This week I feel like I earned my rent in the Universe. I did some good alongside two school educators, another mom, a dozen or so other parents, teachers, teenagers and advocates for healthy relationships in and around our community. We shared a documentary called Finding Kind about so-called ‘girl-world’ – addressing meanness and promoting kindness. On night one we showed it to adults in the community and hosted a discussion with panelists including experts in raising healthy girls and abuse-prevention. On day two we brought it to middle school girls, then sat in small circles with them to explore stereotypes, bullying, friendship, exclusion, and how we all can take small steps to increase self-esteem and help each other. On day three there was a co-ed screening at the high school, with discussion groups exploring perceived realities, and what (if anything) we can do about our culture and local environment.
I’m not writing this to toot my horn (although there’s nothing wrong with that). Making this happen had many moving parts and thankfully, an incredibly supportive school administration. But it rankled some people too. It rankled me. When folks presume to talk about social change, when they actually take on gender and history and psychology and education and stereotypes and sexuality it’s always a GUTSY move. I was initially hesitant about the movement begun by these two young college-grad filmmakers. I found the documentary lacking on several levels until I watched it a second, third and fourth time, finally realizing how brilliant and wonderful they are. The premise at film’s end, I whole-heartedly endorse, which is: pointing the finger (at media, education, gender-stereotypes, etc.) gets us nowhere. Taking responsibility for our own actions, the way we behave with one another and the degree of self-respect we carry, means everything.
This week was emotionally overwhelming as we navigated both praise and criticism, zeal and disengagement, personal feelings of success and not-enoughness. And I realized that THIS is why a lot of people don’t take action at all. It’s hard to deal with our own internal defeatism, let-alone questions from outside about intention, scope, effectiveness, or anything.
AND, this week I looked young girls in the eye and listened, chatted in the halls with committed high school girls, leaned in to engage eye contact with unsure teenage boys. I saw LEADERS, every one. I want them to know, I want their parents to know, our school officials, our halls of higher education, everyone; that you are enough. You are MORE than enough to start a movement.
You do not need:
- To run a non-profit
- To have a PhD
- To have experience in social-work
- To be a certified coach
- To have spent years in therapy
- To hold a position as a program coordinator
- to make a documentary
- to be a teacher
…and if you do have one or more of these things, I am talking to you too! It doesn’t take much to start a movement. It only takes caring. And it takes a dash of belief in your ability to make a dent, but don’t worry, this grows as you take one action and then the next.
What actions start a movement?
- A genuine smile
- hello to a stranger
- welcoming a neighbor, new student or co-worker
- helping someone cross the street
- being thoughtful in rush-hour traffic
- inviting new acquaintances to meet over lunch
- asking someone on the outside how they are
- inviting two or three intimate friends together to talk about something important
- telling someone the gifts you see so clearly in them
- appreciating someone out loud for being kind to you
- making a phone call to person experiencing challenging times to let them know you are thinking of them
- listening instead of fixing
- mentoring (no program required)
The more you do this, the more you’ll love it. You’ll see the lights go on in other people’s eyes and want to turn on the whole world. You’ll also see eyes that refuse to light and you’ll become aware that your work will never be done… but do not let this distract you. It needn’t become your vocation, it can fit beautifully into the nooks and crannies of your everyday working or student or parenting life. And it’s not your job alone. Because every light that you light will pass the torch.
I know you know this already. Most people I asked this week could remember at least one example of having extended a kindness (perhaps unaware) and hearing later about the profound effect it had on the person who received it. Imagine what more we can all do with enhanced intention!
In this season of sharing, let’s take action now:
- In the comments below, share a memory of kindness, given or received.
- or, add to my list of actions that start a movement
- or, share the next step that you can feel tugging on you this very moment to take next (it can be subtle and small)
- Please share the movement with your ambassadors for change, the one, five or twenty people who resonate with this mission by inviting them to join us.
So grateful for you all, every day,