Tag Archives: Cross-cultural

Monday Morning Moment – Leveraging Our Limitations – in Real Time

Photo Credit: Grace Covenant

This expression “leveraging our limitations” is brand-new to me. Fresh as today, in fact.  Best-selling author Jeff Goins talked about it in this week’s e-newsletter (worth your subscribing for his wisdom as a writer but also in tackling any challenge).

Before I jump into Goins’ take on leaning into our limitations, Let me describe the situation today where my limitations all but glowed.

Last Fall, (to give context), I took a course through the non-profit  Embrace Richmond. Wendy McCaig, executive director of Embrace, taught the course entitled Mission Shift: Assets-Based Community Development (ABCDs). Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig

“ABCD builds on the gifts, talents and passions of neighborhood residents and strengthens communities from the inside out.” – Embrace Richmond

Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig

Through a Communities in School (CIS) program in a local county, I was able to become a mentor for a high school student trained on how to interview and gather information from various members of a community. Their answers would add to a body of work on both what residents love about their neighborhood and what they wish they could change. This listening project will hopefully culminate in a “dream team” of neighbor influencers, potentially including this student…all who could participate in engineering a plan for change if needed.

Student-Led Listening: Strengthening Our Schools in Partnership With CIS Chesterfield – Wendy McCaig

It was a joy for me to enter into the experience of adult neighbors and their like-culture student interviewer. Even the time we needed out of their day seemed a thing gladly given. We all want to be heard…and for these several minutes, the student and I were listening with full attention.

I was both wholly in the experience and also observing the experience. The women interviewed were so gracious. Children in tow sometimes. Their responses were so insightful and authentic. Even speaking with strangers. It was surprising and lovely. These women clearly were influencers in their own right…in the small sphere of their world.

The one man we interviewed was the most surprising. He had just gotten home from work and his wife was leaving at the same time (I didn’t understand if it was to her job or for something personal). He still invited us in for the interview. Still holding his lunch bag, and his supper prepared for him and getting cold on the table, he answered our young interviewer’s questions. This man was so elegant and articulate. I could see him, in a different life situation, capable of being a town mayor or other community leader. Without English as a first language and an immigrant in this country, his opportunities to lead have been diminished. I hope through this project, he (they) can have a voice at the table.

This, for me, was hopefully the first of many such afternoons, accompanying a high school student engaging her community in a very different and deeper way.

For me it was extraordinary.

Finding this eletter from Jeff Goins on arriving home, its timing couldn’t have been more perfect…and what he had to say about leveraging our limitations…enthralling.

Part of his message today:

“How often do we think something cannot be done until someone else does it?

Sometimes, the trick isn’t to work harder. It’s to recognize the opportunity in the obstacle.

These days, I think of limitations as leverage. My greatest breakthroughs come not when I ignore my challenges or even try to overcome them, but when I learn to use them. Turns out, this is a pretty good strategy for doing work that’s worth noticing: Don’t be better, be different.

How many limitations am I not leaning into?

How many obstacles am I trying to overcome when really I just need to own them?

When we lean in to our limitations, we create work that is for someone, not everyone...When those few see it, they instantly know it is for them. –  Jeff Goins 

You see, for some time now, I’ve wanted to figure out how to confront the staggering problems of poverty and race relations in our city. How could someone like me help in a healthy and sustainable way? One person with so many limitations.

  • Being an outsider.
  • Having little influence myself.
  • Not knowing the language (Spanish or Mixteko – the two languages in the neighborhood of our listening project).
  • Nor the culture.
  • Nor having the experience of an immigrant.
  • Only a beginner’s understanding of ABCD.

Jeff Goins’ piece pushed me to read more and Angela Lee Duckworth‘s quote on grit popped up.

Photo Credit: Angela Lee Duckworth, Thriving Intentionally

Leaning into our limitations…leveraging our limitations can make us more authentic and approachable. More determined to not let our limitations to define us or hinder us.

Did I want to quit several times this afternoon? Absolutely. Did our amazing high schooler? Totally. Today we didn’t quit…hopefully we won’t. We construct our comfort zones to protect our limitations… to not have to face them. It’s not conscious necessarily, but it just is.

So here’s to leveraging our limitations. Ready to lean in…another day.

Leveraging Your Limitations – Steve Brown

Leveraging Your Limitations – Thriving Intentionally – Erin

Bosna Market & Deli – Great Food and a Flashback to Old Friends and a Distant War

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We have all had those days…when a bite of food can take you back and sometimes a far off. Here’s my flight of memories from today.

