The Humanity Project®

Parents Saving Teens

The daughter? Or the mother? Parents greatly influence their teenager’s driving habits.

A brief post today. Just long enough to tell you about a new podcast you’ll want to hear, especially if you are the parent of a teenage driver. Click here to listen.

Like this blog, it’s called, “Parents Saving Teens” and features insightful discussion from two experts on safe teen driving: Jose Soto from State Farm and Melissa Branca from Florida SADD. The podcast’s focus is on parenting — ways that parents can instill in their young motorists a genuine respect for the dangers posed to their lives and the lives of other people on the roads. Research shows parental driving habits are the largest influence on the driving behavior of teens, who die from auto crashes far more than from any other cause in the United States.

We hope that you’ll take the time to listen carefully to our discussion — and that you’ll pass along the link to friends and family who may benefit as well.

A New Fable: The Tale Of The Two Windows

Copyright © 2019 Robert Spencer Knotts All rights reserved

This is the 12th in a series of original modern fables for parents and other adults, created and copyrighted by Humanity Project Founder, Bob Knotts. They are short, fun, fictional tales that can be shared with older kids to teach important lessons about helping others. Each story also includes a simple moral at the end, as fables have done for centuries. You can find the other fables on our website at this link: Read the first 11 fables. Please enjoy them!

The Tale of the Two Windows

A fable by

Robert Spencer Knotts

Look!

Two windows.

In different rooms.

Both above the playground.

With children outdoors, many laughters.

Together they joyful play.

Or maybe not.

Most curious …

Look!

Oh yes, yes, oh yes yes yes yes yes. This was a scene most indeed curious to see, this was yes indeed.

Waldo had seen this curiosity indeed now for some many months or more. And each time Waldo saw, oh yes, the curiosity caught his breath up in some snort of surprisement yet again.

Two windows. Different rooms, yes, same scene below.

Or maybe not.

Hmmmmm …

You see, Waldo’s curious seeings started something like this, yes, just exactly like this those seeings began. Because Waldo woke up on one extrashiny morning as the sun in narrow lightslivers slipped between his slatted blinds, all the new day’s brightlight filtering inside among the slats to poke Waldo awake warmly on both his sleeping eyelids.

Despite this distinctly sunwarmed wakening, Waldo soon felt distinctly unsunny.

Scowling and scratching the scruffy mornstubble of his beard, he pulled a thin white cord to raise the slatted blinds of the bedroom window. Peering squinteyed through the sunwarmth, Waldo peeked down at a playground mostly unsunny to see, oh yes a playscene below quite plainly playless.

Oh no, oh yes yes indeed.

The unplaying children smiled little, smiled hardly at all. Quite listless, quite playless, five boys tossed a ball. Four girls just ran round in a small silly ring. Three kids more found some sour song to sing. Two teachers, it seemed, were both bored to tears. And one lost lonely child sat huddled by fears.

Shaking his scowl and scraping his scratch, Waldo unwelcomed the long day ahead – yes the endless workingday at a workingplace not much unlike that playground below him. All the playless hours to come in his unfun office cubicle, with Waldo himself all fullup with feelings quite listless and bored quite to tears. Unwelcome thoughts indeed as Waldo walked a few short steps down the short narrow hallway toward his short kitchen for coffee. Espresso, short.

And then, well, it happened.

Yes, this was when Waldo curiously peeked curiously through the round window in the square kitchen wall. Peeked down at that same playground he’d peeked only one short moment ago, peeked first now then peered next until both his scowl and his scratch had nearly fallen off his face.

He saw five beaming boys, so strong, playing catch. Four girls raced round in a short footrace match. Three choirkids practiced some sweet ancient song. Two teachers both cried from laughing too long. And that boy? He hunched over a big frog that he’d found, a frog hopping happily through that sunwarmed playground.

Hmmmmm …

Two windows. Different rooms, no yes, same scene below.

Or maybe not.

Same ball yes, same running path yes. Same kids, same teachers too. All, all, all, all just exactly the same through this window, then through that.

But then, no, of course the same not at all.

First unhappy below, then happy.

First joyless children, then joyful.

How could just the same all suddenly seem just so different?

Yes, even his hearings had so changed from one window to the next with one same sound sounding so sourly through this, so sweetly through that. Yes, just the same child soundings separated only by short seconds and short footsteps of floor.

Waldo sat down with his coffee, most indeed curiously confused. And he thought back on what had come to him through the two windows.

Unhappy, then happy. Joyless, then joyful.

