Beliefnet
Inspiration Report

 

Hunger, poverty and suffering can be so overwhelming you might feel you can’t contribute. We know we can’t solve the world’s problems in one day, but you can do something wherever you are.

Jarrod Shuman did. She was outraged about the rally neo-Nazis and the KKK held in Charlottesville and decided to paint various rocks with inspirational words to combat the venom. According to the Virginian-Pilot, she decided to use a poem by Maya Angelou who talked about kindness as a rich tapestry:

“We must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color. My only hope is this rock will continue to inspire more people to stand against the hate and that, in the end, kindness will always win.”

Many others are painting rocks with encouraging words and leaving them in various places like near a tree, a parking lot, near a monument or in other random places. The movement stems from the Kindness Rocks Project launched in 2014 when Megan Murphy believed her parents sent Heavenly signs by dropping heart-shaped stones and other objects in her path.

“I think that people are really looking for a connection,” Murphy said in a phone interview with the outlet. “I feel that people are disconnected right now … but there comes a point where there needs to be something that brings them together to make a difference.”

The Kindness Rocks Project’s mission is to spread peace, love and understanding and “We must be mindful of the needs and opinions of others to become an agent for peace. It is the mission of TKRP to bring light to that process. Our main purpose is to promote kindness or other cool unexpected random ways.” Oprah Magazine’s June issue featured the Kindness Rocks Project and the movement has expanded to 7 continents. Murphy said she’s “So blessed that I’m the person that people share these stories with.”

If rocks aren’t your thing. Write a note to encourage someone today and send them flowers from your garden if available. You can drop them off to surprise them. Make a list of the 5-10 people who you know could use a lift and draft a letter by hand on stationery. Create a box of inspirational words or quotes for someone which can motivate them every day of the month.

Reflect on the people in your life who inspired you. Now take that and inspire strangers. Share a Scripture, a positive quote or a funny joke. Pick up a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant or other toiletries and donate them to the homeless. You can also distribute bags of warm clothes with socks and shoes for the homeless. Keep these in the car and switch it out during the season so you always have these available when you meet people in need.

Whether you’re combating hostility by using rocks or doing unadulterated acts of kindness, spreading love is the only hope for humankind. Are you ready for the challenge?

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

Unless you’ve been living beneath the proverbial rock, you’ve likely heard the latest buzz about Game of Thrones, the popular HBO fantasy series inspired by George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. Martin wrote the books with a deliberately “grey” moral outlook—many of the characters perform despicable acts alongside their noble deeds, and the story is praised for being realistic in its depiction of tragedy, sex, and violence. In Westeros, what’s right and wrong constantly shifts.

Even before the show’s massive success, that emphasis on stark grittiness and moral ambiguity has been taking its place as the new trend in entertainment, as seen in mega-hits like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos. And it’s no wonder—here in the real world, our certainties in our politicians, job security, and even in the very idea of a universal standard of goodness have been slowly undermined over the past decades.

But what if what we truly need isn’t characters who reflect our brokenness, but ones who we can look up to?

One influential British entertainment executive is calling for fewer dark tales in television, and has begun actively advocating for something a little more inspiring. Piers Wenger is the controller of BBC drama commissioning, and he’s set to bring audiences something a little happier than the usual grim drama.

“I think there is an awful lot of very dark drama across all channels and I would love to see some more inspiring stories,” he said, in an interview with The Guardian. “So I would love a Sunday night show which examines heroism and what it means to be a hero. I would love to be pitched more ideas that take us into entertaining worlds – worlds that might even be aspirational.”

Although Wenger embraces the idea that there must be a blend of inspiration and darkness in television, he feels things have become severely imbalanced—we’ve become all Yin and no Yang.

“I think there has to be a mix,” he told The Guardian. “Sometimes we need to go to very dark places to take stories apart to understand the world and understand the way the world is changing around us, but we need a better mix.”

This is the first statement of this kind from a major, contemporary television executive, but likely won’t be the last. Public hunger for inspirational content is growing as audiences everywhere become fatigued by the combination of on-screen and real-life bleakness. According to Wenger, the darkness and death of BBC dramas are, in fact, beginning to repel viewers and affect ratings.

