What does Cultural Sensitivity Mean to You?

Someone asked me this the other day. She is a volunteer for an NGO that seeks to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon through developing their life skills. I think this question is also very relevant if you are a Lebanese citizen living in Lebanon due to the vast amount of refugees who are living in Lebanon at the moment. Do we embrace these cultural differences, regardless of how big or small they are, or do we each go about our every day lives setting these people aside or labeling them as the “other”?

I responded more or less like this…

Cultural sensitivity is the way one reacts to a culture that is different from his or hers. Different cultures embody special qualities and one must keep an open mind when dealing with these cases. Our differences are what make us unique. The first aspect of being culturally sensitive is to be compassionate and understanding of the differences between your culture and others. Nowadays, people are quick to judge any aspect of life that is not similar to theirs. In this case, it is important to stand back and reflect upon these differences. Basically, one must empathize with the other instead of judging.

How can we be culturally sensitive as a volunteer?
In order to implement cultural sensitivity as a volunteer, the volunteer should indulge themselves in the culture they are exposed to and reveal to the people they work with that there are not many things that set them apart. Even though we all have different cultures, this should not push us apart, but rather bring us together in order to learn from each other and advance as people. It is also important to keep in mind every one’s different live experiences and to not judge solely based on what you see on the surface…

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A Brand New Year!

It’s been a year since I last posted something. This time of year makes me think of several things and helps me put things into retrospect. It is a joyous month for everyone whether they celebrate Christmas or not. It is a time when I think about everything I’ve done this year. It there anything I would change? What can I do to make this year better than the previous one? Too often people ask me about what my new year’s resolutions are. What would you like to accomplish or change this year? My first response is, I’m going to get a gym membership, but that never really happens. So what are some of the things that we can promise ourselves and actually commit to? Should we only make these kinds of commitments when we are starting a new year?

Saying the things we want to accomplish/change is not enough and that’s why most people never make their resolutions a reality. We all have flaws and things that we hope to change about ourselves throughout the year. I think the reason some of us don’t make the changes we want is because we don’t take action right away. We always tend to postpone things that matter and help better us. So the question is when should we try to make changes in ourselves and how do we actually go through with them?

Steps we can take in order to make crucial changes in ourselves:

  1. Identify what you would like to change about yourself. What is the thing you know is affecting your life negatively. Are these changes or goals realistic? Make sure they are so you don’t set yourself up for disappointment.
  1. Take action. Don’t sit around and allow yourself to fall deeper in a routine or habit that can be detrimental to your life. Make a plan of some of the things you can do to make this new lifestyle or simply a small change in your life a reality.
  1. Get support from family and friends that encourage this new you or goals you want to accomplish.
  1. Remember that change is scary for anyone and can create anxiety. Also remember that this is all in your head and is not something tangible. Realize that we all have these feelings, but allowing them to take over our mindset will only slow down our progress.
  1. Commitment. Follow through with the plans you have outlined for yourself and think about how these changes will make you feel in the long run. This will reassure you that you are taking the right steps to improve your overall life.

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Good luck and I hope this year will be great for all of us!!

❤ Sarah

What is Growth?

Image

As we grow, it is important to recognize the changes we have made as a person. Are they positive or negative? If negative, how can we fix them? If positive, how can we continue to move along the right path? In life we experience some setbacks that may hinder our growth, but it’s important to move forward and learn ways to measure our growth. So how do you know that you’re growing and not letting setbacks impede your growth?

I believe the 10 actions below help you understand your growth. If you recognize any of the actions below, you are growing and molding your personality as an individual.

I grow as a person by…

1) Taking responsibility for my life as it unfolds day to day. Acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them.

2) Learning to love without the string of expectations. Expectations can lead to disappointments and understanding that people don’t really owe you anything, is a sign of growth. Expect nothing, but ensure there is mutual love, respect, and care.

3) Acting with integrity that flows from highly developed principles. Your values, whatever they may be, are instilled in your mind and are ingrained in your heart.

