I ran on trails this morning for the first time since I fell and broke my wrist a month ago. Since I was already registered for a race happening today, I figured I would give it a try and do my best to be careful. I took off my splint as it’s not very comfortable to wear while running and the metal brackets would also likely injure my arm if I happened to wipe out with them on.

The first 8K loop went OK but I spent most of my time concentrating on the ground, watching for every rock and root along the way. On the second 8K loop I stumbled twice, but managed to stay on my feet without falling both times. However, the two stumbles led to a state of hyper vigilance. By the time I started the third loop, I was exhausted mentally from focusing so much on not falling. My wrist was also starting to ache a bit. At that point, I decided (read: finally accepted) that running this race wasn’t a smart idea at this stage of my recovery so I slowed right down and jogged the rest of the loop, finishing at the halfway mark of the race at 25K.

Going into this trail run, I knew that if I fell and hurt my wrist, I would likely need to have surgery. This was made clear to me two weeks ago at the hospital, which is why I wasn’t even sure last night that I would go to the race. What I didn’t know is how tiring it would be to spend so much time watching for tripping hazards and constantly worrying about falling.

The fact is that my wrist will be fully healed in a matter of weeks. I will need to learn how to feel safe again running on the trails, but there’s no reason I can’t resume trail running again soon.

As I jogged back to the start/finish area, I thought about people who have experienced more significant hurt, such as emotional and physical abuse. These are hurts that don’t heal as readily or easily as a simple broken bone, if at all. It must be incredibly exhausting for people who have been harmed in these ways to be constantly looking around for potential hazards that might lead to further hurt and pain.



This evening I took my two boys with me as I went to vote in the Ontario provincial election. As we walked to the polling station, B asked me what an election is about. I told him it’s when we vote for the representatives who will represent us in government and make important decisions on our behalf.

“So you pick the smartest people who will make the best decisions?” he asked.

“Yes,” I responded. Then, after a second thought, I whispered to myself, “Actually, sometimes we pick the people who we think will make the fewest bad decisions.”

I’d much rather B grow up thinking that he should pick the best candidates whenever he has the privilege of voting.


Five Minutes Later

As I brought B his bedtime snack, he asked, “Dad, why do you do everything for me? Why don’t you get me to help with things, like making my own breakfast in the morning?”

“OK, I’ll start asking you to do more things,” I affirmed.

** Five Minutes Later **

“B, please put on your pajamas.”

“I need you to help me,” he yawned while playing with LEGO on his bed.

“You just said you want to start doing more things by yourself,” I responded.

“I know, but I still want you to help me put on my pajamas.”



Vulnerability in Leadership

As a leader, I recognize how important it is for me—and those leaders I follow—to discern how we express our leadership in the workplace. Similar to the Compline in the Christian tradition of the canonical hours, we can take time each evening to reflect on our day and review how we spoke and interacted with others. In addition, we can examine our motives to see whether we truly acted for the good of others or instead worked for personal gain or advantage. Then, in a gentle and non-judgmental manner, we can reflect on how to better lead others the following day. While I am not suggesting it is wrong for leaders to receive some benefit or merit, I do think that when we make decisions for personal advantage, we may in fact work against the collective good. I want to be a leader that is self-aware without being self-absorbed.

With this self-awareness comes recognition of our personal strengths and weaknesses. When leaders try to hide their weaknesses or limitations, we present ourselves as a model of perfection. Generally, this is accompanied by extremely high expectations of others in the workplace. While I don’t think leaders should go out of their way to highlight their flaws and imperfections, I appreciate the authenticity of leaders who demonstrate a degree of personal vulnerability. As a leader, I want people to recognize that I am a human being with feelings and challenges and failings who can relate to their own humanness as well.

Another aspect of vulnerability is the willingness to trust others with important tasks and responsibilities. Leaders are often viewed as the problem-solvers, but are generally far removed from both the problems and the knowledge necessary to solve them. Rather than micro-manage people, it is often far more effective for leaders to empower frontline staff to address problems head-on as these staff will recognize issues as they emerge and will know how to respond accordingly. This empowerment can happen when leaders identify the things we value, are most concerned with and want to see more of, which then leads us to build on people’s strengths as opposed to focusing on their weaknesses. In addition, leaders can promote positive growth by demonstrating appreciation and celebrating successes, which helps foster an organizational culture in which people feel pride about their accomplishments and are motivated to seek continuous improvement.

Empowerment does come at a risk, though, as leaders are ultimately accountable for results. However, leaders that utilize a strength-based approach are more likely to create a positive environment that promotes greater work performance and the improved well-being of employees. The benefits far outweigh the risks.


Identity as a Social Construction

Before becoming a doctor, a person is required to attend medical school to learn how to treat the human body. While learning these skills, the budding doctor will also acquire the cultural competencies that will help shape her identity and provide her with situational power. The same holds true for a lawyer, a police officer, or someone in the corporate world.

Not only is a professional’s social identity defined personally, it is also constructed through social ascription. For example, while a doctor may decide to express herself individually (ie she may prefer to ask for patient input into treatment rather than be directive), patients may have a different expectation based on how the identities of medical professionals are socially constructed. As such, it is useful for all professionals to consider how their identities are shaped both personally and socially as there may be limitations to how much they can personally define themselves. This is important to understand, particularly by those working in professions—such as police services, politics, Faith-based activities—that are viewed negatively by some sectors of society.

When I used to volunteer with children in Toronto’s Regent Park community, I was often surprised by how many of the young people I interacted with viewed police officers in a negative manner. This was in sharp contrast to some other communities in the city in which children would view police as heroes and the good guys. Some children would get excited about hearing a siren, others would want to run and duck.

