Editor’s Desk: The Silent Witness Makes a Difference

POSTED September 10, 2023 IN

Tom GreenawayFor many years I worked side-by-side at New Dimensions with Tom Greenaway. I found his life to be a perfect demonstration of love and integrity. He sees the best in people, and his friends and colleagues blossom with their own highest potential in his loving presence.

When the New Dimensions headquarters was relocated to Mendocino county (1984 – 2011), Tom moved from San Francisco to Ukiah, California to continue to work with us. It was a huge move and we were grateful to, once more, be working next to Tom.

One of the ways Tom participated in the Ukiah community was to attend the weekly public city council meetings. Each Wednesday at 6:30 you’d find him sitting near the back of the room. He never said anything but he silently sent positive and encouraging energy to the council.

There would be times when hundreds of people would show up for a particular issue. The hall would be filled to its capacity. Citizens would take their allotted 2 minutes to present and sometimes rage about an agenda on the calendar. There would be those who were in favor of some issue and those who were opposed. It was a most lively demonstration of the political system that plays out across our nation in every size of town.

As soon as the relevant part of the agenda was concluded, the rest of the citizens would leave the hall, leaving only Tom to sit there quietly witnessing the remainder of the meeting. I’m sure members of the council wondered about Tom and why he was there and were curious as to when he would get up and speak his mind. He never did go to the microphone. But his steady presence became a kind of touchstone and talisman for the council as they began to become more and more comfortable with his quiet and calming companionship.

This went on for several years until Tom went into semi-retirement from New Dimensions and moved to Tennessee and then to Florida. We had a going away party for him, and several members of the city council came. They said that because of Tom’s presence, his nonjudgmental listening and witnessing, they made better decisions. Because he was there, week after week, they held themselves more accountable to the public they served.

This is a powerful statement of how our very presence can make a difference. All the citizens of Ukiah benefitted by Tom’s steady and regular attendance at those meetings. I’m sure that we all want to make a difference and to support the manifestation of more good in the world. Such a task may feel overwhelming in the face of all the challenges that are being reported in the constant barrage of news delivered daily to us.

What I learned from Tom is that we don’t have to do everything, but we need to do something on a regular basis no matter how seemingly small. It will make a positive difference in the world.

– Justine Willis Toms

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