Drawing courtesy of a colleague at work

June has offered many opportunities for reflection on our shared humanity.

It’s Indigenous Peoples Month and Pride Month/the start of Pride Season.

June 19 was Juneteenth in the USA

June 20th was World Refugee Day

June 21st was National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada.

In the week ahead, Canada will have a National Day of Remembrance of Victims of Terrorism (June 23), Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day (June 24) and Canadian Multiculturalism Day (June 27).

And this is just June. In today’s world, we have these days, weeks and months of recognition all year round.

To many, these are a dizzying number of commemorations and celebrations as all these important human recognitions vie for our collective attention. It’s becoming easier and easier to succumb to compassion fatigue, emotional numbness and saturation, and to veer towards desensitization. Economic pressures and affordability also have Canadians looking inward and away from the ‘other.’ For example, while research doesn’t quite name Canada anti-immigrant, it does point to a change in the Canadian public sentiment for the first time in decades to a concern for the number of newcomers, for reasons such as the housing crises. What do we do? How do we balance all the interests and concerns? How do we keep track of it all? So what? Now what?

As a national and global community, we must recognize that the questions and issues before us, the reasons we have so many days of remembrance and recognition, are representative of the work we need to do to more deeply recognize and uplift our shared humanity, our collective thriving and our planetary health. We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand, because these recognitions invite us to reflect and reconnect to each other—to remember that we are a global family who need each other in these times and must find solutions for all our concerns. We must remember, that our humanity calls us to be part of acknowledging and healing our self-inflicted wounds, engage in the systemic social change work needed to ensure we do not repeat past harms and work together for a better future. These remembrances call us to be human together with members of our community—real people who work, live and play beside us and for whom, our attention to the work of redesigning a better world that welcomes and works for all is non-negotiable and urgent.

I was prompted to reflect on all this in a moment of overwhelm and fatigue—a moment I recognized when I found myself turning off and turning away from another ‘bad news’ cycle. In the moment I turned away, I was hit with a profound memory from years ago. A dear colleague had mentioned that they no longer consumed the news and had cut all of their access to it. It was too much, they said, and impacting their mental health. At the time, the news was dominated by another global crises that impacted me personally and deeply. I mentioned that I too would love to turn off the news but that it was a privilege I just could not afford. I had direct family that may be impacted—how could I turn off the news?

What ensued was a beautiful conversation about all the complexities of our world. What might it mean to both take responsibility for our mental health in a time were the omnipresence of news and media overload is impacting our mental health and social skills, and stay present to the realities that need our attention and our commitment to action? We talked about the balance and necessity of transformation at every level, from personal accountability to the group/interpersonal and the systemic and how we might, over our lives, careers and various journeys, weave in and out of engaging. We agreed it is ok to do what we can, focused on one area of access and strength or more as appropriate, without guilt or shame. We talked about the immediate urgency and the generational lens. In the end, we both agreed, no matter how we get there or who we are, we are all responsible for our world. The only question is whether we choose to engage in the changing world around us, consciously or not.

So this week, in the midst of all the recognition days, I reminded myself of simple practices that have always served me to both take care of myself in the midst of overwhelm and stay in and connected to our shared humanity. I want to know and contend with the reality that 5 years after the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) Report, our Indigenous community is calling for more attention to advancing the recommendations. I want to remember that the freedoms global Black communities enjoy today were hard fought and won and can be tenuous without continued attention. I want to stand in solidarity for the human rights and dignity of all and understand the intersectional nature of all forms of hate impacting racialized and marginalized/targeted communities today from 2SLGBTQIA+ to those who have experienced wars and terror. I want to revisit what it felt like for me to be a refugee in the world, relieved to have gotten out, broken for those I left behind and feeling helpless in the face of senseless violence. I want to use all that as motivation to stay connected and do my part.

  1. Decide what your healthy boundaries are for all forms of media and rigorously protect your mental health. It is critical to take care of your own mental health, first and foremost.
  2. Find ways to stay connected to our shared humanity. For example, use recognition days as an opportunity to research, learn or connect with someone from the communities being recognized.
  3. Share your stories! We are all connected to the story of our humanity and too often we remain disconnected from everyday human stories while we doom stroll and consume the mostly ‘bad news’ / agenda driven media pervasive around us.
  4. Subscribe to media that share stories of progress and news that inspires. We need critical awareness of what is broken in our humanity (and in an era of misinformation, please check your sources!), but positive psychology also reminds us we need the inspiration of appreciative inquiry and knowledge of what’s working to advance positive change/transformation. There are many out there, here are just a few of my favorites and based on your interests you will have/find yours:
  5. Be the change and do your part…no matter how small, no matter where you find yourself…you have a part to play, from one-on-one conversations to systemic change contributions—share, learn, speak, act…no matter how small you think your action it, it is part of the tapestry of global action. No one of us can do it all, but together, we can keep moving our humanity forward to a better future and you just bever know what will spark a movement As I like to say: Find your square and keep quilting.