I was reflecting on our outreach experience in Pilsen and Little Village. As a Latina I instantly became aware of my own fears. I thought to myself how traditional cultural norms are deeply embedded in me and how this awareness helps me challenge them. Some of my fears consisted of "this is my first time doing this, what will I say if someone is judgmental?" "How will I react if someone curses me for the work I believe in and feel passionate about" As I began to engage in conversation with local community members I became surprised by their response to the information I was sharing with them. I remember talking with one older woman who was setting up her local business and as I explained to her the work we did, she smiled and shared how thankful she was that we were out here in her community sharing this information. She shared her concerns of young Latina girls not being able to have the access to exercise all their choices because of the lack of education that exist. I thought to myself how in many ways this woman challenged my assumptions of the community. Here I was assuming (as in many cases at some point we all do) that because Pilsen and Little Village are predominately a Latino heavily religious community I would instantly get backlash. I truly was thankful for my interaction with her, she taught me something new and reminded of the importance of this work. How powerful is to talk with people in the community, to engage in important conversation, to learn from our elders.
Although I encountered people who were receptive I also experienced unpleasent experiences and I thought to myself, what do I win in treating this person with the same disrespect. My mother has taught me the importance of practicing compassion with a challenging individual. When we practice compassion we are able to see through their negative behavior. I reflected and thought did this individual react this way due to fear? Fear of the different? Did she react this way because she felt I disrespected her values, norms and beliefs? In social work we learn of the importance of meeting the client where they are. I believe I should carry this kind of thinking with every interaction, I can't pressure someone to shift their thinking if they simply are not ready. When we practice kindness, patience, compassion we are able to make impact and change. Sometimes we want to rush things, rush thought process, rush c-h-a-n-g-e. Activism creates change, but we have to practice it every single day, remain persistent, have a positive outlook even in times when we feel most defeated.
It is important to remain self- aware. Our self-awareness will help us make the best decisions in our every day interactions.