I was carved from a piece of cedar wood — chosen for my interesting shape, the grain and strength of my wood. I was carried to a drying building, where I was allowed to season for several months. Then, a talented carver whittled and sanded me into a talking stick.
I am descended from a Native American tradition. The elder of a tribe or village would hold the talking stick and begin a discussion. When he was finished, he would pass me to the next person and the next, until everyone who wished to speak had done so. Whoever held the talking stick held the power of words. Everyone else had to remain silent and listen.
This allows quiet members of a group to speak their truth too. Holding the talking stick provides uninterrupted time to collect thoughts. In those quiet moments, the speaker may discover feelings or ideas they have never acknowledged or shared. The talking stick is a powerful reminder of the validity of other points of view.
We find answers to difficult questions through listening. We learn that life has many options. If we allow ourselves to be guided by the wisdom of others through the talking stick, we may be given an opportunity to grow through alternative routes. Perhaps it’s now time for our congressional leaders to adopt the empowerment of the talking stick and actually listen to each other. On a broader scale, the United Nations could benefit from a very LARGE talking stick.
In the past, in Indian Territory, I have helped to mediate territorial disputes, avoiding wars. We could create a new cliché, “TALK softly and carry a big stick.” Throughout centuries, I have helped to create equality and respect for other opinions through the art of listening. Imagine that – listening to someone else’s opinion! Our angry, ready-to-explode world has never needed a talking stick more.
SHARON CANFIELD DORSEY is an award-winning poet and author of four children’s books, Herman the Hermit Crab and the Mystery of the Big, Black, Shiny Thing; Revolt of the Teacups; Buddy and Ballerina Save the Library; Buddy the Bookworm Rescues the Doomed Books; a memoir, Daughter of the Mountains; and two books of poetry, Tapestry and Captured Moments.
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