It seems that every day we’re forcefully reminded of the many divides in our society. These seemingly intractable, deepening divides aren’t new, but the urgency of addressing them is growing every day.

The good news? Our awareness of the importance of bridging these divides is growing.

And, as Leah Garcés shows us, it can be done, though it’s not a quick or easy process.

I don’t think it’s possible to for every effort to build bridges to succeed each time we try; after all nothing is 100% effective. But watch Garcés’ video, and as you do, think about the difference we can each make if even just once, we reach out across a divide and build a bridge of caring, kindness, forgiveness and connection. And imagine what would happen if we all did that more than once! We might not all contribute to changing a major corporation’s practices, as Garcés did, but we all can contribute to changing the world, one relationship at a time.

Quite often the “enemy” has the power to change the problem we’re trying to solve…I need to enter their space if I want to solve the problem.

~ Leah Garcés

There’s no quick fix formula for how to do this, but there are some great guiding principles to be found in Garcés’ video:

  1. Have an open heart and mind, allowing insight and compassion.
  2. Be prepared to question and release preconceived ideas that do not serve.
  3. Have the courage to take carefully considered risks on behalf of what matters most.
  4. Be persistent — this will be a long haul.
  5. Allow yourself to tolerate the discomfort that comes with seeking to bridge a divide.
  6. Respect our shared humanity, even, or especially with those we see as “the enemy.”
  7. When an unexpected opportunity opens up, pursue it!
  8. Recognize and celebrate successes, even though there’s still so much to do.

More Inspiration On Bridging Divides

Leah Garcés is a powerful example of how to bridge divides. Here’s another.  Kerra Bolton’s How Restorative Practices Helped Me to Trust the Police, and Detroit Rising Wins Film Festival Awards describes the impressive results of her persistence, commitment and courage in learning and sharing restorative practices, an approach that offers hope for bridging our country’s deep racial divides.
Here’s a trailer about the documentary about it developed by her and her colleagues. I was rapt by it’s deep humanity and clear, powerful message. The film offers tremendous inspiration, showing how persistent use of  restorative practices brings the healing, connection, and hope that our country and our people so need. While the issues addressed and the experiences described differ, I think that both of these approaches embody the same 8 core principles.
You can watch the trailer and if you wish, purchase the film. It’s been selected as one of the best 169 films out of 768 submitted to the San Francisco Independent Short Film Festival this year, so it will be featured during their October 9-18 virtual festival. Why not attend  and see this and other amazing films? Details will be available soon..

Detroit Rising: How the Motor City Becomes a Restorative City from Ted Wachtel on Vimeo.

We Can All Make A Difference

Which of the 8 principles for bridging divides resonate most with you? Some might come to you more easily than others. Let yourself practice those that feel most natural and doable, and use the experiences you gain to try those that are more challenging. Maybe start small, with someone you know and like, but have divides with around some major issues.

I’ve seen for myself how focusing on the points of connection and agreement allows us to accept each other, even with our differences. The bridge building doesn’t necessarily bring about complete agreement, but it allows us to care for, respect and enjoy each other.

Work up to building a bridge with someone with whom you have major differences.  And see if you can  find support from friends, colleagues, and organizations. Bridging longstanding and deepening divides is not a DIY project.


Photo by kyler trautner on Unsplash

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