Gratitude and Opportunity

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“Kiza adds colour to this place”

Looking for Wifi

I had gone to Subway in Transcona when I was visiting Winnipeg. I planned to take advantage of their free WiFi with no intent to buy anything. After standing outside the restaurant with my cell phone for 15 minutes I decided to inconspicuously take a seat inside.

I was greeted by one of the workers who wondered where I was from. He had seen the bicycle when I leaned it against the window. He told me he had never been outside of Winnipeg and wanted to know the best place in Canada to visit.

After chatting with  him off and on for a half hour he offered me a bowl of cream of mushroom soup. I had initially declined the offer as I had ended the day with a good supper. I changed my mind and told him I would love some. I offered to pay for it but he told me the soup would have been thrown out because they were closing for the night.

I decided I would put up a thank you facebook post of his gesture of generosity. He clearly wasn’t offering the soup because I was a good client. There was a different motivation.

Kiza’s story

To do the facebook post I asked for his name. Now I knew I had been speaking with Kiza. His name intrigued me. Turns out he is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). His parents had fled for their lives from DR Congo due to political unrest, and Kiza had been born in a refugee camp.

At age two Kiza’s parents left him with his grandparents and moved on to another refugee camp where they figured their opportunity to get sponsorship was better. Once his parents arrived in Winnipeg his parents made application to get Kiza to Canada. Kiza wasn’t reunited with his parents till he was nine years old.

During the time that Kiza was in a refugee camp he already valued education. He arrived in Canada speaking Swahili, Bengali and French. His command of English was impressive because I found him easy to understand.

Kiza’s experience in the refugee camp taught him several life lessons. He recalls his father skimping on food so Kiza and his brothers would be able to eat. He told me that when you have little means, family is everything. The second thing he told me is that when you have little means you smile a lot.  We’re smiling because once you stop smiling you have nothing. If you lose your spirit you have no future.

When I met Kiza he had just graduated from high school and was very pleased to have been accepted into university. He was working his summer job to save up for his tuition fees.

To help save up for university he had been cycling to work. Initially it took him an hour but over time he reduced his commuting time to twenty minutes. On top of that he arrives at work feeling energized. Having biked almost halfway across Canada I could certainly relate to that.

Opportunity

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A free high school education is helping me realize my dream.

Kiza is overjoyed at being accepted into university. He appreciated the free education offered through high school. His acceptance into university was a very important stepping stone towards realizing his dreams. The fact that his education through high school was free made him even more appreciative of the Canadian educational system, because, as he sees it, it opens up opportunities for anyone who has dreams.

His goal after completing his university degree is to help rebuild DR Congo. He wonders whether that is dreaming too big. There is so much that needs to be done to rebuild DR Congo. The problems are many many and he wonders how someone can even figure out where to start.

I assured him that one can never dream too big. Dreaming too small is will result in short changing himself and lead to disappointment. Keep dreaming big and stay focused. Dream big and share the dream.

His sense is that it is best to start with the next generation. He thinks promoting education and making it available is the best place to start. Ensure that all children receive basic literacy.  He wants young people to expand their education to include learnin trades like electrician so they can help rebuild their country while at the same time develop a sense of satisfaction.

Kiza proudly shares that he is motivated out of a sense of appreciation for the opportunities that Canada is giving him. He’s not looking for a hand out. That’s the furthest from his mind. His motivation comes out of a sense of hope because deep down he believes that he can make a difference.

Chantel, Kiza’s co-worker at Subway, appreciates him for the colour he adds to the place. She says it with a chuckle realizing the double meaning.

When Kiza shares his dreams his excitement is infectious. Even as a teen he lives with a clear idea of what his priorities are. His toughest choice at this time is between helping his family when they need something and getting his tuition money together.

Kiza is one of three people who I know who have been displaced because of the war in DR Congo. All three are focused on finding ways to help their country recover from the political strife and assist in the rebuilding of their nation. Seeing his love and dedication for his country, a land that he has never seen, prompted me to share a book with him.

