A Hunch about Lunch

One of the most important communities in daily life is the work community. What do I look for in a workplace community? Well, there are a few key factors, but the latest to be added to my wish list is ‘a place where people eat lunch”.

Sharing a meal is one of the most powerful ways to build community and being “a place where people eat lunch” can benefit a workplace both culturally and in terms of productivity. Unfortunately, I have been noticing a major absence of shared meals in my working life and have heard this same thing echoed among many of my peers. I’m starting to think I’m going to have to move to Europe to locate this appreciation for the mid-day meal.

North American Culture prides itself on hard work and ambition. Michael Pollan, in his book, In Defense of Food; An Eater’s Manifesto, suggests that as an effect of this ideology, North American’s view food as merely utilitarian fuel rather than something to be enjoyed for it’s own sake. He brings up several examples of the stark difference between North American attitudes to food as compared to European attitudes the most striking example given is a comparison where American and French people are shown a picture of a piece of chocolate cake and asked what word it brings to mind. The most common American reaction is “guilt” while the most common French reaction is “celebration”!

Perhaps it can be chalked up to the fact that I was raised with a European attitude towards food, but I do not believe that eating a protein bar at my desk can be classified as lunch. Nor do I believe that it can have any long-term benefits to my employer or my career. I can see some very real and lasting benefits however, in taking a ½ hour to share a meal with my co-workers.

Sharing a meal is the fastest way to establish shared experiences, which are the building blocks of community. With strong community comes creativity because two heads really are better than one (and all heads are significantly more powerful when they receive more than just caffeine as a stimulus).  Creativity can invigorate a workplace and make its entire workforce more productive and motivated in all of their working hours.

Each of these outcomes produces more powerful benefits than that extra ½ hour in front of the computer and these are just a few of the benefits to be had when you turn your work place into a place where people eat lunch. If you aren’t lucky enough to work in one of these places already, why don’t you try something new for lunch today?

Broad Minds or Empty Pockets: perspectives on travel

It’s almost a year today since my boyfriend and I arrived back in Australia after an epic two year travel adventure across Canada, the United States and South East Asia. Ironically, it’s also taken almost a year for us to pay-off the epic credit-card debt that we amassed on our travels.

Both these milestones have got me thinking lately about whether travel is worth both the effort and the expense. There are plenty of reasons to avoid or put off traveling, and they’re usually based on either your community or your career.

Why would you leave all your friends and family to go somewhere where you know no one? And what if something happens to your mum or dad while you’re away?  All your friends are having babies – shouldn’t you be settling down too?

Then there’s your career – what if Craig from Level 7 gets the promotion you want while you’re away? And how do you hide two years of ‘no-fixed-employment’ on your resume?

There’s no question that travel is difficult, expensive and importantly, it’s also completely intangible. But the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

During our travels we were lucky enough to live in one of the world’s most livable cities during one of the world’s biggest sporting events. We met amazing people that totally changed our perspective on life, and we experienced being part of numerous communities that we would never have seen at home.

But that doesn’t mean it was all sunshine and rainbows. We also arrived in Vancouver in the midst of a global economic meltdown, when hiring non-Canadians on short-term working holiday visas wasn’t a particularly attractive option for most employers. We had no jobs, no contacts, nowhere to live, and we had days when we came very close to forgetting about the whole travel idea and going home.

But once we managed to clear all the hurdles, we had an experience that will probably be the highpoint of our lives for quite some time to come.

Sure, we probably could have put down a deposit on a house with the amount of money we spent, but then we wouldn’t have a ton of amazing memories, some wonderful international friends, a much stronger relationship and the kind of self-awareness that only comes from being turned down for 30 jobs in the space of two months.

I think the best option when it comes to travel is to apply the grandkids rule. When you’re old and grey and having your food spoon-fed, what are you going to be telling your grandkids about the way your lived your life? Are you going to tell them about the great new outdoor setting you bought in 1992? Or the project you worked on in 2001? Or are you going to tell them about the time you had your Pringles stolen by a monkey in the Borneo jungle?

