Years ago, at the start of my work in community development, I was a Recreation Director in a rural Alberta community. To introduce myself to the residents, I joined in as many community events as I could. One afternoon, I went out to a small hamlet to attend a ladies’ social gathering. Admittedly nervous, I was quickly put at ease by the warm welcome from the women. We sat around a kitchen table in a mobile home, enjoying coffee, tea, and cake, and chatting about the recreation and social needs of their families. And, at the end of the visit, I won the door prize, which as the newcomer in the group, I really didn’t think I deserved. I don’t remember what the door prize was. I do remember the kindness and the willingness of the women to accept me into their group. I went back for many visits and work projects.
Fast forward (and the years have flown by!) to last week. I sat with a group of interesting, passionate, and funny women; all dedicated to improving their community. We gathered in one of the women’s lovely home; drinking coffee, tea and water and eating the most yummy fruit crepes and banana bread. Like the conversation at the gathering many years earlier, we laughed, vented, discussed passionately, and made plans to make their community a more welcoming and inclusive place. And yes, as I left, I was given a parting gift. It wasn’t a door prize yet was a gesture of generosity and camaraderie.
Some things are different between the two community meetings. Fashions have certainly changed, food choices are healthier, and we were not texting or emailing over three decades ago. I doubt that I owned a cell phone. Yet, so much more is the same. Food, fellowship, fun, fervor, and a focus on being part of a wonderful community. I look at the years I have been involved in community development and appreciate again the power of food and fellowship.