Newsletter – The Owl and the Tree
Winter 2023/2024

 

Points of Empowerment

by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea

A point of empowerment is where a person can enter an issue and make even a tiny difference in the situation. Empowerment inspires us. Empowerment tales are the ones we pass along to remind each other we are not helpless.

In January it takes only a few days for the media to switch from retrospectives of the year past to predictions for the year to come. It isn’t comforting whichever way you look. 2023 was brutal for many people in many parts of the world. Now come predictions for more of the same, along with whatever plot twists and surprises the coming months provide. “2024” promises to be a blockbuster, and the “first teaser trailers” run the gamut from chaotic to terrifying.

However, there’s one big difference: the news, the views, the cast of characters, and predictions for the coming year, are all for a “movie” not yet made. And we are all players on the set of “the world’s a stage.” So, considering empowerment leads us to ask:  How do we do our bit? What is our point of engagement in how this script plays out in the larger scheme of things

When looking at national and global issues, we need to trust that small gestures matter: donations to good causes, letters to the editor, standing up for our values on social media or around the family dinner table. We don’t know how our influence grows—look at Jessica Craven’s Chop Wood/Carry Water—especially her New Year’s Resolutions.

When looking at local issues, we need to expand our comfort zone. By talking to different people, showing up at board or council meetings, standing on a street corner, we take leadership. And while doing our bits, we remember every bit helps.

In the past few years, our small neighborhood has been struggling with several areas of contention. We began looking for our points of empowerment.

What’s the issue?

Communication in our neighborhood.

What connection do I/we experience to this issue?

Community board meetings have become long and contentious.

What emotions get stirred in me/us?

As committee chairs, we are required to attend these meetings and dread these 4-5 hour zoom marathons, especially since we are not allowed to comment or correct false narratives.

Where is there something I/we can do?

We started talking to neighbors about how the isolation of COVID and the ensuing switch to meetings on Zoom had increased misunderstandings and disengagement. In the summer one neighbor couple initiated informal potluck gatherings on their deck. We helped the board president restart the annual summer potluck picnic. We shared flowers and produce from each other’s gardens, opened a fenced yard for dog play, started game nights. At our annual winter solstice fire gathering, we doubled the usual attendance, inviting new neighbors.

How do I/we make peace with my/our limitations?

We focus on changes WE can implement and support. We focus on increasing communication and neighborliness with anyone who steps out of isolation.

What’s emerging is a greater trust that we neighbors can navigate the issues. We realize that our neighborhood is a microcosm of what is happening across our country and probably the world. Some folks choose to remain isolated; others reach out as they can, and there is a majority doing the best we can to expand the bandwidth of communication. That’s empowerment.

Empowerment doesn’t fix everything, but it provides a place to stand in personal strength, to explore issues with open minds, and to see people with more open hearts. This is Month One: Act One. We can step into the stories around us with an attitude of discovery and find our points of empowerment.