Play for Shared Humanity

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Happy 2021! I think I can still say that, right?

What a year it’s been already. I knew that everything wasn’t going to magically go back to normal when we closed the books on 2020. However, I think we could’ve all gone without an attempted coup on our Capitol just a mere six days into the year.

I feel a surge of hope and optimism from the inauguration of our new President and Vice President this week. It’s not lost on me that those at the insurrection, along with millions of other people in our country feel the complete opposite of what I’m feeling.

There’s a part of me (okay, a huge part of me) that wants to dismiss anyone who considers themselves a Republican/Conservative/Trump supporter. It feels like a dead end to engage with someone who you couldn’t imagine finding common ground.

But if I value connecting with others in our most playful, authentic state, how is that attitude going to achieve that? Spoiler alert: it’s not. It’s also hugely arrogant of me to believe that I know better than those who identify differently on the political spectrum.*

That’s why I decided to step out of my comfort zone and have a conversation with a conservative Christian last year about their views on the pandemic . I used aspects of play to break the ice between us and to structure our conversation with the goal of understanding each other.

It was extremely nerve-wracking, but it was one of the more eye opening experiences I’ve ever had. The process of preparing to talk to her forced me to do more research about my views. She gave me some things to consider and think about, and we found more common ground than I thought. Ultimately I could understand why she believed what she did, even if I didn’t agree with most of her perspectives.

The environment, experiences, people and media you surround yourself with shapes your beliefs. I am no exception. We have to understand how those different factors affect someone’s beliefs to give us a tiny chance at bridging those differences.

That’s why I was so excited to speak with a fellow play colleague who is also doing the work to connect with others who share a different political/world perspective. Jeff Harry is an applied positive psychology coach and speaker who has worked with organizations like Google and Facebook to help their staff infuse more play in their day-to-day. If you follow me on Instagram or Tiktok you may have seen some comedic videos that we’ve collaborated on together.

In the latest episode of The Recess Life podcast we talk about how play can be used as a tool to heal divisions and help us to see our shared humanity. We discuss acknowledging where you are and being clear with yourself before you embark on hard conversations. Jeff dropped so many resources in this episode that you can find in the shownotes.

I hope this episode helps you to see the possibilities for what play can do to help us see our shared humanity. What has been your experience with having these difficult conversations? What can I learn from your approach or perspective?

Here’s where you can listen/watch.

PS. Content warning: Jeff uses a slur word that is used to be dehumanizing towards black people in the context of a story he shares about his life (46:50-47:15).

PPS. Jeff was featured in a Buzzfeed article that you should check out: How to stop wasting time scrolling and start finding joy in play

PPS. My friend and director of the dance group I used to be a part of launched a podcast recently called Magically Mundane Pod. She and her partner explore topics like mental health, culture, relationships and politics. Check it out!

*This is a complicated process. I feel strongly that more time should be spent actually addressing the issues of inequality and racism than constantly trying to understand others and “reach across the aisle.” We only have so much time, but this is a necessary step for myself in order to move forward with more compassion. I hope you spend time figuring out what this journey looks like for you. 

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