‘Peace Within Me, Peace in the World’ workshop at Emmanuel Lutheran

The Alliance for Nonviolent Communication will present a workshop on “Peace Within Me, Peace in the World” on Saturday, April 7, at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, 6th Street and Third Ave. in Rockford. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. There is still time to register, but you need to hurry!

The theme is that long-lasting social change requires changing more than laws. Hearts need to be changed. In this workshop, people will learn a model to connect with those in positions of power; access gratitude and the need for contribution as the fuel for social change; and release discouragement and restore hope.

Instructor is Myra Walden, certified by the Center for Nonviolent Communication, assisted by Harlan Johnson of the Compassionate Communication Practice Group. Cost is $70 per person; $60 for two registrants; $50 for three or more. Send contact information (name, address, phone, e-mail) with check made out to the Alliance for Nonviolent Communication to: Harlan Johnson, 852 Lakewood Drive, Rockford, IL 61102-1228.

TRRT: How did this workshop come about?

Harlan Johnson: “I’ve been aware of the work of Marshall Rosenberg for many years. About 25 years ago, there was a pastor in Rockford at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in the early ’80s, and I learned about this… [when] Rosenberg came to Rockford. Thirty years ago, there was an adviser to the Welsh Teacher Development Center at Welsh School… He helped that school transform itself… it wasn’t doing well. After he did the work advising, they got a national award… The Thom McAnn Shoe Foundation gave the school an award as one of the best schools in the nation. Life magazine also did a 3-page spread on the school. That was about 30 years ago. Unfortunately, the superintendent who brought Marshall to town was Tom Shaheen. There was enough political energy generated that every yard in town had a sign in it, and a school board election resulted in him being thrown out.

“Marshall ended up consulting with the San Francisco public schools for a number of years after that. As a little boy growing up in 1943, [his family] moved to Detroit, and he was locked into his home because there were race riots. Also, as a child, he noticed his uncle coming over to his house and attending to his grandmother, who was sick and dying. He was doing all this unplanned work but had a pleasant look on his face. So he [Marshall] saw hate, and he saw love.

“When he started going to school, he was beaten up by other children because his name was Rosenberg. They called him names because he was Jewish. He was trying to figure out what this was about, so he got a Ph.D. in psychology and was going to start his career as a psychologist. Then one of his mentors said, ‘You won’t get your questions answered by being a psychologist.’ So he turned his back on that profession and… went back and did more research and found ways people could talk and listen to each other—ways that foster a heart connection instead of alienation and violence. This stuff is powerful. I finished drafting it in the ’80s and taught the mechanics of it. I’ve been teaching for several years. I’m a marriage and family therapist.

“Two years ago, I looked [at it] again more seriously and discovered I’d missed two major parts of it: the need for a heart connection between people and their needs and values. I’d been teaching about connections in schools, but I discovered it was much more profound than that. I invested five hours a week [commuting] every week [to] West Chicago, where there was a practice group… I attended that practice group and found it to be so satisfying that I started a group here in Rockford. This group has met every week for a year… at Emmanuel Lutheran Church… and practice this way of communication and watch videos of this model.”

TRRT: Have you heard of an organization called the Campaign for a U.S. Department of Peace? Do you have any connection with them?

HJ: The Campaign for a Department of Peace has embraced this model of communication. I support that campaign. There are people who are involved in the Campaign for a Department of Peace who will be coming to this workshop. The whole idea is, if you have strong visions about something, about being treated with dignity and respect, people will become very judgmental. And the people they are trying to convince become very angry. Anger is a tragic expression of unmet needs. There are a lot of fascinating things about this. I am very supportive of what they are trying to do.”

TRRT: Who is Myra Walden?

HJ: “She is from West Chicago. We are bringing her out to do this workshop. We’re really excited about this. This is powerful stuff because when people have conflict, they don’t know how to deal with it. A year ago, I was in India with Marshall Rosenberg. About 30 of us were teaching 3,500 Buddhists about nonviolent communication. They had asked him to come to help them learn nonviolent communication. They wanted to be able to be treated with dignity and respect. They were not being treated that way. They were being treated as though they were untouchables rather than Buddhists. He came and did a workshop, and I helped them with this. People came from places like Estonia, Sri Lanka, Sweden and California.”

TRRT: What about people who might like to attend but cannot afford the $70/person cost? Are any scholarships or help available to them?

HJ: “We are very happy to explore what we can do for people who don’t have the ability to pay that much. We are happy to accept extra gifts from people who might want to help these people. Call me, and we’ll talk. The idea is to have a win-win situation where everyone benefits.” (He may be reached at 815-968-5433 or cell 815-494-5666.)

from the March 28-April 3, 2007, issue

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