Wanted: Stories about LIOS Graduates Making A Difference

Dan Leahy, Associate Dean of LIOS Graduate College
Dan Leahy, Associate Dean of LIOS Graduate College

By Dan Leahy

Associate Dean of LIOS Graduate College

With the proliferation of polarities rampant today, I’m rather fond of some of the “flash mob” videos that periodically show up on You Tube, particularly the ones in public spaces (the commons) that involve orchestras and choirs playing a human classic to the delights of the gathering citizens. To me this is an example of the human potential beyond our limitations: A moment that transcends our differences. Here’s the link to the most recent example that came from my daughter, Chelsea: http://bit.ly/Onvuc4

While I’ve never, yet, participated in one of these celebrations of Life, I’ve often imagined what it would be like. Well, if truth be told, I’ve actually wondered what it would be like to take part in a LIOS-inspired flash mob.

Which brings me to my new favorite TV series, Newsroom on HBO. In the opening scene, http://bit.ly/SUugrC, the main character’s monologue spoke to me. I wanted to both cheer for the audacity of speaking his truth, and rage that “We the People” have strayed so far from that path of possibilities.

Three things stand out to me in viewing this piece. One is the power of the media, the arts, and its ability to succinctly, eloquently express a collective pulse in a way that seems to cause proper matters to catch fire. A second is the power of doing your homework, of looking at the current, and in this case brutal, reality with discipline. And the third is the ability to connect that frank assessment of what is to the aspiration of what was envisioned in a way that seems to transcend the embattled polarities and evokes some higher purpose.

Which brings me back to the idea of the “flash mob;” I’ve been part of this grand idea that is LIOS for a long time now. I’ve seen and worked with hundreds of students. Over the years I have heard many stories of those who are working to make a difference in the systems they seek to serve. Many of them seem to carry the themes I saw in the video. They knew the reality of the system. They did their homework. And they found and are finding ways to transcend it, which I have found inspiring.

So, I wonder what it would be like if we began to gather the stories of these individuals in a virtual “commons?” What might we see in a LIOS “flash mob?” Given the individual stories I’ve heard over the past 30-plus years, I suspect it would be as inspirational as any flash mob I’ve seen to date. And, to me, the potency of the “flash mob” is its impact on the “commons”. It reminds the people of the path of possibility. It rekindles a sense of hope. I know that the individual stories I’ve witnessed continue to spark the flame of hope in me. I find the this world to be an increasingly cold place, so I’m hungry to see if the gathering of stories creates a bonfire of imagination create a hearth of hope for those in the commons.

Now, I don’t know if anyone reads these blogs, so this may be a voice in a vacuum. But I’m putting it out anyway. I calling for those who are so moved to gather at this virtual “commons” and share your stories about what you are doing to make a difference in the systems you serve. Let’s see what we “sound like” together. Together we may discover that there’s a symphony actions that begins to call us to more imaginative was of being. I’m hopeful, and I’m waiting . . .


Posted at 01:58 PM

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Hi Dan,

My name is Patrick Martin Jr. Thank you for taking the time to create the blog post about making a difference. I have to admit, the symphony flash mob was neat to watch, and I was not sure about the clip from the Opening Scene, until the main character posited his view of why America is not the best country in the world; which is when my eyes began to well. It is clear that so much suffering in our communities goes unnoticed on a daily basis. What troubles me is not that people are not aware of it, because all it takes is a drive to Pioneer Square, or a leisurely stroll along the walkways of the park behind Pike Place Market to see that people are struggling with homelessness, addiction, and prostitution for example. People are aware! What troubles me is that few, if any, do nothing more than shell a few coins their way, or scoff at and complain about the blight created by the presence of those who are struggling with less than desirable life circumstances.

I was raised in a single family home. We did not have much, but we always found a way to help those in need whenever the chance arose. Sure, we could not save the people we helped from their ordeals, but for one brief moment, we provided relief, in the form of money, food, or clothing. Being raise by an registered nurse, it became routine to help people who were in need. In fact, I believe that over time, as the result of repetitive exposure to random acts of kindness cultivated by my mother’s actions toward others, it became ingrained in my psyche. As I matured, I entered the academic arena motivated to help those most in need. From studies in human services, to integrative health counseling, to graduate studies in psychology, I have spent several years on paths dedicated to helping people who are seeking liberation from their suffering.

