June 26, 2013

Four Go Inspire Go Heroes Fighting for Equality (VIDEOS)

What a historic time for equality in America. On Wednesday, June 26, the United States Supreme Court made two significant rulings in the ongoing journey for equal rights for same-sex couples. In a landmark decision, the country’s highest court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8.

Now that DOMA was declared unconstitutional, same-sex couples who are legally married in their respective states will soon receive federal protections and benefits, such as Social Security, health insurance and retirement savings.

The Supreme Court also dismissed an appeal over Proposition 8 in California, which will allow couples to legally get married without legal bias or discrimination in the Golden State.

Pause to celebrate equality and everyone who has been a part of the change we’re experiencing as a nation.

Personally and professionally, we all have the power to do something – big or small – about the inequity we see every day.

San Francisco's Castro District, June 26, 2013

Here are four heroes Go Inspire Go is saluting to mark the momentous occasion:

Vincent Pompei, “Vinnie,” is someone I am proud to call a childhood friend. He is on the forefront of the fight for equality, working passionately and tirelessly to make schools a safer place for faculty, staff and students.

For the past four years, Vinnie, an educator and activist has organized the Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership conference (CESCal), aimed at creating a safe environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth.

His list of accomplishments are admirable. He was named a Classroom Superhero from the National Education Association. He was named one of the Forty Under 40 by The Advocate magazine and was honored by Equality California, the largest statewide LGBT advocacy organization in California working to secure full equality and acceptance for LGBT people.

I recently had the honor of attending the CESCal conference, where I was able to witness his amazing work passion, inspiring energy and impact he’s had on students, colleagues and strangers.

One of the most important lessons I learned from Vinnie is that no matter your sexual orientation, what you say or don’t say is equally as important.

If you hear a student in your classroom say, “That’s gay,” and you don’t make that a teachable moment – other students will think it’s OK to use derogatory statements against gays.

A huge congratulations to Vinnie as he was just named Director of Adolescent Well-Being Programs for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

Dr. Ron Holt is another GIG hero we've featured. He's a San Francisco psychiatrist on a crusade to inspire equality around the world through educating about the biology of sexuality and spreading his message of authenticity.

I met Ron after University of San Francisco Magazine profiled Go Inspire Go. Both Ron and I are fellow Dons. He sent me an email detailing how he was inspired by my passion around Go Inspire Go. We had lunch and became soul brothers on a mission to inspire compassion. This video is authentic and life-changing:

After we highlighted Ron's story, he told us he was deeply touched by the authenticity of how we told his story. He told us our video saved lives of LGBT youth (who anonymously reached out to him after they saw this video to tell him that he inspired them to be at peace with their truth). The video also helped him get into the spotlight with more speaking engagements and got him invited to the White House!

Hopefully non-judgmental societal bias will soon follow with the help from high profile Hollywood couples.

I recently met and interviewed actor and gay rights activist George Takei, who is known for playing Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek.

George is full of calming energy, wit and wisdom. He is passionate about Japanese-American internment education and the message of equality for all.

“I felt I needed to speak out and let people know it’s OK to be who you are,” Takei said in his deep, commanding voice. “I wanted it to be in an authentic voice.”

When I told George about Go Inspire Go’s GIG Spark (Lessons on Compassion), he was on board.

George’s message: be true to who you are and treat others as you’d like to be treated.

When Ellen publicly came out, her mom quickly became a visible ally to the LGBT community.

Betty DeGeneres has been a strong PFLAG mom for more than 15 years and is the spokeswoman for the Care with Pride campaign, an initiative to educate and raise visibility on issues related to bullying.

“Clearly, what inspired me to be a strong advocate for safe, welcoming schools for all students - especially LGBT students - was my daughter's coming out. We should do anything and everything to rid the world of these negatives,” Betty said.

When I told her that I was there to do a Go Inspire Go video on Vinnie's admirable quest to inspire safe and inclusive schools, she seemed genuinely interested and wanted to know more about GIG. She was on the GIG bandwagon and wanted to share this GIG Spark message to parents and guardians who are blessed with an LGBT child:

You can see where Ellen got her kind spirit.

While we still have a lot of work to do for equality for all LGBT individuals – Same-sex marriages are legal in only 12 states -- America, I am proud of you.

San Francisco City Hall illuminated

The lowest common denominator of all this equality battle is simple — we all want love, to be loved and to freely love.

What are you doing to inspire equality? We want to know. Share in the comments section. We may just share on Go Inspire Go's social media channels.

Take Action:
1. Feeling alone and isolated? Go to TheTrevorProject.org or call their toll-free & confidential lifeline: 866-488-7386
2. Be a visible and vocal LGBT ally and resource for young people.
3. Get involved! Information on National LGBT resources: Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG, The Trevor Project, GLSEN, and GSA Network.

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June 24, 2013

An Inspired Year of Community Heroes

By Kala Shah

After meeting Toan Lam of Go Inspire Go in March 2012, I was inspired to start the Community Heroes club at my son’s school Sun Valley Elementary in San Rafael, Calif. The club is a forum for kids to learn about community issues they care about (as identified by them -- hunger, homelessness, animals, foster kids and affordable medicine), where we explore and implement actions to help others and where kids can express and grow their abundant concern and compassion for others. My previous post includes the GIG Spark Lesson on Compassion presentation Toan and I made to 500 students to kick off the club in September 2012.

