Name: Bethany Skinner
Hometown: Delano MN
Start Date: April 8th 2019
What do you do when you’re not running a Ben Franklin Circle?
I am an occupational therapist by training. Right now I am raising my two kids. We have a 4-year-old girl, a 2-year-old boy, and one due in February. I volunteer at our church and school with marriage mentoring and ministries for young moms, as well as at a local pregnancy resource center. I also host a table at our local MOPS group (Mothers of Preschoolers) and I have a book club with friends from college. Some friends and I attempted to have “intellectual playdates” to connect over something other than potty training and the things mothers tend to chat about.
I appreciate the radical availability that being a stay-at-home mom affords me in this season of my life. I feel that this adds a needed dynamic to our community-being able to help out neighbors and friends and see and fill needs that others may not have the ability to see or respond to.
What attracted you to the Circles?
I heard about Ben Franklin Circles during a trip my husband and I took to New York City for The New York Encounter, a cultural event held by the group Communion and Liberation. The discussions are on things we all encounter just by being human. I heard about BFC at a panel on the cultural epidemic of loneliness. One of the panelists was Emily Esfahani Smith. Emily talked about leading a Ben Franklin Circle and how the members didn’t want the group to peter out, and really had a desire for meaningful conversation. So I did some Googling and decided I should try and start a Ben Franklin Circle at home. I felt that I wanted that kind of interaction regularly too! I also felt strongly that it is much more effective to change your community as people striving to better themselves, rather than one group telling another to be better or to be different.
Tell us a little about the composition of your group?
Our circle has consisted of supporting members of a community group called The 221. Many are in their 60’s or 70’s, some retired. One is a mom with middle and high schoolers. Our most consistent members are women, but we have had men attend. We have a variety of work backgrounds from therapists to web designers, educators and the owner of a flower shop. I really enjoy learning from their perspectives and life experiences.
How has hosting a Ben Franklin Circle impacted you?
I’ve learned so much from those who attend! Honestly, I’m just so thankful to have met them. Before we began meeting, during the process of starting a Delano Circle, I was fortunate to discover a community group that grew out of friendships at a local coffee shop. When the coffee shop went under (it literally flooded, we are a river town) they didn’t want the community they had created to be destroyed so they organized and bought a new building downtown (away from the water!). This became known as “The 221” which is also the address. They host great community and music events, have an art space, and are working on a kitchen. I’ve been inspired by their use of Sociocracy (also called dynamic governance) for decision making and self-governance. I’ve learned a lot! This method also uses “circle” verbiage and it was clear from some of their other projects, including one called “Critical Conversations”, that Ben Franklin Circles would fit right in. I feel very fortunate to have learned and benefitted from this part of my town that I didn’t even know existed before beginning my Ben Franklin Circle.
Which virtue means the most to you personally and why?
I enjoyed the discussion around the virtue of silence – we discussed the profound impact of being and interacting with a good listener!
We haven’t gotten to it yet, but I look forward to discussing the virtue of humility. I ascribe to the worldview that anything and everything wrong with humanity has its roots in the sin of pride, to which the antidote is humility. To me, as a Christian, humility means knowing your place before God and living through that.
What is the last commitment you made to yourself? How’s it going?
My last commitment was related to industry, and I committed to organizing myself each night with priorities for the next day. I used to be incredibly industrious, but recent sickness has me all off track! The commitment has definitely been helping.