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Listening to a community in pain

I live in Minneapolis,  in the midst of a community reeling in the aftermath of the events surrounding the death of Philando Castile in the course of a traffic stop.  The people in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas are hurting, too.  The entire nation is on edge, wondering, When will the killing stop? What will it take for us to feel safe with each other again? What on earth can we do so we’re not hurting each other, tearing each other apart? How can we come together?

This past Sunday, I attended a service of Prayer, Repentance and Recommitment at St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran in Saint Paul. The service was led by Presiding ELCA Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, who had rearranged her travel schedule to attend.  Pastor Lamont Wells, president of the African Descent Lutheran Association, was also a leader of the service.  (Bishop Eaton had previously published a letter in response to the shootings in Orlando, Florida this past June.)  Afterward, the congregation gathered at the school across the street (J.J. Hill Montessori where Philando Castile worked as a cafeteria manager) for a final prayer. There were signs posted up on the school entrance with childish handwriting, mourning his loss.  Mr. Castile had apparently been a school favorite who knew the names of all of the kids.

Afterward, I walked to the Minnesota Governor’s mansion, where protestors had gathered over the past several days, listening to the speakers. A chalkboard had been set up to one side, and passersby were invited to write on it. A picture I took of that chalkboard leads this blog post. Some people wrote just one word, or two.  Some could find no words to express how they felt and drew pictures instead, like the heart with the peace symbol inside. In the face of great emotion, words can seem stumbling and inadequate. It is at those times that perhaps the worthiest use of language it not to try to fill the silence with our own words, but instead to listen to others, particularly the ones who hurt the most.

Are you listening to others, or only to iterations of yourself?

In America today, it’s easy to become trapped within our own media bubbles, only listening to and interacting with people who look like us, with whom we already agree.  The Wall Street Journal has created a demonstration of this phenomenon entitled “Red Feed, Blue Feed,” to demonstrate how radically different reality might seem to people, depending upon the media sources from which their Facebook feeds draw.

We need to do more listening. We need to hear and read the words from people who hold different views from us. If you suspect that you have let yourself sink into an echo chamber, where you only hear views like your own, try a site like All Sides.  This site, according to their mission statement, “delivers technology and services to provide multiple perspectives on news, issues, and topics – and the people behind the ideas.”

Why not try it? Your reward will be a broader perspective upon the world, which can only help both business and personal relationships.