The Importance of Hope

Dear Engaged Bystander: Another workshop idea… In a recent workshop for women, someone asked man excellent question. “We work with so many different cultures and customs, how can we tell someone when and how to intervene?”   The group was silent, and I felt a sense of hopelessness in the room – how complex this issue really is, how many different situations we hardly address, and so much more. 

To really respond to this question, I felt that I had to address both the question about cultural competence AND the lack of hope that was growing in that workshop. 
Cultural Competence: I believe that the essence of an effective bystander intervention must be based within the cultures and norms of the community. So in this case, I asked the group to share their stories of when they did see or when they did intervene in just any kind of situation. As the group began to share their stories, first the energy in the room began to change. There was talk, engagement, laughter and a deeper connection. 
Hope: I listened for the parts in each story that had a sense of hope in it. I believe that hope is the missing ingredient in bystander stories. As I mentioned in a previous blog, people often talk about what someone did NOT do and how someone did NOT say anything. In each story, I pointed out the ways in which each story had a connection to it, a way that someone did care and did say or do something. 
As we shared the bystander stories, the variety of responses also began to emerge.   What one woman said she did in her Latina community another woman said would not work in her orthodox Jewish community.   But each woman shared what did work in her own community in a particular situation – the subtle difference in each story and the way people showed respect in each of the stories demonstrated how each community can talk about how they care for each other. 
What I loved most was that everyone agreed that there was some language for talking about what is a healthy and positive relationship. What made a good marriage, who was a solid member of the community and everyone could talk about how great it was when they saw an adolescent show real respect in a relationship. These stories of hope gave us all a great starting point and yes, a sense of hope for bringing positive bystander stories to our communities.