Monday, November 10, 2008

Approaching Relationships With Intentionality

These are some of my friends. I love them.

They are unique and diverse, all full of talents and skills, beautiful both inside and out. This photo represents only a snapshot into several of my various communities of friends. People in this photo are young and old, male and female and transgender, single and coupled, latino, black, white, asian, pacific islander, gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, doctor, college grads, students, high school grads, multi-lingual, ESL, and of varying faith backgrounds. We are quite a hodge podge of diverse friends!

We were all gathered last night for dinner, celebrating my birthday. And so I took the opportunity to share my heart with them. (Keep reading further in this post to watch the video of that talk!)

There's been a lot going on in California lately and I've been excited to be a part of it with many of my friends. Many of us have been part of rallies, marches, phone banks, and volunteers to oppose the passing of Prop 8. It's personal for us because it's OUR rights that have been taken away from us or it's our LOVED ONES rights that have been taken away from them.

I've said before that I consider myself more of a relational catalyst than a political activist. The difference? In my view, a relational catalyst takes an organic approach to building bridges within a community by inspiring the development of meaningful relationships for the purpose of building a relational infrastructure within that community. In my view, a political activist takes a grassroots community organizing approach to rallying and mobilizing a community around a worthwhile cause.

I believe that both are essential to shifting our culture . . . .

The political activists and organizers work to affect the "power structures" that govern law and religion while using a unified arm of people to build national awareness and support and to confront opposition. The relational catalysts work to affect the "people structures" that comprise our communities, neighborhoods, and families while developing tangible relationships and connections between individuals across a region. Both kinds of people, the activists and the catalysts, work in tandem to shift paradigms, hearts, and attitudes. A person might be one or the other or both! And when we experience the collision of world views as we've seen between those who believe all people, gay and straight, have the equal right to marry versus those who believe that only straight people have the right to use the term marriage, the resulting clash brings intense hurt and anger - and in many cases irrationality.

As we're seeing the Marriage Equality Movement advancing forward to draw national attention, catalyzed by the passing of Prop 8 eliminating the rights of California's citizens, we are without a doubt witnessing history being written before our very eyes. In the past, we had the benefit of hindsight and history to teach us what sacrifices and advances had been made before us. However, as witnesses to current events, we have the unique opportunity of helping to shape the outcome.

In 2000, a similar initiative in California (Prop 22) banning same-sex marriage was approved and passed with 61% to 39%. Now, 8 years later Prop 8 passes barely with 52% to 48%. That's a huge indication of the shifting views in California culture - along with the mobilizing capabilities of organizers and advocates and allies. There are more and more people who are supporting equal rights for all people. The interesting thing to note is that seeing as how straight people are the majority, that means statistically most of that 48% who voted against Prop 8 were straight. There are millions of straight people who support us. The work of political activists and of relational catalysts, together, can help tip the scale in favor of equality the next time the public is asked to vote.

It does take some intentionality.

Right now, there are efforts to organize across the country to demonstrate peacefully against discrimination. You can be a part of it by passing the word along, going to rallies, marches and events, signing petitions, writing to elected officials, and speaking out to let your voice be heard.

But as a relational catalyst, what can you do?

Yesterday was my birthday and to celebrate I invited friends from several social circles that I'm connected with for a dinner at a restaurant. So I took the opportunity to share with them what I call the "Fabulous 5" things that they can do to approach their friendships with intentionality by being a relational catalyst. Here's the video of that talk:

The "Fabulous 5" to Being a Relational Catalyst:

1. Invest in 5 people not like you - build relationships with people who are different than you so that you can mutually learn from each other, hear each others stories, and begin to empathize with each others experiences.

2. Participate in neighborly service - identify a need that your neighbor has and serve that need by helping to fill it. You can also volunteer with community organizations. Mow your neighbor's lawn. Prepare a meal for an elderly or pregnant neighbor. Help pick up trash at the beach. Help build a home. This will help people to see that we are nothing to be afraid of. Rather, we are their fellow neighbors that can support them when they are in need.

3. Partner with other people who share your passion - find others who care about what you care about, then collaborate together to make a difference! Do you care about Marriage Equality, cancer, Substance abuse among teenagers, suicide prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention & education, or some other cause? I believe that we can do more together than we can separate. So find those who share your passion or cause and do it together.

4. Facilitate introductions - provide opportunities to introduce the new people that you are meeting with your broader group of friends. Let them connect with each other. Host a dinner party, plan an outdoors event, get a group of people together for a movie or a show.

5. Cast vision - speak into the relationships in your life and inspire people with a vision of community, collaboration and citizenship. Show people how they can connect with the people in their world and how they can affect their community together. Inspire them to be a relational catalyst.

The "Fabulous 5" are things that you can do over the next year to approach your friendships with intentionality and to help build a relational infrastructure throughout our community. Not only do we gain meaningful relationships, but when it comes time for the activists to call on us to mobilize, there will be more of us (catalysts and our relationships) in the community who can respond.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are gonna change the world yet, Eric Leocadio!!! It was a privilege to be present at your dinner and hear your words in person. THanks for being so inspirational. Can't wait to see what next year looks like! ::hug::