Elephants & Turnips

gray elephant figurine

UltimateInclusion.com, a blog from Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I think we have all heard the story of the five blind monks who encounter an elephant and then argue on and on about how it feels. One thinks it is hard, sharp and pointy; one thinks it is fan-like and wispy; one thinks it is long and tubular; one thinks it’s like a tree trunk; another thinks it feels like a brick wall. Each monk experienced a different part of the elephant and drew very true conclusions from their part, but none could see or feel the whole elephant – nor could they conclude that it was indeed a pachyderm!

I was recently a part of a webinar at which one presenter said, “To a worm in a turnip the entire world is turnip.” Systems are vast and complex; communities are an interlinked system of citizens, interest groups, agencies, neighbourhoods, sports teams, ethnicities and challenges. Every connected part is an important piece of the elephant and makes up the whole ~ but inside each separate turnips, it is hard to see anything beyond turnip.

I guess this is why dialogue, collaboration and collective impact are so crucial to any community change conversation. We all have our areas about which we know the root causes, the contributing elements, the real fallout of past and present circumstances. The difficulty continues to be that, at some point, we have to lay aside our ‘turnip lens’ and really, deeply listen to the other perspectives and, at a very real level, accept that truth as equally as we know our own. Then, it gets even more challenging as we work to create an alliance or initiative because some decisions will grate against our part of the picture. But the only way forward is together. If we are only fashioning a solution to keep the elephants ears warm, the rest of its body remains exposed to the cold.

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Speedy Discovery

tractorUltimateInclusion.com, a blog from Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – On my drive, there is a weird sign that says “your speed” but then does not tell you your speed … it just flashes ‘slow down’ … or so I thought.

For months now, I have been wondering about the purpose of placing a solar-powered sign in the trees that only flashes ‘slow down’ at all speeds. Is it some kind of experiment in subliminal messaging? Some kind of suggestive flashing hypnosis?

I believe that I am a safe driver and I’m always cautious on that particularly hilly road and yet, always, the flashing directive to slow down. Then one night last week, I turned onto the road and there was a tractor ahead – so I slowed down to roughly 60 km per hour. Lo and behold, the sign that had been yelling at me for months, had a ‘thumbs up’ shining down at me.

Let’s put aside for a moment that I passionately believe that the speed limit for an unmarked country road in Ontario is 80 km per hour and, instead, consider the sudden change in my atmosphere. Something that I had written off as being a permanently negative force in my life suddenly changed gears and showed me some love.

While I know that things are most often very predictable – and we sort of cruise through things based on a summation of all our past experiences – sometimes, out of nowhere, the ‘thumbs up’ appears and changes everything.

This past week at the agency, we had braced ourselves in almost every corner for a ‘flashing light’ of correction notices from our compliance reviewer, but I am happy to report that, more often than not, it was praise for the work, acknowledgement of the careful documentation and heroic stories of fast corrections and sought out documents. Further, even the homes that did not get reviewed still prepared with the same thorough zeal … and our entire agency is the better for it.

So yes, day-to-day we can get caught up in the constant demands. This compliance review, however, has offered us yet one more reminder that there are far more positives to celebrate than the correction notices delivered by speeding tractors on Hayes Line … no, wait … that euphemism doesn’t work at all … or does it?

Huge thanks to everyone for the preparation, participation and hard work.

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Caught in the Down Stream

pexels-photo-987585.jpeg

UltimateInclusion.com, a blog from Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – There is a modern phenomenon that I am having trouble understanding. It is the comment feature of almost all social media and web interactions. It first came to my attention when I got up at 4:30 a.m. to watch Princess Eugenie’s wedding, which was only live streamed on You Tube. This experience was so different from watching the event on television … there were hundreds of comments being added by people around the world watching the ceremony, and so many of those were negative and hurtful.

I found this all so confusing because it was not like the old days of a massive broadcast that overtook all four channels at once so that we could have a speech from the Prime Minister. If you were watching this wedding, you had deliberately manipulated your web device to tune in. Then, in the midst of all the beauty, pomp and royal splendor, someone feels compelled to say, “Royals are relics and unwanted” or “Why does Princess Anne always scowl. ” And, as you can probably imagine, I am quoting the most pleasant comments – with the least swearing – of the stream.

