Small Steps

I promise that very soon I am going to blog about something other than Red Boot topics! But it’s new and rather fascinating to me, so my thoughts land here a lot and I feel drawn to write about it. Founder Molly Barker was in town to launch our first meeting, and 15 people showed up to try it out. After some introductions and background, we formally took up the script that guides Red Boot meetings everywhere. Its simplicity is deceptive, because although the ground rules are few in number, they are hugely significant to creating the safe space essential to the whole endeavor. Someone reads them aloud at each meeting.

  • Stick to statements like “I think,” “I feel,” and “My experience has been . . .”
  • Keep your comments brief.
  • Never cross talk during the meeting; let everyone’s words and stories stand on their own.
  • Refrain from sharing details shared by a specific person outside the meeting.
Molly Barker reads from the Red Boot script at the kickoff Cincinnati meeting

Molly Barker reads from the Red Boot script at the kickoff Cincinnati meeting

Next we went around the circle reading all 11 Steps aloud before taking up the first step as the main topic of the meeting: We came to see that despite sometimes feeling helpless, angry and even apathetic about the current course of human events, we each play an essential role in our communities, families, our lives. We matter. Molly posed a few discussion prompts (also from the script): How do you matter? Who do you matter to?  People shared about all kinds of things from their family and work situations to interactions with neighbors and others.

But the process doesn’t end there. Shortly before the one-hour time allotment was to end, Molly asked, “With the remaining time, let’s talk about how you plan to practice and live today’s step in your life? What ways or tactics will you use to put this step into action?” Acknowledging that preoccupation with my own tasks and priorities can make me oblivious or impatient, I stated an intention to be friendlier to people I encounter out in public, like at the grocery store. Be careful what you wish for! The very next morning, at the crack of dawn, I departed on a flight to NC to meet up with high school friends for the long MLK weekend. My words of the night before echoed in my ears as a young mom carrying a whining toddler sat right across the narrow plane aisle from me, then again when the pilot announced a fog delay and later a diversion to a remote airport in TN, and even more so while dealing with airline staff to work out an alternate travel plan in the wake of cancellations. That morning I found it wasn’t so difficult to be kind and patient, perhaps because the meeting environment had been supportive, not judging.

This past Thursday, a dozen people gathered for the second meeting to work on Step 2:  We came to see, that despite sometimes feeling small and powerless, we possess the power to positively influence all those with whom we come into contact, which on any given day can be literally hundreds of people. We are empowered.  Who did you positively impact today or recently and how? Who is in your circle of influence that positively impacted you recently? What small action did you take that “made someone’s day?”

To practice this step in the week ahead, my thoughts turned to a need for balance between virtual interactions and live, in-person ones. The tantalizing array of blogs and articles and videos available via Facebook distract me far too easily!!  Attending the Cincinnati Pops concert on Friday night for a program called “American Originals” reinforced this awareness — such a joy to sit in the historic concert hall and give my undivided attention to hearing the wonderful orchestra and amazing vocalists. The program featured primarily the work of Stephen Foster, who lived for a few years here in Cincinnati and worked along the river for his brother’s shipping company while also writing songs influenced by varied styles that he encountered here on the border of north and south. I learned to play several of Foster’s songs back when I took piano lessons (as an adult); hearing them performed reminded me how playing the piano used to clear my mind of jumbled thoughts. Another way to stay balanced.


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