Treading the path from activism to advocacy . . .

is not always an easy task.

“All Truth” copyright Amber R. Tabangay 2014 all rights reserved

I shared something on my facebook wall yesterday that prompted a discussion and was for the most part met with opposition. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised as it was ultimately my intention (not to receive opposition but to garner a discussion).  I had wanted to open up the floor for discussion but what ensued ultimately did not please me, made me feel kinda ‘icky and embarrassed, actually.  It made me doubt myself, my convictions and my very truth, as I knew it in my soul.  It seems that as of late, as I become ever more the activist and advocate, I am met with this same reaction.  When forced to examine my intent I find this:  that part of me longs to get people to open their eyes, view a different perspective, my perspective, a perspective I feel is vital if we are ever to really see a change for the better.  But it is just that; my perspective.  Even if my intention is also this: to promote a family life led with more peace, freedom, love and respect for all.  It is a noble intention and all of those things, good things, but I realized today that in treading the path as an activist/advocate one must walk a very thin line between inspiring others to change and ultimately forcing your truth upon them.

I have in recent years become someone who is very passionate about speaking my truth ultimately because I feel my truth has benefitted my life immensely.  My desire to educate others about the benefits of the radical unschooling/peaceful parenting philosophy is because I wish to see others benefit as I do. BUT, my truth is really only my truth and it is not my place (nor my will, I now see) to push that truth onto anyone else.  This is where I, as an advocate and activist,  must find a balance between sharing what I feel is a valuable perspective and my need to change the world with respecting the place and the truth of others.

When I seek to define those terms and where I fit into them more accurately here is what I find:

An activist is a person who campaigns for some kind of social change. When you participate in protesting against something, you’re an activist. Someone who’s actively involved in a protest or a political or social cause can be called an activist.*

As a noun, advocate (AD-v?-kit) can mean a person who represents someone’s interests. It can also mean someone who supports or works toward a particular course of action, as in “an advocate for civil rights.” The verb advocate (AD-v?-kate) means “to argue for” or “to publicly recommend”*

As an activist, I can stand very strongly in protest against something.

But as an advocate, I will surely stand very strongly in favor of/for something.

My facebook post yesterday was written  from the position of an activist.  I referenced an article that I felt portrayed and encouraged the wrong sort of parenting. It was another one of those articles focusing on the need to “put your foot down” and be tough with your kids.  It may have been presented in more of a light-hearted manner but I felt cloaked the bigger issues of the need to control our children rather than simply guiding them.  It was the old “be the parent, not the friend” argument with the notion that if you were to be seen as the “mean mom”, you were most certainly doing something right.  It was definitely something I was against.  And so as the activist I protested.   I posted the article link with this simple phrase: “I sincerely hope that this is not for real. . . Where is the LOVE?”

I got three comments.  All in support of the article.  The first person asking what it was I found wrong with the list as she was 100 percent in agreement with it.  And after sharing my views in a comment, two others responded in opposition (though maybe slightly in my favor in some things, I couldn’t tell).  And this has been my experience before.  Being someone who feels so compelled to change the world for better, it can be hard to take.  After sitting in the hurt for a bit, considering  putting my advocacy/activism to rest, and even entertaining the idea that maybe it doesn’t even matter what I do, I  put my ego aside and I asked myself why that was.  Why was the response negative when I had set out to instill positive?  I think I know why.

Posting in the activist role, I had put myself up against something.  I made the statement with my actions that I was in opposition.  I thereby attracted opposition.  I chose to stand against someone and rightfully what I got then, was people responding against me.  Of course, I received negative.   I put myself in the position of negating someone else’s truth and attracted exactly what I should have.

So, what if I were to  instead take the advocate’s role? What if instead of stating all the reasons I was against something, I had simply refrained from linking to the article and taken the opportunity to share all the reasons my truth is my truth, shared all the positive things it has brought to my life? Instead of playing the activist against something, what if I played the advocate, in favor and for something?

Your truth is your truth and while you have every right to believe in it, find solace in it and ultimately to share it with the world, your delivery in doing so makes all the difference.  The deliverance may just be what determines how it will be received.  My intention is to impassion others but not rile them up. My goal is to inspire change but not at the expense of raising others up against me or worse yet, intimating that their truth is of no value.  Besides, in speaking your truth isn’t it most likely that there will always be others who will not see it as such and no matter what you do will oppose it in favor of their own truth as they know it?  This does seem to be the opinion of many of whom I would consider to be history’s great thinkers, so perhaps there is something to that.

