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Guest Post by Bob Kuhn (Positive Impact Board Member)

I’ve only been to jail once in my life. When I was 19 years old, I was arrested for disturbing the peace through fighting. The incident seems pretty funny now but wasn’t very funny at the time. It’s what resulted after a type of bar-room-brawl that broke out over a minor dispute. Let me explain.

It was a Friday night and I borrowed my sister’s car to go out on a date. I was with my then future wife, Jeanine, and we were double dating with two of our friends: my friend, Rusty, and a friend of Jeanine’s who would probably like to remain anonymous. This was our friends first date. Although exciting, it turned out to be their last.

The four of us went to a local bar and sat together at a table. Typical for bars in the 1970’s, there were bumper-pool tables situated around the floor. It cost 25 cents to play a game. There were unwritten rules of play that were widely known and always honored. One rule was that in order to play you needed to place a quarter on the table. This secured a game with a previous winner. Your turn to play was in direct correlation with the number of quarters already present; if there were four quarters on the table, you knew you would be the fifth to play.

Jeanine asked me to put up a quarter so she could play.  I did, and since there were no other quarters on the table, I anticipated she would be next. That’s where the trouble started. At the end of the game being played, I noticed the quarter gone. I wasn’t sure who took it but assumed it was one of two guys standing by the table arguing over the next turn. Wanting to show my girlfriend how chivalrous I was, I stood up to defend her right to the next play.

I walked over to the table and said, “Which one of you chumps took my quarter?” One of the guys was highly offended by either my tone or the word “chump” and he pushed me down. He then proceeded to come at me with his fist drawn back. In order to keep him from doing serious damage while I was on the floor, I tossed a chair at him to slow him down. It gave me enough time to stand up. We each threw a punch at each other. His connected with my head, making me woozy, and mine happened to break his nose, making blood gush onto his face. (In case you’re wondering, there is a nonviolent moral to this story. Please keep reading.)

The fight was immediately broken up by my friend Rusty and a barroom employee. Then someone yelled, “He hit Charlie (I think that was his name) in the face with a chair.” Several people in the bar heard the yell, looked at “Charlie’s” bloody face and decided to do me bodily harm. Being still a little woozy, I was grateful that each person was taking individual turns to hit or kick me and that the angry group didn’t coordinate its efforts. Somehow, Rusty was able to get me and our dates out of the barroom and back to my sister’s car. After we were in and ready to drive away, we noticed the car was blocked in the parking lot by other cars.

Several of the angry people from the barroom decided to come out looking for me. When they saw me in the car, they surrounded it and tried to kick in the windows. I backed up the car through the group, making people jump out of the way while hitting the cars that had us blocked in. We almost got away when someone shattered my window. That’s when the police showed up. They arrested me and “Charlie” for disturbing the peace through fighting.

We both went to Orleans Parish Central Lockup to be processed. Every guard and police officer that passed by commented on my pathetic looking swollen bruised face. I looked a mess. Charlie didn’t look too bad after the bleeding stopped. All you could see was a slight cut on a crooked nose. We started talking and almost became friends. In a short period of time, we were both bailed out by one of Charlie’s friends who obviously felt sorry for me. Rusty drove my sister’s car to the Central Lockup and picked me up. I went home and broke the news to my sister about the damage to her car. That was probably the worst part of the night.

That Monday at work I shared the weekend’s event with some of my warehouse coworkers. They were a pretty rough group. One coworker was a large man built like a wrestler. He said, “If that was me, I would have gone home, got my baseball bat and gone back to do some damage.” Another coworker, who was probably a member of some urban gang, said, “I would have grabbed my piece, went back and lit up those punks.” And yet another one, who was an athletic type, said, “I would have put a call in to my boys and we would have tore that place up.” Yet, the wisest statement came from my laid back “hippie” coworker. He simply said, “I would’ve just put up another quarter.” Wow! It’s amazing how profound it is to be made aware of the obvious. If I would have just given up my right to the next game and considered it a 25 cent loss, all would have remained peaceful.

(OK. Here comes the moral of the story.) In order to have peace, we often need to give up something. It might be a little bit of pride, some perceived right, or even something we own. That’s not to say we shouldn’t stand up for our rights or the rights of others when needed. It’s just that we should take the time to ask, “Is it worth it?” “Is that parking spot, that insult, or that place in line really worth ruining my peace?” I am convinced that my one-time-arrest record, the cost to repair my sister’s car, and the ruining of a very pleasant evening was not worth a quarter. Stay peaceful my friends.

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Alan Delery

Since my last post, I’ve been considering racial and gender equality from various perspectives, trying to decide how to frame peace through the lens of equality. I was surprised how simple yet how complicated a subject this could be. Today we will begin wading into the waters of the topic by simply reflecting on the fact that the teenagers, of Positive Impact’s last service learning project,  selected equality as a major category of peace.

This diverse group of students, consisting of a mix of black, white, Hispanic and Asian males and females,  concluded that race and gender equality were both important contributors of peace.

We’re not talking about the views of young people in 1865 when the Civil War ended or the Election day of 1920 when American women exercised their right to vote for the first time. We’re not even talking the opinions of my generation when the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1968. We’re talking about teenagers, in 2017  talking about racial and gender equality.

Just as those born in my generation have had to grapple with  their own experiences around race and gender equality, our children and their children will likely have their own stories of how they are impacted by  policies and practices of their time,  not to mention the impact of the past policies and practices on their life today.

What will their stories be and what is our part in their story?

It is important to listen to and share the stories of our family, friends, and neighbors if we want to positively impact the quality of lives throughout our communities.

One of my goals is to share my voice and help others to do the same in order to increase understanding and build bridges between communities of people. I believe our stories can and should build bridges rather than build walls between us. Much of today’s media including social media sites seem to be building and strengthening walls of division. Positive Impact Inc. hopes to tear those walls down.

You can participate by doing your own research and community building exercise and sharing it with me.

Identify a few people that you can talk to about racial and/or gender equality. Without looking the term up, discuss what equality means to you. Compare each of your definitions and note if they are similar to one another.

I’d like you to discuss the following questions:

  1. Do you believe you have been treated differently (positively or negatively)  than others because of your race or gender? If so, how? Was the treatment that you mentioned by that of your gender and/or race or that of another?
  2. Were these large scale or isolated incidents and are you aware if they have formed your own biases about other groups?
  3. Do you see generational differences in your views? If so, what are they?
  4. What changes, if any, can you agree on that can improve race and gender equality as you defined it?

I would like you to record your responses and at a minimum write back and let me know if you completed this exercise by the end of the month of September. Even better, I am asking you to share your responses with me at alan@positiveimpactnola.org by the end of the month.

I know this takes some effort but it takes intentional effort to move toward and maintain peace. Conversations around equality are worthwhile conversations.

Stay Peaceful

Staypeaceful

During last semester’s service learning project, the students identified peace as the theme they wanted to target. Community members who attended the Peace Fest that the young people organized were introduced to the following 4 categories of peace: Freedom, Inner Peace, Nonviolence and Equality. While this year’s cohort of service learners may identify a totally different theme to target their efforts on, I want last year’s work to continue.

During upcoming months I will delve deeper into each category. I’m not sure where or how long this exploration will take me but I invite you to join me and provide your feedback, as I post on this important topic of peace. I pray that we each would be encouraged to seek peace in our world as we focus on the areas of Freedom, Inner Peace, Nonviolence and Equality.

Before I present my own ideas, I want you to mark each of these categories in your mind to prepare yourself for this journey. Invite others to join us as we use this time to have a positive impact on ourselves and our community.

If you have not already done so, enter your email address to follow Positive Impact and receive notifications of new post by email.

Stay Peaceful.

school in session

by Alan Delery

Well, it’s that time of year again. Summer break is over and students of all ages are preparing for school. Whether we are parents of someone in school or not, we are all responsible for or impacted by the education of our young people. The impact is more than just noticing the increase in morning traffic.  While our institutions of education are tasked with developing competent and compassionate citizens who can contribute to the building and strengthening of our communities, the reality is we all have to accept this task. We may have different roles but we have to invest in this generation if we want the future of our cities to be better.

School’s in Session

My twins are beginning college next week and the task of educating them is not over.  I’m praying that the community that they are moving to will care for and support them as they continue their journey into adulthood. They will probably make poor decisions, as I did when I was their age, but that should not be the end. It would just be another opportunity to teach them that they are a part of a community that needs them to consider the impact of their actions. That being said my expectation is for them to utilize the positive social skills that they have been taught since childhood.

School’s in Session

As I talked to my sons recently they mentioned that they wanted to find opportunities at their school to connect with others who are involved in community service. As I listened to them, I was filled with joy to hear their ambitions and wish them the best as they seek those connections. Because I know it’s easy to fall short of good intentions if you are not in a supportive community, I will count on others to be supportive when I am not around.

School’s in Session

As I close, I’m asking you to take a moment and consider if you are one of those individuals that other parents could count on to support their child to bring out the best in them. Don’t shy away from the youth that you come into contact with but find ways to connect with them. Even if you don’t have children of your own or they are grown and out of the house, your cities youth need a community to help them to be the best that they can be.

The mission of Positive Impact is to build safe and caring communities through positive relationships. Please keep an eye out on this website on ways that we can work together to accomplish that mission. Let’s keep in mind that school is always in session as we all continue to learn and practice being competent and compassionate members of society throughout our lives.

Stay peaceful.

By Alan Delery

shoulder

For those who know me, know that I’ve suffered from frequent headaches. I have been to various doctors through the years but have not determined the exact cause or the remedy for lasting relief. I’m not sure if it’s tension headaches, migraines, stress, food related, water deficiency, some spiritual origin or a combination of several of these causes. I believe this is only temporary and in the meantime, I continue to pray and stay attuned to my mind and body listening to what they might be trying to tell me.

Recently, I think I had a mini breakthrough that has shown some promise of relief. While I was not suffering from a headache, I was using a personal back massage “gadget” that allows a person to target hard to reach pressure points for massage relief. As I was applying steady targeted pressure to my mid shoulder area, I noticed that I triggered a pain in my head that was an exact match to my familiar headache. When I released the pressure, the pain in my head went away. I was able to replicate the same pain on both sides of my head by applying pressure in an exact spot on either shoulder.

