The Other Fellow First” Chapel Talk at Kiniya on 8/7/11 by Christy Coyne #14255
Good Morning to all: Campers, leaders, Staff, friends and family. I am so very honored to be here at Kiniya this morning and want you to know — before I delve into this talk — that I have never, ever, ever, been so proud to be associated anything (aside from my husband and children) as I am to be associated with Camp Dudley at Kiniya and Camp Dudley. I feel completely and totally blessed to be connected to all that is of Dudley, as though I just might be one of the luckiest people on earth.
Now, why I am here as your Chapel speaker, other than having a connection to Dudley, is a bit hard to give good reason for: I certainly haven’t any qualifications whatsoever as a public speaker, least of all a Chapel speaker — someone who has any talent or expertise to guide you through reflection upon your connection to God or whatever higher-power with which you have a relationship. I’m just an average person who spends most of her time as a mom and a clinical social worker which, if you are wondering, means I practice psychotherapy with individuals, couples and families.
For those of you who thinking that that description didn’t help much, let me explain that what I do as a clinical social worker is meet with people who — in some way or another — want things to change in their lives and –99.9% — of the time that change involves wanting their relationships, their connection to others to improve.
So for instance, they may be sad or angry about something TOO much of the time – and it is getting in the way of being able to enjoy their lives and get along with others around them (as opposed to being sad and angry some of the time, which is totally ok!); maybe it’s a family in which the mom and dad have decided not to be married anymore; maybe it’s a family that needs help being better listeners for each other and showing each other how much they really love one another other.
Whatever the case, my job is not to tell people how to solve their problems or what to do; my job is to help them find their own way to do what they can to make the changes they want to make so they can have the relationships they hope for.
I have to tell you that, in my opinion, everyone who comes to see me is a hero because I believe that those who tell me about the difficult and usually uncomfortable — even painful — situations in their lives in an attempt to create change and foster connection with their loved ones are the coolest, bravest people I know.
OK! So, now that you know what I do, you know for sure that I haven’t got any special qualifications whatsoever that make me a chapel speaker! But since this is Chapel — the time and place that is meant for reflecting upon your relationship with God or whatever it is that helps you to be the person you know you are and that enables you to feel connected to all that surrounds you — I’m just going to try to do the best I can to create an opportunity for you -– even if it’s just for a fleeting moment – during which you can be mindful of your true self and your connection to that which you are a part …….. this physical space: the pines and lake and breeze and, of course, your friends and loved ones here and at home …. and even those you may not consider friends or loved ones here or at home!
When I awake to the experience of my connection to everything around me – the knowing that I am a part of everything and everything is just as much a part of me — is when I’m most sure of aware of God’s presence in my life.
When this happens I always get a feeling that goes with the knowing, so it’s not just a thought in my head; it’s an actual feeling that wells from deep in my bones, and gently courses through me like hot chocolate does after a cold day in the snow.
I know this feeling is important and comes from a power greater than me because — regardless of the circumstance I’m in when it happens, whether the events around me are happy or sad, I get the same feeling – born from the spirit of connection — a feeling of comfort and joy.
So, for example, I often feel the presence of God – or connected — when I am at hymn sing. (Who doesn’t, right? Aren’t we lucky?!) But I feel it, too, when I am saying goodbye to someone or someplace I love, as soon you will do when you leave Kiniya behind for another year; or it can happen when someone, often a client I work with, shares with me his or her sadness and pain.
You may think that it is odd to feel comfort and joy when listening to and bearing witness to another person’s story of pain or confusion. Indeed, you maybe wondering what sort of person or therapist might I be! But the same spirit of connection is present and thus, so is the comfort and joy.
I’m going to explain this some more because I think you, better than any other group of girls and young women I know, can understand what I’m trying to get at because you know about “The Other Fellow First”.
Yup, this is another talk about the Other Fellow First. And now you may be thinking that you’ve had your fill of talking about .. and listening to others talk about … the Other Fellow First.
I am sorry to make you do it again – sort of …. sorry to not be more original or exciting … but not sorry to talk about it some more because it’s a topic that I never get bored of.
I never get bored thinking about it or talking about it because I know the opportunity to practice the Other Fellow is alive in every moment of every day. And I believe that it’s part of what’s happening when we experience those incredible moments of connection that are awakenings to our connection to God.
(And this is what I really meant when I said earlier that I feel so blessed to be a part of ALL that is Dudley, … blessed to have had the chance to learn and practice – and be surrounded by people who are also learning and practicing — the way of the “Other Fellow.”)
The Other Fellow is an endless topic if you ask me. It may seem simple but there’s a LOT to it, which is, in my opinion why it’s such a marvelous and extraordinary belief to live by… and action to practice.
I hope, though, now, talk about how to practice the Other Fellow First in a way that maybe you haven’t thought of yet or talked about too much ….
On the other hand, may be you have … so here’s what happened a almost three weeks ago when I was at Dudley in Westport picking up my son, Aicher, at the end of first session this summer. His co-leader, Ted Dale, yes, you know his sister!) was hugging Ike goodbye and sent him off with words to remember …… and those words summed up this talk I’m giving in 10 seconds …..
Don’t you wish he were the speaker today???!!!
He srepeated to Ike a quote (by I-don’t-know-who ) “Remember” he said, “Sometimes, you can make a difference in the world just by being who you are” …. It was pretty close to that anyway ….. and, well, I pretty much freaked out!
(Silently, of course, because they were saying their good-byes and I didn’t want to disturb them!)
SO! THE very concept I hoped to whittle-down-to in my Chapel talk, the idea I’d been contemplating for months in an attempt to talk about and make some sense of, was summed up by Ted Dale in 10 seconds!
