Being Here

with Molly Barker

Politics and Love Are Not Mutually Exclusive 

I’ve had a lot of folks email me about how to manage their anxiety, anger and fear regarding this current election. 

I have a few thoughts I would like to share with you on that:

1. I am no expert. I am figuring this out as I go along too. I do know that I’ve had LOTS of practice over the years in creating places where shifts in mindset can occur (including my own)…and am joyfully (I know weird right?) beginning to see how this awful political cycle may actually be an opportunity for all of us to dig deep into what really matters, both in our own lives and the life of our beloved America. 

2. Two minute in-person exchanges, split-second assumptions (i.e. Bumper stickers, flags etc), memes (half of which aren’t true if you google their original source) and exchanges on social media have, in my experience rarely brought me to a peaceful resolve on politics. 

3. Family members who hail from “the other political side” have, from what I’ve heard and experienced, created the greatest source of pain in people’s lives. I think a good place to start with that one is to realize you aren’t alone. I have sat through Red Boot meetings and witnessed people breaking down into tears as they mourn the loss (or friction) of relationships between family members. 

If you are still with me and reading this here’s a few recommendations you can take or leave. ❤️💜💙 

1. Breathe and be still. When confronted by an opposing point of view…pause. Count to ten. If on social media, decide whether commenting is effective. Ask yourself, “Who will be influenced by my commentary?” “Why do I feel a need to respond?” “What is the point of my response?” There is no right or wrong answer. I’ve just discovered that for me…there is much to be gained by being intentional with my remarks. That sometimes means not making them at all.

2. If you and a family member or close friend are at odds and this is disturbing to you … Ask yourself what matters most. If you want to heal or pursue a relationship with this particular family member…reach out to him-her. This is not a quick fix and it’s not going away.

Set aside intentional time (more than an hour) and be upfront. 

“I don’t like the way politics is dividing us. I would like to talk with you in person (FaceTime if they live far away) and try to understand. Our relationship is important to me.”

If he/she refuses, try one more time. “I’m sorry that we’ve gotten to this point. I promise you when we get together, I won’t try to change your mind or convince you of anything. I just want us to have a relationship.”

When you do get the time, recognize in advance that this conversation isn’t about winning. It’s about loving. It’s about building a bridge. It’s about being curious.

When you do sit down with this person, begin by internally inviting peace into the space. Be prepared to listen. To pause before you speak. To give a pause after he/she speaks. To slow down the encounter. To really listen with an open heart. To let silence be a significant part of the exchange. Don’t interrupt. Let him/her get all the way through what he/she is saying. When you do speak ALWAYS (yes I capitalized that) use “I” statements. “The way I see it”, “It’s been my experience”…stick to “I” experiences you’ve lived and breathed in your own life. Make it personal. Bring your story and feelings to the table.

Here are some questions to ponder: 

“Okay…so I am wildly curious to understand why you are voting for __________. Tell me about that. I am just going to listen.”

“As you know, I am not voting for _______. How do you think we got to here, you and me? It’s wild how we have such different views on this election. What is that about?”

“What matters most to you in his election. What do you hope to see as an outcome when it is over?”

“What scares you about this election?”

“I love you and while I don’t agree with you on this, it’s important to me to bring more love into the world. So I figure starting with us is a good place. What do you think about that?”

I know these suggested tidbits may seem obvious but here’s the deal…they aren’t easy. If they were, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in. 

But what if the person I am speaking with begins spouting off a slew of bigoted statements?

I encourage you to do what feels right, but here is what has worked for me. 

I sit in silence. An uncomfortable silence. I let those words speak for themselves. I hold their gaze. No response. I hold the space. And decide…what matters. 

And this, my friends is THAT moment of discernment…that moment that only you can know “what next.”

I will share that for me, if I remain silent, often times the other person, will out themselves on these harmful words. After a few seconds in silence, he/she may say “I guess that came off as pretty harsh. I’m sorry about that” or something like that. 

I also know that if I’ve been truly open and truly curious up to this point…I can share, from a genuine space, how words such as those hurt. 

“I’m listening to you and I am trying so hard not to judge, but words like that…words like that really hurt people” and then I might name a friend or two who has been hurt by words and ideas such as those. Share a story that demonstrates how those words hurt. Make it personal. Make it real. 

And then be still. 

I try to trust the process. Breathe. Pause. Not jump up. Not abandon him/her. I try to be present. (In fact…this is how I show love to another person.)

