PODCAST: Mollie Reinhart featured on Story Corp
Recorded November 6, 2020
One Small Step conversation partners Mollie Reinhart (54) and Matthew Davidson (49) discuss the “Befriend Movement” that Reinhart cofounded in Richmond, VA, both their parents’ influences on their lives, and their experiences being misunderstood or rejected because of the current political climate in America.
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00:28 L-3 use last names with their with him with Matt Davidson and his
00:38 Hi, my name is Mollie Reinhart. I am 54 years old. Today’s date is Friday, November 6th, 2020. I’m in Richmond, Virginia. The name of my partner is Matt Davidson, and I just met him today through storycorps.
00:58 My name is Matt Davidson. I am 49 years. Is that right? 49 years old today is November 6th 2020. I am in Richmond, Virginia. My partner today is Mollie Reinhart and I just met her today for story Court.
01:33 Somali why did you want to do this interview today?
01:38 Well, I learned about storycorps at the Richmond Forum and I just became very interested in it and I listen to some myself research a little bit more and then I really wanted to be a part of it and I’m at a friend’s you did it recently and had a great experience and then I wanted to experience it myself and I I really just wanted to have an open conversation with someone else and then to learn from that person.
02:05 So I’ll turn it back to you Matt. Why did you want to do this interview today similar reasons? I heard about it from a friend of mine who did it and had a great experience. He really enjoyed it. So I was intrigued by it. And yeah, I always have positive thoughts about BPM and you know, what What BPM does and so, you know to contribute to that sounds like a good idea to me and you know, it’s always interesting to talk to somebody and then just find out what’s going on with that person.
03:12 Okay, great salt breezes by a renowned. I have been married for more than 25 years and have two teenage children in high school. I work for an Arts related nonprofit organization in Richmond. I grew up in Richmond, but after college my wife and I moved around the country for various jobs over. Of about ten years. We eventually settled back in Richmond not too long after the first kiddo arrived My Views has steadily shifted left over the years after growing up in a generally conservative culture. So I’m curious what other places did you go around the country doing that 10 years old. What type of things did you do? My wife and I both worked for hotel chains for a while. She work for Hyatt and I work for Marriott and we ended up first in New Orleans and lived in New Orleans for a few years and that’s actually where we got married.
04:04 And then we move to San Diego and lived in San Diego for a little over a year, which was fantastic. I don’t know if you’ve ever been or there but it’s a wonderful City then we move to Houston lived in Houston for a few years, which was. So great. I don’t recommend Houston so much love to Atlanta, which we really enjoyed Atlanta was great and I like that a lot and then we moved to Boston which we also enjoyed although it was extremely cold much more cold than I was had ever exposed to and then we moved to Fredericksburg cuz she got a job in the DC area and then eventually back to Richmond and we were both working. She was working for hotels that whole time up until Fredericksburg. I work for hotels for a while and hotel management and then I worked for a software company that sold Hospitality software to Hotel so I was trying
05:04 Around in training hotels on the square
05:19 A mother-of-three wife of 31 years daughter sister friend to anyone who needs one originally from St. Michaels, Maryland a small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore until College lived in DC Charleston, South Carolina, Boston Northern California now lived in Richmond for 23 years worked in Hospice Care. I’ve been meeting people different from myself and bracing empathy and learning New Perspectives founded befriend in 2017 a movement of connection through compassion kindness matters. I have a variety of things I want to ask you about but I guess I will ask you about the friend. I would like to know more about that and if you could tell me about that that would be great friends started about three years ago in 2017. When I turn in for my life was being an empty nester your mother three children, but my youngest is now in college in a few years ago. I intentionally started to learn about the city about children about education and then I quickly learned that poverty.
06:19 Is a major factor in those few keeping children from getting the education that they deserve and I just started meeting different people and learning from them and having lots of conversation. And I’m one of those people was Reggie Gordon who is now the head of Human Services and I’ve been in his office. I would just be meeting with different people and then one day A letter came from a woman named CG red who needed some help with Christmas for her son and it was a kind of a one-off for Crest. I usually don’t have that serve request there, but she is sent the letter to the mayor and they got to them and they asked me if I would help and I did and it wasn’t the traditional getting the Christmas presents. It was I need to call her and hear about what her son needed, but that was where change when I heard her voice.
