Clouds and Humans
August 3rd, 2017. Self-Directed Learning Educator, Ashlyn Hardie, reflects on week in Vancouver, B.C. working with partners Hope and Health.
In my mind, the best thing about humans is that they are all different. Unfortunately, in my mind, the worst thing about the world is that it makes being different something to be punishable by ridicule, physical abuse, public shaming, inequality, ect. But why? If everything were beautiful, nothing would be. If everyone were smart, no one would be. If everything and everyone were the exact same, none of the qualities we love about ourselves and our loved ones (the qualities that make them/us unique or special in our minds) would mean anything. If everyone is everything then we are all just the same. Does that make us all nothing? In that world, none of us are special, or smart, or kind, or bold. We all can be all of these things in our own way. But if we are all just the exact same… in that world we are one of many, and in my mind that would be a shame.
I think the best thing about my job is that it constantly has me thinking about who I am, what I believe, and what I know. What I know for sure is that people interpret the world and express themselves differently. We all have a story, and none of them are the same. Those stories derive from where we came from, who raised us, what bad luck we caught, which chemical levels are in our brains, and what we are drawn to in the world.
For me a smile means happiness, light, joy, or fearlessness. For others, smiling is a mask, a physical escape, a Band-Aid over a wound, or a self-defense mechanism. When I see someone’s smile, I look to see if it is also in his or her eyes. That is how I interpret a really happy smile, where as for others, if you were not frowning they might assume you are happy. The way one person expresses himself or herself may mean something completely different if another does the same.
If every person at CAC were magically on the same continent, at the same time, near the same place and we were all staring at the exact same cloud… we may all see something different. But, when we all start calling out what animal, vehicle, thing of the planet, whatever it is that we see – instead of telling one another that is crazy, or wrong, or silly – we would look at that cloud, tilt our heads, open our minds and try to see what they are seeing too.
What is so interesting to me, and sometimes very sad, is that we can do this when it is something that doesn’t matter. “We”, meaning the people of the world. Something as insignificant as what a cloud looks like warrants an open mind and accepting ear. But when it comes to politics, religion, philosophy, business strategy, gender issues, race, child raising, favorite sports teams… YOU NAME IT (all of the important stuff), if people do not say or do what we (the people of the planet) believe, or what we want to hear, or what we are comfortable with – we (this is me unfairly lumping the human race all into one) judge them, we put them down, shut them up, argue our point, and so on. When this happens, THAT is what makes being different a bad thing. But, when we are talking about clouds and our minds are open, being different is something that brings us closer together. When we are talking about clouds, perspective is something that makes us smile together and appreciate each other. Perspective otherwise is something that we sometimes fear because it disrupts the world we know.
How does all of this apply to my trip to Vancouver? Working with Hope and Health? Talking about First Nations/ Reservations struggles? Well – these kids are bullied, judged, looked down on for no reason better than the fact that they are of First Nations descent. A story that we all know, and are fully aware, that the First Nations people were not the bad guys. Worse, the intergenerational trauma these kids have passed down to them and the hardships they see everyday (substance abuse, alcohol abuse, young pregnancy, child abuse, gender inequality, poverty, bullying, discrimination) are all reasons the people in the world around them, shut these kids out. Instead of understanding them, accepting them, appreciating their difference, helping them, learning from them… these kids, their families, are treated like outsiders in their own homes. The most beautiful thing I realized about the coaches that are going to be working on the reservations with the First Nations kids, is that they want those kids to accept them. Their biggest concern was learning how to help those kids trust them as coaches, take them in, open their hearts to them. Because these kids have spent their life being shut out for their difference, that is the only way they know to express themselves. The remarkable thing about these coaches, is that they are so willing to see past those surfaced expressions and are looking to find a way to break through and make sure they express themselves in a way that those kids will understand and interpret to know they are valued and important, and worthy – Because THEY ARE.
I would like to challenge anyone who reads this:
Dare to be different. Work to be THE difference you want to see. Strive to accept others difference.
Be your happiness. Be proud. Be one of one.
And love yourself – just because you are you.