This week, I spent some of my last hours as a University of Wisconsin-Extension employee at a Multicultural Awareness Workshop. This is the same workshop that, 3 years ago, changed my life. Workshops like this are what UWEX and Cooperative Extension are all about. Transformational learning. UWEX wants to give people a chance to transform through knowledge. To leave behind ideas, notions and stereotypes, that keep us stuck in one place.
The Multicultural Awareness Workshop wasn’t mandatory, it wasn’t necessary, and honestly most of all, it wasn’t convenient. I signed up knowing I was going to have a nearly 4 hour drive one way, and I was still determined to go. I wanted to experience it again. I wanted to challenge my beliefs, reflect on my own culture and “try on” other’s experiences. A group who started out as separate as black & white, straight & gay, city & country, left united as transformed people. We left raw with emotion. We left ready for change. We left bound by acceptance. What I love most about this workshop is the security you have while exploring these deep, tangled and often painful concepts. UWEX provides a safe place for tackling tough issues that, because of their complexity, are often ignored.
I came away with so many insights to ponder, and one stuck with me most. A participant mentioned how she was starting to understand the “absolute safety of absolutes.” When someone is absolutely sure of something, they are safe. Safe from change. Safe from becoming enlightened. Safe from experiencing life on a deeper level.
I’m sure of very few things, one thing I know for sure - my 4 years with UWEX has made me a different person. It has transformed my life in more ways than I can count. I’m so grateful for the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been and the work I’ve done. My job with UWEX is over, but my work helping others to transform through learning is just getting started.
This poster torn out of Teaching Tolerance magazine hangs above my desk.