Name: Annie Heuscher
Hometown: Stevensville, MT
Circle Start Date: January 2019
What do you do when you’re not running a Ben Franklin Circle?
I’m a nonprofit consultant and run a small sheep operation with my husband.
What attracted you to the Circles?
I participated in a 15-minute faux Circle at a conference and loved how quickly the conversation got right to the crux of things – how quickly people were sharing personal stories, emotions, and values, and how supportive a space the Circle created for dissension. It seems to me that conversations become adversarial so quickly in this divided world these days and it’s really refreshing to have a conversation where we can disagree on things that are very personal without being offensive or defensive.
Tell us a little about the composition of your group?
I reached out to a broad group of women in my area who I thought might fit together to form an interesting mix of backgrounds – political, social, and economic. It wound up that the resulting group of folks who committed were somewhat less diverse than I had hoped, but the conversations became really deep and personal and so we didn’t feel a desire to expand once we got started.
How has hosting a Ben Franklin Circle impacted you?
I have found that I feel really responsible for other members’ needs and emotions. I think that comes from my personal experience, being the youngest in my family and the child designated to make sure everyone was happy. It’s been a real relief and a great learning process for me to realize that hosting the group means making space for everyone’s needs and emotions – light and happy or sad and mad – and everyone benefits from having the space to express those feelings, not from having me try to address/solve their feelings. It’s been a radical reworking of my sense of my own position within a group and as a leader.
Which virtue means the most to you personally and why?
We had a beautiful conversation around silence and the diverse ways in which we all interpreted it have given me so much to chew on over the past few months – from the desire to find silence and peace internally to the responsibility to not be silent when I’m seeing injustice.
What is the last commitment you made to yourself? How’s it going?
Last night our group discussed industry and had a fascinating discussion. For me and many of the other members, the conversation on industry evoked much reflection on the critical role of maintaining space for non-productivity. We decided to make a shared goal to find the purpose in a moment of idleness or boredom.