One Humanity

It has been my desire to write regularly and build a community of interest in my writing and in March of Dimes Canada. I don’t mind admitting that this is harder than I thought. Not because writing is hard for me, but because narrowing down a topic to what I consider of universal interest is challenging, and because it is tempting to just write about all the wonderful things that March of Dimes does, in providing services to people, in advocacy, in communication about  the needs and aspirations of people with disabilities. I write when I am moved by something that to me is big, like the Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) we set for our organization. “BHAG” is a concept from the book, Built to Last by James Collins and Jerry Porras, which served as an inspiration to March of Dimes’ management a decade ago. Now we, senior management, are reading Collins’ latest, Great by Choice, in anticipation of preparing our next five year strategic plan. We benefit a great deal from reading management studies and from looking at the environment around us, the research on consumers and on business innovation,  as well as in the not for profit sector and from our personal experience. In a future blog I will talk about various aspects of the development of our Strategic Plan.

What is “big” for me now and which I think must find its way into our multifaceted five year plan are both evidence-based practice and love of humanity. I think both drive this organization forward, and since most readers might not want to read research data in a blog, I am going to focus on the latter here and share a link to  a BBC video circulating on youtube  that came to me from an 80 year old friend. This must be shared.  I am pasting it here  and inviting all readers to view it and share  your comments, and pass this link on to your friends, family, and associates.

While there are many excellent, National Geographic-like photo perfect moments that are on youtube if you have not seen this video I hope that seeing it now will move you,  or  if you have another favourite that also expresses our shared humanity, please also share it.  I provide this one because we so need to remember that all of humanity belongs to one family! Whether of different races, religions, biological genders or gender orientations, whether able-bodied or physically challenged, whether on this continent or another, the word “human” applies to all of us. How then do people make war, threaten each other, bully on school grounds, intimidate with words, discriminate with actions? It should be incomprehensible to all of us that  people in far away lands are battling for their right of free expression, or to vote, or the right to live a safe and secure life. It should be unfathomable that people live without pure water, that people with mental illness on this continent are living on the streets, and that in Northern Canada that there are people without sufficient affordable and safe housing. All of these unmentionables contribute to disability, to soul destroying limitations on life.

So, look at this video and imagine that  though humans struggle to survive in many regions of the world, the struggle is all of ours. We can be enriched by the actions of others and we can contribute to the fabric of humanity by our own creative, loving action. Imagine a more perfect world, where every human interaction is one of  kindness, where learning and love are abundant, where war abates and peace surrounds us. Imagine a world where there is more than sustenance for some and plenty for others. Imagine a world where life is valued by every culture and creed. Imagine that we can each “repair the world” with our deeds today, and ensure the future for your kids and mine tomorrow.

If I sound like a child of the 60s, it is because I am, but as a non profit “corporate” executive today, my feelings remain true to that era which is described in the statement below, and I hope that some of that idealism is  yet achievable, grounded as I am now in pragmatism after six decades of experience. Here is who we were in the 60’s according to one essayist on the web (author unknown):

“Teenagers were living dangerously and breaking away from the ideals that their parents held. In the process they created their own society (Burns 1990). They were young and had the nerve to believe that they could change the world. Their leaders had lofty goals as well. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had dreams of a truly equal America. John F. Kennedy dreamed of a young vigorous nation that would put a man on the moon. The youth wanted to live in a state of love, peace, and freedom (Gitlin 1987).”

We can still dream of change, of equality, of love, peace and freedom. We need only do nothing and the world will remain the same.