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”~Arthur Schopenhauer (German philosophist)

“All great changes are preceded by chaos”~Deepak Chopra

“Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities.  The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary.” ~Albert Einstein

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” ~Winston Churchill

I hope that the words of these men can be found to be true.  It fortifies me to believe that though initially I may find my truth opposed, I can still make a difference in sharing my truth.

OR PERHAPS it is more aptly and simply this:

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Maybe, it ultimately doesn’t matter what you do.  The music you hear or the rhythm by which you choose to live your life may always just be that, your music, your rhythm, your truth.  There will always be others dancing to their own beat.  That is their right just as much as it is yours.  It means that whenever you dare to strike out and dance your own dance, and especially if it is a unique dance, you will be noticed and opposed by the masses who seem to all hear the same exact beat, a different beat from yours.

And so we come back to THIS:

“When you dance to your own rhythm, people may not understand you; they may even hate you.  But mostly they will wish they had the courage to do the same.”~unknown

There will always be those who refuse to join us in our causes.  I accept that but since I don’t see myself giving up the dance as activist and advocate, now maintain that if it increases my odds of reaching others and promoting a positive change,  I will tailor my deliverance of my truth in the best way for it to be received and perhaps understood.  On this path, my task is to be at peace with that opposition I will still no doubt receive.  And to remain focused on the support I gain from those treading the path with me; those who hear the same drum beat, those with whom I share the same truth.  The opposition will surely not stop me from speaking my truth.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

~Dr. Seuss

It no longer suits me to be the activist pushing others to see the errors of their ways and make a change.  Rather it is my continued hope that, as an advocate, I will encourage those already on this same path and perhaps inspire others (perhaps even those against me) merely by my positive words and actions.  It is my hope that in sharing THIS, this imperfect piece of my humanity and struggle, I have already done so.

As always,




After sharing the above and then thinking on it a bit more I was reminded of something, a little something that I think if I were to keep in mind,  would help this process along . . .

The Second Agreement (according to the Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz)-

“Don’t take anything  personally.”

“When you take things personally, then you feel offended and your reaction is to defend your beliefs and create conflicts. You make something big out of something so little, because you have the need to be right and make everybody else wrong. You may also try hard to be right by giving them your own opinions. In the same way, whatever you feel and do is just a projection of your own personal dream, a reflection of your own agreements. What you say, what you do, and the opinions you have are according to agreements you have made– and these opinions have nothing to do with me.”

This is totally how I felt when that little debate occurred on facebook.  This is not how I want to be.  Looking back on it, I see now it wasn’t even really such a big deal but it was important and it was necessary in order to be able to come to this place where I stand now.  It is, like most everything we encounter, a learning experience and an important step in my growth. That little encounter has led to such an awareness in so many ways.  And in turn, growth.  From activist to advocate to human being.



 *definitions taken from the following site: http://www.vocabulary.com/

Uncategorized, Unschooling

Lessons in kindness . . .

Thank you memecenter.org for this fantastic image. I think I just might make one of my own one of these.
Thank you memecenter.org for this fantastic image. I think I just might make one of my own one of these.