4) Mastering the discouraging fears of the unknown tomorrow. Fear is a common emotion among all of us, but being able to wake up every morning ready to face any challenges is a true sign of growth.

5) Learning who the best people to surround myself with are. These are the type of people who feed your growth, teach you something, are supportive, and most importantly, OPTIMISTIC. If you encounter a person who is pessimistic, your ability to not let them affect you is a sign of growth, as well as not allowing that type of negativity in your life.

6) Forgiving people for the mistakes they have made and moving forward. We all make mistakes. Forgiving a person for their mistake is a sign of maturity and strength.

7) Having a purpose and goal and working to accomplish it. We all need a purpose, whatever it may be. Setting your priorities straight and not wandering through life aimlessly is crucial to growth.

8) Depending on myself. If you want something, do it yourself! No one is going to hand you something on a silver platter. Life is tough and realizing that is a sign of growth.

9) Developing self-confidence that is generated from within. What people think about you is none of your business. Don’t base your confidence level based on others, but rather love yourself for who you are, with all your flaws and imperfections.

10) Focusing on myself, my strengths and weaknesses, and not comparing myself to anyone else. We are all different and comparing ourselves to anyone is pointless. This will only slow your progress in life and keep you from accomplishing your own goals. Your focus should be 100% on being the best version of yourself, keeping in mind what you want to accomplish along the way.
“Comparing is impoverishing your own experience.” – Paulo Coelho

Hip-Hop Music: An Art Form Taken Too Lightly

Sex. Drugs. Violence. Guns. Girls. Money. Profanity. These are some of the words that may pop into a person’s mind when he or she thinks about hip-hop music. It is a genre of music that has been misunderstood since its start in the early 1970s.

hip-hop-danilo
The word “rap” was derived from a slang word that meant conversation. Young people living in poverty did not have the means to attain proper living conditions, so rapping was a way to release their anger. They told their stories through their music and people listened.

Most people are so taken aback by the inappropriate language used that they do not take the time to understand the profound meaning behind the lyrics. I believe the most thought provoking and poetic music is created during times of emotional unease, struggle or oppression. This applies to any genre of music, however, I believe hip-hop music has an element to it that differentiates it significantly from other genres.  This music continues to bring people from the same cultural background and upbringing together and explores and examines topics such as politics, poverty, oppression, racism, power, love, values,and difficult life decisions and experiences. Even if one hasn’t been through some of the situations heard in the songs, one is able to feel the struggles and pain through the creativity depicted in their writing, which I believe, is not appreciated as much as it should be.

Most people are too consumed in the beat of the song or are intrigued by the rappers’ lifestyle and quick rise from rags to riches that they do not take a step back to truly understand the message the lyricsWe have seen that these artists do not last very long in the industry. The rap artists who last in the industry are the ones who are able to really shed light on their struggles and tell their life story through their songs. They are also the ones who are able to depict society as it really is and not how it should be. In general, there is a level of trueness to their music. Some of the rap artists who resonate in my mind as the genuine depiction of artists who have remained, to a certain extent, true to their craft are the likes of Jay-Z, Lupe Fiasco, Nas, Tu-Pac and BIG. To gain commercial success, however, several of these well respected rap artists, with time, have written lyrics that are not true to their life experiences. In some cases, to attract what industry professionals have labeled as their target audiences, rap artists have had to rap about topics that are not necessarily a paradigm into their lives.  As a result, I believe rap music has the potential of losing its aesthetic value. This issue can be further understood through Lupe Fiasco’s “Dumb it Down,” in which he explains the downgrade in lyrical ingenuity simply because this method generates more money and wider range of fans: http://rapgenius.com/Lupe-fiasco-dumb-it-down-lyrics. Unfortunately, we are able to see with time the change in the music produced by these rap artists. In the end, who wouldn’t want to gain commercial success and everything else that comes along with it? For most artists, the evolution from underground to mainstream music is the ultimate goal. For instance, I have seen a shift in the quality of Jay-Z’s music. His first album, “Reasonable Doubt” released in 1996, contains much more poetic and heartfelt emotions than arguably some of his later released albums. Is he sad about this? Of course not! He’s one of the biggest rap artists to ever exist. He even wrote,” I dumb down for my audience, triple my dollars, they criticize me for it, yet they all yell holla.” Through these lines, the discrepancy and contradiction is certainly conveyed. It is a shame however that the art form has suffered as a result of what people expect to hear. People who listen to rap music no longer want to think. They are too distracted by the glamorous lives of these rap artists and their subliminal messages. As a result, the art form is listened to, but not as appreciated as it should be. It is important to look back in time and reflect on what rap music meant to the people who were influenced by it the most.  A time when music was not only made to generate profit, but was a tool used to communicate to the world about the obstacles, oppression, and poverty many people were living in.  A time when music was a form of art that allowed one to express their deepest thoughts and release any anger they felt about the unjust society he or she was living in.  A time when artists could sit back and reflect on their lives and experiences in meaningful ways rather than thinking about how the music will be perceived and if they will make significant profit. Generating money is important, but not at the expense of producing music that is true to oneself.

