Last Sunday, we held a facilitation training to prepare local leaders in Skagit Valley for the first big event in our Let’s Go Together (LGT) program.
The LGT program brings people of diverse cultures, traditions, and life circumstances into relationship with each other. This year’s events will be both a powerful experience for those participating and also a powerful symbol for the larger community. When we see people with different beliefs and experiences coming together for a common purpose, we begin to feel hope for our nation and our world.
But our experience (and social science research) teach us that such interactions need to be managed carefully. There has been and continues to be a lot of bigotry and harm against people everywhere, including in our first program location, the Skagit Valley here in Washington. We need to develop awareness and some communication skills so we know how to speak respectfully to each other.
That’s where our facilitation training comes in. We prepared a handful of local community members to guide the conversations at our Sharing Food and Stories event this month. There will be five people from different walks of life at each table, including one facilitator who will help the group have a positive conversation as they get to know each other.
At the training, we got a taste of the positive impact that awareness and communication skills have on people. We asked the trainees, many of whom did not know each other very well, to model the table conversations. They formed small groups and responded to some of the same questions we will be using during the Sharing Food and Stories event, using their new skill set. After the exercise, the atmosphere in the room was different. Everyone was feeling energized and positive. We weren’t just providing a skills training, we were already beginning the work of knowing each other across lines of difference.
As one of our participants said, “We all just need to see each other as human beings!”