An event in my practice this week caused me to press “pause” and reflect on something I’ve noticed a lack of, in our schools, our workplaces, our country and the world. A client we respected and cared deeply for passed away and because she embodied so many of the attributes I admire, I am dedicating this post to her.
We seem to be living in a period of “entitlement.” Certainly, in North America, we have come to expect that good things will come to us if we do the work, have the talent and connect with the right people. Are we just naïve? Yet, how remarkable that reality cooperates so that things often turn out the way we expect even while all around us we see injustice.
As North Americans we are usually spared experiencing the most horrific injustices like genocide, racial cleansing and brutalities towards certain groups simply because they think/worship/love differently from the “norm.” But then, what about Orlando? San Bernardino? Boston? Tucson?
Anyone attuned to news media must be wondering how the atrocities going on in the world right now will be addressed by, for example, the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party in the United States? It is staggering that someone whose entire psyche and political “platform” is grounded in selfishness, greed, ignorance and intolerance for anyone who doesn’t think like he does has risen to the position he has. People actually “believe” that he can make the changes the world needs right now. Does he speak the truth when he indicts Judges, whole religious groups, and cultures? Do we share his values? Is he or will he be accountable?
It seems to me that, more than ever before, we require accountability in our political candidates, our business leaders, and one another. We need to stand for something. Our values, our intellects and our strengths are being tested like never before. The stakes are high and we are being called upon to be the very best we can be as citizens, friends, and family members. It is simply not acceptable any more to look the other way and consider it someone else’s problem.
Bringing this discussion back home to where we live, study, work and play out our lives, what could and should we be doing to right the wrongs we see every single day? Sometimes the simplest of efforts can make a difference. It’s like paying it forward. If everyone decided for just one day to think in terms of service to other people, our country and our planet, think of what it could mean for a generation.
Let’s consider examples. Our environment. Are we practicing accountability? David Suzuki has identified tangible ways to stop climate change:
- Remind our governments and media that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will build healthier communities, spur economic innovation and create new jobs;
- Be energy efficient. Turn off the lights. Use LED bulbs. Unplug all electronic devices not in use. Wash clothes in warm water and use your mother’s clothes line! Call Horizon Utilities and ask for an energy audit!
- Eat wisely. Support organic farms and grow your own, if you can. 18% of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production. Consider going vegetarian – just one day a week! Don’t use bottled water – filter your own.
- Compost and recycle paper, plastic, metal and glass
- Walk, cycle or take transit whenever you can. Car-pool. Or walk! Great way to get in shape. When buying your next car, consider the smallest, most fuel-efficient vehicle possible.
What about social justice? What are we doing to help the 35.8 million people enslaved in this world, the millions who are victims of human trafficking and countless vulnerable children affected by circumstances beyond their control? We could give. Money, time, a platform for organizations charged with helping victims of war/abuse. We could get involved, join these organizations and actually do volunteer work to help make a difference.
Perhaps the biggest change we could all make right here and right now is to practice compassion. Tolerance. Openness to ideas and attributes with which we are unfamiliar. Today in St. Catharines every single one of us could make a list of 10 ways of practicing exactly this in our schools, our workplace, and this beautiful city. Many of you already do, but more of us are needed.
Will YOU make that list? Even 5 things would help, but ten are needed.
“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound to the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the work, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”
Dedicated to Gail, who was always accountable and who taught us to strive to be as courageous as she.