Awareness Activist

It dawned on me with much surprise yesterday that I have become an activist — an awareness activist. It has been through my own personal experiences that I’ve come to realize how unconsciously we operate in our lives — and how we often blindly push away what it is we want the most.

At the core of what most of us desire is to be worthy – to be seen, heard and valued.

My research lately has turned toward estrangements. What started out as a personal mission to better understand the root cause of familial estrangements has expanded exponentially over the past week. It is almost as if the universe has given us a magnifying glass and a child-like plea to look closely.

I am a firm believer that stories help us to see things that we might miss otherwise. Great storytellers pull us into a space where we turn our attention to the main characters and often find a connection with some part of their vulnerabilities. It is my hope today that my story will do just that. There is no doubt in my mind that the overwhelming basic need to be seen, to be heard, to be valued is the root cause of much of our collective estrangement.

I am writing a book with my longest and best friend. In one of our chapters that we have titled “Second Hand Heartbreak”, we explore the many ways we have felt another’s pain as though it were our own. Though we were not the initial cause of that deep pain, we felt some responsibility for being their voice when they themselves were unable to speak up. The pain of heartbreak for one person gets multiplied when a “helper” jumps in and finds that they too are subsequently hurt because their appeals are also ignored or dismissed. It triggers a fractious dynamic that tears families and friendships apart….and yes, even a country.

The story I choose to share today is one that has been heavy on my heart for several years. It was the day that Colin Kaepernick took a knee for social injustice. He took that knee for others — for his own second hand heartbreak that called upon him to speak up for those who could not. He had a platform and he chose a non-violent way to call attention to an ongoing crisis — he was asking for help for a legitimate problem.

Looking back on that moment now…..does his chosen course of action for a humanitarian call for help seem benign?

It was a sliding door moment in our country’s family. We had two choices. We could have said, “tell me more”. We could have faced our truth, accepted the reality that changes were long overdue and pulled together a task force of capable leaders from many disciplines to shape a better future.

We lived the second choice — ridicule and ostracize the messenger, Colin Kaepernick. Then label a group of people and taunt them more. Challenge even diehard football fans to boycott their beloved traditions and support of their hometown teams. How many people got disenfranchised from so many things that mattered to them over this response to a request for help?

Lines were drawn in the sand from all sides….but no solutions were mapped out on the blank canvas of “Help, please.”

Collectively we used a lot of energy, time and resources on all the wrong things. What we fail to see when we are not paying attention, fully aware, is that many times a better choice costs far less and has a better return on investment. But the path to problem resolution is often slow, hard work and that doesn’t sell news, light up social media or keep an adrenaline rush at a feverous pitch. The truth is — we numb ourselves with these responses. I call it the “ostrich syndrome”. Sticking our heads in the sand does not mean the problem goes away — only that we choose to ignore it.

We cannot sweep reality under the carpet. One day the tables turn, the roles are reversed. The ones who previously dismissed an important crisis, now need to be seen and valued for their own issues. This is the root beginnings of double standards. Could it be that what stands in the way is the armor we use to protect ourselves from being hurt, being wrong or having to do the hard work to fix a complex problem?

We can all look around at situations in our own families, where people push away what they want the most. Often when they push too far, they lose the people, the love and the respect that want more than anything. Can you step back from a situation and really put yourself in another’s shoes? After all that we have experienced over the past few years, how would you react or respond today to Colin Kaepernick’s decision to “take a knee” for others?

I have seen Rumi being quoted so often over the past week and I believe there is a valid reason for this. All of us are feeling a bit broken right now, individually and collectively from a wave of unprecedented events. Let’s admit we have blind spots and let us bravely go forward with a renewed awareness of our shared humanity.

Recommended Resources:

I was so taken by this interview that Brene Brown did with Kevin Oakes on Cultural Renovation that it is was going to be my only offering with this post. It’s chock full of do-able action steps and that is what we need right now to get back on track is a healthy meaningful way. But then, I thought about something I had been saying over and over to myself this past week — The Pledge of Allegiance.

Dare to Lead Podcast – Brene Brown and Kevin Oakes https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-with-kevin-oakes-on-cultural-renovation/

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