Y’all this is tough. Real tough. Intense. It’s about what matters…There is no right or wrong answer to that. There is, though, YOUR answer to that. 

I know I may be an anomaly during this political season, but I believe that each encounter matters. If I can bring peace and understanding and healing to one relationship then perhaps it is possible for more peace and understanding and healing to come forward in the world. 

I tend to end these difficult conversations, by saying , “I would very much like to understand…and am hoping we can do this again.”

For Our Sons and Daughters

I wrote this letter to my son a while back and I think it’s fitting for today…especially as we consider the upcoming election and all that’s happening in my beloved nation. 

Dear Hank:

I’m so glad you called me last night. I’m sorry if I sounded a little groggy. I had just gone to bed and was drifting off.

I’m so grateful that you and I have the kind of relationship where you can call me when you are afraid. That says a lot I think…about you…about me. 

About us. 

The world can be a scary place. It’s just part of living in it. I’ve been scared a lot. I think people like us who feel “stuff” get scared more easily. We feel before we think and sometimes that gets us in trouble.

But you know, I believe…it’s also our gift. People feel safe with us. 

I’ve learned a lot in my life and as I look at my own fear with the current state of the world, I have come to a few revelations that I think may help you with yours. So…here goes…

1. Accept the fact that you feel helpless and really, really scared about the current course of human events This is perfectly normal and absolutely natural in response to what’s happening; But also remember that you are important, because you were born. You have an essential role in the universe. You were chosen to be here. Never ever forget that, son. You have a purpose.

2. Even though at times, you may feel small and powerless, you possess more power than you can possibly imagine. You have the capacity to change the world with each and every encounter you have. It’s true. You have the power to positively influence all those with whom you come into contact, which on any given day can be literally hundreds and hundreds of people. People who remember this…are the ones who change the world. Sometimes they are famous and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are rich and sometimes they are not. But the people who remember this, change the world and are remembered for doing so. Be that person.

3. Even though it can be scary to admit you’ve made mistakes or that you’ve been wrong, you are free with me and those who love you to admit them. You are wonderfully human Hank…complete with your own story, your own journey and your own experiences. When appropriate share your story and your feelings. Share your mistakes and your fears. When you are vulnerable, your secrets no longer own you. You become free and in the process show others the way.

4. I know the internet can be scary…there is so much anger, violence and fear there… that can get in the way of interacting with what’s real. Be intentional with how you use it. Set it aside when you feel fear and look to the beauty and wonder around you. Talk to someone. Touch something that is real. Smell a flower. Eat something good. Go for a run. Make art. Dance. Hold someone’s hand. Cry hard at sunsets. Laugh with your friends. The world is not nearly as scary when we take time to be in it.

5. It’s so easy right now to be afraid of “them.” But my experience has been that we have a lot more in common with others than we realize. We all hurt, cry, laugh and love. We all want to be seen, heard and know we matter. Look to those around you and realize this. Assume positive intent when you see another person and assume that they come to you in the same way. Smile. Wave. Open your heart. 

6. Take time to be still. Watch the trees sway in the wind. Feel the rain on your skin. Be still and know that there is a power greater than yourself. See it in nature, the sound of the traffic, the changing of the stoplight. This force is conspiring in your favor…at all times. Name it for yourself and call it to you when you are afraid. 

7. Give up needing to be right every once in a while. Watch what happens. It’s like magic. There is nothing to resist and nothing that resists you. The world needs safe places for people to feel right…without resistance. So be that. Be a safe place for someone to get out their fear and anger…to express themselves…to discover themselves. Every moment you provide safety for another, is another moment the world sings.

8. Don’t postpone your joy, son. Don’t postpone it! Yes…it is hard to feel it with so much pain and suffering in the world. It is so easy to feel the burden of the world on your shoulders, but watch the children. Watch them dance, sing, laugh, skip. Joy is essential to the well being of those around you. Be joyful. Seek Joy. Bring Joy. Joy heals. If you can’t find it, go be with the children. 

9. And Love. Love even when you don’t want to. Push back your shoulders, physically open up your ribcage and walk through the New York streets being love. Let love pour out of your mouth, your eyes, your stride and the very essence of you. The world needs you to be love and light and wonder and joy. Because of all the things I’ve learned, lived and experienced I know one thing for sure. As a matter of fact it is for me, an absolute truth.

Fear cannot live where there is love. So be that. Be love.

You got this Hank. You got this. Please feel free to come home anytime you need to be reminded of these things. You are safe with me always.

