Uncategorized, Well-Being

No “Us” and “Them”

I’m approaching the age of 50, and over the nearly half-century that I’ve been living on this beautiful spinning orb I’ve been watching it shrink and shrink. Not literally, of course. But in wild and fascinating ways. Since the 1970s (when I was born) the economy has become more global and trade has connected the world in circuitous and complex ways. And with the internet and social media, it seems like the world has gotten really small compared to how vast it seemed just 40 years ago, in the 1980s, when I first woke up to the world.

Due to all of these changes, the world has become increasingly interconnected. Now, it seems like nearly all of Earth’s nearly 8 billion inhabitants are just a few clicks away. Increasingly, we are learning that all people the world over share more commonalities than differences. People everywhere want many of the same things: peace, security, food, shelter, water, good health, and opportunity. We all want to love and be loved. These things are universal.

For this reason, when we speak of “us” and “them” we are really referring to us and us. We all are human beings with similar wants and desires. And, as we continue to learn, we are all interconnected. The actions we take towards others seem to come back to us with increasing speed.

We need to cast off “us vs. them” thinking, because increasingly it is actually “us vs. us.” We all need to think of ways of being that benefit all people, because we all are affected by people’s actions. Increasingly, we are seeing mass migrations of people and this has to do largely with the fact that – thanks to social media – people can easily see and be constantly reminded that they could have it better somewhere else.

Individuals want to be in the places where they can have the basic things we all desire. These are the places where they want to raise their families. These are the places where they want to work. This makes perfect sense and is easy to empathize with. After all, we all are pretty similar. Chances are that if I want something for myself, others want that type of thing for themselves too. This makes sense.

Due to the fact that we are all so similar, due to the fact that we want similar things, due to the fact that the world continues to shrink, we all need to start to think of this planet being made up of “us” and “us.” People in far away places aren’t all that different from you. People who move to where you live from other places aren’t all that different from you.

With this mentality, we all can learn to see each other as similar and get along with one another. Let’s constantly look for the ways that we are all more alike than different. Let’s look for commonalities in culture and in ways of being. Let’s strive to love one another and be the kind of person for others that we would like others to be for us. Let’s make constant effort to be kind, respectful, empathetic, and compassionate… no matter how different someone might seem at first glance.

Things are getting better. The world is improving. Over the course of this century, the world is going to become less violent, less turbulent, more peaceful, and more prosperous. We will have a brighter future with us and us… all of us.

kindness, RECK, Values, Well-Being

If You Care And Are Kind Then You Make A Positive Difference!

Some of you might look at the title of this post and think, “Well, of course.” But there is a chance that this simple fact might not be obvious to you as it was once not obvious to me. Going back about 16 years, I got the idea to start hosting volunteer events each month as a way to help people make a positive difference in the world. My theory was that, like me, there were probably lots of people who wanted to do good in the world, but simply didn’t know where to start.

Over the years, I’ve come to see that how people simply move through the world makes a big difference in the lives of those with whom they interact. I think when I was younger I was more of the mind that only big acts made any real difference in the world. However, I have come to see that everything we do every day – the kind of person we choose to be and how we choose to treat others – makes a difference.

So, I have come to the conclusion that if you care and are kind then you make a positive difference in the world. If you care about others as you go about your daily routine, taking the time to really see people and really hear people, then I am absolutely certain that you are making a difference. A little kindness goes a long way, and spreading kindness as you go about your day has a really profound and positive effect on all of the people with whom you interact.

When we watch the news, I think we are often left with the feeling that the world is a really tough place and there are some pretty terrible things that happen. Yet, when we get out into the world we often see that it is a beautiful place and that kind, caring, compassionate, and loving things often happen. This is the culture that I wish to build upon and expand. And chances are that if you are reading this then you probably feel the same way.

We can contribute to and help build a culture of kindness, respect, empathy, and compassion by simply living those values in our daily lives. Sure, the big good things matter too. It’s good to volunteer at the local food bank and donate to worthy causes. Still, you can have a major impact on this world based simply upon how you interact with the people in your life. Be kind to the cashier, help your elder neighbor carry in the groceries, and love your family with all you’ve got. They’re worth it. You’re worth it. And the world is worth it.

Much love to you,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

Values

Ever Mindful of Our Values

We must remain ever mindful of our values. The best values are those that lift people up and help improve the world. They are the values that cause us to be good citizens and stewards of the Earth. They are the values that remind us that we have a responsibility to society, to the planet, and to future generations. These values include the 12 Essential Values of kindness, respect, empathy, compassion, acceptance, love, forgiveness, gratitude, integrity, equity, cooperation, and uplift.

Some values come at a cost; values like security, propriety, and control. These values often include some people while excluding others. We’ve all seen the desire for security become so extreme that it infringes upon people’s rights and pushes away people who mean us no harm. Or worse, those who need our help. When we exert our authority for what we feel is proper it often comes at the cost of the rights and needs of the marginalized and the oppressed. And the value of control can ruin relationships and even cost lives.

