The Magician

I’d like to introduce you to a dear friend, Sheldon Schwitek. I met Sheldon in 2010, while attending the Toronto Summer Institute. Since then, a friendship has evolved into a caring, compassionate and supportive relationship. When Linda and I decided to shift our focus a bit to meeting with folks we find to be extraordinarily welcoming people, folks who seems to naturally understand elements of human connection, Sheldon’s name popped into my head clearly. I managed to spend some time with Sheldon this year at that same Institute, meandering through stories and shared experiences around this idea of belonging.

Sheldon...

Sheldon…

I wondered with Sheldon about a time when he felt like he had a sense of belonging, perhaps for the first time in his life, and what that meant to him. Sheldon rattled off two instances, “The first time I remember was when I met my friend Jake, who was really into the punk scene in Winnipeg and I went to a show she played at…I was 19 years old. I felt like a part of the group. The people in this scene were a sort of band of misfits, people who experienced not belonging in their lives. Everyone was different, which really meant that everyone was the same. The second time for me…when I attended the Toronto Summer Institute for the first time in 1992; I walked into welcome. I wanted to help immediately, the space elicited an immediate comfortableness, an immediate sense of ‘this is good’.”

After spending some time around this feeling, we looked into sharing about a particular person who Sheldon considers the most welcoming he has known…”Marsha Forrest. She was incredibly open to whomever came into her life. Gracious, kind, funny. As I got to know her, her welcome became deeper as I grew to understand her vulnerability and her ability to be curious about things. She had a way to get deeper into yourself and the answering of the question brought about a better understanding about yourself.”

When asked about a time where something ignited a sense of agency, a time where he could truly make a difference, Sheldon lit up and said “I was attending a Kalamazoo Bee Club meeting, along with my friend Rich. On our way in, Rich locked his keys in his car. AAA didn’t come for about 45 minutes, so I had to facilitate the meeting alone. I ended up leading a Q & A with this group, and it went really well. This was a moment when I decided to really immerse myself in this group and be involved in a bigger way. I negotiated my way onto the board and took on a strong leadership role. I became the Secretary quickly and found myself doing a good amount of facilitation to get the board, which had been stuck for quite some time, moving forward in a positive way. I tried to bring people’s gifts forward as a way of moving the board forward.”
When meeting new people, Sheldon (to my surprise) shared, “Many people don’t know this about me, but I’m incredibly nervous and shy when I meet new people. I’m really interested about people and connecting with people, but the initial meeting is frightening. Is this person judging me? Is it positive? Will I make a fool of myself? I think this comes from being mindful that I don’t like knowing that people may not like me. These are all present for me…I’m getting good at hiding it. I didn’t acknowledge it for the longest time, and it got in the way of being able to start relationships. I’ve evolved into either moving forward in spite of the anxiety, or right along with it. You have no understanding about who a person is at first, so there is a natural tension…for me noticing the tension is paramount in being able to get beyond the fear and truly connect…and I do seek deep connection.”

I was curious about when Sheldon truly comes alive…times when he truly feels like he is making a contribution…”My own family history was contentious at times. Judgment circled my relationship between my step father all growing up. With my wife, Joan, my children and grandchild, I am trying to be the type of human being that I wished I had been raised as by my parents. I see my daughter raising my grandson and see all these wonderful strategies of parenting she uses. Joan is wonderful at teaching me how to be a supportive parent. I feel I best contribute in a one on one relationship with people. I’m intentional with the type of support I provide within a relationship. My friend Matt taught me what it means to provide the types of support needed in a relationship. I feel like I’m good at being supportive. What do I need to do to support someone? This question has become my driving question…the foundation of my ethos. The other place I feel contribution is when I’m teaching about the Culture of Gentleness. If I can help change one person’s view, then I feel a sense of accomplishment…a sense of contribution. Because that person will then go out an be gentle with and interface with the world around them in the manner with which I believe to be the right way.”

So why is the title of this post “The Magician”? It’s simple…I had the opportunity to sit in Sheldon’s circle of support for a visioning he walked through in 2013. The resounding culmination of gifts Sheldon possesses ended up producing one word…magician. Sheldon creates welcome in the spur of the moment, crafting a sense of warmth and openness for all people in the room, no matter how long he has to prepare. With the wave of his invisible wand, his quick ‘Sheldon wink’, a brilliant smile and his all too recognizable guffaw…Sheldon magically welcomes you into his heart.

Thanks for that my friend…

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A Welcome That Fits

There are times in anybody’s life, I suspect, when circumstances could lead to feelings of exclusion or isolation. Birthday parties for friends’ children if you don’t have children of your own, boozy nights out if you are teetotal, expensive stag parties if you are totally skint… Right now, for me, it is any social gathering happening after about 8.30pm. My son has been going through a 5am wake-up time for a month or so now and by the evening I am pretty much broken. I have had to cancel or pull out of numerous arrangements and I can’t remember what it’s like to go out to the pub with friends.

Recently I had a lovely plan to have some friends from my village round to my house to Drink Wine and Chat. As the date approached, I knew I had to retract my offer to be the host, since there was a real risk I would have fallen asleep whilst refilling someone’s wine glass! Stephie, one of the friends who were meant to be coming, immediately offered to host and said I could come along if I had the energy, for just however long I wanted.

As it turned out, I was indeed too shattered to make it along to Stephie’s. I went to bed early, with a bit of a frustrated stomp, wishing I was trundling down the road with a bottle of wine in hand. I sent a message to Stephie the next morning, apologising once more and joking that I should start planning more breakfast get-togethers since that’s the only time I have any energy.

