|When "Them" Become "Us" - Page 7|
During several ensuing trainings, I made a concerted effort to avoid getting seduced into "chasing ambulances," as I began to refer to the process of being mesmerized into going after participants' provocative, highly charged comments. While that worked as long as the exchanges occurred among the participants, I wasn't so great when comments were directed at me. With flashbacks of South Carolina, I often clammed up, my head nearly bursting with pent-up feelings, or I jumped too quickly into the fray, getting involved in nonproductive, one-on-one sparring matches. In either case, my inability to manage this recurring dynamic was stifling my effectiveness. I recognized that whatever strides I'd made since the South Carolina nadir, I definitely had room to improve.
One cold wintry Sunday afternoon after a long, intense workweek, I was sitting in my living room watching a tight NBA basketball game between my beloved Lakers and their archrivals, the Sacramento Kings. During the last, breathless seconds of the game, the Laker star player was about to score a basket for a sure win. But instead of just keeping it simple, he elected to do a flashy 360-degree slam-dunk, missed the shot, and lost the game. The Laker arena fell silent. The television commentator's remarks were merciless: "This is what happens when you allow the show to get in the way of the game."
His words struck me like a gong. It was as if he were talking to me, not as a basketball fan, but as a trainer/consultant. That's what I'd done—let the show get in the way of the game, letting my desire to be a heroic warrior for social justice get in the way of the slower process of working with people where they were to build relationships and expand awareness.