Learning to simply be.

Our holiday this summer is different than in the past. Instead of zipping from one place to another every few days, this year we are staying in one place for an entire month, without an agenda, welcoming each day as it unfolds and embracing the gift of being in the moment, whatever it presents. Like wading in the shallow stream and watching a renegade leaf bob along on the surface of the water; just going with the flow, or, smiling at a passerby who reciprocates and begins a friendly conversation about nothing in particular, or listening to the wind rustling through the branches, or getting an enticing whiff of spices from a nearby kitchen; unaware that the chef has plans to share the dish with us and our delight when he does, the feel of Bill’s hand in mine as he steadies himself on the walk up the hill. Even the itch that lingers after the bites from a horsefly reminding me that I’m alive. From it all I am learning that there is great joy in simply “being” and for this lesson I am filled with gratitude.

We all do what we can toward Peace

Today a young man popped in to Idris Stores in Corris and ordered 14 coffees for his cycling buddies who are cycling from London to Sheffield via Snowdonia to promote peace and combat Islamophobia. So far they, and others with the same goal, have raised half a million pounds for the Red Cross and plan on raising even more. These young Muslims understand, that at the heart of true relationship there must exist concern, compassion, a desire to serve and a willingness to work hard on a shared vision of real understanding. We are all on this journey together.

Welcoming the Stranger

Summer, this year, will be very different from previous summers, for instead of flitting from place to place on trains and busses around Britain, to visit with family and friends to chat over cups of tea ( or something stronger) at familiar kitchen tables, my husband and I are going to park ourselves, for the entire month of July, in a quarryman’s cottage in Corris, an out-of-the-way village in Wales.

Corris has a post office that opens for eight hours a week, a small grocery store, that in addition to stocking milk and eggs, doubles as a cultural gathering place for the villagers where a variety of events are held, ranging from live classical music evenings, to 70’s disco that spill onto the street. There is also a pub, The Slaters Arms, that opens each evening and serves real ale, hearty meals, good conversation and water bowls for your dogs.

Although remote by some standards, Corris is on a bus route that links to a train line that connects travelers with towns and cities all over Britain. London, for example, can be reached in about five hours.

The appeal of Corris, however, is not so much its location at the southern tip of Snowdonia National Park, a place of exquisite natural beauty, but the warmth of the local people who have a tradition of welcoming the stranger.

It was the welcome extended to me last year when I spent three weeks at Stwidio Maelor, writing. The first question posed to me when I popped into the grocery store for a coffee was, “What’s your name?” From that moment on, as locals came into the shop, I was introduced to each one by my name.

Now, no longer a stranger, I felt the invitation to be part of the community, albeit temporarily. From then on, each time I was greeted by name, my sense of being a stranger diminished. A smile and a seemingly superficial, though friendly, enquiry about how my writing was going became the foundational blocks to cultivating relationships.

And so I return to Corris, this time to introduce my husband to the people who welcomed me as a stranger, but because they chose to call me by my name, I feel at home.

Invitation is the key

While traveling with fifteen teenagers around England I have rediscovered the value of connecting with people; those I already knew and those for whom the only limits to cultivating friendship is a matter of geography and time.

I have learned that people are simply waiting for an invitation – an invitation to share the story of who they are, which is always a sacred gift.

I me Richard, our Polish bus driver in London, who responded graciously to our request that he play his accordion for us. Then Macik, also from Poland, who chatted freely about his life as an immigrant and the life he has as a bus driver.

In Cornwall we met Dean, whose knowledge of local customs, culture and real estate laws fascinated us. We learned that our bus driver had nine homes and seventeen motorbikes ( one in his kitchen and one in his living room), and that he had become a clinical psychologist after earning a degree from Oxford. He shared how distressing it had become to absorb the pain of other souls and so he listened to his wife and chose a different field of work.

A mother traveling with us discovered the warmth, generosity and hospitality of folk who saw in her an openness to connect and so offered her gifts of wine, shrimp curry, and Cornish Lust liqueur in three separate encounters in the same day.

People are created good. We want, nay, we need to connect , to discover our shared humanity and then, through our listening and sharing of stories, discover our mysterious and vital bond. For it is only once we respond to the invitation to share our stories with each other that we can truly begin to care for one another.