“On that day they remembered that there were things more important than agreeing. They remembered the Village Square. And, for that moment as they remembered who they really were deep down, there was a chance to share with the whole world -many of whom were still having very bad problems with bossy kings, many of whom lived in places where people would sooner kill each other than find something to agree about – the beauty of this country they had built on regular people agreeing to disagree.” -Liz Joyner, The Village Square
In our one hour conversation, I knew I had met a kindred spirit. Liz Joyner, Founder and CEO of The Village Square in Tallahassee understands that our ability to agree about what we disagree and move forward despite our differences is what made this country great. In her edgy and playful manner, Liz tells the story of where we came from, how we got to where we are and what we need to do to keep our country moving forward. We laughed and shared so many connections in our work. We both came to the realization–what this is all about is relationships.
Finding a way to bring people together in this highly digital age is not easy. It is much safer to stay at home behind your computer and connect only with those who you “like” and similarly, it is easier to call someone out when you aren’t looking into their eyes. While we are in incredibly challenging times due to the growth of what we term “tribalism,” it is also an incredibly inspiring time because people are taking action. Creating spaces where it is safe to dialogue and debate the larger issues of our time is essential to our communities and our country. In Liz’s words, “Hometowns with strong and deep relationships are communities that thrive.” Our founding principles allowed for us to sort things out–sometimes we did this better than others.
So here is a challenge, look at your circle of friends and see how you are doing with creating diversity in your life. Do you only choose friends with whom you agree and have similar values? Do you seek out opportunities to listen to other viewpoints without the need to judge? At the end of all that occupies our time and space on this earth, the most important things end up being the relationships we keep. All studies show that we can literally transform our lives and our world if we are willing to make space for the dialogues which we most fear. I saw this in my work on the campaign trail; human to human conversations can break down walls and new ideas and solutions can come forth. Thomas Jefferson share this notion when he wrote, “The last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us. We ought, for so dear a stake, to sacrifice every attachment and every enmity.”
At the end of our conversation, Liz and I agreed that we are living in incredible times–without all this tension in our society would either of us be moved to do what we are doing to address these issues? The very challenges we all face are the catalysts for growth that is happening. People shift opinions not because of rational thought, but in relation to the people whom they connect to. I invite you to open your space to new connections and new relationships and see what magic happens there! I would love to know how it goes!