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Can We Dialogue?

Here is a facebook conversation I had with my cousin. I welcome your feedback on my approach for trying to learn more and also share my own perspective. May we find ways to dialogue across our differences. May we be open to hearing each other. May we be open to allowing our own perspectives to change. May the goodness in our hearts be the compass that guides us forward.

Ashley posted: Students walking out in NYC… Because their country just walked out on them by voting in Betsy DeVos?

Cousin: From what I have heard and understood over the last few years, people r screaming for a change in the school system. Now a change has been offered. I don’t get it.

Ashley:  As someone who has been very active in cultivating change in schools, I deeply value people who have experience with those directly impacted being the ones leading change. Someone who has not been an educator, has not attended or sent her own children to public schools, has not worked with the populations of students that are most impacted within our public school systems is not someone who I trust to lead change.

Cousin: Maybe someone outside the box is necessary to lead the change. Have the experienced leaders in the past done anything to help the schools? Not from what I’m hearing.

Ashley: Besides the fact that she is outside the box, what makes you think that she is a good choice for this role?

Cousin: She’s been an advocate for charter schools, school choice and voucher programs in Detroit. She’s on the board of Alliance for school choice. She heads the All children matter pac. She’s on the board of Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Ashley: I realize that these are her credentials and affiliations. I’m wondering what specific things that she’s done in any of those roles do you think will influence positive change in public education for all children?

Cousin: Ashley we will have to wait and see what the plans are. It can’t be any worse than it now. Everyone wants change. Give her a shot and see. Obama had no government experience at all. Just a community organizer. And the majority of the US have him a chance and all his supporters think he did a fantastic job.

Ashley: Cousin, one of the things that you and I have in common is that we both want to see change. As I’ve mentioned to you many times, I don’t fit within the box you try to place me in that is about Democrats or Republicans. I’m not someone who thinks Obama did a fantastic job in everything nor was I a die-hard Hillary fan. I work every single day to actively be a part of creating change in my community and country to bring about more awareness and understanding about our differences and to work towards a future that is actually fair, just, respectful, compassionate for all people. I don’t believe government was doing a great job in public schools leading up to this moment. And I don’t believe that someone like DeVos is the change that will actually make public schools start working. What I believe in more than any of these billionaires being appointed or politicians who are die-hards for their party line rather than thoughtful to the issues is PEOPLE. When it boils down to it, the question is how many decent hearted people will go out of their comfortable life to care about those that are most vulnerable, most impacted by public schools loosing huge amounts of funding, disabled students not being protected, immigrant students not being adequately taught and protected, and Black students being tracked to prison? For me, I can’t just wait and see and let more people suffer. I feel a responsibility to care for and be a part of this change. I don’t trust someone like DeVos whose family has given millions of dollars to politicians. And I very much do trust the community organizers in the world. They are the ones that have historically been responsible for influencing the most social change. If you’re not familiar with the impact community organizers have had on our country, I highly encourage some reading in that realm.

Ashley: A post from a friend of mine: I’ve been holding my tongue, but Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education was a never-taught-in-a-classroom, privatizing education, high stakes testing champion*. Betsy is just more of the same… that appointment is actually the least troubling since it continues the trajectory Bush and Obama put us on since NCLB. So, I gotta say for all those who threw their everything into opposing DeVos, I hope you call your Senators to oppose Sessions this morning, an avowed white supremacist racist who may become our next Attorney General. Now THAT is terrifying and unprecedented.

Cousin: I appreciate and respect u for fighting for what u feel strongly for and against. I just get the feeling that anyone who didn’t vote for trump will be unhappy with whomever he chooses to fill his cabinet. As your friend stated above, Arnie Duncan had no experience but yet he served as secretary. I’m sure there was opposition from the republicans but not in the way it’s happening now. People who voted for trump wanted big change and that’s what’s happening. I can tell u that the Milwaukee public schools need massive change. But then talking to teachers who have taught there say it’s very hard to keep the students going because they get no help or encouragement from home. I’m not saying this is happening to all kids, but it is a large percentage here. The graduation rate is very low in the inner city. We can’t expect the teachers to raise our children. We r the ones who have to be the advocates for the children which I am doing for my kids. And which u r doing for the children who have no voice and I respect u for that.

Ashley: People who voted for Obama wanted big change as well. And many feel discouraged at the end of 8 years as the kind of change we hoped for didn’t happen. Many of those people chose not to vote at all this election because neither Trump nor Clinton provided evidence of that change. I believe that folks who want change have a lot in common with each other and what we need to be doing is critically thinking for ourselves, asking ourselves and our peers hard questions about what will really bring about the change we want, and finding ways to work together outside of political affiliation to make that change happen.

I don’t support protesting because its popular, nor do I support accepting what Trump and his people say is true just because they say it. I think that what we are seeing in the protests and resistance is many people who are done believing politicians who make big promises that they will solve our problems but really they are acting for their own benefit and in the best interests of those who pay for their political career. Folks are realizing that the system isn’t working. What Trump is proposing and the people he is appointing to lead change have a track record of being Nationalist, discriminatory, racist and sexist. They have a long history of using corporate money to garner profit over supporting the rights of people. I think that those of us who want change don’t want to see this kind of abuse from the elite with power. That is what Trump supporters voted against. Absolutely, there are serious problems in inner city public schools and the solutions are complex. Understanding the home lives of children is definitely a big part of solutions. It’d be a whole nother post for me to talk about schools and change in that realm. Thank you for the dialogue here, cousin.

Ashley: Hey Cousin, One more thing keeps circling around my head. I believe you and I had a conversation about choosing the lesser of 2 evils prior to election. On my end, that meant voting for Clinton and preparing what my plan of action was going to be to resist and push back against her policies that I heavily disagreed with. I would love to see where there are Republicans who voted for the lesser of two evils in Trump and are pushing against aspects of this administrations decisions that they don’t agree with. If you see this, are living this, please share things with me. I heard so many people make that statement during the election and I’m so curious how those folks are navigating now.

Also, a year or 2 or 3 or 4 from now, I am totally willing to recognize and celebrate if our country has undergone positive changes and the majority of public schools are getting quality education that matches their needs, the people I see being violated against and discriminated against are feeling protected and included in our governance and law enforcement, the inequities in access to jobs and healthcare are dramatically limited, etc. And I pray with all my heart, that folks like you who support Trump and his administration will be equally as open to recognizing and resisting if we actually are moving into a fascist regime. I have a very diverse community of friends and I see when people are being targeted by law enforcement and legal attacks. I pray that people who don’t have as diverse of communities will listen when folks are calling out for help and will not stand by when rights are being taken away. I pray that our country won’t repeat a Nazi Germany era. From the research I have done myself, I do see it as a possibility. On that note, if you or friends of yours have links to articles that you respect about Bannon, I welcome those as well. He is one of the people I am most concerned about his influence on the direction our country is headed.

Cousin: Yes I know a lot of people who voted for trump because they didn’t want to vote for hillary and he was the only option. I also know a lot of people who voted for trump because they liked his ideas, policies etc. I will have chats with these folks and let u know what their thoughts r about him and what is going on so far with the admin. I’m glad to hear u say that u will recognize good things that could come from this president. And I hope that the sweeping changes enacted do help all people of this country. I am absolutely against fascism and would stand up against it. I will keep an eye on Bannon too. I am finding it difficult to keep an open mind towards democrats with all the anti trump protests and riots. It’s clouding my judgement. Sorry to say.

Ashley: Thank you cousin. I invite you to be careful about where you get your media from and who is telling you the stories of what is behind the protests. I know very few people who are only anti-Trump protesting. Most I know are standing up for specific causes and actions that they are for or against. Part of fascist techniques is to pit sides against one another and create a media narrative that is stated as absolute truth. If we can’t think for ourselves and talk to each other, then people are much easier to control and rule. If folks are made to think that Democrats are protesting violently and for no reason, then it helps to make sure that those of us who really want change and want it to happen in legal and just ways won’t talk to each other or work together.

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May I Be a Worthy Servant

This past year I have written more online. I have used social media to ask the questions my heart ponders or frets over, share the news that crosses my path, and to articulate the ways I make meaning of the world around me. The responses from people reading my words have helped me see more clearly some of the ways I embody elements that Chani Nicholas speaks to in the Virgo call to service below. I am honored to be alive in this way and to show up and serve. Thank you for being on this journey with me. I always welcome feedback about ways I do below that are helpful/effective or not. May we amaze ourselves in the days to come as we recreate ourselves…

“You are our beloved nerd. Our expert. Our sincere seeker of the facts. The one who will ask the right questions. The one who can separate the truth from the rest of the information. You are discerning, unfazed by pomp and circumstance. You seek to understand the systems of nature we live within, looking for the beautiful, naturally occurring alchemy that uses every aspect of creation to recreate itself. You know nature’s efficiency. You know how to value the clean machine that is our earth. You know how to value the wisdom of the body. You teach us all manner of natural remedies. You know how to locate and remove what is unnecessary, toxic or ill-fitting. You know what is wrong with a thing because you know how to think critically about it and everything else.