How curious yes, Waldo wondered during some coffeesipping and then some soapshowering as he prepared for work. All all so curious, yes, it seemed all so curious indeed as Waldo somehow found himself with no scowl at all now, no scratch at all either. And then undreading the long day ahead, he soon hustled off to his workingplace through the sunwarmth outside.

And so things went on for some many months or more. First seeing this, then seeing that outside his two windows. Hearing sourly hearings here, followed by sweetly hearings there. Not always only playground children either, but windowseeings and windowhearings of rainstorms and roadtraffic, of songbirds and spanielwalkers.

Each time both scenes outside the two windows just exactly the same.

But each time each scene outside the two windows just exactly as different as each time before.

Here unhappy, there happy.

Here joyless.

There joyful.

Day after day after day, his apartment’s two windows revealed two worlds to Waldo. Day after day after day, Waldo never could decide which of these two worlds was true, which world real.

Was it all a place of sadness down below him, grim and grimacing, everyone scowling and scratching to endure the endless unplayful hours? Or was it a place of energies and enthusiasms, with songsweet laughter bubbling effervescent through roadtraffic and rainstorms, all playful to cheer the songbirds and spanielwalkers alike?

Once himself outdoors down below the two windows, Waldo could never decide which was what. Day after day after day Waldo walked down the walk beside the roadtraffic, through the rainstorms, passing beneath the songbirds and passing past the spanielwalkers with Waldo himself all fullup of feelings indeed most curious. And mostly quite confused. Even his cubicled workingplace seemed different now somehow – but why, and how?

The which and the what, the why and the how of it all seemed ever as muddled as ever before.

And then, well, it happened.

Because one day after one day and another day, Waldo found one most curious wondering among the many wonders that wound through Waldo’s own head. Yes, one day Waldo himself snorted in surprisement over this most curious wonder: “Maybe both the unhappy and the happy, yes, maybe both were both always there. On the playground, in the rainstorms and the roadtraffic and all the rest. Joyless and joyful both always both just as real! Hmmmm … I wonder why I never noticed before?”

The why and the how and the which and the what of it all, Waldo never could quite explain. But instantly he just knew it was all so. And Waldo would never let himself unknow all the two windows had taught him for some many months or more.

Yes, Waldo always had found just what he wanted to find below a windowpane. No, it was no difference below now making those two windowscenes unsame. He could find the world scowling, much like Waldo’s own scowls. Uncuriously all playless with soursongs sounding like howls. Or he could find the world playful with sweetsongs of joys. Curiously no scowlseeings to see with no hearings of noise.

Playless and sour.

Or playful and sweet.

Waldo decided this hour by hour when up looking out windows or down walking the street.

He could hear it all just as noise or could hear it just as all song – and not one of his hearings really was wrong. Just the same with his seeings, both unhappy and happy were real there outside. But which seeings he saw there he’d somehow decide.

A snort of surprisement seems a wise way to react when two different windows show two quite different facts.

Yes, all joyful the play there! Or no, maybe not.

People can only discover outside them, yes, the things inside them they've already got.

Moral: The world always has both good and bad but we decide which one most influences our life.

The Humanity Project Store!

A screen capture of our new online store, which links with the “Store” page on this website

For at least the past ten years of our 13-year existence, the Humanity Project has wanted to run an online store. Until now, it wasn’t possible.

But today it’s not only possible, it’s a reality. The new Humanity Project Store, hosted by our partners at Cafe Press, offers a wide range of inspiring gift items with unique Humanity Project artwork on the front. You’ll find t-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, bumper stickers, keychains, holiday ornaments, caps, even flip-flops. Click this link to go directly to the online Humanity Project Store!

A sizeable portion of every sale goes directly to our programs for children and parents. So you’re not only buying gifts that celebrate your values, you’re helping us to help many more kids and adults at the same time.

Cafe Press is known for its high-quality merchandise, great customer service, no-questions return policy and safe online purchasing. Once in our store, just click on an image to look through the broad variety of Humanity Project gift items. We are excited to add this new feature for our many Humanity Project supporters, sponsors, donors, friends and followers — and we think you’ll be impressed with the selections and one-of-a-kind designs. Please explore, shop and share the link with friends and family. We really appreciate it!

You Are Stardust

Hubble telescope image courtesy of NASA

How do you teach a young child concepts such as the importance of respect for every individual, the value of diversity and the need for self-worth? Ideas that even many adults couldn’t explain clearly …

At the Humanity Project, we teach through play: videos, music, games, roleplaying and more. Art inspires the emotion that helps concepts to stick in the mind. One of our arts-based ideas for teaching also is science-based. We show kids that among the many reasons each person deserves respect is this amazing fact: Most of the materials inside every human being are formed from stardust. Literally. Science knows that elements such as carbon, oxygen, iron and nearly everything else that makes up you and all of us can only be manufactured by the extreme temperatures created within stars.

