What if we all had the courage to believe – in the best of ourselves and the best of others? I recently saw two plays that brought this question to mind. The first one was the classic and groundbreaking play from the 50’s, A Raisin in the Sun. For those that may not remember, the story is about the Younger family, a multi-generational African-American family living on the south side of Chicago. Today we might call them “working poor”. Each of these characters, in their own way, wants more from life – a home they can call their own, a meaningful job, a connection to their heritage. And there is a character in the play whose sole mission it is to defeat those dreams, based on judgments and assumptions, without knowing the Younger family members at all.
The second play presented in repertory was a recent play, Clybourne Park, which was inspired by “A Raisin in the Sun”. The playwright, Bruce Norris, brilliantly lifts the judgmental character and the aspirational “home of their own” from “Raisin” into a story that suggests that we have not gotten any better in the last 60 years in our ability – or willingness – to seek to understand before we pass judgment, to assume that people act out of the best motivations, to believe that each of us brings a unique and valuable gift to our lives and to the world. In other words, we continue to defeat people’s dreams, sometimes without realizing it.
I left the plays wondering why we seem to be afraid to believe the best of people, but rather resort to stereotypes, unfounded beliefs and fears. I wondered, what would happen if each of us approached the people in our lives, both known to us and unknown, with the belief that they are exceptional in their own right, that they have a meaningful place in the world, that they might actually help make us all that we can be? What would happen in our workplaces if people were encouraged to utilize and share their strengths, rather than being pigeon-holed into a job description? What would happen in our communities if we respected and actively supported those less fortunate than ourselves? What would happen in our homes and relationships if we sought to understand without judgment? What would happen in the world if we each could live our dreams by fulfilling the best of who we are meant to be?
I like the world these questions invoke. It is the mission of KTG Leadership Solutions – and my personal commitment – to recognize, respect and free people to be their best selves. Will you join me in believing?