Want a cure for everything wrong with the world?
Sorry, don’t have it. But I do have soothing advice from Ellie Krug:
Count to four.
Twin Cities-based Krug is a lawyer, writer and founder of Human Inspiration Works which trains organizations locally and nationwide to be more inclusive and welcoming.
Krug, who is transgender, was contracted by the city of Bloomington’s Human Rights Commission in mid-June to present a three-hour workshop about transgender issues, and to promote “gray-area thinking” — as opposed to our go-to preference of black and white.
About 125 people participated in exercises that demonstrate how easily we group and label those who are different.
Acknowledging this tendency doesn’t scare Krug. It emboldens her. It’s the necessary first step toward changing patterns that rip us apart.
Krug believes that, regardless of our race, religion, economic status, gender identity or political leanings, we all share four things in common:
“We want our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to succeed.
“We want freedom from physical and emotional violence.
“We want 20 minutes of peace each day.
“We want to love and be loved.”
She knows we could come up with a much longer list and probably should. But to embrace these four truths about people we fear, dislike or blatantly ignore, “moves us closer to each other. It’s such a simple way for us to get past these divisions.
And to talk respectfully with pretty much anybody.
To prove her point, Krug picks out someone from an audience — not prearranged — and asks something like, “Hey, do you have kids? If so, how many?”
“We then get into a 30-second discussion about their kids,” Krug said, “the number, ages, boys/girls, and I usually throw in, ‘It ain’t easy, is it?’
“Often, the person will say something that’s humorous. At that point, I say, ‘What did we just do?’ The person usually says, ‘We started a conversation.’ I then press, and eventually say, ‘No, what we actually did was start to become familiar with each other. Actually, we became millimeters closer to each other as humans.
“ ‘If we’d had more time, we’d become feet closer.’ ”
After her well-received talk in Bloomington (where she received a standing ovation), Krug flew to San Francisco to speak to a group of legal professionals over their lunch hour in a tony hotel. As she began her “Four Commonalities” pitch, she noticed that not just the 50 or so suits in the room were listening.
The servers were listening, too.
Krug picked out a lawyer and the two enjoyed friendly banter about his two young-adult daughters. They laughed together over the fact that the two young women were “no longer on the parenting dole.”
Then Krug shifted gears. “Rarely do I ever have a room where there are actual water-pourers at work,” she told the lawyers.
“But please understand that the folks serving you today also have the Four Commonalities going on.”
Later, as she approached an elevator to head back to Minneapolis, one of those servers summoned the elevator for her.
“As I stepped into the elevator, he said, ‘Thank you,’ and gave me a thumb’s up. It so touched my heart.
“Seeing others, understanding others,” Krug said, “is the only way we can dig ourselves out of these horrible separations we’ve created.”