That’s an extraordinary notion to learn — for kids and adults both. And so we suggest you check out our latest video, just posted on the Humanity Project YouTube channel. It is called simply, “You Are Stardust.” Watch the video!

It’s short, it’s engaging, it’s factual … and offers us one more way to connect with kids. It was made with help from our Humanity Club girls at Morrow Elementary, many of them appearing in the video. And now they will help us bring the video and a short talk about this topic to every student in their school, classroom by classroom. The goal is to encourage the entire student body to treat everyone in school with respect, part of our year-long Humanity Club project at Morrow. Kids teaching kids, kids helping kids … That’s what we do at the Humanity Project.

Imagine ...

Imagine… Imagine a diverse group of adults, all working toward the same goal of helping kids — entirely without pay of any kind. Imagine that these folks actually all get along, genuinely enjoy each other’s company, consider themselves an extended family. And imagine that they really do make a demonstrable difference in the life of thousands of children (and parents too) each year.

Welcome to the Humanity Project!

We think you can tell an awful lot about any organization by getting to know the people who do the work. So in this post, we’re offering some photos to show you a bit more of our team. These pics were taken at the mid-December Humanity Project Holiday Party, which we held for free at Insight for the Blind. (Our Board of Directors VP is Matt Corey, who is CEO of Insight for the Blind. Matt kindly offered his lovely offices for our party.) Take a look for yourself. You’ll get a better idea who we are at the Humanity Project. And don’t miss the below link to our video, which shows some of us singing our version of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Imagine that …

Some Humanity Project Board of Directors and Leadership Council members (& friends) sing “Imagine.”

New Members Of Our Team

Welcome to the Humanity Project, Sasha Medvinsky and Victoria!

Meet our newest Leadership Council parent-child team.

Sasha was born and raised in Ukraine, leaving for Florida in 1992. She’s a registered nurse who manages Outpatient Services in the Pediatric Ambulatory Department of Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. Her daughter, Victoria, is an honor roll student and a recognized leader in her school, often fundraising for causes that help children in need.

Of course, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital is a longtime sponsor of the Humanity Project. So we think Sasha’s involvement with the Humanity Project seems especially appropriate.

Our Leadership Council was formed several years ago to serve as an in-house consulting and creative group of parents who partner with their child, collectively offering guidance to make sure our programs become even more kid-friendly and parent-friendly too. Since then we’ve added key new members to that team. We know Sasha and Victoria will bring their experience and talents to our work now — and we’re grateful.

We think of the Humanity Project as a family: not only our Board of Directors and Leadership Council but also our great volunteers and the many students and teachers and administrators who work with us closely. Together, we help kids to help kids. Together, we really do make a difference.

Wow! New Website 4 Parents Of Teen Drivers!

Please don’t spend a lot of time reading this blog, OK? We’re going to keep it very brief …

Why? So instead you can spend some time exploring our brand new resource: “The Humanity Project 4 Parents.” It’s a fun, funny and educational website for parents of teen drivers, an interactive online workshop that teaches rather than preaches. You’ll see what we mean if you check it out: Visit the new thp4parents website!

An alternative SF logo THUMBNAIL -- new Jan 2015.jpg

The site was made possible by generous funding from our great friends, and very good neighbors, at State Farm. At www.thp4parents.com you’ll find the information and tools to help you make sure your teen driver comes home in one piece — and you do too. It’s all about #respectontheroads … So yes, head over to the new site now, if you would be so kind. And please pass along the link to some parents who can use it.

UNICEF Report: School Bullying Is Rampant Worldwide

Bullying is worse, not better. But there is hope. 

UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, just released a major report on childhood bullying worldwide. It found that about half of children ages 13 to 15 throughout the globe say they have experienced peer-to-peer violence in and around school. That's 150 million kids. As one UNICEF official who contributed to the report said, "Schools are not as safe as they should be because of bullying, because of corporal punishment by teachers, because of attacks on schools." The report adds that the estimated monetary cost of violence against children in all countries is $7 trillion.

However, the same UNICEF official noted that more children are speaking out against bullying and more teachers are being trained to deal with it. "We have reasons to be optimistic that violence will be recognized as a problem in schools and addressed soon," she said. Self-reported peer violence stands at around 50% in most of the nations studied -- with the U.S. rate slightly lower at 48%. The report is based on data from 122 countries, which are home to 51% of the world's population of children ages 13 to 15.

