Presume Good Will








The presumption of good will is one of the core, foundational tenets of Women Writing for a Change (along with the confidentiality of the circle and attentive, open presence). The phrase can bear multiple interpretations, but one we share is “believing that every participant is trying to be helpful and aims to lift up the best in one another.  We presume we each bring our best possible self to the circle.“

A fellow writer and I were musing the other day on what deeper meanings this principle might hold.  I find that when you really think about almost any phrase, it reveals hidden significance.

Turning to my longtime favorite dictionary, The American Heritage Dictionary, I found the following definitions of “good will.”
1. An attitude of kindness or friendliness; benevolence.
2. Cheerful acquiescence or willingness.
3. A good relationship, as of a business with its customers or a nation with other nations.

While these definitions begin to define the profound role good will plays in our organization, none really arrives at the transcendent power of our dynamic definition of it. Yes, it involves an attitude of kindness and friendliness, cheerfulness even, but it does NOT speak of acquiescence; being true to one’s truth and needs is equally fundamental to our processes.

I would say that the third definition comes closest, in defining good will as at heart invoking relationship. Our presumption of good will is transactional (“communication involving two or more people that affects all those involved; personal interaction”), the active, “paying forward” of a precious gift that is returned in kind, that sets a positive and trusting tone for interactions and relationships, the sharing and communication on which we thrive and grow in community. By thinking and expecting the best of you, I also think and expect the best of myself, my intentions, my efforts, and these hopeful expectations guide our encounter.

Presumption, on the other hand, sometimes gets a bad rap. American Heritage definitions run the gamut from:

  1. To take for granted as being true in the absence of proof to the contrary: “I presume you’re tired after the long ride” (Edith Wharton) and 2. To constitute reasonable evidence for assuming; appear to prove: A signed hotel bill presumes occupancy of a room.

to a more negative spin in:

  1. To venture without authority or permission; dare: He presumed to invite himself to dinner and 2. To act presumptuously or take unwarranted advantage of something: Don’t presume on their hospitality.

Personally, I like the way our presumption of good will turns the negative on its head, and, instead of acting negatively without authority, permission, or good boundary management, our presumption of good will can break down boundaries, actively creating a whole, healing dynamic that our world offers far too little of.

These are dark days for many among us, where communication and civility seem to have vanished from our national conversations, and too often from our personal interactions and conversations.  At WWfaC we aim to live our principles out into the world, demonstrating what transformative power a creatively dynamic presumption of good will on the part of ourselves and others can have in a wounded world.


Mary Peckham for the Poplar Grove Muse

They Are

Inspired by Peter Witte’s short story, “They Were,” The Sun Magazine, JULY 2016 ISSUE 487


He was. She was. They met at a fountain the day before semester classes began, awkward- him, lusting- her and together they: talked about his new puppy Nagi and his sick grandmother and her travels to Germany, talked a little more until the night she turned 21, sat together at Rileys and drank cheap beer, went to his place and hers and back to his, drove across the country and decided they were in this, moved in together, found a Native American community and found themselves dancing at powwows as head-man and head-woman and building teepees and in ceremony, graduated from college a year apart, found jobs nearby, rented a little white house on 3rd Street, got married at Hungry Mother State park by a man named Humble Bear, wore buckskin and beads, watched as he built a life around community and work while she dreaded her days and wished for more, went into debt so she could go back to school and become the teacher she’d been too scared to be, spent four more years in the little Appalachian mountain town while he built an Indian Village and she taught high school English, lost Nagi too early, had a perfect baby with a tiny hole in his heart that would close three years later, watched coverage of their town on TV after both shootings- Tamara’s husband on the Huckleberry Trail and a few months later the many at Virginia Tech, locked classroom doors and stood on football fields when threats in bathroom stalls were found, struggled to figure out how to manage with three, fought a lot, found out the job he loved would end soon, applied to grad school and moved to Indiana with a one year old and two cats and a turtle, found a teaching job for her with students she immediately loved, breathed out relief when he passed his quals, had a daughter, put supports in place to keep each other okay, slept more this time, spent summers apart while he did research, tried to move, stayed put, grew frustrated being asked repeatedly at work to give more and receive less and look the other way, found a writing community for her, supported her need to be there often, found distraction from dissertation writing for him, supported his need to be there often, made her decision to “retire” from a career she could no longer stomach a reality, became more connected to the conscious community that gave her the courage to choose a better way to spend her days, started homeschooling, spent time building community in their family of four, realized they could do things differently and always had, finished a dissertation, adopted Annie the crazy mutt to celebrate, accepted a semester- turned year- turned two year teaching position at small university nearby, loved their work- their days- again, continued to sit in the impatient waiting that a new career brings and in the knowing it will be good and hard whether they are here or wherever there is. He is. She is. They are.

~ Kelly Sage

I Don’t Know, and I Like it.

