What part will you own?

Today's post may seem a little different than most I place here. I wasn't sure where to put these thoughts but finally decided that I didn't matter so much where but that I put them. And shared them. And if you are so inclined, feel free to pass them along to others. 

It seems that each day I awake to news of the latest horror story in the news. Both here in my home of the US or abroad (yes, some of us in the US actually do pay attention to other parts of the world) there are countless atrocities, too many to enumerate in this space, or sadly any. But I am by nature an optimist and I seek out the bright spots and the hopeful moments. I know they are there because dark and ugly things are being put on display, and however painful that may be, they can only be seen because someone is shedding light on them. And light is always the cure for darkness, both in our hearts and minds and in the world.

That is one reason I spend so many of my waking hours thinking and writing about ways to help people learn and communicate and create wonderful and fulfilling experiences. I have seen the power of education and building understanding of ourselves or world and each other. Many of my successes in life can be traced to my willingness to always be learning. Always be questioning things. Always be just a little uncomfortable, a little outside my comfort zone intellectually and emotionally. To always be learning which means failing ... and learning some more ... being wrong before I'm right.

"Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live." ~ Oscar Wilde 

Last night, for instance, I went into the garage to look for something and forgot to turn off the light when I came back in the house. My brother-in-law is visiting and I heard him mention to my husband that the light was on and my husband said something like "Oh, I forget to turn that off about once a week." I hollered down from upstairs and apologized, realizing that I had left it on. My BIL commented on the fact that I took responsibility for it when clearly I didn't have to. But I did. Because that's who I am. I try to take responsibility for things that I do wrong or wrongs that I see.

This mundane incident stuck with me and I was still thinking about it on the way to work today and remembering a diversity director I met about 15 years ago. He was conducting the first diversity course I think I ever took. He was a man of color, a former military instructor, a man of bravery and wisdom, a no-nonsense disposition tempered with compassion. And one of the messages he dispensed that day stuck with me. I am perhaps paraphrasing, but the question he asked was "What part of this do you own?"

He went on to explain he was not suggesting any sort of blaming the victim but encouraging each of us to stand up, speak up, and choose to be part of the solution. Complaining to one another about someone's behavior does nothing but fuel the discontent. Not seeking to understand keeps everyone divided. Not speaking up just gives perpetrators the chance to re-offend. Responding badly to someone's disrespectful behavior with our own disrespect continues the cycle. It is not just the other person's responsibility to end the cycle, it is ours. Any one of us who experiences or observes it happening.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." ~ Edmund Burke

"A wise woman wishes to be no one's enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone's victim." ~ Maya Angelou

There is enough blame to go around. Grab a piece of it. Own it. Tear at it. Fix it. There are enough problems to solve. Trust me we won't run out. There is also enough truth to go around as well. Not just the one truth that you are comfortable with, but many truths, equally valid. Like the blind men and the elephant for whom the elephant is equally like a wall, a spear, a snake, a tree, a fan, and a rope based upon their experience and perspective of the creature. Be blind to your current view for a moment and try to see from someone else's perspective.

I often help learners take responsibility for their own learning and that's hard, but what I'm wishing for today is even harder. I'm asking, in part, for people to go against their human nature. It is easy to let emotions cloud our judgment, for emotions to lead us away from examining situations and rush us to actions that in calmer moments we regret ... or worse, don't regret. It is easier to point at others and demand that they go first. You stop first. You fix you first. You, you, you. But I don't want people to temper their emotions, just redirect them. Choose compassion over complaining. Choose empathy over enragement. Choose love over lashing out.

"Stop the habit of wishful thinking and start the habit of thoughtful wishes." ~ Mary Martin

Be kind, be curious, be respectful, be uncomfortable, be active, be wrong, be awake, and do right. And may all of you get home safely tonight.