they have done no wrong, even going so far as to deny or lie about their injurious words and/or actions.  Time and again, I have interacted with school principals and school teachers who have denied the truth – to my face – in order to save their own skin.  Heaven forbid they are not always professional and/or exceptional.  Would it not be better to acknowledge the issues, and deal proactively with the problems, solving them and making improvements?  How can bullies see that there are any problems when they are, in fact, bullies themselves?  This is a big root of the issue.

I am personally aware of a couple of recent issues related to bullying of a youngster who is close to me.  In one situation, a peer bully repeatedly taunted and pestered his target to look at a picture in a book of which the target was afraid.  The target has a phobia of the creature that was pictured in the book.  The target told the bully, repeatedly, that he did not want to see the book or the picture.  The bully forced the target to look at the picture by placing the book in front of him.  The bully then stated to the target that he (the target) could do anything he wanted to the book.  Therefore, the target scribbled, lightly in pencil over the picture of the creature in the book of which he has a phobia. 

The bully not only misled the target, but also betrayed him by informing their teacher that the target had defaced his book.  When the target tried to explain the situation to the teacher, the teacher did not listen.  Instead, the teacher sent the target to the principal’s office, where the target (who has outstanding behavior, I might add) was issued a lengthy detention of 45 minutes (which is also a greater amount of time than school policy!) for the situation.  When the target attempted to explain what occurred to the assistant administrator who issued the consequences, she also did not listen to him.  In addition, the target was required to write an apology letter to the bully. 

This, by the way, was the second instance in which the particular bully instigated a situation that caused a reaction by the target, causing the target to be blamed and receive consequences, including the severe consequences of the lengthy detention.  The target felt so hurt, sad, and betrayed by the actions of everyone involved that he no longer wanted to go to school, and worse, which I will not comment on here. 

However, this is a perfect example of bullying, victim-blaming, and how others’ refusal to consider and account for the entire situation causes repeatedly-targeted children to feel sad, hopeless, betrayed, and unsupported.  Such lacks of consideration, compassion, and understanding are unnecessary; and I find that they are generally lacking to an even greater extent when the teacher’s son is the bully and/or a teacher’s children attend the school in which she teaches.

In another example of bullying experienced by someone close to me, a boy and his friend approached another boy and some girls on the playground at recess.  The two boys simply wanted to play with the others.  The bully repeatedly physically pushed the target on several places on his body, including his back, chest, and arm.  The target yelled at the bully to stop, but the bully didn’t stop.  The target’s friend supported the target in telling the bully to stop, but the bully didn’t stop.  The target, therefore, became so upset that he ran away from the bully.

When the situation was investigated by the teachers of the students involved, based on the report to them by a parent of the target, it was confirmed by the students that what was reported was what occurred.  However, rather than the teacher(s) sending the bully to the principal’s office and/or even documenting any disciplinary consequences toward the bully, they (the teachers) left it up to the children to come up with their own solution!  Does this situation scream of unfairness?  Does it obviously reflect inconsistency in policy?  Does it show a lack of understanding and sensitivity toward the feelings of the victim?  I answer, “Yes” to each of those questions.

What ended up happening is that, indeed, the bully and the target where given the responsibility by their teachers to devise their own solution.  The boys decided to write apology letters to each other – the one boy for repeatedly pushing the other boy, and the second boy for yelling at the other boy to stop pushing him!  Can you believe this?!  So, not only has the target been bullied, but he has been revictimized by having to write his own apology letter to the bully for standing up for himself!  Further, no official disciplinary documentation of any sort was made regarding the bully who did all of the pushing on the other boy!  Therefore, the teachers have reflected that this sort of situation is entirely acceptable and tolerable, and even worse, they supported the victim being revictimized rather than fair, consistent justice occurring in the matter.  This situation was not taken seriously, nor handled effectively, especially in regard to the target.

This is exactly how bullying among school students goes potentially “unnoticed” and unresolved.  This is exactly how bullying among students continues.  This is exactly how students such as those who are bullied become even more reluctant to inform on their peers – and, after awhile, actually do not inform against their peers – for bullying them – when they (the victims, themselves) are blamed and/or revictimized, and/or no effective solution or official documentation is made about the bullying they experienced. 

This type of bullying on a repeated basis by a student’s peers, teachers, and/or administrators is exactly what causes targets to believe that they are not valued, unsupported, hated, and to believe that they are better off dead.  Sadly, the bullies still believe they are doing no wrong.  They have no consideration or regard for the feelings of the victim.  Even after students actually kill themselves, they often still believe that they have done no wrong and no harm. 

