Up to bat: Baseball & Relational Advocacy
By Octavio Edgington, Vanderbilt University
In baseball, an RBI, or run batted in, is a stat line that computes the amount of individuals a certain batter hits. The most impressive hit by far is a home run, yet this is not the most effective approach to drive in a run. Recognizing the small percentage of hits that actually result in a home run, many batters will approach the at-bat differently, and instead seek to hit a base hit, or even bunt or hit a deep fly ball, and by doing so, sacrifice themselves as an out in order to drive in a run and have a greater impact for the team as a whole.
Through their Relationship Building Institute, The David Project seeks to do the same thing. Among Israel advocacy, it is really easy to desire to have the loudest voice and attempt to “hit a home run” in advocacy in an effort to be recognized as right. However, this is not the method that The David Project prefers. Instead, as emphasized throughout the conference, in Relational Advocacy, a very different approach is needed. By learning to appreciate the deep insight in one’s personal narrative, walls begin to be broken down between two individuals, with the desire to find common ground. In finding that common ground, one can start to have dialogue on all sorts of issues, including points of contention. However, unlike other types of advocacy, because relationships have been built, points of contention are approached in a different way that can very well have a positive effect. Long-term solutions may not be reached right away, but any and every positive dialogue, that doesn’t end with people retreating back to their own corners, serves as a building block towards solutions, and hopefully peace within the region.
I tend to be a very pessimistic person. However, throughout the Relationship Building Institute my perspective on conflict in Israel and between Israel and its neighbors, really changed for the better. There was such a broad and diverse group of students who took part in the conference, and with that came plenty of opportunities to find disagreements and divisions among the student leaders present. However, in all of the sessions I was in, I witnessed Relational Advocacy at work. I felt especially nervous speaking on the College Republican panel, especially since the overall attitude towards the GOP among college-aged individuals tends not to be good. However, throughout the panel, I felt very respected, and even though there were many people in the room who I knew disagreed with a lot of my viewpoints, I felt like there was overall a desire to get to a better understanding of what it means to be a true conservative. It was this type of attitude, all throughout the conference, that really makes me excited for the difference I know our generation can have both domestically and abroad. It may take some ground balls, some sacrifice flies, and some blooper singles, but eventually we can unify and find peace, and that will be the biggest home run of all.