Photo: icons of people in various skin tones. Some icons have masks, others do not.

Matters of the Head and the Heart: Part One — How Do We Move Forward Together?

Posted on July 08, 2020 by John Ferguson, TPF Fellow 2020/21

Editor's Note: CONTINUE READING: Matters of the Head and the Heart: Part Two — Looking Inward, Part Three — Turning Outward, and Part Four — The Way Forward.


There are matters of the head and matters of the heart. The current state of our beloved nation is both. Personally, my head is consumed with how to address what my heart cannot let go of: how can we move forward together if we cannot (or will not) face the reality of the concurrent crises of COVID-19, economic turmoil, police brutality, and racism permeating our society?

Individually, each crisis presents major challenges for our society and ourselves as individuals.

Combined, they can become overwhelming to tackle. We may not all experience these challenges in the same ways, but most, if not all of us, can agree that they exist. Let’s consider a holistic view of two recent crises independently to understand what we might do to improve our circumstances.

First, COVID-19. This virus has been unpredictable. There are so many unknowns surrounding COVID-19 that it is difficult to understand in totality. Some cities and states have been ravaged relentlessly by it, while others have remained relatively unscathed. The disproportionate impact of the virus has led some people to deny its existence, while others hunker down at home overwhelmed with fear. Some states are seeing infections subside, while several others are experiencing yet another surge in new cases.

Our individual beliefs aside—this pandemic has robbed us all of the life we knew—sporting events, conferences, concerts, happy hours, and endless other activities suspended for indeterminate amounts of time. Many of us mourn the loss of loved ones, employment, vacations, weddings, funerals, hugs, etc. Even those of us who have been relatively unaffected have seen our lives drastically changed. This is the first time, in most of our lifetimes, that we have faced a global pandemic on this scale. With no end in sight, we are all coping as best we can.

Then, on Memorial Day, an unarmed black man, George Floyd, took his last breath with the knee of a police officer on his neck. The incident was recorded by a bystander and shared widely for the entire world to see. Irrespective of how any of us feels about what happened, the circumstances surrounding the incident, support or condemnation of the officers’ actions or the many days of protests and riots that subsequently followed, we can all understand that this event galvanized a long-overdue movement to end systemic racism.

This is not a new problem. It’s been around much longer than any of us—but now it has come to a boiling point sparking peaceful protests and even riots in cities across the globe. And it has all happened while fighting a global pandemic.

When faced with very different but very real crises simultaneously, how do we even begin to move forward? Especially when many of us are stuck in our homes, protecting ourselves and others from the spread of COVID-19.

How do we move forward together? How can we create a new reality for our future?

What if we began with ourselves as individuals? What might become possible as a result?

As we will more deeply explore in the themed blogs that follow this introductory piece, we must first look inward, then Turn Outward. Then we can forge a new path forward, together.

By looking inward, we can begin to understand our own perspective and test our long-held beliefs and values to ensure they reflect our true feelings about race, each other, and ourselves. We will examine what looking inward entails through the Catalysts for Good that guide the work of The Patterson Foundation every day.

Then, by employing the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation’s process for Turning Outward, we can begin to develop shared aspirations within our local communities and circles to create new realities through deep listening and meaningful engagement—especially with those we may not generally encounter.

Together, those two approaches will help guide us as individuals and communities as we tread through these difficult and uncertain times. We have a rare opportunity to be the authors of a monumental next chapter in U.S. history—one that could define our era forever. Let’s write that chapter with the consideration and care it deserves while creating a new future bursting with possibility for all Americans.

Comments (1)

  • Bea Northcott

    Bea Northcott

    09 July 2020 at 15:30 | #

    I like the turning inward / turning outward concept and using Harwood as a model. Nicely done.


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