Tonight, I had the unexpected honor of connecting with a small group of amazing individuals. Due to the poor weather and multiple traffic accidents, An Evening with Colleen Kelly Alexander tuned into a more intimate gathering than expected. While keeping an optimistic face to my coworkers, my event planner brain worked on overdrive, coming up with alternative ideas to present to my speaker to ease the unfortunate reality that the event was not going as planned.
Little did I know there was no need for my panic. Colleen embraced the opportunity to speak with a smaller group and not only delivered her planned presentation, but shared personal details about her life not found in her book or shared publicly until tonight.
In her talk, she spoke to the events that were outside of her control. Being diagnosed with both physical and mental health conditions, being born to a family with strong religious beliefs, being hit by a freight truck while riding her bicycle, being placed in an induced coma… these event were outside of her control. Yet, all of these events came with their own labels.
Who are you, really?
Colleen challenged us to all think about what labels we are carrying for ourselves. How does the world perceive us? Are we opinionated, angry, intense, distant? Are our physical limitations or mental health diagnoses defining us to the world? We each wrote our labels on a name tag as we heard more about her story. After learning the lesson of controlling your reactions to the events in your life – in thinking about the labels we wrote down – it became clear that we can control those labels and make our own. We each tore up the name tag and were given a fresh start. Everyone was encouraged to think about a new word or phrase that we want the world to see us as. Motivational, Inspiring, Caring… Human.
I am, because we are
You may be wondering what the title of this blog has to do with anything or what it even means. Ubuntu is a South Africa word which loosely translated means “humanity.” There is a philosophy behind this term which is the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. At the close of Colleen’s presentation, she gathered us in a standing circle and spoke the word “Ubuntu.” She thanked us for gathering together and sharing a safe space with her. I think I can safely speak for all who attended, that we formed a bond. We found our footing together and realized we are, in fact, connected.
At the end of the night, my event planner brain may have been disappointed in the turn out, but the rest of me was grateful to share in the intimate nature of the evening. As Colleen shared, “those of us who were meant to be here, were here.” I could not control the weather, the traffic, or whatever reasons that kept people from registering for this inspiring event. What I could control, was my gratefulness – for those who did attend, to Colleen and her husband for sharing their story and giving me new tools to build my personal resiliency, and to all the events in my own life, which led me to tonight with an open heart – ready to connect, learn, and share.
– Jackie Davis,
Marketing and Development Coordinator