The LLL Galaxy: Reaching Mothers Around the World
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 44, No. 2, 2008, pp. 10-11
Editor's note: The following article is the text from a presentation by Iona Macnab at the Japan Area Conference in August 2006. It was originally published in the Volume 8, Issue 1, 2007 issue of ALL Around Asia.
Did you know that this week the International Astronomical Union is holding its General Assembly in Prague? Here they will make a historical decision, which will influence whether or not our solar system will officially include 12 planets, instead of the nine planets we have known until now. This presents a very big change in our understanding of what planets constitute our solar system.
For thousands of years very little was known about the planets other than they were objects that moved in the sky with respect to the background of fixed stars. In fact, the word "planet" comes from the Greek word for "wanderer." With the advent of powerful new telescopes on the ground and in space, today there are lots of newly discovered large round objects in the outer regions of our solar system, which have made the astronomers rethink the definition of a "planet."
Starting from the sun, we have always known there were Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. But looking at this newer picture, we can see there are also Ceres, Charon, and the most distant planet, 2003 UB313. This one has not even been given a proper name yet! For very many years, everyone believed that the planets in our solar system and our Milky Way galaxy made up the entire universe. It was only through developments in technology, telescopes and understanding that we have discovered that many galaxies exist in our universe -- our solar system is only a tiny part.
What a difficult concept to grasp! I turned to the definition of the word "galaxy" to help me understand, and found out several interesting things. First, did you know the English word "galaxy" comes from the Greek word "gala," meaning "mother's milk?" Legend has it that the Milky Way was formed from the milk spurting from the breasts of the Greek goddess, Hera, Queen of Heaven! (Think of galactologue, galactosemia, galactocele!)
Secondly, there are different kinds of galaxies! There are spiral galaxies like ours, where over two hundred billion stars rotate around a compact center. These are the most common type, but there are also elliptical galaxies and chaotic irregular galaxies that are much more challenging for non-astronomers to understand. Perhaps our spiral galaxy sounds a little like LLL?
There are many ways we can think of it. One is to imagine the central core as the mothers and babies we reach every day all over the world; the spiraling stars that make up the rest of the galaxy are Leaders. Or maybe another way of looking at it is that we can view the central core as LLL philosophy, the planets might be the Leaders, and the stars could be the mothers and babies!
If you have ever studied galaxies and astronomy, you will know far more about this subject than I. However, two things became very clear to me when I read about the recent astronomical developments:
- Even when some elements of a system are very hard to imagine or understand, it doesn't mean they can't exist.
- When things are different from our expectations, it doesn't mean that we can't find ways to accept and incorporate them, just as the astronomers of the world are currently engaged in their discussions about how to classify planets, and how to incorporate this new knowledge into our existing systems.
Of course you can imagine I would like to draw an analogy between these ideas and LLL. The structures in LLL have always been presented to us as being quite fixed, with a specific order, sort of like the solar system of planets as we have known it. Leaders in each Area have their specific support networks, linking all of us in our common purpose of helping mothers breastfeed, and for reporting our activities to our organization. But what if we could change the way we think of our support networks from these classical hierarchical or linear models? What if we began to think about LLL more as a kind of galaxy, where information can travel openly and freely among all Leaders, like the stars spiraling around the center core? With rapid developments in technology and changes in traditional ways of communicating, how are we able to work most effectively as Leaders? Are we reaching enough mothers with our positive messages of mothering through breastfeeding? If we were open to new kinds of structure and support, could it improve the way we work as Leaders?
I am fortunate to be in the role of Regional Administrator of Leaders, which is a great privilege, as I am able to work with Leaders in many different parts of our LLL galaxy. I learn so much from the different things Leaders do in other Areas, and the different visions of what makes up the important parts of our galaxy. By sharing this knowledge with the LLL Leaders in the Areas I have contact with, perhaps new ideas and systems can be incorporated in ways we never imagined possible.
Leaders' Work Around the World
Let's look at some concrete examples of Leaders' work around the word. Did you know that LLL France handles 90,000 emails a year? They have 286 Leaders. This averages out at 314 emails per Leader per year, or 0.86 emails per Leader per day! If an Area with only 90 Leaders handled one email a day each for a year, just imagine -- that is an extra 32,000 extra contacts with mothers who have turned to LLL for help! In Puerto Rico, 27 Leaders answered 5,694 telephone calls last year, which means everyone handled about four calls a week. In Israel, they have a telephone hotline that handles about 6,000 calls a year, and they have 70 Leaders in their Area.
In Argentina, LLL Leaders helped influence approval of a new law that allows mothers who breastfeed to have seven months of paid maternity leave! Monica Tesone, one of the Professional Liaison Leaders in Argentina, acted as advisor and provided information on the importance of breastfeeding and legislation from other countries in Latin America that protected and promoted breastfeeding. She was invited to speak before the Argentinean Congress on June 22, 2006, when the new law was announced.
In Asia, Leaders are working on translations of LLL materials into Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic. In South Africa, translations into Afrikaans are being worked on. In Japan we are having our first ever Area Conference, with sessions for Leaders and health professionals!
Leaders have established LLL for the first time in countries like Bulgaria, Estonia, Norway, and Venezuela. This past year, Greece became its own Area with 21 Leaders and several publications already available for mothers in Greek; they handled over 3,000 calls in their first year! Conferences have been organized this year not only in Greece, but also in Latin America, Israel, and South Africa. In March LLL administrators met in Rolduc, Holland for the 2006 European Mastery Symposium, which is organized every two years. We heard that in Europe and Great Britain, some towns have LLL meetings that have evolved into cafés where mothers meet for a casual chat and a drink/coffee, and Series Meeting topics are not fixed. Sometimes no meeting topic is fixed, specific information is not covered, but mothers happily enjoy the support of other breastfeeding mothers in a different sort of LLL environment. There they may be open to learning more about the LLL philosophy of our core even though the presentation format is different. The Leaders are able to respond to the needs of local mothers! In China, fathers attend meetings, as the mother's main support person. In some other parts of the world, this has never even been considered -- it depends on the culture.
People often ask, "Can you do that?" And the answer could be "If you are following the principles and representing LLL in the manner expected of a Leader, then of course!" Leaders know what works best in their local solar system, and as part of our LLL galaxy, we can offer her positive support as she seeks to attract more mothers to LLL via new methods.
There may always be new ideas coming up which we haven't considered before, or which we may not understand immediately, but by being open to the possibilities of new planets in our solar system, or new galaxies in our universe, we expand the possibilities of LLL. If we reach more mothers and babies now, then we get more members later, and from more members, we can get more Leader Applicants and Leaders, and in the end with more Leaders we will be able to reach more mothers and babies, and gradually expand the reach of our wonderful spiral LLL galaxy.