Reflections on Societal Healing

What does societal healing mean? What will it take?

I’m steeping in the wake of an impossibly rich conversation with Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Kazu Haga, Tada Hozumi, and Staci Haines—some of my most inspiring and courageous teachers in the intersection of individual and societal healing. Thanks to the folks at Building Belonging for handing me an opportunity that I hadn’t even imagined for myself.

I’m now trying to write about it two days later, which is only 2x the time it took me to come down from being completely starstruck and without exaggeration 100x faster than I typically process anything as rich and complex as this conversation was.

I’m hosting a follow-up community discussion next Tuesday (August 18, 9:30-11:30am Pacific Time) for those who have watched the video and want to be in community with others who feel likewise sparked by the energy this conversation generated. So far we have over 90 RSVPs—and I want to write these early reflections in support of us marinating in conversation together.

So, here goes. What follows is less of a summary, and more of a draft of the tapestry weaving in my mind as I reflect on the interconnected threads of conversation.

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Healing Means Justice Means Healing

What will it take to stand in this opportunity for systemic change?

Disclosure & disclaimer: Some projects mentioned here are partly funded through Seattle’s Equitable Development Initiative, where I work. Views expressed here are my own, not my employer’s.

The data trail of racial wealth and health disparities in the path of COVID-19 is a story of deep injustice. But not the complete story.

Just as high blood pressure lets us know something needs to change, but can’t show us how to be well, we need to look through our data with deep intuition in order to re-imagine the future we want.

Let me paint a story of a healed future. This story asks those with resources and institutional power to drop what we think we know. It asks those waiting for change to stop waiting. The change we yearn for won’t begin from above. This future is already being born, and it invites you to choose which story you’ll be a part of.

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A new job: Real Estate Strategist

Cover letter

Why did I take a job at the City?

In June, I began working at the City of Seattle’s Office of Planning and Community Development, as the Real Estate Strategist. There is so much to say, and I hope to have an essay for your thoughts soon.

For now, here’s the cover letter that accompanied my application for this job. It reflects how much the Between Americans experience has influenced me, and how much I hope it will continue to. I hadn’t planned to make this public, but I’m posting it here to stay accountable to these intentions. Continue reading “A new job: Real Estate Strategist”

Our Political Polarization: Heartbreak and Healing


Why does politics feel crazy these days, and what can we do about it?

Last year, I facilitated a year-long conversation called Between Americans. The 24 participants—half red and half blue—had signed up hoping to achieve connection and understanding across the political schism. By the end of the year, most hadn’t achieved what they’d hoped for.

Certainly, I’d facilitate the conversation differently now. Other similar projects, both online and in person, seem to be achieving dialogue more successfully than we had. But the experiment succeeded in one regard: it revealed truths about our national disconnection that couldn’t be blamed on other people.

(For a more personal version of this essay, check out “Beneath partisan politics“, edited by Anne Focke. She wrangled a version of this essay that I’d all but given up on.)

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How Should I Vote?

Graph of Important Leadership Qualities over Time

How should we select political leaders in complex and changing times?

As election season ramps up again, I find myself wondering more than ever before: how should I research the candidates?

This year, while facilitating a conversation among people who voted for Clinton and Trump, I’ve noticed that, even among people who’ve committed time to discussing different political worldviews, life gets in the way. Most can’t find the time to research every issue, or to talk it through—and many feel guilty or inadequate as a result. But given the unavoidable demands of our jobs and families, I wonder if this guilt is, in fact, a clue.

What if the way we’ve come to frame our responsibility as citizens—to be knowledgeable, detail-oriented voters—is in fact unrealistic and unsustainable? Continue reading “How Should I Vote?”

The Hierarchy of Nobel-Prize-worthiness

Hierarchy of Conscience

Why is it so hard to find developer success stories in combating gentrification?

In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith explored the cultural milieu that produces our sense of right and wrong. In this work, which laid the groundwork for The Wealth of Nations, Smith notes that it’s human nature to seek praise and praise-worthiness. This basic tendency, he supposes, forms a social glue that keeps our societies ticking along.

He who coined “the invisible hand of the market” in fact seemed to view morality and markets as complementary, not competing, forces. How might this perspective apply to urban development? Continue reading “The Hierarchy of Nobel-Prize-worthiness”

Machinebrain & Gardenbrain


What the heck is development culture, anyway? And why are we so interested in it?

Gardens of Democracy

I was quite excited to see Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau list The Gardens of Democracy as one of his two favorite nonfiction titles. This under-sung little book has deeply influenced how Brian and I think about urban development, using a concept called “Gardenbrain”. Here’s hoping that a big shout-out from Canada’s “little potato” will help get the word out.

The book has helped us frame the importance of exploring the culture of real estate development. In other words, it’s more than markets and regulation that influence developers. Think to your own work: are you just a puppet of money and laws? You might concede that you’re also a bundle of feelings and dreams, deeply influenced by the people around you. Continue reading “Machinebrain & Gardenbrain”