In the Fall of 2012, while teaching community health education at Kent State University, I was sent a textbook to review; Designing Healthy Communities by Richard Jackson. It was an unusual textbook, hard-bound, longer horizontally than vertical, and reminiscent of a precious children's book my grandmother had given me when I was 8.
As I opened the book and found my way to the table of contents, I actually cried. I felt as if my personal calling and professional life had finally collided. I was struck, dumbfounded, and in awe that a public health professional with the credentials and experience of Dr. Jackson began his book referencing love. Love! Chapter 1 opens with “What does love or caritas have to do with the built environment?, followed by; “We love our families and our country, but do we really love ourselves?”
Big, beautiful questions and questions which I myself was grappling with professionally in the community health/public health arena, because to me, fundamentally, love seemed like the “missing piece” in all primary prevention efforts from drug and alcohol, to sex education, to nutrition and exercise, and no one, at least to my knowledge, was talking about it publicly-- in a textbook no less!
Flash forward to May of 2014, when I was with my dad during his final days. He would often sleep for long periods of time and wake up to either acknowledge my presence, thank me, or ask a question. This particular day, as he woke up from his rest, he opened his eyes, smiled at me, and said the following before closing his eyes once more:
“Mayra, promise me you'll work on love.”
These simple yet powerful words just lingered, suspended in mid-air, until I slowly breathed them in. His directive was in the context of an earlier conversation he and I were having, and his desire that I stop writing and publishing children's books, and instead produce books to help adults. As a person of “and”, I told him that it was not “either-or”, and that I would, in time, get around to writing for grown-ups. Not knowing exactly what that would entail , or even look like, I said "I'll work on love, Dad."
My first books for grown-ups were actually journals, so they don't count as “books” (lol), but truth is I wasn't sure what the heck I really wanted to say. It would take another 4+ years and the passing of my daughter Serena for me to begin to gain some clarity and to find my voice as a writer and publisher...and that of course, is an ongoing unfolding and exquisite dance.
I still consider myself a community health educator, however, I'm now working in the service of a greater “science” and the evidence that is all around us. In this last year of deep reflection and study, I've been introduced to the work of numerous thought leaders; Joanna Macy, Daniel Wahl, Frijot Capra, Father Greg Boyle, Joe Brewer, and Charles Eisenstein in particular, whose soulful and collective works have reignited my passion and commitment to community health education and to help usher an inclusive path towards human flourishing.
To me, the way to flourishing is the way of love, which is the way of nature (cooperation) and of the giving and receiving of kindness. Inherently, “designing healthy communities” is not possible until there are enough human beings in each community with “open minds and warm hearts”, and who are unafraid to both hold their own language and beliefs and allow opposing views to coexist. Literally. Minds do not need to be changed first. Minds do not need to be controlled or shamed into submission. Ever.
All human beings want freedom from fear and to live joyful and productive lives, but this freedom begins on the inside, not the outside. It is heart-work and soul-work. That is the only thing that changes minds, but this change begins with you, and with each of us. Glad you are here!
As a professional freelance educator, coach, writer, and publisher, I am always looking to collaborate with individuals, communities, and organizations wishing to offer this type of inclusive adult education. Contact me to explore how I can best support you and your organization.
Currently, my books are available directly through me or via AMAZON.COM.
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