No amount of tangible ‘things’ will ever surpass the food you’ll taste, the people you’ll meet, the things you’ll see and the knowledge you’ll gain.

Community on a European Vacation

As it turns out, the recipe for Community is very simple; Singing in public, beer, and a little dash of wild animal. Surprisingly, I am not talking about drunken nights of karaoke (exclusively). I recently spent 6 weeks studying in Copenhagen, Denmark and followed that up with a two week northern European Vacation. Below is a selection of the top five community building places and activities I encountered in my travels. These are the things that made me think, “Man oh man, I wish I could do this at home!”

 

1. Mauerpark Market and Bearpit Karaoke (Berlin)

Late on a Sunday morning we headed over to Mauerpark for the Berlin’s local favourite flea market. After several hours of exploring the winding stalls of the outdoor market, with several stops to rest in mini-manufactured-beach beer gardens, we had had our fill of bargain hunting and novel snacks. So, made our way over to Bearpit Karaoke just outside the market gates. We were lucky enough to arrive just in time to hear a rousing rendition of Frank Sinatra’s My Way performed by a bearded, German, older gentleman. I was not entirely surprised to find out that this was not his first time in the Bearpit. The only performer who gave him a run for his money was this little girl who made the crowd fall silent before we all joined in to clap along with her song. It was a gorgeous day and the hill over the stage was stacked with people of all ages and walks cheering on the performers. The organizers turned an umbrella, a wagon, a laptop, and some speakers into one of the best boundary breaking, community-building events I have been to.

 

2. Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Denmark)

This was my favorite museum and is a great example of how to make art an accessible and fun experience for a wide range of people. Before I made the trip myself I had heard from many people who couldn’t speak highly enough of the museum and one who said he took his kids there as often as possible. After spending several hours exploring the facility, all that I felt was missing was that feeling of backache that usually accompanies long walks on hard museum grounds. These grounds were not the usual museum grounds though and moved the visitor almost seamlessly between in and outdoor exhibits. There was even one point when we got to use a slide for transportation! (A transportation method that should be adopted on a much wider scale.)  Exploring the outdoors was a refreshing way to discover Louisiana’s impressive collection of sculptural works against a backdrop of the beautiful Øresund beach front and manicured hills that are perfect for a picnic on one side of the property and a beautiful lake nestled into a wooded area on the opposite side.

 

3. Midsummer’s Eve Celebrations (June 23, Copenhagen)

People go out en masse, not just to one spot but basically to any park, beach, or barge in town. They eat hogs, drink beer, and laugh and chat until someone lights a huge bonfire with a scarecrow/witch on top. That’s when they start singing in unison. Amazing.

 

4. A la Mort Subite (Brussels)

Founded in 1928, this was a stunningly beautiful Belgian bar whose name translates to  “At the Sudden Death”. Well if sudden death were to strike, there are plenty worse places you could be. Picture soaring ceilings, golden yellow walls and pillars, and locals enjoying a selection of Belgian beers so flavorful that it is probably impossible for anyone to claim they don’t like the taste of beer after trying these variations. This place had an incredible community atmosphere. We sat down at one of the long communal tables next to an older couple from Brussels who were only too happy to share with us the secret of the Brussels classic brew called Gueuze (it has to do with a reaction between the yeast and a bacteria that is only found in the air in Brussels) and their life long dream to travel to Canada. A perfect Belgian experience.

 

5. Elephants in the Park (Frederiksberg, Denmark)

Anyone who remembers when the Vancouver Zoo had a place in Stanley Park is not likely to have forgotten how awesome it was to go and watch the polar bears from the zoo’s outer confines. The Copenhagen Zoo has elephants that you can get within about 40 meters of from the surrounding park without paying the zoo’s hefty entrance fee. They play and throw dirt and swim and splash and break sticks and lift logs and sit on each other. Watching gigantic, beautiful, social creatures makes for easy conversation with the other observers and was a perfect place to chat with the very friendly Danes who always seem to out for a leisurely afternoon. The elephants were a mere five-minute walk from my apartment so I made a practice of visiting regularly.

