LIVES IN BETWEEN

The somewhat different intercultural communication blog

Year: 2017

Attention, unedited babbling

Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you, sang Alanis Morrissette in her 1995 song Ironic. She was right. Life does tend to take over if you let it. It just goes on, with or without you. The show goes on, it must. You need to decide, which role you take on in the play called “The life and death of [insert your name here]”. Are you the actor following a script? Who wrote the script? Are you the director? Or an extra? (by the way, if you haven’t watched Extras by Ricky Gervais, do so!)

That’s a lot of metaphors. Clichés? Maybe.

But do me a favor and think about it. Perhaps tell me about it.

I’ll leave you with some more wisdom from the philosopher on love, life and peace, John Lennon, from his song Beautiful Boy.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Off to work.

How a cup of coffee can save lives – Weekly Act of Kindness #2

Now that I keep my eyes and ears open for great initiatives that change people’s lives for the better, I start noticing them everywhere. This week I’d like to share with you the idea of Suspended Coffees. Founded by John M. Sweeney, currently occupying the position of chief kindness officer (what a fabulous job title!), the movement aims to restore faith in humanity by highlighting simple acts of kindness happening all around us (such as being invited to a cup of coffee), and encouraging others to do the same.

Kindness can come in many forms, including the purchase of a suspended coffee, which is the very idea that inspired this movement. A suspended coffee is the advance purchase of a cup of coffee for someone who needs it, no matter why. But it really is about so much more than the coffee. It can provide physical comfort, conversation, a smile or even a laugh, and a sense of belonging. A suspended coffee can change lives, sometimes even save them.

The idea is simple. When you are in a coffee shop, instead of buying just one cup for yourself, you can purchase two or more cups of coffee in advance for someone who needs it, but is unable to pay.

I find this initiative great for two reasons. One, it is simple, direct, with immediate impact. Two, the anonymity of the gesture takes away the unequal power relation that is often inherent in charitable acts (the one who gives vs. the one who receives, the savior and the victim, the rich and the poor).

I work in coffee shops a lot. On one occasion – at Starbuck’s – a homeless person approached me and asked me for 5 Swiss francs to buy a cup of coffee. I gave it to him. Got him a hot drink, and made me feel good. But had Suspended Coffees been available, it would have spared this man the humiliation of asking for my money.

In Switzerland, so far one coffee shop in Canton Aargau participates in the movement. If anybody from that region reads my blog, I’d love to hear about your visit to that café. In Austria (my native country), there are three. I’ll certainly check them out next time I’m there.

What can YOU do to make this world a better place? Weekly Act of Kindness #1

So much for keeping New Year’s resolutions. It’s been far too long since my last post, but what can I say… life has gotten in the way.

However, I have not been idle. I have been collecting content and inspirations for a new feature I’d like to introduce on my blog: the Weekly Act of Kindness.

Bad news are all around at the moment. The world we live in seems to become increasingly inward-looking, nationalist, self-centred, doubtful of strangers. World leaders (including democratically elected ones!) are erecting walls to stop “illicit migration flows”, in other words, keeping out people in need, in search for safety or simply a better life. But the fact that they come from different cultural backgrounds automatically makes them suspicious. All of this deeply bothers me, makes me sad, even a bit scared for the future sometimes.

But instead of being gloomy and lamenting the state of the world which seems to be in decline of solidarity and a basic sense of humanity, I thought I’d do something more uplifting and inspiring – because there are also good things out there. Our eyes and mind just need to practice recognizing them. Somebody once said, kindness is like a muscle, the more we exercise it the better we are at it.

So, what is the Weekly Act of Kindness? Each week I’ll present an idea, an initiative or a project – however big or small – which contributes in its own way to making this world a better place. This may sound cheesy to some of you, but aren’t we all in need of good news, of inspiration? Perhaps some of the examples I bring will even inspire you to do something similar, to take action in the context and limits of your own life. This is my hope and motivation anyway.

So, don’t be shy to share this with friends or share your own ideas with me here on this blog. Every contribution counts, even a gesture as small and seemingly insignificant as an uplifting smile or a friendly hello to the person sitting in front of you on the bus on the way to work in the morning.

Weekly Act of Kindness #1 – “Leave a coat” racks

This picture is what actually got me thinking about the Weekly Act of Kindness idea.

Need a coat? Take one. Want to help? Leave one.

This simple yet potentially life saving initiative helps people from poorer households, homeless people, those who cannot afford a proper warm jacket get through winter. I am not sure who and where it started, but the initiative has been replicated across the US and the UK. Simple. Small. Useful. Wonderful.

Stay tuned for more inspirations. What’s yours?

New Year’s Resolution: To Find My Voice as a Blogger

Possibly inspired by the movie The King’s Speech, I found my new year’s resolution: I will dedicate 2017 to finding my voice as a blogger and writer.

Being a development professional in “real life”, I immediately picture this logframe (short for Logical Framework, a widely used tool to manage development projects, and measure progress and results):

Overall goal: Find my voice as a blogger and writer

Outcome 1: A small piece of writing produced every day (or at least very regularly)

Outcome 2: Different styles and formats experimented with

2016 has been a good year blogging-wise. During a 3 month sabbatical over summer I finally decided to act on my desire to write. I took the time to set up a website and published my first posts. Following various bloggers’ advice on what works best, what a blog should look like and how it should be structured, I have experimented with different topics and formats. I’ve done some typical “how to” pieces” (e.g. Intercultural Communication 101 – How to prepare for your trip abroad), I’ve written posts inspired by real life events (e.g. Thanksgiving Thoughts – Celebrating Extraordinary Encounters), I’ve written book reviews (because when I don’t write, I read, and one of my favorites this year was Americanah), and I also shared some more personal reflections (e.g. about that funny thing called home).

While it has been a great journey so far (taking baby steps, really), I am well aware that I haven’t arrived yet at where I want to be as a blogger and writer. That’s why it is time to look back to the roots, to why I have started this blog in the first place. It might sound cheesy, overly ambitious, perhaps even a bit naïve, but – apart from my love for writing – my underlying ambition for this blog was to inspire people to see the good in each other. To act with kindness and respect for other human beings, regardless of their cultural, social or other differences. I deeply resent all forms of racism and discrimination, and what is happening across Europe and many other countries in “the West” these days is deeply scary and disconcerting to me.

But enough with the rambling. Here is what you can expect from this blog in 2017 in the quest to find my own, authentic voice as a blogger: more opinion pieces on contemporary issues I care about, more experimenting with free flow formats, more creativity, more inspirational stories from people I meet through life and work doing good, more personal reflections, and many more book reviews.

To fellow bloggers: What have you done to find your personal style, your voice?

Let’s see what 2017 holds in store for us, I can’t wait.

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