Jim’s Journal: Dear John…

October 24, 2013 in Jim's Journal

I remember it like it happened yesterday even though it took place nearly 15 years ago.  I was leading a diversity session for a client in Beaumont, Texas.  It was mandatory training and I could sense by the participants’ lethargic energy when they walked into the room, that they would rather be brushing their teeth with sand paper than attending my three-day workshop.  One participant, in particular, John, made it quite obvious that he was “sand paper ready.”  In addition to writing his name on his name tent, he drew a stick-figure man holding prison bars to remind me that he felt as though he was being held captive.  Day one was dismal; he looked completely disinterested, not participating at all.  Day two there was mild interest and some small talk.  Day three was break-through day – full participation, team leader and some tears.  After the session he came up to me and apologized for his early “bad behavior.”  He said he had attended diversity sessions in the past and anticipated that I was going to play the same “blame everything on the white guy” game that the other facilitators had played.  He said he appreciated my open approach and was thrilled that I didn’t pick on him.  Before he walked away he gave me a hug and thanked me for “teaching this old dog some new tricks.”

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