Updated: Nov 13, 2019
Welcome to Cultivating Respect with Darcy Castro! Over the course of the next year, you’re invited to come with me as I listen, learn and share about practical ways we can create respectful environments in our own little pockets of the world. Each month you’ll have access to a new article and podcast featuring honest, thought-provoking ideas that aim to inspire and foster positive, respectful communities… from the aisles of the grocery store to the halls of congress (and dare I say, internet comment forums!)
I’ve made it my mission to dedicate the year as your 2019 Elite National American Woman of Service to the program’s national platform, Crown CARES (Creating A Respectful Environment in Society.) Cultivating Respect with Darcy Castro is my way of reaching out to a wide audience via my strongest talents – writing, speaking and interviewing. And that year begins now!
What does creating a respectful environment mean to me? Having the self-awareness and patience to understand that positive change starts within our own hearts. That just because something is outside of our own worldview, that I can learn and share the love in my heart with others so they may feel heard and valued. We don’t have to agree, but we must recognize and value each other’s dignity.
We’re going to start at a place of hope. Even in this highly-charged, polarized climate we currently find ourselves in, I believe that with intentional kindness and a better grasp of our shared experience we can make positive change within our communities. I have hope that we can do better, and that starts with an examination of our own words and deeds.
Let’s begin this journey with a look inside my experience at American Women of Service, a competitive national pageant held each summer to select titleholders who will work hard to inspire others to civic and community service, while empowering women from all walks of life.
Delegates from around the country in four different age categories gathered in Springfield, Massachusetts earlier this month, August 2019. We were 26 years old to 50-plus, as diverse in our abilities, talents and backgrounds as we were in age. This could have been a microcosm for stereotypical pageant rivalries (which, FYI, I have never found to be true in my breadth of pageant experience as a contestant, judge and director). There could have easily been jealousy, gossip or segregation based on beliefs or politics.
What I instead witnessed was an outpouring of positive energy and unconditional love, from when we first met online, to the weekend of the competition, to even our continued support of one another that has extended beyond the days we were physically together. I was astounded that a large group of practically strangers could shower each other with such goodness. It was, without a doubt, an ideal respectful environment, created purposefully by the leadership and delegates of the American Women of Service program.
I looked around myself, more than once, while I was competing and thought of how grateful I was to be counted among these women. We were all there to compete for the same titles, titles we had worked almost a year for. I had poured every ounce of myself, outside of what I dedicate to my large family, into my preparation for the pageant. I was there to achieve my goal, as were the other delegates. However, the respect we had for one another, and for the program as a whole, transcended everything else. We wanted to meet our own expectations of personal success, but we were also there to lift up one another to their very best. I believe that perfectly illustrates what creating a respectful environment means to me, and the kind of communities we can cultivate.
Over the next year, I will deliver twelve essays and podcasts that come from my own personal conviction. The ideas and opinions are not necessarily those of American Women of Service, but begin from the same foundation of the Crown CARES program. I hope that as you follow Cultivating Respect with Darcy Castro you are inspired to be intentional in your thoughts and actions about the importance of respectful environments, and what that means to you and your communities.
Thank you for your support, and I look forward to hearing your feedback and ideas. We are all a work in progress, and I certainly strive to learn and evolve in everything I do. I hope this shared journey is a positive one for us all.
Darcy Castro is the 2019 Elite National American Woman of Service, representing a national pageant focused on community service and empowering women. Cultivating Respect with Darcy Castro is a year-long project to promote the program’s Crown CARES platform (Creating a Respectful Environment in Society). Follow the Cultivating Respect articles and podcast at DarcyCastro.com, and learn more at AmericanWomenOfService.com.