Archives for posts with tag: empathy

As 2016 winds down I thought I’d share a story that warmed my heart as a mother and as a human being. Sometimes our kids just do that.

My son works at a hardware store and one of the things he does is cut keys and rekey locks.  The old keys get thrown in a discard bin. So one day when a woman came in requesting to buy new keys for a craft project my son offered to give her an ample supply of discarded keys free of charge.

…And being the typical 19 year old he thought absolutely no more of it.

The next day the same woman arrived back at the store seeking him out. She had a thank you gift for him, a necklace. The key was now stamped with the word HOPE  and an accompanying tag stamped YOU MATTER.

She was on a mission to spread an important message – there is hope and we all matter – every one of us. No matter our past, our present or our future – we all matter. And there is always hope.

My son was fairly blasé about the whole affair.  He came home and shared the story with a somewhat puzzled look on his face. He said he really didn’t understand why she felt the need to thank him (sigh) and while the idea was sorta neat, he didn’t really  think he’d ever wear it. And then this look dawned upon his face and he turned to me. “Mom, this is more like something you’d like…” I graciously accepted the pay it forward gift with a very big smile.

I’m far from perfect, I have to embrace my “flawsome” every single day. Somedays there seems to be more flaw than awesome, but I embrace my humanness as best I can always. Because, after all, that is what I am, human – designed, created or a fluke of nature – unique and human is all I can guarantee. And I always keep a smidgeon of hope tucked away for those days where I’ve misplaced all the rest.

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Today, I pulled the necklace out again, knowing that I would finally take a few minutes to sit down to tell the story.  My daughter noted it with an air of admiration and interest.  She knows sometimes we need to be reminded we matter and there is hope. Some of the best reminders are a little rough around the edges.

With the Pentatonix “Hallelujah” playing in the background my eyes are searching for a place where this necklace can be constant reminder of this oh so important message that strangely, so many forget at this time of year of celebration. I realized today that this necklace isn’t really mine, it’s meant for anyone who needs a little extra reminder that YOU MATTER and that there is most certainly HOPE. So like the other sets of keys in this house, it will hang accessible to anyone who may need use of it at any given moment.

Don’t ever forget….

YOU MATTER

and there is

HOPE

I promise

Don’t ever forget….

 

©2016 JFries/Rise Like Air

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When I saw this photo on Facebook yesterday it resonated with me and took me right back to a defining moment in my childhood.

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I was a daddy’s girl. I loved hanging out with him and he willingly let me do so. Thanks Dad!  I was quiet and shy. As I grew up I began to notice that I seemed to be referred to most often as “Alf’s daughter” or “Alf’s girl”

“Hey, it’s Alf’s daughter” or “Just ask Alf’s girl” or “Send it with Alf’s daughter” It began to dawn on me that was how people thought of me.  Not as an individual but as Alf’s daughter.

As a teenager I was working on the farm catching chickens.  My girlfriend and I were a bit of an anomaly being the only girls working amongst a group of males.  Her dad’s name was Joe and my dad’s was Alf.  We became known as Little Joe and Little Alf.

At first it was sort of cute. But after awhile it became annoying. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why but each time I heard it I got a little more frustrated until one night I said quite matter of factly “My name is Jewel, not Little Alf”.

Maybe it had to do with the fact that I was a teenager and finally trying to figure out who I was and how I fit into what seemed like a rather large and somewhat scary world. I was starting to think for myself and I wasn’t quite daddy’s “little” girl anymore. As a matter of fact I was beginning to push limits and disagree with my parents about as much as I agreed with them. I needed to be an individual. I needed to be recognized and acknowledged as one.

They laughed, most of them still called me Little Alf. It was a defining moment for me. I knew that I would have to work to step out of the shadow of my father. So I did. For years it defined me, the decisions I made, the things I did, the places I lived.

Yet it stuck with me. To this day I feel like I’m still working at it. I’ve made my place in the world, I am my own person, yet I always feel there is a shadow, not necessarily my dad anymore, but an undefined shadow that could overtake me, engulf my individuality and make me disappear into a something else.

Sure, I know it’s “all in my head” but it doesn’t make it any less real.