Well, within the hour Stephie had texted me to ask if I was free on Friday morning to get together with our baby boys. Some might have given up on me, or just thought we could meet up when things settled down for me a bit. But Stephie empathised with my early-rising, and figured out a way to make it work for me.

It turned out that Friday lunchtime worked best for both of us, so Fin and I merrily trundled down the road, a small box of Greek salad in hand. Stephie really knows how to do a welcome. She had laid out all these delightful bowls of healthy, delicious treats that would suit two babies and their mums. We spent the whole afternoon together: playing under the trees in her garden; reading story books in the living room; drinking tea; eating chocolate eclairs. We had long enough that we could actually have proper conversations despite the inevitable fragmentation of topics caused by the cheerful interruptions of busy little boys. The boys had never played just the two of them before, and my goodness did they hit it off!

I returned home feeling welcomed, energised, supported and very grateful. When things get a bit overwhelming, or we are just really, really tired, we don’t always want to be left in peace until things get easier. In fact, that is often exactly when we need a friend who will work around us and fit us into their lives. I am lucky that I have many such accommodating friends, and a hugely welcome addition to that circle is Stephie.
Thank you Stephie! Next lunch date is at ours!

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The Art of Welcoming

This week I’m linking in a TED Talk about the question which stands as the foundation for our learning here on Come In From The Cold:  How do we truly welcome people?  Well, Jan Gunnarsson gives his answer brilliantly in this short talk. He calls it Hostmanship, the art of making people feel welcome. Jan says “we must welcome ourselves, before we can welcome others,” something I have pondered for years…we need to be right for ourselves, if we are to be right for others.  Once we do this, and we ‘make the right choice’ every morning when we rise, we can truly be hosts to everyone we find ourselves around…every day of our lives and welcome, welcome, welcome.  I welcome you to give yourself 8 minutes…it will be time well spent 🙂  Sending my gratitude to you all…

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David Merrick, a man of the Universe!

A few weeks ago, just shortly after I first drafted our interview questions (which Kirk mentioned and used for his post last week), I interviewed David Merrick. David and his delightful eight year-old daughter came for lunch, and then we conducted our interview while our children played in the background. David is someone I have only met a handful of times in person. I noticed his community spirit through Facebook, where I saw him suggesting community initiatives, and experienced him responding energetically and positively to suggestions for local action that I had made.

It's David Merrick!

It’s David Merrick!

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Sending my gratitude to Melissa Hough…

Approaching the end of our 2nd year of blogging, which we are grateful for indeed, we embark on year 3 with a new sense of hope and growing desire to hear from wonderful people, doing wonderful things, by simply living who they are!  Linda and I, who are we kidding, Linda, drafted some thoughtful questions for us to ask people we come in contact with, work with, have just met, and/or are downright in awe of!

Melissa Hough

Melissa Hough

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Moving forwards, together

Hello dear readers,

Thank you again for being patient while we took a wee break to consider our direction and to refocus. We feel clearer and more purposeful, and we are ready to move forwards!

We have revisited our mission and revised it to better describe where we feel we are with the blog these days. Please read it and let us know what you think! We really do welcome feedback.

In the coming weeks you can expect more posts that connect with this revised mission, including some interviews with community builders from San Diego and Scotland (and who knows, maybe elsewhere too!)

Thank you again for sticking with us,

Linda and Kirk

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Welcome Back…to the original post from Linda!!

Through our reflecting, pondering and wondering of where we are headed with Come In From The Cold, I journeyed back to Linda’s original post, THE FIRST post, of this blog. Click here and take a look back at: The best welcome I ever got.  In it, you’ll find gems like:  “In a group of friends as established as this one there is inevitably a lexicon of inside jokes which could potentially alienate a newcomer, but this group of folk made sure I was included.”  This reminds me of how Judith Snow describes that with any vibrant, well-connected community of people, and natural ‘edge’ will form.  What makes a community inclusive, is to have ‘a welcome at your edge’.

 

Read on dear followers!!  We are close to posting new material!!  So for now, enjoy our favorites from the past!

The best welcome I ever got

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Inviting, welcoming, connecting

Here we are with another blast from the past. I felt really excited to read this one, because I had forgotten all about Kirk taking this step with his church community! And as we reflect on what this blog is really about, it struck me as powerful that Kirk considered how to make sure that the initial welcome was only the beginning for new and existing members of his church. There are layers of community, and there are tools to move from one layer, deeper down to the next… Enjoy reflecting on that as you read: An Open Letter to One of my Communities! 

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Gardening Revisited…

seedlings appearing amongst more established plants

“Did I plant that?”

Back in the first month of existence for Come In From The Cold, Linda juxtaposed gardening with community building, specifically in her village of Ratho and her very own garden.  Journey back with us by reading 7 Thoughts on Gardening and LifeThe pictures beam vibrantly and the parallels weave in and out of the post beautifully.  This process of looking back is proving to be quite beneficial to us as we regain traction on where we were upon the inception of this space and where we are headed…we hope you don’t mind it too much 🙂

Remember to take care of each other and tend to your gardens!

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Remember Svetla?

Dear friends, we are benefitting from this fallow period at Come In From The Cold, but we want to continue to honour your support by sharing a past post with you today. I just reread Kirk’s post from February last year, Building Community One Latte At A Time and remembered how much I enjoyed hearing about Svetla! She uses her business to promote community (as well as providing coffee), and the customers she welcomed find delightful ways to thank her and nurture her business. Enjoy!

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