I am intrigued by all the international restaurants in our city. When a new one opens, it’s always appealing to try it, at least once. Bosna Market & Deli has been open a few months, and finally our son, Daniel, and I pulled in to check it out for lunch.

We loved it right from the front door. A sign was posted on the door different than any restaurant sign I had ever seen:

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Right there we wanted to be customers.

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This being our first time, the sole attendant (may have been the owner; wish now I had asked) helped us make our selection. We chose a cheese burek and a spinach burek.

Blog - Friday Faves - Bosna Market Deli (2)

The cheese burek took me back to our sweet years in Cairo, Egypt. It reminded me so much of the filo pastry filled with cheese (or meat and cheese). There it is called goulash (picture below).Egyptian Goulash - pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest

As I ate that Bosnian savory, my mind linked this experience with a taxi ride in Cairo, years ago. It was during a time that the US had made some unpopular political decisions in the Middle East, and being American could lead to lots of awkward conversations. We still felt very safe but having learned Arabic we were often drawn into conversations where we were asked to explain our government’s decisions…as if we could.

In that taxi, that day, riding with two young Egyptian friends, the taxi driver launched into conversation with them first, and then, when he saw I was understanding, he included me. World politics rose to the top of the conversation, and, seeing I was very definitely foreign, he asked where I was from.

Before I could answer, one of my friends whispered to me in English, “Tell him you’re from Bosnia!” What?! I knew he was very animated and didn’t like America so much right then…but why Bosnia? She answered for me. Later, they told me that everyone was sympathetic toward Bosnia because of the war and that I wouldn’t have to talk about America to an unsympathetic Egyptian man.Blog - Sherine, Debbie, Heba

Other than seeing news reports on TV and online, that was my first occasion to confront what it was like for the Bosnians. It was the first time I even thought about them, to be honest, I am ashamed to say. The war was over by then, and it was confusing what really happened [I have since read much more about it].

Using the Bosnian nationality was to give me a break from being judged as the rich American that day…how strange was that?!

Then a few years later, when we were living in Casablanca, Morocco, I had the great blessing of meeting and becoming friends with this captivating Bosnian woman. She and her husband immigrated to Morocco after the war. We met through an international English class which I facilitated. All us women had so much fun together, swapping stories in English, Arabic, and French sometimes.2007 - June -- Amal, Meryem, Semsa, Fatima, Terri & Lizzy

Our Bosnian friend also had fun stories…but when the conversation turned to her experiences of the war, we listened quietly…to unbelievable acts of hatred from one people toward another. The Bosnian Muslims were victims of a severe ethnic cleansing, and the losses they experienced were beyond imagination.

[Sidebar – enjoying the Bosnian lunch back home with my memories stirred, I wanted to refresh my memory of the war, so read online awhile about those terrible atrocities…and the stories of kindness from strangers.]

Mallory Merda wrote a series of articles on a Bosnian family for The Sentinel, the local newspaper of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. After the war, Bosnian refugees settled in Europe and around the Mediterranean Sea. Some however came all the way to the US. One couple, Semsa & Zehrid Alic, with two small boys, settled many years ago in Carlisle.

You can read some of their story in Merda’s articles (link below)…the accounts are fascinating and thought-provoking. The Alic boys are now young men, and the family is American. There is still the horror of war in their memory…and the cost of it lingers. There stories are like so many others – people displaced from their countries, their families, the lives they had before. How glad I am that they had sponsors in the US, just regular people like you and me, who helped them, loved them toward a new life here…a different life and a new beginning.Blog - Bosna - Semsa Alic & Family - SentinelPhoto Credit: The Sentinel

So this is how my mind works…distractable at best. Where it takes me in a day is sometimes where this blog goes.

If you have a Bosnian restaurant near you, you are in for a treat. Our food today was magnificent, and we will be back. I am hoping the next time to hear something of that Bosnian family who own the restaurant, here in Richmond, and of their journey to this hopefully peaceful place.IMG_4327

As we enjoyed their savory “made fresh every morning” food, I hoped they have experienced love from their neighbors here. I also hope they know that, now that we know what happened, we won’t forget either.

Bosna Market and Deli

Semsa Alic Finds Her Peace After Surviving Bosnian War

Farewell to Bosnia – See entire series of blogs on Bosnia – Genocide Prevention

Mostar - Dont forget - Alan GrantPhoto Credit: Alan Grant

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