Study Circles as Antidote to Y2K Family and Community Rifts

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A young Florida mother who was stockpiling supplies in anticipation of possible Y2K problems found herself facing a more daunting challenge: her own skeptical mother who threatened to take the grandchildren away.

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.