Today I write with a troubled heart.
I have been watching from afar what’s been happening to folks working in Israel to create a just and fair society. They are up against some pretty strong challenges from the right. I’m watching Israel in particular, because we just received funding to offer the Art of Collaborative Leadership for social change leaders there…including Jewish, Arab, Bedouin and other leaders working for peace, equality and justice in their troubled country. While this is terrific news, and I’m quite excited that Rockwood will be supporting a new group of leaders, I am also keenly aware of the vulnerability with which so many social change activists live and work, not only in the Middle East, but all over the world.
I’m sure that we will eventually transform our world – Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrated last month, said in his last speech “We’ve got some difficult days ahead…” He reminded us that he had seen the Promised Land, and he knew that we would get there. I trust that. It’s just that there are days when the Promised Land seems so very far away.
So, even as I hold hope for the Middle East in my heart, I’m also painfully aware of the challenges we social change leaders face here at home: Will we have healthcare for all our families? Will we prioritize education over incarceration? Will we secure a healthy environment for generations ahead?
While some of us may be feeling the pain in not seeing the change we wanted NOW, I keep in mind a saying that sometimes things have to bottom out before any real change can occur, and this is probably true in the case of social transformation. Trouble is, bottoming out is often hardest on those who are the most vulnerable due to histories of oppression and inequity.
I know that some of you are heart-sore, I’ve heard it a lot lately. As leaders, it is important that we do not override our feelings, even the difficult ones like doubt, anger and hopelessness. In times like these it is crucial that we notice the places where those kinds of feelings and emotions arise. It is equally crucial that we not lead from those places, because if we do so, we will only lead to those places.
And it is in hard times that we must remember what we are working for, why we are working for it, and to not go it alone. We must take responsibility for our well-being – physical, emotional and spiritual.
So I’d ask us all to take time to slow down when we need to, rest when it’s time, and sing when it all seems too much.
Arundati Roy writes: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
Let us breathe together as we move through these challenging times. We are on our way to the Promised Land. I know we are.