5.1 - Developing our Community - Exploring the Tensions Together

5.1 — Developing our Community – Exploring the Tensions Together (35 minutes)

Materials needed: None

Purpose of piece: To explore and share participants’ personal experiences with tensions related to Chapter 5 in order to create a shared understanding among group members.

Say to group: This investigation of tensions focuses on a primary concern, how we as individuals negotiate our need to listen to and respond to the needs of others. The ultimate concern is that each of us is an individual, and we celebrate what it means to be a human: our intelligence, our capacity to reason, and our need to make decisions. At the same time, if we take racial justice seriously, then we are asked to recognize our interdependence and we may be asked to make uncomfortable choices. We might say we believe in respecting one another. What does that mean exactly? When decisions are required, and disagreement is apparent, how do we choose between our personal feelings, thoughts, and desires and those of people we say we respect, but with whom we may or may not agree? This activity asks us to talk to each other about how we understand individualism, how it affects us, and how it affects our ability to respect our interdependence.

Say to group: We’re now going to count of by 1, 2, 1, 2 to form two groups. Number 1’s are going to stand in a circle facing outward. The number 2’s will stand in a circle facing inward. This is often called a wagon wheel, because the two groups will be standing in circles, one larger and one smaller, facing one another. (5 minutes)

Facilitator note: You will need even numbers for this exercise. If you have an odd number, either a facilitator can step in, or you can create one triad. Ask the first question and give the pair 2 minutes to answer, 1 minute per person. After the 2 minutes are completed, ask the outer row (number 2’s) to move one person to the left. The participants now have a new partner. Now ask the new pairs the second question. They have 2 minutes to dialogue, 1 minute per person. Continue this process until all 5 questions have been asked and answered. The groups will have changed partners between each question.

Say to group: We are going to answer questions in pairs. To do this, I’ll first read a question. You’ll have about 20 seconds to think about your answer. I’ll then invite one of the pairs to answer first in one minute. After that minute, I’ll ask you to switch, and the second partner will have one minute to answer.

(15 minutes)

  1. What do you associate with the term individualism?
  2. What do we lose because of individualism? How does it hurt us?
  3. What does it mean when a person rejects individualism?
  4. What does it look like to respect our interdependent web of life?
  5. When confronted with a dilemma, and someone is asking you to do something that feels uncomfortable, how do you figure out what to do?

Large group debrief: (15 minutes)

  1. What stood out for you during this exercise?
  2. What can we do to create a deeper sense of community for ourselves?
  3. What helps us take other people’s opinions seriously, even when they conflict with our own?

Facilitator’s note: If you are a member of a UU congregation, you may recognize this information as a dialogue between Principles 1 and 7. Below is a quoted reference from each, taken from the UU website.

Every person has inherent worth and dignity.

 

“We celebrate the gifts of being human: our intelligence and capacity for observation and reason, our senses and ability to appreciate beauty, our creativity, our feelings and emotions.”

 

and

All of existence is an interdependent web and deserves respect.

 

This statement “is our response to the great dangers of both individualism and oppression. It is our solution to the seeming conflict between the individual and the group.”

 Wrap up: Hopefully, through this activity we learned more about one another so that we will understand each other’s responses to future challenges and be able to work together to find resolution.