We can feel better by paying it forward

Everyone I know seems saddened by the Orlando massacre. Some can’t believe, or are wearied that we have to endure yet another assault to our security from rapid fire weapons. Some are sad because it seemed a racist act to for the benefit of ISIS. Some can’t believe that people would be targeted for the gender preferences and expressions. Some are sad that the perpetrator couldn’t or wouldn’t get the help he needed.

But I am oh so impressed by how we the people have rallied around this, in spite of the fact that new restrictions on gun control laws were not passed. I don’t think that the people will settle down this time.

All over the world,people are holding rallies to remember the innocents who were gunned down. My family attended the one last Friday by the Wailua River and ocean. It was comforting to feel the love and hope and the desire within the people to make a change for the better, in all of the above mentioned areas.

My biggest challenge was telling my six-year-old granddaughter what we were doing there. How to you explain without creating fear that a sick man went into a building and shot 100 people that he didn’t even know? “It was very far away. It wouldn’t happen in Kauai. The hundred or so people who are here are working to create a happier, safer world for all of us. He was all mixed up in his head …”

But I was lifted by the event. Even our six-year old intuitively understood that it was important to maintain a peaceful silence as the names were read and caring loving words and prayers were sent to friends and families. Those who showed up made an unsolicited commitment in heart to find a better way to begin looking at each other as more the same than different. Science is helping us. Psychotherapists are finding and many religions are teaching that although we may have separate bodies, we are joined in mind and in spirit. You can shoot a body down but the mind and spirit are still joined to you.

Four days ago, the gay rights advocacy group “Equality Florida” stated that it had raised over $5 million, which would go directly to the 53 hospitalized victims, and friends and family of the victims. Other funds have also been set up! It was a sad event, but lovingly coming together on something we agree about has power.

It has been proven that being kind makes your feel better, especially for those with social anxiety. “According to Dr. David R. Hamilton, acts of kindness create emotional warmth, which releases a hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and, therefore, oxytocin is known as a “cardioprotective” hormone. It protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.

My favorite story so far is of Greg Zannis. Perhaps you’ve seen the white crosses all lined up on a path where people can pay their respects to the slain. He handmade 49 wooden crosses and painted them white. Then he drove 1,200 miles to set them up so that people could write on them, and after the mourning period, they could take the crosses home. When he was interviewed, he said, “Love your brother, and love your neighbor. Don’t judge.” He has empathy. Twenty years ago his father-in-law was murdered. Oh the healing power of forgiveness! “Don’t judge.” he said. We shouldn’t judge because we can’t really know what is going on in a person’s life, or mind. What Greg did may have been an example of “Paying it Forward.”

“Pay It Forward” is the title of a book written by Catherine Ryan Hyde that was made into a movie. The 12-year-old hero answers his teacher’s challenge to make a plan for how to improve the world. His plan was to do something real good for three people. It had to make a difference in their lives. Then, rather than pay him back, they pay it forward to three more people.

This concept was first described by Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Benjamin Webb dated April 22, 1784: “I do not pretend to give such a sum; I only lend it to you. When you … meet with another honest man in similar distress, you must pay me by lending this sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a knave that will stop its progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.”

It’s not hard to become a pay it forward “lender.” If you want some ideas, you can go to http://aplus.com/a/7-true-pay-it-forward-stories. Here’s a summary of a few of them: A policeman stops a car, and sees that a 5-year-old doesn’t have a car seat. Instead of giving the mother who clearly couldn’t pay for it a ticket, the policeman buys them a $50 car seat.

Here’s one that helps us all! RedditGifts wanted to help teacher pay for the school supplies they needed to teach their students. Normally teachers pay for 77 percent of them. They wanted to change that and set up a program that matches donors with teachers to ship them the supplies that they need to focus on teaching. At the time of the article 14,000 teachers had signed up, and 10,000 donors had responded. Hey teachers our there! Did you get that? Please get that!

If you go to www.payitforwardfoundation.org, you can sign up to help pay to get the “Pay it Forward” paperback books to classrooms who request them. Teachers, did you get that?

For more ideas and oxytocin, because we also feel good when we observe others’ acts of kindness, Google “Pay it Forward stories.” I could get lost in them.

Here’s a quotation from The Dalai Lama for those who need a different level of conflict resolution. “At the end of his talk, someone from the audience asked the Dalai Lama, ‘Why didn’t you fight back against the Chinese?’ The Dalai Lama looked down, swung his feet just a bit, then looked back up at us and said with a gentle smile, ‘Well, war is obsolete, you know.’ Then, after a few moments, his face grave, he said, ‘Of course the mind can rationalize fighting back … but the heart, the heart would never understand. Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you.’” So what could be the alternative ways that we can also get our needs met besides war and fighting?

May you all have a peaceful enjoyable summer!

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Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkinson@haleopio.org. For more information about Hale ‘Opio Kauai, please go to www.haleopio.org

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