I wish we had schools in which everyone was kind to each other.  I wish we had schools in which everyone could just be friends.  I wish that everyone could be more kind, compassionate, understanding, considerate, and sensitive toward each other.  Repeated bullying, including hurtful words by a child’s peers and authority figures in their lives, critically harms the developing egos of many youngsters and youth.  Such repeated bullying and the refusal of others to understand, consider, and/or take seriously it’s negative effects does cause youngsters and youth to kill themselves. 

Increased positive change is needed in order to stop bullying.  Let us not become tolerant and accepting of bullying or bullicide.  Let us take a stand against it, requiring sensitivity training of our school teachers and administrators.  Let us teach children and youth to respect, accept, and appreciate each other’s similarities and differences.  Let us find joy and growth in diversity.  Let us stomp out bullying and bullicide by raising the bar of understanding, compassion, consideration, and sensitivity for everyone.  Let us not revictimize the victims.  Let us not support the offenders and their bullying words and actions.  The time is now to open our eyes to bullying and it’s harmful effects, or more will be lost to this unnecessary social tragedy. 😦

References:

Christopher Burgess.  “Bullying: The 34 we Lost in 2010 to Bullycide.”  http://www.burgessct.com/2011/02/bullying-rip/.  Retrieved on February 16, 2013.

Helen Pow.  “‘I can’t.  I’m done.  I give up:’  Bullied teen jumps to her death in front of train as schoolmates look on in horror just days after harrowing tweet.”  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2223133/Felicia-Garcia-suicide-Bullied-teen-jumps-death-train-schoolmates-look-horror-just-days-harrowing-tweet.html .  Mail Online (October 25, 2012).  Retrieved on February 16, 2013.

“In Memory of Jared High.”  http://www.jaredstory.com/kristina.html .  Retrieved on February 16, 2013.

Jessica Alaney.  “R.I.P. Jessica Laney.”  http://www.bullyville.com/?page=story&id=5735 .  Bullyville.com (December 11, 2012).  Retrieved on February 16, 2013.

Michelle Calco.  “Kristina’s Story.”  http://www.jaredstory.com/kristina.html .  Retrieved on February 16, 2013.

“Rachel Emkhe, 13 Year Old Minnesota Student, Commits Suicide.”  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/08/rachel-ehmke-13-year-old-_n_1501143.html .  Huffington Post. com (May 8, 2012).  Retrieved on February 16, 2013.

Sarah Schuch.  “Parents blame bullying for son’s suicide: Linden High School junior remembered for love of theater.”  http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2012/12/parents_blame_bullying_for_son.html .  Retrieved on February 16, 2013.

“Suicide of Phoebe Prince.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_of_Phoebe_Prince .  Retrieved on February 16, 2013.

“Orchard Park Central School District (New York): Truly an Exceptional School System” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

There are schools out there that are truly outstanding and exceptional.  It is unfortunate that, all too often, those schools, school districts, and/or school systems that are truly outstanding and exceptional do not receive greater attention and recognition.  The Orchard Park Central School District in Western New York State is one such truly excellent, admirable, inspiring, outstanding, and exceptional school system.  It is located in an affluent suburb of Buffalo, New York.  And, it is a school system that is composed of six schools, including one high school, one middle school, and four elementary schools.  I will take the liberty of sharing some of the many incredibly excellent qualities of this school system.

More than one decade ago, I had the pleasure and privilege of being employed as a substitute teacher for two years within Orchard Park Central Schools, while I was completing my teacher certification requirements in secondary social studies education.  I was called upon to substitute teach nearly every day during the academic year, being offered and having taken opportunities to be a daily and short-term substitute teacher.  Most of the experience that I had in substitute teaching at Orchard Park was in high school special education as well as in middle school core subjects, though I also substituted in all subject areas throughout elementary, middle, and high schools there.  My experience substitute teaching during the two years that I was at Orchard Park were like no other that I have ever had in their excellence, whether as a substitute teacher, salaried teacher, or voluntary teacher.

What I experienced while subbing in the Orchard Park Central School District were many wonderful things.  People throughout the school system were caring, compassionate, kind, hard-working, flexible, understanding, professional individuals with high standards and expectations, integrity, values, and insightfulness.  They were well-educated, open-minded, creative, and thought outside-of-the-box.  They were not rigid, inflexible, or set in their ways.  They were people who – though their instruction, policies, and practices were already outstanding – were always finding new ways of performing better, achieving more, being the best they could be. 