Let me stop for a moment and state that I have long been aware that we carry stress on our shoulders and I have used various forms of exercises and stretches to help manage stress but I have never noticed such a close connection between my headache to a specific pressure point. Using this knowledge, I was determined to let my body talk to me to help heal myself. I once read that God allows pain so that we would be aware that there is a problem and deal with it.

Several days later, I became aware that I was starting to get a headache. I grabbed my trigger point self-massage tool and applied pressure to the same spot I had discovered earlier. I also did some shoulder shrugs and in a matter of a couple of minutes, my headache was gone. I am not sure if I ever had pain relief that fast without medicine.

Before anyone gets too excited for me, I have since had a headache that this specific shoulder massage did not help. The good news is that it does help certain headaches and I am learning to listen to my body in a greater way than ever before. I’m using a body/mind connection with more precision.

Several days after this experience of relieving a headache, I was reading in the Gospel of  Matthew and had an insight that I don’t recall having before.

12-15 “When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don’t welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. You can be sure that on Judgment Day they’ll be mighty sorry—but it’s no concern of yours now.” —  The Message

While in this passage, Jesus is talking to his disciples about going out in the “harvest” to preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, I believe there is a component that can apply as a general principle to live by. The King James translation says, “shake off the dust of your feet” but I appreciate how it is written in The Message as, “Shrug your shoulders and be on your way.”

As we go about living our lives, there are people who don’t accept us as we are or there are situations that don’t go just as we have planned and we need to learn to shrug our shoulders and be on our way. We shouldn’t carry these things as a weight on our shoulders as stress that produces all sorts of sickness and disease. Sometimes we have neck, back, and shoulder tension as a result of carrying a heavy weight of care that we need to release. I believe that even when we are doing our godly assignments we can suffer from pain if we do not learn how to release stress and cast our care on God.

There are 3 things that you need to do today. You may not get headaches like I do but if you are carrying any type of heavy weight on your shoulders (mind) it will manifest itself in some way in your life. Your body will tell you if you are carrying stress. First, you need to listen to your body and know that something isn’t right. Second, you need to figuratively shrug your shoulders and let “it” go. Finally, you need to target the manifestation of stress in your body and work it out. You might literally need to shrug your shoulders to release some of the tension out of your body. Take your hand or massage tool and massage your shoulders or some other pressure point in your body.

You need a “Shrug your shoulders and be on your way” attitude. Life is too precious to live it worrying about things.

Do what you know to do and then rest and relax.

“The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few.” (Matthew 9:37)

It’s possible that this knowledge is a part of what Jesus meant when he said we are to go out and heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. First, we have to get our inside world right before we can help others.

Have a blessed and peaceful day.

Peace Fest Group PicI’ll have more to say very soon but I didn’t want to wait any longer before acknowledging all of the young adults who acted on an idea to promote peace in their community. While we have more to follow-up with from the Algiers Peace Fest, I have to say that planning and implementing the event was one of the most pleasurable processes that I have been involved with. They truly are a peaceful bunch.

Thanks to each one of you for being you.

Lately, media coverage would have you believe that the youth of this city are on the wrong path. But then you encounter a group like the team of 12 students in Algiers, who recently decided they wanted to make “peace” the focus of their senior community service requirement, and you realize that hope is alive.

The Algiers Peace Fest, scheduled for Saturday, April 8, from 12 noon to 4 p.m. at Brechtel Park, is the brain child of a group of students working with Positive Impact, a youth community service organization.

“We talked about what service learning means and different things we could focus on, but we all agreed that peace needed our attention,” said Kenneth Barnes, a local senior in Algiers.

The group of teens came up with the idea of bringing together community organizations as a sign of unity, and they have been meeting weekly at the Algiers Regional Library to plan the event. The fest will focus on different aspects of peace including inner peace, nonviolence, equality and freedom.

“We didn’t even realize when we picked that day that it fell during National Crime Victims Week,” said Shane Delery, a student participant. “I guess it was good timing because you can’t have a peaceful community or inner peace when you see so much crime in the city.”

The community is invited to come out and participate in the Peace Fest, which will include:

  • Peace through Knowledge: Tables and stations set up by various community groups exploring aspects of peace and nonviolence
  • Peace through Art: A community “peace art” project
  • Peace through Nature: A volunteer clean-up and planting of a “peace butterfly garden”
  • Peace through Community: Flag football game

The community will also be encouraged to explore aspects of inner peace by taking a walk down the park’s trail, which will have multiple self-guided “mindfulness” stations.

Businesses and community groups interested in participating or hosting a table should contact Alan Delery at 504-343-3432 or alan@positiveimpactnola.org.

NOTES:

Brechtel Park is located at 4401 Lennox Ave., New Orleans (Westbank/Algiers)

There is a vehicle entrance fee at the park: $1 for Orleans Parish brake tags; $2 for all other vehicles (for buses: $5 fee with Orleans brake tag/$10 for all others)