Breaking the habit
Something hit me during our 12ish hour drive up North through this incredible country of Uganda: on this trip, I want to take photos and share/highlight positive images of and experiences with Africans. I want to flip things on their head; I want to quash the stereotype we normally see of refugees with sad faces and distended bellies. I want to highlight passions, strengths, ideas, and smiles. I don’t intend to white wash or ‘cover’ up the former, because it exists and we all need to be very aware of that, but it’s not the whole picture. Far from it.
It’s so unfair to only show that one side when there is so much love, light & laughter everywhere. I’m tired of being compelled/called to action by pity or guilt. The mainstream narrative needs to change. We as OneFamily need to change it. We need to shift things so that we act out of inspiration; that we see people from around the world empowered and recognized and validated. And that in turns creates that fire in us to get up and do something. I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve felt so strongly about OneLight - it’s focus is on solidarity, not charity. It shifts the paradigm from doing for people to doing in collaboration with people. We as a society have seen that the old way doesn’t work the way we want it to anymore. Charity has been left at the door. It’s time we caught up with reality.
Meeting everyone we have so far has been such a treat! And oh-so incredibly eye-opening. It is unfathomable to me how despite all that happened to some (if not most or all) of them, they accept - and even embrace - the pain of their pasts. The twist is that they don’t let themselves be consumed and wallow in it. How they take all of their pain and lessons learned and challenge themselves to channel it into something creative and positive. One of our local partners, an incredibly eloquent young man from South Sudan, has seen some stuff, and yet continues to work for the youth in his zone(s) of the refugee camp where he resides. His hope is that through his projects and passion for change, the people he touches and affects won’t ever have to experience things like he did again. How selfless and amazing is that? There’s nothing more humbling than flying halfway around the world and getting schooled on empathy/sympathy by someone so young and yet so wise beyond his years.
In Kristin’s last post, she talked about Connection. These Connections play such a huge and vital role in changing charity to solidarity. With the Connections made on the ground and through our work, these people have become our friends. Our honest to goodness, I want to stay buddies forever kind of friends. And to me, that difference in intention is where the change starts. Charity is giving to people you don’t know; it’s a self-serving act. Solidarity is genuinely wanting to do something with and for your friends.
It would be an honor to have all of our friends around the world meet. We know it’s unfortunately not possible, but if you’re feeling something, if you’re feeling called to act and contribute in any way you can (no matter how big or small), do it. Do it within your own community or state. Do it in different aspects of your life - personal development, take part in a social movement, volunteer at your local NGOs. Become the change you want to see in the world.
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