People at Orchard Park, when I was there, were those who communicated and interacted well with each other.  They always wanted the best for the students.  The focus was not on themselves, not on hiding their own rare errors or human imperfections, but on being positive role models and guides for students.  They were professionals who supported each other in positive ways and raised themselves and each other up.  They were positive with each other, but also provided constructive – not condeming – criticism of and toward each other when it was necessary, in order to strengthen and improve the quality of their education and standards, not causing it to regress. 

These were people who were confident enough in themselves to know that the greater community was supportive of them, and they trusted that students’ parents understood that they always acted in the manner to best benefit the children.  Trust was mutual between school professionals and students’ parents because those school employees always exemplified the best in instruction, education, discipline, safety, care, compassion, concern, standards, policies, honesty, and professionalism.  In these ways, the mutual bond of trust and confidence between school and home was also reflected in the confidence, trust, and performance of the students – in all levels and in all areas. 

If something could be improved, administrators and teachers fairly-reviewed the situation, and enhanced instruction, education, standards, and/or policies, making things better for everyone.  Academic standards are those that are most important at Orchard Park, and certain high school teachers would sacrifice several Saturdays throughout the academic year to come to school on their own time to review with and drill students to better-prepare them for important standardized tests.  Core middle school teaching teams often met with parents in conferences to inform parents of their child’s performance and progress, as well as things that were going well, things that could be improved, and anything else that was noticeable about the child, particularly those positive and more personal qualities and characteristics. 

Teachers and administrators at Orchard Park went out of their way to make the school experience not only a professional experience, but also a personal one for everyone, most particularly the students.  In this way, students, parents, and families genuinely felt valued, important, honored, respected, and understood.  It was good to be kind, caring, compassionate, encouraging, supportive, and nurturing toward students.  That is what was sought, wanted, desired in the professionals at Orchard Park. 

Lines of communication between the school, families, and community were always open.  Compliments and criticisms were accepted, heard, and appreciated.  When an administrator or teacher heard something they did not want to hear from another about themselves, they did not lash out with concealed vengeance in any way to somehow get back at the student and/or the student’s family.  School administrators and teachers at Orchard Park were both professional enough and honorable enough to take in what was said, reflect upon it, and improve.  They did not ignore, deny, or overlook the situation, nor did they blame others – including the child – instead of perceiving their own actions and/or gaining feedback from other colleagues.  They always tried to perform in the best manner for the students.

So much openmindedness, flexibility, and creativity is present in and throughout the Orchard Park Central School District.  High School seniors were afforded opportunities to participate in “Open Campus,” a time during which they could leave campus for certain parts of the day to perform other actions or responsibilities.  A great number of clubs and extracurricular activities, including art, music, theater, sports, language, and other activities were also available to students to expand their horizons and fulfill their creative endeavors. 

More recently, the school district implemented the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program within the school system.  When I was at Orchard Park, though I did not perceive any serious issues related to peer-to-peer bullying, and though I believed the policies toward student respectfulness were excellent, there were those rare occasions when students were bullied, more particularly certain high school students who appeared different and/or did not fit in with the mainstream in some way.  The openmindedness, flexibility, and creativity in the folks at Orchard Park Central School District are what has allowed the implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, already reflecting reported improvements in reducing bullying and improving peer respectfulness toward each other. 

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, as well as sharing with the community about any sex offenders living in the district, as well as other programs, are those that place the Orchard Park Central School District on the cutting edge of progressive, exceptional school systems.  The professionalism, integrity, intelligence, compassion, and appropriate personalization of the district’s faculty and staff – as well as the support they receive from the greater community and school board – are also what place the school system in the forefront of educational systems – whether public, private or parochial. 

When one works in the Orchard Park Central School District, he or she feels and is supported, much like one would experience within their own family.  Because such professionalism, support, trust, intelligence, and confidence are prevalent within the school system among adults, these qualities and values are also purveyed to the children and students.  Also, because so many adults within the school students’ families are educated and maintain high standards and expectations, this is also what is often reflected within the students, as well.  Not only are the students generally intelligent and creative, but they are typically respectful and honorable.

It was most certainly my pleasure and privilege to have been employed as a substitute teacher within the Orchard Park Central School District more than one decade ago.  Though I applied to the school system for a salaried teaching position once I acquired my educator certification, I believe that I did not have enough of a stake, influence, or network within the community to be considered.  Orchard Park would have been my dream school system within which to teach as a full-time educator.  Though such an opportunity was not afforded to me, I will always carry the memories of the wonderful experiences that I had within this outstanding, exceptional school system.  Thank you, Orchard Park, for being the best you can be, and for always striving to do even better…for the students!