Connections

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I want every child in DR Congo to receive basic literacy.

The book is titled Still With Us: Msenwa’s Untold Story of War, Resilience and Hope. I met Msenwa Oliver Mweneake shortly after he arrived in Canada. He shares a story that involves twice fleeing from DR Congo. Despite that he lives with a strong conviction that God has a purpose for him, a purpose to help rebuild his beloved country.

It was an honour to meet Kiza. The whole time he was talking to me, he was busy doing the daily end of the day clean up. While he talked his hands never stopped working.

Hearing Kiza’s story I more clearly understood why he could not just dump the cream of mushroom soup down the drain. When someone lives with a spirit of generosity, sharing in the plenty is a natural response.

Even though Kiza is living in an economically struggling home, he does not live with a spirit of poverty. Poverty is not part of his vocabulary.

Kiza is clearly motivated by gratitude, appreciation and the belief that he has the personal resources to make a difference.

 

 

Fort Qu’Appelle – SK

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Dream Big – Fort Qu’Appelle mural

Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.

July 17, 2017 was my first time in Fort Qu’Appelle. I had ridden to Fort Qu’Appelle with my cycling buddy, a short 80 km ride from Regina. We had traveled down some quiet roads, enjoying the tranquility of the open skies. It was likely the rough condition of the road that accounted for the lack of traffic.

20170717_090056As I was cycling along I noticed a highway maintenance truck waiting along the side of the road. I stopped to talk with the operator when I noticed he was driving a tarring rig. I asked if the plan was to tar the road today. His response was, “Yes, we got to fix this highway.” I expressed surprise that he called it a highway. If this is considered a highway then we don’t have much hope for what it called the Trans-Canada Trail.

I was assured that the tarring wouldn’t begin till all the cyclist had passed this point They were still waiting for the tar which was scheduled to arrive in about an hour. This being Saskatchewan that would likely mean a three hour wait.

When we arrived in Fort Qu’Appelle, having ridden with a tailwind most of the way, I decided to stop for a blizzard at the local DQ. We rode through the drive-through but got no response. Turns out they were open but busy getting things set up for the day. I warned the staff of two that there were about eighty riders headed into the town. Within the next forty-five minutes the place was overrun by almost half of the cyclist.

After setting up my tent I hiked into town with my riding buddy. Two blocks in we reached Broadway Ave. Judging by the layout this was definitely the main street. With a Bargain Store a half a block from the Dollar Store there were some obvious signs of entrepreneurial competition in town.

20170717_130914After meeting several friendly and welcoming locals in our stroll along Broadway, we encountered a quiet park with a Four Season mural. Some first nations women from Sandy Lake just four miles up the road picked up conversation with us. They liked the idea of posing for a picture. They had found a spot in the shade, probably their regular spot and had almost finished their bottle of rum by noon. I had the clear impression that they spent most of their time in this parkette between two stores. Other than a bench in the shade and a mural there was nothing else there. You could say they had each other.

We passed the local hardware store which seemed well stocked with up to date equipment. Of interest was a fold up 160 watt solar panel and controller for $499. The attendant was explaining how this could be hooked up to 3 or 4 deep cycle batteries and maintain the power needed for an RV.

What caught my interest even more was a pickup and trailer parked on the side street beside the hardware store. The signage on the back of the trailer – Vermin Exterminator – caught my interest. The way the trailer was parked and packed up it looked like to school desk like arrangement one set behind the other. I decided that I would prefer to be the person sitting on the back ‘desk’. I knew I definitely wouldn’t want to be the driver when everything was set up.

As we were looking at the trailer, the owner Ron walked up. Turns out his well known no-name business provides a much desired service – exterminating gophers, beavers, coyotes and skunks. He set up one of his stations with a holder for his gun, and just as important a flag so he can keep an eye on the wind speed and direction. (Assured him that as cyclists we were well aware of the havoc that the wind could cause.) The ‘desks’ as well as the gun stand were on a swivel. Next to the gun is a counter. His record is eliminating 740 gophers in one day.

