Why STLF matters now more than ever.
STLF matters now more than ever. In the days following the presidential election I learned about the “Safety Pin Movement.” The movement picks up on a movement that started in the UK following the Brexit vote. In the UK people pinned safety pins to their shirts and lapels in silent protest to the outcome of the Brexit referendum. They also wore the pins as a sign to immigrants they were a “safe” person, someone who supported and advocated for immigrants. Following the election Tuesday this symbolic act of wearing a safety pin was adopted by some in the US as show of support for immigrants and others who feared the policies of the incoming presidential administration would threaten or limit their rights.
When I read about the Safety Pin Movement I resonated with its impulses. Criminal justice reform, immigration reform, gender equality, racial reconciliation, and LGBTQ rights are all social and political issues that matter to me; but more than that, the issues are representative of people who matter to me. When people feel threatened, unwelcome, or fearful I want them to know I’m on their side; as much as I can be, I’m in it with them. I don’t know that a safety pin on my shirt accomplishes much, but it feels like something. Maybe that’s a problem. Maybe feeling like I’m doing something which isn’t actually making a difference for the people I care about is a problem.
All of this caused me to think deeply about STLF and the work we do in revealing leadership and inspiring purpose and mobilizing service. Do we create a safe and open culture in our trainings and tours? Do people from diverse backgrounds experience belonging, respect, and connection? Do we need to incorporate safety pins? I don’t think we’ll be adding safety pins to our tour supply lists. From the beginning STLF has, at its core valued empathy. We mobilize young people for service so that they might gain a perspective on how others experience life. That forms empathy. We train students to lead other students. That forms empathy. We create environments in which students get tired, hungry, uncomfortable, and disoriented with their peers. That forms empathy. Nearly everything we do forms empathy.
Empathy matters now more than ever. The strength of character to listen, withhold judgement, and seek understanding matters now more than ever. The capacity to care more about people than ideas matters now more than ever. For 13 years STLF has been building empathy in young people, and it matters now more than ever.
Support our work in building empathy by making a donation on Give to the Max Day. We value and appreciate your support (and empathy).