Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The best way to find yourself ...

 ...is to lose yourself in the service of others." - Mahatma Gandhi

It's very quiet here. The only sound is the clock's regular ticking off of seconds. But it's not an empty silence. It's comfortable and full of ease.

In the kitchen it looks like a snack bomb went off. Our condo association annual general meeting (AGM) was last night, and I like to set a good table for the 100 or so people who show up, so there are bits and pieces of leftovers piled on the countertop and table, a box half-full box of cookies, likewise two boxes of crackers, some chips in a bowl, all flavours dumped into the one bowl at the end of the evening. Bottles for the recycling, a 12 pack of diet coke which somehow was overlooked and never made it to the table. I have a job ahead of me there.

I remember the first AGM I attended here, three years ago. It lasted two hours and there was no place to sit. There was a lot of anger, a lot of shouting and the Calgary Police TACK Team, in full body armour, wearing helmets and carrying assault weapons interrupted the meeting when they burst into the lobby half way through the meeting, on their way to take down a drug dealer on the 4th floor. I remember wondering what we had gotten ourselves into!

But when they called for volunteers for the condo board I raised my hand. I figured it was a way to get to know your neighbours. Now fast forward three years.

The next year I insisted we provide chairs and refreshments, or as they call it in Canada, "a lunch", regardless of the time of day. Not only did enough people come out so that board members didn't have to go door-to-door begging people to come so they could make a quorum, the atmosphere changed completely from hostility to friendliness.

Last night had huge potential for frustration. We're switching to a new state-of-the art security system which is keyless, and all 186 owners had to attend to pick up their entry devices, a small tag that goes on your key chain. The pickup was badly organized by an inexperienced manager, which meant the owners had to stand in line twice for an hour or more to get their tags.

Despite this people were on the whole, cheerful and remained pleasant. The meeting itself was brief and ran smoothly. We pulled the food, soft drinks and coffee out, laid the table for a buffet and everyone dug in. There was laughter and the noisy roar of happy conversation.

Again and again people came to me all evening, introduced themselves and said how much they loved this, so much different than the old AGMs. Time and again I was hugged and kissed and patted and thanked for looking at this not as just a building, but as a community - with people from all over the world as neighbours and for valuing the diversity here, for fostering inclusion.

It was healing, it was what I needed. An hour before the meeting I learned my beautiful niece Susan had passed away at 3:00 of cancer. She was a wonderful example of how much one person can do in and for a community. I never knew her to be critical or negative, and she was a wonderful role model for me and to all who knew her. She was loved by many. I will write about her later, when I can bear to do so, but last night I was smiling through tears because I was following her lead - it's what she has done for the past five years.  


SMM said...

sorry for your loss and thank you for acknowledging there is much to learn about life from others that lead by example.

oklhdan said...

Oh, so sorry to hear of your loss! How wonderful that she was such a wonderful example to follow. That was her legacy.