Hip-Hop music is underappreciated because music in general is losing its value. Commercial success is one of the main goals of all these upcoming artists and has taken its toll on other older artists. This is a time when an artist is faced with a dilemma: Do I sacrifice my identify, my musical depth and become molded into what the industry thinks will make money or do I reveal to the world my true talent, communicate to them my experiences, and as a result learn more about myself and the people who are influenced by my music? This artist needs to ultimately take control of their own path to fame and success and decide what he or she wants: Musical freedom or imprisonment. My hope is that rap artists of future generations are reminded of the reasons why this art form is so important, how it revolutionized a culture, brought people together, and how it can still be a platform of communicating issues, struggles and societal ills that are too often swept under the rug. Overall, audiences must not forget how powerful music can be and artists should not forget the power they possess in helping to spread influence and ideas around the world.

I have posted a short video that introduces rapper Ice T’s documentary entitled “the Art of Rap,” in which he explains the importance of understanding the origins of rap music and its terrain. I encourage everyone to watch the full documentary as it provides a lot of insight into the different styles of hip-hop music.

Man in the Mirror

Sometimes we need a little motivation and inspiration to do good deeds in life. We all have the ability inside of us to make a difference in someone’s life and sometimes it can be as simple as giving someone a genuine smile, or a small compliment. Maybe you made their day just a little better. We live in a place that doesn’t always consist of laughter and happiness. It can be gloomy and dark. Nobody has it easy, but together, one by one, a lot can be accomplished. Seldom can people accomplish their goals without someone there to support, guide, and love them. If you want to see a change in the world, then you have to be the person who initiates it. Everything small done, can lead to something big.

This is one of my favorite songs by Michael Jackson that reminds me everyday of a better person I can be to make a change in the world. It starts with you: The man (or the woman :P) in the mirror!

                                                                “Man In The Mirror”

I’m Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It’s Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .

As I, Turn Up The Collar On My
Favorite Winter Coat
This Wind Is Blowin’ My Mind
I See The Kids In The Street,
With Not Enough To Eat
Who Am I, To Be Blind?
Pretending Not To See
Their Needs
A Summer’s Disregard,
A Broken Bottle Top
And A One Man’s Soul
They Follow Each Other On
The Wind Ya’ Know
‘Cause They Got Nowhere
To Go
That’s Why I Want You To
Know

I’m Starting With The Man In
The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change
His Ways
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change
(Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change)

I’ve Been A Victim Of A Selfish
Kind Of Love
It’s Time That I Realize
That There Are Some With No
Home, Not A Nickel To Loan
Could It Be Really Me,
Pretending That They’re Not
Alone?

