Tag Archives: Gifts Hospitality

Be grateful for every opportunity…

Gratitude drives my life…at least I try to let it drive.  I’ve posted a video on this blog about Gratitude, which is narrated by David Steindl-Rast.  This is an opportunity to listen to David Steindl-Rast a bit further, via this TED Talk.  I happen to completely agree and subscribe to the idea that Gratitude leads to happiness…Gratitude leads to joy…Gratitude leads to a joyful world!  So take the time to listen and be grateful for the opportunity!  Be well my friends…

 

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Taking action with, and on behalf of each other…

Every so often, and in this context I mean ‘rarely’, you come across a human being who simply gets it.  We here at Come In From The Cold are making a concerted effort to have conversations with folk living in such a way; we can’t help but ask them questions relating to the threads we are curious about on this here blog.  Tom Kohler tries to welcome people from all walks of life to walk and wheel together.  Through Chatham-Savannah Citizen Advocacy (http://www.savannahcitizenadvocacy.org/), Tom makes it his life work to see what it looks like when “Everybody is in the room.”  Perhaps the even more groovy learning of Tom, whom I met in 2010, is the notion of living the practice of welcome no matter which hat you are wearing at any particular moment, of any particular day.  Simply put, Tom is a Savannah citizen, writing letters to the editor, connecting people across assumption and generation, as well as raising a family, and being a son within his family. Tom is on a quest to co-create and sustain, what he refers to as “The Beloved Community”.  I’m honored to call him a friend and mentor…so enjoy a glimpse into Tom’s world.

Tom...with a hint of mischief...and class!

Tom…with a hint of mischief…and class!

 

We began our conversation around remembering when it was Tom felt truly included to a person or group of people, beyond his family.  Tom reflects, “One is my first carpool. You know the carpool, with 4 or 5 kids in the car, parents rotate every 5 weeks. There was something about that group…we were tight. An early, tight gathering. Every single morning, piling into the car and seeing the same 4 kids. It’s the carpool and there they are. You could be in a bad mood…grumpy about having to wake up early and the general ‘I don’t want to go to school thing’, but by the time the car hit school, something had happened on the ride that made you smile…and it was all good.

I’m reading a wonderful book currently, The Tender Bar, and it reminds me of Jim Collins Bar. Meeting Jim Collins and spending 6 nights a week from 1971 to 1974, while in college, certainly speaks to feeling included.  This was a tight group…7 stools, 3 tables, 4 chairs per table. You had to be told about it, no signs, so it was an invitation in a way. It was in a part of town where you felt like maybe ‘I don’t belong here’, but then you’re in Jim Collins Bar and you feel right where you belong.  The location and design of the bar, intentional at the core, spoke to that welcome we are talking about.”

I’m interviewing Tom because I find him to be the master of welcome and connection, but wondered if he could tell me about someone he finds to be incredibly welcoming and why?  Tom shot out immediately:  “Kristen Russel, owner of the Sentient Bean (http://www.sentientbean.com/about). She has created a place that is all about welcome.

Kristen and Tom

Kristen and Tom

She lives two doors down and her house is always open to people as well. She is very clear that it needs to be a place that any and everybody can come. It’s a conscious decision she has made. At her home, they offer Friday Social Hours on Friday afternoon, with a simple invitation: Brussel’s 5:30pm. Informal, 5 to 25 people, eat and drink…it’s a casual way to kick off the weekend, but I also feel like it carries a profoundness to it.  She organizes the Forsythe Farmers Market in Forsythe Park across the street. On the corner of Bull St and Park Ave, Kristen has created an intentional and active welcome with the Bean, the Market and her home.”

Forsythe Farmer's Market

Forsythe Farmer’s Market

When asked about a time when he felt a strong sense of local agency, Tom replied: “When the local public school system wanted to close the school my kids went to, we formed a group called Parent Advocates For Charles Ellis (PACE). We organized, lobbied the school board, reached out to journalists, held public meetings, used chart paper on the walls to use visuals, we had people call all their friends who worked media to call the Board of Education’s public information officer…with the idea that they would create some heat. If we could stop them from closing the school, a new school board would be elected, and once elected, they could then more easily change course. Good old fashioned persistent-guerilla organizing and getting things to turn out the way you want them to turn out.”

Next we ventured into a more introspective place, wondering what goes on internally for Tom when meeting a new person or new group of people: “I hope that curiosity is present. Openness. I hope I’ve intentionally gotten better at staying open and not be too quick to assume and judge. I’ve worked on that…and I’m probably pretty good at that at this point. I’m interested in seeing interesting combinations of people. There was a picture of people on the subway in New York recently, two people in full Indian regalia, next to all these New Yorkers…what a great representation of the New York vibe…a wild juxtaposition of different people in close proximity with one another…and for whatever level of engagement, seeming to get along just fine.”

Sorry Tom...had to do it!

Sorry Tom…had to do it!

And finally, I asked Tom about a time/place when he feels especially at his best, when he truly can ‘be the change’…

 “I think I’m pretty good with connecting people who have lived in Savannah with new residents to Savannah. I’m asked by people to sit with ‘a friend to learn about who they are and connect them to people or groups that they may jive with’.   The other thing I’m intentional about, is connecting people intergenerationally. The Savannah Rocks project is about this. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/465286180185853/). The idea is to connect people who were playing music locally in the 60 and 70s with people in their 20’s and 30’s playing music now in Savannah.”  

In closing, Tom shares a notion permeating his mind, heart and soul moving forward:  “I do believe that here in Savannah we are gradually beginning to ask a fundamental question: Do we want to think of ourselves as the Hostess City or do we want to think of ourselves as a Beloved Community. If we are a hostess city, we mostly think about how we treat those who are participating in the money economy, primarily in the tourism industry. If we think of a beloved community, it has a lot more to do about how we treat each other and welcome each other into one another’s lives and how we choose to take action with and on behalf of each other.”  

 

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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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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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Gifts of the Frisbee

Today our good friend Peter Leidy contributes to Come In From The Cold as a guest blogger!!!  Enjoy!!!

My wife, Betsy, and I are on the plane home after a lovely time in Puerto Vallarta.  We like to stay in the old part of the city, miles away from the all-inclusive resorts, strolling the town and swimming in Banderas Bay.  We love the colorful mix of locals and tourists (mostly Mexicans from Guadalajara and Canadian/US visitors.)  Ahh, the days on Los Muertos beach.

Peter and Betsy

Peter and Betsy

I had brought my Frisbee with the hope of finding willing players, but so far, no luck.  Continue reading

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A Warm Reminder…

Peering out of our descending aircraft this past Wednesday, my eyes gazed a scene unfamiliar to me…snow, ice and bitter cold.

Brr...

Brr…

Landing in Chicago for the 2013 TASH Conference, ready to meet up with old friends and colleagues, as well as meet new friends, I was unaware of the physical reminder I’d walk in and out of all week…reminding me of why we named this blog Come In From The Cold. Being from San Diego, the streets don’t look like, and certainly don’t feel like this. Continue reading

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We Can Take Care Of Each Other

Several people over the past year have recommended a documentary titled “Craigslist Joe” and said “you’ll love it.”  Well…all of those people were correct.  I’ve linked in the trailer to this film here and would like to share my thoughts and recommendations on it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIfItdPKTLQ Continue reading

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