0261 – The LeaderShape Journey

I just came back from the LeaderShape at the University of Michigan program, where I was blessed with the role of a cluster facilitator this year. A year ago I was part of this program as a participant, and I couldn’t wait to get back again. And I’m speechless. Yet again.

I came into last week really wanting the participants to be able to leave the week with their lives changed, just like how I left last year. I was determined to do the best that I can to provide a safe and open environment and challenge the participants to dig deeper – than they ever have – into the depths of their beings. As the lead facilitator pointed out, I was in fact slightly worried at the beginning of the week that I wouldn’t be able to recreate the experience that I had last year.

LeaderShape this year played out rather differently from last year – more lighthearted but also more earnest throughout. If I really had my way, I wanted a serious, reflective tone interspersed with jovial moments when the time calls for them. It was really hard for me to let go at first, but soon I was reminded of what I’ve always believed in – to let go, let God. And that’s what I attempted to do. And it worked out, like how LeaderShape has always worked out.

The truth is… I’d have to work extremely hard to intentionally ruin this experience, and I didn’t. As the week rolled by, I was continuously reminded of why I believed in this program in the first place, and why I cared. It was amazing to watch how the participants slowly started to come together as a community, get excited thinking about their visions, grew from a profound simulation that helps them understand the reality of our world, and believed in their ability to effect positive change. On the last day of this program it just all came together.

I cried. And I’m not the crying type. My friends know that. I too was wondering what in the world was going on. I never cry at these kind of things. I thought about it afterwards, and it dawned upon me that me – the person I truly am – derives so much joy and meaning from helping others realize their potential and find their own paths. It was one of those magical spiritual moments where I just connected with the light within so profoundly that tears started flowing. Now, I know that no matter where I go, LeaderShape will always be close to my heart and I will never ever forget its role as a spark in my own journey and growth. I owe this revelation to everyone who was there.

I am LeaderShape.

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0260 – My homely welcome to Chicago

On my way to US Cellular Field last Saturday to watch the White Sox play the Red Sox, I had quite an encounter on the Chicago L. I was with my friends and their aunts and uncles, so we were in a big group (fortunately). A clearly intoxicated black man walked into the train car that we were in. He proceeded to sit next to me, even though there were many empty seats all around. He turned around and shook my friends’ hands before he directed his attention to me. This isn’t going to go well, I thought. Here’s the gist of the conversation:

 

Him: “Hey. What’s up man? Where’re you from”

Me: “Around Detroit”

Him: “I’m a gang member in Chicago.”

Me: “… Oh, really. Good to know”

 

At this point I was getting pretty uncomfortable. Luckily I was in a big group. I was just hoping he wasn’t going to pull out a gun or a knife.

 

Him: “Are you having a good day today?”

Me: “Yeah pretty good.”

Him: “I’m not having a very good day today.”

Me: “Really. Why?”

 

I was trying not to piss him off. He leaned it, about to tell me a story. I didn’t budge.

 

Him: “Are you listening?”

 

At this point, my friend’s uncle walked up to us, tapped him on the shoulder and told him, “Hey, I’m going to sit next to my friend here for a little bit.” The man nodded and got up easily. To my surprise.

 

Welcome to Chicago, they say.

 

Well. It was quite a train ride. Besides the fact that my life was probably in danger, it got me thinking a whole lot about social justice. I became uncomfortable as soon as he walked into the train car, and felt that something was amiss. Sure, this would’ve happened regardless of his skin color, but it made me feel that the actions of our past undoubtedly have ramifications til today. The income disparity among different races is still palpable. Everywhere I go, I can’t help but notice that most people on the sidewalks and in the shady alleys tend to be of the non-White background. What have we done wrong here? Have we done enough? Or are we doing anything at all?

 

Is it my responsibility to do something? Responsibility not as me specifically, but as a fortunate being on the planet who have enough to go by everyday. Do I have to care? What can I do?

 

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but this incident sure helped put things in perspective. Too often I (we perhaps?) take for granted what I have, and too often I take for granted the very sentence I’m typing right now. Too often, I take for granted what it means to be alive.

 

Why are we here? What are we supposed to do? What does this all mean?

 

I want to see a world where everyone is truly equal and can feel safe everywhere they go. I want to see a world where we care about others as much as ourselves. Is this ever possible?