The Malady of Otherness

The Malady of Otherness

“It’s impossible not to love someone whose story you have heard.” The beloved children’s TV host Mister Rogers carried that quote in his wallet, to remind him of the importance of listening.

“Storytelling + listening can connect residents of a divided city.”

I love the spirit of this! I’d love to cultivate something similar here in Windsor.

The very first thing that came to mind is a homeless friend who has been working to organize his colleagues to keep them safer and to create more respectful bonds and discourse with the businesses downtown who are affected by their presence. “Gramps” and I have coffee when I’m downtown. He’s shared many stories of not only his own experiences (some of them truly devastating) but those of the others on the street.

The one that absolutely broke my heart was of a city Councillor who treated a very young panhandler with horrific disdain. I won’t relate the story here, but it made my blood boil, and then got me thinking about how much of this rift continues to exist because of this sense of “otherness”.

It’s so easy to look past someone who is different, particularly when their circumstances make you uncomfortable. Poverty isn’t “their” problem; it’s OUR problem. Suffering flourishes when communication fails. This group in Chicago has such an interesting perspective on how to dismantle the malady of “otherness”.

Have a peek at this bit from their project, and then please tap me on the shoulder if you are someone who is interested in finding a way to cultivate something like this in the Windsor area?

Coming together, talking—and listening—to our neighbors has never been more important. It is a critical step toward creating a more unified Chicago. That is what On the Table, which unites tens of thousands of Chicagoans in conversation on a single day in May, is all about.

In the first of a series, the Trust’s Daniel Ash talks with award-winning radio producer and StoryCorps founder David Isay to hear his take on how getting to know someone as a human being—the act of listening to their story—is essential to strengthening our communities and building social capital.

Says Isay: “Having authentic, honest conversations where you see people who you might have felt were different than you, or feared, or whatever it is—the power is immeasurable of what that can do.”

How the Act of Listening Connects a Divided City