A Better Story for Everyone
Adversity – There are few things in our life that change us so much as the times when we are challenged. When all of the little problems no longer have their same hold and we realize that life is more than we can sometimes manage.
Imagine if that was your life all the time, when it was everything you could do to squeeze in the "little things" to make you feel normal. When your life is lived on a war-torn front, or in the streets and gutters of a big city, or even in a small plot of land you are never allowed to leave. I don't know if I am the kind of person who is strong enough to survive that, but I'm not sure I would be given the choice either. You just have to survive. It's a beautiful and powerful act, then, when someone rises above the fray and stops looking only at themselves, but at what they can do – together with their community – to make it better for everyone.
Leadership of an effective social movement need not necessarily come from the people most likely to benefit from it. Primary leadership of the abolition movement did not and could not come from slaves. Leadership of the child labor movement did not and could not come from children. But there is fine justice when leadership is assumed by a person who is from the oppressed group and never really leaves it.
I grew up in the Central Valley among the continued struggles and triumphs of the farm labor movement, most famously lead by Cesar Chavez. He was a man of the fields, who looked and talked like a farm worker and shared the dreams of a farm worker. His actions and stories encouraged others to stand with him and see a better future – not just for them and their children, but a better future for everyone.
That's why I think it is so important that we hear the stories and struggles and triumphs and failures from other people. People like Palestinian children wishing for a home of their own, Israeli Rabbi’s speaking out for the basic human rights of all the people in their land, co-workers struggling with mental health issues and women breaking through ceilings that have become stronger and harder to see. How else can we conquer adversity if we ignore it? Those same struggles from people in a “far-away” land ARE our struggles – both symbolically and literally. We are no longer a world divided and must act in a way that makes things better, for everyone. Sometimes that first step is just telling your story.
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