Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Slice of Life - Conversations

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers

I am a pleaser by nature – not one to ever rock the boat. There are certain topics of conversation that I tend to avoid as a result, with the biggest being politics. This became more difficult years ago when my brother moved to Washington D.C. after graduating from college. He began working in an Illinois congressman’s office. He enjoyed the work immensely, but eventually relocated back home. A job change did not, however, sever all political ties.

Saturday night I found myself standing on his patio for a cookout. I stood there, listening to three men speak to the group gathered. Two men are congressmen from my state. One was a member of the British Parliament. The congressmen both spoke about the need for our country to come together. The Member of Parliament spoke of his first visit to our country. What his expectations had been and how reality had exceeded those expectations. All three men impressed me with their words as well as their actions. As they spoke, my mind started turning and I began to tie the experience to a blog I had recently from Chris Lehman. (HERE)

In his blog post, Chris spoke of a time he was heading to Jordan to work. He referred to our brain and how we are wired. Chris realized as he went over to Jordan that he had fears and beliefs wired into his brain and the need to unlearn certain beliefs and then relearn them. Terms like “Muslim” and “Arab” needed to change in definition in his mind. My favorite line in his blog is this:

The essential ingredient in unlearning, I am convinced, is conversation.

I came back to this post last night as I listened to the three men speak – and as I had conversations with them myself. Ever the optimistic, I always look for the best in people. Even I, however, can become jaded when thinking of my federal or state governments. I look at our education system and I despair. I examine CCSS or the testing coming our way and wonder if anyone has consulted with teachers when creating this mess. I wonder in my heart if the people in our government are all in this for the altruistic reasons that they say they are. But then I meet with some of these folks – like these two congressmen – and know that there are plenty of people who honestly do want to make this country a better place. Whether on the right side, left side, or somewhere in the middle – they got into this business to help our country. So what has gone wrong?

Thinking of Chris’s post, I strongly believe it comes back to conversations. If all of the politicians could leave the capital, attend backyard cookouts and talk to regular people, maybe things would change.

Sometimes things in our capital remind me of my classroom at the end of a long school year. A group of people who need a break. I think at times we are more concerned with making sure the other side doesn’t win than we are about coming together for the common good. God forbid we give any ground for fear we might be seen as weak.

Listening to the man from Parliament speak, I was struck by the “sameness” in our lives, even though he is from a different country. I thought of Chris’s post, about how in Jordan he found that people worried about the same things we all worry about. I talked to a friend at the barbeque about her newborn son and watched the pride on her face as she shared his new milestones. I talked to one of the congressmen about his child and witnessed the same emotions.

I saw these similarities as a result of conversations. I am willing to bet that others could be found if given the time. Our country is large, our problems seemingly insurmountable, but I’m willing to bet if we could find a way to stand in each other’s backyards and talk – we would find friends. I realize it could never be that easy, but this party reminded me of the need to try.

The next time I’m frustrated by someone – a colleague, student, parent, or my own husband – I’m going to slow down, breathe, and go back to talk. Find those spots where we have common ground and build from there. Hopefully, one day, those in office can do the same.