The Kindness of Community
Over the past several weeks I have found myself rather full of hope – and emotion – as I’ve listened to the stories of the Syrian refugees who are making their way into our communities. What has been so exciting to see is the outpouring of kindness and support that our new neighbours have experienced as they arrive here. And, I’m sure that will increase dramatically over the next weeks as so many more arrive.
But it isn’t just on the national stage that kindness has been apparent. This week I saw a young man stop his car on a busy street to rush over to the assistance of an older gentleman who had decided to take a walk in the sunshine in his loudly colourful plaid pajamas! It was a touching scene in the midst of traffic chaos.
Perhaps it is just the time of year or a renewed atmosphere of caring abroad in our country at the moment. But even in the face of daily reports of sadness, suffering and tragedy in the news and around us, there is evidence that one can make a difference. The following few paragraphs came across my desk today in a blog in a US journal to which I subscribe. It focuses on leadership, but seems quite relevant to all types of human service work:
“When you are awake to the interconnectedness of our world and aware of the brilliant potential contained within its vast network of valuable beings, the immensity of need and injustice can be overwhelming.
There have been genocides, wars, famines, and countless struggles before us. But today the world is more globally connected than ever before. Information technology collapses time zones, and the instantaneity of the information age makes the terror and duress of others crystalline—virtually impossible to ignore.
As leaders of organizations, teams, or constituencies, what are we supposed do with this information? How do we remain visionary and effective even while the world seemingly crashes around us? How do we metabolize it, and how does it feed our leadership?
The first important step to answering that question is to ensure that we ask it. There is huge significance in simply pausing to consider: How is our particular global context impacting us, informing our leadership, and affecting those we lead? As humans, we are porous, inter-relational creatures. We exist within a complex and ever-changing constellation of experiences and challenges. Nobody lives or leads in a vacuum.
The second step to answering that question is to realize that we always have a choice. We can entertain fear, close our doors, and squint suspiciously at strangers. We can project terror onto those most vulnerable, boomeranging intolerance and violence back out into the world, because we’re too afraid to move beyond it.
Or we can remain open. We can remain open despite every reason not to. We can digest fear, and use it to stoke the embers of compassion and inform our actions accordingly. We can acknowledge our own humanity—which includes acknowledging fear, uncertainty, and feelings of vulnerability—as well as the humanity of others.
At times like these, when the news is an endless litany of upsetting events, it is far too easy to let rage slide into violence, or allow fear to shut us down to the humanity of others. We have examples of that all around us. But leadership doesn’t entail taking the easy option.
A recent poll showed that Americans’ fear of terrorism is the highest it has been in more than a decade, since the aftermath of September 11. That is an immense amount of potential energy, and fear doesn’t abide for very long before it spurs action. That action can be disastrous, or it can be inspirational and constructive. It is critical that we as leaders, wherever we live and whomever we lead, reflect long and hard on these times. It is within each of our abilities to decide how to parlay these grave moments into opportunities for resilience, inspiration, and hope.”
(Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bush & Mack, December 16, 2015)
As you take a break from the work you do every day – coming alongside people who need support, leadership, guidance and clarity – please be sure that what you are doing makes a difference. And, may the spirit of this season give you the inspiration you need to continue that good work in the year to come.
BCACC Executive Director
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