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December 2019

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Moving Toward Difference

By Sharona Halpern

I have been thinking a lot lately, about how my participation in the Cape Cod Training Program might contribute to making the world a better place.

I was born 13 years after the Nazi concentration camps were liberated. Many of the adults in my life as a child were survivors of those camps, or had survived the war by hiding or escaping under life threatening conditions. I grew up in an insulated Jewish community, where I was taught to be courteous to non-Jews, neighbors, bank tellers, the mail carrier, but to limit my interactions with them to everyday politeness. A German family lived across the street, and we never said more to them than “good morning” or “have a nice day.” My parents said, “We don’t know where they were during the war.”

When my mother came to visit my college dormitory, she commented to me when we stepped off the elevator, “You seem friendly with that girl. I was friendly with my non-Jewish school friends AT school,” she said, “but we never invited them into our house.” The only non-Jews who entered our house when I was growing up were the plumber or the electrician.

I was taught that difference was dangerous. Difference had taken the lives of my parents’ cousins, my great grandparents, and many other relatives and friends. Difference robbed my two beloved great aunts of their fertility, as they had been used as human experiments by Nazi doctors in the concentration camps.

There is no way to participate in CCTP and not encounter difference. As a faculty we create opportunities for building trust, to support faculty and participants to learn from our differences, rather than avoid them or simply tolerate them. I am sure some years we succeed more than others. A couple of years ago, CCTP participants came from seven different countries. And, as you know, participants also come from a variety of professions–we have chefs, ministers, pediatricians, surgeons, mountain climbing instructors and psychotherapists, just to name a few. During our time together, we take risks, and we support each other to be vulnerable and curious. We build trust and intimacy with people who are different than ourselves. (And, as I write this, I am aware of our continued intention at GISC, to become a place of even greater diversity in our community, diversity of race, culture and class.)

So many of the troubles of the world stem from our fear of difference, and from our lack of close contact with people who are different from ourselves. When we gather outside on the last day of CCTP, planting bulbs that will blossom into daffodils in the spring, we are marking our connection as a group, the learning community we create in spite of, and as a result of, our differences. Let’s take this experience back to our lives, and remember to stay curious and to move toward difference rather than moving away from it.

“To let yourself be vulnerable to another point of view–that’s what takes true courage. To open yourself to another’s convictions, and risk being convinced, a little, or a lot, of the validity of their perspective. Now that’s scary.” –Justin Trudeau, Commencement Speech at New York University, 2018

Some of you have asked what your next step should be after taking CCTP. For those of you who have not taken the Third Week, talk to someone who has and sign up. The Third Week is an opportunity to build on and expand what you learned in the first two weeks of the program. The next Third Week is scheduled in England this November. Sign up soon as the class is almost full. If you want to take it in the US, let us know and we will start to put the next class together. We are also offering three days of Supervision in Wellfleet in March 2019. That is the best way to continue to develop yourself and your skills–by being a member of a group, presenting practice dilemmas, asking questions and watching the faculty work.

We always enjoy hearing from you and we would love to see you again. Please stay in touch.



One Response to “Moving Toward Difference”

  1. Penny Harris says:

    Thank you Sharona. The training I’ve had at GISC has had greater impact on me than any other place I have studied. The experience is human, authentic, open and supportive. Faculty and staff create the safest learning place I have attended. I have taken the coaching, CCTP, and the third week. Each experience has strengthened me as a professional and a person.

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