Happy Fall! I have the great privilege of doing work that I love, both as a consultant and as a volunteer. One of my greatest aspirations is to help people fall in love with their own work building organizations and communities where everyone is valued, included and treated fairly. This work may go under different labels such as “diversity,” “multiculturalism,” “equity,” “anti-oppression,” “cultural competence” or “social justice.”
I have a long history of doing work related to culture and difference in ways that I didn’t love. As an activist, doing anti-racist and immigrant rights work, I worked on some very worthy campaigns, which I hope had a positive impact. But, we focused on what we were against, rather than what we were building. We tended to wear ourselves down, without doing our own healing from the pains of the oppression we were fighting. We didn’t celebrate our selves and build our own capacity to sustain the work over the long haul. When I started doing work around diversity and cultural competence in nonprofits, there was still an adversarial tone to the work and a tendency to make people wrong.
Now, after years of work, reflection and learning, I have an entirely different relationship to my work and the people I work with. I see that racism, sexism, classism, and other “isms” are challenging realities that separate us from our selves, each other and our shared humanity. And, I also see that working to transform these “isms” gives us opportunities to come together across difference. The connections that have been damaged can be rebuilt based on appreciation of both our differences and our shared humanity.
When we see the opportunities in our work, both for our communities and for our selves, we can fall in love with our work over and over again. We can be empowered by our work, rather than worn down by it. For example, I have seen people move from being deeply discouraged and divided about how to work with clients of color to having open communication, resulting in higher levels of respect and mutual understanding. I have seen people move from being fearful of sharing their own ideas and experiences to having courageous conversations and experience been seen and understood. I have seen people move from being skeptical about the potential of diversity work to being committed champions.
I have fallen in love with my work, not only because of what it does for others, but because of what it has brought to my life. For example, in my work to build support and acceptance for LGBTQ youth and their families, I have gained connections to other people who care deeply about the same things. I have heard many touching stories of personal courage and transformation. These stories inspire me to continue my work. I have also gained a greater understanding of how gender impacts my life and all of our lives. With this understanding, I have developed a deeper passion for transforming assumptions around gender in our communities and more tools for making connections between gender and other “isms” that our communities face.
Today, I am excited to share the second video in my “Proud Mom” series. This video focuses on how I learned to support my son during his elementary school years. One of the things I have found very empowering is to tell my story and see that it resonates with others. This is one of many things I love about the work I do. What do you love about your work?