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Our Exchange Includes You
January 17, 2024
That was what a best friend did: hold up a mirror and show you your heart.
-Kristin Hannah, author

Last week I posted a story about embracing people with dementia. Many of you responded with heart-felt reflections, including how you’ve experienced dementia in loved ones (more on that in a later post). Your thoughtful feedback inspired me to step out as the current curator of ExchangeEveryDay. An occasional contributor over the decades, I began sharing the daily writing with Nancy Rosenow just over a year ago, before she (mostly!) retired last spring.

Speaking professionally, each time you reach out to us, you help us live out our name. We thrive on an exchange of ideas. Your feedback and stories help us reflect on and expand our thinking, perspectives and practices. We want to hear what you are experiencing and thinking, wondering and needing, and how we can amplify your voices and support the important journeys you take each day with and for children.

Speaking personally, my mother passed away last fall after a long decline into dementia. A lifelong teacher, she was my connection to early childhood and Exchange. In 1980, she and Exchange co-founder Bonnie Neugebauer met and bonded over teaching Sunday school, quilting, making just about anything sweet, delicious, or beautiful, and, above all, sharing ongoing, deep conversations. From high school onward, I soaked it up. Bonnie and Roger later invited me to share my voice in Exchange magazine, and to support the work of the World Forum on Early Care and Education. Relationships shape us. So many of you have shaped me. Bonnie’s many insights mark my life, too, especially to always, always assume best intentions.

My beloved mom—Bonnie’s dear friend—assumed best intentions without even thinking about it. I hope the joy, wonder and connection she embodied lives on in some small way through me. If you feel a bit of a sparkle when you read this, then I know it does.

—Kirsten Haugen, Exchange Press

PS – Join Bonnie and Roger in the World Forum Café today at 11 am US Eastern Time as they host a conversation on recruiting and retaining men as part of the solution to staffing challenges in early childhood programs.


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Comments (2)

Displaying All 2 Comments
Kirsten Haugen · January 17, 2024
Eugene, OR, United States

Thank you, Julie, for writing back. I'm sorry your mom went through that as well. It's heart wrenching. And yes, assuming best intentions creates a powerful shift, and in itself, requires intention. Your words and the time you took to share them mean a lot!

Julie Bookwalter · January 17, 2024
UCI Extended Day Center
Irvine, California, United States

Kirsten, first of all, thank you for sharing about your beloved mom. I am so sorry that you had to watch her suffer from dementia. My mom passed from Alzheimer's three years ago and it was one of the hardest times in my life, watching this kind and vibrant caregiver (she was an RN) become someone who needed care herself.
I think if we could all adopt the mantra of "assume best intentions" it would make a world of difference in each and every interaction we have with children, parents, and co-workers, especially when there are difficult conversations to be had. Imagine the shift that could take place with such a simple phrase!
I don't know you well, but from my interactions with you over the years, I would say that the joy, wonder, and connection your mom embodied (and I feel my mom embodied as well) shine through in you. May the many memories of your mom make this time easier for you.

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