A Willow Deeply Scarred,
Somebody’s Broken Heart
And A Washed-Out Dream
(Washed-Out Dream)
They Follow The Pattern Of
The Wind, Ya’ See
Cause They Got No Place
To Be
That’s Why I’m Starting With
Me

It’s Not Just a Song

When I think of love I think of music. It has the power to transform my body and soul to a different place.  All of the sudden the pain I once felt lessens and I feel empowered beyond words.  One of the best things about music is it has the power to unite people of different colors and races. It has a taste that can satisfy every person with no kind of discrimination. During the 1950s and 60s, when African Americans were segregated and treated harshly by non-African Americans, music was one of the things that brought people of different colors together.  Musicians such as Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry were just a few of the artists who brought people together through their music.

The king of pop, Michael Jackson, once sang, “It doesn’t matter if your black or white.” His music is timeless to say the least and brings people together from all over the world. He spoke through his profound and heart-felt lyrics. No one cared that he was African American because he sang for a common cause. His music alone was enough to “heal the world and make it a better place.” When the artists mentioned performed and sang, people no longer judged them based on their color, but rather the way they performed, the lyrics they sang and the energy they possessed that spread quickly from across the room, eventually across the nation. What’s nice about music is it has the power to unite people and has no language. Even if you don’t understand the words in a song, you can definitely feel the words and emotions being perpetuated. They can be words of sadness, love, anger, or happiness. Music is artistic and can elate you or play along with any of the moods you are feeling. It can calm you or maybe frustrate you. It allows you to be okay with feeling certain feelings and joins people with common experiences together.

Music has the power to impact your mood and provide all the following:

1. Entertainment- Any kind of party is not the same without music.

2. Revival – Music revitalizes in the morning and calms in the evening.

3. Strong sensation- It has the affect to brighten your day and make you feel different emotions or sensations.

4. Diversion- Any negative feelings or thoughts can be healed when listening to music and bad experiences during the day can be diverted for a while.

5. Discharge- Music is a release of energy and a discharge of anything the mind and body does not need. It is cleansing in many ways.

6. Mental work-  Music allows a person to go into a different place and increases the brains mental work with is good for overall health.

7. Solace-  Music can provide a shared connection of experiences whether good or bad.

When I listen to singers such as the magnificent Adele, I feel empowered. When I listen to Bruno Mars, I feel beautiful just the way I am. When I listen to Mariah Carey, I remember people who I once loved and feel a sense of calmness listening to her sing. When I listen to Beyonce, I always feel confident in every sense, encouraged to be all I can be and not feel marginalized just because I am a girl. When I listen to Michael Jackson, I feel like I can do more to make the world a better place. When I listen to Celine Dion, I pray that someday I will be able to find someone who I love and loves me back unconditionally. Most importantly, what I think of when I listen to music is the impact it can make and the ways it can unite people to coexist regardless of anything that might differentiate them from each other. Music is like love; It knows no color, race, or gender.

Misguided Girl

It is often said that a man has a lot of responsibilities in his lifetime. In many societies, especially in Middle Eastern ones, a young boy is groomed at a very early age to be a man and not to show any emotions that may seem a bit too “feminine”. Unfortunately, emotions, positive or negative, are frowned upon and this lack of showing emotion grows with them into the future. The boy is someday going to be the man of the house, taking charge of the household and being the breadwinner of the family. Yes, the life of a man is far from easy. But do we stress too much about how hard it is to be a guy in our society and neglect how difficult it can be to be a girl? A girl’s life is also far from simplistic. Sometimes their life is even planned out from beginning to end, from which schools they will go to, to which man they should marry. Even the most educated girl can have no say about whom she wants to marry unless she speaks out and takes a stand. Families tend to forget that they are not the ones getting married. Marriages end up being a contract of financial security rather than of love. What I’m trying to say is that everyone’s life is somehow misguided by outside influences. Sometimes I think we do not stress enough on the life of a girl and the hardships she goes through on a daily basis.  My point is in our lives everyone, especially girls, are somehow always misguided by influences such as family, friends, and most significantly the media.

