I would be so honored for you to join me and James Howell in a conversation. You do not need to RSVP! Just show up!
“At 7:00 p.m. Monday, September 12, in Jubilee Hall, Myers Park United Methodist Church. Dr. Howell will engage Charlotte’s Molly Barker in a dialogue on having a civil conversation in a society awash in rancor. After founding Girls on The Run to encourage healthy lifestyles among preteen girls, Molly started the Red Boot Coalition (www.theredbootcoalition.org) to promote “honest sharing and compassionate listening.” In advance of her visit, the Cornerstone asked Molly three questions.
Q. You’re coming to talk about how to have a civil conversation in uncivil times. What do you hope people take home in practical terms?
A. I hope folks walk away with ‘how to’s” when engaging in the difficult conversations that come up in their lives. Red Boot is about listening first to understand, approaching others with curiosity, and assuming positive intent. Red Boot has transformed from an organization that encourages civil dialogue to one that teaches how to embed compassionate listening into our daily interactions.
Civil dialogue alone will not address the underlying fear and hatred we see in much of our public discourse. Listening to another person without trying to save, fix, correct, rescue or judge them is one of the most powerful ways to dignify their humanity.
Listening is a powerful expression of love.
Q. If we disagree with one another, why does it matter if we have a civil conversation about it?
A. Red Boot is not about being civil. It’s about being loving.
People are dying, literally, to be understood, to matter.
Two years ago, I would have said our nation was lacking in civility. I believe now, after listening to hundreds who have opened their hearts, sufferings and joys to me, that people yearn to have purpose, to be heard, to be loved.
Q. Can you share a moment of rancor in your own life that moved you to take on this issue?
A. There are two. I’ll save the details for when I’m with your congregation. The first was an experience on Capitol Hill with the chief of staff of one of our nation’s most revered politicians. I experienced firsthand how truly terrifying love, compassion, empathy and understanding are to the political status quo.
The second was a conversation I had with a housekeeper in Williamsport, Pa. Her name is Doray. I met her on a cross-country trip I took in 2014. I listened to hundreds of Americans in diners, coffee shops, gyms and hotels share their grief and anger about the “us and them” tearing our nation apart. Doray was vulnerable, real and brutally honest. She changed me.