“What’s the point if no one changes their mind?”
It’s a question that’s been posed to J. Christopher Collins many times over the years he’s spent hosting bridge-building conversations as the founder of Bridging the Divide.
Recently, Chris started incorporating Living Room Conversations into his work. In a new blog post, Chris shares some of the perspectives that arose from a conversation on “The America We Want to Be.”
A roomful of racially and politically diverse participants, Chris writes, broke into small groups to respond to one of the questions in the Conversation Guide: “What role do you experience our history playing in America today?”
“Slavery is a major part of our history,” Tyree responded. “My ancestors were considered ⅗ of a person.”
“That ⅗ rule was wrong, but I’ve read that it was written by Northern abolitionists to reduce the population count of the South and deprive them of members of Congress,” shared Dan.
“I grew up in India, where there’s a caste system,” said Devya. “It wasn’t until I came to America that I learned what life was like without one.”
In a culture where we’re taught to debate, persuade and win, coming together to have a conversation without the expectation of changing someone’s mind can feel pointless. When the political and social stakes are so high, some may even argue, who has time for conversation without conversion?
Paradoxically, it’s precisely when we want to pull away that we most urgently need to lean in.
It’s up to us to recognize that “us vs. them” is an illusion. Despite our seismic differences, we need each other. Not just to reach across divides to design robust solutions, but because we’re tied together in invisible places. When we tear, it diminishes us all.
Conversation, imbued by a spirit of adventurous listening, might be one of the last, best spaces where we taste the America that’s possible. The America, in fact, that we want to be.
LRC Question of the Week:
In what ways has empathy for another person prompted you to take action? Explain.
From our The Power of Empathy conversation guide. Join us March 16th to explore more of this topic!
Try asking this question to a colleague or friend. Good questions inject curiosity and connection into our lives. Send us your response–just reply to this email. Yours just might be chosen to be shared in a future newsletter!
Responses from last week’s question: At what age were you allowed to walk or play outside without an adult?
- Since I had older siblings around, I was able to play outside without an adult from the age of 5 or so. I remember playing on the swing-set with my brother and running around the yard with the next door neighbors. By the time I was about 10, I had free reign to roam the neighborhood on my bike, as long as I was home when expected. Those were good times!” – Anonymous
- “I can’t remember a time when I was not allowed to play outside without an adult. So I must have been 3 or 4 at the latest when that was allowed. We had a fenced in yard in a rural setting, which made it lower risk to be unsupervised.” -Anonymous
- “At the age of 3, I played under the freeway, in my yard, and on the streets with other neighborhood kids. Dad worked for Alameda County and mom was a homemaker. At the age of 5, I walked to kindergarten through a mixed retail-industrial area across the railroad track, and to my school on the other side Peralta Street.” – Rich Buckley