Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Unity in Diversity and the Worth of All Persons

This past weekend, I spent up at Samish Island near Bow, Washington at my 6th consecutive Young Adult Retreat. I think only Sean, Chris, and I have been the only ones who attended each year since 2006. I love that there is a mix of people every year, as I get to meet new people and expand my personal network within the church. Basically, you meet a person once and you're friends for life.

I carpooled up with two ladies from Eugene and one young man from Roseburg (of all the people at the retreat, he traveled the furthest). They were an hour late, and I panicked because they did not call me nor answer their cell phone when I called. So I ended up having thoughts that they were flaking out on me and would have been bummed all weekend. But, they did arrive, and I only ended up missing 45 minutes of work on Friday afternoon.

Because of the distance we traveled and our late start, we did not make the evening dinner at a restaurant before the retreat (I believe this is the first time I missed out on that). We had our own dinner stop somewhere in Southern Washington (Burgerville). We missed the mixers, which no one in our carpool minded very much. We walked in while the others were in the middle of playing the Mafia game. So glad that I missed out on that one, too. We made it for campfire, introductions, and snack. And then we played the popular game, Catch-phrase. I love that game! I may have to buy that for my sister for Christmas.

I got my cabin assignment and almost wished I could switch to the motel-like cabins, but I stuck out the more traditional cabin to get a feel of what camp has always been about. Only three of us opted for the old cabins, and we each had our own.

Saturday was a full day with worship service and two productive class sessions. We also made our own pizzas (a popular feature of the Young Adult retreats, and each year, my pizza gets better and better. I bet I can even make a better pizza than Herman Cain!). The theme of the retreat was taken from our church's "Enduring Principles" that is getting a heavy promotion, it appears. The two Enduring Principles that were featured for this retreat was "Unity in Diversity" and "Worth of All Persons."

For our morning exercise, we sat at tables where an envelope was filled with small square cut-outs of 50 values and we had to put them into five different categories ranging from "Always Value" to "Seldom Value." This took awhile and if we did not find one that represented one of our values, there were a few "wild cards" in which to write our values. I did this for one: Loyalty. I pretty much knew that loyalty is my strongest value when I was offered a job in Alaska in 2007 but hesitated taking it because they wanted me to start right away and not wait two weeks. That I was still willing to give my employers when I hated my job a two week notice for a job that I had only dreamed about, well, what can you say? Even best friend Nathan knew this trait about me years earlier when he told another friend about me: "He has the kind of loyalty you can't even find in a dog."

After our values were separated into the five categories, our next task was to pick our top ten values and put the rest away. Then, once this happened, we had to whittle it down to five. Here are the Top Five Values that I selected: Loyalty, Honesty, Integrity, Knowledge, and Friendship. Some of the ones in my Top Ten included Spiritual Growth, Personal Growth, and Fairness. I figured that to me, knowledge, spiritual growth, and personal growth are all the same. Honesty and integrity are kind of the same and I did not really think about it at the time (choosing one and allowing the value of Fairness to be included in my Top Five). But we did not have much time at that point to really weigh each Value for our Top Five. Our next activity was to go around the tables and see everyone else's Top Five and then having a conversation with them about our shared values. I saw quite a few where I had two values in common, but no one in which I had three or more values in common. After this exercise, we had to once again go around the table to find someone in which we had no values in common. There was one guy who had no values in common with me so we talked. It was interesting because for him, Competition is his top value. He said that his natural state is viewing everyone else as competition, so he never likes to lose. Its something that he feels intuitively. He said that he tries to control it, because sometimes its over things that really don't matter, but that's his nature: a true competitor.

Wow, I'm the complete opposite. I never really cared about winning in team sports. I honestly don't care if people beat me at various sporting events because I never based my self-esteem or value on beating someone else. But I did understand this guy's natural inclination, because just as he feels discomfort when others are beating him, I feel discomfort whenever an action I might take could be disloyal. My bonds of loyalty last a long time, even if the person is no longer in my life. I don't know where the loyalty gene came from, but it is definitely much stronger influence on my behaviour than in most people I've met.

So, in talking with someone I shared no values in common with, I was able to find something in common: the feeling of discomfort we both have when something violates our primary value. After this exercise, I had a thought that more businesses and corporations should do this kind of training so that employees can understand one another better. However, I can also understand why this might not work. People in a workplace environment might not want to be exposed and vulnerable, because if people knew what you were really about, they might use that info against you. It does require some level of trust.

The next exercise was taking a short and very basic personality / behaviour test in order to determine our personality / behaviour type. The categories kind of reminded me of the basic categories proposed by James Redfield in The Celestine Prophecy. But the categories in this exercise were: Controlling, Supporting, Promoting, and Analyzing. I fell along the borderline between Supporting and Analyzing, though I leaned more towards Supporting. According to the description, Controlling personality / behaviour types value time more than anything else and hate it when people or situations waste their time. In contrast, the Supporting type values friendship / relationships the most. That is certainly true in my case. An example of this was when the guy I had ghostwrote for had asked me if I felt angry for "wasting my time" on a losing campaign last year. He's obviously a Controlling personality type. My response surprised him because I said no. I felt like I gained a good friend out of the deal, since the candidate realized that I am one of the few reliable, dependable, and loyal people he's probably ever met. Certainly on the campaign, I was probably the most loyal, even when he lost his temper a few times (normally, I lose respect for people who lose their temper, but in his case, I understood his frustrations with the local political scene so it wasn't upsetting or shocking).

Once we learned which of the four categories we fell under, we had to go to our respective poster board with our group and brainstorm on how to get our opposite to be involved in planning a party. Each type has positive and negative traits. For example, Promoters are exciting people who know how to sell and they get bored with the details. Analyzers are better at the details and not so good at selling their ideas. Controllers want to lead (or dictate), which includes delegating tasks. Supporters aren't willing to lead and prefer to do the ground work to make things happen, getting the details right. So in our pitch to the Controllers, we had to ask them if they were willing to take the leadership role in planning a party.

The Controllers weren't so good in selling to us, though. Sheyne (the lady who drove the Oregon carpool to the retreat) made the pitch, which was a simple, "We would like you to come up with a theme for the party." The facilitator of the exercise said that Controllers were the most difficult of the four personality types, because it was hard for them to not want to control the situation. She asked if they did a good job selling their plan. I said no and offered suggestions. Basically, what works for me is when a person who wants me to do something shows that they know me well and plays to that. Best friend Nathan, who I suspect would be borderline Controlling and Promoting, knows exactly what to say to me to get me to laugh, as well as to do something he wants. Basically, he plays to my talents, such as writing. If a Controller thinks I'm a great writer and wants me to write a flyer or invite to a party, then saying to me that they believe that I'm a great writer and can do a great job at the task they want to assign me, then of course that's going to go over much better than just ordering me to do something, especially if its something that does not utilize my aptitude or talents. And as I learned in my Job from Hell, the more a control freak tries to control me, the more rebellious I become. Not just rebellious, but belligerent, disobedient, snarky, and even downright insulting. It should not shock anyone that Controlling types and me don't get along very well. I don't like to lead, but I'm not much of a follower, either. I've undermined at least three leaders' credibility in Basic Training as a young man because they abused their authority.

As I learned later from Sheyne when we talked about this exercise, her group couldn't even decide how to get us Supporters on board. They couldn't agree among themselves and the others in her group even schemed on ways to manipulate us into doing their bidding. See? This is why I don't like Controlling types very much. I love undermining their authority just to teach them a lesson in humility. People with "control issues" really need to look within and try to understand their compulsion to control other people. If God does not even control people, why should they think they have the right?

It was a thought-provoking exercise for sure.

For the afternoon session, we learned about Robert's Rules (the standard for Parliamentary Procedures, which I've never really liked). This is how World Conference resolutions get introduced and voted on. Strict majority vote. The church is considering switching to Common Consent, which I prefer. This allows for more in depth voting because its on a five point scale, using the colours of the traffic light (and two more). Basically, the vote would be colour-coded: Green means Full Support, Blue means Some Support with reservations, Yellow means Generally Support with a lot of reservations, Orange means Cannot Support because of the reservations, and Red means No Support. For a resolution to pass, 80% have to vote Green through Yellow. If less than that number, then the dialogue continues as people's reservations are brought up and addressed.

The sample topic to practice this procedure was the death penalty. We were given a resolution which contained absolute language, along the lines of "The Community of Christ values the worth of all persons and therefore resolves that the death penalty shall be banned everywhere and under all circumstances. My vote was borderline Orange / Yellow. Under the church's Common Consent was another definition for the colour codes, in which Yellow indicates "Probably God's will" and Orange indicates "Probably not God's will." I raised my objection to the outright ban on the death penalty because of serial and mass murder / war crimes. I personally cannot support an outright ban on the death penalty for that reason (a person who abuses power and has caused untold number of death should get the ultimate punishment). I was in favour of a ban on what I called "crimes of passion" where people had committed murder in the heat of the moment. I brought up the example of Otis, a minister in our church in the Southeastern Mission Center. He had killed someone and served in prison. Because of our church's outreach, he fell into our community and when he was paroled, he became baptized and ordained a minister. He's a great guy with a powerful testimony, proof that one can be redeemed even after doing the ultimate crime that took away another person's life. My question is, can a mass murderer / war criminal be redeemed? Was anyone really upset that Saddam Hussein was given the death penalty? Or the Nazis after the Nuremberg Trials?

It was an emotional exercise for a few people. It was nice to know that we are for the most part a peace church and against the death penalty. I did explain that my vote was changed from Orange to Yellow because of the language in which we have "Probably God's Will" or "Probably not God's Will." I explained that I don't believe God wants us to kill anyone so the resolution was likely to reflect the will of God, but I mentioned that we don't live in a perfect world and I believe that it is up to us to determine the best way to deal with the rare individuals who have contributed to mass murder or war crimes.

After that intensive exercise, we had a two hour free period. I went walking the grounds, down to the Puget Sound, and then walked the Labyrinth. I wanted to meditate in the center of the Labyrinth for a half hour, but after ten minutes or so, I felt cold so I decided to go back to my cabin to read a book. At 6:30, our harvest party began, where we had to wear our costumes. I dressed in my coolest looking jacket (the Austrian one), a gray fedora, black slacks, white shirt and black tie. In my hand is a cool looking blank book that has on the cover sparkly material to reflect light everywhere (it looks ethereal! I plan to start writing in that journal in December). Some people guessed my costume but most did not. I was a Case Officer with the Adjustment Bureau, which is just as well because that is my favourite movie of the year. And dressing as such allowed me to recommend the movie to people who hadn't seen it or heard about it and to discuss it with those who did see it.

Other costumes included: Robin from the Batman comics, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, a lady in a 1950s outfit (poodle skirt), Sarah Palin (Karolyn kept saying to people, "Aren't I the scariest one here?"), a shark, a diver, a matador and his flamenco dancer fiancee, a flapper, Clark Kent in the process of ripping off his shirt to reveal his Superman suit beneath, a guy with a creepy clown doll, and the best costume winner: a newlywed couple dressed as halves of an Oreo cookie. The judges said that they liked the Sarah Palin costume, but they don't vote Republican so she lost! The picture above was taken before people took their costumes off. I'm guessing that the photo will appear in the church's magazine at some point.

Sheyne (the Oregon carpool driver) was the one who dressed as a shark. She asked me what her destiny was. I opened the book and said, "Shark fin soup!" She did not like that response!

The fun activity of Saturday night was playing Bunco, which I had never played before. It was seriously fun! Basically, it involves throwing dice, moving seats, and switching partners. Think of it as a dice game version of square dancing! You have to throw three of the same number to get Bunco, or you get a point each time you threw a dice of the same number as the round you were on. I sucked for the most part, but at one point, when we were on round three, I threw a lot of threes. Never had three of the same number that matched the number of the round, though. But I enjoyed the moving around (if you win, your team moves up and the losing team stays behind to switch partners with the team that moved up).

For the Saturday evening communion worship service, we had the most awesome communion ever! We walked out to the Labyrinth (it was dark and cold, though). A few tiki torches lit the path. The communion servers headed into the Labyrinth first, then we each followed, slowly at regular intervals. When we all walked on the winding path, it actually looked cool. Everyone was a different part of the Labyrinth circle. At the center, we partook of communion, then stood in a circle and sang "We Are One in the Spirit." I had worried about being cold since I had gotten cold earlier, but amazing enough, the fellowship with others seemed to warm the atmosphere around us. This is the most unique communion service I've ever participated in. Awesome, simply awesome.

After that, we played the late-night "What If?" game, which had some pretty cool laughs, as usual. Some were truly bad and we all felt awful that we found them funny, but such is the nature of the game.

The Sunday afternoon drive back home did not seem to take long. It was a fast weekend and another awesome retreat. Why do they seem to happen so quickly? At this retreat, I made a couple new friends, including a guy who knows three of my best friend Nathan's brothers. That's the nature of our church. We are small enough to feel like one big family. I love it!


Unknown said...

The Best Costume went to Chris and Ashley. The most unique/original went to Rachel and Sean.

And Chris has missed one year. So just you and I who have been to every one since you moved out.

T said...

Really enjoyed traveling with you on this journey, Sansego. It sounds as if you came away from it enriched!