References:

Orchard Park Central School District.  January 18, 2013.  http://www.opschools.org/spotlight.cfm?&school=0 .

Orchard Park Central School District.  “Olweus” (Bullying Prevention Program.)  January 18, 2013.  http://www.opschools.org/spotlight.cfm?sp=6&start=1&end=25&school=0 .

“How do you Treat Others?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

If you are uncomfortable with people or issues, do you just stick your head in the ground?

I love this picture.  I just think it’s so funny, but also sad.  Locating it today while reading a fellow blogger’s post, I thought it appropriate to borrow for my own post on how people treat each other.  Too often, people think ill of, mistreat, and/or misjudge each other.  Like this ostrich, for many people, it’s just easier to stick one’s head in the ground, so to speak.  Then, people are free to misjudge and mistreat each other because they refuse to see, understand, deal with, or cope with others and issues. 

In the past year, I have worked hard at and have achieved a presence on LinkedIn.  My connections span more than 800 people around the world, representing people of all backgrounds and professions, with all types of interests and beliefs.  LinkedIn provides me with a vehicle to connect with others – of similar and different interests and backgrounds – throughout the world.  It also provides me with a professional support system for those who are like-minded, and who stand up for causes for which I also support and in which I am active. 

On a smaller scale, I have also worked to achieve a much smaller presence on WordPress with this blog.  Admittedly, I have not worked hard at it, and that was not my intention.  However, it has been my intention to share, educate, and inform about causes in which I believe, views that I hold, and certain life experiences.  It has been refreshing, energizing, and inspiring to connect with and be supported by others who share similar beliefs, by others who work to further certain causes, by those who stand up for and take action for the good of others.

What is particularly interesting, and perhaps somewhat saddening and discouraging, are those folks who place roadblocks in the way of understanding, relating, empathizing, and/or simply communicating a good and/or supportive word.  What I have noticed is that many people who are aware of the causes that I support, as well as what I say or communicate which may not be what they want to hear, stick their heads in the ground, similarly to the ostrich in the photo. 

Because these folks feel uncomfortable with hearing about, knowing about, and/or even communicating about issues related to bullying, retaliation, child physical and sexual abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, sexism, sexual harassment, women’s and children’s rights and welfare, and women’s equality, they misjudge, mistreat, turn away, and put up roadblocks to a greater understanding and awareness surrounding these issues. 

These folks have already made their judgements and/or misjudgements about me as the messenger, advocate, and activist, as well as about the issues.  Once they have turned themselves off, it is typically like talking to a wall to encourage and promote interaction due to their discomforts and unnecessary judgements.  It causes me to wonder how discouraged and disappointed Jesus – a wonderful, compassionate, innocent, and loving man – must have felt when so many people turned against him and condemned him.

Sadly, I have experienced certain people whom I had considered friendly and/or friends to be avoidant or mute, lacking in interaction and communication, even turning away and shutting me out – simply because they are uncomfortable with those issues, what I communicate about those issues, and/or that I am at all associated with those issues.   Is it so uncomfortable to them to communicate with and/or interact with another individual who supports improvement in each of those areas?  For many, I see that the answer is, “Yes.” 

Perhaps, too often, people have their own issues and problems with which they are dealing, and they are unable to deal with or cope with hearing about, supporting, and/or advocating for positive change in those areas.  They, therefore, may misjudge, mistreat, and/or blame the messenger.  To me, such actions reflect that people, too often, may react toward certain people or issues without fully listening to, understanding, and/or delving more deeply through the superficial layers that they solely wish to perceive.  And, as a result, such reactions are disappointing and discouraging. 

I feel sympathy for those who do not understand, for those who blame the messenger, for those who – by their own inability to cope – are unable to stand with and support others who are working toward positive change for everyone.  It always saddens me to “lose” a friend simply because I have exercised my right to free speech and have shared particular hard truths with them about certain issues.  When people are unsupportive of others who promote activism and positive change for important issues, respect for and confidence in them by the activists is also lost.  That stated, I am not one who is afraid to tackle the tough, challenging issues.  And, I have a profound appreciation and respect for comrades who stand up for others in order to achieve improvement and positive change. 