07:09 She was so sad and robotic iconic. I couldn’t get that out of my head and instead of doing the usual going to buy presents wrapping them. Just delivering them and being on my way. I went to her home and Creighton Court. We went together to the Walmart on Nine Mile Road and spend some time together and that changed me and
07:32 I was just with her actually before I came here what I learned in that one hour about her life and taking her back home again. She picked out an extravagant with the amount of money for the presence of some really nice things for her son, but she got the wrapping paper so she could wrap it herself versus you know, we just dropping that often but I learned about her and we were more alike than different. Honestly, you know, we’re both were mothers we have sons they both like football and so that’s how some of it all started and at that point. I didn’t know before I didn’t know all this was going to be down the road for me, but at that point, I just knew that friendship mattered and I was learning a lot from her and maybe she was learning something is from me to and from that point on. I just became a little bit more open to so for example, we would meet there’s a McDonald’s across the street from that Walmart and we would meet there and then we met another friend of hers Jojo.
08:32 Send a friend Lisa who also came to and we were all sitting together just having lunch and is one of CDs friends came over and they were looking at us they weren’t and then she just talking to them and then she was trying to figure out how to introduce us. And then we all looked at each other and we’re like we’re just friends, you know, it’s like freaking times in the past. They had assumed CGI told me that she had assumed that your people had that I was a social worker or someone like that social Mentor, but we’re just friends and that’s where when I started thinking about how simple that can be that when you really hear someone’s story different from yourself and learn from that. Just getting that little bit closer and there been times that I was uncomfortable for sure that I wasn’t quite sure when I was pulling up at Creighton Court what I was getting into with some guys on the corner.
09:26 But now they know me like today I was over there and you’re visiting her and her son and her brother and that’s changed me. So it started there and there been any other friendships like CG that I’ve come and have come into my life really because I’ve been a little bit more open to it before I I don’t think I’ve ever really would have thought about doing that. But because I had to call her and I heard her voice that’s what changed it for me. So I’m kind of fast forward a little bit of time these friendships kept building and I was just having friends. I didn’t know where was bleeding. I just kept learning though, and I was seeing other things in the city and things that CG was going through in her life that she had not finished high school and the doors that kept closing on her trying to get a living wage because she didn’t have the diploma.
10:19 It just really it really pulls at my heart and because she was one class shy of graduating when she dropped out and she just didn’t know that and now when I was just with her right before this interview, she is working on her diploma through the dream Academy and she she’s being tutored by a friend of mine and I really think this time she’s going to she’s going to make it and she’s already looking at some some jobs that will help her future and for her son. She keeps going back to she’s doing this for her son to have another light a better life for her son and I am so privileged for her to let me into her life and for me to learn firsthand some of her struggles and like another example is she wants to work. No doubt. She is always out there trying to work but she gets a job that’s minimum wage.
11:18 And her rent money goes up and her snap money goes down and she almost.
11:25 Losses. So, these are all the things I’ve learned through befriend. And it actually I was trying to keep it as organic as possible. But then Reggie Gordon Road an op-ed last year and people were curious. Like how do you actually need someone different from yourself? And a lot of people are coming up then? I felt the same way too. I just kind of got lucky. I was in this right place at the right time and someone thought to ask me to help and so that’s what friends all about. We’re trying to get people together in different locations to have conversations and this morning. We had one at RVA light which is a coffee shop for homeless people and there’s a mending walls mural right outside. So we were all outside Gathering and sharing stories and there it was something I was one of the most powerful gathers. We’ve had that some of these gentlemen to don’t have a home
12:17 We’re sharing their struggles with us and it was so important for us to hear his voice as long as the other people that are now on of the friend dealing with two can come and hear people story. So my view is with the friend. Everyone is on their own Continuum of compassion and we’re trying to get everyone just a little bit closer when they come to something and just learned. I’m not asking for anyone to agree or put his just getting him a little bit closer. So we Patridge and I wrote an op-ed that just came out the end of October that kind of summarize some of the other findings we had and we’ve had some interesting response people are just really wanting to learn more and are getting more open and trying to get in proximity to others different from themselves. So I don’t want to keep going on but I could that’s kind of how it started and how it kind of kept growing and you know, where we are today, the the one-on-one relationships are powerful.
13:14 What’s a great story? Thank you for sharing that.
13:26 Okay, so who has been the most influential person in your life and what did they do?
