An Oasis moment: Neighbours meet August 4th

Allan Smith-Reeve

Neighbours Network /Aug 2021

In the midst of a summer with record heat waves, wildfires beyond recorded memory, as the arrival of Global warming sinks into our psyches…the Neighbours Network gathered. 

Out behind the Mount Community Centre, in the shade of trees, among the gardens and beehives, about twenty or so Neighbours sat in a circle enjoying the summer breeze and one another’s knees.  No longer legless, our toes wiggled in the grass pointing into the center of our circle. For the first time in 2021 we were gathering in person. Embodied. No more squares inside a screen!

We never know just who might show up and it’s always a different mix. We were alumni of two previous Bridging Teams. We were participants in the current Bridging Team, Board members, and, as usual, a few newcomers just testing out our invitations. 

On this midsummer’s evening we were celebrating the completion of Phase One of the current Bridging Team. Facilitators Ralph and Laura and Greg had led the group through twenty weeks of the Getting Ahead study. Graduates – both Catalysts and Mentors, under-resourced and over-resourced – received certificates amidst applause and had their photos taken for posterity. Cake was served. 

Each of us had our say as we circled round and round, breaking into triads and coming together again before it all ended too soon. Here’s some of what I heard. 

“I used to imagine a violent revolution overturning the rich and powerful elites who rule. But now I feel like I’m part of something very different – a revolution of kindness.”

“Before this study, I’d never understood that poverty is systemic and not just a result of personal choices or failings.”    

Neighbours Network /Aug 2021

“I learned so much about living without resources. I’d heard the statistics but had no insights into what it meant for people’s survival skills. My worldview has changed – and it has changed me. I’m still learning and changing.”

“The study is only the beginning. Now you’ll get to hear each person tell their story in their own ways. You’ll tell your story and find affirmations instead of advice, empathy instead of fixes.”  

“And in the coming weeks, you’ll be stretched to lead – and to let go of old expectations – as your team evolves. The best is yet to come.”  

“For all of us who’ve felt like we didn’t belong, like we didn’t fit, or were made to feel as if we were deficient in various ways – it feels like we’ve created a place where our differences are celebrated, or at least tolerated with kindness and compassion.”

“I spent a good part of my life very isolated – only relating to doctors and social workers. I used to think that friendships weren’t worth the time and effort. Now I’ve been part of this group and found that my efforts have been rewarding.” 

Laura’s celebratory blueberry maple upside down cake with whipped coconut cream topping flavoured with vanilla and maple syrup was an appropriate treat. In this world of trouble and shame, it felt like – if only just for one awesome evening – we’d turned things upside down.  

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