Society has transformed and with each day that passes, the media has stood as a platform for our thoughts, actions, and perceptions of what is real. Psychological and emotional disorders are further being catalyzed by the media’s ideas of how a person’s life should be. These ideas penetrate through a person’s mind and slowly shape their actions unconsciously.

TV shows, soap operas, magazines, music, etc., all seem to be harmless forms of entertainment for young girls all over the world. A lot of young girls these days are watching shows such as Gossip Girl, Desperate Housewives, Sex in the City and the list goes on. It is indeed entertaining to spend leisure time watching these television shows, but to relate them to real life is beyond understandable and downright insane. The characters in these shows are highly glamorized and live seemingly perfect lives with the toughest obstacle being which social event to attend or whom they should date. I’m not saying it’s not fun and entertaining to watch such shows, but to watch them and base them on real life is when they become detrimental.

The magazine Cosmopolitan claims to help women be more well rounded and be the best they can be in every aspect of their lives. More specifically, the magazine targets “fun fearless women who want to be the best they can be in every area of their lives.”   Fair enough, but if only it actually sets out to do what it claims.  Is it to empower women or is it for women to further feel objectified?

Lets take a look at just a few of the magazine covers:

Sex, sex and more sex!!

Below is a link to one of the feature videos posted on Cosmo’s website:

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid18776372001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAAAPudaAk~,C-Umm5CE0ILqKM5qxB9ysjRHrosKTFAA&bclid=26650873001&bctid=26643699001

Below is a link to the articles Cosmo features:

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/archive/sex-love/tips-moves/0/16

Are these the real issues on girl’s minds? Every issue has something to do with sex! The magazines clearly are advocating and encouraging promiscuity and do not depict sex as something that is special between two people who love each other. How does this educate a girl in the right way? Girls all over the world are reading Cosmo and actually follow and believe what is being said. The writers do not base any of their articles on facts. In some issues they try to help girls feel better in their own skin by giving tips on fashion and what suits their body types the most. Then why when I look through the magazines are there no pictures of real women? Why do they all seem so flawless? If the magazine is geared towards girls who are trying to better themselves then how come all the girls in the magazine are perfect? Are they telling girls that if they read the magazine they will look like the girls in the magazines or that they should live up to these unrealistic, air-brushed expectations?  How is this setting up women to be “fun and fearless?” Well, all it really does is set them up to be sex objects who spend all of their time trying to have perfect skin, hair, and bodies.

The real issues that should be talked about more are the real issues young girls and women are going through such as obstacles about body and self image, eating disorders, unrealistic expectations set for themselves, depression, family problems, inner conflicts and outside pressures. Maybe if we shed more light on these things, young women will be better-balanced and lead healthier lives. These young girls need a reality check and also need to learn that the world is not all about outer appearances, but rather inner beauty, success, family, friends, and above all, personal happiness.

A girl’s life is not simple because she not only has to deal with magazines, and society telling her everyday how the ideal life for her and other girls should be, but at the same time, other outside factors such as family and friends echo and replay through her mind.  It is hard to disappoint oneself but it is also hard to disappoint others. Family is most people’s foundation and what we do reflects on them. We want to lead the right life and do what makes others around us happy. We are after all social beings who crave approval from people close to us and as well as a successful life. But sometimes families who are very close-knit tend to add to the pressures society poses on us. They ultimately want what’s best for us, but forget that we should be the one’s deciding the path of our lives.  We ask ourselves, how do we do what we want without disappointing others? Well, this is not an answer Cosmopolitan can answer, but compromising is always a good method to use.

In conclusion, no one’s life is easy especially because of outside pressures and influences. Sometimes, though, the life of a girl can be more complicated than what meets the eye. Hopefully, young girls and women can be able to break through these obstacles by focusing on what they believe is important in their lives and working from there. Setting a goal, surrounding herself by the right people who love her, and being fearless enough to face real challenges in life is a great beginning. The challenges I’m talking about aren’t the ones Cosmopolitan, Gossip Girl and Sex in the City have the answers to. Slowly but steadily, maybe this misguided girl can find her true path onto self-discovery.