Now I have noticed phenomenon everywhere … a platform to comment and an overwhelming amount of negativity as a result. What is the purpose of this? What does it serve to hop on the keyboard and add a little poison to the atmosphere? Surely, it can’t set one up for having a great day! No celebrity or royal is going to wake up, read it and wear it around until they change their ways, so what is the compulsion? I can’t imagine how much anger and pain is required to want to scoff into the worldwide web, knowing that it will not make one lick of difference.

Okay, so now I am being venomous. I guess I am just thinking about the serenity needed to accept things that we have no power over – and how this leads to peace. And about the courage to work to change things for the better that are within our span of control-  and how this leads to peace. And, then of course, there’s wisdom of knowing that life is an echo and being critical of Fergie in the wee hours of the morning shall never boomerang back as joy in the afternoon. It’s that sending out of joy in the beginning that leads to peace.

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Five Hundred Thousand Grannies

grama et al sturgeon landingUltimateInclusion.com, a blog from Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I love genealogy, the trolling around looking into my ancestors, their families and their extended families. Genealogy is a massive hobby, however, as every person has four grandparents, eight great grandparents, 16 great great grandparents and so on. Going back just 20 generations is equivalent to approximately 600 years!

There are 1,048,576 people involved in knitting together the unique pattern of DNA and cells that make each person. This is too massive to contemplate unless you have several hours of temperature controlled, uninterrupted thinking time. Over a million people, and that’s just the grandparents and relatives! You might as well say that you are related to about a billion people who are currently walking the earth ~ a million different souls that loved and lived and passed on their genetics to the next generation and now, today, you are the direct result.

No one person, therefore, is ordinary or mediocre or isolated. Each and every person is unique, absolutely original and a “one of kind offer” here to make the world, in his or her generation, just a bit brighter. So, I go forth today hoping that I make my 500,000 grannies proud to say that they were responsible for a few stitches in the knitting pattern that is now who I am.

Your gifts, your interests, your talents and the way you think – these are all the result of a complicated recipe. Share your uniqueness all over the place!

Soul Survival

woman carrying basket of fruits and vegetables

UltimateInclusion.com, a blog from Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – This past weekend, I was talking with someone who has worked in retail for many years and he talked about how January is so predictable ~ shelves packed with smoking cessation products, other health aids and exercise equipment. He went on to say, however, that in pretty short order, sales of those items drops off and are moved to the back of the store to make way for the Valentine’s Day chocolate.

It is the way we are wired ~ to think of a fresh new year as an opportunity to make a fresh new self. We conclude the joyous and food laden Christmas season and then look to eating something good for us, leaving the daily cheese and Ferrero Rocher behind.

I think this is human nature and that’s a good thing ~ a little readjustment, a little commitment to doing something better for ourselves. I heard a rather eloquent resolution this week – a colleague intimated that his goal was simply to be more mindful about what he ate, thinking about how it nourishes and uplifts.

Maybe this is a gentle resolution for all of us. Perhaps, we can stay the course once the Valentine chocolate abounds if we are gentle with ourselves – gentle in our approach to simply being more aware of how we are treating this wondrous machine we call our body that so ably carries us around each and every day. Take pause to say to ourselves, “Is Ferrero Rocher the kind of nourishment that my cells need to do their best work today?”

Happy shiny New Year ~ a vast canvas waiting for our first courageous brush strokes.

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New Year Fresh

man with fireworks

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Welcome to a new year!

Each and every January I have the same feeling – a feeling of freshness, of dreaming dreams and of getting organized and recommitted to healthy, mindful living. The great thing about a new year is that it feels like everything is possible, and that the weary old mistakes of yesteryear can be overcome.

My challenge to everyone is to take a minute and breathe in the new 2019 air, make a commitment to a plan or dream, and make a promise to yourself to see that commitment through. Is this the year you finally take that flying lesson, finally learn how to knit a sweater or finally read that classic?

What dreams have been rattling around waiting for your attention? Make 2019 the year of those dreams!

Another fresh new year is here . . .
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear,
To love and laugh and give!

This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best!

I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
And sing more joyful songs!”

William Arthur Ward

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Mirror Image

photo of person holding crystal ball

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – There are so few days now until Christmas. Hoping everyone has a chance to make merry in their own way.

