OWOSSO — At an increasingly divisive time in American culture and politics, a new community effort is working to bring people together.
About 20 business and community leaders gathered inside The Armory Tuesday evening to take part in the first phase of The Remedy Project, an initiative aimed at healing divisions, promoting civic engagement and improving effective communication for better decision-making.
Tuesday’s “listening session” allowed each participant to share his or her honest thoughts about the coronavirus, with questions ranging from “What have you been thinking about over the past 18 months?” to “What is the most important thing to do moving forward?”
“In order for us to come together as a community to deal with wicked, complex problems facing all communities, we have to first heal and begin to trust one another again,” Owosso resident Kari Krantz said. “How do we get back to having disagreements without deciding we don’t want to meet with those people anymore?”
Krantz and the Cook Family Foundation launched the project in collaboration with leadership from the Center for the Study of Citizenship at Wayne State University. She admitted it’s been difficult to witness the divisiveness and mean-spirited nature of society in recent years, a reality that ultimately compelled her to take action locally.
“The Remedy Project centers on the premise that well-intended people across all facets of our community are trying to navigate the increasingly divisive social terrain in which we now find ourselves — often without the necessary skills to reach better outcomes,” Krantz said. “We all need to hone our listening skills and consider new, more productive, means to have impactful conversations.”
Tuesday’s two-hour listening session brought together a wide variety of individuals from Owosso and surrounding communities.
Detroit natives Henry McClendon and Herman Jenkins facilitated Tuesday’s discussion, sharing their own thoughts and experiences throughout the pandemic while also ensuring participants afforded one another the opportunity to share openly and honestly.
“The purpose of this is for everyone to have an opportunity to be heard,” said McClendon, director of community engagement at the International Institute of Restorative Practices. “What this is designed to do is to create the space and the environment for everyone to have that opportunity.”
Tuesday’s session was not a debate nor an opportunity to judge others, McClendon explained. Participants, seated in a circle, took turns sharing their thoughts and experiences without interruption.
Individuals were attentive to each speaker, and at no point did conflict arise during the session.
Common themes among respondents included questions of when the pandemic will be over, frustration over the politicization of the issue and concerns about vulnerable populations, including family.
Respondents also articulated a need to be respectful and courteous moving forward, with many placing an emphasis on “choosing joy” and seeking out opportunities to help others.
“Think about how healing it is to just simply listen to one another,” Krantz said at the end of Tuesday’s session. “Just being able to share your experience with an attentive audience lifts the burden a tad for how each of us are feeling. If we could do that and continue to do that a little bit at a time, the empathy and the trust I think will just continue to expand.”
The Remedy Project will hold its next listening session from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Durand Depot.
Interested residents can learn more and sign up for the workshops on the Cook Family Foundation website at cookfamilyfoundation.org. Participation for each stand-alone event will be capped at 20 people.
For more information, contact Krantz at firstname.lastname@example.org.