FMM 9 25 15 Changing Perspective
“Most activism is brought about by us ordinary people.”
~Patricia Hill Collins
Last night I heard ‘Her Story’, about a woman whose name I had never heard before: Dorothy Day. Of course I immediately thought of Doris Day, but this was a woman of a totally different order. Although she was raised without religion being a big part of her life, she always had a commitment to those who were less fortunate than she was. At the beginning of the last century she worked with the communist party on issues affecting the poor and the dispossessed while working as a journalist.
She did not follow a traditional path. At a time when marriage was the only expectation for women of her culture and class she chose to live with rather than marry. She underwent a religious conversion after the birth of her daughter, due to the immense love she felt for her child, and soon after she started her own newspaper, the Catholic Worker (which is still published today and sells for one penny, the price she originally set). Her name was mentioned by the Pope yesterday, in front of Congress, due to the tireless work she did for so many. Apparently her name has been put forth for sainthood, something her granddaughter says would be the last thing she would want. The granddaughter suggested that people instead put their time and money into changing the lives of others, of those less fortunate. That is how Dorothy Day would want to be remembered.
I often think of people who are propelled into the forefront of our attention by tragedy, by some eruptive episode that rips apart the fabric of their normal lives. People who were going about their business, working, raising a family, and then something happened to shake them off their foundations. In that fight to stay alive, they find strength they didn’t know they had, and essentially start a whole new life, one filled with meaning, though seen through a different lens.
When we hear of a new death of someone’s son, the family of Trayvon Martin is called to comment. They have started a foundation, and are working with young people to offer them choices. Instead of allowing the tragedy to end their lives, they chose to channel their grief into a meaningful campaign. The Ice Bucket challenge for ALS was started by people with no knowledge or intention to start a global fundraising campaign, it was simply to raise awareness for a friend who was fighting ALS.
Even if you don’t become a media celebrity through your commitment to a cause, you can raise awareness in your own immediate community. Often we are not motivated to take better care of our health until we are hit on the head. Or a close friend is hit on the head. We put off going through the pleasure of undergoing our mammogram (must have been invented by a man!) until a friend confides that they are undergoing treatment for breast cancer. And unfortunately for many different reasons, we are not comfortable shouting that information to the world and so lose an opportunity to remind others of the importance of early detection for successful treatment of (fill in the blank).
Mental illness is another stigmatized disorder. We all have family members who go through their own private hell, whether treated and medicated, or untreated and shunned. If we continue to pretend it is only other people who suffer, then we add to the distress of those who have to battle their own demons every day. But if it has touched you, it has likely touched others, and by letting them know that they are not alone, it may give them the strength they need to seek professional help.
We will never know the power of one until we speak out, and connect with like-minded others. We will never know if we are being called to be the voice of a cause until we step up and accept that role. We may be the one that can authentically represent a segment of the population that is being forgotten, or ignored, and by stepping up to the challenge we can start a conversation of acceptance and understanding. It is not only the Caitlyn Jenners of the world that can highlight a cause.
And it doesn’t mean that you have to go on a platform or stand before a mike. You can start within your circle of friends, to try to shine a new light on a subject. My own teaching about substance abuse changed dramatically when I learned that a very close friend had been battling substance abuse for years. I am now able to teach about it with fairness and understanding. And she herself teaches others through her openness and honesty. As Iyanla Vanzant (one of my personal gurus) would say: She did her work.
So on this Friday Morning, do you have a story that you can share to enlighten others? Is there a cause that you could commit to because of your personal history? What can you do to shine a light, to raise awareness, to motivate or galvanize others? There are times when we are called upon to do something greater, but we have a choice. We can roll over and go back to sleep, or we can step up to the challenge.
Have a fantastic weekend Family!