So seeing this picture posted yesterday really helped to remind me that I am someone, and I’m not the only one who knows it.  We are all “someone”. So be the someone you want to be. Be all you can be. Start defining yourself right now, your way. It’s never too late. It’s always the right time.

I AM someone. My connection to others doesn’t determine my value.

If this speaks to you, don’t hesitate. If you really want to start do something right now, within the next 5 seconds to start the process. If you don’t, you probably won’t.  Why  5 seconds? Because that’s apparently how our brains work. If you are sparked and do something to make it real within 5 seconds you are far more likely to carry on.  If you hesitate and wait beyond the 5 seconds you won’t do it at all. Want to know more? Watch Mel Robbins explain it all in her TEDx talk.

 

©2016 JFries/Rise Like Air

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Sometimes things just come to you, and they make sense.  And then you have to stop what you’re doing and write it down.  That’s what happened to me yesterday when I was feeding the chickens.  Yes, feeding the chickens, all 25 of them. And the duck.

My brain tends to work in metaphor and analogy a lot. Apparently yesterday was no different.  When the boat is rocking you have to find your sea legs and sometimes what we need to do seems to be counter intuitive to everything we think we know.  But sometimes…. that’s exactly what we have to do.

 

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Depression and anxiety are like being on a ship in rough seas.  All of a sudden your whole world, literally the deck beneath your feet is lurching to and fro, throwing you around mercilessly.  Unable to keep your footing, you’re getting drenched by the crashing waves. Your stomach matches the lurch of the deck as you slip and slide, feeling like you have lost complete control over everything including yourself. All you want to do is make it to the head and die but here’s the thing…

While every fibre of your being is screaming get below deck to the head… any sailor will tell you the solution is actually to

  • Stay above deck
  • Stay in the fresh air
  • Take deep breaths
  • Keep your eye on the horizon where you want to go
  • Don’t fight the lurch Rock and Roll with it
  • Vomit over the rail but not into the wind

It probably won’t be fun or easy, but when the sun comes out, which it will, and the waves recede, which they will, you’ll walk the deck sure-footed again in warm gentle breezes with  a grin upon your face.

©2016 JFries/Rise Like Air

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I was working on my How To Be Happy journal that my lovely daughter gave me for Christmas.  Like me, it is a work in progress. It has made me question “what is happiness?” and more importantly, “what is happiness to me?”  I realize it is not the same for everyone. It can actually be quite different. I also understand happiness, at least for me, isn’t really about things, not even people, places or events.  Happiness is about feelings.

I began thinking about why and how some people lose happiness completely. How do they lose sight of everything hopeful and only see hopelessness, only feel fear and pain? How can we share the same basic reality but view it so differently? A friend recently pondered this.

“Lots of times I wonder what makes people end up the way they do? Why do we have the feelings, desires and emotions we do? How do you become truly happy? Which leads me to wonder, what makes up happiness?”

Depression surrounds us, an invisible presence most of us are blissfully unaware of.  We walk by people, sit with them, talk to them and we don’t see a mental illness, their pain, their need. I know this to be true. But what makes up happiness?  How do we find happiness when we’ve lost it?

I started Rise Like Air because I wanted to be part of a change, part of making something better.  I wanted to help people, even if it was just one person, realize that there is hope and that they don’t have to give up.  I wanted to share success stories and struggles to inspire people to keep trying, to embrace their own beauty and abilities, to empower them to love and live fully, to extend a hand to let them know that when they are hurting they aren’t alone, even if we can’t understand it all, there’s a place they can go to be unconditionally accepted.

Like many ideas that simmer slowly, a catalyst occurred to move it forward.  Six years ago this weekend we received word that Todd, a family friend we knew who had been experiencing severe depression took his life. It was the classic stereotypical situation with all the whys and how could have he’s. He had so much to live for, family that loved him completely, children to watch grow up, a good job he liked.  Sure there were setbacks, but how did he lose such complete perspective, lose all hope, lose all desire to live? And how did it seem to happen so quickly?

