Sometime in the past year, between transitioning out of full-time management in the settlement language sector, coming up against many learning edges in returning to school, and Trump’s executive orders banning Muslims originating from specific countries, I found myself in new and challenging terrain. My always compassionate heart and earnest but “safe” efforts to make a difference seemed no longer enough; my modesty and fear were no longer valid excuses to not step up; I questioned more than ever whether going where I am told I am most needed is necessarily the path most effective. My hunches that I have it in me to make a bigger difference stalked me relentlessly, and slowly I began to see a different path.
On this path, I am called to stretch my knowledge, skills, resources and networks further than I ever have. While I step tentatively, the direction is towards finding new ways and resources to respond to the challenges of our times. For me, this involves understanding the immigrant and refugee journey and integration process more deeply, using my experience to support teachers and administrators to better navigate the challenges they face, and listening to the broader community to better understand the perspectives of many. The tools I carry are chosen to broaden the conversation so that more voices are heard, and create experiences so that people from different walks of life can cross paths, learn from one another, perhaps identify common values, grow in empathy, and find ways to work together with love, hope and purpose.
Ironically, as I endeavor to find ways to have more and different combinations of voices brought to the conversation, I’ve come to recognize how difficult it is for me to put my own authentic voice out there. I’m better at listening, reflecting and – given time – responding. But I recognize that I am in a demographic that has been given a voice and I’m feeling increasingly responsible to find ways to try to use it, as I learn stories that need to be shared more widely and sense conversations that need to be started. Having always been more comfortable writing than speaking, this blog is one of my tools. Even writing creates its own angst. I could spend forever researching, fact checking, making absolute certain I get it right. Though I know there is no right, and I’m assured by those who have gone before me that my “blog voice” will develop.
Self analysis aside, I am finding endless inspiration in reading and listening: a pioneer of Social Innovation in Canada, sharing his heart, experiences, and hard-fought successes; young, budding innovators questioning systems and re-prioritizing what we as a society value; a global learning network dedicated to supporting organizations in aligning internal practices with their visions of social change; local social enterprise simultaneously filling gaps in both the labour market and social services. The list is as infinite as the creativity and commitment of all the caring souls that haven’t given up on finding more equitable and sustainable solutions to our biggest social and environmental challenges.
Francis Westley, in her book ‘Getting to Maybe’ frames many of the perspectives and practices I’m cultivating: first and foremost, a belief that “intractable problems can be solved; … understanding times of great complexity offer the possibility of transformation; … we can act only in time and space, we can act only from who we are. In connecting to the world, even in the smallest ways, we engage its complexity and we begin to shift the pattern around us as we ourselves begin to shift. It takes courage to engage and stay engaged; it takes courage to act in the absence of certainty and clarity.”
Though my way is far from clear, I maintain the courage to stay on this path. Today I am making more room on it for others, as I finally launch this blog, and share with you my perspectives, experiences and most hopeful ideas. Though it feels a bit like a dive into the unknown, I’ve been dipping my toes in it, and certainly looked and listened long and hard enough to be certain there are open hearts and open minds out there. So here, for now, you will find me, and so, thankfully, are you. I hope that we can look at the possibilities together, share stories, find beauty, draw courage from one another, and combine our unique perspectives and strengths to find hopeful ways forward.
Please let me know your thoughts and ideas on hopeful ways forward by replying to this post or sending me a note through my Contact page. Please also feel free to repost.