Breathe Love

I have this symbolic practice of breathing love into the earth each morning. 

Like a prayer, my version is just a little different. 

I started the practice the first night of the protests in uptown Charlotte. 

I was in a yoga class a mile or so from downtown Charlotte when I first heard the helicopters. The city was preparing for possible violence. 

My teacher was calling us into the various poses and all I could think about was the pain and anger breaking out in my beloved city, only a short walk away. 

She pulled us into child’s pose at one point. 

For those of you who practice yoga…you are very likely familiar with “child’s pose.”

I found myself crying there…feeling the helplessness…the overwhelming helplessness. 

What can I do? What can I do?  

And from nowhere it came. The breath. 

I cupped my hands around my mouth as if to whisper, brought my hands and face as close to my mat as I could possibly bring them and exhaled a deep whispery “loooooovvvveeee” into the earth. 

My intention in that moment was clear. 

Pure love. 

With all that’s happening in the world…I wish I could hold that pure intention in all that I do. 

To literally breathe love into each and every encounter. 

To wonder with this same kind of loving intention, what it must feel like to be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump…to be ridiculed, shamed, hated so much by so many. 

Their families…too. 

In 1976 my father ran for mayor. He ran on the Republican ticket. 

One afternoon…I remember it with vivid detail…I answered the phone. 

The man on the other end told me “We’re gonna kill your daddy.”

I was fifteen years old. My legs buckled beneath me and I dropped the phone. I was so frightened by that call…couldn’t sleep for days. I was extremely protective of my father as any child would be. 

I knew nothing about politics at that time. I only knew my father…and what I knew of him was what I believed him to be…a good man. 

He was not always present, especially during that year. He was not always there when I needed him. But he was, from all I had experienced a good and thoughtful man. 

Which makes me wonder how I would interact if I had time with each candidate. Would I be all that you believe me to be? That I believe me to be?

Would I listen? Would I seek first to understand? Would I ask questions with curious wonder?

Could I love them? Could I afford them the same respect and love I seek from them?

Could I breathe love into each word? Could I rise above the politics, the stories I read in the media and see instead…the human being…if for only a moment…a beautiful and sacred moment?

I don’t have an answer for you. I do know that each morning I breathe love into the earth and it is good.

Being Heard

Here’s a little something to ponder. 

Listening with an open heart to someone…doesn’t make them right. 

It makes them heard. 

And being heard is about the closest thing I know…to feeling loved.

Miracles, Protests, Hope and Anger

I’m not sure you’re ready for what I’m about to post.


I am one not to be surprised by miracles. Really. I’ve seen them happen too many times to question the magic of serendipity and coincidence.

But this one? Ya’ll…come on. Are you freakin’ kidding me?

Sit down and relax and read this. For the best fun on a Sunday morning…DON’T SKIP to the end. Read it all the way through.

Okay…Ya Ready?

About two weeks ago, I told my friend Robert Jorth about an initiative I and a few friends were planning for January. Here is pretty much what I said in EXACT words:

“I think it’s time to put myself and Red Boot to the test. I’m working with a couple of other folks to guide a Red Boot Meeting where we intentionally gather together some of Charlotte’s “people”…the mayor, the Chief of police, the CEO’s and leads at some of our for-profit and non-profit communities. The one group though I don’t have direct contact with is someone like the woman I encountered at the protest the other night…I want someone who represents the angriest of our black youth. Those folks need to be a part of this conversation, for sure.”

Now…if you aren’t a regular follower here, let me remind you. On September 21st, Keith Scott was shot by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer. What ensued was what we, as a culture, have grown to see in other cities affected by large pockets of people, not being heard, seen or loved. (My take of course. I love people.) There were protests for several days in my beloved city of Charlotte. Hundreds came out.

I reached out to Toussaint Romain and asked if I could join him at the protests. I was scared to go. He said Yes.

I wrote about that experience later that night.  

Here’s a link to the whole piece, ( 

But as you recall, there was one woman, in particular who touched me deeply. This is what I wrote about her. 

“But there was one conversation in particular. A young, beautiful black woman, six feet tall. I had noticed her earlier. 

She was filled with rage. Her voice was hoarse from all the yelling. Her vocal cords, stripped of their power. She wore a handkerchief over most of her face. She was tall. Her eyes a beautiful shade of sun. She wore camo pants and a black shirt with an African nation flag on it. 

We made eye contact.

“I want to ask you a question.”

“Go ahead,” she said. 

“What can I do to help. What can I do?”