I was given a wonderful gift this year, which I got to open already. It is a glass ball that I placed in the window of my Peterborough office. I was working at my computer and glanced over. I saw cracks in it coming up from the base and I worried that I had damaged it in just a few short minutes of ownership. However, when I took it out of the window the cracks disappeared. It turns out that the spidery cracks that were present
in the window were the reflection of the birch trees in the courtyard.

How wondrous that what I thought was damage is actually a magical reflection of trees in my window. Now I look and see the inverted image of the trees, and that makes me smile at the beauty. It also makes me wonder how often we see cracks where there is actually magic, flaws that are actually reflections. How often do we see flaws through our window of perception that are really reflections of ourselves?

It is that time of year during which magic is all around us! Look beyond the cracked exteriors of hurry and find the beauty of the holidays.

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Fount of Wisdom

fountainFrom the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Part of the fun of a recent Christmas lunch was a gift swap game. One gift, which was unwrapped for all to see, was a gravy fountain. The person who opened it said that she liked it and hoped she could keep it. The game progressed and many gifts moved around, but in the end the original opener was, indeed, left with the gravy fountain. A few minutes passed and then she opened the box … and found it full of butter tarts. It turns out that there is actually a market for gag boxes to be used for gift swaps as a way to add to add to the hilarity of the game. Here is the catch though … it was designed to be a gift that no one wanted, that would get pushed around the swap to add to the fun.

This gift swapping adventure makes me think … a large company found a niche market and created a gravy fountain box, complete with flashy photos and product details. Someone bought said box as a way of adding to the enjoyment of  the game but, in the end, there was an unintended outcome … actual disappointment at not having received a gravy fountain!

This tale is a good reminder for all of us that, while we think we can guess what will be appreciated or that we can predict what is of universal appeal, everyone is completely different and unique. We all need to slow down a little and get to know a person – listen, observe and seek to understand what it is that makes their heart sing – so that we can support, work with or just walk on the planet together in the most positive way possible. There is always a case for caution and exploration because one person’s gravy fountain gag gift could be another person’s Holy Grail of Christmas gift giving… which we cannot necessarily predict.

Photo from Pixabay.com

Straw Strength

brown wooden barn

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – In my early childhood there was no yard light and the walk to the barn could be dark and long despite that fact that it was only about 50 metres long. Ours being a big family, flashlights were often lost. So one of my brothers, at a very young age, worked out a strategy … he could walk to the barn in the dark as long as he carried a piece of straw. If he focused on the straw while he walked, he was not afraid or overwhelmed by the darkness.

This is genius for a six year old! He knew already that the answer to getting through the tough stuff is to focus on what is close by, what is in the present moment, what is controllable. He could traverse that long, dark passage because he had something on which to focus.

I should add that he is often teased mercilessly about this practice, even now, but the strategy holds. A big expanse of troubling unknowns or challenges is conquerable if we focus on what is the next step, what is close, what is in the immediate span of control … and keep moving forward. The barn will soon loom large in front of us if we focus on one piece of straw at a time.

(This brother shall remain nameless so that he never knows that I think his strategy was genius, but there it is … the strategy for challenges of all kinds is a piece of straw.)

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Keeping Track

shallow focus photography of railway during sunset

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director –

Ear worms are unpredictable. This morning my husband called out, “I guess you’re not in the shower … since I can hear you singing Chattanooga Choo Choo from the bedroom, I am flushing the toilet.” This is the kind of loving exchange that can be heard at my house all of the time.

Here’s the thing … I was not really consciously aware that I was singing Chattanooga Choo Choo and, furthermore, I would be hard pressed to guess when I last heard, thought about or sang that particular song. Then, when I did start paying attention, I realized that I was mashing up about three oldies into weird verses that seemed to always end in, “She’s sixteen, she’s beautiful and she’s mine.”

The brain is a marvelous and mysterious thing. Mine was clearly on its own this morning in the way of music choices. I guess this makes me think about all of the other things that our minds do when not really attended to. Do we slip into habits, form opinions on auto
pilot? For sure my husband usually flushes the toilet automatically whether I am in the shower or not…

Listen to your ear worms … not necessarily because there is secret wisdom in unconscious humming, but more because doing so will snap us back to where we are, guide us to a more thoughtful moment and – when we are all being conscious and mindful – there are far fewer screeching hot shower flushes and other such mishaps and misadventures.

Thank you for all you do each day.

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