#20 - Unjudge Someone - A Conversation with Ronni Abergel, Founder of The Human Library
🗓️ Recorded may 9th, 2023. 📍Chateau de L'Isle Marie, Normandy, France
Where do you want to listen?
About this Episode
Imagine sitting down with someone you think you don't like and realizing, after just two hours, that they're actually an ally.
In a powerful conversation, we chat with our longtime friend and Human Library founder, Ronni Abergel, about how his unique project has the remarkable ability to break down barriers and change people's perspectives. We journey through Ronni's passion for helping others, from his days working at a hospital to starting the Stop the Violence movement, and learn how that passion eventually led him to create the Human Library.
Together, we explore the importance of respecting everyone's right to be in the library and dive into the complexities of our humanity. Ronni shares his personal experiences with grief, relationships, and finding happiness, emphasizing the importance of staying present and appreciating the moments we have. We also discuss the power of volunteering and how it can dismantle fear and create connections in our lives.
Join us as we reflect on the impact of the Human Library and the beautiful stories of transformation that have come from it. We discover the opportunities it offers for personal growth and finding common ground with those we might have once dismissed.
Embark on this inspiring journey with us as we learn from Ronni Abergel and the incredible impact of the Human Library movement.
About the Human Library
The Human Library is a unique and innovative concept that seeks to challenge stereotypes, promote empathy, and foster understanding among people. Instead of borrowing books, in the Human Library, individuals "borrow" human beings who have volunteered to share their personal stories and experiences.
The "books" in the Human Library are individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and lifestyles who have faced prejudice, discrimination or have lived through unique and often misunderstood circumstances. These individuals, known as "human books," offer themselves as a resource to readers who want to learn more about their lives, challenges, and perspectives.
The Human Library creates a safe and inclusive space where readers can engage in one-on-one conversations with human books, asking questions, sharing thoughts, and gaining insights into different aspects of human experiences. The aim is to break down stereotypes, challenge preconceived notions, and encourage dialogue that promotes empathy, respect, and understanding.
Through the Human Library, readers have the opportunity to step into the shoes of someone else, listen to their personal stories, and learn about their struggles, triumphs, and resilience. By humanizing these stories, the Human Library aims to bridge gaps between people, encourage empathy, and foster a more tolerant and inclusive society.
Connect with The Human Library
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/ @humanlibraryorganization5724
Copy the code below to embed this episode on your website.
Transcript of Self Directed Episode 20
E20 - Unjudge Someone - Creating a Safe Space for Dialogue - A Conversation with Ronni Abergel, Founder of The Human Library
Please note: This transcript is autogenerated by AI voice recognition - so there will probably be some transcription errors along the way 🙂
Jesper Conrad: Today we're together with Ronni, who I have known for, I have no idea, at least 25 years, And back when we first met I was a very happy weed smoking young man And we met at the Roskilde Festival, I believe 95.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, that's more than 25 years.
Jesper Conrad: It's a long time ago. But the thing is, Ronni, when I look at why I wanted to invite you to come on our podcast, then of course you as the founder of the Human Library, that's part of it, but it's actually more about how you have kept going, how you have trusted in yourself and the project and made about now have reached so many people. So part of my curiosity is how, the freaking podcast, how have you had this flame in you? What is it that have done? yeah, what is it in you that have kept going to create this project, because it has been a lot of work on it?
Cecilie Conrad: Maybe I think it's a very good question, but as our listeners maybe have not known Ronni for 25 plus years, they might want to know what the Human Library is.
Jesper Conrad: Okay, let's start there and then take the question off.
Ronni Abergel: All right. well, first of all, thank you for having me on the show. I appreciate it. Like you said, my name is Ronni Abergel. I'm 50 years old. I'm based in Copenhagen, I'm the founder of the Human Library and father of two in Willoward. Now, 10 years into my journey of being alone with my kids, I think I kept going always, even with Stop the Violence before the Human Library because I don't know where else to go. I was never a person that had a lot of opportunity because of my temper and passion. See, I was. I had too much passion. I wasn't professional. they said I cared too much about what I was doing. I needed to put more distance between whatever I'm doing and myself. And I'm like, well, if there's any more distance between what I'm doing and myself, then I don't care about doing it.
Cecilie Conrad: I like that Yeah.
Ronni Abergel: This is how I function. As a human being. I actually need to care about what I'm doing in order to do it well. So when I used to work at a hospital when I was very young, i really cared about the patients, about them getting safely to the x-ray machine or to the dialysis or to the hairdresser, you know, and I socialized and I treated everyone properly And I enjoyed working at the hospital. In fact, sometimes I miss it because, you know, helping other people just is useful to me. It's kind of gives me a fuel. There are many ways you can help other people, but this was one way of helping other people And I had this student work at the hospital as an orderly.
Ronni Abergel: First I did the cleaning and then I became an orderly, so I was transporting patients to the operating room trying to calm them down. You know they were nervous about what was going to happen and things like this. And then, when my friend was stabbed, i started to stop the violence when I was 19 years old, literally, because I felt that this can't be right, that you're risking your life when you're going out to party on a Friday night in Copenhagen. My friend was stabbed six times in the stomach and thrown on the street like garbage, you know, by people who didn't even know him And he had not really done anything to deserve getting stabbed in the stomach like that. And we decided to respond, me and my brother and my friends, and we started organizing this party And before we knew it, everybody knew who we were and we're doing more parties and we had a movement going And we managed to mobilize more than 30,000 young people across the country in our campaign and work peer group education work to get young people to leave knives at home, you know, to not arm, and this was very meaningful. You know, going to a 10th grade center with 250 kids and then after two hours with them standing there lining up to shake your hand and thank you and giving you different items like brass, knuckles and pepper sprays and switch blades and butterfly knives and all this stuff.
Ronni Abergel: I had a whole box full of weapons that young people In the office, you know please came there would have been very upset because we had a whole box of weapons handed in voluntarily by young people and on each weapon There was a label that said which school, what date and who was there. So it wasn't only me who got weapons. My colleague, christopher, and my, my Danny and the others also were in events where people came up and said, hey, you gave me something to think about, i don't need this anymore. And it's quite powerful moving people's motivation, working with people's motivation, nudging their behavior somehow or showing them a different path. And so with the library, which is now 23 years into the journey, it was really about making an impact in less than two hours, but it was pretty much the same whether I'm on stage for two hours nudging you, working on your attitude towards arming, towards using violence in your communication or intimidation as part of your strategy, or whether I'm sort of working indirectly with you by putting you in front of someone that you think you don't like, and then after two hours you realize this person is an ally, a friend and somebody you have sympathy for. I mean, that's changing your outset on the world And that's that's matters to me, and I know that it's an endless mission, because there are billions and billions of people behind the people we're working with right now.
Ronni Abergel: I'm not doing this to get to the bottom of things. I'm doing it to make a difference, because I could be a used car salesman. I could be a journalist reporting important stories. But you know, if I wasn't the journalist reporting important stories, then some other person would be the journalist reporting important stories. Nobody else could drive this human library forward the way I have been able to. Nobody else could have picked up the mantle and said, okay, we're going to take this, we're going to plant this flag on the moon, and it's going to be a long journey to get there.
Ronni Abergel: And I kept going, i guess because I kept believing in the mission. But also I mean, especially after my wife passed, I didn't really feel there were anything else meaningful to do. I started by saying I never had like 15 job offers in front of me, everybody pulling on my arm, saying, oh, we want you to come over here, we want to give, do you to do this, do that? I got a lot of opportunities, sure, but not really permanent job, more like projects, and can you help with this task? It's a limited time and all that. And I did some of that odd freelancing, consulting kind of work.
Ronni Abergel: But but also I'm I'm really I'm not the best person to be taking orders. I just got to be honest and say that it's a problem for me that if I don't have competent leadership guiding me, then I I'm not, i won't function well, and in many of the workplaces I've been to, i've did not have competent leadership. In fact, it wasn't just my opinion. It was plain to see for everybody on the team that we don't have competent leadership here. So I'm not the person going Oh, i don't trust you. I'm the person who gives everybody a chance.
Ronni Abergel: But then when they show me that they're not, don't know what they're doing, then I started losing trust in them. You know so, in the beginning, obviously, if you're the boss, you're the boss and I trust you. But if it turns out again and again and again that you're making weird and wrong or terrible decisions, or you don't know what decisions you're making and the consequences, then you lose respect for people. So so I decided, hey, i'd like to be my own boss at some point, and so this was also an opportunity to sort of be the skipper of my own boat. So it started with a very small boat, just me in the boat, and then, you know, kept investing more time and resources and we got more people onto the boat, we got a bigger boat and a bigger boat. In the end now we've got like a fairy of a sort with a with a little fairies actually.
Ronni Abergel: We've got a big boat in the water now and we're sending out little ships to go into little harbors and start more and distribute, and and it's going well because we've mobilized thousands of volunteers around the world And we've got almost 30 people on staff. So that's pretty good for something that just 10 years ago, when my wife passed, there were no employees, and the reason for that is really because this library well, maybe to give an intro about the library, Yes library is a safe space where, instead of borrowing books, you borrow people, and these are people that can help you challenge your stereotypes, your prejudices, even confront you with your own unconscious bias and we all have bias.
Ronni Abergel: So it's part of the slogan of the human library is it's an opportunity to unjudge someone. Why do we say that? we say that because we take responsibility for the fact that we all judge. Yeah, 20 years ago we said don't judge your book by its cover. But that is really total crap. It's something that's very famous. We all know the saying, everybody can relate to what it means. But the fact is we cannot stop judging a book by its cover. It's unavoidable that when you see something new, something strange, something different, you're going to make a risk assessment right away, and that's part of judging that person's potential for friendship, intimacy, hostility all kinds of assessments over a broad parameter. We as human beings have a survival instinct. It's built in. We see something, we make a quick risk calculation, and so when I met Jesper the first time in the Voskili festival, i wanted to give him a big hug. He was a big bearish type. Not a big risk.
Ronni Abergel: Not a big threat in any way, a very friendly, amicable guy and sort of exuding, sending out just friendliness, openness and a bit of a loving soul. He wants to be in harmony with the world Isn't always, but wants to be, is looking for that harmonic place And sometimes things are not. They're a little disrupted, but Jesper tries to embrace and go with the thing and get the waters to sort of be comfortable And you know you really that makes you calm. There's no competition, there's no threat, there's no nothing. There's nothing there that should get your radar going. But we all have this built in radar And if we see something that's potentially dangerous or we meet somebody for some reason, we don't like them, we just dislike them. We have bad chemistry or something else. We won't connect with them or will be socially apprehensive.
Ronni Abergel: I thought what if we could create a space, a framework where you could borrow someone, for limited time obviously, and talk to them about the thing about them that you're not comfortable with, like their mental health background, being schizophrenic, or their obesity or their disability, or their religion or their sexual orientation, or their ethnic background or their occupation a police officer, sex worker, journalist. So we give out people from homeless to HIV, from immigrant to refugee, from, you know, unemployed to high IQ. We give out people on loan that can help challenge your unconscious bias, but sort of based on some of the prejudices and stigma and stereotypes that those people have faced in their life. So if they have a lived experience that we could learn from and they can surrender to the methodology of the human library which says don't campaign, don't agitate, don't provoke, surrender to the agenda of the readers, meaning it'll be your questions in the meeting between you and the human library book. It'll be your questions that guide the conversation. I don't have anything I need to talk about. I'm here to make myself available to your courage and your curiosity. So if you two came in and you borrowed someone who was bipolar, you could ask them anything you want about their life as bipolar. And if you ask something that was way off topic, nothing to do with their neurodiverse background or their mental health, they might say, hey, those pages aren't published yet. So it's really a safe space to not be judged, where you can take risks, be respectful. There are certain rules to our methodology and maybe it's good to just recap the rules of engagement real quick Bring the book back on time, just like at your community library. Don't hand it over, don't take it home. Basically treat it the way you want to be treated. Then everything's going to be fine.
Ronni Abergel: And if we look at it, you know, people have said to me Ronni, why a library? This is a great idea, but why did you come up with a library? I said, well, because one. Who is welcome at a library? Everybody. You can be rich, you can be poor, you can be young, you can be old, you can have the full mobility of your body, or you can be in a wheelchair or otherwise physically or mentally disabled. You are welcome at the library, no matter who you are.
Ronni Abergel: There's one rule you need to adhere to when you're at the library. You got to respect the space and everybody else's right to be in the space. If you come in there and you're going to start telling people you can't be here or you can't do that or you're too, then you're disrupting the space. But if you come in there and with respect for everybody's, you know, peace of mind, do what you want in there. Next question who is going to tell you what to do at a library? Nobody. There's a library to help you, but the whole world is at your feet. Information, virtually information in magazines, books, whatever you want you can get at the library.
Ronni Abergel: So I thought this is a perfect piggybacking on the most neutral and inclusive institution. I like to call it the most equalitarian place in our culture, and it's a place that's been around for 6000 years. It wasn't always like it is now, but the library as a construct is 6000 years old, so everybody's welcome there, everybody's equal, and you can't, you don't have to pay to play. It's not like going to the stadium. If you have a lot of money, you can sit down by the behind home base in a baseball game, or, you know, at the middle of the field in a football game No, no. Or behind the touchdown, whatever That's here Doesn't matter how much money you have. Only thing that matters is that you respect the space.
Ronni Abergel: So it's very equalitarian in this way, and I like to call it a Jedi mind trick right out of Star Wars, because of course, people can't be a book. Nobody can be a book. There's people, they can be people, but they volunteer to be like an open book for you. That's what we say. So they volunteer, they get trained, they have a lived experience. You can ask them any question you want. It's basically a space to explore humanity, learn about our diversity and sort of be sensitized to your own unconscious bias, maybe agree to disagree. End of the day, you can potentially unjust someone if you become a reader of the human mind.
Cecilie Conrad: Which is my favorite thing to do when I well, i have several favorite things, but I really like it when you get that insight. Oh, i got that one wrong, you know, when you really know, okay, it feels like just one, it feels lighter. Thank you, a layer peeled off clarity because, as you say, we're all.
Ronni Abergel: We're concerned. You removed a fear Yeah, Fear. I've learned something over the years reading many, many human books, if you could call it that, And I think. I don't want to claim that I have an elevated sense of humanity, but I have an ability to see through many layers of the complexity of our humanity, which enables you to navigate in many environments and in many different groups. It's actually made me stronger and it's made me less fearful, And as I travel the world, I've been able to engage with a broad scope of people Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Catholic, Jewish, agnostic, all kinds of religion, all kinds of orientation and feel completely safe. Never felt uncomfortable, even in the darkest alleyways in Morocco, with people trying to show me where to get the key. I was not afraid. I was somehow not afraid.
Ronni Abergel: Maybe that's also very stupid, but living your life in fear is not quality life. I can't help you now. It's not a quality life, Or living your life being angry, Like I could be very angry with the doctor that postponed my wife's heart surgery. I'm not. I was angry for a while I went into therapy. I took years to work with myself and my emotions, but today, 10 years in, I'm not angry with him. I haven't been angry for a long time And I also realized that anger doesn't do anything good for you. So if you're going to be upset about something, let it be temporary. Okay, be upset for a minute, Get that off your system, off your chest, and move on. You know, start afresh, start anew.
Ronni Abergel: I'm not saying we never get angry. Of course we get angry. We're human beings. We have emotions. They go up, they go down. Sometimes they're very warm and kind. Other times they're a bit tense. And I'm not saying you can't be tense, I'm just saying let it pass. You can be tense about your neighbor not doing his lawn. You could be tense about your coworker not running at the same pace as you are. You could be tense about your kids not paying attention or doing their chores or not doing like you hoped for or expected. But let it pass. Let it pass and you can live in peace. Life is too short to walk around being angry and disturbed by other people's. You know presence. Simply just allow yourself to be in where you are and appreciate that.
Ronni Abergel: You know I'm sitting here in a bunch of boxes because I moved two months ago And there are many boxes that have not been unpacked And it took me a while to be at ease with the fact that all these goddamn boxes are still here, Because I want them to go away. My ADHD wants them to go away. I want the room to be cleared, I want to have serenity and now realize there is no rushing this. There is no way to put the stuff that's in the boxes, So I can't exactly enter the boxes. What am I going to do with all the crap that's in the boxes? So I got to first get organized.
Ronni Abergel: No, I got to get organized, my furniture and stuff, get my things on the wall and then slowly reducing the amount of boxes that are left. I was wondering. I'm taking it slow, but it took me a while because it didn't move for 23 years. I wasn't, i didn't. I had the same apartment for that long. It just took me a long time and literally getting used to the fact that being in between places because your life was in boxes stressed me for a moment, in fact, a month and a half or two. I was all around myself. What am I going to do with all these boxes until I came to terms with it?
Ronni Abergel: So I think it's the same with people that might be disturbing to you, with people who may think different from you or live different from you. Like you, all have a bit of an alternative life also, and your approach to living has also been probably a source of great inspiration to many people, but probably also a source of wondering, like, what the hell are they doing? Why are they going about it this way? Oh, that's wrong, that's not right. Well, maybe it's not right for you, but it's right for you and Jesper. And that's what's it. You know, coming to peace and to terms with who we are and what we want to be in this world, and not to be too bothered about what other people are thinking.
Ronni Abergel: That's some of the things that I've been dealing with and working on.
Ronni Abergel: Especially, i realized that when my wife passed away because it was such a tragedy and the way it happened, like out of the blue, her heart valve collapsed while we were on vacation in Spain And basically what happens is, i realized, going out I wasn't going out a lot, but I was going out now and then that social burden that's put on your shoulder, that you have to make other people feel comfortable with what happened to you, which is it's a bit of a negative, i think, in our way of being human beings, because what the hell's going on?
Ronni Abergel: I'm already under some duress here because my wife died or I'm battling cancer or I'm overcoming some other great adversity in my life, and then I have to make you all comfortable with me being here at this thing. It's just not, and you know nobody is going to. It doesn't matter what's fair, because there is no fairness, but it's learning to deal with the way and the mechanics of dynamics and of human beings can sometimes be a painful process. So I actually stayed at home over a year and didn't go out because I realized I don't have the resources to make all these people feel comfortable but when they should be making me feel comfortable.
Cecilie Conrad: I had the exact same experience when I had cancer. I had the cancer, i was very in high risk of dying And I didn't even want people to visit me at the hospital because it was all about assuring them that it was going to be okay and I would survive and it's not that hard, but it was hard. So it was kind of lying in a way. It was very unsettling for people around us and most of them really tried and really did help us as well.
Cecilie Conrad: But in a way they wanted me to support them in handling it and there's, as you said, something backwards about that. Do you have books in your library?
Ronni Abergel: Yeah, yeah, it's a topic. Bereavement and survivors of breast cancer, survivors of suicide. We have a lot of different survivors and people who are left behind.
Ronni Abergel: You could say Bereavement is actually, i think, a very big and underestimated topic And it's something I pushed very hard myself after it happened to me because I thought, wow, what a taboo. Nobody wants to talk about it, nobody likes talking about death. And they'd even come up to me and be like, is it okay if we talk about what happened? And they were afraid to talk about it and I'm like, wow, well, geez, i mean I actually want to talk about it because it's like when we talk about it, she's not forgotten. Don't talk about it. It's like it didn't happen. It mattered, and it mattered the world to us, to my kids, me and to her family and my family.
Ronni Abergel: So it impacted everybody here in the near circles tremendously And but when I look at it today, i'm not really in touch with a lot of her old friends anymore. So they were all there right when it happened, but they've kind of faded over the years. Obviously they were also her friends, not mine, but you know, i'm still kind of maybe a little bit disappointed that they disappeared out of the horizon. And so one day I met somebody on the train. One of her very close friends like this, was a person that even abandoned me on Facebook and everything, and she said it was just too tough And I had never thought about that because I was so caught up in my own having a difficult time with coping. But of course it was also tough for her best friend. Yeah, very tough, yeah. And so I forgave her. I'm not upset with her or anything, but for the sake of the kids and for the story of their mother. I wouldn't have left.
Ronni Abergel: For 20 or 30 years to be like, hey, let's form a circle around these kids and help them remember who their mother was. So that's been the job, just for me and her grandmother and my mother-in-law to sort of keep that fire burning, and it's not easy And it's a bit of a I don't know social. It's a social construct that needs to improve among human beings And that's why I put revetment so much at the forefront of what we do. It's part of our social status pillar. We have 15 pillars of prejudice. One of them is social and that'll be your social status. That could be unemployment. That could be you being a I was going to say an asylum seeker, but a refugee, for example, from Afghanistan. It could be somebody who was unhoused or homeless. It could be you know.
Ronni Abergel: So a lot of things pertain to your social status, and including bereavement. When you're in grief, it's part of your social status. It's also a disease. Now It's recognized as a diagnosis. Long-term grief is recognized by the World Organization now as something that people cope with, and I think I had some long-term grief.
Ronni Abergel: But I'm on the other side. I'm doing well, i'm living life, i'm taking up the advantage of opportunities, because I understand that tomorrow this could all be gone. Tomorrow it could be me who passed away suddenly. So let's make every day matter.
Ronni Abergel: do important things, tell your kids how much you love them, spend quality time with the people you care about all of these things and make sure you spend your time, whatever your job or function is, on something that's rewarding for you, Because it's where you spend most of your life. Your adult life is at work. So if it's not rewarding, then at the end, when you retire, then you're going to be like, oh, now it's time to live life. But now you're 70. Your body is worn, you got a back pain, you got a blood sugar thing, you got a. You know you can't really take advantage as if you had been 15. So there's no reason to wait till 70. Try to do something that really matters and makes you happy every day, and I think that's what I learned from her passing away, and so for a while it was getting a lunch by myself and choosing something that I really felt like eating, like I would drive almost to your old neighborhood in Vullo to have a pizza.
Jesper Conrad: Yeah, I've been there together with you and it was a really good pizza. No, it's another one. It's down by Demning.
Ronni Abergel: It's a place called. Is it called Metsutura or something?
Ronni Abergel: I can't remember You took me there once, but it's still there and they're really good, something that made me feel like eating. So that was important at the time. Now I'm still appreciating these lunches. Man, it's my moment by myself. Often I get a little piece of food and serenity and time to think and relax, and those are moments that I appreciate every day. And the same thing when we sit in here in the living room having dinner with my kids in the new apartment with this great view and the sun, and I rejoice over hey look, what happened. We moved away from the dark where we were and all the memories of what had happened to us, into a new place, new opportunity and lots of light, lots of space, and they're so happy, they're thriving And they're so happy to see kids thrive in the framework that you created and provided, so rewarding.
Ronni Abergel: So every day I try to, you know, take little bits of happiness, because I think happiness comes in very small portions. It's not a constant thing that you're happy, but it also shouldn't be a constant thing that you're concerned or nervous or afraid. So you got to find that balance And I'm like, ah, everything is fantastic. But finding the appreciation on everyday things And I try to do that from my work for my life, and I'm actually quite happy, especially happy that I quit smoking as my gift to myself. I quit last year in August And I just simply I had enough.
Ronni Abergel: This voice in my head I've been telling me for 27 years what the hell are you doing, hurting and damaging yourself, breaking down your health with this thing? And I heard the voice. I heard it screaming, shouting, and I heard myself coughing and all this stuff Wasn't paying attention, wasn't all of a sudden? I'm like I'm 49 years old, i can't like not hear this voice anymore. You got it. What the hell are you doing? You're too smart for this. What are you stupid? And I guess I was No, but that's it. And I had enough. And I'm like, okay, i'm stopping. And I did not touch a cigarette since and I'm not looking to smoke.
Ronni Abergel: I'm really happy being completely smoke free and really smoke free, not smoking anything else either. We're just not smoking. I'm just getting happy with that. But then comes the increased appetite. Oh, yes, so, yeah, so for the first time in my life I got and it's only on my stomach, i got a belly. Now I know it's off camera, unfortunately, but it's not that kind of screws with my mental balance, because when I have to tie my shoes, when I have to put socks on and all that, the belly is kind of in the way. I started this three days a week workout where I do about an hour every morning on this yoga mat. You know, get myself back into motion, not just the 10,000 steps a day, but actually, you know, stretch and get the muscles going and do push ups to become more limber.
Ronni Abergel: I got to do more and I'm doing more and I'm drinking water and I'm trying to eat more healthy and eat less, and now and then I'll even skip a meal because I want to bring the weight back down and I know it's not easy when you're 50. But I do want to come back to where I'm not just happy with my not smoking, but I'm also happy with my physical presence. So it's never a fitness freak or anything, but I was workaholic So it worked a lot. just eat quickly and work more. Now I need to find a better balance and I'm working on it.
Jesper Conrad: And I am certain you can do that, Ronni, yeah you can.
Jesper Conrad: Yeah, you are one that can put your mind to stuff and do it. There were two questions that came up in my mind while you talk. One of them was about the grief because, as it has been 10 years, you have, of course, been in new relationships but at the same time, you have been open about the grief and missing your wife. And, looking from the side, i was always impressed by that because I was like how does that affect a relationship with someone new? So, but you did it and I think it's very brave to do.
Ronni Abergel: That's a very good question. It wasn't always easy. Like you mentioned, i've been in different relationships. Some work shorter, some were longer. Right now I'm with a wonderful woman. I've been with her for years now. It's the longest relationship I've had since my wife And she's been the one who's been most reasonable in coping with the fact that I I'm going to have a lifelong loss that I'm learning to live with, because you don't get over it.
Ronni Abergel: You learn to live with it. You learn to cope with the fact, appreciate what you had, miss what you had, but live with the fact that most of it's gone. And now it's fond memories and warm emotions. And I never surrendered my emotions about her. See, the thing is we were not divorced, we're not separated or finished with each other. We're in the middle of everything two little kids.
Ronni Abergel: So there is no reason for me to not still care about her. There's no, there's no closure you can offer, like say, okay, well, she was a pain in the ass or whatever, and you know, our love faded or something, because it didn't, it was there. It was there when she passed and it's still there today. So and that takes a lot off somebody else, because they're like wow, there are shadows here And it is sure I said, but we've got to differentiate between a passive love and an active love. So for those who've lost a parent and who love their parent, you know that it's a passive love. I mean you always love your father or your mother or who you lost, but it's not. It's not a love that's evolving, because there is no more source to feed that love, and so it's passive love And so it's a shrine of a sort inside me where I stay warm through this, because I remember her love for me keeps me warm And and I don't forget my love for her.
Jesper Conrad: This way.
Ronni Abergel: Yeah, it's a heartwarming and a very beautiful thing. I mean, i have this sense that I converted that into some positive energy that I could harness. But it wasn't always easy for the women that I was seeing And some of them actually it was. They couldn't cope with it. So I had to leave one person because she just simply could not accept. It's like, well, you haven't moved on. I said, well, there is no moving on from this. There's learning to live with it, but there's no moving on. It's a little better every day, but there is, you know, and this was maybe five years in I had to leave this woman where to break it off because she could not. She could not cope with those emotions and she was jealous. And she says, well, it was the greatest love of your life. I said, that's, that's. You can't describe things in that way. Every love is different. Whenever you fall in love with somebody, it's different than the other person that you fell in love with. So don't compare yourself. Don't just be happy that we're together now, because you know, i chose you and you chose me, and that's what's important. It's not important if you choose. I mean, you just been married 20 years to some guy. Am I jealous of that guy? You have four kids with that guy. Am I jealous of that guy? No, i'm happy for you. I hope you had 20 great years. I understand that at the end it was difficult And so you broke it off and you got divorced And sometime later you met me and now we're together. So for having another chance at love.
Ronni Abergel: What's going on here? So some women are a bit some people not just women Some people are a little boxy about this. I'm trying to be very flexible, but also because I've got the luggage, and when you're the one with the luggage you're always sort of hoping for the lenient eye from that other partner, because if they're not lenient about it, then you got to hide your luggage. I can't live with that. I'm not willing to. So if you can't accept my luggage, you're not going to accept me. We can't be together.
Ronni Abergel: So the woman that I'm seeing now, it's not been easy. I'll say that she does have four children And but she got a lot of luggage too. And so for the first time I met somebody where I felt it's a different kind of luggage, but I felt we're almost equals here. I'm not down here and you're up there, because all you have to accept the fact that I have all this luggage and which could, which could slow us down or prevent us from achieving certain things in our relationship. Well, we're actually equal.
Ronni Abergel: You've got a different kind of luggage, like your suitcases are yellow and blue and mine are red and green or whatever But we've got about the same amount of suitcases here. You know, at the end of the day, i have to accept as much about you as you have to accept about me, which makes us more. Even. Part of the explanation why some of it wasn't a lot of relationships with some of the other women that I saw in that years that passed didn't work out. I think part of the explanation was they didn't have any luggage, they had only a two piece And I got like seven pieces And a storage room.
Cecilie Conrad: I mean, how are we thinking about what we talked about before, how I'm not sure we talked about it after we pressed record? But this thing, when you were, you just lost your wife and you would go out and people wouldn't understand how you could have a good time. We have on this list. Probably all know, but I had this cancer disease 12 years ago and we almost lost me. My whole family was in shock for a long time. The risk of the disease coming back was pretty high for a long time. So we had a few years of terror, nightmare kind of life. But we could have fun. We could sit in the garden with red wine and laugh and look at the stars and light a bonfire and enjoy the.