It seems that can only take so much grim.

The upcoming changes to BBC’s lineup is likely to have a ripple effect, influencing shows overseas—including in America. We may yet see fewer Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black, clones, with more positive shows taking their place.

While the common argument against positive programming is that inspirational shows tend to be less “realistic,” this is precisely their strength. Grim entertainment holds a mirror up to the audience and tells them, “This is what you look like, and that’s okay.” To a point, this is needed—we’re all flawed, human beings, and exploring our failings is an important way of dealing with them. But all too often, contemporary shows simply revel in that brokenness instead of attempting to address it.

Inspirational content, however, holds up an image not of us as we are, but of our best selves, saying “This is what you could be.” And so instead of making an audience comfortable in their moral failings, positive and aspirational content challenges us. It pushes us to be better, to be more truthful, more heroic, more empathetic and loving.

This is sometimes an uncomfortable process, especially for a culture that has increasingly idolized the bad guy, and the anti-hero protagonist for whom the ends always justify the means.

But the benefits of maintaining the balance of light and darkness are many. Because of social media and 24/7 worldwide news coverage, we’re constantly exposed to the worst that humanity has to offer, upping our anxieties, our fears, and our sadness. But when we counter that with happier themes in our entertainment, we can more easily find hope.

And it’s in hope that we find strength. In our overly-cynical world, it has become too easy to bash the human race, and to give up on the hope that we could become something better.

But the truth is this: we can. Sometimes, we just need a little inspiration, and Wenger’s decision to include more positive programming at the largest broadcaster in the world is sure to send waves of change out into the rest of the entertainment industry.

Get ready to be inspired.

Volunteer B.T. Eberhart hands off a level during the final stages of construction on the Central District's new tiny house village on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. (GRANT HINDSLEY, seattlepi.com)

(GRANT HINDSLEY, seattlepi.com)

Denver, Colorado is becoming a top ranked city in terms of giving their homeless population places to call their own. In part, thanks to a local church.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Colorado is pushing for the addition of a second tiny house village next to their church in downtown Denver. Though one hundred square feet doesn’t sound like much for a home, compared to a bed in a shelter or a park bench it’s a castle.

The village would be almost identical to Denver’s first tiny house village, the Beloved Community created by the Colorado Village Collaborative, except it would have eight little homes instead of eleven.

Alongside community partners and volunteers and after months of construction, residents were able to move into the first ever tiny home village in Denver last May. Once moved in, the residents were able to get down to the business of living in their self-governed community. The village hosted a thank-you event in August and is looking forward to more. The village brought together a large array of local groups, including a Mennonite Church, Homeless Out Loud, and Denver’s Interfaith organization.

The village became such a success that St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Colorado decided that they wanted to partner with the Colorado Village Collaborative to build a second tiny house village right on their church’s campus.

“After careful consideration, and a time of prayerful reflection, the people of St. Andrew’s have decided to proceed with the proposed Tiny House Village,” church leadership said in a news release, saying it had surveyed its parishioners last week and found support for the plan.

It will be a women-only community.

“Some people are more at-risk than others and it’s our belief that women are more at risk,” says Ally Dodge, the church’s spokesperson.

Due to city zoning laws not addressing tiny house villages specifically, the villages are required to move their “temporary sleeping units” every 180 days. But, the church has been rallying for a change in city zoning laws. If so, the religious facility is hoping that they can begin construction as early as the coming months.

The church says it has been working with “multiple departments” in the city, with “very productive conversations.” The group says it’s committed to “meet their requirements for construction and development of this project, to the best of our ability.”

Some of the church’s neighbors are not in favor of the project, according to the church’s written statement, with concerns including “safety, sanitation, cooperative partnership and transparency.” St. Andrew’s announced that it would continue to engage with those neighbors to make the community a happy place for everyone.

The tiny home planners say they’ll start talking with the city over the next few months to define the next steps. City staff confirmed they are talking with the group.

