If you’re a Wisconsonite, you know that October weather in Madison is completely unpredictable. On Sunday, October 20th, out of the blue came a beautiful, warm, sunny day for our first ever Crossroads Conversation. To our dismay, we learned shortly before the conversation was to take place that our special guest, Barbara McKinney was unable to make it. There was a sigh of relief when Barbara told us that she would be sending Sheri Carter to lead the conversation in her place. The title Barbara had chosen for the event was, “How DO We Start Uncomfortable Conversations?”. Sheri honored Barbara’s theme as we gathered outside on the beautiful back porch to kick things off.
Ages ranged from 32 to 86 years in our group of 11 people, one of whom was being phoned in all the way from North Carolina. During our hour together, Sheri gracefully lead us through a conversation that covered topics from coworkers and time management to roommates with dementia not remembering eating someone else’s food. There was laughter and seriousness sprinkled throughout as we discussed the need to build trust with structure and open communication within our communities, the importance of considering a person’s life experience and background before starting an uncomfortable conversation, the power of the words we choose, the questions we ask, and the effectiveness that making a one on one connection can have before a group intervention takes place.
The purpose of the Crossroads Conversations at Hope & A Future is to address the need to have meaningful conversations with our diverse community members. Starting a conversation is often the most difficult part. Navigating through the conversation once it’s been started presents different challenges depending on the individuals involved. Our communities are made up of people coming from backgrounds that many of us have difficulty understanding. The first step in understanding the people around you is making one connection at a time, one person at a time. Though we may have different experiences, or even experience the same things in different ways, we can create a strong community by forming relationships and putting in the time it takes to understand the people around us. We all have something to give, even if we don’t yet understand how we can give it. Kindness spreads and people can lift each other up to their utmost potential in a community where communication is thoughtful, open, and honest.
Sheri inspired me that sunny Sunday afternoon by speaking directly to a situation in my own life without even knowing me or what I was going through. After visiting with a few of the other people who attended, I know that I’m not the only person who felt that way. God uses people in profound ways and I think that He will continue to do so as these conversations continue.