13:33 I would guess the most influential person in my life. Well, it’s one of two people to either my father or my wife and you know, obviously have no my dad longer than my wife but they’ve both been pretty influential on me. So I’ll talk about I’ll talk about my dad for a little bit. He is someone who is literally always been there for me in a in a couple different ways. I like to talk about his presence meaning that he physically shows up for things. You know, we always came to my baseball games. He always came to my wrestling matches. He was literally physically there for me, but he’s also been there, as well as support. You know it I know that I can talk to him about things. I know that he will support me in any way that he can
14:34 And he’s also teaching me about presents in a mindful sense. Meaning. What can we do everyday, you know in the moment to make sure that we are present and aware and as present as we can be for whatever is happening in the current moment and not trying to wish things were different than they are but accepting things as they are and making whatever changes we need.
15:05 So it’s been great to have him miss that kind of source that kind of steady Solid Source of present in my life.
15:28 Somali who has been the most influential person in your life and what did they teach you?
15:33 So I think I have to as what my my parents definitely are the most influential people in my life and they they too were were there for me all all throughout there were the stable steady presents for me and I always knew when I graduated from high school and went off to college and try new things. I always knew they were there for me as a safety net and and that piece of mine always comforted me when I did try new things or you know, when after graduate school and see if if I can make a living afterwards and so I think they were they were always there for me and you know going to the games and we can have grew up in a small town. So we were always always together in a small group of people and so they were they were the most influential people in my life. I would say it and I have to give a little bit of part to another
16:33 Group of people who have influenced my life for my children and through them. I have learned patience and understanding and so that they’ve also taught me those traits.
17:02 Could you briefly describe in your own words your personal political values?
17:10 My political values are a bit of a hybrid. Although I go this guiding principle of the Golden Rule and we need to treat everyone with kindness and respect and offer opportunity for everybody.
17:28 And I think they’ll do I mean if when I think about different things that are going on if we just kind of have that as an overarching theme and compassion then the other things can follow so
17:50 Could you just briefly describe in your own words your political your personal political values? Sure. I think that my overriding political value is that we are all in this together and that our country is better off when we work towards equity and Justice time for everyone whether that’s through government program social programs. However, it works I think that the sooner that we recognize that when we as a nation work towards equal access and Justice that we’re all better off, you know, just because you know, we are paying for
18:42 Higher taxes somewhere, you know, it doesn’t that doesn’t necessarily just take away from me. I pay those taxes because I’m better off when we have a more educated population a population that has better access to services and I think everybody is better off that way.
19:35 Okay, how about you ever feel misunderstood by people with different beliefs than you or how so
19:45 I do I think you know we have I have some family members and some friends and neighbors who certainly don’t share the same fuse that I do and I had an interesting conversation with my father-in-law not too long ago around some of the the police protest and political views of certain candidates and all those things and it was a genuine misunderstanding. I mean, he I felt a certain way and he felt a different way, but he honestly did not understand what my views meant. What does whatever slogans people were chanting or the other the quick-and-dirty messaging that people come up, but he didn’t understand what those things. So it was interesting to have this conversation with me. So thoughtful reasonable person who simply happens to have political views that
20:45 I do not agree with and he was a loving caring person as well. So we had a nice conversation, but I also I did have to
20:56 I noted in myself that I needed to stop and cause
21:03 Before I responded in some situations because there were certain things you were saying that what kind of triggering quick responses from me and I didn’t want that kind of conversation. I wanted a more thoughtful conversation where we were listening to each other rather than just waiting for our turn to to talk. So I did find myself having to pause and take a moment give myself a little bit of space to come up with a maybe more skillful response and I hope I did I think I did so yeah, you know it literal misunderstandings of of what I believe. I’ve seen that in a few different cases. Sometimes it’s worth it to talk through it. Like it was with my father-in-law sometimes like with one of my neighbors. I don’t think it’s worth it for either of us to have that conversation. We don’t have that kind of relationship and neither of us would come away Happy from that kind of car.
22:03 So, you know, it depends on the dynamic of the relationship and who it is and all those different things. But yeah, absolutely, right. So I’m going to ask you do you ever feel troubled by people with the same beliefs as you and how they communicate those beliefs to others?
22:25 On that when I didn’t have a
22:33 With that. I don’t know if I would say trouble Deerfield trouble by the same beliefs as you.
