We recently celebrated Martin Luther King's birthday; not only commemorating MLK as a leader, but honoring and remembering all those involved in the Civil Rights Movement. A few days later, a president that espoused much of that movement departed office while a new one, one whose stated ideals seem in opposition to the spirit of that movement, took his place. A few days later, many marched and if we didn't march, we watched the march and if we didn't watch the march, it was discussed. A movement, small, but strong, is emerging. Many political muscles that haven't been flexed in years are slowly being stretched, exercised. For some, it's pushing us out of our comfort zone; for others, the world turns as usual. There is an underlying sense of uncertainty in the air coupled with electric sparks of change.
I'm reining in my default to initiate the conversation and jump in feet-first; this time I want to better understand the lay of the land. My mindset for 2017 is more subdued than usual but no less powerful; I want to seek to understand rather to be understood. The books on my nightstand include the Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own but also $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America as well as Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. Entitlement comes from within; it's a mindset and a heart-set. As we begin to rewire both let us actively seek to do the hard work of empathy. As professor and author Dr. Brené Brown states, "empathy doesn't require that we have the exact same experiences as the person sharing the story with us...empathy is connecting with the emotion that someone is experiencing, not the event or the circumstance."
We may never march in someone else's shoes, and that is okay. But we can choose to be vulnerable, to stretch ourselves to make a true connection with the 'other', no matter what side of the proverbial fence you find yourself on. True change, in ourselves, and in our communities, is borne when we first, transform.