Our We Can Save the World Sustainability Challenge launched last night. It is a really exciting moment. My co-planner in this endeavor has been Melanie Izrael, who created the graphics and worked with the partner organizations to make sure everything was scheduled and ran smoothly. We have both been putting in countless hours for the past month to get this up and running...it turns out a 28 day challenge with posts, prizes, and guests every day has a lot of moving parts.
Monday the challenge launched with a lovely interview with Johannah Frisby, Outreach Fellow, Minneapolis Interfaith Power and Light. Johanna offered two challenges, one about appreciating our rivers and lakes, and one about finding ways to lower your carbon footprint. Johanna was a wonderful guest.
What strikes me every time I interview someone is how much I like talking with people and learning their stories. Every person I have ever spoken with - and it is a lot - has something to say, something to share. Everyone has a story, a path that brought them to today, this moment. Those stories are important.
Very seldom do I leave a conversation not feeling hopeful and thankful. Very seldom do I leave wanting less. In fact, I almost always end interviews, whether for the challenge, for one of our podcasts, or with a psychology client, by wanting more. I want to delve deeper, I want to ask more questions.
What I thought about after talking with Johanna yesterday was how every encounter matters. Whether it is a two minute conversation in the grocery store or an hour long zoom call with my parents. Every encounter colors my day, affects my thoughts, shapes my worldview. Every encounter leaves an imprint.
That is both the beauty and heartache of being human. Every kind encounter leaves me feeling hopeful and understood. Every kind encounter moves me toward discovery and allows me to leave a positive footprint. Every kind encounter reminds me to care.
At the same time, every unkind encounter wounds me. Every unkind encounter leaves me feeling hopeless and alone. Every unkind encounter makes me hide and roots me to the spot. Every unkind encounter reminds me to protect myself and pushes me to lash out.
I try to think about why most of my interviews are so positive, why I leave the conversations wanting more. Maybe it is because during interviews we share a common goal. We know why we are there and we are committed to completing our mission, whether it is issuing a challenge or conducting a psychological interview. Maybe it is because we expect it to be a good interaction - we have a common goal, we are on the same side.
I think it is probably all of these but maybe most importantly the interactions feel so good because I listen. I take in the stories, I look for the meanings, I actively seek to hear and understand. I am not looking to "get a word in." I do not need to tell my story and talk about myself. I sometimes do, but the purpose I set for myself is listening.
I wonder what would happen if all of us entered every safe conversation as a listener? What if we always put hearing what the other person says above speaking. That does not mean not speaking, It does not mean not having opinions. It does not mean our thoughts do not matter. After all, if it is beneficial to be heard, that goes for us too.
I think back on my conversation with Johanna. I was definitely focused on listening but I also felt very free to talk. I felt like I could share what I was thinking and it would be okay. Maybe that is really the key: When we listen, it also opens us up in ways that allow us to share.
In fact, if we want to have peace, if we want to create a sustainable future, if we want everyone to thrive, it seems like listening might be a very good place to start.