22:41 Some of my experiences on that one is over the summer with with befriend some people from that group went down to The Monuments and would just be talking to people and some experiences that and I don’t know other than what their beliefs were coming into that. But when we were talking to African American people they were always wanting to hear why we were there what what brought us there, and it was just to listen to other people and they were there for a similar thing just is selling support for this some kind of change what I found when I went there and if I approach someone who looks like myself again just to offer why you here, you know, we’re just here this group. We have these bracelets We would hand out they wouldn’t want to talk to me.
23:33 So that did trouble me I had so much so that when I walked up to a couple women in particular, they really held up their hands like don’t come any closer to me. And so that was a good for me to feel
23:50 Because I’m not sure their viewpoints. They probably were different but you know approaching them, you know, I was thinking everyone else wants to talk to me. So, you know, I’m sure this this woman would too, but she really wasn’t and I I did I needed to pause a little bit more but I did ask her go and brings you here, and she just had been hearing about what was going on and just needed to see it and wanted to take a picture and
24:24 As much as it did hurt me and it was a good thing for me to feel that it also brought me closer and understanding some other people’s perspectives too. And I’m also hoping that perhaps just by having that kind of interaction and with me maybe she’ll come just a tiny bit closer to so that that’s what comes to mind when
24:52 I see that question.
25:31 I’m I guess I’m going to follow your lead and come by in a little bit. I like the first two questions was I who it’s who you expected me to be or and or is there anything that you learned about me that surprise you?
25:50 From reading your bio. Are you actually work kind of what I was I was thinking and
25:59 I like when you put kiddo at that kind of said that you were a little light so, you know, I haven’t had that kind of fun. So that’s when I saw that in the bayou. That’s what I thought immediately and is there anything you learned about me today that surprise you?
26:21 You know.
26:24 I don’t think so. I mean I things you were saying from the beginning kind of day off load and all kind of works making sense. As our conversation went on and you were consistent in the things you were saying that we are starting from the Bayou to to where we are right now. So other than all the different places, you know I learned about so I think that’s how it answer that.
26:52 And so and I will turn it around to you. I’ll do the same was IQ you expected me to be there anything you learned about me today that surprise you I would say that you were mostly who I expected you to be, you know, it’s interesting you I read your your bio and you know, it’s fairly similar to mind in a lot of ways and put it, you know, I’m kind of cruising along reading your bio for the first say 3/4 of it. Then you get down to the befriend and the compassion part and your people don’t always talk openly about compassion and I think that’s that’s an important thing that you brought to this and that you seem to bring to your everyday life you no compassion is I I believe it’s important as well. And so it surprised me that you put that word in your bio and that you speak so openly about it not because
27:50 I thought something about you personally, but because just generally people don’t talk about compassion that way so you’re more open about that and more.
28:05 More committed to it then I then I would have thought just from reading that little thumbnail bio. It’s obviously exceptionally important to you, which I think is wonderful.
28:16 Thank you.
28:27 Well, I did want to ask Molly about living in Boston. Where do you live?
28:35 Yeah, we did. You know Peabody Terrace by any chance. I don’t we lived in Revere little bit. We worked my wife worked at the Hyatt at The Harborside and I worked at the Westin downtown on Copley Plaza Square. Oh, wow, cool supposed to end with two feet of snow that day. We are so out of here.
29:22 Very worried about you and we loved it. I mean and my oldest son was born there and if he’s a die-hard Red Sox and across-the-board New England sports fans. I am also a die-hard Red Sox fan. So that’s great. And my daughter has decided she wants to go to Boston College sure what it’s really like out of college and working play baseball in college and he’s an assistant Scout for the Yankees of all team.
30:11 Well good for him for having a job in baseball. I know those are are hard to find that’s an excellent. That’s fun for him. Cuz he loves the sport. That’s great. I will leave it to you where we go from here.
30:57 Sure. Sure.
31:27 I bet it was.
32:01 Oh, that’s awesome of radical abolitionist.
32:11 What I found interesting with Matt night, even though perhaps on paper we might have some different, you know views or whatever. But really the overarching theme is the compassion and kindness and respect and that’s what we all can agree on and that’s how I’m hoping. We all can move forward and cuz it really can be simple even today. We’re talking in the group this morning. It’s about friendship and compassion and it can be that simple if people just kind of have that mindset so but I think I think it’s likely we know some of the same people through nonprofits.
