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Since 2015, Facilitation Wellington Dufferin has been a part of the Ontario Independent Facilitation Demonstration Project. As part of the project, David Hasbury with the Ontario Independent Facilitation Network, has published Weaving a Story of Change. Check it out for information about independent facilitation, stories from people who have experienced facilitation support, and a look at the work of the Ontario Independent Facilitation Network going forward. You can find the full electronic version of the book here: Weaving a Story of Change.
Many a piece of juicy watermelon. seeds and all has been shared amongst family and friends during backyard BBQ's or family reunions while seated around the iconic picnic table. For one man in our small community the "power" of the picnic table moves past the memories of another time to the creation of something much greater in present day.
Dale Witherow, a long standing contributing citizen of Mount Forest was extremely disappointed earlier this year when a favoured resting spot, a picnic table that was crookedly perched on the corner of Queen and John was destroyed with the snow and cruelty of winter.
When walking home from his mornings at the post office or on a busy Friday night, Dale would often stop, take a moment, sit, observe and be part of the community around him.
The story of the battered and broken table was shared by Dale and his facilitator in hopes that others would lend ideas on how to replace the seating area . It didn't take long before Dales story reached the heart of someone in this giving community and a unanimous donor offered to replace the table. Moments after the offer, the search for the perfect table began and when found a small ceremony was held and the table was placed in a similar fashion, slightly crooked on the corner of Queen and John . For many, the absence of the table went unnoticed but for Dale each day without his spot was a reminder of the things he was missing in his community.
Dale has voluntarily sorted mail at the post office in town for 27 years. He is deeply embedded in our community and has given of himself to others his entire life. The donor of this picnic table contributed much more than an opportunity to sit. They created a genuine invitation. An invitation to be with others, a place to share stories or secrets, a cup of coffee or a first kiss. An invitation to be and take time to share in the atmosphere of our community. Thank you for this wonderful gift.
The "true spirit" of Christmas can only be defined by each person as it relates to them and the people they are closely connected with.
I grew up with the biblical story of Christmas. Mary and Joseph, the journey of three wise men and the powerful gift in the birth of Jesus. My father would read the story to us Christmas Eve and I would picture the scene in my mind. I would imagine animals that were staring at this new life in awe and parents that beamed with appreciation. The gifts of the magi, gold, frankincense and myrrh that were offered as tokens would fill my head with images of richness and warmth. I think what this story motivated me to believe wholeheartedly, was the diversity of gifts one can give, and the true meaning of gift giving. We can give possessions, our time and resources, or ultimately who we are.
I know a man in our community who gives of himself. He shares his inner gift. I believe this is the most selfless gift of all.
Stephen Kirkpatrick, with his recognizable smile and contagious giggle reminded me just how impactful giving our own gifts can be. As a kind and considerate man, Stephen has years of history in the area and grew up on a farm just outside of mount forest where he contributed to barn chores and family life. He cherishes his relationships with his siblings deeply and feels connected to his community. If you know Stephen than you will agree his authenticity with gratitude towards others is inspiring. The popular "Random Acts of Kindness" was fashioned after Stephens leadership I'm sure as he seizes everyday opportunities in our community to make sure that people feel appreciated.
Stephen possesses the gift of GIVING. He gives gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness freely without expectations. Being genuinely "thanked" for what each of us has to offer others has become a lost art. Each citizen of our small town gives to others in ways that would benefit from being recognized and encouraged. Stephen not only sees when others are giving of themselves but it becomes his mission to share appreciation, recognition and admiration.
When you receive an authentic sentiment of gratitude it is empowering. You feel your contribution was helpful and acknowledged.
It is with the partnership of gifts, community and Christmas that this story comes to life and the lesson for me significant.
This past summer, in an attempt to find the ultimate treasure, Stephen and I attended the annual church garage sale in Kenilworth. Stephens passion and excitement for the perfect gem had me enjoying his company and eager to see what he might uncover. He saw his greatest treasure almost immediately after getting out of the car and knew he had to have it. Leaning against the shed faded by time and experience was a life size depiction of the birth of Christ. The nativity set included close to 10 characters cut from wood, that shared the story of Christmas The paint weathered by their message and many winters was peeling off and in desperate need of renewal and restoration. As a fan of Christmas and all things seasonal, Stephen knew he had to have this gathering of people and their Christmas message on his lawn. I could sense his ally with the theme of giving and connection with this art piece and its meaning. The church kindly offered to deliver the nativity set for free.
