Social justice: unto these hills

This week I have been honoured to be the guest of a Native American family and their tribe in Cherokee, North Carolina. We were taken to see a live theatre performance of a play entitled ‘Unto These Hills’. It told the story of how, in the 1830s, 16,000 Cherokee people were forced to move 800 miles because the white people and their armed forces had coerced them into giving up their homelands in the Appalachian Mountains. The routes they took for this enforced migration came to be known as ‘The Trail of Tears’. The play illustrated how families had to abandon their homes and face a long, harrowing journey that many did not survive. It was a story of disenfranchisement, dislocation, dispossession and oppression, a tragic and shameful episode of historic fact. However, the play ended on a positive note, with a strong message of resilience, emphasising that, despite this history of oppression, the Cherokee Nation has retained its culture and traditions, has rekindled the use of its language and reaffirmed a foundation of pride. Language, culture and identity can survive against the odds. In Wales, we express this idea in the title of a very important song: ‘Yma o Hyd’ (still here).

A morbid subject?

Last week I was lucky enough to be able to attend a conference at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the United States. The subject matter was end-of-life care. Many people would shy away from such a topic. However, there were some really interesting, thought-provoking discussions that showed how important and enriching a topic it is. Pretending we are immortal is not such a wise thing to do.

What was particularly good about the conference was the excellent atmosphere there. It was the latest in a long-standing series of annual conferences and there was a very real sense of a community that has developed focused on the shared interests of the people who attend and the strong tradition of care, compassion and support that has evolved over the years. It was privilege to be there and be part of it.

My contribution was a presentation about stress in end-of-life care and the need for a strong commitment to self-care in situations where staff have to face raw emotion on a regular basis.

The theme of next year’s conference is children and grief. I will post more information about it when it is available.

What happened to enthusiasm?

In my work as a trainer, consultant, conference speaker and author I meet a wide variety of people. Perhaps it is the state of the workplace these days, but it concerns me that I come across so many people whose enthusiasm for their work has ebbed significantly. Some people I meet are semi-burnt out if not fully so, and so it was great recently when I received a thank you email from someone who had enjoyed reading the latest issue of our newsletter ( and had found both the articles in it very helpful and interesting. She told me that she had conveyed her enthusiasm to her colleagues and described her display as ‘doing an imitation of a two-year old’. That image captured my imagination, as it made me realise just how many of us are struggling to feel enthusiastic about what we do. So, if you still have enthusiasm, why not show it? Why not let it be known? Yes, we have major problems in the modern workplace, but it is not all bad news, so let’s celebrate the good bits. Low morale can lead so many people not to notice the good bits and cynically focus on what’s not so good, which then makes the problems even worse.