I remember what I was doing when we got the call.  I remember how everything suddenly became surreal, time slowed down, my heart started to race and I started to feel detached. And I remember the distinct feeling of I should have been able to do something. No, really I couldn’t have, I knew it then, I know it now. But it was what eventually moved me to start Rise Like Air. His mother,  Joyce, has been one of our greatest supporters. When I was almost ready to quit because I questioned the value, it was her wisdom and kind words that made me realize no matter what, if I’m only inspiring one person, that is more than enough.

She has taught me so much on this journey, including how important it is to talk about your loss and pain as you heal. Speaking of the people we love, sharing memories is a way of not only grieving, but keeping that person with us. So when you are tempted to say something, but don’t know what or how, take the leap. Your support will mean the world.

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I was out with a severely depressed friend a while ago.  I watched the interactions they had with others while we were together. They smiled and laughed, they chattered, they went about their business.  There was no sign that said, I feel like I’ve died inside, my body just hasn’t caught up yet. There was no indication that they needed a friend, needed help, or that they were anything but a “normal everyday happy” person.  I knew the truth and was shocked at how invisible it was on the surface, except when I looked into their eyes.  Eyes that no longer held any joy, hope or life. They were already dull, empty, pained. You can train your body to lie, but the eyes are much more difficult to hide.

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Depression is an invisible demon that revels in slowly sucking the joy, hope and life out of people so quietly that often, no one else even knows the deadly stranglehold is in play.

WHO, the World Health Organization, says in October 2015 that

  • Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.

Even when we do realize that someone needs help, often what we try to do to help is completely counterproductive.  Depression is not simple sadness. Often the very things we say or do trying to help actually make it worse, make them feel like they’ve failed, are a burden, are hopeless and helpless. However! This is not a reason to stay quiet or give up.  It’s a reason to learn what to do, how to be a positive support. How to save lives!

If someone had a broken leg we wouldn’t say, “well it can’t be that bad, just get up and walk on it!” We’d do all the things that have to happen to fix the leg and support the person while they are healing.  Why? Because we can see the injury, we can see and hear the pain they are experiencing. Visible or not it does not change the severity of the dis-ease.

But there are things we can say and do that are helpful.  There are resources that can make us part of the solution instead of part of the problem. We can be supporters who help others heal.  We can help save lives.

You never know what word, smile, conversation, text or email will be the thing that makes a small or big difference in someone’s life, that might save their life. When you listen to people who have been saved in their moment of despair, it often was something very small that saved them that day, gave them the strength to carry on.   It can be as simple as asking “Are you ok?” as in the case of Jamie Harrington, from Ballymena, Dublin,  who explained about meeting a man in his 30s sitting on the edge of a bridge and about to jump off it.

If we can help a person see through the clarity of our eyes instead of the clouded vision of their own, we can be the beacon of light they need until their own eyes clear.

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Project Hope Exchange is an organization committed to bringing hope to people everywhere.

Give hope. Get hope. All in 30 seconds! What if we could do just that and start spreading hope around the world? We at The Adversity 2 Advocacy Allianceand Life Vest Inside believe we CAN, and we’re thrilled to be partnering to offer you this unique and powerful opportunity. Through Project Hope Exchange, we are collecting, aggregating and sharing 30-second audio messages fromindividuals who have survived some kind of adversity to others who are currently facing that same adversity. And at the heart of our exchange are real human voices. We hope you’ll add yours!

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I have learned kindness, patience and unconditional love can make all the difference in helping people.  Life Vest Inside is an organization that  helps me and many others find their way through tough times by simply providing a safe, positive place to just be. Their video The Kindness Boomerang went viral a number of years ago and has been a catalyst for many to change their lives in positive ways.  So that is what I leave you with today, something positive, uplifting and hopeful.  We all have the ability to make a difference in people’s lives every moment of every day.  Do not waste your opportunity to help make a life better.  It just might be yours.

If you are experiencing depression or any mental health issue, please do not give up. No matter how long it’s been, how desperate or numb you feel, there are people who care and want to help. Please reach out.  There is a life vest.  All you have to do is hold on tight.  This is a dis-ease I truly believe we can beat together.