After the getting over the coincidence of the situation, I have to admit that I felt a wave of disappointment in myself, disappointment because I told myself that my Chapel talk would be far from Original. ……………
Then, ….. I felt serious anxiety because I told myself I would totally bore all of you with a topic you hear about all the time.
After acknowledging those thoughts and feelings to myself (which only took a few seconds, believe it or not; they are very fast acting — thoughts and feelings — so it can be easy not know what you are feeling or really thinking sometimes) ….
After acknowledging those first thoughts the other feelings came …. The Comfort and Joy …. Even amongst self-doubt and fear, comfort and joy showed up, too and, really I was surprised. But I knew, since I felt them, that something good and powerful was at work and I’d best pay attention to whatever it was instead of my worries about the future or what people will think of me.
Within seconds I understood. And still watching Ted hug Ike, inviting Ike as he did to carry on the important work of the other fellow – I understood that Ted Dale didn’t STEAL my Chapel talk, I understood that Ted Dale IS my chapel talk: that he is the perfect example, the very embodiment of one who colorfully strives – gifts, quirks, flaws, talents and all — to act from his true nature, to be only who he is. And for that striving alone he is a phenomenal practitioner of the Other Fellow.
Ok, so how is it, you are probably asking yourself, that just “being yourself” – an idea you probably are told do often by parents and teachers and coaches and leaders — and hopefully, too, your friends, — that THAT is practicing the Other Fellow First? (I’ll give you a hint: It has to do with CONNECTION)
What I want you to be aware of as you practice The Other Fellow by “just being yourself” during the remainder of your time here and when you get back home is …how hard it really is to be yourself when you think that people may not like or accept the parts of you that you yourself may not be so comfortable with; that’s right the parts of us – we all have them – that we think aren’t good enough and so we hide them.
Now, I’m not saying go out there and tell everyone you see all about the stuff that you hate about yourself!
What I’m suggesting is, first, to be really honest with yourself. Do you do and say things that are in line with the way YOU really feel? Or do you say and do things because you think OTHERS will think it’s the right thing to say or do? Can you think of times when you did both those things? (We all do it, I promise!)
And can you remember how you felt in each instance?
I’m willing to bet anything that you felt better when you acted and spoke from the place of authenticity, the place of genuineness and truth, versus the other place: the place of wanting to fit in or, at least, to not stand out!
Now, like I said, we all act from that place sometimes, even when we know better, so don’t get down on yourself! Just keep practicing because as you do you are also practicing the Other Fellow. Here’s how I know…..
I was introduced, by my mother-in-law, who is here today, to the work of a Social Worker named Dr. Brene Brown who is not a clinical social worker, like I am, but a Researcher Social Worker. She researchers SHAME as a matter of fact. Yup, she researchers shame. Yuck! Ever had that feeling of shame? (I have and still do but less and less as I work to just be myself). Dr. Brown defines shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of connection. Shame she has discovered through her research has something to do with the fear of DISCONNECTION. And shame, she has figured out– by listening to hundreds and hundreds of people over years and years is — actually counter-acted by the practice of both accepting just who are – our gifts, quirks, flaws, talents – all of it ….. AND BEING just who you are with others, not just showing others the part of you that you think THEY think is ok to show.
Most importantly, she discovered that when people do that, when they “just be themselves” — and get really good at it like Ted Dale, for instance — they actually feel MORE connected to everything and everyone around them.
Dr. Brown says it best when she says,
Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand doesn’t require us to CHANGE who we are; it requires us to BE who we are.
I believe that when we are connected to others – which usually means they are feeling connected to us, too – we are in the grace of God for having practiced the Other Fellow First.
Sometimes it can seem like the Other Fellow First means doing something for someone less fortunate than us, or someone that needs help, which puts us in the position of being the helper, the more powerful one, in a way. That way of practicing the other Fellow first doesn’t have as much meaning for me because I don’t believe that one person is better than another person. I believe we are all equally capable in our own ways and worthy of love and connection.
When you act from your true nature, especially when it is scary to do so and you fear being rejected, I think it’s the greatest practice of the Other Fellow First you can do because you are offering true connection and belonging to those with whom you have dared to be real.
The last thing I will tell you that I learned from Dr. Brown is that through her research she determined this as FACT:
A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all women, men and children.
In that case, I think that if you are playing a role in your family or community that supports connection and belonging – just by being yourself – you are INDEED practicing the other Fellow First.
There are many reasons, I’m sure, why you love Camp Dudley at Kiniya. The singing, your leaders, your friends, the activities … and so on… I’m willing to bet, though, that another reason you love camp is for the feeling of belonging, of being connected to each other and this place. And I am willing to bet, as well, that your practice of the other fellow, and the practice of being the other fellow, that is allowing someone else to be just who THEY are), has everything to do with that sense of belonging.
Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts about the other Fellow with you today.
To close, I’d like to share a final quote, from yet another Social Worker, a woman who I’m guessing is pretty comfortable being just who she is because she goes by the name Oriah Mountain Dreamer, a name given to her by Shamanic teacher who instructed her that it meant, “One Who Likes to Find and Push the Edge.”
She describes herself as someone who “encourages herself and others to be ruthlessly honest and infinitely kind toward our own strengths and our weaknesses.”
I want to remind us all that the world is listening, all the time. How we are ripples out from us into the world and affects others. We have a responsibility – an ability to respond – to the world. Finding our particular way of living this responsibility, of offering who we are to the world, is why we are here. We are called because the world needs us to embody the meaning in our lives. God needs us awake …. How we are with each other as individuals, as groups, as nations and tribes, is what shapes that dream.
Christy Coyne #14255