Chi Nguyen -

Dec 18, 2023

21 Things That Informed Our Work in 2023

communities gathering and building

Did you see that sketch in Portlandia where Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen characters went back and forth asking each other, “Did you read it?” Our Slack channels are a less hilarious version of this. We lob links to articles, book reviews, music festivals, quotes, poems, comedy shows, and podcasts that relate to our work and trade stories about why something matters to us.

Out of all the things we shared on Slack this year, here are the 21 items that we want to share with you. We hope they bring you joy, inspire you, and help you think differently about what it takes to nurture relationships with people who are like us and those with differing views.

Jenn’s List

the sermons I need to hear right now on the Ezra Klein show

The Sermons I Needed to Hear Right Now” by The Ezra Klein Show

The most widely shared link across my friend and family group chats last month was the conversation between Ezra Klein and Rabbi Sharon Brous exploring together the relationship between Jewishness and the Jewish State and naming the “existential loneliness” felt by many of us after the October 7th terrorist attacks. I’ve listened twice now. The first with profound sadness and heartache (and many tears), and then the second, with more hope and resolve, as my heart breaks more open.

Wiser than me with Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Wiser Than Me with Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Two of my favorite shows of all time are Seinfeld and Veep, mainly because I’m in love with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She’s a comedic genius and badass, so the opportunity to listen to her interview older women about their lives is such a treat. From Jane Fonda to Rhea Pearlman to Carol Burnett (my Grandma Vivian’s favorite!), JLD gathered lessons from these remarkable women on how to live a full and meaningful life. Of course, relationships are a theme! And my favorite takeaway: “No. Is a complete sentence.”

Ted Lasso on Apple TV

Ted Lasso

If I have a successful winter break, it will be convincing my husband Jon it’s time to rewatch Ted Lasso from beginning to end. (Wish me luck!) It’s not unprecedented for us to rewatch an entire series (ahem, The Office). Yes, we’re talking about an American football coach, a British soccer team, optimism, and a whole lot of biscuits. And it’s everything I need right now. (You can binge all three seasons on Apple TV.)

Barbara’s List

Hymns of the Spirit by beautiful chorus

Hymns of Spirit by Beautiful Chorus

I first heard the song “Inner Peace” at my yoga studio. The harmony of voices feels both calming and hopeful to me. I found myself listening and singing along to feel more connected and open to my fellow humans. A recent conversation between Dacher Keltner and Casper ter Kuile on The Science of Happiness Podcast also reminded me of the power of music and singing along.

Andrea Gibson

The Year of No Grudges by Andrea Gibson

The first few lines of this poem get me thinking about how to come into conflict. When I take a moment to pause, see the other person, and soften a bit, there’s more space for me to hear and understand them – and myself.

I know most people try hard to do good
and find out too late they should have tried
softer. I’ve never in my whole life
been level-headed, but the older I get,
the more level-hearted.

We are all walking each other home by Ram Dass

This quote has carried me this year. We are not alone. We accompany each other through this life, and together, we can find where home is even when it’s hard to see the path.

Chi’s List

The Bright Hour, A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying” by Nina Riggs

I reread Nina’s memoir every year. Sometimes it’s flipping through the pages I have earmarked from years past, and sometimes I read it cover to cover. I had the honor of knowing and learning from Nina while working at the Center for Reproductive Rights. This intimate book, published after Nina passed away from breast cancer, teaches me new lessons every time I pick it up – about motherhood, marriage, life and death, and becoming. “I am trying to know myself,” wrote Nina. “I want a better sense of what kind of mother the kids will remember me to be. It’s hard: I am not done becoming me. I am still in the works. I still aim to be softer in some places, firmer in others.”

Listening to Taylor Swift in Prison in the new yorker

Listening to Taylor Swift in Prison” in The New Yorker

I texted this beautiful essay by Joe Garcia to a handful of friends when it came out. You don’t have to be a Swiftie to feel affection and tenderness for Joe as he detailed his experience encountering Taylor Swift’s music in a Los Angeles County jail, his reflection on past mistakes, and his imagination about what he would do on his first day out of prison. It may make you hear “Everything Has Changed” and “Anti-Hero” differently the next time these songs play on the radio.

The Good Life, Lessons from the World's Longest Scientific Study of Happiness by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz

The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness” by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz

I got to interview Dr. Robert Waldinger earlier this year, a few days after this book was published. Of course, I asked him to share the secret to happiness. (Spoiler alert: it’s the quality of the relationships in your life.) And once you read the book, you will know why I also asked Dr. Waldinger if he was ticklish.