In memory of

Todd Pidhorodetsky April 21st, 1970 – March 6, 2010

You are loved, you are missed, you are treasured

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Be all you can be.  Be who you are.  Use your Fears, don’t let them use you.

 

 

Our Greatest Fear

it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

—Marianne Williamson

 

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It is so easy to think I know. I know what’s best. I know what they should do. I know. I know. I know. Often this comes with a side order of If only. If only they would, if only this could. If only they would try harder. If only. If only. If only.
 
What’s hard is admitting that just maybe I don’t know. I don’t really know how someone feels, or how to fix it, or even help them. All I can be is a friend. A supporter. All I can do is try harder every day to actually understand. Not understand from where I stand, but from where THEY stand. Time to walk in their shoes. And try as we might, we can’t do that well unless we actually are walking in their shoes.
 
Sometimes we can’t . We can’t suddenly experience cancer, or depression but we can work to understand more deeply. We can work to hold true empathy and compassion, even if we don’t get it.
 
UnderstandUs is a volunteer group in Regina, Saskatchewan Canada founded by Jeremy Demeray and Thomas Le.  They are ending the stigma of mental illness in a process to move us to mental health and support those in need. They are telling people’s stories so we can get as close to walking in their shoes as we possibly can. They are naming the elephant in the room.  
Victoria Sutherland’s piece Naming The Elephant In The Room is beautifully written and hits at the heart of what it feels like to be in a depressive episode that becomes so hopeless you will do anything to end the pain. She writes in a way that allowed me to feel like I am walking in her shoes.  I got it a little bit more. An excerpt from her article,
However, after 20 odd years of repressing a mental illness, it doesn’t take a lot before something seemingly small or insignificant can trigger an all time low. (I wish it was as simple as boy breaking my heart – that can be dealt with by listening to Tegan and Sara while eating a tub of cookie dough ice cream and screaming “liar” at everyone in Love Actually). Looking back, I’m not even certain I wanted to kill myself, I just knew that I never wanted to feel the way I did at that moment ever again. I was tired of feeling the kind of debilitating sadness that consumed my life and took joy out of everything I loved. I was tired of feeling alone even when surrounded by a room full of people who love me. I was tired of letting someone else’s actions and words have complete power over my emotions. Most of all, I was tired of extreme highs followed by periods of excessive lows. I felt like a grenade with the pin pulled out just waiting to go off. I could be having the best day of my life but if someone said or did something that upset me, I down-spiralled. Fast.
A couple of days after everything hit its dramatic climax, I started feeling guilty. Seeing the effect all of this had on my family and friends and even my dogs made me feel terrible. I felt selfish and needy and like I was a huge inconvenience to everyone in my life. My mom took time off work and moved in with me, my sister became my 24 hour sounding board and all of my other loved ones were taking time out of every day to check in, see how I was doing and just trying to be there. It was overwhelming and while I felt appreciative, I also questioned why I was worth consuming everyone’s thoughts and lives. And if that guilt wasn’t enough, I started to feel guilty when I wasn’t miserable.
When we start to “get it” we can become part of the solution, part of the support network.  We can make a difference, a positive difference.  We can save lives, we can give hope, we can make a difference. We can help people become whole again. Because they are. They are whole.
While difficult to read on one hand, Victoria’s words gave me hope.  Hope because I understand better.  Hope because Victoria is proof that change can happen, that you can find ways, constructive, healthy ways to deal with depression, to learn to live again. To actually want to live again. That is an incredibly beautiful thing.  It’s a true rise like air moment.
To everyone out there who has, is or will face a time in their life where it is so painful and hopeless they see no way out, I want to thank you for still being here.  For that, I am eternally grateful. Because I’m beginning to realize just how big a commitment that is to make.

Life Vest Inside is a wonderful organization that empowers people and changes the world through kindness.  Being an ambassador with LVI has truly had one of the biggest most positive impacts on my life. If you need some support, a little kindness and want to be inspired every single day, surrounded by people who care and exude kindness, check them out.

Also check out Project Hope Exchange where you can give and get hope in 30 seconds. Now you know you’re curious.

