Another adventure with CivilTalk Team.
Personal experiences with “HOMELESSNESS” evoked laughter and tears in scintillating conversation in our League of Women Voter’s Office, Suite F, and nearby SEEDS Office, Suite A, on the drizzling evening of February 21. On our way there, we were mostly silent as we drove past tents and makeshift shelters crowded near the freeway off ramp on our swing up University Avenue, getting ready to share and listen to others’ sometimes intimate experiences of being, hosting, or dealing with the homeless population.
“Almost randomly this seems to hit family, friends or strangers. Almost always, it is fraught with difficulties.”–Bill P.
“One thing this Homelessness talk demands is more private space for better listening!” I grumped to my LWVBAE CivilTalk teammate Garrick a few months ago.“We can’t just overflow our talk into the hallways.”
CivilTalk Team needed to seek shelter ahead of time, with our neighbors. We would hear about shame, about blame, about mental illness and physical disability and survivor’s guilt. We knew the stories would be riveting. But the larger crowd that wanted to share in this timely topic would be sitting much too closely in the League Office .
So we appreciated the generous cooperation of executive director, Addie Rose Mayer, of Services that Encourage Effective Dialogue and Solutions. Problem solved! They shared their nearby home office with us in a collaborative effort of both SEEDS and our League, to cultivate positive communication among people with diverse viewpoints.
Both SEEDS and our League are concerned with rapidly growing personal and political polarity. SEEDS has many years of service dedicated to finding common ground and successfully mediates both corporate and interpersonal issues. As people become entrenched in their views, they sometimes need outside help to learn to help themselves break through and establish better listening and speaking skills.
Having a politically neutral, welcoming space is one of the tools that both groups use; for some, our luck in finding more space just enhanced our awareness of those without shelter for a wet night outside, just a stone’s throw away.
We fostered and found common ground at both sites as Joe Healy, Jr and Marybeth Falzareno of LWVBAE led the groups through structured discussion with both conversation agreements and time limits. As we came together again in large group at the end of our evening, we shared insights and some spoke of Next Steps. Although not currently set up to arrange followup discussions and actions, we encourage our participants to consider hosting/joining additional conversations or planning toward common ground solutions, if possible.
“This is an enormously complex problem,” one of the participants aired, “…Like an octopus with many tentacles.”
I found myself nodding. This is just why we need to consider tough problems and proposals from all sides, with conversation agreements, in adequate space.
CivilTalk has been developing and training with the League support since February 2017. Our events are not to persuade, convince or ambush, but to share ideas and perspectives while maintaining respect among folks who sometimes hold wildly diverse views.
CivilTalks are held quarterly on various topics, open to public by reservation. Format is immediately available at LivingRoomConversations.org. By agreement with LRC, we may modify topics, questions, or format.
CivilTalk’s next offering, an exploration of varying viewpoints called “MY ENVIRONMENT~YOUR ENVIRONMENT” will be held the evening of May 29. Contact CivilTalk@gmail.com for further information or to reserve your free space. Seating limited.
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