Throughout my life, there have seemed to be few who are willing to take risks and go out on a limb to promote important causes, and be activists and advocates for improving various areas of human life.  Therefore, it is, indeed, disappointing to witness so many who are content and satisfied with simply walking away from such issues, refusing to become more educated about them, thinking such things won’t happen to them, turning their backs on others because someone says what they don’t want to hear, thinking they can avoid the people and the issues – until they have personal experience with them.

I find that most people are conformists, going with the flow, not wanting to make waves, not rocking the boat.  In order to make our world better for ourselves and our children, we must be willing to take those risks in standing up for and supporting what is good and right.  We must denounce those who harm others in any way.  We must be role models for them and provide education in better, more successful ways to respond and react toward injustices, crimes, and/or mistreatment – ranging anywhere from poverty to bullying to rape and murder.  We must remain compassionate, kind, and nurturing, but also honest, direct, assertive, and active. 

All of the issues that I have identified in this post are likely those that many people do not wish to hear, however such issues must be addressed in such a way that will make the future better – not worse – for those who come after us.  The issues are reflective of those relating to human rights, feminism, and social justice.  They are good and important issues, as are the messengers who advocate for and support positive change regarding them.  Therefore, let people not blame the messengers of the news that they don’t want to hear, but let them get involved, become more educated, achieve greater understanding, and work to create improvement and positive change so that the world is a better place for everyone!

References:

 Ostrich photograph.  From “All Tied up and Nowhere to go: Ostriches lead us to our doom.”  September 26, 2012.  http://atung.net/2012/09/03/ostriches-lead-us-to-our-doom/.

“A Spiritual Inquiry: What is Suffering?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Suffering.  Just what is ‘suffering’ anyway?  What is the meaning of suffering, and why do people suffer?  Why do we experience suffering?  Dictionaries and encyclopedias generally define suffering as relating to pain, distress, and/or emotional pain; anxiety, stress, or aversion to something subjective; and a negative emotion or feeling, etc. 

The New World Encyclopedia defines suffering “as a negative basic feeling or emotion that involves a subjective character of unpleasantness, aversion, harm, or threat of harm.”  I would like to take this definitions and understanding of suffering a bit further, expanding on it to include many types of suffering, including emotional, psychological, physical, physiological, social, moral, and spiritual suffering.

There are so many different types of suffering, and I’m sure that most of us have experienced many – if not all – of them.  During Lent this year in 2012, I especially and personally contemplated the meaning of suffering.  This is a topic about which I have thought in the past, though I found deeper meaning in contemplating it during this past Lenten season.  I thought about Jesus, and all the suffering, pain, anguish, and turmoil he experienced prior to dying as our Savior.  I know that it was God’s will for this to occur, though I wondered why – as I have wondered why throughout my life – this was necessary to occur. 

One man – one holy, Godly man – is able to save us from our own sinfulness through the power of his suffering, death, and resurrection.  Was there no other way to achieve that?  Why was it necessary that Jesus experience such horrific and indescribable suffering in order to save us?  Why, often, does society – even now – turn against those who are good, honest, moral, and ethical.  Why, sometimes, is it that those who are self-serving, corrupt, unjust, unethical, and immoral make gains in their lives over those who are the opposite of them? 

These are not only religious questions, but also philosophical and humanistic questions worth contemplating.  Why is there suffering in the world?  Why does it occur?  Is it something that is necessary to occur as a result of our own humanity?

When I think about suffering, I think about things that I have experienced in my own life – or even that which family members have experienced – and then, when I hear about another’s suffering, what I have experienced sometimes seems to pale in comparison to theirs.  An adult daughter of a friend and colleague is struggling to heal against breast cancer.  This spring, a young girl in my child’s school was recently diagnosed with bone cancer, while another was diagnosed with diabetes.  The daughter of a close friend has been struggling against breast cancer.  Still others whom we know deal with great physical or emotional pain each day. 

Others suffer with physical pain, including a dog that was reported to have killed a family’s two-month-old baby in April 2012.  Still others also grapple with suffering that they may not be able to alleviate, of loved ones killed and who we are unable to revive and bring back.  An example of this that is still all too fresh in our minds is the suffering and death inflicted upon so many at the movie theater tragedy in Aurora, Colorado (http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-201_162-10013055-2.html?tag=page;next).  And, there are countless other examples of suffering, pain, and death that go on and on, such as the fighting in Syria and Northern Ireland, and even in some of our own neighborhoods, such as those in Chicago.

So much suffering.  Why is there suffering?  Why is it a “normal” condition of human life to have and experience suffering?  Is it expected?  Is it necessary?  Is it an unavoidable condition of human life and of all life on earth?  When people worry, are nervous, or are anxious, they experience some degree of suffering.  When people are hungry, homeless, or in need, they are suffering.  When anyone experiences any type of abuse – emotional, physical, sexual, even spiritual – they are suffering.  How can we understand, alleviate, and/or overcome pain and suffering?

If someone has experienced or witnessed a traumatic situation, such as a tragic death of a family member, loss of their home due to a natural disaster, or was involved in a terrible vehicle accident, they have experienced suffering.  There are also those who self-impose suffering onto themselves, inflicting injury on themselves, drinking, doing drugs, being promiscuous, or doing illegal actions – they are suffering.  Therefore, there exist the questions about why people hurt themselves. 

Personally, I feel sorrow and sympathy for those who are suffering, as well as for those who have some type of need within themselves to create or cause suffering on or toward others.  People who are bullies, those who are abusive, those who commit crimes, those who are hateful, those who have no conscience or sense of any wrong-doing when they take life-altering actions against others – I feel sorry for them and I pray for them.  Indeed, I sometimes also feel anger, spite, judgment, and a lack of understanding for their actions, though I also pray for them. 

For these people I just described, I believe they are those who need the most prayers.  They may be those for whom society and the world let down, didn’t help, and turned away from, forcing them to fend for themselves, to survive in whatever ways possible, even if those ways were criminal.  I feel sorry for them, and I may find it in my heart to be forgiving, but I believe it is important not to forget and not to allow oneself to be open to being hurt and/or injured by them in some way again. 

Through all of this, we still come back to the age-old questions of what is suffering and why do people suffer?  How can we alleviate and/or eliminate pain and suffering?  These are questions that I am unable to answer, and continue to contemplate.  Perhaps you can share your own insights.

References

New World Encyclopedia.  April 21, 2012.  http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Suffering.

“The Aurora Shooting Victims.”  CBS News.  September 15, 2012.  http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-201_162-10013055-2.html?tag=page;next.

“People in Authority who don’t Listen aren’t Leaders” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

People in positions of authority who don’t listen to or consider others aren’t leaders.  It’s as simple as that.  It seems that there are so many more people in our world who don’t listen to or consider others than there are those who do.  What is extremely discouraging, disappointing, and disturbing is when an individual of common, everyday status approaches and/or comunicates with someone in authority about a serious issue or concern that can be changed or improved, and that person does not listen, does not care, and/or does not even consider what the other person has to say.  We, therefore, must be very thankful for those people who do listen – whether or not they are in positions of authority and whether or not they are in a position to change a situation for the better.  Those people seem to be getting fewer and fewer these days.

In my own experience and throughout my life, I have met, encountered, interacted with, and/or communicated with many people in positions of authority who, by their refusal to listen to, consider, and/or understand certain issues and concerns, are not true leaders.  Leaders are those people who take charge and lead all others in a positive direction of beneficial development. 

Sometimes, however, people in authority and in positions of leadership are unwilling and/or unable to listen to and consider the needs, issues, and concerns of others.  Therefore, in my definition, they are not true leaders because they are unable to be open to truly hearing, considering, analyzing, and understanding issues that may bring about positive change that may and can be good and beneficial for everyone.  People in positions of authority who are closed to others and who shut others out, by this definition, are not leaders.

It seems that there are sometimes too many people in our lives who are unwilling or unable to hear what we have to say.  Perhaps our information is too uncomfortable for them to hear, or they are threatened by it in some way, or they are unable to cope with it.  That is unfortunate for everyone because they are missing out on an opportunity to do something good for others.  They, therefore, don’t even realize that they have missed a chance to improve something, to help another, and to potentially assist many others.  They believe that they know the only right and correct way; they have closed themselves off from others, and believe they are protecting themselves from others. 

In my life and experience, I have met, interacted with, and communicated with several people who, through their own discomforts, feelings of being threatened in some way, inability to cope, and/or simple refusal to listen caused them to shut me out, turning away from me.  These people have included certain authority figures in higher education, churches, schools, businesses, family and friends, and even former intimate partners.  When people are unable or unwilling to listen to information they don’t want to hear and/or with which they are unable to cope, they may shut you out, turn you away, deny you, discredit you, and/or even demonize you, simply for being direct, honest, truthful, and assertive.

