Read Paul Born's latest book:
Read Paul Born's latest book:
We set aside a meeting of the Abrahamic Peace Builders, a multi-faith group from Kitchener, for a community conversation as part of Tamarack's 1000 Conversation to Shape our Future Campaign. The conversation was so rich that we only managed to answer the first question. We are excited to continue this discussion at our next meeting. Below is a summary of our stories.
What has been the most memorable experience of community in your life and what made that so memorable?
One person grew up in Cambridge, where the Mill Race festival brings together different cultures and backgrounds from the area, they play mainly folk music, and dress up in traditional costumes. This is a weekend event at the end of August. It creates a desire to learn more about others.
For another person, before coming to Canada, while in Bahrain, her husband’s cousin was diagnosed with a serious terminal medical issue. It wasn’t possible to treat him in Bahrain or in his home country. Surgery was only available in US for $50K and by this point, his illness had become terminal. One day, she was talking with an aunt about this desperate situation. Shortly after this conversation, the aunt called back to say they had collected $1,000! This started a snowball effect; many more people came on board, trying to find a way to support this medical bill. It was word of mouth that spread the cause. Many who sent money along didn't even know them. In the end, the cousin was able to go to the US and stay with this woman's brother-in-law. The surgeon was also from Pakistan and performed the surgery for free; the cousin only had to pay for the hospital cost. No single person was responsible; it had been a collective impact that had led to this man's healing. This experience has been viewed as a miracle and an unforgettable story.
We also talked about the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival- how it brings people together. So many people in the community come together, working independently to help raise money for community projects. Though the event is initiated by a small central planning group, many different groups plan their own part independently.
One person talked about going up to Northern Ontario to a remote community by train. This individual started talking to some people they had met on the train. The new friends this individual made on the train invited them to an Aboriginal wedding the next day. At first, this individual said no, but the people insisted. The individual attending the wedding felt so welcomed by the community, at this Cree wedding. There was music, dancing and festivities. They were amazed how they had been invited into a community without any hesitation.
Another person, shared about a trip that had taken last year to Turkey. This person, along with their wife, had guided a group of 15 people from WLU (Wilfred Laurier University). During the trip, this man's wife had a heart attack. She said that both her brother and father died of a heart attacks in their 40s, so this caused a great deal of concern. However, in each city there is a local volunteer. The volunteer in their city was with her when she experienced the attack and he tried to get an ambulance or helicopter. They talked and decided to split the group in two, so 11 could continue their tour. She needed to return to a major city for surgery. After the surgery, she was able to rejoin the group in Istanbul for the last few days. He worried at first that he'd pushed the people too hard, but afterwards found they still had a good and memorable trip.
Another person spoke about an intentional community that she had lived in for 18 years with her husband and children. The community had about 15 core people plus volunteers, totalling about 30 to 40 people at meals. They had 260 acres of land and houses shared by community members. They were a Christian faith community. They lived, worked and worshipped together. Refugees when they first came to US, would live with them for 2 months to get them orientated, learning English etc. and provided a safe space for a time before they needed to go out on their own. Some of the healing they experienced was in hearing the stories of people. One night in particular, someone decided to start a bonfire and invited the others. They were working with a group of Bosnian and Vietnamese refugees who had very different cultures and who didn’t know each other well. Eventually, people started sharing stories and talking. There was a full moon that night and here were these Vietnamese and Bosnians who could barely communicate, but were singing and dancing together. One large Bosnian man was standing at the side and she asked whether everything was all right. He said, yes, with tears in his eyes because he said it felt like paradise to be together with some many of other people- singing and dancing. The fellowship was a powerful experience for her and for this Bosnian man. That picture stays with her.