Christine’s List

Nom Nom Nom. What’s the Deal With Cookie Monster’s Cookies? in The New York Times

Nom Nom Nom. What’s the Deal With Cookie Monster’s Cookies?” in The New York Times

I have been a Sesame Street lover since my childhood. In fact, since 2020, my phone screen saver has been a group selfie of beloved Sesames Street characters: Elmo, Ernie, Oscar the Grouch, Zoey, and of course, Cookie Monster. This article sparked a brief moment of connection on my morning commute where I asked a fellow passenger, who was reading a print copy of The New York Times at the time, if I could have the Arts section to share the column with a friend (a real-life Cookie Monster). This fellow commuter now gives me the Arts section every time I see him on the train.

“Now and Then – The Last Beatles Song (Short Film)”

Thanks to my mom, I grew up listening to The Beatles and attributed their influence to my passion for music. They were known for revolutionizing recording technology, and their final song, “Now and Then,” is in keeping with that spirit. It is incredible that a band formed in 1960 remains relevant today. The Beatles continues to show us that creativity is truly ageless.

2023 Newport Folk Festival

At the entrance of the 2023 Newport Folk Festival, there was a banner of Pete Seger’s quote that read, “We are stronger when we sing together.” It was the first time I’d attended the annual 3-day American folk music festival, located at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island. Their mission is “to create moments of hope through the power of music and community.” Pete Seeger, one of the festival’s founders, set the perfect tone with this statement. I took his advice to heart and took home a hoarse voice as my souvenir.

Ira’s List

The Science of Resilience, Failure, And Human Connection | Dr. Dani Dumitriu on The Disrupted Workforce

In this podcast, you will hear from an anchor partner in our Bonding strategy, Dr. Dani Dumitriu of Columbia University, as she explains the research behind early relational health and the power of connection in ways that anyone can easily understand. She also shares some fascinating personal stories that even I had never heard before!

The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities into Soulful Practices” by Casper Ter Kuile

2023 was a year when I personally marked several rites of passage. So, I really appreciated Casper’s guidance on how to incorporate rituals into our everyday lives to provide meaning and connection — whether you are religious or not. Plus, if you listen to the audiobook, you get to hear it read by Casper himself which feels like he’s chatting with you at a coffee shop.

Merrily We Roll Along” on Broadway

Stephen Sondheim’s musical follows three friends who are now in their 50s backwards through their lives to their first meeting as idealistic college students. The story and its deeply resonant songs (which you can listen to on the new original cast recording) remind us of two important lessons: the critical need for repair in maintaining relationships over time, and the power and the promise of believing that together we can change the world for the better.

Jon’s List

High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out” by Amanda Ripley

I have learned so much from Amanda Ripley’s writing on high conflict and, just as importantly, what it takes to engage constructively amidst deep fractures and disagreements. This book is both profound and practical and gives me hope that there can be better days ahead for our country – but it’s on us.

Vivek Murthy on Loneliness and Connection” on Unlocking Us with Brené Brown

This podcast conversation between Brené Brown and Vivek Murthy is filled with wisdom and insights about social connection: what it looks like, why it matters, and what gets in the way. They also vividly explain how connection is the foundation for dialogue – it’s what makes bridging possible.

E. B. White on ‘The Meaning of Democracy” in The New Yorker

I love this brief piece by E.B. White in response to a request from the Writers’ War Board in 1943 to reflect on the meaning of democracy. White evokes how democracy is much larger than politics; it’s the spirit of decency, fairness, agency, and optimism that – at our best – we each bring to the shared project of living together amidst our differences.

Shawn’s List

Join or Die” Documentary by Pete Davis and Rebecca Davis

This movie explores the work of Dr. Robert Putman, who was among the first researchers to highlight the fraying of our social cohesion through his book, “Bowling Alone.” I first read this book as a first-year in college and at the time I really struggled to connect with the content; however, at least one course every semester after that course referenced the book and its findings. Over the years my appreciation for his inquiry has deepened as it informs so much of the bridge-building space.

Hinge is spending $1 million to get people meeting IRL” in Fast Company

Tech companies are often blamed for many of our societal woes, so it’s exciting to see a company center connection and invest getting people to meet IRL.

We Need America to Work ft. Layla Zaidane” on The Hopeful Majority

Manu Meel, the host of the Hopeful Majority and CEO of BridgeUSA, spoke with Layla Zaidane, CEO of the Future Caucus, about collaboration across lines of difference in politics. I had the opportunity to hear Layla speak about her work to build bi-partisan youth leadership in government earlier this year and was blown away by her organization’s ambition and success. Manu is one of our grantee partners and a phenomenal leader. It was a joy to hear these two visionaries exchange ideas.

Chi Nguyen leads Einhorn Collaborative’s communications and Belonging Strategy. Learn more about Chi. Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter and be the first to read Chi's blog posts.

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