It is, therefore, extremely important to be thankful and grateful for those who ethically and morally consider and listen to others, particularly when their information has, not only the potential to influence and assist that person in a positive way, but the potential to benefit many others, as well.  There are some individuals out there who can and do listen.  There are some folks who take positive and beneficial actions to help and protect others when they are informed about it.  There are certain people – within the same and other groups that I mentioned above – who do act to help and benefit others, who seriously consider and analyze others’ actions and information, and who do not demonize and condemn the individuals who are providing truthful and honest information, even though it may be information that they don’t want to hear.

It is these people for whom we must be grateful.  For these people, we must recognize and be aware of their personal and internal gifts and talents of truly being leaders.  True leaders are strong in the face of persecution, even though others may have condemned and demonized them simply for stating or doing something with which others disagree or with which they are unable to cope.  We must recognize, therefore, that the majority may not always be right or correct, ethical or moral, honest or truthful.  What we must recognize is that even one or a few people can be correct over the majority, that perhaps even one or a few people who stand up for what is right even in the face of abuse, injustice, and persecution may have only the best interests of everyone in mind, not just that for themselves. 

If you are a leader of a group, organization, business, or institution, how do you behave and what do you say to others in order to include, consider, and hear the concerns and issues of others?  How do you examine, analyze, and research the information that has been given to you?  Do you simply believe what others have to say about another person, simply because they may be in a potentially powerful position of authority over the other person?  People in positions of authority are not always right and correct. 

I identify Pope Benedict XVI as a good example of a person in authority who does not always do what is right and correct, in hiding and covering up the abuses of clergy throughout the world.  I identify college or university presidents who do not listen to students who have concerns or issues about crimes committed against them by other students, or other college officials who will not consider other serious issues brought to their attention. 

I identify school principals who bully teachers and students because they do not wish to draw attention to particular issues.  I identify clergy who shut others out simply because they are unwilling or unable to cope with what others have to say.  I identify governmental and political figures who won’t consider a different and perhaps better or more fair way of doing things in consideration of others.  I even identify family members or relatives who are unable to hear or consider truthful and honest information, particularly when such information may potentially be to their benefit. 

It is, therefore, very important to cultivate and maintain relationships with others who do consider, hear, listen to, and understand you.  When you are completely honest and truthful with yourself, others who are also honest and truthful will recognize and appreciate your truth.  It’s like the old sayings go, “Birds of a feather flock together,” and “they are like peas in a pod.”  People who are similar understand, appreciate, and respect each other.  People who stand up for what is right and correct find, understand, and appreciate each other, as well. 

Thank you to all those who are able to hear, understand, listen to, and consider the truth, and what is right and good, even if it’s something that you don’t want to hear.  For those of you who are unable to do so, I pray for you that your eyes, ears, and mind will be open to what others have to say.

“What do People Want to Hear?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Pink Flower in Garden, August 2012

Throughout my life and through my life experiences, I have generally found that people only want to hear “good” things.  That is, it seems that people only want to hear what is good, pleasant, positive, or uplifting to them in some way.  Those who have had much life experience, whether they are younger or older, can share that not all life experiences are good, though it is still important to be able to share about them with others. 

People generally seem to love the “feel good” communications, messages, and information that they receive and/or share.  I admit and agree that I enjoy such information just as much as any other.  However, in order for people to remain “real,” we must understand that in order to continue growing, developing, and improving ourselves, we must also recognize, realize, and deal with experiences, issues, or concerns that are hurtful, painful, and potentially negative.

Because there may be a tendency for people to avoid or shut out information that they do not want to hear, there may also be a tendency to “blame” or “revictimize” the individual who has experienced a painful situation.  It sometimes seems that the person who has been hurtful to another has not at all been hurt by the situation that he or she caused, but actually feels good about it and such situation may have served to boost their own ego.  Psychological research has reflected this in the case of bullies who interact negatively with their targets.  The bullies feel good and get an ego boost, while the targets feel badly and are hurt by it.  Similar research has reflected this phenomena in sexual predators.

So, what do people want to hear?  I think the answer is that people generally want to hear about good and wonderful things, and may not have the training necessary to be equipped to cope with things they don’t want to hear.  As a result of some of my own life experiences and those of others that have been painful, in sharing about them, I have found that there are a very few who are successfully able to hear, listen to, and cope with the knowledge of and information about them.   

This, therefore, creates a very small number of people with whom one can relate about deep and serious issues.  Sometimes, then, it is necessary to seek professionals with whom to communicate with such issues when others do not understand them or may make them worse.  When people do not present an understanding about the issues, they may also unnecessarily misjudge the person who is simply the messenger, the one who is simply providing the information.  Then, they may inaccurately associate the messenger with the issue that was presented and about which they do not want to hear.