Cecilie Conrad: But it was very hard for some of the people surrounding us to understand. It was as if we had to be afraid all the time, or we had to be sad, or we had to, i don't know So before about this contamination of your social lives that you have to kind of apologize I'm so apologize, i'm sorry, i have cancer, you're all going to be okay. But there is also this complexity, and your story about your love life after losing your wife is also about a complexity that can be hard to Understand. I think for some people that it's not black and white, it's not one love of my life, it's not I'm afraid of dying of this disease. So I'll just sit here over here in my corner being afraid all the time. How?
Ronni Abergel: can we work that? I think we have to respect that. All of us are different And some people some people might sit down and stop living their life because the shadow and the burden that's in front of them is simply overshadowing their life so much that they're unable to live. They're basically shutting down. Well, anyway, might as well, just, or at least they don't know what to do. And then there are other people who are like well, hell, no, i'm going to fight this, i'm going to live life every day, even if my amount of the amount of days I have left or less, then I'm going to do something about that and I'm going to take advantage every day.
Ronni Abergel: It's it's question of, sometimes, i think, mentality and attitude, and so people have different attitudes and different mentalities and I respect that. But it never stopped me from having a good time And I really I reached the point where I don't really care What other people think. I don't mean to be rude or anything, but I couldn't give a shit. I could not give a shit about whether you think it's improper of me being out dancing 14 months after my lifetime. Shit, i wish I could have been dancing 14 days after she passed, because dancing makes me feel happy. Yeah, i feel good, and if there's something you need, just after you lost the love of your life or similar, it's to feel good. They don't understand that because they haven't been in that situation.
Ronni Abergel: I can try and explain it, and I did at some point. You know, in the beginning I tried to say but listen, i'm out here, i'm going to have some fun, i'm going to go home, you know, and then it'll be back to processing this For the next couple of hours. You know, i prefer to just have a rum and coke and relax and not be processing but just be having some good old fun. It doesn't necessarily take alcohol or weed or something to distract you. It could just be something that stimulated you, you know, and and I would do that and not have but I did have in the beginning a little bit of guilty conscience.
Cecilie Conrad: Exactly that. Exactly that, And I think also I had the problem. We had the problem. Our daughter wrote a book about the problem that if you look like you're over it for an evening or a day, then it seems like most people around us would not understand. We're not over it, We're just having fun for a while, But that doesn't mean that the threat of the disease coming back or your loss of your wife is not still there. It's more complex. It's not like you have this problem and then it stops and it's gone. It's. It's the problem that you have and you can. It's more complex and it seems like sometimes there's this black and white understanding of these serious That's because, that's because you're in grief or you're not like.
Ronni Abergel: We judge a book by its cover, so here's a happy book.
Cecilie Conrad: Okay, And then the sad book is over and we put it back on the shelf. but it's life is not like that.
Ronni Abergel: Life is a lot more chapters than just a happy chapter. But I think people I had two reactions. I had one was like wow, are you really okay, because you seem like you're having a great time. I said I'm having a great time, am I okay? I mean, i'm as okay as I can be under the circumstances, but right now I'm having a great time, so don't worry about it. I mean other person was like wow, it's great to see you having a great time because I know what you've been going through. So also in the reactions from the surroundings, from social circles, wasn't black and white either. It was also, you know, different nuances to the way they reacted. Most people were happy to see you having a good time, but there was the risk of them thinking, oh, he's over it, yeah that's it Yeah.
Ronni Abergel: Yeah, we're imagining we're going to sit there and we're going to be devastated 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, not sleeping, not eating, turning into gray matter, and it's just. That doesn't help anybody. And I had these kids.
Ronni Abergel: I had to get up every morning, get my kids to kindergarten and school, make the breakfast, make lunchboxes ready, and then when they were at school and that kindergarten, i had to go shop and I had to get ready for them coming back from school and kindergarten and make dinner and do laundry And fix this and that. So I had a lot of practicals that kept me going. If I had not had those kids, i swear I might just have killed that doctor that postponed her operation. It was that. Oh yes, that's how upset I was. I was that angry with what happened and with, and I felt it was so not fair.
Ronni Abergel: It was so unfair It was very unfair, and to the kids also. But the kids helped me back You could say saved my life in the sense, gave me good purpose to get up in the morning, gave me purpose not to hit that guy with my car five times, and sort of a progressing life and find peace with what happened and try to make the most, because what became really important was okay. This is definitely messed up. The boy is to his mother, is thought his sister is six. The mother was only 37. And so Zoe left us early. But what would she want from us? What will she want for us? What would she expect from me? And I asked myself those questions And the answer was take care of those kids.
Ronni Abergel: Make sure they have a good childhood. Whatever you can salvage, salvage that and spoil the hell out of them. You know, go travel, go to amusement parks, eat ice cream, go roller skating, go out in the sunshine, go to the swimming pool, go do all the stuff that makes you happy, makes them happy, and try to live life. You know, not stop, but, but rather what we always wanted for them. So that's what I tried to do, and sort of transitioning to this new home, which is, i kid you not when you come visit, it is a better place, and it's better also in the sense that there is a light here, there's light, there is air, there's sunshine, there's space and there's and there's a brand new home, in the sense that we renovated the whole crap.
Ronni Abergel: It was 45 years, nobody did anything to this apartment And it's like moving into a whole new life. And I'm just so happy that I was able to do that, to get back on my feet, recover the economic situation and get to a situation where the bank would lend me the money to buy this flat, which is almost twice the size of the one I had I, more expensive and just on one income. So we really pulled myself back, but I'm also. I'm not the one to lie down. But Jesper asked me why would you keep going? Because what else can I do? I don't know what else to do. I don't know to quit, i don't know. I can't sit down and just put my hands in my lap and and give up and say, okay, that's it. I'll never do that. I'm just. That's not who I am And I sometimes I wish that that was possible, because then I could have just given up and not take all this upon myself but say, hey, you gave it a run, you got beat down, you can stay down. It's okay to stay down when you get run over by a tank.
Ronni Abergel: What is expecting you to get up from from an earthquake? You're under the building that fell on top of you In Turkey. We're not expecting to find people down there. We did. Some of them survived underneath that And it's the same here. I was in a human earthquake and I had to get back up.
Ronni Abergel: I'm just happy that I could, that I was able to, because I know some people were not, and I meet sometimes people who are devastated, whose lives have been devastated, and my life has to, but I've learned to cope, deal and live with it. Others are still struggling, 12 years down the road and they're still not near normal And you know it's, it's. I wish for them to be able to find the the energy and motivation in their life that I found in mind. But I got things to do And time is running out, so not our time well, that too. But you know. But you got things to do in life. You got to move And the world waits for nobody. It doesn't wait for us.
Ronni Abergel: So, knock on wood, lucky to be be at the helm of a library that helps people find themselves and meaning in others And, at the same time, could give me the fuel to get up in the morning because, beyond the kids, you got to do something, you got to make money or you're going to be living in poverty. And so I realized, you know, at some point this is going to have to be my job and it's going to take some time. And it took a couple of years before it even started paying out of salary. Yeah, it's been going really well And I'm lucky to be here.
Jesper Conrad: And and and Ronni, I remember one day asking you about it because there's so many volunteers, so many people offering their time to this wonderful project you have. And I asked you, straightforward, like I like to do it, so what do they get out of doing this? And you answers I can't remember your answer properly. So I'm asking you again what is in it for the volunteers going to the library and be in book and share their life?
Ronni Abergel: Well, let's, let's. It's a good question again. Thank you, yes, let's differentiate between volunteer books and volunteer librarians.
Jesper Conrad: Yeah.