Being that the trailer is designed as a two person operation, Ron said he is very particular who he takes along as his shooting buddy. He always takes the back seat – smart guy. As the back seat guy he swivels in a 180 degree arc over the back of the trailer. The person in the front seat swivels in a 180 degree arc towards the front of the trailer. If the operator accidentally hits the truck Ron reasons that it can be replaced. It’s a bit harder to replace a fellow operator.

Found a health food store so I could pick up some Nuun, an electrolyte to keep me sustained while riding during the extreme ride days. They also had some iodine for internal use. It was great to see a store carrying quality health vitamins and supplements.

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Hudson Bay Co. 1897

While taking a picture of an original Hudson Bay Company store I was cautioned by Leon a First Nations local. As he drove by me he stopped and said, “Hey man, you got to be careful.” I was crouched beside a flower planter in the middle of Broadway. After he parked his car he was proudly giving me the history of the Hudson Bay Company store. Clearly the store had been repurposed. He was adamant that another stone building just around the corner was even older.

As I was walking away from Leon I mentioned I was looking for a bike shop. He directed me to the pawnshop which he assured me had both tires for sale as well as bikes. I kindly declined as I wasn’t sure how reliable their stock might be. I wasn’t able to find a bike shop in town. I might have to wait till we get to Yorkton.

20170717_132648Walking along we soon found ourselves in front of the Peace Hills Trust building, a Star – Blanket – Cree – Nation building. The signage indicated some helpful services for the indigenous population for the area, the Cree. The sign indicated that the building housed the Treaty Land Entitlement Office. The other offices in the building included Sask First Nations Safety Assoc., Q-Bow Child and Family Services Inc. and the office for Red Dog Holding. The sub-text on the sign was “Advocators of Community & Personal Developments.

I found a Coop at the end of Broadway’s business strip. My only reason for going in was to satisfy my longing for some orange juice. I decided that a 1.75 litre bottle for $2.70 was a better deal than a half litre bottle for $3.25. I would have no problem downing the whole 1.75 litre bottle before the afternoon was done.

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Eddie’s favourite bakery

In front of the Valley Bake & Coffee Shop, known for it’s Bavarian Pastries we met Eddie. As he approached the bakery door he stopped and waited. He seemed curious about seeing two ‘strangers’ in town. We got to talking. He was retired for 3 year but couldn’t believe he was that old already. He had been farming but now wasn’t able to work. The farm work had taken a toll on his body.

In the 1990’s Eddie and his brother were running a beef farm of 240 head of cattle. A few years ago, due to drought conditions he was forced to sell most of his herd. He had been farming for a couple years with his herd reduced to 40 head. When he couldn’t make ends meet he sold seven quarter sections, the last of his land, for $150,000. A few years earlier he had gotten $75,000 for a section of land. When he moved off the farm he still owed money on a farm.

Eddie wished he still had his herd of cattle because today the price for beef are very good. He’s getting used to living in town and enjoys coming to the Bavarian bakery. He is reluctant to buy goods there because then he needs to work it off.

Fort Qu’Appelle is not much different from many other towns we have cycled through. Particularly the smaller towns. There are many places where the contrast between wealth and poverty can be seen. While there were no indications of it being a thriving town, the realty office showcased properties ranging from half million to a couple million. Obviously they were catering to a very select market.

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Ron’s Roost

Later in the day when I biked ten kilometers along Echo Lake I realized why they had a high end selection of houses. That’s where I saw some whimsical stuff like a toilet at the end of a driveway.

The main highway highlighted many of the recognized national franchises. If one is driving through the area the real character of the town remains hidden. The heart of the town could be seen two kilometers off the highway. In the downtown section one can enjoy local baking, cooking and friendly service but best of all was meeting the interesting local folk.

