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Finding Permission to Loiter, Listen and Learn

Posted on October 30, 2017
By Susan Emerson

I typically approach my work with the following mindset; the busier you are the likely you are getting things done. I resonate with the following excerpt from Wendy Richmond,

What is our goal? Is it worthy? What have we accomplished today? It’s a scary state. In our society, we are taught to have a direction, a five-year plan that we then break down into day-by-day lists. When we fear emptiness and lack of purpose, we rush to fill the void. And before we know it, that precious, empty space has disappeared.”

I registered for my first Community Change Institute with a plan; filling my time with plenary, workshops, networking, community experiences. Also known as checking off my to do list. Sitting in the room that first plenary; taking in the professionals from around the globe; I felt small, unworthy and insignificant. Still I had a job to do, so I switched my mindset and got to work. After all, the more knowledge I have and the more connections I make, the more effective I will be when I return home - right?

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It was during the very first plenary things started to shift for me. Liz was setting the stage and at one point uttered three simply words that confused me; “Permission to Loiter”. Initially I couldn’t even imagine what that would look like. What good would “loitering” do? How would the work get done? Am I even capable of giving myself that permission?

I quickly realized that the schedule was not going to give me time to digest this concept. So I attended the keynote and the working lunch groups pondering this concept and what it meant (if anything) for me. That afternoon it started to come together. The simply comment by Darcy Riddell in the workshop Scaling Up, Out and Deep “not everything needs to be scaled” was enough to create a shift.

It was at that moment I realized I was not in Kansas anymore. I was beginning to understand that there is a very purposeful way to approach this work and I was being invited in. I took a few steps back and started to listen, to observe and to let the information consume me without an agenda.

What happened next was a disruption of sorts. I saw the intention behind the work through a different filter. I started to uncover the real purpose of my participation. I was awakened to the notion that sometimes we don’t yet know what we need to know….and we need to simply slow down and loiter.

Community Change Institute

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