Power in small gestures
I’ve learned many things during my time in Uganda volunteering for a grass roots women’s leadership conference. Those of you who have followed along on my journey through social media have seen some of the amazing things I have gotten to experience there. This trip has reiterated how important it is to get out of our insular world view and experience life and work from a different perspective.
When Mead & Hunt decided to send an order of notebooks over for the conference, nobody thought much of it—from our perspective, it seemed like a simple gesture to help those who needed writing materials at the conference. However, in a different context, this same small gesture took on new life.
The notebooks changed the trajectory of the Grassroots Peace Conference. The original plan was to compile audio and written notes from conference planners at each session, write up a concise report in English and get them back to the nine participating organizations, where they would translate back to their native languages. This process would take months. Most of the participating women didn’t come with means of notetaking, so with these notebooks, they were able to take notes in real-time in their own languages that could be taken back and discussed immediately.
One of our notebooks found its way to a young boy in a terrible situation. He is the nephew of Sister Rosemary, one of the conference organizers working with Chris. This boy of 14 had, rightly or wrongly, been accused of a crime, tried as an adult, and locked up. Sister Rosemary gave him one of our notebooks to write in every day, to distract him from his current circumstances and give him a purpose. She says the act of writing would help him “never forget that he was a person who has come from somewhere.”
To Sister Rosemary and her family, this was not just a notebook—it became a powerful symbol of hope, and a reminder of the inherent power of words. In this context, the act of putting down words on paper is far from insignificant—words insight action.
When we step into other cultures, we can learn new strategies that will help us do our jobs more effectively, and hopefully help others as well. But we also get an opportunity to look at the world through new eyes. Seemingly minor items can take on new value when viewed through a different lens. When we get involved in projects that push us to view the world in new ways, we all benefit—and maybe encourage others to do the same.
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