Yesterday in Detroit, I volunteered at AlterConf in Detroit. I watched the food for a bit, then I folded some chairs. Nothing to brag about - they barely needed me. That left me largely free to sit in on the rest of the conference.
It was nice. In fact, the whole afternoon was all about being nice. I don't want to trivialize it, but the core themes had a lot to say about empathy and inclusion and kindness - all things I file under "being nice" in my head.
When I walked in, I got a name badge. I was asked to write my personal pronouns on it along with my name - "he/him" for me. That's a kindness: I don't want to insult anyone by misgendering. I have enough problem remembering names, let alone navigating gender concerns in a crowd of strangers more diverse than I usually encounter.
Then, in the main room, the speaker's podium stood next to a big screen for slides. But, on the other side, there was another big screen with a live transcript and a sign language interpreter on standby. That transcript turned out to be another kindness: I don't have hearing issues, but I've always found it easier to absorb complicated things from written text. Among other things, I can catch what I missed while taking notes or re-read what I had trouble grasping at first.
And, of course, there was a Code of Conduct. I skimmed through it on my phone during the opening address. Not many surprises, mostly just specific ways to not be a jerk. It was nice to be reminded of a few more things about which to stay mindful. I'm not entirely inept in social situations, but I'm not great and I like hints.
I know everything I just wrote was about me. That's a poor way to talk about empathy. But, so many objections I've seen about inclusion & consideration at an event center around gripes about personal inconvenience for folks like me who don't need as many considerations. "Can't we just do the thing? Why do we have to be distracted by all these special needs? Can't they just deal with it? Don't bother me with all that."
I know I've been dealt a good hand in life. Call me privileged, though I know that word sets some people off. Hell, it's set me off before. But, it just means there are lots of things I don't have to deal with. So, I can afford to be generous. I can try to be more mindful for awhile, tread carefully, apologize when needed. I can share some burdens, make some room, hold back, bear with a few minor inconveniences.
To me, it's just being nice. I like to be nice. I try to be kind. It doesn't cost me anything I'd miss. The end result usually brings unexpected benefits and I get exposed to interesting people & ideas who would otherwise be squeezed out.
To keep this short, I'll save writing about the ideas presented at AlterConf for other posts. I just wanted to get these general things about the structure of the day out of my head first. It seemed like a short afternoon with a nice foundation of little considerations I don't usually see. It made me glad to be a small part of it.