This year we will need your compassionate critique. We will need your analysis. We will need your natural talent to deconstruct the ill-formed theories that have no place in a fair and just world. You are no fool and this year will have no shortage of foolish ideas. Bless us with your ability to cut them down to size with nothing but logic.

We need you to remind us that success isn’t about the applause we receive but about the quality of work we are able to produce in service of something greater than ourselves. You work for the sake of the work. You know what it is to be humble. To be wrong. To be worried about getting it done well. Help us to be thoughtful, concerned, hard-working citizens. Help us to remember that we will make mistakes so we might as well become dedicated students to the wisdom we most wish to embody.

In exchange, we will calm you when you feel like you need to fix everything. This situation is beyond broken. It is not your responsibility alone to figure out the whole mess. The future needs us all.”

 

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2017 Reflections and an Invitation

humanityMy sense is that 2017 will (continue to) test our humanity and our devotion to freedom for all on this planet. Here in the United States, a question seems to be around how much do we truly believe in a democracy, in some version of this radical experiment of a government for and by the people? What are we willing to do do make it happen? How do we make it happen when the people are so diverse?

I feel the core challenge of this year will be to our sense of humanity. How far are we willing to go to support the health and well-being of other people and this living planet? How much violence targeted at specific people or groups of people will we tolerate? When is enough enough? When will enough of us unite to create realities that are more compassionate and considerate of the well-being of all living on this planet? What will motivate us to organize in ways that are effective at protecting people who are being violated and harmed? How creative can we be in this process?

I believe that we are actively controlling how long it will be before the human race is extinct. And some races are at threat of becoming extinct faster than others. I think we have some critical choices to make this year that will have broad future implications… that will influence the kind of suffering that our future generations will have to endure or not. Your children, grandchildren, and the children and grandchildren of people you don’t know.

Some Miriam-Webster definitions:

humanity
1: the quality or state of being humane
2: the quality or state of being human

humane
1: marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals
2: characterized by or tending to broad humanistic culture

As I was sensing into 2017, three phrases spoke to me.

Spiritually Guided - As I see it, we are in way over our heads. The challenges that we face are immense and the complexities are so intricate. While our logic will be pivotal for wise action, I believe that we need to be sourcing our guidance from that which is beyond logic. For me, that is a spiritual source. I believe that my actions and those who I am acting with will best serve if we are being spiritually guided.

Wiser Together - The wisdom of lone leaders does not get us to a place of collective liberation. Nor does the wisdom of lone cultures. Now is the time for groups of diverse people who are able to be wise together. Groups of people that can listen deeply, learn from each other, and act together. Groups that are stronger and wiser because of their differences and are able to work and learn from and with one another.

Fluid Communication - The more effective we are at communicating with each other, at passing important information and fine-tuning our interactions so that we can work well, live well, and speak well to each other… the more we will be capable of collectively achieving. This also helps us to be informed about what is really needed and what is and isn’t working.

An Invitation

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This year is going to require all of us to be taking the best care of ourselves as we are able and to be supporting one another and the neighbors that we don’t yet know in taking care of themselves as well. It will also require, as in the definition of humane above, that we tend to the broad humanistic culture.

If there is kindness in your heart that is able to feel compassion, sympathy and consideration for humans and animals, please don’t look away this year. Please see the other humans on the planet with you, as much as is possible. And when your heart feels moved, step towards them. Stand up for their right to a quality life, the right for their culture to exist, the right for them to experience freedoms or support that you experience. Let’s flow together with whatever 2017 brings us, with love, courage, creativity and compassion.

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The Power of Collaboration

Whether you’re the CEO of a company, the super mom of a household, or the wide-eyed 7-year old in a room, you know the power of being in a group that plays well together!

Think of a time when you were working on a project or creating a family experience and the group was cooperating beautifully. I imagine ideas were sparking, people were curious about one another, everyone was contributing, it was fun to be together, and smiles were flashing from face to face. Isn’t it true that being able to do the dance of successful collaboration brings joy, inspiration and unimaginable opportunities into companies, families, classrooms, and groups of all types?

So what makes a group collaborate well? And how does collaboration connect with performance or individual happiness? A recent study led by Anita Williams Woolley from Carnegie Mellon University looked into what makes groups perform better, studying what they called the intelligence of groups. Her team recognized that in today’s world, such skills are critical. “More and more, people need to collaborate to solve problems,” she says.

