Haben Girma: Harvard Law’s First Deafblind Graduate + White House Champion of Change

Haben is our first Deafblind guest on SoulFeed. During this episode, Shannon and Haben are speaking directly to one another. As Shannon speaks, Haben’s friend is typing Shannon’s questions to Haben and she is reading his words in real time with her braille keyboard.

As promised, a transcript of this episode is provided below for our Deaf audience.

You’ll learn...

  • Haben’s story of being denied access to her college dining hall menu and how it inspired her to stand up or her rights.
  • Why Haben pursued a career in advocacy and enrolled in Harvard Law School to advocate for other Americans with disabilities.
  • The great opportunity for businesses and brands when they make their products + services more accessible to all people.
  • How we can reframe misunderstandings about disabilities as an opportunity to educate others.

 

Join Shannon in an illuminating conversation with SoulFeed’s first Deafblind guest.

 

Meet Haben:

The first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, Haben Girma advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. President Obama named her a White House Champion of Change, and Forbes recognized her in Forbes 30 Under 30.

Haben travels the world consulting and public speaking, teaching clients the benefits of fully accessible products and services. Haben is a talented storyteller who helps people frame difference as an asset. She resisted society’s low expectations, choosing to create her own pioneering story.

Because of her disability rights advocacy she has been honored by President Obama, President Clinton, and many others. Haben is also writing a memoir that will be published by Grand Central Publishing in 2019.

Haben has been featured extensively in media around the world, including the BBC, NBC, Forbes, NPR, and many more. If you work in media, please read this brief guide on producing positive disability stories.

Learn more about Haben via her website here.


Full Transcription of the Podcast

Haben Girma: So you know my friend is here and typing, and I'm reading on that display. So that's how are we're communicating.

 

Shannon Algeo: And what's your friend's name?

 

Haben: Gordon.

 

Shannon: Hi Gordon!  OK. Well, we'll definitely talk about that because I think it will be really fascinating and good for people to understand how we're communicating because that's the technological aspect of what makes this possible. So. Welcome to the show today Haben Girma. Haben is an amazing woman who I had the honor and privilege of meeting at Wanderlust Hollywood at the Shine Event. She was the keynote speaker and Haben is a deaf blind woman. She's the first deaf blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School. And welcome to the SoulFeed Podcast Haben. I'm so excited to be speaking to you, and I'm so happy that you're here and we're getting to share this time to talk about you and your work and your message. Welcome.

 

Haben: Thank you Shannon! Thank you for having me here. Hello to all your listeners. 

 

Shannon: Yes and we call our listeners Soul Warriors. So yeah those are our listeners they're Soul Warriors - people who who want to develop some Warriorship in the work of the soul and bringing their soul's purpose to the world. And so something that I want to share is something that you just shared with me. So you are receiving my words through a braille keyboard, and your friend is typing my words so that's how we're able to communicate. Did I get that right?

 

Haben: That's right. So my friend is typing on a wireless keyboard. It's a standard pretty keyboard. And through bluetooth, what he's typing is coming to make digital braille display, and I'm reading with my fingers - running my fingers over the dots. So when you speak I can't hear you, but I can read your words. And then I respond with my own voice.

 

Shannon: That's so amazing and I'm so curious like when when did technology allow it to be so that you could read with a digital braille keyboard? Has that been around for a while or is that is that somewhat new/

 

Haben: It came out in about 2010. Before that, there were other braille computers but they didn't support bluetooth the way this one support bluetooth - allowing for wireless communication. So I've had access to different versions of braille computers, but the latest cleanse has more features and allow her more connectivity.

 

Shannon: That's incredible. So Hobbin you are a global inclusion leader and you have really found your work and purpose in making making the world a more accessible place and a more equal place for people with disabilities. I was just watching some videos of you and President Obama where you were named the White House Champion of Change. And that was so exciting and such an amazing honor for the work that you're doing so but just to kind of back up a little bit. How did you begin this work and how did you get inspired to commit your life to doing this work?

 

Haben: When I was growing up I experienced a lot of access barriers. Disability itself is not a barrier. Disability is never the obstacle. The obstacles are created by society. So when I experience barriers - when I can't access something - it's because someone designed a product or service without disability in mind. For example, in the early 2000s a lot of e-reading services were emerging. But they didn't have braille support, which denied access to blind readers. So I heard about many advocates using the Americans With Disabilities Act, using civil rights, using negotiation and education to get these companies to make their services accessible. And now Kindle books are accessible Blind people can read them. Apple's iBooks are accessible and blind people can read them. So I've learned that advocacy can make a huge difference and give people more access. So I love doing that. I love seeing those changes. It helps me and it helps many people around the world. There are 1.3 billion people with disabilities around the world. It's a huge population. So companies that make their services accessible get to tap into that large market. It's good business!

