New View EDU Episode 15: Full Transcript

Read the full transcript of Episode 15 of the NAIS New View EDU podcast, which features Michelle King joining Tim Fish and Lisa Kay Solomon to talk about how schools can become incubators of the beloved community, and how integral a sense of wonder and belief in the inherent value of each person is to creating environments where student and staff well-being can thrive.

Lisa Kay Solomon: Michelle King is a learning instigator, love activist, beloved community architect, and local troublemaker. She's helping to create equitable and empathetic learning opportunities for students throughout the Pittsburgh area and beyond. We are so excited to have Michelle King join us today for New View EDU. Michelle, welcome. 

Michelle King: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Sister Solomon. I appreciate you. I appreciate you. Thank you for welcoming me into this space. And Brother Tim Fish. My first time meeting you, and joyful to be in community with you. So, looking forward to this conversation.

Tim Fish: Thank you, Michelle. And welcome to New View EDU. This is going to be a great conversation. So let's just jump right into it. Let's start with a conversation about learning. Learning design. You know, one of the, one of the key questions that has been driving our conversations on the podcast has been what's the purpose of school? Like why do we have school? We can look back a hundred years of why we used to have school and, or why we did, why it was founded, why we had it, but why now? You know, this notion that you posted to us a little bit, and you're thinking, what do humans need to learn now? So I'm just going to throw that easy one to ya, to get the, get the conversation going.

Michelle King: Well played, sir. Thank you for throwing my question back to me. This is a question I grapple with a lot and I feel like this is the time for questions and less a time for answers. I love what Rilke said, that we ask the questions and one day we may live into the answer. So I deeply feel like the things that we need to learn as humans now is how to be in community again, and how to be with each other. And we've been in this giant classroom the last two years or so, learning about life, learning about ourselves.

I love words and I used to be terrified of the word apocalypse because I was just thinking like zombies and death. And, but when you actually look at the word apocalypse, it means the lifting of the veil. And this last two years has been a lifting of the veil about how life is working for each of us, and particularly in schools, of who we serve. And I know it might be hard to believe, but what we know is that people have been living in this constant upheaval, probably, like there, people who live this way regularly, where there's constant change, constant disruption. And now more of us as humans have this experience. So the things that I think are critical is like, how to be in community. How do we know the health of a community? Both at the very kind of mundane level and also, you know, things that are apparent and invisible. I also think this is a time to reconnect with our first teacher, which is the land. 

Tim Fish: I was just talking with a school yesterday that is sitting on about 40 acres of land and they were thinking about how they need, how's their responsibility with young people. In this case, pre-K through eighth graders, to design into the experience. You know, this notion that there, as is one other school said, outside every day. And connecting with the land in real ways and learning in the land, in the context of the land. I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.

Michelle King: Yeah. So I think one of the things is that we, how do we orient ourselves? We can easily be situated to be apart from nature when we are a part of nature. When I think about where I am in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in, on February 9th, it's winter. A practice that we've long had in human history is to live according to the seasons. Winter is the hardening of the ground. So this is a time of reflection. This is a time of restoration. This is the time of withdrawal. In our culture, we treat everything like spring, go, go, go, grow, grow, grow. But you don't get the, you don't get the incredible brilliance of the flowers of spring without the hardening of the ground in winter. And so I ask like, how is it that we might really be attuned to the seasons and to what is happening with the land, what is needed for us at this time? What might we reflect on? What might we think about restoring? You know, how might we slow down? My, my mantra for this past two years has been from the poet Rumi, and it says “sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” And I think about like, the need to really slow down, to tune, to have a sensitivity. This is what our first teacher of the land. It helps us attune, have a sensitivity to what is happening around us. 

Lisa Kay Solomon: I've heard you just speak beautifully about what the land can teach us, particularly as metaphors for how we build our community. And one of the things that I've appreciated learning from you is what we can learn from mushrooms. And how mushrooms and mycelia are really a way for us to re-imagine our communities and our learning environments.

And I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that, extending this learning from our first teacher. 