The Bigger Question

6,923,201,572→ This is the number of how many people exist on planet earth, according to the US Census Bureau. It is estimated that this number increases by 212,035 every day. When this fact ponders through my mind, it humbles me and somehow grounds me. We are so small compared to this world we live in. So what if we no longer existed on this planet? How would this change the greater of mankind or change the course of the world? This may sound pessimist and down right harsh but it doesn’t change at all. The world will not cease to exist and things will go on as they always have been. Family and friends will go through episodes of grief and despair and then what? The world will not suddenly pause, for after your departure it will go on as it always does.
So this leaves me with a question humans have not yet been able to find the answer to and may not ever find the answer to. What is our purpose on this planet? Should we even question what our purpose is? If not, then what is the purpose of the science, enlightenment and a curious mind that has lead us to discover so much about our planet? This may seem like such an accomplishment, but in fact we know nothing. You see, if we knew something about life and the world we live in, then how come there is so much hunger in the world? How come we have not ended world hunger when food should be a simple necessity and not a luxury?  Why is it so important to race through life and hang on to superficial and materialistic things? We all try so hard to hold on to what we want rather than what we need. We all want a bigger house, a nicer car, more money, the latest phone or gadget, and then even more money. Why? Are we going to take all these things with us when we die? Why have all these things come to define us and have been molded into becoming an extension of who we are today? These days we have become too attached to things that only give us temporary pleasure and happiness. A world in which happiness is marked by material gain is certainly a world I wish I do not live in, but this is a reality. Sometimes I wish I could have lived before or far after this time….
During this time, I create my own little world. A world in which people no longer feel the urge to have excessive things and are satisfied with what they need. What more do we need than shelter, love, food, clothes and water; the bare necessities? Nothing. The problem with our society today is that our wants have well exceeded our needs to an illustrious degree. How can we ever be content or satisfied with what we have if we keep asking for more? What kind of life is this? When you think of the population of the world and how minute we are in comparison to it, think of how you can make a difference that will be instead of insignificant or little, be huge.
My insignificance in this world pushes me harder to want to become something of a much higher caliber. I want to use what I know to become something that will make a difference in somebody’s life. I want to leave something to remember, so people won’t forget that I was here on this planet. I want to show the people I love I care about them and remind them of this each and everyday. This is what is important. Being a small person, a humbled person, but making a big difference. I want to leave my footprints on the sands time and know that I have made a difference in somebody’s life. That is how the world will know I was here. Well maybe not the world, but at least the people who matter to me the most. This is my purpose in life and what leaves me satisfied. This is how the world will know you were here and you existed.

My Eyes

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They don’t understand how I think.
Dare to look a bit deeper.
My appearance may fool them.
I put on a smile,
I laugh at their thoughtless jokes,
I put on my mask that surely fools the world.
But not you.
Dressed to impress,
Perfection from head to toe.
Superficial some people might think.
No complexity,
No intelligence,
No soul,
No potential,
No depth,
Empty,
Plain.
Living life day by day they say,
No thoughts pondering about the future.
Little do they know that it echoes within me,
A solid whisper.
But you know something others don’t know.
That this is a façade,
A mask I put up so no one can enter.
I’m too complicated for words so I stand silent to their judgment,
But you know the truth.
Deep in my eyes,
You search and you know.
The depth and the power of my soul.
I’m no ordinary person.
You know this,
Only by searching within me.
When my eyes gaze into yours,
You see through the depth of my soul.
There is no where left to hide,
You see me through my eyes.

Seeking Peace

Striving for the best
Wanting things I never thought possible
The pain is too deep to explain
A city that lies in ruins
Tragic but true
So beautiful a city with scars so deep
So deep I can barely speak
We hope for the best, but somehow expect the worst
A city so small yet so divided
Peace is what we seek
However, it is too far to be reached
We want what we can’t have
Striving for the best
We watch and weep for a city that is scarred but still so beautiful
From the cedar trees to the beach
Why is peace so hard to reach?