 

Shannon: Yes yes it is. It's like the right thing to do and it's good business so it's a win-win. And I'm wondering when you shared a story when I heard you speak at the shine here in Los Angeles about a moment in your college experience where you experienced needing to stand up for your rights to access. I'm wondering if you could maybe share that story of your dining hall experience or or any other story you might be inspired to share about not having access and how that gave you the strength and courage to advocate for yourself.

 

Haben: I'll share the story that you heard at Wanderlust and I can share another story too. So when I was in college, I attended Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon and it's a small liberal arts school. The cafeterias serve as a central place for people to hang out and relax between classes. Whenever I'd enter the cafeteria, I'd be reminded that I didn't have full access to the cafeteria. There was a print menu on the wall. Sighted students could read the menu, but blind students can read that continue. Blindness isn't the problem. The problem is the format of the menu and the decisions of the people who produced the menu. So I went to the cafeteria manager and explained, "This menus into accessible. Can you provide it in other formats like Braille or accessible digital formats?" And they told me they're very busy. They don't have time for me, which was frustrating. I want to be able to know what's being served. I was paying to eat there. Not only that - I was a vegetarian and it's hard to eat vegetarian if we don't know what station is serving which item. There were about five different food stations and at first, they didn't do anything about. I figured, "At least I have food. Who am I to complain?" And then after talking to friends I realized it's my choice. We all have a choice to either accept unfairness or do something about it. I eventually decided to do something about it. I went back to the cafeteria manager and explained that if they wanted to run their business, they have to comply with the law and the Americans With Disabilities Act requires places of public accommodation to make their services accessible. Once they framed the issue as a civil rights issue, everything changed. They stopped seeing what I was asking for as a favor. They realized it was required. They had to prioritize it and they changed. They started providing me access to the menu. They would email the menu which is an accessible format, and I could read it with my screen reader which is a software application that converts that converts visual information to speech or digital Braille. So I got access to the menu. The following year, another blind students joined the cafeteria and he also gained access to the menu. He didn't have to advocate. He didn't have to fight for access to the menus. So I discovered that when I advocate, it makes the world better for other people as well. So I decided to pursue advocacy, applied to law school, got into Harvard, learned about civil rights at Harvard Law School. Since then I've been working as an advocate for people with disabilities.

 

Shannon: That's so incredible. I love that story because it really lifts up the power of advocacy. Because you advocated for yourself to have access to that menu, you made it so that boy coming in the next year would also have access to the menu. Was that the first time that you really experienced that impact of your advocacy?

 

Haben: Yeah that was very first time and it was powerful and really shifted how I thought about advocacy. I realized, the Americans with Disabilities Act - it's there for me and for other people with disabilities and if we want the promise of civil rights, we actually have to advocate and enforce our civil right. 

 

Shannon: So just a quick question for like the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act for those of us who are not so familiar with it. What is the key component of the of the American Disabilities Act that is so important and what does it allow for people with disabilities to achieve in their lives?

 

Haben: So the Americans With Disabilities Act has several components. The main thing for people to keep in mind is that places of public accommodation are prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities. So a bakery couldn't say, "Sorry! We don't sell rent to blind people" or a movie theater can't deny access to deaf viewers by not providing captions. There is a list of places of public accommodation, but it's a guide. So laws are flexible and change over time. So recent courts have ruled that the ADA also applies to online businesses, so digital spaces also have to make sure that websites and apps are accessible to people with disabilities.

 

Shannon: That's really powerful, and I think one thing that we talked about in our e-mails back and forth before coming into this interview was that we couldn't do this as a Facebook Live because Facebook Live does not provide captions for deaf or blind viewers and listeners. So that brought to my awareness that I didn't even think about that. I was thinking, "Oh, Facebook Live will allow more people to see us talking and that will be cool because it will help spread the message." But you requested that we not share it in that way because Facebook either chooses not to or doesn't yet have the technological capability to provide live captions. So I'm curious... - and thank you by the way for bringing that to my awareness because I think part of the problem is I didn't even think about it. And so I'm curious... do you and your colleagues of yours do work with companies like Facebook to try and make their platforms more accessible to people with disabilities?

