Have fun when you can. Think all the time.

Music, Trees, Environment, BBC, Hardwood floors, Storytelling, Adventures, International development, Learning new things, Getting new perspectives, Writing essays, Water, Road trips, Photography, Spaghetti squash, Art, Books, Getting involved, Gingerbread lattes,(Not)Sleeping, Reading, Poetry, Falling leaves, Aging, Monologues, Prickly pear tea, Making lists, Politics, New ideas, Exploring, Traveling, Dinosaurs, Killer whales, Sushi, Pop Culture, Meeting new people, Barbequing with friends, Tubing down the river, Waking up early, Discovering new things, Trees, Empathy, Believing in the Power of Love

December 13, 2012

Gratitude (with intention)

Like my most recent post on Volunteerim this post has been in my Drafts section collecting cobwebs and dust for quite some time and events of the day have inspired me to finish it and also provided some very useful self reflection.

It is finals time for students attending post -secondary education (PSE), which means my Facebook, and Twitter has been riddled with students venting their frustrations and expressing their excitement for the “freedom” that awaits in the future if only they can get past the “torture” of studying and exams. Reading the status updates stating “10 days until Freedom,” “Can’t wait until this torture is over,” “3 exams until Freedom” and many others didn’t sit well with me. I mulled it over and decided to post my own food for thought trying to aptly articulate my frustration with the lack of gratitude with having the ability to pursued PSE. I posted:

“Why are people complaining about how exams are impeding their "freedom"? Yes, studying and exams are stressful, but obtaining a post-secondary education is a choice (and an investment in your future) that you (or your parents) pay to be able to participate in, and an opportunity that many are not fortunate to have. Unless your professors are locking you in cages or taking away your ability to speak or think...then maybe, just maybe your "freedom" is in question. The fact that you have the ability to pursue a post-secondary education in something that you have chosen is in itself something to be grateful for.”

What then occurred is an interesting experiment of sorts in social media, as well as an opportunity for me to reflect on my own personal approach and strategies that I employ to get messages which I am passionate about across to others. In a short half hour my post, which I did not foresee to be overly contentious received a significant amount of attention resulting in 70 “likes” and several wide-ranging comments. Some echoed my sentiment with the and some encouraged more discussion.

One commenter stated, “I get you. It's hard to argue that studying and / or paper-writing constitute true losses of freedom, when you spend any time at all around people who spend the better part of their days locked in a jail cell (more or less for the crime of being poor and racialized) BUT, I will say that I am guilty of making "freedom" comments sometimes, and I will say that I think there is a little more validity to them than you give credit for.

Freedom isn't the right word to use. Fair criticism, but when you spend years of your life, toiling away writing papers for profs who probably don't care if you learn anything, and go thousands of dollars into debt, only to discover that you can earn a higher wage working at a restaurant, than taking the research job the requires your degree; it's kind of hard to blame people if they don't always see their education as life greatest privilege.

Of course, this doesn't change the fact that education IS a privilege.”

To which I responded, “Ultimately whether you choose to pursue a post-secondary education or not is your choice. If you feel that your professors don't care if you learn anything and the debt you choose to go into as a result of pursuing education are other issues but at the end of the day you are making the choice to pursue a post-secondary education because it has value to you which outweighs those other things. Education is a privilege, but it shouldn’t be. Education should be a right that everyone regardless of background, socioeconomic status or life circumstances should have access to, but until that happens we need to be especially mindful that we have choices and options and comparing University exams to "torture" or loss of "freedom" trivializes those that do not have the opportunity to pursue an institutional education is something that they choose.

I have been a student for many years (and likely will be again) and I realize that its stressful, challenging, difficult, and frustrating but it is a choice, and not the only way to become educated (and also often doesn't result in a higher paying job depending on what you choose to study) but one that many people choose to participate in because they place value on it.”

I attempted to reiterate that my intent was not to shame students for their personal feelings and experiences in academia, but more so my intent was that sometimes we (myself included) need to be reminded of how lucky we are so that we can be grateful for the opportunities we do have rather than focus on how hard, frustrating, challenging or “tortuous’ it feels at the time. Gratitude is not something that comes easy or naturally and it is certainly not something I have mastered. It is something that I personally need to be reminded of every day, multiple times, and is also something that requires effort and a shift in perspective.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day and forget about what really matters to you. It’s easy to loose perspective. Its easy to lose sight of those things and focus on how awful it frustrating it feels to be stuck in traffic on the way to work, how difficult it feels to focus on writing a paper when you aren’t sure if your professor cares if you write it or not, and how disheartening it feels when you feel isolated, insignificant or alone.

