Know Better, Do Better

I have had 19 wake ups on 9/11 since that fateful day I watched the second plane fly into the World Trade Center building. My boyfriend at the time had just been laid off a few months earlier from his IT job in that second tower and lost coworkers in the collapse of the building. He was devastated. The phone lines were down and his family in Nigeria thought he was in that building when it collapsed as he was hiding the fact that he lost his job from them. A few days later, they heard his voice on the phone and wept with relief. I remember how powerless I felt as the sight of a plane crashing into a building and the grief and devastation that everyone around me was experiencing.

Grief and powerlessness in the face of such devastation is real.

Yet, too often, we think of “power” as something that only belongs to those with resources, position, influence, voice and status. We often don’t realize that we see “force” and mistake it for “power.” Yet, even though the sight of that plane forcefully entering that building stirred up feelings of powerlessness, we as a country, responded by digging deep and finding our personal power. We did what we could, and we started right where we were. Many ran to the site and helped survivors. Many gave money. Others held their loved ones closer. Some people found their power by smiling at their neighbors and seeing their humanity. I remember rethinking my priorities. Now, that is powerful.

Today, as I reflect on that memory, I think of one of our partners that signed up for our learning offering on Dignity. In unpacking race and culture within their 25-year-old organization, they expressed that same type of feeling of powerlessness at the insurmountable problems that race presents in our society. As they learned about power, they realized they had power that they were not aware of on an individual level as well as on an organizational level. They are learning to be intentional about sharing power as their organization faces what feels like insurmountable challenges in the face of COVID-19.

Today, I just want to remind you of the relationship between power and compassion.
It is an act of self-compassion to remember that you are indeed a powerful person.
It is an act of self-compassion to share your power with others.
It is an act of self-compassion to educate yourself and grow your power in the areas that you feel you do not wield power.
You are powerful and we are grateful to be on this journey of compassion with you.

Iyabo Onipede
Compassion Cultivator
Compassionate Atlanta

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