So many years later, I met a remarkable woman who through her life's experiences and observations learned that not only can things be the same, but people, all of us, as we take time to know one another will find we too have sameness. Take time to discover this by looking deeply in any other and then differences disappear, the need for prejudices and discrimination can cease. Our world expands simply into the people who inhabit it with us. Equity begins because we are the same.
My knowing this began with Paula Englander-Golden's Say It Straight training and the exercises it requires.
Her life experiences could have been a movie. Living through WWII in a Jewish family, hiding in attics, in root cellars, carrying messages for the Resistance as a 7-year old, missing the Nazi roundups of families, being "baptized Catholic" and kept with her sisters in a Catholic convent bombed by the Russians because Nazis used it for wounded soldiers. After the war reunited with her parents, declared stateless, living all over Europe learning languages in each country on their way to find refuge in America. And in America finding in our Bill of Rights the equity she longed to experience. A degree in Physics led her to meet her husband David Golden and his totally different upbringing helped her understand sameness anyway.
Paula obtained an additional degree in Psychology and developed Say It Straight (SIS)
"a research-based experiential education and training program that results in empowering communication skills and behaviors, increased self-awareness, positive relationships, personal and social responsibility and decreased risky or destructive behaviors."
No one else in Miami, OK around anymore got to meet Paula. But for a number of years everyone enrolled in Drivers Education class at Miami High School got trained in Say It Straight.
Drivers Education was a semester elective offered during the school day at no cost to the students. Generally 12 to 15 students enrolled in each class with the first part of the semester for in-classroom instruction and afterwards everyday 3 students would receive their driving experience with the instructor. The year I received my training in Say It Straight, the Oklahoma Transportation Secretary took the training, too, which may have been why permission was given to conduct the trainings in those classes.
One of the first questions we ask in Say It Straight is, "Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to say, "No" but for whatever reason said, "Yes" instead?" Did you regret it, blame yourself? blame the other person? Did you come up with rationale, or did you simply change the subject and distract yourself or the other person? Did any of these actions change that answer? What if we could learn a new way of communicating? That is what we did in Say It Straight. We got to practice saying what we needed to say even to a friend, a parent or other respected person. Everyone got to learn how to actually LEVEL with significant others and practice doing it. They were all practicing driving, so they were also all practicing speaking up for themselves in a way that respected themselves and the other person.
What might be the most memorable for the former students was an exercise I included to help demonstrate the different communication styles we all use as one of the role play "movies" we did together.
Each of us communicate with one another. Sometimes more effectively than at other times. After everyone understood each: placate, aggressive, irrelative and super-reasonable, I engaged everyone in the class in one great big role-play. Everyone brought their chair and they all got in the "car" with a friend who as they found out later had been drinking too much and they all had to try to convince the driver to STOP THE CAR. They tried to placate the driver, and beg and promise to do anything if the car would stop. They tried to bully the driver, they tried to distract and also to bore the driver with facts. As they gave out reasons to stop, I made notes of all they tried. Then they were given the additional tool to LEVEL with the driver, using their learned skills in Say It Straight. It is hard to level with a drunk driver, but if anything worked, it was this.
When that same car load of riders, had a driver who was a parent or respected elder who had been drinking. How could they stop the car? It got quiet, but the class of trained Say It Straight students, always rallied to save their lives with ideas.
I believe this exercise and the many other "movies" the students made helped save lives that year and for years since. Paula did this through me and through everyone of the students who learned these skills and drove home with them.
Say It Straight has allowed me to speak truth to people even when it would have been easier to say nothing. Leveling with people respectfully, has demonstrated equity and ultimately our same sameness.
It was after my son was grown he and I drove to Austin for a training with both Paula and David at their home. He was able to confirm his theory of Same Same, but also to gain a vastly personal and timely lesson in forgiveness he carries deeply with him yet.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim