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One Small Step encourages strangers to converse

Tami Graham

The fact that we live in a divisive time is not lost on anyone. At times, it feels like the world and our country are coming apart at the seams. Throughout my career, I’ve sought opportunities to stitch together our collective and interpersonal differences, creating new emergent threads along the way. When KSUT was presented with an opportunity to partner with StoryCorps, a national nonprofit dedicated to recording, preserving and sharing the stories of Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs through its One Small Step initiative, I knew that we should take on this work.

As residents of the Four Corners, we are accustomed to banding together when times get tough - raising funds for those who lost everything to fires or personal disasters, rural neighbors supporting each other. When someone’s livestock gets loose or a person’s car gets stuck in a snowdrift, we don’t stop and ask ourselves what that person’s politics are - we jump in and respond as human beings.

We know how to work together in the rural Southwest, help one another and solve problems. But that doesn’t mean we get to know each other well as human beings. We tend to keep things polite and superficial, getting along to go along. The One Small Step project is an opportunity to go deeper into a conversation with a stranger than you might do otherwise. I’m excited about bringing this project to the Four Corners region because it’s a chance for us to build stronger bonds and connections, rather than focusing energy and attention to the forces that want us torn apart for political gain. When was the last time you had a memorable conversation with a stranger who didn’t share your beliefs? It’s not common enough.

One Small Step takes the opportunity to deepen conversations between community members of different political and ideological stripes, affording a chance to recognize our shared humanity, personal struggles and triumphs. As a former professional mediator and facilitator, I understand the importance of a well-thought-out process when setting the table for a healthy dialogue.

Adam Burke, independent radio producer and co-producer of our Native Braids series (www.nativebraids.org), spent three days in facilitator training with the StoryCorps staff, myself and the cohort of One Small Step stations.

As a community-supported public media organization serving the Four Corners region, we invite community members from all walks of life and from across the political spectrum to participate in the One Small Step project.

The process for selecting and pairing participants, and facilitating a healthy dialogue is exceptional. As a participant, you would be paired with a stranger with whom you might disagree but would have a conversation not about politics or to debate but about getting to know each other as individuals. We would be with you throughout the 50-minute conversation for support and to make sure the conversation stays respectful.

KSUT is one of six public radio stations across the country selected to collaborate on StoryCorps’ One Small Step initiative.

You can learn more about the project and sign up to participate at either www.ksut.org or www.tribalradio.org. Join us in taking this one small step toward weaving back together the fabric of human connectivity in this amazing place we call home.

Tami Graham is executive director of KSUT and has lived in Southwest Colorado since 1984.