GRATITUDE FOR GOOD
A Blog by Gratitude Alliance
I was born in Nepal fighting for breath, for my life and my mother’s life. I learned how to fight to protect before I learned to walk. Thankfully, my mom stopped using heroin when she was four months pregnant, though seven and a half months in, the placenta severed, after she fell down the stairs during an earthquake. When I was born, I was four pounds, and told it took months for my arms and fists to relax and unfurl away from my body. At the hospital, they placed me in a proxy incubator, a cardboard box, in a room away from my mom. The first people to take care of me were Nepali nurses.
Mom left Nepal when I was still a baby, and took me back to the states. Four years later, she left her boyfriend, after he hit me and then her. She was like Wonder Woman. She was tough. She was from Jersey. But later she stayed when her next live-in boyfriend, George, hit her. He was emotionally, physically and sexually abusive to both of us. I vowed I’d never be in a relationship that was abusive.
After Mom broke up with George, her free spirit again had air to breathe, and when I was 16 we went back to Nepal.
I met Marilyn. She was a family friend who took over our restaurant in Nepal when my mom left. Marilyn gave up her American citizenship and become a Nepali citizen. She was an 80lb wisp of a woman. From the minute Marilyn got off her motorbike wearing red high-water corduroy pants, and purple tennis shoe, she delighted me.
Marilyn led jungle tours and worked at a shelter for battered women and children. With fierce brilliance, she edited books about women’s rights. When she spoke about the mistreatment of women, her voice grew louder, full of sharply annunciated consonants that I imagined built safe houses. She was strength and comfort personified.
When it was time to return to California, I begged my mom to leave me in Nepal. I wanted to stay and work with Marilyn. I wanted more of what she had, whatever it was. Marilyn saw me and appreciated my gift: the part of me that knew how to fight for, protect and nurture others.
“What if I refuse to get on the plane? You can’t force me.” But, things were finally good between us. I boarded the plane to go back, but left a part of myself there, with a promise I’d go back.
On January 15th this year, I fulfilled my dream.
I am finally in Nepal, at the Bright Horizon’s Children’s Home. There is a view of the Himalayas from the guesthouse we are staying in. I look out at the white-capped mountains surrounded by clouds of pink. Water pours from my eyes. This is my heart opening.
The teachers give me an incredible gift. They bring me back to basics. I speak in broken English and overly expressive gestures. We hold them in a field of agape, unconditional love, and introduce a hugging culture.
I am deeply touched by how enthusiastically the Nepali teachers receive us. The intimacy we create with the teachers progressively breaks down gender taboos. Male teachers test the waters first by hugging us, then each other and the female teachers. Then this spreads to the children.
One of the experiences that moves me the most, is witnessing how collective healing in community is embodied in their culture. By day three of our training, during a tea break, spontaneous singing and dancing breaks out. Instead of going back to class we recognize this as a way they inherently know how to resource after the hard conversations about the symptoms and the causes of trauma. We keep dancing.
I am overwhelmed by the expansive feeling in my heart, and cry from gratitude every day. Layers of old stories that belonged to my family, about being alone, having to fight and work hard to be loved, are shed. Here I am, stepping into a new story of extended family and unconditional love. One that says “being” is more than enough. I leave with my heart full of family, (nane and me) godsons and goddaughters, brothers and sisters.
I healed my own trauma over the past 25 years, so I could be of service in a sustainable way. I am here now. To stand for the end to the abuse of children and violence towards women everywhere, because no woman and child should stand alone. To stand for the reclaiming of our bodies as our own so that all women and children can access safety, comfort and joy. To stand for love and safe physical contact, because it’s what is twisted, misused and withheld in abusive cycles.
This January, with the support of the SETH program, I came full circle, back to my sixteen-year-old intention. I began the work Marilyn inspired me to do. I stayed with her in Swayambhu and took care of her during part of my visit. When I reported how well our training at the school was going, she looked up at me. That familiar toothy grin rose like the moon above the table and shone on me,“That’s great”.
As an incredible epilogue to this journey, Marilyn died shortly after my visit with her, and passed the torch to me. I will carry on the legacy that she left behind, but will include myself in the circle of care. Her joyful presence will always be remembered.
What legacy are you inspired to create?
By Amy Paulson
I hate the word “hero”.
A hero is perfect. A hero must do the right things at all times. A hero is infallible.
Modern humanitarians I’ve admired like Somaly Mam or Greg Mortensen were elevated to superhuman hero status one day, then branded as “fallen heroes” the next, after proving capable of human fallibility (even gross misjudgment); while the work they did to empower vulnerable girls - which is what was truly heroic - was tragically forgotten.
