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

Acceptance, caring, compassion, connection, empathy, kindness, Love, RECK, respect, Tolerance, Uncategorized, Well-Being

“The Delightful Dozen” Values for Wellbeing

The formula of Respect, Empathy, Compassion, and Kindness (RECK) came from a place of researching the essential things all people need in order to be well. The idea was that we should treat all people with RECK for the sake of their wellbeing and the prevention of harm. First I created a Facebook page called RECK Pact, which called people to pledge themselves to treat all people with RECK, all the time. This evolved into a rebranding of the page to RECK for All – putting the call right into the name.

Recently, I was reflecting upon how important tolerance, acceptance, and love (these three values come up in comments frequently) are, which led me to write this post. Around that same time, this reflection led me to rebrand our Facebook page once again to “It Matters How We Treat One Another.” This statement is an assertion I have made several times since starting our Facebook page and it always gets a highly positive response. This name change has received a positive response from the nice folks who follow the page.

Since making that change to the page I’ve been reflecting upon the all the things that help create positive interpersonal relations – all the things that foster good emotional health in individuals. So far, I’m up to 12.

Here are the Essential 12 AKA the “The Delightful Dozen”:

  1. Kindness – This is to have a basic level of tenderness for all people. It is healthy to be kind to people. It benefits and giver and the receiver.
  2. Respect – From granting basic human dignity to holding others in esteem. Often, I describe this as recognizing the fact that we all have struggled and we all have overcome hardships in our lives. It’s important to have at least a basic level of respect for people.
  3. Empathy – This is to feel with others. Our world would be radically changed for the better if we all made a greater effort to empathize with one another. Empathy builds understanding and even cooperation.
  4. Compassion – To feel another’s pain and desire to relieve that pain. Compassion is humanity’s greatest hope for a brighter future. May we all be well.
  5. Acceptance – To love people as their are. An acceptance of difference is akin to tolerance, so I have not chosen to list tolerance separately. Acceptance is tolerance taken to the next level of positivity.
  6. Love – This is to hold people close to your heart. Love creates a kinder and gentler world.
  7. Grace – This is basically to give people the benefit of the doubt. It is also the idea of believing that the individuals in our lives are basically good and well intentioned. This also includes forgiveness and letting go of hurt and resentments. Let others “off the hook.”
  8. Appreciation – From appreciating each person’s unique gifts to gratitude for the positive actions that people take, including the kind things they do for us.
  9. Integrity – People need to be able to feel like they can trust us to be truthful and dependable. It matters what we do even when no one is looking.
  10. Equity – Treat everyone as equal to you, neither above you nor below you. This is healthy for you and for them.
  11. Cooperation – Working together for the betterment of all. We don’t have to agree on everything in order to be able to cooperate and work together.
  12. Uplift – Joy, happiness, hope and humor. We all need hope and a little levity from time to time. Of course, it’s never appropriate to mock others. Everyone should be in on the joke. Humor can either lift people up or tear them down, so we must be careful with our humor.

That’s RECK turned to 11. Instead of looking at the most basic elements that everyone needs in order to be well, this is looking at all of the things people can do to help make others well and to improve our relationships.

I have to say that this is and has been a really exciting journey. It’s fun to think about all the things we can do to be well and help others be well. There’s so much suffering and struggle in the world, there is really no reason to compound it for one another. Let’s all help one another to be well!

Much love to you,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, connection, empathy, Love, Obliterate Hate, RECK, respect

Election 2020: The Tale of Two Echo Chambers

I have been watching a LOT of news coverage this week and, for the life of me, I can’t understand why none of the major news media is reporting on the fact that this presidential race is so incredibly close, because no one from one side is listening to what the other side is saying. This presidential election shows in stark detail how every American now lives in their own personal echo chamber, with everything they already believe to be true simply echoed back at them through various media.

I have been seeing posts by people on the left saying that X number of people voted for President Trump even though they knew he was a racist, misogynist, xenophobic… and on and on. My response to that is NO, they did not know any of those things. People on the right don’t watch the same news you do, don’t see the same social media you do, and sure as heck don’t listen to the same talk radio you do. This country is incredibly divided and the way Americans consume media is only making it worse.

My mission in life is to think of, view, and treat all people with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness (RECK). And I make an effort to do that with everyone, no matter where they fall on the political spectrum. And I have to tell you… no one who supports Donald Trump believes anything the mainstream media says about him. They just don’t. It doesn’t matter if the mainstream media says these things are facts. Supporters of Donald Trump listen to to Donald Trump, and they believe him. So, when President Trump says he has done more for Black people than any president since Abraham Lincoln, they say “Damn right!”

I think if any American wants to try to understand people on one side or other of the political divide then we need to start to consume some of the same media those people do. Otherwise, I feel like we are simply going to continue to misunderstand each other. And we also need to make a solid effort to stop vilifying one another. We are all Americans. We all love our country. We all want what is best for our country… we simply have different views of what that is.

Personally, I would like to see people come together and try to talk out there differences. I am fully aware of what a tall order that is, but I don’t feel like this level of division in our country is sustainable in the long run. And the more we see one another as enemies the more we will fight like enemies. And I for one do NOT want another Civil War.

Let’s keep working on ourselves. Let’s work hard on ourselves not to hate anyone. Oppose that which you see as wrong-headed, but make an effort to love one another. We can bring this country back together. We can reduce the divide. And reducing the hate starts in our own hearts.

Much love to you all,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

connection, empathy

Not Social Distancing: Physical Distancing

Image: David Ramos/Getty Images


Dear world, can we please stop calling it “Social Distancing?” As human beings, we all need social contact to maintain emotional health. This Coronavirus pandemic sucks and using the term Social Distancing repeatedly isn’t helping things any. In our house, we’ve taken to using the term “Physical Distancing” to both better describe what it is we are doing and to remind ourselves that even while physically apart from our friends and extended family we can remain socially close.

Personally, I am making an effort to reach out to all sorts of people in my social sphere to see how people are doing and provide emotional support where I can. I imagine that most people are doing something similar, as we should be. And as the weeks grind on and we spend more time isolated from many of the people with whom we usually spend time, I sure we’ll continue to think of creative ways to connect.

Already this week I’ve Skyped, FaceTimed, Zoomed, texted, messaged, and phoned all sorts of people from coworkers to family members to friends with whom I’d fallen out of touch. And I plan to keep it up. I’m also making an effort to set up Skype sessions between my kids and their friends as sort-of virtual play dates. All of this is important. Each interaction helps. And it’s all social.

Each day, my family is getting out for a morning walk and waving at neighbors and exchanging pleasantries from a safe distance. Again, physically we are separated, but socially we are close.

If anything, it feels like the whole world is drawn closer by our common shared experience with this pandemic. We see videos on social media of Italians singing from their balconies and medical professionals dancing in full protective gear. Commonality builds empathy, and before this is over, every single one of the nearly eight billion people on planet Earth will be able to empathize with what it was like to have battled this novel Coronavirus.

So, let’s all make an effort to remain socially close while we practice Physical Distancing. And – as has become my catch phrase: Stay safe. Stay healthy.

With Love,

Matt Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

(Postscript: My heart goes out to each and every person who has, is, or will suffer from COVID-19. Please know that you are in my thoughts. Much love to anyone the world over who has lost someone to this terrible disease.)


We’re All Connected

The English Channel from space (Image: YouTube)


By Rochelle Leon

My friend Les is one of the most spiritual people I know. He often says the phrase, “We are all one,” or “We’re all connected.” I think it’s even part of the permanent signature line at the bottom of his emails. Before, when I heard this axiom, whether from Les or anyone else, I’d think, “Sure, okay, we’re all connected, makes sense.”

My thoughts on the subject were sincere, but not exactly deep. I took it more at face value, like a universal, spiritual truth, but I never really knew what it meant. I hadn’t actually thought about the how or the why. The sheer vastness of it seemed too complex and I wasn’t able to actually process the logistics of these “connections.” Perhaps I just wasn’t Zen enough to get it?

Then, recently, I had a realization about how often we’re touched by events that have nothing to do with us personally, yet still affect us as if they did. It was in this moment that I started to understand this principle. I stopped looking at it as a theory and started feeling it as a belief. And I have to tell you, I really haven’t been the same since.

Now, I’m no expert (if you’d like one, I can refer you to Les), but I thought this new way of looking at this concept “we are all one” was worth sharing.

