Lesley's Path

Lesley is a Spirit Mover Dancer, a quilter, a needlepoint artist, a painter – a burst of creative energy. This short story is about discovering and celebrating Lesley’s gifts – which were of course there all along – but we hadn’t celebrated them. A PATH for Lesley began by inviting a group of women to think with her. The world has begun to shift. Lesley is celebrating as are the many people who’s lives are enriched by her gifts.

Lesley and her family were struggling with the question of ‘what next’. With a small grant from the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Service, they engaged PLAN Toronto to provide independent planning support.

In preparation for the ‘planning’ meeting, Sue Beayni from PLAN Toronto met with Lesley and her mother. They thought about who Lesley would invite to a planning evening. Her list was substantial, but even they wondered who would actually come. There was an ‘expectation’ that Lesley would be shy, retiring, and have few thoughts about her future. On March 21, in a Church Hall, fifteen people materialized to listen and support an exploration of Lesley’s Path to the future. Facilitators, Jack Pearpoint & Lynda Kahn, began by asking the group to recall stories of ‘when Lesley was at her best’. An explosion of vibrant memories filled a poster with rich imagery of past experiences that created a foundation for a dynamic future.

When asked to think about her future, Lesley shocked everyone, took over the pens and pastels and began to draw. Bolts of colourful energy revealed hidden passions as a quilter who does needlepoint. With that gift revealed and welcomed, Lesley took a bigger risk and explained her dream of spending time in the convent – and becoming an Associate of the Sisters of St. John the Divine. She also mentioned living on her own – but not just yet. Chairs squeaked as three women present revealed to Lesley and each other that they had already begun that spiritual journey as ‘Associates’. Another revealed that she also wanted to explore a deeper connection with her church. In the magic of the moment, the ‘impossible’ task of arranging transportation and support for a weekend visit to the convent became an opportunity for two people (too shy to go alone) – to partner and explore the journey together.

With the wisdom in the room, the ‘application procedure’ to be an ’Associate’ shifted from a complex barrier, to “I’ll write a letter to the Bishop”.

And then there was the quilting… Lesley revealed not only a passion – but also considerable talent in hooking rugs and needlepoint. Another circle member revealed her love of quilting – but she was reluctant to join a group and uncomfortable doing it alone. She asked if Lesley would come to her place so they could quilt together – and Lesley could be her tutor. Lesley didn’t need any coaching to sign up. Then another Circle member asked if she too could join the emerging quilting bee. And so, as Lesley explored her dreams for the future, gifts in the community suddenly emerged in a win-win-win combination that none of us could have imagined or predicted. These ‘connections’ were not about charity or pity; they are mutually engaging interests and commitments – between citizens that share a passion about quilting – or a million other possibilities.

Since then, Lesley the craft maven, offered and has already been to the Church (on her own) to assist making Palm Crosses for the Easter celebrations. It was always ‘possible’ – but it just never happened until we revealed her gifts and talents and she had the courage to invite people into her circle.

And…the preliminary negotiations to participate in an exciting Arts & Crafts program at L’Arche (which was assumed to be impossible) have already begun, and the door has been opened. It is possible – when we have the courage to create a safe space to say our dreams out loud in the presence of friends who are willing to listen in – and then ‘sign up’ for the journey.

Another small miracle. Lesley is a Spirit Mover Dancer. A significant obstacle to her participation had always been transportation arrangements. Following the planning meeting, for the first time, Margaret (from the church) drove Lesley to her Spirit Mover performance in Markham.

In addition, Susan, an Anglican priest who met Lesley when she was a Spirit Mover, has requested a meeting with the Reverend Mother of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine and has invited the Associate Sister to attend the next planning meeting.

This opportunity is emerging in part because of an emergent policy of ‘person-directed planning’ in Ontario. It is hoped this will be available to all individuals and families – through ‘independent’ (unencumbered) facilitators; ‘arms length’ creative options being developed by some providers, and through planning services provided by many existing support agencies. It is a hopeful beginning that moves in the direction of individuals and families being in charge, making decisions about what they want, and who they choose to employ to assist them on these journeys.

This short story is about what can happen with good planning that engages the gifts of an individual and the capacity of the community.

And the journey continues. Lesley’s weeks now look quite different. One day she is volunteering in the Children's Aid offices (she was doing this before the PATH); one day folding laundry at a senior's home (a new work placement which she loves); one day with Spirit Movers; occasionally volunteering at the church with the Spanish speaking ladies, folding bulletins etc. Lesley is now taking a Spanish class as well. She has applied to take part in a dance/art/drama course one day a week which is organized by L'Arche Toronto. She wants to develop her skills with the arts and wants to deepen her relationship with L'Arche since many of her friends are there. The convent relationship is developing nicely (slowly but surely), and she now has backup alternatives for transportation to church and other activities.

Leslie is now a contributing citizen who lights up people’s lives. She is happier. Her mother is relieved. The key is the courage to risk making a plan – and the follow through with the Circle meetings to keep the ‘team’ that was created focused and on track. Sue Beayni makes sure meetings happen every couple of months. It is not rocket science – but it is intentional work. There are no guarantees – but we do know that when we invite people to participate – few say no and celebrating gifts is a better way to spend our days. Try it.

- Jack Pearpoint




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Comment by Becki Pauls on April 26, 2011 at 5:08pm

Here is an update about Lesley's story:

 

<br /><small><a href="http://inclusionnetwork.ning.com/video/video">Find more videos like this on <em>Inclusion Network</em></a></small><br />

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