Ben's Bells mural

Ben’s Bells mural in front of La Paloma Academy’s Central Campus, at 2050 N. Wilmot Road.

When it comes to talking about tricky topics, kindness can make a big difference. 

That's the premise behind the new Ben's Bells lecture series starting Wednesday at the YWCA Southern Arizona

"Kindness Matters: A Community Dialogue Series" will explore how practicing kindness can help us tackle and discuss issues such as racial justice or suicide prevention. 

"Kindness empowers us to understand how our brains work and then take chances and be vulnerable and have rewarding conversations that sometimes mean we're uncomfortable but can bring the community together," says Laura Gronewold, the director of education for Ben's Bells. 

Wednesday's lecture at the YWCA will focus on race and racial justice. Gronewold says Ben's Bells plans to partner monthly with other community organizations for different topics, such a planned talk with Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse about kindness and masculinity. 

The talks — which will be interactive — will use tools similar to those developed for Ben's Bells' Kind Campus program for schools. 

"Kindness is not really polarizing, and it's accessible and we know even students in pre-K can get this," Gronewold says.  "And we really emphasize it as a skill we can practice, and when we practice together, it's a skill we all get better at." 

The Wednesday talk will explore how the human brain works, specifically when it comes to triggering defensive reactions. 

"We're all carrying our histories and ideas and hurts and wounds and happiness, and when we talk about a profound thing like race, how do you take a minute and take care of yourself?" says Liane Hernandez, the community outreach and education director for the YWCA Southern Arizona.  "How do you breathe in and breathe out?"   

The talk will include tips for discussing race and how to communicate well, even if the conversation is uncomfortable. Gronewold says it will also encourage attendees to think through certain scenarios: What would I do if I observed a microaggression? How can I solve that problem using kindness?

"Until we dig into sitting shoulder to shoulder with other people and realize the joint humanity that we carry ... that's where the rubber meets the road," Hernandez says. 

If you go

When: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 5:30-7 p.m.

Where: YWCA Southern Arizona, 525 N. Bonita Ave. 

Cost: Free

More info: Check out the Facebook event for more information and to RSVP.  

The first talk in the new lecture series Kindness Matters: A Community Dialogue Series with examine issues of race and racial justice. 

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