Making the Invisible Visible

In the YES! Magazine essay, "What Can Change When We Learn to See Each Other?," Akaya Windwood asks "... What could happen if every day we were to greet each human as though they were worthy of notice and respect? .... If we can find ways to see each other, to honor the existence of every being who co-inhabits this wonderful earth with us ... then we will have done a fine thing."

How often do we allow those around us to remain (or become) invisible? Not only the people we encounter each day, but those whose actions provide us with food, security, shelter, and more? The natural world on which we depend for our very lives and health? The other beings with whom we share this planet? How often do we turn away from those human and nonhuman beings who are suffering? How often do our choices contribute to that suffering?

In Windwood's essay, she challenges us to "intentionally notice those we would normally not see" and to "interrupt old patterns of not looking into the eyes of 'those people' (whoever they are to you)."

This week one of our online course students, Valerie G., created a brief activity that expands to nonhuman animals and the earth that call to make the invisible visible. Valerie's activity, which could be used with older youth and adults, or even as an individual exercise in self-reflection, encourages us to look at our daily actions and to dig a little deeper into who (people, animals) or what (the earth) is "invisible" in those daily choices, and what we can do to make sure we "see" them clearly. Here's Valerie's activity:

Part 1: Ask participants to keep a journal of a day in their lives, answering questions such as:

  • What did I eat?
  • What did I drink?
  • What did I wear?
  • What did I throw away?
  • What products did I use?
  • How did I get around (transportation)?
  • Whom did I encounter and/or interact with (people? nonhuman animals? environment?)

Part 2: Invite participants to analyze how their choices made people, nonhuman animals, and the environment invisible. Encourage them to ask questions, such as:

  • Whom or what did I eat? What was the impact of my food choices on people, animals, and the earth?
  • Where did my clothes come from? Who made them & how were those people treated? What other impact did my clothes have on people, animals, and the earth?
  • Where did everything I threw "away" or recycled go? Who picked it up? What did they do with it? How did it impact people, animals, and the earth?
  • Where did my drinking water come from?
  • Where does my wastewater go?
  • What is the impact on people, animals, and the earth of my product choices? How far-reaching is that impact?
  • Whom do I normally encounter (people, animals) that I don't even notice?
  • Where do I encounter the natural world throughout my day?

Part 3: Invite participants to reflect on what they can do to notice and acknowledge people, animals, and the earth, so that their choices make each of those visible.

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