Sharon Joy Kleitsch, a community organizer in St. Petersburg, Fla., said: 'This woman called and her mother was trying to keep her children away from her because she thinks her daughter is flipping out because she's needing to get supplies and preparing for Y2K.'
Such discord among families, though usually not this drastic, is not uncommon as the Y2K uncertainty looms, local leaders say.
'The Y2K question can create rifts within communities, often between people who are pushing for immediate action and those who believe nothing will happen, don't want to look the issue in the face or are afraid of causing panic,' said Michele Archie, co-director of the Harbinger Institute, a consulting, training and research organization based in Bridger, Mont., that provides services supporting community, organizational and personal development.
'That's a common theme being replayed in lots of places, true believers versus disbelievers,' said Howard Terry, Archie's co-director at Harbinger. 'Communities are wrestling with how to bring the two extremes, and everyone in between, closer to work together.'
'We think that study circles can help create spaces for people with different points of view to come together to create stronger understanding and action over the long term,' Archie said.
Study circles, in which neighbors, co-workers or anyone interested in the subject, get together to discuss Y2K, are helping to bring differing views in line, organizers said.
Many of these study groups sit in a circle, and for good reason, Kleitsch said: 'You break the model of there being some expert on stage. It immediately puts everyone in the same place, literally, all in a small circle.'
It was in one of these study circles that the frantic Florida grandmother finally began to understand why her daughter was preparing for Y2K, Kleitsch said. 'It just calms the fears, calms the disbelief. It's hard not to believe when you're hearing this information,' she said.
Study circles don't solve the problem for everyone, however. 'We had one guy come who was into guns and got kind of outraged,' said Nell Levin, who leads community groups through the Nashville, Tenn., group PREP 2000, which stands for Promoting Responsible Emergency Preparedness. 'I said something about how we were not into guns and he got huffy about that,' she said, adding that the man hasn't returned to subsequent meetings.
Levin's group participants present a wide spectrum of views, including those who are a little 'paranoid,' and view Y2K as a government conspiracy, she said. 'We have some pretty free-wheeling discussions.'
But Levin, a trained community organizer, keeps the meeting on track by encouraging participants to create action plans. 'We just try to run the organization as democratically as we can. We toss out ideas and either they grab on or they don't,' she said. 'Sometimes we've emerged with a different idea than what we came in there with.'
Michele Archie, co-director, Harbinger Institute, Bridger, Mont., 406-662-3244; e-mail: Harbinger@mcn.net; web site: www.harbingerinstitute.org. Howard Terry, co-director, Harbinger Institute, Bridger, Mont., 406-662-3244; e-mail: Harbinger@mcn.net; web site: www.harbingerinstitute.org. Sharon Joy Kleitsch, community organizer, St. Petersburg, Fla., 727-550-9660. Nell Levin, organizer, PREP 2000 (Promoting Responsible Emergency Preparedness), Nashville, Tenn., 615-329-9331.
Study Circles Resource Center, Pomfret, Conn., 860-928-2616, e-mail: email@example.com. Offers free technical assistance and information on community-wide Y2K discussion and planning circles. Y2K Citizens Action Guide, Utne Reader; web site: http://www.utne.com.
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