Michelle King: Oh, yes. So mushrooms are my mentor. I have a, from a project that was a pandemic gift project emergence, was Walking Alone and Together, where two other friends and I just started meeting online, actually on April 1st, 2020, and just were engaging in conversations because none of us had ever been in a pandemic and sheltered at home.

And so this was a conversation with my friends, Maricka Hecht and Shamir Williams here in Pittsburgh. And we were just like walking our neighborhoods, walking every week and then coming back together. So, and I'll come to mushrooms, but I think that idea of like, doing things alone and together. Attuning to your environment and just noticing. And this comes back to also the wilderness. To be wild again. I think when you pay attention to things and have a sensitivity to what's going around you, there is a renewed sense of wonder, and I feel like education and schools should reclaim that sense of wonder, and we should never be so old to not be in full wonder of the world. 

And so when I, one of our things was like adopting a non-human mentor after spending days and weeks and hours walking our environment, and mushrooms are, like, amazing. They're like the great decomposers, and they can break down anything carbon based. And so they have the capacity, there are all kinds of mushrooms. Some can break down toxic waste, they can break down oil spills. And I thought, oh wow. And like, heal the land. And what their capacity is to be in it and not of it. And I thought like, that is a-- that's admirable. That's an admirable way to be in the world. To be in toxic environments and not of them, and yet have the capacity to heal. And some of that work is invisible work. We think about the mycelial network and what's happening, because mushrooms are actually the fruiting body that shows up. And we don't have a word for it in English, but there's an Anishinaabe word called Puhpowee, which is that energy in which a mushroom emerges above the ground. So I thought like, this is a great mentor because it's like also trusting invisibility, and trusting the work that needs to be done quietly and silently and over time. And so when I think about the mycelial network, what's happening is that all of these hyphae that come together and form this network are also feeding other plants.

If you look at, I think it's like 90% of plants are supported by mycelial networks. They're bringing in nutrients, they're bringing in water, in the exchange for oxygen and carbohydrates and other things. So I thought, whoa, that is-- what would it mean to be this kind of network in schools, that we attend to what is needed? Right? We have so much abundance and yet we operate from a mindset and practices of scarcity. 

Tim Fish: School is really about this idea of alone and together. And being in community alone and together. And I'd love to hear some more about that from your perspective, because I think, I think so often we don't really leverage both of those in the way that we think about how we think about school, how we think about time in school, how we think about the experience that students are having.

So I'd love to hear your thoughts on that. And particularly as it connects to also, to the word you used, this word wonder. And I think about my own experience in school, and I think wonder was not something that happened often in school. It might've had, might have been connected to school. It might've been something that prompted from my thinking, but during the day in school, there wasn't often a lot of wonder. Because it was so busy, and it was running from bell to bell, and moving from class to class. So I would love your thoughts on just that, that idea of what it looks like to be alone and together, and how school can inspire wonder. What are the tools you can use to bring wonder to the, to the fore a little bit more?

Michelle King: That's a rich question. I have a buddy of mine, Michael Busby, he's a tea peddler. And he talks about like, how we're in each other's libraries. And so I think like, each of us has a truth about what it means to be human in our particular bodies, histories, orientations, geographies, and the full multitude of our identities.

And the truth is symphonic. So I think about like, in this moment, right now, we're bringing together our libraries of our lived experiences. And that is rich. We can come back every week, like we've done in Walking Alone Together, and be amazed about how we are understanding the world. And I feel like, are we creating the conditions for this way of being amazed, even by the familiar? And so we can often be in the trance of novelty: Oh, what's the newest thing, what's the next technology, oh, the new, new, new. Can we come back over and over again and be like, Wow. I, you know, I hadn't thought of that. It didn't, you know, it's making me think differently. And that doesn't cost us anything, right. And I think that's the way, a lot of times knowledge is, you know, kind of structured. It's something that we have to get, you got to get it and you got to get it fast, but it doesn't ever say like, come back to it, see it again. See it again, what does it mean to see it again? I'm sure the arts have a lot to teach us about this and perhaps even science, because so much of that is coming again and looking at something and looking at something. 

