Tuesday, 24 February 2015

February 25

Christmas cactus part 2


After a long day of travel, we all arrived home late last night. I was on a slightly earlier flight than the rest. After an amazingly good night’s sleep, I awoke and made my way to the kitchen for coffee. I immediately looked on the window sill to see if the plant I talked about at the beginning of my trip had bloomed. The blooms were bigger, but haven’t actually bloomed yet. But on another Christmas cactus, one that I had forgotten I even had because it is part of a collection of tropical plants I bought a couple of years ago and is often hidden amongst the other plants, there were full flowers. It took me a while to understand what I was looking at. There I was looking for something in one place, and it was actually happening in a much bigger way somewhere else.

It’s often the case in my trips to Corrymeela. What I think might happen often doesn’t, and I am often surprised by new learnings, insights and experiences. And, most often, it takes a while to appreciate and process everything. One of the things I am vigilant about on these trips is encouraging folks to apply their learnings to their own contexts – at school, at their workplaces, in Canada generally. How does what we learn about the peace process in Northern Ireland affect how we personally respond to conflict in our own lives? I am no different.

This time, my own learnings may help me understand several situations in my own context that involve conflict, but also wildly different narratives. When we went to Derry for the day, we had the benefit of hearing not only Owen’s perspective as a Catholic who grew up in the area, but also Paul’s perspective, the son of a Protestant British soldier who grew up in Belfast. Both had very different narratives of key historical events such as Bloody Sunday. But because of their deep affection and respect for each other, they were able to speak about their different perspectives in a way that opened up conversation and gave us a real view into the ongoing dialogue that is taking place in many parts of the country.

It was the same when we met with Alistair Little and Gerry Foster on Wednesday morning. Alistair, a loyalist, and Gerry, a nationalist, both former paramilitaries and prisoners, not only told their own stories, but embellished each other’s with jokes, jabs and comments that only true friends would tolerate. They work not only with people in their own country, but internationally, in countries such as Israel and Palestine, Afganistan, and South Africa. Those kinds of friendships take much time, great effort and no small amount of risk and trust. A worthy model for examination for sure.

We all went out to O’Connor’s for a drink on Thursday night. Jacqueline had the picture taken below of her and Siobhan, and then announced to everyone that I had “photo bombed” the shot. Now, I’ve never knowingly photo bombed anything, but it sure does look like it. Despite the worried expression on my face, I was happy to be there. It was great to see everyone enjoying each other’s company – many of whom didn’t know each other before last October. Sometimes I get so caught up in creating the space for others to learn, I forget that I need to be open to the learning as well. And it takes two blooming cactii to remind me that the insights come unexpectedly, surprisingly, and all in their own time.


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