 

Haben: Absolutely. So a little bit more Facebook live videos: Blind people can hear the content, so blind people do not need captions. However, deaf individuals do need captions and Facebook live recently started supporting captions, but third party captioning companies would need to provide the "caption feed." So for example if you were to do a Facebook live video, you have to hire a captioning company to insert the captions real time, live as the video streamed. So recently Facebook started supporting them.

 

Shannon: Gotcha. Yes. Thank you for that clarification. Just as an example of how this advocacy works in in real practice is if you and I wanted to do a Facebook live, then you would ask me like, "Hey Shannon, make sure that there's a third party that's live captioning while we do this so that it's accessible for for deaf viewers." Did I get that right?

 

Haben: Yeah. Yeah. That would be expensive so if Shannon happened to not have the resources (and I have no idea about this) but suppose you didn't have the resources to do that, then I would suggest creating a video ahead of time (so not LIVE), adding captions to the video, which you can easily do using YouTube's free captioning services, and then upload the video to Facebook. That would be a cheaper alternative.

 

Shannon: Gotchya. Yes! Thank you. Thank you for that. The reason that I wanted to bring this up and share this with are with our listeners and our viewers who will read the transcript is that it requires that someone like me who is sighted and hearing understands the issues and the things that come up. Like you said, Haben. The problem is not that the disability exists; the problem is that we have a world that makes things harder for people with disabilities, which I wanted to talk to you a little bit about how technology can improve equality for people with disabilities. Because I think technology is a really huge opportunity in this in this work.

 

Haben: Exactly. Tech has the ability to make it easier for companies to make their services accessible or for artists to make their work accessible to people with disabilities - so long as people have accessibility in mind. So for example: if you're creating a video, make sure there are captions so that deaf individuals can access your videos. If your video has text that's not voiced or there are key visual elements that are not voiced and are a part of the story, you can add audio descriptions which are narrations of key visual elements that are important to the story. Those are some features that make videos accessible. There is the Web content accessibility guidelines and Apple and Android have accessibility guidelines for making apps accessible.

 

Shannon: That's amazing and that's really important. Thank you for sharing that.

 

Haben: So now that you know, you could share it with people and you could share it with your Soul Warriors.

 

Shannon: Yes! Yeah! Well and just to call ourselves out: We haven't been making our podcasts, which are delivered via audio through the podcasting platform, we haven't made transcripts. Partially because that's an extra step, and it's potentially you know extra resources to make that happen. The reason that I haven't done it has not been to exclude anyone - it just has simply been, I haven't thought of it. I'm so grateful to be talking to you because I am realizing that those transcriptions aren't just there for fun - that we can actually use them so that these messages, these stories, these interviews, and these inspirations are accessible to more people. 

 

Haben: Exactly. So if people are doing keyword searches they're more likely to find your stories if you have transcripts. Having text associated with your video or audio helps more people find. It facilitates powerful keyword searches. So you're also benefiting yourself and you're also benefiting hearing people who are in situations where they can't listen to something for whatever reason. It makes your stories even more accessible.

 

Shannon: That's so true. So Haben, I'm wondering... actually this is the question that I asked you up on the stage at the Shine Event that we were both at. I got to go up on stage and I got to type a question to you,and you were able to read it through the electronic braille keyboard. I'm wondering if you could share your answer because I thought I thought it was so powerful. My question was, "Do you ever get frustrated when you have to take the time to advocate for basic rights - like as you go about your day and your life or getting groceries. Do you ever get frustrated and how do you handle that frustration?" How are you so filled with such grace and patience?

 

Haben: I'll share a story, and I actually didn't share this story at The Shine. So I'm giving you a new story.

 

Shannon: Yay! Shannon laughes. 

 

Haben: So once upon a time - technically not that long ago - it was back in December of 2016. I was in D.C. and I had a long day of conferencing and that evening a friend and I wanted to go salsa dancing. So we went to a salsa club and the bouncer at the door said, "You can't bring that dog in." And I explained very patiently, "This is a service dog. The law requires you to bring in service dogs. I have a guide dog named Maxine. She is very well-trained, very well-behaved." The bouncer responded, "Sorry no dogs." This is frustrating. I had a long day. I just wanted to have fun. I just wanted to go dancing, and he's telling me that I can't go dancing because I have a guide dog (and the law requires them to admit guide dogs). So I was frustrated, and then I paused, stepped back, and reframed the issue. I reframed it as an education issue. I have many years of advocacy and disability awareness. Most people don't know as much about disability as I do. So I told myself, "This guy really doesn't know about the law.".

 

Both: Shannon and Haben laugh and giggle.

 

Haben: So I told myself not to get mad him, but to frame it as an education issue. So I explained the law again, and he said he'll go ask his manager. He brought his manager out. The manager listens to me talk about how they're required to bring in service dogs. He tells me, "We're full. There's no more room." And I said, "Well as we've been standing here, about four people have left the club. So you have room now. And he said, "It's standing room only." And I told him, "Well that's fine. I'm planning to see us all night anyways!" Then he gets to the point. "But what is your dog going to do while you're dancing?" And I tell him, "When I'm dancing, she's usually taking a nap. I tie her up to a chair near the edge - off the dance floor along one of the walls, and she just sleeps usually as I go dancing." By this time there was a crowd of people at the door and maybe I was persuasive... maybe the crowd... but he finally let us in. So when I'm frustrated, I try to reframe the issue as an education issue. That's what I usually do when I get frustrated.

 

Shannon: Shannon says, "mmmmm"

 

Haben: What do you do?

 

Shannon: Well actually this brought to mind a similar story with a different kind of discrimination. But I also love to go dancing. And maybe we should go dance together some time.

 

Haben: Do you salsa?

 

Shannon: I probably could because I studied some dance in school but I don't know if I'm that good at salsa. But I went to a club for my friend's 30th birthday in Las Vegas and when I was in the club, we had a table and around the club there were these silver poles for people to dance on - for just anyone who wanted to dance on the poles. And I am a gay man and I don't know what me being gay has to do with with poles (or even what me being a man has to do with poles), but I danced around the pole because I think it's really fun to dance and dancing on the pole is also really fun for me. I love it. While I was dancing, the bouncer came over to me and told me I had to get off - that only women are allowed to dance on the pole. I looked at him in the eyes and I said, "That is gender discrimination."

 

Haben: :Haben laughs: You go, Shannon! Excellent!

 

Shannon: Thank you. And he said, "It doesn't matter. Stop dancing on the pole." And so I got really upset - like I felt really frustrated and I didn't know how to speak up for myself. I didn't frame it as an education issue because I don't even know if there is a law that exists that that says that you can't tell men to do something that women can do or you can't tell women to do something that men can't do. But what I ended up doing was I danced with my friends around the pole and my girl friends allowed me to hold on to them while they held onto the pole. Then I also danced around the pole, but I didn't touch it. So I I got my hands as close as possible to the hole without touching it,  which really I think pissed off the bouncer.

 

Haben: You know that's a cleaver and sneaky way to get around that bouncer's silly rule, but I really do think that it was not fair for them to not let you dance on the pole. That's gender discrimination - exactly as you said. There is a potential case there.

 

Shannon: Hmm. Is there a law that says - I don't know if this is in the jurisdiction of your work, but do you know if there's a law that says that gender discrimination by businesses is illegal?

 

Haben: Gender discrimination is also completely illegal. So what they have there is... they offered a service, but it was only offered to women. It wasn't offered to men. And that sounds like gender discrimination to me. I'm curious now. I could go look it up - maybe not for this podcast but I can go look it up and get back to you on that.

 

Shannon: Yes. Yeah. That would be that would be amazing. And we can update our listeners and readers about what the results are of that. But it's funny that you told your salsa dancing story because even before you asked me what I do in those situations, my story of going to dance in Las Vegas came up [in my mind], and it doesn't it doesn't feel good to be you know denied the same opportunities that other people are offered. As a white male sighted hearing person, I have to say that I don't very often get discriminated against. So in some ways I was grateful for the experience because it really feels so incredibly infuriating and alienating. I wouldn't want anyone to have to go through through that. That's not cool!

 

Haben: I know exactly what you mean. I've been there. I've felt that, and it's not fair. So we do need to teach people and if people refuse to listen, there's civil rights and law suits are a last resort. I think, a lot of times people just don't know. So my first step is to try teaching them and educating them. But if people refuse, we're not helpless. The law is on our side.

 

Shannon: Amen! Amen to that.

 

Haben: Do you want to name the club? Do you want to call them out on it?

 

Shannon: I do. I do! I'm forgetting the exact name of the club but is that the club that's in the Wynn in Las Vegas. W-Y-N-N that's owned by Steve Wynn and it's their main club. I did write a Facebook review on their Facebook page - that I think they may have taken down - telling my story because I wanted to make sure that it got seen on social media because... I mean it's Las Vegas after all. I thought there were no rules there!

 

Haben: :::Haben cracks up::: That's usually the stereotype, isn't it? That there are no rules in Las Vegas!