About modcpresident
I grew up in Calgary, where I completed a BA at the University of Calgary, then travelled and taught in Kenya and the Canadian Arctic during the heyday of Trudeaumania, hippie travel and social experimentation. I settled in Vancouver to complete a Master of Social Work degree at the University of British Columbia, and stayed another 8 years. After graduating I was a Social Planner and eventually became the Executive Director of the Social Planning and Research Council of BC. Ontario March of Dimes recruited me in 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons and the 30th anniversary of the agency. It has grown from a budget of $5m in '81 to $100m in 2010. Services have expanded drafmatically. We incorporated a non profit housing corporation in 1992 and a national charity in 2001, and since 2006 the latter has operated as March of Dimes Canada. We own and operate several properties that provide accommodation and independent living services to 77 people in 4 municipalities and will add another property this year. Two other exciting non profit entities have been incorporated in my 30 years (yes, it has been 30 years!) and we expect to hold our first fundraiser in the US this year and to initiate our first service south of the border also. My role as President and CEO continues to be that of creating a vision, fulfilling the mission and developing strategic plans to meet an increasing demand for services from people with disabilities and their caregivers. This is achieved through direct service, advocacy and peer programs. On a personal note, I live with my 17 year old daughter and two cats, and enjoy their company a lot. My two adult sons are doing interesting exploration in their own lives and I am intrigued with how they are progressing. In my spare time, I have various volunteer roles on several non profit boards and committees, and enjoy creating programs for building awareness of diversity and disability. I think it has become true for me that youth is, while not "wasted on the young," something that I appreciate more with age. Adventures are physically more challenging for me now, so they have to occur in new dimensions.

6 Responses to One Humanity

  1. Michael Schwartz says:

    “The youth wanted to live in a state of love, peace, and freedom.”

    I was young in the 1960s – but I was never so naive as some of my contemporaries. I did not want to destroy my brain or individuality with popular “music” or clothing fashions (“the young” in question were sheep). As you will probably have guessed, I prefer not to be classified under an all-embracing term like “the youth.”

    But anyway, it’s all under the bridge – and Toronto is a wonderful city. Property values will slump in a few months’ time as I apply for Canadian citizenship.


  2. A very moving video that reminds us that we are all part of planet earth – the tenacity to survive in such harsh climates hit home to me. Obviously people adapt to their physical environments, often requiring a tremendous spirit of overcoming – much like people who have disabilities have to do. Although they may be in the same environment as able-bodied people, the energy and committment it takes for them to fully participate in society is often a hundred fold compared to those without disabilities living in the same place. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  3. C. Gordon says:

    Stunning video!
    Two short videos I recommend:

    Change for a Dollar:

    Sleep –

  4. Elizabeth Lounsbury says:

    Andria I had to write to tell you how impressed I am with your latest blog. Way to go Girl!

    Elizabeth Lounsbury
    Chair Polio Canada

  5. Darlene Bailey says:

    I absolutely love your blog!!!! We are so alike in our beliefs I could not believe it!!! I love all the references to the child of the 60 s.. The idealism and sustaining it as we age is a challenge sometimes but we do try to keep it alive
    albeit with the reality experience brings
    Thanks for sending on I am going to reread when I get to my hotel.. Something to look forward to

  6. Kathy Horvath, CSL, Hamilton Supportive Housing says:

    I also was interested in reading your blog. You do have many blessings to count. I too have many blessings in my life, the first of course my two daughters, and wonderful family and friends. However, as an employee of March of Dimes, some of my greatest inspirations comes from our clients. They have so many limitations, yet every day most of them get on with their lives without complaint. Their wit and sense of humour is inspiring. They depend daily on others to provide the basic necessities, and yet still maintain their own voice and views and independence. We should all remember that at any time, in a split second our lives could be dramatically change. I hope that all of us can learn from the bravery and courage that our clients seem to have in unlimited amounts. We have recently lost a very dear client, Jason Sooley from Jason House in Hamilton, Ontario. He will be greatly missed by those whose lives he touched, in such a positive way. It is now our duty to give comfort to his housemates, and the staff who gave and continue to give the best possible care. Hopefully those of us that have the pleasure of being a part of the lives of these wonderful people will count them as blessings also. We must also remember that we are sometimes the only voice or advocates these awesome people have, and for those that don’t see or interact with clients everyday, I would hope that the CEO and all March of Dimes staff make it a priority to keep in touch with them, after all THEY are the reason we are here.

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