We have to stop and wonder what kinds of values are at play when children are being separated from their parents and placed into cages. We need to ask ourselves what we value when police officers are shooting unarmed civilians, and worse, often without accountability. What values are taking priority when we are closing our borders to people of certain religions or those from particular countries? What is the value that seeks to keep certain people in power even if it means overturning legitimate and fair elections?

Values matter. Our values guide our thoughts and direct our actions. One could even argue that our values are at the core of that which makes us who we are. For example, values like kindness and empathy can guide us in such a way as to make us seem as though we have a patient, caring, and loving nature. How we exercise our values dictates how we move through the world. Our values can even dictate what we are passionate about and what we are willing to fight for.

And so, be ever mindful of your values. And know that where your values lead, your thoughts, words, and actions will follow.

Be Well,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

Acceptance, Love

Jesus Taught Us to Accept One Another

We are in the Easter season. Ever since I was a young child I have always been drawn by Jesus’ message of love. Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We find this message in other faith traditions as well. Jewish and Muslim Holy Books also call us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Over the course of my lifetime, as I have reflected upon this call to love our neighbors as ourselves, I have come to realize two deeper meanings intertwined in this message. The first is outlined in the New Testament. One of Jesus’ followers asks him, essentially, “Who is my neighbor?” And Jesus explains to him that everyone is his neighbor. As I have gotten to know people who are very different from me I have learned that Jesus meant that I should love all of these people, no matter how different from me they are.

This is how I came to realize the second deeper meaning wrapped up in “Love thy neighbor.” It is this: We are called to love our neighbor NOW, just as they are. Jesus did not say love your neighbor IF this or WHEN that. Jesus simply said to love your neighbor as you love yourself… even if your neighbor is very different from you. This is a powerful message of the acceptance of difference.

Jesus taught us that we should love everyone and love them right here, right now. Love them exactly as they are. Love them no matter what country they come from, what language they speak, whom they love, or what they look like. Simply love everyone. Love them for who they are and what they aspire to be. Love them with all your heart and all your mind.

Ultimately, Jesus’ message is not simply one about love, but one about love AND acceptance. So, this Easter season and always, let’s make an effort to love everyone exactly as they are.

Much love to you,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

Acceptance, caring, connection

Countering Hate Speech with Love Speech for Asian Americans

Hi! Your average white guy here. I just want to take a moment to speak some love in contrast to all the anti-Asian hate we are experiencing in the United States. I’m this guy who promotes compassion and other values for what I see as the betterment of humankind. But I’m also just a guy. I’m a husband and a father.

About 16 1/2 years ago my wife and I got the opportunity to move out of our noisy apartment in one part of Los Angeles into a nice townhome in a nicer neighborhood. The new neighborhood was mostly Asian American. We thought it would be interesting to be the minority in an area for the first time in our lives, and we really wanted that townhome, so we went for it.

It has been one of the best decisions we ever made. The folks in this neighborhood are so friendly and nice. It’s the first time since I was a child that I lived somewhere that I’ve really gotten to know my neighbors and become friends with them. This community that we’ve been living in for over 15 years now is about 75% Asian. The other 25% is a a mixture of races and we are among a handful of white people in our townhome complex.

I simply want to say… for what it’s worth… that Asian American people are lovely. We have had a wildly positive experience here. It’s quiet. People are friendly. We and our neighbors often exchange baked goods and lend one another tools. I once helped free one of my Korean American neighbors from his garage when his garage door bound up with him inside, and his wife once brought me some delicious soup when she heard I was home sick with the flu. We’re neighbors, and we’re neighborly.

During the time that we’ve lived here, my wife gave birth to boy/girl twins. They are 10-years-old now and all of the sweet senior Asian American women around us treat them like their own grandchildren, often bringing them gifts at the holidays. I even learned a little Korean from one woman’s granddaughter when she was visiting. She was about 6-years-old at the time and thought this was an activity she and I could do while my toddlers (whom she’d been playing with) were napping one day. I have many happy stories like these ones.

Oh, I probably also could mention that our landlord is Chinese American. He’s a good guy. He’s quick to get someone over when something breaks and he keeps the rent reasonable. We exchange Christmas cards each year.

My Dad came to visit soon after our twins were born. He’s a country guy and really does not care much for big cities. He was impressed with how quiet our place is. He said, “Heck, my place in the country is probably noisier than this, with cars going by and what-not” (our townhome is set back off the street). He also made a point of commenting on how there is a lot of diversity in our city, but people are friendly and really seem to get along with one another. It seemed like it gave him hope.

I’m convinced that we need to counter hate speech with love speech. And in the midst of all the upsetting anti-Asian hate we are seeing in the news I felt like I am in a somewhat unique position to say something positive on the subject. After all, not all average white guys live in a primarily Asian American neighborhood.

Be well,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion