Seeing someone fully often starts with listening…
When I was going to grad school in Boston for a year, I would walk to class each morning on the same side of the street. I took the same way home each afternoon. I always enjoyed seeing a bright blue house on the way. One day, construction forced me to walk on the other side of the street. To my surprise, I didn’t recognize the blue house, because I saw it from a new angle -- and it was pink! I had never noticed its sides were painted a different color.
In work and life, I think of that house whenever someone’s idea or perspective surprises me and I start to question it. I remember that I may have only walked on one side of the street. I pause and intentionally open myself to walking a new path.
It’s a practice that may help as we prepare for Thanksgiving and possible disputes around the table, whether about food, politics, or the past. It may even help as we consider the holiday itself and more fully acknowledge our nation’s painful history and mistreatment of Native Americans.
When President Biden proclaimed Indigenous Peoples’ Day in October, he first acknowledged what had been broken: “For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures.” Acknowledgement means “being seen.” It’s the origin of the word respect. Being seen is a necessary first step, whether mending personal relationships or beginning to address centuries of atrocities.
Last April, the first business trip of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, our first Native American cabinet secretary, was to fly home to New Mexico. She went to a gathering of governors of local pueblos to hear their primary concerns: water rights, COVID-19’s impact on Native Americans, the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women, and the inter-generational impact of Indian boarding schools. The leaders felt heard and knew she would return to Washington with their words in her mind and heart.
For those of you who have participated in Weave community circles, you have experienced a process of deep listening -- one that began with Native Americans, First Nations and indigenous peoples. The circle process includes seating all participants at the same level to eliminate hierarchy, using a talking piece to allow each voice to be heard, and setting rules that honor all people. This structure for listening and building trust is as valuable today as it was centuries ago. It has served me well in the classroom teaching, working in my community and moving through tough conversations during family gatherings.
If you haven’t experienced a Weave community circle, we invite you to join our online hub and sign up for the next round of sessions beginning in December. You’ll explore in groups of 6-8 people the values and practices that weave a community together.
I wish you joy and abundance in the coming weeks -- however you celebrate and wherever you find yourself.