Planting the Seeds of Change
I was speaking at an HR association last week. Many of those who attended represent rural communities in Ontario. Over the course of an Unconscious Bias exercise and general comments, I heard several times that their hometowns aren’t like the big cities and that they live in White communities.
Despite my explanations of the many ways that we are and can be different from each other, and inclusion truly is about belonging, their concerns were clear and, and if I’m not terribly mistaken so were their fears.
The night after my speech, I dreamt about a small community that seemed to have been built on a cliff. It looked terrifying to me. I think that the fear in surrounding inclusion is like that. That things sometimes feel disorienting.
I was speaking about how we all can be heroes of Diversity & Inclusion journeys in our organizations and in our communities. I wondered if they were able to identify with this image of Joseph Campbell’s. When I asked what the roadblocks to initiating change might be back in their organizations, they said, “resources and commitment” . It felt, though, that there was much energy in the room that wasn’t being expressed in the form of words. The atmosphere was tense and difficult for me to read.
I’d like to understand them better and have the opportunity to get to know them better. I have that opportunity within my own family. I have relatives out West who are farmers and have lived the rural life for several generations. I have a rural self within me. That self loves the expanse of the wide open skies, the call of the forests, the arrival of specific birds, the changes in the weather that mark the passage of time. I learned that the patterns of the seasons are the greatest influence on my rural families. When these patterns shift or are threatened by change, folks feel unsettled. This is when fear appears.
Talking about Diversity & Inclusion strategies with rural folk and other white people is a bit like climate change. We don’t know what the outcome will be. Our worlds are changing in a way we can’t anticipate. We are used to relying on predictability. We know that change is coming and we can’t know what that means for us.
Just as I learned how to understand the value of the seeds of influence grown within my family relationships, I hope that my speech germinates and grows in the minds and hearts of the attendees with resources they hadn’t previously acknowledged within themselves. Like me, like many of us, they have come from ancestors who took great risks in coming here and who learned how to nurture the resources within themselves to thrive.
We can all lean in to fear and listen to what it asks us to pay attention to. My mindfulness teachers are showing me how to pay attention to fear and respond with compassion. I am keen to understand and to embrace the source of these fears in our journey towards belonging.
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