Ronni Abergel: So let's start with the books. Now. Imagine your whole life. So people were judging you. People were, oh he's not serious, or or I don't like that, or I'm not going to invite this person, i'm not going to include this person or maybe even discriminated against you, or some people chased you, exposed you to hate crimes because of who you are, because of what you are, what you believe in or how you were born. You can't run away from these things. You can't run away from your parents being Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist. You can't run away from a physical disability that puts you in a wheelchair. You can't run away from your skin color, your ethnic group.
Ronni Abergel: There are certain things that are just. It's part of the, the DNA of you, who you are as a person, but there is a lot of people who might react negatively towards it. Imagine being misunderstood, typecast, if you had schizophrenia or bipolar, bipolar disorder or autism. People misunderstood your capability, your potential, the quality of your person. Maybe they thought you were dangerous because they heard schizophrenia and schizophrenic people are. Aren't they the ones that are dangerous?
Ronni Abergel: There is this whisper out there You don't know, you're just. You know, suffering all the consequences and you can't do Jack about it. Well, maybe you had enough of that And you were like, hey, i'm going to volunteer for this library And I'm going to help explain to other people what it's like to be me, that HIV is not contagious anymore. You can touch me, it's not dangerous. You can give me a hug, i won't. You know you won't go home with HIV or that. You know I'm a Muslim, but I'm not trying to convert you to Islam. Or I'm a Buddhist and I believe in Buddha, but I'm not expecting you to join me here, i mean, or to agree. You can, we can agree to disagree. So a chance to be understood I try to call it a chance to be understood. And if you, if you succeeded that, then it's actually a chance to be included. Because if you've been kept out of the good company all these years because people thought that because you had that tattoo on your face, you were a bad guy, but when they got to know you they realized, oh my God, he's the sweetest guy out there. I've never met such a sweet guy who looks so dangerous, you know, but you're not dangerous.
Ronni Abergel: So, dismantling the fear, the social apprehension, the anxiety can be very useful, and it's also cathartic to be talking about yourself. In a certain extent, even this conversation for me has been cathartic because you guys have such great questions But also putting words to your, your own experience, so your share, complete strangers. They're asking you great questions And you get a chance to think about stuff, like I had a question I wanted to share with you. Also to see. There There was one of my readers who said to me Well, if you knew your wife had a heart condition, why did you go to Spain on vacation?
Ronni Abergel: And I'm like but dude, she had that heart condition since she was nine years old. So we're like, never going to party, never going to travel, never going to have kids out of fear for the heart condition. That's not how we lived our life. So there's no way we're not going to Spain. And she's the one that wanted to go to Spain. And, by the way, the doctors in Spain were as competent, if not more, than the doctors here. So it's not like we had it worse by being in Spain.
Ronni Abergel: But the question still hit me a little bit like a hammer in the head. It's oh my God, why did we go to Spain? And in retrospect, would it not have been wiser to be closer to the heart to that hospital Wouldn't have made no difference, but the question kind of made you question yourself. So we are, i think, all in transition, understanding ourself, our journey, our life, and you know the opportunities we had or didn't have or trying to get to. And by volunteering to be a book, you get a chance to reflect, to connect, to network and to dismantle other people's fear, basically offering them quality of life and yourself.
Ronni Abergel: And as a librarian, you're helping build bridges in the community. You're facilitating the meeting between strangers to have a safe space where they can explore. You, the librarian, are making that space safe because you're supervising, you're supporting, you're explaining the concept, preparing the reader, introducing the reader to the book, and you're picking up on both books and readers. after, how was your experience? you feeling okay to get the answers you were looking for, you know, and supervising the books. Are you all right? Do you need support? Do you need anything? Is there something we need to talk about? So you're a caretaker. So if you're looking for meaningful volunteering, there's maybe nothing more meaningful than actually being the librarian. I mean, if you can't be a book, the next best thing is to be a librarian because you make it all possible. So I think these are. But you're right. I mean one of my friends back then, christopher. You know Christopher, yes, yeah, he said. But, Ronni, why would people volunteer when, if they're obese or if they're disabled, or if they got this big mole on their face and it's been a pain in the neck for them their whole life, why would they volunteer to talk about something that makes them vulnerable? I said because through that vulnerability comes a strength, it'll become stronger. I'm confronting them.
Ronni Abergel: And in Washington DC we had a high ranking officer of the World Bank with the same skin disease as Michael Jackson, but also African American. And so this woman volunteered to be a book And when she came to the book training she says, Ronni, i'm really in doubt. What do you think my book could be? And I said no, but there's no, there's no discussing it. We got to address the elephant in the room And it's the vitiligo. We got to talk about the vitiligo and she pulled up her sleeves like trying to hide the vitiligo. But, sweetie, it's on your face, it's on your throat, it's on your arms, on hands. You can't hide who you are. And even if you would try to say, hey, i'm the African American lady and I'll talk about the discrimination I face growing up and as a black woman in America, sure, and that would be great to talk about.
Ronni Abergel: But we've got to get the other thing out of the way first. Like, what is that on your face? Yeah, if we don't address the elephant in the room, nobody's going to hear anything. You say They're just going to be staring at your face, going what is that on her face? So it's up to you. I said you can take charge or you can be on the on the reactionary side afterwards, sort of, and she's like okay, let me think about that. She came back and she goes. She took her sleeves up, she goes. I'm going with vitiligo. I speckled life. Yeah.
Ronni Abergel: So the first time she came out and she talked about her skin condition underneath, you could ask also about her color of skin and what that had meant, but really the sort of skin condition was the main topic And she felt great about it. I'm still in touch And she is, you know, it's empowered her. She's wearing short sleeves at work now, okay, because it's hot in DC, in Maine, so she's wearing short sleeves at work. She didn't care People see her skin condition but gave her confidence to be herself And look, accepting yourself as the first important step to being happy in life, you know, is not to be unhappy with who you are but sort of come to terms with it.
Ronni Abergel: And she did And she's very successful. She did a great job, doing a great thing And also an incredible open book. These are just few of the examples. I've had so many rewarding stories of people that benefited from the library And I got to thank you last, the summer before last, during COVID, i got to thank you from a guy who borrowed books at the original event in 2000. So 21 years later, still remembers his experience.
Ronni Abergel: Yeah that's beautiful. And I also had a letter from somebody that had remembered and it was also 2021,. I got the letter, but that was somebody that had visited a public event we did in Copenhagen in 2004. So, 17 years later, still remembering who they met that day, what they talked about. So, finally, i got a letter from the CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world, a company called Compass Group. So Compass Group has over 500,000 employees worldwide And we did a training for the C-suite level and the board of the company so the top, top leadership.
Ronni Abergel: And I got a letter in the mail in my private address, a handwritten two-page thank you note from the CEO of the company.
Ronni Abergel: So Dominic wrote to me in all my years in leadership, this is the most impactful training I've ever had. I've learned and I understand and I'm changed by it, and I'm inspired to take actionable steps within my own organization to ensure that we are more inclusive. And it's an important employer because they employ people on different levels, even people that have no schooling at all. You could get a job with Compass Group in the section that's in sanitation and renovations, and so they do a lot of facility services, so there's a lot of unskilled labor opportunity as well. So some of the weakest people in the labor market, at least looking at competence, get opportunities in this company and become a resource to the community and a taxpayer and many other great things and able to provide for themselves. So it's a win-win-win situation. Why would he take the time to write me a page and a half thank you note? if what we've done for them did not help, he did not have to do that.
Ronni Abergel: He did that because that's how much it impacted him. So I'm doing this also because you know you can sell used cars or you can do something that helps change the world to a better place. I really believe that's what we're doing here We're helping change the world into better ways.