Okay, yes, we’re all connected! Another less spiritual, though still universal truth is that people LOVE sports analogies (and even though I know very little about sports) I’m going to attempt to use one now! Here goes…

When you tune in to watch a big game – lets say basketball for example – most people focus on the players, the score, perhaps the coaches or the crowd. Do you ever think about the fact that literally hundreds if not thousands of people all have had a hand in your experience? In enjoying this one, single game? Think about all the people involved… those who sold the tickets, built the stadium, literally stitched together the player’s sneakers… the sports agents who negotiated the athlete’s contracts, the factory workers who made the basketballs, the parents who encouraged their sons to work hard and play their best… the cameramen who film the game, the people who wash the uniforms… and on and on and on!

You wouldn’t think that any of these people are connected to you, right? But they are! The experience you’re having right at that moment is because of them, it’s a collective one not just a personal one! And that goes for EVERY experience you have ever had or will ever have, in your entire life! Whatever you do, wherever you go, whatever you have; the food you eat, the music you hear, the car you drive, the water you drink – it all connects you to countless other people. Some whom you know incredibly well, some just indirectly, and most whom you have never met at all!

Think about your favorite movie and then actually watch the credits all the way through and read the list of hundreds of people who all worked tirelessly together to create it. Now think about all the other people in the world who love that film just as much as you do, who know all the lines word for word, just as you do. Think about your most beloved author or sports hero or musician whom you’ve never met, yet who has inspired you, influenced you, shaped your life in some way, all from a distance, without any knowledge at all of doing so.

Abraham Lincoln wisely said, “Writing, the art of communicating thoughts to the mind through the eye, is the great invention of the world… enabling us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and space.” Imagine what he would think of our world today and how we can communicate with one another through television, film, the Internet, social media, cell phones, etc. The ways we can reach each other – it’s amazing!

Now take this line of thinking from this grander scale to a smaller, more personal one. For me, it makes me think about the person or people who sewed my wedding dress. The most beautiful, most meaningful garment I have ever worn and until this very moment, I have never paid any mind to the people who actually made it for me. I don’t even know who they are or even where they are. Not to mention the designer or the buyer for the store and on and on, all of who made my dream wedding dress a reality for me.

I also think about all the people who worked at the hospital on the days I gave birth to my children. I only remember the name of my obstetrician, not the names or faces of the nurses or the hospital staff, yet they were all integral in two of the most important experiences of my life.

When I went into labor with my first child, my water broke in the lobby of the hospital. Somebody cleaned that up!!! Did I even think about who that person was or to say thank you to them? Hopefully, I said thank you to all of the other people that I interacted with that day. So many people helped me to safely give birth to my two beautiful, healthy children and I am so humbled by that gift, and by all the people – most of whom are complete strangers to me – who helped give that to me.

It’s almost staggering when we start looking at life this way. When we start realizing that we are all part of each other’s experiences, that all of our lives are interwoven together in countless ways we can’t even begin to fathom. The gratitude and the sense of responsibility become overwhelming. And that awe grows even further when we think of how many of these people we never actually meet or see or even know who they are or even what their exact contribution is, but it exists and is powerful just the same!

Now, on top of all of that, think about the ways we connect that we don’t even fully understand. The invisible, unseen, eerie connections, the kind that give us all goose bumps and freak-you-out more than just a little bit when they catch you by surprise. Like, when you think of someone you haven’t seen in years and then out-of-the-blue you run into them the next day at the market. When you think to yourself that you’ve got to call your sister and then the phone rings at that exact moment and it’s her! When you meet someone for the first time and you feel a remarkable and inexplicable bond with them, like you’ve known them for years when you’ve only just met! These kinds of connections are real and powerful, even if completely illogical, which is why they send chills throughout our whole bodies when we feel them.

Our planet is billions of years old and yet we are all here at the same time, together, inexorably linked. That has got to mean something inherently meaningful! It makes you realize we’ve all got to be so much more aware, deliberate, and purposeful in our actions, reactions and interactions because everything we do and say has profound, far-reaching, rippling effects, casting far out into the Universe! As President Lincoln put it, throughout “time and space.”

So then, we are all in a constant state of either doing good or causing damage. Our consciousness of it makes no difference, it’s happening either way. It’s happening right now. Thus, we are all tasked with a huge responsibility, not only to ourselves, but to everyone and everything on this planet, including those who came before us and those who will be here long after us. If we can do this, if we can recognize this connection… well, just imagine the results! What a better place the world would be! And why not make the world a better place, since we’re all in it, together.

Rochelle Leon

Rochelle Leon is a writer, wife and mom. She formerly owned a greeting card company and is currently working on a novel. Rochelle has a passion for compassion and believes in a brighter future where everyone is a little kinder to one another. She lives in Southern California with her family.