Saturday, July 20, 2013

An Open Letter To........You?

Act 201:  It's not always about you.

Dear You,

That's right, YOU.  The one sitting with your smart phone in your hand reading your daily blogs and checking your Facebook messages.  The one twirling your straw in your ice-cold mocha Frappacino, cursing at the neighbor's lawnmower for ruining your afternoon peace and quiet.  The one thinking right this very moment, how much you deserve this weekend to do nothing but recover from a crappy work week, and take care of yourself.   Got first world problems much?  Yes, today I am talking to you.  I feel obligated to do so, because I used to be you.....and most days than not, I still am. 

As a little girl, it was all about what I wanted to be when I grew up.  In college, what I wanted to major in that "fed my soul".  When I graduated and joined AmeriCorps, it was about how I was going to save those poor, desolate people from a lifetime of poverty.  All of the jobs I've had were, well, as expected.....about me.  How to fulfill my deepest passions, how I could shine, how I could prove my self worth, how I could make a difference.  Sure I held service-oriented jobs and for the longest time I tricked myself into thinking that I was really living my life in this way to benefit others.  Every discrimination case I investigated, every battered woman I secured housing for, every refugee I helped land a job, every college student I mentored - sounds like a regular Mother Theresa, right?  WRONG.  Very, very wrong.  For the first 40 years of my life I told myself that I was contributing to the world by doing my part to fix it.  Well, I'm here to tell you today that try as I might, I realize now, that I will never have the power to fix the world.  Nor does it help for me to stand on the outside and exert my views on exactly how it needs to be fixed.

Last year I took on a job as the director of a small non-profit that works with survivors of sexual violence.  I was slapped in the face with the biggest, hardest, most stinging dose of reality when it became clear very, very quickly that if I didn't stop focusing on me, people might lose their jobs, programs might be shut down, rape victims might not receive services, and people in my community would inevitably continue to be assaulted and stripped of their power.  So while I may have envisioned myself sitting at the state capital, working with legislators for tougher victim's rights, or empowering my all-female staff to be the change they want to see in the world, or rallying the community to join me in this anti-violence movement, the truth of the matter is this:  sometimes at my office, we run out of copy paper and we have to wait until our next funding check comes to order more.  Every day we have to turn down survivors of sexual violence who need long-term therapy because we don't have enough funds to hire additional clinical staff.  Beyond the $350 employer contribution, I can't afford to pay for all of my staff's health care coverage and many work second jobs just to make a livable wage. 
And I can't seem to fix any of it. 
So why not pack up my desk and move on, if there's truly nothing more I can do?  Because I don't believe for a second, that I........that YOU.......don't have the power to impact - maybe not fix, but impact - things like violence, poverty, the environment, or discrimination.  But we can't afford for it to be about us anymore.  We don't have the luxury to spend our days searching for that which feeds our soul (it'll come when you're least expecting it), how to find ourselves, how to realize our greatest potential, how to become a transformational leader.  While you are reading this, a woman is getting raped.  A child is dying of hunger.  A gay person is being fired from his job.  And someone is losing their life from gun violence.  And none of those people care what title you hold, what your highest degree is, where you are on your personal journey, or what training you have under your belt. They just want to survive.  And they could use a hand.  I know this is almost un-American of me to say, but what if the best way for us to realize our own potential, was to finally realize our own insignificance in the greater world?   What if today someone released you from the burden you've been carrying around, that you had to fix everything.  What if it was enough to just be.  Just become.  Just listen.  Just experience. Just speak up.  Just push your comfort zone.  Just do whatever tiny thing you can do in your own tiny part of the world to make it better.  The moment is now.  The quicker you realize that it's not all about you anymore, the sooner it will be about all of us.


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