32:50 Yeah. Profits in Richmond is not a huge community. So probably some people you were talking about mending wall in one of these.
33:00 One of the girls is painted by a guy who is married to somebody used to work at Art 180. And so I love this murals. Oh, yeah, we’ve done some work shops on compassion. Actually that they did that we did those when we couldn’t wait we did Zoom calls for that but that was really impactful cuz I’m like you were talking about this compassion, but we need to dive a little bit deeper for those who are ready and you know kind of peel the onion back a little bit and learn a little bit more about how to cultivate our own compassion. So we’ve had two sessions with them that that has been very helpful. So is that your your only connection to any work is through a friend or do you know some people there that I know micro he was one of the people who I work with Roku Dai check project a while ago and
33:57 What’s a here?
34:07 Set alarm.
34:44 Yeah, sure. I mean I can go if you want to see looking at them. Some of us are looking at the weather and the one we had today A Time RV a light that we scheduled a couple weeks ago with their fingers crossed but we had a second one at Jefferson Park that we just add it on earlier this week. So you normally we’re having Gatherings and at libraries at the market 25th Street and just everyone in a room and that’s so we needed to figure out how to do it safely. So we’ve been outside and I’m at Jefferson Park we could spread out and actually the the topic was on and it was a smaller intentional group who are the interested in learning more about mindfulness, and I’m so it was just a beautiful afternoon. We had blankets and someone brought some yoga mats and we were all just sitting out too spaced apart and just having conversation kind of what was on people.
35:44 Mine and then a friend of mine Fraser Davis was kind of leading us in a meditation at the end but it was one of our the friends you came her daughter was struggling with something and she her daughter ended up coming and joining in with us and it was it was a beautiful way to spend the afternoon. So I think you’ll perhaps some of those things. We may not have done at a park if it wasn’t for coated. Honestly. I may have kept similar formats of you going to the library or toxic Community wealth-building we’ve had them so that’s been good. We did do some Zoom ones when covid first happened just to get people together and those were those were good and it was a good way for us to give the information about compassionate Workshop type thing. But those are some adjustments were making with you know with covet and we’ll see how the weather can see. Where do you sign language?
36:44 Figuring things out as we go right now with it. So well, so where I work at Art 180 we deliver art programming Arts programming for young people and from elementary school through high school. And most of what we do were was up until you know, mid-march was actually in Richmond Public Schools, you go into schools after the school our work with the art teachers and you know and do program that way so mostly in schools, but also in community centers like the neighborhood Resource Center Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club that kind of thing and we have our own Gallery space and work space for the older kids for High school-age kids and they come to us and do programs since mid-march, you know, when the school shut down we couldn’t go into the schools anymore and all the community centers tended to shut down as well or not want to have those kind of program so
37:44 And we shifted pretty quickly to doing virtual programs. But honestly, they’re just not as successful, you know, it’s hard to get people to want to stay on a screen especially little kids after having been in school all day on a screen and it’s hard to get materials to people who need it not everybody has the appropriate internet connection to be able to to do those kind of classes. So that’s been a struggle we have started to bring in some of the older kids some of the high school age kids into our space three at a time with some dude to do some very specific projects. But other than that, we’re still planning on being virtual probably through the spring depending on what are PS does. We’re not sure nobody sure at this point.
38:39 So, you know that’s been a big change and you know, we have a small staff but all of us are now working remotely I go into the office one day a week to you no pick up mail and print a few things out that kind of thing. But we’re all we’ve all been working remotely and you’re doing Zoom calls to check in and staff meetings and that kind of thing and it’s awkward in a lot of cases and it’s not ideal You’re Nobody thinks it’s ideal. So we’re all looking forward to when we can get back in the office get programs back up and running to full strength and it’s made for a really kind of Uncertain year and uncertain as to what’s next and next year as well trying to figure out
39:26 How we going to raise money to pay for these programs how we’re going? What what they’re going to cost, you know, so it’s it’s been interesting that certainly has been one of the girls that was there today in the afternoon was talking about she’s enjoying her art classes, but did say that it’s hard to grasp everything through the computer screen, you know, when I get some she’s been given some supplies to that was helpful, but she loves art and that she kept talking about so it’s an icy the challenge absolutely.
40:09 It’s gotten difficult.