Shine the Light kicked off its series this year with a new format and an amazing speaker and topic. Jonathan Parker’s energy was infectious from the moment he took the stage. The Warehouse Theater was filled with leaders from the non-profit landscape in Greenville, SC eager to hear what this enthusiastic man had to say. I was among them, an AmeriCorps in my last few months of my service; I have found the Shine the Light Events to be not only thought provoking but also positive and safe spaces for discussions of things we just don’t talk about.
Jonathan challenged everyone in the room to be curious; to rethink curiosity and how it can help to open perspectives and spark difficult but necessary conversations. He reminded us that authentic curiosity is not condemnation, it is not about compromise, or consent, or conflict. It is about creating a courageous connection that builds compassion and consideration. It is after all, the foundation of learning.
With his quick wit and honest insight, Jonathan first made us comfortable and then made us accountable, challenging everyone in the room to ask tough questions about real issues facing our community. Racism, privilege, abuse, hunger, homelessness, poverty, buzz words we all feel so passionate about but then shy away from in polite conversation. Why? How can we change these things if we can’t even acknowledge them in mixed company, and at times in our own organizations? I was left feeling joyful that these leaders had all come together and had the privilege of experiencing Jonathan’s passion, I knew I wanted to ask tough questions and reevaluate my own purpose, and I hope everyone else in attendance did the same.