One evening last week, I decided to go to the Keleti train station, in Budapest, with 13 pairs of sports shoes for the migrants who were stranded outside the barricaded station heavily guarded by an army of police. What could I expect? I was feeling tense, excited, anxious and curious. Driving up to the station, the crowds were astounding.
Before coming out with my bags, I tried to scout out the Aid desk where volunteers were welcome with their supplies. There was such a mass of bodies that it was not easy to find the spot and the feeling became overwhelming. Distribution would have to be done myself. Was this a good idea? Is it safe to do this alone? Would I feel or cause any tension? The unknown was waiting.
Having walked back to the car, taken a deep breath, I hoisted my large bag over my shoulder. A group of families lying on the pavement with many children caught my attention and I asked if anyone spoke English and wanted some shoes. Their looks were skeptical. Another breath, bent down and opened my plastic bag gesturing to them that they could try them on. Within a minute, about 20 people surrounded me and together, we tried to match the correct pairs and sizes. There was no pushing, no grabbing, no yelling and as individuals found their sizes, it was all smiles and thank you.
I spoke with several of the migrants, all of whom were Syrians. They spoke good English, were kind, polite and educated. Although they were stuck at the station without any hints of what could happen next, they seemed ‘happy’ that they made it this far with their families and that the nights were ‘quiet’ without any bombings or fire shots around them. That perspective had an instant impact and again, a reminder how fortunate many of us are.
Without stepping out into the unknown, I would have continued to read or hear about the migrant’s challenges. I would have stayed with my assumptions, focused on my own perspectives, wondered who these migrants really are and maybe be influenced by what others say or judge. Having taken the initiative to go to the station, to share, to communicate, to ask and to listen, my feelings were happy, proud, and grateful for the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and get clarity. Every volunteer has that same opportunity and there are hundreds of them in Budapest, who all commit more of their time to help and they should be acknowledged.
Feel free to share your own thoughts or experiences by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In summer 2001, our family buried a time capsule that will be dug up on the 100th anniversary of our family property, in 2041. The time capsule was part of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of this property, in Quebec, Canada. It was bought by my grandparents when they were transferred for a few years to Montreal for my grandfather’s work. Having fled Russia during the Revolution in 1917, my grandparents made their way to France where they settled for several years and eventually moved to the United States and became American citizens.
During their years in Montreal, they purchased a small farmhouse reminding them of Russia – same birch trees, forests of mushrooms, bushes of berries, wild nature along a pristine lake. During the summers, my grandmother would take her three children and settle there for the summer, followed by my grandfather. There was no electricity, toilets, nor running water and mostly dirt roads. They had found their piece of heaven and word spread among the numerous cousins who had also emigrated from Russia to New York. Every summer, cousins made their way to Quebec and families came and rotated among the three bedrooms, bringing with them litres of vodka, packages of cigarettes, their humour, their voices, their singing and their full Russia souls. They even built a small Russian Orthodox chapel and among our relatives, we had priests and the choir developed naturally. It was a “mini Russia,” with a strong set of values, among the Canadian wilderness.
Seventy four years later, we continue to drink vodka, pick our mushrooms, make jams, we congregate in our Chapel, we have our own priests, we are the choir, and we swim in the still pristine lake. Every Saturday evening, we come together in our house and share vodka, eat “zakouski” (hors- d’oeuvres) and sing our Russian songs. We now have about 12 houses on the property and we average 80 cousins at the height of the summer. We do have running water, flushing toilets, paved roads, electricity and most houses chose to have Internet, however, still no mobile reception.
The time capsule is buried close to our Chapel and every house has a copy of a primitive looking map (similar looking to Peter Pan’s) indicating its exact location. The time capsule is an actual thick, bolted-down sewer pipe and cousins of all ages contributed by filling it with loving letters, favourite small stuffed animals or personal momentos of their choice. As a symbolic gesture, we each threw handfuls of earth on it, like a burial. I look forward to opening the capsule when I am 73 years old with my husband and children and all our cousins.
Life is gift. My grandparents gave us an incredible gift. A place where we can all come too every summer, reflect on our last year(s), reconnect with cousins, celebrate life and share our traditions. Our family’s time capsule is a symbol of faith, love, family and continuity based on our family values.
What are your family values, traditions or symbols? Email me yours at email@example.com, would be curious about yours.
How do you feel when someone does not thank you for a dinner party? Does not react to an article or tip you sent them? Did not respond to your request or invitation? Walked right by you without acknowledgement? We are all guilty of that at one time or another and personally, I don’t feel good about it.
