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  • Jim Perkins, Sarah Pirtle

Why are We Going to Kentucky?

Two members of Hands Across the Hills in Leverett, Massachusetts, reflect on the shared purpose of the dialogue and cultural exchange project between Leverett, MA and Letcher County, KY. Their reflections illuminate how the exchange has deepened their connection with fellow citizens in a different part of our country.

Image credit: Sarah Pirtle's square in the Immigration "Quilt" Banner created jointly last October by Kentuckians and Leverett's Hands Across the Hills.

New Frames of Reference Jim Perkins

The wonder of the Kentuckians’ visit to Leverett was love. They came here as flowers opening. As we go to Kentucky, at the core we will meet as people and inquire about their lives. As we do this, it could be said that we are seeking and using new vocabulary and new frames of reference.

We are not buying into the narrowed set-up created by politicians and media. If we were to talk with people in Kentucky using the arguments and language and framing given, say, by CNN, we’d just be parroting at each other with all we’ve been given and with all the ire this would provoke.

But instead, what do we have to teach each other freshly about the problems, the similarities, and the differences in our lives?

The premise of democracy is that every person has an individual place, that every person has his or her own special modicum of truth. If we combine and sift and bring this together, we can come to a complex, multi-layered, and profound understanding of where we are.

Instead of participating within the structure that divides people against each other, we can live inside the alternative reality of cherishing each other. Through dialogue we can sense and practice the possibility of new vocabulary and wisdom.

From Coal . . . to Diamonds Sarah Pirtle

We go to Kentucky for large reasons that have to do with using our combined soul force. We will be mining together. In this time of the world turned upside down, we will be entering a rocky impacted political landscape and open up a new vein of listening, compassion, and inherent kindness. That is what happened in October. In this era of massive mistrust, it is an honor and responsibility to be going on this return trip.

In preparation I feel a sense of embarking on a joyful holiday, and seeing our friends again indeed is a joy. Knowing that we will sit in a circle together in the sheltering wings of mutual respect, I am hungry to be going. I am also saying to myself I have the responsibility to learn and let it move me. I have the responsibility to grow, to open and from that openness to be able to co-create new knowledge and bring something back. I have the responsibility to keep pressing the coal in my hand, pressing it together with our care, and from this make a diamond.

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