4 Qawl 165 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head: The Polyphonic Spree, “Everything Starts at the Seam”
Having contained the prairie fire that was burning over the MCC officers’ opposition to our initial choice of “Wu Wei” as the name of our co-op, I had coffee with the MCC Vice President.
I asked her to share her feelings about the whole course of events surrounding her objection to the “Wu Wei” name and everything that had transpired since. She shared a lot of things, but what I found most salient and valuable was her reaction as a first generation Chinese-American to the “Wu Wei” name. She described how her family faced great pressure to assimilate into American culture upon relocating here. As such, when a mostly Caucasian co-op house chose to adopt a Chinese name, we were, in essence, exercising an option not necessarily available to her family. She acknowledged that we did not intend to be disrespectful, but that our name choice had unintended consequences and effects.
I definitely could see where she was coming from. And even if I disagreed with her, it’s something I’d still set aside. If someone tells me they are having a negative experiences with something, I’m inclined not to question it in most cases. I can never claim to be able to put myself fully in someone else’s shoes, and as such I am inclined to validate their feelings and experiences unless I have really good reason not to.
The meeting ended on a very positive note, with both of us feeling like we had been heard, and so we walked to the Board meeting just a few blocks away.
When I arrived at the meeting, I was surprised to find almost my entire house in attendance at the Board meeting. I did not expect this. Apparently some of my housemates felt strongly enough about the issue that they wanted to bring it to the MCC Board’s attention and make a statement at the meeting, even though the issue wasn’t on the agenda. I felt that this was more of the “bullhorn” type of communication that I was trying to avoid, but I also knew that I couldn’t dissuade my housemates from being there and making a statement.
So when each member “checked in” at the meeting (saying their name and house, and how they were doing in general), my house members one by one stated their feelings about the objection raised to our house’s choice of a house name. I was impressed with the respectful tone of their statements, often focusing on how it felt to receive the communication from the MCC officers. Some Board members suggested that an agenda item be added to the meeting. I was worried that the MCC officer I’d just had coffee with would feel like she was being ganged up upon, but to my surprise, she stated that she would like to have the item on the agenda. I think wanted to get the issue out of the way, and felt that this was as good of an opportunity as any to talk through the issue.
What ensued was a fifteen-minute discussion which was remarkable in its level of respect and openness. The MCC officer shared her perspective once again, and the housemate who was most enthusiastic about the “Wu Wei” name was humbled and could see where she was coming from. I had feared the worst, but what ended up happening was a very educational and supportive conversation. While I was less than thrilled about my housemates showing up to the meeting, I now realized that they needed a greater sense of closure on the matter than I did, and I think all parties got it the closure they were looking for.
So now we’re back to square one on selecting a new name for our co-op house. But that’s fine. We’re talking about taking the time we need to make a good decision. A couple of housemates had been concerned about my less than enthusiastic support for the “Wu Wei” name, and I’m developing a decision-making process that will help ensure that everyone is genuinely excited about the name. After all, this co-op is our baby, and we all should be happy with the name we choose for the baby.