The white F-150 rolled up behind me as I approach the stop light. Not unusual in the rural-ish community I live in. For context and in full transparency, I can get really high and mighty when it comes to F-150s. Who really needs a truck like that for driving around town?!?! Except, of course, when I need to move something big. Then, and with no hesitation, I am that person.
So, while fully acknowledging my personal hypocrisy about these trucks, I also noticed the Canadian flag planted firmly in the back, rising out from the tailgate, tall and proud. I was turning left so the truck passed me shortly after the light turned green and I saw the sticker on the rear cabin window that read “Proud Member Of Fringe Minority With Unacceptable Views”.
It likely is not a surprise to read that the use of the Canadian flag as a protest icon and the sticker don’t align with my personal values about the importance of COVID vaccines and my acceptance (even embrace) of lockdowns in times of public health crisis. I am personally grateful for the smart people who designed the former and accept that the latter is part of what we need to do to preserve the health of our fellow citizens and preserve the long-term health of our economy.
But that is my opinion and everyone doesn’t share it. I am on a journey of making sure that as I watch that truck drive past I acknowledge and manage my emotional reaction to it. My initial experiences in similar situations — and first thinking when the anti-lockdown protests started — was to see signs and vehicles like that as a threat to my values and beliefs. It was very personal and all about me: How could that person not believe what I do and why did they not want me to feel safe and secure? I am outraged!!!!
Ouch. This ‘me me me’ reaction was gnawing at my core from the first moment I felt it. Fortunately, I had two strong female voices in my head to help me evolve my thinking and emotional energy from disgust to curiosity and empathy. Well, sometimes. #WorkInProgress
The first voice is my grandmother Elsie whose wisdom has profoundly impacted my life. You are reading this at our site, social or elsewhere because I am on a mission to share the four simple words that she taught me: It’s Not About Me. I was taking this differing view on mandates as a personal threat to me and my values, which I highly doubt was the initial intent of that F-150 driver. They clearly wanted me to know their options — and were just of proud of them as I was of mine. Making that all about me? Not helpful and with rare exceptions, likely is not the motivator for flags and stickers that make me uncomfortable. These icons are a reminder that everyone wants to belong and feel acknowledged.
The second strong female voice in my head was Valarie Kaur. You really should watch her Ted Talk and read her book, See No Stranger. The question her book successfully answers is how do we love in a time of turmoil? It is especially profound coming from Kaur who was raised as a second-generation Sikh in California and, in addition to facing systemic oppression, has gone through a great deal of personal trauma. Her grace, wisdom and insights have been a tremendous gift as I think about how and why I react to certain things like flags and stickers on the back of trucks. Without giving away her many lessons – please read the book – she reminds us of our humanity and the importance of using curiosity in times of discomfort rather than anger, hate or discrediting others. When we encounter others who make us uncomfortable Kaur wants us to say (to them and ourselves), You are a part of me I do not know yet.
That courageous statement makes my simple brush-off a lot harder and (if we are being really honest) must less authentic. What I am slowly learning is the heavy lifting that Elise and Valarie are asking me to do is much easier than carrying anger or resentment. Both women are forcing me to look in the mirror and acknowledge that my non-stickered crossover is just as much of a statement as an F-150 with flags sticking out the back. They are also a reminder that if I want to really practice Service Leadership, I need to put my time and energy into modelling understanding and listening. If your sticker is that threatening to my identity, I have a lot of work to do.