 

Shannon: I know I was like, "I came all the way to Las Vegas and I can't dance on a pole?!"

 

Haben: It's not fair. Do you have poles in LA you can dance with?

 

Shannon: You know, I believe there are some pole dancing studios and I need to go to one to practice my rights of swinging on the pole.

 

Haben: You should exercise your rights! You have the right to enjoy pole dancing.

 

Shannon: So Haben, I'm curious. I would love to hear about some of the work that you do with companies and do you find that companies are becoming more and more receptive to learning about how to be more inclusive? And. That's my first question. Also, what is the what is the greatest opportunity here for companies - do you think companies need to become more conscious of being inclusive?

 

Haben: Companies do need to become more conscious of being inclusive. The greatest opportunity is more revenue - more customers! So that 1.3 billion people with disabilities around the world - about 57 million Americans a disabilities. So that's a significant market. When companies make their services accessible to people with disabilities, they tap into that market. It means more customers, more people using those services. A lot of federal agencies are required by law to only purchase and use accessible products and services. So when a company meets its products or services accessible, it can compete. It has an advantage over other companies that have inaccessible products and services. So it's a competitive advantage. A study by Facebook found that Facebook videos that have captions have an increased viewership of about 12 percent. So when people caption their videos, more people are watching them. A lot of hearing people want to watch a Facebook video without tuning on their audio... Maybe they're in a public place... maybe they're at work or school... So when you put captions in your video, more people can access it including not disabled individuals.

 

Shannon: That's such a good point. I know, for me, there are plenty of times where I'm watching a video and watching the captions only, and even when I'm listening to the audio, sometimes I still watch the captions because it's kind of like a meditation to watch it. So I think for  many reasons, it's a great idea.

 

Haben: Exactly. So that's the opportunity. You get access to more people, more people hear your stories.

 

Shannon: I just would love to hear from you when you go into these companies and are doing work with different organizations, what about that is really fulfilling for you? What's your experience like doing that?

 

Haben: It's rewarding for me to teach people about disability rights. I know that it's having an impact so that when they make new services or products, they'll have disability in mind. Then more people - especially people with disabilities - can use those products. So it's really rewarding for me to have this impact and teach this to people.

 

Haben: I love that. I love listening to you speak and I love your answers. And speaking of listening to you speak, you have such a beautiful voice. I'm wondering how you - being deaf - learned to speak with such a clear and beautiful tone of voice.

 

Haben: Hearing loss is diverse. I have a very rare type of hearing loss. I have almost no low frequency hearing and I have a little bit high frequency hearing. So I intuitively learn to speak in a higher voice within the range I hear. So I don't have a very wide range. When I speak it's in a limited range. I've taken the theater, performance, voice classes to help me get better at delivering a message. Voices is a powerful tool for delivering a message. So I want to develop it and keep developing it as much as I can so that I can teach people about inclusion.

 

Shannon: Well you do an amazing job at speaking. It was such a pleasure to get to hear you speak, and your story really touched me. It brought tears to my eyes to hear about your experience and to get a perspective into what your life is like and the work that you do. You know, something I noticed when when we hugged after I asked my question on stage, you were vibrating at such a high frequency. Your whole body felt so present and alive and - pardon me if this is a naive question - but because you are deaf and blind, does that mean that you have more of a sense of touch and feeling and smell? Are you more tuned into those senses or does that not really make sense to you because that's just who you are and what your experience is?

 

Haben: Oh of course, Shannon! I am the Queen of the sense of touch and my sense of smell is better than anyone else on the planet.

 

Shannon: ::::Shannon laughs loudly:::

 

Shannon: "The Queen of the sense of touch" - I love that.

 

Haben: So - a lot of people with disabilities may develop their additional abilities - the abilities they do have. Not necessarily. So some people are great singers and have perfect pitch. Other blind people don't necessarily sing well or have perfect pitch.  So there's a lot of variation. Some people are very aware of their sense of touch. Some are not. We're all different. But if you want to believe that I have magical powers, I'm not going to argue with you! 

 

Shannon: Shannon laughs again:::

 

Shannon: I think you do have magical powers. I do. 

 

Haben: Thank you, Shannon!

 

Shannon: You're so welcome. I'm just trying to think - there's another question I know I wanted to ask you. I'm just pausing here for a moment to reflect. With your with your experience and your background and your family - I think in one of your videos I heard you talking about how it must've been like magic for your grandmother to imagine you succeeding through through Harvard Law School. I'm wondering like what it felt like to you to be honored by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and just what that experience was like for you.

