I have been absent from the blog space recently, having taken some time for a getaway with family as the summer comes to a close. As I have grown older (hopefully wiser) I find that I spend more of my down time on vacation being appreciative of the blessings I already have – rather than fully concentrating on the work that must be done, which I would focus on in my younger years.
So, I spent a fair amount of time over the past couple weeks immersed in gratitude, appreciation, and blessings. Fortunate to be blessed with a loving family, living in connected community through our church, having a great job working with inspired people, and supporting the work of warriors in social justice, wellness, and inclusion. I also lamented the reality that so many community and grassroots leaders working hard for equity and health justice don’t have the opportunity I just had to take two weeks to rest, reflect, and re-energize.
I also re-engage in a world where tragedy and injustice seem ever-present and relentless. As of this writing, Hurricane Dorian has devastated the Bahamas, and makes it way towards the southeastern coast of the U.S.; indicators that global warming is accelerating even faster than the experts feared are popping up weekly; anti-inclusion nationalists are leading governments in England, Brazil, and the United States. Fears of a coming recession in the U.S. are met with a White House proposal to – you guessed it – bring yet another tax cut to the wealthy to “stimulate the economy.” A front-page New York Times piece this weekend unearthed how the bipartisan-supported, well-hyped federal “Opportunity Zones” initiative has proven, in its early stage, to serve as a profitable tax haven for wealthy investors, rather than benefiting those Americans residing in economically distressed communities.
To our grantee-partner colleagues: we stand with you as you continue to fight for justice and equity.
Over the past decade of our Building Healthy Communities work – also known as BHC – we have come to value our investments in community voice, power, agency, and advocacy. These investments have been incredibly impactful and meaningful in driving structural and policy changes to advance wellness and health justice in communities. Over the next ten years, our Board of Directors has agreed to continue with the strategy of “powerbuilding” in grassroots leaders and advocacy organizations. You want to achieve Health For All? You need community powerbuilding. You want policies that advance racial justice, economic inclusion and fairness? You need community powerbuilding. You want movement on affordable housing? You need community powerbuilding. You want to save our planet for our children and grandchildren? You need community powerbuilding.
I had an e-mail exchange with one of our staff this weekend, lamenting these recent developments against social justice – a senior program manager named Lauren Padilla-Valverde. Lauren supports our work in the Salinas BHC site. She ended one e-mail back to me with the phrase “In Lak’Ech”.
Curious, I asked Lauren what the phrase meant. She explained that she learned the expression from her Mayan ancestry, and it took her a paragraph or two to fully explain it. But essentially, In Lak’Ech is a Mayan greeting that literally translates to “you are the other me” and that when we are in service for the well-being of others we are in service of ourselves. She added: “It means that you support and serve others because we are all a reflection of one another; we are all interconnected; that you need to care for all people’s children, because children are ‘the other sacred you’; that we are all related and ultimately, we all represent a divine reflection of the creator.”
Wow. Sign me up as an In Lak’Ech disciple and believer. I am reminded of the “seven generations” phrase of the Native American community: you must endeavor to act today in a manner that serves the children seven generations hence.
I return to work this day with the spirit of In Lak’Ech – and honoring all that each of you do to advance it.