Sunday, February 15, 2015

Front Stories, Back Stories

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” so the saying goes. On the other hand, it might take a thousand words and more to make a picture. Even then that picture is likely to be far from complete.

If nothing else the golden thread in the picture to the right, binding a group of people together, especially of mixed races and ethnicity, for an afternoon of conversations on race and police relations and leaving with a bit of hope in this day and age will not easily be seen.

In that picture you are not likely to see that golden thread. But it is there as I formally welcome participants to the New Horizons’ sponsored Coffee House Conversations On Race Relations. It is in me. It is in our exemplary panelists and it is in the others present who came with a yearning in the deepest parts of themselves, searching for an unknown something better – and believing that it exists somewhere.

The event was held Saturday, January 31 in Frederick, Maryland. It was the first of five scheduled to be held by the end of June. Throughout that meeting space at the Dublin Roasters Coffee, I am told, some people did see/feel the magic. I am quite certain it was there in all of us, if even only in the smallest of karats. I saw it most in the goodwill toward one another that filled our space.

I know what I saw. I know what I felt. And, I know the agenda operating throughout, the intent of our non-profit for these programs to create this ambiance; a touch of hope and inspiration, if nothing else. So I know I was not merely introducing an event.  I was opening the door to a process geared toward advancing community unity to a level of inspiration.

We may look back to this day as a beginning of greater understanding, caring and compassion but hopefully there will be no end to what we are setting in motion.

I also know that before we are even half-way through this initial series I, too, will be sharing my personal stories. Their poignancy and occasional humor will impact others as their stories are already impacting me. In each of us are prayers that in taking up this adventure we may come a bit closer to “making violence obsolete,” a vision our Beloved community development mentor, Murat Yagan, implanted in both my mind and my heart.

I know this is an ideal. I realize I am unlikely to even live to witness our coming close to it. A brief survey of today’s news tells me immediately how fanciful is the ideal. But I believe in magic. And I know that Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that was not so dissimilar, based on the philosophies and practices of Mahatma Gandhi. Many of us are coming together now to realize this dream. This is what called us together on Saturday, January 31 at Dublin Roasters Coffee.

The specific initiative of New Horizons Support Network, Inc.,  the Small “Zones of Peace” Project, that is behind this Coffee House Conversations program, in fact comes from Gandhi’s words –

“We do best to begin by carving out territories or zones of peace in our personal relations where violence and deceit won’t be used.”

The Small “Zones of Peace” Project strives to build”territories” based on this principle through a community enrichment model we have developed called the “Exceptional Community Model.” Coffee House Conversations are one of its several programs. Storytelling is an essential component.

As the day advanced the room full of people shared bits and pieces of their personal stories. In doing this we were taking steps toward one another with the hope of greater understanding, caring and compassion as a desired destination. With storytelling as a backdrop we are also intent on finding creative solutions to local problems through overall general community dialogue.

Thousands upon thousands of words and stories must be told before we achieve our aim. It will take that time and more for each of us to get the full picture of who those “others” are and to honor each with respect and a brotherly/sisterly love.

Front stories and back stories will enter our forum. It has already begun.

One attendee told me that after the event she came away with a heightened realization that Frederick Maryland is truly her home and it just must be exceptional!  She has that much invested in it. Listening to the stories she heard and sharing some of her own brought this yearning closer to a reality.

We have a way to go to realize her dreams and ours. Yet we have made a good start.  Most impactful from the day seemed to be the willingness to work well together to find new and higher ground in this challenging world of ours. And to be able to develop heartfelt connections through the storytelling exchanges.

The courage this took was touching to witness.

Personally I came away from this first Coffee House Conversation realizing that one of the best things I can do is start listening more carefully than I have ever done before to the tales participants so trustingly offer of their often anguished experiences.

 We have a far way to travel if Coffee House Conversations on Race Relations in Frederick County, Maryland are to succeed at their objectives; healing the wounds that divide us and building a greater unity through that process.

I have a dream that this new project can become a county-wide effort. And that, over time, New Horizons and I may be around to, at least, get to experience more and more small “zones of peace” in Frederick County, Maryland.

Now a few weeks since our first Coffee House Conversation I have already begun to find a wealth of untold riches in the stories I am listening to from new people in my life because of our “zones of peace” initiative. In particular I have opened myself to listening to the stories of young or relatively youthful African American men; tales of growing up black in a dominantly white community.

I am often challenged by these stories. Their implications are huge, their pain sometimes nearly unfathomable. Yet I am grateful that I have been gifted with the skills, experience and determination that even my own “Lean in Legacy Template” provides me as a formula to keep moving toward rather than away.

I share these words with you now with a bit of trepidation that you will judge me for speaking of magic where so much is yet to be done. And so much tragedy has already been caused. But I have struggled for two weeks since the event to put into words what I observed and felt of this experience. The faith I have in the process I know like my face, in myself and in those who shared this experience with me gave me these words to best share what we have only just begun.

Front stories, back stories. This is my story today.

Thank you all who came together with me for Coffee House Conversations on Race Relations in Frederick Maryland on January 31, 2015.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Anastasia, for your relentless efforts to bring people together to share, in safe places, their hopes and dreams for a better world. Thank you for bringing critical issues to the front of our conversations and for seeking ways to bring healing to our community. Bless you.