I became a board member of Dialogue Fiji (DF) sometime between July and September, 2009 as one of the two government representatives who were initially involved with DF. The other government member pulled out when she went abroad for postgraduate studies. Thus began my personal and professional journey of self-discovery into an unfamiliar territory.
From the beginning of my involvement with DF, I was welcomed openly and made to feel at home. I knew many of the people on the board over a considerable length of time, knew something about their lives, their families, their work, their political and religious beliefs, many of which I shared and held close to my heart. They were individuals with excellent leadership qualities and strong views on how government should conduct its affairs. As a government representative, I was interested in listening to what they had to say.
If there is anything significant that has shifted my perspectives on life since joining DF, it is acquiring the art of listening to others, to different viewpoints, belief systems and understanding and appreciating the roots or sources of these ideas and the individuals who were expounding them. An important offshoot of this listening process is how to fuse these different ideas or viewpoints together and arrive at a common or neutral ground where solutions to our most common and critical problems can be resolved in an amicable, concrete and sustainable manner. Furthermore, I developed and improved my conversational skills.
I have taken these different ideas and viewpoints and the process of refining them and made them my own by redesigning or reshaping them and using them to resolve my own problems in my home with my immediate and extended family and relatives, in the work office situation, in the community where I reside, in the church where I worship and in dealing with my own people and their problems in the realm of the vanua. My time spent with DF has been a huge learning experience.
John Donne, the doyen of 17th century English metaphysical poetry once said something remarkable that might be relevant to the dialogue process and to paraphrase him, “no person is an island, entire of itself”. Thus, let us connect the dots in our ideas, in our thoughts and minds, in our hearts and souls and in our consciousness. Let us listen to each other, communicate our ideas, learn from the past, dissect the present, dream about the future, understand the problems that confront us, create safe spaces where we can collectively design solutions to resolve our most common and critical problems and hopefully build a better future for ourselves and our children. Nothing could be more important than that.