To Embrace Our Diverse Community, We Must Call Others In, Rather Than Calling Them Out

By Chris Bolding

There seems to be a lot of division in the world right now, and it can be seen in our own communities. People seem to be less tolerant of each other and more likely to shut someone down or out if there is a difference in opinions.

I worry about my children and grandchildren living in a world where no one can find common ground anymore. And I know I’m not alone. It’s discouraging for many of us to find hope some days.

Whenever I get really down about the state of the world, I remember a talk that Kevin Moriarty, artistic director at the Dallas Theater Center, gave to a group of students from the School for the Talented and Gifted about eight years ago. He explained that theater was the original art form of democracy. When you go see a play, the actors invite you to sit back and listen. They want you to imagine what it’s like to be their character and to feel empathy for them. And as audience members, you share a collective experience – that of laughing or crying together. When theater is at its best, you walk away not as an individual, but as part of a community. A community in which people look out for and care for each other.

Dallas is a welcoming, diverse and vibrant community in so many ways. It made me wonder: Could art and cultural experiences lead the way out of a divisive world? Would looking at the experiences of others help us become more understanding? Can the act of sharing a meal with others build community?

Could these small steps help us see what we have in common and help minimize the things we disagree about? I think it might. It’s why I’ve been embracing the call to action: “calling people in” instead of “calling them out.”

Our daughter Eleanor practiced this motto every day. She would often “call me in” and help me see things from new perspectives, whether it be about politics or LGBTQIA issues or my parenting decisions. Eleanor had a reputation for making people around her feel included, rather than isolated. She would listen to people’s personal stories and invite them to be part of the group. Our daughter was also transgender, something she revealed to us in January of 2021, just four months before she took her life.

As hard as I try, I’ll never understand it. She tried so hard to make others feel included, but I get the sense that she felt like she didn’t fit in anywhere.

While Eleanor may not have been able to see it, she was extraordinary. She made the world a better place by being kind to others, calling people into hard conversations and ensuring everyone felt welcome.

As a family, we’re committed to honoring Eleanor by supporting diverse artists and putting on events that are inclusive. We hope that by doing this, we create more kindness and empathy and that we encourage others to embrace the beauty of the diverse community that we live in.

On Saturday, August 13th, we’re welcoming people from all walks of life to our first ever OK2BX Fest. This event will showcase diverse performers, food vendors and artists from across Dallas. Just like in the theater, we hope that through this celebration, we can share in this collective experience and build empathy and compassion for one another. We’re Calling You In, just like Eleanor would have wanted.

Eleanor said in her suicide letter that she didn’t think she could ever make a difference in this world. We’re committed to making sure her legacy tells a very different story. Please join us.

Chris Bolding is the co-founder of the OK2BX Foundation.

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