Cecilie Conrad: Right, i can sign up for that.
Jesper Conrad: Yeah.
Cecilie Conrad: Yeah, you totally are.
Jesper Conrad: I have a question, Ronni, because and it's one I believe I've never asked you before which is what are people who have a lot of prejudice inside of them, or who judge people a lot? Would they go to a library or are you only preaching for the choir?
Ronni Abergel: Who am I to judge? But I will give you this much I don't think we're preaching to the congregation, but I think our public offering meaning public libraries, festivals, the Reading Garden in Copenhagen that's open every Sunday over the summer all of these opportunities that are public orientated, probably are not visited by those who need it the most. Probably. I think everybody needs it, but some people maybe would benefit even more from coming than you and me. Yeah, but if we are to categorize but I don't like to judge, but I do say through our work programs, which are extensive, they're told by their leadership to be in attendance. Yeah, they're expected to be in this leadership training session, like in Nashville recently for American theaters, amc, or in Phoenix, arizona, for Tex-Mex, or for Megamex, producers of these Mexican, incredible Mexican food parts. Or recently in Chicago at McDonald's University, where 200 people from the American marketing team were in attendance. Now, those 200 marketing people did not choose to be there. Their chief marketing officer decided that they're going to be there. Yeah, so that's how we reach beyond. The congregation is literally, you're being told by your employer you need to do this training, you're going to do the training, and so from some of those groups we get. Also we get response. Here's some of the response. In my 13 years as a leader, i've never experienced anything this impactful, or when I saw two hours blocked in my calendar I thought, oh my God, but I could have spent the whole day at your library. So we get. And I got a call from a big equity fund in the US called Bain Capital. So Bain Capital is an equity fund with about $200 billion really insane and a portfolio of companies that they own a stake in or they own entirely. Yeah, so they have all these portfolio companies, which are over 50 companies where they invested significant sums into that, the development of those companies. One of those companies is based in Europe And one of the leaders from one of those companies attended an event that we put together short notice outside Heathrow Airport because another leader from that company decided we need something to rattle our cage here at the company For this leadership seminar.
Ronni Abergel: Could you come? And then we said, sure, we'll come, and we went to the event. We did a really nice thing. This guy, phil, calls back to his mothership connection, which is the mother company, bain Capital, and he says this is the most profoundly life changing experience I've ever had. And then Bain Capital calls us and says we talked to Phil And everybody who knows Phil, phil is the most conservative leader in that whole company. So if you guys got to Phil, then we can do something. And I've got to say sometimes, look at the McDonald's statistics. When we get almost 100% approval rating from our users, it's uncommon for the sector that we're in, because when you're speaking about diversity, equity and inclusion, there's already there one in five going. Oh my God, not more of that diversity stuff. Oh.
Ronni Abergel: I'm so tired of hearing about the diversity stuff And what's in it for me. But when they try this, they realize this isn't just about other people. It's about you. It's about the way you think, the way you feel, the way you talk, the way you perceive other groups and your ability to connect with other groups, with people that are different. So these are life skills you need to hone, and having these courageous conversations helps you do that. So the reason why we're expanding in the middle of a crisis and hiring more people and continuing to grow is because the impact of the program is tremendous And people take ownership of the learnings in ways that many other leadership development trainings and DEI trainings they're not able to do.
Ronni Abergel: That. They're not able to have lasting change power with sit within the people that are involved. We are, and 10 years down the road, they remember they did this. At the end of their life they're going to remember they did this. So I'm fortunate to be in a vehicle that is not just passing you by on the road and you're like, oh, what was that? Was that a? okay, it's gone now, it doesn't matter. No, i'm in a slow moving boat And anybody who gets on board and takes part of that journey, will remember that part of the journey where they were with us.
Ronni Abergel: So in that way we have lasting power And that's why we keep coming back, also to recently. We're in the, the Simat University Library there in Mogadishu in Somalia, at Tobale University Library, and I mean these people it's their third time in six years hosting. They keep coming back. They keep coming back because there is a demand. People are asking when does the human library come back? So they want to learn, they want to have opportunities that are safe to explore each other's backgrounds and not be canceled, not be perceived as offensive or ignorant, because there are no stupid questions at our library.
Jesper Conrad: There are no wrong questions. I think that's one of the things I love about it, because often when I talk to people, there are people who get offended, not because I'm offensive, not middle, like that.
Cecilie Conrad: Sometimes you are Sometimes you're downright, you know you want to provoke. No, no, no, yes.
Jesper Conrad: But no, no, no. But I actually honest. I love to have fun. You love to provoke.
Ronni Abergel: But it's just teasing.
Jesper Conrad: It's just teasing. But for example, one of my own co-workers is a homosexual and I've had a lot of fun with him, talked a lot with him, But if I had talked about when people here maybe with over here, they would get offended on his behalf. And I think this whole get offended on others' behalf is a really destroying thing for the way we interact. And that's what I love about the human library It's a safe space without offense. People are not there to get offended. I almost feel some people sometimes are on a what can offend me today mission.
Ronni Abergel: Yeah, and that is really a sad situation for all of us. that it's. that's what it's come to, that we take offense so easily, or we? we, we think that the motive of other people is to offend or to be abusive? It's not necessarily. It can be, but it's not necessarily. And sometimes friendly teasing between two friends from outside can be seen as as yeah, like you said, can be easily misunderstood or misconscured by those who are, you know, eavesdropping or watching from the outside At our library.
Ronni Abergel: if you offend easily, don't become a book, because people here will ask questions and you're going to hear the same question 100 times. You've got to be accepting. but we don't talk about tolerance because we don't want you to be tolerant. We want you to be understanding, just like you want to be understood. So please try to understand the perspective of the reader so you can give them the best potential answer to the question. And whether you're tired of that question or not, then it's up to us to work with your motivation to be a good book and not sort of surrender to oh, i've answered that a thousand times, i don't want to talk about that. But you have the right to say hey, i'm not, i don't want to talk about that.
Ronni Abergel: I don't think we get a lot of people that are offended. I think we got a lot of people who are surprised Wow, i didn't know, it was like that. I never imagined that that could be. you know, a path forward for some people, or I never met anybody with this type of strength. How could they overcome what they've been going through? It's so amazing, so inspiring. but not a lot of people get offended. But we do live in a time also where you have to understand that being offended or is also a way to get attention.
Jesper Conrad: Yeah, yeah.
Ronni Abergel: And so I think that some people found out, just like polarizing politics is a way to obtain power, then being offended whether it's on your own behalf or on behalf of somebody else, is a way to attain attention. Especially if the people you're offended about have a high profile, a public profile, famous people, for any reason, they can barely say something wrong before they get canceled, And I think that's a bit of a sad situation that has come to this, because look at it as lack of education If somebody is using a wrong word to describe someone, is it because they want to offend or is it because they don't know any better? So there are certain stories out in the media every now and then. Right now there's a story about the CEO of Tesco, which is the largest supermarket and grocery chain in the United Kingdom. So this man apparently behaved in ways which was not proper And I guess he had unwanted touching of a staff member and he made some comments about somebody's, the way somebody looked. That was perceived by that person as offensive or at least transcending the boundaries of their personal space, that they did not appreciate. And this guy is like 70 years old, So he comes from another generation And if you think about what he's used to and what he's seen in his life, then things were very different 30 years ago in the labor market. So you have to that change comes. But beating people down for making mistakes, it depends how severe they are Not talking about Harvey Weinstein type of abuse, because that criminal, negligent and you need to go to jail And that's just disgusting.