“Raise your children to not be racists. You are white. You have all the power. Teach them to not be racist.”

I am back in the comfort of my car…and wonder as I write…if she remembers me and how long we looked at one another.”

Yesterday, The Red Boot Coalition was holding our tenth Red Boot Guide training. Thanks to Ann Davant Crehore, Makeda T. Pennycooke, Julia Dorn, we were ready to go. Nametags in place, pens, training manuals, we were good to go.

I arrived and was working my way toward the coffee, when I first saw the shirt…the black shirt with the African-nation flag on it.

I stood still for a moment.  

And then she turned around. Those eyes. Those eyes, a beautiful shade of sun.

I felt my legs buckle and the breath fall from my lips. 

It was her. The woman filled with rage, who only weeks earlier had yelled so hard and so passionately that her voice had been stripped. She was working at the venue for our training. 

“It’s you,” I said.

We looked at one another.

“Do you remember me?” I asked. “Do you remember me? You told me not to raise my children to be racists.”

Her face…the seeing…the recognition.  

“Yes,” her face again that beautiful shade of rage. A moment only and then she spoke with strength and courage.

“We can’t stop now. The protests are over, but the problem hasn’t gone away.”

I think I said something about how we get so distracted by the news of the day…that the important things…like this…get pushed to the side.

“I’d like to take you to lunch or dinner sometime. I think it might be good if you and I got to know each other. Really know each other.”

“That would be good,” she said.

She gave me her contact information. I’ve already texted her and am quite sure there will be a reunion…this time where I can truly listen and she can honestly share.

Moments later…as I was preparing my opening remarks for the training, Sarah Board Plott, a Red Boot Guide, whispered in my ear. She wants to know more about Red Boot. She wants to maybe come to a Red Boot Guide Training.”

My friends…there is hope…there is love…and yes there are miracles.

The Boy Box

I founded Girls on the Run to provide girls with the tools to, in spite of our culture’s constant objectification of them, intentionally seek people, activities and circumstances that celebrate who they are rather than how they look.

My son Hank was only 11 months-old when I piloted Girls on the Run. Lately, I’ve been amazed by his incredible sense of empathy for girls and women. I knew he would “get it” eventually, but the fact that he “gets it” now, at the start of young adulthood, has me quite amazed. 

I’ve thought a lot lately about how Girls on the Run plays out in my son’s life. He is a fabulous 21 year-old `who has grown up in the culture that Girls on the Run is creating, where all spirits thrive.

I remember when he was coming into adolescence…where he could not mention a girl’s name without some kind of blush to his face. There was a curiosity (of course) of the unknown, the physical side of a relationship that until then hadn’t really been of interest to him.

Last summer (it was one of those remarkable moments where I remember every detail down to the way the sun was shining)…he and I were sitting on the front porch of my little duplex talking about growing up, manhood and coming of age. 

“The whole thing’s a set up. Defining men by how many women they’ve “been with”…it leads to nowhere. All it does is hurt people. It’s empty.”

I remember just being with him…marveling really…at his level of self-awareness and his desire to be and seek something more in his own life. (While I’m at it…don’t let me set him or you or me up for perfection though. Good Lord knows…life is all about making mistakes and figuring it out as we go along.) 

Yes, even Hank gets it. A culture that caters to this shallow and one-dimensional view of men is, in many ways, just the flip side of the objectification of women.

I expect more from my son Hank (and the men in my life) because he IS more. So are the men who play the power game. 

Yep. It’s really all about power and how we define it for men in American culture: how much money they make, their authority over others, their sexual conquests and their athletic prowess. The problem, however, is that although they may be objectified in these ways, they still remain in positions of power, whether it be in the corporate, political or religious sectors. To stray from the norms of this box would counter everything that gives them power as currently defined by our culture. It’s a crazy never-ending circle.

I’m coming to realize that my role as an empowered woman is to have a clear understanding of how our culture boxes in both genders…and that the best way I can help others liberate themselves from the constraints of their “gender box” is to push my expectations of them to higher ground…as I have done with Hank. To speak truth to this power, stand firm in my own and expect something more from the men in my life. 

Hank saw and experienced at an early age a different social construct for power…the power that comes from helping others, being his authentic self and having true and “real” friendships with both genders. I have led him down the halls of my life, been both brutally and tenderly honest about the challenges that girls and women face every day. He has wonderfully and openly received a view of them that not only lifts them to their greater Selves…but in doing so, lifts him as well.

The news is disheartening…AND there is good. 

