“Happiness runs in a circular motion” is a line from a Donovan song that I sang a lot as a child. I grew up watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas and there is that great moment when all the little Whos down in Whoville come out and make their way into a circle and hold hands and sing. They didn’t even have to think about it. They came out of their empty little Who houses, made a circle and came together as a community to celebrate Christmas. Just like the Grinch, I always felt my heart expand in that moment.

Maybe that’s why I love circles. Maybe it’s all thanks to Dr. Seuss and Donovan! Because I really do love circles. One of my greatest joys is being with people sitting or standing in a circle.

As a facilitator, often the first thing I do is have people gather in a circle because that is truly the first act of building community.  I want to know who’s in the room in a non-hierarchical way and I want everyone to be able to see everyone else.  It also reveals a lot about how people approach community and offers many teachable moments. I usually need to make the following points as people are organizing themselves into a circle:

  • Are you making space for your sisters and brothers in the circle? Are you standing rigidly in your own space or are you shifting and accommodating to make room for others?
  • Are you aware of who’s inside and who’s outside the circle? Is there a group of people stacked up, and are you making room for them?
  • Is the circle shuffling as a unit to make room for everyone?
  • Is it actually a circle? OK, I have nothing against eggs or blobs but for a group to move in harmony to make a circular shape is a beautiful thing.
  • Can everyone see everyone else easily?
  • Are there huge gaps between people that aren’t being filled?

There’s usually some giggles and chuckles and people shuffle up, look over their shoulders and begin to make room for each other. It brings some people out of hiding. It helps some people learn to accommodate others. For a moment, sometimes just a small moment, it upsets normal power structure and brings everyone together in the same moment in time on a level playing field. It makes some people very nervous. And then there’s that magical moment when everyone is settled and the circle is complete and the true work of building community begins.

I like to close with a circle too because after the hard work of the day, it brings us all back to the same level, face to face, and allows us to honor the work that has been done.

It’s a simple act, standing in a circle, but powerful in its ramifications.

So when you need help breaking down silos and bringing people together, call me. I promise I won’t make you sing the Who song. But you might hear me humming “Happiness runs in a circular motion…”

Fah who for-aze! Fah who dor-aze! 
Bring your cheer 
Fah who for-aze! 
Dah who dor-aze! 
Welcome all Who’s 
Far and near…


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