Monday, October 17, 2011

Consensus Builds Community

Although I love politics, American politics in particular, I will spare you any analysis of the burgeoning "Occupy" movement - as tempting as it may be. Having said that, I think that there are aspects and outcomes of the movement that are worth discussing. As the occupation of Wall Street persists we are witness to the possibility of community unified by the ideals of humanity: shared, mutual interests, collective concern, servant leadership, empathy and conscientious choice.

In a wonderful article in the New York Times, Sunday Review, the author writes about the Power of Place, and how public space can facilitate consciousness and democracy. He describes how hundreds of strangers are managing to live together, under rather primitive conditions, by sharing and organizing resources, tasks, and energy. But what I loved most about the article was reference to Aristotle's belief that community requires face-to-face conversation. (And in an age where face-to-face conversation is increasingly rare, especially between strangers, the model of community in the park may be an oracle of sorts.) Everyone in the park agrees that consensus builds community.

However, when individuals work collectively, with compassion, intention, and respect to share in a greater vision they are also building community through deliberate acts of kindness. It's as if consensus builds kindness and community.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


When I do workshops with adults, and children, we often play a game called the Commonalities Game (from the Big Book of Team Building Games). Everyone chooses a partner, someone they do not know very well, and with a timer set for 2 minutes each couple has to write down everything they have in common with each other. It is incredibly fun, and a great way to get people to start thinking about how much we have in common rather than what separates us. In one workshop I had a 19 year old exchange student from Scotland paired with an elderly Sikh gentleman from Mississauga (Ontario)- they hold the record, with 37 things in common in two minutes. I'm still in awe. The other participants gave them a round of applause. I gave them dakbands :)

However, I recently came across another commonalities exercise from Ode Magazine in an article entitled, "Love thy neighbour, for he is me." The article speaks of the emotional and physical wisdom of being a good Samaritan, or altruist. The definition of an altruist is someone who is unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others. Apparently altruists are healthier than those who are not. In an effort to practice compassion, to recognize how simple gestures of kindness unite us in our humanity, try (as the article suggests) this five step exercise when you see someone who attracts your attention:

With your attention geared to the other person, tell yourself:

Step 1: “Just like me, this person is seeking happiness in his/her life.”

Step 2: “Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.”

Step 3: “Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.”

Step 4: “Just like me, this person is seeking to fill his/her needs.”

Step 5: “Just like me, this person is learning about life.”

Then give them a dakband and ask them to pass it on.

As you watch this video, go through the exercise above, only ask yourself, how you can be more like him.......

Homeless Chicago Man Donates Thousands to Down-On-Her-Luck Banker: