A Sappy World Changing Podcast

It had to happen, with Carmen away, Randy’s getting sappy and waxing poetic about changing the world. Of course, in true Randy form — this podcast just might.


Podcast Transcript


Welcome to the Evolutionaries podcast. I’m Randy Harrington. Carmen Voilleque is out on assignment as we speak, out changing the world. Today, I want to talk to you, uh, briefly about, uh, just some very basic ideas, and we’re going to begin with the thesis that much of the world’s woes can be solved with intentional communication.

Very broad statement to lead off with, but, uh, I, I think it is, uh, worthy of some discussion. Uh, I was struck recently by an editorial in the Register Guard newspaper here in Eugene, Oregon. Friends of mine from around the country enjoy reading the Register Guard because we are … Uh, well, I guess now it’s official.

We are actually the town in America that’s the number one town for hippies, which, you know, I got to say I’m, I’m, uh, uh, particularly proud of, I suppose. We always suspected it, but it was kind of nice to have a national poll come right out and say it.

So you might imagine that the Register Guard newspaper is a very interesting and opinionated place for editorials. And I’m never not entertained by the other editorials. But there’s one that really caught my eye recently. It was a story told a woman who, uh, was describing her frustration at a group of three basically juvenile delinquents who were outside of her property and they were shooting off firecrackers.

This was happening well after July 4th. And she became quite agitated by the whole experience. And as she went to take her garbage can outside, she basically harangued the young ones and said something to the effect of, “You need to knock that racket off. Don’ you know the 4th of July is over? And blah, blah, blah.”

And she went back in her house and slammed the door. And the firecrackers continued to be lit. And each time the firecracker went off, her dog would go crazy. And [00:02:00] so the dog was going nuts and she was getting frustrated. And the hoodlums were outside and she didn’t know what to do.

And she finally walked back outside and she walked over to them and said, “Hey, do any of you guys have pets?” And one of them said, “Yeah, I have a dog.” She goes, “Well, I have a dog, too. What about you? Do you have a dog?” “Yeah.” And they started talking about dogs.

She goes, “Do you like your dogs?” “Yeah, I like dogs. Our dogs are great.” She said, “Well, every time you light one of those, my dog freaks out and goes crazy and he’s shaking inside. And you know, I’m asking, not so much for me, but for the dog.”

They were like, “Oh, no problem. Hey, we didn’t really understand that. No big deal. All right. High five. High five.” And they stopped. They moved away. It was no big deal. And in fact, now, she sees them in the neighbor and they wave to one another. And that was the editorial that was in the paper. How cool is that?

An amazing experience for her to have the self-recognition that she was, in fact, in the initial conversation, a part of the problem, just yelling at the kids, treating them as if they were hoodlums, not connecting with them on any kind of a, of a human level, but, but more than just barking at one another.

Then for her to be able to turn it around, have the courage and compassion to go and have that conversation, and it netted out the result that she wanted. That’s what we mean when we talk about communication actually making the world a, a better place. You know, I, I imagine that conversation juxtaposed. That editorial came out not too far, uh, before the results of the Trayvon Martin case.

And I’m wondering what could have happened if that conversation had been different. If, if Mr. Zimmerman had approached Trayvon Martin, not with a sense of, “Hey, you thug hoodlum,” but with a sense of “Hey, what’s going on? Let’s have a conversation. Let me get to [00:04:00] know you as a neighbor and not, uh, threaten you and ultimately kill you.”

This basic sense of human conversation is critical to just about every facet of our being. And yet, we really don’t think about it very intentionally. We typically get so caught up in our own cycles of pain and emotion that we lose sight of it. On the plane, recently, I was reading a story that takes place in, uh, 18th century China.

And, and, uh, things were rough, uh, to be a poor person in China, let me tell you, back then. And, uh, we have, have our, our hero in the story loses his parents in some tragic circumstances. And he is, he is left caring for his younger sister, who ends up, uh, suffering for some time with what sounds like tuberculosis, although he didn’t know what the disease was.

Uh, she’s coughing and coughing and she finally passes away. And he’s thinking how terrible his life is. He’s taking his sister’s body to the cemetery. He’s lost his parents. He’s basically alone in the world. And as he’s coming back from burying his sister, the townspeople have burned his house because they didn’t know what killed the sister so they knew it was a bad thing so they burned down his house and all his possessions.

Then, as he’s looking at the charred remains of his house, the sheriff in the town comes to him and says, “Well, now that you don’t have a house, you’re officially homeless and you’re not welcome anymore, because now you’re officially a beggar and a vagrant and so you have to leave.”

So in a, in a period 24 hours, our hero, uh, uh, loses his sister, loses his home, loses his town, and he’s wandering out of town and he feels terrible. And then, to make things even worse, it begins to rain and rain pretty heavy. And he’s like, “My gosh, what else can happen?”

So he ducks into a little, uh, hovel to escape the rain and he’s just feeling very bad for himself. And he hears then a boy, um, singing and walking through the rain. And it catches his ear and he looks down the road. And sure enough, there’s [00:06:00] a boy happily singing in the rain, although as the boy approaches, he noticed the boy has no arms.

But what he has is, around his neck, a cloth with two sacks, and he’s carrying rocks and sand. And it turns out that’s the way this boy makes his living, is people fill up the rocks and sand and he carries it from one part of the town to another. The, the singing boy, uh, uh, stops in the dry area with our hero.

And our hero says, “My gosh. You know, you know, why are you so happy and singing on a day like this?” And the boy goes on, “I love the rain. The rain is fabulous.” And he says, “Why? Why do you like the rain so much?” And the boy looks at him and says, “Well, because it washes my face.”

Wow. Okay, so he couldn’t wash his face. The only way his face could get washed was by the rain and so he was joyful for the rain. And our hero has a moment of realization that everything is relative and that suffering is relative. And really, it’s about how we attend to it that really defines our humanity.

Kind of a sappy story perhaps, but I’ve really thought about it a lot from the point of view that, if we listen carefully when we talk to our friends and the people we work with, they almost always tell you how they’re struggling and where they’re suffering.

And the question is, “Do you have the time to listen, the compassion to help, the capacity to just be there for them?” Uh, can you begin to reframe away from your own concerns to actually care about what’s going on with somebody else? This basic sense of direct intentional communication, coupled with compassion, is what seems to set apart the people we like to be with, like to work with, like to be our leaders.

So this is a simple kind of a Hallmark card of a podcast to say it’s worth it for you to take extra time to pay attention [00:08:00] to the challenges and the suffering of the people around you, and to listen carefully to them and learn from them, and with that learning, be more intentional in your communication to resolve the problems that are around you and not feel like the world is out to get you.

It’s amazing what you can do when you give yourself permission to really think through communication issues and go out and try to resolve them. Thanks for bearing with me on this interesting little journey of a Hallmark-style podcast, not our normal stuff, but it’s just something that I’ve been thinking about an awful lot. And, uh, we really deeply appreciate the time you spend with us here on the Evolutionaries podcast. We’ll see you next time.

About Randy Harrington, Ph.D.

CEO of Extreme Arts and Sciences.
Co-Founder of Strategic Arts and Sciences.

Harrington completed his doctorate in Communication at the University of Oregon in 1992 and immediately began working as a consultant. Over the past 20 years Harrington has conducted hundreds of planning sessions and developed a wide range of change management strategies for companies large and small. His clients include companies like Microsoft, Adobe, hospitals, government agencies, and financial institutions all over the country. Harrington is also a sought after keynote speaker with a reputation for high energy provocative presentations. He is currently the CEO of Extreme Arts and Sciences and a partner with Strategic Arts and Sciences.