Opening Words from Sun. January 7 by Samantha White

Have you ever walked away from an interaction and wondered: Did I represent my best self? Was my impact on the other person the one I intended? I won’t make you raise your hands, but I imagine (and I hope) that everyone in the room has done this type of reflection from time to time. Reflecting on personal choices, actions, and words helps us grow and learn and adapt into the best possible versions of ourselves and it is a big part of my daily practice. Becoming and maintaining our best selves while building positive relationships with others is a continual process and requires continuous effort, which is one of the reasons I am excited about our newly adopted Community Agreements. They ask each of us to be intentionally proactive in the healthy maintenance of our Ethical Society relationships. 

For those that don’t know me, my name is Samantha White and I use she/her pronouns. I am speaking with you today in my role as a member of the Board of Trustees. There have been a few interpersonal situations over the last few months that have caused me significant concern and so I am here today to remind each of us to take more care and show more compassion in our daily interactions with one another. I hope we all can agree that we have exceptionally hard-working and talented staff but unfortunately some of our members and friends do not always treat those staff members well. People have been overly critical and combative, rather than openly curious. Groups have gossiped together and spread rumors about staff , rather than having open and respectful dialogue directly with the individual. In short, there have been times that we, as members, made the Ethical Society an unsafe and unwelcoming place, which is not an environment that any of us should have to experience. And I know that it is not representative of the vast majority of the folks that make this place our home away from home. 

So I am here today to ask each of you to step up and be active models of the principles so eloquently described in our SEEK core values and our new Community Agreements. If you witness an interaction between a staff member and an Ethical Society member that makes you uncomfortable or causes concern, speak up. Check in with the staff member, suggest alternative ways to communicate with the other member. On the same token, if you notice something that sparked joy in your heart, speak up! Say thank you! Be appreciative of the time and effort people are putting forth. 

There have been some questions about why the Board chose to adopt Community Agreements at Ethical. Part of the reason is the concerning behaviors I’ve alluded to here, not just with our staff, but also amongst members. But another part is that the membership asked for them. The fact is that we all make mistakes, we all disagree about somethings, AND we are all a part of this community and it only makes sense that we each know what we can expect from one another when we walk in the doors, go to events together, write on the Friends of Ethical Society Facebook page, etc. We are in community together and I know that I feel safer and more empowered when I am confident that I can trust that my fellow members will disagree with me respectfully rather than criticize me personally, either in person or behind my back, when they will brainstorm collaboratively with me, when they will honor my confidentiality, and when they will accept responsibility for the impact of their words, their actions, and their choices. When we all strive to live our values, we make the Ethical Society and ourselves better. That is the why of the Community Agreements. Working together to create an intentional and committed community that agrees to a foundation of respect and dignity for all of us: our staff, our members, our visitors, our friends, and ourselves. 

Thank you for your time this morning. I am grateful to be a part of this community. 

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.