I was off for one of my vigorous mountain road hikes, a few days back, feeling a bit of a letdown. It was all well and good, on one hand, for me to be, personally, spreading my wings and coming out of the cozy cocoon l'd built myself in the nest of New Horizons these past many years.
On the other hand, I was feeling discouraged that just when we seemed to be at the top of our game, at New Horizons, having come right up on to our spiffiest marketing strategy for our Coffee House Conversations initiative, thanks to my dear old friend, Charlie Brotman, the world around us had taken up polarization as if it was the most enviable of human achievements.
Now, instead of having a place in our community to serve, as we had intended, with a wonderfully polished “product,” New Horizons Coffee House Conversations, designed primarily, to assist diverse community entities in coming together for greater unity, it was as if we were almost out of work.
What to do? What to do?
For a few days I felt like crawling into a hole. I was obsolete, out of the work that had become my passion. Sue, my program development collaborator, and I, backed by our board of directors, had taken the past ten years plus to create and refine our “product.” We were proud of the enhancements we had added to it, over the years, as well as the impact and positive responses we became accustomed to receiving from participants.
However, the last time we had actually had a fruitful program had been just after last year’s election when we had presented a Coffee House Conversation on Overcoming The Polarization Of Politics. After that a steady decline seemed to occur. In retrospect I can now see a pattern, typical of earlier crises we have faced on a societal level.
Much like we had seen after 9/11.
At first people came together and our Overcoming the Polarization of Politics program appeared to be going in a unifying direction. But it was not to last. Later I realized that only those of like mind had attended; those of a mindset to unify rather than divide. The next months, leading up to and following Trump’s inauguration, began to show more and more of the cracks in our society. Things were not heading in any coming together direction, after all, as had customarily been the American way when push came to shove. Instead we were growing more acutely divided.
What to do? What to do?
Then came last weekend’s tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, followed by the ignorant, self-centered, out -of-touch -with-reality and real people, of high moral values, integrity and substance, response of Donald Trump. Had things ended there, the hole I was digging might have grown bigger, on its way to becoming my new home. However, the time had come, it seems, for second tier leaders, as opposed to the top tier of the presidential office, to take the reins of being front runners, as exceptional leaders always have done, and show what they were made of by walking out on Donald Trump.
An article I found on NBC reporting on three business leaders leaving Trump’s American Manufacturing Council, in reaction to Trump’s lack of moral leadership following the Charlottesville tragedy, broadcast words of hope into the dark corners within which I was hunkering down. Then I recalled, once again, the pride of fellowship I had felt when Senator John McCain had stood up for his values regarding the recent Health Care debate and vote.
Yup! There it was again; The Power of The One, the personal power available to each and every one of us to make a difference by simply standing up true to what we think and feel.
One is always the beginning when you get right down to it.
A little while later I opened my email inbox and found a note from a woman I respect to the utmost, acknowledging my leadership these many past months and years in bringing our Coffee House Conversations to our community. Along with her short message, she sent me a link to a resource, apparently published by the Southern Poverty Law Center titled, 10 Ways To Fight Hate In Your Community: A Guidebook.
Here is one of the suggestions I liked most, as it reflected so much of what our Coffee House Conversations’ philosophies are built on.
Look inside yourself for biases and stereotypes.
Commit to disrupting hate and intolerance at home, at school, in the workplace, and in faith communities. Acceptance, fundamentally, is a personal decision. It comes from an attitude that is learnable and embraceable: a belief that every voice matters, that all people are valuable, that no one is “less than.”I shared this missive with Sue who breathed a great sigh of relief. She, too, has been battling the poison of Trump and his toxic leadership. She, too, has been breathing in the noxiousness of it all and not able to consistently move beyond the hopeless feelings this all has been engendering in her.
Whew! Once again, she and I were on the common ground that was familiar to us as friends, spirit sisters and collaborators; Coffee House Conversations Team Mates! Once more we were able to be in our “can do” intentions of “thinking globally, acting locally.” We were, again, assured we were on the right track; the path New Horizons has actually been following since 1973!
We were heading into the Light. We were not lost. We no longer knew the shape of our future, as we had grown accustomed to visioning it, at least for New Horizons moderate range planning. But, at least, we believed we had a future in doing what we had grown to love, New Horizons Coffee House Conversations -- and -- community development and violence prevention consulting.
Our time would come once again, as it had after the Ferguson Missouri tragedy of August, 2014.
We knew, then, the right thing to do, Coffee House Conversations on race relations, police relations and general community relations.
People such as these business leaders, heading Merck Pharmaceuticals, Under Armour and Intel, had exemplified being right up there, carrying the banner for right ahead of might! And we would be doing the same where we could make a difference when the time was right and growing numbers of people could see that leaning in toward others and dialoguing to find common ground, across whatever divides, was potentially the best solution for overcoming polarization.
We don’t yet know how things will shape up for us. But we do believe that if the Southern Poverty Law Center is suggesting ways we can overcome the hate-filled days we are now seeing, that is Light enough for us. More and more of the people with high moral values will come together as they begin getting it in mind to act on the power of one.
If we take this direction, we not only help ourselves, but we pass on the positive role modeling of those second tier leaders. Thus we shine Light, not only for ourselves, but on how for the generations behind us to progress on their path into the future.
The CEO of Intel, Brian Krzanich, took his stand with these words --
"I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing. Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America’s …base."Whatever this man’s personal agenda, his words felt great to hear, his actions inspiring to witness!