If we can’t travel to Europe or have elephants in our backyards at least we can get together to drink some great craft brews and sing about it. Anyone got a karaoke machine?

 

 

 

 

CLJ Reviews Siddartha by Herman Hesse

Siddartha, by Herman Hesse, is the story of a life that chooses to question all ideology. The story is set in India at some point in its past and tells the story of a man’s life. Siddartha is a privileged, brahmin youth who is raised to become a priest and leader of his community, but then rejects this responsibility in order to find truth. Along the way he encounters numerous purveyors of truthiness: flagellant mystics, the Buddha, high-class prostitutes, capitalist merchants, and finally a boatman.

Throughout his journey the only truth he finds is that there is no such thing. All ideology is suspect to him. His companions and teachers gladly embrace self-denial, meditation, lust, familial love and pleasure in the pursuit of a virtuous life. Siddartha becomes fully involved with all of these actions, yet some small part of him maintains a restless search for something more.

In the end (spoiler!), he finds himself back at the river where he started, this time as a student of the ultimate teacher — the river. Like the movement of river to sea to rain to river, truth is found in the flows of existence. Truth is round. It is a narrative cycle, not the specifics of content or the final sentence.

Circle of Literary Judgement (COLJ) activities are generally competitive, reflecting the divinely-granted free market of ideas, skills and labour that underpins Canadian society. This is natural and healthy, at least so we are taught. Taking a lesson from our literary companion Mr Hesse, this book club both questioned and affirmed that impulse: a small amount of food (bodily-denial) was followed by meditation (a struggle with the ideologies of the self), a sharing of religious experiences (collaborative community-building) and finally a hilarious re-telling of the narrative through interpretative dance and acting (competitively marked by all viewers for the trophy).

The ‘winner’ of the trophy was our very own Australian walkabout, Natasha Moore.

Kim Horn – Adventure Awesome

Who are You?

My name is Kimberley Rosanne Horn, I am a fairly excitable, opinionated gal (in a good way, I think) who was raised on Vancouver Island – currently living in Victoria.  I work in immigration policy for the Government of BC.  I like the outdoors, and I have freckles.  Also, my cat hates me.

What do you do for fun?

In my spare time, I  like to ride bikes, camp, hike, have picnics on the beach, cook new things in the kitchen, and, now that I have a BBQ, have garden parties.  I also like to drink wine, and am currently enjoying trying my hand at triathlon (which includes learning how to spell triathlon).  I’m getting married this summer to my fiancee, Ian, and so wedding planning is also fun (sort of).

What is your favourite community? Why?

I don’t think that I really have a favourite community, per se, but I have experienced many wonderful communities around the globe  (as well as some not so wonderful ones).  Allow me to explain – I really enjoy communities which have a few key traits:

1) a nucleas or gathering point of some kind, where people can come from all over to meet, eat, drink, play, chat, learn, do business, etc.etc.  I like being a part of a bustling little area, because it makes me realize that I’m connected to something much bigger than myself.

2) good, fair trade, organic coffee – because I am a little bit pretentious when it comes to my coffee, and I’m okay with that.

3) you don’t necessarily need a vehicle to live your life – you can get to work, school, the gym, grocery stores, etc. on foot or with a bike.

4) emphasis on the local – I don’t like the big boxy stores or franchises; rather, like to support local businesses by buying things that are grown or made locally – it’s more special and sustainable that way.

5) parks – there have to be parks, because in parks you find things like flowers, lovers, puppies, and children laughing…these things can always put the trials and troubles of life into perspective.  Parks also happen to be great places for picnics...which I happen to fancy.

7) friendly people – these days it seems folks would rather listed to their ipods or talk on their cellphones and wander down the street in their own little bubble, as opposed to engaging with those around them.

Favourite communities include - Copenhagen (maybe the coolest city ever), Fernwood, Cook St. Village, and James Bay in Victoria (minus the freezingness of James Bay), Commercial Drive, the uptown part of Amsterdam, Sorata (Bolivia), Korcula (Dalmatian coast in Croatia), la Condesa (Mexico City).

Least favourite communities include – Langford, Orleans, Kanata, basically anything suburbia, where everything and everyone are generic and there is no spice or sass to life (also, you can’t do anything fun without a car…which is just sad).

What is your superpower?

I feel that my superpower changes depending on where I’m at in my life.  Currently, I have two 1) making spreadsheets, and 2) finding tasty foods that are wheat and/or gluten-free!

How do you use it to build community?

I use my first superpower to organize things, which is important in any community, large or small.  I use my second superpower to make me feel better about having to reduce my wheat and gluten intake!

My Three Favourite Things About Kim Horn Are:

1. Brother-Sister-Connection. Those who know us will say that the Horn Children are super-connected-to-each-other, hilarious, talkative, performers, helpers, competitors, athletes, and good looking. Most of these traits come from Kimberley.This being said, like the Sedin Brothers, my sister and I have an unspoken, almost psychic, connection that allows us to seamlessly navigate conversations, events, dinners, and to know what the other is thinking and feeling at all time. We’re not even twins. Or Swedish. This supwerawesome connection has seen Kim and I deliver over a dozen high-quality, family-oriented skits, songs, roasts, speeches, and extended improvised toasts. Our performances have become a staple of Horn Family Celebrations – Mama Horn’s 60th Birthday is going to be epic. And being epic is always a possibility when you have talent like Kim Horn in the mix.

2. Sense of Adventure. Hiking through uncharted Bolivian mountains. Taking her allergic to the Sun brother on the Nootka Trail. Backcountry skiing in avalanche-riddled mountains. Marathon running. Iron Man racing. Possibly being slipped a Geoffrey at a music festival. Exchange and solo-traveling experiences through Downtown Europe. You name it, Kim Horn has done it and done it well. Her sense of adventure is the stuff of inspiration and the stories that she’s collected during her treks through the remote locales of BC’s West Coast as well as following her near-death-experiences on the salt flats of Bolivia are truly the stuff of legend.

3. Professional Awesomeness. “Kim is your older sister, yes?” This is the question that I am often ask after introducing Kim to my colleagues or after she presents to my students. And, fair enough. My younger sister has accumulated more professional currency than many other Canadian women her age – the responsibilities she’s been given and the projects and portfolios that she has managed reflect someone who is as intelligent as she is responsible as she is mature. Kim’s drive towards her vision of success is inspirational and impressive and really, really makes my heart smile. She will be a leader of positive change on the provincial and federal bureaucratic circuit for years to come.

Special bonus reasons! Kim Horn is a really, really good photographer. She’s also really, really stylish (we used to sit next to each other in English classes at Bishop’s and I’d be wearing pajamas and my toque while she’d be wearing Montreal’s finest universite-chique outfits, and it was a hilarious juxtaposition). Kim’s a really good cook, too, and her Thai Green Curries are delicious. Finally, her athletic prowess is outstanding. For example, during the 2010 Merville Cup Championship run of Team Horn, Lamb, Horn, it was impressive to see my sister, who doesn’t actually play soccer, take to the field and absolutely dominate the competition by running them down and, maybe, hip-checking them into the garden fence every now and then. Amazing.

- As told by John Horn…

The Code of Community: Breaking Barriers Anyway Possible

Accessing a community is much like hacking into a bank’s computer system.  It either takes a code, mad esoteric nerd skills, or time.  When you don’t know the computer’s language, just add one power of magnitude to the difficulty of access.

