As our icebreaker, we went around the circle and said no more than six words about Hope. Opinions varied widely. My words were "I live in hope." Other people said things like "I have a hard time with hope," "I have no hope," "I wish I had more hope." I'd say my statement was one of the more positive ones.
We were thinking mostly about the larger challenges currently facing our country and the world: income inequality, refugees, climate change, political gridlock, and other issues. Our facilitator, Barbara Ford, began with "three stories we tell": (1) Business as usual; (2) The Great Unraveling (current media reports on disasters, the "ain't it awfuls" we all hear about; and (3) The Great Turning (movements and activities for change; for example, the rise of alternative energy, cohousing, walkable cities). All these stories coexist, but her interest focuses on (3).
We talked about power, and how we think of it primarily as a bad or corrupt thing. Then, in groups of four, we talked about "a time when something you did or said made a difference for good". After each person talked for five minutes, the other three commented on what they heard about the person that made the effort successful. Barbara collected the groups' comments on an easel:
What we ended up with was positive qualities of power. We know these things apply at the individual or grassroots level, so it's worth taking a look at expanding this kind of power.
So, for example, I can make a difference as a mediator working in small claims court on disputes or on parenting plans between divorcing couples. I wouldn't say I have power in these situations, but the qualities on the easel are all useful in coming up with win-win solutions. The idea is that all of us can have that power to influence for the good.
Something else I came away with is that we all contribute in different ways. I will probably never march in a demonstration, but I can be a coordinator and that is just as valuable as the people who actually go out there. I have felt a little guilty sometimes in the past that I'm not a visible activist. But I do other things. That's good to remember. I do believe that "we're all in this together".
And we're all connected. I believe this more and more. To that end, I spent time this week with four women friends, on three days. In every conversation we talked about connection. My mediation work is about connection; my work as liaison for our business is about connection. I'm not sure where these insights will take me. But I know they will take me somewhere.
I'm so grateful to be retired! Who knows what's up next for me?
You can find out more about Barbara at http://www.barbaraford.net/.