At the Humanity Project, we see this major report as more proof of the need for increased efforts of all kinds to stop school bullying. We have sensed a growing misunderstanding of the issue in the United States in recent months, a feeling that the serious problem of school bullying is less common now than before. Some folks seem to feel we've won that war. In fact, school bullying is more common today, according to U.S.-based studies and anecdotal reports. These include recent discussions by Humanity Project officials with school administrators, teachers and counselors. LGBTQ students are among the most frequent targets, a school population that is disproportionately bullied. The Southern Poverty Law Center says research consistently shows that “virtually every LGBT student experiences bullying at school.”

The Humanity Project's acclaimed Antibullying Through The Arts and Humanity Club programs have been shown to be effective in helping to curb school bullying -- but in the past several months, we have received somewhat less funding than in 2017 to deliver these free programs to schools and organizations that need them. In light of the new UNICEF report, we are hopeful these funds will be restored soon as more people recognize that bullying hasn't ended in the schools. And that our work as a society to stop school bullying is far, far from over. 

Our Fund: A Cause For Hope

Some hope is much needed at the moment. Many days the world can appear in utter chaos. And here at home our nation struggles with deep political divisions: we witness attacks on LGBTQ rights, we watch authorities separating children from immigrant parents, we hear politicians raising serious doubts about news accounts that are highly accurate. And much more. It's easy to wonder if there are as many good people as in the past, the folks who are truly focused on making our society more compassionate and just. 

There are. That's the good news -- and yes, you can believe us.

A case in point is the amazing LGBTQ community foundation, Our Fund. This fine organization works daily to get adequate funding for important causes that benefit the LGBTQ community. These causes include the Humanity Project. Our Antibullying Through The Arts and Humanity Club programs directly help LGBTQ youth by preventing bullying in and out of school. You see, LGBTQ youth are disproportionately bullied, far more as a group than most other populations of kids. And this emotional and physical violence has an enormous effect on those children later in life, as studies repeatedly have shown. 

Our Fund's great CEO, David Jobin, and his talented team are working with the Humanity Project to help change this situation, improving life for many LGBTQ youth. Indeed Our Fund is among the Humanity Project's major sponsors and just renewed its commitment to our kids through a generous new grant. We are deeply grateful! Because we cooperate so closely with Our Fund we know how dedicated this community foundation is to causes that matter, finding significant financial support for those causes from people who care about a better world. We are, as always, honored to be part of the Our Fund family -- a remarkable group of agencies, staffers, volunteers and philanthropists. We hope you may consider joining all of us. Our Fund is, truly, a cause for hope. 

Let's Talk Auto Safety

We've posted a new podcast -- and it might just help you prevent an auto crash. So we'll keep this blog post very brief today. Instead, we hope you'll go listen to our conversation with Jose Soto, a community affairs specialist from State Farm, and Doreen Cannon, a longtime State Farm agent. Go to the podcast page. 

You'll hear a discussion about auto safety for teens and parents, something the folks at State Farm know more than a little about. As do we here at the Humanity Project, where we created the I Care safe driving program for teens and their parents. Check out the podcast. The guests are interesting, the talk is informative. And of course, as always, the podcast is free to download. We think you'll enjoy it. 

School Violence ... Revisited

Editor's Note: This blog was originally posted on our website on February 15, 2018 -- one day after the massacre at a Parkland, Florida high school. We are reposting it one day after the massacre at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas. And we are saddened by need to offer these thoughts yet again ...

by Bob Knotts, Founder & President

Yesterday one of the worst mass school shootings in U.S. history happened in the school district where the Humanity Project works, day in and day out. Here in Broward County, Florida, at least 17 people were killed by a disturbed young man. I know this school -- only two years ago, I was there as part of a panel for parents about teen suicide. So today, as we look for answers to school violence, I must offer these personal thoughts.

Look around carefully and reflect on what is in front of our eyes. School shootings can’t be stopped with any quick fix. Liberals want strict gun control. Yes, it’s needed. Yes, it will prevent some deaths by guns. Conservatives call for mental health measures – and yes, better treatments are much needed. But for me, the real problems are embedded in a culture that has long celebrated anti-intellectualism and violence as a solution. Consider the recipe:

We begin with a broth of ignorance as virtue. Our culture, unlike most other modern societies, has long celebrated the John Wayne attitude toward problems: “Hit first, shoot first … ask questions later. But not very deep questions. Afterall, he had it coming.” Many Americans regard intelligent thought suspiciously, nuance as confusing, facts as fluid. Don’t muddy the waters with information that withstands critical thinking. Just do it. Punch the bully back in the face. Shoot the home intruder dead. Elect an unqualified person because he acts tough; he’ll fix things. This is America – and ignorance is our birthright. Step one in the recipe to cultural violence. 

