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By Joan Blades. Reposted from AllSides.

I began describing Living Room Conversations as a domestic peace initiative just over a year ago. Individuals and communities that were at odds or disconnected were intentionally meeting to talk, build understanding and even friendships.  It has become clear that the result is simple local peace building. And for many of us we were also discovering more peace within ourselves.

Maybe it was the changing articulation of this work that caused us to fall in with folks that do peace building internationally.  People that work in countries that have seen horrific violence. Hearing international peace builders say that they now see in the U.S. many of the characteristics of countries that fall apart caused me to pause.   I avoid sensationalism. I don’t want to prey on people’s fears, yet there are times when we have to acknowledge real dangers. Just because we are the oldest modern democracy in the world does not mean that we cannot fail.  The Civil War was a brutal near loss of our democracy. Our country appears to be on a path of increasing division. We need to step up and change that or we will fail as a country.

Recently, at a strategy meeting, the Living Room Conversations team talked about the vision of growing this into a movement that tips us toward connection and respect in the public and private spheres.  Our biggest challenge is the investment of time and energy that it takes to have a Living Room Conversation. At MomsRising or MoveOn a supporter can take a minute to sign a petition and have participated in a meaningful way.  A Living Room Conversation takes an hour – better if it’s two hours. In the best case it is a practice that users do again and again improving their listening skills expanding their worldview and their connections with others.  This is a big ask. This is when we recalled the recent suicides of Anthony Bordain and Kate Spade. It has been reported that suicide, loneliness and depression are at record levels in our country. And what are Living Room Conversations?  They are about making the space in our lives to have deeper conversations with our friends and people we might not normally have the opportunity to talk to. They are about meaningful human connection, the classic cure for loneliness which is a primary source of depression.

This is a motivation for Living Room Conversations we have not focused on.

I first engaged in conversations across political differences because I believed the only way we could solve the most critical challenges of our times was by working collaboratively with people we don’t necessarily agree with.  My experience with this effort left me wishing that everyone could have the opportunity to really listen to some of the good folks that they disagreed with. I believe that the only way we are going to be able to address the big challenges we face in our communities and in our country is by working collaboratively with everyone’s best ideas in the mix and the agility to try many solutions and then adapt - something that does not happen when one is in a constant state of attack and defend.  Prime examples - U.S. health care and budget processes.

We are learning that Living Room Conversations are a solution to more than we imagined.

Such as:

  1. The capacity to work collaboratively on the big challenges we face- an intellectual solution
  2. Peace building -  a response to the fear of our country devolving into a dictatorship, oligarchy or some form of civil war.
  3. Promoting loving and meaningful relationships  - real relationships to cure loneliness.

Now how do we find the time to do this?

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