by Lou Giramma, Aspire Living & Learning CEO

Though it has been out for a while, I just finished reading the book Caste: The Origins of our Discontents. It is a powerful book and I urge everyone to read it. The author, Isabel Wilkerson, contextualizes the history and present state of race and systemic racism in our country. It is an elucidating portrayal of the extremely tainted journey we have been on in creating the current structure(s) of pervasive, systemic racism. She offers us many thought-provoking examples of the creation of these systems throughout this country’s history.

I want to share one quote as it relates directly to us and our work at Aspire.

“If each of us could truly see and connect with the humanity of the person in front of us, search for that key that opens the door to whatever we may have in common,…it could begin to affect how we see the world and others in it, perhaps change the way we hire or even vote. Each time a person reaches across caste and makes a connection, it helps to break the back of caste. Multiplied by millions in a given day, it becomes the flap of a butterfly wing that shifts the air and builds to a hurricane across an ocean.”

This is our work! Our service is making connections and the eventual empowerment that emanates from those connections. We go through our days trying to make connections with those we serve so that we can serve them better. We rely on our common humanity to discover those ways in which we can help one another grow and develop; to see our world in a different light than we presently do through valuing and sharing our different perspectives.

While we continue the work of connection, I urge you to think about it in a deeper way. We should frame our concept of service more broadly to include our service to each other and not just the people we serve. As we journey together, our work is to understand, embrace, and hold in reverence that which makes us each unique and different. Difference is good. Difference is the gift we give each other, a catalyst to facilitate our own developmental journey. Let us each be that butterfly that flaps its wings in the hope of creating a transformational hurricane.

Soon we will continue our collective journey in the work of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in a more structured and strategic way. The work to weave these elements into the cultural fabric that is Aspire Living & Learning will not be easy, but it will be crucial. It will be that which sustains us and will allow us to provide the foundations of service which our mission demands. This work will stretch us all and will prompt us to look and think deeper, and in ways that may feel uncomfortable. Discomfort is healthy and we have each other as support during uncomfortable periods. We will emerge from the transformational hurricane in a more empowered place, individually and collectively. I look forward to the journey and I am excited to know that we are all on this journey together as one agency, as Aspire Living & Learning.

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Praise for the book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents