“There is a movement afoot” said Peter Block in his opening speech today. This was followed by a group sing-a-long, led by Barbara McAfee, as we chanted “We are in a world full of wonder”. Truer words have never been spoken.
I first heard about Connecting4Community last summer when I was at a barbecue in North Vancouver. I was invited by someone I had just met, and was going to the home of someone I did not know. Fear could have gotten the better of me, but instead I embraced the unknown and wound up in the company of 25 people who, by the end of the evening, felt like friends. We shared stories and pieces of our journey, we shared food and drink, and we savoured the sweet air of a Vancouver summer evening.
That evening led me here, almost one year later, to Cincinnati. As Peter Block joked today, Cincinnati is not a ‘destination city’ and yet there is something magical happening here. From my first impressions, it is a city that embraces art and culture, a city that sees building community as a priority not a problem, and a city that has warmly welcomed 140 participants to a conference called Connecting 4 Community.
Charles Holmes, the convenor of the barbecue I was at last summer, extended the invitation to attend C4C, and I was amazed at how many people I already knew in the room. I credit that to good fortune – I have been blessed in the past year, meeting people who think like I do, as well as those who think differently. Avril Orloff, a visual storyteller and artist extraordinaire, came into my life last year at a Narrative Transformations retreat on the Sunshine Coast, led by the imaginative work of Chene Swart. Mark Jeffrey, a fellow hot desker at the HiVE, was the one who first told me about Chene and her narrative therapy process, and he accompanied me on the flight from Vancouver, sharing stories of his own transformative work. The list goes on, and while I knew several people coming into this, I am already feeling embraced by dozens more.
Angeles Arrien, who unfortunately could not make the conference, joined us via conference call and fortunately was able to share her wisdom of storytelling and remind us of our own ability to re-author the stories we live by (Restore and Restory). She reminded me of something else I innately believe in – that we have more in common than we could ever imagine, and that our stories are the key to unlocking the doors that separate us.
Most conferences follow a certain rhythm; this one has no agenda. Along with Avril’s graphic capture of our conversations, there have been several musicians who led us in song, dance and meditation, not to mention a woman who was weaving on her loom the inspiration from the stories in the room. Day 1 has certainly surpassed my expectations as we gathered to understand how we, together, can harness the power we each hold and ultimately re-imagine what community looks like.
“Stories illuminate what is already in us”
Stay tuned for the wonders of Day 2.