Something good to say

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Ashlee Eiland reads from "Say Good." Photo courtesy of Beth Lindy.

Local author Ashlee Eiland is celebrating the recent release of her third title, “Say Good: Speaking Across Hot Topics, Complex Relationships, and Tense Situations.” Peppered with anecdotes and personal stories, Eiland’s “Say Good” offers insights for traversing difficult conversations and leveraging your unique voice. We talk resources for working through tough situations, inspiration and more.

Courtesy art.

Grand Rapids Magazine: Tell me about your inspiration for writing this book. What was on your heart when you wrote it?

Ashlee Eiland: When Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man from South Georgia, was killed by three white neighbors, I had a handful of friends— all white women, reach out with sincere questions. They were individuals who all had growing hearts for racial justice, and I could sense the tension with which they wrestled: were they to lend their voices publicly to speak out against the racial injustice, risking being perceived as performative or virtue signaling? Or were they supposed to say nothing, sit silent and bear witness, risking being viewed by others as not caring at all, or even worse, being viewed as complicit? I took my friends’ wrestling as an invitation to engage that tension in a meaningful way. I wanted to provide a resource — admittedly a non-exhaustive one — that could lead people like my friends down a road of intentional discovery, one wherein true discernment could lead to an assuredness in how one speaks up and out in the wake of hot topics. I wrote in a way that hoped for peace to replace anxiety, particularly as we approach another presidential election here in the U.S. And I wrote with a heart that longs for more good to permeate our conversations when it’s so easy to stay scared and silent — or be tempted to join the chorus of all that divides us.

GRMAG: What do you hope readers take from “Say Good”?

AE: We all have a choice as to what we say – whether that’s to ourselves with our own inner-dialogue, or to one another. Choosing to consistently offer good to the wider world around us takes a fair amount of discipline. But that effort is worth the work in order for us to commune in ways that are different from the ones we’ve accepted in the past. Our communities could be so much different, and better, if we all committed to doing this kind of work together. We need each other more than ever. We need each other’s goodness. And I hope this book helps people see that truth.

GRMAG: Why is this book meaningful to you?

AE: I edited this book in the wake of a lot of pain and grief. In the spring of 2023, my first cousin died tragically. He served our country in the military and was only four months older than me. The next month my dad passed away; their funerals were exactly a month apart. A week after Dad’s funeral, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. This book is personally meaningful to me because it’s tangible evidence of God’s grace in my life— that even amidst life’s greatest challenges, committing to what you’re meant to give to this world and persevering on behalf of a greater purpose, can produce some wonderfully surprising and redemptive gifts.

GRMAG: What other resources do you recommend for folks who are interested in learning how to navigate sensitive topics and situations?

AE: One of the best groups of people I know that has been doing the work of treating conflict as an opportunity for growth and transformation are my friends at The Colossian Forum, led by President Michael Gulker. The team is based here in Grand Rapids, and they’ve been doing phenomenal work for over a decade through their workshops and programs. I’d highly recommend supporting or engaging their offerings. I also had a chance to be part of a documentary from filmmaker Nicholas Ma, producer of the Netflix film on Mr. Rogers’ life. The documentary, “Leap of Faith,” comes out in theaters this fall. I’m sure it’ll be inspiring to so many who are weary of how we as a society have historically navigated division and difference between one another.

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Ever since Pasha Shipp could talk, she's been dreaming up colorful stories. Fantasy creatures, mysterious kingdoms, enchanted forests, you name it. As she reached adulthood, she decided to take the magic out of her head and put it down on paper. Pasha has been writing for Grand Rapids Magazine since November 2015, and has loved every minute of it. She has a master's degree in Communication and a bachelor's degree in Film Studies from Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University respectively. When she isn't daydreaming and writing stories for the magazine, she's exploring the many hidden treasures of Grand Rapids with her fiancé.