So, what is this Connect Miami?
At its simplest, it’s strolling over to talk to the neighbor you’ve only waved to for about a decade now.
It’s admitting that you’ve worked three cubicles away for months and you still don’t know how to pronounce a colleague’s name. So you ask her — over lunch.
It’s listening to another person’s point of view and seeking to understand, instead of responding with “Yeah, but . . .”
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At its most challenging, Connect Miami, through its project, “10 Days of Connection,” is urging members of this most times welcoming, sometimes fractious and, too often, isolating community to get over themselves, and learn more about themselves by learning more about others who call Greater Miami home.
In other words, let’s break out of our bubbles and truly live the values that so many of us hold dear: Compassion, curiosity, acceptance.
That means challenging yourself to hear the stories of someone not quite like you: Someone who says “Mia-muh,” perhaps, and didn’t call his mother “Mami;” someone who enjoys lechon asado, while you eat griot — really, they both come from the same animal.
It’s a chance to reach out to someone who remembers the attack on Pearl Harbor, because your earliest memory of catastrophe is of 9/11.
We are encouraging residents to extend a hand, offer a shoulder, lend an ear to someone you might not normally invite into your circle, your bubble, much less your home.
We ask that you challenge your own status quo — that’s when growth occurs and how minds expand. That’s where magic happens.
Who are we?
We represent the United Way, MCCJ, The Children’s Trust, The Miami Foundation, the Miami Herald and Radical Partners, all community-concerned organizations that listened to your observations about life in the big city lately: a coarseness in public dialogue, more public displays of intolerance; fewer listeners, more bloviaters. More withering heat, less illuminating light.
Connect Miami, therefore, is community members’ idea. We are merely following your lead. How you participate in the 10 Days of Connection is up to you. As our website, connectmiami.org, urges, reach out to people of difference in whatever way you “are ready.”
To make it a little easier, you’ll find a toolkit of suggestions, including the “10 Days of Connection Challenge.” You’ll find, for instance an epic list of conversation starters; a suggestion to break bread with someone who’s not a familiar face.
Be bold and invite new folks over for a potluck dinner. Explore a different neighborhood; learn a new perspective.
It you’re still scratching your head, you’ll find a calendar jam-packed with “Connection Experiences,” planned events being held under the Connect Miami banner. The vast majority cost nothing to attend. The breadth of opportunities to engage is breathtaking.
For instance, the Archdiocese of Miami will host a reception to share its efforts to restore deteriorating Catholic churches in Cuba; the Redlands Christian Migrant Association will present an exhibit of evocative photographs of agricultural workers. There’s a three-hour bus tour through Little Haiti and historic Overtown; a Facebook Live discussion on transgender experiences; and a discussion with women who have been incarcerated.
And, of course, there’s the chance to eat — food being one of the most enjoyable bridge-builders ever. Big Brothers Big Sisters and Hope for Miami have teamed up to host a “Cultural Potluck.” Attendees can bring a dish from their native country or one they’ve visited.
The way we see it, the gifts that you’ll collect during Connect Miami’s 10 Days of Connection will last far beyond a week and a half.
Nancy Ancrum is the Herald’s editorial page editor. This piece was written in cooperation with Roberta Shevin, executive director of MCCJ; Claudia Grillo, chief operating officer, United Way of Miami-Dade; Tammy Klingler, chief strategy officer, United Way of Miami-Dade; Matthew Beatty, director of communications, The Miami Foundation; Rebecca Mandelman, vice president for strategy and engagement, The Miami Foundation; Stephanie Sylvestre, chief programs officer/chief information officer, The Children’s Trust; and Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, founder and CEO of Radical Partners.