Listen

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It's been a personally challenging couple months. When talking to a friend about it, she suggested I fire up my blog again. In addition to being a well-timed suggestion, it was a suggestion that comes from a deeper understanding of what helps me tick. She's been listening. She hears my song - my metaphorical song - expressed through my life. My song is one of reflecting publicly with a purpose, sharing some of my experience to benefit others, and in the process, benefiting me as well. 

I learned many years ago that my purpose cannot be solely for others. If I thought it was so, I would be fooling myself. To me, to state that my purpose work is for others would separate my humanity from "others" and serve my ego. This would set me apart. As if I, too, was not one who also needed support and the "service" of others. In these challenging months, I have received a lot of support. I was reminded by another friend that I have earned this and I have given this support time and time again.

I'm learning that I am supported by people so that I may support those same people as well as different people.  I think this is part of the economy of care. I hesitate to even call it that, because it's not a market place. Care and love are not quantifiable and measurable. They are also not intangible ideas. Care and love are felt, exchanged, and freely given. Reciprocity is not tit-for-tat. 

I'm am coming to believe more and more that my work is about listening and loving. Yes, I am studying slavery, and yes I am studying freedom. But what is freedom without love? I'm studying the human capacity to love and to heal from the wounds caused by a lack of love. I'm not just talking about lack of love between a perpetrator and their victim. I'm also talking about lack of love for our fellow humans. How can we express this love - with knowledge and insight - through our governments, policies, social services, culture, and all aspects of society? 

In the last month, I've learned a lot more about love. I've learned about its limitations and its power. I've learned that one element of love is carrying the burdens of leadership, and carrying this burden is easier with company. The women pictured above are among some of those who have shared this burden with me.  As Members of the U.S. Advisory, we are deeply honored to serve and represent our communities. And yet, this takes a toll on each of us. 

Yesterday,  the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking released our 2017 Report. While there are many important recommendations for the federal agencies, I am struck by how survivors are still asking for adequate compensation for our service. I made a reference to the book "How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and How to Listen so Kids Will Talk." I mentioned the need to consider "how to talk so survivors will listen and how to listen so survivors will talk."

As I write this, I'm thinking that survivors need our allies' help to figure out how do we talk so you will listen? If we are saying the same thing over and over again, is there some thing that we are missing? And how do we listen to you, so that you will talk to us in productive ways? 

Yesterday was also the last day of the inaugural Council. Many members requested to be reappointed and will likely serve another term. For me, I did not request reappointment and I will support the Council in other ways. I shared these lessons and parting thoughts: 

- Show up and listen. This helps you earn trust. I learned from my work at The Linde Group that we need to earn the right to work for our clients every day.
- Take wisdom from  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - he marched on Washington, D.C. for jobs and freedom. Survivors are requesting jobs and other forms of support to be free, and to experience their freedom (e.g. long-term housing, effective mental health practitioners). 
- Continue to find ways for survivors to contribute without needing to publicly identify. 
- For workplaces to be trauma-informed, practices need to go beyond empathetic people. They need to include benefits, follow labor laws, and ensure that survivors are seen as staff first and survivors second (while also ensuring privacy about their experience).  
- Continue to pursue the intersections of social justice issues, namely Black Lives Matter, immigrant rights, LGBT issues, and gender inequality. 
- If a survivor is not present, ask the group to consider what a survivor might say if they were in the room.
- Remember - survivors are not "those people" out there that you just so happen to serve. Imagine that a survivor is actually in the room but you might not be aware of it. Would you speak differently? Why or why not? 

 

Minh Dang