“The city’s planning department is working with St. Andrews on their idea. We appreciate their creative approach to housing Denver’s homeless. As Mayor Hancock has said all along, the city can’t solve this by itself — partnerships are critical,” wrote Amber Miller, a spokeswoman for Mayor Michael Hancock, in an email.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, though wishes the tiny homes were a long-term solution, made a statement saying “We’ve got to get more people into safe spaces, and if this is going to serve as a safe space for some people, then we support it.”

Dodge agrees. “If we can temporarily house people who are on a waiting list for affordable housing for six months as they move through the system … then let’s do it because it’s better than them backsliding or getting violated or killed.”

Usain-Bolt_credit-Kaliva-ShutterstockJust recently Usain Bolt or better known as the fastest man on Earth decided that it was time to end his career as a competitive runner.  Bolt is a 19 time Olympic champion and world-record breaker. He competed in the 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympics.  He has also won the hearts of many with his humble and kindhearted façade. Before finishing his career he recently competed in the 2017 World Athletics Championship. 

The IAAF, or the International Association of Athletics Federation, held the 2017 World Championship in London. The 100m was the last individual race of the night.  Among those who were competed with Bolt were past competitors as well as relatively new competitors.  Two in particular were American representatives Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin.  While going through the lineup of those who were racing in the 100m, Usain Bolt was distinctly the crowd’s favorite based off of the overwhelmingly loud applause.  Gatlin, however, received a much different reaction from the crowd.  When his name was announced the crowd booed him and yelled negative comments.

Justin Gatlin has a lengthy bio in terms of his running career.  He has competed in past World Championships as well as medaled at past Olympic Games.  Gatlin has been seen in somewhat of a negative light during his career. He has received two doping bans within his career.  The first one was in 2001 after he been tested positive for taking a medicine that he had claimed he had a history of taking since childhood for his diagnosis of attention deficit disorder. The original ban was for two years but was watered down to one because of that diagnosis.  The second suspension was implemented after testing positive for testosterone in 2006.  The second suspension was set for eight years but was brought down to four based off of the fist ban. 

Justin Gatlin had to regain his credibility after being viewed so negatively by the media. He won the 100m and the 200m races in the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials which made him the oldest sprinter on the American team. He competed in the 2016 Olympics in Rio claiming a silver medal in the 100m race. Competing in this World Championship was another way for Gatlin to continue to rebuild himself. He said in an interview that he knew that he was going to have to tune out all of the negativity and just focus in on what he had to do. 

As soon as the starting shot was fired all of the sprinters took off and with long strides it looked as though Usain Bolt was in the lead.  The dash was an extremely close call.  It wasn’t until the last 50m that Justin Gatlin shot forward making a huge breakthrough, pulling him up to compete with the leaders including Bolt and other American contestant, Christian Coleman.  After the racers crossed the finish line it was left up to the videos to determine who had won the race. It turned out that Gatlin had come in first with a time of 9.92 seconds, Coleman in second with a time 9.94 seconds and Bolt in third with a time of 9.95 seconds.  It was official Gatlin had beat the fastest man on Earth in his solo race of his career.

After coming to terms with what he had just accomplished, Gatlin made a gracious effort to show appreciation for Usain Bolt and his final race.  Gatlin bowed on one knee to Bolt and then got up and gave him a hug and congratulated him.  Despite winning he had made an effort to focus in on what he felt was necessary and putting the spotlight on Bolt. This was the first time that Bolt had been defeated in an individual race in a decade. Both athletes should be accredited for the way that they each handled the circumstances.  Bolt handled the loss with grace and gave credit where it was due.  In one interview he said, , “For me he deserves to be here, he’s done his time and he’s worked hard to get back to being one of the best athletes.  He’s run fast times, he’s back and he’s doing great.  I look at him like any other athlete, as a competitor,” talking about his competitor.

In an interview Gatlin spoke about his gesture that he took in honoring Bolt and claimed, ”At this championship many people saw we do have a mutual friendship.”  He later went on to talk about how proud he was of himself and how he plans on continuing to hopefully play the part as a role model for young athletes. 

Both of these athletes have had their own battles to deal with and the both have the ability to teach different lessons. In this last race they were given titles one athlete “good” and one athlete “evil.” The story of these two individuals teaches some important lessons but the main lesson that this race showed was that sometimes you are given titles by others and they aren’t necessarily true.