The study found that a group’s intelligence is highly influenced by the quality of interactions between the individuals. Opportunities for equal participation, distributing turn-taking, and how socially sensitive the group members were proved to be the key factors in predicting a group’s intelligence. -source

This leads me to think about how we develop the skills for social sensitivity. How do we learn to better understand what other people are thinking and feeling in a moment? How do we become more graceful at allowing other people a chance to talk and genuinely valuing the contributions that they make?

One tool that I’ve been using lately and loving comes from The Center for Collaborative Awareness and is called The State of Grace Document. This is a collaboration process used to establish healthier, more resilient business and personal relationships. It is a practical way to learn more about the people you’re relating with, understanding what makes them tick. It gives you a window into their thoughts, feelings, habits and ways of interacting and allows you the opportunity to specifically desgin your relationship. I’ve found these practices potent for increasing social sensitivity.

Sedona, age 14, participated in the Milestones ProjectWise at Heart, and she notes that “people get angry at each other because they don’t understand each other.” So why not invest our energy in understanding one another better? Not only can it make us feel happier and more connected, but as teams and families we can actually become more successful!

You can also watch this 3 minute video to learn more about The State of Grace Document, also called the “Blueprint of WE”.

Colorful puzzle piece image from LuMaxArt and all other images from Center for Collaborative Awareness

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My Heart Echoed His Heart

If You Really Pay Attention
by Paula Underwood

When I was a little bitty kiddy, about five, my Dad began a process … anytime somebody came and said something to us, my dad would say, “You remember what he said, honey girl?” I would tell my father what the person said until I got so good at it that I could repeat verbatim even long presentations of what the person had said.

And he did this all the time.

Finally, one day there was this old gentleman, Richard Thompson. I still remember his name, he lived across the street. And every time my Dad started to mow the lawn, there came Mr. Thompson. And so I would stand out there.

Dad says, “You might come and listen to this man, honey girl. He’s pretty interesting.” And so I listened to him, and then my dad would say, “What did you hear him say?” And I would tell him.

Well, eventually I was repeating all the stories he liked to share with my dad verbatim. I knew them all by heart.

And my Dad says, “You’re getting pretty good at that. But did you hear his heart?” And I thought, what? So I went around for days with my ear to people’s chest trying to hear their hearts.

Finally my Dad created another learning situation for me by asking my mother to read an article from the newspaper. He says “Well, I guess if you want to understand that article, you have to read between the lines.”

I thought, “Oh, read between the lines. Hear between the words.”

So the next time I listened to Mr. Thompson’s stories, I tried to listen between the words. My Dad said, “I know you know his story, but did you hear his heart?” And I said, “Yes. He is very lonely and comes and shares his memories with you again and again because he’s asking you to keep him company in his memories.”

It just came out of me. In other words, my heart echoed his heart.

And when you can listen at that level, then you can hear not only the people. If you really pay attention, you can hear what the Universe is saying.

–Paula Underwood, clan mother of the Turtle clan, Iroquois nation

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Do You Know of Any Interactive Online Social Spaces For a School Parent Body

Do you know of any school communities that have an active online space where parents communicate with each other online… perhaps a blog, online forum, social media network? I am trying to help a school community that is interested in having a simple social space where parents can share resources, invitations, ask questions of one another, tell stories, and see what else might emerge. Thanks for sharing any links you know of for other such community sites.

inline… online…
photo by foreversouls

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What Aisle Did You Find Your Serenity In

I went for a walk with a beautiful 4 year old yesterday. She had amazing skills for approaching strangers and inviting engagement. She quickly got to where her heart wanted to be… holding a woman’s hand crossing the street, petting a dog, offering a flower.

The poem below invites me to step up my efforts and attention, becoming more skilled at getting to the heart of what my being wants to communicate to another… to go right there with stranger, friend, family or self? The poem inspires me to get creative and be real. Just like this little boy who asked Obama if he could touch his hair to see if it felt like his own. What a genuine way to relate with the world. Do you want to join me in this challenge?

I Confess
by Alison Luterman

I stalked her

in the grocery store: her crown

of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip,

her erect bearing, radiating tenderness,
watching

the way she placed yogurt and avocados in her basket,

beaming peace like the North Star.

I wanted to ask, “What aisle did you find

your serenity in, do you know

how to be married for fifty years or how to live alone,

excuse me for interrupting, but you seem to possess

some knowledge that makes the earth turn and burn on its axis—“

But we don’t request such things from strangers

nowadays. So I said, “I love your hair.”

Thank you 37days for the poem and The Official WhiteHouse Photostream for the photo.

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