When I think about having experiences that remind me of wonder, have you ever been under, in a place that did not have any ambient lighting? Like no street lights, and like you're only lit up by the stars and the moon?

Tim Fish: Yeah, definitely.

Michelle King: And that is like, Whoa! You know, that is like, and I think about like, I'm doing something that billions of people who have existed before me and billions who live with me currently, and billions after me will do, will look up to that sky in wonder. And think like, I am both inconsequential, and also very powerful in the place that I am.

Tim Fish: Yeah. Michelle, it makes me think about when I was young. I remember when we were maybe 13, 15, something like that. My friends and I used to sneak out in the summer nights. We would sneak out at like four o'clock in the morning.

Michelle King: That's a magical time. 

Tim Fish: We would just sit on the road, you know, and we weren't necessarily completely away from, from lights, but there was that wonder, right. There was that moment. There was that air that was different at four o'clock in the morning. Right? And what a great-- thank you so much for bringing that back. 

Lisa Kay Solomon: Tim, are you suggesting we should start school at four in the morning? Is that what I'm hearing from you? I just wanted, I just want to check. 

Tim Fish: What I'm suggesting is that we kind of mix it up, right? That we put ourselves, to your point about connecting with the land, Michelle, we put ourselves in places that were not always there. Right? We break from the routine that we've fallen in during this, certainly during this last two years.

Lisa Kay Solomon: What I also heard in that, I think, was this combination of awe and humility at the same time, and connecting to something much bigger than ourselves and trusting it. And this gets back to, Michelle, what you said earlier, around honoring the seasons. That when we're go, go, going, where's the room for awe and wonder, and how do we reframe the importance of that and really commit to making space for it? 

Michelle King: Yeah, because when we, like, I think about one of the things like, maybe my next mentor will be squirrels. Squirrel technology is amazing. You know, they, they bury like these nuts, and then like can only remember like where 20% of them are. But then like other people benefit, other squirrels, I should say, benefit from the ones that they buried, looking for the ones that they can't find.

And I think like, what would it mean to live with that kind of generosity? To like, give with, you know, and like, I'm putting it out there. But also knowing that that reciprocity exists. So how in that way, can we, how can our systems be generous? How can our systems have a kind of reciprocal nature? And how can we see, I think, the gifts and talents of all beings, right? I think my challenge with the way school is structured is that it highlights and gives advantage to a very narrow set of skills. Right? And I think, well, what if you can not process information quickly? Does that mean that you have nothing to offer? And I think about students who taught me so many life lessons, who also had a sense of wonder, but they, these things can not be quantified or contained on a standardized test, but that wasn't a standardized being. That was a very complex and beautiful being that, that showed me the world. And I was like, oh, whoa.

And having taught middle school, I feel like that's where I really got to learn to teach. I think one of the things that I was really enamored is how do we have a kind of collective wisdom? Like, how do you raise the collective wisdom of a group? And this comes back to kind of mushrooms.

And now I don't know if I thought of mushrooms or mushrooms made me think of them, but where I've done projects, I did this like, video project and I had this, you know, a kid in class who wasn't really interested in history. I taught history. And he was like, really kind of developed this skill around video editing. And all of a sudden he was able to teach other students. Cause they were like, oh, how did you do that? And then I was like, oh, I don't even really need to be in this space. You know, because I think what I discovered accidentally was that, that I don't know if I can teach, but I can create the conditions for learning.

And that's what I'm interested in, in community. And there's, Brian Eno, he's an amazing composer and he created this word called scenius, and that is collective genius, collective wisdom. And so how can our spaces honor and also hone collective genius and collective wisdom? Because just even like this conversation, I couldn't have this conversation again. It exists because the two of you bring your genius and wisdom into this space.

And so I just think like, oh, that also gives me a sense of wonder, that I would engage in another conversation with other people and their libraries and be like, whoa. And it's, you can't really replicate it. But you can honor it. 

