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Through dialogue, we can understand one another

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

Communication technologies have advanced so rapidly in recent times that it is often difficult to find meaningful ways to connect with others. There are definitely great benefits to these technological advancements, however, taking the time to meet face to face is essential for developing human relationships. It can also be assumed that it is even more difficult to make these connections and build relationships with others who have perceived different backgrounds and ideologies than you.

However, is this just fear? Do communities have the ability to be inclusive of all members of society? Can we respectfully disagree with each other and still work toward common goals?

I guess we don’t know until we try.

This past week and next at the Pine River Library in Bayfield, two organizations are actively trying. On Monday, Living Room Conversations hosted a “Let’s Talk” facilitated discussion about health care. This group uses a national conversation model that looks to have participants learn from each other in an open-minded and curious format. You can learn more at www.livingroomconversations.org.

In a similar format, La Plata Civil Dialogue is focused on building active listening skills through focusing on the topic of the rural and urban interface in our county. The group, of which I am a member, is genuinely concerned with the future of our county and how we all live and thrive in such a unique place. We will be meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the fireplace area of the library. To find out about future meetings and to get involved, visit our Facebook page, La Plata Civil Dialogue.

La Plata Civil Dialogue would like to thank Rachel Turiel for her guidance in training our group in using nonviolent communication techniques.

Rachel’s teachings are an extremely valuable tool and resource for community organizations. To learn about and request Rachel’s services, contact her at 903-0672 or sanjuandrive@frontier.net.

Another great upcoming opportunity for engagement will be the Diversity Dialogue workshop from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 23 in the ballroom of the Student Union Building at Fort Lewis College. This annual event put on by the Embracing Diversity Initiative and members of the Prejudice Elimination Action Team is a powerful educational event. I have attended multiple times and always come away with new knowledge and a better understanding of the great diversity in our community. It is a free event, but spots fill up quick so register early.

As we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, we are reminded of the tireless dedication and commitment he and many others have given to the service of others. King’s brave and courageous path has inspired generations in the pursuit of a more equitable, fair and united world.

It is our privilege to live out his dream through overcoming our fears and working through our differences together.

Greg Felsen is the La Plata County 4-H youth development agent. Reach him at gregory.felsen@co.laplata.co.us or 382-6463.

Greg Felsen