©2016 J.Fries/Rise Like Air

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Do remember watching the performers who used to entertain us with spinning plates? I remember watching the Ed Sullivan show years (and years and years) ago, holding my breath and gasping if a plate fell, thinking that oh no! Catastrophe!

Somedays this is exactly how I feel. The potential for great disaster is there and sometimes disaster even strikes – the plates fall; but in the end…. somehow, it all comes together, even when the plates break and there are pieces to pick up.

This plate spinner makes it look fairly easy. My favourites always were those who dropped plates, who had to go back and almost start over, many times. They always came supplied with plenty of extras and with each challenge they faced, they smiled a little harder, concentrated a little deeper and sweated a little more but they always kept going (and smiling) until every plate was spinning…. even if it was only for a few seconds, but they saw success and that success, that fleeting moment, was enough to drive them ahead to more.

Just because the china breaks doesn’t mean a beautiful mosaic can’t be created. A work of art is just that, a work of art – even when it’s made up of broken pieces.

Don’t let your wounds, your scars, your past, your doubts, your present stop you from becoming all you are meant to be. No matter how long it takes, or how much effort it is.

It’s never over until you decide to quit.
AFFIRMATION FOR TODAY:
It is safe for me to believe in myself and my abilities. I have to courage to ask for help and support. There is no failure, only lessons and adventure.

Repeat and repeat and repeeeeeeaaaaaat.   And does it feel “crazy” to repeat positive instructions to yourself? Does it feel unrealistic, like you’re being fake, like lies? Well, here’s the thing though. Most people repeat negative instructions to themselves hour on end every single day, and think nothing of it. Why? Because they’ve been doing it so long it has become an ingrained habit.  They actually believe that everything they are telling themselves, or being told by others must  be true.  It’s become such a habit that they consider it to be realistic, true and just the way it is.

Next spoiler alert: How you see life? That’s what’s going to be your reality.  How you see life is ALWAYS A CHOICE.  Always.

 

 

 

Another look at perspective and how we allow ourselves to see the world through the eyes of Lily Allen and her song LDN

 

And lastly, how to look at life not matter what is thrown at you, here is an interview Anthony Robbins did with World War II survivor Alice Herz-Sommer.  One of my favourites of all time.  No matter what, there is always beauty to be found if you believe in it and choose to see it.  It is always your choice.

 

 

©2016 JFries/Rise Like Air

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Absolutely beautiful blog written from one of our favourite bloggers Soumyaj at Quirrk

It’s an odd thing, being prepared for a certain kind of pain.

 

Resilience

Endurance

Life lessons

Wise words

 

Source: The two kinds of pain

from krugerpark.org This is NOT Cecil or his pride.

from krugerpark.org This is NOT Cecil or his pride.

The world is outraged by the “taking” of Cecil the Lion in Africa. Ok, at least a very large number of people are angry, even many hunters are outraged. As always there are those who think that this practise and what happened to Cecil is not a problem. At least for now, they appear to be in the minority, or maybe too afraid to be vocal.

Because he was a protected animal and they knowingly (*edit: at least some knew) baited him out of the park, I feel comfortable calling this more than a killing – it was murder. There was no need or purpose for the death except for excitement and ego. That’s it. Period. Not for food, not for survival, not for protection – just for “fun”. For a good adrenaline rush and a good story. Well he’s got both now. Just as a side note, the hunters seemed quite happy to forget the fact when you take a male like Cecil you are likely killing others. You are disrupting a pride, possibly causing the death of cubs, which in this case is likely. Final kill count unknown at this point.

The story has been simmering in my brain since it broke. Certainly not a “rise like air” feeling, at least not yet. Somehow out of catastrophe some good has to come somewhere. I have been patiently waiting and watching for it.  Maybe the flame is beginning to flicker.

It started when I read an interesting piece this morning by Neil McDonald (CBC). McDonald reflected on how the tables have seemingly turned for Walter Palmer.

He’s become a trophy. An exotic one, at that. He’s joined the great circle of life.

And the people stalking him are enjoying themselves every bit as much as he clearly did when he was out there being Walter Palmer, apex predator, killing wild things all over the world, and posing with them on trophy hunting sites.