Lisa Kay Solomon: It feels like the ultimate abundant mindset, Michelle, truly is that, you know, we're ever growing. That we're ever learning and expanding. And how important the conditions are for feeding that. And it does get back to the mycelium, as, as a model. And I think about the kind of press, pressure and stress that schools are under right now, that's forcing them into a scarcity mindset. And how much richer we would be if we learned how to trust the different resources that were feeding the network.

And Tim, I'm thinking about this in the context of parents and community. I mean, outside the walls. And I think the last two years have really helped us understand that schools don't sit within a silo. They sit within a much bigger context. And I, and I really hope that as we think about the future, Michelle, you give me hope in, in, in providing this beautiful language for a model to look for, that comes from the ancient, which is really extraordinary. 

Tim Fish: Yeah. You know, Michelle, it makes me think back also in your work with the National Writing Project, and particularly the National Writing Project in Pittsburgh. And I think about my own journey as a writer, or, or sort of finding my way as a writer. And I would say my journey as a writer began in eighth grade when I had, was taking, you know, English class, and grammar was like taught in a textbook. And we had grammar homework every night. And I became terrified of writing because I felt that I'm going to get it wrong. I'm not going to put the comma in the right place. I don't really understand something. And it took me a long time to get to a place where I could feel that I could write. And so I got to a place where I felt like in my own mind, writing is thinking right? Writing is the, like, that's where I'm really constructing and learning and producing and thinking, like the whole sort of ecosystem in my own mind of learning is really coming together.

I would love to hear your thoughts about the Writing Project, the work it does, the work it does with young people, and how we can use writing as a tool for helping students discover themselves, prepare for the future, et cetera.

Michelle King: Yeah. Beautiful. I love your journey about becoming a writer. And I think this is one of the beautiful things about the National Writing Project. First, I will say it's saved my career in teaching. I was encouraged by a friend and colleague, Amanda Godly, who's at the University of Pittsburgh, to do the National Writing Project. She had done the, you know, summer Institute for teachers at Berkeley and was like, you should do this, you should do this. And I was like, I'm not a writer. I'm like, I'm a history teacher. You know, I'm like a lot of things, just to show we can have a sense of wonder about ourselves. We can be many things.

And so I did this intensive summer program at the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, who was then under Matt Leschi. Now under Laura Rupe, incredible leaders. And this month, if you could imagine giving a month to thinking about your writing, thinking about your praxis, was incredible and it was affirming. And I think what the National-- one, many of the things that the Writing Project actually does is it affirms you as a practitioner, as a thinker, as a writer. And it says already from the beginning, you're more than enough. You know what I mean? Like how many spaces do you walk in, and you're like, you're more than enough as you are? You know, a lot of times we come into spaces and it's like, especially teacher PD, is oriented around the idea that you don't have enough. You're not enough. When you get this, then you will be, you know, so already here's a space that says you are enough. That in fact, the best teachers of writing are teachers who write. And so it's already kind of signaling both explicitly and implicitly that you're a writer. And, you know, I think if you, you know, like you told your story about grammar, it's like, oh, I can't do grammar. I'm not a writer.

Tim Fish: Yeah, it was a right or wrong thing. Right?

Michelle King: Right. And I think that's, um-- How, how, how many writers have not been born? Because it was like right or wrong, good or bad, couldn't do it. And one of them, I think that the National Writing Project does as well, is, has an expansive sense of the word literacy. So, and if we think about writing, it's not just kind of pencil to paper but it also is, you know, kind of digital compositions. It also is annotating. It also is crafting and creating letters to the president. There, the notion of literacy is expansive and so you can find a home in writing. You could find a home in yourself as a writer.

And I think they do that beautifully for teachers, for students. There are over 175 sites around the country that have their own also particular way of being, according to the environment that they're in. Right. So this is again, like, how is this-- you don't necessarily want something standardized so that it's like anywhere in America. But you might want the essence. Right? And I think the Writing Project at its essence is about community, is about seeing people, is about this notion of you're more than enough, and what might we learn together and from each other? And so I think this deeply has, has been part of my practice when I come into any community. I want to take that spirit with me. I think it's also part of my, I would say what I live for, which is for the beloved community. And I, I think like that's, for me, they are practitioners of the beloved community. In terms of writing and bringing people together as well as other things. 

