Listening to your activist story

I have been a coach or counselor for over 40 years – and an activist (on and off) for even longer.  So when I started to create what may possibly be a unique offering in “Activism Coaching”, I immediately had lots to say.

Today I offered a four-minute “Gift of story” – of the emergence of Releasing the Force – at Jubilee. (The video of this story should be available in a day or two and I will post it on this blog.)  After the service I handed out a two-page description of “Activism Coaching” (the same as the adjoining page of that name) that I told people was “like a coaching session in itself” – and I still basically think that’s true.

But besides the great stuff I said today, I also heard some pretty wonderful stuff – some of which was really pretty humbling.  As Lauren told us about how Quakers listen to God and the God in each other, then the choir sang a beautiful song called “Listen With Your Heart”, then Jay rocked the homily on listening into a new day, a new definition of Activism Coaching started to emerge for me – and it’s two and a half lines instead of two pages.

bw close-up
Photo by Maureen Simon

Activism Coaching is deeply listening to a person’s activist story in a way that respects their uniqueness, reflects them back accurately and highlights places in the story that the teller may not yet be hearing fully.

That person’s story may just tumble out like Topsy – or may come out in an extremely organized fashion.  They may have lots to say with no prompting – or they may need the help of some prompts, some topic areas.  You could journal to these prompts and turn this also into a little coaching session.  After or instead of journaling you might want to talk to a trusted friend, mentor or counselor about your answers – and what it was like doing this.  Some of those prompts could be:dog active-listening

  1. What was the first time you noticed some group being treated not as well as other groups?
    1. How did you respond?
      1. Did you talk to your parents or a teacher about it?  How did that go?
      2. Or did you stay silent?  How was that for you?
    2. Were you glad you weren’t in that group – or maybe were you in that group?
  2. What was a time that you interrupted oppression – spoke up for someone who was being mistreated for their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.  Or for yourself as you were being oppressed?
    1. What happened?
    2. Did it get filed as a good experience or maybe a painful one?
  3. What was a time that you didn’t speak up?
  4. Have you been a member of a group or groups that took on peace and/or freedom issues?  What did you do: march, rally, sit-ins, leafleting/petitions?  What was that like?
  5. Are you getting enough support today for taking on these issues?  If not, what might that support look like?

It’s a time-honored tradition at our church for whoever is preaching to intersperse some (usually non-religious) song with the preaching,  Here’s the song Jay gave us today, which rocked the house as much as Jay did.