Listening isn’t Always Loud: What Change Has Looked Like for Me

What I’ve learned is that real empathy happens when you are able to step into someone’s shoes, when you walk a day in them, and this can only happen if you step out of your own life, out of our comfort zones and allow yourself to do that. When we recognized that this is about lived experience and begin to see things from someone else’s perspective. When we take ourselves out of the equation and try to step into someone else’s shoes.

Once we’ve recognized the gaps in our own lives, our own learning, our own experiences… once we’ve recognized what we’ve missed or not realized, only then can we move forward and bring about positive changes … even if those changes begin at our kitchen table, in our living rooms, on our bookshelves and move outward into the world.

Change has been quiet for me in terms of my online presence, it’s been loud in terms of what it’s happening in my head, but quiet on the outside because of how I’ve processed the influx of information and finding my own words in all of this; finding a way to help bring about positive changes.

The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for many people and my experience processing the immense change happening in our world has been all consuming, it’s all I’ve thought about and all I’ve wanted to talk about… however sharing your emotions, raw emotions online, isn’t something that I’ve done in the past so that is one of the places where I fell short.

Over the years I have tried to use my voice, my words and my writing for change, but always found the same roadblocks … “this is not my story,” “how can I bring about change when it is not my experience”, “who am I to take part in this?” The questions that caused me to stop my own research on Murdered and Missing First Nations women in grad school, to completely quit an entire year’s worth of work, made me question my place in this and left me speechless once again. At first, I was frustrated by this, I was upset at myself for not being able to do something right away… when something is happening, when something is wrong, that urge to do something becomes overwhelming and takes over and we can feel guilty or frustrated when we can’t find a way to do anything, when we feel frozen.

Then I stopped … I stopped worrying about what I needed to do or how to say the right things and I listened. I paid attention to the things that were being said, I paid attention to what was happening and I began the process of learning again. I think this is where the real change happens, not so much from immediate action, however, if that works for you that is amazing, but from pausing and trying to understand as best as we can, from educating ourselves and becoming aware.

One of the real changes happened for me when I really saw and noticed the collision between history and real time, the reality that what we’ve read about in the history books is still happening, that our histories don’t happen in a time warp and go away, no they have lasting effects, like dominos plummeting their way into the present. I’d made these connections years ago in my research and I knew this was true, but I didn’t connect the dots at first. This is where I’d fallen short, this is where my learning had to happen. I learned this by listening, listening to the stories of people experiencing racism today, the stories of close friends and their own lives, the stories of people online who were speaking their truth, the stories of writers who have spent a lifetime sharing this.

The next real change was when I took stock of what was missing in our home. Yes, I went there; I dug into the book boxes in our basement, took the books off our kids’ shelves and I searched for colour for diversity, for voices, I searched for what I knew needed to be there. I was happy that found some, but I was still disappointed that there was not enough, I knew right then and there that this change is one that needed to come from awareness, from an acknowledgement of where we were falling short. I didn’t run out a buy new books, I looked at what we had to see what was missing, to see where the changes needed to happen; to pull back the layers and try to understand why this was missing from our lives. My book boxes were full of diverse voices, it’s something I’ve thought a lot about over the years and was conscious of, but when it came to children’s books, for some reason I wasn’t making those same connections. Now that I am conscious of this, of where I was falling short, I’ve begun to make those choices and make a conscious effort to expose our children to more diverse voices.

What I’ve learned is that real empathy happens when you are able to step into someone’s shoes, when you walk a day in them, and this can only happen if you step out of your own life, out of our comfort zones and allow yourself to do that. When we recognized that this is about lived experience and begin to see things from someone else’s perspective. When we take ourselves out of the equation and try to step into someone else’s shoes.

For me this has always happened through stories, the stories I’ve read,  and the stories I’ve heard from close friends over the years. You cannot expect to bring about change when you have no idea what that change means, when you have never lived the experiences. What we can do is listen, there are voices out there telling their stories, voices that have been telling these stories for centuries and we need to make space, we can’t push these stories away because they are not ours or because listening to them is too hard … this is going to be hard, it’s going to be emotional because it’s real life and people are still living it, but the change starts when you allow these voices to be heard and you really listen.

Real change comes from a recognition of what you’re missing, from an understanding of where you are falling short and a subsequent questioning of all of these things. Once we’ve recognized and come to understand all of this I think we can move forward, we can help bring about change even if that change only begins in our homes and moves outward.

 

Books and Authors …A Short List that Keeps Growing

 

Incredible Books &  Black Authors

Maya Angelou ….Anything she has said or written … her words are beyond powerful and they’ve moved me to tears many times.

Beloved by: Toni Morrison

Americanah  by: Chimananda Ngozi Adichie

More Books on Historical Topics (Segregation & Slavery)

To Kill a Mockingbird by: Harper Lee

While this is not written by a black author, the story is incredibly powerful and teaches the concept of empathy in a way that I have always loved. It offers a children’s perspective as well, which is wonderful to read.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by: Harriet Beecher Stowe

Books on Racism In Canada

Indian Horse by : Richard Wagamese

Currently On our Nightstands

Becoming by: Michelle Obama (On my Nightstand)

Born a Crime  by: Trevor Noah  (On my Husband’s Nightstand … but it will be on mine next lol)

On my Reading List 

The Hate U Give by: Angie Thomas

Books For Educating Kids on Empathy and Diversity

I am Human by : Susan Verde

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by: Meme Fox

I am Canada by : Heather Patterson

 

 

 

 


One thought on “Listening isn’t Always Loud: What Change Has Looked Like for Me

  1. “The world is a rainbow” is a song I have been teaching my kindergarten students for thirty years. It is available on youtube. It is a wonderful message, but I never really realized how important.

    Like

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