As written in a previous post, I have tried to use the code of couchsurfing.org as my entrance into the system that is my new home, Montpellier, France.  And if you’ve parachuted into a new country before, where you don’t speak the language, you must use whatever codes and nerd abilities as you can muster to crack into an entire culture, one unsuspecting host at a time.  One of the main tools you may employ is “open-mindedness.”

Open-mindedness in action is saying yes, accepting difference even when it’s uncomfortable.

I arrived in the late afternoon into the Montpellier airport after a horribly long layover at Gatwick and an even longer period crunched into a window seat of an Airbus 319 from Toronto.  I left behind a snowstorm and walked out into palm trees and Mediterranean heated breeze.  Gorgeous, non?

I was picked up in Place de la Comédie and we walked to my host’s place.  An interesting and spiritual soul, we talked and drank some wine for a few hours.  Then the conversation moves to “naturalisme.”  I’m thinking nature, non?  “Oh, me too!  Totally love naturalisme.”  All of a sudden my host began pulling off shirts and pants.  Efficient too – buck naked in just a few seconds.

Open-mindedness is tested constantly in new places with new people.  So, as they say, when naked in Rome…  I’ve been to Wreck Beach and feel quite comfortable in the raw.  So, there I was, hours into my new community and the ice was long but broken between us.  I’d hacked into the mainframe.

I’ve been in my new community for nearly five days now and everything else has seemed easy and simple compared to that first night.  And the real work begins.  Opening the doors of this new community will indeed take understanding those social codes, lots of smiling, and a keen eye for those who may be my new community.

But the question hangs:  how far are you willing to go to be open-minded?  How far is too far?  Can you lose yourself by trying to fit in?

Trina Isakson – True Community Builder

Who are you?

Who aren’t I really is the question. I don’t like 80s rock ballads, peppers, or spiders, but pretty much everything else is on the table.

My true loves, however, are community and learning. So far in my life, this has materialized though teaching, nonprofit event management, curriculum development, writing, and most recently developing community-university engagement initiatives at Simon Fraser University. I recently completed a certificate in dialogue and civic engagement, and am nearly finished an MBA in community economic development, where my final research project looks at volunteerism and leadership.

I’m also a keen traveller. I recently returned from a 5 month trip that took me through Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

I write about all my loves on my website at trinaisakson.com.

What do you do for fun?

Listening to 80s rock ballads while eating peppers near a spider web.

But really, fun is pretty low key for me. I ride my bike, go to concerts, read, have dinner with friends. Travel when I can. I tend to find joy in pretty small, sometimes inane things.

What is your favourite community and why?

The nonprofit community. I enjoy hearing the passion in the voices of those doing work close to their hearts, and learning about ways that we can better support our communities through better engagement, technology, strategy, etc.

What is your superpower?

To draw connections and see possibilities. I approach challenges with an open mind and wonder if there isn’t a better/easier/more collaborative way to do things. I can envision tactics in one area and relate them to opportunities in another area.

How do you use it to build community?

I collaborate. I work with community- and education-oriented organizations that are looking to better engage with their staff, volunteers, donors, citizens, etc. I participate in and organize activities that bring diverse people together to identify issues, pose solutions, and imagine a better future. Some of my recent activities include Vantage Point’s Next Leaders Network, Change Through _ _ _ _ _, and events like Dan Pallotta’s recent talk on restraints on the nonprofit sector, Net Tuesdays, Wiring the Social Economy, and the upcoming Social Innovation and Finance Open Event. Wanna join me?

My Three Favourite Things About Trina Are…

1. Her Smartypants. I was lucky enough to work with Trina at a certain Lower Mainland university that is not UBC. Chatting with her about life, the universe and everything was as entertaining as it was informative. The thing about Trina is that you always leave her better and more informed than when you arrived.

2. Cool Collaboration. Check out the links above – especially the one to trinaisakson.com – and you’ll get an idea of how many communities are impacted by Ms. Isakson. Going from me to we is how we’ll make a collective run at saving this poor little planet of ours.