Once in Stephens garage our discussions focused on how to restore this scene with care and accuracy. I am not a strong artist, so I knew painting faces and fine details would be tricky. We reached out to our community in an attempt to find people who would be willing to partner with us on this very important project.
Stephen reached out to Caroline Beren. A partnership was started. Caroline and Stephen have shared a relationship for many years and a reciprocal respect for one another. As Founder of "Friendship Group", a Christian based community group that meets weekly to learn about the gospel and passionate leader in our community, Caroline had a myriad of ideas and resources to help with Stephens project.
The two got started right away with huge participation from the group. Gary Stopps, Debra Kalb and the many community members that attend Friendship Group contributed to the sanding, painting and refurbishing of this special nativity set.
The diversity of gift giving was certainly highlighted during this collaborative effort. People donated materials of paint and wood, skills and talents around sanding and painting and offers of support and encouragement when the hours invested got long.
With Stephens gift of giving gratitude and thanks, I don't doubt that everyone involved will have felt their contributions were meaningful and appreciated.
The project was successfully completed and the nativity set has been restored to its original state with bright colours, fine details and a clear gift giving message. It sits out front of Stephens home displaying its original message of gift giving and its new story of community collaboration.
This season whatever your "true spirit " of Christmas may be, take a moment to wrap up your most precious gift and genuinely give it to someone. It will be appreciated.
Over my years I have spent a lot of my time with many different people, but no one has taught me the power of genuine contribution more intentionally than a young man in our community named Jordan Turk. Jordan lives on the outskirts of our small rural town in the midst of the corn and bean fields and takes great pride in all things he sets out to accomplish. A young man of his word and impeccable timing, Jordan inspires me to listen and believe in ways I have not yet explored. As a dedicated and determined employee of Farmers plus in Arthur, he provides the optimum customer experience that includes humour, excellent service and a willingness to be helpful. I have come to the realization that this young man is extremely thoughtful and communicates ideas and stories with distinct creativity and passion.
Jordan often shares with me, his experience of connection with one man in particular. He boasts of this man having great kindness, offering genuine kinship and being an avid card player. This gentleman, affectionately known as Papa, contributed lots of laughter, fun and an authentic appreciation for his friendship with Jordan . Papa was a special person to Jordan and together they created a connection that was meaningful and inspiring to others. Papa recently passed away and left a feeling of great loss to those closest to him. In his infinite wisdom Jordan would often say, Papa was gone now, but he could still see him a little bit.
When thinking about how to keep a place for Papa, where his memory could be easily reachable, Jordan decided playing sevens, a favourite card game between the two, was a good place to start. When I asked him to teach me his eyes lit up and his smile widened bigger than I had ever seen. Jordan was a patient teacher and forgiving opponent when I needed a reminder of the rules. Midway through our games the story would always come about how papa and him would play for hours. Sometimes he won and sometimes he would let Papa win.
We thought but a moment before an idea was born. An idea that created a space to teach, learn and be with others in a way Jordan wanted to contribute. Jordan and his facilitator met with local GIFT ARTIVITY owner and operator Rene Ariens and shared his story about his love of cards and papa. The two collaborated on offering a free card and games night to their community, with the vision in mind that it would be a place to share games, meet people and connect with others in a fun and informal way.
Rene offered the space for free and was willing to help promote the event. Jordan decided he was comfortable being the host and would try to teach others the game that brought him close to the memory of a man he loved dearly . The GIFT ARTIVITY centre, along with Jordan will welcome enthusiastic "gamers" every third Tuesday of the month, starting in September from 7-9. Jordan invites everyone to bring their favourite game and munchies to share with others during the evening. When I think about the many components it took to coordinate this amazing idea and the true nature of its simplicity, I am speechless. All I can say is "This nights for you PAPA"