Stir in an oversized portion of isolation. Social media doesn’t bring us together. It isolates us. We live with the illusion that Facebook brings connection and Twitter transmits knowledge. They do the opposite. So people resort to treating their dogs like children and their cats like spouses. We are alone and lonely. For the youthful screen-obsessed generations, this has greatly diluted their ability to communicate with people intelligently, if at all. Their noses are buried in trivia backlit by an Apple cellphone. This isolation has changed the culture, much for the worse. For too many reasons to offer here. But for troubled minds, the isolation from humanity and the access to warped points of view and anonymous self-expressions of hate can push some toward violence. 

Season with celebrations of ultra-violence. America always has celebrated violence. But not in the way we do today. Kids spend hours daily glued to video games that show shockingly real depictions of explosions, gun deaths and worse. These are portrayed to young minds as cool. Just as bad, so many of our major stars portray action heroes who live and die by the John Wayne mentality: “Shoot first. Don’t think. Violence always is the solution.” How can we convince children that bullying isn’t cool and that respect is cool … when all they admire shows the opposite? Being big and bad and tough, that’s cool according to Hollywood. Every time any one of us buys a ticket to see the latest shoot-em-up by The Rock or Tom Cruise or Charlize Theron we contribute to the problem. Action films make big bucks: therefore action films get made and promoted. To a troubled kid, real violence looks like glory. 

Sprinkle with sloppiness, laziness and ineptitude. American society encourages parenting that is about shallow achievements rather than healthy growth. Parents take their kids to every known form of lesson, training and camp – and spend time working on a child’s soccer technique instead of helping them understand what it is to be a human being. Kids need time, space. They need to play and pretend. What child do you know who gets these things in proper proportion? Parents in this country are horrendous at parenting. Schools aren’t much better, though many try. They’re driven by pointless testing rather than real knowledge, by rote learning rather than deep curiosity. No time for anti-bullying programs, no support for training in meditation or projects that teach respect for all people. Because, hey, our school needs to earn a better grade during state testing. Adult attitudes and adult behavior toward kids contribute to violence by those kids who suffer deeper problems. 

Finally, mix vigorously with lack of compassion. This is related to our ignorance as virtue, but actually cuts even deeper. Americans are not taught compassion or empathy. We’re taught to be wary of these virtues, replacing them with the judgmental and hard-hearted. As a result, we can’t understand why a kid would take a rifle and kill 17 innocent people. The answer is because that kid isn’t you. Or me. He grew up with very different parents and siblings and experiences. He learned very different values and beliefs. Even his genes are different. Yes, of course you can watch The Rock for 2 hours at the multiplex without being inspired to violence. Because you’re you, with all your relatively stable life experiences. To the troubled kid, the movie means something different. Americans, many people in general, suffer from the delusion that the way a fairly normal person feels about something is the way everyone feels. It isn’t. And for some, the movie and the video game and the culture of violence, the isolation and shallowness slice to their core – and then one day it all explodes suddenly to everyone’s great surprise. 

In the end, we need to learn to be human. Humanity is a species of soaring qualities, mostly untapped. Until we accept this idea and work toward the fulfillment of our humanity, the past is mere prologue … and the next shooting is only just around the block.

Safeguarding Our Good Name

The Humanity Project has taken an important legal step to more formally protect our name. And to safeguard the reputation we have worked so hard for nearly 13 years now to build among the community as well as the larger online world. As you see from the document shown here, we have won official U.S. government approval of "The Humanity Project" as a registered trademark. From now on, you often will see our name with a new symbol that claims this protection: The Humanity Project®. (You can see a larger image of the document below.)

In the past, we relied on the standard TM symbol for "trademark." This offers very real legal protections. But the ® symbol and designation strengthen our protection greatly. They allow us to more easily pursue legal action against those who infringe on the use of our name without express permission -- and to seek damages, court costs and legal fees. We've found this new level of legal protection necessary because ... well, because our name is such a good one, quite frankly. Several organizations have tried unsuccessfully over the years to borrow "the Humanity Project" without our permission. 

We make diligent efforts at the Humanity Project to deliver free programs for kids (and parents) that create meaningful changes in society. Every day, we promote our stated core values of respect, diversity and self-worth. To continue doing this, we must keep our brand safe in this complex Internet-driven world. That small symbol, ®, is a big help in accomplishing this goal.