Pisces WindowWhen someone is triggered by astrological insights, and enthusiasms, I wonder if there is something in their chart indicating this?  (I scroll through the menu of my mind: what aspect indicates a skeptic (Mercury in an earth sign in the house everyday affairs?) I’ve been thinking a lot lately, in a global sense, a transpersonal sense about who I am in relationship to the larger magnetic, interplanetary influence (my Mercury is in Pisces).  Well, ever since I was gifted a smartly designed 2017 astrological outlook course.  I absorbed it in the way that I do when I like something…by engulfing and osmosis.  Engulfing daily information and dreaming later to sort out the knooks and crannies.  I like astrology because it reminds me of a camera, and I like cameras because they remind me of perspective.  The astrological lens yields something big enough to remind me that a large part of us is ‘under influence.’

This is about astrology and its’ not, because I know that it’s not just astrology that lends a hand to faith.  But faith been dealt a bad rap.  Too many connotations, to many associations this word: faith.  I know there are many ways to remember that we are part of something that we do not always control.  Astrology is just one that I really like….and reading Carl Jung.

This week, in conversation with friend, he says, “I don’t like fate….that’s for people who lived a long time ago…we all know about free will now.”  And if the mind believes it knows….we all are saved?  That turns me off: overreliance on our mind/thinking to dictate our lives.   The compulsion, obsession to know! That turns me off more than simple displeasure, it dehydrates my soul.

When did we become so damn human mind-centered?   When did we fixate so heavily on the myth that we are in control and we know how to steer our ship at all times without any help from some guidance larger than ourselves.   When did we lose faith in the mystery?  Someone get my soul a glass of water.

Funny thing, as paradox can be… I’ve got a drive to research this, look in with my mind to try to perceive, to label it….to channel thoughts like:  “we are in a dark time”  “we’ve forgot about the Mother”…”life manifests and thrives only through love and how can we be different?”  “We’re held too – by the universe, the harmonies, the planets…the presence.”

Astrology?  I’ll take it – and I’ll take a huge helping of the others mysteries too.  Perceptions between awake and asleep, the ‘hunches we just have’, divination, supernatural sighting, communication from the guides.  And I’ll carry a flag into the desert that says: I don’t know, and I like it.

Allison for the PGM

Honest Kindness

My quote from the Universe yesterday:

“To touch someone with kindness is to change someone forever.

Heavy, huh? That’s nothing.

Because for everyone you touch, you also reach everyone they will ever know. And everyone they will ever know. And everyone they will ever know. And so, for the rest of all time, your kindness will be felt, in waves that will spread, long after you move on.

Muchas gracias,
    The Universe”


Before I tell you about my act of kindness, I should tell you how I reacted to being assigned an act of kindness by my writing circle facilitator, knowing that I would then write about it and read it in front of other women.  I immediately decided to do a really great act of kindness (one that would really impress you) and write a kick ass recollection of it (one that would really impress you).  Yes, such are the ways of my shadow.  She seeks to be known by her goodness, her kindness, her competence in all things.  That’s how I have come to know her.  I can feel her presence as I feel the need to be good, sometimes even the need to be better-than.  I am wise enough now to take her hand in mine, make some room for her beside me, and let her be with me a while.

So, in deciding which single random act of kindness to commit this week I found myself replaying in my mind all the memories I have of myself acting out in the world this way before.  There was the time when, as just a teenager, riding with my mom, there was an elderly woman struggling to time her crossing at a stoplight downtown.  My mom and I exchanged a few panicked looks as we watched her teeter forward and stop a few times in a row as the cross traffic raced by, oblivious.  My mom’s command to “Help her, Darci!” coincided with my sliding out of the car.  I sidled up alongside the old lady, linked my arm in hers, smiled at her and said, “May I help you cross the street?” to which she replied, “Why yes, honey, thank you.”  I’m sure I saved a life that day.

There was the time, just about a year ago, when I saw a mom in the parking lot at Kroger accidentally slam her little girl’s finger in the car door as she was hurriedly trying to get everyone moving in the right direction.  The toddler wailed as loud a battered wail as I’ve ever heard, piercing every heart in every audible direction.  That mother was crushed.  She shrunk down next to her sobbing one and kissed and kissed and kissed that little smashed finger.  As I walked by I just paused for a brief moment, long enough to put my hand on that guilty mama’s shoulder and say, “don’t be so hard on yourself…we’ve all done it.  You’re a good mama.”

Then there was the time when I cleared my neighbor’s car off after a heavy snow so that when she came out the next morning with her arms full of her new baby, dragging the toddler behind, heading out to her new job (her second job since her boyfriend was now in jail for doing “something stupid”), she wouldn’t have to leave those babies in the cold while she dug out her vehicle.

So I remind myself of how kind I can be and I remember how good it feels to pass on the peace.  I also realize how much I really do those things for me, for myself.  When I am really true and honest about it, I do kind things because it is the most honest expression of who I am in certain moments.  If I do it for any other reason, it is not my authentic self acting, it is my shadow.

So, my act of kindness this week was a simple one, an authentic one.  I bought an extra roll of paper towels to take to my aunt.  She is raising a litter of Golden Retriever puppies – ten of them – and they are 5 weeks old now.  That’s a lot of puppy pee and puppy poop.  She loves them.  But she is working hard and they are more than a handful.  One of them is mine.  I already love her with all of my imperfect, broken heart and she’s peeing all over my aunt’s kitchen.  I took paper towels.


Darci Hawxhurst for

The Poplar Grove Muse