You can feel it. Discomfort rises up in tough conversations. Sometimes it’s silence. “Crickets,” we say. No one wants to speak for fear of offending, sounding ignorant or worse. Sometimes it’s the opposite – heated debate, stridently differing views and your blood pressure is on the rise. It’s tempting to run from the discussion and try to return to something less controversial for the sake of everyone’s feelings. To keep everyone calm, to turn down the heat. Frankly, to avoid the difficulty of continuing the tough conversation.

This is where the founding idea of a symposium series based on Finding Comfort in Discomfort began – building the stamina to stay with the tough conversations and creating a comfort in being uncomfortable. Doesn’t sound like the kind of comfort we want, does it? It’s not. This is a particular and perhaps peculiar sort of comfort. It’s more about recognizing that when the discomfort arises it’s time to stay with it, sit with it, and know that even if you squirm, to remain is to learn and grow.

Daniel Juday is our featured presenter this year. Daniel is a speaker, consultant, husband, dad, friend, and a graduate of The Ohio State University. His work is all about building bridges of understanding and empathy across challenging divides. “Challenging divides” – an excellent description of the possible location of discomfort. Juday writes, “There’s a lot of noise in our world today – a lot of voices from a lot of directions, telling us who to listen to, what to think, and how to act. We’re going to try to cut through some of that noise … and disrupt any misinformation about diversity, inclusion and privilege.”

The symposium will begin with a presentation by Juday “(Re)defining the Diversity Conversation”.  Words like identity, power and privilege are layered with meaning and Juday will address these words, what they mean and don’t mean, and work with those gathered as a group to apply them to us as community. After his presentation there will be a panel of local people with very different stories – immigrant, transgender, Black, female and more. Personal stories will be shared and a moderator will interview the panelists and then it will be opened for dialogue with those in attendance.

The 2019 Finding Comfort in Discomfort Symposium will be held October 12 at Otterbein University from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is sponsored by St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Westerville, Otterbein University’s Office of Social Justice and Activism and the Martin Luther King Jr Legacy Project in Westerville. Requested donation is $20 and additional donations are welcome. Proceeds go to the Martin Luther King Jr Legacy Project.  Students are welcome to attend for free. Registration is available at https://diosohio.wufoo.com/forms/2019-finding-comfort-in-discomfort-symposium.