Local Liability?

aerial photography of concrete bridge

This week I was in Woodstock in a snow storm. At lunch hour, I sat with a group of folks who were more local to Woodstock and, despite knowing where I was from, they talked excessively about the local highways and trouble spots, and mentioned hamlets of which I had never heard. Trying to include me, they would check in about if I agreed that ‘highway 59 is terrible.’ Each time I had to say that I do not spend very much time over here and am not familiar.

Later in the day, I was part of a work group in which someone knew where I was from and said, hopefully trying to break the ice, “I hope you don’t tell people that you are from Eastern Ontario because I grew up in Renfrew County and it drives me crazy when people your way say that they are from the east.”

Now, I can’t really explain how geography became such a talking point except that perhaps the weather – and worries about how it is different across the areas we had all travelled from – was top of mind.

The whole collective bunch of interludes did remind me, though, of the challenge of measuring people’s experiences against our own and then making a snap judgement – “not from east,” “completely unfamiliar with the weather patterns in Teeswater,” “not from here,” “not the same as us,” “other.” This was all done without any plan or thought to making me feel like the “other” in the groups. It was just some small talk – and perhaps it almost always is – but it is great to be reminded to check in, take a mini moment to wonder, “how am I including everyone around me in what we are doing, am I excluding by how I am phrasing my input or in my use of acronyms, how can I take a step back and make this time richer by first understanding from where everyone is coming?

I might have had little to add about the safest route to Drumbo; however, as always, I had lots to say.  🙂

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Coming Out

orange and and brown chess pieces

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – I am reading the book ‘Becoming – Michelle Obama’ and, so far, I am completely entranced by her writing style and her reflections on her own, rather ordinary life – up to a point. The author’s description of going to university and being a visible minority – like about only 3% of the student population – really stood out for me. Obama tells many great anecdotes about the Third World Centre and refers often to the number of black students that gathered there. She describes the natural tendency to seek each other out when so heavily outnumbered, a gravitational pull to the known and the familiar.

I think this requires some more thought. I read somewhere that our brain is hardwired to seek out the familiar for safety in the times we spent in caves so long ago. I think this hardwired tendency means that, on auto pilot, we will keep clumping up with our ‘own kind’. We relax into the banter of familiar topics with people of familiar backgrounds that eat, do, play and travel in places that are familiar to us.

But while this is happening, what are we missing? Who are we missing? I think, maybe, that the first step is to simply to acknowledge and declare that, without effort, I will consistently avoid those I see as ‘other…’ and then follow that up with a promise to ourselves to seek out a new and different experience, or point of view, or life experience, and see how it feels, sounds, tastes … to find what hidden joys the ‘other’ may bring. Venture out a little beyond your tribe’s cave, and who knows what riches await!

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The Kindness Effect

close up of leaf

From the desk of Teresa Jordan, Executive Director – Where does a kindness end or stop being important? There are great thinkers in this world who believe that the effect of one positive thought changes everything, forever. It is a well known theory that, if time travel were something that was real, the most disastrous thing would be to change even the smallest detail because you’d thus alter the trajectory of the future so much that there would be no present to return to that would resemble the present that you left.

I wonder though, if we all accept that theory ~ and pretty much everyone does ~ why don’t we feel the same about changes in the present. If a butterfly crushed under a time travelers boot alters the outcomes of wars and famines for hundreds of years in the future (I think I saw a movie based on that) how much is one act of kindness able to change the future from the here and now?

A wise woman in the Peterborough office put “Kindness, pay it forward” on the inspiration board and, in one week, the board was filled with more comments and words of kindness. That, my friends, could alter the outcomes of wars and famines hundreds of years from now. Kindness moves things forward in a way that can never slide backward. Keep on sprinkling that sparkle everywhere.

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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

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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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