The PTU Sustainer Circle met for the first time last week. Sustainers are donors that contribute to our work every month with a recurring donation. Seeing people’s values lead them to make such a commitment is inspiring to us, and also creates an important baseline for our organizational budget. The Sustainer Circle is a place for multi-faith supporters to meet each other and share their experiences and observations with PTU staff. This local experience and insight about the state of multi-faith relations in different counties is important feedback for us when we are designing new programs.

Our meeting last week centered on the questions, “What has recently given you cause for concern in your local community? And what has given you joy and hope?”

Some talked about the adverse reaction members of their community are having to the changing demographics of our region. They discussed the fear that some seemed to be operating out of, leading to actions such as an intimidating-looking truck convoy that recently drove through Edmonds on a Sunday morning.

Some of our Sustainers recognized that there is a need for deep listening, asking questions, and trying to understand where people are coming from. Most people, they said, want to be understood. Once understood, they can often relax a bit.

We also talked about how PTU’s work had opened some of our supporters’ eyes to how many hate groups are operating in Western Washington, and how widespread disinformation about some cultural and religious communities.

Everyone at the Sustainer Circle said they were feeling a loss of social cohesion. They felt that so many of us are feeling distant and even distrustful of others. One person said: “I was struck by one phrase I heard tonight: ‘The common good.’ I can’t remember the last time I heard that word.”

At PTU, we’ve been looking closely and the dynamics of separation that we see in so many communities. It is the central issue we will be addressing with our programming this year, next, and for the foreseeable future. When people know each other more, they can relax a bit. When they work together for the common good, they see each other in a new light, become curious about each other, and find their trust renewed. This is even more powerful when such encounters are experienced right in their own communities. When they see diverse people working for this common good, it can lead to change in people’s assessment of what our growing diversity means for them.

As one of the founders of our parent organization, Father William Treacy, recently said to me,  “Words are not enough. We must act together out of love for our community to rebuild our community.”

I’ll be sharing more about our new major program with you during our Spring Fundraising campaign in May. We’ll be talking about what you can do in your own community to work on rebuilding social trust. We will share how PTU can help prepare your community for this important work – and how we can all find new purpose as we go beyond speaking and listening, to directly participating in this positive change.

What are you seeing in your neighborhood? We value hearing your experiences and local perspectives. Feel free to email our Director of Communications at carla@pathstounderstanding.org.

Photo by Victória Kubiaki on Unsplash