August 1, 2018
When I was starting 5th grade, my mother wrote to my teacher that I lacked empathy. I caught a glimpse of that note, felt the sting, and those words have lived within me ever since. 40 years later I am still a work in progress. I travel and it helps. I also go to the theater and it helps too. And, as the gospel song says, “I have come, come, come, come, come a long way, but I still have a long, long way to go.” That’s why my motto is “Get Out.” It gets me a step closer to being more humane, more compassionate and the person I want to be.
These past few weeks I have had several moments which helped push me into my heart. They included seeing The Band’s Visit. The encapsulating line in this exquisite jewel of a short story musical is “Not long ago a group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt. You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important.” It doesn’t take a long time or a very ‘important’ moment to build one’s empathy, but it does require you ‘get out.’ Get out of yourself, get out of your comfort zone and get out of your own perspective.
The folks in Gander, Newfoundland did so and their empathy and care are seen in in the great Come From Away, the musical about the kind and compassionate folks who took in all the passengers on the flights who could not get into the USA on 9/11. For 90 minutes I was transfixed, in tears, and inspired. And I left knowing that as of 2016 only 40% of US citizens had a passport.
Thank goodness you don’t need to leave the country to be transformed. My last few weeks weren’t very ‘important,’ as The Band’s Visit might say, but for me they were beyond transformative. I worked and spent time in VA, NC, SC, MN, NY and NJ where I discussed international politics with an Uber driver from Egypt, red and blue state differences while waiting for a delayed flight with a guy from Arkansas, the 2nd amendment with a former math teacher from Charleston and abortion rights with a lobbyist from Alaska. No global policies were changed, but in the theme of musical theater, I was changed for good.
I will continue to push myself this coming fall and every fall I can to get into my heart and outside myself. “I have come, come, come, come, come a long way, but I still have a long, long way to go.” Join me on this journey.
If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at Jennifer@jenniferabrams.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
Minimalism: A Documentary About Important Things. How might your life be better with less? This film examines the many flavors of minimalism by taking the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life. Available on Netflix, Amazon, Vimeo, Google Play and elsewhere.
Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You by Heidi Grant. Amazon writes, “Asking people for help isn’t intuitive; in fact, a lot of our instincts are wrong. As a result, we do a poor job of calling in the reinforcements we need, leaving confused or even offended colleagues in our wake. This pragmatic book explains how to get it right.”
Talk To Me Like I’m Someone You Love: Relationship Repair in a Flash by Nancy Dreyfus. “Veteran psychotherapist Nancy Dreyfus has written an insightful guide that highlights the power of written messages to diffuse tension and put an end to conflict”—Tucson Citizen
About Jennifer Abrams
Jennifer Abrams considers herself a "voice coach," helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague and supervising an employee. Jennifer holds a Master's degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Jennifer's latest book is Swimming in the Deep End: Four Foundational Skills for Leading Successful School Initiatives. Her previous publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course by the same name.
Work with Jennifer
Praise for Jennifer
Honest, Humane and Growth-Producing
“Our school’s work with Jennifer Abrams has sown the seeds of stronger communication skills among the adults in the building. This has only served to strengthen the integrity of communication between staff and students as well. We’ve added her language to our expectations: honest, humane, and growth-producing conversations occur regularly.”