This past Sunday a colleague and I facilitated a post-election gathering for over 2 hours at my local Unitarian Universalist Church, near Hartland Vermont, to talk about what’s going on for each of us in the aftermath of the presidential election and to look at some possibilities for moving forward. 21 people were there – a good attendance for such short notice
The primary objective of the gathering was to provide a safe and caring space for people to share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns about the election results, particularly in regards to the huge political divide and social polarization that the results highlighted. In so doing, we wanted to lessen the sense of aloneness that many of us feel, as well as to facilitate healing and to encourage a sense of hope and connection among people, regardless of any differences between us. (The whole community was invited, included those who were happy about the election results).
A secondary objective was to begin to explore questions and activities on interpersonal and community levels that could actually build understanding and trust and empathy between people deeply divided by political perspectives and presidential preference, and find ways to work together and build community.
The vast majority of time at the gathering was devoted to the primary objective. Sitting in a circle, and holding a feather (symbolizing resiliency and lightening our inner load), each person who chose to had a couple of minutes or so to share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns, while the rest of us listened in compassionate loving silence, without interruption or discussion. The general consensus was that this time was very valuable and nourishing, and for many people it was enough and the gathering felt complete.
During the last part of the gathering, we discussed where do we go from here. There are several possible directions, which are complementary, with much synergy between them:
- Providing a safe and caring space – continue to gather for people to share thoughts, feelings, and concern, to hold and nurture each other through these troubling times
- Offering education and training – could include materials, study groups in specific topics related to building community and addressing basic needs, guest speakers at the church or other community venues, and training in relationship-building dialogue.
- Planning and implementing actions for community-building and lessening the divide, as well as other pressing community needs, such as relationship-building dialogue and other joint activities with people across the political and social divides.
- Supporting and celebrating those individuals and organizations already active in the work, such as through publicity, events, outreach, and fundraising
Participants, and anyone else interested, are encouraged to reflect and give feedback on the above directions. Hopefully, a consensus, or at least some strong leanings, will emerge, that will point the way forward. We plan to meet again in January.
This is the time for all of us, everywhere, to connect with others wherever we can – at home, in our neighborhoods, our communities, our schools, and our places of work. There’s much to be done, but it starts with creating safe and caring spaces for compassionate listening, so that we can deeply experience that we are not alone.