Note from Jen: Embracing the not-simple in all of us

February 13, 2018

As a human being, I am a mixed bag. I have some qualities I am proud of. Others, not so much.

That's pretty much the definition of being human. We can be generous and selfish. We can be compassionate and cruel. We are not simple.

And that's just as individuals. Once humans are in relationships and in communities it gets really, really complicated!

We've been in a period of extreme news. Of natural disasters and human-made tragedies. Of polarizing conflicts.

In the most extreme moments, we see our most extreme selves. We see selfless heroism. We see hatred and bigotry. We see things both great and terrible.

Seeing both the great and the terrible is really important. If we see only the great, we lose clear-eyed sight of our challenges and the urgency to address them. If we see only the terrible, we lose the optimism we need for positive change.

We've been doing work on intercultural competence and equity within the Bush Foundation for years now. One theme that comes up repeatedly in our conversations is the need to "hold complexity." That means, basically, not pretending the world is simple. It means not being too quick or absolute in our judgments.

The Bush Foundation is about solving problems to make this region better for everyone. Solving our biggest problems requires working across difference. It requires truly listening and understanding the lived experiences of others. It requires engaging with each other in ways that bring out our best selves.

We are working to get better and better at this, within our own organization and in how we engage with the communities we serve. We are working to get better at understanding the complexity of views and experiences in communities across our region. We are working at getting better at operating within that complexity with openness and compassion. We see these as critical skills for us in our work, and for anyone who wants to make this region better for everyone.