A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Everyday in the news, we see, hear, and read countless headlines about refugees. It’s usually something about refugees migrating throughout Europe or sailing in the Mediterranean sea. We’ve seem to forgotten that these refugees are humans just like us.

They’re just like us- they have family,  they have friends, they fall in love, they have hobbies, they have hopes, and they have dreams…. just. like. us.  On paper, they sound like anyone in a typical American community…..except for one thing- they had to flee their native countries because of some reason that caused them to fear their lives.

Brandon Stanton, founder of Humans of New York, recently traveled to the middle east to document the experiences of Syrian refugees. Stanton uploaded numerous photos of Syrians along with captions explaining their stories of escaping Syria and their current living situations. Immediately, people all around the world became captivated by his series.

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There is something so powerful and intimate about seeing a real life image of another human being and hearing their story — even if they are half-way around the world and you have never met them before. Images have the power to really captivate us and cause us to feel some kind of attachment or bond. Brandon Stanton’s photos were an example of effective advocacy not only for Syrian refugees, but for refugees all around the world. So many of my friends who, previously, had no idea of the Syrian Refugee Crisis became so interested…all because of Humans of New York.

Not only was Brandon Stanton able to inform the world about the ongoing problems experienced by refugees because of genocide or political injustice, but he was also successful in starting a petition and raising over $750,000 dollars in just six days! The money raised will go directly to Syrian refugee families.

It is amazing what an impact a simple photograph can have on the world. A picture is really worth a thousand words and it’s so special to see how Brandon Stanton’s photos were able to bring the world community together.




Sorry is a Sorry Word

But forgiveness isn’t.

A wise man (shockingly not me) once said,

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”


Perhaps that’s why it’s so difficult for some people to forgive. They haven’t built up the stamina, they haven’t toned their forgiveness muscles, they aren’t in the shape to handle something of that momentum.

In an article discussing Gandhi’s Top 10 Rules for Changing the World “Forgive and let go” makes the list. If one of the most influential people of all time believes that forgiveness is worth out while, maybe we should take notice.

I am the queen of forgiveness, sometimes to a fault. I hate confrontation, and tension makes makes me ill. So, I forgive. But do I let it go? Forgiving isn’t the hard part, for me. Accepting an apology doesn’t take years of my life. I can handle the awkward conversations that follow the “resolution” of a disagreement, argument, or betrayal. But do I actually actively take that bitterness I feel and check it at the door?

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

What a great place the world would be if we could truly forgive people for their mistakes (for being human) and actually mean it and then proceed to move on with our own lives.

I’ve read before that unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and expecting the other person to die.

In the light of my upcoming graduation, I’ve been trying to really live in every minute and to enjoy these last few weeks. The ability to live fully in the present involves being able to put the past in the past and move forward without resentment.

Because we can’t change the world when we are too busy holding on to something that does nothing but hold us back.

-Kelli Anne Louthan

You Control You

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

While I don’t necessarily agree with this age-old adage, it certainly holds some truth. Words can, in fact, be hurtful. But it doesn’t mean that words can break you the way the person saying them intends to; you can choose to take the high road.

In Gandhi’s 10 Rules for Changing the World by Henrik Edberg, the second assertion is that you are in control. “What you feel and how you react to something is always up to you,” says Edberg. And I agree with this. While we have been trained to react in our emotions. This is an increasingly popular sentiment in today’s society–we feel entitled to our feelings.

And to some degree, I agree with this statement. Your feelings are real and you have to find a way to deal with them. These means of working through feelings vary from person to person, but there are certainly ways. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to let your feelings impact your day-to-day interactions. Just because you and your sister are going through a rough time in your relationship, doesn’t mean you have to let you and your best friends’ relationship suffer, too.

Instead, you control your reactions. How? Compartmentalization. Once you realize how to separate different aspects of your life, you can control your reactions and thoughts. You can choose to let the negativity permeate your life, or let positivity rule. It may not be an easy transition, but there is a way to train yourself to make positivity a habit. As you continue to train yourself, you grow stronger.

This article took me back to a Ted Talk about body language, which is also a huge factor of reactions and demeanor. Strong body language makes you feel good, and also changes peoples’ perceptions of you. Check out below what Amy Cuddy has to say about the power of body language, and consider how you can start to react more positively.

Annie Kate Swain

Start With Yourself

Changing the world is a daunting task, especially when it can sometimes seem that there is a new problem arising each moment. The place to begin is within you.


According to Gandhi, arguably one of the most peaceful beings in the history of humanity, there are ten rules to changing the world. The rather interesting fact about these rules is that each of these them is something we can adjust internally that will show positive effects externally.

Rather than synthesize Gandhi’s rules, I would encourage you to go read the article, which can be found here: http://www.dailygood.org/story/466/gandhi-s-10-rules-for-changing-the-world-henrik-edberg/.

One of my favorite quotes of Gandhi’s is, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This quote is embodied in his first rule, which discusses how changing your outlook, perspective, and attitude can have profound effects.

It is easy to read the article and get very excited and motivated to make the necessary changes in the moment. The important thing to remember, however, is consistency.

It’s no secret that change is not easy. Making major adjustments to your person does not come over night. It is about dedication to the overall goal. If you truly want to make positive changes within your own life that will make positive impacts on others, you have to stick to the process to see results.

If you want to make changes of the like, but are finding a hard time doing so, bookmark the URL to Gandhi’s article. Look back at it once a week. Write down some of the quotes from the article that speak to you and motivate you to be consistent and diligent in achieving your goals.


A face to a number

2016 Syrian Crisis:

220,000 killed

7.6 million internally displaced

4.3 million refugees

23 million in need of urgent humanitarian assistance


The world knew of these statistics. And yet, almost no one moved a finger.

Days, weeks, months passed by and these numbers only continued to grow.

After the extermination of nearly 6 million Jews by the Nazis, we said “never again.” Yet, here we are again. And sadly, this is not the first atrocity since the holocaust 70 plus years ago, but one of many.

With hundreds of thousands of innocent people dying, starving, being forced into child slavery, and millions more being raped or displaced from their homes, why has nothing changed?

Maybe because these statistics don’t mean anything to the average person. In fact, I can guess that you skimmed over the first few lines of “meaningless” numbers at the beginning of this post. Don’t be embarrassed, I most-likely would have done the same.

The problem is not that we lack information on the magnitude of the Syrian crisis and so many others like it. The problem is that we lack empathy towards what is happening and who it is happening to because we can’t possibly comprehend something of such evil and horror.

However, something changed and a spark was ignited when this photo surfaced on the media:

syrian boy

Suddenly, everyone cared about the Syrian refugee crisis. People shouted, rallied, donated. There was a demand to take action to prevent this from being another child’s horrendous destiny.advocate


Why all this effort and action over one boy when thousands had passed before him in attempt to cross the ocean? Because we finally put a face to the issue. A human we could identify with, relate to, care for.

This goes to show that a picture truly is worth a thousand words… or in this case, a thousand statistics.

Paul Slovic eloquently explains, “Confronted with knowledge of dozens of apparently random disasters each day, what can a human heart do but slam its doors? No mortal can grieve that much. We didn’t evolve to cope with tragedy on a global scale. Our defense is to pretend there’s no thread of event that connects us, and that those lives are somehow not precious sand real like our own. It’s a practical strategy, to some ends, but the loss of empathy is also the loss of humanity, and that’s no small trade off.”

“Art is the antidote that can call us back from the edge of numbness, restoring the ability to feel for another”

– Paul Slovic

It is shameful to think that we can ignore mass killings sometimes without the slightest feeling of compassion or empathy, but that the face of a single child would compel an entire nation to go to such great extents.

May this be a lesson to us all. The next time we come across another statistic about a far-away nation in turmoil, may we not just glance over it or say to ourselves “how sad,” and keeping scrolling through our Facebook newsfeeds. No. Let us be a nation that does not disconnect or desensitize ourselves from people being horribly mistreated and dehumanized.

Picture a face to every number. An innocent 3-year old boy to every percentage. Because this is not an issue that is plaguing some aliens off in another world, but is in fact destroying the lives of people just like you and just like me the very moment you are finishing reading this.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”


-Rebekah Broughton

Let’s Talk About Culture -___-

Take 30 seconds to check out this ad by Honeymaid that speaks to Islamophobia in America.

Disregarding the excessive product placements, I think this ad at it’s core sends a good message to people in America. Most of the time the only information we hear about a culture is through some sort of media, which has been known to distort reality and present false information. This week we had the opportunity to talk with two women who came to america about what it’s like raising a family in America. The conversation was honest, profound and beautiful. I got to learn about culture in Iraq and Africa, and how the challenges families face assimilating.

The one thing they stressed, was how impactful the little things are. Something as small as a wave, or a hello could make someone’s day. We often underestimate how much a little gesture like this can make a difference. It’s easy to put up a front and hold onto our preconceived notions about what someone is like based on how they dress, their religion, whatever you see on the outside. But if we can challenge ourselves to break this habit and speak to others with an open heart, I think we’ll find that we were wrong about a lot of things. It’s like the old saying goes never judge a book by it’s cover. But I wish they could add to the quote by saying …cause half the time what’s inside is never what you thought. People most of the time ROCK. You just gotta take the time to let them show you how awesome they are.

Beyond the Numbers

We are all students at James Madison University. We are all apart of different clubs, organizations, and  volunteer programs that contribute to the JMU community. What if someone said to you, “You are only one of the 25,000 students that make up this community, no one will remember that you went here, or what you did, or the impact you made”. How would you feel? Would you feel all the time and effort you put into your experiences here at JMU were a waste because you are only 1/25,000?

It’s difficult not to view yourself as insignificant when you are put in a statistic. When you are just a number, proportion, ratio, or any other mathematical value because there are many other individuals that are put in your category and you no longer feel important. However, you are significant because you are a human being. You feel emotions as well as make other feel things when they are around you. You can promote change and action while motivating others to do the same. And that is powerful.

This week, we read Gandhi’s Top Ten Rules for Changing the World  One of the most important things in the article stated that we are all human. Therefore, one of the important messages behind this idea is that everything sculpted or created by man is inevitably flawed because we are not perfect. So, if you are the 1/25,000 here that did not do the things you wanted to do, or become the person you want to be, you are free to start over. It is never too late to change the destiny that we create for ourselves. So instead of getting swallowed up by the mentality that one person cannot make a difference, try and remember the faces of those you have impacted, and remember that you have made a difference in the lives of others.

-Colleen Knell