Lisa Kay Solomon: I think that's a beautiful example, Michelle, of what you were talking about earlier around designing learning experiences and learning networks, and placing value on principles, values and trust, versus rules and certainty. Which is, I think sometimes, the way that some classrooms approach learning. And you've really been just an incredible model of interdisciplinary thinking that's not just bridging different disciplines, whether it's art, humanities, and technology and history, but also the communities and the different partners that you've brought together. And I've heard you talk about the importance of trust in bringing these different stakeholders, players, contributors, into a learning environment. And I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about that, about trust, how we build trust, how we foster it, and just what you might hope going forward, if that had a more prominent role in classrooms and schools? 

Michelle King: Yeah, moving at the speed of trust, which again, this is very hard in our culture that wants to go super fast. And I remember reading a piece years ago that said busy-ness is another form of laziness. And I was like, what? I'm American. Busy is a currency, you know? But what's called for is connection, real connection. And to have that kind of connection requires trust. Trust, community, all these things are living concepts. They are not like, okay, we got trust in, you know, on Wednesday. And we're good for the rest of our lives. It is a living entity, just like community is a living, living entity. And if anything, this last two years has taught us is to be more responsive to community, to how we are with each other. Do we ask questions that we really want to know the answer to? Versus like, are you good? Are you good? Like we act, none of us should really be good. There has been a tremendous amount of grief and sorrow. So I think about what are the practices to attune and have a sensitivity to what is needed in the community? And we all have a mixtures of identities that are prominent in some ways and less in others at any time. But how can we attune to what is needed for when we bring people together?

And one way, or many ways I think about doing that, is the need for play. If I go back and look at human history, playing is a part of how we understand complexity. How might we play together? And I mean, as adults too, we should be, I'm hoping to like, bring back skipping.

Lisa Kay Solomon: Ready! I'm ready for that. 

Tim Fish: I'm going to skip today, Michelle.

Michelle King: You know, it's like what to, like to, we are full, embodied, sentient, sensing beings. And so what are those ways of knowing holistically? And I think about, I have this question about how do we rehearse racism and other forms of oppression, but also how do we rehearse liberation and freedom? And I think about the games we play. What are the kinds of games that allow us to, to be a cooperative? What are the kinds of games that perhaps allow us to play with storytelling and the forms of stories? And I think about old games, like the game of Monopoly, which was actually created by a woman to teach about the perils of capitalism. And I think, we don't play that game. We play-- that game could be like, a family, household destroyer. It's like Risk, but with property. So think about what are the ways of playing and storytelling? How might we rehearse and play into the ways that we want to be in the world? And what's, it's what's needed. I think there, this is a time for imagination and tiny experiments for how to be in community. And with that is also the messiness. So can we have trust, but also, do we trust messiness?

Tim Fish: Yeah, for me, Michelle, there's a, there's this element of like, one of the themes that has come through in all of our conversations in one way or another, is, is the sense of agency. And the essential nature of agency in terms of really unlocking the potential in young people and, and the adults in our communities. And I think so much of what you're talking about is, is getting at that in many ways. And what I'm particularly interested in is the role of the adults, from your perspective, in the community, the teachers and others to design the conditions for learning where agency can be unleashed. Have you seen examples of where that's done well? Do you have thoughts on how an educator might step into that a little bit more each day?

Michelle King: This would be great if this were a call-in show, like call-in, you know, and how are you and what are you doing? This would be activating, you know, our, mycelial network and who we're connected to and drawing upon the richness of teachers.

Cause I think a lot of that is happening. I think if you want to do right by young people, if you want to create spaces where people can be seen fully, you're attempting to create learning experiences that connect with people's histories, ways of being in the world. I think it's just by that very nature.

