J. Christopher Collins
Mending Our Union: Healing Our Communities Through Courageous Conversations
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What is your book about?
How to create opportunities for courageous conversations among people who don’t share the same views about politics, religion, or race.
What inspired you to write your book?
When I started the Different Together project at GLIDE Memorial Church in San Francisco, I was trying to find a book that would help guide me through what I was about to encounter. I discovered some great reads, but many of them were too theoretical rather than based on real world experience. As I gained experience moderating difficult conversations, I found that these tools are available to anyone who wants to learn how to use them. My book equips the reader with tools to face our differences head-on, persevere through discomfort, and embrace the peace and joy that results from doing this critical work.
If you have a business related to your book, tell us about it:
The volunteer project behind my book is the Different Together project at San Francisco’s GLIDE Memorial Church, which I founded in about 2016. We host conversations between people who otherwise might not communicate with each other. We seek to end divisions by offering a space for meaningful conversations, the kind that connect us regardless of politics, religion, race or social class.
What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up and immediately tune into a sports radio station in Dallas called The Ticket, which I listen to as I make breakfast. I sit down at my desk around 8:00 a.m. to begin work for my day job. Around 6:00 p.m. or so I emerge from my home office and go scoop my daughter into my arms and spend as much time as possible. After dinner I will return to my home office and work on Different Together matters. In these brief moments of silence, I will also squeeze in some exercise.
What do you most enjoy about what you do?
I love being reminded that there are so many good people in our world. This work allows me to connect with them in a meaningful way. In a world full of terrible news, it’s a true joy to spend time with wonderful people.
What are some favorite books you’d recommend to our readers?
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.
What advice do you have to offer our readers?
Make it your goal to write a really shitty first and second draft. The fear of writing a bad draft stops so many of us from ever finishing our dream book (I’m fighting this now, even though I’ve already published a book!) If we make it our goal to write a shitty first draft, then we can set aside our perfectionism and do the most important task, writing!
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I spent my whole childhood believing that I stupid.
What’s next for you?
Now that we’re emerging from the pandemic, I’m excited to start traveling to speak to community groups about how incorporating courageous conversations can begin to heal our divided country. I’ve also had a fictional story in my head based on observations I made while working in the Texas Legislature, and it’s my dream to publish that in the next few years.