March 20, 2017 | Stories from the Field
By Hana Jariabková
Helen McGreary is a dance teacher in Menai Bridge, a small town in Wales, United Kingdom. She’s not just your ordinary dance teacher, though. It may surprise you that Helen has become active at standing for people’s rights and taking on leadership even in moments when she thought it’s pointless. “I’m busy, I’m self-employed, I have lots of things to do… Many people get discouraged to try when such thoughts occur.” But Helen didn’t.
It was October 2015 when the campaign about Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) started. As Helen explains:
“If the TTIP was approved, it would be good for big businesses, but bad for people. The multi-national companies could sue governments in EU. For example if a government decided to ban tobacco adverts because tobacco products are not good for people’s health, those companies could sue the government. And that could put our country into a lot of trouble.”
The issue seemed so important to Helen that she created a local Day of Action to start a petition against TTIP.
“People think that the change happens when they sit at their computers, but it’s not true. It actually happens on the street,” says Helen, although she admitted she had many good reasons to stay home. “Who wants to stand in the rain whole day? I thought I’d look stupid and I didn’t want to talk to people – who wants to be bothered when they go shopping?”
The campaign was, however, successful and Helen handed the signatures to the local government as the news about her campaign spread in Daily Post, a local newspaper in Anglesey.
“I had a really strong context for what I was doing and it kept me going. Of course that many times I didn’t want to or didn’t feel like to. I just kept on going anyway,” explained Helen.
In May 2016, which was a time of the local elections in Wales, the charity Hope Not Hate was asking their members for help. They asked their members to deliver leaflets about the United Kingdom Independent Party and raise awareness of UKIP’s racist, xenophobic and nationalist agenda.
Helen not only decided to participate, but also invited 20 people who got involved. “I did something I cared about rather than stayed in the bed and worried about it. It took courage to make those invitations and organizing the whole thing.” And her personal life? She got even her then-boyfriend to help out, admitting it’s a great way to get to know somebody.
Not too long after that, the Referendum for Brexit became another important event. “I thought – this is real. I knew I was not equipped to stop this alone, but I knew I wanted to do something.” Helen decided to contact Stronger In, the official Remain campaign in the UK. She asked her friends to participate, but when she realized “how dangerous the whole thing was”, she needed to get more people on board.
Eventually 40 people participated thanks to Helen and they had a stall in the town of Bangor. It provided space to speak to people and created an engaged discussion, encouraging people to register in the EU referendum. Helen said that many people she spoke with were undecided, some really thankful to have someone to talk to to make a decision, other people were rude. Despite that, the feedback was generally positive and encouraging.
Helen, on Brexit: “I thought – this is real. I knew I was not equipped to stop this alone, but I knew I wanted to do something.”
Helen admitted she wouldn’t consider herself a “leader” that most people have in mind when they talk about leadership. She doesn’t have a profession or a title that many people think is required to take action in the global issues she did. Yet it’s true, as she admitted, “It was only thanks to the ability to stop listening to my thoughts that let me take action.”
From her activities, Helen has learnt one thing: “The [disempowering] monologue does not go away. I learnt that I will always have thoughts why I should rather stay in the bed and why I shouldn’t be bothered. But I have learnt to recognize the words in my head that are not the truth, and I can distinguish my excuses from who I really am. And that keeps me going.”
If you had the ability to distinguish your disempowering monologue from who you actually are and what you stand for, what actions would you take?
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Helen McGreary was a participant in the cutting-edge leadership course Being A Leader And The Effective Exercise Of Leadership hosted in Cancun, Mexico in 2015 and led by Werner Erhard, Michael Jensen, Steve Zaffron & Jeri Echeverria. To find out more about upcoming courses, click here.
Hana Jariabková is an author and online marketing expert based out of London, UK. She teaches courses on content and social media marketing and is a tutor at the University of the Arts London. Hana loves writing and is publishing a children’s book in spring 2017. You can find out more about Hana from her blog www.hanajaywrites.com. Hana also participated in the 2016 Being A Leader And The Effective Exercise Of Leadership Course in Abu Dhabi, UAE.