Isn’t it uplifting, when you find something that restores your faith in the power of community? Yesterday I experienced two such events through my workplace.
February 28 was Pink Shirt Day, when people in schools and workplaces are encouraged to wear pink as a symbol that bullying will not be tolerated. The idea began in 2007 in a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada, when a few teenagers came up with a plan to stand with a Grade 9 student who was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. They bought 50 pink tank tops and handed them out as students came to school the next day. Their solidarity with the bullied boy effectively silenced the bullies and made the boy feel that he was not alone.
The idea has caught on elsewhere in Canada and in many other countries, too. Vancouver’s BC Place and Science World both donned pink lights to celebrate the day! In British Columbia and Western Canada, Pink Shirt Day has been further championed by CKNW Children’s Charities, who sell shirts, buttons, and wrist bands, with 100% of net proceeds going to organizations that support children’s healthy self-esteem.
In BC, our Workers Compensation Act requires organizations to educate people about bullying and harassment and their obligation to not stand idly by if they observe either of them in the workplace. This year, we decided to do our education in a big way, with pink shirts, buttons, and wrist bands being distributed to any of our staff who wanted to participate. At all our locations, people wore pink in whatever way they felt most comfortable, sharing photos of their teams across the organization. We even had one guy send a photo of himself wearing the T-shirt while on vacation in New Zealand! The day culminated in a celebration, with a big cake enjoyed in a room full of our co-workers, all wearing pink! It was a great way to build a feeling of community and spark conversations about bullying and harassment.
In the evening, I went to a dinner celebrating organizations who, through their annual workplace campaigns, had helped to raise $31 million last year to support programs funded by United Way of the Lower Mainland. It is amazing to see so many people coming together to make a difference in the lives of children, youth, seniors, and others in need.
One of the really cool things for me was noticing how the diversity in my workplace just happened to be so clearly demonstrated at our table of 10 people, selected for their active participation in our workplace campaign. Five women and five men, working in various positions in the organization, we originated from 9 different countries — Eritrea, Mauritius, Russia, Jordan, Singapore, China, Iran, Bulgaria, and Canada (Quebec/Ontario, Prince Edward Island). Conversation was flowing, in between the moving stories and awards, and it was a fine evening showcasing community spirit. On our night out and in our workplace, we respect and enjoy each other as people and value our differences and the richness that those differences bring to our work lives.
And one thing we had in common? A majority of our group had read Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and noticed that the number on our table was 42… said to be the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything!