The Good Works Houston Summit



Our Connection.  Houston.

Our commitment to Houston stems from our success and lives here.  Many of us here at Good Works Houston moved to Houston in our adult lives.  In Houston, we chased careers, dreams, raised families, and called the city our home.  In the process of developing a relationship with this city, we also developed a sense of connection and duty.

Good Works Houston launched at a summit on the 7th of April.  The summit represented the coming together of the various entities we hope to develop long-lasting relationships with and that make Houston strong – universities, corporations, non-profits, entrepreneurs, and individuals from various walks of life.  Dr. David Eagleman, the nation’s brain expert, spoke to us about our brain and what unites us. Here is the backstory.

A Story Retold…

Over two decades ago, media across the country flashed pictures and videos of a sad, desperate woman.  The woman, Susan Smith, for nine long days insisted that a black man had carjacked her vehicle and drove away with her sons.  The nation grieved with this mother, who seemed desperate to reconnect with her sons.  As a nation, America cried with her and for her.  Nine days later, following intense investigations, Susan Smith confessed to letting her car roll into a nearby lake.  Susan Smith had murdered her sons.

The question that looms is why did we, as a society, not consider the possibility of a murder as the frantic story of Susan Smith’s plight unfolded.  The story is telling of who we are as individuals – our inability to accept others doing horrible things that we, ourselves, are incapable of – our need to support each other in a time of crisis – our ability to share grief of complete strangers – our need to bond together, as though we are all, in some ways, just the same.



(Photo from Houston Chronicle, Photo by John Shapley)

 Research By Dr. Eagleman

Dr. Eagleman spoke of this story to reflect on the numerous experiments he had conducted in his own lab.  In Dr. Eagleman’s experiments, pain sensors in our brain light up when we see others in pain.  Physical pain, too, is shared.  Physical pain of others can be experienced.

As a race, we are connected by our basic instinct to belong and connect with one another.  What is even more telling from Dr. Eagleman’s experiments is that our pain sensors are even clearer for those we feel a stronger sense of connection.   For instance, a father would experience greater physical pain when watching his son being stung by a needle as compared to when watching his son’s friends.

 The underlying beauty is that, at the deepest level, we are all the same. We are wired to connect with and support one another.  Empathy is a part of our being.  Our basic instincts encourage us to foster communities with whom we share deep, strong bonds.  We are bound and wired by our obligations and commitments to those groups and societies in which we live and identify with.

We, Our City and Social Entrepreneurs

We embrace this connection with our city – with its opportunities and challenges.  In the spirit of shared pain that Dr. Eagleman so well brings to life – in the spirit of owning responsibility – in the spirit of belonging with Houston – in the spirit of owning Houston  – Good Works Houston hopes to connect with the city at its deepest level to empower social entrepreneurs to alleviate so many of our shared pain points and create a better, stronger Houston.

 Author:  Rakhee B. Das

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