Awareness and change

I’ve spent most of my adult life in various disability advocacy circles with a wide range of disabilities at their focus and I’m beginning to see a pattern. Many groups focus very hard on spreading awareness and giving out information so that a certain level of knowledge is obtained. While their efforts were great and much needed, something was lacking. While these groups operated under the umbrella of awareness, what they really sought was a societal change. They visioned a society where people with disabilities were given the same chances as everyone else and not looked at as “different”. Where I’ve seen many groups fall short is their inability to move beyond awareness. Enter in the cycle of change:

Most social issues fall somewhere on this model. The groups I mentioned above were stuck somewhere between contemplation and preparation, unable to move towards action. Some even to venture into modified behavior with a short span of maintainability until they relapse back to where they were. Regardless of where they fall on this model, the end goal of change was not achieved.

My question now, and the purpose of this post, is how do we move out of awareness towards change? We live in an age of technology so I would argue that lack of knowledge is not the problem. I truly believe there are more caring people than not caring people around us, so a willingness to do the right thing is there. Where I believe the disconnect lies is our inability to branch outside our social circles.

In 2017, Penn state released an article in which they dove into the findings of a social psychologist, Robin Dunbar. Dunbar stated that human beings have the capacity to create and maintain roughly 150 close friendships even though they may have had thousands of casual connections through people on social media. I would argue that in our current society that number is much lower than 150, which therein lies the barrier hindering change. We’ve seemingly lost the ability to connect with those around us, which is crucial in understanding someone’s situation which then would hopefully develop empathy which would push us towards change. I can’t give a number to the amount of people who approach me and say something like “I don’t know how to phrase this” or “I don’t want to offend you” after which I coerce them to be honest and upfront. This honesty has led to some great conversations and a different level of understanding which I have seen change peoples attitudes and actions towards myself and people like me. This is where true change can be found. Are we willing to really open our social circles to those who need us and be willing to empathize with some people who are in situations we may have never been in? I would argue things will not change until we are able to empathize with those around us.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8

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Happiness is a choice

We are mere hours away from closing out 2018 and ushering in 2019. The last 12 months have been a roller coaster of life events that have taught me many things. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it.

I learned that some things have to end in order for better things to fall into place. I made the difficult decision to leave a good job in an effort to be closer to family and my closest support system, and looking back it was Gods hand pushing me down the path He wanted me on. I’ve gotten to connect better with family and friendships spanning over a decade, which that alone is priceless. I’ve also gotten to see my niece grow and hit different developmental milestones, as well as being the most adorable human being in my life right now (I’m not biased I promise). Life was hard living long distance and I’m excited to see what 2019 brings in this new yet familiar setting.

I’ve also learned that happiness is a choice. I’ve spent many moments of 2018 praying and asking God to change my situation, when in reality I needed to change how I reacted to situations. We can’t control how our environment treats us but we can control how we react to it. That’s a valuable lesson I’ll be taking into 2019.

Lastly, I’ve learned that sometimes you have to act to get where you want to be. For too long I lived doing the same things expecting different outcomes, which is literally the definition of insanity. Sometimes you have to risk something to get something better in return, but it won’t just happen unless you’re willing to take that risk.

In 2019 I want to be bold, take risks, choose happiness, and trust God will put me where I need to be. What do you want from the coming year and what are you willing to do to get there?