By Marcus Lorenzo Penn
Thursday morning on April 30, 2020 marked a new milestone for Peaceful World Foundation (PWF) and its Conversations Series as we entered into the video conferencing realm via Zoom. Bringing about this new milestone is the new era we all are living in, “The COVID-19 Era” and its many stay at home and shelter in place orders. This has taken us away from our most recent return to having Conversations at the Red Victorian in San Francisco at the end of 2019.
Heidi Majano (our Executive Director) and I knew we had to do something to keep our PWF Community connected and to simply check in on them during this time. In addition to our PWF Board member Dave Whitridge, at the “virtual table” joining our online Breakfast Conversation were representatives from: Art Seed, Creative Canopy, Brahma Kumaris, and Heart and Soul, Inc. (San Carlos, CA) a mental wellness agency with us for the first time. Given the myriad of stresses humanity is encountering in this new COVID-19 Era, we invited Cardum Harmon, MA (CEO of Heart and Soul, Inc.) to support us in the facilitation of our first ever online Peaceful World Conversation.
We were also blessed to have our late founder Sami Sunchild’s granddaughter, Tamara (a nurse), join us all the way from her office in Albuquerque, NM. These unprecedented times are bringing about many unprecedented conversations.
Since we were operating under a new platform for communication, we also had our ice-breaker question response in a new format as well. After previously informing our guests to have a marker and paper ready for our Zoom Conversation, we initiated the Conversation with the question:
“If you were a billboard, what question would you write?”
Our participants really took to this and provided some creative and insightful reflections such as the following:
- “What are you growing in your garden?”
- “How can we love each other more?”
- “Have you adjusted to social distancing as a primary way to share care?”
- “How are we putting the WE in Wellness?”
This fun exercise really provided an opportunity for everyone to connect within our common humanity, while also conveying a message as peace builders.
Our first question to jump off the conversation, though simple yet deeply inviting, was the following”
“How are YOU doing?”
We felt this was important to ask, as most of the participants had previously been sharing about what was going on outside of them versus what was happening inside of their hearts and feelings. This brought about a shift to the energy around the “virtual table” and opened the door to greater vulnerability with many participants sharing their true struggles with emotional overwhelm, work/home stresses, trying to stay positive, living in uncertainty, and hearing the heart wrenching stories of personal experiences with COVID-19.
However, counteracting some of the heaviness of the times have been stories of some of our participants taking more walks and hikes on trails and encountering people being more friendly. Also this time has allowed people to cook more and do more art and be more creative and industrious. For one of our participants, they have been commissioned to make masks for front line health care workers in San Francisco. Other folks had seen more chalk art on the streets sharing the presence of children around the neighborhood.
Our special guest facilitator, Cardum, brought it all together with the final charge in asking us
“What does our new wellness look like and what are our wellness tools to maintain mental, physical and spiritual wellness?”
As a kind of send off until our next “virtual gathering” she called for us to dig deep ‘in our own well pulling out the life force’ to sustain us through these times. This was a mighty task for us all in attendance but necessary nonetheless. I had stated in our Conversation that we are all “light-workers” but this [peace building] is not light work just for ourselves but also for humanity.