by Marcy Jackson and Terry Chadsey
Posted September 13, 2012
Sometimes we drop seeds and they fall on fallow ground. But other times the wind carries them great distances and they take hold in the most unexpected places.
Six years ago, Sunsook Shon, a South Korean activist, emailed the Center for Courage & Renewal to inquire if Parker Palmer might come to speak in South Korea. She and Terry began an email conversation that took hold in the most unexpected places and the most unexpected ways. In those first emails it was clear that she and her team had been moved by Parker's writing (all of which has been translated into Korean) and they were intrigued to learn more about the programs that the Center offered.
One thing led to another:
- A team of four Koreans participated in a seasonal Courage to Teach series in Hawai'i;
- Terry traveled to Korea to speak at a symposium and to lead a Courage to Teach one-day retreat through translation;
- Two Korean teachers participated in another Courage to Teach series in Oregon;
- The Korean team secured funding and began offering circles of trust in Korean under the name "Gardening People's Hearts;"
- To date, they have led five retreat series and a number of introductory events and symposia for South Korean educators, clergy and social activists;
- In February, Parker J. Palmer's latest book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, was published in Korean and is now in its third printing; and
- They are forming "The Education Center for Seeds of Heart" in Seoul to nurture and grow Korean Circles of Trust programs, in Korean and allied to the Center's work.
Recently, a team of 11 Korean facilitators travelled to the United States. First, the core Korean team spent two days with Parker Palmer in Madison, Wisconsin, exploring the principles and practices that underlie our programs. Second, the whole group worked with the two of us for three days to help them further expand their understanding of these Circle of Trust® principles and practices. All communication was through a translator. Despite the gulf of language and culture, we laughed, we cried, and we enriched our understandings of facilitating a Circle of Trust.
Our approach (that is, the foundation of all of our programs) began with Parker leading a seasonal series with a circle of public school teachers in southwest Michigan twenty years ago. This led to the book, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life and to the growing of the Center and its programs. With such a beginning, it would be easy to assume that the approach was somehow deeply embedded in dominant midwest American culture and traditions. Yet again and again we’ve watched it migrate successfully from education to other sectors, from predominantly white upper-midwest circles to diverse communities and increasingly to participants from distant shores.
It’s extremely encouraging to witness the ways in which the seeds originally planted in the U.S. are finding fertile ground across the globe in different languages and cultures. This can only mean that there is something core here that touches our humanity, even though the original form was necessarily culture- and language-bound. What a joy it was to share three days with our South Korean friends who have been cultivating “seeds of heart” with persistence, dedication and courage!