Welcome to the Sacred Gyre Podcast, Staying connected to your deepest values as you work for change.
I work in healthcare to bring the patient voice into the room where we are making improvements, and as a part of that,
I created a High Impact Storytelling Workshop to help patients and families talk about their healthcare experiences in a way that helps healthcare staff get a sense of what it was like to walk in their shoes. This is important because, when done well, stories help us go beyond statistics to be present with what it is like for a human being to encounter even the most well intended structural changes to a system.
The tagline for the workshop is Two Facts and a Feeling. It emphasizes having the story centered around what people said and did and what the impact was on you. In my experience, this helps build empathy into the organizational change process and minimizes the potential for defensive reactions in the listener who must not only help build systemic changes, but will be vital to implementing them in a way that lives up to the values the system wants to live by.
There is more to it than that, of course, but for my purposes today, I'd like to start there. I have a knack for taking a more complicated story and boiling it down to its essence. I was known for this skill in the 1960s as I participated in the mass movements. The group I was a part of would use me as one person to turn complicated political positions into short slogans, and I wrote protest songs as well.
My motivation for writing, indeed, for being active in the movements, was my anger at the horrible things I saw going on around me as I grew up. Those were the days of Jim Crow discrimination in the South, where violence against black people was ordinary and frequent and rarely interfered with and rampant discrimination in housing and jobs was common across the country.
And as I got into my twenties, I saw the beginnings of what we now call globalization with the attacks on unions, loss of income and jobs for many working people. One song I wrote criticized the leader of the United Auto Workers for what we thought were actions leading to the negative outcomes. Fraser go to blank
no more concessions, I wrote. People liked it because it spoke to their frustrations, but it wasn't a part of any real change. This was partly because as much as ordinary workers liked our slogans and songs, they weren't going to join our radical organization or do anything else we wanted them to do.
More than that, the song completely missed the complicated position of union leaders trying to react to the changing political and economic circumstances over which they had little control. I got into the mass movements because I wanted to create a more loving world without racism, poverty, and jobs where people were treated like machines.
But the song reflected the mindset I wanted to change in the world because it treated that union leader in the old way as an image to be used for political reasons, not as a human being. I later changed how I wrote. One song was sparked by a demonstration outside an expensive department store by women who worked in little factories sewing the clothing made there.