Everyone, man, woman and child, has a deep desire to feel valued and appreciated. We are happier when we feel appreciated by our peers.

We thrive off of this. We function at a higher level when our spouse, boss, co-workers, friends, (even a stranger) sends a genuine compliment our way now and then. Our productivity at work, school, sport, life, soars when we get a fitting compliment or when someone tells us how gifted or talented we are. It's good for our soul, our psyche and our overall health. Think about how much better you feel when someone tells you "You got it goin' on" or that "you made the difference."

William James the late great psychologist and philosopher from the late 19th and early 20th century once said, "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated." Think about that. Wouldn't our communities be a little happier and safer if we sprinkled a few more compliments, showed a little more appreciation and thoughtfulness toward each other?

This brings me to my main points. America and our community have unfinished business around the issues of race and racism. We also need to address the madness around gun violence - wherever it exists, but especially in places where it seems most prone to occur. These topics need everybody's attention.

The horror and tragedies that we all have been witnessing between police and communities of color suggests there are some major problems. Before I go further, it deserves to be noted that many of our local law enforcement officers including Utica Police, local state troopers and members from the Oneida County District Attorney's Office have taken big steps to connect with residents and community leaders to build the bridge that is so essential for understanding and safety. We have had some very interesting conversations.

I invite you to come - to be part of the solution. There is still plenty of work to be done on the bridge.

I am not suggesting that it is a perfect relationship here between the police and community, but perhaps we have avoided some of the madness, rioting and tragedies because people from all walks of life with very different experiences have been willing to take the deep dive and get honest about what we see and notice and how we can make things better. We can't connect if everybody stays on their side of the bridge.

Haven't we seen enough? Ferguson, Baltimore, Dallas, Baton Rouge - these are just a few of the cities that have recently experienced major protests, riots and other dangerous encounters because there is often a disconnect between police and black people. We need to talk about this.

What stands between us? Sometimes we are just a few conversations and policies away from a better understanding and connecting - aren't we all worth that? What do we need to do in order to connect and find value in one another? For the most part, we all desire respect, understanding, fairness, justice and safety.

With that said, this issue is much bigger than just the police and black people. To be sure, that's an issue, but it would be unfair to place the problems we are having with race in this country on just those two groups. Race and institutional racism unfolds itself far beyond just these two groups. Our community – in all of its goodness, need people from all professions, experiences and backgrounds to be a part of this dialogue and bridge we are in the process of building.

It's about all of us - blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos and all the other racial groups. America and our community has plenty of unfinished business around the issues of race relations. I'm not suggesting that this will be easy or that we are going to make it all go away with a discussion or a forum. But we will stand a much better chance of getting a little closer and having a better understanding and appreciation through conversation and listening - deep conversation and deep listening is how we find our way to healing and connecting.

Yes, it will be challenging at times, but we can get there. However, we cannot get there by putting this conversation on the shelf and everybody staying on their side of the bridge. Let's take the dive and blow the dust off of this topic and see how much better we are for having the conversation.

Please join me this Thursday or Thursday, Sept. 22, at the Utica Public Library starting at 9 a.m. Bring your questions and solutions. We'll bring the refreshments. Please call (315) 601-6002 to reserve your seat. We will end at 3 p.m.

Patrick Johnson is a local independent consultant on racial issues. He lives in Utica.



WHAT: Discussion of race relations in Utica community

WHEN: This Thursday and Thursday, Sept. 22, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

WHERE: Utica Public Library

Call (315) 601-6002 to reserve a seat.