So, I pause before using the word “heroes” when describing Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and my brief yet inspiring interaction with them in Berkeley last night. But I’m jumping ahead. Let me back up.
It was around 2010. I bought Half the Sky at an airport bookshop. “Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” the blue cover said. Back in those days, I was still working in finance. My head was full of forecast figures and corporate ambition. I opted for some lighter David Sedaris humor. The book sat on my shelf and collected dust.
Fast forward to early 2012. I had just quit my corporate job the year before, on the back of reconnecting with my biological Korean family, discovering I had been kidnapped at birth to an orphanage, and that my Korean mom was orphaned by the North Korean army who killed her parents when she was six. I mentioned my story to a friend, how I was planting the seeds of the Global Gratitude Alliance with my co-founders, and how our mission was to empower women and children. “You have to read Half the Sky,” she insisted.
By Amy Paulson
My parents and I have a special deal: no more birthday presents or Christmas kitsch. No more stuff we don't need that will clutter up our houses, get sold on eBay, or donated to Goodwill. Since 2012, we started a new tradition - give love to each other and to the world by making a donation in honor of our love for each other that will also empower dignity and opportunity for vulnerable women and children around the world.
Do we still celebrate with cards, messages of love and gratitude, and a special meal together (when possible)? Absolutely. Does my mom still buy me a Santa Claus decoration every year, as is our tradition? Yes.
But now every birthday or Christmas holiday is made even more special. It's the meaning, intention, and love that goes with giving that is most important. The best way that we can express that is to give something meaningful back to the world. And, if we want or need something for ourselves, we just buy it as and when we need it... which is great! No awkward pretending to like something you will just sell or re-gift to someone else. An extra bonus: a smaller carbon footprint.
So, this holiday season, I challenge each of you to give just one gift of love. It can be in honor of your love for a dear friend, favorite aunt, or just you. Whoever it's for, take a moment to feel joy and gratitude while giving it. That's what the holidays are all about.
Here are just a few ideas: http://www.gratitudealliance.org/gifts-of-love.html
We are so excited to announce a new partnership with RetailMeNot to support the sustainable housing project for the Maisha children's home.
"We at RetailMeNot are incredibly proud to support The Gracias Foundation and the Maisha Home for Children in Nairobi," said Giulio Montemagno, SVP of International at RetailMeNot, Inc, and a regular volunteer at Maisha. "We have witnessed first-hand the caring and safe environment the Foundation has provided for the children and the incredibly positive impact this had on their lives, empowering them to overcome past traumas, restoring hope and enabling them to pursue their dreams."
The housing project is already underway. We expect the project to complete by early 2015. Checkout our Facebook page for regular photo updates.
A warm-hearted Asante Sana from The Gracias Foundation and all the kids and staff at Maisha! We are forever grateful for your support! Read on for the official press release below...
(Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
We are deeply honored to announce a partnership with MoneyGram Foundation to empower the Maisha children in Kenya with secondary tuition, academic tutoring, a computer lab, and support for a new boarding house for the existing kids and the next generation of Maisha scholars.
"MoneyGram believes education transforms lives, and the foundation is privileged to work with worthy organizations that are providing life-changing education programs to those who need them the most," said Pamela H. Patsley, chairman and chief executive officer, MoneyGram.
School tuition and tutoring support will span the next 5 years, while the computer lab and boarding house projects will commence this year.
A huge thank you to MoneyGram Foundation for their commitment to empowering quality education for children around the world. Asante sana! Please read on for the press release below...
By Becca Rhew (Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
The other night my husband and I got onto the topic of Valentine’s Day and how we would celebrate. We live in Switzerland, so:
a) Valentine’s is not as big as in the U.S.
b) A“nice” but not extravagant dinner can easily run you $120+, a standard greeting card averages $5, and a dozen roses…you don’t want to know.
By Rachel Crowther (Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
‘I’m not sure how many people will come,' Amy said.
We’d had a busy morning setting up a room and a clothes-rail full of new and lightly used donated goods for our Gracias fundraiser. With a series of mishaps on the way:
· Car lights left on (me)
· Inability to park in a huge space (me)
· A broken glass before even starting to set up (me)
· Leaky rubbish bags (not me)
By Debbie Brupbacher (Reposted from The Gracias Foundation, now called Global Gratitude Alliance)
Thank you for supporting The Gracias Foundation for which I was raising funds by taking part in the Manaslu Mountain Trail race in Nepal. I am glad to say I finished safely and I have been thinking how I would be able to write about such an experience in just a few paragraphs. I find it very hard as I am still suffering from the Manaslu blues, but here is my attempt to share at least some of that experience.