Small Steps

by | May 30, 2019

On Tuesday evening 28 May 2019, my local council considered the following motion:


I had the opportunity to speak for the motion. And I said:

This is an opportunity to promote a sense of community, of belonging, of developing human connection within Randwick through listening.

We simply take two chairs, one for the volunteer listener and one for another, out onto the pavement, shopping mall, library, park or beach front, sit down and offer to listen to anyone about anything. That’s all! No judgements, no advice giving, no problem solving, no people fixing. Just skilled, intentional, empathetic listening that fosters human connection and a sense of belonging.

And it works. It works in San Francisco where Sidewalk Talk started in 2015. It works in the 12 countries and 40 cities across the world where up to 4000 volunteers sit in public spaces to listen to others. Sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly, sometimes on an irregular basis.

We could do this in Randwick, either as Sidewalk Talk or our own program. To do so we need to recruit volunteers, offer some basic training in empathic listening, set up in safe accessible public spaces on a regular basis, offer ongoing support to our volunteers, and sit down and listen.

What might happen? We may build human connection, increase a sense of belonging, improve resilience, develop social cohesion, improve people’s health and wellbeing, reduce social exclusion. In other words enhance a sense of community here in Randwick.

By listening in public spaces to anyone about anything, volunteers are embracing people who differ from us, encouraging harmony and modelling connection, for those passing by. Volunteers are often surprised, not only by the impact we have on our community, but the value our listening practice adds to our own quality of life. We are happier, less lonely, and more inclusive. We are better partners, friends, parents and co-workers.

Let’s just pause a moment and imagine how intentional listening by volunteers could make a world of difference in the Randwick community. Rachel Naomi Remen. Says “Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing. It is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of our words that we are able to effect the most profound changes in the people around us”.

This is what is being offered this evening. An opportunity to develop a sense of community by offering a listening presence in our public spaces. I urge you to support the motion and enhance the community in Randwick.

The motion was unanimously passed. We now await the report. Small steps!

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