“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” – Margaret J. Wheatley

Do you ever stop and ponder what is really going on in our country and our world, and who is leading the charge? How did we get here in the first place, and how do we move forward? Personally, these questions led me to a lifelong curiosity about politics and who decides what is essential. I am still intrigued to review the historical accounts of the movers and shakers, why we do what we do, and how it affects us today. There is a story behind everything we do, and these stories have insight to help us understand one another. It might surprise you to discover that any time change happened, it started with people gathering together to decide it was time. We also know that history repeats itself if we don’t take in the lesson, so how can we move through the current political discourse in a way that brings us closer to a more perfect union?

For most, politics is better left alone and not spoken about, especially today, with the increasing tensions between viewpoints. It very often can involve controversial issues, and we risk that someone might get upset. It may seem easier to say, “I don’t do politics.” Yet, the governments’ role from the school board to Washington significantly impacts our lives. We cannot afford to disengage completely. Change begins in the hearts and minds of the people, and it is through using our voices and our votes that we make it happen. How do we create a space to engage in that discourse to work together in new ways?

First of all, it helps to know what we care about–in our own lives and those of our community. How can we make sure every voice is heard in a world where we are inundated with information and misinformation? There is a saying, “follow the money” to understand why things are happening, and it may seem like there is no way to stop this process. It is so easy to get overwhelmed by it all and not know where to begin. How can ordinary people create a better world? We are more powerful than we think, and the Civil Graces offer keys to help us navigate that challenge.  

But how do we discover this powerful wholeness we share? One way is to explore our strengths and find where we crossover to the common ground. You can often get to the core of someone’s beliefs by listening to their story, and through this, we find a connection to one another. That is the way to the common ground–listening to what has heart and meaning to each other. You can uncover the more profound truths behind why someone does what they do. Our stories reveal a diversity of experiences. It takes the civil grace of courage to be able to listen–not with judgment or waiting to reply–but to be present with one another. 

In the Civil Graces Project, I talk a lot about the power of coming together at the table to share our experiences and find common ground. Hospitality is the gift of the healer–the one who makes space for everyone plays a vital role in building our communities. But how frequently do we make time for that genuine connection? One of the stories I share is a conversation I had with a local shopkeeper who had been in Washington for decades. He seemed sad as he discussed current affairs, and so I risked asking him a question. “What do you think has caused the change?” His response still resonates with me. “They don’t sit down to dinner like they used to do. Everyone is jockeying to get the attention of the press for the next tweet or text.” This experience happens in more places than Washington. I believe it is one reason behind the growing tensions and why I am passionate about bringing people together, however possible. It is so easy to lose touch with one another when we can’t make time to come face to face and listen to one another. We need to remember the importance of human connection!

One of my favorite authors, Leo Buscaglia, speaks of the “Politics of Love,” and he encouraged us to get passionately engaged with one another for our collective survival. It is up to every one of us to stay in the arena to help shape the better world we know is possible. We are the people who will shape history by our voices, our votes, and, most importantly, by our connections to what matters to our communities and us. WE decide that. WE always have. While the movers and shakers can seem like they are in a different world, it is time to reclaim our time as those who will have the final say. Collectively, we have the power to change the world, and it starts by listening to what matters–to our hearts, our neighbors’ hearts, and beyond.  

Photo credit: Edwin Williams Photography LLC at Chadds Peak Farm

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