Last week on two occasions I witnessed extremely diverse groups of people
working together to address serious problems without conflict. I know this
sounds unusual. Weve grown so accustomed to nightly newscasts visually
reporting on competing groups who resort to go for the throat tactics,
that were surprised when we observe a determined, peaceful attempt to work
My first experience took place atop Reunion Tower in downtown Dallas.
Someone invited me to attend something called Pray Dallas. I still dont
know who organized the event. No personal, group or political agendas
surfaced during the two-hour prayer meeting. People from across the
community, and from one end of the religious, racial and political spectrum
to the other, attended. Various men and women offered prayers in response to
topical promptings flashed on a scene. There we were. Looking out over our
magnificent city with its beauty, its divisionsgeographical, racial,
economic, educationalblack, white, brown, and yellow faces from almost
every faith background, all joined in the common enterprise of faith.
Mayor Ron Kirk, who stode into the meeting Bible in hand, challenged the
group at the end of our morning to look around the room to discover the
secret to finding solutions to every problem facing the city. Ill admit
praying together doesnt present much opportunity for friction between
individuals or groups, but maybe there is the best of all.
Later that same day, I sat in on a meeting of the volunteer staff at the
inner city relief organization where I work. Every Thursday morning
volunteers from the community meet to discuss problems, set policy and air
concerns. Of the thirty or forty people in the room, over ninety per cent
are very poor. They first met each other after coming to the food pantry
to ask for assistance. We invited them to return as volunteers. They take
their jobs very seriously. There we were. Considering the challenges of
another week in the city: black, white, and brown from various backgrounds,
all joined by a common concern to address the needs and unique challenges
created by poverty in one of the nation's richest cities.
On this particular morning, a number of my Hispanic friends had a grievance
to air. They felt they received all of the mop details, while white and
black volunteers assumed positions of leadership and people helping. The
group listened patiently. The very diverse group discussed the issue
thoroughly. The group identified the ever present language barrier as a
significant part of the problem. The group affirmed the Hispanic volunteers
in their concern. Later in the day, I noticed white, black and brown
volunteers pulling the mop detail together.
These two experiences helped me formulate a workable strategy for managing
conflict between groups whenever frustrations and injured feelings strain
relationships. Step one: Talk long enough to identify a common cause. Step
two: As you talk, work hard at maintaining common civility. Step three:
Never give up on your common commitment to make life better for everyone
concerned. The fact is, we can get along in this city, and we can do well
By the way, it wouldnt hurt to put Dallas in your prayers.