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Welcome to the June e-newsletter for the 101 Friends project

May 30, 2013

HowToHaveAPotluckWe’re just done with a fabulous provincial conference organized by Inclusion B.C. – “WE are community: defining inclusion.”

One of the presentations we did was “Intentional Storytelling – the possibilities of person led research.”

A workshop for self advocates and those who care about them.
What is person led research? How do we invite community in?
How do we make sure when we create spaces for dialogue we
honor what we hear? Using the right questions and planning for
the right spaces, we can help people feel safe and supported and
engage them in story-telling that matters. In this workshop we
learn how to tell stories and how to identify what matters to the
group and then make a plan for where to take our “harvest” of

ideas

Candice’s lovely article that we’ve re-blogged here, “The Worst Thing That Happened,” made me think differently about some of the conversations we’ve had recently.  I was thinking about our first story-telling event about six years ago, and how I was a bit disappointed that not more people came – we had leftover sandwiches.  We almost had more volunteers, excited and ready in different rooms, waiting to hear different kinds of stories and help people tell them in different ways, than folks who wanted to tell stories.  And yet everyone who did come was so excited to be part of it.

Six years later,  a couple of times a year we host events that have to do with story-telling, for about a hundred or more people who come together, and two of the folks who were there on that first day developed a project that traveled the province and collected stories and became another amazing project InCommon.tv which has been collecting stories on a new website and hosting events of their own.   At the last one I went from becoming someone who organizes places to tell stories to someone telling a story…  it was a challenge for me and I was amazed at what a great time I had there.

Shelley and I were talking about one of the most meaningful events of the last years, which was a session she and self advocate Barb Goode organized for another conference, called “Climb Every Mountain.”  It was one of the first times I worked as a graphic facilitator on a team I now rely on so much.  The session began by asking 100 self advocates the question “How many of you feel you have been put here on Earth for some greater purpose?”  You could see them look puzzled by what for many of them, they told us later, was the first time they’d been asked this question.  There was a pause in the breathing of the room and then as they came to understand what was being asked, one by one they put up their hands until, finally, every single one of them had their hands up.  Shelley then said something like, “Keep your hand up if you feel that you could be doing more in your life to accomplish that purpose.”   Everyone kept their hand up.   And we began to talk about “how” that might happen.  And in the end, it was, like everything else, mostly about connection.

And we began.  And we began.  And we began.  As Candice says in her blog posting, “No one is offended if you ask them to get coffee with you to chat.  We don’t have a secret agenda.  I’m not going to call your neighbors after and ask them for anything.  The worst thing that can happen is people say no.  And if they say no, that’s okay, because you have many, many other people to talk to anyway.”  Every invitation is full of potential.

I have been thinking about invitations, partly because it is so much part of the theme of our recent work with David Wetherow around the Star Raft concept.   A thing that David Wetherow has coached us on is asking, “Could you join me for half an hour to help me think this through?”  Last year we supported fifteen networks to “deepen and expand” and after talking to them about what we were going to do, we asked them to bring friends and other family members to the second of four day long sessions.   They did.  They brought between one and ten people each, say an average of five.  That was forty-five people who were so excited to be asked.  This year, with David, we supported ten families with person centred planning through the Family Support Institute.  He asked them to open their homes up and invite people in and they did.  Some families had ten people, some had twenty and a couple of them had thirty.   So that was, say, another 150 people, so excited to be invited in.

About fifty self advocates came to the Vernon community mapping session for the day, some of them from three hours away.   People drove them.  People who cared about the idea of celebrating the contribution of people they cared about got up at 5 a.m. to drive mountain roads to get them there on time.  And then drove them home.  Some of them got paid; none of them got richly rewarded enough for the love that they showed in driving that day.  At the end of the day, we had a reception – another forty people came – mayors from four cities, council people, housing advocates, educators, friends and family – all asking, “How can we be part of your lives and contributions?”  So we’re hovering, in just these events, at around 300+ people, most of whom walked into a room saying “We don’t know anything about disability but we’re glad to be invited; what can we do together?”

Self advocate Cheryl Fryfield, as we helped her design a curriculum for a year’s long learning journey of self advocate peers, wanted to invite people in.  “If it’s about connection, let’s connect,” she said.  So we (mostly Cheryl) did.  We weren’t really sure it would work.  Like all the parents we meet, we were concerned that people might get hurt when others said “no.”  Yet, so far we’ve had a direct marketer, an impressionist, two toast masters and a job coach.   Everyone has said yes.   Each of them so excited to be asked.   We took a break from meeting people the other day to make a list of who else we’d like to invite and the group came up with a list of 28 people they wanted to ask.   And we only have 7 more sessions!

The endless question that comes up in so many places we go to is, “How do we help people get included in community?”  If we can figure out the introduction, it’s hard to stop the process.  Our new toastmaster friends were ready to take Cheryl’s Star Raft participants right there and then off to their meetings that happen all over the city at all times of the day or evening.  Our participants talked about how the fee of $100 is a lot for people with disabilities who are routinely unemployed.   The next month the toastmasters sent a message: they’d created a scholarship so that any of the group could join.

At the Inclusion B.C. conference we wanted to push the bubble a bit.  We’ve been talking about stories – how to tell stories, how to listen to someone else’s story, what stories are public and private and why stories are important – in various ways.   For this workshop we wanted to talk about themes:  what is the theme of your story and what are you conveying?  Are you telling the story you want to tell?  We weren’t sure how it would go.  Almost immediately someone stood up and said “the theme is the title behind the title.  Your story can have one title about the content, but the title behind the title is about why it matters.”  Perfect.  And people began to tell amazing stories – an elderly woman who had lived a long time in institutions and an elderly cat fell in love at an animal shelter and she took him home and he passed away: “We had both been caged and we were both free and he died free.”  People told other stories about their lives that were hard, or sad, but all of them ended with a moment of…  what was the moment?  What was the theme of that moment?  It was all happening kind of fast and I was having trouble tracking it.   Later that night, just as I was about to fall asleep, I realized what the common thread had been: hard things happened, good things happened, and we are left prepared for love.  To be loved, to love, to be part of.

And we began.  And we proceed.   Connection.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Lyle Lexier permalink
    June 1, 2013 9:50 am

    Hello Aaron,

    I want to get a personal network going too.

    LYLE LEXIER, SELF ADVOCATE 604-408-9469
    lord_moa@yahoo.ca

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