Unfortunately for Palmer, his latest conquest was Cecil, a famous lion beloved by tourists in southern Africa.

He was also foolish enough, it seems, to pose with Cecil’s corpse, and now the internet, the most apex of all apex predators, is stalking him. – Neil McDonald (CBC)

It is interesting to observe the trophy hunter becoming the hunted (online). Karma maybe? A taste of the confusion and fear that Cecil and his other kills must have felt. Sometimes we can only learn by walking in another’s shoes, or in this case, paws.

While I don’t know if this can ever be turned into a positive, Jimmy Kimmel fanned the flickering flame when he called Palmer’s actions “vomitous” (exactly) and then made the wonderful suggestion that helping wildcru.org, the Oxford University Wildlife Conservation Research Unit that was following Cecil’s movements in their study, is a least a start. RIP Cecil and all the others before and after you who are prized only as trophies and not as the majestic living creatures you are.

In the meantime, Walter Palmer is probably focused on one thing – survival, running in fear, not sure which way to turn. Uncertain and wondering why his life which was so “simple and perfect” one minute is now an exercise in simply trying to stay ahead of the hunters. Cecil evaded his hunters for 40 hours injured and in pain, fear and anger likely coursing through him as he grew weaker. Ok, so maybe I’m giving him human traits, but I’ve seen a cornered injured animal and that’s exactly what they look like. Walter Palmer is fortunate that he is running with only his pride damaged. Cecil was not so fortunate.

I am not against hunting but I am against taking only trophies, unclean kills and sanitizing what someone’s actions really are.

I’m not out for revenge. I’m out for a change of attitude. I hope Palmer decides to turn in his weapons for a camera and turn to true conservation rather than devastation. The choice, as always, is his and his alone.

I hope those that are hunting him online take a moment temper their hatred and instead turn it to good. When we choose to change ourselves for good we change the world too. The ripple will become a wave.

©2015 JFries/Rise Like Air

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I refuse to be treated as less capable, weaker, dirty or impure for being a woman. Anisha Bhavnani

via My country’s problem with menstruation – CNN.com.

Anisha Bhavnani is a woman in India who has experienced first hand the stigma against women especially during their menses. In fifth grade, her first period arrived the day of a field trip. What should have been a beautifully memorable experience wasn’t.

“How did you go inside the temple then? Don’t you know you’re not supposed to? Hasn’t your mother told you that you can’t step inside a temple when you have your period? Call your mother tomorrow; I want to meet her!”

…The next day, I didn’t meet the teacher and she forgot all about it. But she had shamed me for entering the scary world of puberty, just because I’d visited a temple. What kind of human being does that to a harmless child?

My mother showed me that getting my period doesn’t make me a bad or abnormal person. But others don’t seem to agree. I see variations of this incident happening around me every day.

Thankfully it’s not just young women who are realizing things need to change. At least one man is realizing it and doing something about it.  Enter The Inventor Who Disrupted The Period Industry – Arunachalam Muruganantham (Menstral Man)

I am always thrilled by stories where the hero steps outside of a traditional and expected role. Here’s a man working against odds, with little support and ample ridicule to improve a situation that doesn’t even directly affect him. Menstruation, a topic that in many places is still completely taboo, where women are not considered worth the trouble of helping.

None of that seemed to phase Muruganantham, as school drop out who realized many women in his own country, India, couldn’t afford sanitary products and understood the dramatic impact on their lives. The documentary MENSTRUAL MAN, by Amit Virmani

tells the inspiring story of an unlikely hero who stood up for India’s ignored. A critical and audience favourite, the film underscores the importance of empowering women to combat poverty, and the power in every individual to make a difference. – See more at: MENSTRUAL MAN

The trailer:

The TEDxGateway Talk:

Sometimes it’s little things that make a difference. Sometimes it’s the big things. Muruganantham has taught us that you don’t have to share the same problem to be able to understand, empathize, show compassion and actually create a solution. We have the power, all we have to do is use it. Thanks to people like Anisha Bhavnani, Arunachalam Muruganantham and Amit Virmani things will change.

Wizard of Oz - Glinda

Wizard of Oz – Glinda

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