by Rachel Lefkowitz, Synagogue Administrator

“I am troubled by the scarf that arrived in yesterday’s mail with a suggestion that it could be used as a mask and with $4.20 in postage: that’s a lot of money for something that is too loosely woven to make a good face covering. I would have hoped for more thoughtfulness from your organization.”

I wrote that email to a non-profit that had sent me unsolicited swag. It was very satisfying to write. I was angry with good reason and I told them so!

I didn’t send the email. I didn’t send it because I didn’t like my tone.

I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about how to convey my thoughts to others. There is a time and place for anger, but if I start with indignation, the people who answer my emails, or who pick up the phone at a doctor’s, will be feeling defensive rather than helpful. So I rewrote my email as a couple of questions: Why did the organization send me a scarf/mask? Why did they send something that required so much postage? I tried to reframe my outrage as curiosity.

I didn’t think up this technique, but it is an awfully useful tool. By asking questions, we signal that we are open to conversation. In conversation, we can share our views with each other, even if our views are different. In conversation, we can bounce ideas off each other and, even if we don’t always start in the same place, we might eventually arrive at something we both agree on. Maybe I get to decide not to use that scarf as a mask; maybe someone else would make a different choice.

It is very hard to have conversations these days when we are so often separated from each other physically. But I’m inviting you: Please reach out to the office in conversation. Do you have a social or educational program that you’d like to share with the congregation this winter? Do you have an idea for a small, in-person, outdoor get together that might fit with the reopening protocols? What, among the things we are doing, is going well or not so well for you? Please don’t sit home alone, feeling frustrated. Reach out with questions—what can we do together?

Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash

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