We ended our “discussion” agreeing to disagree. With the content of my post and also with the methods that I employed to get my message across which gave me the opportunity for a lot of reflection. Reflection that will continue long after I publish this post. Reflection that will force me to confront what I said, what I could have said, and how I articulate my thoughts and present myself. I am always pushing myself to be better, to learn more, to hone skills that I place a priority on. To listen to others, to try to see how my actions, words and behaviours effect them, and then to think about how that in turn has an effect on me.

I am grateful that I have the opportunity to explore. To push myself. To grow and develop. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to learn and grow both in and out of academic institutions and from talented and inspiring role models. I want to express gratitude for so much, for I have many things to be grateful for. Hopefully I will remember that tomorrow.

With intention,
Delaney C.

December 5, 2012

Volunteerism (as a life value)

This post has been a long time in the making events that took place yesterday have finally given me the 'push' I need to get my act together and write down some of my thoughts.

I've been thinking a lot about volunteering and volunteerism in the last few months as it has always been a very important part of my life. I work for a non-profit organization (Big Brothers and Big Sisters) that works with volunteers, matching them with mentees to provide 1:1 support, guidance and friendships for children who may not receive those things elsewhere. I am lucky to have found a job doing something I am so passionate about and really believe in and that keeps me learning and on my toes each and every day.

This summer I spent some time volunteering for various festivals in Winnipeg and had a great time participating in the Fringe Festival, Jazz Festival, and Kids Fest. For me getting involved in my local community, sharing things that I'm excited about, and being part of something have always been priorities. I've most recently got involved volunteering with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba and have been blown away by the variety of programing offered and how much I have enjoyed my two very different volunteer positions (Women for Change, and Recording Stories) which I will talk about in a future post.

Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to spend some time at Siloam Mission volunteering with a few of my co-workers at their breakfast drop-in program. We had decided that as the holiday season approaches instead of giving gifts we wanted to spend some time together getting involved in our local community. I shared my excitement on my Twitter account, and much to my surprise was asked to speak about my experience this morning on CJOB with Karen Black. Social media for the win! Go to 7:45am and you will be able to hear me speak with Karen Black from CJOB about volunteerism, and my experience with Siloam Mission. Why I Volunteer?

For me volunteering is all about connecting with other people on the basic human level. It’s about being a part of something, getting involved in my city and my local community, and giving back. It’s about recognizing that I am so blessed to have had the opportunities in my life to pursue my dreams, to think about what makes me happy and drives me, and to go for it, and about the gratitude I have for the world. I am always blown away by how many amazing organizations exist in my little city (let alone the rest of the world) and how much they depend on volunteers to do what they do, and I am always excited to become a part of it. Why Volunteer?

1) Meet likeminded people. I've mentioned it jokingly to some of my friends, but if I was not already in a committed, supportive and satisfying relationship with someone I am lucky enough to have in my life I would meet people volunteering. Meeting someone volunteering helps you figure out some of the stuff that you can’t if you're looking online, meeting at the bar, or through mutual friends. You'll have similar interests, similar values and as a bonus most volunteer organizations typically have some sort of screening process.
2) If you have a roof over your heard, can eat three meals a day, an education, and a caring support made up of friends and or family members you have a lot (A LOT) to be thankful for and happy about. Volunteering is a great way to ‘pay it forward.’
3) Its a low cost/no cost way to spend time with your loved ones and get engaged with an organization you care about.
4) It helps build a community of support and pride within the city/community/neighbourhood/world that you live in.
5) Growth and learning. Develop your personal ability to be a leader, develop new skills and fine tune the skill set you already have, receive training and guidance, develop interpersonal skills be a part of a team, build confidence, and put your passion in to practice.

And it’s FUN! I could go on and on...and on...and on about how influential volunteering has been in my life, about all of the lessons and values I have been able to take away, about how empowered I feel, how I have been able to get practical experience developing my skills and about how I have met so many inspiring and powerful role models over the years both here in Winnipeg, across Canada, and across the world but perhaps I will save that for another post.

I'll be so bold to say that if you give yourself 6 weeks to commit fully to an organization that you are interested in you will not be disappointed. Volunteering has a way of getting under your skin, into your blood, and once you start I doubt you'll be able to stop :) Often all it takes is 1 hour a week, which we all have!

If your interest is working with children, the environment, the immigrant population, animals, policy based or hands on, local, or global the opportunity (and the need) is there to get involved.

I'm rooting for you Winnipeg,
Delaney C.

Here are the links to some of the organizations currently close to my heart:

http://www.lutheranworld.org/lwf(Honduras and El Salvador)
Environmental Movement of Olancho (MAO) (Honduras)

December 3, 2012

Here and Now

"and after they had explored all of the stars in the universe and all of the planets around each sun they realized they were alone, and they were glad, for they now realized that they would have to become all of the things they had hoped to find."

-Lanford Wilson