The caged bird sings
Today is Human Rights Day, December 10th 2021. The United Nations set out 30 rights and freedoms in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and our rights and freedoms are detailed in the Human Rights Act 1998.
I felt that today would be a fitting day to take the opportunity to look in the rear-view mirror, reflecting on the past 24 months of my life and freedom - from the beginnings of covid when I spent most days wandering in nature, on beach and woodland walks with my dog and trying to heal from a tough 2019: a year that had left me in a state that I once termed as “broken”. I now realise that it was never me that was broken, it was the world.
My wanderings and musings led me to a place where I realised I needed to rise up to make more of a difference in the world, to help create better workplaces and to help ensure that ALL individuals are able to work in kind, inclusive and people-centric workplaces, where individuals can be themselves and safely speak up about the issues that matter.
These wanderings and musings led me to think, to discuss and to write and, ultimately, to combine different elements to become the blend that would go on to become #BeTheRipple.
I remember sitting for what seemed like an age, contemplating what the name of this thing would be and then going on to set out the six pillars that would be the foundations/guiding principles for #BeTheRipple’s good work. It took a long time (longer than it should have done probably!) and in the beginning there was absolutely no plan as to where it would lead, merely a wish to rise up to help make workplaces kinder.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and looking back I can see how, from the very outset, the language I used mattered so much: When speaking to individuals who were to become part of the #BeTheRipple team, including 'Chief Inspiration' Jenny Streeter, instead of saying, “We are going to do this”, I said, “I’m going to do this”, which of course instantly set the scene for the entire movement and the way activities have been undertaken in terms of time, financial aspects, roles, responsibilities and engagement. As Perry Timms pointed out recently: I “Shape it, drive it, energise it, bring people to it” - I have been at the helm of #BeTheRipple for the past 18 months, the face that represents it, the one who guides it on its journey and, ultimately, where the buck stops with it. Thankfully, I have had the wonderful Ripplers helping, guiding and advising along the way. Had I chosen to begin the movement with a "We", perhaps the overall picture would have been very different and I'm sure we would have achieved so much more - as I said, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I’ve tried always to do the best in terms of direction, ethics, integrity, development and action, attempting to empower others to take part whenever and however they wish. Working predominantly alone has been challenging and has really tested my resolve, my character and my strength - I'm so grateful to have had the Ripplers there to sense-check, offer support and show kindness and community, without them I would perhaps have given up. At times this journey has been exhilarating, energising and exciting, other times simply exhausting, particularly when outside of #BeTheRipple life has continued to bring its own varied challenges, as all our lives do.
Throughout all this time there hasn’t really been much of a plan, with space being provided for the movement to simply ebb, flow and meander, sometimes slowly bubbling along with just myself involved in keeping it in flow and sometimes gushing at pace with a whole host of people from across the globe taking part in events and activities: from moments where there’s been barely a tiny ripple to moments where there have been full on tidal waves – I’m so grateful for all the support from the #BeTheRipple team and the wider kindness collective, it’s been truly humbling. It's also been very eye-opening………
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
I’ve found that my kindness journey has shown me many glorious faces of kindness around the globe and, counterintuitively, different faces of unkindness too: anyone who has ever stood for anything, stood against anything or shown courage in some way will find that both sides of human nature will be amplified. Focusing on an area such as 'kindness' also amplifies glimpses of our own imperfect faces when we look in the mirror – something I wasn’t expecting to discover when I embarked on this adventure.
The past 18 months have made me face up to the fact that none of us are perfect – every one of us needs to be more careful about considering how our own words, actions, inactions and choices might be received or perceived by others and of how they might impact other people. The ugly sister of kindness is a sneaky shadow that can somehow creep up on us unexpectedly, particularly when we are dealing with a lot in our lives, when someone is unkind towards us, or when we are triggered by something that takes us instantly back to a past traumatic experience. We can all be clumsy with our choice of words, with words unspoken, or with our actions, instantly changing the tone of a conversation or a situation irreparably in the blink of an eye. Life is a continuous learning journey and a constant reminder that we are all perfectly imperfect, none of us will ever reach true perfection and that’s what makes us human.
I’ve never been one to chase after fancy job titles, job roles that pay a huge salary or to chase after fame, my passion throughout my career has always been to help lift others, whether that be to overcome barriers, gain qualifications, develop skills or confidence, to find sustainable employment, or more recently on a larger scale to try to encourage improvements in workplaces – it has always been about people and missions for me, never about ego, so much so that not so long ago I went job title and post-nominals free to commit to not being ego led...... but I’ve had a rethink and have decided that having a title and post-nominals isn’t about ego, it’s about being proud of your achievements, your hard work and the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into something you have undertaken. So, as well as facing into the mirror in terms of my imperfect humanness, I also need to face into what I’ve accomplished with the help of others (what WE've accomplished):
My name is Joanna Suvarna and I’m super proud to be the perfectly imperfect Founder and Chief Kindness Officer of #BeTheRipple.
You can find PDFs of all blog pieces: