Today I want to talk to you about perspective. You know, this weekend is a holiday for African-Americans here in America called Juneteenth. What this holiday celebrates is the ending of slavery, but I’m thinking about this now in relationship to perspective, because of something that’s been occurring for me this weekend.
So I’ve come to Durango, Colorado to spend some time with some amazing people, amazing business owners in a mastermind group that I am in. And these people are wonderful. They are so welcoming. I’m a bit new to this group. And it, in a lot of ways, it feels like I’ve come home. And I spend time around people who are trying to accomplish similar things that I’m trying to accomplish in a business world, and it’s amazing.
On another hand it is somewhat uncomfortable for me, because I’m the only African-American in this group, which is a fairly large group, very diverse in terms of nationality and gender and those sorts of things. But I’m the only African-American in this group. And there are times when I’m impacted by that. And I’m a little nervous to speak up, or I’m a little nervous to share my opinion because whenever you’re the only one you’re, you’re very likely to be misunderstood.
And I’ve had hard times in groups where that is the case, not this group so wonderful, but I’ve had times in my life where that is the case in groups where the racial makeup is like this. And there’s this one woman here. Her name is Carrie and after one of the meetings, we went for a walk,the whole group went for a walk and we ended up at this really cool bar and Carrie and I are just sitting and chatting and she asks me what it’s like to be the only African-American in this group.
And it was such a touching conversation because so often people will see you being quiet and they think you’re being antisocial or not participating in the group or not connecting or in a bad mood, but Carrie could see, it must be uncomfortable for you. And it was so wonderful to be seen. It was so wonderful to be heard. It was so wonderful for somebody to acknowledge that this is part of my lived experience and has been for a very long time. In the field of Psychotherapy it’s the case, in the field of business it’s the case.
So many times when I walk into a room, I walk into the room as one of the only if not the only African-American in that room. And here is this woman from Britain who sees it and understands that it’s uncomfortable. We had a very long talk about privilege. We had a very long talk about oppression and kind of what those things mean. And it made me start thinking about the work that we do as Psychotherapists, the work that we do as helpers. I think so often we misjudge people based upon what we see instead of understanding everyone is going through something. And sometimes it’s not as obvious to see.
You know, I’m in this room full of really successful business people. We all have businesses that are large and successful in all the things, but even in that space, there’s this woman who could say, but that guy’s dealing with something that the rest of us might not be dealing with. And that’s such a gift to give someone. So as you’re doing your work and meeting people and interact with people around you remember that there’s perspective that matters.
Remember that there’s perspective that goes on in their lives. And that’s the gift that we give people, the ability for them to be seen and heard. You know, I have such deep appreciation at this point in my life. I’m so appreciative of the people who have come before me and allowed me to be in the spaces that I’m in now. And I truly hope that a generation from now I’ll look back and there’ll be more people of color, more people of diverse backgrounds, more people of ethnic backgrounds in these spaces. But right now I’m just so deeply appreciative of everything that’s gone on to getting me here.
And I’m so deeply appreciative of people like Carrie, who are willing to take the time and see that there are other perspectives present. That’s a skill I think we all need to hone, especially as helping professionals, we need to see that our clients are not their diagnosis. They’re not their problems.
Sometimes they’re just dealing with something that is not as obvious to see. And when you can see them and hear them, that’s how you truly create change in someone’s life. So enjoy this holiday, understand what it means. And let’s love one another, even if we’re different. And Carrie, thank you so much for being so kind.