Since arriving in DC, I’ve found myself being asked “what questions I want answered this year and how I want this experience as a YAV to change me?” I really haven’t known how to answer these questions quite yet. What I do know is that I hope to be a person that can start conversations with anyone. Someone who can practice peace and love with everyone in my life.
Real communication brings people into community and into a greater sense of self and others. I’m so lucky to have a site coordinator here that pushes us to see DC in its beauty, its issues, and its disparities. She has joined my housemate and I in reading a book called Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown. This book is all about spreading movements and creating just change through the small day to day interactions we have with other people. She is an advocate for conversation showing how the small talks between people will eventually be reflected in the greater world. If everyone started really talking about the issues our country and world are facing, how could we not see change happen with the greater whole. It is so easy to stick to the pleasant and easy things in conversation especially with people we may not know very well. It can be so difficult to call out others and to be called out on things that don’t fit our idea of justice and peace, but it is so incredibly important to be a graceful advocate for what is better and authentic.
I have found myself in situations this past week where I have avoided confronting something someone has said out of fear of awkwardness and at times some shock. This week I accompanied a core member (community member with an intellectual disability) at L’Arche to a doctor’s appointment. This core member is certainly one of the kindest and genuine people I have met in DC so far. He loves to share stories of his life and cares deeply for social justice and personal relationships. Yet he speaks mostly Spanish, so the doctor we were seeing made an assumption that he could not understand what was being told to him. He consistently talked to me and the other assistant that was there rather than to his patient. At one point as the core member was telling the doctor and I a story, the doctor made a comment saying that he probably doesn’t know what he is saying. The other assistant and I were absolutely shocked by this blatant act of discrimination. The other assistant told the doctor that the core member was actually a very intelligent man and really just spoke a different language.
This was the first time I had seen such discrimination up close, and I felt somewhat unable to say anything. I keep thinking back to this situation wishing I had more to say, wishing I would’ve had a real conversation with this doctor in the hope of maybe showing him that this core member is brilliant, kind, and just communicated differently than him. I continue to wonder if this doctor may have a different opinion, if he just got to know this core member with an open mind. I can’t help but think that this was one of those opportunities for emergent strategy, for the emergence of small scale change and better treatment of people.
I want to be a better advocate this year. I want to have meaningful conversations with people and in doing so learn where I am falling short of justice and where I can help. I know that I have the opportunity to work towards relatively small, authentic change in my actions and conversations, and hopefully someday that will be reflected as the massive, global change that needs to happen for the achievement of peace, love and justice. I look forward to learning and seeing more of what this city and service will make me ask and learn. I am so grateful for the continued support.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS BONSAI’S STORY HERE
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