Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Serendipity as a Change Agent

Last weekend I was at The Farm in Summertown TN, participating in a communities conference produced by my friend, Douglas Stevenson.

Even though it was 10 hours of driving each way (which is not my favorite thing to do) I got a chance to spend 48 hours doing many things that I love:

o  Talking about group process (I did an up-tempo workshop on how to work constructively with conflict). Laird as Process Junkie

o  Meeting folks who are hungry for connection and information about cooperative living. Laird as Yenta

o  Getting caught up with long-time acquaintances. Laird as Friend

o  Deepening connections with people I'd met before but didn't yet know well. Laird as Listener

o  Introducing folks to all the knowledge and resources that FIC has to offer in searching for community. Laird as Networker

o  Honoring Stephen & Ina May Gaskin with the public presentation of a lifetime achievement award as communitarians. Laird as Impresario

o  Generating half a dozen prospects for the next round of my two-year facilitation training (starting in NC in September if we get enough enrollment). Laird as Marketer

o  Exploring with two groups the possibility of my doing consulting with them to help them handle some explosive and impacted dynamics. Laird as Bomb Squad Specialist

While all of that would have been sufficient for my community cup to overfloweth, my most cherished moment of the weekend occurred Saturday night at a barbecue dinner open to conference attendees and Farm residents alike. We were outdoors on a beautiful and clement May evening, with music playing on stage and food grilling on the side, when a bright-eyed young woman walked up to me at the book table...

She was glad I was there because it gave her the chance to thank me personally for changing her life. She met me back in 2000 while attending the Twin Oaks Communities Conference in Louisa VA (she was sure of the year because she was pregnant at the time and it was easy to do the math based on her child's age). At the time, she was living at a small, struggling community in Kentucky located near the Tennessee border. 

After attending the front end of the weekend, she was poised to depart early to take advantage of a convenient ride home when someone urged her to linger long enough to attend the workshop I was offering on conflict, that happened to be among the last things on the program.

Because of what was going on in her home community she decided to stay, and her ride left without her. Afterwards, it happened that she was able to catch a different ride west with folks from The Farm (who were also at the conference). That led to an impromptu first visit to the well-known community in Summertown. 

As events unfolded, she fell in love with The Farm. When her Kentucky group fell apart—so much for the efficacy of my conflict workshop—she and her family moved to The Farm and have been living there happily ever since. According to her calculus she owes it all to me!

Hah! What a great story. I had no memory of this woman at all, or of her story, and I was reminded (again) that the Spirit of Community moves in mysterious ways, leaving plenty of room for humility about the idea that anyone knows the whole of what's going on at any given time—even when you're the workshop presenter who draws a big crowd. I think of it as the Wholly Ghost.

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