Ears to see

by Sarah Woolsey on November 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

Good Brunches are a series of conversations developed by an organization called Matryoshka Haus. Their purpose is to draw a diverse group of people around a common table to talk about meaningful things in healthy ways. The blog post below references the conversation that took place during the San Antonio Good Brunches around the topic of “tolerance.” Click here to read the intro post for Good Brunches.

Picture this: A space with a mash up of people where diverse ages, races, socioeconomics merge. I’m envisioning the streetcar I rode last week in New Orleans, which operates as both tourist bus and public transportation. Imagine every person on that streetcar wearing glasses. The person across from you removes their glasses and hands them across the aisle to you as you exchange your pair with them. As you put on their glasses you now have the lens to see the world as they do. You’ve put on their culture, their relationships, their past experiences, their deeply rooted beliefs — all the things that make up the filter that they view life through. Now as you pass by businesses, political signs, a cluster of protestors, you see each of these things through their eyes. And they in turn see them through yours. Now you begin talking.

To me, this is a visual of tolerance.

Though these magic glasses don’t exist (yet… Google Glass?), one of the most powerful tools at our disposal is conversation. And I mean good conversation, not the type that escalates in volume because both people are trying to talk over the other, nor the type where whatever you say the other person can inexplicably make a link to guide things back to the singular topic of their focus. I mean the kind that begins with a question that is marked by listening. True listening, where we let the meaning of their words enter into our hearts and minds and swim around. Where we actually consider their perspective in light of our current understanding. Where we allow it to penetrate our defenses and are open enough to consider this way of thinking. 

The utter challenge is that we have to prioritize listening over our own agenda and at our best, willingly acknowledge our limited perspective. 

But what about intolerance? Aren't there things we should be intolerant of? Racism, injustice? And how do we grow our tolerance yet hold firm our beliefs and stand for something?

I just finished Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, and he is a great example of someone who walks this line. He spent his life fighting against apartheid and racial discrimination in South Africa. There reaches a point in the struggle where he recognizes that to continue to move towards equality, he has to choose to work with the opposition. He did not waver in his focus to end racial discrimination, but he was willing to start the conversation and find common ground which opened the door for progress towards making his belief in equality a reality.

This is what Good Brunches are all about. A place to pose questions, and share your own perspectives but be willing to really receive and consider someone else's perspectives. We hope that you’ll join the conversation.

"If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner." 

— Nelson Mandela

Sarah Woolsey has helped coordinate San Antonio Good Brunches. 

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