Meanwhile we are set up with tents and campers housing the 90 riders and support staff making the local elementary school look like a refugee camp. The refugee camp appearance hides the reality of who are housed there overnight. The appearance of poverty and transience is only incidental. We have the privilege and luxury to move on as we choose.

We are riding and raising money to help end the cycle of poverty both here in Canada and in other parts of the world. To more fully appreciate the purpose of Sea to Sea it is helpful to meet and speak with people who are dealing with poverty – whether that is poverty of spirit, or economic poverty.

It’s interesting to note that the bison is a mere skeleton, yet against that background someone had the courage to still dream big. To me, the skeleton represents the depletion of  personal, family and ancestral resources due to years of mistreatment by European settlers with whom they thought they were sharing the land and its resources.

What will it take to change the story for out first nations people as we recognize Canada as a nation for the past 150 years?

We’ve all Experienced a Hand Up

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…teach a man to fish…

Lemonade Stand (Unlicensed)

When I was training for my Sea to Sea tour I stopped at a lemonade stand being run by two pre-schoolers. I was looking for a grocery store to get some drinks for my ride when I heard this young voice ask if I wanted to some lemonade.

I did a quick U-turn and saw a 4 your old and his younger sister sitting at a table on the boulevard with a glass pitcher of ice floating in lemonade. The sister was all excited about having a paying customer. “Mom he gave us a toonie!” I asked the brother if he had tasted the lemonade. He hadn’t. So I asked if he knew whether it was good. Mom had supplied them and set them up probably with strict instructions that they were not to help themselves to the lemonade.

The next day I stopped by to see how the lemonade ventured turned out. The kids had raised $42 in one day. They pleaded with their mother to set up again the next day. When their mother talked to them about donating a percentage they were not as excited.

Partners World Wide

What the mother did for her children, with incredible stories, similar to what Partners Worldwide does for families in developing nations. For the two children their mother had given them a hand up by providing the lemonade, the cups and the furniture for the lemonade stand.

Partners Worldwide provides micro loans, often loans of less than $200. This provides families with the resources needed to become self sufficient.

Mark Ismond, engagement manager from Partners Worldwide shared an experience of a community in an African country where their life had been seriously disrupted. Raiders from the mountain area had been repeatedly coming into the villages stealing their cattle. As a result the young men were not able to accumulate a dowry. Without a dowry there was no prospect of them getting married. In turn the young me formed armed groups and hung out in the bush. They were returning violence with violence spending most of their time in the bush.

One of the elders in the village had a plan to turn the situation around. The young men were offered land on which to grow sweet potatoes. Partners Worldwide provided the micro-loans to start the project for each of the young men. The elder agreed to buy all the sweet potatoes they produced and sell them in the city markets.

In turn the young men were able to make a better living than when they were raising cattle. They were able to avoid a lifestyle of violence and accumulate a dowry to get married.

Partners Worldwide was the catalyst that enabled the villages to thrive. A great example of a hand up rather than a handout. On average it takes a hand up of $150 to help a family out of poverty.

Sea to Sea fundraising

By setting a target of $12,000 as a nation rider with Sea to Sea my funds raised will support 80 projects. Having surpassed my goal and raised about $16,000 that means my funds raised will support 106 projects.

When you think about the hope that one project can bring to a family, that is a lot of hope that is countering so much of the brokenness and poverty in the world.

If you choose to bring hope by helping a family or person out of poverty feel free to donate today. At the prompt you can type the name of any other rider you want to encourage in their efforts to help.

Pen, Pencil or Marker

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Chose a writing tool

Pen, Pencil or Marker

Beware the pen,

the rigid tyrant

seizing your thoughts

as they stumble forth

held captive for all time.

 

Embrace the pencil,

carefree, playful, changing.

Beckoning to try again,

encouraging, renewed growth.

Free to evolve, to blossom.

 

Behold the felt tip marker,

flowing forth boldly,

a confidence of colour

playful exuberance

brightening the way.

