Read the latest from our columnist, transformational counsellor and blogger, Lisa Bent. Check in with Lisa each month, right here, where she’ll be writing about personal development, mental health, social issues and a whole lot more…
It was a recent Friday morning. I was on my way to work. As usual I had my earphones plugged in, (listening to Discover Weekly on Spotify) The bus arrived, I boarded, went upstairs and sat down. What made me instantly turn around and take my earphones out was the noise that rose above my music.
A school girl wearing a hijab was arguing with a man in his mid 40’s. She was shouting and was clearly distressed. I got up and stood in the middle of the aisle of where they were sitting and I asked what was going on? Neither listened to me. “I am a 16-year-old girl and you are verbally abusing me, what is wrong with you? The man replied, he was incoherent and the two and fro exchange continued.
I gestured for her to move her bag and I sat next to her. I asked her to calm down and breathe but she kept shouting. I had to literally put my hands on her shoulders and demand she look at me, which she did on the second attempt. I calmly explained that I understood why she was angry, which she had the right to be, whilst also expressing that I thought the man may have mental health issues, so the desire to show him he was an “idiot” would be lost. My aim was to get her out of the situation, so I gave her two options, she chose the second which involved moving downstairs and sitting with me.
As we headed for the stairs I looked around and saw smiling faces. As I looked back I couldn’t help but show my disappointment. I have no idea how long this interaction had lasted before I got on the bus, all I saw was the many adult’s (both men and woman) who allowed it to continue and for whatever reason chose not to intervene.
She broke down into tears and explained no one had ever stood up for her before and she thanked me again and again. We had a really good chat and she gave me an insight into her world as a young teenager whose religion is visible for all to see, due to wearing a hijab. She spoke of envy for Muslim boys “who can wear what they want”, her anger issues because she is always on alert to defend herself and feeling that she is constantly judged, even more so after Trump’s Muslim ban. She said, “Lisa, America looks so cool in films, but why would I go there when they believe I am a threat?”
Being a teenager is hard enough without having the added pressure of being discriminated for something you cannot and shouldn’t have to hide. The questions I have no solid answers for are:
What is the perceived threat really about?
How does a 16-year-old or any woman of any age wearing a hijab threaten your life?
Why are certain groups of people blamed for the actions of a few?
This interaction made me think of the word collaboration, which I instantly associate with business. Two or more people working together to produce something. It’s a partnership, team work and joint effort.
Yet this word and the action is transferable and needs to be applied beyond the business model and integrate itself into society. Just how Nima appreciated me standing up for her, I would have also appreciated someone standing up for me in this scenario. Was I scared? Of course! But there was no way I was going to sit back, turn my music up and drown out what was happening.
Society is changing, it changes all the time, however, we have to remember that it is people who make up society. For it to become a better place we have to collaborate and that means thinking and caring outside of our individual networks of business, family and friends. People make up society; we are society.
The American political activist, academic, and author, Angela Davis said “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept”. If everyone chose to take this stance, I think that society and the world will be a better place.
We are all grains of sand. Each grain works together to make a sand dune, therefore you are important and powerful and you alone can make a difference.
That difference is tenfold when people come together and collaborate.
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