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  • Writer's pictureMeghan St. Clair

Not a Debate

Updated: Mar 18, 2020

I’ve been toying with the idea of having a small group conversation about hard things. It was born on the wings of a tumultuous election cycle where I was left feeling high and dry. I was literally afraid to talk to others about politics and the things that were important to me. I want to know where people are coming from. I want to understand the context of those that live within and beyond my community. I want to listen to my neighbors and acknowledge them as thoughtful, compassionate and curious people. I want to know about our similarities and our differences. I want to connect with others on the fringes of their comfort zones. I truly mean to seek out perspectives not readily available to me. Which means…I want to gather people whose voices are missing from my conversations.

[OF NOTE: I actually did this with my HS students for nine weeks. Not only did their commentary reflect values found locally, but it also helped them sort out truths separate from their families. It was fascinating to watch them define standards for having conversations, but also standards for ending them. They were the guides. They made it possible for all voices to be heard. They searched for missing perspectives. They created a safe space. It took tons of showing up for hard conversations, but this small group is totally possible.]

There are very special people in my life who are cringing at the thought right now. This is an introvert’s worst nightmare; a social anxiety trigger to meet with strangers. As I’ve discussed the idea with others they are less sure about sharing with people in a tiny community. There are some deeply rooted in their beliefs. A small conversation group would require curiosity and vulnerability. It would not be easy.

All people are not our people. When belief systems differ, change impacts an individual sense of normalcy.  Growth does not happen without change, however, and real change happens outside of comfort zones. Fear only perpetuates cycles and isolates groups of people. We aren’t required to squash our feelings down to help others justify their own beliefs. We also don’t have to put energy into thoughts, words, and actions that are offensive; but we might seek to understand them.  We might practice going beyond our limited thinking. In order to find a connection, we could be less afraid and more curious about our own truth and the truth of others, rather than worrying about who is right or wrong.

I get all ramped up in my brain thinking of ways I can practice connecting and communicating with others. When it comes right down to it, I find myself shushing my boys at the dinner table to encourage polite conversation. I am behaving the exact opposite of what I want for others in the world. I want my boys to listen and be curious about where our dinner guests are coming from even if we seem worlds apart. I’m not sure we can truly connect with people if we are not willing to show up, be our own imperfect selves and have difficult conversations. There must be a way to stretch our “beliefs” in community with others. A small group to talk about hard things…what do you think?

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