Back in August 2019, I released a photo journalbook titled “Lessons from the Himalayas” into the world. There were six key themes in the photo journalbook. In 2020, I hope to continue to expand my findings on these themes, and share them with you.
The theme ‘Community’ hit me hard during my long term solo travel. The longing to create and grow my own community eventually paved my way back home. Since my return, I have been silently observing, contemplating and questioning some of these reflections that came up in conversations –
How does a community begin to bloom and take shape? From where/who/what does a community draw its identity from? Who invites who into the community? Is power differential an inevitable presence in any community? What does being (truly) seen by my community mean to me? How do we arrive at the sweet spot where we feel like we belong?
Here’s a little story about community; a lesson that our children can teach us.
Last December, I had the opportunity to be a part of Hopscotch Student Care’s inaugural holiday camp. Every morning, we welcomed 15 children (aged 6 to 11) with an hour of Yoga before other camp activities. On the first day, their uncertainties and fears spoke loud and clear. A dead silence owned the room as I invited everyone to a round of self-introduction. I chuckled to myself.
This camp included elements of adventure, creative problem-solving and co-creation. My favourite element was the use of a relational circle. As a part of the restorative practice tradition, a relational circle is used to repair and heal relationships from conflicts and guide communities to respond instead of reacting to problems. At the camp, it was crafted for children to share their stories, perspectives and feelings openly and safely. It was like paying homage to campfire sharings. The ring of fire that brings light, warmth and safety to everyone sitting in the circle.
During one of the relational circles, I decided to invite everyone to a round of gratitude sharing. As the sharing unfolded, these children began truly tuning in. There was subtle ease into quiet. Gentleness and softness in their little bodies, quite unlike the stiff silence on the first day.
What a pure delight observing these children reflect on little moments in their lives that they had missed out! Appreciations began to emerge slowly. A few of them shared gratitude to their parents for doing something simple, like cooking their meals. Some expressed gratitude to their teachers for teaching them something new. For some of these children, it was the first time they spoke up in a group. Their voice was a little shaky. Pauses were held in the spaces between words. Some of them hesitated and glanced at me as if waiting for my approval to share. Their voices were tinier than usual. Honouring their friend with “thank you for being my friend” was way out of their comfort zone. It took them all the courage to share something openly for the first time. Yet, a smile sprouted out of the corner of their lips at the end of their sharing. The smile grew with confidence.
With consistent practice of gratitude sharing over the next few days, I noticed a change in the children’s stance. They began to practise kindness intentionally, being more giving and appreciative of their peers. With a clearer voice, they grew confident. A few leaned into taking on leadership roles. They became more daring to try even if it meant that they may not get it right. Someone declared “I’m sorry for hurting you” to a friend during the relational circle. Perhaps they gained a certain clarity and authenticity in their hearts and their minds.
Spending those wonderful days with the children at Hopscotch taught me this: speaking one’s truth sometimes begin with sharing one’s gratitude. The courage to share our voice, an act of giving, is connected with the opening of our heart space, an act of accepting and appreciating what we have received.
Perhaps that signifies the blossoming of a community.
Tell me a story about the communities where you feel belonged. What are you grateful for at the moment? I’d love to know.