I think one of the things as humans that we really want to be is to be seen. And another way to say that is to be loved. Is to be seen in our full complexity. I think that's when we come alive, I think we can inspire and teach people from that place of being fully seen. And I'm wondering about spaces where we can authentically be in, that are intergenerational. Like where is the conversations that can be had-- and schools are a great place, cause I feel like we're very much segregated by age. And maybe our screens have done that, but where are we in, where do the third spaces exist that are like intergenerational? Like where we're in discourse? And perhaps that is places to be dreamt of. Like how can we be in community, to understand how we're all experiencing, not just the last two years, but today? 

And I think-- I have a 22 year old. Olivia, she's a graduate. And I think like, there are a lot of things I can offer her, but the expiration date is 1968. So I have like a wisdom I can, I can offer her things, but there's also a ton that I could learn from her about how she's understanding and experiencing the world right now. But I think like, how many of us are regularly having conversations, like real substantive conversations, about how life is working for beings of all ages? And I just think like, look at the tremendous amounts of anxiety and depression. And have we really had a real discourse around mental wellbeing with young folks and with ourselves, like, so I guess I'm really interested in these third spaces that have real substantive conversations across ages. 

Lisa Kay Solomon: It makes me, Michelle, have a dream that schools have a place where like all technology is left at the door. You know, where it's like, this is the conversation zone. I know technology is so embedded in how we think about learning that I think it's Pollyanna to think that, you know, we could have the majority of learning spaces that way, but I think about it in the context of what we were talking about earlier around the last two years.

And if we think about, we've just had almost two years of isolation, connecting through screens, and let's face it, for a lot of young people, there's a lot of performance associated with how they're showing up on screens. Whether it's in the classroom where they're showing up via zoom or connective technology, or you know, where they spend their time outside of classroom experiences on social media, perfecting everything, living a life that's not really authentic. That's not showing the messiness, as you talked about earlier. And I think about just how much repair we have to do with this generation to allow them to feel fully seen. And I think you're really bringing up the beauty of the wisdom of what we can get through generations, of, of finding more ways to connect, to build that trust in, in that holistic way. 

And I've just, you know, I, I'm just struck by, again, the kind of ancient wisdom of communities and how we all thrive, that we all do better when we all do better as a community. And I'm curious, as you think about student leaders, listening to this, educators, maybe some guidance you might give around, you know, really tapping into spaces that create authentic connection in that way. 

Michelle King: Well, I'll come back to something fundamental for me. And that is a listening practice. And it's easy to say listening. But I come back to how I've been, and what attracts me about like, this practice of listening. So at the very base level of listening is like not listening at all. It's like the Charlie Brown listening, like wah wah wah wah wah, or if you've ever been in a conversation where you're talking, but then you have that meta experience where you're like, this person is not even listening. They're about, they're just waiting for me to take a breath and they're going to talk. Right? So at the very base level. 

The level above that is to listen for or against. It's a predatory listening.As soon as you say something that I don't like, or I hear a quality, then, like you're dead to me. Like we, as full complex beings, have been reduced to data points on a line, you know? And as soon as I hear this thing, then it's like, ah, I don't like you based on your musical choices. You know what I mean? I think like, wow, is that what we've really been to? A political party affiliation, vaccinated, not vaccinated? We hear one detail, and then we don't have any capacity to see people in their full complexity. So that kind of predatory listening. And it's interesting because I feel like a lot of our social media tools are set up in that way. I like, I don't like. Right. But you know, as you get older, of course, the world is more gray and it's more expansive and not so simply delineated in terms of good or bad, right or wrong. 

The level above that is to listen empathically. That is where I feel like we, by design, as humans, are there, but perhaps our systems don't– don't have a sensitivity to listening in that way. To really kind of just hear people, to hear their stories. And I thought, well, if you can get to that, that's amazing. But in fact, there's a level above that, and that is to listen people into their wisdom. Do we have a curiosity about how people have come to be? And so I think like, what is the quality of one's listening when we enter into community? Whether it's with one person, two people, 25 people, what is the quality of listening that I'm offering?