Over the past few years, I initiated a project and have recruited over a dozen dedicated professionals to assist in ameliorating the suffering found in specific demographics. I cringe when I refer to people as a demographic, because people are so much more than a statistic, a group, or sub group, etc.. In brief, North America is facing epidemic levels of obesity, and diabetes. With these conditions comes a decrease in overall satisfaction with life. Consequently, there is a correlative increase in drug abuse, poverty, crime, etc.. Trends that are, or can be totally preventable.

We (myself and the participants in the project) are poised to bring group integrative health workshops focusing on nutrition, and lifestyle to the recesses of society where many, who have no health care coverage, who have no resources, and to those who have no knowledge of how to live a healthy life, reside. While we cannot save everyone, we can create a ripple effect that can carry through the community. We may only impact the lives of a few, or it can go viral, and we can accomplish much more. Think Big!

We will be  working with individuals, families, couples, etc. to not only teach them how nutrition affects their overall wellbeing, but also how their relationships, their exercise choices, their spirituality, and even their plans to pursue education and career paths all play into their future wellbeing.

I know that the project we are about to embark on will be fraught with challenges. However, I also know that it will provide much needed hope, and the tools necessary for lasting change, which may someday assist those we help, to liberate themselves from that which has kept them in stuck in life.

While our project is new, and relatively small, I am confident that we will make a difference in our community; one bite at a time. One flash mob at a time.


Patrick A. Martin Jr.

Posted by Patrick Alexander Martin Jr (not verified) | 07/25/2012 @ 03:52 PM

Hi Dan,

Thank you for your posting and the prompt to write about making a difference.

I have just returned from a 6 week trip that had me volunteering in Arusha, TZ for part of it. I'm still not totally present here and feel myself pulled back emotionally to the people and events of my brief stay.  My 'path of possibility' presented itself as I worked at an unfunded orphanage / school in the poorest area of Arusha TZ. This school, Jitihada Support  is supported solely by the Director, Michael Kawia Mollel, a former accountant with a family of 6 himself. Michael lived over an hour away and brought water, maize and other ingredients from his farm to feed the children as needed. As a volunteer teacher I was invited to Michael's house and was amazed at his ability to provide so much when he himself had so little. He is truly an angel on earth making a difference in the system he serves.

The school provides food for any child who shows up and a seat in the class to learn. Some of the precious little ones walk over three hours with even younger siblings just to be fed. I worked with the adolescent group who ranged in ages from  15  - 20 years old. These youth lived in sparsely furnished dorms nearby the concrete, windowless box-like rooms that were the classrooms.

Before I left I knew I wanted to raise money to make a difference in addition to being of service through teaching. I knew the reality of their system through conversations with people who had gone before me and knew that funds spent directly there would benefit other systems both directly and indirectly. With the help of friends, family, and  business donations I was able to raise close to $2000 through direct donations and a  FUN silent auction.

While not a 'flash mob' per se, I truly felt the presence of all of those who helped me raise the money that proved so useful in helping so many while I was there. I was the fortunate one who was able to spend it and see the joy not only on the children's faces but on Michael's too. With just this amount of money I  (WE!) were able to:

  *put gutters into one orphanage to capture rain water for a newly installed tank,
  *supply my orphanage with a 5,000 L water tank directly on site. The cook who prepared the food on an open flame in a windowless and ventless room was overjoyed to not have to walk an hour to get water.
  *outfit my class of 14 adolescent students with school uniforms including  shoes, socks, skirts, pants, shirts and sweaters.(oh to see their beaming faces, so proud to have an uniformed presence). Some of these adolescents were lucky to  have one change of clothes, while other wore the same worn clothing daily.   Equally fulfilling was the joy on their faces when the local tailor came to measure, lots of giggles that day. The local tailor also benefitted indirectly by being the recipient of the work order for the uniforms.
*purchase bunk beds so that the five adolescent boys in my class  had their own sleeping space as opposed to sleeping all together in two twin beds that had been pushed together to make one sleeping space. The girls had bunk beds but even at that they were sleeping two to a bed.
*supply 20 kg of rice, 20 kg of beans, 20 kg of sugar and 60 L of cooking oil. Food to sustain the group for a while
*provide learning resources: 20 scholastic learning posters to dress up the concrete windowless classrooms, pens, books, and other basic supplies.

Along with all of this I would have to say that my biggest reward was the reciprocity of love and joy that came back to me ten fold. From the eagerness of my students who sat awaiting my arrival in the morning keen to learn, to the gracious invitation into the one room huts of the Masai parents,  my heart grew and still aches to return. I have truly been inspired and humbled by so many with so little.

Kim White

LIOS 2006

Posted by Kim White (not verified) | 09/12/2012 @ 04:32 PM