I admit it: I am a skeptic. Those of you who know me well know this already. I check every email legend and forward against Snopes, challenge assumptions, question authority. I also tend toward the cynical. I am not a hopeless optimist. I might even be considered a hopeful pessimist. I also try to take advantage of opportunities – particularly when such opportunities are limited. That's why, when the Peacemaking Committee of First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton announced it was bringing a 3-day workshop called "Creating a Culture of Peace" to the area, I knew I wanted concerned Tennessee citizens to support it.
But at the same time, I was concerned that it would be a let-down, that we would spend most of our time asking each other "how does what he said make you feel?" I was not alone, and surprisingly, I wasn't even the most hardened cynic in the bunch. Others in the group expressed concerns including "it will be a waste of time" and "we'll sit around holding hands eating tofu". Others were concerned, particularly because of the location of the workshop, that it would be focused too much on Scripture or prayer. Those fears were not realized – certainly not by me; and people whom I figured would drop out returned each day.
Some of the exercises surprised me. In particular, learning how each of us viewed certain things as violent or non-violent was a real eye-opener. Preconceptions and constructs that we may hold onto dearly played a large part in that exercise, as it does in our daily lives.
Of course there was some hand-holding, and a little soul-searching, and a little dancing, role-playing, and meditation. There was also a lot of laughter, a good bit of silliness, lots of hands-on planning, and plenty of opportunity to practice the ideas we learned. I learned how much more effective I can be when I don't give in to anger or the notion that I have to convince the other person of my moral superiority. How freeing!
This IS training that can be utilized in daily life, be it with a member of the family, at work, or in a protest line. It IS a commitment of time and energy. It IS exhausting. Most importantly, it IS worth the time, and it IS worth sharing.
Our community needs this! We need tools that will help us build our strength, whether it be the strength to get through another day with a pushy co-worker, or the strength necessary to get county commissioners to clean up their act, or to push our administration to end the war. We need it. And since each of you is a part of We, you need it, too.
Yours in true democracy,
A Concerned TN Citizen