When the GTW Conveners worked with Jennifer Ball at their retreat, they birthed a list of values for themselves that would serve our families, our workplaces, our non-profits, and the world. Jennifer is a co-author of “Doing Democracy with Circles: Engaging Communities in Public Planning”, a consultant, and a member of Gather the Women Canada.
Here is the list:
Open-heartedness, choosing what’s important and what to let go of, forgiveness, kindness, non-judgment, accepting people where they are, integrity, vulnerability, respect, trust, loving, loyalty, reliability, being present, a sense of being worthy, fun, and authenticity.
I can picture mom, dad, the kids, two life partners, or a group of roommates printing off the list, sitting down, and discussing these values one by one. Then they anchor it on the fridge with colorful magnets. Maybe they stick bright stars beside the values they will see every time they open that refrigerator. The same could be done in the office, the day care center, the senior center, and just about anywhere people spend time together as a group.
A challenge for me, as an extrovert, is “being present”. My mind is always jumping around. It always has. Sitting in circle using Circle Principles has taught me to stop thinking about what I’m going to say next and “listen with intention”. When I took the Circle Principles course in 2004 with Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea on Whidbey Island, Washington, Christina told me, “Barbara, you’re like a kitten with a ball of string.” It was a kind way of telling me that I needed to be listening to what the other women were saying, not thinking about what I was going to say next, and that I could register something mentally without being compelled to share how I felt every single time.
The eighth word on the list is Vulnerability. It is defined as “easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally; open to attack, harm, or damage.” In circle practice, I believe vulnerability means allowing yourself to open up and be your authentic self. When women sit in circle and the bell rings, they often begin to cry softly before a word is said. They aren’t quite sure why their eyes begin to sting, then tears fall, but they are feeling vulnerable in a perfectly safe space. Maybe it’s the first time they have experienced a safe haven like the circle. They trust us to create that space.
As Conveners, or board members of any organization, a high value is reliability. We do the job we said we will do. Organizations unravel when tasks go undone, duties fall by the wayside, commitments are forgotten, and meetings are blown off. The old model of putting the burden all on one person is the quickest way to kill off trust, and expedite the slide towards disintegration.
“Choosing what’s important and what to let go of” was second on the list of values. How many times have you been in a meeting, glanced at the agenda, and thought, “Again? Really?” If the agenda is in Word and you just change the date, and one item is always tabled, maybe it’s time to rethink it. There are times when the person who was passionate about that idea is long gone, yet it lives on. Let it go.
Adding Fun is so wise. My litmus test for getting involved over the past 22 years since I retired is, “Does this suck the energy out of me, or does it give me energy?” If I feel depleted every time I leave a meeting, no matter how worthy the cause, I resign. If I feel energized, I stay. It took me a while to learn how to say no, but practice makes perfect.
There is a quote by James (Sakej) Youngblood Henderson, a Research Director at the University of Saskatchewan, at the bottom of the list: “To truly listen is to risk being changed forever.” Put that on the fridge, too!
Thank you to all the GTW Conveners and to Jennifer Ball for carving out the time to put into words the values that we hold in our hearts.