It’s a confusing time. Standing on the brink of the US presidential inauguration, with the prospect of ‘hard Brexit’ in the daily news, it’s difficult to make sense of things and even harder to know how to make a difference. Looking around for some positive ideas and inspiration, I stumbled across a great little TED talk by an American sociologist Kio Stark, about her obsession with talking to strangers. She argues that the kinds of things we say when we catch the eye of a stranger “Hello, how are you?” “What a lovely day!” may sound meaningless but they’re rich with social meaning. “What we mean when we say those things is: I see you there.”
Kio has a young child, and she’s acutely aware of how complicated the notion of talking to strangers is in that respect. I’m not going to go into that here (you can look up her talk!), but ultimately she concludes, “We spend a lot of time teaching our children about strangers. What would happen if we spent more time teaching ourselves? We could reject all the ideas that make us so suspicious of each other. We could make a space for change.”
All of this feels very relevant to what we’re aiming for at LNS. We try to practice and model ‘unconditional positive regard’ a concept developed by the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers. We don’t always get it right, but our intention is always to see and accept the person standing in front of us. The consequence of this is simple, but profound – that person can experience feeling seen and accepted for who they are.
For our children, this means they’re free to share, to try things out, make mistakes and be themselves. For us adults, it can mean we work late to get the paperwork done, because during the day we want to take the time to listen and see the people who cross our path. We’re not strangers in our community (far from it!) but its a wonderful place to practice acts of kindness, connection and recognition, to take out into the wider world. Sarah