3. Quirkiness. “Listening to 80s rock ballads while eating peppers near a spider web.” Yeah, that’s a special statement by a women who is certainly comfortable in her own skin. I love how her blog combines humour, adventure, ideas, hope, and connections in ways that bring together the nonprofit community and the people who are – or want to be – a part of it. It’s a beautiful thing.

- As told by John Horn

Being Tall on Planes

Would you let this guy on a plane?! Kreston Ferris is 6'8" of party, people!

I would say that I have traveled all over the world, but really I have visited a small fraction of places on this wondrous planet we call home. There has been much flying in the skies above, though, logging more flight hours than the naval aviators at top gun. This can be a problem for a man of my stature. You see, I measure a mere 6’8, or in european terms 203cm.

You would think that this would be a major factor in my hatred of flying. Quite the contrary, I love flying, and only a few times on flights of 9 hours or more have I been made to suffer. Take my word for it, there is no relaxing for people of lengthy measure on a nine hour flight. Your knees are mashed into the seat ahead of you, this forces your butt to the limit of the back rest, causing you to sit up straighter than Rudolf Nureyev at a formal dinner (awesometangentsidenote: if you haven’t read the book Dancer, do it! It tells a story highlighted by blood, sweat, communism, and ……. ballet!)

I digress, sitting like this for more than ten minutes becomes excruciating for someone that went through a lax education system and spent every class so slouched that I might as well have been sitting on my shoulder blades. I am not used to sitting straight, and, yes, I know I should work on my posture, but I don’t think a nine hour intensive session is the best way to fix it. When you are in any position for too long, you have to change it up. Unfortunately, for a tall person my option is to sit erect with my knees rubbing off on the back rest ahead or, if that doesn’t work, I can scrunch them to the side. This accomplishes the constant pressure of the hard arm rests firmly digging into my sides. Ouch.

Okay, I’m not writing this to complain. Here’s the deal. I just want toacknowledge that – out of all the flights I’ve been on – I have only enjoyed this torment twice because, generally, I encounter the most caring and compassionate airline personnel. These angels of the sky, upon first glance always take pity and upgrade me to a wing seat. I don’t know if you have had the privilege of enjoying a journey in one of these seats, but it is glorious. There is at least double the leg room and often I find myself sitting among other tall people. We are placed together because of our physical similarities. These people – people like me, tall travelers – flying through the skies, enjoying extra leg room, share a common bond and similar traits. This is one of my communities and, on behalf of us, I’d just like to say that we would like to apologize for the special treatment and extra comforts we enjoy. Just remember that if any flight were to go down, the lives of many passengers would be in the hands of this community because these seats are always the emergency exits. So, be nice to us. Because your fates are in our large, capable hands.

I guess this is yet another example of how size really does matter.

Couchsurfing the World: Community for Free

Couchsurfing.org started in 2003 by Casey Fenton, Sebastien Le Tuan, Dan Hoffer, and Leonardo Bassani da Silveira in San Francisco, not too far from the likes of other digital community gurus such as Craig and his endless list.  The concept: a free website to find free places to stay.  As a man of the world, a global vagabond so to speak, having a place to crash is extremely important. More important, in fact, than a good many things.

Couchsurfing.org works like this:  you sign up, write a profile to describe yourself (from hobbies to music to politics), and if you’ve got a couch or need one.  Much being careful of buying Michael Jackson memorabilia on eBay you can discern from the hustlers and douchebags by seeing their positive or negative references.  If a bunch of seemingly cool folks say that Jim-Bob is a good guy to stay with, chances are he is a good guy to stay with.  If a person has some negative feedback, there are plenty with positive feedback to choose from.  And with an average of 60 million daily page views last year, this is no small network.  We’re talking over 2.5 million positive couches surfed in 245 countries around the globe.  It’s kind of a big deal.  And it’s free!

