You (Yes, You) Have The Power to Heal

If it wasn’t so darn long, #unitecloud could have been called #ifyoucan’tsayanythingnicedon’tsayanythingatall.

My favorite twist on that sentiment is:

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#unitecloud is so excited by the stories that we hear from you, our nearly 700 followers on Facebook. Stories of you speaking truth when it would be easier just to stay silent – to your mom, your co-worker, or to a complete stranger! I’d love to tell you one such story:

Sabrina attended a wedding on Saturday at the St Cloud civic center (that’s where my wedding reception was back in the day!). I’ll let her tell the story from here:

“There was a Somali wedding that night also & there were beautiful girls in every bright color imaginable. As I was entering the building from a balcony, 3 older gentlemen were behind me and I heard one of them say,

“Where is the Somali-free bathroom?”

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I just stopped, looked at him, and said, “Really??” He started mouthing off and before I knew it, the Air Force wife in me popped out, and I said something like,

“As a 17-year military family, we’re working towards the freedom of EVERY American”

to which he gave a “Whatever”.

By end of night, some of the girls from our wedding were dancing the night away at the Somali wedding in a sea of a thousand colors of fabric. 

Thank you, Sabrina, for not only speaking out against hate speech in our community, but also for really seeing your neighbors and joining them in celebration. How beautiful!

In my article last week, I said: “I am a strong believer that our schools are one of the main places where community relationships can be restored, refreshed, and reinvented.” You may have been all good and fine with that statement but wondered how YOU could make a difference! Let’s work it out.

RESTORE

Most of you reading this GET that relationships in this town and surrounding area are broken. We’re not just talking Somali vs. white folks relationships either (although that tension is pretty prevalent around here.) There are people that just don’t understand how serious depression and suicide are, as they commented freely and jokingly (“Guess I’m not going THERE today – lol”) on a St. Cloud Times article about a man in our area that committed suicide at Quarry Park.

How can we restore dignity to those in our community that need it – specifically in our schools? Take one St. Cloud resident’s example. She saw the comments on the St. Cloud Times article and spoke out online saying: “Having battled depression and anxiety all my life I have been to these dark corners of the mind.” She showed EMPATHY for the man that ended his life. She reached into part of her life, and saw him through the eyes of one who has been there before.

Here’s a concrete, school-based example of what YOU can do: Maybe you are a single parent, or have been at one time in your life. Attempt to find out if there are any other single parents in your child’s class and make it a point to talk to them. You will be able to empathize with them in a way that others can’t. Even an: “I’ve been there, sister” when she talks about how there are no sick days for single moms goes a long way. Who knows? Maybe you will end up with a new super good friend and rideshare buddy!

REFRESH

Summer is busy in Minnesota! Heck, we only have a couple months a year where we don’t have to put on most of the clothes in our closet on our bodies just to leave the house. Have you lost touch with a good teacher friend of yours because of your hectic schedule? How about doing something unexpected for him before school starts? Or, maybe even on the first week of school?

Ideas:

  • Get him a super nifty coffee mug for all of those EARLY morning staff meetings.
  • Buy a Caribou gift card for her and put it in a card that says “Have a great year!”
  • Have your kids make homemade cards that say “I appreciate you, teacher!” and hand them out at your school’s open house.
  • Buy each of your kid’s teachers a neat-o classroom gift like this apple post-it dispenser.
  • Ask your teacher friend if they could use any help with setting up their classroom. Better yet, don’t even ask. Find out from their spouse when they have time to work in their classroom and show up to work!

REINVENT

I fancy myself to be a pretty nice person….and I’m not even talkin’ “Minnesota nice”. Even so, there are other moms, teachers, and administrators in the St. Cloud area that I  had or still have tense relationships with. I’ll bet I’m not alone in this area. The easiest thing to do, given these circumstances, is to STEER CLEAR of that person and not seek to reinvent the relationship. But, what if you decided to buck the norm and spend this year seeking out a way to reinvent that broken relationship that you know is there?

Should you do that by marching into their classroom and exclaiming that you are there to work. this. out? Maybe, maybe not. If things need to start slow at first, how about seeking out ways to talk positively about that person to others? If you have talked poorly about them in the past to certain friends, they will notice, and you will be insta-inspirational. Another idea is to keep your eyes out for a couple ways that the person you need to reinvent a relationship with affects positive change in their school building. Then, stick an note in their box saying: “I saw you taking the time to talk to the little girl in the hallway who was crying. Thank you for caring about our kids.” You could even make it anonymous if you want to!

Will this relationship be insta-restored? Probably not. You can only control your attitude. So, if the other person isn’t “ready to make nice”, your efforts are not in vain. Perhaps the relationship needs more TLC through the years for it to come around. Perhaps it’ll never come around. That’s ok. You will have done what you can and that is what counts when it comes to leading with love and allowing others to choose their own path.

CALL TO ACTION

Are you up for restoring, renewing, or reinventing relationships with folks in this town, specifically in our schools? If so, say this with me:

I am a force for positive change. I can affect the schools in this area with my attitude; the way I talk, the way I listen, and the way I choose not to participate in this school year’s latest gossip. I understand that our schools are our future and that it IS my job to worry about my children, grandchildren, neice, nephew, brother, cousin, etc. and what happens at their school.

#UNITECLOUD

About the Author

Natalie Ringsmuth

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Natalie grew up in Central Minnesota and received her Music Education degree from Concordia College in Moorhead. She taught middle school choir in Georgia and worked in the church sector for over a decade. She now works as a legal assistant at Tripiciano Immigration Law, a trainer with the CARE (Community Anti-Racism Education) Team at SCSU (St Cloud State University), and as Founder and Director of #unitecloud, a non-profit working to reduce racial, religious, and cultural tensions in Central MN. She is a member of the Community Impact Team at United Way of Central MN and is a member of the St Cloud District 742 school board. In her spare time (haha) she loves to spend time with her husband and 3 children.