Last year, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and a post by my friend, Rebecca Fishman-Lipsey, caught my eye. It was about something called 10 Days of Connection. Rebecca talked about “breaking free of the echoing chamber” and having conversations with people who were different from herself. I was intrigued — inspired, even. I knew that we needed to increase cross-cultural conversations to help address the divisive rhetoric and finger pointing that has escalated in our community over the past few years. But I didn’t have time to participate. Life was just too busy.
Fast forward a few months, and I was accepted into the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program, a collaboration among the presidential libraries of Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon Johnson. As part of the PLS Program, I’m required to do a Personal Leadership Project. I was thinking carefully about what my project would be.
I remembered the 10 Days of Connection. I knew that I wanted to be part of an effort that increased empathy and understanding among people. I wanted to take the tools that I use in my life as a professional mediator and see what happens when we put them to use in the community at large.
So I called up Rebecca and asked her if the organizations who started the 10 Days of Connection in Miami – The United Way, The Children’s Trust, The Miami Herald, The Miami Foundation, and MCCJ – would be willing to partner with me to help me bring the 10 Days of Connection to Broward County. They said yes, and my Personal Leadership Project was born.
Here we are now, right before we launch the 10 Days of Connection 2018. For 10 days – May 1-10 – we’re challenging people to step out of their comfort zones and connect with others across lines of difference in whatever way they’re ready. There are dozens of activities in which people can participate in both Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. Just check out our Calendar of Experiences, and we hope you’ll be inspired to join an event or two.
But it’s even simpler than that. You don’t have to attend a scheduled event to be part of the 10 Days of Connection. You can invite a neighbor you’ve never spoken to over for coffee. Have lunch with a work colleague you barely know. Engage in deliberate conversations that deepen your understanding of another person’s life and perspective. Be intentionally curious about their opinions and why they hold them. Do more listening and less talking.
When you do these things, you’ll be helping to build the South Florida that we all want to live in – the one where we can celebrate our differences and still be united around common values of empathy, openness, and civility that we need to make our community thrive.