Aha! Moments Spotlight

The Malady of “Otherness”

“It’s impossible not to love someone whose story you have heard.” The beloved children’s TV host Mister Rogers carried that quote in his wallet, to remind him of the importance of listening.

“Storytelling + listening can connect residents of a divided city.”

I love the spirit of this! I’d love to cultivate something similar here in Windsor. The very first thing that came to mind is a homeless friend who has been working to organize his colleagues to keep them safer, and to create more respectful bonds and discourse with the businesses downtown who are affected by their presence. “Gramps” and I have coffee when I’m downtown. He’s shared many stories of not only his own experiences (some of them truly devastating), but those of the others on the street. The one that absolutely broke my heart was of a city Councillor who treated a very young panhandler with horrific disdain. I won’t relate the story here, but it made my blood boil, and then got me thinking about how much of this rift continues to exist because of this sense of “otherness”. It’s so easy to look past someone who is different, particularly when their circumstances make you uncomfortable. Poverty isn’t “their” problem; it’s OUR problem. Suffering flourishes when communication fails. This group in Chicago has such an interesting perspective on how to dismantle the malady of “otherness”.

Have a peek at this bit from their project, and then please tap me on the shoulder if you are someone who is interested in finding a way to cultivate something like this in the Windsor area?

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Unearthing a Vonnegut treasure during National Volunteer Week.

Hey, it’s National Volunteer Week! Thought I’d share one of my favourite examples of servant leadership (and then a handful more below). While it seems Kurt never received a reply, his heart was in the right place, and he sure was humble 🙂 “On occasion, I write pretty well.” (And yes, he actually did write this letter. Archivist Stacey Chandler stumbled across it when she was combing through files at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Vonnegut was 38 at the time, and still a struggling writer.)

You don’t have to be big to make a difference. You don’t need a lot of money, or time, or any special skills. And believe me when I tell you that you get a whole lot more back than you ever really give!

I love volunteering for a bunch of reasons. It gets me out there meeting new people (especially people who share my interests and values). I’ve learned some cool new skills. It lets me pay it forward for the countless things people have generously invested in me. My mum and dad were living examples of how easy it was to get out there and do something that made a difference in the community and how you really were helping yourself along the way.

Some folks may feel inspired to help, but are crazy busy. The great thing is you can do it even if you don’t have a lot of time! Shovel snow for an older neighbour when you’re doing your own (though I hope we’re done with the snow for this year!). Donate some plants to a community garden project when you’re putting in your own, and maybe even get out there and get your hands dirty with the folks doing the same. You don’t need any special skills to help, and there’s something each of us has that we love to do, that can be of use to others.

Want to see just how easy it is, and how much fun it can be? Read on …

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The Lost Art of Letters

My friend Ed Vielmetti has a lovely practice. He sends postcards to friends on a regular basis. He told me about this when I first met him more than a decade ago at one of Jerry Michalski’s soul-changing retreats. I thought it was a wonderful way of reviving old fashioned letter writing on a micro-scale.Continue Reading “The Lost Art of Letters”