I can’t tell you how many of the other volunteers have said to me over the last few days ...”so, what exactly is it that you will be doing while you are here at Corrymeela?’ It’s a good and honest question, and one that I can’t answer specifically yet. I meet with Aileen, the volunteer coordinator, today to talk about my place in the “rota”. I’m assuming that I will take my turn alongside the others in the kitchen, doing housekeeping duties, and other tasks as they arise. In addition, everyone is encouraged to offer the specific skills and experience that they might bring to the program areas.
In the meantime, until I get my assignments, I have been spending the last few days doing what I first heard described many years ago in campus ministry circles as “lurking with intent.” In food lines and common areas, in the smoking circles (even though I don’t smoke, many here do ...) and at the dining tables, I’m just trying to have conversations that deepen my understanding of the folks who have come here, and of Corrymeela itself.
Since Friday, the place has been filled with 100 youth from Northern Ireland, a yearly event planned by youth that offers the opportunity for learning, community and friendship building, and, high on the list from my observations, fun. Their evenings have been spent in a huge covered tent, right outside the door to Coventry House, the volunteer accommodation. From music and dancing, to a costume party, to a talent show, it’s been loud, hilarious, and great fun to watch. I’m not sure what’s on deck for tonight, but I suspect it will be more of the same. There’s no point in trying to go to sleep before midnight, when it ends. But sure enough, at midnight it’s like a switch is turned off, and all is quiet – at least outside my window.
The summer and long term volunteers have had great fun taking part – the costumes the other night were wonderful – Spice Girls (mostly guys) and the Scooby Doo gang were the main offerings from them. Last night Valentin from Germany suggested a circus theme for the talent show, and within an hour there were 2 mimes, a lion jumping through a flaming hula hoop, (or, a hula hoop with a lit lighter held at the bottom), a death defying pyramid, a siamese clown, a knife thrower (or carrier, anyway), circus music, and a ring leader announcing it all.
Oh yes, and it was Christmas yesterday. While all the youth and the leaders were at the beach for the afternoon, the rest of us who stayed behind got out all the Christmas decorations – a huge blow up tree, the life sized nativity scene (including one of the magi, which I hugely protested ... (‘‘but they don‘t get there for another two years...‘‘), garlands and baubles, lights and stars, and a chair for Santa - and put them up in the lobby. Why – because we could I guess. And it was just plain fun. Something I haven‘t had in a long time I don‘t think, and I suppose it‘s one of my objectives for my sabbatical. To have fun.
As I begin to release all the tension and energy of the past many months, tension and energy just from work and daily living, I realize what a gift it is to be here, and just be. To take in the spirit and beauty of the place, and just let it wash over me. I am grateful that Aileen has given me a week to acclimatize and “lurk with intent.” Soon enough I will be busy with the daily routine. In the meantime, maybe I will put on a clown nose and have some fun.