A few weeks ago I caught up with a good friend who I haven’t seen for ages and who I care about, and respect, deeply. We were sharing observations and stories about key shifts and changes in New Zealand over recent years and during the course of the conversation I told her about some of the heartbreaking stories I had come across in my work since I started looking closely at the effect of the 2013 Welfare Reforms on our society.
Some of the stories involved families with children living in vehicles and garages, some involved elderly members of our community who had been reduced to tears as a result of demeaning engagements with Work and Income New Zealand. And as the stories came pouring out, I found myself holding my head in my hands and saying to my friend – “maybe I just care too much?”. And in reply, she said to me: “Yes, if you are going to lead – you are going to have to stop caring – because no matter what you do, someone will always miss out, or wont be happy with your decisions.”
For weeks now I’ve mulled over her words, turned them upside down, reflected on them, weighed them up and despite every effort to accept them – I have come to the conclusion that in actual fact what we need in our society is the exact opposite: we need more leaders who CHOOSE to care. More people who stand up, put their own interests to one side and give a damn about the society within which we live and within which future generations are going to inherit. And what I’ve realised, as time has passed is that while caring for others / and being driven by empathy may be perceived to be a weakness by some, it is in fact one of my greatest strengths – and one that I will never question again.
“Be the Change You Wish to See in the World” Mahatma Ghandi