There is both.

My Promise to You

I should be asleep. I swore to myself I would take a nap before taking the red eye flight back to Charlotte. 

But two things are prohibiting that…I am totally jacked up after a truly inspiring day at the PGA TOUR Executive Women’s Day…talking about the power of women and the power of listening, empathy and compassion in leadership. I am filled up to the brim with hope!!! 

Which got me doubly jacked up…when I came back to my room and continue to see the unbridled vitriolic language coming out of this year’s Presidential Election. 

So…feeling helpless and feeling empowered…both within the exact same moment…I did what any helpless and empowered person does…I started a petition on 

And here is what I wrote.

“We are clearly at a turning point in America. This election has fueled an anger that, from my perspective, has many as concerned about what will happen AFTER the election…as much as what is happening now. 

I am so sad (and yes angry sometimes) about how politics is tearing us apart. And so here I am…with an open heart…letting my American friends know that I am not one to be feared after this election is over. I promise to do my best to listen, to work toward peaceful dialogue and understanding with those around me.

This does not mean I may agree with you. It also doesn’t mean I won’t express anger. Anger is what got me here. I will continue to stand up for myself and others. 

What it does mean is this…and it’s really quite simple…I will strive to be kind when expressing my views. I will strive to listen first…to understand…to put myself in your shoes. 

I think there are a lot more of us on each side of this political debate…who yearn for this more than might appear in the media. 

The idea is simple. If you want, yearn, hope for more kindness and respect between us after the election is over…won’t you join me…and promise to work toward that end in all areas of your life? 

I am not seeking perfection here. Anger is normal and expected. What I am talking about…is the willingness to try and be kind in the process, to listen first to understand. 

My idea isn’t really all that original. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Jesus, my mom, my dad, my friend Ann Davant Crehore, and a lot of my friends said this was the way to speak truth to power. 

The change begins with us…begin being the operative word.”
If you wanna join in…do it. (Also thanks to my beautiful friend Karen Miller-Peters for holding me to this.)

Can’t You See?

Due to where my heart lies and where the last month has taken me…I’ve been away from the political scene and news for a while. 

I think maybe that’s good. 

I’m challenging myself to remember that all political candidates…are people too…humans beneath the facade, the story, the media and the politics. 

I’m wondering what it would be like to sit down with them them and ask, “Why do you matter?” “What does it mean to seek first to understand and what makes that so difficult?” “What happens when you listen to someone…really listen without an agenda and why is that so hard to do?”

It’s all so frustrating and the truth is…just drives me crazy. I wanna stomp my feet and scream…”Can’t you see? Can’t you see? There’s people dying out here. This is not a joke. This is serious stuff. America has so much good AND so much suffering. Let’s look at both! Yes BOTH at the same time!”

I am in DC and yesterday, ran past many of the monuments. I took a moment and ran to the brick at the Lincoln Memorial where MLK stood and delivered his “I have a dream speech.” I stood there for a minute or more. 

I ask myself this morning…why do I care so much? Sometimes I wish I could let this go. What continues to drive me to pursue the bridges, the listening, the space between where suffering and joy meet, where human and spirit meet, where you and I meet?

And I think it’s because once I’ve seen the humanity in one person…I can’t deny its existence in all. 

That’s all I’ve got for a Sunday morning.

Hope and Fear

Some ramblings this morning:

1. One out of every three black boys ends up with time in prison. I’m imagining what it feels like to be the mama to one of those boys. I’m not over complicating this and wrapping any other story around that…and ask that for the moment…you try do the same. 

Just trying for a moment to put myself in the heart and shoes of that mama. 

2. Smiling and thinking about my first conversation with my friend Antonio Baldwin. We talked about so much. I am remembering how surprised he was to learn that I, who grew up with so much money (he had grown up with very little in comparison)…had struggled with alcoholism…that I had struggled to fit in, to feel worthy, to be loved. 

3. Feeling now…the need to tell you about my time this week…with the wife of a CMPD officer: her courage in reaching out to me…the fears and tears that come each night, as her husband leaves for work; her deep desire to tell his story, to humanize him…the man, the father, the son.  

How hard it is to explain all this to her 12 year old son…the hatred and anger so many have for his father…the vast issue at hand.

4. I sit in the hotel room at the Liaison Hotel in Washington, DC…with a Starbucks and this smartphone and wonder how to hold pain in one hand and hope in the other.

(Thanks Edson Fisher Scudder Jr. For this amazing photograph.)

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