On November 15th, twenty-eight women from a variety of races, nations and religions gathered together for a Conversation Safari. The plan was to dive into divisive current events and the fears that drive our emotions, our behaviors and our results.
Our topic had been planned for months based on several private conversations:
- I’d had with a Muslim neighbor
- And several different conversations I’d had with ladies that will always have a better tan than I do
In each of those private conversations we shared fears, we felt each other’s pain, and considered new perspectives.
(The date of our event had been chosen because of some scheduling conflicts, not because of a master strategy. But when November 9th rolled around and the election results from the U.S. hit the airwaves – fear in across the world and in the expat sandbox grew. Our topic could not have been more perfectly timed.)
- One of the women I had met with during the summer shared what was happening at the University that her son attends in the U.S.
- Other neighbors were posting deep concern for their safety in the world
- While other friends in the U.S. were sharing deep concerns about racism and bigotry
As the news about Orlando, and yet another hate crime swirls around us….
What are you seeing? What are you hearing? What are you pondering? What are you praying for?
Typically after events like this I invest major amounts of energy reading the news and contemplating the opinions and the blame game that follows.
Have you got a list of values that you hold so dearly, that they actually define who you are?
And I used to really struggle with those that didn’t share those values.
As a child, I would passionately argue my convictions and not listen to those that did not share my opinions. (Because they were simply wrong!)
As a young professional, I thought it was horribly rude for people to roll their eyes in disagreement – but the shaking of my head as others spoke – screamed how wrong they were. (And how unwilling I was to listen.)
Hi! My name is Chery, and I am a recovering opinionista! (…Emphasis on recovering.) Somewhere along the way, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, and I didn’t like what I saw.
So I began to listen more and talk less. (Not because I didn’t have opinions, but because I didn’t know how to share them and really listen.)
Along the way I heard personal stories from people who had opposing views about some of the values that I hold most dear. And I began to really consider what it was like to walk in their shoes and even wonder if I’d experienced what they had, if I would hold those same views.
In most cases, my convictions did not change, but my understanding, compassion and creativity increased:
I grew up in a little town in North Dakota, where we had four very distinct seasons. My favorite as a child was summer – because I absolutely love being in the water!
It was refreshing, peaceful, freeing, great exercise and fun!
Unless we were camping by the lake… We would pedal our bicycles to the pool multiple times every single day. In the morning for an hour of lessons, then for three hours of open swimming in the afternoon and occasionally in the evening for another two – three hours of playing in the water!
If gills or a mermaid tail had been an option I would have them!
A few years ago I met a young woman that loved being in the water even more than I do. As a child she was on swim teams and lived in the pool. But at a very young age she was diagnosed with a disease that has impacted her body a lot like ALS.
Have you ever caught a whiff of a smoky haze coming from down the hall? …The kind that indicates something is not quite right?
Occasionally a fire alarm even goes off, but it is quickly silenced.
…But if you follow your nose the smoke gets thicker around another titled leader’s door.
Yes – I’m asking about a titled leader that may be a level or two below you, may be your direct report, your peer or even your boss.