Red Flower in Garden, August 2012

There is alot of information out there.  Some of it is good, and some, not so good.  Within it all, however, I believe there is some good that can be made out of it or that can come from it.  Yes, people generally feel good about positive, pleasant, and happy situations.  However, we can also come together in genuinely caring community and loving fellowship when we recognize and deal effectively, positively, and successfully with issues that have a negative or painful impact.  Since we are all different and unique, but also similar, each individual may have his or her own views on what constitutes successfully and positively coping with something.

When we mobilize to help survivors of natural disasters, that is a reflection of something good coming from a painful situation.  When we listen to others and guide them in ways of helping themselves rather than denying them or shutting them out, those are ways of bringing something positive to a situation or experience.  When we use our gifts and talents to help others who are in need, who are impoverished, who are in pain, and who are suffering in some way, we are showing the genuine care and love to others that God intended us to use.  These are the good things that people want to hear that can come from situations and/or experiences that have potentially been hurtful or painful.

When people blame, punish, misjudge, or revictimize others because of hearing what they don’t want to hear, they are not using their natural gifts and talents to help, assist, and support others in finding a better way to help themselves.  It is in these situations when people potentially try to “fix” a situation without adequate care or understanding that the situation may potentially be made worse. 

Sometimes, when people hear what they don’t want to hear, and react negatively to it, an opportunity for growth, development, and knowledge for something more positive may be lost.  This also reflects that people hear what they want to hear, even though they may not understand the true message.  It also reflects that people may react negatively to a situation simply because it is something that they don’t want to hear.

Pink Flower in Garden, August 2012

Life is full of things that we want to hear and that we don’t want to hear.  How we cope with and communicate with others about such information can make all the difference in either helping or hurting another.  We must first take a close look at ourselves and analyze how we process and cope with information – that which we may view as positive, negative, or neutral.  And, we must realize that life and all of what we experience in it are learning experiences.  We can make it good or bad. 

We can take painful experiences, and work to make similar, future situations better for others.  We can take happy experiences and work to share the joy in them with others.  We can decide only to be open to and “hear” the good about situations and experiences.  We can filter out what we don’t want to hear.  Or, we can “hear” what we don’t want to hear and work to make future, similar experiences better for ourselves and others.  What do you want to hear?

“Good Shepherd Sunday: Be A Good Shepherd Today and Everyday” By Michele Babcock-Nice

“Good Shepherd Sunday:

Be A Good Shepherd Today and Everyday”

By Michele Babcock-Nice

April 29, 2012

Today is “Good Shepherd Sunday,” a day for reflecting upon and remembering all the goodness that Jesus has done for us, particularly in his suffering and dying to save us from sin and damnation. Good Shepherd Sunday focuses on John 10 in which Jesus basically tells His followers that He is the Good Shepherd, that in John 10:7, He is “the door of the sheep.” In John 10: 11-15, Jesus states, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep…and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus goes on to say, “I give unto them eternal life…” (John 10: 28).

God calls all of us to be good shepherds. The homily that the priest at my church shared today was related to that theme, again calling all of us to be each other’s caretakers, not just being shepherds, but being good shepherds. He also stated the being a good shepherd is not an easy task. In his homily, my pastor also stated that there are those who are wolves, who turn on the shepherd and the sheep.

Importantly and agreeably, we must all be shepherds – and good ones at that. In being good shepherds, God calls us to care for others as well as ourselves, and also to recognize the ways in which we have been sinful, as well as to repent and improve our behavior and our lives. And, sometimes, it is not easy to perceive those who are wolves. At times, wolves masquerade among us as those wearing sheep’s clothing.

It is, therefore, extremely important that we are all good shepherds, being good caretakers of each other, particularly those who are most vulnerable, most in need, and most innocent. Prayer, self-reflection, and requests to God from us to do His will are important in helping us to be better caretakers of others and ourselves, as well as to be good shepherds. Also, if good works are unseen and unrecognized – or worse, viewed as injurious – we must seek shelter, protection, guidance, and comfort from the one and only Good Shepherd, for He sees, knows, and understands everything, even if the world around us does not.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, seek and strive to be a good shepherd, to your church, to your family, to your neighbors, to your colleagues, to your community, to yourself. Seek to do the greater good. Do not strive to be self-seeking. Place yourself and your works in God’s hands, and He will guide you in being that good shepherd whom He wants you to be.

References

The Holy Bible (1979).  Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.