 

Choose how you will share this new year?

Decide how to record the poetry of each day?

 

Beware the turmoil that threatens.

Don’t be captured, don’t be cornered.

Take the long view, eyes on the goal.

 

Embrace the opportunities that avail.

To plant new ideas, to feed, to blossom.

 

Behold the colours of each new day.

Share it boldly, brighten your path.

 

Christmas struggle, Easter Joy

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Bethlehem walk – Coldsprings

I was sitting in the back of the church sanctuary, a place that has become familiar. The longer I listened to the seasonal lyrics the greater the contrasts of two realities came into focus. The disconnect was real. It was strange to find myself in tears as the congregants were singing in wonderful harmony.

Silent night, Holy night…

The lyrics made associations with the celebratory nature of Christmas. At that moment the ‘merry’ part of Christmas was not within my reach. As the carol singing continued, I was wandering in a confused and disrupted mental landscape.

The neural loading during the first part of the worship service had been gradual and subtle. The ‘greeting’ part of the liturgy was two long minutes of chaos; handshakes all around and brief introductions. I had joined in the responsive reading that followed till I lost focus.

The meaning of the words got lost navigating my compromised neural network. My network lacked the necessary efficiency to comprehend the full message. My mind wandered a few lines into the reading.

All is calm, all is bright...

Each element of the liturgy gradually and subtly moved me away from a calm and focused worship. This, along with the pains which resurfaced with my recent struggles added to the nagging discomfort whether I sit, stand or walk. As my body pendulated between headache and fatigue a sense of calm eluded me.

Away in a manger no crib for…

The disrupted sleep added to both the fatigue and headaches. While in recovery mode any available energy is redirected to the essential areas. The brain is an opportunist that co-opts whatever energy happens to presents itself and claims it for the most essential job of mending the compromised neural network.

… no crying he makes…

These discomforts added to my emotional vulnerability, and left me out of tune with the spirit of the music. Tears filled my eyes much too easily.

As I lost focus I retreated into myself. I questioned the authenticity of the line from the lyrics that echoed in my brain. I choose to believe that like any other baby, that the Christ baby cried, probably even screamed. It’s definitely more reassuring to consider he cried. He would have cried for all the world to hear when he was hungry because his mother’s milk was slow to come in. He would have cried when the swaddling clothes were soiled and Mary hadn’t noticed it because the manure from the animals would have distracted her.

Hark the herald angels sing, “Glory to the …

At one point I once again joined in the singing.

While I have always enjoyed singing, (though choir participation never was my forte,) lately music moves me more deeply. Singing and live music has a vibrancy that can’t be missed. It touches me deeper than almost any  other art form, the words, the melody, the reverberations of tones and overtones. While my sensory loading reached it’s manageable limit there was a comfort that came with the emotions that emerged.

… to all he brings, risen with healing in his …

Deep down I know that Christmas is a message of hope. Hope for those who don’t find it anywhere else. The promise of healing reaches deeper than the merry greetings of Christmas. That’s what helped me close the gap between the lyrics and the space I found myself in.

Once in royal David’s city … he feels for all our sadness …

The lyrics affirmed me. It gave me a sense of hope, a reason to celebrate.

Praise the Lord, … and forget not all his benefits… and heals all my diseases … crowns me with love and compassion… Ps 103 in the Communion liturgy

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My grandson thought it was fitting to wrap Christmas presents with a cross on it

My grandson held my hand as we joined the procession to the communion table. Observing Christ’s death as a preparation for marking the birth of Christ?

Communion actually brings the Christmas message into focus. After all, isn’t his birth the quiet but official marking of “Let His Suffering Begin.” His suffering with a definite purpose.

With a short but pronounced slurp my grandson cleared the last drops of grape juice from the individual communion shot glass.

This makes Easter joy a reality, makes it real. It reaffirmed that the birth of Christ was to accept his invitation of healing, of bringing wholeness and restoration to my life.