We started hosting when I was in Fredericton, New Brunswick by welcoming backpackers from Europe into our spare bedroom.  Then when I was in Oregon on an epic bike tour last summer I stayed with exceptional people in Eugene and Portland.  It was great! Staying with locals is like having instant friends/guides/interpreters.  And when you’re trying to get a feel for somewhere new it is way better than a bedbuggy hostel or an expensive hotel.  And it’s free!

Not all couches are awesome and not all hosts are exciting.  But you can get a feel for that in your correspondence beforehand.  Typically people post images of the couch/bedroom – it’s all about being up front and honest.  You work out a time to meet and then figure it out.  I’ve only ever had awesome experiences…but then again I’m a large man and don’t often feel unsafe.

Just before New Year’s I hosted two French girls here in Vancouver.  They were students in the U.S. (Texas and Oregon) and needed a couch (or floor) for the night.  So we drank a bottle of BC wine that night and the next day drove around Vancouver, climbing around Lynn Canyon, eating sushi on The Drive, and talking about the city in face of an evolving Canadian culture that is, obviously, foreign to a couple of French girls.  What a great way to build international community.  How much did the girls pay me?  Well, they did buy me a muffin, but that was just payback for the bottle of Grey Monk.

I’m departing the fair city of Vancouver and heading to the south of France for a few months to bone-up on my French before I move to Quebec.  When I land in Montpellier I will be hosted by a few strangers, sleeping on their couch or extra bed for my first few days in the city as I get my feet firmly on the ground.  I’m already in correspondence with them, these strangers who will open their homes and lives to me, and to be honest it makes me far less anxious about going to a new place…by myself…without much of a plan.

So what did we learn?  That couchsurfing.org is incredible.  It brings millions of people together (for free) in the spirit of hosting travelers and learning about different people.  That it’s better to hang out with locals when trying to discover a new place.  And finally, it’s free.

Go to couchsurfing.org and register to host today.  It might not change your life, but it’ll definitely change one night in the life of a weary traveler.

Next blog entry: You Can Never Go Home: An Exploration into Whence We Came

In-flight Community

I was fortunate enough to spend two weeks in Nicaragua recently. These two weeks spanned the entire Winter Olympics period and while I was somewhat sad to miss out on this community making, city-defining event, while traveling dusty streets and sitting at airport bars I sort out my own Winter Olympics community – in the sunshine of another country.

Travel sometimes makes me melancholy. There is something about the silence and movement that’s almost meditative. Unless, of course, you’ve got to get a connecting flight in 20 minutes and then it’s more like a 1000-meter mad dash.

I like to walk in airports, especially when I’ve got a 6-hour layover and this trip I managed to cover Houston Airport 4 or 5 times over. I also like to find a bar and chat with people also going places. There is something deeply connecting about a 20-minute conversation with the guy having a beer on his way to San Diego, or a mother going home from seeing her grand kids in Dallas.

On this trip I had one of the loveliest and saddest moments with a fellow from California, whose name I never found out.

A Vet from the Korean War he came out of the conflict with one arm amputated and this day was on his way home from Fort Worth where he was having a prosthetic arm fitted. He was big and burly and at first I hoped he wouldn’t talk to me but as we chatted quietly he shared the loss of his wife and the stress and strain her illness had placed on him and his son. As we chatted he wept for her, quietly coping with her passing. He told me that his son was in Spain, taking a break and studying Spanish. A Mental Health professional his son has left his job to help care for his Mother in the last year of her life and the pause had given him time to reflect on life and work. The love and respect he felt for his son was evident and when he walked away 20 minutes later, I was sad that the big burly man had to get his flight.

Small but meaningful interactions like this remind me of the power of connection and community but in our aging society many of us will live alone and isolated in the last years of our lives. How we care for the aged, elderly, senior citizens (how clinical those names sound!) tells us much about the society we’ve created but also give us a pretty clear picture of the one we need to engender. The Daily Gumboot is but one example of people working to create connection and community and fingers crossed we’ll all grow old playing bridge together.

Since meeting him I’ve wondered about my friend and hope he has a supportive community around him. What will your community look like as you age?