Thursday, 14 July 2011

of custard and hats

July 14, 2011
The program I was assigned to support, along with three other volunteers ended today after five days. Mostly I was involved offering kitchen and hospitality support. It was an opportunity, to experience first hand, the ins and outs of life here at Corrymeela while a program is on. The group, called “Connecting Cultures” consisted of a number of families from different cultures in the Belfast area who have been meeting several times a year for six years. About 40 in number, with almost half being under 16, most have been to Corrymeela before.
In the appreciations expressed at the closing this morning, one of the facilitators remarked that there seemed to have been much more laughter this year than any other. She said, there is a saying that “laughter is the shortest journey between two people.” It reminded me of a question one of the summer volunteers posed in worship last week. The worship leader asked us, “What is a question you would ask God if you had the opportunity?” The volunteer responded – “How does fun and laughter build sustainable peace?”
Irish journalist Alf McCreary, in his book Corrymeela: Hill of Harmony in Northern Ireland (1976) says:  “Throughout the troubles, ... there was a continual need for a practical reminder that there could be a way, other than war... There was a need for a group of Irish men and women, Catholics and Protestants, to show Ireland and the world that they could not only evidence conciliation by living in peace but that they could foster reconciliation practically by encouraging others to do the same. ... There was a need for a place of peace and tranquility away from the troubled areas where people from both sides could rediscover their humanity and relate once again to each other as human beings. In brief, there was a need for the light of caring and of love to lighten the darkness that was crowding in from all sides. That light was the light of Corrymeela.” (p. 10-11)
When we laugh, we are vulnerable. We give ourselves over to the sheer joy of being in the moment. At Corrymeela, whether it’s in the adventure learning cooperative games, or water balloon fights, sharing stories from our past, or taking part in a drum circle and singing songs, there seems to be joy and laughter attached.
I learned a new song this week, an African song – “Si, si, si, si dolada ...”. I wrote the words from the flip chart down and struggled to remember the tune. When I asked the music facilitator to sing it with me to help me remember, I felt I had it. “What do the words mean?” I asked, hoping that I wasn’t learning something rude or inappropriate.
She responded: “I think it means something like ... a little boy sitting under a tree, imagining that he is going to fill his aunt’s hat with custard ...”. I had a hard time keeping my coffee down. "Really?" I asked. "Well", she said, "it's close enough."

I actually checked in on Google – and it’s a pretty close translation.
Now, who would make up a song like that anyway? Only a person filled with silliness who actually did that one day ... or at least imagined it. I’m glad to have it my repertoire now – it will now always remind me that “laughter is the shortest journey between two people.”
Tomorrow I’m going in to Belfast to poke around the city, and to meet up with Ivan Gregan and his group who are arriving Saturday. He’s got a carefully prepared package (by Pat) of things I either forgot, or couldn’t bring because of the weight restriction. It will be great to see him.


  1. Martha, just catching up. Loving your experience. Enjoy, Gaye

  2. Hi Martha!
    This is the third comment I've tried. Maybe this time it will work because I just signed in on my Google account. I'm glad you are doing this - nice to be in touch, learn more about Corrymeela, and what you are doing. It certainly seems the right place for you!
    The custard song amuses me. Our son has hated custard since a year of " school dinners" in England. He swore that they poured it on every dessert. What would he pour in his beloved aunt's hat, I wonder!
    I'll look forward to reading about your trip to Belfast! I can't help thinking of it as a scary place.