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What we do matters.👐
Navigating privilege and passion when others are struggling. ❤️🩹
Scrolling through Instagram this past week I came across a dozen posts where the authors were wrestling with a similar question. In the face of what’s happening in Ukraine, and the world at large, people are questioning whether they are ‘supposed’ to be posting about the more privileged aspects of their lives, their outdoor adventures, business activities and promotions, and even those very “normal” things.
Is it disrespectful to do so when others are suffering?
What’s the best way forward?
I am also asking these questions and certainly don’t have any answers. But this is not the first time we’ve been here. Humanity has long wrestled with these inequalities and injustices. The very idea of privilege has existed forever, even if the privileged weren’t (and aren’t) acknowledging it as such. More recently, social media has both heightened peoples’ awareness and muddied the waters. For example, we’ve seen several events unfold that have forced a collective reassessment and overall “pause” of our feeds and activities, and a redirect towards important causes and humanitarian crises. But it’s almost always a pause. Eventually, people see a green light and normalcy resumes.
And social media is only a small slice of the pie. What we do in other online realms, and offline, is a broader discussion.
I have taken to heart the lesson that my job is to listen and to also seek out information from alternative sources that will challenge my thinking. Yet, I have also come to acknowledge that the world is never a stable place. When there’s not a threat of a new war or some kind of brutality that makes mainstream media, there are pre-existing wars, poverty, hunger, disease, violence and discrimination against women, the LGTBQIA2S+ and other minority communities…the list goes on.
In the face of all this, I feel conflicted. Sure, I can donate to causes, educate myself, and try to make the world a better place. But, as a person of privilege, what am I to do about living my life, running my businesses, and pursuing my creative projects when other humans are leaving their homes, running from danger, and simply surviving?
Maybe you’re reading this and wondering the same thing.
Again, I don’t have the answers, but in the midst of swirling uncertainty I do feel compelled to say this…
I say it with fastidiousness, and a sense of hope:
What we do matters.
This statement has two meanings for me:
I was deep into the work on my travel memoir in May 2020 when George Floyd was murdered. During that period of my writing life I found myself wandering into new terrain as I questioned my own privilege, my right to write anything (let alone a story about a life of travel and adventure), and whether my story has a place in this world.
I continued to write despite my feelings of guilt. I used the book to subtly navigate my privilege, even if that wasn’t exactly what the book was about. I never quite came to terms with it all, but in the process of creating it, I heard another author (of privilege) say:
I do this work because I get to.
I wasn’t in the market for a cop-out or for someone to validate my existence. I was prepared to hold both guilt and opportunity in my hands (something I continue to wrestle with). But this sentence resonated with me. It helped me understand, in part, what privilege really means.
Imagine what the world would be if we all abandoned our gifts, talents, and passions because it didn’t seem fair for them to co-exist in a world of depravity, emptiness, and hardship?
I think we’re supposed to keep creating, living, and pursuing our passions. The world needs light, beauty, and creativity. But I think these need to live hand-in-hand with an outward focus.
You may feel powerless in the face of all the causes and crises beckoning our attention. But I believe that every ounce of energy, money, and awareness you pour into them makes a difference.
What you do matters.
If you have a cause close to your heart, your voice and awareness-raising matters. If you’re choosing a handful of causes to support every year through donations, those dollars will matter to someone at the other end.
If you speak up on behalf of a minority and/or misunderstood community, that matters. If you are trying to be an ally, even if you don’t completely understand what that means or requires yet, that step matters.
If you’ve decided to mute your accounts, that matters. If you’ve decided not to, and to instead utilize other aspects of your life to make a positive impact, that matters.
If you’re a parent or guardian, the time you spend nurturing kids, reading to them, and teaching them about the world matters. Demonstrating non-judgement and acceptance will have far-reaching impacts as your children grow up in this world and have their own influence.
We can’t solve all the world’s problems, but every choice matters.
Truthfully, I’m stumbling over my feet walking in this terrain. I’m afraid to put these thoughts out into the universe. But discomfort is what I think I’m meant to feel in all of this.
Discomfort and humility.
It’s a journey in itself, and one I’m not sure will ever be over.
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What’s caught my attention lately… ✨
Let’s take a quick pause from book, app or resource recommendations this time. If you’ve been putting off donating to or supporting the causes you care about, take a moment today to make that online donation or send that offer for your volunteering time. For matters of accountability, I chose to support someone in Ukraine by booking a stay at an Airbnb in Kyiv (I first did my research and look at at the host’s reviews to make sure she was running a legit business). I wrote to the host, Svitlana, to let her know we wouldn’t be coming, we just wanted to send our support to her livelihood. I received a lovely message back from this fellow human in Ukraine.
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