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With the recent events happening around the world: the refugee crisis, the Paris terrorist attacks, the hostage taking in Mali … I can’t help but wonder how each of us feels we are affected by these events?
Prior to the latter two tragedies, I had posted on my Facebook page asking if anyone would like to join me and donate money to a cause which I believe is an atrocity of humanity – the refugee crisis. People are literally trying to escape for their lives. By the tens of thousands, people of all genders, ages, and beliefs are fleeing on foot and by sea from their war-torn countries, not just a better life, but for their survival. A journey so dangerous and unpredictable it can often lead to death. The UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) has reported an estimated 3510 have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean alone in 2015. As a person who lives in a country built from immigrants, I, like many others, can’t ignore this horrifying situation, so I asked for collaborators to raise funds in order to bring a family to Canada.
One respondent to my post said: “Nice gesture. How many Canadian families live in poverty every day without proper food or housing including thousands of natives who live in horrendous conditions? I’m not discouraging your suggestion — just saying we have endless problems already that the media conveniently ignores?
This response is completely accurate. The media does choose which issues to glorify, and which to ignore; but more importantly, so does society. Although not stated in the previous post, reading between the lines, there is an undertone alluded to: “Why don’t we give our attention to those in our own backyard first?” When this sentiment comes up in discussion, I often want to ask people: “Sounds good, so what are you doing?” I have a sneaking suspicion that more often than not, their facial expression would be vacant … “Who me?”
When humans anywhere are in crisis people approach the issue from different perspectives. Some will make it personal: “I was just there, thank goodness I made it home safe.” Some will say: “That is too bad” but they will feel completely untouched as it is on the other side of world. Some will want to get involved and do what they can to ease the pain of the situation. We all come from different perspectives… but which is right?
Well it depends, how big is your backyard?
Peoples perspectives’ are formed from their experiences, and their view of the world. Some people focus on their ‘tribe,’ their community, or their Nation. We often hear in the news: “There were this many Canadians, Americans, Germans… injured or killed.” It is as if the media has decided, that people will care if they know ‘one of our own’ was effected. Sadly, I don’t think they are wrong.
When we say: “Take care of the people in your backyard first,” we are saying… ‘Take care of our own.’ Who is that? Who is ‘our own?’
I recently delivered a keynote called: Explore your Edgeness: the intersection between discover and potential. It highlighted my journey travelling through Africa for a couple years interviewing women pioneers. The primary focus of the talk is: when we challenge and stretch our comfort zone, we often learn something where we least expect it.
In this case, I was inspired and educated by how African pioneering women contribute to uplift their community, country and continent. I had conducted over 70 interviews for our website WisdomExchangeTV.com. As I was pouring over the insights and evaluating the learnings, I found myself completely inspired by the contribution each of these women make.
An audience member commented on the talk in an evaluation, she said: “I found it awkward that a white woman would speaking about black women.” There are so many things wrong with this statement, I couldn’t possibly share them all. Besides the obvious misstep, as a journalist, I’m reporting on my findings. But, the bigger issue for me was her context. I don’t actually blame her, but I was reminded once again of the segregation we often impose even in a country I couldn’t be prouder to live in – Canada.
Her comment suggested that because I’m white, what gives me the insight or the right to speak about black Africans?” Well here is the thing, not all African’s are black. Is she segregating people on race as if no one has the right to mention or comment on someone if they aren’t of the same culture? We saw a similar situations arise in Toronto when black Canadians were protesting police brutality. Many ‘white people’ also joined the protest. A woman interviewed on the news suggested it was not a ‘white’ people’s issue.’
This mentality creates an us vs. them scenario. This is the cause of wars, terrorism, gangs, and hatred in general. This type of persons backyard is very small. This is not the backyard I live in. This is not the backyard where the grass grows, trees thrive, flowers bloom and people of all races, religions and sexual orientation gather.
My view is sample. There is only one race – the human race.
We each are born with our own chemistry, and we cultivate our own values. We each have our own passions, and we each should pursue them. But not at the expense of another human being, but with the intention of uplifting other human beings. Where our passion takes us and where we focus our energies should not be judged, but rather celebrated that an individual feels connected to a cause that is bigger than themselves.
Your backyard is relative in size to your view of the world. If you’re a ‘take care of your own’ your view may be smaller. That’s ok. If your contributions are far reaching, your view is likely bigger. That’s ok too. There is no right or wrong. It is just your view. But regardless of the view you take, I implore you to not segregate, but to integrate. At our core, we all have similar values of seeking happiness, to love, to be loved, and to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
You may care about the neighbour who lives in your backyard; well so do I. My neighbour may just be on the other side of the world too.
Conscious Contributions™ in Action:
When you have the opportunity to get involved with something that you believe in, and you can do something about – Do it. I challenge you not to think ‘that someone else will take care of it.’ We can look to others or think we are not affected. Realize it or not, we are affected by what happens a mile away, a million miles away and everything in between. Regardless of the size of our backyard, we now live in a global village where are neighbours are as different and as similar as we are.
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Suzanne F. Stevens CSP*, Ignites collaborative cultures thru conscious contributions. Suzanne is an International Speaker, Entrepreneur, Host, Producer and Humanitarian for YouMeWe Group of Initiative. She is the architect of the YouMeWe Movement – Celebrating contributions that count and the Crusaders who ignite them. She is a recipient of The International Women Alliance World of Difference Award in 2013 – in education. This acknowledgement recognizes people who make a difference in women’s economic empowerment. In 2017 she will be the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS) elected President. To find out more visit: www.suzannefstevens.com.
*Suzanne is one of 63 Certified Speaking Professionals (CSP) in Canada and is in the exclusive 15% of speakers who have this designation internationally.