This is the time of year when many people are acknowledged for their work, their friendships, their achievements, their inspirations and their encouragement. Living as a foreigner in International circles, this month is about our children losing friends who are moving away, farewell dinners for Ambassadors being posted elsewhere, appreciation lunches at school, clients reaching goals, employees being evaluated and many “thank yous” to people who help us facilitate and nurture our everyday lives.
The other day I heard the garbage truck coming onto our road and quickly rushed outside to get my bins out. The two unfamiliar garbage men swept my containers in the air, emptying them within seconds and slid them back towards me. I thanked them for their work and they both looked very surprised and smiled back flashing their gold plated teeth. How many people thank them personally for their work I wondered. Such easy words to say and the outcome is powerful.
Acknowledgement is not only about recognition, it is also about awareness and reaction. I continue to be surprised at the amount of professionals who simply do not even react to an email, how professional is that we ask ourselves? Yes, everyone is busy, but which result is stronger:
“Thank you for your email and I/we will respond to you within the week.”
No reaction at all.
What is the impact you want to have on others and on yourself?
A couple of weeks ago, I went to visit a prison for a day, as part of a small group, north of Budapest. As soon as the invitation arrived, my curiosity signed up without a moment of hesitation.
Having spent our day escorted by the “Commander” walking around the workshops, dining area, meeting prisoners in their cells, we ended our tour in the Chapel/Library where a 42 year old convict was chosen to speak to us. He has been in prison for 20 years and has 163 days left till he is released. One of the questions asked was “what could your parents have done differently when they raised you.” Without much pondering he answered, “they should have listened to me more and listen to what I think and what I would like to do and not think only of their own agendas.” Both his parents have passed away since he has been imprisoned.
The ability to listen is a unique quality which not many of us have. Naturally, we listen to what we want to listen to, waiting for the other one to speak so that we can say what is on OUR mind or start thinking what we will say next. Our day to day lives may not require more than a minimum level of listening, just as most of us never reach more than an average level of fitness. We don’t need the muscles as we are not top notch athletes. We listen mostly to the words and the focus is on what I said and what he/she said. We need to listen more with the heart and not always with the head.
The absence of real listening is especially common in the work force. When there is pressure to get a job done or a deadline met, people listen to the minimum of what they need to do, so that they can move onto the next challenge. It’s no wonder that people feel like they are in a ‘rat race’ and a serious common issue among companies is simply “employee engagement.” Everyone is talking and nobody is listening. Listening is not simply quiet listening, there is action in listening.
1) Senses and Intuition: notice in the other person their breathing, the tone of the voice, their emotion, their body language, their pace of speech. As I walked unexpectedly into a cell with 8 convicts, I noticed my own physical reaction and total discomfort. I was so aware of my reactions, that I took a step back, a deep breath and became fully present again.
2) Impact: what is YOUR impact from listening on others? By really listening well, you have choices you can make as to what steps are next. When I asked the prisoner what he was looking forward too most when he steps out of prison in a few months, he replied “to have a child.” He smiled and there was a definite shift of energy in the room that was felt by all of us. As for me, it became clear that I have a choice to volunteer my time as a Coach in challenging sectors of our society, which I will start thinking of.
Listening is an effort and can enrich your own experiences. People who don’t feel they are being listened to, can feel like prisoners. Overlooking the significance of effective listening can have costly consequences; it can affect employee productivity, angry customers, bring employee moral down, create fear and resentments, create family tensions and in some cases, drive your loved ones away.
Think of someone you know and ask yourself what makes him or her a good listener. What do you need to do?
This past week, I participated in a “TED talk”, along with two other speakers to address the 8th graders (14 year olds) at our school. The topic was on education, choices and careers and we each had 20 minutes to share our own journeys. At the end of the presentations, the students could post questions on a poster and the final list was sent to us. I was very impressed by the thinking behind these questions and one of the first ones I read was “Why do you love challenges so much?” I paused.
What attracts people to challenges? Is is something you are born with? Is it hereditary? Is it about success? Wanting to learn more?
Challenges have to do with mindsets. In Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset: the New Psychology of Success”, she writes about two different mindsets, the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.
In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail, or you are not #1, it has all been a waste of time. The fixed mind set stands in the way of change and development. Making mistakes, as a fixed mindset, affects self confidence and prevents the will of trying again for fear of failure or being judged. Therefore, challenges can come across as being a threat to fixed minds.
The growth mindset, on the other hand, allows people to value what they are doing regardless what the outcome is. They are taking on challenges, analysing options and find their time working meaningful and valuable. If they fail they learn from it and try again. Their minds are curious, they are open to the “unknown” and are ready to step out of their comfort zones and take on new challenges.
Do you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset, and what is your perspective on challenges?
(c) 2017 Anna Jankovich, all rights reserved.