Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
On November 20, 2015 I was sitting in a waiting room for one of many appointments that were part of preparing for my upcoming three months in Bangkok. I picked up a book that was lying on the table in front of me; a book which had a reading for each day of the year. Predictably I turned to the reading for my birthdate.
In part it read, “How are we to live in a world of injustice and pain, a world that Susan Sontag called the “simultaneity of wildly contrasting human fates”? What are the responsibilities of those who are well to those who suffer?” It continued, “It is our shared responsibility to question and resist that which crushes the possibility of hope. To be hopeful in hard times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage and kindness. Hope arises from an action. It is what we become, and it is who we are when we are engaged. And even though the impossible can take a little while, we will go forth and try anyway.”
Now, after nine weeks as a Rotary Peace Fellow I realize I have been consolidating thoughts, impressions, new knowledge, observations and experiences into a plan for action. The first step in this plan has deep self-reflection and finding that place of vulnerability that when expressed brings courage and connection. Sociologist, Brene Brown speaks about the power of vulnerability: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change”. I am a psychologist. I have worked for 30 years to help people become self-aware, transform conflict and live a life reflective of their own particular sense of self and others. I know that self-awareness is an essential first step in transforming conflict in our own lives and I have been helped, through the Peace Fellowship, to understand how to apply this concept when assisting hurt communities to create a better, more peaceful and just future.
The next step, and one that is particularly difficult for me, is to own my competencies, knowledge, and expertise. There is a vast diversity in expertise in Class 20 as well as in our faculty and the people we have met in the field. Honoring our own contributions and respecting and honoring the expertise others bring creates huge potential for multi-disciplinary initiatives that are more likely to make real change than happens when working in ‘silos’. I have grown over the past weeks in my ability to ‘own’ my place in this diverse array of expertise and have found that there is a place for me.
So it is all well and good to be self-aware, compassionate, and confident in our expertise, but as the quote above states ‘hope arises from action’. Action is the next important step and the one that will carry me forward as I plan for ‘re-entry’ post-Chula. I refer to my own particular journey in peacebuilding as Shrinking the Distance and the past nine weeks have brought me into the company of incredible Actors in the business of Global Citizenship and Distance Shrinking. These relationships and the inspiration I draw from them will move me forward to being a larger Actor in my own work and in the work of bringing global hope and transformation.
Back to that waiting room reading material: “It is inescapably important that we concern ourselves with the adversities and tribulations of the people of the world as a whole. That is where hope begins. Our endeavor should go far beyond just making global connections. It is time to move on to taking action.”
Susan Hartley, Canada
Rotary Peace Fellow, Class 20.