CHAPTER 11: COPING WITH BURNOUT Should Paul have demanded a higher salary at Liberation so he could have stayed? Have you ever known people who sacrifice themselves so much to a project or cause that they end up backing away from it and not coming back?
Have you ever been burned out while involved in a social cause–or any project for that matter? What caused it? Failure to sent boundaries? Too much time commitment? Too little progress? A sense of isolation? Does fear of burnout hold you back from social involvement?
Have you ever felt let down by people you’ve worked with on a project, poitical or otherwise? How did you respond? How much do you think personal disappointment or rejection plays a part in people’s withdrawal from social causes. Similarly, how much do you think a healthy community can keep people involved, even when the challenges are difficult?
Do the examples from this chapter (and earlier ones) give you models for balancing larger commitments and personal lives?
How would you apply earlier concepts in this book, like the perfect standard, to explaining why people don’t always participate in important social causes? Does understanding the barriers to involvement make it easier to keep on when people don’t always respond to our call?
Have you ever felt let down by a political leader you worked for, voted for, or simply vested hopes in? If they’ve done some of what you hoped for but not enough, does this book offer ways to keep engaged nonetheless, to support them where you agree and speak out and challenge them where you don’t?
Relate the traps of purism to the perfect standard.
Do you think that the relationship of the civil rights movement to presidents Kennedy and Johnson or the labor movement to Roosevelt holds lessons for today. Explain. For extra credit, read a book on either or both of these movements and explore its lessons, like Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward’s Poor People’s Movements, Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters and Pillar of Fire, or Doug McAfdam’s Freedom Summer.
If you’ve been involved in community issues, do you take the time to celebrate your achievements and victories? How could you do this more?
Why do you think Lieutenant Ehren Watada was able to maintain his stand without breaking down? Does thinking through potential adverse consequences in advance make it easier to later endure them?
Have you ever experienced a situation where acknowledging vulnerability or voicing uncertainty actually made you stronger? Describe.
Why is it important that Loeb almost didn’t go to the Hiroshima event that ended up so nurturing his soul? Have you ever held back from communities or events that actually might strengthen you if you participated?
Are there any other ideas in the chapter that could help prevent your burning out?
CHAPTER 12: THE FULLNESS OF TIME This chapter reviews many of the ideas found throughout the book about social involvement. List the messages Loeb gives here that you think are most useful or inspiring.
Does our current time seem one of possibility, of apprehension, or a mix of the two? Explain.
Talk about Jacob Riis’s stonecutter metaphor. Have you ever chipped away at a seemingly impossible task until suddenly you surmounted the barriers and you were able to achieve what you sought to accomplish?
What does Loeb mean by radical patience? How did Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and Susan B. Anthony exemplify this? How can you relate this concept to your life and the things that you see need changing?
Did you know the story of Stanislav Petrov and how close we came to nuclear war in the eighties? What does this story say about our capacity, as Americans or as humans, to act in ways that produce potential disaster, and also to bury that potential? What are its lessons in terms of global climate change?
How does humor help us keep going in difficult situations or times? Can you think of examples, from the book or your experience? Does it seem incongruous that people like Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama seem to be constantly cracking jokes? What’s the relationship of their humor to their amazing achievements?
Loeb tells lots of stories about how stubborness can be a virtue, from Pete Knutson’s fishermen friends refusing to accept their skipper’s verdict that “It’s all over boys. We’re done for, ” to Stanford climate scientist Steven Schneider refusing to be demoralized by the climate change deniers, to the seventy-eight-year-old grandmother shaking her finger at the young Coast Guardsman. What do these invididuals have in common? How could they be models for you in keeping on?
What changes have you witnessed or read about that make you hopeful?
Meredith Segal talks about drawing strength from relatives who’ve worked for justice. Do you have relatives or friends whose courage you’ve admired in situations you can learn from?
Sonya Tinsley talks about “picking your team,” and choosing those who try to live their convictions, versus the team of the cynics. Which team would you choose to live your life with? What are you hopeful about, and what motivates your hope? Has this book changed your sense of what you might be able to achieve?
Can you imagine yourself living to 100, like Hazel Wolf, and being involved your entire life? What qualities allowed Hazel to keep on? Can we learn from Hazel’s ability to take on the most serious issues, yet keep enough of a sense of humor so she never takes herself or others too seriously? How could you develop a balance between more personal activities that nurture your soul (like Hazel’s hiking and kayaking) and work that gives back to the community?
Has reading Soul of a Citizen made you feel more connected to the river of social justice that historian Vincent Harding describes? If so, how?
What does Vaclav Havel mean by calling hope “an orientation of the heart”? Do you agree? And if so, how can we teach people this orientation?
What are the differences and similarities between religious and secular frameworks for hope? What mix gives you hope in your life? We’re defining home in this case not as passive wishing, but as as Jim Wallis said, as “believing despite the evidence” and then, because of your actions, “watching the evidence change.”
How would you answer Rabbi Hillel’s question in terms of how you’ve lived your life, and how you want to live it from this point on?
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