What we can do NOW

We sometimes hear that Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is too optimistictoo Polyannaish.  We respond that it’s about focusing on and organizing around what works and what’s possible, not just what’s “positive.”  

I have been continually reminding myself of this over the past several weeks, when I’ve sometimes struggled to feel positive about what’s happening in the world.

Sure, there are good things that are coming out of this pandemic.  Every morning, I name a few:

  • There’s virtually no traffic in New York or Los Angeles.
  • The canal water in Venice is cleaner than it’s been for years.
  • In Thailand and Japan, mobs of monkeys and deer are roaming the streets.
  • In Delhi, people can see the Himalayas, and in my back yard I can see more stars at night.
  • People are connecting virtually with friends, family and distant colleagues in record numbers.
  • We are all understanding – some for the first time – that the whole world is connected.

This is all bigEven hopeful or inspiring. 

But day after day, as I shelter in place, my thoughts are periodically dark.  Elements of life as we’ve known it are ending.  The global economy may be devastated.  And what’s ahead remains a mystery.

We are in what William Bridges (author of Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes) called THE NEUTRAL ZONE.  From time to time, my inner response to this state is confusion, distress and depression.

My partners and I are countering this confusion with questions.  Understanding that a short-term plan is the best we can hope for, we’re asking ourselves what can we do right now to …

✅ … exercise our personal and shared values?

✅ … enhance our collective lives?

✅ … use our strengths and skills?

✅ … feel good about our contribution?

✅ … get a sense of what might be in the future?

We’re taking inspiration from our colleague Michelle Lasnier.  A couple of years ago, she founded R Bazaar.  Their mission is “to honor the journey of refugee, immigrant and indigenous communities by showcasing their food, art, and entrepreneurship.”  R Bazaar coordinates pop-up markets and supports vendors at community events, festivals and private gatherings by forging partnerships, planning out the details, and marketing for the collective.

R Bazaar was scheduled to open both a small local market and a booth at their local farmer’s market, when the health crisis struck.  None of what they’d planned was possible … so rather than putting their dreams on hold, they chose to live into their mission and values by redeploying their skills and strengths.  First, they turned their garage into an emergency supply pantry.  Next, they coordinated with fellow vendors to offer “farmer’s market boxes.”  Neighbors pre-order food and crafts, which R Bazaar packages for pickup in the alley outside of their market / garage.

The R Bazaar community is focusing on and organizing around what works – and what’s possible.  They are using their strengths and skills to do something important, even as they wait to see what the future will bring.

May we be inspired by this story, and others like it.  May we use this time of waiting to get clear about what really matters, and be curious about what lies ahead.  In doing this, may we find serenity in the here and now … and hope for the future.



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