Finding (and Keeping) the "And" in Life

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

So, unless you are a trained expert in handling large animals such as gorillas, I’m not sure that you have any right to declare whether or not Harambe was protecting or threatening the boy, or whether the zookeepers at the Cincinnatti zoo should or should not have used deadly force.

Also, unless you’ve never ever made a single mistake as a person or as a parent, I’m not sure it’s the best idea to be casting judgement on whether that mom was a good mom or a bad mom, or if you should be leading a rallying cry to have charges filed against her. 

What has happened to “and”?

It can be a very sad thing that a beautiful gorilla was killed, and it can be a very sad and scary thing that a young boy fell into an animal enclosure, and it can be a horrifying moment for a parent realizing that is her child in such a situation, and it can open up a discussion about what safety measure the zoo can take to prevent access to such an enclosure, and it can have those of us that weren’t there that day hug our children a bit closer and thank our lucky stars that it wasn’t us.  And…

We can live in the emotions of all the parts of it. We can do that without having to declare a side. I don’t have to be on the side of the gorilla or the side of the parents. I can live on both sides, in sympathy and empathy and grief. 

I think one of the reasons that the current political climate feels so scary to me is that there seems to be no room for the “and.” Instead it’s universal declarations and adamant believing in rightness. It’s my side versus yours. It’s arrogant. It’s closed. And without the “and,” I think we quickly turn into a society that points fingers and assigns blame and eagerly looks for someone to punish or to cast out.

Politicians didn’t start this. Neither did the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo. In a social-media driven, all-public access world we seem to be caught up in trying to “catch” each other… and more often than not trying to catch each other in a state of mistake or shame rather than a state of inspiration or good. We easily judge others from the comfort of our keyboards, hiding in anonymity. We add our opinions on to anything and everything, without bothering (or seeming to even care about) to uncover the full story. We rant. We demand. We declare.

And in doing so, we forget the “and.”

But “and” is essential to a healthy and thriving community. We need “and.” “And” invites us to see things from multiple sides. “And” allows us space to think. “And” gives us the opportunity to change our mind. “And” holds us to a higher level.

The remarkable Muhammad Ali passed away last weekend, and I’ve been loving the reminder of all his great moments and quotes.  One that struck me in particular was this one: “A man who views that world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

To evolve and grow as humans, we must remember to keep the “and” in our hearts and in our minds.

How can you remember the “and” today?   


How Can You Find The "And"?


Do you ever find yourself casting judgement on a person or a situation? Have you ever offered a strong opinion about what should happen in a situation that you really know very little about? Has it ever crossed your mind that you are better than "Them"?

Any time those thoughts creep in, is there a way to bring the "and" back to your heart and mind? Can you open up space to consider that all people and all situations have multiple sides, many layers. The "and" is about remembering that life is very rarely black and white...   the "and" lives squarely in the gray. 

What can you do to find the "and" in these situations?  Write about it in the comments below or tweet me @ErikaPetrelli1




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“Finding (and Keeping) the ‘And’ in Life”, The Leadership Program, 2016


Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.