Community Building: The Key to Successful Activism
The Foundation for Healing a Family, an Organization or even a Nation
Not long after I moved back to Farmington, I learned that many people here consider “activism” to be a dirty word… But the definition of “activism” is simply “the action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change”. So, when someone acts to right a wrong, that’s activism. When someone acts to make a positive difference in the lives of others, that’s activism. Personally, I’ve always been proud of being an activist… And I’d dearly love to see more people stepping up and getting involved in helping those in need, whomever and wherever their hearts call them to serve!
To be more specific, I consider people who choose service careers (such as doctors and educators) to be activists. And parents whose goal is raising children to be ethical and compassionate and service-oriented, I consider to be activists. To me, anyone who devotes time and effort into trying to make this world a healthier, kinder, gentler, fairer place for any or all living beings is an activist.
But herein, I will use the example of the stereotypical political or social justice activist… although, of course, the principles apply to any form of activism… office or family “politics” included!
- What the world desperately needs right now are people who can stay calm in a crisis, cool in the midst of chaos and focused on the positive… especially when so many others are inclined to reinforce the negative.
- The relationship and communication skills that participants will practice in a Community-Building Experience have the potential to produce the kind of self-confidence and self-control to do just that.
- Such cool, calm, collected activists who stay focused on the positive are exceptional people, moral compasses... more than capable of becoming legendary leaders, like my heroes Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi!
Perhaps as an activist, you are making phone calls, or sending letters and emails to your politicians, or even attending town hall meetings…Wonderful! But you’re just scratching the surface of your potential to make a real difference in the world. Perhaps you’re spending hours on social media, spreading the word… Great! But this alone is shallow action that ultimately leads only to shallow results…
As one of my favorite National Public Radio hosts said in one of his many thought-provoking and soul-searching commentaries, “A lot of us live in bubbles. Modern technology has opened a window for us into the whole wide world. But how many of us use it just as an echo chamber?”
If we want to effectively create a safe and prosperous America, we cannot allow ourselves to remain in the current gridlock of tribalism… or surely things will only deteriorate from bad to much worse. We simply must find ways to “reach across the aisles”, whether in our governments, businesses or homes.
Although building community may not seem to many people, at least at first glance, to be as exciting as a campaign rally or as thrilling as a demonstration march… creating the bonds of true community is arguably much more challenging and rewarding, because it requires immense skill and profound wisdom, as well as vast stores of patience and energy. This courageous endeavor requires the commitment of a warrior or a superhero!
Yes, building community takes dedicated time and effort… but the rewards are commensurate with your investment! Because people don’t care what you know, until they know that you care. It takes truly being present in the moment, listening deeply and compassionately, and then initially responding, “I get it, you think…” while restating what they’ve just said... before launching into your verbal response! Hard as that may be, this pro-active process is one of the magic keys to opening true dialogue!
For when one feels heard but not judged… then one feels safe enough to be authentic and vulnerable… and it is only in this kind of empathetic environment that we can ever hope to find the shared values underneath our political, social, economic and religious differences…
Building community is all about building bridges… of understanding and trust… that offer us the tantalizing possibility of reaching across the immense divide of prejudice and paranoia that tragically separate us. And to me, transforming destructive forms of conflict into constructive dialogue to find solutions that are fair to all is the very purpose of democracy!
Here’s another little piece of my truth… If I think that I am so much smarter, so much wiser, and that I hold a far superior ideology… then isn’t it incumbent upon me to be the more responsible, to be the one to take the initiative in finding effective ways to heal the extreme polarity that is tearing apart this country… and indeed, our very hearts and souls? And I’m not just talking about the polarity between the Democrats and the Republicans, but the deep divisions within both parties!
Building community is not a sprint… it’s not a marathon… it’s a relay, offering the solution of teamwork to the problem of the limitations of the individual
Building Community offers the strength of synergy and unity to the problem of strife and division
Building community offers the solution of endurance to the problem of burn out
One of the guiding principles of American democracy is inclusivity… “liberty and justice for all”, right? Similarly, one of the guiding principles of community-building is inclusivity...
The FCE’s work is admittedly based on Christian principles and values. However, while I was raised a Christian, I no longer consider myself religious, but instead “merely” spiritual… because being spiritual as opposed to religious means, to me, being even more inclusive. Moreover, I know plenty of people who consider themselves agnostic or atheist or just plain secular, yet who have principles and values comparable with my own. The point is, the work of community-building should be open to all who share the goal of living by the Golden Rule… treating all living beings with genuine respect, empathy, authenticity, generosity and humility.
Now, whether you are religious or not at all spiritually inclined, you might still be open to the Hindu concept of "namaste”… which literally means “I bow to the divine in you.” My soul honors your soul. I honor the place in you wherein the entire universe resides. I honor the light, love, truth, beauty and peace within you, because it is also within me. In sharing these things, we are united, we are the same, we are one.