Joy to the world the Lord has come ...
... No more let sin and sorrow grow
 nor thorns infest the ground; 
he comes to make his blessings flow
 far as the curse if found ...

Even while I struggle I look forward to marking Christmas as a time of laughter, a celebration with family, friends and community. Not with the same spontaneity or exuberance but nevertheless with a sense of Joy that comes when celebrating with people who can be authentic with each other; sharing tears, sharing joy, sharing hopes for tomorrow.

Let me wish you dear reader – Joyeux Noel.

The Gift of Suffering

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Aesthetics of stark reality, Elora

A fellow blogger, Rose Wolfe, who is a true encourager, shared the following response to one of my postings.

Just recently, I have been formulating a concept that there is the Gift of Suffering. In its most basic form, the idea is that our suffering adds to our spiritual maturity. As we continue to add to our faith, we grow in our relationship with Christ. Once we trust God with our lives (and, we, who are disabled, know the meaning of this), we can move forward in our appreciation of God’s plan for us. One gift: tribulation develops patience; and patience, character (maturity). Another gift of suffering: we can then comfort others with the comfort that we received from Christ.
Rose Wolfe   Living Free with disAbilities.

Let me explain how I experience the Gift of Suffering.

It’s been 21 months since my life took a sudden and profound turn. I continue to adjust to the changes which have included a liberal dose of suffering. The suffering has extended deeper into my personhood than the initial, immediate and persistent physical pain. The pain of sudden loss of a job. The pain of losing the ability to do so many physical activities that I took for granted. The pain of memory loss. The pain of not understanding what was happening to me. The pain of not being able to deal with various social situations. The pain of having plans evaporate. I never could have imagined such a multi-layered array of pain.

Suffering has given me the ability to live in the moment. Having daily familiar activities of job and family come to a grinding halt has changed my view of life. This new perspective is not a dull, monotonous, emptiness. I have learned that life can be also be appreciated at a much slower pace. Had I known this was coming I would have been wrong in expecting impatience to be one of my greatest trials. Even as the dust initially settled I had this sense that whatever healing I might receive it would take time. This has given me the gift of recognizing and appreciating the moment.

Suffering has exposed me to the compassion that lives in the community in which I worship. The words of encouragement have been generously shared. The questions that I get asked, I see as a heartfelt desire by people reaching out, wanting to understand this part of my journey. This has given me the gift of compassion and surrounds me with a level of encouragement that is hard to describe.

Suffering has shown me some clear personal limitations. There is something liberating about not being able to put up with someone’s inappropriate behaviour. I no longer try to negotiate with myself on how much to tolerate or how to put the best spin on dealing with someone’s rudeness or impertinence. My internal or subconscious response has been a clear signal to call out the inappropriate behaviour or quietly walk away from the situation. It’s a gift to not deal with lingering doubts of pushing my personal limits.

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obsolete industrial park, Elora

Suffering has given me the time to explore new interests. Advice for those contemplating retirement is to resist the urge to immediately jump into something else. Commit to giving yourself a year or so before signing on to new responsibilities or projects. My recovery time has given me the gift of moving at my own pace without the threat of giving in to feelings of selfish restraint.

Suffering has created an environment that encourages reflection. In being forced to take on different activities, different pace, and different timelines I’m confronted with contrasts and comparisons. Being mercilessly pulled out of one lifestyle with it’s various pressures, choices and expectations has in some strange way benefits akin to traveling. A change of scenery creates conditions conducive to refection and taking stock. It’s a gift to be able to experience acknowledge blessings more deeply.

Suffering has given me a greater sense of trust. One word that describes much of the initial experience is ‘vulnerability’. There was so much that I was not able to manage or control. I was exposed to many unknown forces and impressions. What first expressed itself as confusion, helplessness and anxiety, gradually gave way to a beginning level of acceptance and trust.

