Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day Reflections

My partner and I had a party for friends the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. About 50 people came and we ate, drank and laughed. I don’t usually enjoy these kinds of parties, especially when I am one of the hosts, but I really enjoyed this one. All the people who came are activists of one sort or another—some have regular “day” jobs and do their activism on the side. Others are full time paid staff at various social justice nonprofits, and still others, like me, are consultants to a wide variety of liberal and leftwing nonprofits. I know that we all follow politics very closely but at this party no one mentioned anything about the presidential election, the Republican primary, the California budget crisis—nothing. The talk was of vacations, children (there were quite a few babies at the party), how beautiful our yard is looking, how old our dog is getting, transitions from jobs to retirement or one job to another, or, in several cases, from having a job to being unemployed. Most of the conversations were lighthearted and joking and some were more serious, but they were not political. It was as if we wanted to all take one day off from event thinking about or commenting on the venom and bile that characterized the Republican convention and a day off from wondering if Obama will win or debating just how really different he is from his rivals.

I am a big believer in conversation, and it doesn’t entirely matter to me if the conversation is serious or silly. Conversation comes from the Latin word, “conversare”—to turn, ie to turn together, to turn to one another, to face one another. Conversation establishes trust between people—if we can joke around and laugh with each other, we are better placed to discuss values or commitments.

I am ready now to engage in serious and robust conversation with all kinds of people, and in large part this is because I have been on vacation, I have rested and I feel good, and I have reaffirmed that I have a community of people who have my back and I have theirs. We ate and drank together and we remembered that we care about each other. Could there be a better use of the Labor Day holiday?

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