Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Day 22: Acceptance is an Open Mind

In this picture, our server on the cruise ship is helping cut Ben's chicken.   This is a great example of someone who took service to the next level by forming a human connection with Ben.

I work in the field of education, and so every day I get to see learning happening firsthand.

One of my many roles is that of a change agent.  When change happens at our school, whether it is trying out new teaching techniques or learning a whole new curriculum, it’s my job to help teachers implement it in their classrooms.

I have learned firsthand that change isn’t easy and that it takes time.

Change is hard whether we’re teachers who are implementing a new curriculum or simply adults trying to understand and accept people who act and think differently than we do.

I’ve been called Pollyanna before. 

I’ve been called the eternal optimist, because I do believe that people generally make decisions based on what they believe is the right thing to do.

However, sometimes things get in the way.

It may be lack of education on a topic.

It may be lack of supports.

It may be fear of change or the unknown.

Whatever barrier prevents this change from occurring, I believe that open and honest dialogue can help us to move in the right direction.

I think that most people like to believe that they have an open mind.

Most people believe that they are tolerant and accepting of others.

However, the reality is that we still have such a long way to go in this world towards creating lasting change for those who do not fit the status quo.

So why is there such a gap between our beliefs (about tolerance, inclusion, acceptance, diversity….) and the reality of the current situation?

I believe a big reason for this gap exists in our minds.

We think we understand, so we don’t truly listen.

We think we are accepting, so we don’t look truly see those who are left marginalized.

We think we want change, until advocating for it becomes inconvenient or hard or unpopular.

We see the walls in our way- and so rather than think creatively, we stop trying to problem solve.

And so- where do we begin?

We begin with an open mind.

We begin by truly listening.  We listen to all points of view and weigh what we are hearing against our current reality.

We listen with the intent to understand- not waiting impatiently for our turn to speak- not thinking that we know better.

We seek out the experts in the field and listen to them.  We remember that the experts aren’t necessarily those with the advanced degrees but rather those who have lived and experienced these matters firsthand.

We humble ourselves to realize that we don’t have all the answers.

We allow ourselves to be in a position of vulnerability- in order to learn.

We admit when we need help and seek it in order to grow.

We do these things because we know that when we draw lines in the sand, we are causing division rather than growth.

We know that there is a time to stand our ground on what we know is right, but we do this with the understanding that fighting these battles can come at a steep price.

And so first we invite conversations that will lead to positive change.

We watch, we learn, and we listen.

Always with an open mind.

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