As I drove in between the stone pillars and up the long drive, I couldn’t help but think — this was not our typical spot for meetings…the country club. I am used to conference rooms, church basements and coffee shops for meetings in my line of work. I was the first to arrive. A hostess […]Read more "Moving From ME to WE"
One of the hardest things in a relationship is to remember that you’re not the only one in it. It seems like a simple concept, something that you and I should totally be aware of, because, hey, a relationship means that’s it ‘not just me’. There’s someone else in the room that is attached to […]Read more "You’re Not The Only One"
A think piece cultivated from the upcoming book Radical Alliances by John White. – “Of all the places you have traveled in the world, which is the most impoverished?” The little nun from Albania considered the question which had been posed by the reporter in front of her. She’d sacrificed everything and moved to Calcutta, devoting […]Read more "The Lonely Islands"
I’m in that stage of parenting where you wake up one day and realize you’ve made it past the survival days, where the kids needed you for everything, only to realize that you’re staring the teenage years in the face. There is something about this part of the journey that offers a crystallizing glance at […]Read more "The Laws of Order (Time & Love)"
I’m grateful to have a wealth of mentors in my life. I am surrounded by people who have wisdom and are willing to share it. Real leaders. People who do all sorts of things. Young and old. Men and women. Rich and poor. Their relationships help me do what I do. Last night, I was […]Read more "DO vs. BE"
My name is John White, and I had the honor to serve four terms in the Ohio House of Representatives. During my service, my focus was to encourage Ohio’s faith communities to partner with state and local governments to help solve the most difficult social problems facing our state. The following experience gave me a […]Read more "Four Ways To Ruin Your Life"
I recently enrolled in an improv class.
Improv (short for improvisation) is a state of being and creating action without pre-planning. Commercially, improv is taught mainly as a comedic art-form.
My first class, I stepped on the stage and the lights were shining bright in my eyes. Anxiety took over my body and my heart was pounding. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I make a fool of myself? Who in the group will be my ally?
Trust became of overwhelming importance for me.
So often, we forget trust is not something you automatically receive, but something that is earned. One essential ingredient to improv is listening. If you are able to hear your partner on the stage, then you can reflect, and work together to build the scene. You must trust that what they have to say is important and you are a team. In many cases, you are nearly strangers working together to build this beautiful story that includes lots of laughter. Patience is critical.
This makes me think about the families we work with, who work to build a new life and move out of poverty. Often times we start the relationship as strangers. We cannot forget that we are on the same team, and the opposite of poverty is community.
We have a bad habit of predetermining others’ needs and telling their story for them. We become impatient and forget to listen. We fail to recognize that we ALL have something important to contribute. We forget to trust them.
I think we have something to learn from the art of improv to better build relationships across class lines to create stories of transformation. Here are a few lessons I’ve gleaned:
LISTEN | not just to react but to truly understand.
TRUST | step out on faith and remember just starting the conversation takes tremendous courage.
THERE IS AN AUDIENCE | our story is not just about us, but about the community who wants to be part of it.
HAVE FUN | it’s important to enjoy the journey and laugh some along the way.
As I continue the improv class, I’ve gotten better at working with my team and creating scenes together. We are building trust. Trust comes from sharing stories with each other over and over again. Trust builds when we feel listened to. Trust gives us motivation to take on challenges, sometimes things we’d never consider doing on our own.
Today, I went on the stage. The light was shining bright in my eyes. My heart was pounding again with anxiety. Our instructor said, “Just say something. You’re doing great. It’s your story.”
I can say anything. The courage it takes to be there is enough, I am not a fool. I have allies surrounding me waiting to listen and create a new story with me.
by Heather Cunningham — to learn more about Heather’s work, please visit thinktank-inc.org