Ronni Abergel: But I mean, there's certain examples coming out where I think, wow, there is zero tolerance amongst an audience that is asking for acceptance. How does this work? You're asking me to yeah, exactly. You're asking me to accept the ways in which you're different, the ways you want your pronouns to be handled, or the certain, let's say, circumstances around your position that we need to take into consideration, or considerations we need to show to fully include you and for you to feel comfortable, And we'll do that. But you don't have to also understand that we're in a transitional period between those who used to do things in the wrong way and those coming into power now that are trying to do things in the right way. And while we're in this transitional period, there's going to be things that go wrong.
Ronni Abergel: But let's not be intolerant. I actually one woman called me once from the Ukraine, actually before all this trouble in Ukraine and she talked about these people in Ukraine that were not very open to people of certain LGBTQIA plus backgrounds and stuff. And she said, Ronni, we have no tolerance for the intolerant. And I have to say, but what does that make us? You said it in the own sentence no tolerance for the intolerant, That means yourself, Because if you're not tolerating those who are intolerant, then you are intolerant for Christ's sake. I mean, it's quite long here. So are we going to sink to that level Or are we going to try to embrace the people who are intolerant and say to them hey, that is really unfortunate that you feel this way. Maybe you misunderstood something about who I am. Let me explain. You know, try to contact with them, because once they get to know you, it's very difficult to hate somebody that you know. I mean, it's very rare that you hate somebody that you know. You'll hate those people over there, Gray Mass, because they support a different football team or something or that political group that you think, or when you get to know them, Like my friend recently went to the National Rifle Association Conference in Indianapolis.
Ronni Abergel: My friend, an open book from Indiana, is a transgender. So Charlize is there, signed up for membership of the NRA to get tickets to the conference, stood in line with all the NRA members and she talked to a lot of them. And you know who they were. They were just like us. We disagreed on certain things, but we had so much more in common that was keeping us apart. And these were not plain evil people. These were people who in one way thought that, you know, that gun made them feel more secure and that was a right they wanted to protect. And maybe we disagree there, Maybe we think it's not needed with all the guns, and maybe they'll come around. I see more and more people getting murdered. It might one day dawn upon some of them that all these guns are not healthy for the mentality and the culture of the society. But sort of. She stood there in line, She went to all the talks, She heard all the politicians Solarizing the crowd. But the crowd itself were not that hateful.
Ronni Abergel: But when they get mobilized by people who are harnessing the power of the hate, then it becomes, you know, to a danger for all of us. But when you go near them one-on-one, they're not that way at all. So are they truly really the way we think Some of these neoliberals or Trump supporters, whatever we want to call them radicals. I think they're not. I think the leadership is And I think they'll do what the leadership says A little bit like sheep. We're looking for strong leaders. We believe in them, But if there's strong leadership that come in and says something else that they trust and believe in, then they can be molded. They can be pulled back into the middle. So that's basically what I'm hoping that we can do with this library is pull some of these people on each side come into the middle and let's talk. Let's see if we can find common ground. Let's see if we can agree to disagree and respect each other's right to be different. Maybe you're going to uncharge someone.
Cecilie Conrad: Maybe. So if those listening to the podcast would like to attend an event, they could probably just go to the website to see where the closest event is. But what if it's not? What can we do? Well, i cannot make your way to actually attend an event. How can you work with this in your own life? What would be your motivation?
Ronni Abergel: Okay, but first to find events. Let's start with that and then talk about, if you're not able to access it all, following us on social media Facebook, instagram, twitter, linkedin is going to be more helpful in finding reading opportunities than just going to our website. So I recommend supporting us on social media, finding us and then receiving regular updates about what are the reading options this week. Where can I connect with the human library? And it moves all around, so there is, of course, not for everybody everywhere at the same time doesn't exist, but then you can join us online every other Sunday, which is always a great reading opportunity. If you have internet, zoom, webcam et cetera, then you can become a reader. It's free of charge. Sign up. You have to follow social media And the 80 spaces are gone really quick, so you want to sign up right away. Apply to be a reader as soon as you see the post, because, I mean, we have a strong interest on the online sessions.
Ronni Abergel: But, literally, let's be honest, you don't need the human library to unjust someone. You need to look at yourself and look at what are my biases and why. Why do I feel something when I see that person, or I hear that person, or I'm engaging with this person. Why do I have these feelings? Ask yourself, have the courage to ask yourself what's wrong, why you upset, why are you angry? Why do you dislike this person And question that Question why you're disliking that person? Is it really necessary or is it because you were hearing something wrong? And I know it takes capacity, it takes ability to reflect, and it takes also questioning your own senses, because sometimes it's a stomach thing. It's a stomach thing And it says, ooh, i really don't like this woman, or I really don't like this man, or I'm afraid of people that are a certain background. But if you get a chance to get to know them and it reminds me of the origin story of this library, which is years before we even created the thing We're in a train station waiting for a train.
Ronni Abergel: There's a man sitting on the bench drinking beer And I judged him as a beer drinker Because it's daytime, he's not at work, he's got a whole bag of beer. He's probably sitting there more often than not just drinking beers on the bench, i'm assuming potentially unemployed with an alcohol. I didn't know. I just judged him really quick back then, because we all judge, and so I'm listening to him while I'm waiting to the train And he keeps talking about how these immigrants and Muslims and people of dark skin need to go back to their own country And I'm like, oh, do I have the energy to get into this With some guy who's drinking, and it's two o'clock in the afternoon? I just want to get on my train and go home.
Ronni Abergel: I can't save the whole world, but I do notice when an Arabic man then comes in on his way into the store inside the station and he comes over and he shakes the guy's hand and he knows his name And these two are obviously very friendly with each other And so after he leaves it's a courtesy call He walks into the store. I'm sitting there on the bench with this guy And I look at the guy and I say, dude, two minutes ago you told me all these and these have to go back to their own country, whether or not the guy that just came in. Now he goes. That's Muhammad, i know him, he's okay, and it gave me the idea. If we could create a space where everybody could get to know each other, we might find out that we're okay.
Ronni Abergel: And nobody has to go to the country, where nobody has to be out of the labor market or nobody has to sit at home and be lonely because people who understand your quality and want to be with you. So a chance for a more inclusive world for all of us, for our kids too, so let's hope for that. Anyway, it's been a pleasure and people can Beautiful project Thank you.
Ronni Abergel: If anybody is inspired to become part of this movement, you can join at humanlibraryorg. You can apply to be a book. You can apply to be a librarian. There's a lot of training going on all the time. We built this beautiful portal for new books with Jesper's help, by the way, so come check it out. Maybe you got a good book hidden in you, yeah.
Cecilie Conrad: Honi that was.
Jesper Conrad: It's been a pleasure. Yeah, you made me cry, you made me laugh And it was really good.
Cecilie Conrad: Maybe you even got to laugh. Oh, you got goosebumps. Yeah, yeah.
Jesper Conrad: Thank you for your time, Honi.
Ronni Abergel: Great to be with you. Thanks, guys, Stay safe okay.
WE HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS EPISODE
Have you heard the latest podcast episodes?
🎙️New episode out every Thursday 🎙️
#35 Jen Keefe | Unschooling and Mental Health: A Parent's Perspective
Da Ladies #3 - Navigating Social Challenges in the Unschooling Journey
#34 Erika Davis-Pitre | Homeschooling as an Answer to Race-Based Educational Inequalities
Where are we now?
Want to stay up to date with our travels and podcast? Then sign up for our weekly newsletter