Paula Williams: Where have you most recently worked?
Bill Thatcher: Over the last 20 years, my time has been almost evenly divided between three nonprofit organizations:
- The Foundation for Community Encouragement (FCE), President & CEO, an organization founded by well-known psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled. Just before I started in that position, I co-authored a book, The Power of Acceptance: Building Meaningful Relationships in a Judgmental World, about the experiences of people using the community-building technology developed by Dr. Peck.
- HeartStream Education, Executive Director, an organization created to take community building into treatment programs within state and federal U.S. prisons. I modified Dr. Peck’s work (with his blessing) into a program designed to increase prisoners’ connections in group-process environments by providing them with interpersonal tools for deeper and more effective connection with others. I also created a curriculum to train psychologists and treatment specialists to continue to deliver the program.
- Cautious Patient Foundation, Executive Director, an organization focused on patient advocacy and safety within the U.S. health system. We provided grants, services, and programs serving patients and their families.
Paula: What resonates with you as you look back at your work experience and look forward to this MTL appointment as Interim Managing Director?
Bill: Well, before those 20 years of experience, I spent 10 years working with nongovernmental organizations in more than 40 countries as a communications consultant (my Master’s is in Communication). It was not unusual to face resistance from those in their local settings: “Who does this American think he is, showing up to fix us?” I was able to dissipate that mindtalk because I believe the answers to the challenges being faced by people in their organizations are to be found in the local situations. My role, I believed, was to ask questions and exercise my curiosity to help the organization members themselves uncover the answers. Once people saw I was not trying to bring in the “American Way”, they quickly became engaged in our shared expedition of discovery.
In my time as President of FCE, I oversaw a facilitator corps of subcontractors who delivered the community-building workshops in many countries, for both public events and business consulting activities. That experience prompts a high degree of empathy from me for some of the challenges within MTL.
Paula: What is your biggest concern for your MTL assignment?
Bill: That we won’t stay present in this moment. MTL has a long history, and many within MTL share that history. That shared history can create both positive and negative perspectives. Unfortunately, more often than not, I think, we do a very human thing of holding our positive memories in the past – “Remember the wonderful time when…?” or “I can see his face when he said those moving words to me!” – while bringing our negative memories into the present. E.g., “I remember the last time we tried that! I know this because I was there. It didn’t work then. How can this time possibly be any different?!”
But I think within MTL we have a strong commitment to “staying awake in life.” I want us to remember that the way to be awake is by being present in the moment. Anyone calling forth the past is in danger of dreaming rather than being awake. Even more than that, we know from our Clarity process that the future is, at best, a “don’t know.”
Paula: What gives you the greatest hope for MTL as we go through this time of reorganizing ourselves?
Bill: Hope is an interesting word to me. It was actually one of the two words that came to my mind as I have reflected on our time in Atlanta. Hope is a space-giving word. It buys us time for something new to emerge. There is an “It might happen!!” openness in hope. I can work with hope. I would prefer faith – a much stronger word from my perspective – but I can work with hope.
So, what gives me the greatest hope? Oh, no question in my mind, it is the women and men on the MTL journey. I would challenge anyone reading these words to reflect on their traveling companions in MTL. Conjure up a face or faces…look into those eyes again…remember standing opposite them in the training room…remember love…honor…respect. How can I not have hope for us?! We are deeply connected – flawed though we know we are – in a world longing for connection. And what else do we have? We have an immense treasure which is not reduced for us as we seek to give it away with abandon! In fact, it grows in measure by each person who claims it with us. Amazing. Okay, three deep breaths. Now let’s go find that faith together!