On Mondays when I host the Community Heroes lunch club, I usually get a tad nervous. As I open the library door and await the lunch bell, I hold my breath. Will anyone actually show up? If they do, can I really continue to keep these kids interested? Am I indeed sowing the seeds of compassion or is this all just going in one ear and out the other? Toan and I produced a year end video that encapsulates all the hard work and life lessons learned in this club. It's funny how sometimes while you're trudging along your journey you don't realize the impact until the end of the journey. This video will inspire you to hope, dream and take action:

To this point -- keeping fingers crossed this will continue -- my fears have been laid to rest when I see waves of adorable little people tearing across the school yard, clutching their lunch boxes, clamoring for the best seat in the room. Their smiles and enthusiasm melt my anxieties, give me courage and boost my energy. And the 45 minutes seem to fly by. Imagine having 25-45 kids sit on the floor in a crowded room, eat lunch, ask questions and have meaningful discussions and activities about serious community issues (and yes, while the parent facilitator concurrently helps open yogurt and tight Tupperware lids, directs crumb and spill clean-up, grants permission to go to the bathroom and breaks up little skirmishes over who gets to sit on the coveted Panda pillow/chair.)

We met every one to two weeks for the entire school year. Here are some of the things we did:

1. Organized a fall coat drive for a local non-profit named Canal Alliance, which serves more than 3,000 immigrants annually, collecting more than 80 coats for San Rafael residents in need.

2. Built our skills, such as how to make an elevator pitch to a millionaire and making video presentations to inspire others to act

3. Had a lot of fun doing skits, making posters, writing notes to military personnel and an inspiring sick kid, performing random acts of kindness and dreaming big (like writing to Ellen DeGeneres).

4. Held a family Community Heroes event in the park to raise awareness about childhood hunger. The kids organized a bake sale and lemonade stand and performed a skit, raising more than $260 to benefit Canal Alliance to benefit their weekly food distribution pantry.

Community Heroes Dropping Off Coats for Canal Alliance

We discuss big issues, but we also talk about small acts that can make an impact. One of my favorite sessions was themed “Random Acts of Kindness.” We talked about small ways in which we can help others that don’t take much effort, but go a long way in making others and ourselves feel good and appreciated. I stopped by our local Trader Joe’s and talked to the manager about what I was planning to do and was surprised when she offered to donate more than 30 bouquets to help my experiment. The kids were delighted to walk into the library to a huge mound of fragrant blooms, and we discussed how doing something unexpected and nice for someone else is a simple gift we could all give. The kids then raced around the school yard handing flowers to unsuspecting teachers and students. They experienced the joy in giving and of course felt so much joy in return. We should all try to do a little something kind and spontaneous more often! It’s so easy and you never know what you may inspire in others.

In our last wrap-up session of the year, the kids enthusiastically planned for how they would look for ways to help others over the summer. To my surprise, many of them said they are very excited to keep Community Heroes going next year and I honestly can’t wait to see my Heroes again in the fall. Some even wanted to take this idea to their next journey in education, to junior high school! Observing these kids’ sincerity and watching their big hearts grow even bigger this year has been the greatest gift for me. Please take this blog and video as a gift and pass it along to someone in your life that needs a little inspiration. It doesn't have to be a kid, it could be a grown up who wants to reconnect with their inner child who wants to dream again.

Ideas for your own Community Heroes club? Here are some great resources:

1. Calling all parents/guardians/schools groups: Start your own Community Heroes Club! Contact us: info@goinspirego.com

2. Make a GIG Spark Lesson on Compassion

3. Get connected to Generation On and Kids Care Clubs

June 14, 2013

Better Breathing for a Better Life

When you find yourself in a situation where you get stressed, frightened or caught off guard, what’s the best thing to do?

Scream? Sometimes : )

But seriously, what did mom or grandma or your loved one tell you to do?


Yes, it’s as simple as that.

But time and time again, while walking around the streets of San Francisco (and while being in the car with certain eh hem, friends with road rage) I witness screaming and feel their blood boiling. What good does that do?

I try to make it a practice to breathe deeply every morning.

Here’s how:

I love filling up my lungs and expunging all the air and imagining my lungs deflating like a balloon. I do this almost every morning with a 20-30 minute yoga routine.

I’m an early riser, so I like to take in the stillness of the morning silence with a meditation practice. People may get freaked out and discouraged about “not knowing how to meditate.” The truth is, there isn’t a “right way” to meditate. Simple focus on your breath, deep breath in…deep breath out.

Other times when I’m running and gunning, I just take three quick deep breaths. If you’re over-programmed like me and have a busy schedule, set a reminder on your phone to go off three times a day to remind you to breathe.

Here’s a video I made for you that will help you focus on your breathing. This is what I usually see on my morning run at Aquatic Park in San Francisco. Breathe in when the waves come toward the shore. Breathe all the way out when the waves recede. It's only a minute long, but the effects are long lasting.


Feel better?

According to Men’s Journal, here are some stats about how deep breathing can be aaah-so-good for your health:

Relax: Breathing is an "accurate and honest barometer" of a person's emotional state. Train your breathing to maintain your calm and lower stress levels.

Maximize Potential: The average person uses just 50 to 60 percent of his lung capacity. Breath training expands the lungs, and better oxygen intake means higher athletic performance.

Improve Health: Research suggests that developing proper breathing habits can play a role in treating conditions like asthma, acute bronchitis, ADHD and sleep apnea.

Don’t we all feel better after taking a few deep breaths? The next time you feel your panties or boxer briefs getting in a bunch, smile and relax (those butt cheeks). Namaste!

What other breathing exercises help you get through your day? If you follow our @goinspirego Instagram feed, you’ll notice that I often post pictures of beautiful cityscapes and snapshots of nature. Surprisingly, many people tell me the pictures remind them to slow down, be present and breathe. I’d love to hear/see what inspires you to breathe. Please share in the comments below.

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