On safe havens of dialogue

On his personal blog Brother Omi writes: The last few weeks this has been a topic between my circle of friends. A good number of them run study groups, book clubs, investment groups, and building sessions of all sorts. For those that know me, they know I love a good build on every level. As a teacher and student (Sou mestre que aprende, sou disciplo que de liciao), I enjoy engaging folks in any intellectual discourse. Steel sharpens steel right? A healthy debate is good for the mind and helps mature our temperments.

Oftentimes, we find that several of our acquaintances enter these ciphers to discuss personal matters. Some even border needing a mental health physician. Unfortunately, many of us are ill equipped to provide counsel or even provide advice. For some of us who organize these groups or who come expecting the group to stay on topic, it is extremely frustrating. Let's be honest if I come to discuss a book or the history of black intellectualism, I really don't want to hear about someone's girlfriend cutting up one's clothes. I didn't sign up for that. However, it's something that we must sit down and look at.

I take for granted the idea that if I have a personal issue, I have a long string of family members and friends who I can talk to. If I got a problem, I can always speak to my wife. If she is not available, I have siblings. If I can't reach them, I have my mother. If I don't have them at the moment, I have several elders I can talk to. I have several friends I can talk to if I don't want to involve my family. Cell phones are a wonderful thing. Because I take them for granted, I forget that a good number of people don't feel safe enough to talk to their mates, family members, or have friends they trust enough to confide in. It sounds sad but it's true.

It's one of the reasons why you might go somewhere and a total stranger might spill their guts to you. It happens all the time. I used to wonder why would a total stranger confide in me especially about stories that are so personal? Yet these strangers might not have anyone to turn to.

When it comes to children, I always explain how we should always provide safe havens of dialogue for them (that is a post for another day). Children that don't have these safe havens grow into adults who have no one to turn to.

It's important that as organizers, we try to help folks as much as possible. At times, this can be overwhelming but we should use our social circles to help as well. Let's be honest, as soon you put something together whether it's a study group, a martial arts class, or even a party, people look at you as a leader. Helping people out is part of that responsibility. Maybe all you have to do is speak to that person after the function or provide them with a few phone numbers.

I refrain from asking people to recommend church groups. The thing about churches is that they still work on old modes of communication. Usually one person is dictating to the group. The response is usually done as a group and church groups tend to apply old world agrarian ideas to issues that affect us today. Let's be real, a good number of people who have issues are already in church groups so it is obvious that those institutions don't help on an individual level.

People might say that most issues are universal and are those that people have had over the ages. While this is true, I want to point out a few things. First, we live in a society where people change careers several times over. Back in the day, most people followed the occupations of their parents. If you're father was a farmer, chances are you would become a farmer. Today, people change careers like shoes. We also live in a society where people tend to migrate several miles away from family and social networks they might have grown up in. Where as, fifty years ago this was not true. I recall living near family for most of my childhood. I remember having friends who lived within walking distance of their grandparents and other extended family members. Nowadays people move around often to different cities and states.

Finally, we have more choices. Some of us have more options for dating, making friends, attending places of worships, where we shop, etc. Folks nowadays have more choices to make than their parents did. We also have more opportunities to be more content or more depressed with those choices. As intellectuals, organizers, and leaders we have to take those factors into consideration.

Most of all, we have to be open to help out. Oftentimes, we step into the spotlight and people gravitate towards us. Let's be honest, we all look at organizers as people who got it together. We look at them as people who know their way around and expect them to have all the answers. While this is not true, it is something that can't be helped. Yet we should also realize that we do know a bit more and that we should be able to help in some way. (source)