Four people from diverse backgrounds discover they aren’t as different as they thought
Ancestry
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Ancestry


We're not just a nation of immigrants; each of us is our own walking family tree. At a time when so much seems to keep us apart, developing cross-cultural understanding through shared connections is an increasingly vital way to bridge our societal gaps. It's almost impossible not to feel empathy when we discover that our worlds are actually intertwined.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., the renowned Harvard professor and genealogy expert, met with four people from different backgrounds to discuss how genealogy can connect us with people across cultures."There's a curious and ironic relationship between identifying your ancestral heritage, which you think might divide you from other people, but finding that it only ties you to other people," Gates says. "Each of our ancestors has a story to tell and it's our job to find them and give them a voice."

Gates connected with Crystal Gonzales, a Hispanic educator originally from New Mexico; Darnell Head, an educator and African American Detroit native; Michelle Mardsen, an African American art teacher from Pennsylvania; and Paula Shagin, a social worker from European Jewish descent. While their backgrounds were different, they all had one thing in common – a thirst to discover their family's origins.

Ancestry


Through family history research on Ancestry, Mardsen discovered there were four Civil War veterans in her family, three of whom were people of color. "Two different sides of the tree were in the same tent together," she says, adding that these details give her "a sense of grounding."

Head never had access to his family history. His background is so complex he doesn't even have either of his parents' surnames. Now that he's become a parent himself, he recognizes the importance of knowing where he came from and the value of sharing his family history with his two boys. "In the black community, it's important for us to understand the struggles of the past so that we, in a way, protect ourselves from ever having to experience that again," he says.

DNA testing also gives us more insight into our backgrounds and can reveal stories that are unknown even to our families. "For us, that was affirming some of the things we heard about," Gonzales says. She found out that her family DNA results were 35% Native American, and on her father's side, 26% from the Iberian Peninsula.

Ancestry

As the group learned more about each of their unique family origins, they came to realize one undeniable fact: "We're more alike than we are different," says Head.

After all, how can we be divided if we share the same universal human experience? People from every corner of the Earth now call themselves Americans. "Everyone's ancestors have something that they've overcome," Shagin says. "Everyone came to this country for a reason. Getting here wasn't always an easy route, and everyone has a story."

"Ultimately, we're Americans," Gates adds. "And beyond that, we're human beings."

When you know what your family went through, history truly becomes personal and not just words on a page you have to memorize for a test. They're real events that happened to real people. Their migratory patterns shaped who you are today. Above all, you learn that even though history had its ups and downs, your family got through it all, and you're here today to set the course for tomorrow's generations.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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