What If?

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Have you ever spent a day trying not to cry?

For me, there are always moments that prompt tears. Our national anthem at a school event. The doxology at church (with the gender-neutral, more inclusive lyrics for me). Pomp and Circumstance at a graduation ceremony.

Thank goodness for sunglasses. Because one of the last things I want to do is reveal my emotions in public.

After this week’s experience, though, I wonder if that’s because I go to extremes to avoid being labeled as an emotional woman.

But it may be pointless to try, because as a woman I’m going to be labeled anyway. And I can’t control that.

I can only control my own thoughts and my own actions. And there’s power in that.

What made me want to cry for an entire day this week? None other than the TEDWomen 2016 conference. Phenomenal speakers with ideas worth sharing took the stage, with the theme of “it’s about time.”

I was drawn to TED for many reasons. As a communicator. As a lover of ideas. As someone profoundly saddened by our national conversations – on race, on religion, on gender, on guns, on others. 

As in, people who don’t share the same worldview. People who can’t or won’t listen to each because they’re so busy screaming about how the other group is wrong. And not even wrong, but deluded, dumb and not deserving. Of a voice. Of dignity. Of empathy.

What if our conversations in the world could be more like what I saw, heard and felt on the TED stage?

  • A famous singer talked about channeling her pain from the abusive household where she grew up into her music.
  • An actress shared how she fought back against cyberbullying and violence.
  • A couple who work to improve a Nairobi slum spoke of the randomness of how privilege or poverty are bestowed.
  • A journalist and author talked about the death threats she received when she came out as a lesbian.
  • A rape survivor and the perpetrator shared the stage and their agonizing experiences.

Throughout each electrifying talk, a common question emerged: what can I do?

What if I made it a point to seek out different points of view? To listen to a different newscast or podcast. To get out of my social media stream and hear different voices. To seek out people with more diverse backgrounds and life experiences.

What if I spoke up more forcefully to inappropriate comments? The next time someone says something offensive about another group of people, I will ask why they think that and why they would say that.

What if I was more curious about people and their stories? What has their journey through life been like? What experiences shaped them? What do they struggle with? What brings them joy?

What if I used every means of power available to me for good? How can I encourage people to reach higher? How can I help people expand their networks? How can I empower people to open doors to more opportunity?

What if I took action? While I don’t know exactly what that is yet, I do know it starts with better educating myself on multiple perspectives about what’s going on in the world. Kimberle Crenshaw‘s eye-opening #SayHerName is where I’ll start.

Hearing from so many inspiring people reminded me that each of us can make a difference in the lives of others, every day.

As Kennedy Odede said during his talk with Jessica Posner Odede, “We can’t walk in each other’s shoes, but we can walk together.”

Who are you walking with?

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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an enthusiastic alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, Social Media Savvy for Corporate Professionals, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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