By Helene Szabados and Heidi Majano

Reflections of Growth

“We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see.”
-Taoist Proverb

The days seem to be getting shorter and making the time to reflect is summoning us. Peaceful World Foundation hosted our last two conversations of the year which brought about the reflection of our growth as docents and hostesses of Peaceful World Conversations.

The history of Peaceful World Conversations started in 1977, when a young entrepreneur by the name of Sami Sunchild obtained ownership of The Red Victorian Building on Haight Street in San Francisco. As a result of her laborious eccentric devotion, Sami created The Red Victorian Bed and Breakfast Peace Center, an international peace hub attracting people from around the world to connect over breakfast conversations. For over thirty years, she met and engaged with many travelers. Building on her acute observations, she developed a unique communication and conversation style. By building awareness through conversations related to topics that matter in people’s lives, Sami crafted the “Six Ingredients to a Good Conversation” which remain central to the Peaceful World Conversation recipe to a good conversation.

Saturday Breakfast Conversation at the Red Victorian Bed and Breakfast Peace Center on Haight Street in San Francisco

Peaceful World Foundation became an active foundation in 2013, bringing about a transitional period. The foundation was no longer administered out of The Red Victorian and we were searching for offices to accommodate our goals and mission as a newly active foundation. We initially started small, working out of local cafes in the Western Edition of San Francisco. We were eager to lead this legacy of meaningful conversation, but without our traveling bed and breakfast guests and patrons from the Haight Ashbury community, we had to find creative ways to get people to join our conversation table.

We would dress our table with elaborate crystals, candles and table runners as well as decorate ourselves with name tags, peace pins and “Join Us for a Conversation” sign. That year Heidi and myself became skilled at small conversations because our conversation table was rarely filled with more than two or three people. Nevertheless, we were not to be discouraged as we understood that both dedication and continuity would lead us into a receptive community.

We began to build up our conversations at local cafe shops in the city.

Suggested by one of our board members, we had the opportunity to look at an office in the Thoreau Center in the  Presidio. Neither Heidi nor I knew what to expect, but we both went in with high spirits. We were welcomed by beautiful foliage, local wildlife and historic architecture. Shortly after we signed the lease to our new office, our journey began as we unpacked boxes and discussed our next steps at setting up our goals and our website. For the first few months, we introduced ourselves and mindfully observed the community. The Thoreau Center is a sanctuary for people and organizations doing good work and we were yearning to become a part of it.

The Thoreau Center in the Presidio in San Francisco

We started small in the hallways of our office building, introducing ourselves to our neighbors with friendly gift bags filled with chocolates, bookmarks and informative cards about Peaceful World Foundation. We became friendly with the reliable staff at The Rx Café, a popular eatery in the Thoreau Center.  Heidi and I decided to use the café as a venue to host Peaceful World Conversations. We started small with our table decorations, signs and meaningful questions. Our conversation tables seldom frequented, but our goal was not immediate success. Heidi and I were coming from a place of consistency and we figured if people see us here every Thursday morning at the same time, we were bound to get some sort of participation in due course.

And we did!

Our momentum continued picking up when our first grant cycle began in the spring of 2016. We invited organizations interested in our funding process to join our conversations as an opportunity to build relationships and understandings. Simultaneously, we also invited members from the organizations in the Presidio and we learned a great deal about their work and their collaborations to the wider community.

As a result, the Peaceful World Foundation granted funding for the following organizations in their peacebuilding efforts:

  • Brahma Kumaris Center
  • Circle of Ancestors
  • CommonWeal
  • HeadStand
  • No Bully
  • Sunday Friends
  • The Cultural Conservancy

Over the summer, Heidi and I orchestrated an art show celebrating The Life and Times of Sami Sunchild  at the Art Seed and China Brotsky gallery located in the Thoreau Center in the Presidio. We were received with warm open hearts as we introduced ourselves as a new tenant and foundation to the Thoreau Community.

Today, we are delighted to report that our conversations are still going strong. We have regular patrons who join us for hosted conversations and even some impromptu conversations. For this upcoming year, we are finding innovative ways to broaden our conversation community. We will be experimenting with new locations, times of day and layouts with hopes to appeal to a wider and diverse community.

We hope to see you at our next conversation table in 2017.