I want to tell you about an experience this week that warmed and filled my heart in a way that it spoke to me about what creates an atmosphere of Thrivability.
I went to a holiday fundraising gathering event hosted by The Hearth, a local community storytelling organization started by a very special man, Mark Yaconnelli, who as the son of a minister from a small town just over the California border, had discovered his way of gathering community together to uplift one another.
As my friends and I walked into the synagogue where it was being held, we were greeted by the aroma of freshly baked desserts, and warm smiles of those graciously receiving our entrance fee, behind a sign welcoming all.
Waiting for the main doors to open, I enjoyed watching people eyeing or tasting the wide array of gluten free, vegan, or buttery delectable and/or decadent desserts made and donated by the high school student culinary class, a variety of wines donated by our array of local vineyards, teas and coffee donated by our local food coop, while others were waiting at the doors to get seats for friends and family who didn't want to come so early to get a good seat. As we walked in the room, the last chairs were being put into place for the event.
As we were finding our seats I spoke with and hugged several friends I hadn't seen for some time, and once everyone sat down, Mark warmly welcomed us to The Hearth Holiday Gathering Evening. He began by thanking everyone who contributed to the evening:
The 5 story tellers, those who donated and served the food and drink, all who volunteered to set up and take down the 400+ chairs, the professional musicians, the high school students sharing their music for the first time in front of such a large audience, as well as those who came to the annual wine, cheese and intimate storytelling VIP main fundraising gathering prior to the main event, all whose donations contributed generously to ensuring the continuance of the many wonderful storytelling events throughout the year.
As Mark spoke, it felt as though I could feel the warmth of The Hearth's flame radiating from his heart with each word he spoke, in his eye contact with all those he had gotten to know over the 10 years since it began, and within and between each one of us in the community whose hearts so gratefully were delighting in the beautiful spirit permeating us all. As each of the storytellers, shared through their stories something of importance to and unique about them, they generously and graciously revealed glimpses of their lives through their humanness, dilemmas, vulnerability, courage, idiosyncrasies, and how they navigated life's journey as they best could, being true to themselves and authentic with others, and how their foibles had helped them become the loveable characters they are.
I was thoroughly enjoying myself amidst the warm heartedness of my friends, the stories, and our community singing and being with one another, and then Mark came up on stage to close the evening with the last story. He told a story of when his father took him to look at a small college up north together 35 years ago. On the trip nothing seemed to work out quite as they had hoped: the teacher his dad knew was late to meet them, the dean was ill and didn't come in that day, it was so foggy Mark couldn't see what the campus looked like, yet he said he knew somehow, this is where he was going to college.
He went to this college the following year not knowing anyone, got a different English class than the one he really wanted, yet somehow he knew everything was all right.
You could have heard a pin drop in the room as Mark shared the colorful sequence of experiences, meetings and interactions with people, humorous and courageous choices he made, and the myriad of synchronicities that opened up....all which led to his meeting a young woman who sat in the only chair open in this English class, next to him. Because of her presence, he no longer could pay attention to the subject....because he immediately knew he was going to marry this young woman, even though they had never spoken, and whenever he saw her outside this particular English class, she was always with other guys. As he told the story we could all FEEL the love he had for this young woman...open, innocent, wholehearted love. As he told the story of the night driving back to school with some friend after Christmas break in a blizzard, when the car was brought to a stop in the middle of the interstate just past the exit to her little town in Oregon, he realized this was his chance, to see her and meet her parents....because of some mix ups he finally ended up at her house at 1AM, and undaunted he knocked on the door. Her father and mother came to the door, asked him in and on the table he saw a Christmas pie and 4 plates, one for each of them. Their daughter came down and met Mark, and they said they had heard so much about him that they knew he would be coming to visit sometime that night on his way back to school..... He paused, and looked over into the corner of the audience with such warmth of heart, and introduced us all to his wife, Jill, who he indeed had married.
I turned to my friend sitting next to me, and with tears in my eyes I said didn't remember the last time my heart had felt quite so filled with such wholeheartedness.
So when Anneloes asked us to share a story of foundations for inner or outer Thrivability in our newsletter, this story came to mind. I realized that night how little we really need to feel fully nourished and fed on the levels that truly create thrivability amongst our community. For when we share our rich gifts of stories, friendship, community, family, simple home made food, music, young and old ones gratefully and wholeheartedly receiving and giving as one act, how it creates an atmosphere of and expands the possibility for ever greater abundance, blessings and encouragement for all to blossom and thrive.
Written by Dr. Meredith Lowry - EARTHwise Centre Core Team