 

Haben: That was incredible. A lot of people have negative stereotypes of people with disabilities. A lot of people are disrespectful. But President Obama was incredibly respectful. We told him, "I'm Deafblind, and could you type to me?" and he gracefully switched from voice to typing. He was warm and funny and even let me tease him. So it was a lot of fun to hang out and connect with him.

 

Shannon: I love that.

 

Haben: It was an amazing experience.

 

Shannon: If you could give a message to the world about why it's important to not only make things accessible for the deafblind community and other communities of disability but to reach out and connect. Why is it important or is it important for us to be more integrated and connected with one another versus separate?

 

Haben: One unique thing about the disability community: Not only is it the largest minority group, but it's also one of the only minority groups that anyone can join at any time. Our bodies are always changing throughout our lives. Most of these changes are invisible and small, but over time we do come to notice them. We deserve dignity and access and inclusion regardless of how our bodies change. So do it for you! Do it because you deserve dignity regardless of what abilities you have. Everybody deserves equal access.

 

Shannon: Amen to that. Amen to that. Haben, do you have any feedback for me about anything that I've said. Have I said anything rude or offensive or are there any educational opportunities for me that I could learn and take with me as I grow in my awareness of disabilities?o

 

Haben: You've been incredibly warm and respectful. So. I don't really have any feedback. I would say that it's great to ask questions. A lot of people make assumptions so try to ask questions. You've been doing that this session so this isn't a complaint - it's just letting everyone know, it's always good to ask questions rather than making assumptions. Some people want to be called blind. Some people want to be called legally blind, visually impaired, partially sighted. There's so much diversity in the world. And in order to be respectful it starts with a question: "How do you identify?" "What assistance do you need?" "Can I help?" All of those things. And then another piece of feedback specifically for you Shannon. I think you shouldn't read up your story of what happened at the nightclub in Las Vegas and I think you should share it on social media. It's not fair for people to discriminate based on gender and we all need to advocate and play a part in making our world more inclusive. Think of the other men who are going to try to dance at that dance club after you. They are going to face that same issue. So you have the opportunity to change the culture.

 

Shannon: Mmm hmm. Yes. Thank you for encouraging me to do that and for lifting up that story on this podcast. That's one I hadn't I hadn't told on the podcast. And yeah - we should all be able to dance regardless of our gender or disability. And. I also - going back to what you said before - I think a lot of times - like you said, "asking questions is so important." I think a lot of times I'm afraid to ask questions or other people may be afraid to ask questions because they don't want to offend. "Oh I don't want to offend this person so I'll just you know not ask or keep my mouth shut or not even establish any connection." And what I'm realizing from talking to you and how much joy there is in this connection is that that's so sad to miss a connection with someone who you could who you could connect with on a human level even despite differences. So thank you for lifting up that it is more than possible to communicate with people who have different abilities than than the perceived norm.

 

Haben: Absolutely right. We're all different, but there's always a way to connect. Sometimes we have to take time to figure out exactly what method to use. When I meet people, I'm never quite sure. Sometimes I have to use sign language. Sometimes they speak in a completely different language and we need an interpreter. So everybody's different. And if we're active in the connection process, we can find a method that works.

 

Shannon: Yes. Yeah. And Haben. I'm curious because this is SoulFeed, and a lot of our listeners are on a spiritual path, doing work of personal growth and development, yoga, meditation... And I'm curious if you have any connection to a power greater than you or God or spirituality and if that plays a role in your work and your life.

 

Haben: I believe in kindness and practice kindness and I just try to be as kind as possible to those around me, and I assume that they're good and want to be kind as well. So that's what helps me when I get into frustrating situations. I just pause and reframe the issue. "Okay. This person probably doesn't know. If they knew, they'd be kind and wouldn't be doing this frustrating thing." So assuming that people are kind is a really good way to go through life.

 

Shannon: I love that - kindness. It's so simple. It's practical. We can do it now. And it makes people feel loved and cared for and respected. It's beautiful. Thank you. And thank you Haben for being a Soul Warrior with us and coming on the podcast, for feeding our souls, and educating us on something that we haven't talked about on SoulFeed and yet something that's so important because if we're going to connect with more people and make sure that we're being fair and advocating for equality for all then we need to be more aware. And so thank you for bringing that awareness to us.

 

Haben: Absolutely. Thank you again for having me on your show Shannon, and I hope you have lots of dancing in your future. Thanks Shannon! 


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