And I think if we want to be connected, and we want to stay in relationship with folks, then we must listen at levels three and four, at the highest levels. And this is not just, you know, my work. You can also look at Otto Scharmer's work, and looking at the quality of listening and, and conversation and how it can be generative. And so I guess, like fundamentally, what is our own listening practice? And that's much different than how can I go in and convince people. I'm no longer interested in convincing, and I'm much, deeply interested in connecting. And that provides different pathways for how you'd listen to folks.

Tim Fish: You know, Michelle, I, I love that reference about listening and what that looks like and what the space looks like for that. And again, I think about-- really just projecting my own school experience-- and thinking about, I did an awful lot of listening in school, but I was only listening to one person, to a teacher. Right? And I was listening, not in the context of sort of what I would refer to as a soulful journey, but more just content, you know, kind of coming at me. And it was disconnected in many ways from the human experience. And it makes me think about your hopes for school, right? It's a question we've kind of been asking as we start to bring our great conversations-- and this has been an amazing conversation-- as we start bringing it around, I'd love to hear what your, what your hopes are and dreams are for school, and where it might go and how we might connect to some of the themes and some of the ideas that you've spoken about today?

Michelle King: That's a very big and beautiful question. Well, I think I need to expand school beyond the school building. To make my answer fit. But I think here's what I would say. 

I would love us to embrace being complicated ancestors. I think a lot of times, the way we structure learning is like, we want to like, smooth out all the rough parts and just, you know, have these like very simple stories with heroes and villains. And I would offer for us to no longer pursue being good people, but being authentic people. We come from complicated ancestors. I'm sure we can look back and think like, there are people in our histories that were trying to do the best for us that like, made bad decisions. I too am somebody trying to do right by the future and by myself and I also will be, I will also make decisions that are incorrect or bad. And I have a willingness to stay in relationship with my fellow humans and the decisions I make.

I hope to continue to grow my practice of forgiveness, to expand my ways of being messy, and to really embrace being a complicated ancestor. And so that’s, I guess, my wish, for all of us, to embrace our complexity. To embrace the ways that we are both prickles and dew. And you can't get one without the other. 

Part of my desire to be in community comes from pain and suffering. I would not want to eliminate that, but I would want, like mushrooms, to, to transmute that, right? To take something that was toxic and painful and convert it to something that can be grown, um, that something more beautiful can grow from it.

And perhaps that's all we can do with our lives, is to take what we've had and compost the pains and transmute something more beautiful. And that there are a lot of places to do that, that might accentuate that, but I'm just thinking like, just for the school of life. And might we see each other, even those who are familiar with us, and those who are strangers, and still have a sense of wonder and joy and think like, whoa. Just like those stars, each of us are like, we're all Stardust. We all have a part of stardust. And you think like, look at that. That's amazing. That being over there, even as complicated and challenging as they might be in this moment, that's a wonder. And I think to have that kind of a delight, and if we can't find it, I feel like we are not doing right, what it means to be lovers of life.

Lisa Kay Solomon: Michelle. When I listen to you, I truly have hope for our future. I mean, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, your authenticity, your love of community, and inviting Tim and I into this conversation of community and conversation of learning. It's just extraordinary. When I think about the implications of some of your lived experiences and hopes going forward, right? If we, if we reimagine how to truly create a regenerative, robust, loving community that supports our young people to become the kinds of giving adults, higher intentioned and authentic contributors to the world today and tomorrow. So thank you so much for taking time to learn with us. This has just been extraordinary. 

Tim Fish: Yeah, Michelle. Thank you. This is just an incredible time together. You've made me think about many aspects of my own life. And I'm particularly struck right now by busy-ness is another form of laziness. And I just, boy, that, it just got right to it for me. And, and just thank you for that. That's one that’s going to stick with me and many, many others for quite a long time. So what a gift.

Michelle King: Thank you all. Thank you for sharing with me. And I always think, like, the beloved community is not some physical space. I mean, it may be at some point, it's like some land on the horizon. But it actually can be created temporally. And so thank you for co-creating the beloved community with me today by, like, sharing our libraries and our histories and our wonders and sorrows.