The Fifth and Final Conversation
“Volunteer at the Child Care and Learning Center.”
“Help bring a refugee family to Rappahannock.”
“Deepen your mystic connection with nature.”
“Join the rescue squad.”
“Come to our artisan festival in October.”
Now there are a dozen ideas and plans for specific actions. After monthly “Conversations” that began in February of this year, folks around the talking circles have arrived at clear and solid calls for action, ones that range from Alpha to Omega. (You’ll see the list a bit later.)
The fifth and final — for now — of the Conversations drew forty men and women from Rappahannock and nearby communities. Each of the sessions was meant to respond to a paragraph in the message of Pope Francis, calling attention to climate change and linking to it the damage done to the poorest people. This time, the Pope asks “What kind of world to we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” And, further on in the paragraph, “What is the purpose of our life in this world?”
It was that last question, about our purpose here, that several of those in the conversations around the room seemed to struggle with. “Why are we here?” one person asked, and answered “to learn as much as possible” about the world.
Another person offered this reason: “To leave the world a better place.”
One man lamented that the world is becoming “too homogenous; we are losing languages,” he said, “and culture and diversity.” Another participant offered that “the purpose of our life is to glorify God and love others and teach our children to love others.”
There were other laments: “there is too much diabetes and obesity in the world; people are eating too much and the wrong things.” Another: Rappahannock is so expensive that “our children are all going to have to live elsewhere.”
Now for the ideas. You may remember that at the fourth session, back in May, the organizers of these Conversations asked participants and anyone in the community to offer ideas for specific actions growing out of these conversations inspired by the writings of Pope Francis on the poor of the world and the changes in the climate.
It was planned that the ideas would be announced at the fifth and final Conversation, and indeed they were.
A dozen people stood up. Master of Ceremonies Russ Savage of the U.U. group in Sperryville lined them up against the wall at the Washington Fire Hall, and gave each one a minute to give his and her pitch. And here they are, mercilessly shortened even further.
Kevin O’Neill asked everyone to sign the email list so as to able to hear of further plans.
Hal Hunter asked people to volunteer to give housebound older folks in the county some rides, such as to the food store or to the doctor. Call Hal at 540 937 4744.
Ellie Clark would like help in finding and settling in Rappahannock County a family, perhaps three generations, who are fleeing one of the world’s crisis situations. Call Ellie at 540 675 3978.
Vernon Gras would like to inspire folks to work for the environment and social justice.
Gerry Eitner would like to find those interested in deepening their mystical connection with Nature. Her group offers individual mentoring, and she is willing to discuss the fees charged for this service.
Mimi Forbes spoke enthusiastically about volunteering to help at the Food Pantry and listed seven things that one can do, in addition, of course, to donating food and money. Call her at the Pantry at 540 675 1177.
Christina Loock stood up for the Child Care and Learning Center, CCLC, and her list of things a volunteer could do is ten items long, from helping in the gardens to dancing with the children to assisting on field trips.
Bev Hunter is looking for some folks to be officers or directors at RAPPFLOW, Friends and Lovers of Our Watershed. Here is your chance to give orders to somebody. Call Bev at 540 937 4744. If a man answers, see number 2 above.
Steadfast Conversation participant Steve Clapp’s suggestion is “Buy and Read My Book.” The book he wrote is “Fixing the Food System: Changing How We Produce and Consume Food.” Steve says it will be out soon.
Kathy Eggers volunteers at the Smithsonian’s Conservation and Research Center and reports that the Center has many and varied opportunities for volunteers.
Wes Mills, preacher at “The Gathering” in Amissville, announced an “Artisan Festival and Ministry Fair” on Saturday, October 8th at what was the auction house in Amissville.
Judy Reidinger, a stalwart in the rescue squad at Sperryville, called on everybody to join the rescue squad and learn to drive the ambulance.
Chris Parrish: There is something comforting about a large group of like minded people with positive attitudes. Although individuals had their own ideas of how to solve the problems of the world, I doubt many were persuaded to change their views of the notions they had when they came in. Some solutions were not particularly pragmatic.
The main benefit for me was the raising of awareness of what people were thinking. The benefit of the “preaching to the choir” aspect is the positive reinforcement the goes along with it.
My main takeaway is the realization that if every individual person made an effort to leave the world a better place, we would obviously be accomplishing our mission.
Anonymous: Pope Francis’ Laudato si’ is a faith document founded in the belief that all human beings are created in God’s image, that we have a mandate to love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, and that our planet Earth and its resources are God’s gifts to all of us. While each person of faith is responsible for doing the best we can to address climate change within these parameters–and it is indeed a daunting task–we are never without hope and thus continue to move forward the best we can with faith and love even in the face of anxiety. Pope Francis’ encyclical begins at this baseline of belief. The group, being more secular, spent a lot of time discussing what were already “givens” to the Pope/baseline beliefs in the encyclical.
I appreciate the opportunity to come together and discuss Laudato si’ very much. That said, I do not think many people had actually read Laudato si’ and so the discussion centered more around climate change in general and Rappahannock County in particular. I did not sense that most people recognize the situation as a crisis. It would have been nice to end the sessions with some kind of commitment; if each of the (60) people present could have promised to go vegetarian one day each week or reduce their driving 5 miles per week or hang clothes on a clothes line rather than use their clothes drier, the total impact would have meant something.
Kevin O’Neill: Pope Francis has not broken new ground in bringing forth any of the individual facts laying the foundation for his encyclical. However, he has been a trailblazer in showing how all of them – environmental, social, political, economic – interact and must be addressed as an equitable whole for a true solution to be found.
I was impressed by the people who attended the Conversations. No matter what life may have handed them, they all still had hope – those with hope never stop trying, those without hope accept in frustration.
Sheila Gresinger: My thoughts on the series of five gatherings of people to participate in the Conversations regarding Pope Francis’ On Care for Our Common Home are 1: this afforded the opportunity for many people with points of view & paths in life to come together to discuss our future & future generations’ future on this planet, our earthly home. 2: in sharing answers to the questions posed at each conversation, others present were able to connect with their own, possibly different, take. This gave a blended view, favorable for actions thought & then planned as ways to resolve, individually and collectively, existing problems, understanding the absolute connection between humanity and the environment. 3. In these conversations, it became even easier to see the complexity involved in the care for our common home. 4: it was reassuring to realize that, rather than being overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, people seemed eager to step up to volunteer for action plans going forward, which was the concluding part of the final conversation gathering.
Pope Francis has called for a change in the lifestyles of the world population, participation of all, each in his or her own way. Education is key, with leaders, followers, & individuals acting on bringing together humankind in an environmentally healthy compatibility. One sentence in particular in the encyclical that I found important is “May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope”. A suggestion was made for the conversation group to meet in six months to see how actions are progressing. All in all, a thought provoking, action inspiring, experience.
Kathy Eggers: I attended three of the Conversations. I learned a lot from the others in my groups, who experienced climate change, pollution, poverty, etc. through travel, jobs, Peace Corps, and farming. I left each Conversation discouraged about the problems facing the planet and my inability to make much of a difference. But the ideas in the encyclical and our Conversations continue to percolate in my head.
[editor’s note] Any additional comments would be welcome. Scroll to the bottom of this page to leave your thoughts.
by Jed Duvall, Amissville