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5 Reasons Why Unified and Engaged Schools/Workplaces Matter: from Sand Creek to Sandy Hook to San Bernardino

Whether in the workplace or in schools (K12 through university), there is much that can be done to respond to and even, in some cases, prevent the terrible violence of Sand Creek, Sandy Hook, and San Bernardino.

In 1864, Cheyenne and Arapaho women, children, and elders were massacred at Sand Creek in Colorado Territory by the Fort Lyon cavalrymen. That brutal event is now remembered as an important part of United States history. Additional information can be found on the park district's website about the Sand Creek Memorial Site that remembers that tragic event.

In 2012, 26 little children and their educators were mercilessly shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And this year, 36 people at a facilty providing services and programs for the developmentally d
isabled were shot (14 killed and 22 wounded).

In each of these cases, the shooter viewed their innocent victims as the "other," as their objectified enemies (Indians, children, Americans). And in each of the cases, the shooters sought a sense of purpose in their terribly misguided missions.

The Need for Unity AND Diversity

It is crucial that we all work to create unifying communities where each person is embraced as a member of that community. It is crucial that we work to help all people to feel part of the same team that is humankind. Whether it is climate change, global terrorism, or domestic violence, we all need to work together to solve the world's and our communities' problems.

Let me delineate a few key strategies that we can implement in our schools and workplaces to help connect and integrate everyone in more effective ways. The success of each person, the success of our schools, the success of our workplaces depend upon the extent to which we can create more harmonious communities.

  1. Teach the skills of empathetic storytelling and story-listening. Each person needs to understand that every other person has his or her own story, his or her own life, his or her own struggles in this world, and his or her own dreams for a better world.
  2. Help everyone to imbue a sense of common mission. When all are committed to the success of a school or workplace, there is a common culture that then pervades the institution or organization and leads to broader and more consistent success.
  3. Communicate that each member of the organization matters. Every student, every teacher, every staff member, every employee and manager needs to know and hear that s/he is important, not only to the organization, but also to the larger community and world.
  4. Inculcate a culture of service throughout the school, university, and workplace. A powerfully transformational strategy for any organization is to develop an institutional commitment to service and volunteerism. Each student and teacher/professor, each staff member and admimnistrator, each employee and boss will gain a deeper sense of self-worth and purpose through acts of service and volunteerism, whether simply helping another person on an individual basis or particpating in larger group service projects.
  5. Create an integrated and seamless fabric throughout the school or organization and that is extended outward to incorporate the larger community (local, regional, national, global). Most people are sincerely concerned about their families, communities, and the world. By stitching together the worn and tron fabric of our world and helping your students, educators, staff, and administrators perceive and participate in that process, educational institutions and the larger workplace can help to unify communities and persons and groups while working on specific problems and solutions.

We cannot solve all the problems of the world right away, but every organization can take a leading role forward towards the healing and preventative processes that enlist diverse persons and groups together as members of the same team working to heal our planet, our nations and communities, and ourselves. This means stepping away from the us vs. them mentality and shifting to a more broadly inclusive and powerfully diverse team of caring and active world citizens.

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