By Margaret Anne Enders —
Just when the troubles of the world get me down and feelings of powerlessness loom large, along come people who, with radical acts, offer inspiration and hope. Two stories have been on my mind lately.
There is no substitute for feeling valued, feeling worthwhile…. Such empathy is foundational for raising secure children and nurturing healthy relationships…. It is key for maintaining productive and fulfilling collegial ties… It creates a sense of belonging.”
Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, cut his own million dollar salary down to $70,000 and raised the minimum salary of each and every worker in his company to the same $70,000. His concern for the welfare of his employees led him to do what he felt was the right thing.
The second story is that of Jurgen Todenhofer, a former judge and political correspondent from Germany, who risked his life by spending 10 days embedded with Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq. To me, he is a hero of a different sort. He was distressed by the threat of and spread of IS and stated, “As a former judge I have learned to speak with all sides, so I met all the players but I didn’t know exactly what IS was.”
He went to hear directly from them what they hope to accomplish and why they are acting in such extreme ways. It was a dangerous and difficult mission and he had many heated conversations about IS’s violent methods and their interpretation of the Quran, but he also learned directly from them what their issues are and why those issues are important to them. His bravery and the learnings encountered as a result could change the course of history.
What strikes me is that these acts entailed a generosity of spirit rarely encountered. With Dan Price, it was a monetary generosity, along with an understanding of how to make the lives of those in his company less stressful and help address the wage disparity that is a growing problem in our society. In Todenhofer’s case, it is an extreme act of generosity to try and understand one’s enemy. While he expressed horror about the goals of the IS and the methods used to attain those goals, he had a sense of compassion about the alienation they face and the years of colonial bullying in the Middle East.
In the face of such radical generosity, I find it tempting to wallow in self-depreciation, feeling unable to make such a difference with my life. However, I can’t let myself off that easily, so I look closer at the essence of those radical acts. With such enormous acts of generosity, both Price and Todenhofer demonstrated their care and respect for the recipients. Their actions showed the employees and the IS militants that they are valued as people, deemed worthwhile.
There is no substitute for feeling valued, feeling worthwhile. In families, such empathy is foundational for raising secure children and nurturing healthy relationships. In workplaces, it is key for maintaining productive and fulfilling collegial ties, and in the community, it creates a sense of belonging. Framed in that way – demonstrating care and respect, communicating that I value other – this is something that I can do, that we all can do, in our own communities.
This time I am reminded of a story closer to home. A month ago, the Women’s Spirituality Circle’s 2nd Annual Gathering happened in Williams Lake. It was a wonderful two days filled with inquiry and connection. Many women have since spoken about moments of inspiration and heartfelt interaction that happened throughout the gathering.
One experience stands out. It was the final half hour of the event and the participants were gathered together waiting for the closing circle to begin. Cat Prevette, a participant and workshop facilitator, was walking toward the stage when she fell and twisted her knee. She writes, “As I was sitting in the last minutes of the Circle Conference, I remember thinking how cozy and warm the atmosphere was in the auditorium area. It was inviting, soft, and all-encompassing.” And then came her fall, an experience that could have tainted the whole event. However, she listed the care she received in the moments after her fall: first aid, Feldenkrais, Reiki, an ice-pack of frozen berries, Rescue Remedy, pillows, and prayer. “I pondered how wonderful the caring had been, by not just ‘female’ but ‘spiritual’ women. That extra, amazing energy in the connection to the Divine was palpable. I am so grateful.”
In those moments, countless women offered what they could. And their offerings brought a richness of connection and spirit that would not have been otherwise expressed. Their actions showed Cat that she was valued.
So this is what I can do for others: show them their value. Demonstrate that they are worthwhile. Such acts need not be big. They need not change hundreds or thousands of lives, and they need not change the course of history, but rest assured, with a generosity of heart and an openness of mind, they can indeed be radical.
In her work with the Multicultural Program at Cariboo Mental Health Association, as well as in her life as a parent, partner, faithful seeker, left-leaning Christian, paddler, and gardener, Margaret-Anne Enders is thrilled to catch glimpses of the Divine in both the ordinary and the extraordinary. To find out more about the Women’s Spirituality Circle, call her at (250) 305-4426 or visit www.womenspiritualitycircle.wordpress.com or on Facebook at Women’s Spirituality Circle in Williams Lake.