Bend’s sixth community conversation welcomed 37 participants. For the first time, participants registered to attend on the Library’s web page. Entering the Brooks room, I saw colorfully diverse faces, encouraging, since we would be discussing racial, age, and cultural diversity. Our room’s colorful tables and tickets, as well as the array of smiles, started the evening on a cheery and optimistic note.
The evening also began with a scrumptious dinner, provided by several of the group’s generous organizers. During dinner, we discussed, in groups of roughly six, the various groups with which we are affiliated and groups different from those. We discussed what it’s like to be in a group where you are a minority or different than other group members.
We then broke into pairs to share stories about our experiences of participating in diverse groups, while maintaining awareness of our differences and our common humanity and practicing listening for understanding. We then switched tables and repeated the exercise with a person new to us.
As a full group we then reflected on the previous exercise. Participants noted:
Finally, we worked in small groups to identify action steps we can take based upon the evening’s learnings. Groups then shared their #1 action ideas; these include:
Other favorite action ideas:
Telling our stories opens our hearts and lives to opportunities to connect and grow. I left eager to try four of our #1 action steps this month: I am going to attend a church I know little about and have a meaningful conversation with someone there. I also plan to suggest a controversial book to my book club, and I am going to connect with and buy lunch for a homeless person. While listening to my partner’s story, I learned about a group promoting conscious transformations, and I think I’ll join that group as well. After all, we humans are simply interconnected atoms of eager energy! I’ll let you know how these experiences unfold. I feel compelled to make more meaningful connections. I am new to Bend, which is, in and of itself, compelling. What might you do this month to engage with someone different from yourself?
Story and photos by Susan Roudebush