As we approach the annual Pride Parade in the city, it is also essential to acknowledge how identities are socially constructed, as this will help us understand why it can be difficult for some members of our city, such as those representing Black Lives Matter, to accept the presence of police marching in official uniform. While many of us would view the police services in a positive manner, and also see recent evidence of meaningful support and engagement with groups such as BLM and the LGBTQ community, there is a long history of negative interactions which have legitimately shaped how these groups view the police. It will take time for this to change, as these social constructs are deeply rooted in painful experiences.

It is not easy to redefine how we want people to view us, particularly when there have been incidents of hurt and marginalization. This doesn’t mean that we should stop seeking opportunities for reconciliation, but if we have been the cause of pain or oppression, we need to acknowledge that we do not get to control the process or the timeline for healing.


The Public Sphere

“A portion of the public sphere comes into being in every conversation in which private individuals assemble to form a public body.”—Jurgen Habermas

When I first read about Jurgen Habermas’ notion of the public sphere, I thought about social media and how it could offer a place for all people to connect publicly and discuss issues critically. However, I see limited evidence of this happening. While I’m sure at least one critical thought for every 2.5 million ridiculous ones does appear on social media, I wouldn’t consider Facebook or Twitter to be useful tools for challenging the status quo. Given the self-absorbed nature of most social media content, and the fact that social media is a major driver in digital profiling and segmented advertising, I would argue that it’s more subjugating than traditional media.

What’s most disturbing is the growing number of people addicted to social media channels and the devices they use to access them, which means that social media is not only manipulative but something that has become embedded into our culture. Even if we try to use social media tools to engage in civic or political discussion, we are bombarded with advertising and suggested content within the framework of each channel. As well, since these social media channels filter the content we receive (based on various criteria), they are controlling to a significant degree the content we see and don’t see. Individuals, corporations and governments can also pay money to prioritize their content, which pushes other unpaid content down below. This can impact how we view authority and the ways in which we accept or question the world around us.


Cultural Influences

When I lived in Zimbabwe from 2006-2008, I tried to learn as much about the Shona culture and language as possible. I was fortunate enough to live and work in an environment that provided little interaction with other westerners, so I quickly picked up enough of the language to carry out basic conversations. What I found fascinating was the existence of Shonglish (a mixture of English and Shona words) and the ways in which it was used.

The influence of Western culture (whether from the U.S., U.K. or even South Africa) on Zimbabweans was obvious, particularly among youth and people living in the larger urban centres. In many ways, it’s as though a new culture was being created with a new set of social and cultural values. While the Zimbabwean government controlled most forms of mass media in the country, and used these channels to communicate their anti-Western rhetoric, the people’s use of Shonglish and their eager engagement with Western media highlighted both interest and adoption of Western influences.

It was also interesting to observe how some aspects of Western culture created tension. While most of my movies and TV shows were eagerly borrowed by neighbours and colleagues, some were returned secretly and never discussed, such as The Last King of Scotland and The Interpreter, with the latter movie actually banned in the country.

On a more humorous note, I also remember being in a small, rowdy cinema that was showing a movie (can’t remember which one) that involved a kidnapping with a ransom of $3 million dollars. While the scene was meant to be dramatic (and would have been in North America), we were experiencing hyperinflation at the time and the government kept printing new denominations of currency, so each person in the cinema had paid nearly $200 million dollars in local currency just to watch the movie. Instead of being shocked, the audience just erupted in laughter.



Pros and Cons

Tonight I took off my arm sling and went outside for a run. I felt so free without the heavy weight on my arm and it was nice not to get hot and sweaty under all the metal and padding. I’m not supposed to take it off yet as my broken wrist is still healing, but I’m tired of wearing the sling all the time. I definitely still need it for everyday activities, as it’s painful when I pick up things or bend my wrist.

As I ran, I thought about how the sling is a hindrance to running, but an essential tool for using my right hand to carry, grab or push things. It’s interesting how something can benefit in one area but detract in another. It’s like my phone, which helps me professionally to access my email, schedule and resources while I’m out of the office or in meetings, but is a significant hindrance to family life when used in the evenings and weekends.


Two Things and One to Come

With R away in Uganda, I’m doing my best to keep the household from falling apart. I’ve managed to keep the boys clean and well fed and they haven’t been late for school or missed any of their soccer, swimming or martial arts lessons. I’m remaining diligent with all the daily tasks at home, even with my broken wrist, and so far I’m not feeling overwhelmed by the extra work. I’m happy that R is able to have this experience in Uganda, so it’s all worth it.

On Day 5 of 15, however, I’ve noticed two challenges. First, it’s quite difficult to run outside unless I do this before picking up the kids from school. Second, I get lonely when I’m not able to talk with R. The first challenge isn’t a huge deal, especially for a two-week period. I don’t feel safe running on our treadmill with my broken wrist (I often have to grab onto the rails when I need to adjust the speed or stop), so I’ve just accepted that I will be running much less than usual during this time (even taking days off completely). The latter challenge is becoming more significant as the days go on. I was surprised by the number of times I automatically tried to phone R today. She’s the first person I reach out to when I have news to share and need to either vent or cheer about something happening in my life. I also miss her physical presence around the house, particularly in the evenings, which is when we usually take a break from the busyness of our day to sit and chat and spend time together.

Within the next few days, a third challenge will emerge that will trump the other two. This will come when the boys get tired of counting down the nights that remain until their mother returns and decide that she needs to be home now. I got a glimpse of that this evening, so I know it’s coming soon. Thankfully she left us some video messages on my phone, so I can use those to allay their sadness.