‘Beyond Empathy’, an organization committed to working particularly with young people having a hard time, organised an event. A good one. There we are up on a 2,000 acre property in northern New South Wales… a big mob of us…50 or so… babies, young’ns, teenagers, elders, adult carers for all the young people…and we came together for the sake of those young people to try to create an uplifting experience over that week, one that might carry in some way, into their lives.
We heard stories, and we had conversations, and Trav took us through amazing hip-hop stuff, and Steve helped us experience indigenous dance, and then the two of them, they put their arts together and created something brand new….and Alana walked us through the labyrinth…an ancient meditation, and Hemlock did his amazing circus stuff and we found ourselves in pyramids and hanging off people’s shoulders, and aunty Janet told us stories….and some of us painted, (sometimes compulsively and obsessively!)…‘So my children are lost? I got to finish this painting!’ And we made music…rapped and sang…and moved and played drums. Well okay…I didn’t exactly do all of those things but they were definitely being done by someone. And I did do a lot of them. And loved all of it. (You will need Adobe flash player for the vid below. Clicke here to download it).
And all these experiences, some new and exciting, some new and unusual, some new and challenging, some familiar and encourageing, were all part of the week which asked people to experience who they are, and to think about how and who they want to be in the world.
And each day we came together as a group and my task was to try and add something to the overall experience; to ask questions, to encourage reflections and conversations about what we were doing.
So we did some activities and I asked some questions and asked people to think about their experiences of the week, and how they were effected by them and what life might be like after the camp. We were having fun, where other things happening for us too?
We tried to pay attention to what experience and research tell us help people flourish. We were mindful of the research that tells us that relationships are vital to personal wellbeing…and people did connect with each other. Some of these connections have been ongoing for some time already. We were aware that focusing on people’s strengths is an uplifting thing to do and so we constantly looked for the best in each other and helped it emerge. We knew that having high yet realistic expectations of people does help people grow, and we were given opportunities to excel, to do things we had not done before and, each in our own way, to shine. Physically, emotionally, artistically, culturally and spiritually.
We paid attention to people’s stories with a sense of optimism and movement, with an awareness of the comment from Jonathan M.Adler: ‘The stories that stick around…become who we are’. (See post on 9th Jyly 07 ‘What we tell ourselves.’)
We acknowledged the stories of the past, but were not constrained by them. On the contrary. They simply and profoundly described where we had been. We did things new to us, and encouraged each other to ‘have a go.’
It matters that we ask whether the work we are doing is useful, because at its simplest, that is the aim of such work. Was this a successful camp? I hope so. We tried to be true to our own experiences as well as paying attention to what research tells us about what helps people grow. The focus of the camp was always a combination of the ‘here and now’… bring yourself to this experience fully and be totally part of it. …balanced with a mindfulness about ‘what happens next? Where to from here?’
An even slightly new person will bring something new to their life. And so we thought about what we had just experienced…about our lives and what we could rely on in ourselves on our journeys…and what we needed from others…
…where we were with our lives and where we were headed…
We did remind ourselves of the work of Len Syme (See post on 9th July 07 ‘Being in charge of ourselves’) who speaks of the power and importance of feeling and being in control of our lives.
And we certainly bore in mind the comments of Richard Florida (See post on 5th September 07 ‘A further comment on weirdos’) about how creative people will flourish together with other creative people. (And-what a bonus-their real estate will go up in value!)
And so I think we did alright. And ‘Beyond Empathy’ can feel well proud I reckon. And I think we shall all continue to be in touch in some way, through our places of living, the things we do and the people we know, through the new connectedness of the internet, and through our future meetings. Imperfect? Well of course, but what we tried to do was based on more than our own ideas about the world. What we tried to do was based on research evidence about what it is that helps people flourish. It was good. Did we save the world? Possibly. Or maybe just the bit we inhabit…at least a bit.