November 15, 2015

Gin PostI am on edge. As many of you know I am traveling often all over the world and fortunate to meet people from diverse backgrounds where they live. This is a true privilege. Most recently I traveled to Uzbekistan to consult at Tashkent International School and took three days of touring – quite unusual for me. One day I toured in Tashkent and learned about the changing government over time, the way the architecture represents different aspects of history, and the cultural mores of today—including how couples in arranged marriages first meet. Two days in Samarkand made vivid the splendors and brilliance of the reign of Timur (which also caused many deaths) and his descendants where culture and science flourished with Ulugbek who was assassinated in part for advocating education for women in the 1400s. This is a Muslim country that aims to live in harmony with those around them. Most memorable of all my experiences were the conversations, the meeting of people who engage in life like we all do, the daily routines that build family and community.

The horrific terror that has emerged in Paris, unconscionable act. Senseless to me. Unfathomable. And then I also read online about the other terrorist attack this week that I did not know about. Suicide bombing claimed also by ISIS in Beirut. And there were others that I don’t know about.

Today I am in Bangkok, a day “off” before a week of consulting at the International School of Bangkok. I have been scrolling social media reading numerous articles about these events and feeling this agitation that comes from this deep desire to know and understand and yet feeling inadequate to the task.

Then I saw a posting on Instagram, one that gave a list that seemed to have come from students at a Global Issues Network conference in Hong Kong this weekend. The heading is “Active Citizenship” with a list (you see the image). I realize this list applies to adults as well as students so I began, as writers tend to do, with edits for myself – for what I hope to live.

Engage . . .

Read the news daily. And read from at least one other country as well. One country may not have the full perspective to lessen bias.

Have a conversation with someone you don’t normally speak to, or a brand new person. And go beyond the weather to substance—to get to know the person and be known.

Be uncomfortable. At least sometime during the day. To try something new, listen to a unique perspective, grapple with the less familiar.

Find a mentor to learn from. In fact more than one mentor. A younger mentor. An elder mentor. A peer mentor. A quiet mentor.

Speak with elders. They know something that we could lose. They have a range of knowledge from a lifetime. Listen well. I recall meeting Elizabeth Lindsey, an amazing woman “raised by native Hawaiian elders” who has been capturing humanity’s stories (listen to her TED talk). She guides me to understand the stories that could be lost. “Someday the world will be in trouble; it will take elders from the far corners of the world to call the world into balance.”

Identify a cause that moves you from words to ideas to action. Whatever the cause—they are all interconnected—find others already involved. Learn about what is working and what you can do to assist. If you find a gap and triple check that the response is missing initiate in partnership with the community most impacted. Service. Some think this is the “wrong” word, however it’s not the word, it’s the meaning we apply  to the word. For me the act of “service” always builds on reciprocal relationships, on recognizing collective assets and growing from mutual respect and understanding. Small steps. Get involved, move beyond a donation of funds to a donation of time, skills, talents.

Find a story of service every day so you see what is being done. In my social media scrolling I found a brilliant quote from the wonderful Mr. (Fred) Rogers who said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” I want to remember this daily. As we work with children of all ages, keep this in mind.

Involve others. Be bold and talk about what matters to you and engage with others. Find out what matters to them.

Live joyfully. Find that equilibrium where we are laughing and in joy along with meeting the challenges that face us. Being engaged in itself elevates us and resonates deeply. Being engaged is critical for experiencing joy.   

I would welcome to know what you are thinking about today and tomorrow. You can email me at

Thank you for reading.


Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A. 

Follow me on Twitter @cbkaye, or friend me on Facebook or Linked In at Cathryn Berger Kaye. I am also on Declara.

To learn more about my Service Learning day long (in London) and weekend service learning institutes this winter (Singapore and Kuala Lumpur), and to find out about my two three-day Summer Service Learning Institutes visit the home page or Calendar. For IBO folks, I am leading a DP Cat 1 online course on service learning starting in February 2016. Email me to be sure to find out.

Make these days and month count. ENGAGE