Last night was one of those nights where as my head finally hit the pillow, I felt that instant release of pure exhaustion and then immediately after total fulfillment. Last night I drifted off to thoughts of how truly wonderful and miraculous our world is. And this morning as I think on yesterday, I feel just generally awesome. Too good to keep it to myself and so here I am. I must share!
It started with a conversation with my mom. Sitting with our coffee in the quiet of the house, the summer breeze flowing in through the windows, it was one of those many memorable conversations that seems to flow so easily between the two of us. I mention these details because it sets the tone for how I was feeling in the moment; gratitude. Grateful for the warmth of summer, for my comfy jammies, my cozy home, my favorite coffee in my favorite mug and for the friendship I share with my mom, the ability to talk so openly about the deeper things of life, to share our perspectives.
One of the things we discussed is how random acts of kindness, no matter how small they may seem, are so very powerful. My mom has taught me, by example, some really good habits. One of them just happens to be the practice of showing kindness to others, from a smile to paying a compliment to stepping in to help someone in need. Traveling, as I have been lately, has afforded me many opportunities to do just that. I was sharing with her, a few examples of these instances and we both agreed: these random acts of kindness, small or big, have the power to make a difference in not just the lives of others but yours too. You never know who just may need that extra boost of confidence or just how much your offer of help will restore someone’s faith. It costs nothing and the rewards are priceless.
Yesterday, I saw the power of those thoughts made manifest and I learned that kindness not only begets kindness but it is entirely contagious.
Just a few hours later after that coffee talk, my mom called me from our workplace (we both work at the same place) and said there were two elderly ladies who had stopped in for a rest. They had been shopping in town and were on their way back home (walking) when they were overtaken by the heat. They needed a ride and she asked if I would come get them. I grabbed up my keys and shoes and headed out the door. Of course I could do that.
The women were so taken aback and so so grateful. I would say they even felt a little guilty and I hate that the present human condition breeds such a feeling. Why should it be that we feel so guilty for putting anyone else out, why should we feel that we are not worthy of such treatment, why is it kindness for our fellow man is such an out of the ordinary concept? But it is and that is exactly what makes these random acts of kindness so powerful.
We settled in, and got to visit just a little on our short trip. And when I pulled up at the first little lady’s house, she was insistent I not get out and help her to the door. It was difficult for me, but I respected that and then I sat back and watched as something pretty incredible happened. As she was ascending the steps of her porch, I could see she was struggling and just as I was about to exit the car to help her, another young woman came jogging past. Just beyond the house, she stopped short and doubled back. She held onto the lady as she made her way up the steps and then opened her door for her. Joggers/Runners will tell you it’s very important not to break your stride and yet here she did; a random act of kindness on her part. In that instant, I realized: kindness is contagious.
The little lady turned and with a big smile on her face, she waved at us in the car. We had helped her and she was grateful. I was touched. I then took the other lady home (I regretfully never got either of their names though I swear they must have told me.) and then back home for me.
As I pulled into my driveway, I noticed my 94 year old neighbor (a few houses down) sitting on her front porch alone. I was intending to get back to some “stuff” I was doing when I got the phone call. Okay, I’ll be honest I was binge watching a new show on Netflix and was just two episodes away from seeing how it ends and I was a bit eager to get back to it but I felt really motivated to go check up on her. I vowed I would go sit with her and spend however much time she needed and I felt really good about doing just that. I was about to head over when I had the thought that I would be extra nice to bring her some flowers from my garden. I quickly wrangled up a bouquet and headed over.
As I approached the house, I saw she was on the phone and for a fleeting moment, I considered turning around so as not to interrupt but I had the flowers so I proceeded. My plan was to quietly hand them to her and walk away but as I climbed the steps, she politely said goodbye to her caller and waved me onward, invited me to sit with her. I did.
Within ten minutes, she told me that she had been having a rough time. Her niece, more like a daughter to her was very ill, had suffered a stroke two weeks prior and was not doing well. She was wrought with worry and the fear that she would not recover. Though she knew in her heart, it was what was best, had even prayed before bed that whatever was best would come to be, she was struggling with having to say goodbye. As she spoke and I listened attentively (thinking to myself she needs this, this is why I am here), her phone rang. She answered and within seconds, she cried out “Oh no! No!” . Her niece was gone, had passed in the night. I sat in quiet support, offered my hand and she held it as she spoke on the phone. When she hung up she turned to me and said she was so grateful I was there with her when she got the news. And she was amazed that just out of the blue had decided to bring her flowers. How did I know it was just what she needed and at just the right moment? I can’t rightfully say but knew I had to follow my instinct, listen to my heart. We were both grateful I did. What seemed a random act of kindness turned out to be so much more.
But there’s more to this story!
During our visit, another neighbor of ours (my next door neighbor) had been out working in her garden when it occurred to her also to bring flowers over to our elderly friend. She brought them over, took them into the house and then sat with us on the porch for a bit, as well. This was the second time that day, I witnessed my act of kindness being followed up by another.
And so why should I be surprised when in the course of our conversation when I mentioned that I was trying to work out a strategy to pick up my kids from our friend’s home in New Hampshire, she offered to pick them up for me. She has a home there, just happened to be going back to her home there tomorrow (today) and would be happy to bring them back to New York, upon her return. I had been stressing about how I was going to manage and in that instant felt totally relieved, this was my answer. And quite possibly my reward; a random act of kindness returned to me.
Even if it seems completely inadvertent at times . . . Kindness is contagious. Kind energy cannot help but attract kind energy. Kindness begets kindness.
Let us always BE KIND!
As always love and light . . .