Suffering has not destroyed my sense of hope. Initially my sense of hope was expressed in the form of “I’m glad the injury wasn’t worse.” Right from day one I had a sense that my injuries were not insurmountable. That sense of hope has given me the conviction that God has a clear purpose for me. He has gotten my attention. God chooses ways to slow us down. We might not like the means, but we would be at a greater loss if we miss the message.

It’s strange in a good way, how having suffered significant loss, I am able to see rays of hope however faint, shine through when others share their experience of loss. It seems that in the telling,  when a person is sharing their loss, there is a sense of hope. One needs a sense of hope, even if it’s a mere glimmer, to be able to share their story of loss. Without hope there would be no motivation to share.

Recently a friend shared a passage from 2 Corinthians 1 that has given him hope.

Praise be to the God …, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

It Better Be Good

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Dry stack wall – Ennismore

I decided to attend an educators’ convention as an honourary member. After 36 years as a paying member I smile at being given the title ‘honourary’. Deciding to attend was easy, attending was a different story.

Preparation

In order to attend I needed to get to the event. Knowing that my driving limit is about 100 km, I knew the 200 km trip would be pushing my limit. For good measure I gave myself a slight advantage by not setting my alarm clock. I would let my body indicate when I was reasonably rested. Had I woken up at 9:00 I might have abandoned the idea of attending.

I was on the road by 7:00. I complimented my body both on being awake and getting organized and out of the house within an hour of waking. The two hour trip took almost double the time due to the slow traffic caused by the rain.

Arrival

I arrived at the event feeling overtaxed, the sensory loading and the neural fatigue had left its mark. Neural fatigue and socializing just don’t mix. With over a thousand people at the event, I felt I was in the wrong place. I had definite misgivings about staying.

Since it was almost lunch time I assembled a plate of food from the buffet table and searched out a quiet place to eat. I had to get away from the overcrowded area soon to be filled with hundreds of people. The volume, the acoustical effect of block walls, would do nothing to help reduce my neural fatigue.

Eating lunch; the nutrition and the calm location, should help to relieve some of the fatigue. Shortly a former colleague approached and asked if I was open to having someone join me for lunch. Her sensitivity, and consideration was a clear signal to extend an invitation.

Had a boisterous and excitable colleague approached me I would have cringed. Had a colleague who didn’t have the sensitivity to engage in a balance conversation approached me my fatigue would have persisted and left me discouraged. Had a colleague who was absorbed in their own accomplishments joined me I would have gone into a downward spiral.

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Nature’s scuplture

Engaged

We shared laughter. We shared tears. It was energizing and refreshing. The nutritious lunch, the supportive company and the brief time to relax, rekindled a desire to participate in the afternoon events. Her awareness of my needs and mindfulness during our lunch gave me the social momentum as it helped to dissolve my isolation.

On the second day of the convention, after a good night’s sleep, I was in better shape. Another colleague shared how my experiences of living with ABI has given her insight into some of the challenges her students face. We discussed various possible challenges that neurologically atypical children likely encounter in institutional settings like schools.

Tripped up

We ended our discussion as we entered the auditorium to join in the opening program of the day. No sooner did we step inside when 800 people, accompanied by four amplified musical instruments, broke into song. For me the music had the effect of a sound canon. My only saving grace was having taken a seat a mere ten steps from the exit. Despite my quick exit, it took me ten minutes to recover. The five seconds of music had transformed me from engaging in an animated discussion  into sensory overload. Unable to even speak I couldn’t alert my colleague that I needed to make a hasty retreat. Nor could I afford to delay my exit.

Reflection

In reflecting on the convention the sessions were engaging and left me with food for thought. However, I need more than that to rate the experience as ‘good’.

Despite being in the profession for more than three decades, for me the event was not so much about looking back as it was about looking forward. Considering ways to serve educators in new ways. Exploring that potential made the effort and challenges of getting to and attending the convention worthwhile.

While my ABI coloured much of my time at the convention, it did not define my experience.