While some people might question the power of respect, empathy and inclusion in the face of violence , here is a story of radical kindness in the face of what looked like certain death.
It’s really hard for many of us to imagine our neighbors arriving at our home with the intent on harming our family. Hard to imagine other neighbors running to our home, fearing for their lives, hanging onto their children’s hands with vice-like grips.
How would we respond?
And when the day arrived that Carl's Rwandan colleague was attacked by his neighbors armed with clubs and machetes, he was ready for them!
He hit back hard with RESPECT, EMPATHY, AND INCLUSION!
“Hey Bernard!” he called, even before they got to his door. “Your daughters must be hungry, would you like to take some chickens home?”
Perhaps the night before, while Bernard was putting his daughters to bed they were saying, “Daddy we’re hungry, we can’t go to sleep." And here is the answer to “daddy we’re hungry”, right there in the hands of their neighbor!
This day could have had a very different ending if instead of responding with kindness, Carl's colleague had shouted at them, tried to shame them, or physically tried to fight them. Instead he doubled down on old habits of respect, empathy, and inclusion. And by doing this, he avoided inflaming their “fight or flight” neural pathways even more than they already were triggered. His kindness moved them out of their brain stem so to speak, where little to no reasoning happens, and instead kept things firing in the frontal cortex where humane reasonable decisions could be made.
His actions triggered very different pathways in his neighbors minds and they choose to leave with chickens in their hands and not the blood of innocent people staining their hands and their minds.
REI – The Good Way
Think of RESPECT as a sibling to INSPECT. Inspect is always looking for a problem, which is great in many situations -inspecting a bridge, or a parachute.
RE-SPECT however RE-LOOKS deep with the belief that there is good, there’s is value to be discovered in this conversation, in this person!
Respect is founded on the belief that every single person on the planet is valuable and every person is relational. You add a small dose of humility and you have an unstoppable force!
With an environment of RESPECT -believing there is good – it becomes a safe and inviting place to share your story. And as we listen to one another’s stories we can’t help but begin to connect the dots with our own stories and a beautiful powerful force called empathy begins to emerge.
And as we experience EMPATHY – this experience of shared humanity – it’s just the most natural thing in the world to want to share the experience. “Hey honey you have got to meet this person I met today from Venezuela!” “Come let me introduce you to this family from Sudan.
And INCLUSION becomes a joy, not a duty, not an obligation.
As beautiful and perhaps natural as this sounds, it takes a lot of work! RESPECT is the key, the spark plug. Without respect, empathy and inclusion are a drudgery, seen as a pain, and burnout is around the corner. However “finding the good”, finding it time after time in the most difficult circumstances/people, and in ourselves pays off! Day after day – incremental baby steps… listening to the stories of others, going out of our comfort zone, and building those new REI neural pathways has a transforming power on our thinking. Finding the good really can be an adventure!
When finding the good is fueled by the deeply held belief that without exception everyone is valuable and everyone is relational, that’s really livin!