This question has been spinning around my various worlds more directly for some time now.
One of the board members of the Carold Institute asked it of me, when I was doing a presentation on my work to them in July (he wanted to make sure my true voice was going to be reflected in the book that I’m writing about PovNet).
I recently attended a 40 year reunion of the school I went to in Toronto (I hadn’t been in touch with most of my ex-schoolmates for that long). How did I get here from there has been pushing at my consciousness ever since.
I’ve been going through my grandfather’s papers recently, struggling with the eminent and well-known scholar vs the man who was my grandfather. How did I get to be the one who has to sort out his lives?
I was at a social justice conference in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago, and the first panel was called “Driving Forces: Personal Stories in Social Justice”. The panel participants talked about how they found themselves working in the social justice movement.
I’ve never felt like I’ve had much choice as to where I was going to end up. I was brought up in a comfortable financial environment, but I always knew that there was something very wrong with a world that allowed for so much luxury amidst so much poverty. I remember at the age of 14 or so (reunions seem to twig old memories), I wanted to make a speech to the gathered school assembly about what was wrong with charity (various classes were competing to raise money for the United Way at the time). I made the mistake of telling the vice-principal what I was going to talk about in advance. I learned that that wasn’t a smart move (I didn’t get to make the speech). Perhaps that’s why my signature quote resonates so strongly with me: Maimonodes’ suggestion that we “anticipate charity by preventing poverty.”
Being Jewish helps explain (to me) how I got here. If you’re Jewish you are responsible for repairing the world here and now (or at least trying). Being a lesbian helps place me in an edgy place (if I want to be edgy and not comfortably married). Working with community advocates at PovNet who aren’t ever going to stop fighting for social change and access to justice for the people they are assisting and for the community at large humbles me daily.
I got here sometimes because I was invited; sometimes because I gate-crashed, and sometimes because I had no choice about which door to walk through. But now that I’m here, there’s nowhere else I want to go.